Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 31 – “You are invited …”

OK, now THIS is going to be a Super Bowl Commercial Party.  It will be like no other Super Bowl Commercial Party you have ever attended.  There has never been another quite like it, and it most assuredly will never be repeated in exactly the same way ever again.  And if you are reading this, you are now officially invited.  Message me for our address.

The Food.  Chris has made the decision.  Her contribution will be her unparalleled Taco Soup.  Mix in some fritos and cheese and you have a delicious concoction that is guaranteed to warm you gullet.  And on top of that she has made one of her Famous Cheese Balls.  There has been many a meal made by this old guy with just a hunk of cheese ball and a package of Ritz crackers.  Makes your mouth water just thinking about it, doesn’t it?

The Games.  Not less than four, count them four, advertising trivia quizzes will be available for you to attempt.  A different one will be unveiled throughout the night, kind of like the quarters of a football game.  Want a sample? Don’t use the internet, now.  I’ll tell you answer later.  Try this one: How many bottles of Coca Cola were sold during its first year of production?

The Bonus.  Along with the “quarterly” trivial pursuits, we will also be playing an ongoing, rousing game of Bingo.  There are several different playing cards, so no one will have the same one.  Some are keyed primarily to commercials.  Others assume you might just be paying attention to what is happening on the TV screen between commercials. 

The prizes.  I can guarantee you right now, you have never in your life seen anything like the prizes that will be awarded.  Oh, yes.  It’s not just for fun this year.  A real-live prize hangs in the balance.  One will be presented for each quarter’s trivia winner.  Another goes to the first one to get a regular Bingo.  Yet another goes to the first one to completely fill his Bingo card. 

The Commercials.  The best of the year, of course.  We’ll cheer.  We’ll jeer.  We’ll vote for our favorite. 

The Football.  And I understand there is a football game that goes along with all the fun stuff.  If I’m not mistaken, one team is from the East Coast – the North East Coast.  And one is from the West coast – the North West Coast.  And here we are on our little tropical Island, complaining about the frigid 50’s.  Well, I heard the game was in Phoenix.  Guess that’s a half-way point of sorts.  I also heard one of the teams (I’m not sure which one) has discovered the perfect way to protect their players from things like measles epidemics and chilly fingers.  I didn’t get all the details, but it has something to do with the use of compressed air.  Perhaps it will help them get a grip on this new environment.  Perhaps not. 

The Point. Cans of soup.  Well, after all, this is the SOUPer Bowl, isn’t it?  When you come to the party, bring along a can of soup.  We are going to collect canned goods all through the month of February and give them to the Galveston Food Bank. 

The Coke answer: 25 bottles of Coke were sold in its first year, making a total of $50.  Supplies and advertising for the year ran $70.  Doesn’t sound like year one was a very good one for investors.

Psalms 65:8 says, “Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.”

Father, thank you for friends and fun and food and family.  And since I’m on an alliterative roll, I guess I could add football.  It does give us this particular chance to get together.  Amen.

Friday, January 30, 2015

January 30 – “Turnover”

No, this is not a report on who is getting fired or laid off.  It’s not even about the big potential strike over in Texas City at the plants.  It’s about turnovers.  The kind you eat.

OK.  I know.  I’m reaching here.  But I spent most of yesterday working at the computer, so not much happened in my world.  I did almost finish the all-new, “never before seen because I just created it” Advertising Trivia Challenge for our Super Bowl Commercial Party Sunday night.  If you have nowhere else to be around 5:30 or so Sunday evening come on by.  We’ll be watching the commercials (and the game) and you can pick up your very own copy and see how you do. 

So back to the turnovers, Cailyn was here for breakfast.  Her Mom left for work and her Dad wasn’t off shift yet.  She decided she didn’t want to partake of our typical morning fare of … drumroll here … frozen waffles tossed into the toaster.  How she could forego such elegant fine dining I’ll just never understand.  Instead she pulled the ultimate girl card on me.  She wanted to cook breakfast.  Now understand here, there are some things I can cook.  The aforementioned waffle, for example.  Toast works.  As do those pizza rolls by Totino’s.  Well, maybe not for breakfast, but I have just about exhausted my repertoire once we get beyond toast and waffles.  The toaster is my best friend when it comes to kitchens in the morning.

So she made her way into the fridge and after a bit of rummaging, found some of those apple turnovers that you put together and bake.  I supposed she could sense the fear welling up within me.  Of course, the fact that I freely confessed my total inability to operate basic kitchen gadgets like an oven might have given her a clue.  She assured me, “It’s OK, DadDad.  I got this.  I know what I’m doing.”  Well, OK, then. 

