Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30 - “Guardians of the Girl”

After a few short hours of sleep yesterday we forced ourselves out of bed so we could continue with our duties as Guardians of the Guys.  Nathan and Cailyn agreed to stick around for the day and take care of Mom so we could go pick up Jachin, Micah, and Josiah and take them so meet their new baby sister.  Christina’s sister had spent the night at their house so we could be at the hospital for the birth.   By the time we arrived around ten o’clock the boys had eaten breakfast and were dressed and ready to go. 

I texted Kel from outside the door to get the video cameras rolling.  He got it and had his cell phone camera running when the boys entered the room.  Very cute sight.  A nurse was just about to give the baby her first bath, so the band of big brothers got to watch.  Jachin did his best to appear cool and nonchalant.  Micah seemed torn between following the actions of his big brother or throwing himself into full-on rapt attention.  Josiah completely ignored the two boys, however.  He positioned himself as close as possible to the crib and started talking to the tiny child stretched out before him.  Once given assurances from Mommy that it was all right, he cautiously touched, then gently stroked her while talking to her in a voice that mimicked one he had no doubt heard often himself, cooing softly and assuring her that all was well. 

Cameras at the ready it finally came time for Mom and Dad to do the official introductions.  Now Kel had already said that if the delivery was stalled until the anniversary date of the release of Star Wars (one day this week), the baby’s name would have been Leia for sure.  Christina was sure glad she didn’t last that long).   But the time had come.  Kel got everyone’s attention.  “This is your baby sister, Noa Rae Vaughan,” intoned Dad.  By then Micah had pretty much abandoned all efforts at coolness and was firmly entrenched with Josiah in the loving big brother camp.  The two of them grinned shyly and returned to the business of staring and stroking the little one. 

Jachin was obviously disappointed with the name.  He wanted Rachel or better yet, Iris.  He found out that Iris means Rainbow, so he thought that would be a very cool name.  Kel hastened to tell him the story of the girl Noa in the Bible.  In Numbers, when Moses was talking about dividing up the Promised Land among the Israelites, he received some visitors.  The five daughters of a guy named Zelophehad (OK, I looked it up, but Kel couldn’t remember the guy’s name, either) came to Moses with a problem.  Their father had died on the journey and they had no brothers.  They had no other family at all, apparently.  The land was being apportioned to the male members of each tribe, so that meant they would be left out in the cold entirely.  That was just not fair.  To his credit Moses did the proper thing.  He prayed.  And God responded by agreeing with the girls.  In fact he issued a decree that essentially became one of his laws: In situations like these where there is no male heir, the property will be transferred to the nearest relative, even if she is a female.  Nice job, Noa.  That story is in Numbers 27:1-11.  Oh, and by the way, Joshua followed through for them when they conquered the land.  Noa and her sisters made their way to him and reminded him of God’s promise, and he saw to it that they got the inheritance of land.  Those girls were steadfast (that’s the nice word for stubborn) in standing up for the rights of those who were oppressed.  A fine, noble legacy to live up to, to be sure.

I’m not sure how much of an effect the story had on Jachin, but it didn’t take long for his big brotherly instincts to kick in, and he was asking for his turn at holding her.  Chris told him he should choose one his favorite names and use it as a sort of pet name for his sister.  I honestly don’t think it will take long for him to forget his disappointment.  After all, he has a young charge to take care of for the next eighteen years or so.  Rest assured, Noa.  Big Brothers have got your back.  The Guardians of the Girl are officially on duty.

Psalms 89:7-8 says, “In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.  O Lord God Almighty, who is like you?  You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.”

Father, give those boys wisdom and discernment as they watch over their little sister.  Oh, and give her patience with them.  I’m afraid she’s gonna need it.  Amen.

Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29 – “It’s a girl”

Yeah.  Havent heard those words much in the Vaughan family.  We did hear them last night, though, or to be more specific, around 12:40 this morning.  Our newest granddaughter addition arrived in Houston.  We got the call asking if we wanted to pull an all-nighter, and the adrenaline kicked in.  We had to work out some major logistical details first.  Nathan and Cailyn came over to stay with Mom.  April had a job interview this morning and then a review class for her nursing board test, so she stayed at home.  I went up to Kel and Christina’s to stay with the boys.  Chris joined me when Nathan arrived.  Meanwhile, Christina’s sister came down from wherever she lives and relieved us.  Finally, somewhere around eleven o’clock we were on our way. 

It didn’t take long for Christina’s Dad and me to be consigned to the family waiting room, an ice box full of others in similar straits.  Seriously, that room was one of the coldest places I have been in a long time.  I was so glad I had grabbed a long-sleeved shirt and my chaplain cap.  We watched most of the Jim Carry movie, Yes Man, before we finally got the text announcement from the women (and Kel) that the little one was here.  It took a while longer before we were cleared for entry into the action room, but finally the doors were opened to us second class citizens.  And of course she was beautiful.  Dark eyes like her Mommy, so she has a great chance to be yet another Vaughan beauty.   Her hair seemed dark, too, but she hadn’t had a bath yet, so it may have just been still wet.  After the compulsory rounds of hundreds of pictures, old DadDad finally got to hold her.  The two of us had a quick discussion about her saving me a dance at her wedding, even if it meant pushing me around in my wheelchair.  I’ll have to save up some of my best moves for that one.

