Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 30 – “A bad fishing day”

OK.  I know that the best time to go fishing is when you can.  Period.  And yesterday I had a window of opportunity arise that looked like a good one to salve the hunger to wet a line.  But the only way to describe what happened yesterday was … it was a bad fishing day.

First off, it was still cold.  Oh, the temperature was a balmy 73, but the light wind was out of the north, and it still had some of that distinct bite to it.  I knew the Norther had blown in because we enjoyed the cool the day before while doing yardwork.  But the water seemed calm enough, so I gave it a go anyway.  Oh, I didn’t mention that I was talking about wade fishing, did I?  The kind where you actually get in the water and wade out to the first sandbar before casting.  Now, the water felt really nice.  Still somewhat cool, but not the icy grip like it was at the Easter sunrise service baptisms.  But not ten minutes after I got in the water and began casting, the wind decided to pick up.  That meant the waves responded in kind.  The water began more of a churning, and what was already dirty became even worse. 

Oh, I guess I did get one nibble.  Two tiny legs of one shrimp were gone.  The trauma didn’t even kill the shrimp, though.  I tried one “regular sized” shrimp.  He’s the one with the missing legs.  I tried one of those super jumbo shrimp.  Not a touch.  I even tried a small one to no avail.  It was just not a good day for fishing.  So within an hour after my arrival, I was headed back to shore, empty-handed.

But all that was just what made it a bad day for fishing.  There’s a little bit more.  See, where I go wade fishing, I have to make my way across some large granite boulders placed to help the seawall protect the island.  At the point where the boulders end and the sand begins, there is often a drop-off, a hole, that the current has formed in the sand.  I know it’s there, so when I arrive I use my fishing pole as a sounding device and simply jump over it.  I discovered yesterday, however, that reversing the process isn’t quite as easy as it once was.  Oh, I found the hole easily enough.  And I even distributed the weight of the bait bucket, catch well, dip net, and pole effectively.  I stretched across the chasm with no difficulty.  The problem came when I tried to complete the step back up onto the rocks.  The old knee muscles just wouldn’t kick in and pull up the rest of me.  I made several attempts, and even almost got there one time before completely losing my balance and falling backwards into the water.  I am certain my struggles would have made a wonderful addition to any funny video TV show.  I finally managed to drag my now-drenched from head to toe body back onto the rocks and back up to the truck.  But the day wasn’t a complete loss, I guess.  When I got home we cleaned and boiled up the bait, added it to some gumbo, and called it a day … a bad fishing day.

Numbers 14:18 says, The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.”

Father, thank you for chance to go fishing, even when the catch is … minimal.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 29 – “Chain saw on a stick”

We woke up to a surprise yesterday.  It was cold.  Well, not really cold, but certainly unseasonably chill for Galveston Island.  The temperature on my Weatherbug app read 67 when I turned my computer on.  That is not the end-of-April feel one expects on a tropical island. 

Of course it turned out to be quite nice for us.  Nathan agreed to bring over his newest little toy … the chain saw on a stick.  Still sounds like a treat you’d buy at a county fair.  Fascinating invention, you know.  Smaller version of a chain saw with the ability to be attached securely to the end of a long pole.  It revolutionizes tree trimming, that’s for sure.  He was able to get his oak trees under control in a ridiculously short period of time, so I asked him to come help us out with the palm branches that were hanging across the telephone and cable TV lines in our back yard.  Fortunately, they hadn’t yet reached the power lines.  I think it might be time for the demise of said tree.  They just don’t seem to hold the same allure for me when they get bigger than a two-story house.  Chris wants to hold on to it for its shade value, though, and I certainly agree with that.  So, trim it. 

The little chain saw cut through the branches like a hot knife through butter, and before you know it the back yard was a pile of green and brown.  The cables were free of obstruction.  And our back yard was … brighter.  Much less shade, that’s for sure.  We moved on to the front to trim the bottom rung off of the sycamore trees.  That was my plea.  It is quite annoying to smack your head on a low-hanging branch when mowing the grass.  I suppose it’ll make it a bit more difficult for grandkids to reach the lowest branch when they want to climb it, but who doesn’t love a challenge?

We piled the mass of branches into two areas on the street, just in time for the arrival of the trash pick up.  The workers saw us standing near the last sycamore, reaching down to pick up the final few branches.  They asked if we were finished, and we assured them we were.  One of the hollered out, “Well, it looks like you’re not finished.  We can’t pick any of it up unless you’re finished.”  And with that they drove off.  They wouldn’t even pick up the second pile over on the opposite side of the house.  I guess that would be because the ladder was still in the front yard?  Very strange policy, if you ask me.  After they drove away I went inside and called the city to arrange for a special pickup.  They have to return today now.  Doesn’t matter to me at all, and I guess they need to make sure they have something to do when they come to work each day.  I don’t begrudge them that.  It just makes the system come across as grossly inefficient.  Sigh, I just wish we could have done all this the week of Palm Sunday.  Boy, could I have been creative with a pile of palm branches …

Philippians 4:8 says, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”

Father, thank you for Nathan and his willingness to help us out.  Thank you for the creativity of the guy who came up with the chain saw on a stick.  And watch over those guys who will be picking up the branches today.  Keep them safe and healthy.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April 28 – “Brave the Bikes”

Every so often Galveston plays host to a big triathalon event.  Sometimes it is a whole one, a grueling affair of swimming a few miles, bicycling a lot of miles, and running a marathon.  This past weekend was “just” a half-triathalon.  Only a mile and a half in the water, 56 miles or so on the bike, and just over thirteen miles running around Moody Gardens.  How can anyone do such a feat of endurance?  That part I get.  After all, I used to be a runner back in my younger years.  A boatload of training and the determination of a hungry kid reaching for an unattended cookie jar.  It’s the “why” that has begun to elude me as I have gotten older.  Oh, I can say the words.  “Because it’s there.” (So is Mount Everest.  Hey, so is the bathroom when I wake up in the morning).  “To show that I am the best I can be.” (So join the Marines).  “To test my own limits (That distance gets shorter and shorter every year).  To beat my personal best time.”(That’s code for, “I know I can’t win this race, but I want to do it anyway and this gives me an excuse that sounds really noble.”  Actually I’m just kidding on this one.  It’s probably the best reason for doing something crazy like this.).  “To get the free T-shirt” (Now you are approaching my reasons for running all those years ago).  

