Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31 – “Empty”

Well, Christina, Kel and I got that Baby Bertha U-Haul filled up to the gills by ourselves yesterday.  The only truck available was also one of the smallest ones they have, a ten-footer.  We had to get that big couch in, plus two big chairs and a few smaller ones, their dining table, plus, of course, all of the, “OK, we’re done with this box” and “Oh, well, here’s this that we forgot about” extra bonus stuff.  We managed to get all the really big stuff in, though.  Even the motorized riding jeep, the big wagon, and the big riding toy car.  Thing is … we also loaded up our pickup truck and their car and even had a few things in our car.  But that house is empty.  Some ladies from their church came over to help Christina get the place cleaned up, so it looks really good as well. 

Now are you ready for this?  They have to have the smaller U-Haul emptied and back to the dealer by 8 p.m. tonight, or 7 a.m. tomorrow morning, whichever is easier.  I have a wedding tonight, so I can’t be of much help.  One of the couples in our home group volunteered to go up to help them, though.  That is if Chris can babysit their two kids.  We’ll see how that goes.  The bigger truck is scheduled to be emptied Saturday morning.  Great way to start off the month, don’t you think?  I can help with that one.  Unless Chris and Heather finish them both off tonight. 

After going with Chris to WalMart to stock up for our home group party last night I tried to take a nap, er, I mean I watched part of the movie Frozen with Noa.  As I returned from each doze segment I asked for an update on what was happening.  How did that little snow man become animated?  Why was the sister’s hair now turning white?  Sounds like there is a plot in there somewhere, but I was just too tired to follow it.  Sigh.  Sorry, Cailyn.  I still haven’t seen Frozen.  My biggest problem was not trying to stay awake, however.  It was the leg cramps I kept having that woke me up.  Really bad ones, too.  In my inner thigh.  Now I have learned to deal with cramps in the hamstrings and the calves, but I have never had one like these.  Which way do you twist to stretch it?  I couldn’t reach it to massage it because that caused my back and arms to cramp up.  Yeowch.  It finally passed, after I gave up on sleeping and started walking around again.  I hoped I could catch up last night, but alas, they returned.  Didn’t get much sleep and woke up Chris with my groans.  I finally gave up around 5:30 or so and got up.  Maybe I can squeeze in a nap this afternoon before the wedding I have to officiate tonight. 

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Father, I could sure use some sleep today.  And some relief from these leg cramps.  Thank you for our success at getting the house emptied.  Grant us the same in unloading.  Amen.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

July 30 – “It was not enough”

House buying update for Kel and Christina.  Looks like the "last leg" I mentioned yesterday has grown another toe.  Closing has been pushed back a day to Friday at 1 p.m.  Come to find out, the seller’s ex-wife still has her name on the deed documents.  Now she has to sign them as well.  And some kind of long-term semi-solution to the non-presented contract amendment appears to be in the works as well.  We’ll just have to stay tuned for that one. 

The postponement really doesn’t change much of anything as far as their move-out date is concerned.  That would be today.  I went up into Texas yesterday with Jachin and Micah to see if I could give them a hand.  I ended up inside the U-Haul stacking and playing tetris with all their multi-sized boxes.  Another guy from their church finally got there who understood the concept that I was working toward.  Between us we built pretty solid walls of boxes and cushions and random sports paraphernalia.  Didn’t have any ropes to use, but I think they were packed tightly enough not to need them.  We even managed to fit in a huge eight by four foot table Kel had in his garage.  And the train table my Dad built.  By the time we quit around 9 p.m. we had that truck (whatever length the biggest one they offer is – maybe 26 feet?) full to the gills. 

And it was not enough.  Yep, that’s right.  This morning he and Christina have to go back to the U-Haul place and rent another, smaller version of Big Bertha (The sales lady’s affectionate monicker for truck number one).  We still have their couch, their dining room table top, Christina’s hope chest, two large chairs and a few smaller ones, and a myriad of sundries and boxes, none of which we could fit into Bertha.  And we also have the dubious distinction of being assistance-less for this final load.  The ones helping all have to be at work today.  I don’t think it’ll be all that bad, though.  There are supposed to be some ladies there to help Christina clean up the house.  One of them is ex-Coast Guard, and she is incredibly strong.  She helped me move one of the chests yesterday.  Impressive.  I think between us we’ll manage.  And by “we” I mean as long as my back holds out. 

Once we get that second truck loaded up, it becomes a waiting game for that elusive closing time.  I’m not sure at this point if they are parking the trucks here or leaving them in the church parking lot.  It has always been weird to me to consider that the entirety of your accumulated household can fit into a truck (or two) and be quite vulnerable until you are able to complete the download.  Kel and Christina are supposed to be allowed to do a walk-through of the property around noon tomorrow before the closing to make sure things are still as they expect them to be.  And once they have keys in hand, the unloading begins.  Can’t wait.

Philippians 3:16 says, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

Father, grant us an extra portion of tetris-ability this morning so we can get this final load done.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 29 – “The last leg”

I had a 5 a.m. wake up call again today.  This one wasn’t anticipated, and fortunately I was already awake when it happened.  Noa talked.  And talked.  And talked.  I know Christina was up with her, but I never heard her soft-spoken replies.  Just Noa’s exuberant, “It’s morning and it’s time to wake up even if the sun isn’t up yet” chatter.  That’s a girl after my own heart. 

She and her family are spending a few interim days here with us as.  They have to be out of the house they are in by the 30th (that would be tomorrow).  And they just found out last night (Yep.  Not kidding.  Last night) that closing on the house they are buying will be tomorrow at 9 a.m.  Interesting turn of events.  Projections are for them to stay here at least two more nights.  Loading up the U-Haul this afternoon and evening with a walk-through of the new house mixed in there somewhere.  Closing and cleaning the old house, and doing a few major preparations at the new one on Thursday (Tearing up some carpet is the primary task, from what I understand.  Apparently some less-than-completely-house-trained dogs lived there last).  Besides, with Jachin’s allergies they don’t want to take any chances.  So, things are looking up.  Just gotta make it through the last leg of this particular journey.

