Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30 – “A Dream Call”

I had one of those odd dreams last night, and it wasn’t even drug-induced.  Not scary like a nightmare.  Not informative like a revelation from God (at least I don’t think it was).  Not wonderful or joyful or flooding my very being with a sense of great peace.  It was just odd.  I’m sure there was more to it, but all I can remember is coming home (from where I have no idea).  There on our couch were all of our grandkids, fast asleep.  And on the couch with them was a friend of ours from out at Seaside, Kathy LaBuff.  Now, I haven’t seen Kathy in quite a while.  She’s a nurse out at UTMB and her husband is a sheriff deputy.  Last time I saw them was when I did their son’s wedding last year.  But there was Kathy, just as clear as day.  She told me Chris was a bit frazzled, so she came over to help with the kids.  That’s all.  Very odd.  Very simple. 

What could it mean?  Was it a message?  Perhaps a revelation of some deep, hidden truth that I was not able to comprehend in my waking state?  Was Chris about to have a difficult day – so exasperating that she would need some help from without to enable her to get through it?  I don’t think so.  She can handle more than any woman I know in terms of stress.  Were the LaBuffs in danger?  I don’t think that was it, either.  Did I mention Kathy’s husband is a sheriff deputy?  They’ve got it handled. 

Now, I know everyone faces stress of some kind every day, though.  And who couldn’t use a little help from their friends?  That’s more than just a line from an old song, you know.  I woke up right after that, so I followed our procedure of saying a prayer for any recognizable person in a dream.  Guess I’ll send the LaBuff clan a quick note today to let them know I thought of them. 

Psalms 42:1 says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”

Father, watch over all the LaBuffs today: Brian and Kathy and Kelly and Skyler and Corey Beth.  Amen

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29 – “Nighttime madness”

Well, I must be more exhausted than I thought.  I didn’t wake up until almost 8:00 this morning.  Nothing all that unusual happened last night as far as I can remember.  Chris and I prayed together.  I did some crossword puzzles.  I turned off the light.  Then Chris heard Heidi knock over the gate in the dogs’ suite.  I’m not sure how she knew it was Heidi, but I’m not one to argue with her Mommy sensors.  I got up to check on things.  The gate wasn’t knocked over.  But Heidi was standing right next to it.  Eerie.  Maybe Chris’s sensors kicked in a little over the top and she heard what might have been.  I moved the gate to see if she wanted to go outside while I refilled the water bowl.  When I returned she went right to bed.  So much for that nighttime madness.  Boy, things sure get wild around here after eleven pm, don’t they?  I remember the days when we were snuggling into Nathan’s bed to wait for him to return from one of his sneak-out-the-window-they-will-never-know evening jaunts.  It was sure a surprise to him when he returned to find Mom and Dad in his bed.  I haven’t laughed like that in a long time.  Er, I mean, I certainly hope that taught the young whippersnapper a thing or two. 

If all goes as planned today will be another hospital run day.  Uncle Jerry is supposed to be released if they can find some way to get him back up the stairs at his house.  I guess his physical therapy sessions went well at the hospital.  He didn’t mention anything about a rehab stint this time.  I also want to go see Joe, the guys from church who had open heart surgery.  He is in a regular room and has been amazing the nurses with his ability to rebound.  Apparently he was walking laps around the intensive care unit the day after his surgery.  He has had some awareness issues, thinking he was at home, but for an 83 year old who has just had his chest ripped open and he heart fiddled with, I think he’s entitled to some confusion.  I’m sure making my reservation now for the confusion I intend to invoke when I get his age.  I have a whole list of goofy things I want to do and blame it on my age.  If I can just remember where I put it …

Psalms 41:13 says, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Amen and Amen.”

Father, keep up that healing process with Uncle Jerry and with Joe.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28 – “Female logic”

One of the nights over the Thanksgiving break we hosted one of those infamous events known around here as a “Cousins’ Sleepover.”  Since Josh and Christi were already in town and staying with us, Jachin and Micah and Cailyn decided they had a right to stick around as well.  Josiah is still a little young to stand up for his rights, I suppose, so he went home with Mom and Dad.  The idea is to push everything out of the way in the den and line the floor with sleeping bags.  Once everyone is settled, Nani makes some popcorn and they have to pick out a movie to watch.  Now that could cause some bickering, so Chris actually keeps a record of who chooses the movie each time so everyone gets a chance.  That’s my organized wife. 

So, that’ show things start out.  And it usually remains that way at least until the end of the movie.  By that time the adults are getting ready for bed, the lights are going out, and the reality of bedtime begins to hit.  That’s about when Caleb decides that Mom and Dad need some comfort time in case they have been missing him.  Cailyn hasn’t even made it that far.  She has already staked out her claim to a spot in our bedroom.  The remaining three talk for a while, and eventually fall asleep.  Later on in the night, however, when everything is still and dark, Zakary gets up to go to the bathroom.  And since he is so close to the bedroom, and Micah and Jachin are asleep anyway, he makes the decision to join Mom and Dad and Caleb for the remainder of the night. 

But in the morning, it’s the guys who are up the earliest.  They have lots of playing to get done before they all have to return to their respective homes.  They start out quiet enough, but it doesn’t take long for the struggles of G.I. Joe or Luke Skywalker to take precedence over any concern for silence.  And this particular time, as often happens with guys, ended up in what could only be accurately described as a wrestling match.  There was lots of laughter and giggling involved, so no one was getting hurt, but the noise level was steadily increasing.

