Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 30 – “An opportunity”

My fire department uniform dress hat finally came in yesterday, just in time for the conference I’m going to this afternoon.  I was asked to do the invocation at the International Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Conference here in town.  Chris and I went down to pick it up from the office.  Slowly checking off everything.  Still need a second badge and a name plate.  Trish also presented me with the “official” uniform shirt for the month of October.  In recognition of breast cancer awareness month, all the fire fighters will be wearing pink shirts while on duty.  So if you see a fire fighter wearing pink, that’s the explanation.

I also managed to fit in a haircut yesterday.  Always an interesting experience.  My preference when I’m getting a haircut is to relax, close my eyes and check out for those few minutes.  Sometimes the one cutting my hair realizes that and lets me escape.  Not so much yesterday.  I drew one of the new stylists.  I never care who cuts it.  I don’t even care much what it looks like.  I don’t have to see it much.  She did her dead-level best to engage me in the idle chatter that is the usual fare of the haircutting world.  Her first attempt was to go for the weather.  “Beautiful day.”  “No rain in the forecast.”  I was polite.  I gave my very best one-word answers and smiled.  Maybe it was the smile I should have left off, because she moved on to a new topic.  Wanted to know if I had been to the shrimp festival.  I sighed to myself and tried my best to warm up a little bit, resigning myself to the obvious.  She was not going to let up.  I told her a little bit about the family version we had been to over the weekend with Christina’s Dad providing the shrimp dishes.  That’s all it took.  She was off.  She asked question after question as she cut.  Again, I did my best to stay focused on what she was saying. 
Finally I guess she couldn’t think of any more to say about shrimp, so she switched topics again.  This time she told me she and her husband were moving this weekend and wondered what internet provider they should use.  I am certainly no connoisseur of cable, but one thing she said leapt out at me and lurched me from my lethargy.  Moving.  To.  Jamaica Beach.  Yep.  That’s what she said.  And suddenly it all became clear.   That’s why I was supposed to stay connected in the conversation.  I told her I was the pastor of the church there, and we talked some more about who we use and who Nathan uses.  By the time she finished with my hair, I was handing her one of my church cards and she was assuring me they would come to church and visit.  OK, Lord.  I’ll try to pay closer attention next time to the opportunities you put right in my lap to represent you.

Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Father, thank you for that conversation yesterday at the barber shop.  Woke me up a little bit when I least expected it.  Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29 – “Busy days ahead”

We had a great surprise Sunday morning when some really good friends of ours walked into church.  Mike and Olivia were on their way to a cruise ship, so they stopped in to worship with us and then hang out until time to board.  It was really good to see them and do some catching up. 

We also had quite the crowd at church.  I counted fifty-one folks, and quite a few of them were of the under-twelve variety.  Sure have been praying for God to raise up someone with a heart for children’s ministry.  The potential is there to touch a lot of little lives.  Speaking of raising up ministers, our keyboard player woke up sick Sunday morning.  She had all the music selected, but the only other worship team member there was the bass player.  He didn’t think it would sound quite right to lead worship with just a bass line going.  So that meant we were scrambling to find some Youtube videos of songs the folks might know and that were already saved on the church computer.  Our internet connection has been sketchy at best, so we can’t really trust it to be there when we need it.  Once I found enough songs, I could finally relax a bit and enjoy meeting all those folks who came to worship.  Everyone had a great attitude about singing along with the videos, too.  It’s great to be in a family that knows how to be flexible and understanding.

After we saw Mike and Olivia off, we headed up to League City to watch Jachin play a baseball game.  Well, I guess it is technically a game, since two teams are squaring off on the field and there are umpires.  But it is some kind of instructional league, so they don’t keep score.  And I haven’t really seen much instruction going on, either.  Hopefully Jachin loves the game enough to not be distracted by all that. 

I have a shortened week this week and lots to do in it.  I am officiating another out of town wedding on Friday night, with a rehearsal on Thursday.  So I have to get all my Sunday preparation done early.  Add to that the fire-fighting conference that I am praying the invocation for on Tuesday, and it promises to be a busy next few days.

Psalms 139:9-10 says, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Father, thank you for promising to be there, no matter what my circumstances look like.  Amen.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September 28 – “Shrimp Festival”

We got to attend a shrimp festival of our own yesterday.  This weekend is the big Galveston Shrimp Festival, with cook-offs and celebrations all over the Island.  We weren’t going to be on the Island for much of the day, however.  Josiah had his very first soccer game, and if you’ve never seen a group of four-year-olds playing soccer, it is a sight to behold.  No way was I going to miss that one.  He did really well, by the way.  I know his team even scored a few times, but I’m not sure they keep score at that level.  The games were held at a YMCA up in League City, hence our departure from the Island.