The bicycle portion of the race runs right past Seaside, and over the years we have seen our share of racing.  Not all of it has been good, though.  Chris and I saw a bike in the ditch with an ambulance parked nearby on our way home from church.  Once we watched in horror as a bicycler ran head first into one of the roadsigns.  Knocked him off his bicycle and damaged the bike so much he was unable to continue.  Of course he wasn’t medically cleared to continue anyway.  We have seen some “over-zealous” police officers refuse to allow people to turn into the church parking lot, although that has changed as our relationship with the Jamaica Beach public servants has grown more and more positive.  This year the fire chief parked his vehicle on the edge of our lot to do his part in directing traffic, and we had one of our Seaside reserve officers out there as well.  We even have a Seasider who competes when she can.  Yes, I said “she.”  Dale is a woman who is shorter than me, and quite pretty, actually.  But she is in such good physical shape that I would never want to get on her bad side.  She encouraged the church the other day to stand outside and encourage the bikers as they passed the church.  Now that will be a great idea for a ministry project next time there is a race. 

The only roads between our house and the church double as the bicycle track for the morning, so Chris and I have gauged our timing to know when we have to reach the end of the seawall to be in the best position to beat the fastest of the swimmers.  This year’s entries must have been some elite ones, though.  We were right on our time (well, actually we were one minute behind time), but at the end of the seawall cars were at a dead stop.  A veritable horde of bicyclers was turning the corner.  That has never happened before.  What a difference one minute makes.  It took twenty minutes to work our way to the front of the line of cars.  Didn’t bode well for folks waiting until the last minute. 

As it turned out, we had a pretty solid attendance Sunday.  Enough folks braved the bikes to come together for worship.  Now we need to get started on that “encourage the bikers” idea.  Hmm.  How about holding up goofy signs?  Here’s a start: “Gulf of Mexico: One Block South”  “It’s not Tuesday yet”  “Honk if you feel like you’re going in circles.”

Colossians 3:23-24 says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Father, please do a work of healing on that biker we saw who was injured.  Thank you for protecting the others.  Amen.

Monday, April 27, 2015

April 27 – “Play … ball?”

They just don’t make baseball stadiums like they used to.  I can remember back in the day when we went to a baseball game to … well, watch a baseball game.  We were fans.  We grabbed a quick hot dog and a coke and a program, found our seat and quickly filled in the starting lineups.  Of course we were going to keep a scorecard of the game.  That’s what you did at a ball game.  Oh, and we got there as early as we could to maybe get a glimpse of pre-game batting practice and if we were really lucky, maybe an autograph or two.  Our trusty Little League glove sat within easy reach at our side on the off-chance that a foul ball would ever reach this high up in the stands.  We were wide-eyed in awe at the expanse of green before us, the huge scoreboard, the thousands of seats yet to be filled.  This was real baseball. 

Saturday night Cailyn joined us as we went with Kel and his gang to a professional baseball game.  She was almost giddy at the thought of a brand new adventure as she sighed, “I’ve never been to a baseball game before, DadDad.”  Now that sense of anticipation would normally have reassured me that she would have a fine time.  But I would have been more at ease if, say, she was into softball or maybe watched an occasional game on TV with her Dad or if she even knew the first thing about the sport.  I was really worried at what level her disappointment would fall. 

Now we weren’t going to an Astros game.  They were out on the West coast seeking to solidify their hold on first place.  (Wow.  Sounds so good to say that.  And about the Astros.  Can you imagine?).  No, this was a special treat arranged by the Hitchcock Little League where Jachin plays in conjunction with none other than … the Sugarland Skeeters.  Yep.  An independent professional minor league team based just west of Houston. 

The stadium itself looked very nice from the outside.  It is fairly new.  We made contact with the rest of the Hitchcock gang and made our way inside the gate.  Once inside we received a free Skeeters hat (the night’s give-away), and then we were met by a Skeeters representative.  We were being upgraded to one of their sky boxes.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like Minute Maid Park where you have to go up several escalators.  We went up one flight of stairs, way into the second level.  There we found our luxury box, a large room, plenty big enough for the inevitable rousing games of freeze tag and chase and even hide and seek.  For the more sedentary among us, it was filled with couches, padded chairs, television screens, tables full of popcorn and peanuts (All we could eat.  They kept refilling them as fast as the kids could eat them).  Floor to ceiling windows provided a view of the field, and a glass door opened onto an array of outdoor padded seats for a different type of viewing experience.  I took the opportunity to wander around a bit and discovered that for an additional $55 we could have access to their elite, all you can eat buffet room.  Roast beef.  Lobster.  Quesadillas.  Gourmet hot dogs.  Pretty impressive.  For our supper we went downstairs and grabbed some nachos and a barbeque beef sandwich.  A bit closer to ballpark cuisine.   And all close enough to field level that I was even able to snag one of those t-shirts that they shoot out of a cannon.

The Hitchcock kids were allowed to run onto the field with their Skeeter position counterpart when the players were introduced.  They then stood with them for the national anthem.  Special moment.  Four or five kids were at the ballpark for their birthdays.  They were each allowed to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.  They had the traditional uniformed mascot, a large green mosquito named Swatson Skeeter, I believe.  All of these were somewhat typical ballpark experiences for this modern age. 

