Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30 – “School upgrades”

One of the benefits of Cailyn enjoying school is that we get to hear her perspective on some of the things they do.  We have heard the “months of the year” song and the “days of the week” song already, and she has them absolutely down pat.  I sure wish I would have had something like that.  I always had a terrible time remembering the months.  It took hooking them onto something for me.  January was first, so it was easy.  February had Valentine’s Day in it.  That meant candy.  March meant baseball season was about to begin.  April was tough for me.  There was no real holiday in there, no birthdays of people I knew.  Just rainy season on the Island and never-ending school.  May meant school was about to be out for the summer.  June was the first month of vacation.  July was fireworks.  August was my birthday.  September meant school was starting again (Yep.  We didn’t have to go back until September in the olden days).  October was Halloween.  November was Thanksgiving and the Turkey Bowl.  And of course December was Christmas.  Gotta love living from event to event. 

Cailyn taught us another song she learned.  I’m not sure of the context other than the obvious assumption you can draw from hearing it.  It went something like:
“Sunny day, rainy day, cloudy day so gray. 
What’s the day look like today? 
Can we go outside to play?”
Would that be for a lesson on the weather?  Or maybe just something to say to give a reason for having to stay inside at recess?  Or do they even have recess anymore?  Gotta be better than the recesses we used to have.  Now they have full-blown playground equipment on the school grounds.  We had to make up our own games.  Classics like tag and Olympic races and who can argue the loudest without getting in trouble with the teacher.

We also got some more insight into Cailyn’s Mom.  Calm down, April.  It wasn’t anything too embarrassing this time.  She was playing with some of our toys that are, by the way leftovers of her Dad’s and uncles’.  And one of the little creatures inspired her to say, “Aww, look.  Mom’s favorite, favorite, favorite animal in the whole wide world is an owl.”  Well, I didn’t know that.  Chris apparently did, though.  She referred me to a certain tattoo that April sports.  So there you have it.  Owl lady.  Harry Potter would be proud.  Gives me some ideas for Christmas presents …

Psalms 113:5-6 says, “Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

Father, thank you for all the cool tools for learning about your world.  Amen.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 29 – “A New Blogger”

I asked Cailyn if there was anything she wanted to say in my blog.  About that time the box she was carrying slipped out of her hands and the contents spilled out onto the floor.  She cried out, “Write that in my blog.”  In the box were some old leftover checks that Aunt Christina had given her.  She gathered them all up, returned them to the box and continued on her task.  She told me she was writing checks to the bank to pay all her bills.  She even asked if I would let her Mom and Dad know that the bills were paid.  So there you go, Nathan and April.  All taken  care of for the month.  At one point she folded one in half and carefully tore it.  I asked what she was doing, and she replied, “I’m cutting a check.  It means I’m tearing it now.”  Ah.  I always wondered what that meant.  After the last check was written, she carefully stashed them into her checkbook and announced, “This is where I put my savings.”  That’s a wise girl.  Gotta keep up with the savings no matter what.  Checks put away, she turned to the old WalMart gift card in the box.  As she colored in the pictures of a gas tank and a shopping cart on the front, she said, “Now I’m getting the WalMart card ready.  I can go buy a ferret or an otter from Moody in the Gardens.”  Well, OK then.  Get ready for some more animals at the Cailyn Vaughan house.  Didn’t take her long to get into the whole blog-writing thing. 

Chris has some hummingbird feeders up in the back yard.  We both enjoy watching the many different kinds of birds that fly through Galveston on their way to Mexico or Central America for the winter.  We used to see literally hundreds of different kinds when we had all the trees around the house.  Gave them a great place to roost and rest up.  And then Ike destroyed all the trees, so it has taken a while for them to find us again.  Anyway, she was in the back yard changing out the sugar water in the feeders when a few hummingbirds detected an enemy presence in what they had staked out as their territory.  Swooping down at her head, they dive-bombed her like a couple of mosquitoes on a mission.  I’m sure if they had been mockingbirds they would have been screaming at her at the same time.  Now, don’t worry.  She survived the attack.  And she got that feeder back up in a hurry.

Psalms 113:4 says, “The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.”

Father, thank you for the wonders of your creation, whether it be hummingbirds or beautiful little girls.  Amen.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September 28 – “Bad stories”

Well, yard work won out over fishing yesterday.  I had to take Cailyn to school, so I missed the window for getting in the water early enough for the good fishing.  I guess it was a needed thing, though.  Both yards got mowed and edged and whatever you call what you do with a weedeater along the fence lines and such.  I also did some trimming of trees and bushes.  That was a chore.  I always enjoy chopping at the oleander bush.  It blocks our vision when we are backing out of the driveway, so it takes some serious hits once I get started.  We trimmed the bushes in front of the house for the first time since we planted them back after Hurricane Ike.  I guess that was sometime in 2009.  Chris also gave me the go to rip out the periwinkles that were doing their best to take over the hedges space.  Those things pop up everywhere now, and we never planted them.  Another gift from Ike.  The last thing we attacked was the other bush in that front bed.  I don’t know what it is called, but it has blue flowers and had totally engulfed the lilies that were supposed to be sharing the space. 

