Friday, May 31, 2013

May 31 – “The Rescue”

Here’s a quick update on Mom.  She seems to be recovering nicely from her fall.  She definitely has that shiner, though.  She is getting around the house well enough that we are insisting she keep her walker with her at all times.  She still wants to push it aside and walk on her own, though.  Pretty stubborn lady.  Gotta love her.  She sure passed her genes on to her grandchildren.  Must have skipped me ….

I got a late start for my walk yesterday.  I didn’t get a lot of sleep because I kept having hot flashes and what felt like pin pricks all over my feet.  No, it’s not menopause.  Prednisone plus pinched nerves in the back equals no fun.  Especially at night when you are trying to sleep.  I did get up and get going, though, and as I rounded one corner I saw one of the Galveston fire fighters who lives in our neighborhood.  He was sitting on his front porch eating some breakfast and watching his dog play.  Big dog.  Scary looking.  But it didn’t take long for the tail to start wagging and I had a new friend.  We had a great neighborly kind of talk.  The fire fighter and me, not the dog.  Somewhere in between comparing notes on the neighborhood meeting we had with our city council rep and him telling me how proud he was of his girlfriend’s dean’s list accomplishments in college, a squirrel made its appearance from across the street.  Did I mention that he had a dog?  A big dog?  The dog saw the squirrel.  And the squirrel saw the dog.  And the chase began.  Didn’t last long, though.  The squirrel made it up the tree in the front yard, and the dog, though it did its best, just couldn’t quite make the climb.  As we continued our talk, another squirrel made an appearance across the street.  It was no doubt The Squirrel Rescue Squad sent on this dangerous mission to seek out the presence of his compadre and do whatever it took to rescue him from the clutches of the massive giant holding him hostage.  It didn’t take the dog long to locate the new interloper.  A sharp command from the fire fighter held the dog in position on our side of the street, but while the dog keyed on this new intruder, the original squirrel snuck out the tree and disappeared over the fence and into the back yard.  Recognizing that his job was done, the second squirrel quietly, but somewhat smugly, retreated.  The dog finally suspected something must be happening and returned to check on his treed victim.  But alas, his quarry was gone.  To his credit, the dog almost immediately traced the exact steps of the escaped trespasser.  Sadly, though, the trail ended somewhere along the roofline.  Quite a successful diversionary tactic, I must say.  Most assuredly a victory for squirreldom. 

Psalms 92:5 says, “How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts!”

Father, thank you for all of the creatures you have placed around us, human and otherwise.  They can sure be entertaining.  Amen.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30 – “A different kind of crash”

Many years ago when we heard the sound of something crashing to the floor, we would naturally assume that one of our boys (usually Nathan, with or without the urging of his older brothers) had decided to become adventurous and try something new and dangerous.  The noise was the inevitable result of a misstep here or a valiant yet futile attempt to establish a handhold there.  It could be anything from a lamp hitting the floor to a now-upended bookcase cluttering the floor with no-doubt rarely used school books.  Most of the time the result was more in the line of a mess rather than an injury. 

Then later on, when the boys all grew up and left home and Mom moved in with us and Hurricane Ike led to the restructuring of the layout of our house, the crashing noise came to signify a totally different expectation.  For now we had the dogs confined to one room of the house to keep them from accidentally tripping Mom, but it took some time for them to learn the new rules of roaming, the first of which was … don’t.  To assist them in their new educational endeavor we installed one of those child safety gates.  Well, we didn’t actually install it.  We just leaned it against the wall across the doorway.  Our dogs were so smart that they knew forcing the issue would be pointless, or so dumb that they never knew all they had to do to gain access to the whole house was knock over the silly gate.  There were those occasions, however, when an accidental brush or an overexcited bump caused the gate to lose its already-tenuous balance and come crashing to the floor.  That was a sound that we easily recognized and we raced to correct the situation before an escape was consummated. 

The dogs are still with us, and we still use the leaning gate technique, but yesterday we heard a crashing sound that could only mean one thing.  A totally different concern that we live with day to day now.  A sound that brings one of those sick feelings to the pit of your stomach because it means … Mom has fallen.  Chris and I were in the study talking, and Mom was on the couch just around the corner in the den.  She had been restless all day, jumping up at any hint of movement outside, and even opening the door and shuffling out to the front yard before Chris could get to her.  That time she was tracking the movements of the garbage truck.  All without the aid of her walker, I might add.  I don’t know if she just forgets to use it or if she is determined to do it on her own.  We don’t know what caught her eye or struck her fancy this time, but we heard it.  That tell-tale crash that is so different from falling toys or a sliding dog gate.  We both jumped up and raced to her side.  She had fallen in the hardwood floor section of the house, which I guess is better than on the tile.  Her glasses frames were broken, and the first thing I noticed was the bruise already beginning to form around her right eye.  She had a small cut there as well, from the frames.  We also found a scrape on her hand and one on her knee, so we were able to reconstruct the positioning of her landing.  We told her to lie still on the floor for a bit until Chris could get some bandages and some ice.  Chris asked her if she could tell us what hurt, and she managed to get out, “My eye.”  After the bandages were in place we slowly sat her up and on the count of three lifted her to her feet.  She wasn’t all that far from the couch, so we helped her there.  She seemed pretty alert, but her communication skills are not very good any more.  I was wondering about the blow to her head, so Chris asked her, “Do you know what your name is?”  She didn’t answer.  Chris tried again, “What is your name?”  That time Mom looked up at her with a quizzical expression as if to say, “If you don’t know, how do expect me to?”  But still she said nothing.  Finally Chris changed the wording a bit, “What do people call you?”  Instantly she responded, “Oralee.”  Phew. 

