Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31 – “Firecracker”

Cailyn made an announcement yesterday.  No, not about a little sibling or anything like that.  She just wanted to inform us that her Mommy is really just eighteen years old.  And that would make her Daddy just nineteen.  Apparently I didn’t look all that convinced, though, because she backtracked just a bit and asked, “How old IS my Daddy?”  She figured I would know, since I was his Daddy and all.  She has always been fascinated by those familial connections.  When I told her that I thought he was more like 29, she pondered it for a few seconds, even barely audibly muttering, “The would mean Mommy is 28, but …”  I waited to see where this would end up.  Finally she made her decision.  “DadDad, I guess you’re right.  Daddy really is 29.  But not Mommy.  Mommy is just 18.”  Ah.  Trained her well, April.

Over the course of our parenting and pastoring career, we have watched countless practices and games of soccer, t-ball, Little League baseball, more basketball than I can even count, and even some football.  Yesterday we had our very first taste of cheerleading.  I’m not sure if you can count it as a sport at Cailyn’s level, but they did have a full-blown practice.  When we first arrived, though, Cailyn was acting a bit shy.  She didn’t really want to join the other girls.  So we, being the awesome grandparents that we are, walked with her over to the noisy gathering.  I heard her name being called at check-in, so I answered for her.  Now we were in this for the long haul.  The first order of business was “our little warmup jog.”  Ah, surely she would have no trouble with this one.  The crowd disappeared around the corner of the building.  And she didn’t move.  They began the trot around the boys practicing football.  Still she didn’t move.  So my instincts kicked in.  What else could I do?  I started jogging and challenged her to just try and beat me.  Hey, it always worked with the boys.  And it took a stride or two, but the competitive juices finally kicked in.  She took off way ahead of me.  I really thought I would be able to ease off and walk back over to the building, but no.  She kept looking over her shoulder to make sure I was chasing her.  Great.  All the way around the football practice field.  At least I had shorts on.  Shorts and Teva sandals.  And as we rounded the final turn, one of the fire fighters who was there watching his son practice football “encouraged” us for the last segment.  Thanks for the support, Jarod.  Did we make it?  Of course.  Anything for the youngsters. 

I figured after that breakthrough that Cailyn would be good to go.  Not so much.  They started their warmup exercise and stretching routine, and she again balked.  Wonderful.  I pulled out the last of my tricks and dared her, “I will if you will.”  What was I thinking?  She looked at me with a mirthful grin and said, “You will really do it, too?”  I assured her I would and made a valiant attempt to get into stretching mode.  She chuckled a bit, but was still a little reluctant.  The pulling a leg up into your chest stretch got my attention.  I told her that was one of the exercises we do in my water therapy class, so she jumped in.  Guess she figured if all those old geezers can do it, then I can, too.  She even eased her way over to the rest of the girls.  She did keep an eye on me for a while, though, to make sure I was still doing my part.  I followed along until the stretches got downright unreasonable.  But by that time she was talking with the girls next to her and having a good time.  Whew.  Am I ever sore today.  But if you want to hear a good cheer, I happen to know one.  “Firecracker, firecracker, …”

Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”

Father, thank you warm-ups and stretches and cheers and encouragement.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30 – “Two”

Chris has been spending some extra time with Kel’s kids lately.  As a result we are experiencing a little more of the wisdom of Noa as well as the exploits of Josiah.  Just two quick examples before I head off fishing.

Noa is learning some words now that she is up and walking all over the place.  She has been doing some sign language already, so the words aren’t far behind.  She definitely says Mama.  Often.  Especially when Mama isn’t around.  That’s to be expected.  She also says DadDad.  Now, I’m not talking about a glitch in the program, stuck needle kind of repeated version of Daddy.  That’s clearly a different second syllable.  This one is DadDad.  No mistake.  Also to be expected, right?  Well, the other dfay as Kel and Christina completed the task of getting Noa’s shoes on, the little tyke stood up, took a long, admiring look at the works of art engulfing her toes, and proclaimed, “Pretty.”  As they stared at each other in disbelief and muttered, “She just said ‘pretty,’” Noa smiled and toddled off.  Oh my.  Always a dangerous thing when a girl of any age says “pretty.” 

And Josiah is the tough as nails three year old who thinks he is the Incredible Hulk.  This is the youngster who closed his eyes while riding his bike to see if that was his super power.  It wasn’t.  He ran into a railing.  Just the other day at the playground he flew down the slide and somehow managed to slice open his chin, a classic boy injury.  The blood actually slowed him down some, though.  They taped it back together for a few days, and he was back to his usual daredevil self.  Then just the other day he was again at the playground – a different one, mind you.  I guess he felt that he had to break it in as well.  At one point he ran by Christina who noticed something a bit unusual, so she cried out, “Wait, wait, wait, wait a minute.”  He screeched to a stop and reluctantly plodded over to her.  Sure enough he had the makings of an impending black eye and bruise on the side of his face.  “What in the world happened?” the concerned Mom asked.  And Josiah replied, “Oh, it’s OK, Mom.  I just ran into the pole.  But it’s OK.  It’ll be just fine.  Don’t worry.”  Uh-huh.  Try getting that one past any Mom on the planet.  But, hey, that’s our little Incredible Hulk.  He’s gonna be one tough bodyguard for his little sister.