But it was the “rest of the story” that got my attention.  Off behind the outfield was a full-blown amusement park.  That’s where our younger charges ended up by the seventh inning.  A merry-go-round.  Several ropes courses.  Climbing walls.  Giant bounce-house type structures.  A water splash park.  And even an actual swimming pool.  Where else can you get that kind of an experience for your kids at the price of a ticket to a baseball game ($13)?  I feel like a commercial here.  But wait a minute.  What’s the score of the baseball game?  Isn’t that the reason we came?  Well, I for one watched it to the end.  Skeeters won 2-1 on two solo home runs.  Cailyn slept soundly all night long.  Oh, and out in Oakland the Astros completed their three-game sweep.  That’s a good night.

Philippians 4:19 says, And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Father, thank you for another random opportunity to just enjoy being with family and friends.  And at a baseball game.  Wearing a free hat.  Really good night.  Amen.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April 26 – “I ont more …”

When Kel and his family came over the other night and we were waiting for the pizza to arrive, he and I sat in the office randomly scrolling through our FaceBook feeds and occasionally talking about Jachin’s last baseball game.  Noa joined us.  Now she has become quite adept at getting into whatever cabinet or drawer might stand in the way of her curious nature.  And one of those cabinets happens to be in the office.  And it happens to contain some interesting objects.  And as she discovered each artifact, she helpfully brought it over to me.

Hidden away in that cabinet are many things.  The frame and photo of me and a young girl named Kelly on the beach after a sunrise service.  She is now a graduate of Stanford University.  Still a young girl named Kelly, mind you.  Always will be.  Also in the mix is a genuine, handmade sling like the one David used to knock out Goliath.  Got that one in Arkansas.  Oh, and a very strange hat made of some kind of paper, I think.  But it twists and turns and changes into all sorts of shapes. 

Noa actually passed on all those and went straight for my “Specialty Jesus” collection.  These are various odds and ends I have accumulated over the years.  Strange items that all include a likeness of Jesus in some way or another.  Noa was quite interested in my Jesus band-aids.  Every one has a different depiction of Jesus on it to aid in healing your tiniest wound.

Finally she brought me one of the Jesus on your dashboard figurines.  I thanked her and explained who it was.  She stared at me and then at the figure for a long time, the wheels obviously turning in her little mind.  Then she turned and headed back for the cabinet, saying, “I ont more Jesus.”  She returned with the second on.  I have a duplicate of that model.  I thanked her and assured her that this one was also Jesus.  Quite pleased with herself now, she turned back to her task with another, “I ont more Jesus.”  This time she came back with my bobblehead Jesus.  “That’s right, Noa, there he is again.  It’s Jesus.”  And she went back in for more.  “I ont more Jesus.”  This time she brought out a Moses action figure, but with a quizzical look on her face.  “No, that’s not Jesus.  Looks like him, but not him.”  I thought she would get discouraged, but no.  “I ont more Jesus.”  She dove right back in, and sure enough, underneath the authentic David-type sling and the “Lookin’ good for Jesus” lip balm, she managed to locate the elusive Jesus action figure.  Everything else was anticlimactic after that.  Well, she did go back for the “Looking good for Jesus” lip balm.  Seems she has discovered at home that chapstick has an interesting flavor when you actually eat it.  But her Daddy managed to rescue it before she figured out how to get it out of the packaging.  Look at it this way, Noa.  As long as you stick with “I ont more Jesus,” you’ll do all right in life.

Philippians 4:19 says, And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Father, help me to want more Jesus every day.  He’s all I really need.  Amen.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 25 – “It’s a lemon”

Well, the air conditioner repair guys were back yesterday.  When they knocked on the front door I hollered out to them, “Come on in.  You’re here all the time, so you’re part of the family now.”  All I got back was a nervous chuckle.  Guess he wasn’t sure how to take his on-the-spot adoption. 

So on to the problem at hand.  About three weeks ago we had another issue with the unit not spewing out cold air.  The guys came over, bringing the big boss with them this time, I might add.  After an extended search using two of their cold air escaping meters, they finally located yet another leak.  This one was in the coils, then guts of the machine.  Fortunately, it was still under warranty, so they ordered us a replacement and vowed to call when it came in.  in the meantime they put some kind of bandaid on it and refilled the Freon reservoir.

About a week ago the secretary did indeed call.  I was pretty excited to see the number on caller ID.  Sadly, she thought I was someone else.  No part just yet.  But she assured me she would call when it got there.  That call finally came on Wednesday evening.  They would be here with the new part sometime after 9 a.m. the next morning.

Sure enough, they arrived, huge part in hand.  It was almost as big as one of those small refrigerators you had in your college dorm room.  I say “you” because I never had one.  They spent the next three or four hours disassembling the old one and installing the new one.  And when they left, they assured us all was well.  Indeed, the cold air was back.  Perhaps now the efficiency would improve as well.

Until the next morning.  Yesterday when we woke up Chris heard a dripping sound that was foreign to her ears.  She managed to track it to the AC closet.  Sure enough, the wooden base upon which the entire AC/heating system sat was drenched and water was dripping into the base pan that sits on the foundation of the house.  Wonderful.  I called the company back.  After three or four busy signals, I finally managed an answering machine and left a message about our plight.  That was a first.  I had always managed to get a human being when I called.  Could this mean they were already done for the weekend?  My cynical side answered that one right away … probably.

Later on in the afternoon Kel and his family came over to tell us about their vacation to Glorieta, New Mexico, and to pick up their animals who had been living with us while they were gone.  Oh, and to join us in Friday pizza night, of course.  Didn’t take long for the house to become home to a steady drone of noise.  Rockets game on TV.  Rousing game of baseball in the kitchen.  Christina and Chris talking at the table.  Noa investigating all my “Jesus oddities” collection in the study. 

And finally, around 6:30, there came a knock at the door.  It was the AC repair guys branch of the family.  They went right to work, reinvestigating all their connections and re-insulating and taping and calking.  Their final diagnosis this time was a small place they had missed taping before.  The cold air inside the tube was mixing with the hot air in the closet and condensing into water all over the bottom of the cabinet.  They assured us all was dry now and should remain so.  We’ll see.  I think we may have a lemon on our hands.