By the time I finished there I was totally spent.  I could barely get the shears put away and make my way back into the house.  It took me quite a while to recover, too.  I guess the combination of much heat, some hard work, and a tired old body just didn’t work so well.  And that tired old body is sure feeling it today.  Come on, water exercise, you’re supposed to be helping me get into shape for simple stuff like this. 

Here’s a great quotation from three year-old Josiah to make your morning.  He had just had a nightmare and Mommy was trying to calm him down and get him to go back to sleep.  That was proving to be a problem, as he was really fighting it.  His reasoning was certainly understandable: “I can’t close my eyes.  There’s a bad story in there.” 

Gotta watch out for those bad stories, little man.

Psalms 113:2-3 says, “Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore.  From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”

Father, send a boatload of happy stories into Josiah’s dreams.  Amen.

Friday, September 27, 2013

September 27 – “A Geometry Lesson”

Water therapy comes mighty early.  Starts at 7:45 in the morning.  Thursday is Jessica Day, though.  She is the young instructor who isn’t afraid to make us actually work out.  And on top of the aerobics we also worked on abs, so a lot of folks will be sore today.  Strangely, though, my midsection is doing just fine. Kind of sore in my joints, though.  They’ll get stretched out later on this morning, though.  I’m struggling with either going fishing or mowing the grass.  Both need to happen pretty desperately.  We’ll see which one wins after we get Cailyn to school.

I tried out my new chaplain shirt by going by the hospital to see one of the fire fighters who was admitted on Wednesday.  He wasn’t in his room, though.  I assumed he was having some kind of test, so I left him a note.  I’ll have to check on him again today.  On the way home I stopped by Randall’s to stock up on some Starbucks Satsuma coffee beans.  No wait.  That should be Sumatra.  Does make a difference. 

I had to pause for a moment to take Cailyn to school.  On the way there she asked me a challenge question out of the blue:
“DadDad, do you know what to call two lines that never touch?”
OK, wait a minute.  Isn’t that a geometry question?  I wasn’t sure where she was going with it, so I just gave up and asked “What?”
She answered simply and assuredly, “Parallel.”
Indeed.  It was a geometry question.  I told her, “I didn’t learn that stuff until I was in eighth grade.  And I was twelve or thirteen years old.”
She was quite proud.  Proud enough to question me a little further.  She was kind, though.  She switched from geometry to a simple history question: “What was your teacher’s name when you were four?”
I guess she was concerned about the quality of education they used to have in the old days.  The thing is, I didn’t start school until I was five.  So I skipped ahead a bit and told her it was Mrs. Pate.  She misunderstood my diction and exclaimed, “Mrs. Hate?” 
I hastened to correct her, “No.  No.  Pate.  Mrs. Pate.”
Her answer?  “Oh.  Mrs. Pate … with a letter P.”
That’s my girl.

Well, back to the day today.  It’s too late now to go fishing, so it looks like mowing the grass wins.  I’ll wait until after 8 a.m., though.  Don’t want to upset the neighbors who may be sleeping in. 

Psalms 113:1 says, “Praise the Lord.  Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord.”

Father, thank you for the excitement in learning I got see in Cailyn’s face and hear in her voice.  Give her that same excitement for you.  Amen.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 26 – “Catching up”

Well, I finally finished detailing our all-too brief trip to Waco, so I guess I’m ready to move forward in time closer to the present.  I did take the opportunity to upgrade the operating system on my iPhone.  That was an interesting process.  Actually I let it happen while I was asleep one night because I heard it could take several hours to complete.  As a result I really don’t know how long it took.  Don’t really care much, either.  I did have to answer the usual questions when it came time to complete the setup.  You know, like “Can I use the GPS to locate your phone when you lose it?” and “Can Dropbox have access to your photos file?”  It didn’t really take all that long.  Now, what do I think of the “improvements”?  I guess the jury is still out on that one.  It looks completely different, for one thing.  I read somewhere that it is called the “flat screen look,” whatever that means.  I just think the icons are not as detailed as they were.  They are a bit bigger, though, which is a plus for those of us with tired old eyes.  One thing I still haven’t figured out is how to turn off the individual icons when I am not using them.  They all seem to stay on “in case I might want to go back to them.”  Now when I double click the off button at the bottom I get a stream of history.  I guess that will be helpful, but when I bought the phone, one of the things the sales clerk told me was turning those off would save battery life.  But what do I know?

I made it back in town in time to go to water therapy on Tuesday.  Always a treat.  We had the very first instructor this time, so there wasn’t much aerobics involved.  She is more about flexibility.  The Thursday instructor (that is today, isn’t it?), though, is the taskmaster.  She definitely knows how to get the heart rate up. 

I also had a meeting Tuesday about another funeral.  The same family that lost a father about a month ago just lost their mother.  I believe it was one of those cases where the couple had been married 65 years, and she just felt like she was done and wanted to go be with the love of her life.  The memorial service was last night.  It went really well.  Her son is a battalion chief for the fire department, so I got to see the past fire chief and the present one, as well as a few of the fire fighters who have worked with him for a long time.  And I found out that yet another fire fighter was admitted to the hospital yesterday with some “undisclosed medical problem.”  I will check on him today. 