Before Mommy and Daddy got back last night we had the kids for a few hours.  Chris and the boys all went straight for the video games (after pizza, of course).  Noa and I had some games of our own to create.  There was one we played called Take a Nap.  It involved crawling in the beds and getting covered up (apparently a non-negotiable part of the action).  There was one thing, however, that had nothing to do with this particular game … sleep.  Not allowed.  Closing the eyes?  Integral.  Pretending to snore?  Acceptable.  Snuggling with stuffed animals?  Certainly.  Actually sleeping?  Not a chance.  The other game she became taken with was something called Mommy and Daddy and Baby Chewbacca.  They brought a stuffed Chewbacca doll, so that was helpful.  You should have heard the noises that accompanied that game, though.  Frighteningly alien-esque.  You would think the girl has seen Star Wars.  Or maybe she just has a slightly nerdy Daddy and some older brothers really into video game sound effects. 

Philippians 3:13-14 says, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Father, please grease the wheels for this last part of the house buying journey for Kel and Christina.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28 - “Mission Accomplished”

I had an especially entertaining interchange with a youngster on Sunday morning right before church began.  Six-year-old Korty tugged at my shirt to get my attention.  Here’s what occurred next (Best I can remember):
Korty (Just above a whisper):  “I just had to tell you something ... Batman and Superman are alive.”
Me: “They are?  Wow.  That’s really great news.”
Korty: “Yes, they really are.  See, I talked to them.”
Me: “Ah, no wonder you can be so sure.  Well, I’m really glad to hear that.  I have a son who needs to know that.” (Background info here: My eldest son in under the sadly mistaken impression that the Marvel Universe is somehow real and the DC universe is not.  This just could be the proof that sways his opinion).
Korty (After a long pause as if he was pondering some deep philosophical quandary):  “But I’m not sure about the other Super Friends.  I don’t know if they’re still alive.”
Me: Well, I’m pretty sure if Superman and Batman are OK, then the rest of the Super Friends are, too.”
Korty (unconvinced): “Well, maybe.  But I haven’t talked to them.”
Me: “Well, At least we know Superman and Batman are on the job and the world is a safer place.”
Korty (shaking his head slowly from side to side): “I don’t know.  I just don’t know.”

With a serious face, having delivered his important message to the powers that be in the room, he slowly plodded over to his Mom and Dad.  Mission accomplished.

Philippians 3:12 says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Father, thank you for the delightfully deep thoughts of children.  Amen.

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27 – “Projects update”

The peg board is up on the wall behind the big workbench.  My most-used tools have their reserved spots.  Most used tools.  An interesting concept.  Wonder what other people consider important enough to make the wall of fame?  (OK.  That was a backhanded nod to Craig Biggio being inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame and having his plaque on the wall of fame up in Cooperstown.  Way to go, Craig).  For me it’s the most basic.  Hammer, needle-nose pliers, regular pliers, crescent wrench, smaller, very sharp version of my larger fishing fillet knife, a coil of extension cord, a set of wrenches, and a set of screwdrivers.  Oh, and some duct tape, of course.  Once I got everything I needed hung up, Chris stepped in with some design ideas and helped me do some decorating.  We hung up some old truck license plates I have been hanging onto for just this purpose. 

We got my Dad’s old vise bolted down to the workbench.  That thing weighs in the neighborhood of a ton.  I don’t ever expect to work on anything that requires quite that massive a grip, but the sentimental value made it well worth the effort.

The old table that has been serving as a work station since Hurricane Ike has officially been re-purposed.  I had to replace a piece of the hardware to get the legs screwed back in.  Then we painted the bottom and stained the top.  It not sits on the back porch waiting to be used as part of an outdoor dining experience.  Just yesterday we finished doing essentially the same thing for a tiny kids’ table that my Dad made from a student desk many years ago.  It, too, has been scraped, sanded, and painted, stained and designated for outside use along with its larger cousin. 

I put a clock up on the wall.  It even has a temperature gauge on it.  Not that I need a thermometer to tell me it is hot out there.  Quite a bit more stuff was moved to the attic.  The available storage space that once looked so massive is rapidly diminishing to nothing. 

I managed to fix the antique riding toy horse.  Managed to find the newer versions of the two obscure pieces that made the toy actually usable for tiny people like Luke and Noa.  Of course the first one to ride it was Cailyn.  She was just taking it for a test run, or so she told me. 

We got rid of the final cardboard roach hotel, er, box.  There are still a few out there waiting to make their way to Kel and Christina’s for moving usage.  Since one of the boxes was holding the smaller wood scraps that I keep around for projects, I turned the old metal rolling cart into a wood scraps holder.  Sorry, Nathan.  I guess I need the thing after all.  While I was at Village Hardware getting those obscure pieces for the horse, I found another garden tool holder for Chris’ smaller tools like spades.  Even went old school and hammered in a few big nails to hold the hedge trimmers.

And finally, just last night, Chris finished painting our outdoor furniture in an effort to hold off any further rust deterioration, at least for a while.  Unless something has changed, that set will find its way back up onto the deck, making the newly refinished table the downstairs dining instrument of choice. 

