Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 30 – “Ode to Turkey Bowl XXXIX+”

Many, many years ago when I was just a lad
Young cousins gathered, bored, you see, As adults sat and gabbed

Kerry, Randy, Joe, and Rick were brothers, understand
And Kelley, Jay, and Stanley too, All cousins in the clan

None had attained high school yet (Well, maybe one or two)
And all persisted in the cry, “But Mom, what can we do?”

The feast of thanks had passed two days, ‘twas Saturday, high noon
One thought rang from who knows where, A game, outside, and soon

Sullen ranks of young boys trudged into so-called fresh air
No games of video back then, Just ovoid balls of air

It took some time to choose up teams.  At last that feat was done
The ball took flight the catch was made, The Turkey Bowl begun

From that point on as years went by on that same day and time
The game they played again, and made, Such memories sublime

Soon Cousin Jer, he joined the fray, and friends from school and work
A different site they needed now, And thus began the search

Weis Junior High had such a field and there they played a few
But finally The Place was found, Ball High’s Spoor Field would do

And on that field for years to come the game’s traditions formed
The tour train’s visits halftime called, Year thirteen’s t-shirts worn.

Dee Clements never showing up, a trophy in his name,
Uncle Jerry’s TD pass As oldest in the game

A wife was dressed as cheerleader, and Jay served as the ref,
And finally the girls could play, Kris, Karen and the rest

We returned from Denver town to be here year to year
Even after surgeries the crutches would appear

Injuries they came with age, old hamstrings, knees, and feet
Videos record the match For our posterity

And children came, the legacies, Kel and Nathan, too
With stitches Hardy welcomed Josh but he’d be back anew

Years have passed and changes came, locked from the field, I fear
No more tour train, smaller crowds, for Ike we missed a year

But slowly, surely, from the ash, the game continues on
Back to its roots, out in the street, Hey, let’s just have some fun

OK.  Historically speaking, the game began long before we started “officially” naming it The Turkey Bowl.  That occurred somewhere around 1974.  The only way archaeologists and anthropologists have been able to determine even this date is an obscure reference to t-shirts that were printed and distributed in 1987 as souvenirs of “Turkey Bowl Thirteen.”  My guess is we probably began out in the street in front of my cousins’ house on Tern in Galveston around the year 1965.  Maybe earlier.  That would make this year at least Turkey Bowl XLVIII.

The game does still continue.  We play today in the street in front of our house on Sycamore at High Noon.  All are welcome.  All ages.  Boys or Girls.  All skill sets.  Grandchildren will be participating.  As will grandparents.  You can do it.

Ephesians 2:19-21 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”

Father, some of us old guys with tender hamstrings and sore knees could sure use an extra dose of energy today.  It’s hard enough to keep up with these youngsters just playing video games.  Thanks.  Amen.

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 29 – “Family Connections”

It took me pretty much all morning, but I made it to all the fire stations yesterday morning with my meager deliveries of fried turkey.  They all received it quite graciously, even those that already had quite a spread ready.  I started around 8:30 or 9 I think, and finally got back home just before noon.   That was after stopping by to pick up Cailyn.  She didn’t want to miss the big feast she has been talking about for weeks, and she ended up spending the night with us.  Her Mom and Dad were both sick.  Nathan officially had strep throat and dutifully made his trip to the doctor since he goes on shift today.  April was still recuperating from her episode the night before.  Nathan had plans for her to go to the clinic this morning.  We’ll see what that outcome is when she comes to get Cailyn. 

I was struck for some reason by the differences among the stations in how they were spending their well-deserved down time.  There were varying amounts of food at the different locations.  Smoked turkey.  Hams.  Casseroles.  Some had plans for families to join them for lunch.  One station was working on a big Barbeque lunch, preferring to save the traditional turkey and dressing for their home experience the next day.  Another had their own turkey fryer going.  They were providing turkeys for some folks at UTMB as well as for their lunch.  I thought my meager offering would get lost in the shuffle there, but one of the guys took what was going to be just a taste, and after his fourth or fifth return visit to the bag, he ended up getting scolded for eating too much.  I don’t remember what was playing on TV at the first station, but since I was noticing differences, I paid closer attention after that.  And it was different in every place.  One had the Thanksgiving Day parade going in its full glory.  At one two guys had appropriated the TV for a rousing game of Madden football.  At another all four guys were glued to the set watching Burn, a special where a video crew follows an actual fire department in Detroit.  They assured me that it would a better show to watch for reality than Chicago Fire.  “That a soap opera” was their summation of the Hollywood version.  One station was taking in a basketball game, and the final one had the James Bond movie Thunderball showing.  It was fascinating to realize that with all the widely varying difference between them, these guys could come together as one unit when the alarm sounds and work in tandem to get the job done.  Quite impressive.

