Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31 – “YooHoo. YooHoo.”

We spent an exhausting three days in an antique mall here in Round Rock yesterday.  OK, it was just two or three hours in the morning, but that was one huge place.  Chris found another pot like the ones she uses all the time.  And before I get into trouble, I enjoyed it as well.  I actually found a copy of my favorite Dr. Seuss book of all time, And To Think That I Found It On Mulberry Street.  Great piece of literature there.  It seeks to combine an incredible inspiration to imagination with ultimate respect for authority.  I suppose that book is partially responsible for who I am today.  Sigh.  Nostalgia.  I also picked up a great deal on a case of baseball cards.  Now understand, a case simply means a box of 36 unopened packages of cards, and in this case, from 1990.  Can you imagine how that gum is going to taste now?  I would call that a successful morning.

Now I do have to mention the wedding preparations, I guess.  Yesterday was the rehearsal, after all.  The text I received from the groom informed me that the rehearsal would begin at 4 p.m., and he included the address of where we would be.  We couldn’t meet at the actual venue because of a conflict with another wedding.  We arrived on time, but no one else was there.  Seems they were all still out on the Lake.  We finally found someone who had returned early.  She told us the rehearsal wasn’t supposed to start until 5:30.  Well, there you go.  We drove down to the Lake to look at the water and do some exploring from the comfort of the auto air conditioning.  April and Cailyn finally emerged from the Lake, though, and we gave them a ride back to the place where the wedding party was staying.  The rest of the afternoon was spent waiting and watching the flurry of pandemonium as everyone tried to get ready at once.  At least ten people … and one shower.  It was great fun for us.  Here’s a sample of what we heard.  Not all of it will make sense unless you were there, but I think you will get the sense of … well … craziness:

“So what time ARE we supposed to start?”
“YooHoo.  YooHoo.”
“Gotta get more ice on the kegs.”
“There’s just one shower in this place for everybody?”
“YooHoo.  YooHoo.”

Female voice: “I need a hair dryer.”
Male voice: “I have one you can use.”
Female voice: “I also need a hair straightener, and …”
Male voice: (silence)

“YooHoo.  YooHoo.”
“Almost ready.”
"You look really pretty.”
“Box?  What box?”

“Almost done, honey.”
“Hey, I’m following him.”

“Really … how do I look?”
“Everybody looks fine.”
“That’s not the right answer.  It’s all about me right now.”

“Well, I guess we’re really just waiting on Dani, right?” (Dani’s the bride)
“Is that the box?”

As you can see, it was a pretty typical wedding preparation afternoon.  The rehearsal went just fine, except for the two missing groomsmen and the ring bearer who was too busy to be bothered with hanging out with some boring adults.  I think he’ll be fine at the wedding, though.  As long as we provide him with a nerf gun. 

Psalms 119:76 says, “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.”

Father, we commit this ceremony tonight to you.  Join us, would you?  Amen.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 30 – “Romance Under the Stars”

Well, we made it safely to Round Rock, Texas, for the wedding I am officiating this weekend.  The trip itself wasn’t all that eventful, actually, which was a good thing considering when we left Galveston there was a huge array of thunderstorms hovering off the coast and threatening to attack at any moment.  We did stop at some little town along the way to look at a little antique store.  Only it didn’t turn out to be so little.  Once you got inside the thing seemed to grow and grow.  I think Harry Potter had something to do with it.  Or maybe Dumbledore, himself.

Once we got near Austin we relied on the old faithful Google Maps Girl to find the hotel.  She failed.  We followed her direction exactly and when she ended with her famous, “Your destination is on the right,” we were at some huge mall, still in Austin.  Undaunted, we went on into the Olive Garden right in front of us and had a nice lunch.  GMG’s second attempt proved a bit more accurate.  As it turned out, we were just four miles from our actual target.  I think she was toying with us for making her re-evaluate our position when we stopped at the antique store.

After an initial snafu at the desk, we finally got into our room.  The receptionist wanted us to put the room on our credit card, even though the bride and groom had already taken care of all the arrangements.  I thought a quick phone call to them would settle the matter, but she was still insistent.  At least until her manager heard me telling the groom that we would go find something to do until he could get there to swipe his card.  That manager read the desk clerk the riot act and welcomed us with open arms.  Phew.  I was anticipating an early start on Chris’ list of quilt shops in the area.

Speaking of Chris, since she drove such a long way, I decided to take her out for a romantic dinner and then do something really special.  There was a Rudy’s barbeque joint right around the corner from the hotel, so we went there.  Half a pound of brisket and some slices of bread and we were good to go.  And then came the “something special.”  What could be more romantic than watching a fireworks show, out under the stars of the beautiful Central Texas sky?  It was a really impressive show, too, and we have seen quite a few.  Moody Gardens does one every Friday and Saturday night during the summer, and we watch those from our front porch.  So, what do you think?  Did I do good, ladies? 

Oh, did I forget to mention some of the details?  Ah, sorry.  My bad.  Let me back up.  When we were finally gathering our bags from the car at the hotel, Chris was getting kind of uncomfortable.  A whole group of scraggly-looking young men were gathered out front, obviously waiting for something.  Every so often one or more of them would walk behind our car and gaze into the distance.  Other paced back and forth.  Some were deeply involved in their cell phones or were zoned out to whatever was flowing through their headphones.  Suddenly, a mini-bus drove up, and the gentlemen began to board.  I noticed the look of extreme relief on Chris’ face right away, but I was just curious.  So I sidled over and asked the driver, “What team is this?”  And why was that an appropriate question, you might ask?  Because the logo printed on the side of the bus said, “Round Rock Express,” the name of the local AAA affiliate of the Texas Rangers.  He told me the guys sharing hotel space with us were the Nashville Sounds, in town for a weekend series. 

