Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 30 – “On the shelf”

Phase two (out of who knows how many phases) of the garage reclamation project was accomplished yesterday.  We put up four shelves next to the new workbench and wheeled over an old metal work cart to see what the second workbench (yet to be completed) would look like. 

Sounds like a fairly simple task, doesn’t it?  Putting up a few shelves.  Wall mount.  Couple of screws and call it a day, right?  Well … not so much.  For the Vaughan Garage, that meant clearing out three stacks of those old plastic and metal milk delivery cartons that they used to use (well, they may still use them).  We have been using the stacks as our makeshift shelf for … oh … about seven plus years.  It’s actually been longer, but I’m relegated to dating pre and post Hurricane Ike.  Then we had to clear out all the stuff that has accumulated all around the area where we would be working so we could get the ladder up.  I was actually shocked when Chris didn’t stop the process at intervals so she could sweep.  Guess she’s leaving that to me. 

Once everything was cleared out, I crawled up into the attic so we could get an accurate location of studs.  The sheetrock in our garage was textured and painted just as well or better than the rest of our house, so it was impossible to find evidence of nails.  My stud finder required a new nine volt battery, which we, of course, had none of in the house.  We made the markings, and then, just because I have a lot of my old-school Dad in me, I grabbed a hammer and a long, skinny old nail and hammered it in.  No stud on our marks.  Any of them.  That’s when Chris remembered that there used to be a door right where we were hammering.  The stud pattern would be altered significantly.  Time to throw out the scientific approach and stop worrying about beauty.  It was the garage after all.  I hammered and relocated until I found stud locations we could use to screw in the shelf brackets.  Only took eight or ten tries. 

We got the shelves up without further annoyance, and began the process of stocking them.  We threw away a bag full of stuff, but still had to find places for much of what was residing in our makeshift, terribly dangers stack of milk cartons shelving system.  That did take a while, but in the end, we had everything happily residing in its new home.  All done, right?  Not so much.  The final part of the process in every project is the cleanup.  Not that I mind clean up, but that meant every old milk crate, plus the old table plus the lawn mower my neighbor just gave me plus the boxes we haven’t yet delivered to Kel and Christina for their moving adventure all had to find its way back into my beautiful new garage.  Sigh.  Next up?  Hanging Dad’s old florescent light fixture over the workbench area.  I can feel the sore muscles now …

Psalms 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it leads only to evil.”

Father, that’s an unusual, out of the blue kind of verse for today.  But help me to keep it in the forefront of my mind.  Don’t get mad.  Don’t worry.  Don’t get mad.  Don’t worry … Amen.

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29 – “You should never …”

We had an interesting turn of events happen related to the church the other day.  We received a notice that we had to return to using a bang bag to make our deposits.  Now we did that for a long time, and it became a pain in the neck for someone (Yep.  That would often be me) to always have to remember to go by the bank every two weeks to pick them up.  So they allowed us to make the deposit by simply sealing it in a regular envelope.  They then mailed the receipt to us.  Great for us since our financial secretary lives on a goat farm in Santa Fe.  Great for them since our money counter is fastidious (Hah.  Another great word I have never used in real life before) in having everything related to the deposit in perfect order. 

And then came the new order to use bank bags.  Well, we didn’t have them at the church, of course, so I stopped by the bank and picked them up.  No questions asked.  And two weeks later our money counter stopped by to pick them up.  But she was denied because she “wasn’t a signer on the account.”  Well, I had never been so denied before, so I went by to get them.  Besides, most of the time someone working there recognized me as the pastor.  I knew I was in trouble when, first, everyone in the room was new, and second, she pulled out a huge notebook and started obviously looking for something.  She called for help from a colleague.  Between the two of them they discovered what I could have told them when I walked in, “I can’t find your name as a signer on the account.”  I explained that the reason for that difficulty didn’t lie with their abilities or with their filing system.  The plain and simple fact was, “I am not a signer on the account.  Never have been.  Never will be.  I’m just the pastor.  I’m just here to pick up the bags.”  They asked if I had ever done it before.  I gently assured them that over the years I had done it many, many times, and never had I been asked to sign for them.  They countered with a horrified look and the typical attempt to place blame for this terrible breach of security protocol on “whoever allowed that.” 

The manager-type person finally took over and very sweetly informed me that we really didn’t have to use the bank bags at all if we didn’t want to.  In fact, they greatly preferred us doing it the way we were: "in a sealed envelope with everything in perfect order."  Then they could mail us the receipt like they have been doing.  Well, that sounded like a great idea to me, so I told her so, and we agreed that bags were out, sealed envelopes were back in.  That settled, they asked me if I was the new pastor.  It kind of shocked them to hear the 20 years answer.  Oh, and they got in a final little jab at that evil criminal mastermind who had infiltrated their foolproof system to work in their very midst: “You should never have been allowed to pick up the bags.”  Again, my 20 year history of doing it off and on was quite perplexing. 

And the final piece of this chuckle puzzle?  They handed me the bags as I left, saying you can have them and maybe use them to collect offerings or something … just never use them to make your deposit.  Classic.  I think we got it.
Psalms 37:5-6 says, Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Father, help me to trust you enough that my ways get lost in yours.  Amen.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28 – “Happy birthday, Padawan Micah”

Wow.  Is it ever quiet around here.  Josh and his family left after Micah’s birthday party.  Cailyn is still here, but she and Chris are still asleep right now.  I did have a note from Cailyn on my desk when I got in here this morning.  “Please wake me up in the morning. Love, Cailyn.”  Guess I’ll go do that.  In a few more minutes.

The birthday party was the big event for yesterday.  And by big I mean there were lots of kids there.  I think they invited three or four kids for each of their own.  That would make … let me do the math … at least sixteen.  Maybe more.  Maybe fifty.  Maybe I’m just getting old.

