Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31 – “Snail invasion”

Snail invasion.  After the rain the other day we noticed a snail or two on the front porch.  Not that big a deal, actually.  Well, not that we particularly want to host a snail or two on the front porch.  After all they do eat Chris' most precious of plants.  And they are a nuisance when you accidentally step on them.  Very messy, although the sound is kind of like that first munch into a crispy piece of fried speckled trout.  They must not taste very nice, though.  One day when Cailyn and I were tossing bread scraps to the seagulls, Chris was tossing snails into the street.  That's our answer rather than just stepping on them.  It assuages our consciences.  We can think that we didn't actually kill them, we just relocated them.  Besides, if they happen to get run over by a passing car, it couldn't possibly be our fault.  But one of the snails Chris tossed was somehow confused with a piece of flying bread by one of the winged scavengers.  He nabbed it in mid-air and we heard that telltale smack as he bit into it.  And instantly he spit it out and shook his little seagull head as if to say, "Nasty."  So, even the seagulls think they are nasty.
We picked up the two interlopers off the porch and casually tossed them into the street.  And then we saw them.  There - under the car, and around the sides of the car, and up next to the garage, and in fact crawling up the garage door, and down the sidewalk … snails were everywhere.  All sizes.  Big ones – the kind with hard shells that sort of bounce when they hit the street.  Smaller ones – with shells that are thin as paper and you have to be careful when you pick them up so as not to squish them in your hand.  Thankfully we didn't see any slugs – those naked snail wannabes.  No way I would pick one of them up with my bare hands.  But snails were literally everywhere.  It was like a plague of biblical proportions.  Cailyn saw them and wasn't sure how to react.  Snails aren't exactly her most favorite creature.  She doesn't mind picking up shells, but when she knows for sure that there is a slimy, squirming creature inside that mind emerge at any second … not so much.  Oh, she wanted them tossed into the street, though.  They were infringing upon her bicycle trail and her gardening path.  On the positive side, she did make sure she had shoes on.  Seems she had earlier in her young life experienced the unspeakable horror of realizing that her bare foot had inadvertently encountered a random, wandering snail.  Hearing the pop.  Feeling the soft, gooey warmth of the snail innards rushing to fill in every crack and crevice between your toes and into that little rise at the center of your foot.  Not that I have ever done any specific research – in the name of science, mind you – to gather reconnaissance on such intimate details.  I am simply drawing upon the powers of imagination to obtain a mental image of what it must have felt like for poor Cailyn.  As for me and my house, we will always wear shoes when dispatching snails.
Of course I know that there is such a product as snail bait.  In fact I finally found some tucked away in the garage.  But not before the mass tossing did occur.  Snails flying through the air, landing in the street, some to be crushed by cars, others to roll and roll until they finally dare to dizzily peek out from within and begin the long, slow journey back to whatever acreage is nearby and not covered with concrete.  Cailyn managed to chunk a few of the ones who promised not to emerge while in her possession.  And at one point she moved as if tossing one, though nothing appeared to be in her hands.  When questioned by Chris she explained, "I tossed my brother out there in the street."  Wait.  Brother?  Perhaps it was simply the passion of the moment.  Perhaps she was simply practicing for potential encounters with an as-yet unnamed future sibling.  Perhaps it was a random flare-up of the infamous Vaughan imagination.  Perhaps … hmm.
1 Peter 1:14-16 says, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'"
Father, that being holy thing can get really tough.  Help.  Amen.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30 – “Fronding Day”

Yesterday was palm tree pruning day for me.  I don't know if it's the right time or not, but every year in the week before Palm Sunday, I grab my trusty pruner.  It's one of those long poles within another pole that you can make longer and longer.  On the end is a curved saw and a little horseshoe-shaped area just the right size for hooking around normal sized tree branches.  Then you pull on the rope that hangs from it, and a second blade slices into the limb.  Sure wish I could have used that part of the tool instead of the saw.  In fact I wish I had one of those electric versions of the whole thing.  Sawing through those palm branches is hard work.  Actually the work itself isn't all that hard.  It's the angle you have to hold your neck to see what you are doing that kills me.  Anyway, I chose yesterday because it was supposed to rain today.