She stayed on the couch for the rest of the evening, and did pretty well getting into bed.  She made her usual several trips to the bathroom throughout the night, and Chris said she did OK other than obviously dragging her right leg.  The problem came when she crawled back into bed.  As she eased down onto her back, she grimaced and sat back up, clutching her side first, then moving back to grab her hip.  The night was a fitful one, for sure.  This morning she managed to shuffle to the breakfast table, still with the telltale limp.  She does have a shiner.  And apparently she is still sore on that one side.  The plan now is to watch her closely today and see if she is able to move more freely as the day goes on, which is her usual routine.  I for one am ready for the sound of a different kind of crash.  How about one that signifies the grandkids have found the stash of toys that used to be their Dad’s and are trying to pull them off the shelf?  That’ll work. 

Psalms 92:4 says, “For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

Father, please walk with Mom when she makes her attempts to walk.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29 – “Job security”

We had some serious help with the yard work the other day.  Cailyn was over while her Mom went to a job interview with UTMB (Operating Room, I think.  Do some praying, please).  She had me get down the toy lawn mower so she could “finish up the mowing” while I did the weed eater.  She showed very nice manners, too.  Any time she came up behind me she would scream at the top of her lungs to get my attention.  See, I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids, and that weed eater makes a lot of noise.  When I turned off the machine and turned to see what she wanted, she would grin and softly say, “Excuse me,” and make her way through with her little mower.  She was being oh, so careful to stay on the sidewalk, so she mowed right through whatever grass clippings Chris had managed to sweep up.  Of course, she couldn’t get on the grass itself because she was barefoot, so she was keeping all that sidewalk grass at bay.  And doing an admirable job, I might add.  Gotta love it when the grandkids want to help. 

We started cleaning out the main front flower bed again.  It’s the one with the overabundant crop of dollar grass.  That’s the stuff that develops an extensive root system that makes it virtually impossible to uncover and remove by hand.  It sends shoots in every direction, and whenever it runs into the roots of an existing plant … no problem.  It forces its way right through the middle of the cluster, again making it next to impossible to get to all of it without pulling up the good plants’ roots as well.  And you can’t really poison it, because you would have to kill all the plants you want to keep as well.  So all you can do is pull on the old garden gloves and start tugging.  Oh, you’ll have just enough success to make you want to try one more pull, or dig just a tiny bit deeper.  But in the long run, the easiest approach is to pull up all the green, silver-dollar-shaped offenders that you can and scheduled your next appointment.  Makes for good job security for the gardener, I guess.

Psalms 92:1-3 says, “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.”

Father, thank you that the music you love to hear doesn’t have to come from a lyre or a harp or even a trained voice.  You like that heart-music best.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28 – “Trading Babe Ruth”

We did get our Memorial Day invitation to spend time with family.  Kel and Christina called and invited us over for lunch, so we packed Mom up and went all the way into Texas and over to LaMarque.  The allure of spending time with grandkids is pretty strong.  When you add to that the promise of some grilled steaks, it becomes almost overwhelming.  And that’s all before you add the finishing touches of mashed potatoes with cheese and corn on the cob - cooked in the sheaves on the grill as well.  Very good stuff.  Nice job.

Before we could get started I went with Kel and Josiah to get some more charcoal.  We also needed a few more basic things, like hot dog buns for the kids and of course some brownies and Blue Bell ice cream.  Also for the kids, of course.  While there Kel decided to get a few packs of baseball cards.  He got one for each of the boys.  He even got an extra one for himself.  Oh, and he got one for his old man, too.  Hey, I raised that kid right.  They make opening packs of baseball cards a real family affair.  Everyone has to see who got what card.  I was the last one to open mine, and by that time all the others except Micah seemed to have lost interest and moved on to other things.  That is until I revealed a card that was some kind of tribute to Babe Ruth.  Had an image of him post-swing watching the ball fly out of the park, no doubt.  Micah wanted to know who the guy was, and when I spoke the name out loud, it was almost as if a magical aura had descended.  His jaw dropped.  He looked around to see if lightning would strike.  Gazing adoringly at the card, he managed to speak in a voice heavy with awe and wonder, “DadDad got a Babe Ruth.”  Suddenly he shot out of the room, bound for who knows where.  But by now big brother Jachin had heard the good news.  He wanted to check it out and lament that he hadn’t chosen the “right” pack.  And as he contemplated greatness, Micah returned with what he deemed his own best card.  “DadDad, I’ll trade you my good card for your Babe Ruth.”  Not wanting to take what was obviously an important card to him, I asked, “Didn’t you just get a Jose Altuve card in your new pack?”  Again, he shot out of the room, bound as I now knew for his own stash of cards.  Jachin sensed that I might actually be considering a trade, so he grabbed his notebook of cards as well, flipping through pages and desperately trying to put together another option.  And to his credit, he did come up with a good offer.  It included Altuve, along with a few other cards.  Micah returned and probably would have given me his entire stash.  I played along with the negotiation game for a while.  Wanted to give them a chance to practice their skills.  When it came down to the trade signing deadline, though, I had to go with … Micah.  He was the first to request a trade.  He stayed with me when I was opening my pack.  And he obviously wanted the card badly.  I got my Jose Altuve.  Hey, what can I say?  I like the Astros.  Besides, I already have a Babe Ruth that is a bit older than that one.  Jachin was certainly miffed, but I hope he got the message.  Sometimes it’s the intangibles that matter.