Now I know you want to hear all the vital statistics, so let me see if I can get these straight.  Seven pounds, five ounces.  Twenty inches long.  Now, I know there was something else I was supposed to say, but I can’t think of it right now.  It’s been a long night.  I’m sure I’ll remember it later.  Oh, speaking of later, we have to pick up the boys here in a bit and introduce them to their new little sister. 

Psalms 89:6 says, “For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?   Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?”

Father, indeed you are unique.  I am once again amazed at how you can form a perfect little being with a touch of your uniqueness.  Like her mother, may this new little life develop the uniqueness you have touched her with until she blossoms into the beautiful woman you have created her to be.  Like her father, may she stand up for righteousness with the spirit of love and the boldness of her namesake.  Under the watchful eye of her three big brothers, may she grow to love you and to reflect your love to everyone she touches.  Grant her the confidence of Jachin, the passion of Micah, and the unbridled joy of Josiah as she tackles the world around her.  And surround her with love that can only be compared to that of … well, of her grandparents.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28 – “Strawberries”

The other day Chris and April and Cailyn partook of one of those odd little day trip possibilities that seem to abound near here.  This one was over in Texas, so there was a journey to be made, but it sounded intriguing to all concerned.  Even Cailyn seemed excited to be going.  I can’t remember the name of the place, but it was some kind of working farm up north of Alvin somewhere.  Seems they have a huge strawberry patch that you can walk through and pick your own strawberries.  I don’t suppose you can get much fresher than that.  It sounded like a pretty interesting setup.  You buy one of their buckets for a dollar and then go fill it up.  When you return to the main point of entry, they weigh your bucket and charge you two dollars a pound.  I don’t know if that’s a good price or not, but Chris seemed pleased enough. 

So they purchased their buckets and listened to the admonitions of the security guard.  I don’t know who she was, but before they could enter the strawberry patch they had to listen to the rules about what to pick and what to leave alone.  No picking flowers was the one that probably affected our girls the most.  Picking flowers is one of Cailyn’s “favoritest” things in the world to do.  She behaved admirably, of course.  Except maybe when there was a bug on one of her strawberries.  She certainly wanted no part of that.  I’m sure the country girl in Chris rose to the surface rapidly.  Not that she was raised on a farm per se, but when she was growing up Bay City wasn’t quite the booming metropolis it has become today.  All the stories of her grandfather’s farm and raiding the bee hives and walking ten miles to school uphill barefooted must have flooded her mind.  And then they stopped at the country store where a farmer’s market was set up.  It was full of all kinds of fresh vegetables.  That’s all she needed for the trip to be a rousing success.  She loaded up a big paper bag with lettuce and tomatoes and new potatoes (as opposed to old potatoes?  I never have understood that particular variety) and fresh beans.  All that, along with her bucket of strawberries came to less than ten dollars.  Not bad at all.  Sure beats WalMart’s produce section.

Chris’ actual take on the whole experience?  She is already planning regular trips out there for fresh vegetables.  And she wants to go earlier in the strawberry season so they can fill up a few buckets and come home and make some strawberry jam to put up.  That will definitely be worth the trip.  I might even go with that purpose in mind.

Psalms 89:5 says, “The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.”

Father, thank you for the miracle that occurs every time one of those fruits and vegetables of yours reaches ripe status and we can consume it for nourishment.  Amazing.  Amen.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April 27 – “Close call”

We had an unexpected close call with Christina and her baby yesterday.  We were keeping the boys while she and Kel went to Houston for her regular appointment.  It was not long before Chris began receiving texts from Kel in a play-by-play format.  Heart rate keeps dropping.  Going for ultrasound.  Worried about amniotic fluid.  Things like that.  And of course since Chris is a nurse, she was filling in the blanks for me as to what could be going wrong.  Fairly stressful couple of hours.  We were figuring out how to go about breaking into their house to get their bags and what we would do without enough car seats for the boys.  It all turned out to be a false alarm, though.  Once everything was said and done they released her and said she needed to come back on Monday.  Having babies is so much fun.  Never a dull moment.

Christina was at Jachin’s baseball game last night, just as perky as ever.  Jachin’s team lost the game 10 to 3, but he was player of the game for his team.  He went 3 for 3 with a home run and scored two of the three runs.  That’s my grandson.  The whole team is getting better every week.  Even the little bitty seven year olds got the bat on the ball.  A few of them even made it to first base.  I got a kick out of one play in particular.  A big guy from the other team hit a smash to our third baseman.  He fielded it fairly cleanly.  So far so good.  He heaved it across the diamond.  Well, it was more like he arced a rainbow, but it did make it all the way to Jachin at first.  The runner beat it out, but it was a very close play.  Our coach, the indomitable Kel, called time and approached the umpire.  “It was a really close play. We are losing. It would really help me out if you would just call him out."  The perplexed umpire thought for a moment or two.  Then he called over his colleague.  After a brief conference … the call was reversed.  Unbelievable.  The other coach went ballistic for a moment or two, and ran out on the field to argue, but it must have hit him that they were way ahead.  He changed his mind and returned to the dugout, actually chuckling along with the rest of us.  Gotta love baseball.