After the game we headed over to the LaMarque Vaughan’s house for the victory celebration.  Christina’s Dad started a tradition a few years ago of showing off his cooking-with-shrimp prowess for one whole day, and this was the day.  He started off with some shrimp quesadillas.  Lots of options within that general menu, too.  Three different types of cheese.  You could even mingle sausage or chicken with your shrimp.  That was some good stuff.  Unfortunately, however, I had to leave soon after that course.  I officiated a wedding back in Galveston.  Chris returned for the remainder of the occasion, though.  She also managed to watch Micah’s soccer game as well.  Sorry I had to miss that one.

But back to the shrimpfest.  The “snack” course involved some sort of shrimp infested dumplings.  It sounded quite Oriental to me, so I wasn’t too sad about missing that one.  Chris loved it, though.  It was the even meal that I really wanted to be a part of.  Bacon-wrapped shrimp.  Those were my personal favorites last year.  Shrimp surrounded by cheese and bacon and grilled outside.  What a combination of flavors. 

Art packed up some of his specialties in a goody bag for me, and Chris brought it home.  I can’t wait to check it out later today.  Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Romans 8:37-39 says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Father, thank you for allowing us to experience things like the flavors of a shrimp fest and the reckless abandon of a four-year-old playing soccer for the first time.  Amen.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

September 27 – “A haunting?”

We went to an estate sale yesterday.  Chris is still looking for a cabinet to display her Precious Moments figurine collection that has been boxed up since Hurricane Ike.  She has seen a few she likes, but just hasn’t been able to bring herself to pull the trigger.  People are really proud of their furniture.  It’s hard to believe how really expensive those things are. 

At the sale we did have an unusual experience.  Now usually people have an estate sale when the owner has died and the heirs have collected all the family pieces they want.  Estate sale companies then come in, price everything, and man the site in garage sale format.  This one had numerous beautiful antique furniture pieces, although nothing that even came close to what Chris was looking for.  There was lots of art on the walls, both paintings and prints.  There were even several sculptures.  You don’t see that too often.  There was an artist’s studio set up over the detached garage.  It had more sculptures (really expensive ones) along with paints and canvases.  And the garage itself was lined with old books along with the requisite tools and lawn equipment.  Now about the books.  I have to confess that is where I spent the bulk of my time.  Some of the books were fascinating.  Some were very old, even from the 19th century.  Others were more recent, but a lot of the more recent ones had a charm of their own.  Many of them were all about conspiracy theories and mysterious findings and, how shall I say it? … “creative” speculations.  There were books on the Lincoln and Kennedy assassination conspiracies.  Several on UFO’s.  There was obviously a particular interest in the Lost Island of Atlantis.  And among the artsy-type books were numerous ones on Salvadore Dali.  Needless to say, although we had never met, I liked this person a lot. 

With a few books in hand, we left the garage and went back into the house.  We still had an entire second floor to investigate.  As it turned out, only two rooms up there were open to the sale, a bedroom and a library of sorts adjoining it.  As we entered the library, to check out even more books of course, we saw two ladies, each with a book in her hands.  One nodded politely as we entered and left the room.  The other, however, was alternately chuckling and sighing and silently muttering to herself as she leafed through volume after volume.  The thing that really caught my attention was her comment, “Oh, dear.  What HAVE I gotten myself into.”  As we worked our way closer to her, she exclaimed, “Oh, would you look at this,” and held out the book of artwork for us to see.  I had no idea what the picture was, but she was excited about it, so I said something witty and charming along the lines of “Wow, amazing.”  And from the moment I opened my mouth, we had a new best friend.  But this was not just any old lady.  She identified herself as … are you ready for this? … the owner of the house.  Spooky, huh?  Now I don’t think she was a ghost, although she did look somewhat older than me, but in these old Galveston homes, one can never be too sure.  And it is almost October.  She was quite chatty, too.  Chris admired one of the old dresses hanging nearby.  Our new friend went into a monologue about how she wore that particular one back in the 60’s when “we called them our slinkies.”  Chris commented that some of the others must have been what she wore during Mardi Gras.  That brought an explanation of her penchant for “getting into character” by wearing the “appropriate” period dress when she served as a docent for things like Egyptian museum exhibit openings.  Chris finally asked the question that had been burning in our minds since she appeared.  “Are you the owner?”  I couldn’t have been more intrigued as I leaned forward to hear her answer.  A bubbly, “Yes” was her immediate reply, and she followed that up with a little history of how she had lived in the house for twelve years.  She was from the Dallas area and intended to move up there to be closer to grandchildren.  Now some of her history seemed a little strange to me.  She explained that her daughter had inherited the house.  OK.  Then she said her daughter needed the money so she decided to sell the house.  OK.  Then she said she bought the house.  Now I’m totally confused.  She bought it from her daughter?  After the daughter inherited it?  So who willed it to the daughter?  Was her timeline a little messed up here?  Was she … Wait a minute.  That was all a little too creepy for me.  We ended our conversation amiably, wishing her well in her new haunt up in Dallas … Hmm.  (No, I didn’t really say that to her, but I thought it).