It was a Star Wars themed event.  Christina spent a few hours getting a whole bunch of yarn braided up so the boys could have a Padawan braid and the girls could have some Princess Leia twirlied-up-on-the-side-of-their-heads braids.  Cute stuff.  Of course they all had to make light sabers out of pool noodles and spend some time smacking each other with them.  Jedi training and all that.  My favorite idea of the day was the clue hunt looking for the missing birthday candle.  Couched in Star Wars language, the clues led the kids around the yard and house to discover clues that eventually led to the actual candle in the shape of a 9.  As an afterthought, I think I would have paired up the older guys with a younger padawan of his own.  Those older dudes ran like crazy and had the clues before the younger ones could even get started.  But they all seemed to have a good time, so that’s all that counts in the end.  Cake and ice cream (no, not Blue Bell) quelled their hunger, and a goody bag full of candy for them to take home assured each parent of a more-active-than-usual rest of the afternoon.  Happy birthday, Micah.  And may the force be with you.

Psalms 37:3 says, Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”

Father, thank you for being stronger and more encompassing, but than the Star Wars force.  And I never heard Luke talk about the force loving him enough to die for him.  Nope.  That’s all you.  Amen.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 27 – “A gift I have”

We made a quick trip to the beach yesterday.  Had to get an ocean fix in so Zak and Caleb and Luke would have something special to talk about when they go back to their church tomorrow.  Caleb informed me that I would “most probably be out there fishing” while they played in the water, so I couldn’t disappoint him.  Of course it was terrible conditions for fishing.  Very strong current.  High winds.  Rough seas.  Dirty water.  Ignorant tourists.  Now I don’t mean that to disparage them as human beings in any way.  They were just obviously ignorant of some basic rules of the Gulf.  More than once a few of them drifted right in front of me.  I even had to yell at a young boy trying to depend on a boogy board to get him safely into deeper water.  Bad decision.  At least he listened and headed back to shallower waters.  I didn’t catch anything.  Lots of tiny whiting were swimming around, all happy to chew on the dead shrimp I was using as bait, though.  And I was bumped into by more mullet that I ever have been before.  Guess it was hard to see in all that churned up sandy water.  I think the boys all had a great time, though.  Luke was asleep before Christi could carry him back to the car.  DadDad was asleep shortly after arriving back home.  I usually manage to connect with the same wavelength of the youngest grandchild around.  Hey, it’s a gift I have. 

The rest of the cousins were waiting for us when we returned.  Well, Cailyn arrived soon after.  Kel and Christina’s car was in the shop getting an air conditioner repaired.  Gotta have that AC here in Galveston in the summer.  The kids were more than happy to entertain each other while waiting for the afternoon.  They even stopped for the briefest of moments to let Nani take her obligatory cousins photo.  Chris grilled some burgers for lunch (No, Chris, they weren’t burnt that bad).  And I friend some fish for supper.  Zak set some kind of International Zak Culinary Games record.  He ate somewhere between eight and thirteen spec fillets.  That kid can pack away the fish. 

Cailyn is sleeping on the floor next to our bed while Josh and his family are in town.  Well, sleeping was kind of a loose term last night.  I don’t know if she was just overly tired or what, but she talked most of the night.  Most of her nighttime discussions were private, in that I couldn’t understand them.  But there were a few things that came out quite clearly.  Like, for instance: “Well, let’s talk about what your Mommy and Daddy did when they were little.”  I guess her Mommy and Daddy’s trip to New Orleans this weekend has her ruminating over their early years.  And missing them just a little bit.

Psalms 36:7 says, How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

Father, thank you for all the little ones running around here.  Sure is noisy.  A pleasant, kid-sounds kind of noisy.  Amen.

Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26 – “Sage words”

It was really hot here on the Island yesterday.  Not supposed to be any cooler today, either.  I know about the heat firsthand because yesterday was also mow the grass day.  That fabulous adventure that all homeowners with yards must experience firsthand to truly appreciate.  Nothing quite like it, especially when it gets up to 88 degrees and 95%humidity by 9:30 in the morning.  Sad thing is, I’ll still have to mow the grass come August when the first part of that equation reaches close to 100 degrees.  Tropical Island Paradise. 

The second part of my goal for the day was to get the new workbench at least placed where it will live most of the time and then to pull out Dad’s vise and see what it will take to get it bolted down.  That involved clearing off the old table I have been using, moving it out of the way, and rolling the bench into its place.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, not so much.  Oh, I managed to get the table cleared and all.  Cailyn even helped me move it into the house.  But the first issue involved what we uncovered.  Now, I’m a pretty good packer, and I do my best to make the most of the space available to me.  So underneath that table was a myriad of hidden treasures.  I found an antique drill set, and an antique parasol and an entire bucket full of sockets for wrench sets (And I thought I was finished with those after our freebie trip to Sears the other day).  I still have an entire bucket full to process now.  There were numerous leftover pieces of the tile that adorns our house.  Oh, and the two garbage bags of coke cans ready to take to the recycle center.  We got all of that moved out of the way and rolled the new workbench into place … only to find that the drain for the hot water heater (just on the other side of the wall) hits the bottom shelf.  It needs about another inch to have clearance.  Aargh.  It actually wouldn’t be that hard a fix, though.  Just have to flip the bench over, unscrew the shelf, move it an inch, and rescrew it.  So did I do that?  Nah.  It was getting late in the afternoon and we still had to go get some groceries, so I just piled everything back on it, pulled the old table back in the garage and walked away.  Always great to know you have a project waiting for you.

The whole food run was because we were expecting visitors.  Josh and Christi and their boys arrived late last night – around ten.  They had to blow off some travel steam, so the boys finally headed for bed around eleven.  We stayed up and talked with Josh and Christi until around midnight.  That’s when Josh started crashing out.  Hey, when bedtime hits … bedtime hits.  Sage words.

