Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31 – “The ultimate super-villain … Oral Surgeon”

Going to the dentist is never a really fun day-trip experience.  Make that the ultimate super-villain - an oral surgeon who has plans to pull five teeth - and the day gets just a little worse.  Add to that the fact that the patient is almost 86 years old and suffers from dementia and you have the makings of a very difficult day.  Yep.  That was our day with yesterday.  She had several teeth that were actually breaking off, so they needed to be pulled.  The others were just so full of decay that they were in danger of breaking at any time.  Mom did pretty well.  At least through the first two.  The third one she started to fight back. And was obviously in a great deal of discomfort. 

She can’t tell us any more when she is in pain, so Chris was watching like a hawk.  When she saw Mom start pushing the guy’s hands away and kicking her feet, she knew it was time to call it quits.  The surgeon wanted to continue, though.  He asked Mom if she wanted to do one more, even as Chris was saying no.  Mom finally looked to Chris for an answer, as she usually does, and she saw the exaggerated wag of the head from side to side that most assuredly meant “No.”  Guess the guy couldn’t argue any more, so he stopped there. 

We are supposed to call back for an appointment to pull the other two in about three weeks, but I don’t know if that will happen or not.  It was impossible to get Mom to keep the gauze in her mouth to stop the bleeding.  And she is supposed to gargle with salt water or peroxide for a few days.  That is too confusing for her as well.  She thinks any liquid that enters her mouth is to be swallowed.  I don’t know what her pain level was last night, but she was up trying to pace at least as much as usual in spite of the medication. 

It was encouraging to have some people pray for Mom and Chris at our church prayer group time last night.  Caring for Mom has already been a long haul, and it’s not over yet, so we can use all the spiritual help we can get. 

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Father, please hasten Mom’s recovery from this dental surgery.  And thank you for your encouragement, through people and through your Word.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30 – “House guests”

We had guests for lunch the other day.  Cailyn was here.  So were two of her imaginary friends.  Now one of those has been here before.  That would be Salana.  This time, though, Salana brought her husband.  Never knew she was married.  It sure didn’t come up in conversation when she was here before.  Maybe it was a new development in her life.  I asked what the husband’s name was.  Apparently that was a touchy subject. 

Cailyn glanced over at the chairs they were sitting in and looked kind of embarrassed.  She finally covered with, “He’s just her husband.”  I wondered what the problem was, but didn’t have to be in the dark for very long.  Cailyn finally announced the deep, dark secret.  Leaning over in a conspiratorial whisper that we all could here, she declared, “They are zombies.” 

Ah.  Now we have had all sorts of folks at our table over the years, and I don’t think we could be described as prejudiced in any way.  But that was just a bit disconcerting, I must admit.  And I must say that was the first time we have ever knowingly played host to a zombie couple.  That explained why they never touched their food, but their behavior was surprisingly under control for the undead.  They were remarkably quiet.  Very little groaning and moaning.  And they never tried to eat us.  We were grateful for that.  Wonder if we’ll be seeing more of them any time soon.

Psalms 63:1 says, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Father, you are like a refreshing cup of cold water.  Help me to be satisfied with the pure stuff and not try to add my own koolaide.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29 – “The Leaning Tower of Backyard”

We had a potential major crisis temporarily averted yesterday.  Sunday afternoon I glanced out our back window into our back yard where we have not spent much time lately since it is winter.  Something didn’t look quite right to me, so I walked back there for a closer look. Sure enough, the electrical pole that resides in our back yard seemed to be leaning.  I moved in for a closer look and was horrified to see that the pole was indeed leaning precariously.  I’m not so good at estimating angles, but I’m pretty sure it hadn’t quite reached 45 degrees yet.  My first reaction was one of relief, since it was headed in the opposite direction.  If it fell, it wouldn’t land on our house.  The thing that really caught my attention, though were the wires that bring electricity from the pole to our house.  They were stretched to just about their absolute limit before they started ripping away from our house.  The same wires going to the houses behind us were sagging so much that they hung down to the level of the chain link fence, about three or four feet above the ground.  That cinched it for me.  My only decision was whether to wait until Monday to call it in. 

We did wait, but first thing yesterday morning I made the call.  After listening to the classic automated computer answering system, it became apparent that there was no real category for “Averting Emergencies.”  I finally bypassed all the systems and pushed “O,” hoping it would get me to a human being so I could explain the situation.  It took a while, but I finally connected with an operator who promised a troubleshooter would be here by around noon. 

Around 12:30 he pulled up.  He was a big guy, but it was going to take more than one fellow to pull that pole back upright.  He did his inspection.  By inspection I mean he grabbed a hammer and a shovel from his truck.  He rapped on the pole twice with the hammer.  He dug one scoop away from the bottom of the pole and scraped a bit of eth wood off.  That was enough.  He officially declared the wood to be rotten and placed a call to his supervisor.  Didn’t take long for a whole crew to arrive. 