Speaking of Kel and Christina, it looks like the sale of their house in Galveston will finally go through.  The buyer’s inspector found some plumbing issues, so a friend of Kel’s went over to take care of them.  He found out that the cast iron sewer pipes were pretty much rusted through and pouring out under the house.  I went over to let him in the house and he showed me some pictures of it.  He also gave me a … thorough … history of plumbers.  I now know why plumbers are the ones called to deal with gas leaks.  And I have heard the history of a school explosion somewhere that happened because they were using unregulated natural gas runoff from oilfields.  And I heard all about the stuff they put in gas lines to make it smell and how too much of the stuff can cause the pipes to break down.  And … well, suffice it to say, the guy was really passionate about his profession, and he really liked to talk.  He was a great guy, though, and he gave Kel a great deal on the work.  Now they just have to get through closing, and they will be done with their antique Galveston adventure.

Psalms 89:2 says, “I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.”

Father, thank you for protecting our little baby.  Bring her here when she – and you – are ready.  Amen.

Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26 – “Chaplain possibilities”

I guess I have begun officially delving into what kinds of things I can be doing as fire department chaplain.  Yesterday I spent a long time trying to get the various lists I have accumulated compiled into one easily accessible document.  I also inserted fire fighters’ names onto a form I use for church so I can keep up with their birthdays.  Ultimately I’d like to have their families’ birthdays as well, but I suppose that will take a while.  I started asking to be friended on FaceBook by the guys I could find, and that seems to be going well.  That looks like it will be my best source of a picture of each one so I can learn to recognize them when I see them.  That would have been helpful the other day in WalMart when two guys recognized me.  I kind of enjoy knowing who I’m talking to, though that has never stopped me before.  I hope they will be patient with me and keep telling me names.  After all, I am just that old guy who is trying to help, and you know how old guys are about remembering stuff ……

One thing that I learned at the conference was that I need to become familiar with the fire department language.  Apparently it is like being in a foreign country when you spend time around the department.  One of the chaplains recommended two books to me that give a good picture of the terminology used.  I’m going to try to order them as soon as I can.  Interesting titles: Report from Engine Company 82 and I Love a Fire Fighter.  I also need to learn the names of the different tools and trucks and work assignments.  I have already picked up on a few of the unusual ways they refer to things as well.  I’m not sure who to ask, but it would be very interesting to find out the history behind those unique utterances.

Another project that I will start work on as soon as I get my business cards is connecting with local clergy as the chaplain.  I hope being a pastor myself will give me a little insight into how I might be received by them.  At least I’m not asking them to do anything more than they already have on their plate.  That always makes a difference for me.  I just need to develop a network of clergy to call in case one of the fire fighters specifically requests a particular denominational or other religious connection.  It’ll be good to meet the police department chaplain as well as any chaplains that might be working with the hospital.  I know they cut their program way back after Hurricane Ike, but they do still have a pastoral care office.  I’ll put it on my list.  Oh, and someone who can speak sign language in case that comes up.

And then comes the paperwork stuff.  Probably the first document I’ll work on is getting each fire fighter to fill out a personal information packet that includes the information we will need in case of a line of duty death.  Tough thing to talk about, but sounds like it would be extremely helpful to already have that information in place for things like who to contact and what special needs might exist that we would have to deal with. 

I talked to one of the fire fighters the other day about an issue that is apparently widespread among departments.  It involves the many different traditions associated with fire department funerals.  At issue is how to differentiate between recognition for one who has retired, one who is an active fire fighter but dies while off duty, and one who actually dies in the line of duty.  Sounds like a valid concern, but it is apparently left up to individual departments to decide.  That will be one I need to get some honor guard feedback on as well as see what the chief thinks. 

Among the other things on my ever-growing list are: find a history of the Galveston Fire Department; develop a map of concentrations of cultural groups in the city along such lines as ethnic, racial, and religious; take a CPR class; take the online classes on critical incidents at the FEMA website; get some fire fighter New Testaments; eventually offer a Bible study at one or more of the stations … it goes on and on.  So, it would seem that I am excited about the possibilities for ministry here.  Indeed.

Psalms 89:1 says, “I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.”

Father, thank you for the ministry possibilities with GFD.  Please cover whatever efforts I make with a healthy dose of your Holy Spirit.  I sure need it.  Amen.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 25 – “Pink Pox”

Cailyn let loose with another story yesterday.  I overheard her telling it to Chris as they lay in bed for a quick nap time.  Here it goes:

Once upon a time there was a watermelon walking home.  When he got home he looked in the mirror and he … he freaked out.  He had chicken pox.  They were all over him and they were blue … no they were pink.  But sometimes you can have blue ones.  And that’s all of my story.  Now it’s your turn.