1 John 5:2 says, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”

Father, watch over Noa as she begins her vocabulary journey.  And keep a special watch over Josiah as he … well, as he lives.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29 – “Pharmacy versus Doctor’s Office”

Ah, the continuing saga of the pharmacy versus the doctor’s office.  Who really is to blame, anyway?  I ran out of two of the medications I am on over the weekend.  One is for rheumatoid arthritis and the other is for nerve pain from spinal stenosis and a bulging disk.  Boy, saying those two things in the same sentence sure makes me sound like I’m falling apart, doesn’t it?  And I didn’t even mention the concussion and its residual soreness.  One of the meds I did manage to pick up first thing Monday morning.  It was the one that is supposed to arrest or slow down the progression of the rheumatoid arthritis.  That one is difficult every time I refill it because I have to take so many of them.  Six a day.  It’s not hard for the pharmacy to get them, but they never keep that large a supply on hand.  So I try to give them a little heads up time before I need them.  That was all that happened with that one.  I just had to wait until they had enough.

But the other one was a bit of a different story.  When I picked up the first one I asked about the status of the other.  That one they needed to have approval from the doctor’s office before they refilled.  Fine.  I understand that process.  That’s why I called it in a week ahead of time.  They checked their records and told me they had faxed the request twice so far.  Once was back a week ago when I first called.  Then they did it again a few days after.  Still no response.  They assured me they would send yet another request right away.  When I got home I put in a call to the doctor’s office.  Sadly, it was 12:04 and they were out to lunch.  No phones answered until 1:15.  OK.  I then called back at 1:18 and explained my dilemma.  The receptionist transferred me to “the one in our office who handles that sort of thing.”  Wonderful.  I got her voice mail.  I left the detailed message she asked for and began the wait. 

About an hour later I got one of those automated calls from the pharmacy telling me that my medicine was ready, but if I have already picked it up, then never mind.  So you can understand my confusion.  Was it the one I just picked up that morning or was it the one I had called the doctor’s office about?  One of the options was to “press 4 if you would like to talk with a pharmacy staff representative.”  Why not?  I like the folks at the pharmacy.  One of them even goes to Seaside.  I explained my question, and the staffer told me that the call was about the one I had already picked up.  I heard him typing in the background, and he said, “Oh, wait.  I was just checking my email and one from your doctor literally just came through.  Yep.  That’s it.  Your approval.  We can have that for you in just a bit.”  That’ll work.

Later on that afternoon my phone rang yet again.  This time it was the doctor’s office, returning my call.  I waited to hear what she would say.  “It says here that we have already sent that approval.”  Yes you have.  Right after I called and left the message earlier.  I was nice, though.  I just said thank you very much.

I guess it’s kind of obvious wherein my loyalties lie.  I go with the pharmacy every time.  And why?  I mean, after all, the doctor went to school a lot longer than the pharmacist, didn’t he?  He certainly makes a lot more money.  What is it, then?  The answer to that one is not hard at all.  The pharmacist is here.  In Galveston.  Front line.  When I call, I can talk to her if I need to – the actual pharmacist and not a receptionist or a voice mail - at a moment’s notice.  I can watch as they check the computer.  I don’t even have to tell them who I am picking up prescriptions for.  The staff calls me by name.  They know about my family without checking my chart.  And I am not the only one.  They are personable with virtually every customer who walks up to the counter.  Oh, I’ll be patient with the doctor’s office.  After all, the approval does have to trudge its way through them.  But here’s kudos to the staff over at Randall’s Pharmacy.  Great to have you guys around.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Father, thank you for the staff over at the pharmacy.  Bless them for the kindness they go out of their way to show.  And bless the staff at the doctor’s office as well.  They have a tough job, so show them some kindness along the way.  Amen. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28 – “Baptism and the (concussion) blues”

We got to experience another baptism at the beach at church yesterday.  Always a phenomenal event.  The young man from Georgia who I led to the Lord last Sunday was back to follow up his commitment and get baptized.  A really good crowd followed us down to the beach, too, to watch and encourage James.  He is leaving for college back in Georgia soon, so he’ll need a lot of encouragement and prayer.

I asked our worship leader, a strong young man named Jimmy, to walk out into the surf with me and be on hand to help me with the baptism.  Not that James was all that heavy or anything.  I was honestly just not confident that I could lift him back up out of the water.  Along those lines, I also had kind of a difficult time with the teaching.  It felt like I was all over the place.  I just couldn’t stay focused.  I couldn’t concentrate.  And Chris confirmed my suspicions on the way to lunch, when she asked if I was doing all right.  She agreed that the teaching was hard to follow and I seemed to be rambling at points.  I guess I needed the break at McAlister’s Deli with some friends.  It was good to just sit at a restaurant and watch people, er, I mean, eat my turkey melt. 