While I frantically read the directions and fumbled through to find the correct pan, Cailyn had everything else ready to go.  She crawled up to her favored spot on the counter and began her tutorial.  First you have to peel the paper off of the tube that contains the dough.  Thankfully she took care of that, with her girl fingernails and all.  But just as I started to relax and rest assured that she would actually do all of this, she handed me the now-naked tube and said, “Open it.”  Now, I have watched Chris do this sort of thing before, and I have in fact assisted in similar endeavors, so I was confident that I could handle this one.  I took the tube from her and immediately did what any other helpful-in-the-kitchen guy would do.  I smacked it against my head.  Nothing.  So I did it again.  And again.  Nothing.  Cailyn recovered from her initial shock and began to enjoy my ineptitude.  Finally, I suppose she tired of laughing at me.  I was instructed (quite patiently, I might add) to strike the tube against the counter.  After all, “that’s how Nana (She paused for effect here) AND Mommy do it.”  Well, who am I to go against the acknowledged masters?  From that point on I followed her directions to the letter.  The only other point of confusion I experienced was when she kept referring to the edibles as “tarts” rather than “turnovers.”  Apparently it’s all about the way you fold over the crust stuff. 

Well, the end result of whatever the proper name of those things we made must have been good.  Cailyn ate three of them herself.  She’s a growing girl. 

Matthew 6:9-13 says, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

Father, thank you for tarts and turnovers.  Or how did you put it?  Oh, yeah, “our daily bread.”  Amen.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

January 29 – “Chappy’s Fault”

Trish emailed me to let me know my uniform order was in.  I finally was getting some pants and a department jacket for when I go to fires.  I also got a short sleeved white shirt.  I figured it would be a good opportunity to deliver the Bibles Chris and I got for the new babies to the department.  No, I don’t mean rookies.  There have been eight babies born to fire fighter families in the last five months, with two sets of twins.  Congrats to all, of course. 

I arrived just as engine 1 was leaving for some driver training, so I went up and talked to the chief for a while.  I headed from there over to station 2 where one of the new Dads was scheduled to be working.  Turned out he was on vacation up in Seattle.  That’s a long way to go to avoid the chaplain, Josh.  It was still good to talk to that crew, even though I did make the horrible mistake of saying the “S” word.  That would be S-L-O-W, and if you are reading this, don’t say the word out loud.  It’s kind of a jinx thing they have.  I went back by Central station and saw the newest Dad.  He has one of the sets of twins.  They aren’t home yet.  They are still in NICU, but they seem to be doing just fine.  Just waiting on them to develop the proper skill set for handling Mom and dad when they get home.  I saw the other twins’ Dad at station 5, and then went out to station 4 where the driver training was taking place.  I had to wait almost an hour with some of our veteran fire fighters, but two other Dads finally made it back, and I delivered their Bibles as well. 

I got home in plenty of time for the great chicken enchilada pie Chris made for supper.  But the relaxing evening I envisioned didn’t exactly go as planned.  Around 8:00 the alarm on my phone went off indicating a fire call.  That’s one I always take a second look at (Along with quite a few other guys).  There smoke coming from the master bedroom but no visible flames.  I decided to head on over to see what was happening.  And once again, I wasn’t alone.  It was considered a major fire call, so at least four of our engines and one ladder truck responded.  When I got there the smoke was still visible coming through the rafters.  Our fire fighters were in search and discovery mode, looking for the source of the fire, while doing their best to preserve the property, using thermal readings along with the two “E’s” – Eyeballs and Experience.  They located a spot under the uniquely built house (pier and bean foundation, but with brick completely covering the crawl space except for some small slits every so often).  The team inside was tasked with removing some bathroom tile so the attack could happen from above.  I understand our Rookie Gonzo Gonzalez did a masterful job at this task.  Another crew coupled some hoses together to make them long enough, then sent a stream under the house.  By the time the fire was out, both chiefs were on the scene.  Every fire fighter acted and reacted professionally.  They sure made me proud.

I gotta say, one of my favorite sights of the evening, though, was not directly related to the fore or to the expertise of the fire fighters.  I was talking with a police officer on the scene, and we noticed a particular group of concerned neighbors across the street.  Now, concerned neighbors are never a bad thing.  Their presence usually ensures that the homeowners of the house on fire will have some support through their recovery and remodel process.  The officer chuckled and said, “I have never seen that one.  I have seen folks pull up in pickup trucks, drop the tailgate down, and drink a beer while watching a fire, but that is a new one.”  I haven’t been around all that long, but I certainly had to agree.  It was a group of men.  One of them was dressed to the hilt.  Still had his tie on.  And he was drinking some wine.  From one of those large, long-stemmed wine glasses.  You have to admit, he certainly classed up the whole affair.  Guess I don’t have to mention that we were in an … elite … neighborhood.

At one point after the fire had been declared “officially out,” I heard my name being called.  Took me a second or two to locate where the cry was coming from, but it was the crew from station 2 calling me over.  And as I arrived in their midst, I immediately knew.  I remembered.  And I took responsibility.  I was the one who said the “S” word earlier that morning.  So I guess this one goes in the books as “Chappy’s fault.” 

