Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31 – “Out with the old …”

We had a great visit from Mom’s two closest friends in the world yesterday.  Betty and Mildred (a.k.a. “Granma Texas”) came by for a visit.  Betty comes over at least once a week for our home group Bible Study.  Mildred, however, lives in Arkansas, so her presence was a special treat.  Mom really seemed to remember her, too.  And that is always a treat for us. 

Last night I was back at the hospital again.  My Uncle Jerry was admitted again a day or two after I got him home the last time.  This time his hands were so swollen that he couldn’t even pick anything up.  My cousin was able to be here for the bulk of the hospital stay, but he had to head back home to Florida, so I got the call for the ride home.  The doctors were baffled this time.  They did find a small blood clot in his shoulder.  He has had some trouble with clots before.  But they also said that was not what was causing this particular problem.  They were leaning toward “a rare and just-being-researched blood disorder.”  I’m not sure if that is just the university medical school version of “I dunno” or if there is really something to it.  After all, April ran into the same kind of thing when she was hospitalized with her strange illness.  I could do with some simple colds and flu for a change. 

So … New Year’s Eve … It’s out with the old and back to … well, the same old grind, actually.  I have water therapy today and Thursday.  Our property taxes and house insurances are all due this month.  Yes, that’s not a typo.  Here in Galveston we are “blessed” to have three separate policies to purchase for our homes.  The regular homeowners policy covers all the usual stuff (like fires and baseballs through the window), but it specifically excludes any damage from wind or flooding.  For those coverages we get to go through the state for windstorm (that would be any damage from high winds as tend to happen in a hurricane), and through the federal government for flood (that would be any damage from flooding as tends to happen in a hurricane).  Sigh.  Ah, the joys of living on a barrier island near the coast of Texas. 

So it’ll be a simple welcome to the New Year for us here at this Vaughan house.  Praying for a slow night for the fire fighters on duty.  Watching the Aggies play football.  Maybe a bowl of ice cream.  And to toast the New Year in?  I think we still have some grape juice in the fridge.  I know there’s some chocolate milk.  Or perhaps we could get really frisky and run up to Sonic for a cherry limeade slush.  Now that would be a real treat.

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Father, you showed yourself often in 2013.  We could sure use your presence again for this new one.  Amen. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30 – “Thinking ahead … to living”

Well, the kids officially made it back to their respective homes.  Of course they have other mini-trips to make before their Christmas season is over.  Nathan and April just returned from Corpus Christi.  Christi and her boys stayed in Crosby for a few extra days while Josh drove home to preach yesterday.  I think he realized how important it is for Christi to be with him.  I heard he actually got lost after he arrived in Waco.  He’s going back to get his family one day this week, I think.  Stay awake on the return trip, Christi.  Someone might need a navigator.  Kel and Christina have another celebration planned for New Year’s Day with her Mom.  Ah, the holidays seem to never end.  Except maybe here.  We spent our Sunday afternoon taking down all our decorations.  Tree, lights, nativity scenes, stockings, kneeling Santa figurines, bows, candy canes.  All put away and stored back up in the attic.  We still have couches and chairs to move back into their original positions.  At least I hope that’s where they are going.  Chris may have a different configuration in mind.  But for all intents and purposes, Christmas is over here at our house.  Time for a deep breath.  Time to look ahead.  Time to move on to whatever comes next. 

Ministering to a growing population at Seaside.  We had 62 people there this past Sunday, after 67 on Christmas Eve.  Lots of them have been newcomers to Jamaica Beach or the West End.  Many of them mention the church website.  Lots of children.  Exciting stuff.

Continuing my efforts to connect with the team of firefighters here in Galveston.  It has been fascinating to watch the teamwork at the two fires I have been to so far.  If I can get my strength up enough, I really hope to go on a ride-along this next year.  It’s hard to establish a routine schedule to visit the stations, since there are three shifts.  I’ll keep doing what I can when I can.

Caring for Mom through her struggles with aging.  She did pretty well through the holidays, but they also really took a toll on her.  When the last of the kids left the other day and it was just the three of us sitting on the couch, she asked, “Well, when can we go home?”  It has been hard for her ever since Hurricane Ike to understand that she is home with us now.  Then just the other day she asked me again when we were going home.  I assured her we were at home already.  She answered, “No, I mean home.  Back to Galveston, Texas.”  Again, I assured her we were in Galveston, but she was frustrated by then and just replied, “Oh, you know what I mean.”  I wish I did, Mom.  I really wish I did.