And then I forgot about a couple coming over for marriage counseling that afternoon.  That worked out fine, though.  We have been trying to get together for several months now. So I already had their folder on my desk and ready to go.  I’m looking forward to that one.  It sounds like it will be quite an affair.  Anyway, at least I haven’t had any more of the nausea lately, and the headaches don’t seem to last as long.  The stitches site is pretty much healed, though.  Still sore to touch.  So how long does this concussion stuff last anyway?  I’m ready to be done with it.  Mondays are my busiest days in terms of desk work.  Or maybe I could go visit one of the fire stations.  Or go fishing.  Or … (Insert deep breath here with audible sigh).  Guess I’d better get started.

Psalms 145:8-9 says, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.  The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

Father, thank you for drawing James into your family and back to be baptized yesterday.  Surround him with your love and protection when he heads back to Georgia.  And help him find a good church there.  Amen. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27 – “Compassion, Collections, Candy and Concussion”

I heard a rumor the other day that some of our fire department guys went above and beyond the call of duty after a wreck call.  Something about a dog in one of the vehicles that they rescued and took back to the station to care for.  How’s that for compassion? 

Chris and I did some garage sale-ing yesterday.  How do you spell that anyway?  Sailing?  Saling? Anyway, we didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without.  That’s the thing about Chris.  She has never been an impulse buyer by any stretch of the imagination, and garage sales are all about buying on impulse.  She’s still looking for that perfect china cabinet so she can display her vast collection of Precious Moments figurines. 

After working on the sermon for a while, I decided to work in the yard, weeding some flower beds and ripping up some more stickerburs.  I wasn’t able to stay out very long, but I was there long enough to meet our new neighbor.  She saw me attacking the stickerburs and offered to loan me her stand-up-instead-of-squat-down stickerbur-remover.  Hey, anybody that has a stikerbur remover is already a friend of mine.  Oh, and by the way, her name was Candy Darling.  At least that’s what she told me.  Sounds like something out of a J.M. Barrie book.  You know, Peter Pan and Wendy Darling.  Welcome to the neighborhood, fellow stickerbur-hater.

I have discovered this week that I’m going to have to retrain my head and convince it that I candle heat and pain again.  For some strange reason, after my fall last Sunday, the heat really gets to me.  And any joint pain or other twinge seems like it is intensified way beyond what it should be, sometimes even to the point of making me nauseous.  Chris says all that, combined with the off and on headaches that I have been having, indicate that it’s a pretty good bet that I had a concussion.  I gotta get over that. 

Psalms 116:5-7says, “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.   The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.  Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

Father, thank you for your compassion towards me.  I think that proves you protect the simple-minded as well as the simple-hearted.  Amen.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26 – “Cousins Jam Band”

We got to play Best Grandparents of the Decade yesterday.  Kel and Christina went to a homeschooling conference in The Woodlands.  We already had Cailyn for the day, so she joined us and we went up to LaMarque to spend the day with five of our eight grandkids.  And as luck would have it, the other three gave us a FaceTime call while we were there, so all eight were there together for a brief time of, well, chaos.  The whole time we were on the phone the kids yelled and laughed and showed off action figures and Lego armies.  When we finally ended the call, I for one was exhausted.  Can’t wait to have them all together in person.

Here are a few of the comments and interchanges from the day:

Josiah and Chris were playing a rousing game of Chutes and Ladders.  Great counting to a hundred game, by the way.  As Josiah made his way around the board he landed on a very special square.
Josiah: “Eighty-eight.  Hey, eighty-eight is my favorite number.”
Me: “Why is eighty-eight your favorite number?”  (How many other four-year-olds have a favorite number, much less that one?)
Josiah: (Matter-of-factly, like everyone should know): “Because it is a really real number and it’s way bigger than one.”
Of course.

The conversation inevitably works its way around to everything Star Wars when we are at Kel’s house.  This time it went like this:
Josiah: “Nana, Do I look like Luke Skywalker?”
Nana: “I think you do.”
Josiah (obviously not convinced): “I’ll ask DadDad.  He’ll know.”

After noticing my stitches and checking out my bruising, the kids were sharing scar stories with each other.  Micah proudly displayed the black eye he has had several times over.  Not to be outdone, Cailyn countered with a full-on story of her own:
Cailyn: “I was spinning in the kitchen and there was white tile floor.  I was spinning like this (At this she spun and fell to the ground.  As she stood, she pointed to her chin) I split it open and the doctors glued it back together.”

We had some musical interludes.  Cailyn played the guitar for a while and blessed us with her original compositions.  After her favorite one she declared, “That was called The Wild West.”  Not sure where that name came from.  Later on, contemporary band leader Micah, who plays bongos, decided to put together an ensemble.  Cailyn shifted to the piano, Josiah played the little guitar (And held it neck up on one knee.  Quite the showman), and Micah of course positioned himself over the bongo drums.  And after establishing exactly who was to be the leader (actually that was never really established.  As the oldest of the group, Micah seemed to have the most pull, but Cailyn is a first born, so she was a hard sell from the beginning.  Josiah was the consummate artist.  He didn’t listen to either of them), they all started in at once.  And what a sound it was.  Hottest thing I have heard since … since … that fire I went to the other night (sirens and radios and commands flying and … well, you get the picture).  After their first set Cailyn chimed in with a little band humor: “Do you want to hear the wildest song I ever wrote?  The Wild West went all the way to the snakes and ate the snakes.”  Chuckles all around and another set quickly began.  Now they weren’t without their groupies.  Oh, no.  And as always, it is the younger set who most admire these cutting edge sounds.  Noa, who hasn’t been walking all that long, was totally lost in the ecstasy of the music and of the moment.  She made her way on stage with the band and stole the show with her dance gyrations.  Wow.  Cousins Jam Band.  We made a music video.  For booking options call 1-800-C-O-U-S-I-N-S.

