Saturday, August 31, 2013

August 31 – “Dolphin luck”

My fishing time went pretty well yesterday.  I would call it a successful day, anyway.  Conditions were really good.  Gentle swells that never got over my head.  Cool water.  Just enough clouds to block the rising sun when it started to get hot.  Not too many fishermen out, even if it was the start of the Labor Day weekend.  Plenty of bait fish working all around me.  The only thing I can think of that would have made it better would have been for me to get out there sooner that 7 a.m. 

I knew it would be a good fishing day when the guy next to me hollered over to ask if I had seen the dolphin that had just surfaced.  I had indeed.  That has been a personal sign of “good luck” for me (of course I don’t so much believe in luck, but that is a good fisherman’s way of saying I was hopeful for the day’s catch) since two dolphins ran off a shark that was circling me on day.  I think that story is already in my journal archives somewhere.  Sure enough, my second or third cast brought a really nice-sized speckled trout, and so the day began.  The dolphin continued playing and fishing within eyesight for quite a while.  I even watched one that looked like it was juggling.  I would flip a good sized fish into the air with its nose a few times before disappearing, I assumed to enjoy its flying fish pizza.

After one more trout and a few good whiting, the action kind of slowed down a bit, hence my ruing not getting there sooner.  I was still losing bait, though, so I knew there was something else out there.  I did lose one hook.  I felt a strong strike, and the pole bent over for a brief second, but just as quickly as it hit, the fish was gone.  Could have been a mackerel or even a small shark.  Something with those sharp teeth.

The next excitement came suddenly and completely without warning.  I had my line out and hadn’t had a bite in several long minutes.  The guy next to me wasn’t catching anything either.  We were being lulled to sleep in a daze of inactivity, when out of nowhere, barely five feet in front of me, and other dolphin surfaced.  Talk about an adrenaline encourager.  He was a big one, too.  Five or six feet long at least.  I looked over at my fisherman partner and he was laughing.  I must have visibly jumped out of the water.  He was kind, though.  His only comment was, “Yep, I seen it, too.”  About the time my heart was returning to normal, the whiting started biting with a fury.  See there?  More of that dolphin “good luck.”  I ended up with a good mess of whiting to go along with the two specs.  I think we finally have enough fillets to let Zakary know he can come down and celebrate their new church and new home in Waco with one of DadDad’s good ol’ fish fries.  Bring it on, Zak.

Psalms 107:41-43 says, “But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks.  The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths.  Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.”

Father, thank you for providing food in such a fun way.  Amen.

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 30 – “I’m off”

Just have a short one today.  I’m going to try going fishing for some of those “great catches of trout” the paper has been reporting on.  We’ll see.

I personally had a tough day yesterday body-wise.  Nothing serious or anything.  Just feeling this old 60-year-old body after doing yardwork.  Got front and back mowed and edged, but what really got me sore was all the stickerburs I dug up.  Only one way to get those things effectively, and that’s to rip ‘em from the ground roots and all.  I did find one of Chris’ garden tools that helped tremendously.  Some kind of miniature hand-held rake or something.  Just enough to get tangled in the root system and pull up those evil, grow-in-a-circle weeds.  I almost filled up one of those city-issued trash cans.  Left me pretty sore all over.  And I still had to make a grocery run to WalMart.  Ah, what a granddad won’t do for the barefoot and culinary enjoyment of his little ones. 

And so, I’m off.

Psalms 107:26-32 says, “They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away.  They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits' end.  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.  He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.  They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.  Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.”

Father, I’m off to enjoy some of your nature.  Thank you for that opportunity.  Amen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 29 – “School Daze”

Yesterday was my first turn to take Cailyn to school.  Mom and dad were both working, so April dropped her off just in time to head over to Oppe Elemantary (named, by the way, after a teacher my Mom had when she was in school here). 

Cailyn was perky and excited as we pulled up to the building.  She was happy to show me the way to what she called the gym, where all the students gathered before heading to their classrooms.  As we waited amidst the somewhat controlled, loud (very loud … I even turned my hearing aids on restaurant mode) chaos, I talked with a fire department Dad who was there to drop off his daughter.  Apparently it was his first time as well.  He was doing his best to get the lay of the land, and he had quite a few questions for the aide helping the kids get situated. 

Finally time came to head to the actual classroom.  Cailyn assured me that she knew how to get there, but I began to notice that she wasn’t moving quite as fast as before when we fell behind the kid in front of us in line.  She got me to the classroom, though, and I met her teacher Mrs. Applegate.  Once inside the room Cailyn moved slower and slower.  I asked where her cubby was.  Reluctantly she shuffled over to the rack of lockers.  Slower still.  Her perky smile had now completely turned upside down.  Cheerily I asked which went in first, the backpack or the lunch box.  Grudgingly she tossed in both items.  That dreadful feat accomplished, we turned toward the classroom itself, and I asked where her seat was.  Dead stop.  Her bottom lip began to tremble.  Mustering up as cheery a countenance as I could, I told her I didn’t know what to do next or where to go.  Finally, she managed to place one heavy foot in front of the other until we arrived at her table.  I looked down to see how she was doing.  There were now silent tears leaking down her cheeks.  As our eyes met, she grabbed onto my leg in a death grip, tears now flowing freely.  Struggling to maintain my balance, I quietly asked her to loosen her grip so I could kneel down and get a proper hug.  Surprisingly, she did it immediately.  I probably should have raced for the door at that point, but what kind of doting grandfather does that?  I knelt beside her, and she grabbed me around the neck and held on for dear life.  Many more tears.  I convinced her that I had to look around the room to find Mrs. Applegate so she would know who I was.  She hesitantly released her grip enough so I could stand up, but immediately clutched my leg again.  That’s when the teacher’s aide recognized what was happening and came over to help me unstick her.  I assured her that I loved her and would be back to pick her up that afternoon.  As I reached the door, good ol’ Mrs. Applegate joined me.  I heard Cailyn let out one last pitiful cry along the lines of, “I want to give you one more hug.”  Mrs. Applegate patted my arm and assured me she would be fine.  Hey, I’m a pastor.  We have kids in the church nursery who have been much worse than that.  I told the teacher that I was Granddad and would be picking her up.  It was kind of obvious that Cailyn knew me, I guess. 