The tree in front is not that tall yet, so it went pretty fast.  I was able to drag the remnants to the street and save back two promising branches.  Save for what?  Ah, that part of the story comes later.  I moved on to the really tall tree in the back yard.  That's the one where I wish I could shimmy up the trunk with a machete in my mouth and chop away at the branches.  They do it on TV, but those guys are always young.  And barefoot.  I couldn't do it barefoot for sure.  The other problem with the one back there is that the branches are reaching to the uttermost heights and are hanging right next to the power and cable lines.  That gave me more to think about and watch for.  I got tangled in the cable TV lines once, but managed to extricate the saw before it cut anything.  Lucky there.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the tree is right next to the fence, so I also had to try to keep falling branches out of the neighbors.  On that count I wasn't so successful, although it was only one that slipped from my grasp and fell in no-man's-land.  Hope their three or four dogs don't mind.  We never see the people back there. 
Once I got all the branches down, I had to decide which ones had the best looking fronds.  Great word – fronds.  Kind of rolls off the tongue with a what-in-the-world-could-a-word-that-sounds-like-this-have-to-do-with-anything kind of sound.  Once I selected a few of the best looking, greenest fronds, I set to work tearing them into strips.  One of the activities at church Sunday will involve everyone having his own personal palm frond.  One hundred stripped and trimmed palm fronds.  What a task.  But that was not all.  I also needed one hundred other strips of the fronds to make palm crosses.  My own crude attempt at origami, learned from my mother, and attributed to a long-lost past in the Episcopalian realm.  The crosses are actually easy and fun to make, and the people at Seaside seem to have enjoyed receiving them over the years.
About halfway through the stripping process I heard a distant sound.  The dogs heard it too, and started barking.  The sky grew darker and darker.  Drops of rain began to fall.  Chris came out and asked if I was going to stay out in the lightning.  But I was determined to finish.  The rains came.  I stayed under the umbrella over the picnic table until the strips were all done, then gave in and finished the cross-making part of the project inside.  So much for rain today, I guess.  That means I'll have to drag the wet remnants to the street later on.
1 Peter 1:13 says, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed."
Father, use this pile of discarded greenery to remind people that our task is to praise you.  Amen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29 – “Lawn time”

I did some work with Chris out in the back yard yesterday.  Not that I intended to.  There I was, focused and working hard on the Bible Study for home group.  Unbeknownst to me, Chris had already been outside working in the flowerbeds of the back yard.  On one of her passes through the office, I stopped and acknowledged her presence with casual, "So what's going on outside?"  And that's all it took.  Excitedly she said she had an idea about something.  Ah.  That usually means what is about to follow will require a statement from me about what I think of something.  Sure enough, she followed up with, "Come outside and let me ask you something."  There it was.  Dutifully, and admittedly curious, I followed her out to the back yard. 
The idea had two parts.  The first involved moving the old toilet that my Dad and Nathan had moved over here years ago.  Dad wanted an easy way to get rid of it, so he enlisted the then-young Nathan in his plot.  Together they hauled the toilet over here and tried to sneak it into the backyard without being seen.  Chris is pretty good at using those proverbial mother's eyes-in-the-back-of-her-head, though, and she apparently detected a movement.  Turing around, she saw the culprits, toilet in hand.  Not one to do anything unprepared, however, Dad simply grinned and started into his back-up story about how he just wanted to give her the opportunity to be the first one on the block to have one of the newest flower pots to hit the market.  He had hoped to surprise her with it, but in any event here it was, and she could enjoy it as she pleased.  Of course the whole time he was walking toward the gate, and by the time he finished speaking he simply disappeared around the corner.  Nathan of course simply stood by grinning.  And what could any of say?  We had just been the victim of the master at work. 
So Chris' first idea was to move the toilet/planter to a different location.  I was certainly all for that one.  Where it had stood for all those years made it awkward to mow.  The new location would put it in a flowerbed.  It would also stop the dogs from using that bed as a passageway.  Great idea.  We found some concrete blocks to set it on and made the move. 
The second part of her question was whether to plant the poinsettia in the same location as the last one we had (which met its untimely demise after the freeze), or in a position only slightly further east (by slightly, I mean maybe a foot).  Sensing that a response was required here even though I had no idea what the right answer might be, I recommended that we put the new one right where the old one had been, since that one did well before the freeze.  Good answer.  She liked it.  
I guess that could have been all I was needed for, but the rake was leaning right there in front of me, and the Weed and Feed had taken effect, so there were a lot of dead weeds.  Without thinking straight, I grabbed the rake and began scraping some of those offensive interlopers away from my lawn.  And before I knew it, I was determined to break through the hardened dirt and release the rich soil within.  Of course that meant I had to break up about half the yard, since our previous infestations of june bug larvae had destroyed all attempts at sodding.  It took a long time, and I felt kind of guilty during the process, and Chris finally helped toward the end, and I was incredibly sore, but we got it done. 