Exodus 15:13 says, In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.  In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”

Father, thank you for the lemonade of new AC repairman friends.  Amen.

Friday, April 24, 2015

April 24 – “Like-ing Blue Bell”

In spite of the regularity of placing my daily blog title and address on FaceBook, I rarely post much of anything else.  Oh, there is the occasional comment on a friend’s photo, and I do “like” things every now and then.  But yesterday Chris had a great idea in the wake of the horrifying recall of all Blue Bell ice cream products. 

Back when we used to live in Colorado, our vacation trips amounted to “over the mountains and through the pass to grandparents house we go” visits.  At the time Blue Bell ice cream was just not available in those Northern reaches of the world, so we would often stop at the first available gas station, not just to fill up the car, but also to get a few pints of Blue Bell.  Chris’ parents would literally fill up their freezer with different flavors of Blue Bell in anticipation of our visit.  That was their unique way of spoiling our children.  Blue Bell for dessert after every meal.  Blue Bell for an evening snack while watching TV.  Blue Bell for breakfast.  One more bowl of Blue Bell before we hit the road.  It was difficult for us as parents to regulate the input of that much … OK, who am I kidding?  We had our own bowl right along with them. 

On one such trip the boys decided to create the perfect photo op for their picture-loving Mom.  They filled the table with cartons of Blue Bell, grabbed a bowl full and a spoon, and dug in.  That was the photo Chris remembered yesterday.  It took me a while, but I finally found it in our archives and posted it, along with a sigh.  And the response has been overwhelming.  This morning the photo has 94 “likes” and 17 comments.  I reconnected with my old high school counselor and friend (he was a groomsman in our wedding).  There were people from our time in Colorado, Houston, Mansfield, and Galveston.  Family.  Old friends.  People I have no idea who they are (That has to be a terrible sentence grammatically).  All in all it has been really fun to reminisce.  Maybe I can find some more old pictures and see who comes forth to identify themselves. 

Job 36:24-26 says, Remember to extol his work, which men have praised in song.  All mankind has seen it; men gaze on it from afar.  How great is God — beyond our understanding!  The number of his years is past finding out.”

Father, thank you for connections with family and friends, even if it is over “sad” occasions.  Amen.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 23 – “The Realm of Rescue”

There is nothing quite so eerie as an empty fire station.  The “usual” involves the hustle and bustle of training or studying for an upcoming officer’s exam or working out or, in the quieter moments, watching television or cooking the next meal or sitting outside communing with nature or the latest civilian passerby or taking a quick opportunity for a phone call from home to touch base with the wife or tell a child she is loved.  Or perhaps on a really good day, the family stops by to have lunch or toss a football around with Dad.

And then comes the blast of the speaker and the tone that means a call.  Everything else is put on hold as the fire fighters instantly enter an entirely different world, the realm of rescue, the fully focused persona of first responder.  Anything less is dangerous for himself and potentially for someone else.  Four minutes or less to be on the road in response. Cooking?  Make sure the stove is off and perhaps the food is covered.  Reading?  A quick bookmark to hold your place.  Watching a movie?  Hit pause.  On the telephone?  A quick “I love you” and that loved one … understands.  Down the pole or the steps or even the slide.  Step into the bunker gear so carefully placed near the door of the fire engine.  Slide into his designated spot and wait, or drive on to the fire or the wreck or the medical emergency or perhaps even the kitty cat rescue from a tall tree.

But what remains when the engine and the ladder truck and even the battalion chief vehicle all pull away from the station?  Doors closed to encase a vast, empty bay, the faint smell of gas and oil still lingering in the air.  A half-eaten meal on the table.  A now-flat, half-empty can of soda near a chair.  A computer flickering into screen saver mode.  The only sound is the drone of a TV left playing or the occasional blaring of yet another call or perhaps the intermittent buzzing of a cell phone left behind. 

Eerie?  Yes, absolutely.  Signs of life suddenly disrupted, as if ripped from existence by some unseen force.  And, you know, now that I think about it, that is exactly what did happen.  Virtually every time they come on duty, these fire fighters are ripped away from any semblance of normalcy, not just once, but time and time again.  And not just in a nine-to-five work day, either.  The call comes at all hours of the day and night.  What awaits them on the other end of that call is a great unknown, but the response is always the same.  Adrenaline kicks in and training becomes reality, as they enter … no, not the Twilight Zone … it’s the Realm of Rescue.

Matthew 10:12-13 says, As you enter the home, give it your greeting.  If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.”

Father, watch over these committed men and women as they watch over our city.  And would you also watch over their home-away-from-home in those hours that they are gone as well?  Amen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April 22 – “A temple, a tunnel, and a told-you-so”

We took a drive into Texas yesterday – a sort of trial run for our upcoming 40th anniversary vacation getaway.  Actually we had to go to my rheumatologist’s office to pick up some of the medication I take.  Pretty boring trip usually.  But not this time.

Oh, the drive up there was uneventful enough.  I suppose.  I slept much of the way.  But there were no screams of terror from Chris to awaken me from my slumber, so I assume all was well.  Chris dropped me off to run up to the office, as I have done numerous times over the past few years.  But when I explained my purpose to the front desk, they had no idea what I was talking about.  The nurse on duty called me to the back and was escorting me to a room, when he stopped and whispered, “Now you understand that we don’t just give out samples of medications, don’t you?”  How incredibly condescending.  I countered with a very patient rendition of how many times I have done this very thing over the last three years, how it was not a sample distribution but a part of a Pfizer Pharmaceuticals program, how Theresa, the other nurse, had called and told me the medicine was in the office.  I even told him where to go look for it and what kind of packaging it usually came in.  I don’t think he appreciated my assistance or the fact that I knew the layout of the office so well.  He asked me to return to the waiting room while he asked Dr. Rubin for clarification.  I had just enough time to text Chris when he burst forth into the room, my package in hand and an apology on his lips.  I accepted the envelope with a grateful “Thank you.”  Didn’t even add an “I told you so” or anything.