All went well that day for Cailyn.  I met her outside the building as her class came out together.  She explained that we couldn’t leave until she gave Mrs. Applegate a high five, though.  “That’s the rule, DadDad.”  Well, we can’t have her breaking any rules so early in the year, right? 

When we got back to the house she suddenly remembered something she just had to show us.  “I’m so excited.  You have to see what’s in my folder.”  I expected to see a puppy or something when she opened it up.  Instead it was a calendar with tiny little happy faces on it.  And the first three happy faces had been colored green.  That was it.  “I got three happy faces, DadDad.  Three.  One for every single day.”  That’s my girl.  Oh.  Now Chris wants to find out how we can be involved with volunteering.  Can’t wait. 

Psalms 107:23-25 says, “Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters.  They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.  For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves.”

Father, watch over those youngsters in school.  And watch over the Dads and Moms and Granddads and Grandmas as well.  They might just need it more than the kiddos.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 28 – “A New Friend”

I met a new checker at WalMart the other day.  Her name was Joyce.  I have been in her line before, but this time there were very few people in line, so I made an attempt to get to know her a little bit.  She was certainly surprised that I was actually talking to her.  She started out kind of shy, as most of them do when I call them by name and make a comment like, “I’m sure glad I got in line with one of the best checkers in the store,” or “I’m always glad to get in your line, because you are always smiling.”  It kind of disarms them, I guess.  Maybe they assume everybody is just there to get their purchase and get out.  But, hey, this is Galveston.  Some of us make the time to make some small talk at least. 

As we talked some EMS guys walked by with their rolling cart.  No one in it yet, though.  I said hi to them, and Joyce asked if I knew them.  That opened the door for me to tell her I was the fire department chaplain.  And that apparently was the opening she was looking for.  She seemed to explode with glee.  She started out with, “Oh, so that’s why you’re always so nice and happy when you come through the line.”  Whoa.  There’s some pressure.  And then she let loose with praise to Jesus for all kinds of things.  I have to say, I wasn’t expecting that.  Great to hear it, though.  By the time we finished there was another lady in line behind us, and if I’m not mistaken, she was grinning and maybe even humming a hymn.  Always exciting to meet a fellow believer, even in line at WalMart.  Hey … especially in line at WalMart.

Psalms 107:8-9 says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

Father, walk with Joyce and all the other fellow believers I haven’t met yet.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27 – “The Acting Room”

And so the new school year has begun.  Cailyn for one was very excited about it.  She went with her Mommy (and Daddy, too, I think) to “Meet the Teacher” night a few days ago.  She was excited to tell us about the school and her new teacher, Mrs. Applegate.  For some reason Chris decided to start calling the teacher Mrs. Snow White.  I guess she watched too much of that TV show Once Upon a Time.  Cailyn thinks it quite funny that Nani can’t remember a simple name like Applegate.  Personally I was leaning more toward a name like Pear Holeinthefence.  Lots of luck, Mrs. Applegate. 

Cailyn decided ahead of time that her favorite place at the new school was going to be what she called the Acting Room.  That’s one we didn’t have when I was in elementary school over at what is now Parker Elementary.  Back then we called it Island Elementary, and our principal was Miss Gladneo Parker.  That’s who the school is named after.  There’s another of those little things that swoop in and attack your brain and remind you that you’re getting old.  But back to the acting room.  We were certainly confused, I told her she would make a great actress.  Well, it doesn’t take much encouragement to get Cailyn moving.  She calmly agreed with me.  And then she offered to show us what sort of things went on in the Acting Room.  Now we really sat up in our seats.  “It has to be on the rug,” she insisted, pulling us ever closer to the edge of our seat.  And once properly located, she flew into a flurry of cartwheels.  Well, OK.  Cartwheels in the Acting Room.  Again I say, Lots of luck, Mrs. Applegate.

We remained puzzled until April arrived to pick her up.  We asked her about the Acting Room, and her face revealed almost the same level of confusion ours had shown.  We asked Cailyn to show her Mom what they did in the Acting Room, and the cartwheels began again.  And the light bulb went on in April’s face.  It wasn’t the Acting Room after all.  It was the Activity Room.  Of course.  We knew that. 
Sigh.  So long, Juliet.  Hello, Olga Korbut.  Wait, too long ago.  Maybe Nadia Comaneci.  Still too long?  How about Tara Lipinski?  Aargh.  This age thing is killing me.  Wait.  I remember now.  Gabby Douglas.  That’s the one.