We chose the barbeque because of its proximity to the hotel and because we had been to a Rudy’s in Waco with Josh and Christi.  The food really was good.  After supper I might have mentioned that it would be interesting to drive by the Round Rock Express baseball stadium, “just to see what it looked like.”  And as we approached, I might have said, “Hey, would you like to go see the game, since we’re this close and all?”  That sweetheart of a wife of mine responded, “If you want to go, let’s go.  After all, you walked around an antique mall with me this afternoon.”  What a girl.

We paid our $8 to park and made our way to the ticket window.  But before we could make our purchase a guy came up behind us and offered us free seats.  He was a season ticket holder, and had three extra seats that he was giving away.  How could we refuse?  Right behind the third base dugout, about fifteen rows up.  Since we didn’t have to pay for tickets, I bought a Round Rock Express cap.  Strictly as a romantic souvenir of the evening, of course.  The game was a lot of fun.  The Express ended up losing, but the crazy entertainment antics you hare about that happen in minor league parks were all there.  Active team mascot (looked like some kind of 7 foot tall chipmunk), tricycle races between randomly selected fans, free t-shirts, even a dizzy-izzy relay (head on a bat, spin around ten times, then run to the finish line).  They even passed a hat every time an Express player hit a home run (that happened three times).  They then give the guy the money as a bonus.  These kids don’t make much at this level.  I could get used to supporting a minor league team.  And as a special bonus, we happened to be there on a Friday night … fireworks night after the game.  So you see, we had to endure quite a bit of extra shenanigans before we actually got to the romantic fireworks show. 

What a great night.  And now it’s time for breakfast.  Maybe we’ll see some of those Nashville guys downstairs.  Oh, yeah, and sometime today I guess we need to fit in those quilt shops.  And perhaps still have time for a wedding rehearsal.

Jeremiah 33:11 says, “Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.”

Father, thank you for some great fun last night.  And thank you for the one you gave me to share it with.  Amen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29 – “Family Affair”

Well, it looks like our house phones all blew out when we lost power yesterday.  Don’t know if it happened when the lightning struck or when the power surged back on.  After spending an hour or so on the cell phone with someone without an American accent, he set up an appointment with a real person to come look at it.  Meanwhile, we decided to get a few Walmart special cheap phones to try out.  Sure enough, they worked.  Good as ever.  Canceled the appointment.

I took my fire department shirt to the cleaners the other day.  When I picked it up the lady first told me one price, then stopped me before I could pay, refigured, and changed it to a much lower one.  Thank you Pilgrim’s for acknowledging the fire service that way.

I was on a roll the other day after fixing the bathroom sink faucet.  So I kept going into the other bathroom where the bathtub plumbing has been having some difficulties.  The problem was an odd one.  When you turned on the water, it would only come out through the shower.  The knob in the middle that switches back and forth is frozen, and absolutely will not turn in any direction any more.  It has been that way for quite some time now, actually.  It was never an issue when Mom was alive, because Chris always used the hand-held feature that operated through the shower to help her bathe.  I guess it just got used to being on.  I used the YouTube trick to watch someone else do the surgery first.  That’s where I learned the proper name of the problem.  Seems the “Shower Diverter” was stuck.  Sounds much more official when you put it that way.  With Then I gathered up my tools and bravely went where this man had never been before.  It was easy enough to get all the external handle stuff out of the way.  Basically loosen just one screw and tug.  I even got the next bolt off with little trouble.  But that’s when the thing started fighting back.  According to YouTube, that middle piece should have pulled right out, allowing me to either replace or clean it.  But it would not budge.  Not even a little bit.  About the only place where I could get a good grip was made out of plastic, so I was afraid I might break it on top of everything else.  So of course I did the next obvious thing.  I put it all back and consigned the project to the “Call a plumber someday” list.  Sigh.  Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

Now we get ready to leave for Round Rock, Texas.  At least that’s where our hotel is.  I’m presiding over a wedding in Georgetown this weekend.  Nathan is also in the wedding, as is Cailyn.  And we plan to make a run or two up to Waco while we are in the area.  Gotta make this a real family affair. 

Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

Father, we could use some of that “safe” as we travel.  Amen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

August 28 – “Boring the Lord?”

Well, I started another post much earlier this morning, but I was apparently boring the Lord with it.  Around 6:44 the power went out, and it has been raining here on Gilligan’s Island ever since.  I called the power company right away to make sure we got on their list.  The computer assured me it would leave a message for some human beings to come fix things.  Not very assuring.  Nathan stopped by after he dropped Cailyn off at school.  They still had power, I suppose.  He told us they had just come from the Donut Shop, and on their way there they watched a transformer blow up behind WalMart.  Now that must have been exciting. 