1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Father, thank you for assurances like these that we can know what lies ahead of us.  And I’m so glad my future will be with you and not shuffling around a dusty old library reminiscing about days gone by.  Amen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

September 26 – “The Floody Fire”

I had a lunch meeting yesterday with one of the local Galveston pastors.  His church is in the East End of the Island and is doing really well connecting with the medical students.  I just wanted to get to know him a little bit and ask if they had any “extra” musicians there who might want to do some mission work leading worship at Seaside.  Aaron didn’t know of anyone, but it was good to meet him.  Guess I’ll put my feelers out in some other directions until God raises up someone else from the Seaside family.  The weather was more than a little bit eerie while we were meeting.  The sky was really dark.  It was windy.  And the rain was coming down in buckets.

When I left the meeting and made my mad dash to the car, I noticed on my Fire Department phone ap that a fire call had gone out almost an hour before.  I knew they would probably still be there, so I pulled out onto the seawall and headed that way.  The address was a house on 39th Street, which happens to be one of the arteries that leads north off of the seawall, so I turned there.  It didn’t take long to see just how much rain we had been having.  The street was pretty flooded, and the further inland I got, the worse the flooding got.  I was in our Equinox instead of the truck, so I had to be really careful to stay in the center of the street.  After the second time of easing through an intersection and hearing the water lapping against the bottom of the car, I began second-guessing my decision.  Without at least a bunker coat and fire helmet, I would be wading up to the scene either struggling to stay under an umbrella or just embracing the moment and welcoming the drenching.  I did get close enough to see that the fire fighters were already rolling up hoses, so I knew the fire was out and the scene was under control.  I still hoped to get close enough to touch base with the guys as they cleaned up, but as it turned out, the closest I could get was a good block away.  I stopped there in the middle of the street and watched for a while, behind the police barricade and one other car that had parked and had its flashers going.  Of course my inner wimp kicked in then.  I bailed.  It took a while to get turned around, and even longer to get far enough west on Ave O do be able to drive even close to the speed limit.  The farther west I got, though, the less flooding I faced.  I managed to get to 53rd Street, and then onto Ave S.  From here I was home free.  Even though I didn’t get to the scene, I’m still in awe and very proud of the fire fighters who braved the flood conditions and sloshed their way to put this fire out.  Nice job, Galveston Fire and Rescue.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 says, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

Father, thank you once again for literally walking with the fire crews through the fire and the flood yesterday.  Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September 25 – “Help a fire fighter?”

When I delivered the little stuffed animals to the stations yesterday, the little critters were received with open arms by the guys on shift.  I heard some great stories about how they have used things like that in the past.  One guy in particular shared this one.  If I remember right, it was at the scene of a car wreck.  He noticed a little boy on the scene, obviously scared and doing his best not to completely break down.  The fireman took a little stuffed animal over to the boy, and in his gruff, fire fighter in full bunker gear voice, said, “I need you to do something for me that is really important.  I need you to hold onto this guy and make sure he’s OK.  That will really help me out.  Can you do that?”  Of course the youngster agreed.  His mind was at least momentarily distracted from the confusing array of worries he was facing.  Help a fire fighter?  Well, yeah.

This interchange occurred with Cailyn on the way in to school the other day.  The names of the other children involved have been changed (I think) to protect … aw, it has nothing to do with all that.  I just didn’t hear what she said very well. 

Cailyn: “I want to catch up with McKenzie.”
After a brief run, she fell in right behind her what I assumed was McKenzie, her Mom and her little brother.

Cailyn (with a smile, obviously speaking to the brother): “Hi.”
Nothing.  No response at all from the boy.

Cailyn: “Hi.”
Again, nothing.  No response at all.

Cailyn (changing her flirtation tactics just a bit): “Hi, Cade.”

Cade (without hesitation): “Shut up.”

Cade’s Mom: “Say ‘Good morning’ to her.”

No, I didn’t leave anything out.  He said nothing.  Again.

Cailyn (thinking, perhaps, that he didn’t know where she was): “I’m back here.”

Cade (glancing over his shoulder with a sheepish grin on his face): “I know where you are.”

At that, Cailyn grinned widely.  McKenzie stopped and welcomed Cailyn to walk next to her.  Cade’s Mom threw her hands up in the air.  Cailyn’s Grandad laughed out loud, agreeing silently with her Nani’s assessment: “Oh, boy.  Nathan and April sure have their hands full.”

Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

Father, thank you for people who care about little kids.  Your little ones do count.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24 – “Sewing Seeds of Love”

Yesterday at water therapy, one of the ladies told me she had something in her car for the fire department.  After we finished our workout she led me to her car and pulled out a huge Bed, Bath, and Beyond shopping bag stuffed full of small little stuffed animals.  Elephants and bears and cats and ducks.  All made from different kinds of fabrics.  Very cute stuff.  She is in a sewing group at a Methodist Church in Clear Lake called Sewing Seeds of Love.  The idea behind the donation is not so the fire fighters can feel a sense of comfort while on duty by napping with the cute little critters.  Although some of them might benefit from that.  I know I would.  The creatures are for the guys to have on hand to give away to little kids who might be involved in a car wreck or fire.  It might help just a little bit to have a little stuffed friend to hang on to in the traumatic situation.  They can also be available for the guys to hand out at the station or as they make calls in the neighborhood.  Sounds to me like that would be good for community relations.  I’ll be getting the goods out to the different stations, hopefully beginning this week.  Thank you so much to that group. 

Gotta throw in a quick Cailyn story.  She found my back scratcher tool the other day.  After inspecting it carefully, she began to gently scratch across her forehead.  Her eyes slowly closed, and the expression on her face was one of absolute peace.  I was fascinated.  Finally, with a puzzled look on my face, I asked, “Why are you scratching your head?”

Without missing a beat, she matter-of-factly replied, “That knocks out everything in my mind.  It helps my brain feel better, too.” 

Pass it over here when you get done.  I’ll take anything that makes my brain feel better.

Colossians 3:15-17 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 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 the creativity of the sewing group, coming up with such a great idea for ministry.  Bless their efforts and make each of them happy.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23 – “Loving you and a valiant rescue”

What a hodgepodge of grandchildren type experiences yesterday brought.  From starting the day by getting Cailyn to school, to a rather unique quick trip at around ten p.m., our day was bursting at the seams with kids.

We picked up Cailyn at around 3:00.  And yesterday at 3:00, in case you were basking in the coolness of air conditioning at the time, was hot.  I didn’t look at the temperature, but I sure felt it first-hand.  Cailyn, of course, headed straight for the playground.  Great.  It’s a lot of fun on cooler days, but what miseries would this day bring?  I communicated my concerns to Cailyn, but she quickly assured me that “It’ll be all right DadDad.  I just have to show you.”  Well, as it turned out, what she had to show me was just the ticket.  We crawled up onto the top of the highest slide, at which point, right before you slide downward, there in a tiny little housetop.  And underneath that housetop?  That’s right.  Shade.  And a cool breeze to boot.  I happily followed her up there, and she crawled into my lap.  We sat there for a while, just talking about her day.  Seems someone had sprayed Lysol into the fire alarm and set it off, resulting in an unplanned fire drill.  A couple of the engines responded, so Cailyn apparently took charge of the situation with her classmates, assuring them that all would be fine because she knew the names of some those fire fighters.  Not sure how her knowing names makes everything all right, but I was sure inspired to redouble my efforts at learning the guys’ names. 

Last night Kel and Christina brought their kids over for a while so they could go on a date, and our evening turned into a chaotic mix of games and wrestling and rocking babies.  Aside from their usual assortment of laps through the office, into the hall, around into the kitchen, back down the other hall and into the office again, there were some unexpected moments.  Noa found my old phone.  It’s the one with my picture dressed as Superman on the case.  She actually recognized me, and carried it around the house telling everyone it was DadDad.  It only slowed her down a moment when she first saw me in person.  She looked at the picture, then up at me, then back down at the picture.  A big grin came over her face.  She proudly held the phone up for me to see, and declared “DadDad.”  Then with her other hand she pointed up at me and made a second declaration, “DadDad.”  That’s my girl.  I understand that at home the other day Christina was doing her best to get Noa to say “I love you.”  Over and over she tried, “Noa, say I love you I love you,” all to no avail.  Suddenly, Kel walked up.  Noa turned to him and immediately said, “Love you.”  Sorry, Mommy. 

Jachin and I talked some football.  We had to look up the score of the Broncos game.  It went into overtime, so he missed the end.  Sadly, the Broncos lost.  Micah and Josiah were in a world of their own.  They were taking turns misshaping each other’s faces to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and shortening his nickname to a simple “Dam” (with a short vowel sound on that letter “a,” of course).  Nothing quite like having a valid excuse to say what is disallowed in any other circumstance.  Must have been an effective movie.  Oh, and we did play a rousing game of hide and seek.  On my turn I raced as fast as I could around the track to catch Micah.  Didn’t come close.  But I did manage to get what feels like a stone bruise on my heel.  Still hurts this morning.

Then just as they were leaving we got a text from April asking if they had left Cailyn’s cheerleader backpack here.  A quick search gave that answer … Nope.  So we ran over to Weis, the school where they practice, and sure enough, there it was, sitting forlornly next to the doors of the school, just waiting for a valiant rescuer.  Happy to fill that role. 