Psalms 107:1-3 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.   Let the redeemed of the Lord say this — those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.”

Father, watch over all the little ones going back to school in one form or another this week, whether it be public, private, or at home.  Amen.

Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26 – “Things that matter”

We had a very fun kids sermon time at church yesterday.  Youngsters Gavin and Ian were there with their grandparents Jim and Laura while their Daddy is in the hospital having his gall bladder removed.  They were joined by Sean, one of our regulars.  And they were all “on” for the occasion.  Actually the youngest, Gavin, was kind of reluctant to join the others at first, so Grandpa Jim came with him.  We played a game called Forced Choice with them.  I asked the question, “If you had to choose one or the other of these two things, which would it be?”  They then had to move to one side or the other of a strip of masking tape I put down on the floor. 

The first choice was between a Nestle’s Crunch Bar and a Tootsie Roll.  I couldn’t imagine anyone NOT choosing the Crunch Bar, except maybe Chris or Mike Bell, but neither of them was in the building.  I had the adults raise their hands, though, and did have some takers for each.  Little Gavin, though, was having trouble deciding.  He just couldn’t choose.  The next choice was a football or a baseball.  Again, I was sure baseball would win hands down.  I think baseball did get a majority of votes, too.  But Gavin just couldn’t choose.  Trying a different tactic, I put up on our screen pictures of two of the Disney princesses, Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  Ian knew immediately who they each were, but frowned at the thought of actually choosing one of them.  Yuck.  What real boy would choose a “princess” for anything?  Sean apparently was having similar thoughts, but he dealt with them a bit more creatively.  He somehow managed to balance on his toes right on top of the tiny little masking tape line right in the middle.  Way to avoid choosing, Sean.  Oh, and Gavin … couldn’t choose. 

The final picture was the climax of the whole thing, upon which the point would be made.  I put up a picture I found on the internet of Jesus having an arm wrestling match with Satan.  The adult teaching was an introduction to the Biblical ideas of resurrection, so my point here was that if we choose Jesus, we get to experience resurrection with him.  The picture came onto the screen, and I pointed out that one was Jesus and the other was Satan.  Before anyone else could move or say anything, Gavin screamed, “I pick Jesus!”  Attaboy, Gavin.  Save your responses for the things that really matter.

John 5:24 says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Father, help me learn to be quick to respond to the things that matter.  Amen.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 25 – “Work and play”

Had a pretty long day yesterday, which was certainly not all bad.  I made a trip to the hospital to visit a young man who ended up having to have his gall bladder removed.  When I saw him in the morning his pain was somewhat under control.  Ah, the wonders of morphine.  They had already told him he would have the surgery when a surgeon became available, so that meant no food.  That wasn’t a problem quite yet.  The problem came when the surgery didn’t happen until 11:00 p.m.  He got out of surgery at 4 a.m.  As it turned out I wasn’t there for the surgery.  That would have been disastrous for the teaching today.  Well, for the entire day today.  I was just glad to hear all went well.  The gall bladder was two or three times its normal size and was attached to some of the organs surrounding it.  I know.  Too much information for so early on a Sunday morning.  He’ll have a lot of pain for the next few days, but should recover just fine and get started on his brand new no-gall bladder diet.  Sounds like so much fun.

For lunch I went over to Saltgrass Steakhouse for a rehearsal dinner for the beach wedding I’m co-officiating this evening.  It promises to be an interesting one.  A Christian and a Jew are tying the knot, so I will join forces with a rabbi and incorporate some of both traditions in the ceremony.  I think it will be a really fun experience, but the bride’s parents were no so sure.  The lunch was to give them an opportunity to meet me and break the ice.  I sat next to her Dad and enjoyed talking to him.  I hope all is well now so we can get the event done.  Of course the other issue is the weather.  60% chance of rain all day today, and it has already started.  Seaside is available as the alternate site, but I don’t know what kind of issues that might raise with the Jewish family.  Honestly, I think the rabbi would be fine with it.  I talked to him on the phone and he seems amenable to whatever compromises might be necessary. 

The rest of the evening was spent on a date with my wife.  Now that sounds like a highly unusual activity, doesn’t it?  We don’t get much time to spend with just the two of us.  This date was an especially good one, thanks to the birthday gift from my younger brother and his family: tickets to an Astros game.  Got to see a kid pitch who … now let me see if I can get this straight … one of the kids I used to coach basketball, coached him in baseball.  How’s that for a getting old story?  The Astros hit a few homeruns, and even won the game, so can it get any better than that?  Thanks to Nathan and April and Cailyn for hanging out with Mom at the house so we could do this. 

Psalms 107:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Father, thank you for successful surgeries and happy weddings and date nights.  Amen.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 24 – “The Otter”

What a way to wake up in the morning.  Cailyn spent the night with us last night, and she fell asleep on the couch.  We were watching some riveting drama on HGTV about buying a house in Nicaragua, and flipping back and forth to the Astros rout of the Blue Jays.  I can’t understand why she wasn’t just glued to the TV set, but then, she is just four years old.  Perhaps such entertainment was just a bit too sophisticated for her.  She was draped across Chris’ lap and onto the couch, so Chris managed to scoop her up and carry her back to her bed.  Around 1 a.m. I woke to find an extra body sitting calmly on the edge of the bed next to me.  I’m not sure how long she had been there, and she never made a sound.  She just sat there.  I eased her over into the bed between us and she went right back to sleep. 