Psalms 34:12-14 says, Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Father, thank you for the safety you granted Josh and his family on their nighttime drive.  Amen.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 25 – “It’s done”

The workbench is complete.  It took a while longer than I expected (always does), but then I had some fine apprentice help.  Jachin came out at the times we needed some heavy muscle.  He helped pick the bench up and flip it over a time or two before returning to his air conditioned comfort.  But Micah was there with me, measuring twice and cutting once, every step of the way.  He was blessed to wear the laser goggles when the circular saw was spinning.  He didn’t seem to mind, though.  Said they were pretty cool, in fact.  He pulled wood from the pile, held it in place during cuts, handed me screws, and even screwed in some of the connections himself as well. 

Micah was really good at the basic math stuff.  Especially for an eight-almost-nine-year-old.  “Needs to be a total of twenty-four inches.  We already have two three and a half inch strips.  What should our measurement be for the last cut?”  I know.  One of those dreaded word problems.  But there’s something about it actually meaning something that makes it a little easier, I guess.  We even had a geometry lesson (I think it would be considered geometry.  I’m not so good at all that advanced math).  I was marking some wood for a cut and asked if he knew why I was marking two points.  He passed on an answer, assuming the question was rhetorical, a technique I learned many years ago as well.  I told him, “If you choose any two points, anywhere in the universe, and connect the dots, the result will be a straight line that can continue forever in either direction.  And all we need is for it to be straight from one end of the two by four to the other.”  I hope that’s somewhere close to the right answer.

One of the main reasons we built the workbench was so I could showcase my Dad’s old vise.  It’s a massive one.  However, I haven’t gotten that far in my calculations as yet.  That one is still on the drawing board.    

I only had to make one return trip to the store.  When we went to put on the casters, I realized that the screws we had would slip right through the holes, and I didn’t have any lock washers.  Rather than go all the way to Home Depot, though, I ran over to Village Hardware.  They always have just what you need, especially in those strange areas that always seem to pop up in a project.  And I was right.  They had exactly the size we needed, so the caster – and the project – were finally complete (well, complete after Chris and I managed to turn it back right-side up).

The work bench now sits proudly in the garage, waiting for its final resting place.  Well, maybe not final.  It is on casters, after all, so I can move it around if I want.  And why does it have to wait?  Because now I have the not-so-small task of cleaning out the area where now sits a table and three or four floor-to-ceiling stacks of those old milk cartons, each one filled with something.  A good shelving system, but admittedly somewhat shaky at times.  The plan is to put some shelves up on the wall, making the milk carton system obsolete.  Even have the hardware and shelves to make it happen.  But the fact remains … first I have to clear out the space.  Which brings up another important question … Where do they put all the homeowner’s stuff when they do those HGTV shows?  And do they get to keep all that new furniture, or is that just staging?  And if they keep it, what about the family pieces they want to keep?  Guess I wouldn’t be such a good candidate for HGTV. 

Psalms 34:9-10 says, Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.   The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

Father, thank you for the time I got to spend with Micah on this project.  Help him discover a way to channel his interests in doing things with his hands and his head.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 24 – “But first”

I was pretty excited yesterday.  We finally made the decision to go get the supplies to build my new workbench in the garage.  I’ve had the plans for almost a year now (Home Depot on line).  Had to adjust them to fit the space I had out there, though.  Mine will be about three feet shorter than the one in the plans, but it should fit nicely out there. 

But first … we had to go by Randall’s to pick up a prescription as well as some fruit.  We’ve just about given up on WalMart’s produce section.  And did you know that Randall’s has a guy whose job is just to work the produce section?  I think he even hand wraps every head of lettuce.  Once we finished there all we had to do was drop off the fruit at the house and head to Home Depot.

But first … as we left the parking lot, I got a call from the group staying in the retreat center at church.  They were planning to cook out some hamburgers and couldn’t find the big grill they had been told about.  So we kept going west one the seawall to open up the storage room for them.  It was fun to talk to the group that was assigned to work at the church.  They are priming and painting the underside of the retreat center for us.  But now we could get back to business … the workbench.

But first … we had to drop off the fruit we just bought.  And then go into Texas to Sears.  We were going to use one of our gift cards and eat at Olive Garden, but it was already 12:30, so we just grabbed a bite at home.  The Sears trip was so I could return a socket holder for a different style because the first one wouldn’t fit in my tool cabinet.  I have bags and bags of sockets that I salvaged from Hurricane Ike that I am trying to get separated so they can actually be useful.  That turned into a profitable visit, too.  We had some reward points left over, plus a rewards gift card from the garage door opener we bought, plus the money from the return.  The new stuff we got was free.  Can’t beat that price.  And besides, now we could head to Home Depot.

But first … we had to go by the house to get the truck.  We dropped off the Sears stuff and walked out to the truck.  Yes, I was getting excited again.  Finally.  We got into the truck and … it wouldn’t start.  Battery was deader ‘n a doornail.  So we crawled back out and jumped it off the car.  Took a while for it to get enough oomph to start, but it finally did.  I checked while we waited and found out that the batter is five years old.  Great.  It’s a five year battery.  Put that on the list for the near future, I guess.  I really debated whether to go straight to WalMart and get a new one right then, BUT FIRST … I was going to Home Depot.  We drove both vehicles just in case it didn’t start again, but that old beauty made it just fine.  We gathered up the supplies we needed.  Had to make some design changes on the fly, though.  They didn’t have enough of the kind of bracket we needed.  But that was OK.  On to the house to get started.