I thought you might want a look into the mind of this particular 4 year old.  See, she was with her Nani.  Nani is – how shall I say this? – a watermelon person.  She loves watermelon.  She can cut a watermelon in half and scoop it out with a spoon and eat it right then.  And if you can get her away long enough to cut it into portions for everyone, she is likely to sample the center of each piece, just to make sure everyone is getting the proper taste experience.  Hence, the walking watermelon in this special story for Nani.  The mirror part is easy to explain as well.  We have one of those stand-alone full length mirrors by the door in our bedroom.  When you are in our bed you are facing the mirror, so Cailyn had a prime view of it.  Now as for the chicken pox, I assume she was remembering a rash her Mom had around her neck.  From the sounds of things the two of them talked about it, and a comparison was made with the mysterious chicken pox.  Now, Cailyn has never really seen chicken pox, she has no idea what color they really might be.  She and I have had the favorite color discussion, and she knows my favorite color is blue.  I can only guess that perhaps Nani has indicated an affinity for that hue as well.  Pink, however, is a different story.  That one belongs to Cailyn.  She loves all things pink.  She also is a kind person at heart, and wouldn’t want to hurt the feelings of a potential blue-lover, so she hastily added the possibility of a strain of chicken pox that results in blueness.  Now, as for the freaking out statement, maybe we have to ask her Mommy about that one.  I’m sure she has never seen anyone do anything out of the ordinary around here that could be in any way construed as “freaking out.”  We are just a couple of nice, quiet, little grandparents doing our best to spoil our grandkids.

Psalms 86:16 says, “Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant.”

Father, be with the families of the victims of the West tragedy as they are memorialized today.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 24 – “About birds: A Cailyn original composition”

I promised Cailyn I would run a few of her stories in my blog.  Well, put on your creativity cap.  Here they are. 

Once upon a time a little bird went inside our downstairs and we loved her and we thought her mommy wanted her there and she wanted to see her mommy.  And once upon a time there was another bird and he flew off.  And once upon a time another bird came and said, “What are you doing here, Cailyn?” 
I said, “Just hanging out looking at your baby bird and I love the baby bird and I love you and I miss you.”
And he said, “I love you so much I love you so much a lot.”
He flew away.  And the baby bird had some coffee and marshmallows and he ate food and flowers and read a book and got on his hat and went mowing in the front yard.  Oh, and he put on hearing aids and earrings.

OK.  That was story number one, presented just as it was dictated to me by the master storyteller.  Of course you don’t have the advantage I did of hearing all the pauses and changes of voice to stay in character, or the giggling at the sheer delight of creating her very own story.  Here’s the other one she came up with.

Once upon a time there was a mommy named Nani.  She was playing on her computer and she found a feather and she didn’t know where it came from.  She thought it was from a baby bird so she typed it up in her phone and found it was from a baby bird and she said, “Oh, it’s from a baby bird.”
Once upon a time she went to sleep with her baby bird and she woke up and couldn’t find it.  So we had to go, “Tweet, tweet, tweet.  Mommy, I am crying.  Where are you?”  And the Momma bird sang a song,
“You hush, little baby, but you say what you want. 
What do you see baby bird, little baby bird? 
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Mommy’s gonna get you a baby bird. 
If the baby bird flies away,
Mommy’s gonna get you a little fly. 
That’s all my song.”

And that’s all for today.  Any comments on Cailyn’s psychological well-being or perhaps the quality of her upbringing? 

Psalms 86:15 says, “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Father, keep on inspiring creativity in my grandkids.  The world needs it.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 23 – “Baby Update”

I’ve been saving that title to use as an experiment.  In the past whenever my blog title had anything that could remotely be interpreted as referring to a baby in any shape form or fashion, the hits doubled or even tripled.  I was just curious if that would remain the case.  Then I wondered if those who were checking out the news really did read the article or if they were just scanning for some hot gossip. 

Well, in this particular case I find that I have the opportunity to have the best of both worlds.  I will certainly check my hits tomorrow when I post, but for today there is indeed some news.  Alas, it is not about Kel and Christina, although their baby is coming along quite nicely.  That sweet little girl should be arriving soon, and she will be a welcome addition to that family of boys.  Cailyn is excited to have another girl among the cousins, and she really wants to have one of those sister things of her own.  But the news is not about Nathan and April. 

Have you seen the tactics I am employing here?  For those who simply scan through looking for names to give them clues as to which family members might be the stars of the show here, I am giving a glimpse of every family member.  Kind of builds the intensity of the speculation, doesn’t it?  Who could it be?  Perhaps one of the many who have made their home with us over the years?  Maybe one of the church family?  Could it be us?  Sure, that’s it. Chris is pregnant.  No, she’s not.  But that would be one for the books, wouldn’t it?