Why did I feel guilty?  Strange that you should ask.  See, we usually spend most of our lawn time concentrating on the front yard.  It just felt strange to be expending so much energy in the back.  On the other hand, it's nice to be working on something we can enjoy with friends and family instead of something that is pretty much designed to just look good.  Hmm.  There's gotta be a spiritual message in there somewhere. 
Luke 11:39-41 says, "Then the Lord said to him, 'Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside [the dish] to the poor, and everything will be clean for you."
Father, thanks for reminding me once again that it's not what's on the outside that matters.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28 – “Two favorite pastimes”

I have two favorite pastimes.  It's not often they coincide, but yesterday they did.  I actually had a chance to go fishing yesterday.  First time this year.  First time in about as long as I can remember.  Chris reminded me that I went last summer.  Too long ago.  It was a pretty good trip, actually.  I caught seven or eight whiting and a pretty good black drum.  The equals at least two meals around here.  My personal goal each year is to go wade fishing at least once before the annual Easter Sunrise Service on the beach out by Seaside.  Most years we have a baptism that day, and I hate to ask anyone to do something I haven't already done myself.  That includes wading out into the Gulf when the water is still on the chilly side.  Speaking of chilly, I got chilled out there yesterday and didn't think I would every get warm again.  Didn't stop fishing, though.  In fact I would have stayed to the bitter end (That would be when the bait ran out), but the fish just stopped biting.  Guess they got cold, too. 
Last night I went over to the airport to watch the O'Connell girls' softball team play against Hitchcock.  The game started at four, so I figured they would be done by six at the latest.  That left plenty of time to get home and fry up some of those fresh whiting filets.  The plan looked like a good one.  O'Connell was losing when I got there, and the score got even worse after a few innings.  But … this is baseball.  You never know what can happen from one inning to the next.  O'Connell slowly began chopping away at the lead until in the bottom of the sixth they tied the score at six to six.  The seventh went by with no score.  And the eighth.  What a nail biter.  I'm glad we have unlimited texting on our phone plan.  Those last three innings I was texting a play by play to Chris.  And she was texting back cheers and encouragement.  Finally, in the top of the ninth, the pitcher for Hitchcock came to bat.  She already had a double and a triple, even though she was but a wisp of a thing.  She cracked one that hugged the third base line and went all the way to the wall.  By the time the left fielder tracked it down and the ball made its way back to the infield, the batter was crossing home plate with an inside the park home run.  O'Connell couldn't muster a run in the bottom of the inning, so that's how it ended, 7-6.  Our two Seaside girls did great.  Jen got on several times, and after catching a fly ball out in center, Sydney almost completed a double play by throwing behind the runner.  Great game, girls.
1 Peter 1:8-9 says, "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
Father, thank you for fishing and baseball, truly two of the joys in my life.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27 – “Short Cut”

We made kind of an unusual side trip on the way home from San Antonio.  Now, I love short cuts.  My Dad indoctrinated us as kids into the fine art of explaining most anything involved with a car or a trip or even a short ride to the grocery store.  "It's a short cut."  As I came to realize much later in life, he was simply training me in the fine art of being a guy.  See, we don't ask directions; we take short cuts.  We are never lost; it's just a short cut.  We are never late; we were just so engrossed with the scenery on our short cut that we lost track of time.  Short cut.  Explains everything.
Well, this time Chris was driving.  We decided to take a short cut back home, so we took off on one of the back roads, headed in this general direction.  Actually this wasn't really a classic short cut yet.  Here's that part of the story.  A high school friend of Chris' messaged her a while back on FaceBook.  They picked up the old friendship, mostly through Words with Friends and the occasional message.  While they were communicating, the friend found out that she has breast cancer.  So Chris decided to make her a prayer quilt using the official breast cancer material.  This part of the short cut began as an attempt to connect with that friend in person. 