I still have a boatload of stuff to catch up on.  Sermon for Sunday and Bible study for tonight and miscellaneous errands to run.  Plus I need to pray for our city manager.  I just read that a few of the city council members are unhappy with him.  Honestly, I think they need to let the guy do his job and stay out of the way.  They are only supposed to be concerned with policy-making anyway.  Our form of city government is not micro-management by city council.  That was the point when it was created.  Besides that … I like the guy. 

Psalms 112:7 says, “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

Father, thank you for the perspective that bad news is simply a new way for you to be glorified.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 25 – “Happy birthday, Christi”

Our final day in Waco was a sad one for us.  We always hate to leave the grandkids, but it is good to know the family will be well-cared for by a lot of folks who already seem to love them.

That morning we had breakfast with Josh and my friend Robert Creech, who teaches at Truett Seminary there in Waco.  Josh asked a few pointed questions to pick Robert’s brain.  Robert was anxious to share some of his knowledge and insights.  And occasionally the two agendas actually came together.  I think that relationship has some possibilities for both of them.  Josh is always looking for more mentors, and Robert can use Josh’s built-in presence in the community as a resource for his work with students at the seminary. 

It was a school day for Caleb and Zakary, so we had a chance to see them – and Christi – at work.  She focused on Caleb first while Zak played with his Legos.  Then she switched to Zak for a segment with him while Caleb did some playing.  Everything seemed to work well all the way around.  Christi was very patient, and as a result there was success in every endeavor.  I, for one, would love that kind of a teaching atmosphere. 

Our last official grandparent act while we were there was to take Christi out for a birthday lunch.  They knew of a barbeque place, so when Josh was able to break away for lunch, we all headed over there.  Nice place.  Good food.  But the highlight for me was when Caleb oh-so-quietly led us in singing the Happy Birthday song.  I’m not sure anyone other than me heard him, though.  He was draped across one of the benches at about knee level (read here “under the table”), so I leaned down there with him for the singing.  I’m sure gonna miss those boys.  But we’ll see them again soon.  They do have a little brother who is about to make his appearance into the world in just a few weeks.  Guess I should get started planning for that trip now.  Hmm.  So who can be on call to preach for me?  Cory … Jimmy …

Psalms 112:6 says, “Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.”

Father, keep all my boys righteous and strong.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 24 – “Day Four: Big Church”

The big day at Josh’s new church went very well.  Josh preached twice in the morning and once more in the evening.  Actually, the one in the evening was more of a teaching style.  Much more relaxed.  He used a white board and explained everything there is to know about the trinity.  How’s that for a big start?  Anything else he teaches on now will be somewhat anticlimactic, won’t it? 

In the morning the first service was billed as their “traditional” one.  They had a full choir, piano and organ, and even a 29 piece orchestra.  I have a question.  Why do orchestras always dress in black?  Are they trying to hide or something?  It just always seems kind of ominous.  They were really good, though.  The sound kind of exploded when they tuned up.  We sang mostly hymns, with a mix of choruses added in.  The room was pretty much packed as well.  There were some places still open in the balcony, though.  Plenty of room to grow.  Sunday School followed, and then they started their “contemporary” service.  For that one they cleared out all the orchestra chairs, hauled off the pulpit, and set up amplifiers for an electric guitar and a bass.  A praise team led the singing.  Bass, lead electric, acoustic, female singer, drums, and the music minister sang while playing the piano.  The music was mostly choruses and contemporary songs this time.  The room was still quite full, but there didn’t appear to be as many as in the first service. 

The cultural differences between those attending each service were instantly different.  The first one was more coats and ties and dress to the hilt.  The second was looser, more of a casual business Friday look.  Even the small talk after the first service felt more formal.  That is until Caleb started chasing me all over the room.  Well, OK.  I confess.  I was the one chasing him.  It really loosened everyone up a bit, though.  The second group was much more casual in attire and demeanor.  Guess which one I felt more comfortable with?

After that first service Zak called me over and conspiratorially whispered, “Hey, DadDad, there’s donuts all over this place.”  I replied in my best not-too-loud-so-no one-else-can-hear voice, “Well, let’s go find some of them.”  So Caleb joined us and we disappeared in a valiant quest for donuts.  We found some, too, with the help of a kindly old usher-type guy.  That was enough to hold us over through Sunday School and the second service. 

After church we went out to lunch with some folks from South Oaks Baptist Church in Arlington who drove down to give Josh some extra encouragement.  Shows the effect Josh has already had on folks in his ministry.  Things bode well for you, Columbus Avenue Baptist Church.

Psalms 112:5 says, “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.”

Father, thank you for a great start.  Grant Columbus Avenue some momentum for the future.  Amen.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 23 – “Day Three: The Gorilla”

Once while we were driving around, safely secured in our “Buckle-uppers” (that would be seatbelts to the uninitiated), Zakary decided to wax philosophical and ask some deep life questions.  He wanted to know which superhero everyone always wanted to be.  I chose Superman, of course.  Josh told him that “Uncle Kel wouldn’t even hesitate.  It would be Spiderman for him, all the way.  In fact, he even thought he was Spiderman at one time:
Zak – “Well, he’s the youngest brother so that makes him confused”
Josh – “But he is the oldest brother”
Zak – Now, that’s really confusing, then.
Wanting to be helpful, I texted Nathan to see what the real youngest wanted to be.  He answered: Captain Bedtime.