Psalms 121:1-2 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?   My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Father, walk with the family who experienced that fire last night.  Thank you that it wasn’t much worse.  It sure could have been.  Thank you for the guys who worked so hard to make sure it was contained and defeated.  Give them a good time of rest today.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 28 – “Into the past”

I went to another funeral yesterday.  This one was here in town at least.  In fact it was kind of a trip into the past – my past.  For one thing I saw quite a few folks from days gone by.  From our neighborhood.  From our days at Grace Episcopal Church (that’s where the funeral was held).  I also saw quite a few folks from around town, whether it from the sheriff’s office where her husband had a connection (I counted at least seven sheriff vehicles) or from other places in the workings of the city and county.  I commented to the lady I stood next to (that’s right.  Stood.  It was standing room only even after they set out extra chairs) that Grace Church probably hasn’t been that full since those days in  the early 60’s when we would pack  it out on Easter Sunday.  She agreed and apologized for the fifth or sixth time for not recognizing me.  Mrs. Bridges had been a member at Grace for many years as well, and I actually recognized her when I walked in.   

Mrs. Janek, the lady who died, was one of those really active at church kind of people when we were growing up as kids at the church.  She had three sons just like my Mom did.  As I recall I was close in age to her oldest.  My younger brother was friends with her middle child.  The priest mentioned a photo from 1962 that has been hanging in the church hall for a long time.  It was a big picture of everyone who had attended Easter morning services that day.  She told everyone where to find those three boys in the photo.  I had to chuckle.  I knew where to find me in that photo.  There is also a photo of Mom and Dad’s wedding as well, by the way.  Check it out next time you go on one of those church-oriented historical homes tours. 

The service itself was kind of an eerie reflection of the Catholic service we went to for Chris’ aunt.  Sam basic format, but this one was much shorter, and everything except the Lord’s Prayer was in modern English.  Really confused people who were trying to say the 23rd Psalm from memory rather than just read it from the program.  Two of the boys had a part in the service.  The oldest read some scripture, as did one of the grandsons.  The middle child reminisced a bit about the years the family spent in church there, and he also spoke some words of thanks and appreciation from the family. 

The one thing that stood out from the service for me, though, was a passing statement made by the priest.  It was one of those “ponder this for a while” kind of things, and I am still in pondering mode, so I’ll invite you to join me.  Here it is.  What do you think?

“Her journey didn’t start when she was born, and it didn’t end when she died, for her journey is but a part of the journey of Jesus.”

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Father walk with the Janek family through their grief.  Draw them closer to you so that your strength can be their comfort.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

January 27 – “Cold trip or road trip?”

Here’s a shout out to our friends up in the Northeast who are facing that blizzard of epic proportions.  We are praying for you down here.  And I thought about you yesterday as I mowed and edged our grass.  It was way up in the 60’s.  Downright hot, actually.  Ah, but don’t worry.   I have already been punished for that brief foray into sarcasm.  I was so sore that Chris almost had to fork lift me into bed last night.  It’s not as bad this morning, but I can still feel it.  And now I have to … er, get to … go to water therapy.  Ouch.  At least the pool is heated. 

We didn’t get to see many of those biblical plague-quality snowstorms during our years spent up in those frozen Northlands of Colorado.  I do remember one where those outside mailboxes – you know, the ones set on poles out by the street – were covered up.  I’m not sure if that was because of snow drifts or if we really got that much snow, but for this South Texas boy it was plenty.  And I never did get used to the super-cold temperatures that got down below zero.  Didn’t anybody get them the message that below 50 is cold enough?

Speaking of the frozen Northlands, Chris and I have been discussing what to do for our 40th wedding anniversary this year.  Looks like the top of the list would be one of those trips to Alaska on a cruise ship.  Problem is we have never been on a cruise, so we have no point of reference for which one to take or what to expect.  We don’t know what is expected as far as tipping people on board (we have heard some horror stories).  And how much extra do you have to pay for those other mini-trips they tout as being so awesome, or are they included in your trip cost?  We don’t even know the right questions to ask.  How about some of you guys who have been on one of those things?  What was it like?  What advice do you have?  How much do we need to save up? 

Forty years is a long time.  Seems like it ought to be celebrated at least a little special.  I guess if the Alaska thing doesn’t work out we can always do a driving trip and mooch free room and board off of our friends along the way.  Where would we go?  Hmm.  We know somebody in Alabama.  And South Carolina.  And Virginia.  And Pennsylvania.  And Wisconsin (I think they’re still there).  And Missouri.  And Arkansas.  And California.  And Colorado.  And New Jersey.  And Oklahoma.  Did I miss anybody?  Makes for a pretty convoluted road trip, if you ask me.  What do you think … Cold Trip or Road Trip?