Kel and his family were already at the house when we got back.  The kids started playing and went non-stop until they left last night, breaking only for a brief time to gather in the kitchen.  All of us held hands in a circle and prayed, thanking God for the feast, but of course also remembering poor old sick Uncle Nathan and Aunt April, and the absent Uncle Josh and Aunt Christi and Zak, Caleb, and Baby Luke.  And as we sat around the table, Chris asked each one what was one thing they were thankful for.  Amid the inevitable practicality that comes from any gathering of youngsters (Wii’s and toys and video games), a distinctive common element quickly became evident: Family.  After all, these holidays are all about family, whether they be through blood connection or through the extended, I’ve-got-your-back, my-life-is-in-your-hands, fire-fighter kind of bond.

Galatians 6:9-10 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Father, thank you for my families.  What an incredible blessing you have given me in the three I am connected with: The connection by blood – my mom and wife and kids and grandkids.  The connection by the Spirit – your Church.  And the connection by service – the fire fighting community.  Amen.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 28 – “Galveston Fire and Rescue Turkey Appreciation Day”

Well, we made it through turkey frying day with no fires or serious burns or trips to the emergency room.  That is, if you don’t include whatever it was that caused April to pass out last night.  Or should I say early this morning.  Nathan called at around 2:15 to say he was having trouble waking her up after she passed out on her way to get him some Tylenol.  Chris immediately headed over to their house.  April was awake and talking by the time she arrived, though.  We’ll have to watch her a bit closer than usual today.  After her close call in the hospital, we all still get a little jumpy whenever anything out of the ordinary happens with her.  She’s a special one.  And she is much-loved around the Vaughan clan.

So back to the turkeys.  I got the pots going by around 7:30, so they were ready for the first turkey in about 45 minutes or so.  Nathan and Cailyn got here to help, so I didn’t have to do much of the heavy lifting.  That combined with standing up all day is what really wears me down.   I still did the standing thing, though.  And I sure felt it by the time we went to bed last night.  I was plenty sore.  Not so bad this morning, though. 

We ended up frying twelve of the birds.  I think that’s a new record, too.  I can only remember doing ten before this year.  There is a reason for the madness, though.  We usually freeze the meat from at least five or six of them and use it throughout the year for any recipe that calls for chicken.  Fried turkey and dumplings.  Fried turkey enchilada pie.  Fried turkey and shrimp gumbo.  Fried turkey pot pie.  Fried turkey sandwiches.  Fried turkey and vegetables soup.  You name it.  Fried turkey is quite effective.  We also usually send one turkey home with each of the boys.  That only comes to eight or nine, though.  So what about the other three or four this year?  The answer to that will be my morning this morning.  It’s also what I was talking about in the blog title today.  I appreciate all the turkeys who work as fire fighters.  No, wait.  That's not it.  I’m planning to divide up some of the fried turkeys six ways and take it to the fire stations here in Galveston.  We have always sent one to wherever Nathan is working, but he is actually off this year for the first time since he’s been working for Galveston Fire and Rescue.  It’s also my first year as chaplain, so I thought I’d make a quick run to each station before everybody starts arriving here for lunch.  It won’t be much, but maybe each of the guys on duty can get a sandwich out of it.  Gotta make sure these guys know we appreciate them being the ones to run toward burning buildings so we can run away.  Be safe, Galveston fire fighters.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Daniel 3:24-27 says:
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"

They replied, "Certainly, O king."

He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!"

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Father, as you watched over those three Hebrews in that blazing furnace by walking with them, so walk with our firefighters as they enter the flames voluntarily.  Grant them safety.  And be with their families as they are separated on yet another holiday.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 27 – “Satsumas and ‘Merikins”

I played the farmer the other day and did some harvesting.  Our Satsuma orange tree in the back yard had about three dozen of them hanging on for dear life.  It was getting cold, so with Chris’ approval I picked them all and brought them into the house.  A week or so ago Mom’s friend Betty brought us some that she had picked from her tree.  They were fairly small, about the same size as the ones you get in the grocery store, and they tasted really good.  Ours are about twice that size.  In the realm of satsumas, they are apparently an anomaly.  Only problem is, I can’t say they have a good taste.  Can’t say they taste bad, either.  Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t taste anything.  It’s like drinking a glass of water in a restaurant when they have dropped a lemon slice in the glass without squeezing it.  There is a faint citrus-y after taste, but just not much of anything going down.  Oh, there are a few that have been fine, and I hope the ones that Christina and April took were some of the good ones.  Otherwise, sorry, girls.