Wait.  What’s that you say?  You haven’t heard about everyone?  No, you’re right.  I haven’t completed my checklist of family, my entourage of “relative” excitement.  For you see, there is indeed one other child that we brought into this world.  One other son and his beautiful wife who have made their mark with two sons of their own.  Could it be that Josh and Christi have made an announcement?  Well … yes.  They have.  Christi will have to add superlatives to the homeschool curriculum, because Zakary will be the biggEST brother.  Caleb will now have the chance to be a big brother in his own right (and a middle child, but we don’t need to go there just yet. I’ll pray for you Caleb).  With a due date of November 9th, Halloween has already taken on a whole new meaning for those two boys.  Another Vaughan.  Bring it on.

Genesis 21:6 says, “Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’”

Father, thank you for the joy of hearing that a new child is to be born.  But I guess you understand that feeling, what with Christmas and all.  Amen.

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 22 – “Changing focus”

I had a great day visiting with old friends at South Oaks Baptist Church yesterday.  The first handshake I received was from the greeter at the door.  He was proud to have just turned 90 years old few months before.  Right behind him was a guy who had just recovered from the same back surgery I have had several times over the years.  That’s a connection I wish we didn’t have, but he looked like he was doing just fine.  I sat near the back so I could continue my commitment to standing up and moving around.  I didn’t want a recurrence of the numb foot and leg from Friday.  It worked out well, though, because quite a few of the folks I knew were back there.  Hmm.  Wonder what that says about the people I hang out with.  Look for us on the back row where we can cut up most effectively without getting caught, right?  Maybe.

I did know the guy who prayed before they took up an offering.  He did an admirable job, too.  I told him after the service that I was particularly impressed with his comments before he prayed.  One thought he expressed was, “Why do we pray?  It’s because we have a job to do that can’t do ourselves.”  That’s some deep spiritual thinking there. 

The sermon was from, of all places, Nehemiah.  I just finished a long series from there.  The Jews had begun rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, and were facing some pretty stiff antagonism from their neighbors.  When they stepped back to take a look at what they had accomplished, all they could see was a big pile of rubbish and barely half a wall.  The cry of Nehemiah was that they change their focus.  They were not looking at a pile of rubbish, but instead a storehouse of building materials.  And it wasn’t “just half a wall.”  They were more than halfway to accomplishing their goal.  It was cause not for depression, but for encouragement, for renewed dedication to the task at hand.  I like Nehemiah.  He’s an eternal optimist like me.  The glass is half full, not “nearly empty.”  Be encouraged.  God is at work all around us.  We just need to open our eyes and keep our focus on him.  Good stuff.

Nehemiah 4:14 says, “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’”

What a week last week was.  The Boston Marathon bombings.  The West, Texas explosions.  But from the chaos I heard several of the best words of encouragement.  From Mr. Rogers’ mother (yes, the TV Mr. Rogers) we heard, “When you see bad things happening, look for the helpers.”  Focus on the right things.

From good old Nehemiah I heard, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” (4:19-20).  Pull together in unity and God will join us.

And finally, I heard a prayer at that church I visited that was one of the best I have come across in a long time: 

“Father, we are horrified by the tragedies we see around us in Boston, in West, and all over our country.  Don’t let us become the hate we see and hear.  Amen.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21 – “Barbeque”

Well, my brain feels like it has been barbequed right now.  Or at least properly fried.  There was so much information to absorb in this conference that it will take me weeks to sort through it all.  I guess I’ll be sharing a little bit at a time as I go through it all again.  I am officially a member of the Texas State Fire Chaplain Corps, and I’ll be joining the National Federation of Fire Chaplains when I get home.  I have to have a letter of endorsement from the church and a letter from the fire chief indicating that he did appoint me before I can send off for that one.  I did make a lot of contacts for future assistance, though.  I was amazed at how much help there is available.  Good thing, too.  I predict that I will need a lot. 

I went with a few of the guys over to the seminary cafeteria for lunch.  It was closed, but there was a little snack bar area open.  The girl asked how she could help me, so I said I wanted a sandwich.  She said, “OK.  Get a bag and fill it out.”  A bag.  Nowhere did I see a bag on the counter.  She sensed my perplexity and pointed to a rack on the wall nearby.  Sure enough, there was a stack of bags.  “Don’t forget to fill it out,” she reminded me.  On the outside of the bag was a list of the options for sandwiches and ingredients.  It was like going to Starbucks, but filling out the info yourself.  Of course filling it out would require a writing utensil.  Again I looked around.  “There’s a marker with the bags,” came the patient response from the girl.  I had to look a bit harder this time, but I did find a magic marker stuffed among the bags.  Filling it out was easy, I just had to make sure there wasn’t a box marked “Barbeque.”  Nope.  Just “Club.”  Good enough. 

I planned to offer to treat my hosts to supper that night, but it was already almost ready when I arrived back at the house.  Guess what they did for supper?  That’s right.  Barbeque.  Well, it was actually grilling, and I did have my choice.  Some of it was marinated in some kind of Italian stuff.  Some of it was in barbeque sauce.  I took the barbeque sauce, of course.  On a pork chop.  It was really good.  I don’t think I’ll order that for lunch today, though.  It is so great to have friends that seem to enjoy opening their home to the likes of me.  That can’t be an easy thing.