But first … I for one was beat.  It was 91 degrees outside.  The truck air conditioner doesn’t work anymore.  We unloaded the wood (which, by the way, the Home Depot guy cut for us for free).  And then … we went inside the house … the air conditioned house … and crashed.  Oh, we’ll get that workbench built all right.  But first …

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Father, I guess that makes you the ultimate God of “firsts.”  Thank you for being with us in our world of “but firsts” and Plan B’s.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 23 – “A reel transformation”

I went out into the garage yesterday and sort of longingly looked around.  We bought a new garage door opener, but before we install it, I’m going to have to make some room for the ladder.  That means rearranging boxes and sawhorses and a wheelchair and a walker and a kids’ bicycle and an antique horse riding toy and fishing paraphernalia … you get the idea.  A lot of the stuff belongs in our already overcrowded attic.  Much of it belongs in a garage sale or out on the street to find a new home with whoever might stop by to rescue it, even if the rescuer “happens” to work for the city sanitation division.  It is kind of an overwhelming sight.  I don’t think we would come close to making a good episode of Hoarders yet, but there is a lot of stuff in there. 

So while I was eyeballing and mentally planning my first move, Chris and Cailyn came out to check on me.  And so it began.  Chris was in full Spring cleaning mode.  Now for most people that means actual cleaning of things, and that is partly the case with Chris.  But her Spring cleaning is oh-so much more.  In most cases it means a semi-major (is that a word?) renovation project, or at least some custom built-in feature is on the way.  Always an exciting time, believe me.  It would be a little easier for me to handle if her plans were written down in architectural drawings, or even on a list on the back of an old napkin.  But with Chris, the whole room takes on a life of its own.  Shelves move or are created from a stack of old boards.  Piles of storage boxes are magically transformed into … well, I can’t wait to see what.  And it all happens in her mind.  She can see it.  And invariably … I can’t.  Oh, I do my best, but I have to grunt my way through by physically moving things around and then stepping back to see if it works.  Sometimes I get it right (by “right” I mean it matches the picture in Chris’s head).  Often … not.  But I have to be honest.  It is a lot of fun to do things like that with Chris.  That magical place inside her skull can come up with some truly amazing things.  I finally told her yesterday that I am happy being the Chip to her Joanna.  Now how many out there understand that reference?

As it turned out, we did make one garage decision and one house interior design decision.  We might have gotten more done, but Cailyn fell asleep in my lap out in the garage.  Endless design talk is just not the most exciting afternoon for a six-year-old, I’m afraid.  Our next step in the garage transformation will be to build my new workbench.  I’ve been revising plans for that for several years now – written plans.  We made some new adjustments to those plans, and I think they are ready to go.  I texted Nathan and got on his list for some help installing the garage door opener.  But the interior design change was unexpected. 

We made two end tables from the remnants of Mom’s old dining room table after Hurricane Ike ruined it.  One of them found a home right away, and is now under the window in the dining area.  The other one, however got moved around from under the other window to behind the couch and finally to its current spot – languishing in the garage, waiting for the right moment when Chris’ internal vision meter kicked in and the time was right for its new placement.  That happened yesterday.  The old/new end table is now resting comfortably in its new home, as if it was custom built just for that spot.  Where?  In the bathroom.  Never would have thought to put it there, but that’s why I’m just the brawn here, I guess.  And in keeping with the Galveston theme of the room, we brought in one of Dad’s old deep sea fishing poles and a few reels to add to the decor.  A “reel” bathroom transformation.  Once again, I am in awe of my wife that special little corner of her brain that houses that interior designer.  Come by and ask to use our bathroom so you can see what she has done.

Psalms 34:8 says, Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

Father, thank you for all the creative ability you have given us.  Chris has  found a great way to use hers.  Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2015

June 22 – “Eat your heart out, Paladin”

Well, it was back into the world of sermons and singing yesterday.  First Sunday teaching since we returned from vacation.  I had the perfect approach to the day planned, too.  Fishing, Fathers, and Faith.  Unbeatable combination, isn’t it?  The story was from the Book of John when Jesus appeared to the disciples who have gone fishing.  It was the after-the-resurrection time.  What better story for Father’s Day than going fishing with Jesus?  It seemed to be well-received.  Wes did a children’s sermon using one of those magnet on a string fishing poles.  He created a pond out of an extension cord and filled it with paper fish with paper clip noses.  As the kids caught a fish they read the little Bible verses on them.  Very cute stuff. 

I had one of the kids pass out fishing bobbers to everyone (What do you call them?  I remember them as corks and my Dad’s favorite term for them was plugs).  That was to get them in the fishing mood.  I had a few of our old deep sea rods and reels there for effect.  I also had my raggedy fishing hat, but I forgot to put it on.  To kick off the teaching I asked everyone what was the most fish they ever caught at one time.  Followed that up by showing a few of the pictures from Dad’s Cavalier days.  Huge catches.  And speaking of huge, I then asked what their biggest catch was.  That meant I had to show the photo of my brother and me standing next to the big old warsaw.  Classic shot. 

After church we went up into Texas to the hospital.  Little Haisley Anderson had just had some emergency brain surgery.  She was still in ICU, but she woke up for a few seconds while we were there.  Long enough to grab one French fry and hang onto it for dear life.  I remember that feeling, Hais.  Hospital food, right?  We didn’t stay all that long.  Just got the word that Haisley had done well and the docs were pleased with the surgery.  Before we prayed together we let them know that the church had had a special prayer for her that morning.  Chris had a sweet story to share with them as well.  She is in charge of the preschoolers during worship.  Sometimes they go into our play room, and sometimes they come out into the worship center.  We’re really flexible.  Yesterday we were having prayer for Haisley when one of the little three year olds whispered, “What are they doing?” Chris explained that we were praying – talking to God.  The little one thought for a long moment, and then added, “Is it for that little baby?”  Hey, folks, those little guys are hearing lots more than you may give them credit for.  Chris gathered her and another little one into her lap and the three of them had their own special prayer meeting for Baby Haisley.  Wow.  Talk about taking advantage of teachable moments.  Nice job, Chris.