Psalms 147:10-11 says, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

Father, thank you for chances, even as old as I am, to be a trusted one, a recognized one, a horsing-around one, and well, a rescuer.  Makes me feel a little more like you.  Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22 – “Unlucky Luke”

Ah, flashbacks.  Memories.  Tiny, seemingly insignificant occurrences that trigger a return to “the good old days.”  Or maybe in some cases, the “not so good old days.”  I had one of those this morning when I took Cailyn to school.

She was in a great mood the whole time we had her.  Ate breakfast with a chuckle.  Got dressed by herself.  Brushed her teeth by herself.  Even brushed her hair by herself.  Amazingly pleasant morning.  We chatted amiably on the drive over to the school.  And when we arrived she took my hand instead of the other way around.  And so we began the walk up to the front door.  Her the cute little five year old and me the very proud and doting grandfather.

As we crossed the street and reached the final walkway, though, she happened to notice the three people walking behind us.  Another old dude like me was holding a hand of each of two little girls who looked astonishingly alike.   Cailyn called them by name, so I asked if they were in her class. 
“No, DadDad, that’s the twins.  I think they are in first grade.” 
“Ah, the twins.  So they are older than you?”
“They are with me in cheerleading.” 

And there you have it.  My flashback moment began.  Not that the scenario was exactly the same, mind you.  But the feel of it was there, somewhere in the dark recesses of my memories, struggling to get out.  I had been here before, and the memory, though fuzzy, was, well, not happy. 

Cailyn’s pace slowed markedly.  Her head dropped to her chin so she could more easily sneak a peek at the older and wiser twins.  She didn’t speak to them, or even acknowledge that they were there, but very soon we were almost neck and neck with them.  But by this time we had reached the drop off point.  I gave her a quick kiss, but she did move.  She was staring, but this time not at the twins.  Off to our right, coming from the other side of the school was boy.  All by himself, he shuffled along, obviously not in any hurry.  His bushy blonde hair was quite disheveled.  His eyes scanned only the sidewalk directly in front of him.   His movements were slow … awkward.  And Cailyn seemed fascinated by this young creature.  Finally, a shy grin arose on her face.  She spoke:
“I think I’ll wait and walk in with Luke.”

There it was.  Dumped for a chance at romance.  She waited.  He moved slower.  She waited.  He stopped at the corner to … he didn’t do anything.  He just stopped.  And about that time the twins breezed past, grinning and holding hands with each other.  And they acknowledged Cailyn’s presence.  They actually spoke to her.  And thus began her dilemma.  Join the cheerleaders or continue to wait for the snail man?

Alas, the lure of the perky blonde twins and the brunette cohort who had since joined them proved just too much to resist.  Cailyn skipped happily away with her cheerleader friends, leaving poor rejected Luke in the dust, a choice, I might add, that probably added a few years to his life had Cailyn’s Daddy seen him.  Thankfully, though, he had no idea of what had just happened, which is, sadly, a typical male reaction.  As the new pack of females talked and laughed their way into the building, Unlucky Luke continued his slow shuffle, oblivious to the world around him.  One day, young Luke.  One day you will notice.  You will ache for the beautiful girl to smile, to simply notice that you are there.  And when she does, your heart will flutter.  Your stomach will ache.  And everything within you will desperately want to walk up to her and say “Hi.”  At that point, Young Luke, at that point you will face the decision of a lifetime.  Speak up, or shuffle on?  Consider carefully, my friend, and choose wisely.  Oh, and be careful if you choose Cailyn.  Her Daddy is a firefighter, and he knows a lot of people.  Big people. 

Psalms 9:9-10 says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Father, walk with all the Young Ones as they discover themselves and relationships.  Amen.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21 – “A Viking Funeral”

So I’ve learned a little Icelandic.  As in the language spoken in Iceland, I mean.  And whatever for, you might ask?  Believe it or not, it was for a funeral.  I received a call about two weeks ago from a guy I had never met.  Seems he had been at a funeral I had officiated for a friend of his named Steve.  That was one I remembered right away.  He was the guy with the huge sci-fi paraphernalia collection.  That was also the funeral I ended by flashing the Spock double-fingered victory sign and saying “Live long and prosper.”  The caller had been one of the people who spoke words of encouragement and memory to the family there.  That connection really helped as I talked with him about the sudden death of his son and the prospects of me doing a similar type funeral for him.  The son Troy’s main request as far as his death goes was that he be given a Viking funeral.  No specifics there.  Just Viking.