Next stop was the Waco Children’s Museum on the campus of Baylor.  Now that was an experience.  There were lots of hands-on exhibits for the boys to play with.  We got to walk through a huge, seven foot tall heart they had built.  It was even beating loud enough for everyone to hear.  It had a problem, though.  Nurse Chris said it had an obvious heart murmur.  Sad.  One room had a table with lights coming from the center.  And small prisms of different shapes were available to see how the shape of the prism affected the bending of the light.  Fascinating.  Another room had some strange mirrors.  The favorite of the day, though, was the pioneer room.  Zakary learned to weave.  Caleb climbed up on a saddle and declared, “I am the teenager.  I’m going to help Dad out in the field.”  And help he did.  Josh and Christi were resting in a makeshift wagon. Caleb soon walked over to them, obviously struggling with some imaginary burden.  He finally plopped the invisible beast onto the wagon and explained that it was a deer (a dead one) for dinner.  He wasn’t finished yet, though.  He soon returned with something else.  This was no deer, though.  Oh, no.  This one was a cow (also dead).  We all dressed up in the pioneer era clothes provided in the room and took some silly pictures.  Definitely a place to return to for a longer visit.

During rest time for the boys Chris and I went to the Baylor Book Store to see our Seaside college students, Kelly and Lora Boyer.  It was great to see them, but Lora was working there and Kelly was headed to the Baylor football game, so we didn’t stay long.  We arrived back at the hotel just as Christi and boys were leaving for the mall.  I graciously volunteered to stay and look after things while they went.  Since I wanted to be as responsible as possible, I decided my best course of action would be to stay in the room.  Can I help it if the Baylor football game just happened to be on at the same time?  Besides, the hotel cleaning staff was hard at work when I arrived, and they really wanted to be updated on the score regularly.  Actually I dozed off when the score was 21-0 in favor of Baylor.  When I woke up it was 42-0 … and still in the first quarter.  Ouch.  At halftime the boys were back, so we went swimming and back into the hot tub.  When we got back to the room, the score was 42-7.  I went to the bathroom to change out of my swim suit, and when I returned the score was 63-7.  Double ouch.  How could that even happen?    

That evening we went for a drive with Robert and Melinda.  We had some really good ice cream at Katie’s Kustard.  Then we drove through some park, but several roads were closed, so we detoured out of there.  We learned about a place near Waco called Homestead Heritage where people live like it’s the nineteenth century.  We saw from a distance a footbridge over the river where they toss tortillas at the bulkheads.  Odd tradition.  We also saw the haunted castle and the gorilla.  The story there has something to do with the homeowners association voting down an attempt to make the castle into a bed and breakfast.  In protest a guy bought a life sized gorilla statue and put it in his front yard to see how they would handle it.  Apparently they had no choice but to embrace the new resident, so now he dresses it to match the seasons.  Right now he looks like Uncle Sam.  Still in his 4th of July garb, I guess.

Psalms 112:4 says, “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.”

Father, thank you for odd traditions and local color. They sure make every place you created have a special flavor.  Amen.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 22 – “Day Two: Yo tambien”

And it rained all night long.  And it didn’t stop during the day, either.

We went over to Josh and Christi’s hotel so we could watch the boys while they closed on their house.  All went well there, so we celebrated by going swimming with the boys in their hotel’s indoor pool.  We also spent some time in the hot tub nearby.  And now, of course, I am somewhat motivated to get ours fixed.  I know, we haven’t had since Hurricane Ike and there is not even electricity run to it right now, but it would sure feel good.  We’ll have to do some research on that one.

We took a tour of the great city of Waco … in the rain.  It was kind of hard to see anything, but we did drive by what will be their house in the next few weeks.  We even drove by Seasider Lannie Cline’s house.  Waco seems to be a really nice town.  I think Josh and Christi will like it here. While the boys rested I went with Josh back up to the church and helped him unpack his books for his office so it would be presentable come Sunday morning.  I love hanging out with books.  We made our way back to the hotel for a hot dog and a family game of Creationary.  It’s like Pictionary, only using Legos.  Caleb and Zak were awesome at it of course.  Have you ever seen a coffee maker made out of Legos?  Zak figured that one out. 

Finally we made our way back to the Creech’s.  But the door to their apartment refused to respond to the code I was putting in.  I tried numerous times, but it just wouldn’t open.  So we texted Robert and Melinda to let them know, and we settled in on the floor to wait.  Several students came by and asked if we were relatives of the Creech’s.  I told them it was worse.  I was Robert’s roommate in college forty years ago.  They weren’t exactly sure how to take that.  I finally got a reply from Melinda.  “Mmm.” That’s all.  It was enough to inspire me to try one more time, though, and this time the code worked.  So I texted her again and let her know we were in.  I said, “I guess I was just not holding my tongue right.”  She responded, “Yo tambien.”  That was odd.  Only moments later they arrived and we confessed our story to them.  Neither knew what we were talking about.  That’s right … it wasn’t Melinda I had been texting.  We double-checked the number I had, and it was the wrong one.  No telling who had been the recipient of my queries and confessions.  Hope they enjoyed it.

Psalms 112:3 says, “Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.”

Father, thanks for cell phone users with good senses of humor.  Amen.