Phew.  Yes, there has been a flurry of activity in the wake of completing those workbenches.  I told Chris again that once I get an air conditioning system going out there and have cable installed for Astros games, we’ll be all set as far as the garage is concerned.  For some strange reason all she said was, “Well, we’re finished with the garage.”  Wonder what that means …

Philippians 3:10-11 says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Father, thank you for feelings of accomplishment.  You must have felt pretty good when you finished your work of creation.  Amen.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 26 – “Many giggles”

Chris and I had a preview of what our life might become (at least temporarily) the other day when we baby sat for Kel and Christina so they could go see Ant Man.  They got word from their realtor that the seller’s realtor is now saying she made a mistake and the seller wants $11,000 more than they agreed to and signed a contract for.  She wants Kel’s realtor to give up his commission and Kel and Christina to pay all of the closing costs to help make up the difference.  Kel immediately texted me for the name of a real estate lawyer in case it comes to that.  Needless to say, the battle rages.  In the meantime Kel and Christina have to be out of their house by July 30th.  The plan was to stay with us for a few days until closing takes place on the 3rd.  Now we wait to see if “a few days” turns into weeks or months. 

So as I was saying, we had the kids.  Chris was playing a board game with all three boys at the table.  Something called Settlers, where you have to buy and sell commodities to get enough to build roads and cities.  Every roll of the dice has an effect on every player in the game.  Chris says she still doesn’t completely understand it.  As for me … I was playing with Noa.  The whole two-year-old experience is way more my style.  Aside from the changing a dirty diaper scenario (that would be me changing hers), we had a pretty good time together.  She started singing about monkeys jumping on the bed, so we went into the bedroom and did some practical literary research into the subject.  Well, she did.  With many giggles.  I did my best to see that this particular little monkey stayed on the bed.  Besides, my back and joints were a little too creaky to attempt the jump this time.  Maybe next week.  She did insist I remove my shoes before getting on the bed.  That girl’s been brought up right. 

She also started a game of sorts involving noses and toes.  Not a song this time.  She would just grab in the general direction, say, “Got you’s,” and pretend to pop something into her mouth.  Took me a while, but I soon figured out that she was slowly devouring my nose and toes over and over again.  Of course, much to her delight, I returned the favor.  Numerous giggles.

We returned to the study where she found some of those tiny baseball caps – the kind they sell ice cream in at the Astros games.  And we both had to wear one, or rather balance one best we could on our head.  More giggles.  My favorite time of our escapade together, though, came when she started a game of catch with one of the rubber baseballs I have (usually stored inside the aforementioned tiny baseball caps).  That girl has quite the arm.  And she has an even better sense of what a pitcher is supposed to do before he lets the ball fly.  Her windup is a sight to behold.  She even has a Juan Marichal –esque leg kick (Hah.  Did I get you with an obscure baseball trivia reference?  He was a pitcher for the Giants in my era.  Had a leg kick as part of his windup that often went over his head.  Very strange to watch.  Impressive, but strange.  And Juan had nothing on Noa.  Her leg rose into the air like a ballerina, pausing for a long second or two before unwinding and allowing her arm to release the ball, which by now had become insignificant next to the awe generated by the leg kick.  More giggles.  Oh, and she laughed a time or two as well.

Philippians 3:8 says, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

Father, thank you for, my littlest granddaughter.  Keep her safe and healthy as she grows up in that family full of princes dedicated to her protection.  Amen.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 25 – “Alone again”

It started with an old wooden chair, long past its life of usefulness around the dining room table.  Now it could barely stand, glue long ago worn out, peg dowels broken or missing altogether.  Certainly not a place I would want my grandchildren attempting to sit on.  Oh, we tried to re-glue it, but nothing would hold.  Sadly, the wood had been warped just enough by the flood of Hurricane Ike.  It would never be the same again.  It was … time.  And so I tossed the chair on the side of the street out by where our trash is picked up, hoping that maybe someone with greater skills than I have would rescue it and perhaps give it new life.

It sat alone for a few days … until Chris agreed that one of the metal chairs that goes with our outdoor furniture set could join it.  That one has no seat.  Completely rusted through.  She had though she could figure out a way to put a plant in there somehow, and if anybody could do it, she could.  But she finally decided there were other, more significant projects she could spend time on.  Now once I got the second chair to the street, I decided they would look more interesting if I set them up facing each other, as if they were awaiting their occupants for a major summit at Camp David.  Apparently that caught someone’s attention.  The next time we got into the car to go to WalMart, the metal chair was gone.  Sigh.  Alone again. 

But all was not lost.  Another errand sometime later, and I noticed something awry by the wooden chair.  Someone had tossed … what could that be?  I went over for a closer look.  It was an ironing board.  Looked brand new.  Metal.  No real signs of rust.  It was as if someone had felt the same pangs of sorry as I had at the predicament of the lonely wooden chair.  Of course I couldn’t let that pass.  I stood the ironing board up and pushed the chair up to it as if it was an elegant dining table waiting for a state dinner to commence. 

So what was the ultimate fate of the chair and the ironing board?  Well, they are both still around this morning.  I am seriously considering finding an old vase and adding some flowers to brighten things up a bit.  Maybe an old tablecloth …

Philippians 3:7 says, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

Father, thank you for being all that I really need.  Thank you as well for the use of the all the things around me, from chairs to ironing boards.  Amen.

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 24 – “4:30 a.m.”

Two days in a row.  4:30 a.m.  Now that’s a bit taxing even for an avowed early morning loving guy like myself.  The first one came just because I woke up.  That was it.  I was awake and my body made the independent decision overriding my mind that it was time to get up and start the day.  Not a bad thing, particularly.  I always get a lot of my computer work done before Chris gets up in the mornings anyway.  Great time to work, by the way.  Very quiet.  Easy to focus.  Even God thought a lot about them.  After all, he said “Joy comes in the morning.”  OK, so much for the commercial for mornings. 