Psalms 119:165 says, “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Father, thank you that we even have a choice like this to make.  Help us have the diligence to save up what we need to go somewhere.  We are excited to see a little more of this amazing world you created.  Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 26 – “In the nick of time”

You just gotta love it when God shows up in ways you never expect.  I was beginning to wonder what he had in mind Sunday morning.  We were waiting just a little longer than usual for Bryan to get there with the day’s music.  Most of the folks attending were quite gracious about the wait, and seemed to be enjoying talking together and getting to know one another.  When Jennifer got there with the music (on a computer flash drive – Bryan got called into work), I got started right away to transfer the videos and get us going.  Getting them from the flash drive to the hard drive was easy enough, but for some reason I just couldn’t seem to get them set in the worship program we use.  The whole thing would just lock up.  I can guarantee it was operator error.  After a certain point I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I found out after the fact that the easiest way to deal with the issue would have been to bypass Media Shout completely and just play the videos directly off the hard drive.  Now you tell me.  I admit I was getting pretty worried.  I had no idea of a plan B at the time. 

But God did.  As I frantically tried yet a different way to load the videos, one of our visitors made his way over to the computer.  Not wanting to push his way into the situation, he patiently waited until I took an obvious break.  Then he jumped right in.  “If you need me to play some music for you, I can do that.”  Without hesitation (and maybe a bit too quickly) I replied, “We need you to play some music.”  We compared notes – his tablet and our computer – for songs, and selected several.  He made his way to the keyboard up front, sat down, and proceeded to amaze us all.  He was an amazing pianist.  And he plays by ear, so it really didn’t matter what song we selected, if he had heard it before, he could play it.  And once more, God saved the day.

Chris and I went to lunch with Mr. Piano and his wife (A.K.A. Wes and Karen).  There we found out a lot more about them.  Aside from being about our age and lots of fun to be with, they told us Wes can also play guitar.  He enjoys working with young musicians (like our very own Wyrick family).  And he has been looking for a place where he can use his musical abilities to lead in worship.  Could this possibly be another God thing?  We invited them to our Thursday home group, and they assured us they would be back Sunday.  As we left I told him, I didn’t intend for this lunch to turn into a job interview or anything.”  He retorted, “If it was, I hope it went well.”  Hey, Wes, when God is involved, it always goes well.  Guess I have some praying to do.

Psalms 119:89-90 says, “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.”

Father, thank you for sending Wes to Seaside in the nick of time.  We want your will to be done, and it would sure be great if that matches up with our need for a worship leader.  Amen.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25 – “On Rosaries and Hail Mary’s”

A while back when Chris and I went to her aunt’s funeral, it was preceded by a Rosary.  This post is my “outsider’s take” on what we saw.  Please feel free to enlighten me further on any of the points.  I am sure willing to learn.

That is a Catholic pre-funeral event where the people gather to collectively “pray through the Rosary.”  Of course the Rosary beads are one of the most recognizable in the Catholic array of symbolic artifacts and events.  Designed to be an aid to private prayer, each bead represents one prayer in a never-ending circle of communication with God.  The beads are divided up into segments with a different sized or colored bead beginning each new segment.  As the pray-er says the prayer associated with a bead, he then pushes it along, moving to the next bead and the next prayer.  Some of the beads represent the Lord’s Prayer, and others represent what is called the “Hail Mary” from the first two words.  Here’s a “semi-official” definition that I found after the fact:

The prayers that essentially compose the Rosary are arranged in sets of ten Hail Mary's preceded by one Lord's Prayer and followed by one Glory Be. During recitation of each set, known as a decade, thought is given to one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Normally, five decades are recited in a session. Other prayers are sometimes added after each decade (in particular, the Fatima Prayer) and before (in particular, the Apostles' Creed), and after (in particular, the Hail, Holy Queen) the five decades taken as a whole.

Back to my impressions.  So, at the Rosary service the crowd essentially prays through the Rosary beads together.  The particular Rosary we went to occurred thirty minutes before the actual funeral service began, and it was set up much better than many I have seen.  I’m a big fan of explaining the why’s behind traditions that “everyone is supposed to know,” and that courtesy was, to an extent, extended here.  They broke it up into five segments that each started out with a scripture from one of the “mysteries” of the faith.  By “mysteries” in this case they mean segments of Jesus’ life.  I looked it up.  There are 20 different “mysteries” to choose from.  18 of them are about Jesus.  They have added two at the end: the assumption of Mary and the crowning of Mary as queen of heaven.  Those I begin to have questions about, since they are not in Scripture.  I understand that Mary was given her special status originally in an effort to glorify Jesus.  I think the logic probably went something like, if Jesus was the Son of God, then his mother had to be someone very special.  Otherwise he would have been tainted with her sin.  Of course that line of logic breaks down, because you would have to apply the same process to Mary’s mother and father, and to their parents, and so on.  And we know Mary was a descendant of David, so in just a few generations you run into this guy who regularly confessed his sins to God.  Whew.  I appreciate any effort to glorify Jesus, but this might have gone just a bit too far.  I also take great issue with those who say that you can receive salvation through Mary without any need for the sacrifice of Jesus.  That is, indeed, worship of Mary.  I have a problem with that.