Psalms 91:15-16 says, “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Father, help me remember that intangibles do matter.  Like hospitality and encouragement, and integrity.  Amen.

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27 – “Remember”

Well, it’s Memorial Day again.  Means a lot of things to a lot of people.  The fire fighters will be out collecting money for muscular dystrophy in their fill the boot campaign.  Barbeque pits will be fired up and cooking will begin on the ribs or burgers or steaks or redfish or whatever you happen to have in your freezer.  Families will make efforts to get together.  Friends will gather.  For some it means working in the yard in the never-ending effort to get those evil-demon-devil weeds under control, or maybe just to get the grass mowed. 

Here in Galveston the beaches are literally swarming with tourists, basking in the gorgeous weather and splashing amongst the seaweed.  Schlitterbahn is packed.  Moody Gardens is doing a bang-up business.  I’m sure the Strand is hopping as well, but I don’t intend to go out there and see.  And the traffic.  I heard that on Saturday traffic was backed up almost 20 miles coming into town and trying to exit at 61st Street.  I went to the Jamaica Beach Park fund raiser that night, and when I left to come home, the seawall was bumper to bumper going east bound.  Glad I knew the back way or I might still be in line.  WalMart is really hopping.  Can’t beat being the only game in town as far as they are concerned. 

All that beach traffic inevitably leads to tales of strong currents and lost lives.  We have already had three lost this weekend at San Luis Pass.  Kudos to the organizations that work together in those situations: Galveston Fire and Rescue, Jamaica Beach Volunteer Fire Department, Galveston Beach Patrol, Galveston County Sheriff Department, Galveston Police Department, the Coast Guard, volunteers who just happened to be nearby and who cared.  I haven’t heard of any fires yet, but this is certainly a weekend to be careful. 

Busy, busy, busy.  So much to get in on a big holiday weekend.  Gotta make the most of the short amount of time you have before it’s back to the old grind tomorrow.  I get it.  And I do appreciate those of you who are spending your time and money here on Galveston Island.  But could you take just a moment or two out of that wild and crazy fun?  Could you stop and take one or two deep breaths?  Could you then do what the name of the day implies?  Memorial Day … remember.  Maybe you don’t have any direct connection with anyone in the military.  That’s OK.  But I bet your parents did.  Or your grandparents before them.  My GrandDad served in World War I.  Remember.  My Dad served in World War II.  Remember.  Chris’ Dad served in the Korean War.  Remember.  I had friends who served in Vietnam.  Remember.  It was friends of my children who served in Iraq.  Remember.  One of my best friends is right now an army chaplain.  Remember.  And when you remember, breathe a prayer of thanks to God that those heroes responded to a call to arms. 

Psalms 91:15-16 says, “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Father God, thank you for those who have served and are still active in our military.  Give comfort to the families of those who were killed.  Give peace to those who struggle mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Give protection, diligence, endurance, and strength to those who remain active in service.  Draw them close to you so that they may receive your deliverance and honor.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 26 – “The other side of the boot”

Yesterday I attended the funeral of retired Fire Chief Paul Stanforth.  Among the guests were two retired chiefs, the acting chief, battalion chiefs, an honor guard member (that would be Nathan), and several retired captains. Before the service some of the active guys came by, and I met a few of them I hadn’t had a chance to meet previously.  The union fire truck was outfitted to carry the casket to the cemetery.  As we were talking to Nathan and waiting to begin, a cousin of Chief Stanforth joined us.  He was a walking encyclopedia of Galveston history as it applied to him.  He began one story about back when he went to Kirwin High School.  He started an explanation of what that was, when I interrupted him to say that my Dad was a graduate of Kirwin.  That kind of took him aback.  Didn’t stop him, by any means, but it gained me a little credibility with him.  They apparently knew each other.  I hope he would move to some strand that would include ways his story intersected with Dad’s, but he was pretty focused.  He wanted to tell how Kirwin’s name was changed to O’Connell, after one of the priests he knew.  Of course I had to let him know that I had also met that particular priest.  It’s kind of frightening to realize that I was remembering all this ancient history as something I participated in.  Maybe I’m getting old enough to try out some of the crazy things I’ve been cataloguing all these years.  And get away with them with the “he’s just an old geezer” excuse.  Been waiting a long time for that day.

Now I had never met Chief Stanforth.  Chris was in Wednesday Club with his wife, but she never met him either.  I wondered what comments would come forth from the recollections time.  I heard things like:
“There will certainly never be another one like him”
“He definitely knew his fire department and the areas he was responsible for.  He would even call ahead and start directing the action before he arrived, because he knew the lay of the land so well.” 
“Even after he retired he would come to fires and look over my shoulder and tell me what I should be doing and who should go where and what should happen next.  I’d have to tell him, ‘I got this, Chief.’”
His daughter, with a nod to the fire department representatives, said, “If you guys thought you were under orders, we were too, at home.”
Sounded like an interesting guy.