The second 4:30 a.m. came so I could head to the hospital to pray with a friend and Seasider, Jennifer.  She was on tap to have her ninth surgery on a badly deteriorating ankle.  And this time … Chris got up and went with me.  No simple feat for someone who is so admittedly not a morning person.  And she handled it quite well, I must add.  Especially since the first place we ended up had no record of Jennifer in their system.   Seems a brand new hospital had been built right around the corner with an almost identical name.  The clerk gave us instructions and we headed back out to try again.  Our second attempt proved successful.  Very nice new facility on Blossom Street.  We found the “happy couple” in the surgery waiting area.  And just in time, too.  It wasn’t long and the nurses came to roll her away to a pleasant nap for Jennifer and a few hours of waiting-type stress for Bryan.  The three of us headed down to the cafeteria for some breakfast, but we arrived before they opened.  More waiting.  I have to give the staff some kudos, though.  Once they opened the doors, both ladies were very kind, and the food was actually not bad.  I mean, how can you go all that wrong with bacon and eggs, right? 

Jennifer made it through the surgery like a trooper, as usual.  Now the healing process begins again.  Absolutely no weight-bearing for six to eight weeks.  That to me sounds like the worst part of the whole ordeal.  She seems to have a great attitude about the whole thing, though.  A Bible study group she is in is coordinating getting some food out to them.  If I read the calendar right, they are even adding some puppy care to the ministry list.  And anyone who knows Jennifer understands that taking care of her puppy equals babysitting in the rest of the universe. 

Philippians 2:14-16 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

Father, please accelerate the healing process for Jennifer.  And walk with Bryan as he goes through the ordeal with her.  Give him your patience and love.  Amen.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 23 – “The Surprise Guest”

I officiated at another destination wedding. As inevitably happens, this one had its share of bloopers, too. The couple was coming in from Tyler, Texas, and wanted to be here in plenty of time to relax a bit before the stress of the wedding really kicked in. So they booked a flight to arrive the afternoon before. But when they arrived at the ticket counter to pick up their tickets, they discovered that their teenage daughter had forgotten her ID. They negotiated and pleaded, but all to no avail. They eventually ended up missing the flight and forfeiting $2000. They were forced to drive the six or so hours to Galveston. So much for the relaxing afternoon. 

Once here, they finally got settled, though, and reached for their swimsuits to enjoy the wonderful Galveston weather. And ... realized that they had left the wedding dress back in Tyler. A frantic call to one of their employees and a fervent promise to pay him for his time led to that employee making the drive with dress and saving the day. He drove all night and the bride began a vigil on her balcony starting around 5:30 a.m. He finally arrived at 7:30 a.m. in plenty of time for the 11a.m. wedding. 

Well, I guess it was more of an 11:20 wedding. Island time and all. When the groom saw his bride walking in with her Dad, he said "my God" about ten times with varying inflections ranging from surprise to downright awe. 

When I asked, "Who presents this woman to be married to this man?" her Dad said, "My Mom and I do and her children and I do."  So his Mom would be Grandma, right? And the kids. Sorry about that, Mother of the Bride. 

Finally, as I was doing the benediction, an uninvited guest joined us in the gazebo.  A butterfly flittered right up behind the couple. A white butterfly. The symbolism and application opportunities abounded. But I held back. Maybe I can use that one in a sermon sometime. 

Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Father, thank you for sending a special little envoy to that wedding.  I think they will remember their surprise guest.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

July 22 – “A moment”

Here’s one of those very cute, wish I had been there moments that Chris got to experience first-hand.

Cailyn woke up the other morning after spending the night with us while Mommy and Daddy were at work.  She stretched her arms wide in one of those trying-to-wake-up reaches and then added a huge yawn.  Realizing where she was, she eagerly began her usual routine - talking there in bed with Chris as only a six year old little girl and her grandmother who never had a daughter can. 

Now Cailyn had been feeling poorly the night before. Coughing, sore throat, slight fever.  So of course we prayed together for her at family worship time just before bed.  

As she slowly reached higher and higher stages of morning consciousness, all of a sudden she threw her arms out to side and cried, "Nani! I've been healed. No sore throat. No coughing." 

And then at breakfast she insisted on handling the praying.  She had some thanking to do.  And sure enough, she happily thanked God for healing her. 

Gotta love it when a youngster has one of those "aha!" discovery moments. 

Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Father, let me add my thanks for your answer to the special prayer of a child.  Those kid prayers really are some of the most powerful things in creation.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

July 21 – “Right away”

Update on yesterday’s definitions.  “Right away” was still up in the air at press time, so I thought I would post the final tally so you could update your definitions page.

Right away” – actually means “I’ll make a call to the deliverer and he’ll swing back by when he finishes his route and has a fourth or fifth cup of coffee.  Don’t expect him for at least 54 minutes.”

Thanks, guys.  I finally got my paper - delivered literally to my front door.  And then, when Chris and I left later that afternoon to go pick up a prescription, lo and behold.  There was yet another newspaper sitting in our front yard by the tree.  I do appreciate the double show of love, but I’m really happy with just one.

Now speaking of projects, another one is about to get off the launching pad.  We stopped at Home Depot again and came home with some peg board to install over the workbench.  We’ll see if I have time to get to that one today.  That would be after water exercise class and the eleven o’clock outdoor wedding I have scheduled.  Oh, and of course after I do some work on the teaching for Sunday.

We had a surprise visit from one of our “daughters” from the past.  Katie stopped by to say hi and ended up staying several hours.  It was great to hear about her experiences as a sign language teacher over the past year or so since we saw her last.  Always good to see how God has been using the people he put into our lives. 