And about that time Cailyn walked in.  She was awakened by the sounds and drawn to the activity.  But she dared not enter in.  Not this vision of feminine loveliness.  She laughed some, but soon either her concern for the boys’ well-being or her desire to be a part of what was going on overwhelmed her ability to enjoy the spectacle.  She tried communicating, “Guys.  Guys.”  But alas no one heard.  Her frustration grew and grew until finally she placed her hands on her hips and turned to Chris, declaring, “Those boys have to stop that because I’m a woman.”  Perfect female logic, don’t you think?  Enough said. 

Psalms 41:12 says, “In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.”

Father, help our little grow up to be men and women of integrity.  Amen.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27 – “Bad news / good news”

I had to make another hospital run yesterday.  One of our guys from church was scheduled for heart surgery.  Quadruple bypass.  They said he had five blockages, but they were only going to deal with four of them, perhaps because he also needed a new valve in his heart.  That was to be the “rest of the surgery.”  Something like that used to sound so critical.  I remember when my Dad had bypass surgery years ago.  I was in Denver when I found out, and the church up there basically told me to get out of town as fast as I could so I could be with him.  Joe’s wife said they told her that the odds of a catastrophic result of the surgery, even with the valve replacement added on, was only in the neighborhood of three to five percent.  That’s amazing.  It really helped their emotional approach to the situation, though. 

After Shirley’s family arrived, I went upstairs to check on Uncle Jerry’s status.  He had two surgeries to remove blood clots after one leg had so much blockage that it looked like it had gone ten rounds with the heavyweight champ of the world – black and blue and swollen.  At one point he was scheduled to go home yesterday.  When I got there, though, he was in excruciating pain.  He had just maneuvered from the bed to the chair in his room, and his pain had jumped to an almost unbearable level in his calf.  They were working to manage the pain, but he still faced a physical therapy session later in the day.  There was no way he would be heading home any time soon.  He lives in the West End of the Island, so he has to deal with lots of steps just to get inside his front door.  Looks like he will head to a rehab hospital for his next stop.

When he finally started dozing off, I headed back to check in on Shirley and her family.  They had settled in for the long haul.  The volunteer had informed them that the surgery could take a few hours longer than they had anticipated.  While we were talking I got a text from Chris.  She said Mom was “sitting on the side of her bed in Lala Land.”  I decided to head back home to see what help I could be on that front.  Three doses of pretty tough news to handle.  Gotta admit, it can start to wear at you. 

I got into the elevator and started a text to Chris to see how Mom was doing.  A young man in his early twenties jumped in right before the doors closed and took up his spot on the other side of the car.  I couldn’t help myself.  My people watching nature kicked in.  The guy was hunched over and seemed kind of fidgety.  His head stayed down, but his eyes were working overtime, darting back and forth.  For the most part, his behavior would have raised some sense of the suspicious in me, were it not for one thing.  He had this goofy grin on his face that he just couldn’t seem to turn off.  I had a hunch I knew where he was coming from.  Finally we made eye contact, and I smiled and greeted him.  His grin widened, and he straightened up to face me.  Forgetting elevator decorum, he went right past nodding and smiling and maybe offering a polite “hi.”  He went straight to “I just had a baby.”  That’s what I thought.  For the rest of the brief ride I got an earful of his origins (“I live in Alvin that’s where I met my wife and we got married there and now we have a baby”).  I did manage to ask two questions, “Is it a boy or a girl?” (“It’s a girl and she’s really healthy and that’s all that matters and she has ten fingers and ten toes”), and “What’s her name?”  That brought the widest smile of all as he proudly declared, “Rose Marie.”  Perfect name for a country girl from Alvin. 

The elevator doors opened and he went off in the other direction, grinning and mumbling to himself.  I walked toward my car with a new bounce in my step, humming and pondering the events of the day.  And I was amazed at how three bits of rough news could be put in perspective by this one simple announcement, “A baby has been born.”  Finding out about a total stranger’s baby girl had quite an effect on me in the midst of my bad news day.  Kind of sheds new light on God’s decision to explode into history as a baby rather than as a superstar.  He was concerned about affecting people’s hearts, not so much their politics.

Matthew 1:22-23 says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ -which means, ‘God with us.’”

Father, thank you for baby Rose Marie.  Guide her to a special place in your kingdom.  Amen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26 – “The real record Turkey Bowl”