Psalms 86:12-13 says, “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.  For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”

Father, thank you for Cary and Kay Lynn and for their hospitality. Bless them mightily in all they do.  Amen.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20 – “Day One”

Well, I made it through the first day of the chaplain training.  I am definitely not used to sitting that long.  The whole left side of my left foot was numb by the time I got back to the Winkle’s house.  I took a hot shower and that helped some, but I will most assuredly sit where I can stand up every so often for the last day. 

The conference has been really good so far.  I bought the national organization’s notebook that the conference is based on so I have some resources to take home.  I have received a lot of good tips for getting started as a chaplain.  Probably the best thing, though, is doing some networking to have someone to call for help when I need it.  We have also had a window into the relief efforts from the disaster in West.  The organization putting on the conference is also coordinating chaplaincy efforts there.  That has been fascinating as well. 

I had lunch with my good friend Mike Wilson and a colleague of his, Tom.  They are both professors at the seminary in Fort Worth.  Mike does field education and Tom teaches archaeology.  It was a very interesting meal. To say the least.  Tom is quite the rebel.  We seemed to really hit it off.  Kindred spirits.  And the barbeque chicken wasn’t bad, either. 

I went to supper with a group of guys from the conference.  We ate at Cousins Barbecue.  Yep.  Barbeque.  At least this time it was a chopped beef sandwich and not chicken.  I talked a lot with one of the instructors who lives in the area.  He is chaplain of a disaster relief group that meets at South Oaks Baptist Church where I used to work.  He even remembers doing some fire inspections from back when I was here pre-1995. 

The trip back to Arlington was stop and go with traffic.  Then it suddenly cleared up.  No apparent reason for the bottleneck.  I thought I was back in Houston there for a few minutes.  Today shouldn’t be bad.  It is Saturday after all. 

Psalms 86:11 says, “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

Father, thank you for the resolution of the Boston situation.  Bring some peace there and in West.  Amen.

Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19 – “Safe”

Well, I made it to Fort Worth.  Actually, Arlington.  I don’t have to be in Fort Worth until the conference begins at 8, so I guess I have to leave here by 7:15 or so.  I didn’t have any real difficulties on the road yesterday.  It did start to rain in downtown Houston.  Never a good place to be in any weather.  The rain continued in varying degrees until almost Corsicana, so I got used to it.  I never did get used to the 75 mile per hour speed limit though.  Just felt too fast!  Besides, even when I got up to that speed, cars were still passing me.  Just a scary thought. 

I did have to come to almost a complete stop on the freeway at one point.  There was a five car pile-up.  Must have just happened, too, because there was only one police officer on the scene.  The traffic figured out how to get around it on our own, though, and I passed a fire truck and ambulance headed back that direction.  It didn’t look like anyone was badly hurt.  God be with them.

It was great to catch up with my friends up here last night.  Kay Lynn found just found out that she for sure has Meniere’s disease.  It’s a disorder of the inner ear that affects balance and can make her get really sick as a result.  She was just recovering from a bout with it, so she crashed out in her chair early.  Cary and I talked until around ten, but then it was my turn to crash, so I went on to bed. 

It took a while for Chris to text me back once I got settled in the bedroom.  She was helping Mom get ready for bed.  They had hosted home group in my absence and Bryan did the teaching.  It was his first time, but I know he did a fine job. 

Speaking of Bryan, it feel strange not being with Bryan and Jennifer this morning at her surgery.  She is having the stability halo removed from her ankle.  I did text them a prayer, so hopefully they will know I am with them in spirit. 

Now I have to try and figure out if Cary and KayLynn have an internet connection.  I forgot to ask before bed last night.  So on to breakfast and the seminar.

Psalms 86:9-10 says, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.  For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.”

Father, thank you for using Bryan last night.  Be with him and Jennifer today.  Thanks for the safe trip as well.  Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18 – “False alarm”

Christina stopped by with the boys after a library trip.  The first thing Jachin and Micah told us was, “Baby Sister almost came out yesterday.”  Well, that’s quite the announcement.  It was a false alarm, though. 

This morning I’m doing preparations for my trip to Fort Worth for the fire department chaplain conference.  That means I have no idea what my blog posts will be like for the next few days.  I will have my computer, but with the conference and catching up with old friends, I just don’t know about my time.  Mom was up and down again last night.  Chris kept our door closed and she stayed in the other bedroom so I could get some sleep before having to drive for five hours.  Great lady.

She did get to go to Hobby Lobby yesterday to get some material.  She wanted to have plenty of projects to work on while I’m gone.  I think Josiah might be getting his super hero cape for his birthday.  We’ll see.  She also got some stuff to do some more baby blankets for upcoming little ones. 