Psalms 33:2-3 says, “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.  Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”

Father, thank you for that most beautiful music that comes from the mouths of the children.  Amen.

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25 – “Night fire”

The day started out simple enough.  I finished up the Bible study prep for Home Group.  Chris and Cailyn cleaned house.  After lunch we took Cailyn to the library.  She had read all the books for the summer reading club, so she was presented with all of her prizes and had her picture taken.  Of course that meant we had to stop by and show everything to Daddy at his work.  His comment?  “It’s been a “very quiet day so far.”  Hmm.  Home group came and went.  Always good to see those folks.  Around 10 p.m. we were getting ready for bed.  Hey, people our age need our rest.  And that’s when the call went out.  Fire.

I was surprised that we had heard no sirens.  I have learned that even if they don’t respond to the fire, pretty much every station is on heightened alert.  Someone has to be ready to cover other calls that might come in during the fire.  At first I couldn’t get the scanner on my phone to work.  Then I realized that the volume was turned all the way down.  I forgot Cailyn had been here.  As the bars slowly came up, the radio exploded to life.  Chris knew before she asked that I was going.  I hurried to change clothes.  Not nearly as fast as the fire fighters are getting into their bunker gear, but for an old guy, not bad.   

Listening to the phone ap as I drove to the fire site, I heard that it was “just a garage fire.”  It was a garage – and a cinderblock garage at that.  But this one had an entire second floor.  A wooden second floor.   The fire was fully involved when first on scene Engine One arrived.  And during the ensuing initial phases of the battle, one whole side of the structure collapsed.  It didn’t take long for the incident commander to declare a defensive approach to the fire.  Some of the commands were second nature to these fire fighters, and they performed them with speed and efficiency.  Others proved more difficult as the team tried to figure ways to gain access on all fronts.  Obstacles stood in their way.  A large wooden fence blocked them on one side, and they did everything they could to avoid unnecessarily harming the resident’s property.  Nice job.

I began to notice some of the strangest things during this nighttime attack. 

Lights on trucks, spotlights placed around the structure, the glow of flames and embers, all combined with the heavy smoke to light up the area like an eerily hazy version of sunset.

So much water on the ground that ants were swarming all over the yellow-painted concrete parking barrier upon which my foot rested.  I dully brushed at my pants leg in what felt like a slow-motion, haphazard effort to remove any creatures that might have sought refuge on my leg.  I didn’t jump and run or swat violently.  I guess there was too much else going on for me or the ants to be worried about an attack.

On-site paramedics agreeing to send cell phone photos of the fire to fire fighters. 

Battalion Chief Bowen calling command orders over the radio. 

Captains directing the action one the front lines.

Assistant Chief Olsen arriving from home and overseeing the operation, offering advice, and making contact with residents. 

Hoses strewn across the ground, some spewing a thin spray at connection points, throbbing with pressure, ready for the moment when the nozzle would be directed at the flames and released.

Driver-engineers scurrying around their truck pumps, pulling needed gear.

Fire fighters in full gear, some racing toward the structure, others down on both knees, catching their breath while still poised to return to action at any moment.

Safety officer recognizing concerns, pointing them out, and offering his insight on solutions. 

Police officers establishing a perimeter and interviewing the residents and making small talk with the fire fighters.

Power company representatives standing by, having seen to it that power to the structure has been shut down.

Residents scurrying to get those last few belongings they will need for their unplanned hotel stay while power is restored over the next few days. 

Neighbors milling about, sometimes striking up a conversation with each other, shaking heads at just how close a call this was, sharing stories of what they had been doing when suddenly there were sirens piercing the night, fire trucks surrounding their homes, and an army of fire fighters literally at their front door.
“I heard the person who called it in said he smelled something electrical burning.”
“Well, my electric cable is on the ground in my backyard.  I guess he was right.”

A neighbor to the residents: “What hotel are you staying at tonight?”
The quizzical reply: “What?  What do you mean?”
With a grin: “‘Cause I’m not going to that one.  You guys have had some serious bad luck.”
Come to find out, the residents had just had their car stolen, and now a fire.  Maybe that neighbor was onto something.

After things settled down some, one of the fire fighters came up to me and said, “So let’s discuss the whole issue of predestination versus free will.”  And pointing to his watch, “We have time.”  A policewoman heard his challenge and sidled up, saying she wanted to listen in on this one.

I responded with a grin, “The answer is yes.”  Then I shifted gears a bit.  “It’s all about God loving us and wanting love to actually mean something.  For that to happen, there has to be a choice.  You have to choose to love or it’s not love at all.  So God took a risk and gave us a choice whether to love him back or not.  So like everything else, the answer lies somewhere in God’s nature as love.”  Phew.  Theology discussion is not what I expected to be having at 11:00 at night in the middle of a fire.  Way to keep me on my toes. 