From there we headed out to Missouri to the closest AAA office.  We wanted to get some paper maps and some of their famous tour guide books.  I entered the address into the google maps app on my phone, but it was leading us somewhere way north of interstate 10.  Fortunately I recognized the error and corrected the input.  That was just one more reason why we like paper maps.  Now the new route took us windingly through several small communities to the southwest of Houston, so we were able to avoid the main freeways and craziness of traffic.  But the drive was more than that.  It was entertaining.  At one turn Chris commented, “Whoa, look at that.”  It was a huge, white … not just a building … it was a whole complex of structures with a distinctive Hindu flair.  The map app called it the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.  I have to say … it was gorgeous architecture.  I looked it up later.  You can tour it.  Maybe on a future trip to Texas.  The other really impressive part of the drive came somewhere in Stafford, Texas, I think.  There were lots of huge oak trees lining the street.  And the city had trimmed them in such a way that the car felt like it was traveling through a huge tunnel.  Very impressive.

We found the AAA office and walked away with two bags full of maps and book to peruse in the next few weeks.  After a quick lunch at Spring Creek Barbeque, we headed for our last stop on the way home.  Well, actually it didn’t turn out to be our last one.  On the spur of the moment we made a quick turn and stopped at the Stone’s farm to say hello to the goat and dogs.  Oh, and Laura was there, too.  Didn’t stay long, though.  We did still have one more stop.  That came a bit further down the road.  We went to the cemetery where Mom and Dad and Nannie K. and Grandaddy were buried.  That’s where I noticed an interesting family tradition I didn’t know we had.  On the tombstones with all the expected information was added a nickname.  Buster.  MeeMaw.  Nannie.  I guess we started it after Grandaddy died, because I don’t remember his being on there.  So I suppose when I’m added to the list there will be a DadDad.  The problem will come when they have to decide what to put on Chris’s (Yes, I said, “they.”  I plan on making my exit first.  I called dibs).  Will she be Nana?  Nani?  Or maybe Cailyn’s parttime favorite, Nan?  Have fun with that one, kids. 

Psalms 85:6 says, “Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.”

Father, thank you for providing those oak trees for that city crew to shape into a tunnel.  Thank you for the stark white material for the architects and builders to form into that amazing structure.  Thank you for the effects those small capsules have in reducing my pain.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 21 – “Join us …”

Latest catastrophe in the Vaughan household?  Not a big one.  We just had to take the car to Firestone so they could fix the slow leak in one of the brand new tires we haven’t even finished paying for yet.  They were quite nice and helpful this time.  Even rotated the tires for us for free.  Actually that comes with the package when you buy tires from them.  They did try their “You need …” trick on us.  We hear that every time we even drive by the shop on our way somewhere else.  Guess that’s how they make their money, though.  Trick us unsuspecting automobile ignorants into doing work that is really not all that necessary.  So glad we have an honest mechanic. 

Glad it’s done, though, because as soon as Chris gets ready we have to make one of those trips into Texas.  I have to pick up some medication at my rheumatologist’s office.  And while there we plan to locate a AAA office and get some maps and guide books and whatever else they will give us.  Might be a long day in the Lone Star State.  But we still have our Island country to return home to.  Be back soon.

Psalms 85:7 says, “Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.”

Father, join us for a drive today, would you?  Amen.

Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20 – “Coming your way”

Here’s a quick vacation planning update.  It’s how we spent our Sunday afternoon.  My job has been to map out a general route for us to take, main cities, nearest major roads, that sort of thing. Chris is in charge of what we do along the way.  We are essentially heading to the Louisville, Kentucky area, but whatever we hit before and after are still negotiable, and will be even as we drive.  That’s the greatest kind of vacation, you know.  It’s the only way to find three-headed cows and the largest rocking chair in the world.  Chris had a great idea for the before and after scenario.  We are going to make this, very loosely, a Civil War site trail.  Some of the places are set in stone.  Others depend on how interesting they look once we get there.  I would like to stop in on some of the fire stations along the way and maybe trade some patches or something.  If you recognize any of the places, let us know.  We might just drop in on you, if invited.

We know that we have to go through Alexandria, Louisiana.  That’s where we have a drop-off to one of Chris’s half-sisters.  Second leg puts us going through Vicksburg, Mississippi to the Corinth area, which is relatively near the Shiloh battleground.  From there we head to Huntsville, Alabama, and on over to Fort Oglethorpe and Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee.  From there we’ll head north and drive the Abraham Lincoln trail just south of Louisville, before heading into the city and the Louisville Slugger Museum, destined to be a major highlight of the journey. 

And that’s where everything gets murky.  My route has us on somewhat of an ultimately biblical trek.  We head north through Cincinnati, Ohio, and through Columbus.  From there we go through Wheeling, West Virginia, and with a slight detour to the north along the way we see the Little League World Series fields in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Then back on the road until we hit the biblical portion of our journey: Bethlehem (Pennsylvania).  Then, since we’ll be so close, we could head north and drive through Vermont, just to say we’ve been there (It’s one of three of the lower 48 that I haven’t been to.  The others are Minnesota and North Dakota … and I have a plan.  Chris has never been to Utah, but I’m not sure yet about that one.  I have to check alternate routes if she wants to check that one off her bucket list).  From Vermont we’ll drive west through Chicago and on into Minnesota.  Check off number two.  If I can talk Chris into it, we can then keep on a westerly heading and make our way through North Dakota before heading back south (with some adjustments, maybe through Utah, eh, Chris?), probably swinging through Waco when we get back into Texas. 

We have almost three weeks to fit in whatever comes up.  And as is our custom, if we see something that looks like fun, we’ll change the route.  And if we are having fun in one spot, we may just stick around there the whole time.  Gotta love an unplanned, semi-controlled-chaos vacation.  Oh, and I guess I never mentioned, the whole reason we are even taking a vacation … June 6th is our 40th wedding anniversary.  Gotta make it memorable. 