I’m kind of rushed for time this morning.  I started the fires for frying turkeys today, and the grease actually got too hot.  Never a good sign.  The temperature died down fairly quickly, though.  I guess the combination of a cold turkey being dropped in and the thirty-seven degree weather outside had something to do with that.  Gotta keep an eye on them, though.  My fire watch fireman isn’t here yet.  Nathan and Cailyn are coming over.  He’s going to help me with turkeys and she’s going to help Chris bake some pies for tomorrow’s lunch.  Something about a feast that she’s been learning in school.  Pilgrims.  She wants to be a Pilgrim girl when she grows up.  Indians.  Well, she has been very careful to refer to them as Native Americans.  She brought home a little tepee they made, and I asked her if that’s what the Indians lived in.  I was soundly corrected.  “Not Indians, DadDad.  They were Native ‘Merikins.”  Of course. 

Well, I’m off to check the Native ‘Merikin turkeys.  Where’s my coat?  It’s cold out there.

Psalms 119:32 says, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”

Father, thank you for the free heart you gave to me.  Help me to give it away just as freely.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26 – “Turkeys, Who, and New Words”

I went to WalMart yet again yesterday for what I think will be the last of the turkeys for our frying frenzy tomorrow.  I learned that the earlier you buy turkeys, the better your chances of getting one the size that you want.  Our fryers can only hold up to a fifteen pounder.  Yesterday they were restocking all the turkey bins and not a single one was under nineteen pounds.  In fact most of them were over twenty-two pounds.  I guess they figure large families will wait until the last minute.  Or maybe they plan it this way to make a few extra dollars off of the procrastinators.  Either way, it wasn’t looking good for that final turkey until I happened to walk by the poultry section where they have all the chicken parts.  And there, right in the very middle of the chickens, was a tiny section filled with turkeys.  Not Butterball, mind you, but they were just the right size.  I selected a fourteen pounder and called it good for the day.  Or for the season, I suppose.  I picked up the other things on Chris’ last minute list without too much trouble.  Except for the tiny bottle of nutmeg.  That took me and another husband to locate. 

We also found the original Doctor Who series from 1963 on Netflix.  We ended up watching all of season 1.  It was all one episode with those continued next time cliff hangers in each one.  Actually funny stuff.  Some things were strange, though, having watched some of the newer series.  This guy had a granddaughter.  I thought he was an alien.  I like the younger doctor better.  Plus there are much better graphics now.  The tiny little cardboard Tardis scene was hilarious.  Now, the preview for the next episode that begins season two was revealing.  Daleks.  Even in 1964.  And they are fighting with Winston Churchill to win World War II.  What is this world coming to?

Let me end with two of Cailyn’s best made up words lately.  She found some stickers with American flags on them, and asked Chris if she knew what they were.  Being the canny Grandmother that she is, Chris responded with a question of her own, and Cailyn answered, “Oh, Nani.  It’s the “Knighted States America.”  And there you go.  With one turn of the phrase, all U.S. citizens have been recognized by the queen of England.  I for one am proud to serve.  The other Cailyn word happened this morning before I took her to school.  She found a small bottle of something on my desk and asked me what it was.  Ever striving to be the helpful DadDad, I replied, “It’s some of that stuff you put on your hands to kill germs.”  She shook her sadly, looked at me with just a trace of pity in her eyes, and noted, “DadDad, don’t you know?  It’s called “Handsitizer.”  Ah.  Of course it is. 

Psalms 119:30 says, “I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.”

Father, again I marvel at the creativity you place in the minds of little ones.  Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25 – “Commitment takes risk”

Yesterday’s Kids’ Sermon was a taste test.  I had portions of five different foods scooped into small containers and numbered.  The five children present each picked a number and then had to agree to taste whatever was in their numbered dish.  They all assured me they were “good tasters,” and their Moms assured me they weren’t allergic to anything, so we continued on.  The chocolate pudding was a definite winner.  Kiara had that one and returned her container with a distinctive ring around her mouth.  The vanilla pudding guy, Adrien, I think, made short work of his as well.  But neither of them put it away quite like William.  He had a portion of apple pie filling that disappeared in a heartbeat.  The pumpkin pie filling went fairly quickly as well, but Matt thought it might be carrots.  The only one who didn’t finish his “snack” was the one with the sweet potatoes.  Andrew said he did like sweet potatoes, but I guess the fact that the consistency was something like, well, baby food had something to do with his restraint.  Fortunately, some folks brought in donuts while we were talking so I encouraged his Dad to let him have one of those big chocolate-filled ones as a reward.

They were all great sports, though, and the point of the lesson was Jesus’ explanation to his detractors that the reason they didn’t understand his teachings was because they refused to “taste it.”  But he didn’t just mean give it a try and if it works you’ll know it’s true.  It was a lot more than that.  He said they had to buy into the doctrine enough that they risked placing their whole trust in God.  Commitment does take risk. 

I was pretty beat by the time I got home from church, so I dozed through much of the Texans football game.  This has not been a good weekend for Texas teams all the way around.  Aggies.  Baylor.  Texans.  At least the Cowboys managed to pull one out. 