Troy was also a believer, so preparation for his funeral was instantly a lot easier.  Always is when you know the ultimate outcome of a life.  His Dad had a lot of ideas for how he wanted the ceremony to go.  In fact he planned pretty much the whole thing.  I just enhanced it a bit here and there and added the plan of salvation, of course.  One of the things he wanted me to read was a dialogue between a guy trying to say the Lord’s Prayer and God. I made a phone call to the funeral home and enlisted one of the guys who works there to help me out.  He was the unseen voice of God in the dialogue, answering the comments I made.  It was incredibly effective, too.  Well, once we got past the first phrase.  I began with the first line, “Our Father, ho art in heaven.”  He then answered “What?”  Problem was, the entire audience started praying the prayer out loud, so a lot of them missed his interruption.  It took a second or two for them to realize I hadn’t continued with the prayer and was talking to someone else.  It was the perfect opening, since the story line was about praying rote prayers and not paying attention to what you are saying.  I may use that one again in an appropriate situation at future funerals.  It wouldn’t work in every case, but for some it would be great. 

There were lots of comments and stories at the open share time, and the family was very appreciative of the memories.  Troy’s Dad let everyone know that the family had arranged to have a tiny Viking boat built, and a family friend had offered to take it offshore on his own boat.  The plan was to place Troy’s ashes on it, push it away from the big boat, and set it on fire in true Viking fashion.  After I said the benediction I added one little part as my nod to Troy’s wish for a Viking funeral.  I had learned a bit of Icelandic, which I found out was the closest existing language to what the Vikings might have spoken.  My phrase was, “leeva lingee ogsh dafena.”  Roughly translated it means, “Live long and prosper.”  When I read the translation, Troy’s wife laughed out loud and said, “Did you hear that?  Steve’s even here.”  Friendships that transcend death?  Certainly possible in Jesus.

Psalms 146:5-6 says, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them — the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”

Father, be with Troy’s family over the next few weeks as they adjust to a different kind of life.  Thank you for Troy’s faith in you that spoke so highly to each of them.  Amen.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 20 – “Picture Day”

It was our responsibility to get Cailyn to school yesterday.  Not that unusual a task, I know.  But this time there was a heightened sense of accountability.  Just a little more than usual pressure to make sure the morning went well and the drive to school was without incident.  Why?  Picture Day. 

When she arrived her hair had already been meticulously curled and swirled or whatever it is they do to it.  It looked very nice.  She assured her Daddy that she had already brushed her teeth.  All she had to do was change clothes and look beautiful and the school picture was sure to be a masterpiece.  Piece of cake, right?  Of course.  Except for one tiny detail.  It was pouring down rain at the time, with no real prospects of it stopping any time soon.  Not to mention the other insignificant little details of her hour or so with us before time to leave.  You know, simple things like eating breakfast.  Of course her food of choice here is always that breakfast of champions … frozen waffles with lots of syrup.  We used to pull her long hair back into a pony tail to keep it from finding its way into the syrup.  We have been informed of late, however, that she is a big girl now, and we just have to trust her to keep her hair out of her syrup.  Sigh.  To her credit, though, she is pretty careful.  No problems this time.  The actual getting dressed part has had its challenges as well on the days that the choice of school uniform has not met with her approval.  This day was special, though.  On picture day the kids are allowed to dress to the hilt.  No uniform required.  Of course in the eyes of this old geezer, she absolutely rocks whatever clothes she wears.  She had selected a really pretty dress made out of some blue jeans, I think.  Even had some long pink things that covered up her legs.  Kind of like panty hose with no feet in them.  Oh, and some boots, well, “riding boots” as I was corrected.  They came up to her knees.  About the only mishap was that she couldn’t find any socks.  Not that it was a problem.  I found out later that she doesn’t like to wear socks anyway.  And there were socks in her bag, so it wasn’t a Daddy packaging error.  More of a Cailyn freedom of choice declaration. 

We got her to school on time.  She didn’t even want to carry her own umbrella, choosing instead to walk with me under the big black one.  She looked great when she gave me that final hug and kiss before easing her way next to the identical twins and slipping into the crowd.  Can’t wait to see those pictures.

Psalms 72:5-6 says, “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations.   He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth.”

Father, thank you for the rain and for images of pony tails and baseball bats, Barbies and basketballs, hugs and kisses.  Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

September 19 – “Thank you for your service”

We went to a most unique funeral yesterday.  One of Chris’ cousins died while serving on active duty in the army.  There had already been a military ceremony in Germany.  This one was at his home church. This was the final one that culminated in his burial in the family plot near his home.  It was a most unusual hodgepodge of army men in uniform, church people in their Sunday best, masons in aprons, volunteer fire fighters on their old truck, good friends in their finest blue jeans, and the Patriot Guard on their motorcycles.  All there to honor the memory of Chris’ cousin Tony Auld.