Matthew 25:14 says, Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.”

Father, thank you for the excitement of planning a journey.  Thank you as well that we can know you will be traveling with us.  Amen.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April 19 – “The Home of the Chief”

Yesterday was one of those times when I got to be a part of a random community event indirectly involving the fire department.  Two years ago one of the East End historical district houses was sold to a San Antonio family intensely interested in Galveston’s history.  It had already been renovated into a beautiful showcase home.  They did some more research on the house’s history and saw to it that the home found its place onto the registry of historic homes in Galveston.  Yesterday they were doing a house dedication.  They asked Fire Chief Wisko to read a history of the house and me as Fire Chaplain to pray a blessing.  On duty crews from Stations One and Two were there with their engines, but the Station Two crew was called out before the ceremony started.  Retired Fire Chief Brantley brought his old restored fire engine from the 1950’s.  Invited guests included past owners of the house as well as descendants of the original owners.

So other than the fact that we have really cool dress uniforms, why involve the fire department?  Well, as it turned out, the house was originally the home of Galveston’s fire chief during the 1900 Storm.  Not only did it survive that catastrophe, but it became the sanctuary of 150 people who rode out the storm together.  Not all of them started out inside the house, though.  One of the fire chief’s family members shared a family history anecdote about that event.  They kept the windows open, and as people would float by clutching the roof of a house or clinging to a stray bit of debris, they would throw out one of those old ice hooks and pull them to safety.  The chief’s wife reported that the morning after the storm she baked 400 biscuits to feed everyone.  The chief retired about a year later, but it wasn’t long before the city asked him to come out of retirement and become the city’s … get this … Police Chief. 

Our fire fighters represented the department and themselves admirably.  They interacted with the people with respect and professionalism that certainly made me proud to be a part of the department.  Oh, and Chief Wisko did an amazing job of telling the house’s story.  He had four pages of notes, but didn’t refer to them even once.  I think there may be a docent job in your retirement future, Chief.

Psalms 84:3 says, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young — a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.”

Father, thank you for personal stories like the ones from that house.  They really make history come alive.  Amen.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 18 – “Awash …”

Big news around Galveston early this morning is the huge supercell of thunderstorms that whipped through here last night.  The fire department app on my phone was going crazy with power lines down or arcing.  The whole Island was awash with downpours.  FaceBook was lit up with reports of hail and extremely strong winds.  And several houses in Sea Isle and Jamaica Beach were outright damaged by a probable tornado.  Guess I’ll need to make a quick trip out west to check on the church.  It’ll have to come after my appearance at the dedication of a restored house today, though.  That’s at ten this morning.  I have been outside, but it’s still dark so I couldn’t really see that much.  Looks like we are all OK here.  I know both of us were in the bed when I woke up. 

We spent the bulk of the day yesterday doing yard work again.  It is truly Spring around here.  You might say we are awash with color.  OK, so you might not say that.  It does sound kind of weird.  But the grass is growing like crazy.  Chris’ flowers are blooming all over the yard.  I can’t begin to remember, much less pronounce, the names of all the types of flowers we now have.  Roses.  Pink roses and yellow roses and red roses.  I know there are those.  And Easter lilies are about to bloom, although they should be called Mother’s Day lilies, since that’s when they usually pop out.  There is a virtual hedge of what she calls Mexican petunias.  I’ve heard her use the word amaryllis, but I’m not sure which one that is.  She has a few that are really big blooms, really impressive, showcase flowers.  The periwinkles are back, of course.  The hangy-down vine thing on our back fence has stopped blooming for the moment, but it is still really green.  Our baby pecan tree in a pot on the deck finally started putting out some leaves.  It’s always the last to show up.  Oh, and the tree that our friends the Gerans gave us, the one that arrived at their house in a box in the mail, has put on several leaves as well, so it has officially awakened.  The sycamore trees are doing their part to provide shade.  The satsuma tree in back is full of leaves.  Not sure about fruit this year, though.  There is a persimmon tree in a pot upstairs keeping the pecan tree company.  And the two fruit trees that the city gave us are doing well.  I know I left some things out, but I’m just in charge of the grass and trimming the hedges and trees.  More than I can handle.

Leviticus 26:4 says, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit.”

Father, that’s a promise we have sure seen come about the last 24 hours or so.  You’re doing some great Spring work down here.  Really beautiful stuff.  Amen.

Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17 – “Street worthy”

Well, Muffler Day finally dawned yesterday.  After water therapy it was time to take the truck in to have a new muffler installed so it could then be inspected so I could then go get the registration sticker.  But that muffler thing … I had no idea.

I called the place that had been recommended to me by our mechanic.  Dennis assured me the guy running it could be trusted to do a good job and give us a fair price.  Strong endorsement as far as I was concerned.  The shop itself was pretty run-down looking, but hey.  I wanted a muffler, not a manicure.  Sure enough, the guy who greeted me was quite amiable, and seemed very willing to help.  He asked about my fire department cap.  Seems he grew up with some of the active duty guys: Moose, Jim, and Danny were the ones he mentioned.  When he realized I was the chaplain he decided not to share any details of their exploits together, however.  Can’t say anything to horrify the man of God, I guess.  Apparently he was the face of the business, too.  He stopped what he was doing whenever anyone walked up.  He even diagnosed one lady’s brake line leak, and then told her another place she could go to get it fixed.  I talked to several other folks, and most were repeat customers who nothing but good to say about the company in general and this guy in particular.  You have quite a reputation there, Bobby.