Around 6:15 Chris had long since switched beds to better keep an eye on Mom.  My internal clock roused me only minutes before I heard a tiny voice saying, “Hey, DadDad.  How about we read a story about Jesus?  We didn’t do that last night.  We need to read about Jesus, don’t we, DadDad?”  She was right, of course.  We usually do our family worship time in the bed just before we go to sleep, so we had indeed missed it.  I shook out the cobwebs in my head, turned on the light and reached for our children’s Bible story book.  We read a few Jesus stories and then got out of bed to start the day. 

We tried to be as quiet as we could so we wouldn’t wake up Chris or Mom.  Cailyn had a honeybun and I had a leftover cinnamon roll for breakfast.  We shared a bowl of fruit as well, as we checked out the newspaper.  And then she wanted to know, “DadDad, are you gonna write about me in your blog today?”   That little girl has my morning routine down pat.  So what else could I do but write about her today?  I guess now we’ll practice the new dance craze she told me about yesterday.  It’s called “The Otter.”  I don’t have the moves down yet, but the tune goes something like this: “White little duck sitting on the water.  White little duck doin’ the otter.”  Catchy little tune.  Listen for it on a radio station near you.

Psalms 106:48 says, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Let all the people say, ‘Amen!’  Praise the Lord.”

Father, thank you for such a great start to this day.  Amen.

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 23 – “Oh, and Jesus?”

We got to hear a few Cailyn prayers yesterday.  She has suddenly become quite anxious to lead in prayer at mealtimes.  She always includes the obligatory “Thank you for the food and drink.”  It’s her additions that are very cute.  Yesterday it was easy to understand the things that were of utmost importance to her.  At breakfast it was “Help Aunt Christi’s baby be born.”  Then at lunch she switched to “Be with baby Noa.”  Gotta take care of those tiny ones.  My favorite part of her prayers, though, comes at the end.  She says, “Oh, and Jesus?  Amen.”  And the “Amen” is that strong, southern drawl type that holds out the first syllable and cuts off the second sharply.  Aaaaa – men. 

And with that I am going fishing.  Been hearing about great catches of specks at the beach.  Gotta go try it out.

Psalms 106:4-5 says, “Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.”


Father, do watch over those tiny ones that Cailyn is so concerned about.  And watch over the concerned one as well.  Amen.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August 22 – “Miracles of modern medicine”

Jachin, Micah, Josiah and Noa came over yesterday with their Mom.  Their house was having its foundation leveled and that was the day for the jackhammers to be there and smash holes in the concrete sidewalk and driveway.  That meant it was going to be a noisy day in LaMarque – not the best environment for a youngster who still needs a nap or two during the day.  Or for a bunch of boys who would certainly be attracted to the hum of the ultimate power tool and the flying particles of concrete.  I can hear it now: “But Mom, there were rocks flying everywhere anyway.  I didn’t think one more would make any difference.  I’m sorry about …”  I shudder to think what could fill in those blanks.

So those same boys and their little sister descended upon our house for the day.  No jackhammers here, but with a little creativity unleashed, who knows what could happen.  And that’s where I got into a bit of a pickle.  I started horsing around with the boys.  Josiah and I were actually doing some search-and-tickle maneuvers against Jachin and Micah.  We finally discovered their hideout – under the bed.  A fine place to disappear, but not so fine when discovered.  Very difficult to break free and run.  I managed to grab a leg or two and tried to let the cows eat some corn.  Anybody ever remember that tickle technique?  Two fingers strategically placed on each side of the leg, just above the kneecap, and squeeze.  Simulates a cow chewing on a very tickle-able spot.  Needless to say, the tickle-ee (in this case, Micah) was doing his best to break free.  The result was quite a tussle.  Much fun, I must say. 

However, the result of the struggle was not so funny for me.  This particular malady has occurred once before, back when we were uprooting a small tree that was proving less than cooperative at releasing from its root system.  The intense exertion kicked off the most dreadful case of heartburn I have ever experienced.  I remember thinking that if a heart attack felt like that, I sure never wanted to have one.  It was a medication issue back then.  This time, too, I hope.  See, now I am on a medication for heartburn because that is one of the side effects of the rheumatoid arthritis medicines I take.  The doctor’s office, however, has been dragging their feet on approving the pharmacy’s request for a renewal.  I know no one else has ever had that problem, have you?  As a result I had gone three days without it.  Zantac helped some in the interim, but that was without exertion.  Whatever this medication does, its absence allowed the intrusion of the unmistakable burning sensation they talk about on those TV commercials.  Still nothing at the pharmacy, so I called the doctor’s office myself.  And of course they had no idea why the refill hadn’t been approved.  They called the pharmacy.  I got my meds.  Took one right away.  Strangely enough, all the symptoms are gone.  Ah, the miracles of modern medicine.

Psalms 106:2-3 says, “Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise?”

Father, thank you for revealing these medical mysteries to us humans so we can experience your mighty acts of healing in different ways.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 21 – “Cailyn creativity”

How about a few quick Cailyn anecdotes today? 