They were pleasantly surprised to see a vacant lot right next to the pole.  Made it a whole lot easier to access.  They backed the truck up as close as they could while one guy dug a really deep hole next to the pole with an extra-long post hole digger.  Maneuvering carefully around the electrical, telephone, and cable TV wires, they managed to lift a tall, skinny temporary fix pole into place.  They strapped a cable around the old pole and carefully pulled it to an almost upright position.  They couldn’t get it completely straight, because as they pulled the pole, the wires going to the houses behind us began to tighten almost as bad as ours had been.  Obviously they had been hung after the pole lean had begun.  They drilled holes through both poles with the longest drill bit I have ever seen, and inserted two huge bolts to hold the poles together.  It was just a temporary fix, but hopefully it will hold until a new pole can be requisitioned and delivered.  They said they were putting a rush on it.  Not because of any impending danger, though.  They just want to take advantage of the vacant lot before someone starts building on it.  Kind of amazing what little things there are to be thankful for.  It’s all about perspective, I guess.

Psalms 62:11-12 says, “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.”

Father, thank you for protecting us from the falling electrical pole disaster.  Another one of those things that never happened but could have.  Amen.

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28 – “Nicknames and dialects”

We had a pretty good day at church yesterday for the start of the study on the Gospel of John.  Highest attendance since Christmas Eve, and several of our regular families were out of town or had to work.  I had a lot of fun with the children’s sermon.  I held up several items from different countries and the kids were to guess where they might be from.  Of course the adults all threw in guesses of their own, but we are all just big kids, aren’t we?  I had a khafia from Israel.  They got a kick out of that one, because I wore it during the whole kids’ time.  Next was one of those nesting doll things from Russia.  They got that one right away.  Someone even used the word “babushka.”  Then came a jar of “essence of perfume” that I bought for Chris in Egypt back when I went on a Holy Land study trip in college.  I was surprised that it took a while for them to get that one.  It had a painting of an Egyptian woman on the bottle, but maybe they couldn’t see it very well.  The last thing was a Christian symbol I got in the catacombs of Rome on that trip.  No one had any idea about that one.  The idea I was trying to get across was that it would be a whole lot easier to figure out who God is if we could meet him and see what he is wearing and what he sounds like.  Hence … Jesus.  We also did a little bit on nicknames, since Jesus is called the Word in the first chapter of John.  One of the kids told me his nickname was Worm.  Kind of fits him, too.  He is one of those wiggly, squiggly little guys that you just gotta love. 

The intro to the regular sermon was fun, too.  On a powerpoint slide I put some texting lingo and then some phonetically spelled Texas dialect to see if they could figure it out.  They did fine with the easy ones, LOL (laughing out loud) and ROFL (rolling on floor laughing).  Didn’t get CD9, though (Code 9: Parents Nearby).  We were all laughing at the Texas dialect words, though.  Stuff like moanin (between sunrise and noon), rench (what you do to the dishes after you warsh em), and my favorite, war (metal strands attached to posts to enclose animals, as in “Don’t git stuck on the bob war”).  It all worked well as an introduction to the secret lingo of the Gnostics that John took on and redefined by giving Jesus the gnostic nickname, The Word.  Now I have to sit down and develop a series plans for the rest of the book.  Should be a lot of fun.  Pretty intense, too.  I’m excited about it, anyway.  Guess that counts for something.

John 1:1-5 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

Father, thank you for the times when adults forget and regain the wonder of learning like children.  Amen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27 – “Random thoughts”

I have to figure out how to use the rest of this computer program.  Not the one I’m using now.  I’m talking about the one that translates the VHS tapes into computerese and then puts the videos onto a DVD.  Yesterday I missed a cutoff point and the tape went for two hours and forty-seven minutes.  It wasn’t done yet even then, but a DVD will only hold two hours and thirty minutes worth of video.  And the program won’t even start if the disk won’t hold everything.  So now I have to figure out how to cut the final seventeen minutes off the end of that digital file so it will fit.  It is probably an easy fix, but I sure don’t know how to begin doing it.  Ah, well, something else to do in all my spare time.

The neighborhood kids have discovered the new playground next door.  It has become a massive sandbox/battleground/Olympic training facility.  Haven’t seen any baseballs or footballs flying around yet, though.  Guess it is still too full of ruts for anything so mundane.  

Another one of those long nights for Mom.  After three false starts she beat Chris into the kitchen around one A.M. and started doing the dishes.  At least she was trying to be helpful. 

Starting a new series at church today on the Book of John.  The overall title of the series is Who is this Guy?  Here’s a challenge for you.  Today I get to figure out a way to introduce Gnosticism during a children’s sermon so the adults will have somewhat of a handle on it when the teaching begins.  Guess I better go over my notes again. 

Psalms 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Father, you’ll have to do some speaking at church today.  Not sure I’m up to it.  Besides, it always goes better when you do.  Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26 – “Dream Date”

Chris had quite the brainstorm yesterday.  She figured out a way for us to go on a date.
That’s right.  Chris and I went on a date yesterday.  First one in … well, in a very long time.  We had to get creative to do it, though, since we can’t leave Mom alone.  Here’s how it went down.  I went to Shrimp and Stuff and picked up a to-go order of popcorn shrimp for the two of us.  Chris made some of her famous sweet tea.  Mom was peacefully dozing on the couch, her usual morning routine.  We grabbed the food, the ketchup and a few napkins and went out into the backyard.  I raised the umbrella over our picnic table and we spread out our feast and enjoyed the 70 degree weather as we munched our fried shrimp.  Doesn’t get a whole lot better than that during the rainy season here on Gilligan’s island. 