Friday, September 20, 2013

September 21 – “Trip journal day one”

Our Waco journey actually began with a stop at the central fire station in Galveston.  I went to pick up a shirt, and we were able to watch a little bit more of the training going on.  Then we had to stop off at my rheumatologist’s office in Houston to pick up the next shipment of Celebrex from the company that makes it.  They are providing it to me for free since our insurance company refuses to pay for it.  It really didn’t take long, so we were back on the road fairly quickly.  That is until we got onto 290 north of Houston.  An 18 wheeler had overturned at Beltway 8, and traffic was backed up for miles.  It took about an hour for us to get through, but once we did, the rest of the trip was fairly smooth sailing.  We did stop for lunch at a Whataburger in College Station.  Didn’t see Johnny Football, though. 

We arrived in Waco around 3:30, and Zak and Caleb took us on a tour of their new church.  We passed by their recreation building, and the boys told us in awed, hushed tones that that was “THE CENTER.”  They said, “It has a swimming pool in there … and a basketball field … and a bunch of other stuff.  The rest of the tour was not quite as dramatic, but it was interesting nonetheless.  Columbus Avenue is kind of an architectural mix between a God church that makes you want to look up in awe, and a Jesus church that makes you want to look around you and experience the people.  It was an odd configuration with stained glass windows surrounding semicircle of pews that kind of said look around you … at God.  I know.  My philosophy of church architecture is kind of strange.  We ended the day by spending some time talking to Robert and Melinda before heading to bed. 

And it began to rain.

Psalms 112:2 says, “His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.”

Father, help our children take their place as mighty ones.  Amen.


September 20 – “We are not at home”

We are not at home.  That certainly has an ominous ring to it, doesn’t it?  Kind of like “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”  It’s certainly not that kind of a crisis.  On the contrary.  We are on what will have to pass as a vacation for the next few days.  Jennifer and Bryan are staying with Mom.  Check.  Mike is preaching for me on Sunday.  Check.  Fire department has been notified, so Kel is on call there.  Check.  And off we go.  We are spending the weekend in Waco.  This will be Josh’s first Sunday as pastor at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church.  It is also parents’ weekend for Baylor students, so it is only right that we should show up, too.  We were even invited to stay with our good friends Robert and Melinda Creech while we were in town.  That was a God-send, because all those Baylor parents have gobbled up all the hotel rooms in the area.  Add that to the fact that Josh and Christi and their boys are having to spend their first few weeks in Waco at a long-term stay hotel, and you have the makings of some “amazing coincidences” coming together to make this trip possible.  They are signing papers this morning to close on the house they are buying, but they can’t take occupancy until the people they are buying from close on their house, which had some problems show up in their final survey which revealed the property to be partially in a flood plain that will require massive amounts of flood insurance, so they are appealing the requirement which pushes their closing back at least another week … whew.  There is more, but suffice it to say, they are living in a hotel room, so we can’t stay with them.  So … we are staying with Robert and Melinda who live in one of the dorms at Baylor University as residence advisors of some sort.  They have a four bedroom apartment, so we have our very own bedroom.  It’s not exactly the same as when Robert and I were suite-mates at Houston Baptist University, but there have already been some moments of recall.  He introduced me to several of the student resident advisor-types and warned them to treat each other well, because in 40 years they might find themselves spending the weekend together.  Funny stuff.

I’ll start with my actual log of events tomorrow.  Right now I think I’ll just go play with a few grandkids.

Psalms 112:1 says, “Praise the Lord.  Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.”

Father, thank you for the safe journey up here.  And thank you for the sleep Chris had last night.  Didn’t have to get out of bed once.  Amen.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September 19 – “That just makes me …”

Chris went on a cleaning tear yesterday so the house will look good while we are gone.  She even cleaned out and vacuumed the car.  Sometimes it gets hard to tell the difference between when her cleaning frenzies are the results of her working off frustrations or just being incredibly motivated.  This time it wasn’t so hard.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  She did a superb job of cleaning, but that spark, that drive, was just not there like it is when she gets emotional about something.  The motivating factor this time was that age-old desire that men just cannot completely understand – that compelling force that drives a woman to leave her house clean, even though she is not going to be there.  It sure looks good around here right now.

I took Cailyn to school the other day.  Not that unusual an event, I know.  But on occasion a grandfather has to spew anecdotes about the grandkids.  It’s in the job description.  No, wait, it’s deeper than that.  It’s in the DNA.  There was nothing all that different about this particular drop-off.  We parked in roughly the same place we always do.  We walked the same route to the front door that we always take.  She hugged me in her Cailyn-esque way and made her way through the first set of doors.  Once there she pulled open the second door, but didn’t enter right away.  Instead she backed herself up against it to prop it open for the tiny little girl who had fallen in step behind her.  Now that’s a sweet move.  About that time she saw me still gazing at her through the window.  Her eyes lit up and smile spread across her face.  Both hands went up to her mouth and she blew me one of those huge kisses with both arms flying out to her side.  And she didn’t stop there.  Then she wrapped herself up in a big hug and released the hug-ness in my direction with another sweep of her arms outward.  I could feel the warmth all over.  Are you crying yet?  Then one of the teachers who had stopped briefly to observe the grandiose gestures looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Well, that just makes me … smile.”  As she disappeared into the office, and Cailyn turned and headed for the gym inside, I must say I had to agree.  Made me smile too. 