I typed the address into my maps ap and off we went.  Further and further away from San Antonio.  The little blue dot kept moving in the right direction, though.  Finally we arrived at the spot designated.  It was an old deserted ice house.  Really an ice house.  Not ice cream.  Not icees.  An old abandoned house for selling ice.  Definitely not what we were looking for.  I reentered the address and the blue dot reappeared with a new site, even further down the road.  This time we started watching addresses on buildings top keep our bearings the old fashioned way.  That ice house just inspired us, I guess.  It took a long time, but we finally found the address.  It was a business establishment called Sir Vesa.  A bar.  No, wait.  That's the right place.  Chris's friend owns a biker bar and this was the address she gave us.  Problem was, the biker bar was not open on Sundays.  At least not at the time we were there.  So Chris FaceBook messaged her (she didn't have a phone number).  We waited ten or fifteen minutes, but got no answer, so we continued on our journey, missing perhaps my best chance to spend some time in a biker bar and actually feel safe.  About fifteen minutes down the road Chris heard the telltale beep on her phone.  Sure enough, her friend missed us by about 30 minutes. 
We didn't go back or anything.  Chris said she would just mail the quilt.  Unless of course we can come up with another reason to visit San Antonio soon.  Our short cut continued on through the back roads filled with bluebonnets and those yellow wildflowers.  Field and fields of them.  Well worth the inevitable time extension afforded by short cuts. 
1 Peter 1:3-5 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."
Father, thanks for short cuts and all the surprises they offer.  Amen.

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26 – “That’s a worship experience”

Our worship experience was quite unique yesterday.  We were in San Antonio visiting Josh and Christi and their boys.  For the first time since they have been there (about a year and a half) we were able to stay over on a Sunday and go to church with them.  The church building is located right across the street from the famous River Walk, and not too far from the Alamo, so even though it is right smack in the middle of downtown, it has some historical and visual appeal to it.  They have to hire police officers to help with traffic because the main parking lot is located across the street.  The officer who stopped traffic for us seemed to be more than just a hired hand, though.  He interacted with Zak and Caleb and greeted every person in the group.  Great start.
The church's physical plant is huge.  A strange man met us at the door and engaged Christi in some kind of secret conversation.  It was so secret in fact that she had no idea what he wanted, and I don't think he even knew for sure what he was talking about.  But he was fun.  And he appeared to be doing the same thing with a person from the group behind us.  Greeters. 
As it turned out, yesterday was Josh's turn to preach in the special service he helped create.  Everything in the service is based on the scriptural account of God's interaction with man, from creation to Jesus coming again.  It's very well thought out, and of course very well presented.  Come on.  I get to be biased.  That's my boy.  Besides, I think anyone from Seaside would feel comfortable with the service, too.  It had a familiar feel to it. 
After that service Josh had to read a scripture in their traditional service.  That's the one that is televised.  They had an organ, an orchestra, and about a hundred people in a choir.  When we walked into the room my first impression was the sea of white hair.  It was obvious that this was the service of choice for senior adults.  Christi told us the younger folks were scattered about the building either in service positions or Sunday School.  Most of them attend the service Josh leads.  We stuck around through the children's sermon.  That was a surprise, by the way, because when they called for the children to join the associate pastor on the front steps, about fifty children came from nowhere.  Our inside informant Christi told us later that they bring in a large group of kids from the preschool area so it will look like a lot of children for the television audience.  Interesting.  I'm glad Josh texted us and asked us to meet him in the lobby.  We had had about all of that "big" kind of worship we could handle.
From there Josh took us across the street to the international worship service.  They met in a room a bit larger than Seaside, but set up the same way.  The people were friendly.  Kids were welcome to walk around during the service.  Adults were dressed in a wide array of outfits, from the traditional coat and tie to casual American to dress of their native land.  The pastor's massage was presented in a mixture of Thai and English.  He would speak a sentence or two in English, then pause.  It would be translated into the Karen (pronounced ka-rin) language by a guy on his right, and then into the Karenni (prounced ka-rin-knee) language by a guy on his left.  When they finished he would translate it into the Laotian language, then move on to the next phrase.  Had to be a tough way to present a sermon, but he got the job done.  The message was on eternal life: where is it found?  When does it begin?  How can we have assurance of it?  Very simple, yet very profound.  The essence of the Gospel, I guess.  Perhaps the most moving moment of the day came at the end of that service when a guy came up and led the group in singing the Doxology.  He was one of the original refugees the church helped back in the 60's when he escaped Vietnam.  When the singing started, it became quickly apparent that everyone was singing the same tune, but in his own language.  That meant English, Thai, Karen, Karenni, and Vietnamese.  It was chaotic.  And beautiful.  Now that's a worship experience.
Psalms 29:1-2 says, "Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness."