I received an invitation yesterday.  It was from the retired fire fighters association that apparently is starting back up again after a lapse of some kind.  They were just inviting me to join them for their meetings once a month, usually at a local restaurant.  Now I considered that to be quite an honor to be remembered by them.  And I’m excited that yet another avenue for ministry is opening up in that sector.  Now to set about carving an extra piece of the time pie …

Philippians 2:4 says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Father, thank you for always giving me just enough time to do what you call me to do.  Amen.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20 – “Less that one minute …”

Our newspaper deliverer (or carrier or paperboy … what do they call themselves these days) forgot about us this morning.  A pretty rare occurrence, actually.  It is usually here right at or slightly before six a.m., and sometimes closer to five.  It ordinarily shows up right under the tree in our front yard so I can see it easily when I step onto the front porch.  Not there this morning, though.  Even looked under the car (not an easy task early in the morning for my lower back.  Takes it a while to get going).  So I called the newspaper office and was put on hold.  But the computer told me I was second in line and my wait time was “less than one minute.”  In fact, every minute the very helpful voice returned to assure me that my wait time was still “less than one minute.”  After the sixth reassurance an actual human voice interrupted my reverie and kindly offered to help me.  I almost forgot what to say.  I did manage to stumble through my predicament, and it would seem that she might have heard a problem very similar to mine a time or two.  She must have been very experienced in the newspaper circulation field, wouldn’t you say?  She assured me that a newspaper would appear in my yard in a very short period of time.  I wondered if that would be “less than one minute,” but she wasn’t ever very specific.  I think her words were “right away.”  So now I have the first two words for my new telephone users guide to service department terminology:
Less than one minute” – actually means “at least six minutes, but could be more if the line at the coffee pot is long.”
Right away” – actually means “I’ll make a call to the deliverer and he’ll swing back by when he finishes his route and has a fourth or fifth cup of coffee.  Don’t expect him for at least (yet to be determined as of this writing) minutes.”

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

Father, thank you for all the “one minutes” you have given us.  Help us look for ways to use them all to the fullest.  Amen.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 19 – “Give in to the dark side”

Our day began with a trip into Texas.  As must happen when one deems to travel such a long distance, we made our list of everything possible that had to be done while on the mainland.  Started out by heading to Lifeway Christian Book Store.  I was almost completely out of the birthday and anniversary cards I send out each week.  Chris was also able to pick up a Bible Study guide she was looking for. 

Next we made the proverbial Sam’s Run.  Actually that’s not really accurate, now that I think about it.  There is nothing proverbial about going to Sam’s, is there?  Ah, well, we did need some supplies for dinner on the grounds at church, so to Sam’s we went.  After that we stopped by Kel and Christina’s house to drop off some DVD’s that they are borrowing for a small group in their church.  They were knee deep in organizing the garage for their pending move.  Boxes everywhere.  The whole family was outside Jachin was still in his pajamas, painstakingly removing stickerburs from a blanket, one at a time.  Josiah and Noah were on the tree swings.  Micah raced up to greet us and immediately asked me, “Did you come here today to take me fishing?”  Wow.  What do say to something like that?  Believe me, it was tempting. 

Once we dropped off the Sam’s stuff at home, we headed for the Old Smokey barbeque cook-off.  Nathan and some of his cronies from the fire department were entered.  One of the guys was a fajitas specialist.  Nathan had two different recipes for chicken wings.  He turned in the one that tasted sweet to begin with, then bit you on the tongue with pepper after you had been sucked in by the savory goodness.  The final category required something cooked with bacon.  Andy was the chef on this one.  He came up with bacon weave wrapped boudin and crawfish tails with cheese on top.  I was a little bit scared to try that one, with my stomach issues, but curiosity got the better of me.  Glad it did.  That thing was amazing.  Come make some at my house any time, Andy.  The guys didn’t win anything.  Guess the judges’ taste buds had been seared.  But I think everyone had a great time.  The tent drew a lot of traffic, mainly because the guys all parked their scooters in front of it.  It was great fun to see the people’s mixed emotions.  They didn’t know whether to make fun of them or succumb to their deepest desires and ask to ride one.  To quote a certain ex-Jedi, “Give in to the dark side, Luke.”

Philippians 2:1-2 says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

Father, thanks you for what was a truly unique experience at the cookoff yesterday.  We got to see a lot of people beyond the ones we see at church every week.  I’m pretty sure you would have been there too.  Amen.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

July 18 – “The Black Hole to The Other Side”

Project Alert.  Project Alert.  Project Alert.
After a Bible Study lesson on slavery the night before I felt compelled to offer my services for the day to my lovely wife.  And that, of course, means … projects.  One in particular she has been wanting completed ever since we discovered the box full of her lighthouse collection.  Our first task of the day was to cut, paint and hang a shelf over the window in the bathroom.  This one proved to be not so difficult a task.  We already had the materials, so it was just a matter of putting it all together.  Of course once we had it up we also had to place the lighthouses – carefully place the lighthouses.  Took a while, but we got it done.  The second half of the project involved a sheer curtain she wanted hung in there as well.  That required a quick trip to WalMart to get one of those tension rods, but they actually had just the one we needed.  She used her designing super-powers to creatively hang the curtain in place, so it looks great.  She declared that room done.  Well, except for …

Next was a trip to Home Depot.  It was time once again to see if by some slim chance they had received the order for the corner brackets I needed to make the second of my work benches.  Sure enough the lady helping us out checked on her little computer phone thing, and it said they had 15 in stock … somewhere.  They sure were not on the shelf.  The only ones there were the three lonely ones we had seen for the past three weeks.  So we did what any self-respecting home owner / do-it-yourselfer would have done.  We started walking around looking at … stuff.  Gotta be prepared for future projects, you know.   We found some small strips of peg board (that’s on a “futures” list), but they seemed to be out of the 4X8 sheets.  I think if they had had it, we would have gone all in on that project.  But as we continued our stroll, we happened upon a random shopping cart in the back of the store, chock full of boxes.  The boxes were all from the same company, as if a delivery had come in and then been lost in the Black Hole of Home Depot.  Why did that particular cart catch our eye?  Well, other than the fact that we are so in tune with alien artifacts that are obviously in distress, it was the name of the company that grabbed our attention.  Everything in that cart had been made by the company that makes the corner brackets we had been waiting three weeks for.  Could it be?  I quickly snooped around and sure, enough, on level two, there was one box of 12 of the very brackets we needed.  Plans instantly changed.  We switched carts to one that would carry 2X4’s and we went to work.  I just happened to have the shopping list for the second workbench, so we filled in the blanks as best we could.  Project number two was well under way.