Dealing with my own aches and pains from rheumatoid arthritis and bulging disks (OK, go ahead and summarize that as my own problems with aging).  Actually, the arthritis fight is going pretty well.  The doctor added a twice monthly shot of some kind to my regimen.  That, in combination with the water therapy has helped a lot.  The bulging disk, on the other hand, has been a different kind of problem.  It is in the lumbar region, so when I stand straight with my shoulders back (yes, like you are supposed to stand), my right leg immediately begins to go numb.  I can twist slightly at the waist and bend just a bit forward, and the tingling goes away.  Sadly, that is a sensation I remember quite well from the three neck surgeries I have had (Except the numbness was in my arm then).  I am not looking forward to another visit with the neurologist or another MRI.  That means I’ll have to pay all of our deductible at one time, and after paying our taxes and insurance in January, we do not have $1500 laying around. 

Trying to be there for Chris as she takes care of Mom’s practical needs and deals with her own array of family ups and downs.  They seem to be close to reconciling her mother’s will, finally.  But now her Dad is having health issues.  Looks like her brother will be making arrangements to move him to Victoria near them.  All those issues have really taken a toll on her.  She a strong one, though.  Gotta love that woman.

Keeping up with the grandchildren developments.  We are still helping take care of Cailyn when Nathan and April both have to work.  We do our best to take in a football or baseball game or two when Jachin and Micah play, or at least be the place where Josiah and Noa can hang out rather than sit around in the weather.  We are poring over our calendar to set aside some visits to Waco to see Zak and Caleb play basketball and to just hold Luke before he gets too big to cuddle with. 

There’s a lot of life to live next year, and we plan to jump in with both feet and enjoy every minute.  Can’t imagine any other way. 

Philippians 3:13-14 says, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Father, walk with us next year.  One project at a time.  One day at a time.  Amen.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 29 – “Thinking ahead to … my funeral”

I attended a funeral in Houston yesterday.  It was one of the most unusual I have ever been to.  Well, other than some of the ones I have conducted.  There was no “officiant” as such.  A close family friend started everything off with some reminisces.  Then a business associate shared his thoughts from that perspective.  A sister-in-law then spoke as kind of an extended family representative.  Finally, the son and daughter shared their personal accounts of the journey they had been going through as primary caregivers.  That one was quite funny, by the way.  They have been posting their thoughts on FaceBook over the last few months, and I have been following it.  Very creative stuff.  You could really get a sense of the caring and commitment and appreciation among the family members and close friends.  I did miss hearing about Jesus, though.  Interesting how you come to expect certain things at funerals and weddings and other cultural events, and when they are missing it seems so glaring.

Over the years I have come to a decision about funerals.  They should not be gloomy and weepy at all, but celebratory and expectant.  At least that’s how I want mine to be.  Oh, tears are fine.  There is the element of separation involved, and that certainly leads to grieving.  But that’s where Jesus comes in with his promises of hope, and we’re back to joy and celebration again. 

So … my funeral.  If I was going to be there and have a say in planning it, there are a few things I would consider.  No ties.  Just casual all the way for everyone.  That includes me.  If you’re gonna put a tie on me, I’d better be in my fire department uniform (if I have one by then).  Sing Joy to the World.  Great song at any time of year.  Tell a lot of stories.  They don’t have to be about me; just make them funny.  And food.  Somebody bring donuts to the service.  Have a cup of coffee.  Make some chocolate milk for the kids.  It would be great for my sons or grandkids to do something wildly unexpected.  Be creative, guys.  Maybe someone from Seaside could stand on his head.  Or some University Hills guys could play hacky sack around the coffin.  I never could get good at that.  The South Oaks people could wear fake beards.  Anybody left from Woodland could host a cake decorating contest in the foyer.  And the Langwood clan could sing Christmas carols at the door of the bathroom anytime anyone went in.  Oh, and the folks from Segunda Iglesia Bautista could translate it all into Spanish.

Of course, the bottom line is … I won’t be there at my funeral.  I’ll be doing some celebrating of my own with Jesus.  So I have told Chris and the boys to have a party and not worry about what I would have wanted.  Except for this … what I want is for them to do whatever will best touch their need.    

1 John 5:11-13 says, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Father, thank you for the peace that comes from not having to worry about eternity.  I can’t keep up with the worries here on earth, so it really helps to hang on to the eternal perspective.  Amen.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 28 – “Immortalized in Trivia”

Well, well, well.  Kel and Christina and their family headed back to LaMarque.  Josh and Christi and their boys went on to the other in-laws in Crosby.  Nathan and April and Cailyn went to Corpus Christi to see April’s Dad and grandparents.  Mom asked when we were leaving to go home, too.  The silence was deafening.  And almost immediately I started coughing and feeling rather puny.  But I have a funeral to attend today up in Houston, and preaching to do on Sunday before I have time to be sick.  I am counting on my usual body clock of feeling good in the mornings and crashing in the afternoons.