This particular service just had scripture from five of the Jesus-life mysteries.  After each Scripture reading, they prayed through a segment of the rosary, asking Mary to pray for them five or six times (the Hail Mary), and then praying the Lord’s Prayer and giving glory to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit once.  That means over the course of the 30 minute service, they asked Mary to pray for them 50 or 60 times, and said the Lord’s Prayer or something that specifically honored or recognized Jesus 15 or so times. 

My take on that?  First of all, I guess I’m not your typical Protestant, by any means.  I don’t see the Hail Mary as an act of worship of Mary.  The first part is a Scripture quotation (Luke 1:28-30 - The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God).  “Hail” (Greetings in this translation) is a form of greeting from the Greek word chairo meaning be cheerful.  You might hear it today as “Aloha.”  So the angel is not worshipping Mary.  He is just getting her attention and saying “hello.”

It seems to me that the “Hail Mary” as said by Catholics, as well as “prayers” to any of the individuals designated “saint” (A “saint” in Scripture refers to any believer.  In Catholic life the term is used to designate someone who has attained a special status among the church because of a remarkably devoted life or because of some spiritually unusual circumstance surrounding them), is a request for someone, who is still alive (as we believe believers who have died to indeed be) and happens to already be in heaven with Jesus, to pray for you - to connect with Jesus for you - since, as they are already residents of the spiritual realm, they are spiritually “closer” to him than you are.  I have no problem with that.  It’s the same as asking someone at church to pray for you.  I admit I still get a bit frustrated over the rote nature of it all, though (probably my Episcopalian roots rising up again).  Chris noticed at the rosary that many folks followed along with their own rosary beads up to a point, and then just balled the beads up in their hands and seemed to go into automatic pilot on through to the end.  Just seems to me that it would be more effective, and more meaningful, if you quoted the scripture part of the “Hail Mary,” asked her to pray for you, then mentioned specifically what it was you’d like for her to talk to her son about for you.  I would assume that you are going to be talking to him as well, and you’ll probably be specific then, so why not give her the specifics as well?  And once you do it, isn’t it done?  Now, I know the history behind the whole thing, and the teaching value of the rosary beads.  I get it.  I just question the spiritual and practical basis behind it.

All in all, this Rosary for me was an interesting and relatively meaningful experience.  It definitely helps to go into new experiences like this with a mind ready to learn and a heart already connected to Jesus.  It helps you get past the years of misunderstanding and distrust and move on to caring for the people involved who are doing what they can to connect with Jesus as their Lord … just like you. 

Psalms 119:73 says, “Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.”

Father, help me to never stop learning and to always keep you as the focus of my praise.  Amen.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

January 24 – “The camp experience”

I spent most of my afternoon yesterday doing some research on youth camps in the state of Texas.  I only went to one youth camp as an Episcopalian.  I only remember a few things about it.  One was watching the movie, ”What’s it all about, Alfie” (or something like that).  I think back in the late 60’s, using today’s rating scale, it would probably have been at least a PG13.  Aside from just being a bad movie in general, there were some scenes that really took me by surprise.  Not what I expected to see at a church camp. 

I also remember doing an off-the-cuff sociological experiment.  I decided to create a persona of a quiet, dissolve-into-the-woodwork kid and see how the group responded to me.  No one else from my church came.  Not a soul there knew me.  Nothing scientific about it.  I didn’t take notes or anything, but I was fascinated by the varying responses I got from the other kids.  Early on in the week I was pretty much ignored.  Later on a few of the girls realized I was there and started to cajole me into participating.  None of the guys ever even introduced themselves to me.  It wasn’t a terrible experience, but it wasn’t one I ever cared to repeat.  I did learn that if I was ever in that situation, I would do what I could to at least acknowledge the loners and “disenfranchised” among the group. 

The only other memory I have is that I had to make a report to the church about the experience, since they paid my way.  That meant standing up in the huge pulpit that looks like a golden chariot, before the entire congregation, and doing some public speaking.  Sounds scary, doesn’t it?  Actually it was the easiest part of the whole experience.  Oh, the preparation part was a nightmare.  I still have to work really hard at that.  But once I got up there, it didn’t take long for me to settle in and do the talking.  I kind of knew by that time that one way or another I would end up in the ministry.  I just had no idea what it would look like. 

I did go one year to youth camp in Palacious, Texas, with the group from First Baptist Church, Galveston.  I don’t remember much about that week.  I know the worship services were held in a huge outdoor covered pavilion.  We played some softball and I remember faking a cramp so I wouldn’t have so much pressure to win a swimming competition.  Later on, one of the churches I worked at actually did its own youth camp.  I didn’t get to experience that one.  Instead I had to create and run a camp for children the same week. 