Oh, and one final thought.  All in all from my totally uninformed perspective, our new trucks performed admirably.  Wait.  Actually they are just trucks.  It was the crews who performed admirably.  I’m proud of you guys.

Joshua 24:15 says, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Father, thank you for that choice to choose.  Puts a lot of pressure on us, but the love that come with it is just amazing.  Amen.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24 – “It’s a boy”

I caught one of the funniest true stories that I have heard in a very long time yesterday.  I was on my way home from visiting in the hospital.  It was about 4:30, so I decided to stop in at station 5 and check on the fire fighters there.  Captain Weber (or Battalion Chief, I can’t get a handle on all the promotions yet) was in the office, so I stopped in for a chat before going back to say hi to the rest of the crew.  He told me about a call he was on some time ago that involved full bunker gear, a downed power line late at night, and a church.  Great story.  I’ll have to see if it’s OK with him before I share it, though.  Two rookies were on duty there, and they were both chomping at the bit to get in some action.  About the time they said, “We are rookies.  We want lots of runs” my phone ap sounded.  It was a call for station five.  Took a few more seconds before it came over the radio, and they jumped into action.  Got what they wanted, I guess.

As I drove away I noticed a car sitting right in the middle of a really busy intersection on Broadway.  Took me a second or two to register that it had been in an accident.  The rear end of the car was smashed up pretty bad, but the driver seemed to be just fine.  The big pickup truck that had hit her looked fine.  I couldn’t even see a scratch on it.  Sure enough, the call came through in a few seconds, but it appeared to be limited to police at that time.  So I continued on to station four. 

There I was greeted by a few of the guys who called out, “Just missed all the action, Chap.”  Well, that’s no fun.  Did they just get back from a particularly interesting call?  Did they have some exciting training exercise that I hadn’t heard about?  I asked what kind of action, and Scott said, “We just washed the truck.”  Ah, sorry I missed that one.  I assured him that had I been there, I would have been all over that.  I don’t think he was convinced.  Congrats to Scott and Patricia, though.  They found out the sex of their coming baby.  Looks like it will be another boy.  That’s not revealing a secret, though.  I saw the video of when they told their other two boys on FaceBook last night.  They made the big reveal to the other two guys at the station.  One of them took it in stride with a sheepish grin.  The other was quite disappointed.  Seems he was anticipating a little sister.  His tears didn’t last all that long, though.  Don’t worry, Andrew and Wyatt, I had two brothers and then raised three boys myself.  You’ll have to deal with girls soon enough.  Have some fun now while you can. 

Matthew 18:2-4 says, “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

Father, walk with Scott and Patricia, and especially with Andrew and Wyatt, as they prepare for the new little brother.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23 – “The Toughest Calls”

I made a quick trip out to Galveston’s West End at around ten p.m. the other night.  I was joining the fire chief, not for a leisurely drive, but to make a visit to our fire station located there.  This was not to be one of those fun-loving, just checking in on the boys kind of visits, though.  This crew was just returning from the hospital after one of what is perhaps the all-time toughest kind of call a fire fighter can make – a possible pediatric drowning. 

I read about some of the details of the situation in the next morning’s newspaper.  According to their report, the four-year-old had been separated from her family.  They had been at the kiddie pool of the condos they were staying in.  Some of the family had already retired to their room.  The others apparently thought the little one had gone with them.  When they returned and realized the child was not there, they hurried back to the pool and discovered her near the bottom of the deep end of an adult pool.  Family members quickly pulled her out and began CPR.  When the fire fighters arrived they took over and stayed with her to the hospital.  Sadly, the young girl was later pronounced dead by hospital staff.

The chief called me and asked if I would drive out with him to check on the fire fighters involved in the rescue.  Some of the guys were “grizzled veterans,” so they were “handling it” the old school way.  And what would be involved in the “old school way”?  Lots of approaches.  Just take a deep breath and tough it out.  Acknowledge that “that’s just the way life happens, and sometimes it stinks.”  Have another cigarette.  Take a walk into yourself – your internal man cave - and ponder the things that matter most to you.  Change the subject altogether.  Take part in some of the good-natured ribbing that is a part of the fire fighter fraternity way of life so you can release some tension through laughter.  All valid, time-tested-by-men methods of dealing with extreme stress. 

Or perhaps they can take it to the next level, as these particular guys were strong enough to do.  Share a specific incident from your own past that this event brought to the forefront of your memory.  Recall how you felt back then and how you dealt with it.  After all, it’s safer to talk about something that you have already obviously overcome than something that might be eating away at you right now.  Draw on the comradery of someone else who has also been there, maybe even been there with you.  Feed off of each other’s strength. 

But what about the younger men?  What about the young father with kids of his own roughly the same age as the victim?  He seemed to be handling it pretty well.  I don’t know what approach he took.  If I was in his shoes, I think I might want to pull up some photos of my kids on the computer and flip through them for a while.  And while on the computer anyway, I’m sure I could find something on the internet to occupy my mind while I processed how I felt.  It was too late for a quick FaceTime call, but I guarantee you I would have a big hug waiting for them when I got off shift the next morning.  Or how about the rookie?  He’s a single young man, no kids of his own.  I thought about how Nathan handled stressful calls before he got married.  We would receive a phone call from him late at night, and he would begin with, “Mom and Dad, I love you.”  That was his tell.  We knew he had just returned from a bad one.  He would give Chris the basics and when she handed me the phone he would fill me in on a few more of the details.  Can’t have Mom worrying too much, right? 