I noticed that several of my friends and relatives checked off something from their bucket lists recently.  They went to see some orchestra from Siberia.  Did I get that right?  I have never been, but I hear it is quite impressive.  Well, I can check something off my own bucket list as well.  I am now officially the answer to a trivia question.  Of course the question probably ranks right up there with “What actor played one of the bodyguards in the movie Thor?”  Or “What was the name of the fire fighter in the red bunker hat who rescued the second kitten from the Great Galveston Christmas Eve fire of 2013?”  Pretty obscure information, I know.

The hot story came out in today’s Galveston Daily News.  They challenged readers as to how well they have been keeping up with “the most interesting stories involving churches and faith in Galveston County in 2013.”  As I said, I know that’s a pretty narrow category that will never make it to a Jeopardy round, but it is still part of the Daily News “Annual Year-end Quiz.”  Even came with a picture.  What was my claim to fame?  Here it is in case you blinked on that page and missed it:

     “3) Police chaplains have long been common in Texas, but after a number of serious losses struck fire departments across the state, there may be more fire departments also seeking such counsel.
     This year a local pastor, whose son is a Galveston firefighter, took up spiritual responsibility for the island’s fire department.
     The firefighters call him ‘Chappie,’ but what is his full name and what church does he lead?”

I have been immortalized. 

1 Corinthians 15:51-57 says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ 
‘Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Father, thank you that real immortality is not garnered through trivia questions and bucket lists and appearances in the newspaper.  Thank you for real victory through Jesus.  Amen.

Friday, December 27, 2013

December 27 – “A Cousins’ Christmas Sleepover”

Our house right now is a massive, messy, marvelous mixture of Legos and GI Joes and pizza crusts and sleeping bags and candy cane wrappers and pillows and donuts and clothes and Christmas bags and, well … children.  That can mean only one thing.  Actually it could mean numerous things.  Perhaps another hurricane hit.  Maybe Chris got too sick to clean house (Well, you wouldn’t expect me to clean it, would you?).  Maybe we are getting ready to have a huge garage sale.  Or maybe … Yep.  Last night was the big cousins’ sleepover at Nani and DadDad’s house.  And they were all here.  And all except Noa actually spent the night here.  Jachin and Micah and Zakary and Caleb and Josiah and Luke.  And that one pink sleeping bag must belong to Cailyn. 

Kel and Christina and Josh and Christi were here most of the evening as well.  I left at one point to go pick up Uncle Jerry.  He was released from the hospital after quite a scare left him spending Christmas Day with the UTMB staff.  Turned out the only thing they found for sure was that he was dehydrated.  On the way home he asked if he could come by and see the kids, so he joined us for some pizza.  He seemed to relish the chaos, but I finally got him home and settled in there. 

By the time I got back home, the family room floor was covered with sleeping bags and grandchildren.  The first movie was playing.  It was one of Chris’ Christmas presents – Monsters University.  Following shortly thereafter, Cailyn picked out Polar Express.  Nani declared that it would be the perfect way to end the last cousins’ sleepover of the year.  That led to a brief period of nostalgia for the oldest, Jachin.  He was quite sad.  Why?  Because he suddenly realized that it would be 363 more days before he would get more presents.  But he got over it amidst the homemade trail mix of popcorn and M&M’s and goldfish (the cracker kind, not the seafood).  Cailyn was the first to give in and fall asleep, prompting a few “cousinly-love” comments about her snoring.  Surprisingly, Josiah was one of the last to go.  He was determined to “be like the big guys.” 

The “next morning” part of this family ritual involved the first one awake going with me to get donuts.  And once again the winner was Micah.  When we returned from the donut shop, he asked me to set the donuts down on the front porch.  Intrigued, of course I complied.  He calmly picked up the bag, flew open the front door, and announced, “Look, Nana.  I found something on the front porch.  The Donut Man left some donuts.”  Ah, yes.  We must maintain the secrecy element of the mysterious “Donut Man.” The rest of the morning consisted of a rousing round of “Luke Watching” (the newest fun game that is more exciting that watching TV, because you never know what he is going to do.  The only game comparable according to Micah is “Noa Watching” for pretty much the same reasons), running away from the giant Dad monster (Josh), and howling like a band of runaway wolves.  The frivolity continued until the Moms and Nani’s insisted that teeth needed to be brushed and pajamas needed to be stored away and clothes had to be changed and shoes had to be located and sleeping bags must be rolled up and … well, you get the idea.  Never a dull moment in the Vaughan Family.  Nope.  Not here.