When she was here the other day she was trying to convince Chris to play dress-up with her.  That’s always a sight, by the way.  Cailyn puts on one of Chris’ long strapless dresses, Chris cinches it up in the back so it will stay on, and she prances about the house like a true princess.  Sometimes I even get to dance with her in the role of the prince, of course.  This time she told Chris that she wanted to dress up so she could be sexy.  Well, now, that’s an interesting desire on the part of a four-year0old, so Chris asked her, “What is sexy?  What does that mean?”
Cailyn responded, “Oh, Nani, you know.  Sexy is beautiful.”
And to that Chris responded from the wealth of her Nani-dom wisdom: “But Cailyn, God made you beautiful just the way you are.” 
Now that’s some theology, there.

Cailyn also informed us that she has a new cat.  I happened to know right off that this creature was of the imaginary kind, because her Daddy is allergic to real cats.  Not one to stifle the imagination, though, I encouraged her to continue by asking what the cat’s name was.  Without missing a beat, she quipped, “Oh, well, her name is Fire fighter Ariel Sarah Cat Vaughan.  Ariel is her first name but Sarah is her next one.”
“What about ‘Fire fighter’?” I asked.  “I thought that was her first name.”
“Oh, DadDad.  You’re so silly.  Fire Fighter is her OTHER first name.” 
Oh.  Well, of course.  How did I not know that.

Another of the Cailyn and Chris Imaginary Journey Series happened just yesterday.  In that scenario I think they had just met.  Cailyn was introducing herself with, “We live in California.  Do you know my Mom and Dad, Nathan and April?”
Chris responded, “Yes, I know Nathan and April.”
Cailyn: “No, Nani.  You don’t know them.  ‘Cause we live in California.  I’m just telling you them.”
Perfect logic, I guess.  We couldn’t possibly know anyone who lives in California.  That’s the ends of the earth.  Sorry about that, Josh Pease, and Amanda Douglas, and anyone else we may know who happens to be located in that far-off mystical land.  It has been decreed.  We don’t know you. 

Psalms 106:1 says, “Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Father, keep that creativity coming.  It smashes boredom and calls to mind your own creative nature.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 20 – “Happy Birthday, Oralee Vaughan”

Today is my Mom’s 87th birthday.  Born On Island.  Except for a trip to New York with friends when she was young, she rarely even left Galveston until she joined us on our trip of a lifetime to Mount Rushmore and points west of there.  I still remember her reaction to the gentle hills of Oklahoma: “Are we in the mountains?”  And then when we got to those switchback roads on the mountains in California, she changed her tune a bit to: “Oh, my aching back.”  She never met a stranger, which was quite a feat since as a girl she was considered to be quite shy.  She made some significant sacrifices for me over the years.  I know her and my Dad spent many an anniversary at the ball park watching me play.  She even pitched a wiffle ball to me to help hone my notoriously poor hitting skills.  That is, until I actually did hit one right back at her.  She wore her black eye proudly, but I lost my pitcher.  She retired from the active game and returned to her sedentary life as a spectator.  She was my cub scout den leader and I know she was president of the PTA at Island School (now Parker) for at least one term.  She and Dad were into square dancing for a while, and had lots of fun with the Isle-a-manders.  She didn’t really like being on boats.  Actually, she hated being on boats.  Kind of strange for the lady married to a deep sea fishing boat captain.  She did force herself to go on a cruise one time with some friends, and another time with my brothers and their families, and they must have kept her well-occupied below deck, because she made it through just fine.  But she sure didn’t ever want to go again.  She loved going to church, both at Grace Episcopal and later at Seaside.  Best place to make and have friends, she used to tell me.  I know this reminiscing has been pretty random, but … What a gal. 

In her honor, here is the song Cailyn made up when she was over yesterday:

Hey, DadDad, want to hear a happy song?
Make your smile happy
Make your smile happy
Make your smile happy
Make your smile happy
Even make your nose happy
Happy, hap.   Happy, hap.  Happy, hap.  Happy, hap. 
Happy, hap.  Happy, hap.  Happy, hap.  Happy, hap. 
Happy, happy.

Proverbs 31 says, “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?   She is more precious than rubies … Her children stand and bless her … Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

Father, thank you for my Mom.  Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

August 19 – “Change of plans”

Yesterday was one of those days at church when God decided to do something different than we all had planned.  And of course his way sure went well.  Amazing how that all works, isn’t it?

I had a teaching all planned and ready to go when Mike, our former youth pastor arrived.  He had been to a weekend men’s retreat at a Catholic church in Santa Fe, and he was very excited about how it had impacted his life.  Almost immediately I felt a familiar stirring within that I have come to recognize as the voice of the Holy Spirit.  It has taken me a while to get to this point, but now when I hear that urge I do my best to follow whatever he urges me to do.  In this case it involved turning over the teaching time to Mike for the day, and giving him the opportunity to share with his church family the experience he had undergone.  There is nothing quite like hearing a fellow believer’s story of his encounters with God.  It is always one of the most encouraging things that can happen.  If nothing else, it offers the hope that if God can connect with someone else, then there is always a chance he could connect with me, too. 

Among the things Mike shared was his conclusion that the reason he has been feeling unsettled in his personal worship was that he hadn’t been involved in a personal ministry.  He said he had been rationalizing and analyzing everything, but not realizing anything.  He didn’t really have a sense of purpose in life because he wasn’t acting in service to God.  That’s a pretty significant discovery for anyone, but especially when you have personally committed your life to ministry.  He is praying now for God to reveal to him a specific area of ministry he can commit to, even if it means a return to youth ministry.  Interestingly enough, another Seasider approached him after church with the possibility of being part of starting up a brand new retreat-type ministry of our own using our retreat center as a site.  We’ll see how that goes. 