The Turkey Bowl tradition in our family continued for one more year.  I saw in the newspaper that a group claims to be the longest running turkey bowl because they have been playing for forty years.  Sorry guys.  The Vaughan/Castiglioni cousins and friends can proudly say we have bested you on longevity.  Our game began back when I was eleven or twelve years old.  That would give us a running history of 47 or 48 years.  Now, I submit in that our game was not played on Thanksgiving Day itself.  We reserved the Saturday after Thanksgiving at High Noon for our battle royale.  When we first began it was just a simple game of two-below out in the street in front of the house.  We had to stop when someone called “car” and start up again at the cry “game on.”  As we got older and friends started joining us, the street became too small for something so significant.  Besides, we fancied ourselves quite the athletes, so we wanted a more accurate “feel for the game.”  We tried several other venues, particularly out at the airport where open spaces used to be abundant.  Finally, though, we settled on Spoor Field, the Ball High practice facility named after the father of one of my Mom’s best friends.  It was perfect.  No one ever used it over the holidays, and the goals were already marked.  We didn’t have to establish which bumpers marked the end zone, and our play calling didn’t have to include things like, “Go to the red Ford and cut across the middle over to the station wagon.”  And of course there was always the appearance of the Treasure Isle Tour Train that signaled halftime.  As we got even older, the call of “Tour train.  Half time” became code for the end of the game, since once we stopped it became impossible to start back up again.  On the thirteenth year of the game one of the guys printed off some t-shirts for everyone.  At some point we started presenting a trophy to the MVP of the game.  It was named for a guy who always promised to be at the game but never showed up.  That presentation kind of deteriorated, though.  We eventually started presenting it for all sorts of random reasons.  Rick got it when he slid headfirst through a huge mud puddle.  I think it was my cousin Karen who got it for being a girl.  Josh got it the very first year he was old enough to play.  On the first play from scrimmage one of the big guys accidentally smacked him in the face and he had to leave the game to get stitches.  That warranted the trophy for Josh and much ridicule for the guy who hit him.  The trophy disappeared after a while.  I think one of the guys who received it decided to never come back, so it disappeared with him into oblivion.  Ah, memories. 

This year we once again returned to our roots and just played a game in the street.  Boundaries were back of Nathan’s truck to the back of a car parked down the street.  And when another car pulled up and parked behind that one, our field just got smaller.  Jachin played this year and did really well.  A few guys from Seaside even joined us.  Our goal has morphed a bit from the old days when we used to care about who won.  Now it’s just a matter of having a lot of fun and staying as healthy as possible.  Speaking of which, I’m still sore.  I need to remember to check with my rheumatologist next year about some kind of pre-game shot to dull the pain.  Wait.  What’s that?  Not play?  Heresy.

Psalms 41:2-3 says, “The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.  The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”

Father, would you grant some of that protection to a bunch of tired, sore old dudes trying fruitlessly to regain former athletic prowess?  Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25 – “A Gum Guys Tradegy”

Have you ever seen the game called “Gum Guys”?  There’s not much to it, really.  Each player gets a wad of some silly putty-like material and uses it to stick together some semblance of a character using other plastic pieces for head and arms and legs.  The silly putty stuff is the body.  Then the creatures are hung on a rack.  One by one you add plastic weights to each other’s gum guy.  The first one to stretch completely to the table loses.  Lots of fun.

With all the kids and grandkids around here the last few days, things got pretty chaotic.  During one lull in the action when the older kids were engrossed in a game on the Wii and the adults were having a conversation in the kitchen, the current youngest one, Josiah, decided that he wanted the Gum Guys set up.  He didn’t particularly need anyone to play with him, just fix up one of the guys and hang it on the rack.  That was accomplished easily enough by his Mom, who then returned to her chatting.  Meanwhile Josiah watched.  He didn’t add any weights or anything.  He just watched.  As it ever-so slowly began to stretch, he was enraptured.  His big blue eyes seemed mesmerized by the pink wad of glob in front of him.  It seemed to take forever to begin its descent, but still he watched.  And obviously I still watched him.  Finally the stretching began to increase, and the look of wonder in his eyes began to change.  He looked away – to the all-knowing adult population nearby – for some reassurance that what was happening was actually supposed to happen.  And the creature stretched more.  The rest of the old people slowly realized what was happening and joined my Josiah watch.  The stretch continued.  The adults began to comment on the progress.  “There it goes.”  “It’s stretching, stretching, stretching.”  At first Josiah was delighted by the attention turned his way, but the look of amazement was gone now completely.  The sense of what was actually happening to his little pink friend was beginning to sink in.  Stretching.  Stretching.  Faster.  Faster.  At just about the point of no return, amidst the chanting and cheering surrounding him, Josiah had had all he could stand.  He began to tear up.  He couldn’t bear to watch.  He was frozen in horror, not able to reach out the few inches to stop the awful event before him.  His bottom lip puckered out.  The noise abated as the old folks realized what was happening.  And just as he started to cry, his Mom stepped in and rescued the not-quite-stretched beyond repair Gum Guy.  The ladies wore looks of great concern and wanted nothing more than to console the poor little guy (Josiah, not the pink blob).  His Dad was somewhat less sympathetic, sadly shaking his head.  His Uncle Josh reacted quite differently, however.  No he didn’t cry along with the tyke.  Much the contrary.  He had to leave the room in a valiant but impossible effort to conceal his laughter. 

The whole thing reminded me of the time when Kel was a kid.  He got one of those Stretch Armstrong dolls one Christmas.  I remember His uncles each grabbed an arm and a leg and pulled it almost to the breaking point.  Poor little Kel was upset that they were hurting the guy.  Much later Kel was doing some experimenting of his own as to the restorative powers of his new friend.  He stabbed the doll with a pen.  It started oozing some kind of gel (the doll, not the pen), and he totally freaked out.  He was completely convinced that he had killed the thing.  Even the proverbial magic bandaid over the doll’s wound couldn’t console him.  We finally had to hide poor old Stretch Armstrong from him.  We told him it was in the hospital (one of the multiple uses and designations of the top shelf of a dark closet).  Perhaps that incident was what Kel was thinking about as he watched Josiah.  A flashback to his own personal childhood tale of horror. 