John 7:17 says, “If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”

Father, thank you for making a relationship with you worth “tasting.”  Amen.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24 – “A stirring in the chilly night”

We had a bit of a scare last night.  Around three a.m. Chris suddenly jumped up and literally ran from our bedroom.  Groggily, I opened my eyes and realized there were lights on all over the house.  That could mean only one thing.  Mom was up and had been up for a while.  Now she is a fall risk, so we don’t leave her on her own at any time of day.  You can understand Chris’ sense of urgency, then.  I finally gathered my own wits about me and started to get up to help out, but I heard that calm assurance in Chris’ voice as she gently directed Mom back toward her room.  Once she got her settled and returned to bed she told me that not only were the lights on all over the house, but she had found Mom at the front door, sweater on, with the door open.  In fact, that’s what actually woke her up: she heard the front door opening.  Now I don’t think she would have gone outside.  Mom is not one for being in the cold anywhere, any time.  But Chris was a bit shaken up by the whole experience.  Usually we can hear Mom when she gets out of bed.  It’s pretty creaky by design.  Maybe that was her first stop, spraying some WD-40 on the springs.  Either that or the heater may have been on at just the right moment to drown out the squeaking.  I guess we are in the market for one of those baby monitors as a second line of audio-defense.  We could put it under her bed to amplify the creaks. 

We used the old shift trick yesterday.  I went by myself to the Moody Church craft fair.  My goal was to check out the used book sale they always have.  Not that I particularly need any more books.  But it is always a plus to save some and keep them from being trashed.  I picked up a copy of Screwtape Letters, always a classic.  I also got a Bible study guide on Romans.  And I may or may not have found a Christmas present possibility or two.  I did get a few children’s books.  One of them I read last night.  The Time Garden.  Kind of an odd tale about some children who can rub bits of wild thyme together in their hands and travel in time.  Get it?  Time … Thyme.  Funny in places.  Unexpectedly gruesome in one spot.  Not sure what his target age-group was, but I would say ten or twelve.  Definitely had an English flair to it, but I think it was first published in Canada. 

Our evening was spent huddled on the couch watching college football.  Yes, we saw A&M lose.  Somewhere in there Chris lit up our only fireplace log leftover from years past, so our fireplace or Franklin Stove or whatever that thing is called, was a hub of warmth against the chilly, wet, nasty stuff going on outside.  We even saw much of the Baylor loss before we went on to bed.  Sad day for Texas sports, indeed.

Zechariah 14:6-9 says, “On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost.  It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime — a day known to the Lord. When evening comes, there will be light.  On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.  The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.

Father, thank you for waking us up when you did.  And thanks for watching over Mom.  It is comforting to remember that she is already in your care.  Amen.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 23 – “Chief Wisko”

On Thursday I was invited to be at the Galveston City Council meeting where interim Fire Chief Mike Wisko’s appointment as permanent chief by the city manager was slated to be confirmed by the council.  He follows retired Chief Jeff Smith after having served as assistant chief. 

The crowd was amazing.  There were over fifty people in attendance just for the confirmation, so they placed it at the very beginning of the session.  I was sure glad they did, too.  As it turned out, the meeting itself lasted for nine hours.  Quite a marathon.  Several engine crews came in uniform.  Mike’s family was all there including his Dad, Willie Wisko, an ex-fire chief here in Galveston.  Fire Chiefs and representatives from departments in Beaumont, Freeport, Bryan, and Santa Fe were all there.  The Bryan Chief spoke to the council, thanking them for the assistance given them by the Galveston Fire Department after several of their fire fighters were transferred to UTMB and stayed in the burn unit for months.  The Galveston department adopted the men and their families, taking care of whatever needs came up during that time, including lodging and transportation.  The affirmation vote by council was unanimous.  Quite a feat, if you have any knowledge of Galveston city politics. 

After the confirmation we went back to the fire office, where Chief Smith asked me to gather the folks together and let Mike’s Dad speak.  Everyone cooperated fully, and it was good to see that Dad getting the chance to brag on his boy.  I decided to become an emcee of sorts, and gave anyone the chance to add their words of encouragement as well.  Jeff then proclaimed that he was proud as well, but the most impressive thing he added was a reference to scripture – how special it was for a son to be honoring his father and mother.  Chief Wisko’s aunt had a story to tell about the antics of the older Chief Wisko, and several others spoke kind words.  It was quite an emotional experience for the new chief.  I did get a chance to pray for him after the good words and ask for God’s blessings on him.

After that we headed over to Rudy and Paco’s restaurant for lunch.  My first time being there.  I had some very good fried shrimp.  Two of the guys near me had the meatloaf sandwich.  Never saw one like it.  Thick slab of meat with mashed potatoes on top and a big pile of onion rings on top of that.  Had to have one of those really long toothpicks to hold it in place.  I may have to pay that place a return visit.  I sat near two retired chiefs, so I was quite entertained with some good stories during the meal.  Some brought goose chills and others resulted in boisterous laughter.  It was a good time of celebration, and I was honored to be a part of it.  Congratulations, Chief Wisko.