I spent some time talking to that young dad and the rookie.  They both talked about the incident with me, what they saw when they arrived on scene, what they did, what the paramedics did both when they arrived and in the ambulance.  It was important that they hear themselves saying that they did all they could for the little one.  They both acknowledged that it was tough.  This was the rookie’s first critical pediatric call.  He assured me that he had done many adult calls with another department, though.  Again, it was important that he be reassured within himself that he is capable and has proven himself.  I think you both have proven yourselves admirably.  Tell your kids that you love them.  Often.  Communicate with your wife/fiancée that you love her.  Often.  And you might throw your parents into the mix as well.  They have been loving you for a long time.

As I understand my role as chaplain, this is another example of my place in the big picture of the department - being available to listen as the guys debrief after a tough call.  It is one thing to be on scene at a big fire.  There about all I can do is offer the guys some cool water to drink and pray for their safety as I do my best to stay out of the way.  I often end up fielding questions from citizens, and on occasion I get to pray with the residents of the burning structure.  But the chance to be a listener, a supporter, and an encourager to a fire fighter can really make a difference when he has faced a life and death situation, no matter what the outcome.  I guess I’m learning.  Maybe someday I’ll get this chaplain thing figured out.

Psalms 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Father, walk with all of our fire fighters when they have to make the tough calls.  Give them strength of character both to deal with the circumstance before them and to handle the internal struggle that inevitably shows up later.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22 – “Cailyn-isms from a young nurse”

A quick update on my injury.  The swelling around my eye seems to be going down as expected.  The soreness in, well, the rest of my body, will take a few more days, I guess.  That gets worse the longer I sit at the computer, so I have been frustrated at the amount of work I have been able to get done.  Mondays are usually my most productive days.  I am not going to water therapy this morning, but that’s mainly because I am not supposed to get the stitches site wet until later this afternoon.  Moving around in the warm water sounds like a really good thing to me right now.  It’s days like this that make me wish we had already repaired our hot tub. 

I had my extra little nurse around here yesterday.  Cailyn was pretty much at my beck and call.  And she was quite fascinated by the whole situation.  Not that she liked it.  She just made several comments throughout the day that revealed a bit about where that gorgeous head of hers was.  And the comments came at totally random times.  Some were while I was typing.  Others came when I was resting on the couch or taking a nap back in the bedroom.  Check out some of her gems of concern.

The first one was at my desk.  She had kind of a thoughtful look about her as she straightened up some papers.  “DadDad, I’m glad you don’t need a walker like MeeMaw.”  Me, too, Cailyn.  This is a bit of a different situation than MeeMaw was in, though.  I assured her that I would get better.

Then came her response, another classic.  “You can live ‘til you’re a hundred years old, ok?”  I overplayed to that one, mainly to lighten the mood.  “A hundred?  That’s a really long time.  But thank you for giving me permission.  Tell you what.  I’ll be OK as long as I get to dance with you at your wedding.”  She grinned and agreed to that provision.

Later she waxed pensive once again.  I guess I was getting tired and sorer and my countenance was probably reflecting my pain.  She watched me for a few minutes, then noted, “I wish Mr. Robert was the one who walked into that room.”  Ouch.  Sorry, Robert.  I assured her that it was an accident and that I would be getting better soon. 

On one of her many trips to check on me she paused by the light switches on the wall.  “DadDad, it would be better if that room had a light switch right by the door and you could just switch it on before you go in.”  The youngsters always hear and understand way more than we give them credit for.  She heard the part of the story about the only light switches being on the opposite side of the room.  Of course I agreed with her on that one.  It would have been nice to have seen where I was going.  But again, it was an accident.

I know she talked to Chris a lot throughout the day as well, but I couldn’t always hear enough of their conversations to make them out.  I did catch one, though.  Cailyn was asking about my stay at the minor emergency clinic.  She has been there, too.  In fact her pediatrician’s office is right next door, so she knew the ropes on this one.  Her question for Chris?  “Did DadDad have to wear a little dress?”  Nope.  No dresses this trip.  I already had blood on my clothes, so it didn’t really matter. 

Probably my favorite Cailyn-ism of the day, though, came as she stood right next to me for a long period of time, just staring at my face.  I knew what she was doing, so I didn’t look at her for a while.  Finally I turned to face her and asked, “Whatcha doin’?”  She cocked her head a bit to the side like a dog hearing an unusual sound and in her very best, serious nurse-voice said, “It’s OK, DadDad, I’m just looking at your threads.”  Threads?  Ah, yes, she was just checking out my stitches.  Means the same thing, right?

1 Corinthians 12:24-26 says, “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Father, thank you for the loving concern of my five-year-old nurse.  Amen.