And after our lunch we took a walk.  Actually we strolled over and leaned against our fence, admiring the rolling field that is now our next door neighbor.  We noted our appreciation that the condemned structure that had once been a home was now gone.  We lamented the loss of our good neighbors.  We exulted in the breathable air wafting from the site.  We thanked the demolition crew for leave the small stretch of fencing that plays host to the butterfly bush that the hummingbirds enjoy during their time in Galveston.  We listed some of the adjustments to the tractor ruts near our house that we would have to make to insure proper drainage and a prettier look when grass starts to grow again.  We shared some of our dream of what we could do with the property if it belonged to us.  A huge yard for the grandkids to play in.  A garden … even a community garden for the neighbors to share in.  A place to plant the extra pecan tree the city gave away.  A baseball practice area (hey, I have to add a nod to the dreams of my own youth). 

The interesting thing is, we didn’t say all of those things out loud.  One of the perks of being married so long, I guess.  Never hurts to dream, though.  And it’s quite inexpensive, too.  Ah, well.  Thus ended the Vaughan’s dream date.  Short and sweet.  Not extremely romantic, but I’ll take it.  Sigh.

Psalms 62:2 says, “He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Father, thank you for the special moments Chris and I get to share.  Amen.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25 – “My new play space”

We took Mom for a visit with the oral surgeon the other day to see about pulling some of the teeth that are deteriorating.  It was just supposed to be for a look-see, but he was prepared to get after it right then.  Problem was, Mom has to have antibiotics an hour before any dental work because of her bionic knees.  My guess is that the knees lose oil pressure through the teeth and the antibiotics provide a temporary plug.  We had to reschedule for yesterday, but we couldn’t get her moving soon enough to make that appointment without a lot of confusion, so we’ll try again next week.  Cailyn was with us, and when we pulled into the driveway she saw – really saw without a giant excavator blocking the view – the vacant lot next door.  And was she ever excited.  The only words she could come up with were, “Nani, look.  My new play space.”  Of course, Cailyn.  We had that done just for you.  And off she went, running through the vast field of … dirt.  Occasionally she returned to our yard to empty out her shoes, but once that task was accomplished, back she went, running in circles and gathering more dirt.  She really wanted to take the shoes off, and it was certainly warm enough here in Galveston in January, but I had seen several glass shards among the wreckage, so we insisted on feet coverings. 

Cailyn was with us several days this week, and I’m not sure which day this next anecdote falls in, but I don’t suppose that matters anyway.  It was lunch time and I was the last one to the table.  As I found my seat I was informed that we had company eating with us.  They were seated just across from me.  I was happy to host, even happier to have the location information, since both guests were imaginary.  Now I have to insert here a brief word about something I had heard Cailyn say earlier as she played.  She was explaining something to Chris about the events of her day, and I thought sure this is what I heard: “See, Nani, I was going to go to the restaurant and meet Salana and have a margarita.”  OK.  Interesting choice of recreation for a four-year-old, but I trusted the restaurant would be trustworthy enough to check the ID of one so … short.  Well, apparently I misunderstood the comment, for when I was introduced to our lunch companions I discovered that their names were Salana and … yep … Margarita.  Ah, how could I have been so mistaken?  Cailyn and I got another plate and put some food in it for Salana, which Cailyn ended up eating.  She switched plates with her friend.  Margarita never did get served, though.  Part of Chris’ house policy, I guess.  We don’t serve Margaritas here.

Psalms 62:1 says, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”

Father, thank you for the cleaner air that promises to follow the removal of that house next door.  And thanks for Cailyn’s great creative streak.  Amen.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24 – “Hunting or gathering?”

Cailyn joined me on my trip to WalMart the other day.  Once she was strapped into her carseat and I was dutifully restrained in my seat belt, she had a suggestion for a unique way to pass the time during the long three minute ride.  “Let’s play make silly faces.”  And she launched right in with a variety of those “fingers pulling the mouth into various hideous positions” that would certainly have compelled my grandmother to start one of her tirades about how “your face is gonna get stuck like that.”  It was a chore watching each facial shift through the rear view mirror while trying to keep enough of an eye on the road, but I managed.  And of course after she finished her best one yet, Cailyn decided the inevitable had arrived.  It was my turn.  Ah, I knew it was coming, but I never have been good at driving with my knees, so I had to make do with one finger in my mouth and an array of facial contortions.  Don’t think I would have won any contests, but I did make Cailyn laugh.  Mission accomplished.