Father, thank you for the chance to see you being worshipped in so many different ways all in one place.  Amen.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25 – “On Coaching Caleb”

Yesterday was three-year-old Caleb's big day.  First soccer practice of … well, of his life.  Needless to say he was excited.  So excited that he couldn't even bring himself to eat breakfast until; he was placed under severe duress and faced the possibility of not being allowed to go to practice at all.  He finally managed to choke down a few bites, enough to satisfy the concerned Daddy responsible for his morning sustenance. 
Once we arrived (first ones there, I might add.  Even after a stop at Target for an air pump to blow up his soccer ball), Caleb began a workout on his own, kicking the ball into the net time after time.  He definitely had that action down.  Most exciting for us, however, was the revelation that he also had down his post- scoooooooore celebration.  He threw both fists into the air, emitted a celebratory growl, lifted his shirt over his head, and ran around in circles.  I know I have seen that on TV coverage of the World Cup more than once. 
I did wonder about his coach once he arrived.  Seemed like a nice enough guy.  He greeted each of the boys and asked them to give him five.  When they did he said "ouch" and asked for another.  Three slaps.  Three "ouches."  Must have been a secret soccer greeting known only to the inner circle.  The boys seemed to become worried about him later in the practice, though.  When they were gathered in a huddle, he asked them a question in his best motivational voice.  A few boys replied with what was obviously the correct answer, but the coach asked the same question again, only louder.  The youngsters looked at him quizzically, then looked at each other with a concerned puzzlement.  Finally a few hesitantly repeated the answer, glancing around for assistance from their parents who were anxiously listening in the wings, aching for their own little superstars to shine.  And when he asked a third and fourth time, they finally determined that perhaps it would be helpful to the poor old guy if they just spoke a bit louder.  The team was already bonding with their coach, for they truly feared that he couldn't hear too well. 
The concern continued during the next drill.  The boys were supposed to use "little kicks" and move their individual balls around the field with their feet.   Not a problem.  At least not until the coach continually and urgently repeated the phrase, "No hands."  The boys looked at the two appendages at the end of their arms, and then at the coach, as if to say, "Oh, no, Coach.  You are mistaken.  I have two perfectly good hands right here.  And they are very helpful if the silly ball won't go exactly where I want it to go.  All I have to do is move it with my hands just a bit."  Their silent pleading proved fruitless, however.  The poor guy must not see very well, either.  For over and over he droned, "No hands.  No hands."  Josh tried a covert maneuver to make sure Caleb understood the unusual command.  He quietly took Caleb aside and explained that he coach meant he was not to touch the ball with his hands.  Caleb's response was fairly quick and certainly decisive, "I'm not using my hands, Daddy, just my fingers."  Ah.  Of course.
The final point of confusion was also quite disconcerting to the parents.  The poor coach was trying to communicate some of the finer points of dribbling, so he wanted the boys to use those little kicks.  But he added, "Don't kick the ball into the goal."  Wait.  Josh wasn't the only parent who had obviously spent quite a bit of time convincing their offspring that the object of the game was just that – to kick the ball into the goal.  And the offspring had certainly retained that part of their pre-first practice instruction.  So sadly, the ailing coach's "don't kick the ball into the goal" might just as well have been "explain the basics of quantum physics."  It simply didn't register in their field of consciousness, so it became background noise.  Alas.  A coach who now couldn't speak intelligently.  What a sad state of affairs. 
After practice ended Caleb seemed to be happy, however.  He talked about being "pretty tired," and he finished off a triumphant lunch from Sonic.  Sounded like he was more than willing to give the poor coach another chance come Tuesday evening's next practice.  And isn't that the best you can hope for?  A world class athlete willing to give his coach one more opportunity to prove his worth.
Hebrews 13:20-21 says, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Father, looks like there's one more coach in the world who needs a double portion of your patience and love.  Give it liberally.  Amen.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24 – “One of those moms”

We made pretty good time getting into San Antonio yesterday in spite of some kind of traffic holdup just west of Houston on Interstate 10.  It didn't last all that long, though, and we were never stopped for very long.  We still have no real idea what the reason was.  Chris did see a set of 18 wheeler skid marks that began on the other side of the highway and ended in the ditch on our side.  That would have made for a holdup much more severe than what we experienced, though.  And there was no longer any sign of the truck.  Just one of those typical random, Houston-type, slow-down-and-enjoy-the-scenery pauses that refresh your appreciation of a simpler time.
Chris did get to see bluebonnets.  In fact the closer we got to San Antonio, the more patches we did see popping up.  There was even one of those whole fields of bluebonnets that was so impressive a car had stopped and some girls were just roaming through it.  Very pretty. 