Psalms 115:14-15 says, “May the Lord make you increase, both you and your children.  May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Father, thank you for the way you have blessed me and my sons.  Now, please, keep the blessings coming for their sons and daughters as well.  Amen.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

December 26 – “Chaos and Christmas lists”

Phew.  The day after Christmas and you would think things would finally begin to slow down.  So far … not so much.  I stopped by two of the fire stations on my way home from church Christmas Eve.  Seaside gives away boxes of donuts to people who have to work on the holiday.  I had a chance to check out the brand new, very relaxing, very leather recliners at station 7.  It was hard to leave there.  Very soft.  Then I dropped a box off at station 4.  They had just had a good supper.  How do I know?  Because I was sent home with some leftovers.  Enchiladas and bean soup made from scratch.  Lemon cake.  Very good stuff.  Sure helps to have great cooks when you have to work on Christmas.  Josh and Christi and their boys were here and joined us at the service, so we have been in grandkids mode for a few days now.  Our Christmas Day yesterday was a really great one.  Nathan had his one Christmas Day off every four years, so all of our children and grandchildren were together in one place at the same time.  Can’t beat that for a Christmas present.  And it’s not over yet.  They grandkids will all be back over today for the highly anticipated “cousins sleepover.”  Oh, and I forgot to mention that I spent most of Christmas morning in the emergency room with my uncle Jerry.  He had some kind of infection that was causing him to be in excruciating pain.  Sadly, he ended up spending his Christmas Day in the hospital. 

Now I have to hurry on to share something from our Galveston newspaper.  No, Travis Hill and Ryan Schaefer, I’m not going to mention that you got your picture in the paper administering oxygen to that little kitty y’all saved from the fire the other day.  Although I did notice, Ryan, that you were careful to leave your mask on for the photo shoot.  And who was that mystery man in the third photo, the one with the red hat? 

The Galveston paper publishes kids’ letters to Santa every year.  This year there were some very “interesting” ones.  I have categorized some of their requests and even made some comments on a few.  Check out what Galveston kids want for Christmas:

I can relate:
AquaMan, Batman and Iron Man.  (Two out of three isn’t bad.  But sadly, Iron Man is not real.  Wrong universe, young man.  Stick to DC.)
Super hero stuff (that’s the safe way to go, I guess)
All I want for Christmas is Blay Blay fire truck, and a garbage truck. (ah, a young man after my own heart.  I used to drive a garbage truck on the beach, and now I work with the fire department)

Things I never heard of:
Scunci girl bow gift set
Zummer Dog
Stompeez house shoes
Inkoos (Wait.  I have to take this one off the list.  Cailyn got one.  It’s a stuffed pillow you can write on, put in the washing machine, and write on it again.  Still kind of odd, though)
Hex Ba-Gnomo-V2  (No, there are no typos.  I carefully copied everything)
Boom boom balloon
Jake the Pirate boat  (Maybe Captain Hook’s competition?)
Pinkie Cooper and the jet set pets
Horse Castle they Rock
A book called nerds 2 “M is for mama’s boy” (Good.  A book.  I think.)
Edward Paxton and Fearless Freddie (Are these the superheros of the next generation?)
Frozen dools (What, pray tell, is a dool?)
Heelys (I think I went to school with a guy named Heely)
Wow-wee Roboraptor
2-P.K ploderz face off x3 (that has to be code for something)
Baby Aives

Big on TV:
Monster High inflatable slumber bed
Monster High games for my DS  (Monster High stuff I have seen, but still don’t understand.  Zombies go to high school?)
Hello Kitty cosmetics (That cat pops up everywhere)
Elmo Rockstar (So does that little red beastie)
Skylanders (These are from video game land, right?)
Power Ranger  (I thought these guys were canceled years ago)
Ralph Lauren shirts (Just print off a tag and pin it to a shirt from WalMart.  How different could they be, really?)
Lebron shoes (Ah.  Basketball.  Bet the kid has never heard of Michael Jordan)
Air Max and Kevin Durant shoes (I sense a little one on one action with the Lebron guy)
Labrons, Labrons socks, and Labron (I think this guy will win.  He went for Lebron’s whole wardrobe and Lebron himself)
I want everything on the commercials on TV (Aaaand that sums up this category)

Holiday Barbie (Is she still around?)
Hot wheels (Been around for years.  Can’t argue with the best)
Legos (Of course.  And now they come themed.  Kind of defeats the creative purpose, though)
Chutes and Ladders  (Now you’re talking.  Classic games)
Monopoly (No more need be said here)
Twister (Fun for all ages)
CandyLand game  (No reading necessary)
Grey jet plane (didn’t know where else to put this one)
The dolly that sings “Ring around the rosie” (Don’t know about the doll, but the son’s been around for a few hundred years)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle set  (Learn from the classical artists – Leonardo and the gang)
Thomas the Train set (Another in a long line of talking inanimate objects)
My Little Pony (Poor substitute for My Real Pony, but not nearly as expensive)
Bike (well … yes)
Play-Doh (The ultimate in creativity training)

Boots (Cowboy?  Work?  Knee length girl boots?)
Clothes, my size is 8-10 jeans (Always helpful for Santa)
Some learning toys to help me learn my alphabet, colors and numbers please (Go ahead and say it … aww, how sweet)
Some money - $200 (Well, there you go.  Instant happiness?  Not for me.  I want someone to think about my present.  Prove you know me)
Elite socks (as opposed to common socks?)
Gym shorts, basketball, football and toys (back to the realm of athletics)
Polo shirts and basketball goal (Polo is athletics, right?  He can wear them while shooting baskets)
My own room  (Sounds like a first-born’s request to me)
P.S. a Furbie and a cell phone  (How about an antique phone wired to the wall?)