Psalms 41:1 says, “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.”

Father, calm fears and inspire encouragement.  Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24 – “According to the barections”

Thursday afternoon after the table was cleared and the dishes were done, all the girls (including Cailyn) spread out the sales circulars on the table and began to map out a strategy for a Black Friday attack.  Chris has never been one for the craziness, but she sure enjoys pitching right in with the plans and the lists.  It does give us some ideas for Christmas presents, after all.  I wouldn’t mind doing some people watching in the midst of all the madness, if it only happened at an hour when I could stay awake.  Nathan was at work, but April let Cailyn stay up late and they went to WalMart and Target.  That was just a reconnaissance mission, though, because they went back on Friday morning with Daddy.  Nathan sent us a text at one point showing Cailyn holding her newest love (well, the newest one that isn’t a small live furry creature).  This one was a stuffed Yoda doll.  Brought back memories for me of the time she told me “I love ‘oda.  He’s so cute.”  Josh and Christi waited until their boys were asleep.  They headed out at 10:35.  Now that’s well past my bedtime, so I don’t know if their venture was successful or not.  I do know when I roused around 1 or 1:30 they were just returning.  I didn’t hear whether Christina got to go out or not.  I’m pretty sure Kel wasn’t interested in such an adventure.  The girls had one other shopping escapade.  On Friday afternoon they went over to the Moody Gardens craft fair.  At least we thought it was a craft fair.  It turned out to be just a bunch of merchants hawking their wares.  They were gone an awfully long time, and I did see some bags when they returned, so there were purchases made.  Chris said she saw some things, but it just felt wrong actually buying something without me being there.  Christmas shopping is one of the things we really enjoy doing together.  Guess since one of us has to hang out with Mom, that won’t happen this year.  Ah, well.  New challenges.

It’s been fun watching the different styles of play among all the kids now that they are a little older.  I got a kick out of Caleb in particular this year.  He and his brother Zak are all about building things out of Legos.  In fact Zak is amazingly creative in the different things he has been able to engineer and bring into existence.  Caleb, however, has taken a different tack.  He has been bringing individual pieces over to me or to his Dad and has asked, “Is this the right way to do thin one?”  He wants everything to be put together according to the “barections.”  Forget all that creativity stuff.

Job 38:4-7 says, “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!   Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”

Father, thank you for being the “Barections Writer.”  Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23 – “Pause it for a minute”

We had a house guest most of the day yesterday.  A little girl from church spent the day with us while her Mom started work at a new job.  Kiara is a very sweet kid, almost exactly the same age as Cailyn.  Chris had pretty much completed all her preparations for the Thanksgiving meal, which wasn’t scheduled to take place until the evening this year.  Well, that would be part one of the feast.  The rest of it will occur when everybody comes back and Kel and Christina and their boys come down as well.  We are doing an experiment to get a sense of what it was like to have one of those week-long feasts like we have been studying about in the Old Testament. 

At one point Kiara overheard Chris talking about deviled eggs.  I don’t know exactly what the context of the conversation was up to then, but I did hear this much:

Kiara: “The Baptist church has deviled eggs.” (We had just had dinner on the grounds the previous Sunday, and sure enough, someone had brought deviled eggs).

Chris: “You had some deviled eggs at church?”

Kiara: “The Baptist church has deviled eggs.” (Emphasis hers, not mine).

I guess churches of the myriad of other denominations she is apparently familiar with only have angel eggs.  Oh, well.  I like the deviled ones.

Speaking of three-year-old girls, Cailyn talked her Aunt Christi into playing a game of Twister with her.  April conveniently volunteered to be the spinner, so she sneakily avoided actually playing the game.  And Christi proved to be quite adept at all the twists and turns.  That game ended when Cailyn literally turned a somersault trying to get her right foot over to a green circle.  We all cheered the maneuver and Christi graciously congratulated her worthy opponent.  We thought the gaming had ended, but Cailyn had other ideas.  She scanned the crowd and her eyes stopped on … me.  “Come on, DadDad.  Take off your shoes.”  Well, a challenge from a grandchild … how could I turn that down?  It did take me a few minutes to unstrap my sandals and wriggle my toes out of their grasp.  And I guess I took too long.  Cailyn dropped the spinner onto the playing surface and announced, “That’s OK, DadDad, I’m gonna pause it for a minute.”  Pause it for a minute.  Ah, the joys of living in the Age of Technology.

Psalms 40:8 says, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

Father, may the desire to do your will be the heart cry of all our children and grandchildren.  Amen.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22 – “A Happy Thanksgiving wake-up call”

I got a FaceTime request phone call at 6:57 this morning.  It wasn’t a true wake-up call or anything.  I had been up since 6.  It just surprised me a bit.  Nathan is the only one who calls that early, and it’s usually when he is on his way home from work.  But this wasn’t Nathan.  It was from Josh.  Well, it was from Josh’s phone, anyway. 

I answered the call and began the usual wait for the connection.  But suddenly the call failed.  Now that was somewhat of a disappointment, but I continued perusing the newspaper.  Then came the text.  Sure enough it was from Josh.  Seems Caleb was awake early and had taken Daddy’s phone into the closet, and Daddy had no idea that he knew how to use it.  Caleb brought him the phone when the FaceTime connect began and told him “somebody’s trying to call you.”  The image on the screen was still in the fuzzy stage, and Josh had no idea who Caleb had called, so he had hurriedly canceled the call.  I texted back and chastised Daddy a bit for hanging up on me.