By the light of the single candle Chris had lit, Nathan and Chris talked me into going on to water therapy.  They were very encouraging as I left.  They both made sure to recommend that I take the truck in case the streets were impassable.  Thank you for that.  As it turned out the streets were fine.  The only evidence of bad weather on my way there was a street light flashing red.  Not a problem, since Galveston drivers are so knowledgeable and considerate.  I watched one poor, indecisive lady sit through about six rotations moving around her.  She finally inched her way through the intersection.  Hope she made it home or to WalMart or wherever she was headed.

Class was way down attendance-wise for some odd reason.  Were they afraid of getting wet on their way in to crawl into a swimming pool?  It was raining really hard, though, and lightning was lighting up the sky every few seconds.  Class went on, though, and about halfway through we saw one of the transformers behind Walmart explode in a shower of sparks.  When the second transformer went up in another array of fireworks, the instructor joined us in the water so she could see, too.  But before she could get in, a third one went up.  The lights in the pool room went out as well, but I think their emergency generator kicked in right away.  The only effect I could see was the  the pool’s heater went off, and the only reason I knew that was because I was standing right in front of the jet where the heated water enters the pool.

The light show from above entertained us through the rest of class, and we headed home.  I was curious to see what effect, if any, the transformer explosions might have had on WalMart.  Sure enough all the parking lot lights were out, and the store inside looked pretty dark as well.  The street lights at Central City Boulevard and at 69th Street were now out completely.  Traffic was really thin, though, so no one was having trouble at the intersections.  Looked like that whole strip of businesses on the seawall there in front of WalMart were all in the dark as well.  Water was standing in the street as well, so I was glad I was in the truck.  As I got closer to home, though, I began to see porch lights burning, so I had a flicker of hope for our house. 

Not so much.  Power was still out.  Chris said she and Nathan had almost come out of their shoes at one of the lightning strikes, so it must have been really close.  We stayed in the dark for a few more hours after that.  Chris read the paper by flashlight.  I did some crossword puzzles by the light coming through the front windows.  Finally around 10:00 or so, the Centerpoint Electric truck rolled up.  Didn’t take them long, either.  They just used their telescoping tool to take down the one fuse that had blown and replace it with a good one.  Power back on.  Thank you, guys for responding so quickly.  They told us our neighborhood was one of the hardest hit on the Island.  Thanks so much for that designation.  So … power’s back, computer’s on, here’s today’s blog entry, revised.  I’ll try to be a little less boring tomorrow.  Maybe we’ll be spared the intensity of the storm. 

Psalms 66:1-3 says, “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!  Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!  Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!  So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.’”

Father, I am constantly amazed at your displays of power, both in the lightning and in the quiet candlelight.  Protect our town as we continue to work through the storm.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 27 – “The eyes have it”

Chris finally talked me into going back to the eye doctor the other day.  Nothing in particular was bothering me, other than the monthly calls from the office wondering when I would be coming in.  Oh, and the fact that it would mean having to drive clear into Texas again.  But I did have to pick up some medicine from my rheumatologist right down the street from the eye doc’s office.  And I have to admit I was a little bit concerned after the fall I took on my eye, though.  That sounds really strange.  I fell on my eye.  A person has to be really graceful to do that, I guess.  But then I have never been one to do things the conventional way.  The concussion symptoms have almost all departed.  I still get headaches on occasion, and the whole concentration thing (well, the lack thereof) is hanging on.  So I decided I may as well get the checkup done just to make sure.  Oh, yes.  And did I mention that Chris had already made the appointment for me and was standing over me with “The Look” to make sure I followed through.  Actually this time it wasn’t so much The Look as it was the keys to the car, because she planned to drive me up there whether I was ready to go or not.  I love that woman.

The results of the visit? Quite anticlimactic, actually.  After the battery of usual eye drops and pokings and proddings, I came out of it all with a very slight change in my glasses prescription and the OK to another two years to come back and see him again.  The old eyes still have it.  And just as I was release my sigh of relief about my two year reprieve, he said those dreaded words you never want to hear from someone you have to call Doc … “Oh, wait a minute.” And then, to make matters worse, he used the other word I have come to despise, “prednisone.”  There it was.  “Wait a minute...  I just remembered you have taken prednisone.  You better come back in one year, not two.  That prednisone can speed up the development of cataracts.”  Of course it can.  Cataracts and uncontrollable hot flashes, an old man’s worst nightmare.  OK, Doc.  See you sometime next year, God willing.  Now if I can just figure out what’s going on with our cable … but that’s a story for another time.

Psalms 123:1-2 says, “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.  As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.”

Father, thank you for these old eyes of mine that you gave me.  Help me to keep them focused on you.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26 – “The Box”

Our air conditioner has been less than efficient for quite a while now.  At least once a year we have to call the company out, and they end up refilling the unit with Freon. This year was no exception.  On these hot, muggy August Galveston afternoons, when the temperature outside was 90 degrees plus, our air conditioner would come on at noon and never go off until sometime after dark.  The inside temperature would barely stay in the low 80’s, and wouldn’t reach the set temperature of 77 until around midnight, if we were lucky. 

Finally this year’s service call resulted in a bit more extensive search of the situation.  It has been the same technician pretty much every time, and he was getting almost as frustrated as we were.  Sure enough, he discovered a small leak in one of the copper pipes.  He had already replaced the Freon, so we were OK for the weekend.  He assured us he would be “back on Monday” to complete the repair.  He even said he would highly recommend to the company that they not charge us for the service, since it had been going on ever since they installed the unit.  Sadly, Monday came and went and we heard nothing from them.  That means another phone call today and more waiting for Chris.  Sigh.