Babies, barbies, and a guitar (Not an unusual request.  I just like the lyrical ring to it. 
            Reminds me of a country song)
I love you Ho Ho (That’s one of my personal favorites)
We have your presents that you gave us 2 years ago (Perhaps a world record)
I would like a whistle, a new drum (Gonna be noisy around their house), drum sticks (to eat
or hit the new drum with?), weed eater, lawn mower, hedger, chain saw (now you’re talking, youngster.  Power tools.  Aarr, aarr, aarr), a coloring desk. 
(Oh, and this guy’s only 4 years old)
Candy, toys, phone, ring, necles, gift card, money, and a nice note (A nice note?  Where did that come from?)

From the animal kingdom:
I want to get a chicken set. (What’s that?!  I think I want one, too)
I want a little elephant that stase little forever.  I want a little monkey that stase little
forever, I want a little rat that stase little forever, I want a little ginnypig that stase little forever.  I want a little mice with toys and a little goat.  (Hope she has a really big room)
My birthday is Christmas Eve and all year all I want is a little puppy.  Not too big to
push me over or pull me when I start to walk.  Some dog with a wagging tail & lots of kisses. (This kid was listed as turning one on Christmas Eve.  Somehow I think maybe Mom was projecting some fantasies from her childhood here)
1.  I want a horse but a baby pony that would never grow big I hope you can do that for
            me and I gust want for all of them a little house for all of them and land.
            2.  I want a tiny monkey and it won’t get big I would take care of it and my pony
            so I hope you get it please. 
            And after a lapse where some actual toys were mentioned …
            4.  I want a Little Mouse for Christmas he would be so adorable for me and I
            would love them and they would have a nice home.

Medical requests:
People to be happy and healthy.
Cure for my astma attucks.
Nobody to get sick or hurt on Christmas Day.
For my family to be happy and I will pick my mom some flowers (Nice touch with the flowers)

Thinking beyond yourself:
Please bring Granma Simmons something nice for helping me with this letter.
A place where homeless people can sleep softly in Texas City, and maybe even have food.  Please!
There’s only 2 things I want, a Xbox 360 kinect or a razor skoter or world peace.  Not that good at counting, but an admirable addition.

Where’s the Kleenex?:
I want my Daddy to come home please.  I miss him.
The last and the biggest, Please I would like is my Dad to come back.  Please I miss him.

And finally, into the spiritual realm:
I love you so much.  I’m sorry for the things I’ve done.  Please forgive me. (Talking to the wrong guy there.  Let me introduce you to the Right Guy ...)

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Father, thank you for being “the Right Guy.” Amen.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 25 – “A Christmas Eve fire”

Structure fire number two is under my belt now, and sadly, it happened on Christmas Eve.  I heard the call on my phone and after listening to the radios for a few minutes, Chris encouraged me to go on.  It took me ten or fifteen minutes to get there, so there were no longer any visible flames when I arrived, which is a good thing.  But the fire was far from out.  Smoke still billowed from the eaves and the vent at the top of the house.

Engines one and two as well as Tower one and rescue truck one all arrived pretty quickly.  Fast enough that two of the rookies were able to experience their first ever “first on the scene” fire.  Will and John both proved themselves admirably, and I suppose crossing that threshold make them “old hands” now.  Still listening in on the radio, it sounded like engine five was next on the scene.  I heard engine four first move to cover for station five, but they soon ended up on the scene as well.  And before long engine seven rolled up along with … wait a minute.  Engine nine?  I am guessing that was a reserve vehicle.  It really turned into an “all hands on deck” fire.

The couple who owned the house lived there alone with their two cats.  They made it out fine quite early on, so the rescue squad could breathe somewhat easier.  The fire wasn’t about to make anything easy, though.  Several of the guys explained to me that because of the “balloon construction” of the house, there was no fire break between the two floors or attic.  That made it possible for the fire to jump quickly throughout the house.  And it reaching the attic made it especially difficult.  Every time they knocked it back, it would return to the floor below and start up again.  Smoke kept billowing from the attic for a long time until some guys were able to get a ladder to the roof, crawl through the thick smoke, and cut a vent hole in the roof.  That apparently pulled the fire away from the walls, and it wasn’t long until the smoke dissipated.  Meanwhile, teams on the ground were struggling with hot spots that kept flaring up.  It was important to get into the locked garage, because there were two vehicles in there.  Fire Chief Wisko was on the scene, and he even suited up in his bunker gear and pitched in to get the doors down and do what could to help.  Battalion Chief Rourke once again did an admirable job coordinating everything.  I was impressed with the work of fire fighter Dixon manning the truck and especially with Captain Varela.  He was able to sense ahead of time just what the guys fighting the fire would need.  By the time they turned to ask for a particular tool, he was already on his way toward them, tool in hand.  I encouraged Captain Varela about just that knack.  He answered, “Thanks, but I’m a captain.  I just wanted to be in there with my guys.” 