Psalms 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.  To him belongs eternal praise.”

Father, here’s some more praise coming your way.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 18 – “Opportunity for More Fire Department Heroics”

Well, the fire department once again made the Galveston Daily News.  This time it was a report on some brand new equipment that was donated that will make it possible for them to perform even more heroic rescues than they already do every day.  It seems the local Humans Society gave the department some pet oxygen masks.  Various sizes and shapes to fit big or small dogs and even cats.  Not sure about guinea pigs, though.  Or birds.  They didn’t mention birds.  Or lizards.  Or snakes.  Or pot-bellied pigs.  Or chicken.  It’s legal to have chickens in Galveston, isn’t it?  But I guess if a chicken was in a fire there are other options there ... Fried ... Baked.  Or fish.  This is Galveston.  What about the fish?  You know, I was reading to Cailyn just last night about the smallest cat known to be alive.  It was three inches tall.  Wouldn’t take much oxygen on that one.  We also learned that the largest domesticated rabbit on record was almost as tall as she is.  Three feet six inches.  But rabbits don’t have that big of a head.  Maybe the rabbit could use one of the cat masks. 

I was able to watch one of the fire department training exercises a while back.  It was pretty intense.  Involved escaping from tangled wires or reaching the point where you realized you were not going to be able to escape and calling out a mayday.  So far every guy I have talked to about it really liked it because it was “hands-on” and “intense” and “way better than just reading stuff in a book.”  Nice job, whoever developed that training.  Now I was just thinking.  I would really like to be in on the training for using the new pet oxygen masks.  All the guys could bring in their pets and try it out on them.  Or they could drive around and try to get some stray pet volunteers.  Then after training they could take the newly-oxygenated strays over to the Humane Society.  Who wouldn’t want to adopt a pet that had been a training partner with the fire department?  That would be like having your very own celebrity living under your roof.   Everybody would be happy, happy, happy.

Seriously, I think it is amazing that someone has developed and funded this kind of equipment.  And for many people, their pets are more than just pet-able pieces of furniture.  They consider them companions, friends, family.  And it will matter a great deal to someone when their little family member survives a smoky inferno because just the right equipment was available.  Thank you, Galveston Humane Society, for caring enough to provide them.  And thank you, Galveston Fire and Rescue, for being gracious enough to receive them and incorporate them into your repertoire of life-saving equipment.  Hang in there, Fido and Fluffy.  Help is on the way.

Psalms 111:9 says, “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever — holy and awesome is his name.”

Father, thank you for the domestication of animals of all kinds.  They have helped many people through the years come to understand unconditional love.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 17 – “What’s in a day, anyway?”

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you just didn’t get anything done?  You know, you get to the end of it, it’s starting to get a little dark outside, and all of a sudden you wonder, what did I get done today?  I had one of those yesterday.  But I’m usually an eternal optimist, so before I went to bed last night, I sat down and made a list of what I actually did do on that day of doing nothing.  Kind of eye-opening.  Here’s my list:

Did my quiet time, completed my blog entry, and had some breakfast.
Took Cailyn to school after her Mom dropped her off.
Addressed birthday cards for next two weeks since we will be going to Waco Thursday through Monday.
Spent an hour on a telephone conference call about some church business.
Went over to Village hardware to pick up a replacement for hose for our non-working generator.
Made a deposit at the bank.
Went by Randalls to pick up a prescription.  They were swamped with orders, though, so it wasn’t ready.
Drove downtown to City Hall to pay our water bill.  I didn’t notice that they changed our due date from last month, so it was actually due yesterday.
While there, I walked through fire station to say hi to the guys on duty.
Went to the post office to mail a package we have had sitting around the house for some time.
Went to Home Depot to use the gift card I got for my birthday.  When I drove up I saw that fire engine #4 was there, so I stopped by and said hello to those guys.  Inside I got some hedge clippers, some limb snippers (those two things were rusted out pretty bad after Hurricane Ike, but we never have replaced them), some weed eater line, and some plumbers tape.
Went back to Randalls for that prescription.  It was ready this time.
I fixed the plumbing leak at the back yard faucet (at least, I hope I fixed it.  Plumbing and I are not best friends, usually).
I cut the piece of hose to fit the generator.  I still don’t know if works, because that will entail a whole other process that I wasn’t prepared to go through.
I wound some weed eater line on the replacement cartridge.
I had to try out the new garden tools, even if they weren’t power tools, so I trimmed some limbs in backyard.
Spent another hour on the phone trying to deal with Mom’s long-term care insurance company.  That one was a wasted hour.
Mix in there the times I spent actually talking to Chris.  Oh, and I did eat some lunch and supper.
And finally I watched a few episodes of Doctor Who with Chris and Mom. 

It is amazing what fills up a day when you aren’t looking.  So much for the first day of what I had hoped would be a week of vacation of sorts.  Maybe I can start that today.  After I go to water therapy and then meet with the fire fighter over at the Union Hall and then …
Psalms 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Father, sometimes this is the only appropriate verse to start out the day with.  Thanks for one more day.  Amen.