After a mini-sermon from the pastor to introduce the proceedings, a power point of pictures ran to the accompaniment of five different patriotic songs. The pastor then opened the floor to comments from the crowd.  Only one lady stood to speak, but the pastor quickly introduced what turned out to be a stand-up comedian army buddy of Tony’s.  In what was truly the most peculiar part of the service, he told several really funny stories about his exploits with Tony, all laced with what one would consider the “minor” curse words.  The pastor was doing his best to remain engaged in what was going on, but it was obvious that the language really threw him for a loop.  Then, when the guy made use of that most dreaded of all socially unacceptable words, even the most coarse among the crowd were taken aback.  Not something you would expect to hear in church, that’s for sure.  The shock must have shown, too, because almost immediately he back-tracked and apologized.  The stories, though, revealed a real bond between the guy and Tony.  He really must have loved him.   And they did bring some good memories for the family as they nodded knowingly at the exploits, murmuring, “Yep.  That’s Tony.”

The pastor then followed with a sermon about the army of God and the Israelite army.  The story was about the time the Israelites had been fighting all day and some of them had to stay behind at the river to rest while the rest of the troops finished off the battle.  He made the point that “Tony is now resting at the River in the hands of God.”  A bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace followed, before the military pall bearers moved in with their precision moves.  One guy almost jumped the gun on one of the turns, but he caught himself and joined the others. 

In the parking lot, a sheriff department escort joined the honor guard for the trip to the cemetery.  At the graveside, the rain really began to fall, so people were crowding under the awning as well as the umbrellas of those who had thought ahead.  The military was first in their honor segment, firing off a 21 gun salute and playing taps.  Quite a powerful display that never grows old every time I have seen it.  The flag folding and presentation was handled with precision and grace, although one of the young men was in tears when he walked away.  Then came an array of presentations that we could barely keep up with.  A lady made the first one, and because of the loudness of the rain pelting down on the umbrellas, we never did hear what she was saying.  Next the volunteer fire department of Boling, Texas, of which Tony had been a member, presented his wife with a flag of the department in a flag case.  Very nice touch that I hadn’t seen before.  I’ll have to find out if the Galveston department has a flag, and perhaps include that as a part of what we do as well.  The Patriot Guard made a presentation as well, and the masons then led their portion of the ceremony.  They turned it over to the pastor for a benediction.  He read the 23rd Psalm, allowing King David to close the ceremony.  In spite of the potpourri of tributes, the ceremony turned out well.  Tony certainly received the honor due one who so effectively served his country and represented his family.

The rain continued, and one of the soldiers escorted us to our car, handing us an umbrella on the way.  Chris tried to get him to join us underneath as it was plenty big enough.  He informed us, however, that it was against regulations for him to stand under an umbrella in uniform.  Wow.  I had never heard that one either.  Pretty impressive.  Once again, I am proud to have had the honor of just being present when a soldier was honored.  “Thank you for your service” always seems so inadequate when you consider the sacrifices made and dangers faced. 

1 Samuel 30:24 – “Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.”

Father, walk with Kasie and Karen and all of Tony’s family as they work through their grief.  Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 18 – “It’s a symbol”

I did get the results of the CT scan and x-rays the other day.  The scan showed that there was indeed some gray matter inside my head, contrary to popular opinion.  And it appeared not to have been significantly damaged.  The x-rays on my shoulder revealed cyst in the joint as well as some arthritis (like I didn’t know about arthritis already).  It is exactly the same problem I had in the other shoulder several years ago that eventually required surgery to remove the cyst and file down one of the bones.  My doctor now, though, has to follow proper procedure, of course.  That means the first step is high levels of anti-inflammatory drugs.  I’m already taking them for the rheumatoid arthritis.  Stage two is a steroid shot in the shoulder.  I remember that not helping with the other one, but I understand his predicament with the insurance coverage.  Surgery is the final stage.  We’ll see how all that pans out.

When Cailyn was over the other day she got very excited when she saw a little American flag that we had around the house for some reason.  She brought it over to me and quite properly explained, “DadDad, this right here is a symbol.”  Now I have always been fascinated by the world of symbols.  I have even taught a class on symbols within Christianity.  Here’s the interchange that followed:
Me: “A symbol?  I thought it was a flag.”
Cailyn: “Oh, DadDad.  A flag is a symbol.”
Me: “Well, what is a symbol?”(I know, I fully expected her to say “a flag,” but she didn’t).
Cailyn (Proudly holding the flag up to her chest):“A symbol means this is what I am.”
Me (firmly resisting the urge to say something like “Oh, so you’re a flag”): “Oh, so you’re an American?”
Cailyn: “Yes, DadDad.  And so are you.  And every place has one of these.”
Me (Someone has been listening in school): “That’s right.  Every country has a flag symbol.  And some people also call us Texans, right?”

By this time I had googled “Texas” to show her the Texas flag.  As we scrolled through the images, one in particular caught her eye.  It was, indeed, the flag of the Texans.  Complete with a star and red, white and blue, and a cow’s head.  The Houston Texans.  Football team. 
Cailyn: “That’s the Texan flag, right, DadDad?”
Me (sighing): “That’s right.  If you’re a football player.
I did point out the real Texas flag.  She looked at me like I was a dinosaur, shook her head a few times, and condescendingly noted, “That’s right, DadDad.  Good job.”