The thing that fascinated me was the way the muffler was made.  It was not one of these pull-it-out-of-the-box, follow-the-installation-instructions kinds of things.  Well, I guess the muffler was that.  But not so much the tailpipes.  He cut the whole thing off with a sawzall, and the muffler itself was a mess.  It was so rusted that the pipes were literally hanging by a thread.  He told me it was the original 1992 muffler that came with the truck.  Hmm.  1992 to 2015.  That’s twenty-three years.  Maybe I should be in a GMC TV commercial.  He took the old pipes over to a vise he had, grabbed a long straight pieces of pipe, and carefully molded it by hand to fit the shape of the original.  Bet he didn’t think he would ever be using geometry back when he was in high school hanging out with his buddies.  Welding it all back in place didn’t take him long at all, and I was back on the road.  As far as I could tell the price was reasonable, so I was happy on that count as well.  But my day was not over yet.

Next I had to drive over to get the truck inspected.  Since it is so old, there are only a few places left on the Island that do those inspections.  The one I went to has been recommended by several folks, including Dennis and some of the fire fighters.  When I drove up there was an old guy (Yep.  Older than me) sitting in a padded chair in the center of the entrance to the garage.  He asked what I wanted, and when I said “an inspection of a 1992 truck” he cursed a bit and added, “Now I have to move my chair.”  Aside from running into a table when he tried to get the truck inside, he was quite competent with the apparatus.  Kept up a running commentary while he was doing the testing, and the guy was absolutely hilarious.  He announced the passing grade before the computer ever did.  I think he was determined to get the thing passed no matter what the computer showed.  Finally, he gave me my paperwork and sent me on my way.  Next stop … registration.

Well, I did have to go home first to pick up the paperwork and have a bite of lunch.  The registration office was “way downtown.”  It took me all of at least ten minutes to get there.  The line was pretty long, too.  Must have been seven people ahead of me.  I finally made my way to the front, though.  Took about two minutes.  And that’s about how long it took to get the sticker – and new license plates.  Seems the old ones are more than seven years old, so they were “losing their reflectivity.”  I didn’t realize it until I got home, but the new ones didn’t have the word “Truck” on them.  Wonder if that’s going to cause a problem in the future.  I got the sticker applied and the plates screwed on with no problems, and we finally have a street-worthy truck once again. 

Wonder what our next issue will be …

Psalms 25:4-5 says, Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Father, thank you for artisans like Bobby who can craft such intricate twists and turns into a hunk of straight metal.  Thank you for crafting the twists and turns that have been my journey toward you.  Can’t wait to see what you have in store for me next.  Amen.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April 16 – “O – M – G”

Great news on the medical update front.  Cailyn went in for her recheck yesterday.  The official report read, “No scratch seen.”  That’ll work.  Way to go, God.

Kel and Christina and their kids are all geared up for a continuation of their vacation.  They spent a day or two with cousins in Waco, and now they are heading to Glorieta, New Mexico.  Along the way they will stop in Lubbock to see some of Christina’s family.  Cailyn and Chris were talking about that leg of the journey. Cailyn wanted to know exactly where Lubbock was.  Chris answered with that most typical of Texas approaches, time instead of miles, “It takes about twelve hours to drive to Lubbock.”  And Cailyn’s response to that tidbit of information? 
“O – M – G.” 
Wait.  How old is that girl, anyway?

Speaking of vacations, Chris and I have started planning ours.  Looks like we will have two weeks at the end of May to make one of our famous road trips to … well, that’s what we’re trying to figure out.  Her first find was the Louisville Slugger museum in Kentucky.  Sounded great to me, but what else is there to do in that part of the country?  And where to go on the way there?  And how long could a baseball bat museum take to explore, anyway?  What then?  All completely valid concerns, right?

Now our first stop has to be somewhere in Louisiana.  Another one of those inheritance delivery things.  But after that we are literally wide open.  I seem to recall a friend in Alabama somewhere.  Is that on the way to Kentucky?  I’m pretty sure we know someone in Indiana, too.  And Minnesota.  And Pennsylvania.  And Virginia.  Guess we’re getting all over the map, aren’t we?  Wait.  That’s what we need.  A map.  And not one that only shows where your car is and how far it is to your next stop.  We need one of those antique, folded-in-an-impossible-to-refold-pattern, travel maps of the United States.  I know they used to have them.  In fact, I checked on the AAA website.  They still have them.  But you have to go into the office to pick them up.  And the nearest AAA office is in Missouri City.  So … one of our Thursday ventures will be to WalMart or Target to see if good old Rand McNally is still in business with his infamous road atlases.  Or maybe we could take a field trip into Texas and see if Buccees has road maps.  Or maybe I could just get all the grandkids to draw me a map and send it to me.  Now that sounds intriguing …

Exodus 15:26 says, He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’”

Father, thank you for the great news about Cailyn’s eye.  You are ever Yahweh Rapha.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 15 – “A Pirate Maiden”

We had a little bit of a family crisis yesterday.  The first part of the scenario occurred totally unbeknownst to us.  Chris and I were both working at our respective computers when a call came through on the house phone.  I checked the caller ID as we always do, since the vast majority of spam calls come to our land line.  (Can it be considered “spam” if it has nothing to do with a computer?).  There were only four numbers that appeared – not even a complete seven digits, much less ten - so we ignored the call.  About five minutes later we got a call from Nathan.  He had just talked to the school nurse, and Cailyn had been hit in the eye by another student’s name tag.  There was evidence of a ruptured blood vessel, but the school wanted to have it checked out for a possible scratch. 

We left immediately and hurried up to the school.  When we arrived, Cailyn was sitting in the nurse’s office, grinning happily at the thought of leaving school, “before we even had lunch.”  The nurse showed us the injury and explained the circumstances as she understood them.  Then she proceeded to chew us out.  Yep.  She said that she had called our house phone and both our cell phones and no one answered.  Then came the shocker, “Whenever you see this four digit number appear on your caller id you better answer it.”  Wait.  Back the bus up.  You mean the school’s emergency number only appears as four digits on a caller id?  How about this … why not inform the parents and grandparents of that tiny little detail?  It might facilitate things in the future.  (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps that tidbit of information had been communicated to April at some time in the past, but she was engrossed in a training day for her new ER position at the hospital).  And Nathan had certainly never heard it.  He had that slippery four digits on his cell phone and had ignored them as well. 