It kind of took us by surprise when the casket came out before the people, but my first occasion as chaplain to actually salute came when it was being loaded into the fire truck.  The family and friends seemed to really appreciate the gestures of the department. 

I didn’t go to the graveside portion.  Instead I stopped by and helped for a few minutes with the “Fill the boot for muscular dystrophy” campaign.  Never thought I’d be on that side of the boot, but I am proud to be associated with these guys.

Psalms 91:14 says, “’Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.’”

Father, may the young men and women of Galveston Fire and Rescue learn to love you and acknowledge your name so that they can experience your rescue and protection.  Amen.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 25 – “Police Academy, Part Two”

Well, last night I went to police academy graduation number two.  I know.  That sounds like a movie title or something, doesn’t it?  The first one was at Galveston College.  We had two graduates at that one.  Last night was College of the Mainland.  Seaside had one guy in that class, Jamie, and Jamaica Beach had one other.  I have never met Joey, but he has a business in Jamaica Beach that is quite popular among the residents.  This ceremony was quite different from the one in Galveston.  The teachers were a lot more relaxed in their presentations, with a lot of bantering going on.  There was no “official” guest speaker, but each teacher had a chance to say something to the class.  The class president (Joey) was called upon to speak, but instead he introduced a video montage the students had put together of their experience.  The montage must have lasted 30 minutes at least.  I was sitting next to Sarah, one of the Galveston College graduates, so we had some fun making comparisons between ceremonies and wondering just how long the video could possibly go on.  We were also able to tell exactly where the friends and family of one particular cadet were sitting.  Every time his picture flashed on the screen, they cheered.  At least we assumed it was friends and family.  Either that or they were in awe of his tattoos. 

The video did finally end, and the presentation of the certificates began.  Several of the graduates already had jobs, so they wore the uniforms of their positions and received their certificate and had their badge pinned on them by representatives of the organization they would serve under.  One guy was presented with his certificate by his brother, who is a police officer in Los Angeles.  Another guy received his from a lady in uniform.  They never said who she was, just that police work was “family tradition.”  The obvious crowd favorite was the presentation from a retired police officer to his graduating granddaughter.  Touching moment.  Of course our favorites were Jamie and Joey, so we took care of cheering for them.  It was good to meet Jamie’s Dad after the ceremony, as well as a lady he identified as, “Joy, my best customer.”  The boy had some proud family and friends rooting for him. 

Psalms 91:9-13 says, “If you make the Most High your dwelling — even the Lord, who is my refuge — then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.”

Father, watch over Jamie and Joey and the rest of their classmates.  Keep them safe as they go about trampling lions and serpents for us.  Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24 – “Fishing ministry”

I decided to get in some fishing yesterday.  Josh and Christi and their boys are coming next week, so we need to build up our stash of fish to fry – fast.  It was way too rough to go wade fishing in the surf, so I headed out to Jamaica Beach for an attempt at the canal in front of Nathan and April’s house.  I have had luck in Jamaica Beach before, and I had some pretty good live shrimp for bait, so I was hopeful.  And I did catch a good-sized croaker on an early cast, so  that was a good sign. 

I texted Nathan once I got all set up and had a line in the water.  “Whenever you decide to wake up, I’m fishing in your front yard.”  I thought maybe it would get at least a visit from Cailyn.  It worked.  It did take a while for them to get out of bed (OK, that’s speculation.  I wasn’t inside.  They may have been up for hours and were in the middle of solving some critical family situation).  But whatever they were doing, they finally appeared, jumped on their bikes, and joined me.  At first Cailyn didn’t seem excited at the prospect of doing some fishing.  Nathan reminded her that she had been begging for the opportunity, so she reluctantly agreed to hold a pole.  And that did it.  Well, that and the fact that she could sit next to her DadDad at the same time.  Sometimes it helps to hold a legendary status as “a fisherman.”  Of course she had to get me to sit down so she could snuggle up close.  That wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds, for her or me.  she had to insist several times, and of course I had to force my creaky old knees to respond.  But it was worth it.  Especially when she hooked a croaker.  She didn’t even know it was there, but her pole was bent and the fish was tugging, so her Mom finally convinced her to reel it in.  We got some pictures of the trophy whale. 

Now she was into the whole fishing experience.  She even got live shrimp out of the bait bucket whenever we needed one.  That proved to be an invaluable point of assistance … for her mother.  Seems April is not too fond of that particular chore.  We ended the day with four croakers, a few piggies, and five or six hardhead catfish.  Sadly, it was a pretty typical canal fishing day.  Not many fish.  Lost a lot of bait.  Too many hardheads (well, one is too many of them).  I think Cailyn had fun, though.  That makes it worth it.   