I did manage to get one do-it-yourself project successfully completed, though.  Plumbing, of all things.  The faucet in our master bathroom has been oozing for a while now.  Again, a very slow leak, but we weren’t sure where it was coming from.  We did one of those on line how-to searches and found the basics on how to replace the innards of one of those things.  It didn’t look too difficult, so off we went.  I mean, literally off. I got the part off but then I had to go find a new one.  Never such an easy task.  I thought because it was a Delta faucet that it would be somewhat easier to find, but our old standby, Village Hardware, didn’t have one.  Not a good sign.  That meant the only other easily accessible option without going to a plumbing specialty place or calling the plumber was Home Depot.  Sure enough, Home Depot had an entire wall of those stem pieces, but not a single one of them matched up even close to the one I held in my hand.  As I dropped to one knew to search out the final row, my eyes were drawn to The Box, filled with random plumbing parts, strewn about in no particular order.  Intrigued by the randomness, I ignored the bottom row of hanging parts and started shuffling through The Box.  OK, so I have a problem with staying focused on the task at hand.  That’s another issue for another day.  As it turned out, there were all kinds of strange plumbing-type things in The Box, most of which I had never seen before.  And nestled cozily in a corner beneath that haphazard pile of whatchamacallits?  You guessed it.  A “genuine Delta-manufactured bathroom faucet stem replacement part.”  The exact part I was looking for.  It was the only one in there, placed there just for me by … well, I’ve never been one to trivialize the workings of an awesome God.  And I honestly had not just prayed for divine intervention.  But I will say that over the years I have learned to praise God even in the smallest victories of life.  It just makes the really big triumphs seem so much better when they do occur. 

Job 12:13-16 says, “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.  What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; the man he imprisons cannot be released.  If he holds back the waters, there is drought; if he lets them loose, they devastate the land.  To him belong strength and victory.”

Father, thank you for a life full of random boxes filled with surprise victories.  Amen.

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25 – “A Really Hot Wedding”

I officiated another wedding at the San Luis Hotel the other day.  I know, that’s really not that unusual an event.  I do quite a few weddings there over the course of a year’s time.  This one was garners special attention, however.  Oh, it’s not that the bride and groom both fainted or the bride’s father fell in a swimming pool or the ring bearer wailed his way down the aisle.  All of those would have been fodder for Funniest Home Videos, granted.  And this one actually had potential in that arena.  At the rehearsal we learned that the bride’s Mom really didn’t like - no, in the bride’s estimation she hated - her own mother, the bride’s grandmother.  And that grandmother was divorced and had a similar emotional reaction to being in the presence of, not her ex, but her ex’s new spouse.  The groom’s parents were also divorced, but apparently they were able to get along.  The wedding coordinator had the responsibility of figuring out who would sit where and next to whom.  On top of that, the ring bearer was less than two years old, always a recipe for impending hilarity or disaster.  Especially since his co-ring bearer was a little girl just over two.  The two of them were supposed to be guided by the flower girl who looked to be around five.  And all of them were to be directed to their beginning spots, not by the wedding coordinator or even a helpful nearby adult, but by one of the ushers – a little boy around ten.  Any one of those situations could have erupted into a major situation at any time.  But none did.  All went well on those fronts.  Granny sat just behind Mom.  GrandDad sat behind Granny.  The usher guided his two little charges to their spot, and they marched proudly down the aisle hand in hand, followed smartly by the cute flower girl.  The bride and her Dad arrive at the front, all smiles and just a bit teary-eyed.  All’s well that begins well.

And then everyone began to feel the effects of the one thing that no one could change.  The weather.  No, it didn’t start raining.  That would have been a welcome relief.  See, it was three o’clock on an August afternoon in Galveston.  The absolute hottest month of the year in one of the most humid spots in the continental United States.  And we were outside in the hotel’s gazebo.  Well, the bride and groom and myself were in the gazebo – the one place on the entire lawn where there was not the slightest breeze.  Virtually everyone else, from the best man and maid of honor on out to the videographer standing in the back in the center aisle, were all in the bright, hot, muggy sun.  Oh, and I forgot to mention, the way the venue is arranged all of the spectators were not just basking in the sunshine.  They were facing the setting sun.  No shade.  No fans.  No umbrellas.  Just raw, unadulterated sunshine.  And did I mention that it was hot?  I think the official temperature was somewhere around 96 degrees, but the heat index shot that up well over 100.  The groomsmen wore tuxes.  I had on my only suit.  The groom’s Dad, who was seated on the front row was wearing a tie and a tie tack.  How do I know that, and why do I care?  Because the sun was reflecting off of that tiny piece of metal and glaring right into my eyes.  I had to hold up my wedding book just right to block it so I could see.  Sweat was glistening off of every person around, even the folks in bathing suits on their way to hotel pool who stopped to see what was going on.  I fully expected someone to drop from heat stroke any second.  Let me tell you, that now officially holds the title as the quickest wedding I have ever done.  Ten minutes.  Over.  Find some shade.  Oh, wait.  Unless you are in the pictures.  Then you have stay in the heat longer.  Not much longer, though.  Quickest post-wedding photo shoot I have ever seen as well.  Needless to say, I have a trip to the dry cleaner’s on my schedule today.  Gotta get that marryin’ and buryin’ suit cleaned up for next weekend.  I have another wedding, but it’s not on the island.  How hot does it get in Georgetown?