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21 – “Emergency”

Greetings from black eye central.  That would be me.  It hasn’t turned purple yet, so for a while at least I’m sticking to basic black.  And what, pray tell, happened to me?  Well …

I suppose it depends on who you talk to.  After seeing the picture Chris took, each of the male grandchildren had a different take on the situation, knowing their DadDad as well as they do.  Jachin was sure that I had narrowly survived a vicious attack by at least five assassin ninjas.  Micah, however, disputed that claim.  In his highly respected medical opinion, the evidence clearly showed that there had indeed been an attack, but the culprits were most certainly two renegade badgers.  Nay, nay, saith Josiah the Younger.  His decided opinion was that he had been waylaid by two … no make that six … Tuscan raiders.   Zak and Caleb simply indicated that they would be sufficiently impressed if he came away with an Anakin-quality scar. 

Now I am definitely tempted to simply stop there and let all my fans choose which story is their favorite.  In fact, that would still be kind of fun.  Let me know which one you choose.  But I guess I should confess that the actual injury was nothing nearly that exotic.  Not that it wasn’t a pretty serious injury.  In fact, for the second time in my life it is entirely possible that the fact that I was wearing glasses may have saved my life.  Or at least this time, my eyesight.  The first time was in high school when I pulled a basketball backboard down on my head after a particularly awesome dunk.  The rim hit my glasses and skimmed off instead of chopping my head in half.  Again, that was much more exciting than this one. 

As it happened I was at the church retreat center looking for a two inch notebook.  As I entered one of the rooms, it was particularly dark.  The light switch was located on the other side of the room, and there was a chair blocking the door from completely opening.  Little did I know at the time that there was a reason for that chair’s location.  I forced the door open wide enough for me to squeeze through, and started out for the far-away light switch.  Unbeknownst to me, however, one of our metal cots had been relocated to this room to accommodate some of our previous week’s guests.  I managed maybe two steps before my shins contacted the cot and I went down.  My hands were pinned under me by springs of the cot, so down I crashed, head first into one of the posts that were used for turning the cot into a bunkbed.  And by head first, I mean eye first.  Literally.  I hit the post right in the middle of the left lens of my glasses.  The metal frames held strong, though, bending only slightly.  And the unbreakable glass, though slightly scratched, remained unbroken.  Thanks to their selfless deflection, the post didn’t make its way through my eye orbit and into my skull.  I didn’t see the proverbial stars, but there was a definite flash of light.  It was accompanied by a stab of pain that radiated out from my eye to the back of my head, down my neck and into my lower back.  Whiplash.  I was worried that something bad might just be occurring here. 

I was accompanied on my journey by one of our church members who just happens to be a paramedic.  He heard my cry and my accompanying speculations: “I think I may be bleeding … oh yeah, I’m bleeding.”  He immediately shifted into professional mode and started issuing instructions.  “Stay right there.  Keep pressure on it.”  He raced for the first aid kit.  Now by this time I was sweating as well as bleeding, so the tape he tried to use wouldn’t stick.  But hey, he is a paramedic, and quite creative.  He broke open a roll of gauze and began wrapping it around and around my entire head.  Once he got that taped down, he guided me out the door.  I had to send him back for my glasses, but he made me promise not to attempt the stairs without him present.  This was beginning to sound a bit more serious that I thought.  Glasses in hand, we made our way downstairs.  He told me to sit at the picnic table while he went inside the other building to get Chris. 

She told me later that he made eye contact with her and wiggled his finger for her to come to him.  He told her to get her purse and come with him.  I can imagine that she was a bit perplexed, but she complied.  And when she saw me, her first thought was, “Wow, it looks like that bandage is holding his nose on.  What in the world happened?  Did he fall down the stairs?”  (See, she’s not nearly as creative as her grandsons.  Way too practical).  She made her cursory examination, and since our paramedic continued urging us to leave, we made our way to the car. 

We made a quick stop by the house on the way to the clinic.  I had to go to the bathroom, and Chris wanted to get some ice for my head.  She did tell me not to wash the blood off my hands, though.  Little nurse trick to get us seen quicker.  By the time we arrived at the minor emergency clinic I had quite a headache, and my neck and back were starting to complain as well.  The girl at the front desk took one look at me and immediately called for a nurse.  Guess the blood worked.  Well, that and the mummy wrap around my head.  The nurse came out immediately, and within seconds we were on our way to a room.  Her only comment was that I looked like a revolutionary war hero.  I lamented that I had lost my fife.  Ah, it’s great to be surrounded by so much creativity.  The doctor came in not long after, and seven stitches later we were released.  There was a brief moment when I thought we would be delayed for a while, though.  My blood pressure was 145 over 96.  They didn’t like that second number.  It finally came down into the 80’s, though, so we dodged that particular bullet.  Chris had to promise to watch it for the next several days. 

Last night wasn’t a particularly fun one.  I did sleep some, but it was not exactly a restful night.  My blood pressure this morning was 134 over 90.  Again, the second number is too high, so I’m still under careful observation by the nurses in my life (that would be Chris and Cailyn).  Not sure how much work I will get done today.  It’s taken me well over an hour just to get this typed.  I can see a nap in my near future.