Until we got back to the car.  And realized we had purchased the wrong size 2X4’s.  Ten feet long instead of eight.  The ultimate DIY goof.  Fortunately we had just loaded one when we realized the snafu, so we took them back inside and owned up to our mistake.  They were quite gracious, almost as if they had dealt with DIY blunders before.  We stopped on the way home to borrow Nathan’s magic screwdriver again.  Couldn’t make this project happen without it.  And we were off.  This smaller version of the first one was supposed to be considerable easier.  You know, that’s taken from the Other Side Principle of car repair.  The other side is always easier because you have done it once.  All I had to do was replicate the process on a smaller scale and we were done.  Boom.  Well, I think maybe the difference was … Micah wasn't here to help me.  Oh, it did go much faster than the first one.  For one thing, we had the magic screwdriver from the beginning of the project.  And I did have a great assistant in Chris.  It has always been fun to do things like this together.  Maybe that’s what kept us together for 40+ years. 

Well, we got the frame all made and flipped it over to put on the shelf.  And discovered that I had made a measurement wrong.  One measurement.  Fortunately it resulted in the lengthwise pieces being an inch and a half too long.  Could have been worse.  They could have been too short.  That would have meant starting over.  In this case we were able to “just” take the thing apart (again, major kudos here to the magic screwdriver.  It works in reverse as well), cut off the length-wise frame pieces, and screw them back in again.  Everything fit perfectly.  Well, as perfectly as they needed to on a workbench.  Oh, there was one more problem.  One of the base boards into which was screwed the casters for one side of the bench … split.  Yep, just split.  Not a bad split, but split nonetheless.  But it was getting late.  I was beyond worn out.  Chris must have been, too, because she wouldn’t help me flip the contraption over to replace the board.  It was working OK, so she insisted that the project was done for the day.  Guess I’ll just wait until it does break off and replace it then.  Or maybe I can sneak out there one day and do it … just for fun. 

Philippians 1:27 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Father, thank you for every project Chris and I have worked on together over these last 40 years or so.  They just wouldn’t have been the same if we had done them alone.  Amen.

Friday, July 17, 2015

July 17 – “The vines”

VBS Final Day:  The odds-on favorite activity of the day was making your way through the maze of vines that mysteriously grew in the main room while the kids were having a snack.  Lauren set up eight chairs in two rows and strung yarn back and forth between them.  The kids then had the chance, one at a time, to make their way through the maze of string as if they were deep in a jungle crawling and stepping through a mass of wild vines.  They each had their own style for conquering the maze.  One or two of the littlest ones got stuck, completely wrapped up in the vines to the extent that all they could do was lift their up arms and be rescued by an adult.  Reminded me of the way we sometimes get so twisted up in our circumstances that we can’t go forward and we can’t go back either.  We are totally frustrated.  That’s when we need to follow the example of those little guys.  Lift up our arms to Jesus and trust him to get us through.  One girl said, “I saw ‘Night at the Museum.’  I know how to do this.”  She stepped high, then crawled low, over and under until she made her way through.  Walking through difficult days in life is made a lot easier when you have read the instruction manual (The Bible) or when you have someone you can look to for help who has already been there.  The boys tended to go the crawling route, like soldiers making their way through a battlefield, keeping their heads down the whole way, sure of themselves and their techniques.  Proper training gives you confidence in accomplishing any task you take on.  That’s what Christian discipleship is all about.  My favorite approach, and by far the most practical, was made by a little girl who couldn’t have been more than three years old.  She stepped high all right – high enough to find the nearest vine so she could stomp it into the ground.  If it was too high to step on, she grabbed it and pulled it over her head.  Made it through in record time and in the grand scheme of things, prepared the path for the person behind her, though I’m not sure that’s what she was thinking about at the time.  There’s an obvious application to that one as well.  Every move we make as believers has an impact on those around us - family, friends, even those we don’t know.  Are we going to blaze a trail for them - make it easier for them?  Or will we think only of ourselves and getting through life as quickly and as easily as we can?

It’s amazing what you can get out of the goofy games and activities at Vacation Bible School, isn’t it?  Here’s one final shout-out to Lauren and her team from Round Rock.  These guys took a VBS music CD, a list of Bible stories, and two little girls who had attended another VBS in their area, and they put together a week of fun and learning for the kids in Jamaica Beach.  Thank you, many times over, for following God in your life. May he honor your commitment and bless you in the future.

Psalms 37:39 says, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

Father, thank you for VBS this year.  And thank you for being there to rescue us from those annoying vines that keep growing up around us.  Amen.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

July 16 – “A what?”

VBS Day Three: We had 22 kids yesterday.  Several brand new attendees.  And with that many kids came some new … challenges.  As they all began to get familiar with the songs and with each other, it became apparent that the time had come for going a little wild and crazy during the singing segment.  With the motions that accompany the songs, it is pretty much like dancing anyway, so it was but a short trip to leaping and frolicking and running around in uncontrolled circles – abandoning themselves to the fun/chaos of the moment.  Sure looked like fun to me.  And what participation I managed to involve myself in was indeed quite fun.  I hate it when pain prevents me from being childlike.  That’s the worst part of this whole rheumatoid arthritis/spinal stenosis/bulging disk ordeal. It didn’t take long for Lauren to step in and regain absolute control over the group, though.  And she did it with a whisper, not a whistle.  Amazing. 