One of the things that excites me most and that still amazes our worship pastor Jimmy is how God draws together what he has in mind, even when we have no idea that he is doing it.  All of the songs Jimmy had selected fit perfectly with the message Mike presented, even down to the final song, How Great Thou Art, which was Mike’s personal favorite.  And none of us, Mike included, knew that he would be speaking.  All I could say in response was, “Way to go, God.”

Here is the key verse Mike shared from Luke 12:49: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.”

Father, thank you for speaking to and through Mike.  Make clear to him what ministry you want him to be pursuing.  Amen.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 18 – “Surprise”

Well, that was a surprise.  On me.  Totally. 

Yesterday Josh and Christi and their boys took me and Chris and Mom out to Saltgrass Steakhouse for our big combined birthday celebration meal.  Great food.  Even greater company.  On the way home I texted Nathan to see if he was going to be able to swing by and see Josh before they had to head home to San Antonio.  He responded that they would come by for a few minutes.  Little did I know …

When we arrived at the house I helped Mom out of the car and went over to unlock the front door.  I smelled the distinctive odor of Mexican food, so as the front door opened, I reflexively looked back across the street to see what our neighbors might be cooking.  Nothing evident, so I turned back to the door and saw … black and yellow streamers hanging from the ceiling, balloons flying toward me, and tiny little human bodies jumping up and down.  I heard varying decibels of squeals and laughs amidst the occasionally clear strains of “Happy birthday” and “Surprise.”  I stepped inside to see streamers and balloons hanging from, well, everywhere.  A giant “Happy Birthday” poster covered the doors to the back yard.  On the table was an assortment of baseball caps surrounding a cake decorated with a baseball theme that read “Happy Birthday Kelley and Chris.”  I found out later that the wording was a nod to her participation in the whole scheme.  She knew about it all along.  Each of the grandchildren had written or drawn a picture for me depicting some fun time we have had together.  Over on the serving bar was an array of Mexican food (which, by the way, I did sample, but not until much later.  I was still full from our decoy lunch).  Oh, and Nathan had indeed “come by for a few minutes.” 

Over the course of the afternoon I got texts and emails and FaceBook messages as well as in person visitors from the different areas of our life.  Church.    Fire department.  Basketball (Perhaps the biggest surprise.  Great to see Cordy, one of the guys I used to coach, and his dad). And of course family.  All of our kids and grandkids were there in one place at the same time.  As I said before, that was the best birthday gift Chris could ever get.  Thank you to our kids for getting this set up and to everyone who came by or sent us good wishes.  It was … a good day.

Psalms 105:5-7 says, “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.  He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.”

Father, what more can I say but thank you again?  Amen.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

August 17 – “Happy birthday to you, Chris”

That’s right.  Today is the birthday of my beautiful bride of 38 years, the lovely Chris. 
She is not as old as I am, so don’t even go there.  At least not this year (wink, wink).  Want to know the best gift she received this year?  I know the day hasn’t started yet, but she was surprised with a visit from Josh and Christia and Zak and Caleb yesterday.  And of course that meant Kel and Christina, Jachin, Micah, Josiah, and Noa came over.  Cailyn was already here, and her Mom joined her shortly after.  I feel fairly certain we will see Nathan sometime today after he gets off work.  That’s the kind of present that really gets Nani’s heart going.  Her entire brood all in one place.  Nothing quite like it.  In her eyes it just doesn’t get any better than that.

There wasn’t much planned as far as celebrations go, at least not yesterday.  Who knows what will happen today.  We George Foreman-ed (Could that really be a verb?) some burgers and boiled up some hot dogs along with Chris’ famous noodle salad.  Not much preparation required, so she could spend more time snuggling with Noa (if she could get her away from the two Aunties), and looking at pictures of the house Josh and Christi bought in Waco, and refereeing wrestling matches, and talking with the daughters-in-law, and timing races, and dodging squealing and laughing children as the ran over and under and around whatever was in their path to get away from whatever monster or pirate was chasing them at the time, and tickling where she could make the most of open opportunities, and serving up ice cream for dessert, and generally speaking absorbing - and relishing - the chaos of the moment.  All in all I would have to say it was a good day for the matriarch of this clan.  May today be even better.

Happy birthday, Chris.  I love you.

Psalms 105:3-4 says, “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”

Father, thank you for the perfect helpmeet you gifted me with.  Please make her day, and year, and life a happy one.  Amen.

Friday, August 16, 2013

August 16 – “Why not a goldfish?”

The last bit of my computer work got done for this week, other than the daily blogs, of course.  For some reason my hardest thing was the children’s sermon.  I needed something to go along with Jesus teaching about resurrection in John 5.  My first idea was pretty much nixed by a look from Chris.  Why not use a goldfish?  I could bring in a goldfish and see how long he would last out of the water before we threw him back in and he came back to life.  Too much drama for young hearts, I guess.  Well, that and my knowledge of goldfish is quite limited.  I would never know when to put him back in the bowl so that he would for sure come out of it.  Bad idea all the way around.  But you have to be creative to keep the kids’ attention, right?  Think outside the box, or in this case, the bowl.