Shopping with a little girl who doesn’t understand the mechanics of a male shopping venture is difficult.  She isn’t excited about things like seeing how fast we can get through all the things on Nani’s list.  Or even helping me find the next thing on our treasure hunt.  No.  We had to look at things like lipstick and hairclips.  I don’t even know how to speak that language.  “How much of this do you put on your face?  What color of lipstick comes in the Cinderella case?”  That was about the best I could come up with.  At least all the products she was attracted to had some Disney princess on them so I could talk about the character and not how to apply the goop.  When we finally escaped the makeup section she saw a different stack of product that I thought we would pass without incident.  But no.  She wanted mouthwash (again, Princess flavored).  So I asked her what mouthwash was good for.  She thought briefly, then decided she didn’t know.  “Hah,” I thought, “Got you.  Now let’s get over to the grocery department.  Products I can relate to.”  But I forgot that she is, after all, a girl.  There would be no silent retreat.  She only paused a moment or two before she asked me back, So what is mouthwash good for, DadDad?”  I told her it makes your mouth feel extra clean after you brush your teeth.  So she showed me her teeth and said, “Well, I haven’t brushed my teeth today.  Na na na na na na.”  I replied, Oh.  Well, then you aren’t ready for the mouthwash then.  So let’s go find some chocolate milk.”  I guess that finally sounded reasonable to her.  Finally, the old man gets in the last word.  Or so I thought.  As we rounded the corner and headed for the dairy section, I heard her mutter, “Aw.  My Mommy and Daddy never let me get anything either.”  Her malaise didn’t last long, though.  After all, the candy isle loomed just ahead. 

Psalms 61:4 says, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”

Father, thank you for the little joys of silly faces and candy isles.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23 – “A double-good day”

I had two really exciting things happen yesterday.  One involved a baby.  Little Haisley Anderson was born way, way early in an emergency C-section.  Mom is doing great, and Haisley seems to be doing well, too.  At least as well as a two pounder can be doing.  She was transferred to UTMB’s special care unit for premature babies.  That’s where the exciting part for me comes in.  I went down there to see if any family members were around.  None were, so I asked the receptionist if I could go in and pray for Haisley.  It took some doing, including a phone call to Daddy for his approval and dousing my arms with that antiseptic soap, but they let me back on the unit.  Haisley is on a ventilator, but is doing some breathing on her own.  She also reacts with a noticeably higher heart rate when people are around and talking to her, so she is responding well to stimuli.  It was quite an honor to gently stroke her head and hand as I prayed for her and her Mom.  The team of medical students also asked me to “bless us, too.”  Great experience.

The second event is most definitely a milestone.  It relates to the abandoned house next door to us.  The level of human activity increased dramatically last week.  Chris talked to several of them … shortly before they threw up.  The stench had become unbearable inside the house.  But they assured Chris that they were working for the “Demo Guy,” and that the house was indeed set to be torn down.  Sure.  We have heard that before.  Even when the Demo Guy himself showed up Sunday and said it would be gone by next week, Chris said she would believe it when she saw it and not a moment before.  It didn’t take long, though, for another team of men to arrive and start removing some of the bigger items from inside the house.  Again, we have seen plenty of that over the last four and a half years as well.  But then that team started removing the windows.  And the back door.  Now that looked like progress.

Then yesterday the Demo Guy knocked on out front door.  Come to find out I went to Grace Episcopal Church with him when we were little kids.  I talked to him about where he was in his walk with God now, and he said he hasn’t been to church in many years.  He did seem fascinated by the fact that I was a “priest” at a church in Jamaica Beach, but the church wasn’t Episcopalian.  I encouraged him to pay us a visit sometime, and left the door open for further conversations.  That’ll be another guy for my prayer list.  Anyway, Phillip was knocking to let us know that the big truck and the demolition machines were about fifteen minutes away.  Chris leapt into action.  She called to let Jachin, Micah, and Josiah know about their next field trip to see a house torn down.  Cailyn was already here.  It would be a real event to behold.

And indeed it was.  The huge excavator smashed into the roof time and time again with its massive claw.  And the operator was a master.  I was amazed at the intricate actions he was able to take.  He picked up every scrap of metal that they would redeem for special prices and placed it in a separate pile.  He even used an old mattress as a mop head to wipe clean the concrete slab.  When all is said and done, the estimate is that it will take four truck loads to carry it all away.  As I type the third has driven away and the excavator is finer tuning the last pile.  He hasn’t started breaking up the slab yet, but that is supposed to happen as well.  Looks like by this time tomorrow we will have a great vacant lot next door.  I would love to buy it and have an extra big yard.  We could put in a garden for the kids to work in.  I don’t know how much it would cost, though.  I don’t even know who to ask.  Of course I don’t know where the money would come from, either.  But, hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Psalms 61:4-5 says, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  Selah.  For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

Father, thank you for little babies and big excavators.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22 – “Fresh encounters of the WalMart kind”

I had the privilege yesterday of doing grocery shopping for a family who needed some - us.  It wasn’t nearly as fun as it used to be.  Ever since we got married going grocery shopping has been like a date for Chris and I.  It’s the time we can talk without the usual interruptions of the world.  It’s been a while.  Actually I did take Chris with me in a sense through the miracle of modern cell phonery.  I had several questions about the orders she placed on the list.  Well, not a question so much as I just couldn’t find some of the stuff, and I needed her call on what substitutions to make. 