Didn’t take long after that for a new FaceTime request to come through.  By this time Chris was wondering what all the phone activity was about, so I joined her back in the bed and we had a nice conversation with Josh and Caleb.  They were the only ones awake over at the other grandparents’ house, so Caleb had opportunity to display his talents for us.  Jumping high came first, which led naturally into break dancing.  And he was very good, actually.  I never heard any music, but since when does a three-almost-four-year-old need music?  His Daddy asked if he would share some of his energy (Daddy’s energy level was obviously, well, quite a bit lower at the moment).  Caleb regretfully declined.  He had other plans for displaying tricks and wanted to conserve what he could. 

The plan is for them to get here tonight and we will do a family Thanksgiving thing tomorrow.  That’s when Kel and his clan can be here, and Nathan has to work today anyway.  We will have some Turkey Day guests, though.  Several folks from church are coming.  Chris is even babysitting a three-year-old today.  And we have invited my cousin Jer and my uncle Jerry if he gets out of the hospital.  April and Cailyn might come, too, especially when they find out little Ciara will be here.  Instant playmate.  And of course the famous Vaughan open door policy is still in effect.  Who knows who else may show up?  All are definitely welcome.

Psalms 40:5 says, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” 

Father, that’s a perfect Thanksgiving Day verse.  Thank you for those wonders.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21 – “Fried turkey day”

I guess if Thursday is nicknamed Turkey Day, then yesterday had to be Fried Turkey Day.  Well, Chris also made a huge batch of no-peanut-allergy-affected cookies, but that was a walk in the park for her.  One day a year, usually the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we break out our two big outdoor fryers, fill up two huge pots with peanut oil and spend the day frying turkeys.  This year’s total was kind of down from years past, though.  We only did ten.  Ten turkeys ranging in weight from 11 pounds (that was the one Kel brought over) to 13 pounds (that one was for Josh and Christi) to almost 16 pounds (that was the one for the fire department where Nathan works).  Most of them hover around 13 pounds, though.  That has proven over the years to be the most effective, “ideal” weight for our pots.  We have a not-so-secret, secret recipe for seasoning that we got from our friend Alex McLaughlin.  Well, if I understand it right, it was technically from his mother.  Where she got it, I have no idea.  Chris rubs the turkeys down a day or so before the frying event and we let them sit in it as the thaw out in the fridge.  I know there’s a word for “let them sit in it,” but I don’t remember what it is right now.  Too early in the morning. 

I got the fire going under the pots by about 9 a.m.  It takes an hour for the grease to get hot enough for the first entry, so the frying didn’t officially begin until around ten.  Ten.  That’s about the time I got the call from Nathan that he was awake and getting ready to come over to help out with the lifting.  This year he brought over something that really was helpful – a pair of his old bunker gear gloves.  That had to be a great picture.  Each of us wearing a big old fireman glove on one hand, dipping a turkey into a bubbling cauldron of 300 degree grease.  Inspiring.  He also invited a fire fighter friend of his to come over and hang out for a while.  Andy’s wife Katy was getting her nails done with April, so Nathan and Andy needed a more “guy-oriented” activity to pass the time.  Burning large birds in fiery pits seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  I tried to get Andy to do some carving, but the only key activity I could convince him to partake in was … tasting.  Hey, somebody’s gotta do it, I guess.  Right, Andy?

The last of the turkeys came out around 3:30.  I finally finished carving and cleaning up some of the utensils by 4 or so.  By that time April and her fingernails had arrived, and Cailyn soon woke up from her nap.  Kel took his 11 pounder with him.  Nathan kept the fire department turkey intact and took it with him.  He said they could carve it themselves.  So we now have a refrigerator full of turkeys ready for Thanksgiving and beyond (Chris freezes three or four of them for use all throughout the year).  The only thing remaining (other than eating, of course) is to pour out the potful’s of grease and scrub the pots down.  That’s always a fun, nasty, grimy project.  Can’t wait.

Psalms 40:4 says, “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.”

Father, help us make Thanksgiving a day of trust as well as thanks.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20 – “A Day at the hospital”

I will never get over how exhausting it is to sit around for hours at a time with no way to actually do anything productive.  Add to that a sense of stressful drama and you get a day of fatigue like no other.  That’s pretty much how my day went yesterday.  I anticipated a somewhat calm day of working on a sermon and getting ahead on some preparations for future teachings.  That didn’t happen.