The funeral in Friendswood went well.  There was a good group present in spite of the family’s fears that not many would show up.  The funeral home did a very nice job setting everything up.  They even arranged for the military honors to be carried out.  That part was kind of strange, though.  They soldiers had to be at another funeral as well, so they did the honors at the very beginning of the service.  One marched in, stood at the head of the casket and saluted.  The second stayed in the back of the room, held a bugle to his lips, and played a recording of taps.  After the recording ended, he joined his comrade at the casket.  They folded the flag and presented it to the wife.  Always a touching experience.  It really set a somber mood for the service, though.  The family wanted it to be more light-hearted, so it took a while to regain that feeling.  By the time we ended, though, several folks had shared some stories and encouragement was taking place. 

I stopped at Sonic on the way home for a bite to eat because our home group was meeting at our house and I didn’t want to interrupt them.  Of course the interruption happened anyway.  When I walked in they had an ice cream birthday cake ready for the three birthdays in the house – me, Chris (on Saturday), and Mom (on the 20th).  Gotta love those folks.  They do love a party.  Bryan still led the Bible study for me, and he did a good job.  The really strange part was getting to sit next to Chris and not having to be concerned with operating the computer for the songs.  I just might could get used to that. 

Psalms 105:2 says, “Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

Father, thank you for the love I saw expressed in different ways yesterday.  Encouragement at the funeral.  Ice cream cake at home group.  It may look different, but it’s love all the same.  Amen.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15 – “Birthday report”

Well, here’s another huge thank you to all of the friends on FaceBook and otherwise who wished me a happy birthday yesterday.  It was great to hear from so many of the fire fighters.  We kept the day as simple as possible.  At least we did after I made a WalMart run to pick up the groceries we needed after being gone in New Jersey for almost a week.

Kel and Christina and their four kids and Nathan and Cailyn all came over for lunch.  April had to work, but she did send me a text on her lunch break.  Chris made some of her world famous chicken enchilada pie and Christina added some extremely chocolate brownies to the mix.  Cailyn went by the Dollar Store and with her very own money got me a present – a frisbee.  We played with it for a while outside and inside before everyone else arrived.  Kel’s gang gave me a tool for extracting the center of a pineapple (one of my favorite fruits, and a breakfast staple around here).  I haven’t tried it yet, but they did include a fresh pineapple, so that will definitely be on my list.  My brother Stan and his family sent me a couple of tickets to an upcoming Astros game, always a special treat.  And Nathan has already said they will come stay with Mom so we can make it a true birthday treat for both of us (Did I mention that Chris’ birthday is coming up this Saturday?).  Chris got me a can of cashews and some new dress khaki pants.  You know, the kind you can wear as casual or somewhat dressy.  Or for me, extremely dressy.  My other pair has a rip in the back pocket that drives her nuts every time I wear them. 

Last night Mom managed to sneak out of bed without either of us hearing her.  What got Chris’ attention was one of those unusual sounds that she couldn’t quite place.  She got up to investigate the noise and found Mom asleep on the couch and the water in the kitchen sink running full blast.  Guess Mom needed to wash her hands or the dishes or something.  She finally made her way back to bed at some point, though, because that’s where she was when I got up. 

So, the partying is over and it’s back to work. I have to finish up planning for a funeral this evening.  Bryan is filling in for me and leading the home group Bible study, but I told him I would pick out some songs.  I also still have to come up with a kids’ sermon to introduce the teaching for Sunday.  Back in full swing, I would say.  It is good to be home, though.  Now to keep an eye on that disturbance in the Gulf.  And the one in the Atlantic.

Psalms 105:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.”

Father, thank you for one more year here on duty for you.  I’ll keep at it as long as you need me here.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August 14 – “Happy birthday to me”

How’s that for a self-serving title?  But, hey, after sixty years I deserve a little bit of self-indulgence, Right?  Well, probably not. 

The firefighters from Bryan who spent several months here in Galveston after being severely burned were back in town yesterday with several of their chiefs.  They brought down some challenge coins for the Galveston department. Challenge coins are souvenirs a little bigger than a silver dollar that commemorate key events or designate department uniquenesses.  I think the idea is a really good one.  It has apparently been around for years.  The Galveston chief has quite a collection of them.  One of the Galveston guys showed me one the other day that commemorated their service during Hurricane Ike.  It had the satellite image of the hurricane in the Gulf on it.  The one the Bryan guys brought had the Galveston department logo and one side and the Bryan department logo on the other, each surrounded by the words, “Two Departments, One Brotherhood.”  They did some short speeches thanking Galveston again and again for the help they were to the fire fighters and their families while they were on the island.  Then Chief Wisko asked me to bless them all.  I prayed a quick prayer, and then we went outside for a photo op.  Everyone gathered by the side of the ladder truck.  Fifteen or twenty Galveston fire fighters were there, so it was a really good showing.  The city public information officer took the picture, so it may be in the paper before long.  If it is, I want to know who buys the ice cream?

After the photos, a group of us went over to Mario’s on 61st Street for their lunch buffet.  I sat next to the injured guys, so I had a chance to talk to them a little bit.  We connected when we realized that we were taking some of the same nerve pain medication.  Interesting thing to find in common with someone, I know.  But severe injuries and old age make for some strange bedfellows. 

Psalms 104:34 says, “May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.”