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 16 – “Double baptism”

We had another baptism on the beach yesterday afternoon.  Ordinarily we do them as part of our worship experience, but in this case the family couldn’t all get here until early afternoon, so we made some allowances.  The young man’s Mom and aunts all grew up going to Seaside as kids, and I guess Jacob has heard some of their stories.  They now live in Dickinson.  His Mom asked if I would be willing to do the baptism, because Jacob really wanted to do it in the Gulf.  Of course I was honored to be asked.

We made the trek over from the church around 1:30.  There were twenty or so family members present, so we all gathered in a cluster to talk about what baptism means.  Jacob indicated that he gave his life to Jesus while at church camp, and we were ready to hit the water.  Now, there is a hurricane out in the Gulf right now, albeit much closer to Mexico than here.  But its very presence out there has an effect on tides and wave action.  The water was very rough, and I noticed right away a strong pull away from the shore.  The waves were also crashing strong from the other direction.  Jacob and I were almost to knee-deep water when suddenly he was gone.  One of the waves just took him out like a linebacker making an open field tackle.  He came up sputtering and laughing and grasping for his missing flip-flop a few feet back.  It took him a moment to get his bearings again, and I told him he was supposed to wait for me to say the baptism words before he went under.  We eased out just a few feet further, and turned to face his family on the shore.  I got “the words” in this time, and as I eased him backwards, God provided just the right size wave to engulf him with the symbol of his new life.  I suppose Jacob can always say it took a double baptism to bring him into the fold.

Back on the shore his Mom and Dad each had gifts for him to celebrate the day.  It was a very special moment, both for his family and for the Family of God.  Welcome to the family, Jacob.

Psalms 111:7-8 says, “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.  They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness.”

Father, walk with Jacob as he grows ever closer to you.  Amen.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

September 15 – “My new hero”

I started my day with a meeting at the San Luis Hotel.  Actually the meeting was with a couple that has asked me to officiate at their wedding the first week of October.  It’s a second marriage for both, so all we really had to deal with was details for the ceremony.  They each have children, and they want them involved in the ceremony as well.  That is always a fun challenge to figure out different ways to incorporate all ages.  Their kids are in their early teens, though, so I think there will be no problems at all.  One guy will walk his Mom down the aisle.  His sister will be the maid of honor.  And the groom’s son will be the best man.  They are doing a sand ceremony as well, so I think we can figure a way for all of them to take a turn at pouring sand into the “family jar.”  It doesn’t sound like this one will be one of those hugely stressful affairs like so many weddings can be. 

I managed to make it through the entire first half of the Aggies’ football game without falling asleep.  Quite an accomplishment for me.  And at halftime I went outside to mow the grass, anticipating an extended time “communing with nature” because of our sputtering, coughing, gas-guzzling lawn mower.  I always clean the spark plug before I even begin, since it is usually black with soot.  It never really seems to make a difference, though.  And yesterday was no exception.  Sure enough, it started right up, but barely one strip of lawn in, and it was sputtering away like an old man on his last leg.  As I continued trying to nurse it along, though, I heard a sound through my no-hearing aid fog.  Someone was calling my name.  No, I wasn’t having an end of life experience calling me to the light.  It was my new neighbor Mario from across the street.  He and his wife are the current occupants of my old homestead.  I shut down the mower to talk with him.  Mario is a good guy, and he and his wife have done wonders for the yard at Mom’s old house.  I had no idea, though, that he was about to become my new hero.  He started asking questions about the lawn mower, and it didn’t take him long to figure out I had no idea what I was doing when it came to maintenance and repair of small engines.  He told me a bit about his early history of “mowing the grass at the parish for a dollar a week.  And that was with one of those push mowers that you had to provide your own power for.” 

He asked if I had a flathead screw driver handy.  That I could handle.  He pointed out a screw for me to unscrew, and I did a great job at that.  Hey, I relish small victories in my life when I know the bigger things will most certainly be beyond my reach.  What he wanted was access to the air filter.  We pulled it out, and it was a bit dirty, but I had cleaned it the best I could a time or two before.  He assured me that it was the problem, and he disappeared with it into his workshop.  I think his wife felt sorry for me, so she came over to talk while he was gone.  I brushed off the outside of the mower so it would at least look like I was doing something helpful.  It didn’t take long for Mario to return, however.  And the air filter he held in his hand looked brand new.  I have no idea what he used to clean it, but the thing was amazing.  He explained about getting it good and soaked with gas or oil or something before putting it back on, but I was in awe of how clean it was.  I don’t think the thing was that clean when we bought the mower.  We got it put back together and I started it up.  What a difference.  It was like magic.  I turned it off again and let him know that he was my new favorite action hero, and good old Mario just smiled and eased his way back across the street. 

The yard didn’t take long at all to get mowed.  Front and back and even the strip on the side of the house by the vacant lot.  And there was gas left over in the mower when I was done.  And I still had time to watch A&M try for that last minute comeback.  Amazing.  But then I do things a lot better when I can breathe, too.  There’s gotta be a spiritual application in there somewhere.  Maybe something about how without the power of the Holy Spirit with, we can do nothing for God.  When we try to do good stuff without being connected to Jesus, the source of our power, we end up just a sputtering, coughing mess.  Sometimes we can get the task done, but then we are exhausted.  Hey, thanks Mario, for the spiritual lesson. 