Psalms 119:25 says, “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.”

Father, walk with Chief Wisko as he carries out his duties.  And protect all of those under his charge.  Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22 – “View from a fifth-grade mind”

I was a fifth grader at Island Elementary school, now called Parker (Miss Parker was our principal at the time as well as my neighbor down the street in Gulf Village).  The rumblings began while we were at lunch.  The teachers were not nearly as invasive as they usually were.  They often delighted in going out of their way to “remind” us to “keep both feet on the floor” or “eat quickly” or “finish your milk” or the ever-popular “stop talking or you’ll never finish” or the inevitable “go back and throw your trash away.”  That day the teachers instead seemed to huddle in tight clumps, whispering feverishly and stopping all conversation quickly should a student roam nearby.  Yes, it was evident that something was up, but as per protocol at the time, students were not privy to anything of import. 

Which of course led to all sorts of attempts to fill in the blanks.  What secret could be so special that no one would let it slip?  The Dixon house was still going to be decorated for Christmas this year, wasn’t it?  It was too early to worry that something might happen with the summer baseball leagues.  It was obvious that the secret wasn’t something exciting, like a surprise party for Miss Parker or a special one-day-only early release day.  No, it couldn’t be anything like that because there was not a single grin or conspiratorial wink passing among the adults.  Everyone looked, well, grim.  Towards the end of the lunch period our very best eavesdroppers finally began to spread what little they had been able to pick up on their way to the trash cans or to ask permission for a bathroom trip.  One reported that he had clearly heard the word “president.”  And the other couldn’t be sure, but she thought it had something to do with sticking his finger in a light socket and being shocked.  And that’s all.  Nothing else.  Too careful.  Too guarded.  But why?

Well, as will generally happen in situations where vast holes of information exist, the students began using our equally vast imaginations to fill in those blanks.  Now at the time it was not a common thing for youngsters to care about politics.  Oh, we had heard some strange things over the past few years, but to us a Bay of Pigs generated a hilarious image of thousands of actual swine struggling to make their way across Offats Bayou.  The only thing we knew about the president was that he was that young guy with kind of long hair and a gorgeous wife.  Hey, we were in fifth grade.  What else do you think boys would notice?  He looked young because most of the president types we studied about in school were really old, and we had learned that you had to be really old before you could even consider running.  Forty-five.  Man, that was ancient.  And we noticed his wife because, well, did I mention we were in fifth grade?  I remember coming to the conclusion that if the guy stuck his finger in a light socket and got shocked, then maybe he wasn’t as cool as everyone thought.  No, that couldn’t be what happened.

It wasn’t until we arrived at Mrs. Littman’s music class that we were finally read into what was happening in the world.  She called us to order.  And that didn’t take much.  She had somewhat unkempt white hair and a propensity for being, well, demanding.  In a nutshell, we were pretty much scared of Mrs. Littman.  As silence fell over the room our thoughts had shifted to “John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith, his name is my name, too” and “Mine hands by my side, vas iss dat here?  Dis iss mine head-knocker, my teacher, dear.”  But Mrs. Littman stood quietly at the blackboard.  Now she had often used this technique to get our attention.  The “absolute quiet stare that was really a glare” technique.  Few could withstand it for longer than a few seconds.  She most assuredly had our attention.  And finally, with her voice breaking ever-so-slightly, she made the announcement.  “The president has been shot.”  Now, I know she said a lot more than that.  She probably gave us what little details had already been pieced together from news reports that had made their way into the school office.  But I didn’t hear any of that.  I was a fifth grade boy.  And with the other fifth grade boys in the room, we made up an indestructible force to be reckoned with.  As a few of the girls sniffed at their tears, we began planning.  The most reasonable response I remember hearing was, of course, the one I came up with.  “If I could get my hands on that guy who shot him, I would beat him to a pulp with my bare hands.”  Ah, the bravado of a ten-year-old.  To her credit, Mrs. Littman let us have our time of mini-chaos to process the news in our fifth-grade way.  I don’t think we got much singing done that day. 

And the rest of the week we barely left the television set.  We watched the funeral.  I remember being impressed with the horse-drawn carriage and I wondered why his pretty wife was forced to walk behind it.  I saw the little guy in the coat that looked like a dress salute his Daddy’s coffin like the guards all around him were doing.  I saw the footage of Oswald being shot.  We were shocked, yet eerily relieved at the seeming justice of it all. 