Chris and I were introduced to the Centrifuge camp indirectly after we moved to Colorado.  We went to Glorieta for some kind of education conference, and Kel was enrolled in Centrifuge for the week.  He had a pretty good experience, so after we got established in Denver, Glorieta became one of the camp options every year.  And we have been going to a Centrifuge experience almost every year since then, most of them in Glorieta.  We have seen a lot of lives changed as a result of camp.  It has always been a priority of mine as a pastor, and I committed a long time ago to do what I could to go with the kids to camp, wherever that might be, to show my support and encouragement. 

Psalms 42:1-2 says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”

Father, thank you for the lives that have been changed because of a camp experience.  Prepare the hearts of those who will have that experience this year.  Amen.

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23 – “An only-at-WalMart sight”

It was a dreary, rainy, downright stormy day.  So of course the first thing we did was leave the house.  It was Thursday, so we had water exercise.  The weather wasn’t too bad at that time, though.  We made it home before any of the bad stuff started, but I still had to make a trek out to the church property.  I wanted to take a look and see if there was anything we needed to do in terms of cleaning it up.    

I had just read in the paper that morning that the lady who has been leasing the church’s property to stable her horses has been arrested for cruelty to animals.  All of the horses have been confiscated and taken to shelters to be rehabilitated, so at least they will be cared for.  We knew she has been having some difficult times financially, so we have not been pushing for the rent.  She was hoping to make do until her busy season, which kicks in around Spring Break.  As it turned out, her difficulties were more severe than just rent.  We’ll have to see what happens next.  There’s a much deeper story behind what is happening there, but suffice it to say that a lot of prayer is needed.  At issue for the church now is that we will have to do the clean-up of the property to bring it to compliance with the city’s requirements.  I tried to get to the area that needs to be cleaned up, but I was afraid I might get stuck in the mud, so I backed out of there.  Guess I’ll have to put that on my ever-expanding list of things that have to get done yesterday. 

I was also going to stop by several of the fire stations, but by that time I decided that the weather was just too much.  It’s times like that when I really appreciate those fire fighters who go out in it, rain or shine, to take care of folks. I did have to stop off at Walmart, though.  We were out of dog food and almost out of fruit and milk, so the stop was quite warranted.  And little did I know that I would be rewarded with one of those only-at-Walmart sights for sore eyes you read about.  As I was rounding the bin to pick up some oranges, there stood a man … in a skirt.  Now it’s not that he was trying to dress like a woman.  I didn’t get that sense at all.  He was just a guy dressed in a skirt.  Went down to about his knees.  It wasn’t quite a kilt.  I could have handled a kilt.  Some of the finest men I know wear kilts and play drums and bagpipes.  It was solid black and it had pockets that looked like blue jeans.  And it didn’t have pleats or anything.  It was just a skirt.  I guess I have to add that he pulled it off, too.  Carried himself proudly, and wasn’t even drawing many strange looks.  More power to him I guess.  Welcome to WalMart.

I have to add a post script here.  When I told Chris about the guy at WalMart I used the terminology, “He managed to pull it off.”  She had a very brief moment wherein a look of utter shock spread on her face.  She muttered, “Wait.  Wait.  Do you mean that he … pulled it off?  Like took it off?”  By the time she finished her thought I understood where she was going, and I wish I could have kept enough of a straight face to spin a different yarn-worthy ending to the tale.  Didn’t happen, though.  The image in my mind was a bit too … overwhelming.

Psalms 40:2 says, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Father, be with the lady and her horses.  Take care of the fire fighters who have to respond in the rain and cold.  And thank you that our assurance in life comes from you and not from what we wear.  Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 22 – “Going places”

We did have Cailyn around for a few hours yesterday.  Nathan was finishing off moving the last of their things and April had a training thing at UTMB that she had to go to.  Not my idea of a restful day off on either count, but they are still youngsters.  Chris had a meeting of the Wednesday Club to attend.  First one she has been to since before Mom died, I think.  So for a few hours in there it was just me and Cailyn.  We started our afternoon together with some kind of inventory check that she was doing.  She had a notebook and a pen, and we had to go into every room of the house for her to inspect whatever it was she was inspecting.  Upon her approval, a number went into the notebook, and we moved on.  I asked Chris about where she might have seen something like that, and in her all-knowing way, she smiled and said, “Of course,” as if me and the rest of the world should automatically know the mind of a four year old … girl.  Not happening.  I have to admit, though, her story of explanation was kind of interesting.  Here it is, best I can remember.