We went to Zakary's first baseball practice of the season.  He's in a YMCA version called Pitch and Tee.  Has some unusual rules.  Every kid on the team has five chances to hit a pitch every inning.  The coach pitches for four of them, and if a hit hasn't occurred by then, they let the kid knock it off a tee.  I'm not sure how they handle it when a kid gets on base, though.  Head coach Josh did say that they keep score, so I guess that'll come later.  There were a few boys who had never played before, and it showed.  On the other hand there were some who could either throw really well or hit almost anything Josh threw.  Just not so much both.  Josh was obviously rusty as well.  He was having some trouble getting the pitches close enough for them to hit.  I encouraged him to stick with it.  He'd get better with practice. 
He has one of "those" Moms to deal with.  Chris and Christi had the privilege of listening to her tell her story … the whole practice.  Apparently once she started talking, it never stopped.  She informed them that she was the consummate Little League mom.  She had been a coach before, so she knew everything.  And besides, she had read all the rules, so she knew them, too.  She had an older son, so she had been through it all before.  In fact the reason they had signed up for this particular league was because she had been kicked out of the previous one for "getting onto the umpire's case.  So these umps in this league better watch out and do their job or I'll get all over them, too."  Christi's gentle comment (made to herself at the time) was, "Apparently she didn't read the rules all that well.  This is the YMCA league.  They don't pay to have umpires."  Ah.  That means she'll have to have someone to whom to impart her vast array of knowledge and experience in ostentatious (and loud) ways.  And who better to benefit from her offerings than … the head coach?  Enjoy your season, Josh.
Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
Father, give Josh – and Kel, for that matter – the patience to deal with their respective Little League moms, and the wisdom to impart baseball knowledge to their young charges, and the patience to communicate You in the process.  Amen.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23 – “A garden treat”

Just a few Cailyn moments today because we are getting ready to head to San Antonio for a day or two.  Josh and Christi are going to a conference, so we get the enviable task of hanging out with Zakary and Caleb.  And Cory, a young man in our church who works with our teenagers, is going to be handling preaching chores for me at Seaside, so we will get to hear Josh preach while we are there.  Works out great all the way around, except that I would like to hear Cory.  I know he'll do great.
Now Cailyn was quite talkative the other day.  Apparently her Mommy and Daddy have decided to become indoor farmers.  Sounded like fun to me.  She said they now have a garden "in the kitchen at my house" where she is growing some things that are "really, really good to my tummy.  Yes.  My tummy really, really likes them."  That sounded especially scrumptious, so of course we wanted to know just what it was that was going to make her innards sing so joyfully.  And she told us.  "I growing how-a-pay-nose." 
Ah, of course.  So we asked, "And what color are your how-a-pay-nose?" 
She replied, "They are red.  And yellow.  And green." 
I started to move on to the next question, but hesitated long enough for her to take a breath and continue, "and blue.  I have some blue ones." 
Blue how-a-pay-nose.  Actually, it doesn't much matter what color they are, they are simply not so really, really good to my tummy.  In fact they are really, really bad to my tummy.  Guess I'll leave tasting those how-a-pay-nose to those in our family with stronger digestive system constitutions than I have. 
Hebrews 13:15-16 says, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."
Father, join us on our journey to San Antonio today.  But keep an eye on Mom while we are gone.  Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22 – “A Country Music Classic”

I got approved for Celebrex.  I got a call yesterday from somewhere in Louisiana.  I almost didn't answer the phone, but as it turned out I'm glad I did.  I don't always answer strange numbers the first time.  And on our house phone we rarely answer for any unknown number.  Just about the only family member who calls on the house phone anyway is Christina.  I guess that's the number she has designated for us in her cell.  Our rationale is that we want to make the most effective use of the wonderful option given us by the phone company – the "please leave a message" option.  Our son Josh inspired us with that one.  I don't think he even leaves his phone on.  He just checks it periodically and makes call-backs.  But back to the Celebrex, it has to come through an outfit in Louisiana called Total Life Care, and I have to get 3 months' supply.  That will be kind of a hit, because the copay is $150.  At least they said they would bill us.  I've been taking the Celebrex samples for a few days now, and they really do seem to work better than any of the others I have tried.  We'll see how it goes long term.