We then switched over to a google of the term “symbol” to see what others she could pick out.  She had no trouble at all with “Recycle.”  The little letter c with a circle around it was intriguing.  Have you ever tried to explain copyright law to a five year old?  She knew the cross was “Jesus died on the cross for us.”  She thought it was kind of funny that the fish was all about Jesus as well.  The caduceus (the snake crawling up the cross that is the symbol of the medical profession) got her excited.  “That one means they sell scrubs, right?”  She knew a few others: bathroom, smiley face, up, down.  The ones she didn’t know but was very interested in were fascinating as well: the symbols for male and female (she thought they were hilarious), the dollar sign (hey, I’m confident she would have known credit card), the skull and crossbones poison symbol (“that just means pirates”), and the Rx symbol for prescription drugs (“but it’s just an r and an x”). 

It was an eye-opening and incredibly fun few minutes.  I recommend it highly as an experience for any youngster and adult.  The adult just might learn something.

Psalms 145:7 says, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.  The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.”

Father, thank you for connections … with Cailyn and our grandkids … with our :big  kids” … with you.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 17 – “One for the books”

We had a few rookies in our water therapy class yesterday.  Glad they came when our regular teacher was in charge so they could experience a typical day without the trials and wackiness of our substitutes.  We actually had two other newbies, but they thought the class started at 8:30.  That’s when it ends.  And as it turned out, I actually knew those last two.  They were sisters who grew up in the house I now live in.  They were both older than me when we lived across the street from each other, so I suppose I was more of a pain in the neck to them than anything back then.  We have connected several times since then, though, so they see me in a slightly better light now.  At least I hope they do.  Chris starts in the class the first Tuesday in October.  It will be great to have her there so she can experience first-hand what I’ve been telling her about the last year or so I have been doing this. 

We are block captains for our Neighbors Night Out, but that’s not until next month.  All we have to do is put a flier on everyone’s door and let them bring their $5 to us to help buy the hot dogs.  We were going to wait until at least next week to hand out our fliers.  If we do it now people will tend to forget about it.  Of course someone came to our door yesterday with their money in hand to turn in.  Guess we are already behind. 

I spent some time working on the funeral I am officiating this weekend.  The father of the deceased has been calling with ideas of what he would like to see, and yesterday he even emailed me an order of service.  If I wait long enough he’ll have the whole thing done.  Actually, he was very gracious, and said whatever I want to do will be fine.  I think he is doing all this as part of his grieving process.  It is going to be quite a chore, though, to put what he really wants to have happen together with what really needs to happen and come out with a unified expression of honor and consolation.  The really good thing, though, is that he wants it to be light-hearted and fun and heavy on the celebration side of things.  In fact he even had a little dramatic comedy skit he wanted me to work in somehow.  Light-hearted.  Fun.  Heavy on the celebration.  Comedy.  I think I can do this one.  Promises to be one for the books, to be sure.

Psalms 145:3-7 says, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.  They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.  They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds.  They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”

Father, thank you for giving us plenty of reason to celebrate, even in sad times.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16 – “Research”

So … yesterday …

It started out with a doctor’s appointment in the morning.  Well, it wasn’t actually a doctor’s appointment.  I had to go to UTMB for a CT scan of my head to see if there was anything there.  After winding through the maze of the clinic building I was directed to lie down on the table.  Now I have done a boatload of MRI’s over the years, with all my neck surgeries, so I closed my eyes and settled in for the long haul.  And in about three minutes, maybe less, my escort was again standing by my side.  I figured something was wrong with the way I held my head, or maybe I hadn’t been still enough, but no.  The test was over.  What?  Then why do the MRI’s take so long?  I didn’t even have time to get in a decent nap.

From there we headed to a different door in the maze for an x-ray of my shoulder.  Actually that turned out to be five x-rays of my shoulder in five different odd configurations.  She asked me after explaining each position if it was painful.  Actually, the position was not painful, but the transition into it was.  I guess that all went well, too.  It sure seemed fast to me.  In fact, we arrived at the clinic building at 9 a.m.  We were getting into the car to come home at 9:40.  That’s hard to believe about any hospital, much less UTMB.  Something must be going right out there.

I spent most of the rest of the day working on church stuff.  Late in the afternoon I did go to the beach for about an hour.  Call it research for the baptism coming up on Sunday.  I sure didn’t catch any fish.  Way too rough.  Too windy too.  So, yes, that’s it.  Research.

Psalms 138:8 says, “The Lord will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands.”

Father, thank you for those modern day miracles we see every day at hospitals.  Now give them some wisdom to interpret what those tests show.  Amen.