Psalms 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”

Father, I do praise you, even for the heat from the sun.  I remember what it’s like to be cold.  Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 24 – “The Community Fire House”

The community event hosted by the fire fighters at Station One (That’s the one downtown) was a huge success yesterday.  The guys collected school supplies through businesses in the area in preparation for the Back to School Bash.  Area groups from bars to churches pitched in to make sure the students from the area served by the Central Station go to school on Monday fully prepared. 

And school supplies weren’t the only reason to come to the station.  Chef Brad was hard at work cooking free hot dogs on the grill.  When he wasn’t terrorizing youngsters with Fire Engine Freddy, Mr. Tattoo himself, Fire Fighter Andy led T.A.T. Jonathan and T.A.T. Chris (Tattoo Artist Team) in offering kids their very own fire fighter symbol tattoos (temporary, of course).  Hose Honchos Joe and Collin were giving the kids an opportunity of a lifetime to man a real live fire hose.  Kids could take the lead to use the stream of water to knock a ball from the top of a cone.  And speaking of water, I saw more than a few water guns active (and maybe a water hose or two) under the watchful eye of Captain Mike.  Photographer Nathan was making his rounds with an iPad camera, recording the event for posterity (although I’m pretty sure I saw him coming out of the bouncy house at least once).  Even some of the off-duty guys were getting into the act.  I know Captain Danny was offering his grilling expertise and I saw President Jimmy demonstrating his own version of fire fighter’s carry technique with his son.  Chief Charlie was making his supervisory rounds.  And of course the indomitable Terrific Trish was bustling about, keeping the hot dog table stocked and the fire fighters in line.  I was really impressed with the new honorary volunteer fire department personnel – the ladies who pitched in to do the actual distributing of school supplies.  They wore their plastic fire hats with pride, as did most of the kids and more than a few adults.  Although a bit of instruction on which end was the front might have been helpful. 

Quite a few kiddos were supplied for school.  Kids and parents alike seemed to have a grand time.  Plans are to have more of these events to show the area that this truly is the Community Fire House.  Come by and see us some time. 

Psalms 32:7 says, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Father, protect these fine men of the fire house as they work every day to protect the community around them.  Amen.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 23 – “Win-win”

Chris and I made a trip into Texas yesterday.  We went to M.D. Anderson Hospital to see one of the fire fighter families.  Actually we have a double connection with them. Andy is a fire fighter, and I baptized his son Aidan at the Easter sunrise service a while back.  So I guess I’m chaplain and pastor to them.  His wife Katie is a real sweetheart, and they are really good friends with Nathan and April.  Katie’s Dad was admitted through the emergency room, and it had been determined that he was in sepsis.  The initial flood of testing had been completed, and the results were pending.  The family had carved out their niche in a corner of the ICU waiting room, and they were embroiled in that most difficult of situations that all of us eventually face – hurry … wait … hurry … wait. 

An uncle and aunt texted flight plans.  Hurry.  Calls and texts came in regularly from concerned friends.  Wait.  Andy raced off to arrange care for their children.   Hurry.  But not before he made arrangements for a nearby hotel room so the family could be close.   Wait.  All around them were families of other patients engaged in the same mind-numbing process, some nervously laughing, some silently crying, all hurrying through the tiny details of daily life so that they could gather there and wait … together. 

The most profound thing of all that I saw and heard from that tiny cluster of people who were Mr. Assad’s family came not from any of those seated before me.  Oh, they were the ones saying it all right.  I heard it no less than five times that I counted.  But the originator of the statement was not seated in in the waiting room with us.  He was lying in a bed in the ICU.  Back when he had been diagnosed with cancer, Mr. Assad had encouraged his family by assuring them that he was in a true “win-win” situation.  As Katie posted last night, “If he beat it, he got to stay here with us.  If he didn’t, he’d go home to be with The Lord, so either way was a win-win for him.”  He got past the cancer, but this particular infection he was fighting proved to be more than even his incredible fighting spirit could handle.  So not long after that reaffirmation of his faith through the words of his sweet daughter, Joe Assad “won.”  His family and friends will miss him and grieve for him.  But in their hearts they hold the hope of seeing him again when their own races are over and they, too, experience the win. 

John 14:1-3 says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Father, I know you welcomed Joe last night.  And I know he’s fine.  Would you send one of your special hugs now to Debbie and Katie and Betsy and their whole family?  Thank you for that.  Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 22 – “The Sunflower Tree”

Cailyn arrived the other day shortly after I had spent the morning doing yard work.  And I have to confess that was the day my body gave out shortly before all the work was completed.  As a result there was a big pile of tree branches still strewn all over the back yard.  And amongst those branches was the remnants of the rooftop sized sunflower tree.  I know, sunflowers are not technically trees, but when they are bigger than the house, I give them the benefit of the doubt.  I had chopped it way back to where only about a three foot shaft of the trunk remained.  Last year we pulled it up by the roots.  Couldn’t do it this year.  Not for lack of trying.  The thing just wouldn’t turn loose.  Oh, and the only reason we have a huge sunflower tree in our backyard is because our granddaughter wanted one. 

So Cailyn made her way into the backyard and waded through the rubble for a few minutes before it hit her.  The sunflower was gone.  She quickly made the connection and approached me about the situation.