I did get some work done while there.  One of our elders lives nearby, and he came down to get me to sign some letters.  Then later on I heard a timid, “Pastor Kelley?”  Well, it may not have been all that timid, but I didn’t have my hearing aids in, so I barely heard it.  A lady had some questions she wanted to ask about what she had been reading in 1 Timothy.  Without her Bible to show me where she was reading, though, I couldn’t ever understand for sure what her question was.  It had something to do with the Gnostics.  She didn’t stay long.  She had to get ready for work, but she said she would email me the passages and her questions.  Fishing with the granddaughter and doing some ministry.  A fine day’s work.

Psalms 91:9-10 says, “If you make the Most High your dwelling — even the Lord, who is my refuge — then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.”

Father, thank you for fishing trips and ministry opportunities.  Amen.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23 – “Fish and family”

Just a short post today.  I’m going to try to beat some of the tourists to the live shrimp and do a bit of fishing.  Probably out in Jamaica Beach. 

I did want to say a quick word of honor to Travis Allen.  We were there when Travis was born, and have followed his progress ever since then.  I went to what was supposed to be his induction into the National Vocational/Technical Honor Society at Ball High yesterday.  I say ‘supposed to be” because he did so much of the work preparing for the ceremony that the group decided he should be treated as a senior member instead and given a place on the program.  Congratulations, Travis.

We also kept Kel and Christina’s boys while Mom and Dad signed the closing papers to sell their house in Galveston.  They took Noa with them, though.  Still too soon to leave her since she is nursing.  Plus she does make for quite a conversation starter.  When they got back Christina asked each of the boys what they wanted to be when they grow up.  Jachin’s response I have heard before.  He wants to be a professional baseball player.  A worthy goal.  One I had most of my life until I was 35 or so.  Micah’s was a bit different.  He proclaimed that he wanted to be a police officer.  Chris asked why not a fireman.  He responded, “Not a fireman.  They are too scary.”  OK.  Josiah was next.  He thought only briefly before blurting out, “A Skylander.  I gonna be a Skylander.”  Ah, kids these days and their video games.  Hope he gets some cool superpowers.

I’m off to the bait shop.

Psalms 91:5-6 says, “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

Father, grant that kind of peace to all my family and friends.  Amen.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22 – “A walk and a book”

I guess it is finally official.  I have started exercising again.  I waited two weeks to say anything to see if I was really going to stick it out this time.  So far so good.  I’m just walking around the neighborhood right now.  Nothing earth-shattering.  No iron man triathalons or half-marathons or tough mudders anywhere in my near or not-so-near future.  No plans for even a 5-K.  Just started walking so it wouldn’t be so hard to get around when we get to youth camp in the mountains of Glorieta, New Mexico, the end of June.  OK.  I feel better, too.  Especially when I stop.  It feels really good to stop.  I suppose that means I’m not completely hooked yet.  I remember a time when I looked forward to running, not for the sake of the results, but for the rush of the run, itself.  Of course I was younger then.  Much younger.  Meanwhile, I will continue on.  A mile and half this week.  Two miles next week.  Then I revisit my plans and see if I will continue walking or try to add a stretch or two of jogging.  Trying not to be too over-zealous here.  These old, creaky bones can only take so much.

I began doing some research on whether and where to try to get my next book published.  It’s basically my blog entries and some photos from the year after Hurricane Ike hit.  Chronicles the day to day struggles we went through to get back in our house.  This would be the perfect time to publish it, too.  September will be the fifth anniversary of the storm.  It would be so much easier if I was some kind of celebrity superstar or discredited politician.  Not many people want to hear from a plain old dude who lives on an island near Texas.  That means self-publishing, and that, of course, takes money.  Looks like I’ll need in the neighborhood of $1500 for this one.  Maybe I’ll get some more weddings to do.  Maybe I’ll wait for the tenth anniversary.  Maybe I’ll leave the rights to my boys to fight over.  They can publish it on the 25th anniversary. 

Psalms 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Father, thank you for the days that seem just a little calmer than most.  Amen.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21 – “It was Monday”

Mondays sure are strange days for me.  I’m usually still recovering from the intensity that is Sunday.  Even when Sunday goes really well, it is still a stress-filled day with teachings and meetings and greetings and such.  It takes a day or two to recuperate, not so much physically as emotionally and mentally.  So most of the time I try to reserve Mondays for computer work.  Yesterday was, then, a typical Monday.  I got next Sunday’s teaching sketched out.  My church website article is done and sent in.  The entries on the church FaceBook page are done.  Birthday and anniversary cards are sent.  I even had time to talk to the fire chief and make a visit to station five.  That’s a pretty good Monday. 

Doesn’t make for a very interesting blog post, though.  You think it’s boring reading so far?  Just try being the one writing it.  Just to add a little bit of flair, here are a few random Cailyn comments I have saved up for these kinds of occasions.

Once when we were at the dinner table getting ready to eat, we all bowed our heads for prayer.  Cailyn snuck a peek and leaned over close to Mom and said, “No, don’t pray to Jesus, MeeMaw.  Jesus is dead.”  OK.  She had half the story down.  I adjusted the prayer that day to thank Jesus for not staying dead.  I’m not sure how much of the theology sunk in, but she did hear the truth. 