The other night when Cailyn was over we watched the movie, Princess Diaries.  We have the part two version, but we had never seen the first one.  We finally broke down and ordered it on Amazon.  We even got Cailyn her very own copies of both movies for her birthday.  It is by far her favorite when she is over here, I supposes since we don’t have Frozen.  No, I still haven’t seen that new classic as of yet.  Then Chris and Cailyn apparently watched the first one over again the other day.  So … while I was at the Post Office waiting for the fire department to show up (don’t panic.  Just read yesterday’s blog), they decided to play “Mia.”  That’s the name of the princess in the movie.  Now Chris made the mistake right up front of making certain assumptions.  She said, “So, Cailyn, I guess that means you are Mia?”  Oh, no.  Wrong assumption.  Chris backtracked nicely and began again, “OK.  So who am I?”  Better start.  Cailyn chuckled and said, “Well, Nani, you’re the queen.”  There you go.  When you do it right, you get to be the queen.  I’ll try to remember that.  But when Chris asked who Cailyn was going to be, there was a problem.  Not the princess (of course not?).  So what other character would she even remotely consider being?  After some cajoling Chris finally figured it out.  She wanted to be the queen’s chief of staff, the lady who walked around with a notebook and a pen telling the queen where she was supposed to go and what she was supposed to do next.  Ah.  She’s pretty young to have discovered the best-kept secret in the political/corporate/medical /religious (and probably every other) realm.  The true power does not lie with the president or the CEO or the doctor or the pastor.  Oh, no.  The real person in charge is … the chief of staff / administrative assistant / nurse / church secretary / (however that position might be camouflaged, er, called).  We better keep our eye on that little girl.  I think she may be going places. 

Oh, and I will confess at this point that she and I ended up watching Princess Diaries Two.  She even gave me the old elbow treatment a time or two when I started falling asleep.  But as to the vicious rumor that I continued watching it to the end after her Mom came and picked her up?  Well, that may or may not be true.  You’ll have to … uh … check with my secretary for an official statement?

Luke 13:30 says, “Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Father, help us learn to keep the whole power thing in proper perspective.  It all comes from you, anyway, so as long as we have you, we have all the power we’ll ever need.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

January 21 – “One Down at the Post Office”

I got to meet one of those elusive bigwigs of the City of Galveston yesterday.  It all started with a simple trip to the post office.  And I wasn’t even going to go there.  I had to stop at the bank, pick up some paper at Office Depot for the church, and then go to Randall’s to pick up a prescription.  Cailyn was out of school sick and staying at our house, so I wanted to get back as soon as I could to help Chris.  But I decided it wouldn’t take longer than a few extra minutes to stop at the post office and pick up a registered letter we missed while in Waco.  I knew the letter would somehow relate to the property the church owns out west of Jamaica Beach.  We get those all the time.  I just wasn’t sure how pressing the matter would be.  But that’s another story.

The parking lot was almost full when I arrived, so again, I almost passed.  But I had already driven here, so what’s a few extra minutes in line?  Besides, they have a side line for those just picking stuff up.  I could probably get in that one.  As I entered the building and rounded the set of counters in front of the tellers on my way to the side line “for pick-ups only,” a pregnant lady at the front of the line collapsed.  Just passed out and hit the floor.  I heard the initial hit and saw her seconds later as I hurried over to do what I could to help.  One other young man got to her before I did and instructed the teller to call 911.  I made sure her head was OK.  She was conscious when I got there, and didn’t seem disoriented at all.  She was coherent and talking to us, but obeyed our instruction to stay still for a few minutes.  One other lady came over and said a prayer.  She also left a sweater for the lady to put her head on.  Everybody else kept their place in the line that was soon redirected around us.

As we waited the long minutes before first responders arrived, the young man said he would wait outside and flag them down.  That’s when I first noticed the tall man in the crisp business suit with an ID tag around his neck.  He and a lady with a similar ID seemed to be pacing around the room, occasionally checking the front door.   They finally stopped near us and I could hear what they were talking about.  One of them said, “I know the fire marshall.  We could call him.”  Well, I know him, too, but he wouldn’t have much to do with a particular fire call.  I did, however, have Trish’s number in my phone.  Administrative assistants rule the world anyway, so I gave her a quick call.  And before I could even get the situation out of my mouth, she heard the call coming across from dispatch.  Wouldn’t be long now.

Sure enough, within just a few minutes, engine five rolled into the parking lot.  The fire fighters did a great job (of course) keeping her calm and checking her out.  Always proud of those guys.  When the paramedics arrived the fire fighters reported to them and handed her off to be checked out more fully on the medical side.  I’m pretty sure they convinced her it would be a good idea to touch base with her doctor. 

When I finally stood up to get out of the way, that tall young man in the suit was right there next to me.  He was obviously staring at my Galveston Fire and Rescue hat (at least it seemed so to me … he was really tall), so I introduced myself to him and told him I was just the fire department chaplain.  He seemed to relax and let me know that he was the postmaster general for Galveston.  Wow.  It felt like I was shaking hands with Benjamin Franklin or something.  It’s not often you get to meet a postmaster.  Now I have no idea what a postmaster does, other than discovering electricity by flying kites or writing an almanac or something.  But this guy was very nice.  He took my delivery notice and had someone bring me the letter.  Well done, USPS.  Well done, GFD.