After the fire the guys were talking about the specifics of who did what and when and why.  It was fascinating.  They even shared a lot with me and said they appreciated me being there.  They were debriefing each other and educating me at the same time.  It was quite a humbling experience to be allowed into their world for those brief moments.  And it certainly gave me some insight on how to better pray for them and their families. 

Oh, and one final comment from Engineer Anderson summed up the day.  “No one was hurt and we saved both cats.”  And I understand they even used the new pet breathing apparatus on one of them.  That puts the emphasis where it belongs, Cody.  Life and relationships.  Even if the relationships are with cats.  After all, the felines were family as far as that couple was concerned. 

John 11:25-26 says, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”

Father, thank you for the life you gave me and for the relationships you have sprinkled into it to make it interesting.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 24 – “Missing the monkeys”

I was walking out of WalMart yesterday when I noticed an older guy with white hair sitting on one of those little benches they have by the door.  I was already in people watching mode.  After all, it was Christmas Eve eve, so there were plenty of people out shopping at the last minute.  And in Galveston the options for where you do that shopping are quite limited.  Anyway, his white hair screamed at me as someone fairly close to my own generation, so I made eye contact and nodded a typical Texas “hey” greeting.  It has been my experience that in most cases people tend to respond quite favorably to simple expressions of greeting.  That response tends to increase dramatically with the age of the responder. 

This guy responded almost immediately with, “You’re Mr. Vaughan, aren’t you?”  Well, there it was.  Again.  Someone recognized and I had no idea where I might even know the guy from.  Happens to me a lot.  Most of the time the person has visited Seaside, but in that case he usually calls me Pastor Kelley.  This was clearly a “Mr. Vaughan.”  I pulled my cart to a stop to engage him in conversation.  I’m always fascinated by where he might know me from.  He introduced himself, but the name didn’t ring any bells at all.  Just as I was about to ask him where in the world he knew me from, he chuckled and said, “You are Nate’s father, aren’t you?” 

OK.  That told me volumes right there.  Only a very few people over the course of his life have actually called my youngest son Nate.   A few basketball teammates.  One guy who used to be a youth worker at Seaside.  One Coast Guard guy who we kind of adopted for a time when he was stationed here in Galveston.  Obviously he was none of those or I would have recognized him right away.  But there is one other point of connection where “Nate” is in common usage.  The fire department.  That’s where I chose to stick my neck out and asked, “So you know him from …”  But he finished my sentence for me.  “… from the fire department.”  Seems this guy retired about the time Nathan came on board at Galveston Fire and Rescue.  I asked him if retirement was suiting him or if he missed anything.  He assured me he had a job that kept him busy, and he added a comment along the lines of “I miss the monkeys but not the zoo.”  I think I understood his meaning.  He talked about the camaraderie of the department and even humbled me a bit when he said he was truly glad the department had a real chaplain.  Little bit of pressure there from the retired guy.  Just what I needed for an early Christmas present.  We talked for a few more minutes, and I’m still not sure how or why he recognized me, but it was good to meet him.  Inspired me.  Maybe I’ll have a chance to get to know some of the other retired guys and learn how I can minister to them as well.  Hmm.

1 Peter 5:5-7 says, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’
            Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Father, walk with the retired fire department guys.  Keep them safe and healthy and worry-free and able to enjoy life.  Oh, and provide them with some “monkeys” to hang out with.  Amen.

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23 – “Looking for Love”

It was a great day at church yesterday.  I had a chance to share the gospel not just with  the whole crowd but also in detail with a young man from Georgia who was attending the first church service that he could remember … ever.  He came in kind of scared about what to expect and what would be expected of him.  Interesting perspective.  He’s heading back to Georgia with a little less fear and a determination to continue his investigation.  Pray for him as God does some drawing work now.