She, along with all of our grandkids, except maybe Noa of course, loves to sit in my swivel/rocking office chair.  I’m sure it’s because they are so enamored with the fact that they are allowed to be in the very chair so often occupied by their all-time favorite granddad.  Well, that along with the fact that I spin them around in circles.  Uh, I mean they spin each other around in circles.  One day after an especially rousing series of spins, Cailyn was explaining to Chris how the whole thing works … what it is about going around in circles that carries so much appeal for the young ones.  Cailyn, in her masterful way of boiling down the mysteries of the universe into just a few words, had the answer.  “It makes me busy.”  I know.  Cute, right?  She mispronounced “dizzy.”  Maybe so, but I learned a word a long time ago that is kind of appropriate here.  Double entendre - a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Typically one of the interpretations is rather obvious whereas the other is more subtle.  There you go.  Getting dizzy kept her busy.  Both right.  Good enough for a Monday.

Psalms 91:2 says, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

Father, draw many to say that of you.  Count me in.  Amen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20 – “One for the books”

Well, now that was a wedding to remember.  Last night I officiated a wedding at the San Luis Hotel.  I know “officiated” is the right word because they pinned a flower on me that was marked for the “officiant,” and the lady doing the pinning wasn’t quite sure what that meant.   What made the wedding so memorable?  Several things, actually.

In the first place, the bride who called to arrange for me to do the ceremony told me she was Muslim.  Now that was a shocker.  Why would she be calling a Christian pastor to do her wedding?  I assumed it was at the request of her husband until she said he was pretty much an agnostic, in her words, “a nothing.”  Gotta be careful of context there, I know.  She admitted that neither of them was particularly religious either way.  Her only concern was that something I might say would offend someone in her family.  They were expecting fifty or sixty guests who would all be coming in from Canada or Europe.  For her part, she just wanted the thrill of wearing the white gown and walking down the aisle.  In fact they were already legally married.  They were doing this ceremony for the sake of their families.  Oh, and for the party. 

I told her there were some parts of the ceremony that were not negotiable.  I am, after all, a Christian pastor.  She was fine with that, but asked if there was any way I could avoid one thing.  Would I not say “Father, Son and Holy Spirit all together.”  She thought that might be a bit too much for her family to handle.  I didn’t see that as a problem.  They were still going to hear the gospel. 

With all that going on, I went into the ceremony a bit tentatively.  The introduction to marriage explanation I use has a few funny things in it, and when I got to those parts, there was a reaction.  But not a negative one.  The bride and groom began with a snicker, but the crowd exploded with laughter.  Every time.  And it was even appropriate.  That was encouraging.  But then, when I asked for the rings, I knew all was well.  Their beagle brought the rings up to them wearing a costume marked “Ring Bearer.”  They petted and played with him for a few moments before we continued.  Didn’t worry much about my attempts to lighten things up after that. 

After the ceremony I had several folks come up to me and make comments, most with a decidedly Canadian flair, eh?
 “That was really good the way you got across the message without preaching, eh?”
“I enjoyed how you made everything so different and fun, but still made it special, eh?”
The groom said, “I know we were already married and all and this was just so we could have the party, but there was just something about standing up there with everyone watching that was … kind of emotional.  Can I have your card?”  He got one and I encouraged him to get in touch if he ever wanted to talk.
The sound guy asked for my card as well.  He lives in League City and he shared some personal things about where he was in his own God story. 

I would say that was one wedding where Jesus showed up in the midst of “sinners.”  But then he always did get a kick out of doing that.

Psalms 91:1 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Father, draw that couple into your shelter so they can discover your rest.  Amen.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19 – “Ah, Cailyn”

We had a guest spend the night with us last night.  Oh, she’s been here many times before, but every time she comes something delightfully simple and sweet or perplexingly strange and wonderful happens.  Ah, Cailyn. 

This time I guess her contribution was more along the sweet and simple.  She helped make our supper of bacon and eggs and pancakes – pink pancakes.  She nabbed Chris’ glasses while Nani was in the shower.  Wearing them as she entered the office where I was working, she announced with flair and a flip of her hair, “Look at me, DadDad.”  Who am I to disobey a direct command.  When she had my complete attention she continued, “OK. Now I am Nani, and you are DadDad.”  Whew.  At least I was type-casted.  A role I can actually feel somewhat comfortable playing … me.  Then she took me by the hand.  “Kelley, come with me now.  We’re going outside for a minute.”  I hesitated briefly, then gently objected, “But my name is DadDad.”  In a strikingly diva-ish pose (hands on hips, nose in the air, deep sigh, and slow shake of the head from side to side), she “patiently explained, “But DadDad, don’t you see?  If I’m Nani and you are DadDad, then I call you Kelley.”  Oh.  Makes sense, I suppose.  So I responded, “I see.  So I call you Chris now?  OK, Chris, where are we going?”  It took her a second or two to process the dramatic import of my declaration.  Apparently it would suffice, although I don’t think she was all that happy with her character assignment.  Ah, the struggles of a lead actress. 

The theater theme of the day seemed to continue later when she came into the room with four plastic sunflowers.  Once again she demanded my complete attention before beginning.  She changed arrangements several times.  Two in each hand.  Three in one hand, one in the other.  Three in the other hand, one in the first.  And after each rearrangement came a “Ta-da.”  Every time she counted the sunflowers, and miraculously, every time there were still four of them.  I honored her performance with an “Amazing.”  She looked around as if to see if anyone was listening, and whispered, “I’ve got a system.”  Indeed.  Part two of the act was a bit more difficult.  She somehow twirled the flowers around as she marched back and forth.  This got her more than a little excited, and she began to chant, “I’m an actorbat.  I’m an actorbat.”  Quite impressive.