And then it was over.  That other, old guy was taking over as president.  And he was from Texas, so how bad could it be?  Slowly the “regular” TV shows returned to the air.  Christmas was in the wind again.  My Dad still had to go to work.  Mrs. Littman had some more goofy songs for us to sing.  And Spring Training started in April.  Maybe I could actually go to Houston and see a Colt 45’s game.  And with that, my world began to take on an order once again.  And the “order” of the bigger world?  Well, it continued on.  Trips to the moon.  War in VietNam.  Organ transplants.  Presidential scandals.  Super-Sonic Transports.  Terrorist attacks.  Home computers.  It continues on.

Colossians 1:16-17 says, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Father, thank you for walking with our country through that terrible time.  Please don’t leave us alone now.  We need you more than ever.  Amen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21 – “What’s that smell?”

I just remembered that I never finished telling about that video Kel pointed me to a few days ago.  I think I was down to sharing some of the things that the guy actually said.  Here’s a few of his highlights:

Greatness is never a product of giftedness.  It is always a product of faith.
I like that one.  It takes the pressure off you while allowing you to be obedient.

Your ministry is the means God uses to sanctify you.
Gotta admit, there have been some days when it has felt like I have been getting more sanctified than I could handle.  Wouldn’t trade this ministry thing, though.  Getting to see people’s lives changed is amazing. 

You gotta know what it feels like to believe God when there is no emotional affirmation in your heart.
Ah.  This is the tough one.  I can’t count the number of days when emotional affirmation – encouragement of any kind – would have been so welcome. 

The problem with success is it seduces you into self-reliance.
I guess that is true when there are repeated successes.  Not that I have had repeated successes. 

And my personal favorite …

90% of the stuff you go through is designed to make you smell like Jesus.
That is one image I never thought to apply to my relationship with Jesus … smell.  But, hey, if you ever see me and something doesn’t smell right to you, please let me know … on so many levels. 

Genesis 8:20-22 says, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.  The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.  As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’”

Father, it’s kind of hard to see life with you as a deodorant, but I really do want to be so like you that people can smell it.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November 20 – “Water”

I paid ahead for another couple of months for my water therapy class.  I think I’m good to go all the way through May now.  I know it’s not technically a therapy class.  It is “officially” just water exercise, but it is certainly serving the therapy purpose for me.

I got to thinking about it last night.  Why have I responded so well to it?  What is it about this class that makes me actually want to go?  We seldom have the same instructor, so I know it’s not a personality thing.  In fact the one I prefer took a leave of absence because of her school schedule, so she hasn’t even been there in several weeks.  One of the instructors is like a German drill instructor who is struggling to be nice but not doing such a good job of it.  The other is actually is nice, almost too much so.  We never get a lot of cardio work when she is in charge.  So what is it?  Beyond the fact that I need it really badly, of course.

Here’s the list of reasons I came up with last night while working my nightly crossword puzzle in bed.  Why I enjoy water therapy:

1.  It happens at the right time.  7:45 in the morning.  Yep.  I am a morning person.  I most assuredly function better in the morning.  Always have.  Just ask my older brother.  I used to drive him crazy by singing early in the morning.  Of course I’m a terrible singer, so that had something to do with it as well.

2.  The exercises are varied.  That, I’m sure, speaks to my attention span.  I can remember a time in my life when I thrived on solitary pursuits like long distance running.  When we lived in Colorado I reached a point where I was running six miles every day.  Of course I always wore headphones so I could listen – not to music necessarily.  I have always wanted a connection to reality, to what is happening right now.  I even listened to radio talk shows while I ran.  So I have never been one to just listen to cd’s for example.  I welcome the comments from the on air personality, because they give the sense that if something happens that I need to know about, then they will tell me.  May or may not be true, but that’s the assumption my head operates on.  Chris, on the other hand, can’t stand the interjections by the DJ’s.  She would rather drive hundreds of miles in silence than have someone on the radio talk.  So much for listening to radio talk shows.  But I digress.  The variety of exercises keeps my attention.  I don’t get bored.  And they work every part of my body, not just my legs.

3.  And, there is water.  The volume of the water really does make it easier on my joints.  I am able to do so much more than I can on land.  Oh, there is a tweak every now and then, but overall, the total support makes a huge difference. 

4.  And finally, the water is heated.  It feels good.  So good in fact that I would really like to get our hot tub repaired.  We haven’t ever had it fixed since Hurricane Ike, so it probably needs a new engine or motor or whatever it is that swooshes the water around.  And we still have to have the electricity rerun.  But just imagine … the “feels good” without the workout.  Put it on the list. 

Psalms 42:1 says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”

Father, thank you for the qualities of water that have made it possible for me to exercise again with so much less pain.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19 – “Turkeys”

The Thanksgiving season has officially begun around our house.  Now for us that doesn’t mean we got down the Christmas decorations.  That won’t happen until just after Thanksgiving Day.  Chris insists.  Besides that’s when we have help around, and I don’t have to drag it all down from the attic by myself.  No, Thanksgiving season around here means we are getting serious about frying turkeys.