Last night was pretty special as well.  Nathan and April invited us over for burgers.  They had just got a new backyard table and chairs set and wanted to show it off.  Little did we know that they had also invited Kel and Christina and their kids.  What had already been a good one suddenly became a really Grand Father’s Day for me.  And when we got home it wasn’t long before Josh gave me a call, and we talked for almost an hour. 

And I have to brag on the gift I got from Nathan and April and Cailyn.  Those of you who followed our travel exploits of the last few weeks might remember that one of my determined goals was to learn how to do a selfie.  I’m not so sure how well I did.  Chris did her best, I know.  She always had to tell me, “You have to hold it up higher,” and “Get it further back.”  The jury is still out on that one, I guess.  Well, Nathan and April apparently noticed my distress.  They gifted me with … a selfie stick.  Amazing contraption.  Blue tooth operated.  On-stick mirror for taking high definition selfies.  Truly wondrous.  Chris liked it, too.  She’s ready to go on another trip now.  She mentioned the Big Bend country.  Never been there, that’s for sure.  But wherever we go, I’m ready now.  Have Selfie Stick, Will Travel.  Eat your heart out, Paladin. 

Psalms 127:3-5 says, Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.”

Father, thank you for those marvelous creatures that caused me to be called “Daddy.” And for those equally wonderful ladies who stepped in at their sides and became the daughters I never had.  And for the little guys who call me “DadDad.”  Bless ‘em all, because I really do love ‘em.  Amen.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

June 21 – “First Annual Galveston County Firefighter Games”

We attended a truly historic event yesterday.  We drove into Texas (Downtown Texas City, in fact) to watch the First Annual Galveston County Firefighter Games.  We knew our friends Cathy and Lauren from Seaside were going to be there, so we connected with them.  

We arrived just as the fire truck parade was ending.  Totally missed the 5-K race that started at 7 a.m. (Read here a snap of the fingers and a cluck of the tongue and a big, “Aw, shucks.”).  It was easier than we expected to find a place to park.  In fact, we found a really shady spot just down the street from the barbecue cook-off tents, and just about a block from where Lauren and Cathy were.  So the smell of some good Texas cooking greeted us as we opened the car doors.  Jamaica Beach Volunteer Fire Department had a tent up and a pit going.  Travis and Ed had been on site since the night before cooking up some roast and ribs and chicken for the judging to come.  Go time for public consumption was noon, so we continued on through to where the rest of the action was heating up.

While we waited for everything to be set up I talked to several of the Galveston fire fighters that were there.  They had driven two trucks in the parade, but they didn’t have a team for any of the events.  Uh oh.  The challenge was on.  I don’t know if made its way to any of them, but I heard quite a few Texas City/Friendswood/League City double-dog dares tossed roughly in the direction of the Island.  Maybe next year.  And speaking of challenges, Jamaica Beach didn’t have a team either.  Little bit different reason for them, though.  They had to keep somebody in town in case of a call, plus they were also hosting the yearly Jamaica Beach hurricane preparedness meeting.  You can only stretch a volunteer department’s resources so far, I guess. 

The first event was pumper races.  This is what had to be canceled due to the weather threat at the state fire fighter convention that I went to, so I was excited to see them.  In this event a pumper crew had to start in the truck in full gear like they had just arrived at a fire.  The task was to hook up to a fire plug, stretch a hose 150 feet or so, get the pump turned on and spray the water, causing a target to spin.  Sounded easy, but after watching the first team go, I changed my mind.  Just getting the water to go where they wanted it was hard enough.  My favorite moment came when Friendswood’s guy finally got water to the nozzle and opened it up.  And the spray went directly into a crowd of Texas City fans (Who, by the way, were dressed in orange and black tutus and carrying signs.  The Firefighter Games is no small change in Texas City).  It took a lot of team work as well as some extreme individual effort.  Two Hitchcock teams took first and second in that event.  They were amazing.  Twenty-six and twenty-nine seconds.  Wow. 

I got to see a few more of the Galveston fire fighters.  Some of them work for volunteer departments on their off-days, like Chris Anderson.  Chris Livingston was helping over at the Jamaica Beach barbeque tent.  I had to take a sit-down break at one point.  The heat was on and the humidity was terrible, even with the nice breeze that was blowing.  We sat next to an older fellow (older than us, okay?) wearing a bright yellow shirt with “Captain Rock” embroidered on it.  He was a retired fire fighter and his department gave him the shirt when he left.  It was obvious that he was proud of his career with Texas City.  He mentioned a few of the old Galveston fire fighters he knew, and one of them was a guy I played summer baseball with, Frank Russo.  Never knew he became a fire fighter.  Small world.

The other big event of the day was called Waterball, I think.  Two dump trucks with their beds up had a cable run between them about a city block apart.  Hanging from the cable was a big ball.  Two water lines were charged and ready to go on the ground.  A team of four from each department had five minutes to shoot the ball with the water and force it across their opponent’s goal line as many times as possible.  Now that was a fun event to watch.  I’m sure the fire fighters were drenched when they finished, and before we left I heard some strategy talk of spraying the other team first and then going for the ball.  We didn’t see anybody do that while we were there, but it sure sounded fun.  Also sounded like something that could erupt into a full blown free for all. 