Then she remembered that today would be Sunday.  That led to a game of Bible Story teacher.  Of course she would be the teacher, and her topic?  Sunflowers.  It was important for her to get the message across that “They turn where the sun turns.”

My personal favorite of the day came in the early evening.  Cailyn was obviously winding down, but it was too early for bed, so Chris admonished her to stay awake for a little while longer.  About that same time Mom, who was sitting at the table, sank her head onto the tabletop.  Chris repeated her admonition in virtually the same words and tone.  This time, however, she had a ready accomplice.  Cailyn assured her, “I’ll make sure Meemaw stays awake.”  She took a seat next to Mom, picked up a can of playdough, and queried, “Hey, MeeMaw, how did you get so old?”  Ah, the question of the ages.

Psalms 90:17 says, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.”

Father, may your favor certainly rest on these beautiful women in my life.  Chris and Mom and Cailyn, Christina and Christi and April, and of course, Noa.  Amen.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18 – “Haisley report”

Yesterday was a big time ministry day for me.  I don’t mean I did anything bigger than normal.  It’s just that, well, I had to go into Texas to do it, and that’s always a significant event in this chronic Islander’s life. 

I texted Kel to see if he wanted to run around with me up there, and he agreed.  Our first stop was Children’s Memorial Hospital in Houston.  Or is it Memorial Children’s?  I know it’s not Texas Children’s.  Chris saved me from an unnecessary trip there.  One of the benefits of being married to a retired pediatric nurse, I guess.  The hospital itself was easy to find.  It’s across the street from Hermann Park.  We weren’t sure where to park, but Kel remembered a visit there long ago.  We followed his general guidelines and with only one minor glitch (I turned too soon into an alley behind the hospital), we made it to the garage.  Then came the maze that took us to the hospital itself.  Twists and turns galore, but we began to notice the presence of an abundance of name-tagged individuals whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to provide direction and/or a personal escort to people who looked lost.  That was encouraging.  Actually, the signs were pretty clear, so we didn’t need the escort, but it’s always good to know what’s available. 

We were going to see Haisley, the baby who was born prematurely.  She is doing some better, but the issue now is getting a heart arrhythmia under control.  She still looks as cute as she can be, but sometimes the failure of key adult medical personnel in her life to understand the specifics of her attempts at communication leave her quite spent.  And Mom and Dad are getting pretty tired as well.  Dad apologized for his FaceBook posts that he barely remembers putting up.  He was frustrated with himself and everyone around him as he tried to juggle being a Dad to his other kids, being a good husband, being there for Haisley, putting in some time at work, and every now and then getting some sleep.  Mom stays at the hospital most of the time, so she misses her other children as well, and I’m sure gets even less sleep.  At least the view out their window is … interesting.  They overlook the zoo, and in particular the giraffe habitat.  Not something you would anticipate staring at out the window while in the hospital, but pretty cool, nonetheless.  Gotta keep praying for that whole family.  I know the fire department has a benefit fund raiser planned for them on July 26th.  Put that one on your calendar.

We made a few other stops while on the mainland.  We got to see my Uncle Jerry at the rehab hospital in Friendswood.  He is progressing well.  Started working on stepping up while we were there.  That will be a crucial skill for him, since he lives in the West End and will have to go up and down steps every day.  Picked up some supplies for the church at Sam’s and finally headed home.  Back to the Island.   I love this sandbar.

Psalms 90:14 says, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Father, work some miracles in Haisley.  You know what is best for her.  And while you are working that out, touch Cody and Megan with your care as well.  Thanks for Jerry’s progress.  Help him stay focused and avoid setbacks.  Amen.

Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17 – “Final Inspection”

I made it to the retirement reception for Chief Smith yesterday.  It was quite an affair, with representatives from several area fire departments on hand.  The Bryan fire chief recognized Chief Smith for service above and beyond the call of duty when the injured Bryan fire fighters were brought to Galveston for medical care.  I saw representatives from Santa Fe, College Station, and Pearland.  The police chief gave Chief Smith a declaration of appreciation from his department.  I saw fire marshalls and paramedics as well as many of the Galveston fire fighters who were on shift (and some who weren’t).  The city manager was there, as was the mayor, decked out as he was in shorts and an Island shirt.  One of the judges stopped by.  There was also a strong contingent of retired fire fighters, no doubt there to welcome Jeff into that new fraternity.  Apparently they get together regularly to maintain relationships.  Sounds like a healthy approach to adapting to retired life. 

As one of his last official acts, all the active fire fighters who were there lined up outside in front of the station for a ceremonial final inspection.  Chief Smith and Acting Chief Wisko stood in front of the guys.  Driver Guidry gave a call to present arms, and the fire fighters saluted in unison.  The chief answered.  He then went to each individual fire fighter, saluted again, and shook their hands, or in many cases gave them a hug.  He returned to Chief Wisko and completed the final review with a salute and another hug.  At that point he called me over and asked if I would pray for Chief Wisko in particular as he takes on the daunting task of leading the impressive array of personalities that make up the department.  For some it was quite emotional.  For all it was the carrying out of yet another of the fire department traditions that have bound fire fighters together since the 1800’s in Galveston. 