Psalms 111:7 says, “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.”

Father, thank you for my neighbor – and hero – Mario.  Help him to be happy.  Amen.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

September 14 – “Fishin’ with DadDad”

I went fishing with three little boys and their Daddy yesterday.  I have been the Daddy with the three little boys before, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to be somewhat the outsider looking in.  Quite an event, actually.  Kel and his three boys came over and we went over to Nathan’s house in Jamaica Beach so we could do a little fishing off the bank into the canal.  Prospects are generally kind of limited there as to the variety of fish available, but I figured there would be plenty of hardhead catfish, so they could at least have the thrill of reeling something in.  If a trout or redfish or flounder happened to show up, we certainly wouldn’t be upset, but with lowered expectations come greater prospects for surprise. 

Josiah, who is just three years old, took the rod from me after I cast it out for him, and immediately started reeling it in.  I have learned from past experience not to say anything about that.  He needs to be doing something, or this whole fishing experience won’t mean anything to him.  Besides, he didn’t see what bait I put on the hook anyway.  Sure enough, when he got it onto the shore, he was ecstatic to have caught that “little fish” on the hook there.  His “little fish” was the live shrimp bait, but he didn’t need to know that.  His day was a success.  And his fish being landed, he was pretty much ready to leave.  He began exploring the area to see what other treasure he might come up with, much to the chagrin of his Dad.  Kel did a good job corralling him, though.  The two of them got some bread that their Mom had sent and spent some time feeding the seagulls.  When that got old Kel set him up in the car to watch a video. 

Micah had the first hit, and sure enough, after a mighty struggle, he pulled in the first fish of the day, a hardhead.  He stuck with it for quite a while, too, before he began to get a little bored.  He joined Josiah in the car, so Kel now had to split his Daddy time between them and Jachin, who was doggedly determined to keep fishing until we ran out of bait.  Somewhere along this point in time Kel sighed deeply and asked me, “Was this what it was like when you tried to take us fishing?”  I assured him that it was, indeed.  He stood pensively for a moment, then added, “Parenting is hard.”  That one was easy to agree with.  Always has been.  Always will be. 

Micah returned to his pole after his hiatus, and eventually reeled in a small sting ray.  Jaching kept on casting, and he was rewarded with several sand trout.  I managed a fair sized speckled trout in the process, leading Kel to insist that my pole must be magical.  Jachin jumped all over that one.  He wanted me to cast out with my magic pole and then let him reel in the big fish.  We gave it a try a time or two, but the magic must have been worn out.  Guess that happens when the wizard gets old. 

The trip ended on what threatened to be a sour note.  Kel couldn’t get their car started.  I guess the movie watching and Josiah’s attempts to try out all the electrical properties of the car (windshield wipers, lights, horn) just wore down the battery.  After several attempts and a good screwdriver cleaning of the terminal, we managed to get it jumped enough to start back up and the alternator do its job.  I think the boys had a good time, and our next family fish fry will have a little more personal meaning to it when the fillets we pull out of the freezer have on the package: “Caught by Jachin, Micah, and Josiah on their September 13th fishing trip.”

Psalms 111:5 says, “He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.”

Father, thank you for the chance to do a little “throwback seafood shopping” with the boys.  It was fun.  Amen.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September 13 – “Fifth Anniversary”

I read a lot of posts yesterday about it being the fifth the anniversary of Hurricane Ike.  It struck me that the whole reason I started this blogging thing was at the request of some of the Seaside people.  We were trying to figure out a way to stay connected with all the evacuees in Louisiana and San Antonio and Austin and Mansfield and who knows how many other scattered places.  It seemed that everyone had access to the internet, though, so I tried to post something when I could about what I had been hearing from people.  It didn’t begin as a daily thing.  Who had time in the beginning to write something every day?  But then it became evident that one of the best things, for me anyway, was the chance to record my thoughts and perceptions of the chaos that was flying around me.  And there was so much to say that there ended up being plenty to record every day.  I did compile some of those early posts into book form to show what it was like day to day in the year following the storm.  Even included some of our storm photos.  I had great plans to get it published in time for the fifth anniversary.  Of course getting a book self-published these days is not exactly inexpensive.  Maybe I can reconsider at the next anniversary date.  Or maybe the tenth. 

I have also considered retiring from the whole blog scene altogether.  It would certainly give me more time in the mornings.  And in the grand scheme of things, who would miss it anyway?  I’m afraid I might miss it, though.  Besides, it gives my kids a peek into this strange head of mind.  I guess maybe it’s better to do it a little at a time than to have to try to remember everything all at once for one of those “You were there” memory books.  So, hats off to you, Hurricane Ike.  At the very least you provided Galveston with yet another life-changing, Island-history-altering, never-to-be-forgotten (here on the Island, anyway.  Can’t speak for the folks at FEMA) event.  You have actually made it easier for us feeble-minded old dudes.  Now all we have to remember is “BTS” (Before The Storm) and “ATS” (After The Storm).

Psalms 111:4 says, “He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate.”

Father, I guess it is more than appropriate to remember your grace and compassion in the wake of a disaster.  We sure saw and experienced it through the help and sacrifice of so many after the storm.  Amen.