I got up a little before 5:30.  I had to be at Cailyn’s house so April could leave for nursing school clinicals by 6:10.  This way Cailyn wouldn’t have to be cruelly awakened and transplanted at our house in a stage of grogginess.  She could wake up when she pleased and then we could come back here.  That part of the day went fine.  In fact Christina had even stopped by with her boys and they were all running around our house in circles like mice in a maze.  That’s when I got the first call.  Nathan was at work when he got a call that April had passed out at clinicals and was on her way to the emergency room.  He arranged to get away from work and was on his way.  I told him I would meet him there, but as we talked he indicated that he really didn’t know exactly what was happening.  He was of course worried – we all worry any time April so much as sneezes after her bout with the mysterious malady that ended in her spleen being removed.  But I told him to take a deep breath and not make it into a problem before it actually was a problem.  I returned to the computer, but before long Nathan was calling again.  After talking with April he found out that she was told when she roused from passing out that they thought she had had a seizure.  OK.  That’s close enough.  I assured him I would meet him at the ER.  When I got there, the receptionist on duty actually recognized me.  She used to be the secretary in the pastoral care office before they did away with it.  I told her I was there to see April Vaughan.  She made a call and told them April’s Daddy was there to see her.  OK.  I’ll wear that hat.  She is most assuredly a daughter to me, and I’m pretty sure her Dad wouldn’t mind me using his title for a bit.  They ushered me back and I joined them in their waiting game.  At one point they came in to do an EKG and asked April who that old guy was standing over by her husband.  She ID’ed me as her father-in-law and assured then I was OK.  Thanks, April.  And there was my … let me review here … husband when I said good morning to Chris, grandfather when I picked up Cailyn, Dad when I talked to Nathan, Dad-substitute when I checked in, and now father-in-law … that makes five hats I had worn so far.  Nathan and I joked about me keeping my Pastor hat in in reserve my back pocket in case I needed it.  April seemed to be doing fine.  She just wanted to go home and, in her words, “sleep it off.”  And then my phone rang.

The second call was from my Uncle Jerry.  He’s the one I brought to the hospital a few weeks ago because of blood clots in his legs.  Sure enough, he sounded terrible.  He was in great pain and wanted me to come give him a ride to the hospital again.  I asked if he was bad enough for me to call 911, but he wanted to wait and ride with me.  At least he didn’t try to drive himself like he did once before.  I assured him I would be there as soon as I could.  I gave April and Nathan a hug and a quick prayer and I was off.  Before I could get out of the parking garage, though, he called back and said I should probably go ahead and call 911.  He didn’t think he could make it down the stair anyway.  So I did.  I also called Nathan, and when he heard the dispatch call, he touched base with the responding medics to make sure they brought their A-game with them.  The ambulance beat me to the scene, and they were about ready to transport when I arrived.  One of his neighbors came over to offer her help, so I got her phone number for future reference.  They used one of those really strange-looking chairs with tank treads on the bottom to get him down the stairs.  Looked like a really bumpy ride to me.  They did fine, but I bet the fire department could have done better.  Just a little bit of prejudice on my part there. 

When I got back to the ER the same receptionist was on duty.  In fact she saw me coming and already had a name tag made out for me with April’s room number on it.  I told her that my uncle was now back there, too, and she shook her head knowingly, as only someone who had worked with chaplains and pastors could.  She understood those who wear the pastor hat.  And my nephew hat was out and polished as well.  The volunteer ushered me back toward April’s room, but we passed Jerry’s first, so I stopped there.  My guide seemed a bit confused, but I assured him I could find my way around and thanked him for his help.  Now Uncle Jerry was not in great shape.  His leg was swollen and purple and in a nutshell clots in his veins were causing so much swelling that the arterial blood flow was being compromised.  That meant surgery or he stood a chance of losing the foot.  Nathan came over when April was taken for a Doppler test for blood clots of her own.  We talked to my cousins – Jerry’s kids – on the phone, trying to fill them in.  His son was headed this way from Florida anyway, and will be here sometime this morning.  They performed all the requisite tests.  And then we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  April was released on her own recognizance, or at least under Nathan’s care.  They decided that she … passed out.  OK, we knew that coming in.  Thank you very much.  Since there was nothing left to do but wait for the surgery, Uncle Jerry finally convinced me to head on home around 5:30.  Twelve hours.  That’s a pretty full day.

Psalms 40:3 says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
Father, watch over April and Jerry.  Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19 – “Harvest Celebration”

We had our first Harvest Celebration at Seaside yesterday.  Quite appropriate for Thanksgiving week, right?  The idea was to focus of sacrifice and appreciation for what God has blessed us with over the past year.  I wanted to do more than just take up an extra offering and serve turkey at the dinner on the grounds.  We had some unique challenges to overcome, though.  Only one member of our praise team was able to be on hand Sunday, with all the family travel as well as work responsibilities going on.  That meant I had to figure out the best way to work in “canned” music.  It’s not that we haven’t done that sort of thing before.  That’s how we got started years ago before we had any musicians.  We just sang along with cd’s and used one of those really old things called an overhead projector to get the words up on the wall.  Lots of fun, but not the same as live music, I must say.  So here’s a rundown of what we did.