We got our plane and hotel reservations for our trip to New Jersey in August.  I’m doing a wedding for a dear friend who lives there.  The bride’s Dad asked me if there was anything near them that we had on our bucket list.  They live an hour from Manhatten and 45 minutes from Philly.  We have been to Philadelphia before and done the tourist-y things there.  Never even been to Manhatten.  I have no idea what might be there that could be related to anything on my bucket list.  Is that where Broadway is?  I’d like to see a Broadway show some day, especially if it’s the one where I know one of the actor/singers.  One of the kids from our youth group in Denver is now singing as Christine in Phantom of the Opera.  It would be cool to see her.

I did some more research on the fire fighters.  I am trying to locate them on FaceBook so I can get a window into who they are.  Honestly, it will help to have a picture of each guy so I can try to memorize some faces to go with names.  Maybe I can find out their birthdays and send them cards.  That should effectively double my birthday card list.  It might be a little ambitious to extend that to their families right now, but I would really like to get to know these guys.  Chris has been reading some reports to me about the explosion and fires in West, Texas.  As we feared, it sounds like an entire group of volunteer fire fighters, who were the first to respond to the fire before the explosion, are still unaccounted for.  It’s going to be a rough next few days, that’s for sure. 

Psalms 86:8 says, “Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.”

Father, send your Spirit to West.  Bring comfort and peace and healing and extra doses of strength for those still battling the fires.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17 – “Uniformly fitted”

I was fitted for a uniform yesterday.  Sound kind of funny to hear me say that about me.  The only uniforms I can remember being fitted for had to do with sports: baseball or basketball.  The only time I was in band was junior high, so n uniform there.  The Viet Nam War, and hence the draft, ended just before I became eligible, so no military uniform.  My illustrious, pre-ministry vocations have been: beach garbage man (no uniform requirements to empty trash cans and pick up driftwood on the beach), roofer (I suppose you could count that I had to wear a long sleeved shirt and long pants.  They weren’t special issued, though, and it didn’t take long for them to get speckled with tar), and salesman at Sears (Certainly no uniform there, but we did have to “look nice.”  I was even “promoted” to the men’s suits department, where I measured people for suits and told them what colors went with what.  That was a joke.  I had an arrangement with one of the other workers.  She would stand behind the customer out of view.  I would hold up two items and she would give me a thumbs up or down on whether they matched.  Great arrangement.  Always did appreciate that lady.  We called her “Cookie.”  Never knew her real name).  I didn’t include the neighborhood odd jobs we used to do as kids to raise money to buy baseball cards.  That was mainly sweeping people’s gutters out.  Mowing grass took too long and required too much supervision and approval.  Besides, it was a whole lot easier to drag a broom along behind you as you went from house to house as opposed to pushing a mower.  And in the  ministry I suppose you could say the fact that I was required to wear a suit in several churches could count as a uniform.  Sure didn't like doing that, though.  And it's not as though they had an official logo on them.  So, no uniforms for me … until yesterday.

Oh, I guess I failed to mention that the uniform was one for the fire department chaplain.  And I didn’t actually get the uniform yet, of course.  This was just the fitting.  I met the guy at one of the stations, and his first question was, “What are we fitting you for today.”  They always start with the hardest ones.  I had no idea.  Now, I had done my research enough to know that there are three tiers, or classes, of uniforms.  Class A is the dress uniform that is worn for official functions when representing the department.  Class B is a bit less formal, with no tie or jacket or dress hat.  Class C is the everyday, polo shirt and slacks.  I assumed the uniform I was being fitted for would be the Class A, since most of my duties would be involved in an official capacity, but I honestly wasn’t sure.  He took all the measurements, though, and I called the secretary to see what she could find out.  She assured me she would have the assistant chief touch base with the uniform rep.  Gotta hand it to those secretaries.  They are the ones who are really in the know every time.  Way to go, Trish.

Psalms 86:6-7 says, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.  In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.”

Father, thanks for the unsung secretaries of the world.  Trish and Laura and Cindy in my current experience.  Bless ‘em wildly.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 16 – “To sleep, perchance to …”

Cailyn was over yesterday, and after a trip to the library with Nani she was obviously sleepy.  She comes by that honestly, though.  Trips to libraries and book stores have always made Chris incredibly sleepy as well.  I don’t get sleepy.  I get excited.  Always have liked to be around books.  The subject matter that thrills me has changed over the years.  As a kid I think I read every book in the Rosenberg library that was even remotely related to baseball.  I was especially interested in the old-timers and their personal stories.  You know, the goofy things they did in the dugout and how they were raised.  That’s how I was introduced to the pro player who probably had the most influence on my life, albeit indirectly.  Billy Sunday.  He was a drunk, but a really good baseball player.  One day he found himself in a ditch listening to a band playing in a church.  He went inside, became a Christian, and was never the same.  He started preaching and made a name for himself for all the weird antics he would pull during sermons – like sliding into the pulpit to illustrate that the only way to be safe with God is through a personal relationship with Jesus.  It took me years to understand that concept and apply it to my own life, but Billy Sunday planted the seed.  The sermon that actually grabbed my attention enough that I was forced to respond to it, began with a story about Billy Sunday.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Well, my history.