Father, those Bryan guys are looking really good after all they have been through.  Keep healing them and walking with them.   Amen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13 – “An unexpected surprise”

We are back in Galveston.  It’s great to be home, but it is always a humbling experience to be included in someone’s special family events.  Thanks so much again to the Dammeyer family for trusting us with being part of Ashley and Josh’s wedding, and for hosting us to experience part of New Jersey.  Maybe next time we can get in that trip into “The City.” 

At the Newark airport we got all checked in for our flight home, grabbed a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, and settled in for the brief wait for our boarding call.  It gave us a chance to talk a bit about our time with friends and our New Jersey excursions.  We slowly began to think ahead to the flight home.  We were already in a reminiscing mood, so that brought back memories of the flight to New Jersey.  We recalled the in-flight Wifi that enabled us to watch the progress of the airplane on the Southwest Airlines website and wondered if we would have that same amenity going home.  We chuckled when we remembered little Elizabeth, the baby on the flight who so desperately wanted out of her carseat that she wailed on and off all the way from Houston.  Chris made the comment that at least the flight home would be Elizabeth-less. 

Our reverie was broken when we heard the call to line up to board the plane for our flight home.  We didn’t have quite as good a position as we did on the way over, but we were still in group A.  We found our marker, adjusted our carry-on backpack, and turned our eyes toward the boarding screen.  And that’s when we noticed it.  At first it was just a glimpse out of the corner of our eye, one of those fleeting glances where you aren’t really sure you saw what you saw.  I looked again.  And then again.  I couldn’t believe what my eyes were telling me.  I was afraid to say anything out loud, but it couldn’t be.  Surely not.  Chris’s voice invaded my stupor when she exclaimed, “Oh, look.  It’s …” (Are you ready for this?  I sure wasn’t).  “Oh, look.  It’s Elizabeth.”  Yep.  There she was.  In the flesh.  The same Elizabeth who “entertained” us on the flight to New Jersey was lining up to board for our flight home.  What are the odds?  To her credit, though, she did very well this time.  She was allowed to sit in her Daddy’s lap, and apparently they had done enough to wear her out, because she slept the entire almost-four hours.  Another little one had a few outbursts, but they were all quite brief, and hastily extinguished by whatever means the Mom was using. 

Kel only had to make one circle around the pick-up area before we claimed our luggage and met up with him.  The trip home was an easy one, and, to fast-forward to the bottom line, it was sure good to sleep in our own bed last night. 

Psalms 104:33 says, “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”

Father, thank you for Dammeyers, for the miracle of airplane flight, for crying babies, and, of course, for home.  Amen.

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 12 – “Farewell”

Today we are homeward bound.  Our New Jersey “business trip” comes to a close.  So long to our hotel where Abraham Lincoln once stayed on his way to be inaugurated.  We learned that fun fact from a plaque on the wall on the way to our room.  Goodbye to this quaint little town with its “no left turn” signs and Bruce Springsteen’s high school.  No more deer on the side of the road or heavily wooded acres or horse ranches or huge pumpkin patches or boardwalks by the beach.  Oh, by the way, Galveston, at these beaches you have to pay at least ten dollars to park and then you have to pay again to actually walk onto the beach.  How long before we start attempting that?  Someday we may have to come back up here when we can do an actual vacation and really partake of some of these amenities (other than the beach, of course.  We live on an island.  Why would we go on vacation to the beach?). 

Yesterday we joined the Dammeyer’s for church, where we saw many of the folks we met at the wedding.  The bride joined her brother to lead worship, and they both have great voices.  The afternoon we spent taking a leisurely drive through the countryside and then back out to the beach communities.  They are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, so we were able to relate to the sand everywhere and some houses still in need of repair.  We didn’t have time to drive into New York City, so I guess that remains on our long-term bucket list of things of do “in the future.”  I must confess that on the drive I apparently reached my limit of “up” days.  I started feeling really whipped.  I even dozed off and on, which didn’t really help.  I did feel some better after supper.  Ashley and Josh (the bride and groom) and Allen joined Mark and Melissa and us.  We reminisced about the wedding and about the comments they had been receiving.  Sounds like all in all it was a good experience for everyone concerned.  They also asked me to tell about my strangest wedding experience.  Didn’t take long to recall the “wedding from hell” that I did on the beach years ago.  It will be hard for anything to top that one, but that’s another story. 

In an effort to kick the feeling that I was on the verge of a cold (you know it.  Almost a sore throat.  Almost aching.  Almost … just sick), I tool a Benadryl when we got back to the room.  We put on HGTV and watched Brother vs. Brother.  Gave us a link to our routine at home, I guess.  I slept better than I have any night since we have been here.  Of course, the hotel bar band had the night off as well, so that sure helped.  It actually got quiet before 12:30 a.m.  Now we have that three and a half hour flight back to Houston, so maybe we’ll have more opportunity to catch a few winks. 

Kudos to Mark and Melissa for their incredible hospitality while we were here.  It’s always great to see good friends.  Here’s an “Attaboy” to Allen for his worship leading and an “Attagirl” to Lindsey for the job she’s doing raising her two kids and being … well, Lindsey.  And back on the home front, thank you to Bryan and Jennifer for caring for Mom while we were away.  See you soon. 

Psalms 104:31 says, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works.”

Father, thank you for our week in New Jersey.  It certainly added many good memories to our life scrapbook.  Amen.