Meanwhile, this story has taken on a whole new meaning for me: Matthew 7:3-5 says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

Father, thank you for keeping this particular metal plank out of my eye.  I know that’s not what you were talking about here, but sometimes the literal makes the symbolic really come to life.  Amen.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20 – “A ferry wonderful wedding”

I had a wedding over in Crystal Beach this weekend.  And of course that meant crossing the ferry.  Always a wonderful experience, especially in the peak of the summer tourist season.  Now we were scheduled for a quick run-through on Friday afternoon.  The bride sent me the address, so I started out not long after lunch.  The line for the ferry was actually not that long.  Of course that was probably because it had been pouring down rain all day.  It was still sprinkling a little bit, but not all that bad.  I made it across with no real problems and followed my map ap to the address.  But when I arrived, I realized there were no address markers on the houses.  No problem.  I just sent a quick text to the bride letting her know I had arrived but wasn’t sure which house to go to.  Almost immediately after I pushed send, my phone started to ring.  It was her.  Seems that their rental agent had called them to inform them of some bad news.  The house they had rented for the wedding, and for the entire week after, had a problem.  The air conditioning had gone out and had no prospects of being repaired for at least a week.  Many apologies followed, and they finally offered a replacement home.  The couple had driven all the way from Oklahoma, so they really had little choice.  They reluctantly agreed to have a look at what there was to offer. 

At this point in the story I was already shaking my head, hoping they hadn’t been scammed in some way.  As it turned out, though, the replacement house was a brand new build in a gated community right on the beach.  It was beautiful.  So much so that they changed their plans about being married on the beach and instead just set up in the yard.  Of course it threw them several hours behind their schedule, and the bride forgot to call and tell me.  She was in Galveston with her fiancée picking up the wedding cake and some tables.  She told me the new address, but it would still be several hours before they would have access.  I decided to drive by anyway just to see where it was, and we agreed to touch base a little early the next day.  So I hit the ferry again.  I was planning to do a few crossword puzzles for the 20 minute ride, but the allure of watching kids see dolphins for the first time was just too much.

The wedding day was gorgeous.  Partly cloudy, so the sun wasn’t too bad.  Of course that meant the tourist were back – with a vengeance.  The plan was for me to be there around 5:30, so I left the house at 4:00.  Surely that would give me enough time.  Well … no.  I sat in the ferry line for a little over an hour.  It wasn’t too bad, though.  Chris and texted the whole time.  I sent her updates on my position, and she sent me words of encouragement about how much closer I was getting.  Hey, it doesn’t take much to entertain us.  What can I say?  When I finally boarded, I breathed a sigh of relief.  But that didn’t last long.  The sun came out and I was located right in the direct line of fire so to speak.  It got hot fast.  I went upstairs into the air conditioned waiting area for a while, but that got boring fast.  I decided to rough it out back down on deck where I could at least see the dolphins.  About halfway across the channel I noticed something unusual.  The ferry was slowing down.  Markedly.  Now I have been on that thing many times, so I assumed we were slowing to veer around an oncoming ship.  Well, I was right about the oncoming ship.  Tokyo Marine.  But I was wrong about the veer.  We were stopped, dead in the water.  Like we were at a red light.  I have never seen that happen before.  We stayed that way for a long several minutes, until old Tokyo made its way past.  Finally the engines started back up and we were off again.  By this time it was already past 5:30, so I texted the bride to let her know I was on the ferry and on my way. 

The wedding itself went fine.  They had done a great job decorating the yard, and I hurriedly gave the few instructions for the bride’s dad and the ones with the rings.  And we began.  Aside from it being really hot by this time, and hence everyone was sweating a lot, the whole group was very laid-back and ready to have a good time.  The bride and groom felt free to talk to each other and the guests … during the ceremony.  I guess my ceremony fit the atmosphere pretty well, because I was getting lots of feedback through the whole thing.  My favorite part of the whole thing came when I was explaining how to begin a relationship with Jesus.  I said, “You begin it the same way these two began their relationship …”  At that point I paused for a second to catch my breath and transition to the next statement.  But I guess my second took too long.  The groom spoke out an answer of his own, “Facebook.”  Not everyone heard it, but those who did started snickering, so I went with it.  No sense depriving everyone else of something that was really funny.  I continued, “Right.  Facebook.  Which eventually led to actually talking.”  When the laughter subsided, I continued on about praying just being talking to Jesus.  I may use that in future weddings. 

The trip home was relatively uneventful.  Another long wait in line, but at least I could listen to the Astros game on the radio.  Just before we boarded, a blackbird hopped up onto the hood of the car.  Caught my attention right away.  He slowly made his way all the way to the windshield, peering at me, then investigating the nooks and crannies between the glass and the wipers.  He found a leaf to play with at one point.  Even made his way around to sit on my rearview mirror.  I took a few pictures to prove to Chris I had a “Waiting Buddy.”  The crazy thing didn’t move until I had to speed up to get on board.  And then it was more of a slow slide up the windshield and over the roof.  I saw him walk away, so he didn’t get crushed by the car behind me or anything.  I don’t know.  Maybe he was feeling a bit abandoned.  Ah, well.  There were a few hundred other cars behind me, so it shouldn’t take him long to find another crony.

Matthew 6:26-27 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Father, draw that new couple close to you as they discover your love for them that surpasses that of your care for the birds.  Amen.