Cailyn (pensively, almost wistfully):  “DadDad, why did you cut down my sunflower?”

Me (feeling rather gardner-ish and somewhat theological): “Well, that’s what you have to do every year.  Sunflowers – plants - need to be cut back like that.  Sometimes they even look like they are dead.  But then, when Spring gets here and the time is right, they start growing again.  It’s kind of like when Jesus came.  He had to die to take care of our sins, but then he rose from the dead at just the right time.  And now we can believe in him and go to heaven when we die.”

Whew.  The gospel in a nutshell – er, sunflower seed – for a five-year-old.  I wasn’t sure if she got anything at all out of my attempt, but she was paying very close attention as I spoke.  And when I finished she flashed me one of her patented gorgeous smiles, rolled her eyes just a little bit, and as she frolicked away threw this final tidbit over her shoulder, “I know all that, DadDad.”

That’s my prayer, Little Darlin’.  That’s my prayer indeed.

Jeremiah 31:3 says, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

Father, keep your presence alive and active in the lives of all of our little guys.  Amen.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 21 – “Trust the Wheel”

I am having a really hard time getting used to these signals my body is sending me.  In a nutshell, what used to mean, “Hurry up and get this done before you get too tired” has somehow transformed itself.  Now the exact same signal that used to get me into a higher gear says instead, “Stop … Now ... You're done.” 

So what brought on this latest minor rant?  Nothing significant, I assure you.  I just mowed and edged the grass yesterday.  Had to try out our new weedeater.  The other one actually still operates, but once it’s plugged in it never turns off.  Kind of scary.  The new one has an interesting feature on it, though.  It has a wheel.  That’s right.  A wheel on a weedeater.  Who would have thought?  When you use the other feature that twists the head into a position to trim the little pieces of grass that are sneaking onto the sidewalk, the wheel comes into play, turning the tool into what amounts to an edger.  You don’t have to strain your back to keep it in place.  Just trust the wheel and roll on.  Hmm.  Sounds like an advertising mantra: “Trust the wheel and roll on.”  Maybe I could figure out a way to incorporate that into a life philosophy.  How’s this: “When you’re feeling down and wondering how you can make even one more day.  When you’re just not sure if your body or your mind can take one more problem.  When it feels like a flat tire is imminent on that jalopy you call life, don’t give up.  Trust the Wheel (Jesus) and roll on.”

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Father, I sure don’t know of a Wheel that I could trust any more than you.  No blowouts, no slow leaks, no back strain.  Makes it a lot easier to see the hope ahead.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20 – “Winding up”

Today would have been my Mom’s eighty-eighth birthday.  She didn’t quite make it down here, but I imagine she’s got all the celebrating she can handle where she spends her time now.  Happy Birthday, Mom.  We love you.

Speaking of birthdays, I guess I should close the chapter on the birthday sagas of 2014 around our house.  Chris gave me an interesting present this year.  Along with a big old bag of Cheetos (always a welcome addition to anyone’s palate, I’m sure), she gave me an L-square tool for my wood shop.  Actually, I’m not sure if that’s the right name for it. It is shaped like a letter L.  I know what it is used for – drawing straight lines and marking 90 degree angles.  And my wood shop consists more of an old table, a tool kit given to me after Hurricane Ike, and a plastic tub with my dremel tool and carving knives in it.  We have grand plans to build a work bench to replace the old table, though.  Downloaded them off the internet of course.  It really doesn’t look all that hard to do.  We just have to find the time to go get the materials and get it done.  That would be in between pastoring and chaplaining and honey-do listing.  Should be no problem.  Hey, it’s only August.  Maybe by the end of the year. 

I did get her something besides the exquisite hand-carved letters L and X that I mentioned in an earlier post.  I’m not completely ignorant, after all.  I carved a really small cross that I had designs on turning into a necklace, but it would have required a very tiny o-screw, and they only come in silver.  All of Chris’ jewelry is gold.  I still gave her the little cross, though.  To supplement that, Cailyn and I went shopping the other day.  She helped me pick out another necklace with a really nice Maltese cross.  Several different colors of stones made it quite interesting to look at.  Cailyn knew right away it was the one for Nani, and she wasn’t about to let me choose anything else anyway.  So there you are, Chris.  I sure hope you like it.  And you might as well go ahead and mark it in the will for that one to go to Cailyn. 

So that winds up all the notes I have on birthday week at the Vaughan house.  Thank you to everyone who offered well-wishes through FaceBook and emails and real-live birthday cards that came in the mail.  They were all greatly appreciated.  So on to the next thing … Let’s see … marriage counseling tonight … Eye doc appointment Friday afternoon … Rehearsal Friday evening … Fire department back to school bash Saturday … Wedding Saturday ... Church Sunday …

Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Father, thank you for a full plate of activities.  Staying busy sure helps keep my mind off of things I can’t do anything about anyway.  Great plan for staying happy.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19 – “The Home Depot Plot”

After my visit with Josh to the Urgent Care Clinic the other day (that would be the visit to treat the catfish stab, not the smashed face), he asked me if I wanted to go with him over to Home Depot.  He said he had an idea for a birthday present for his mother and he wanted to get my take on it.  Now, those of you who know Chris know that wasn’t all that unusual a request.  It didn’t sound strange to me at all, given Chris’ affinity for power tools recently.  For several months all she wanted was a nail gun.  I just figured Josh had been looking at sawzalls or table saws or something. 