We left the waterball field primarily because we were hungry.  And it was past noon.  And Lauren had already heard from Ed that the barbeque was ready at the Jamaica Beach tent.  Now that was some good stuff. That raggedy-looking barbeque pit can sure produce some quality grub.   I don’t know the secret recipe for the chicken, but I’m pretty sure I saw a few strips of bacon somewhere in there.  Hard to go wrong with bacon.  My other favorite was the ribs.  We got to taste them “hot off the grill.”  Excellent.  That was an evening well-spent, Ed and Travis.  Thanks for sacrificing your good night’s sleep.  I still haven’t heard how they did in the judging, but this judge gives them a big thumbs up.  Oh, and I gotta admit it felt good when they said they “claimed me” as their chaplain.  I want to be there for them. 

This was a fun day all around.  I hope there was enough interest and participation to warrant a “Second Annual.”

Psalms 34:7 says, The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Father, keep watch over this strange and wonderful group of people that make up the whole firefighter family.  Protect them on shift and walk with their families.  Amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20 – “To balance … or to ask?”

Friday meant yard work … again.  Welcome to Galveston in the summer after a minor tropical storm passes through.  The lawn mower was doing some struggling in some of the really high patches of St. Augustine, but old Bessie made it through.  Chris started out edging, but we traded off when the string ran out on the weedeater and finished each other’s jobs.  Then I switched to trimming hedges.  The ones in our front yard, that we planted right after Hurricane Ike because Chris thought the yard looked lonely, had grown about five inches higher than Chris wanted them.  They were beginning to cover the windows.  We don’t have one of those power tools devoted strictly to trimming hedges, so I attacked with the manual clippers.  For something that look so easy, it is quite the energy-consuming task.

Fortunately I had a break right in the middle hedge.  All the neighbors came out and we had a grand summit, standing in a little circle in front of Mom and Dad’s old house across the street.  I could almost sense Mom and Dad there, and Alice Whiteman, and Hedi Kunz, and Jay and Mary Kunz, and Neil Goodman, and Lorraine Cagnola, and Hilda Farrell and Al Glinski.  We have had quite the array of neighbors over the years.  The current tenants of the old Vaughan house, Mario and Carolyn, are planning to move next week.  They have been great neighbors.  They really fixed up the curb appeal.  Too much as it turned out.  The owner is now going to sell the house.  We will miss them. 

After lunch (took us a while to recuperate) we went up into Texas.  I had to have some blood drawn for my rheumatologist to make sure the medicine I take isn’t becoming toxic to my body.  After that we went over to Sears.  It was finally time to replace our garage door opener.  They had one on sale that essentially matches the one we had that got fried by an electrical storm.  Now the trick will be to get it installed.  Back in my younger days I installed a set of attic stairs by myself.  Balanced them on my head while I hammered the nails in with one of those old-fashioned hand-held hammers (no nail guns back then).  Boy, was I ever a dumb youngster.  Now I promise to do the sensible thing.  I’ll balance anything that needs balancing on my shoulder instead.  Should be a piece of cake.  Or maybe … only if all else fails … I could ask for help.  What a concept.

Psalms 46:1 says, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Father, thank you for being there any time we need to ask for help.  Amen.

Friday, June 19, 2015

June 19 – “A Bertie Botts Bible Study”

What is there to write about when I spent the entire morning (after water exercise) working on sermons and the Bible Study for Home Group, and the better part of the afternoon fighting exhaustion in front of the Astros game on TV?  It had to be exhaustion.  Why else would I fall asleep during an Astros game?  I did wake up in time to see them win the game.  Saw the two big home runs as well.  Go Astros.

Home Group went well.  Wes came with his guitar, so we had some live music.  He set a few of the Psalms to music.  Very pretty stuff.  Our group was small, though.  Anne and Cedric were out studying.  Janell was not feeling well, but Corey and Brennan came.  Not sure where Bryan and Jennifer were.  The teaching was on craving the pure spiritual milk of the Word of God.  That called for something special to start it off.  First I asked what everyone’s favorite food was.  That ranged from Chris’ Mexican to my fried shrimp to Betty’s favorite – chocolate.  Then I asked if they were “try-ers or if they shied away from new foods.  Every one of them insisted that try-er was an accurate description.  Perfect.  I had them set up.  So I pulled out a box of the ever-infamous, Harry Potter classic, “Bertie Botts’ Every Flavor Jelly Beans.”  That’s the kind with flavors like skunk spray and rotten egg and vomit.  I didn’t tell them at first.  Just let each person pick one and try it.  There were a few turned up noses, but they all ate and swallowed.  Then I let them choose another one, and this time I told them the delectable flavor possibilities.  And this time they still tasted, but with much greater care.  Corey admitted that his first one might have been grass clippings.  Wes ran to the kitchen for a napkin to spit his out.  Not sure which one he had, but he was up again to deal with the after-taste by grabbing a cookie. 

All in all, a great intro to desiring the spiritual food that is the Word of God.  The discussion was not bad, either.  Best observation of the night?  It’s really hard to crave the Word – to read the Bible - when you can’t understand what it is you are reading.  Answer?  Ask for help.  Use a modern translation.  Don’t try to read too much at a time.  Don’t try to go deep into word studies and such; just spend time with Jesus and let the words speak to you, personally. 

Psalms 57:1-3 says, Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.  I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.  He shall send from heaven, and save from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.”  KJV

Father, thank you for keeping the Bible around for so long.  It sure is nice to have access to what you have already said during those times when we just can’t seem to make connections with you otherwise.  Amen.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18 – “A long wait”

I spent most of the morning yesterday working on a sermon.  Imagine that.  A pastor actually working on a sermon.  It’s been so long since I’ve had to do that.  Almost couldn’t remember how.  I’m pretty sure between the Lord and me we can come up with something by Sunday morning.