We have two of those big pots and two outdoor propane flame machines.  The kind you can also use to boil crawfish or shrimp or crabs in.  Probably around next Tuesday I’ll be pulling those out of the shed and firing them up about six in the morning, and they will keep on going most, if not all, of the day.  Last year we ended up frying eight or ten of the birds.  Our family gathering usually accounts for two of them.  We give some of the others away, but we also freeze some.  They are great to use all year round for turkey and dumplings or turkey pot pie or turkey/shrimp gumbo or turkey sandwiches.  It ends up being a great use of resources. 

And speaking of resources, that brings us back to the WalMart run.  They had Butterball turkeys for 98 cents a pound.  Anything under a dollar a pound is fair game according to Chris, so I picked up three.  We already have one, so that means we still need to get at least six or eight more.  I would really like to take some to the firehouses if we can this year, but that would mean six turkeys just for them.  Not that they are not worth it, but we’ll just have to check the budget.  And the time schedule.  It takes about an hour for each turkey.  We have the two fryers, so six turkeys means an extra three hours of coming time.  It’s doable.  We’ll see …

The checker at WalMart made a comment about the three I had in my basket.  She said, “Someone must be planning on a really big Thanksgiving.”  I explained about our frying plans and our hope to give some away.  She then got really excited.  She told me all about her church’s plans for feeding the homeless next week.  I let her know that I appreciated their ministry, and then I encouraged her because she was going to church in the first place.  By that time she was beaming.  The words kept bubbling out of her mouth, and her final comment was, “I have to go to church.  I have to have my Lord.  Life wasn’t worth living without it or him.”  When she finally took a breath, I handed over my coupons and thanked her for being so open about her faith.  At that point I noticed the lad in line behind us.  She was smiling broadly as well, and nodded vigorously in agreement, with tears in her eyes.  I wanted to stick around and find out her story, but decided to leave her in the hands of the Jesus-loving checker.  She’ll be fine. 

Psalms 119:24 says, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”

Father, thank you for the encouragement that comes just from being kind and talking about your love.  Amen.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18 – “Schnitzel”

We had a great day in church yesterday.  One visitor even said this to me: “The Holy Spirit didn’t completely bowl me over when I walked through the door, but I could sure tell he was here.” 

It was our Harvest Celebration, where everyone was asked to consider things they are thankful for, and then present some kind of special offering to God.  I thought it would be interesting to share some of the responses.  Human being names have been omitted to protect the innocent.  Pet’s names, however, have been included.
Things I am thankful for:
Being born in a land such as America (USA).  Much is given, much is expected.

I am thankful for a family with no major death threatening illness at this time.

I’m thankful for: family (includes pets and friends), a roof over my head, memories, health, relationships, EVERYTHING.

For family and friends, for my mother & father, food, home, roof over my head, Jesus on the cross to save my sins, clothes, pets (my cat Panther), music, love.

I’m thankful that I get to help so many people in my profession and use Godly principles and love with my people.


Friends, food (tacos, chicken & chips), family, pets (Pooky, Lilly & Little Pee)

Christ saved me, my wife, my family.

I’m thankful for my home and my time with my daughter.

Family, peace among Christians, absence of pain.

I am thankful for my husband & our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Food, pets, life, & water.

 I don’t look at the offerings that come in, but I did notice there were quite a few envelopes in the giving boxes.  I also saw a gift card.  Now that’s being a bit creative.   I like it.  Now here’s a few of the responses related to what you will commit to give God.

I commit to: forgive people who will not ever ask for it or understand or care that what they do is hateful, continue to tithe and look for ways to do more offerings, reach out to my neighbors, share my faith more without worrying about people questioning why.

To be obedient, to help where I’m needed, to pray when I’m upset and when I need some comfort, to repent.

I commit to pray more for those I know who are facing life threatening diseases.

To have a closer relationship with the Lord.

To be a better friend and forgive.

To be a better person to everyone, to be more kinder to siblings.

To renew my purpose in serving God.

I will bring a snack breakfast for the youth on Sundays.

To give an extra amount in offering today, help teach when needed.

To see my family more often.

Be the best man I can, pick people up in happiness & peace within.

I will do good when they call the kids up.

It was exciting to me that even the children participated in the experience today.  And we had more people stay for dinner on the grounds than we have had in a long time.  And speaking of dinner on the grounds, I tried the schnitzel that someone brought.  Very good stuff.  It helped when I was told that it was actually chicken fried pig.  And I didn’t even put a whole lot of ketchup on it.  Check off one more new and exotic food.

Psalms 119:15-16 says, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.  I delight in your decrees I will not neglect your word.”