We have been talking at church about looking for opportunities to share your faith, so I looked for the checker we have been working to establish a relationship with.  She wasn’t there, so I chose a random line with a young girl who looked fairly fresh.  After all it was morning.  When I got up to the counter, though, she was having some problems.  Seems her photo gun thing that shoots the price codes didn’t work.  She just had to lift some heavy bags of kitty litter and now she was sore.  I struck up a conversation with her about it and encouraged her with, “What you are doing, you are doing very well.  Even if WalMart doesn’t appreciate it, God is watching and he knows where your heart is.”  Her entire countenance changed.  She grinned and said, “I know that’s right.  It really is.  I believe that, you know.  Boy do I believe that.”  I chuckled and asked where she went to church.  She told me and I let her know I went to Seaside down in Jamaica Beach.  She said, “That’s really far out there.”  I laughed and gave her my “It’s only eleven miles from right here” speech.  Very pleasant conversation.  Always great to discover another believer and get a chance to encourage her. 

Then as I was hurrying out the door pushing the cart with our food supply, I noticed a little old lady sitting by the door on that bench they have for little old ladies (and gents) who can’t handle all the walking involved in a trip to the store these days.  I smiled at her.  Her eyebrows rose just a bit, and the corners of her mouth slowly formed just the hint of a smile.  Then she said, “Praise Jesus.  Praise the Lord.  Jesus is Lord.”  Stunning.  I looked down at my t-shirt to see if I was displaying any indication of my Jesus-ness.  I glanced backward and quickly ascertained that we werehalf a store away from where I had checked out.  All the while my own smile grew just a bit wider, and I responded, “I know that’s right.  It really is.”  Sounded kind of familiar as I replayed in my head my previous conversation.  There it is.  Be an encourager and it will come back to you.  I’m not totally convinced that she was an angel in disguise, but her message of encouragement sure did come from God. 

Psalms 61:1-3 says, “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.”

Father, help me keep my eyes open for those “chance” WalMart encounters.  Amen.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21 – “Tearing down and building up”

Tearing down.  We had some potentially good news yesterday.  Chris went over to check on the people rummaging through the abandoned house next door.  They said they were the winners of the city contract to demolish the house.  Operations should begin “next week” to take it down.  We are guardedly optimistic, but as Chris told the guy, we’ll believe it when we see it.  He gave her one of his cards.  I vaguely remember Phillip and his brother Paul, I think, from I went to Grace Episcopal Church with when I was a little kid.  I think Phillip was younger than me, and I didn’t know him well, but he confirmed with Chris that he did indeed go there.  Small world. 

Building up.  We had a pretty good day at church yesterday.  I finished up the “Getting to Work” teaching series on Nehemiah with a challenge to get to work on the different places God has provided for us to be ministers to.  That includes more than just each of us as individuals and the church building itself (although we all could use some ministering to, and the building could certainly use some TLC).  It also means places like JB’s and the Bluewater Grill and the laundrymat.  And events like those put on by the park board over in the city park, the Easter egg hunt and the Memorial Day dance, or Light Up Jamaica Beach at Christmas.  We need to be actively involved in providing worship opportunities, of course, and the church is all about providing an atmosphere where we can pull together in an intimate fellowship.  We also must acknowledge that we are involved in a spiritual battle that rages in the spiritual real and spills over into our daily experience.  That means we have to be prepared on two fronts.  We have to pray, really spending time pouring out our hearts to God like we believe it will make a difference.  And we have to get prepared for the chances at evangelism we will have as God draws people toward himself and lets them bump into us on their way to him.  The service included a chance to take up a symbol of your willingness to be a part of “rebuilding the walls” at Seaside.  Everyone was encouraged to pick up a toy block and keep it displayed in a prominent place to remind them of their commitment to do what God called them to do for the next year.  After a great (as usual) dinner on the grounds, the leadership team then brainstormed about ways we can reboot everything about our ministry existence.  It made for a long, exhausting day, but the moments of anticipation and excitement were refreshing.  Attendance is beginning to inch up ever so slightly.  I don’t know about offerings.  I don’t personally track that.  But there is no denying that God is up to something.  Can’t wait to see what shape it takes.  I’ll get started on the next teaching series now.  Still praying about it, but it looks like it will either be the Book of John or the Parables. 

Psalms 60:4 says, “But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.”

Father, unfurl that banner over at Seaside.  We could sure use it.  And bring on the bulldozers.  Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20 – “Memories and challenges”

We had a surprise visit from some friends yesterday.  They also happen to be our insurance agents, but that part of the relationship is incidental.  We know them from back in our basketball days when I coached their son and he was the team’s official scorekeeper.  Since we can’t leave Mom by herself, they brought over a hamburger for everybody, and we sat around the table and talked.  We did some reminiscing about basketball, talked about old mutual friends we have each seen lately, and even recalled some of the Seaside Easter Sunrise Services they have been to. 

I have worked my way down to 1998 on our old VHS video file, transferring them to DVDs.  That’s been a real walk down memory lane.  I haven’t even started the basketball ones yet.  They fill up three boxes.  But I have really enjoyed hearing and seeing things like Josh’s first sermon and Nathan doing a mime performance and Kel hoarding his presents on Christmas morning. 