The doctor’s office called to reschedule my checkup appointment.  I don’t even know what happens at a checkup appointment.  I can’t remember ever having one since I was a kid.  The nice lady said he had an opening on June 2nd or 3rd.  Since I was pretty sure yesterday was June 17th, I was somewhat puzzled, then kind of tickled at her mistake.  That’s a long wait.  I asked her to please repeat what she had said, and it came out the same - June 2nd or 3rd.  I couldn’t stand it, so I finally asked, “So the next appointment is in 2016?”  Long pause.  “But Dr. Hurt won’t even be here next year …” she managed to get out.  Now chuckling, I said, “So … JUNE 2nd or 3rd?”  That did it.  She realized she had the wrong month and quickly apologized, grateful that I was laughing with her.  The sad part of the whole thing?  She is right.  My doctor is leaving town, as has every single doctor I have ever signed on with since we moved back to Galveston.  Hey, all you docs out there.  Trying to get away from the Island?  Give me a call.

Speaking of moving, our afternoon was spent house hunting.  Long pause for effect … No, we’re not going anywhere, unless it’s to evacuate ahead of a storm.  Kel and Christina are house hunting up in Texas, and they invited us to tag along.  We played dodge drops with the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill the whole time.  We still are this morning, in fact.  This dude has a really long tail.  I understand he’s wreaking havoc up in Dallas/Fort Worth now.  Hope you guys can use the rain.  We saw a couple of really nice houses in LaMarque.  One they seemed to like was on a cul-de-sac with lots of trees and some really big rooms.  The other one was nicely done inside, but the rooms were very choppy, and the only things that seemed “big” were a master bedroom addition and the laundry room.  It felt like we were walking through HGTV.  It’ll be interesting to see if they choose one of those.

Psalms 34:4-5 says, I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

Father, help Kel and Christina in their search and in their decision–making.  A new home is one of the big ones.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 17 – “Razz Review”

Well, we hunkered down yesterday and prepared for all the horrible-ness of the incoming Tropical Storm Bill (“Oh, no ……..”).  Cailyn was with us all day since Nathan was on shift and April was sleeping after working all night in the ER.  Bring it on.  Aaaand … we’re still waiting.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, we had some bands of fairly high winds and it rained throughout the day.  That’s still going on, in fact.  But tropical storm force?  Not this time.  Not … yet.

At one point we even drove out to the church, hoping to check out some really high water.  There were one or two spots near the airport, and the Gulf was really churning, occasionally hitting as far as the seawall itself (Perfect setup for my cohorts in reporting from the TV world.  But you know how they are.  Unlike us on-the-spot local guys, they tend to way overplay what is happening).  But for the most part it was smooth sailing.  In fact, Cailyn got bored and ended up playing games on her iPad (er, not bored so much.  Distracted.  Yes, that’s it.  Distracted by the ongoing demands of the technological side of reporting).  There was a group staying in the church retreat center, so we stopped in to check on them.  They were staying indoors, for sure.  A sea of worried faces looked up at me as I entered the room.  Huddled together in a small mass against one wall, they were obviously in fear for their very lives.  Who was this mysterious person with a key who was braving the frightening elements to check on them?  (Those group leaders were really excited that the teenagers were actually playing cards and interacting face to face.  Nice job making lemonade out of lemons, there, Mr. Youth Pastor).

There was that one serious crisis event, however.  As we drove down Hwy 3005, our driver courageously fighting the wind all the way, we saw the remnants of the horrible storm surge and terrifying winds that most certainly had buffeted the area not long before our arrival.  There in the very median of the highway, was … someone’s trash can.  Oh, the calamity of it all.  Now they will be forced to spend hour upon hour, searching mindlessly, sifting through the rubble that no doubt remains of their back yard, refusing to quit until the precious missing heirloom is back where it belongs.  (Well, either that or they will call the city and request a new one). 

We stopped briefly along the seawall as well.  I waded through the debris (Yes, it was virtually covered in debris.  At least five or six hunks of seaweed and even some sand).  But I was determined.  It was my mission.  I wanted a firsthand look at the waves crashing over the man-made barrier.  Best I could do was a few shots of the water rushing in amongst the granite boulders at its base.  I did feel the sting of blowing rain upon my face as I sought to make my report complete with an appropriate selfie.  I don’t suppose it will ever get me a Pulitzer Prize, but it did garner a coveted Razz Review from my wife and granddaughter.  Sigh.  A reporter’s sacrifice is never truly appreciated. 

Psalms 34:2-3 says, My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.  Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.”

Father, thank you for protection.  Thank you for the quiet night at the fire station.  Ride herd on the remnants of Bill as it brings rain to our brothers and sisters up north.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 16 – “I ‘ab ebola”

All eyes are on the Gulf around here.  Well, not all.  Loads of tourists covered the beaches all day yesterday.  And lots more were in WalMart.  We went there to pick up some more fruit.  It was packed.  We noticed battery availability was running really low, and they were already rationing cases of bottled water to four per shopper.  Light bands of rain and wind swept across the island all afternoon.  Typical tropical storm-type stuff.  Not much has changed this morning.  The winds are stronger and the rain is a bit more horizontal, but it is still coming in bands.  Tropical Storm Bill is supposed to make landfall sometime this morning. 

Yesterday afternoon we went to LaMarque to watch the kids while Kel and Christina went house shopping.  The boys all had media time going when we arrived.  They were deeply engrossed in video games.  At supper, one of the early rain bands passed through.  Micah asked if they could go play outside in the rain.  That got a quick, “Uh, no” from Nana.  Noa noticed that it was raining as well.  She said, “I ‘ab ebola.”  That’s what it sounded like to me.  And to her brothers.  Especially to her brothers.  They all pushed chairs away from her, and cried out, “Noa, what did you say?  What are you?”  So, of course she responded to all the attention by insisting that “I ‘ab ebola.”  Not sure how long that went on, but finally Nana came to the rescue.  She inserted her way into the hilarity with, “So, Noa, do you have AN UMBRELLA for going into the rain?”  Noa answered, “’es.’”  Of course.  Once she said it I got it, too.  But this is a house full of boys, remember?  Vaughan boys.  They couldn’t let it stop there.  The boys immediately started lobbying Nana for some ice cream.  “Please, Nana, can we have ebola ice cream?”  Need some help with that one?  Hint: It is not a flavor.  Try “a bowl of ice cream.”  If we ever have to go on another “Hurrication” (hurricane-induced vacation), these guys are going to make it a lot of fun. 