Father, thank you for all the different ways people expressed their thanks it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17 – “Storage Wars”

We made a flying trip to Bay City yesterday.  Bay City, Texas, not Michigan.  Chris got a call that if we could be there by 3:00 p.m. we could pick up some of the articles mentioned in her Mom’s will that she had not yet received because they have been in storage.  Jennifer and Bryan came over to stay with Mom, and we hit the road around one.  The drive was uneventful except for the fact that it sprinkled a time or two and the pump on the windshield squirter was broken, so we ended up with some massive streaks.  It wasn’t that bad going up there, but on the way home it was dark, and that made matters much worse.  Guess I’ll be forced to get that replaced.  Soon.  Some day. 

After a quick stop at the Bay City WalMart (where else?) for something to drink, we located the storage facility.  It wasn’t really a Storage Wars thing.  We didn’t have to bid on anything.  In fact there weren’t even that many boxes to go through, but Chris did go through every one of them.  We had to transfer stuff into our own boxes that we brought anyway.  The buried treasure we ended up bringing home with us consisted of a lot of dishes and lamps.  I know that is grossly oversimplifying things, so let try to get specific about a few things.  First, we did get Chris’ grandfather’s old pipe.  It was the only artifact that her Mom had kept of him, so Chris was particularly glad to have found it.  The other significant find was a crystal bowl that had belonged to Chris’ grandmother.  Again, it was the only real souvenir left that for sure had belonged to her, so it was quite special as well.  After those two finds, everything else was like gravy on top or maybe dessert.

There was a set of dishes.  I think Chris called the pattern Desert Rose.  Apparently that is some kind of hard-to-find thing.  There may have been another set in there as well, but the Desert Rose is the only one I actually saw unwrapped samples of.  Amidst the china was a set or two of crystal glassware as well.  Oh, and a wine decanter and wine glasses that looked very pretty.  There may have been some other things in there, too.  I imagine I’ll be seeing them soon as Chris unwraps everything and designates which things go to her sister. 

There were also a bunch of lamps.  Her Mom collected Aladdin lamps.  Apparently the Aladdin designation is something special, but I rubbed a few of them and no genie ever appeared.  They are interesting items.  Some of them were kind of quirky looking, if you ask me.  Most of them were glass, but we also got two that were some kind of metal.  I was interested in looking at those more closely.  I kind of assumed that at least some of them were antiques.  But what do I know about lamps?  They may have been fresh out of the box for all I know.  A few of them did still have kerosene in them.  Nice and safe, right? We ended up bringing home six of those sterilite plastic tub boxes full of the dishes, and three boxes with the lamps. 

Now the only thing left to finally close out her Mom’s estate is the transfer of a little bit of stock and distribution of it among her siblings.  She is so ready for the whole ordeal to be over and done with.  Me too.

Psalms 119:14 says, “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.”

Father, I found it fascinating that the items Chris was most excited about finding were a tiny pipe and a small bowl.  Their value came not from monetary assignment, but from their ability to bring forth relationship recall.  That’s where true riches are found.  Amen.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 16 – “Lost”

We lost Fritz the other day.  No, he didn’t die or anything.  We just lost him.  Fritz is the younger of our two dogs, a jet black mix between a Boston terrier and a spitz.  At least that’s what the vet told us.  He still acts a lot like a puppy, much to the chagrin of our older dachshund, Heidi.  He tends to drive her crazy sometimes.  The other night I went to close up the back door for the night, but Fritz wasn’t in his usual place - by his kennel napping.  Heidi was there, but she didn’t offer any clues as to his whereabouts.  I naturally assumed he had gone outside, so I rattled the handle of the storm door, an action guaranteed to get his attention.  But nothing.  Now the only thing that brings him running faster than rattling that door handle is rattling the handle on the back door.  For some reason that one can bring him running no matter where he is.  But nothing.  Very unusual.  I flipped on the back porch light, but couldn’t see anything.  I went outside and made a walk-around calling his name.  But nothing.  By this time Chris was involved.  She turned on the deck lighting and checked up there.  But nothing.  I grabbed a flashlight and retraced my steps, shining it into bushes and crevices that are favorite relaxing places.  But nothing.  We double-checked the gate to make sure it had not been left open, but it was locked tight.  Chris went to the front yard and walked around out there.  But nothing.  And then on a hunch I tried one final place.  I remembered that earlier in the day I had gone into the garage to crush an aluminum can for our recycling bag.  The door to the garage from the inside as attached to where the dogs’ kennel is, so I thought I would check just to make sure.  And sure enough, when I opened the door, there stood ol’ Fritz, wagging his tail and chomping at the bit to get back inside.  He apparently snuck in behind me that afternoon and had not been quick enough to get back inside.  I never saw him.  All was well, though.  It gets too dark in there for his to do too much exploring, so he probably just slept the whole time.  Welcome back, Fritz.

Luke 15:3-7 says, “Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’”

Father, I can’t honestly say we were ready to have a party when we found Fritz, but we did sleep more soundly that night.  And losing, then finding him did give us a little more insight into this parable.  Thanks for that.  Amen.