Technology has come a long way since overhead projector days.  I was able to download some music videos of the songs that had the words already embedded.  Then is just became a matter of regulating the volume.  That problem solved, I moved along to the service itself.  We started out with a look at the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23.  I even built one and crawled inside briefly, although I’m sure mine would never have passed muster as far as regulations for building sukkahs is concerned.  The idea was to make a connection between that Feast and our own Thanksgiving.  They sure sound similar.  Wouldn’t be surprised if the Pilgrims did a little modeling after what they had read in Scripture.  There were several different stations scattered around the room, depicting each emphasis of the service.  The wave station was first.  I had some flat bread there and I “waved it before the Lord” to show things like all things belong to God, our commitment to bring our first fruits to him, and our recognition that he promised us a Savior.  Then everyone walked to that table and broke off a piece of bread.  After a time of encouraging one another, everyone received five pieces of candy corn.  They represented the meager rations the early Pilgrims had during their rough winter months – five kernels of corn per person per day.  For the community prayer time we each walked to a table of stuffed animals – lamb, ram, bull, and birds (I couldn’t find a goat) – all types of sacrifices from Temple days, and prayed as we touched one of the creatures.  The Blood table followed.  That’s where we recognized the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made when he gave his life as a perfect sacrifice.  After hearing the Gospel, everyone came to the table and drank a cup of juice.  The next station included a teaching about giving, and everyone was encouraged to pass by our giving boxes and present their offerings.  One family even gave a collection of groceries as an extra offering to the Lord.  The final station involved waving before the Lord two loaves of bread made using yeast.  The idea there was to recognize that there is now no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile.  Under Christ we are a new creation, the Church, because of the presence within us of the Holy Spirit.  Everyone walked by and tore off a piece of that bread, then formed a large circle of unity.  In that circle we sang our final song, The Family of God. 

The final event of the day was dinner on the grounds.  Among the food served was some actual lamb (along with the requisite turkey), as well as some other first fruit kinds of things.  There was this one issue, though.  Cailyn came with us to church, and when it came time to eat, she was adamant about where she wanted to sit – on the floor.  Chris argued with her about coming to the table, but Cailyn finally countered with “But Nani, you said we were eating dinner on the ground.”  There you go.  Watch your words.

Psalms 40:1-2 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Father, thank you for a great thanksgiving experience yesterday.  Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18 – “Fall, after all”

The City of Galveston had another one of those free tree give-aways a few Saturdays back.  They are attempting to get the island back to the same level of foliage that it had before Hurricane Ike killed off most of the trees here.  Last time they had one we got two sycamore trees.  We figured they would be the best fit, since we did, after all, live on Sycamore Drive.  And I guess they were from good stock, because both of them are doing really well.  They are in the front yard and are well on their way to be great shade producers, especially the one that is positioned between our front porch and the setting sun. 

To be honest, we weren’t going to take advantage of this offer.  Too much trouble to stand in line on a Saturday morning.  But Nathan happened to be stationed at the fire station across the street.  He picked up a pecan tree and something with pretty leaves.  We still don’t know what that one is.  I agreed to swing by and take them to his house for him, and while there he talked me into stopping by the give-away.  Strangely enough, when I got there they had decided to give each customer four trees instead of just two.  And there was no line at all.  So I walked away with four persimmon trees.  I have no idea what a persimmon is, much less what their tree looks like.  Apparently it’s some kind of fruit. 

As it has all worked out, we now have three persimmon trees in various spots around our house.  Nathan has the one pretty-leaf tree over at his house.  And we still have two others left with no place to put them.  We might hang onto them and plant them next door whenever they finish tearing that house down.  We did offer one to Josh and Christi.  Oddly, she seemed very hesitant about accepting it.  After a bit of pressing Chris finally figured out that the only tree Christi had seen planted in similar circumstances was the one Josh managed to get when they lived in Mansfield.  It arrived at their house already taller than the roof.  I think they had to tear out their fence to get it into place.  Very nice tree.  But we assured her that the ones we had were still in five gallon buckets.  Not all that difficult to maneuver.  I guess we have time to decide … if we can keep them alive.  It’s hard to tell since they have no leaves on them.  It is Fall, after all. 

Psalms 39:7 says, “But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you.”

Father, please grow those trees.  They are great evidence of how you can take a five gallon bucketful and turn it into something bigger than a house.  Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17 – “Recreation and the culinary arts”

And today we complete the olio of career choices we were exposed to during our all-too brief moments with Josh and Christi and their boys. 

We must begin with the culinary arts.  Now that’s a word that I have always wondered about, so I just looked up its etymology.  Culinary is derived from the Latin word that means kitchen.  There you have it.  Nothing fancy there.  Kitchen Arts.  That I can understand.  I am married to one of the masters in that category.  And my dear master of the culinary was involved in the next incident.  She was helping Christi out in the kitchen (imagine that) as they prepared food for the weary children and even wearier old-guys-who-play-with-children.  There’s bound to be a Latin word for that somewhere.  As they rattled pots and pans and did whatever it is one does in there, I heard what must have been culinese.  Chris posed this question to our hostess:

“Christi, when do you usually put the rice in, when the water is boiling boiling or just boiling?”

I must admit I have no idea what the difference would be between “just boiling” and “boiling boiling.”  That’s why I decided it must be a code word from the language of the Culinese people.  Christi obviously knows the language.  She answered immediately, “Boiling boiling,” and that was that.  Hey, who am I to question the intricate internal workings of another culture set?  The food was great.     

In our society that brags about a glut of free time and what to do with it, recreation has become a predominant career choice.  Personal trainers and city recreation supervisors have taken their places alongside the professional athlete as valid options for working in a field that honors, well, play.  Caleb took those career options to the next level.  He wanted to be near good ol’ Mom and of course Nani, so he was hanging out in the kitchen while they prepared the food.  I heard a somewhat muffled version of the oft-repeated phrase, “Daddy, come see me.”  Josh diverted his path and headed toward the bustle of culinary activity.  (How am I doing using my new word for the week?).  He was taken aback for a moment as he rounded the corner, for there sat Caleb … inside the open refrigerator.  Josh managed to ask, “Caleb, what are you doing in there?”  And Caleb answered, in a voice that reflected his absolutely calm demeanor, “I just coldin’ up, Dad.”  Oh, yeah.  All-new take on “just chillin’.” 