Wow, was that ever a digression from Cailyn being sleepy.  We did finally convince her to take a break and let me read her new library books to her.  I know that sounds like I’m a great Granddad and all, but you have to understand.  Early afternoons are not the greatest of all times for me to be still and quiet.  That’s about the time the second wave of my timed release rheumatoid arthritis pain medication activates.  If I slow down … I go down.  It is an even stranger feeling for me because I can hear myself reading the wrong words, and sometimes even adding words that make no sense, but I can’t really stop it.  I am for all intents and purposes, asleep.  That’s what happened yesterday.  Cailyn did her best to keep waking me up, and Chris even tried to intervene and offered to finish the story.  Cailyn would have none of that, however.  She loves her DadDad, right?  Either that or she gets a kick out of the strange things he says when he’s trying to read and sleep at the same time.  Cailyn finally suggested that we move from the floor to our bed.  Great move for me.  Not so much for her.  I began to wake up again, but unfortunately, she was beyond sleep by the time we settled in.  She tossed and turned for a few minutes, but it was hopeless.  She finally rolled out of bed, turned to me and announced, “My body is all shaped up now, DadDad.  I’m all done with rest time.”  And with that, off she frolicked. 

Hmm.  Read any good books lately?

Psalms 86:5 says, “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.”

Father, thank you for Billy Sunday and books and … naps.  Amen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15 – “A day in the life”

Me and my assistant did a fine job of presenting a Kids’ Sermon yesterday.  Well, my assistant was by far the star of the show.  When I called the kids up, five of them were brave enough to join me at the podium.  Of course the first one there was Cailyn.  And of course she climbed right up onto my stool and made herself comfortable.  Kiara another four-year-old little girl, came and stood between Cailyn and me (a little rivalry there, I think), and three older guys came as well, but they made themselves comfortable on the front pew.  I asked Cailyn, “What do we do when you come over to my house to stay for the day?”  She initially reacted about like I expected.  A shy scrunching of the shoulders and a barely discernible, “I don’t know.”  So I determined to help her walk through it.

“What do we do when you first get there and you haven’t had breakfast?”
“We make pancakes.”
“And what color are those pancakes?”

OK.  She was off and running now. 
“Do we sometimes take walks?”
“And do we ever play over in 40 steps?”  (I had to explain that 40 Steps is Josiah’s name for the vacant lot next door).

Not much extra information coming out of her mouth yet.  I decided to throw in a little test. 
“And after we play we go inside and take a nap, right?”

I figured that would get some kind of rise out of her.  She never wants to take a nap.  But what do I know?  She flashed her smile, cocked her head and just as sweetly as she could muster, she said, “Yes.”

Now wait a minute.  She must not have heard me.  I tried talking a little faster.
“And we sometimes we play in the back yard.  What do we do out there?”
“We plant stuff with Nani.”

OK.  More info, but suddenly I’m out of the picture altogether.  I tried,
“What else do you play with that is hanging up out there?”
“The swing.”
“Right.  And what does one of them look like?”
“A horsie.”
“Very good, and then we come inside and take a nap, right?”

Aargh.  No nap in reality, but I think by now she had sensed the humor of the moment and was actively going there.
“Do we practice dancing because you said I could dance with you at your wedding?”
“And then we take a nap?”

Of course. 
“What do we do when we go out in the front yard?”
“We play ring-around-the-rosie.”
“Want to play it now?”

That got a rise out of everyone.  She climbed down from the stool.  Kiara was quick to grab a hand.  I asked the boys on the front row if they wanted to play, and they jumped right in.  And we did it.  Played a round of ring-around-the-rosie right there in the front of the church.  And when we got to the “all fall down” part, we all fell down right there.  Except for Cailyn.  She very calmly and sweetly to a seat on the front pew to wait for all the silliness to end.  Then she returned to her perch on the stool.  Breathlessly I asked,
“And then what do we do?”

And from the congregation came a chorus of, “Take a nap.”
And from Cailyn?  “Yes.”

I suppose the interchange made its point.  And not just about the need to take a nap.  The teaching was centered on the decision of two disciples in John’s chapter one to follow Jesus after having an opportunity to spend a day with him.  What did they do with him?  What did say?  What would you want to say or do if you got that chance?  Our kids’ prayer went like this: Jesus, help us learn how to spend time with you, even when we can’t see you.  Amen.

Oh, yes.  During our encouragement time that followed the kid’s sermon, someone asked me if Cailyn was going to preach today.  Puzzled, I turned around.  She was still sitting proudly on my stool.  So I asked her, “Are you going to preach today?”  She smiled broadly and replied, “Yes.”  Of course.  So I asked, “And what are you going to preach about to all these people?  What will you tell them?”  She pondered for a moment or two before brightening and shouting, “No roaches!”  Now there’s a great sermon title if I ever heard one.

John 1:37-39 says, “When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’
They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’
'Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’
So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. “

Father, thank you for the offer to come and see what it is like to abide with you.  Amen.