This week has been a full one as far as preparations for Sunday is concerned.  I extended the pastor’s class History of Christianity study to include another century.  The sermon was a big time-consumer this week.  It is the culmination of the actual teaching part of a series from the third chapter of Nehemiah.  The theme has been Getting to Work.  This week is about the specific places around the walls of Jerusalem where work had to be done.  They will each be connected to the areas of ministry that the church can choose to be involved with in this coming year.  I tried to make it as creative as possible, but whether it keeps people on their toes (or at least awake) remains to be seen, I guess.  We have dinner on the grounds after church, and then we have another meeting of the minds regarding the health and future of Seaside.  A core of ten or so people have come together to commit to doing another reboot of the ministry.  Offerings and attendance have been at their winter lows.  We have done most of the cutting that we can do on programming and operations, so the next step is to cut back my compensation.  Maybe I can get a job over at WalMart.  Of course that will mean I won’t be able to wear all the hats around the church that I do, like cleaning bathrooms and sweeping and mopping and making Sams runs.  And someone else might have to be the one to connect with visitors and be a part of community events.  My prayer is that the people will see it all as a challenge to get to work (hence the sermon series), and get serious about living their Christianity. 

Psalms 59:16-17 says, “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.  O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.”

Father, sweep over Seaside with your Spirit today in a big way.  Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19 – “Raising females”

Cailyn came over to spend the night last night.  Her Mom was studying and her Dad had to attend a class on different ways to rescue yourself when you are in a pickle and no one is there to help you.  I don’t think that was the actual title, but that’s how I remember what he said.  Seems like kind of a scary thought that they have to have a class like that for fire fighters.  In their shoes I would sure want a buddy with me if I was heading into a fire.  Of course there is probably no way I would intentionally head into a burning building anyway.  Unless maybe Chris was inside, or one of the little ones. 

Cailyn hasn’t been feeling well lately, so she was not exactly happy to see her Daddy leave.  She was crying.  He was hugging and fast talking so he could get away.  We had ordered pizza, and of course he chose about that time to drive up.  I thought that might be an adequate distraction, and it did grab her attention for a second or two, but not long enough for Nathan to make his exit.  The pizza guy recommended giving her some candy.  Sure thing.  Reward the behavior you want to stop.  I told him we were already counting on his arrival to help matters.  He was taken aback at first, but pretty soon he got into the spirit of things.  He started talking to her as well.  He did his best to calm her down, and it was a nice try, but not good enough.  I finally held her so Daddy could get to class and the pizza guy could get on back to work.  And of course, as soon as Daddy drove away Cailyn was fine.

Come to find out she had some secret plans for the evening.  We sat on the couch to relax and have a slice of pizza.  Cailyn, however, insisted she wasn’t hungry.  She whispered some plan or other to Chris and the two of them conspiratorially disappeared briefly and returned with a towel.  Strange.  They placed it on the floor in front of me.  Also odd, but if she wanted to sit on the floor on a towel instead of on the couch, far be it from me to stop her.  That’s when it got interesting.  She asked me to remove my houseshoes.  Some of you know where this is going, don’t you?  It seems she had brought along some fingernail polish, and my toenails were her next target.  OK.  Who am I to put a damper in a young child’s exercise of creativity?  I just didn’t expect it to be all glittery.  And yellow.  It didn’t hurt.  Kind of tickled, I guess.  Not an unpleasant experience, though.  The unpleasant was what came next.  She reached into her little bag of tricks and came out with some kind of lipstick.  No warning this time.  She crawled onto the couch and snuggled with me for a moment before whipping it out and pasting me with it right on the lips.  Tasted nasty.  And she didn’t stop there.  She some other stuff in a little jar that she rubbed on my cheeks.  I don’t even know what you call that.  I never looked in the mirror, but I felt like one of those Raggedy Andy dolls.  Or maybe a circus clown.  Both of which are frightening.  So this is what it’s like to raise little girls.

Psalms 59:9 says, “O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress.”

Father, thank you for the glimpses we get into the life of raising a little girl.  It sure has made me appreciate the intricacies of your creation.  Amen.


Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18 – “Conversation by gender”

I have been doing some research lately.  So, how do you girls out there go about doing that girl thing you do?  Oh, which one, you may ask?  And rightly so, for there are a myriad of skill tasks that appear so simple for those of the female persuasion when in actuality they are at best excruciatingly difficult for us simple guys.  So which one am I talking about today?  How about the way women can think of things to talk about?  Random things.  Yet somehow they always seem to be appropriate.  Come on.  A guy can sit for hours and not say much of anything, and when he gets up to leave he feels like he has done some serious communication.  But a girl can only allow for brief moments of silence before she comes up with something to say.  And if directed toward a man, it is usually in the form of a question, designed to elicit a response from the often unsuspecting male on the receiving end.  If she is talking to another girl, that question requirement appears to be invalid since the other girl will undoubtedly have something to say in response anyway. 