After the inspection I had time to make it to the police academy graduation at Galveston College.  One of the young men who grew up at Seaside was in the class (as was his girlfriend), so I was proud to support them.  It was amazing how young those new recruits looked.  Seems like they should be playing video games instead of carrying a gun and keeping our city safe.  I was particularly encouraged, though, when the class representative mentioned Jesus in his speech, as did the guest speaker, a Galveston judge.  Galveston sure needs God in government.  And we are not alone.

Psalms 5:11 says, “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”

Father, grant your protection to Cory and Sarah and the other young graduates.  Amen.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16 – “From the Fire Side”

I stopped by the fire station in Sea Isle yesterday to see how the guys out there were doing.  It was sure good to see one guy in particular.  He’s the one I met when he was in the hospital because of chest pains.  It’s much better to see him on duty than in a hospital bed.  And he’d sure rather be at the station as well.  He told me that he was told he had churches all over the place praying for him.  And one friend of his even told him that the Galveston mosque prayed for him as well.  Guess he had all his bases covered. 

I finished the first of the two books recommended to me at the chaplain’s conference to help me get a handle on what it is like to be a fire fighter.  This one, Report from Engine Company 82, is a fascinating look into the everyday life of a fire fighter in New York City.  The guy who wrote it was a fire fighter there in the station that consistently had the record for most calls.  It showed the sometimes boring days and long, grueling nights, filled with false alarms and medical calls and inspections as well as actual fires of all kinds.  Garbage cans lit up by kids.  Vacant buildings set afire by vagrants or possibly by the buildings’ owners in an effort to recoup some of the daily loss involved in carrying a useless property on the tax rolls.  It had a really sobering story at the end about a baby who died in one of their fires.  Some of it was tough reading, but it was, after all, the real deal.  The next one is called I Love a Fire Fighter: What the Family Needs to Know.  This one focuses on the perspective of families of the guys and girls who run into fires instead of away from them.  Looks like it has a lot about the stress involved and the pressure on family relationships.  I’m anxious to see if it is well done.  You can never get too much preparation for dealing with stress.  It looks like a really good resource to recommend to families of new fire fighters especially, but also to those who might also be running into some rough patches of communication and understanding.    

And speaking of stress, this afternoon is the retirement reception for our Galveston Fire Chief.  Change like that always brings some degree of stress into the equation.  Who will be his successor?  Will the things that were important to him continue to be points of emphasis, or will all that change?  And for the Chief and his family, they have to carve out a whole new outlook on day to day living.  I’m sure it will look really fun and exciting at first with fishing and traveling or whatever their plans are, but eventually the new will wear off and they will have to decide what comes next.  After all, he’s only 51 years old, a mere youngster.  And then they have to make it work.  I haven’t had time to get to know you well, but Jeff and Deanne, know that I’ll be praying for you.

Psalms 91:14-16 says, “’Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.’”

Father, grant Chief Smith and his family your rescue and protection as they acknowledge you.  Give them your answers.  Walk with them in trouble.  Show them your way of deliverance.  And allow them to recognize honor from you, to appreciate a life that is just long enough, and above all else, to enjoy the life that comes only through your salvation.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15 – “Phantom Phinger Phenomenon”

I saw a sight yesterday that I can honestly say I never expected.  I was in line at the pharmacy to pick up some medications.  Now I have heard many interesting, and sometimes gross, stories while standing in that line, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I guess it just sort of snuck up on me.  The pharmacist glanced up from her preparations and noticed the guy standing right in front of me.  He was watching her, so when they made eye contact, he waved.  Now our pharmacy over at Randall’s is one of those where the folks working there are really good at getting to know their regular customers.  I rarely have to identify myself now, and usually they have the prescription ready by the time I reach the register.  Because of that customer relations history, then, I was not at all surprised by the acknowledgment.  But something happened in that wave.  The pharmacist dropped what she was doing and raced to the counter, calling him by name and demanding, “Oooo.  Let me see.  Let me see.”  Now tell me you wouldn’t have been intrigued by that. 

The guy smiled widely and sauntered up to the counter to join her.  She asked, “How long has it been, two weeks?”  Now I don’t usually get that worked up over being apart for two weeks with anyone except Chris, so now I was really hooked.  So was everyone else working in the pharmacy as well as every customer in the vicinity.  And that’s when everything started to make sense.  He held up his hand, the one he had used to wave his initial greetings with, to reveal a neat set of stitches in the area of … wait a minute.  I started counting.  One, two, three … the guy had no index finger on that hand.  It had been surgically removed for whatever reason, and except for the stitches, the hand looked as if it came that way.  His surgeon did an amazing job.  By this time he realized that he had an audience, and was fine with “showing off” for the crowd.  He said the only problem he was having came when he tried to do the “brush your finger across your nose when it itches” thing.  In his words, “I keep missing.”  The Phantom Phinger Phenomenon was truly a reality for him. 

Psalms 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Father, continue healing that guy’s surgery wound, and protect him from any further difficulties.  Thank you for his inspirational spirit.  Amen.