My “favorite kid moment” I heard from my office as I worked on Sunday’s Sermon.  From what I could gather, they were in craft time working on individual paintings of the fiery furnace of Shadrak, Meshak, and Abednego.  The idea seemed to be for the kids to first use crayons to draw the base of the picture.  Then they were to go over the top with those water based paints.  Wherever there was crayon, the paint wouldn’t stick.  Kind of like decorating Easter eggs.  As the teacher explained the process to the younger kids, I heard her say, “You will get a really cool water color effect.”  To which one of the kids immediately replied, “A what?  What’s that?”  How do you explain the nuances of water color effect to a six-year-old?  Gotta give that teacher credit, though.  She managed to communicate the concept, and the pictures were amazing. 

Psalms 37:37 says, “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.”

Father, thank you for questioning minds and creative concepts.  Even among six-year-olds.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July 15 – “Brave”

VBS Day One highlight: A Mom came to drop off her children.  She commented, “We brought kids to Vacation Bible School here back when Anna was leading it.  Now those kids have all grown up and have kids of their own.  Now we are here with our second batch.”  She proceeded to register three kids.  It’s great to be a pastor in a small town. 

VBS Day Two highlight: The theme of the week is “Off the Map.”  The idea is to make Jesus your guide in all your decisions and in life in general.  The rooms are decorated like a jungle, and there are blow-up figures of animals everywhere.  The craft for the day was an interesting one.  The kids were seated at tables and the leader announced that they would be making maps, certainly a valid project for the “Off the Map” theme.  But then she walked around and squirted shaving cream in front of each one.  Lots of shaving cream.  Globs and globs of shaving cream.  She encouraged the kids to have fun.  What kid needs more encouragement than that when faced with a massive handful of white goop?  They made mountains.  They saw how much they could pick up before it splatted back down to the table.  They even did a fairly decent job of keeping it off their faces (that was one of the rules – faces and each other).  Not so much clothes, though.  But hey, it was just soap, right?  The real sight came when Lauren added squirts of tempera paint to the mix.  The swirls then took on a whole new dimension.  And finally she brought in the paper for their maps.  The kids swirled across the paper for a bit, and then headed off to get cleaned up.  Workers were then instructed to carefully wipe the excess cream off of the papers and put each child’s name on the back and let them dry.  Amazingly enough, when went back to look at them later, they looked like an HGTV kitchen countertop with swirls of color in them.  The kids later came back and write the day’s Bible verse on them.  Gotta say, I have never seen that one before.  I wasn’t the only one whose comment was, “Brave.”

Isaiah 1:18  says, “’Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’”

Father, thank you for the creativity of the workers and the children this week.  Great reflection of what you showed when you created them in the first place.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July 14 – “A visit to heaven”

Cailyn was waxing nostalgic yesterday before we left for Vacation Bible School.  She said she missed her Grandpa.  He’s the one who just died last week.  But before I could even offer some words of encouragement she asked, “DadDad, do people keep on getting older in heaven?”  I assured her that with the new body we receive, getting older didn’t even matter in heaven.  I told her that her Grandpa could hang out with MeeMaw now if he wanted to.  She was concerned that he wouldn’t know who she was, but we decided that he could sure go meet her and they could “talk about stuff together.”

She pondered for a few minutes, then offered one of her own: “You know what, DadDad?  Up in heaven people can talk any language they want.”  Not wanting to break the train of thought that had her dwelling in such lofty heights, I simply replied, “Really?”  And in a kind of dreamy, far-off, sing-song-y voice that carries out each syllable for an extra second or two, she noted, “Yes.  You know.  Like English, and sign language, and …”  The rest just drifted away with the thought.  And then she was on to something else.  But thank you, Cailyn for that quick little visit to heaven.

Day one of VBS went well.  We had 17 children plus the nine or so adult workers.  The kids seemed to have a great time with the singing and crafts and story time and games.  My favorite interaction of the day came with little two year old William.  He came up to me numerous times throughout the morning, twirled around in his best two-year-old rendition of a ballet spin, and declared, “We go off the map.”  Remember, the theme of VBS is Off the Map.  I think maybe William got it.

John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”

Father, teach the little children more about love and trust and especially about you.  Amen.

Monday, July 13, 2015

July 13 – “VBS 2015”

Chris and I drove back out to the church yesterday afternoon to meet the Vacation Bible School team from Round Rock, Texas.  They are leading our VBS for us this week.  Now it’s not like they have an entire youth group with them.  Three ladies and their ten little children between them (The oldest is around nine or ten.  The youngest was an infant) have worked really hard to put together decorations and plan out activities for the week. 

We received the call that they had arrived around 5:30, so we left the house right away.  Meanwhile they had completely unloaded their cars and by the time we arrived were pulling out decorations.  No messing around with this crew.  We got the doors unlocked and they immediately set to work on set up for VBS Day One.  Even before they took luggage up to their room.  That’s impressive.  Chris and I stacked up all the pews (We should have done that one after church when we had some help.  Chris even mentioned it, but we weren’t sure what setup they would want, so I voted to wait.  And I am paying for it today with some extra soreness).  They had they whole place ready to go in less than an hour.  Found out later why the kids were so cooperative.  They had been promised a quick trip to the beach after everything was set up.  And they were amazing helpers.  They hung streamers and put posters on the wall and set tables.  Apparently they had all been to two or three Bible Schools already this summer, so they were experienced.  Even the little brother (about two) was toddling around saying, “We play Off the map, Mommy?”  “Off the Map” is the theme of the VBS this year. 