But as we approached the door of the Home Depot he made a confession.  This trip wasn’t about Mom at all.  He and his brothers had conspired to get me a new grill, and I was simply here to pick out the one I wanted.  I have to admit I did need a new one.  The old one has seen too many Galveston salt-air nights.  The gas side didn’t even operate any more.  Guess with a fire fighter involved in family cookouts that wasn’t going to pass muster for long.  I am not by any means a connoisseur of outdoor cooking utensils, but Josh had just purchased one, so he had some ideas that helped out a lot.  We found a whole row of the style we wanted all chained together outside.  As the sales guy unlocked the chains Josh inspected each one with a fine tooth comb.  Virtually every one of them already had at least a small spot of rust on them.  Welcome to Galveston.  Josh asked if the floor model inside was any better.  The sales guy chuckled and remarked, “We rotate them all inside, so it has had its turn out here, too.”  Of course you do.  We finally selected the one with the tiniest rust spot and two of the workers loaded it into Josh’s minivan.  Of course that was quite an ordeal as well.  They had to take it apart so it would fit.  We made it home in plenty of time for the hamburger cookout that night.  In fact we kind of surprised Chris with it, too.  We quietly rolled it into the back yard and then came in the front door.  About that time Chris said she was on her way to the garage to get the George Forman grill to begin making the hamburgers.  In my best attempt to sound sad, I told her, “Don’t bother.”  Of course she wanted to know what was wrong.  With a sigh, I replied, “Just come look.”  Surprise worked.  She didn’t bruise me too badly.

Oh, and they did together for a present for Chris, although it wasn’t from Home Depot after all.  They presented her with some seed money to go toward the purchase of a display cabinet for her Precious Moments figurines.  Very smart move on their part, by the way.  This way she can pick out the one she wants.  I’m excited because she has been looking for one literally since Hurricane Ike.  That was in 2008.  She has never felt comfortable when she compared the prices involved to our own budget.  Now maybe she’ll go ahead and pull the trigger on a purchase. 

Psalms 13:6 says, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

Father, thank you for the creativity you placed in our kids.  Sure makes opening birthday presents fun.  Amen.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18 – “Cabinet crashing”

Here are a few random anecdotes from our birthday week.

Cailyn was one of the first ones here, since her Mom and Dad drop her off on their way to work.  She usually hangs out with me in the office for a while.  When that gets too boring for her, she decides one of two things.  Either it is time for breakfast or it’s time to wake up Nani.  This time she disappeared into the bedroom to see what havoc she could wreak on Chris’ sleeping.  But she returned just seconds later with a look of deep concern on her face. 

Me: “What’s wrong? Is everything all right?”

Cailyn: “I think Nani’s crying.”

Me: “Crying?  Why do you say that?”

Cailyn: “Because she’s laying on her face.”

Ouch.  I guess that does look quite uncomfortable. 

 At one juncture Josh and I had taken up our usual spots.  We were both on the kitchen floor, backs up against the cabinets, arms crossed in front of us, just relaxing and waiting for the food to get ready.  Baby Noa (who is not such a baby any more) toddled by and the two large lumps of Uncle Josh and DadDad caught her eye.  She slowly took in the sight, first looking at me for long moments, then taking in the sights over Josh’s way.  I suppose we must have looked like we were having the time of our lives, because she decided to join us.  Yep, there was just enough room between us for her to waddle over to the cabinets, turn her back to them, and ease her way to the floor.  Once down, she scootched (That’s a word, right?) her bottom up against the cabinet and leaned carefully back.  As her head rested against the wood, she was sure she had missed something, so she leaned forward a bit to check us out once again.  “That’s it,” she apparently resolved.  She leaned back again, oh, so carefully.  And this time she crossed her arms to match ours.  That’s the right position.  By this time she had an audience, and one of those observers was none other than the family paparazzi agent, Nani.  Chris grabbed the camera and snapped a quick photo.  The flash temporarily startled Noa, but then she realized what it was.  As Chris positioned the camera for a follow-up shot, Noa, with an exaggerated gesture that would have made every rapper proud, dropped her arms across her chest, tilted her head back just a bit, and flashed her cheesiest smile.  Great picture.  And better yet, later on someone asked her what DadDad does, and she repeated the rapper move, cheesy smile and all.  Never knew I was so inspirational to the younger generation.  Maybe we can become a hot rap band.  Noa Noogie and the Cabinet Crashers.  Has a ring to it …

1 Chronicles 16:8-9 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.”

Father, help me remember that little eyes are always watching.  Amen.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17 – “Happy Birthday Chris Vaughan!!”

Of course I had to title this one in honor of the birth of my dear wife of 39 years.  Anybody who makes it to such a milestone of life as this particular birthday deserves the simple acknowledgment of a life well spent.  But for someone who has spent the vast majority of that life living with me … well, that deserves more than a medal. 