My Uncle Jerry came by for a visit the other day.  I had been taking a much needed nap when he arrived, so when I entered the room, he and Chris were already in discussion.  I was able to slip into a chair across the room and watch the master at work.  There have been times when Jerry has come over that he has actually fallen asleep on our couch.  No problem with me.  I usually just join him, and everyone is refreshed when he leaves.  A perfect visit, right?  But this time Chris was engaged and he had no chance.  At the slightest hint of a lull in the conversation she thought of something else to ask.  His children.  His love for travel.  His poetry.  One after another the topics flew forth, always in the form of a question.  Always requiring him to respond.  I was in awe.  It would have taken me a week of praying and research to come up that many questions, and I would have had to throw out most of them as not applicable in this situation.  Maybe I could take notes next time and compile a book called Questions for Causing Conversation Continuance.  Wouldn’t sell many copies, though.  Guys wouldn’t be particularly interested.  Girls don’t need any help.

Psalms 57:9-11 says, “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.  For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”

Father, thank you for the differences in your creations.  Sure makes things down here more exciting.  Amen.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17 – “On gravy”

I felt kind of crummy all day yesterday.  Hard time breathing with sinuses clogged up.  Bit of a sore throat.  Chris said at least one of my eyes was really bloodshot.  Hard time getting to sleep.  I was a veritable walking TV commercial without the miracle drug cure.  The consummate “before.”   But Cailyn came over while her Mommy was in school.  That helped.  I did keep breathing.  Always a plus.  As far as I could tell I could still see out of my bloodshot eye.  And I did eventually get some sleep.  At least as much as my “usual” of late.  And we are well past the Mayan end of the world date, so that’s not at all a bad thing.  And I had a phone call this morning from a friend who gave me some much-needed encouragement.  I guess I could take on what the world has for me today after all.  It’s all a matter of regaining perspective.  It’s not about me and my ills and travails and pains and worries.  The only thing I really need is Jesus.  Everything else is just gravy.  It either makes the world taste better, and helps put on a few pounds, or it tastes nasty and needs to be “spat upon the ground,” but in the end, it’s just not absolutely necessary. 

Psalms 57:7-8 says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.  Awake, my soul!  Awake, harp and lyre!  I will awaken the dawn.”

Father, so what’s on tap for today that you and me together can handle?  Amen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16 – “Happy C. birthday”

Today is the anniversary of when I became a Christian, my Christian birthday.  So that makes me just 42 years old.  Sounds a little better than 59, but any way you look at it I guess I’ve been around for a while.  Happy birthday to me.  Woo Hoo.

Woke up with a sore throat today.  Probably because I texted with Josh for a while last night.  He and Caleb have a full blown case of the flu, so he must have found a way to transmit it through the telephone connection.  Diabolical.  I need to hold out until lunch so I can have some more of those chicken and dumplings Christina brought over last night.  Actually the whole family came over and fixed the food here.  The boys were pretty excited.  They are going to a monster truck show in Houston this weekend.  Christina’s uncle is involved in it in some capacity.  I’m not sure if he drives one of them or just works on them, but he’s supposed to be there, so the boys are especially excited to have an inside connection.

I had one of those unusual pharmacy experiences yesterday.  I stopped by on my way home from our neighbor’s funeral to pick up a prescription refill I called in back last week sometime.  It was one of those that they had to call the doctor on, so I wanted to give them some extra time.  They checked the bin and it wasn’t there, so she checked the fax machine and the pharmacist’s to-do stack.  Not there.  She even checked on the computer.  Best she could tell the doctor’s office had not yet responded, so she promised to resubmit the request.  I left.  Sounds pretty typical, right?  Well, before I could even get past WalMart my phone rang.  It was the pharmacy.  She had found the response somewhere, and promised to do it right then.  Now how many times does that happen?  I turned around right then, and picked it up.  Way to go, Randall’s Pharmacy.

Well, back to drawing a map of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah.  It’s actually going to be a quickie tourist guide to the city gates.  An idea I had to spice up the sermon for Sunday.  Hope it helps.

Psalms 57:5 says, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”

Father, thank you for the 42 years I have had with you.  I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15 – “The joys of perspective”

Well, I guess I really do need some rest.  I discovered this morning that I forgot to take my medication last night.  Not that it kept me up any more or less than usual.  I forgot to feed the dogs the day before.  Not a big deal.  Chris took care of it when she got up.  It’s just the idea of forgetting things.  Doesn’t bode well for my future years of senility if I use up all the fun stuff now.  Then again, maybe I can give my kids a preview of the joys of taking care of good ol’ forgetful Dad.

Speaking of previews, back when Josh and his family were here for Christmas I overheard an interesting discussion between Micah and Zakary.  I don’t know what precipitated it, but what I heard was a dialogue concerning the definition of a “sneak peek.”  Zakary presented his platform first, and it was a debater’s dream.  It was well-thought out, logical in form, and wrapped around an easy to follow example.  He said a sneak peek was “when they show you part of what a movie is going to be about – just enough to make you want to see the whole movie.”  Well said, Zak.  And then Micah had his turn in rebuttal.  He was quite kind.  He acknowledged that what Zakary had said indeed had a certain ring of truth to it.  Actually he didn’t say that.  I just surmised it from the long pause, the furrowing of his brow, and the nod of his head.  When he finally gathered his thoughts he came forth with this reply, “Well, I thought a sneak peek was when my Mom and Dad have movie night together on our TV at home, and I get out of bed really quietly and take sneak peeks at what they are watching.”  Ah, the joys of perspective.  You are indeed both right. 