Once we got them all settled into the Retreat Center Chris and I made a WalMart run to get some fruit for today’s snacks.  Bananas and grapes and apples and Mini Nilla Wafers.  I tried for a few unhealthy things as well, but they didn’t go over.  I wanted to get Double Stuffed Oreos and Caramel dip.  I might have won out on the dip, but we couldn’t find any. 

So Cailyn is already here and wanting some breakfast, so I better go pop some Eggos into the toaster.  VBS 2015 … here we come.

Luke 18:16-17 says, “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’”

Father, send your Spirit down to watch over the children this week.  Give the workers energy.  Touch some lives.  Amen.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

July 12 – “An unexpected blatteria diversion”

Project report … Vaughan garage.  Saturday. 

We attacked the garage yet again yesterday.  This time the goal was to get some shelves put up near the ceiling so we could eliminate the massive amount of clutter that had accumulated over the years without actually throwing too much away.  As I have said before, Chris has an amazing ability to envision a finished product out of a pile of what appears to the naked eye to be … well, junk. 

Now, as it usually happens with garages, before we could do anything we had to pull everything out.  Well, not everything all at once.  We started on the side of the room where the two rows of shelving would be.  And that proved to be a task in itself.  A bed frame for a bunk bed damaged by Hurricane Ike, numerous boxes, and a stack of old table extenders.  You know, those slats of wood that make your dining room table giant-sized for holiday meals.  These were also damaged by the storm, and the veneer was peeling badly.  And as I got the first tow outside and set them down, I discovered Babyland General Hospital, Pediatric Division … for roaches.  Roaches of all sizes leapt from behind that veneer.  A few of the hospital administrators - large, fat, juicy ones - made a feeble attempt to impede my progress, but sadly - for them – to no avail.  But there were also thousands of tiny versions that were unleashed into the cruel world well before their time.  And their sheer numbers, as well as their tiny stature, made it impossible for me to Godzilla them all.  I did my best, but when they are so small that they can hide in the tread of your shoe, what can a gigantic monster do?

We did get that first set of shelves hung and loaded … after a trip to Nathan’s for the impact drill screwdriver.  At least we found the studs this time.  We also managed to hang one of those contraptions for storing garden tools like a hoe and a rake.  Or in our case, three shovels, two rakes, a saw, a flounder gig and a home-made deep sea fishing gig.  We put our old milk crates on the first piece of wood and the second shelf on top of them.  And on that very top shelf we put stuff that we will probably never use.  Old vases.  A giant tea dispenser.  A box of – yep, I’m serious – pine cones.  Into the milk crates went the sleeping bags that we use for cousins’ sleepovers.  It all worked out well.  At least it was somewhere near the vision in Chris’ head. 

The shelves on the other side of the room were a bit easier to hang, but of course they came out off-line.  Had to add a piece of wood under one side to level them out.  We used some more milk crates to create a second shelf.  That group was located low enough that we could fit some of our taller storage bins on the very top. Did some adjusting so we would have a place for the fishing poles I use on a somewhat regular basis.  Still need one of those pole holders, but that’s a trip to Academy for another day. 

Getting everything back into the garage was the challenge of the decade.  I finally opened up the attic and crammed some stuff into the small remaining space up there.  Don’t forget to check that attic after we die, my Sons.  There are treasures up there you know not of. 

Job 38:36 says, “Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?”

Father, open up some hearts at church today.  Amen.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

July 11 – “More suited”

We had out grandkid charges for the night after home group.  The boys all slept on the floor in the den.  Noa made her way (with Nana’s help and a little rocking) to her pak-n-play in the blue bedroom.  Yesterday Micah was the first one up again, so he and I made the donut run.  We had to keep our energy level high, because it was yard work day.

I started out mowing.  Sadly, our old lawn mower once again remembered how old and tired it actually was, and it started sputtering out badly.  It did make one comeback attempt – enough to make me add a bit of gas and hope to finish.  Too little too late.  The excitement was gone.  I ended up cranking up the mower our neighbor gave me when he moved.  That one worked like a charm.  I think he may have put a turbo charged engine in the thing.

Micah hung around with me outside much of the time I was mowing.  When I switched to the weedeater, he stepped right in and manipulated the cord for me.  Really helped the process for me.  I even let him try his hand at it in the back yard.  He got really good at clearing those pesky sprouts from between the cracks in the concrete.  And he did well edging in the big area.  Had a bit of trouble, though, when he had to pick up the machine to edge around the hot tub area.  It just got too heavy for him.  That’s about the time he decided, “When we move into our new house, I think Jachin is more suited for yard work than I am.  I think I’ll let him do the mowing and stuff.” 

Now Chris had a great idea at one point.  Micah swept the grass on the sidewalk in the front yard into a pile.  Then she enlisted Josiah to scoop up the piles and carry them to the trash can.  Even Noa got into the act.  She held the dust pan for the boys.  Oh, and what about the oldest brother?  Jachin was inside reading a book.  But he did his part, too.  The times Chris worked with just Micah and Josiah he was the babysitter for Noa.  We gave each of them some money commensurate with their respective contribution to the effort.  That’s a high class way of saying Micah got the most, then Josiah, then Jachin.  Noa got some, too, but she was asleep when paychecks were handed out, so her Mommy is responsible to see that her cut finds its way into the piggy bank.  With all that help I had plenty of time to join Noa for an afternoon nap before the wedding rehearsal I had to attend last night. 

Isaiah 40:22 says, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.  He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

Father, thank you for all that help I had yesterday.  And thanks for Chris’ ability to come up with a way for them all to be involved on their own levels.  Amen.