The kids were on again during the Kids’ Sermon.  It was the fourth Sunday in Advent, so the theme for the day was love.  I intended to do a quick run-through of the five love languages written about by Chapman.  But first I asked them what love looked like, how do you show someone you love them?  The answers were amazing.  Very first one was, “You kiss them.”  I asked the little guy to repeat it a bit louder, and he quickly added, “Or maybe hug them.”  Both of those work as expressions of physical touch love.  One little girl shyly squeaked out, “I clean my room.”  And there was number two.  Either she or her Mom has an “acts of service” bent in their love expression.  I helped recognize quality time as an act of love.  It wasn’t too hard, though.  After all, who doesn’t like to have someone spend time playing with them?  It also never occurred to them that actually saying kind words might be a way to show someone they are loved.  That might have been because there was only one girl in the bunch.  Guys are the greatest in the world at communication.  I guess that starts early.  The final one was easy for them, though.  Didn’t need any coaching at all.  It came out of the mouth of the guy who mentioned hugging and kissing, so that one has a head start on making someone a happy wife.  His suggestion?  “Give them a present.”  And immediately we heard as well, “My daddy already gave me a present.”  And “So has mine.”  There you go.  Giving gifts is indeed a way of expressing love. 

And the incredible thing about discovering all those ways of loving?  God has shown us love in every one of those ways.  He became a man (Jesus) so he could spend time with us and physically touch us.  He did some pretty spectacular acts of service in healing and he even washed his disciples’ feet.  In his teachings he spoke some of the kindest words ever uttered.  Things like “My peace I give you,” and “… have everlasting life.”  And he himself became the greatest gift of all time – a baby in a manger who grew up to die and rise again so we could have a love relationship with him and live forever.  Whew.  You literally can’t get any better than that.

John 15:9-14 says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Father, I am amazed every day at your incredible love.  Thank you.  Amen.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22 – “Family is family”

Yesterday was the Vaughan Family Party.  That’s a gathering of my relatives that has been happening for as long as I can remember.  It essentially involves the branches of the family tree that trace back to my Dad’s mother and father.  They were affectionately known as Nani V (for Vaughan, of course) and Gramps.  None of us knew Gramps very well.  He died after a heart attack while I was still quite a tiny twig of a thing.  It is the families of their children who have been gathering for so many years.  My Dad and Mom along with their three boys, his sister, Aunt Betty and Uncle Al and their five boys and one girl, and Uncle Jerry and Aunt Mary and their two girls and one boy.  Add into the mix all the families that came from those children, and you have the makings of one very large gathering at Christmas.  We used to do the whole draw names for gifts thing, but over the years that has evolved into a simple white elephant style ornament exchange.  Dad and Uncle Al and Aunt Mary have all died, and many of the kids have moved far away, from College Station to Florida to Chicago to Maryland to Seattle to Phoenix, and other points I don’t even know about, I’m sure.  What began as a hostess rotation of sorts between Mom and Betty and Mary has been handed down to the next generation.  The crowd is thinner, but the connection is still there.  After all, family is family.

We drove through the most recent monsoon to get to my brother’s house in Houston.  The three remaining “Old Guard” were there: Jerry, Betty, and Mom, although we were an hour and a half late.  It took a long time to get Mom going, and the rain and wrecks along the way really slowed us down even more.  Six of the original cousins made it, and even a few from our third generation graced us with their presence.  None of our kids made it this year.  Too many scheduling conflicts. 

We shared some good tamales and chili and a table full of sweets before doing the ornament exchange.  It was a bit more spirited this year than it has been.  Lots of stealing and trading going on to get at just the right one.  Popular this year were a Navaho bead keychain (Chris got that one), a dog that looked eerily similar to my brother’s (and he got that one), a decorated palm tree (I tried for that one, but Uncle Jerry snared it from me), and a tiny little stuffed fox (don’t know who ended up with it, but I know where to get another one). 

Chris drove us through our neighborhood when we got home so Mom could look at the Christmas lights.  The neighborhood is coming back nicely.  Gonna have to talk to our good ol’ fire chief, though.  No lights on his house.  You could see his tree through the front window, though.  I’ll give him that one.  At least he’s not a total Grinch.  Just kidding, Mike.

We watched a little bit of high school football on TV before heading for bed.  Mom was pretty sore, but I think she slept well last night.  Ah, the holidays.  One more event down.  On to the next.  And that will be … well, church today.  Fourth Sunday in Advent.  Love emphasis.  Then Christmas Eve service on Tuesday at six.  I’m beginning to understand more and more the sentiment of Revelation 22:20 –

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Father, thank you for the families you have given me … all of them.  The one I was born into and had a hand in creating … and the church … and the fire department.  Bring them all happiness this Christmas season.  Amen.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 21 – “Female DNA”

Chris drew the Cailyn duty card yesterday.  I hung out with Mom while she went up to the school for Cailyn’s Christmas party to end the school year.  We were very curious what they would actually do for a Christmas party.  At Halloween the party consisted of the Big Three: candy, cupcakes, and more candy, and they were allowed to dress up in appropriate costumes.  We knew they had discussed Hannukah already, but you never know when it comes to Christmas.  It’s always the “in thing” to be offended by all things Christmas.  To their credit going in, they had already shown the kids a special treat: The Charlie Brown Christmas video.  As far as I know they didn’t censor Linus’ incredible recitation of the Christmas story from Luke.  I was extremely happy about that.    Chris’ take on the party itself was that it was remarkably low-key.  No Christmas decorations other than snow.  The food was pizza, always a winter holiday favorite.  Hey, pizza is a favorite no matter what the season.  And of course they had the ever resourceful cupcakes.  And that was about it.  Keep it simple.  Less to clean up.  The kids had a great time, though.