Psalms 34:1 says, I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”

Father, thank you for your promise to walk with us through storms.  We have a literal one we’re walking through right now.  Thanks for being here.  Amen.

Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15 – “GFD Honor guard kudos”

The State Firefighters and Fire Marshalls of Texas memorial service for those who have died over the past year went really well.  Our Galveston Fire Department honor guard presented the colors and did a fabulous job.  Very precise and, well, honorable.  They handled themselves exceptionally well when someone jumped the gun and basically dismissed the crowd before the colors were retired.  The GFD honor guard held their position and stood in place until the crowd cleared, and then retired the colors with just as much precision and respect as if there were hundreds of people in the room.  That was quite impressive.  I was proud to be a part of what they represented.  Nice job Nathan, Chris, John, Will, and Patrick. 

Chris and I went to the lunch afterward and sat with Chief Wisko.  The lunch was a Moody Gardens work of art.  That sometimes means I can’t identify what it is they are serving.  In this case, though, I at least had a name for the food.  Chicken, asparagus and a carrot.  Not “carrots,” as you may expect.  This was one long, cooked carrot.  Never had a cooked one like that before.  Oh, and cheesecake.  Really good cheesecake.  Thank you, SFFMA for the invitation and for being great hosts. 

Of course the talk of the day was the storm in the Gulf.  The most popular convention event - pumper races – as well as some outdoor childrens’ activities, had been canceled the night before because of the threat of severe weather.  Of course the unpredictable Galveston Weather Protection Dome decided to kick in, and the afternoon and evening turned into a beautiful one.  Not such a good result for the guy who had to make the tough call to cancel (He was sitting at our table for lunch).  But the Gulf threat remained, nonetheless.  Some of the folks were ready to pack up right after the service and hit the road.  Others were determined to stick it out no matter what.  The Galveston county folks were more at ease with the situation, however.  Big rain.  Not so much wind.  We can handle that.  (Of course those were our thoughts when Ike was coming as well).  I guess we’ll find out tonight one way or the other.  Unless of course it changes course or decides to sit for a while.  In that case, Waco would be in our future, I suppose. 

Psalms 148:7-12 says,Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children.”

Father, thank you for the honor guard that represented Galveston so well yesterday.  Be with the families of the ones who were remembered at the memorial service.  And watch over us all as this storm heads our way.  Amen.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June – “The FFMA and the patron saint of fire fighters”

I made a fire call yesterday to the local Palais Royal.  It was actually downgraded before I ever got there, but I stopped in anyway to say hello to the crew from Station Four who had responded.   I also got to talk briefly to the ladies who had been working when the alarm went off.  They told me they were excited that the chaplain came to check on the firefighters.  They said it showed the department cared about them.  Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I sure do.  Our guys went over the area with a fine toothed comb as usual.  Nice job, guys.

After the Palais Royal excursion I went over to Moody Gardens to check out the exhibit hall of the FFMA (Firefighters and Fire Marshalls Association) of Texas conference.  That’s where I have a part this morning in the memorial service for firefighters who have died in the line of service over the last year.  I found out that the conference is really geared to volunteer departments around the state.  I looked for some Jamaica Beach cohorts, but didn’t see anyone while I was there.  I did see a few of the Galveston firefighters, though, and Trish found me.  One of them, Tim Johnson, is scheduled to be a teacher for one of the pull-out sessions.  So is Chief Wisko.  Way to represent Galveston, guys.  I did meet a retired chaplain from the Central Texas area.  Older guy (older than me, OK?), who used one of those cool walkers that converts to a chair.  In the time we talked he must have had ten or fifteen people stop and speak to him.  Quite a few of those were ladies, so add a kiss on the cheek to that event description. 

The event appeared to be quite the family affair as well.  Lots of kids running parents ragged.  The event hall had a bounce house set up for them, and one of the vendors even had a full sized stuffed horse and large dog (yes, he was stuffed, too) for the kids to sit on and have a picture taken.  Lots of the booths were having raffles to benefit one cause or the other.  One guy approached me about taking a chance on a fire helmet.  Almost did that one.  The LODD (Line of Duty Death) booth caught my attention, and I did buy a ticket or two there, just because the cause was the one closest to my heart.  They also were selling a cookbook.  We might own one of those when we get home today.  I have to confess I did buy one thing.  One booth had a challenge coin featuring Saint Florian, the patron saint of fire fighters, chimney sweeps and soap makers.  He was a mid-third century Roman officer who was tasked with the responsibility of organizing fire fighting brigades.  He organized and trained an elite group of soldiers whose only responsibility was to fight fires.  When his superiors found out he was a Christian, he was ordered burned at the stake.  However, as he stood amongst the wood, he challenged the soldiers to go ahead and light the fire.  He said, “If you do, I will climb to heaven on the flames.”  That made the superstitious soldiers a bit apprehensive, so they took him down from the stake and drowned him instead.  Quite an inspiration for those of us looking to represent that same Lord. 

Psalms 33:22 says, May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”

Father, I know I probably won’t be called on to burn at the stake or drown in a river with a millstone tied to my neck.  Thank you for that.  But there is a lot of that kind of stuff going on out there.  Protect the believers.  Watch over the fire fighters and their families here this weekend for the conference.  Oh, and watch over their communities while they are gone.  Amen.