Psalms 47:7 says, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.”

Father, protect that young mother and her little baby.  Thank you for the expertise, but also the compassion, of the fire fighters and paramedics who responded to care for her. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January 20 – “It counts”

I had a birthday three days ago.  It wasn’t one we celebrate regularly, although we probably should.  See, 43 years ago I became a Christian, so January 17th is my Christian birthday.  Can you count that as a valid day for celebration?

How did it happen?  Well, in a nutshell, God invaded my life at the point of my passion.  I know.  Sounds all churchified, doesn’t it?  It is what happened, though.  It would take a long time to write down all the “fun” details about how I became a believer.  In fact I have done that, and it takes up a good five pages.  Way too much for a blog, I guess.  Here’s a Reader’s Digest version:

My passion growing up was always baseball.  Loved it.  Wanted to play it forever.  Watched it.  Collected baseball cards.  Read about it.  I read every book the Rosenberg Library had that was even remotely related to baseball.  I had heroes.  The typical ones for my era Maris and Mantle, sure, but I also had Bob Aspromonte and the rest of the brand new Houston Colt .45’s.  And I was fascinated by the old players.  The really great old players.  Babe Ruth.  Dizzy Dean.  Lefty Gomez.  Ty Cobb.  And one in particular struck my fancy for some reason.  A guy named Billy Sunday.  He was a pro player who became a drunk.  One Sunday he woke up in a gutter and heard music from a church.  He went in and his life was changed forever.  He left baseball and became a preacher.  Now, I wasn’t fascinated with the guy because of his preacher status.  I just couldn’t for the life of me figure out how someone could just walk away from baseball like he did.  At the time I chalked it up to some kind of mental illness. 

As I got older it became painfully apparent that I would never fulfill my dream of playing major league baseball.  I was a pretty good shortstop, but not much of a hitter.  I finally gave up when I found out that to play baseball for the school meant having to practice in January.  It was cold in January.  Not a time to be outside at all.  About that time I lost my girlfriend.  Now she didn’t die or anything.  She just dumped me for a football player.  Devastated me to the core.  I was pretty severely depressed as a result.  Doctor’s appointments.  Tests of all kinds.  Medications.  The whole nine yards.  Things were getting quite serious, and the next step in my treatment plan was a residential stay in a psychiatric facility. 

About that time I was president of the Key Club at school. I moved into that role and pushed myself to do more there. One of our projects was to visit each other's churches, so I never missed one of those. But it was just that, a project.  During one of those visits, however, I saw something quite “interesting.” A girl I had met and had begun dating was a member there. Here was another possibility - a relationship! I began attending her church after I attended mine (1 wanted to be sure all my bases were covered!). I looked forward to holding her hand during the service and continuing our dating relationship. I saw her every day at school and called her every night. But, still, I was filled with a sense of loss, of grief, of depression, and it was worsening.  The girl invited me to attend a weekend trip with the youth choir from her church. Another friend at the church assured me that we would be playing softball as well, so I agreed to go. A very unusual thing happened to me on that trip. Along with the singing and softball that I expected, there were also teaching sessions. I did my best to tune those out, until I heard the teacher mention, of all things, Billy Sunday. Here's something I knew about! The reference was a minor one, just to make some point in the teaching, but the deed had been done. I was listening, and I was hooked.

I heard for the first time that Jesus loved me and wanted to have a personal relationship with me. I knew the story of how Jesus died and rose again, and I knew I had a real problem with sin. But for the first time all those things came crashing together as I realized it was for me!  Jesus invaded my life at the point of my passion and revolutionized / radically altered / redirected / exploded / shattered my illusion of what really matters most. This was the answer. This was something worth caring about even more than baseball.

 It didn't matter to him that I had been dumped. He loved me anyway ... just as I was. He promised a way to have joy in my life in spite of the furnace I was cooking in. I jumped at the chance. I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive me, to come into my life and take over. And for the first time I experienced a peace that I certainly couldn't understand. This peace was there even in situations I couldn't handle. I no longer had to fear suffering because my joy was no longer based on circumstances, but on my relationship with Jesus. And he promised that I could always count on him. And I was different.

The depression lifted. The dull ache that had refused to leave me was gone. I sensed a new purpose in life. I saw once again something to wake up in the morning for. I had a new passion!  I still like baseball, a lot. I still collect baseball cards.  I'm still an Astros fan. I still like to read books about the game and the players. But it's not my passion.

I like watching movies. And hanging out with my sons. And spending time with my wife.  And playing with my grandkids.  But my passion, the thing that drives me, the only thing I really need, is my personal relationship with Jesus. I like to spend time with him every day. I like to talk to him. I like to teach about him. I like to try to be like him. It is my life, and it's fun!  Best birthday present I ever received.  I think it counts.

John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Father, thank you for the best birthday present ever ... life … new life … and second chances.  Amen.