And speaking of cell phones, that little oversight wasn’t the worst of it.  When she insisted that she had called our cell numbers, Chris pulled her phone out and checked her call logs.  The mysterious four digits were nowhere to be found.  She pointed to her computer screen and argued that she had called every one of the numbers.  That’s when I leaned over to look for myself.  And there was my cell number as well.  So I checked my own call log.  Again … no mysterious four digit numbers there, so I let her know mine didn’t match her story either.  That’s when she started back-tracking.  Seems that she didn’t ever really call my cell number.   For some reason she must have skipped over that one.  Hmm.  Interesting. 

We didn’t come for a lesson in protocol, though.  There was the more pressing matter of a possible scratched eyeball, after all.  Since her cell phone was in her hand anyway, Chris flipped over to camera mode and turned to take a picture of the injury.  The nurse almost protested at the presence of a recording device.  Didn’t get out much more than a faint grunt, though.  Chris informed her quickly that Cailyn’s Dad was not at all happy with the turn of events, and he was expecting a photo of Cailyn’s injury as soon as possible.  Can’t argue with that logic.  Hey, you can’t argue with Chris at all once she puts her mind to something.  Picture all sent, we checked her out and headed for home.  Nathan in the meantime made an appointment with the pediatrician to have it checked out. 

The doctor’s office was eerily quiet.  In fact, Cailyn was the only patient in the waiting room.  We did hear one crying child on our way to the room, and one other youngster arrived as we were called back.  Very strange for a normally busy office.  Cailyn was noticeably nervous.  In fact she was bouncing all over the room, dancing and making faces.  I did get some of that on video for future revelation to prospective boyfriends. The tech who took vitals and checked us into the system was quite engaging.  Cailyn fell in love with her instantly, whispering to me, “She is one funny lady.”  After the usual preliminary once-over, the pediatrician put some special dye in Cailyn’s eye and turned out the lights.  It was the glow-in-the-dark juice.  Her eye lit up like a Christmas tree.  I fumbled to get a picture, but forgot to take the flash off.  We did manage a few pics after the fact, but much of the dye had worn off.  And the dye did indeed reveal a scratch.  That meant a pirate patch for a few days and some antibiotic eye drops.  I’m sure it was scary for her when the doc applied the eye patch for the first time.  That fear was alleviated a bit, though, when that first tech returned with a “Hello, Kitty” sticker that covered the entire thing.  I guess it’s hard for a little girl to be frightened in the presence of a cartoon kitty cat.  Now if it was me, I’d have run screaming in the rain to get that horrid creature away from my face.  But that’s just me.  And cats. 

Jeremiah 17:14 says, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.”

Father, please bring healing quickly to Cailyn’s eye.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14 – “Beware the Gojin”

I know I’ve told some imaginary friend stories over the years.  They usually center around that odd little imp who called himself Boy.  He first showed up when Kel was a youngster.  I suppose his task was to introduce the young innocent to all the finer points of misbehavior and mayhem.  Boy certainly received the blame for anything bad that happened around our house for several years.  He finally departed into the black hole of imaginatory nothingness that is the source of such companionship for children, and we figured we would never hear from him again.  But several years later the rascal was back, introducing himself to Josh and doing his best to lead this new youngster into all sorts of mischief.  Understand here … we never mentioned him to young Josh by name.  Never even mentioned the imaginary friend concept.  But when he arrived it was unmistakably Boy.  Once again he stayed with us for several years before quietly taking his leave.  As Nathan approached the “Boy years” we couldn’t decide whether to eagerly anticipate his return or do whatever we could to discourage it.  As it turned out, when Boy arrived into Nathan’s life he discovered that he had nothing to do.  Nathan was light years ahead of him already in the impishness department.  In fact I think Boy might have been more than a little bit intimidated by Nathan.

Now all that to say, we have a new imaginary friend in the family.  As far as I can tell, this one is not much like Boy at all.  In the first place he showed up much earlier than his predecessor.  And secondly, he has attached himself to a girl.  No, this one is not guiding Cailyn into the paths of naughtiness.  Remember who her Daddy is.  This new guy is a friend of two-year-old Noa.  I guess the IFB (Imaginary Friend Bureau) has lowered its limits of attack.  Noa introduced us to this creature the last time she and her brothers were over here without parents.  Gojin is this one’s name.  Not sure about the origin/etymology of that one, but it does have a genie kind of flavor to it.  So Gojin was quite an active little critter.  He enjoyed hanging around light fixtures and sometimes up on the roof.  That much we got from the BLT (Brothers’ Living Translation).  But she did have some things of her own to say.  Here’s a rundown, best I can remember.

Noa: “Gojin on light.”  Followed by a pause.  We weren’t sure if something was happening right then or she was remembering an earlier event.
Noa: “Gojin fell down from light an’ got a owie.”
Well, now that couldn’t have been fun.  But apparently we needed a fuller explanation.  Looking back up at the chandelier above our dining room table, she continued.
Noa: “Gojin swing swing and he up up and fell down and got an owie.”
Introductions made, she went back to the task at hand … lunch.  And after a nibble or two on a piece of cheese …
Noa: “Gojin gonna eat eat.”
Well, of course he is.  Everybody has to eat eat.  I couldn’t resist this time, though. 
DadDad: “What’s he gonna eat?”
Come on, I never did get any details about Boy when he was here.  He was always in hiding.  This was just parental curiosity, you understand.  She had an immediate answer for me, though.
Noa: “Gojin gonna eat Heidi.”
And there it was.  Heidi is our dog.  That’s right.  Dog.  Old Gojin was not that different from Boy after all.  I kept my eye on our poor old dachshund after that.  I’m not sure she could handle a mealtime attack by a hungry Gojin. 

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Father, thank you for imaginary friends and tired old dogs.  Thank you more for being a real friend and an eternal companion.  Amen.