Cailyn came up with a new song the other day.  At least she had the new song title.  We were preparing to dance at the Grand Ball in my office.  I started singing my world renowned version of that timeless classic "Hmm Hmm, De Dumm Dumm."  Actually it was a random collection of nonsensical syllables and even more nonsensical notes.  Apparently it didn't strike her fancy as a dance number, so she first suggested, "Sing ABC's song, DadDad."  That sounded exciting as a first number, so with visions of a night of ballroom bliss ahead of me, I belted it out, and she even joined me as somewhat of a backup singer, throwing in emphases on key letters that she recognized.  And the dance itself was simply amazing.  She loved turning in circles.  Circle after circle after circle, eyes closed, hanging on to my hands and leaning her head back in absolute trust that I wouldn't drop her.  And then we went into our grand finale.  I showed her the "big dip at the end" move.  She picked it up right away and now demands it after every dance.  I thought we might get a break after such exertion, but no.  She continued naming song after song – "Mary add a Lamb" and "The Animals Song" (That was tough to decipher.  I had exhausted my meager repertoire, but finally came up with "Floody, Floody, in the Muddy."  That was it.).  It was her final request that completely threw me.  She pleaded for just one more, so I told her she had to pick the song this time.  And she had one right away.  "Do 'Ruby Had a Dog,' DadDad."  "Ruby Had a Dog"?  Really?  No clue at all on that one, so without hesitation I grabbed her hands and started singing.  Oh, the words?  I have no idea.  Something came out along the lines of "Ruby had a dog.  A big old dog.  Such a dog Ruby had, that Ruby's dog.  And Ruby's dog had Ruby, that tiny little Ruby.  And Ruby and her dog had her dog and Ruby."  I know.  A country music classic to be sure.  We exited the dance floor to get some water and a much needed rest.  DadDad was beat.  And Cailyn was happy.
Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
Father, thank you for greasing some wheels between our insurance company and the new pharmacy.  And thanks for the example of a child that there is delight in the simplest of things.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21 – “Another boring day”

I heard back from the rheumatologist's office yesterday.  They are finally turning my case over to a group they have connections with.  Not for my ongoing care or anything.  This group's specialty is dealing with insurance companies, trying to convince them to pay for medications that actually work on patients, rather than refusing to pay because the particular one that works doesn't have a generic alternative version.  Rather a specific company purpose statement, but it shows how prevalent the problem must be.  The nurse told me the process could take as long as 90 days.  That's how long the insurance company has to respond to the request.  But usually they do a song and dance over a week or two (letters and phone calls and trading information and blustering about misuse of medication and abuse of power) until the decision is made.  In the meantime I got another short-term supply of Celebrex samples to hold me over.  I really hope they work at least as well as they did last time I took them. 
We finished another step or two in our landscaping project.  The forecast called for lots of rain, so I wanted to get the Weed and Feed spread in the lawns.  If I got it down before the rain came, then we could save on watering the lawn.  That goal was successfully met.  Still no rain, so we moved on to a bigger task: filling in the hole under the deck stairs that the dogs dug to get a cool place to bask during the harsh Galveston summers.  We dumped in four bags of topsoil, mixed it with the dirt already in there, then began the tedious task of leveling it out.  That meant I had the joy of crawling under the stairs, lying on my back, and shoving dirt into place.  And not just dirt.  Once we had enough in place, we then added concrete pavers on top to discourage future canine excavation attempts.  Showed me once again just how my arm strength has deteriorated due to the joint pain in my elbows (of course aging has nothing to do with it).  We got the offending abyss filled in, but there was just not enough dirt to get the area level enough.  It needed three or four more bags of topsoil to accomplish that feat.  But by the time we reached that point the rain had begun, so we were forced inside. 
And come the rain did.  In buckets.  For most of the rest of the day.  Great for soaking in the Weed and Feed.  Not so great for the dip under the stairs.  That became a small lake.  It did drain fairly quickly when the rain stopped, but it proved the need for more dirt.  So don't check that one off the list just yet.
It just struck me how boring my days can seem.  It's not easy to wax philosophically about dirt and fertilizer.  Guess I could say something theological about God loves us in spite of the dirt in our lives.  Or maybe I could mention how the blessings God rains down on us can cause our weak little attempts to improve the world around us (Weed and Feed) to have dramatic effects in the lives of pre-believers and believers alike (The effect of weeds get weaker.  Good grass grows stronger).  I guess I could.  It is my blog, isn't it? 
Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."