After the party the two of them left for an excursion into Texas.  Chris has some things she needed to pick up at Hobby Lobby, and Cailyn was overjoyed at the prospect of going shopping with Nani.  A little too overjoyed.  And it wasn’t so much the quality time with Nani as it was the shopping.  That girl is only four years old.  It must come in the DNA make-up of a female to love shopping.  Good luck with that one, Nathan.  Upon their return I asked Cailyn how the shopping trip went, and she replied, “I was really good at Hobby Lobby.”  Well, OK.  And what exactly does “really good” mean?  Chris filled in the blanks for me.  She held onto the basket and used her manners.  Admirable job.  It resulted in Cailyn picking out some material for a skirt that the two of them then made.  The material was very sheer red stuff that looked like it was full of glitter.  Chris managed to create a kind of overskirt thing that looked like a dance of the seven veils kind of thing.  It was quite pretty, actually.  Cailyn came up with the idea of creating a bow for her hair that would match the dress.  Quite the fashionista.  Again I say, Good luck with that one, Nathan.

The other big news from yesterday?  I was eating some leftover pizza when I heard a snap or crack.  It was pizza, so I knew it wasn’t some cereal talking back to me.  A second bite confirmed my suspicions.  I chipped a tooth eating some leftover pizza. Not sure how.  It was just part of what was left of a tooth that had a filling.  The filling is still there and appears to be holding strong, as is the rest of the tooth.  It was a little sensitive when I brushed my teeth last night, but not overly so.  The dentist was all booked up yesterday, so I have an appointment Monday morning.  Great way to spend Christmas, right?  At the dentist.  Can’t wait.

Luke 1:30-33 says, “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’”

Father, thank you for special, “just the two of them” times for Chris and Cailyn.  Amen.

Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20 – “Deep breath day”

I think today gets to be a deep-breath day.  At least I hope so.  Our white elephant party last night was a lot of fun.  A few folks who went to Seaside years ago came back for the festivities.  One who now lives in Texas City brought her new husband to introduce.  I think he’s from South Africa.  Another now lives in Friendswood, and a third returned from California.  Felt like Paul and Silas returning to the church in Antioch to check in before taking off again.  Great to see those guys again.  The food everyone brought was amazing, from Chris’ cheese ball to fried chicken to the pizza that finally arrived. 

Everyone worked hard on the Christmas trivia quiz, but there just seemed to be one or two or ten of those questions that were just too obscure.  After Linus read us the Christmas story and we prayed, the gift exchange had some memorable moments.  Cory fired his catapult at Mama Chris when she approached him to relieve him of it.  The mystery electronic elf who can make up a story about you based on questions you provide answers to was definitely intriguing.  Mom loved the little blue stuffed monkey she ended up with.  By far the most coveted items fell into the swine category, however.  Jennifer ended up with the four little piggy banks she desperately wanted.  And come to find out she had returned and re-gifted the rubber pig she got last year.  Now that was quite an animal as well.  Squeeze that one and it made a snorting, grunting sound just like the real thing.  Quite a find.  It was one of the four or five presents that our guest from South Africa ended up opening. People must have liked him so much they wanted him to have the joy of opening lots of presents.  And the pig was no different.  Rita ended up with little Arnold this year. 

As far as I know the only thing we have to do today (as in “required, obligatory, compulsory”) today is go to Cailyn’s Christmas party at her school.  Now that’s the kind of necessity that I can get excited about.  Of course I’m sure my day will also consist of sermon preparation (after Sunday I still have to get ready for Christmas Eve service and then for the following Sunday), Mom support (she is still groaning in pain after her fall), my own constant twisting and turning (to ease the tingling in my leg), and whatever I can do to help Chris out (she is fighting a cough right now that we don’t want to expand into anything more, especially since Luke and Caleb and Zak are coming over next week).  Not to mention fielding any calls I receive (if my phone will start working correctly again.  It’s been receiving calls, but not telling me anything about it until much later.  Kind of defeats the purpose) and monitoring the fire department traffic on my phone ap (at least that has worked fine).  I could have started my day out with an extra water therapy class at 6:45, but I decided last night that I just needed a somewhat restful day.  Hmm.  Sounds vaguely familiar.  Day of rest.  Seems to me Someone else thought that may be a good idea a long time ago. 

Exodus 20:8-11 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Father, thank you for pointing out the need for rest.  Forgive me when I ignore it for so long.  Amen.