Psalms 37:39 says, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.”

Father, thank you for being there when we need you.  And when we think we don’t.  Amen.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16 – “HobbitTown Theme Park”

Well, now we continue our excursion into the realms of interpretation of careers.  First up is a new look at engineering.  When Josh and Christi were gone for a while we had the boys to ourselves.  That meant they were anxious to show us all of the unusual opportunities for creative play they have gathered together over their short life span.  And one of those opportunities involved the ever-exciting dress-up box.  In this case they have a huge Tupperware-type tub full of costumes and accessories.  By the way, why is Tupperware called Tupperware, and why does the computer spell-check automatically capitalize it?  I’m guessing some guy named Tupper invented it and the spell-check thing relates to copyright issues.  Anyway, Zak and Caleb brought out the huge Tupperware-with-a-capital-T box and dumped it all out on the living room floor – the only way to properly display such an array of items.  Astronaut, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Hobbit (including large, hairy socks), princess (there was a gown and a crown in there), rabbit, cowboy, train conductor.  We all tried on something to get into the spirit.

But as exciting as that experience was, it paled in comparison to the development of a new ride concept for the yet-to-be-funded HobbitTown Theme Park.  Now for some background.  At bedtime the night before we had listened enthralled to an installment of the book, The Hobbit.  In this part of the adventure some dwarves had hidden inside some barrels and the barrels were then floated down the river, bobbing and weaving and crashing into obstructions all along the way.  It was from that snippet of their journey that the germ of an idea began to form.  The pile of costumes was there all right, but what little boy can resist the allure of … an empty box?  Or in this case an empty Tupperware-with-a-capital-T tub?  The boys began to vie for an opportunity to be covered up by the tub, which led to the other pone sitting on top of it to see if the enclosed captive could force his way to escape.  Finally one of them crawled inside and the other snapped on the lid.  And the idea struck.  I made my way over to the tub site.  And suddenly the tub became a barrel and the resident inside became a hidden dwarf.  The tub rocked from side to side, and twirled around in circles, and bounced up and down, and turned upside down, until finally in came to rest on its side.  The lid popped off and the dwarf within rolled out, spent from … laughter.  The other one demanded his turn, and he Dwarf in a Barrel ride for the HobbitTown Theme Park was born.  OK, so maybe that’s not truly a feat of engineering, but it sure was fun.

Psalms 37:37 says, “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.”

Father, grant us peace … and a future.  Amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15 – “On linguistics and zoology”

We made a quick trip to San Antonio and managed to get some updates on the life and times of a six-year-old and a three-soon-to-be-four year old.  First, in the area of language development …

We found out that Caleb has heard a new word and is in the process of incorporating it into his everyday vocabulary: boring.  That means he inserts it into the conversation every chance he gets to hear how it sounds coming off his tongue.  Best example so far:  “It’s boring for grandparents to only stay two nights.  They have to stay three nights.”  I agree with the sentiment.  So does Zak,apparently.  He invited us to stay for a whole week.

Another key tool one must become adept at controlling is the use of linguistic humor.  The latest family game on the San Antonio front involves those time-honored tools of the twinkle-tongued: riddles.  Just two examples here.   Zakary is quite realistic in his development of the art form.  As we returned from a baseball practice, he offered: “What is round and metal and surrounded by black?”  Wanting to appear as the all-knowing and ultimately wise patriarch, I offered a reply: “The frightening metallic eye of an invading alien machine monster.”  Not quite correct.  Well, not even close.  Josh (Mr. Dad can do anything) did get it right, though.  A hubcap.  Way too simple for me.  Caleb’s offering stumped us all, though: “What if there were two moons and neither one was a circle?”  I still don’t know the answer to that one.  He left us hanging to ponder he possibilities.

Animal husbandry came up when Caleb and I were having a discussion.  We started by talking about the menagerie now residing at the home of his cousin Cailyn – two dogs, a guinea pig, a ferret.  He didn’t know what a ferret was, so I told him it was a long skinny rat.  That he could picture.  He also knew what an otter was when I indicated my favorite animal.  Then I asked what his favorite animal was.  What animal would he most like to have as a pet?  The answer was … interesting.  He immediately came up with four creatures: dolphins, bears, aminos, and rats.  I began my response before I completely processed the what he had said:  “I like dolphins, too.  They are … wait.  What’s an amino?  I’ve never seen one of those.”  Zak heard the discussion and between the two of them I was able to put together these characteristics: “It goes ‘aak’ once a week.”  OK.  I think I can handle that as long as I know it’s coming.  “It flaps his wings two times a week.”  Wings.  I got that.  Wonder if it flies or just flaps?  “It eats people’s bottoms.”  Well, I did mention they were two boys, didn’t I?  “We live far away from them but they live near you.”  Now that was frightening.  I have to live my life worrying about when the next amino will swoop down and flap his wings at me, crying “Aak.” 

I’ll share other insights in the areas of engineering, recreation, and culinary arts on another occasion.  Everyone is waking up now.  I have to get ready to take notes.

Psalms 37:34 says, “Wait for the Lord and keep his way.  He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”

Father, thank you for the chance to learn new things.  Amen.