Psalms 57:1 says, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

Father, it would be so much better to avoid disaster altogether, but thank you for the promise to walk with us through tough times.  Amen.

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14 – “Celebrations”

I have been invited to officiate at the wedding of a dear friend’s daughter sometime in August.  They live somewhere in the Northeast, New Jersey I think.  It was quite a surprise when the bride sent me a massage on FaceBook.  Quite an honor for me, too.  We have known the family since the 80’s when we met at church in Arlington.  I think Mark and Melissa (bride’s Mom and Dad) had just gotten married.  Their oldest son Allen and Nathan were the same age and have been best friends literally since birth.  When we moved to Denver, it wasn’t long before Mark was transferred there as well.  We didn’t follow him to Rhode Island, but the boys kept in contact.  Nathan spent Spring Break with them and Allen came to our house in the summer.  That continued until they both graduated.   Now the bride is Allen’s sister Ashley.  I was just copying a video from Denver days and noticed a little girl who I think was Ashley crawling into Chris’ lap.  We are really looking forward to this wedding, to this trip.  Now we have to figure out some kind of arrangements for Mom while we are gone.  We have a friend, a retired nurse recuperating from some very serious surgery on her ankle, who Chris would trust in a heartbeat to care for Mom while we are gone.  Chris says she is going to inform Jennifer that she has until we leave for that wedding to get back on her feet.  She also says we may be gone for a month, so plan to move in for a while, girl.

We went to Cailyn’s fourth birthday party the other day.  It was at a place called “The Little Gym” in Friendswood.  It was … a little gym.  They had miniature gymnastics apparatuses all over the room, and padding – thick padding – abounded.  The kids could run and dive and hang from bars and rings.  They seemed to really enjoy it.  To dispel any doubt about the fun, one tiny little girl ran into the lobby, located her Dad, and loudly exclaimed, “Daddy, Daddy, Dad … I’m having fun in there.”  Very cute.  Micah enjoyed the game of running at full speed at a mat propped up by one of the workers, leaping at it feet first, and kicking it to the ground.   Jachin was happy with all of the opportunities, as long as he could be the first and best at everything.  Josiah was convinced he was big enough to attempt anything the other kids were doing.  I got a kick out of watching the kids eat cupcakes.  I know, sounds weird, right?  Until you realize that the icing had some kind of black food coloring in it that transferred easily onto the kids’ faces.  They looked like graduates from clown school with big grins painted on their faces.  Interesting lipstick. 

Caleb’s birthday party is this Saturday in San Antonio.  Nathan will be out of town, as will Kel and Christina.  April is in school.  Jennifer is in a wheelchair.  So far it does not bode well for our appearance at that one.  We’ll see.

Psalms 56:10-11 says, “In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise —  in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”

Father, walk with Cailyn and Caleb for one another year of discovery and fun.  Amen.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13 – “Mark 9:29”

Well, it’s 5:30 in the morning and I’m doing a little pining for the “good old days.”  Haven’t been asleep much, so I decided to go ahead and get up and start the day.  On the plus side, Mom actually seems to be asleep now.  So does Chris.  Not much sleep going on with them, that’s for sure. 

Been reading through a series of emails I got yesterday.  Seems that some feel strongly that Seaside is on the brink of extinction financially, so we need to develop an exit strategy in case we need to close the doors.  That would be in essence closing the doors on my life, on the place I have invested not just my time and energy, but who I am.  I know my salary is the biggest expense the church has right now.  Can’t afford to retire, though.  I guess I need to start looking for a place to work here in Galveston.  Maybe I can go part time and work somewhere else, too.  Can’t realistically leave here as long as Mom is with us.  That would really mess up her routine.  Maybe some big church would be interested in taking Seaside on and funding us as a mission ministry.  It’s a pretty good one.  Sunday services for locals and Island visitors.  Meeting place for community groups like AA.  Amazing retreat center facilities for hosting mission groups, church group retreats, and camps.    Not to mention the 25 acres of undeveloped land we still own.  Oh, I guess we could sell that.  Or better yet, the people of God could rise up here and recommit themselves to serving God and sacrificing for him.  I long for the days when people were actually excited about getting involved in activities at church, or creating new ministries to be involved in.  Galveston is a tough, tough place to be, spiritually.  The demon of despair has had his clutches on this place for as long as I can remember – clear back to when I was in high school - and I’m sure beyond.  Makes me think of Jesus’ read on why his disciples weren’t able to cast out a demon one time.  In Mark 9:29 Jesus says, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”  Indeed.  Meanwhile I need to plug back into my stubborn spirit of optimism.  I have a class to teach on the history of the church.  And a sermon to communicate on “Getting to work.”  And a wife to encourage.  And a Mom to care for.  And grandkids to play with.

Father, once again I commit Seaside to you.  I give you everything I have to do with the Body of Christ there, as well as with the physical facilities.  Do you want to keep using us?  Do you still have a purpose for those buildings?  Please do some inspiring.  And please send us some of your forces to help in this spiritual battle with despair.  He’s a strong one here in Galveston.  But you are ever so much stronger.  Amen.