Now I don’t want to specifically say how old she is today.  I can divulge that the two digits that join together to form the number are suspiciously endowed with curves.  The first one has a certain less-than-positive reputation in Hebrew numerology circles.  Something about it symbolizing the less-than-perfect nature of man as he is compared with the perfection of God.  And the second number is the consummate creation of curvature, a collection of arcs and swoops that join together to form the ultimate symbol of unity.  No, I won’t say what those numbers are, for they are but one of a myriad of ways to describe this lady who has stuck beside me through surgeries and city-changes, children and Cheetos, hurricanes and heat waves.  We have together gone from Noah to Noa, Gideon to Fritz, Houston to Fort Worth to Mansfield to Denver to Galveston, goofy youth pastor and his date (their first together) at Langwood Baptist Church to senior pastor (still goofy) at Seaside for 19 years, wide-eyed eighteen-year-olds at Houston Baptist College to grizzled alumni making plans to attend a combination grandson birthday party / tailgating event at an upcoming Houston Baptist University football game. 

I suppose I could go on and on, but I should save something to say on our 40th anniversary next year.  As it is, if I remember it’s here, I might just copy this and repost it then.  You know how it is “when you reach a certain age.”  Tell Chris Happy Birthday if you see her today.  Email her.  Post on her FaceBook page.  Call her on the phone.  She’s been around a while.  Surely she’s made some friends out there.
And Chris, when you read this ... happy birthday, my Love.

Proverbs 31:10 says, “A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.”

Father, I have no idea how much rubies are worth.  I do know how much Chris is worth to me.  Thank you for her life and her love.  Bless her mightily.  Amen.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August 16 – “The stabbing”

The other day (Well, it was on my birthday, actually) I had a run-in with a hardhead catfish.  Anyone who has ever fished the Gulf of Mexico or Galveston Bay knows immediately what I’m talking about.  We took all the kids down to the beach for their sand and salt water fix.  Gotta keep the sand between the toes of those Waco and LaMarque kids lest they forget their roots.  I took along a pole in case one of them wanted to try for a fishie or two.  The water was pretty rough, and I only had some dead bait, so I really didn’t expect much.  And my expectations were essentially met.  One small whiting.  A tiny little croaker.  And then … the big hardhead. 

I had been having a little trouble with the reel, so it was a bit more difficult than usual to get him reeled in.  Once he was close enough I grabbed my needle nose pliers and reached for the hook.  About that time he decided to make another run.  Coming to the end of the line he left the water and launched, side barb up, right into my left forearm.  And stayed there.  And with the tiny little barbs working overtime, and him wiggling to release himself from the hook, (how shall I say this?) it was quite painful.  The fin was imbedded.  So much so, in fact that I had to forcibly pull it out.  I could tell that it tore up lots of tissue.  Nothing quite like a puncture wound, but add to it the poison involved, and the pain is … not fun.  By this time Josh had arrived to offer his assistance.  Apparently Chris had seen the whole event from the shore and had proclaimed, “He got him.”  Between us we got the evil catfish unhooked and tossed back to wreak his havoc on some future angler.  I remember holding my arm up so Josh could view the unmistakable flow of blood coursing into the water.  It was way too tempting not to add, “Well, then.  Now I’m just attracting the sharks.”  Josh has always had a particular “endearment” for that species.  I even rinsed it off a time or two in the miraculous healing waters of the Gulf of Mexico, much to his chagrin.  We had been there for a few hours by this time, so we packed up the kids and headed on home.  I was instructed to get a shower first, and then get my arm under some hot water.  Sounds kind of counter-productive for a wound that is swelling and throbbing, but that’s the initial stage of treatment for a catfish stab.  The heat draws out the toxins and actually relieves the pain significantly. 

And then came the discussion about whether or not to go to the doctor.  Not that much of a discussion, really, when you’re married to a nurse and have an EMT Intermediate-trained fire fighter for a son.  I couldn’t get an appointment at the clinic right around the corner from our house.  Chris called once and then I called, but both of us ended up talking to an answering service.  The one she talked to said the nurse would call us back.  The one I talked to said the clinic wasn’t even answering their phone.  So Josh and I hopped in the car and drove over there.  Sure enough, they didn’t have any openings, but I made an appointment for a few weeks away to finally get established with a doctor there.  I haven’t had one since before Hurricane Ike.  That was in 2008, so I guess it wouldn’t hurt.  We left there and drove on over to the minor emergency clinic.

As Josh was parking the car, my phone rang.  It was the nurse from the clinic we had just left, calling to tell me I really needed to be seen, and recommending I go to the minor emergency clinic.  When she finished her speech, I told her I was pulling into a parking space at the clinic as we spoke.  That threw her for a second or two, but she did come back with, “Well, that’s the first time one of my patients has followed my advice so … so … quickly.” 

Once inside and checked in, the nurse called me back to the blood pressure table.  He pulled up my chart, verified my address, and began his questioning with, “Other than the diabetes, are there any other medical conditions we should know about?” 

I replied, “Wait.  Diabetes?  If it says diabetes you are in someone else’s chart.”

He leaned forward, as if that would change what he was reading, “No it’s your chart.”

I looked at Josh, shrugged my shoulders and quipped, “Well, if I have diabetes, please don’t tell my wife.  I’ll never eat anything that tastes good again.”

He wasn’t sure how to deal with that, but did acknowledge that perhaps I didn’t have diabetes after all.  The doctor came in soon after and did his inspection.  He ordered an x-ray, but it showed no trace of catfish eggs or any particle remnants of the fin.  He had the nurse wrap it up, ordered some antibiotics, and sent me home.  Great birthday start.

Psalms 8:6-8 says, “You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”

Father, thank you for giving us access to those fish you created.  They are great for food.  It is really tough when they fight back, though.  Amen.