Father, thank you for the people who have shaped my God-story.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20 – “Galveston gardener”

Chris and I took a ride yesterday.  Actually Chris decided to take a ride and invited me to come along.  Always up for an adventure, and ever ready to be at her side, I jumped at the chance.  And we were off.  By the time we returned home we had a trunk full of plant stuff for the back yard.  And here I thought we were almost done back there.  She now has three or four different kinds of lilies.  Some of them are just about to bloom.  Others just look like an onion recently pulled out of the ground, with that bulb thing on the bottom.  One thing looks like a patch of grass, but close up it has a very strong smell, like the inside of Mario's Pizza Place.  It's quite … garlic-y. 
We also had to get some more topsoil to finish filling in low places back there.  One in particular is our next target.  The dogs have a nice little hole dug under the steps to the deck.  It's where they dug into the cool lower soil to escape the harsh Galveston sun.  That sanctuary is soon to be no more.  Sorry Fritz and Heidi.  Chris' plans are to fill in the hole and put some concrete pavers over it.  Gotta protect the stairs infrastructure, you know. 
Next we needed a huge bag of potting soil.  What I didn't realize at the time was the intent to pot and repot.  Sounds like a criminal charge.  Some of the new plants will live in the ground.  Others will live in pots, but still outside.  I have never understood the designation involved with that, but pots do need a special kind of dirt, I'm told.  Hence, POTting soil.  While she was at it Chris took the opportunity to move some her old plants back there into bigger pots.  And I took the opportunity to dig up some of the random sprouts of daylilies that I have had to carefully (or in some cases not so carefully) mow around.  Of course Chris had the exact spot she wanted them to go in flower beds.  She also had a plan for mulch.  Not the artificially colored kind, mind you.  Just simple mulch.  Made from pine (it was the cheapest).  When she pronounces the flower beds complete, the mulch will go to cover up all the empty space in hopes of preventing extraneous weeds from filling in the blanks. 
Finally on the way out of Home Depot's Home and Garden section, I saw the bags of Weed and Feed.  Why not?  We threw in a bag for our lawn so I would have something to do, too.  Now if the rain will hold off until I get that stuff down we won't even have to water it in.  Ah, the life of a Galveston gardener.
Hebrews 13:5-6 says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'  So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?'"
Father, please help those plants grow.  It'll make Chris really happy.  Amen.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19 – “Defending the Island”

We heard back from our new accountant yesterday about our income taxes.  They need more information.  I sent the same amount of information I have been sending for years, and this is the first time it hasn't been enough.  A few of the things I can understand.  The IRS decided to change some things regarding mileage in the middle of the year last year, so they need me to break it down into six month segments.  OK.  That one I get.  But I also have to separate out every business expense by categories and indicate the dates I made quarterly payments.  Oh, and I had to report the total mileage on my car for the year.  Guess they want to make sure I did other things besides just work-related stuff.  Nice to know the government is concerned about my leisure time.
Yesterday I mentioned that we had grandchildren for two nights in a row.  The second night was Cailyn.  She apparently hadn't seen enough of us while her Mom was on Spring Break, so she harassed them enough until they let her come over for a visit.  With the weather clearing up and warming up we have been able to do more outside stuff with her.  The other day she took Nani on a walk.  She wore the brand new helmet we got her so she would have one here at our house.  That would be Cailyn, not Nani.  Just can't get Nani to wear one when she goes on a walk.  She better be careful.  I was working on the sermon, so they gave me a big goodbye and departed for regions unknown. 
As they made their way west on Sycamore, Cailyn occasionally turned toward the street and waved.  At one point she recognized someone in particular and called out a big "Hello" to Terry and Tony, those impish imaginary friends of hers.  When they arrived at the end of the street Chris texted me.  "We are at the beach." That one I recognized from one of my walks with Cailyn.  The last driveway on the block is an empty house, but it has an extra-wide driveway.  It is perfect for sunbathing and watching imaginary waves crash against the imaginary seawall.  I returned the text asking, "R U sunbathing?"  Her answer surprised me, but I guess it shouldn't have.  "No.  Fighting off pirates at the moment."  Ah, yes.  Galveston Island, of course.  We have had the nasty pirate infestation since Jean LaFitte.  During a lull in the action Cailyn returned to sunbathing, so Chris asked if she was ready to head home.  "Not yet," she answered.  Wearily, she took up her imaginary sword and fended off the pirates' last ditch efforts to invade the island.  After that final flurry Cailyn announced that she was ready now.  Like a true unsung hero, she contentedly crawled on her bike and headed back to the house.  Just another long day at the office, I guess.
Hebrews 13:1-2 says, "Keep on loving each other as brothers.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."
Father, keep those angels coming.  Amen.