Thursday, March 31, 2016

March 31 – “Inspection”

I finally took our truck in for its yearly inspection the other day.  I figured I was cutting it pretty close since it was due, well, by today.  I took it to the one place on the island that everyone in the fire department recommends.  It’s been around for a long time.  It’s also one of the few places that can do inspections on trucks as old as mine.  1992 GMC.  By my count that makes it 24 years old.  One year shy of being considered a classic.  I understand at 25 just about anybody can do the inspections.  Guess they don’t do all the new emissions stuff anymore on the oldies.

The fellow who did the inspection was a funny old guy.  Proud to be a VietNam vet.  Did some name-dropping of fire fighters he knew.  And he had am extremely foul mouth.  That is until he asked me what I did for a living.  I had my Fire Department uniform on, so I told him I was the chaplain.  Instant change.  Not a single cuss word from that point on.  He even told me he went to midnight mass at Easter even though he isn’t a Catholic (OK, as far as I know they don’t have midnight mass at Easter.  Maybe he meant Christmas Eve).  Then he said he was good friends with Father Frank so he went to mass to hear what he had to say (Father Frank used to be the priest, but he has been gone for a long time now.  So I’m not sure what year he was talking about, either).  He was very proud of himself, though.  Said he tells everybody about that little excursion.  Well, good for him.  Doesn’t do him much good eternally, though. 

Oh, the truck passed with flying colors.  Apparently the numbers were well beyond what they needed to be.  Enough for the old guy to be impressed, anyway.  He warned me that I might get rejected by the state if I tried to do it online since it was the last week of the month.  I paid him and thanked him and headed back home.  After a quick lunch I picked up the “official” paperwork and went to get the sticker in person.  No issues at all there other than the wait in line.  The state computer had the test information already, so it was just a matter of paying the fee and sticking it on the windshield.  Done for another year.

Revelation 21:6 says, “He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life’”

Father, thank you for the vehicles you have provided us with.  Help us find ways use them for you.  And help that old fellow find you somewhere other than the one mass he went to.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March 30 – “A true national hero”

We had an eerie experience last night.  Totally unexpected.  Not something I would ever have expected, in fact.  It started simply enough.  Chris was at the table doing some quilting.  I was on the couch watching some TV and unwinding from the day. 

And then a commercial came on.  I assume it was for iPhones.  Cookie Monster was in the kitchen preparing to bake some cookies.  Have you seen that one?  He turns to his cell phone and says, “Siri, set timer for 15 minutes.”  Cute marketing idea, I suppose.  Cookie Monster gets the kids’ attention and they don’t let Mom or Dad change the channel.  But this time, the voice of the Monster came from the Twilight Zone.  For immediately my own iPhone, seated innocuously on the couch at my side, flashed to life.  The Siri sitting next to me sprang to life and actually answered Cookie Monster.  “I’m sorry.  I can’t set the timer right now.”  She couldn’t get in because my phone was locked.  Of course it was locked.  It was just sitting there doing nothing, and had been for the last few hours. 

 I gotta admit … I was shaken from my TV induced stupor in an instant.  Where in the world did that come from?  I thought I had to push the button on the phone to get the Siri-voice’s attention.  But no … she has been secretly listening all this time.  Perhaps there is something to this worry that the NSA or FBI (or whatever letters it is), or maybe a foreign government, is secretly wiretapping Americans.  They have enlisted that supposedly harmless voice in the phone to work for them.  And it took Cookie Monster to reveal the flaw in their system.  Check out your own iPhone for the secret hacking Siri-voice.  Make sure your phone has gone to sleep first.  Then, in your best Cookie Monster imitation, ask Siri to set your timer.  If she responds, they’re in.  Be very careful what you say around your phone.  Thank you, Cookie Monster, for revealing this fly in the ointment, this flaw in the system.  You are truly a national hero.

Revelation 19:11-16 says, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.    His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.  The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Father, thank you for surprises.  That one last night really gave us a good laugh.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

March 29 – “No strawberries”

Cailyn spent the night with us last night.  Always a unique experience, to be sure.  This time, though, she was coming from softball practice and a nice bath afterwards, so she was not expected to make it long past 8:00.  Not that she didn’t do her best to stay awake.  I know the feeling.  It overtakes me most Sunday afternoons.  Well, OK … most afternoons.  Finally Chris offered her a strawberry or two.  And that set us both off.

I told her she couldn’t have strawberries, which, of course, made her want them all the more.  So I told her again, “No strawberries.”  And again, “No strawberries.”  And again, “No strawberries.”  I used every strange voice I could come up with to say , “No strawberries.”  I made weird faces to emphasize, “No strawberries.”  But still she took bite after bite. 

Her snack finally depleted, we decided to read a book.  Horton Hears a Strawberry was the first suggestion.  Nope.  Not enough strawberries.  She finally found a child’s alphabet teaching book, letter “S” for Strawberry.  We hoped to find at least one strawberry inside.  Sadly, we were disappointed.  No strawberries in the little “S” kid’s box.  Undaunted, we read on, adding our own strawberries to the story.  How, you may ask?  Well, strawberry me this, Batman …

Have you ever tried to add the word “strawberry” in front of every word that starts with an “S”?  Then read a book and do the same thing?  It strawberry suddenly strawberry settles into a strawberry situation of strawberry silliness strawberry saturation.  Go ahead.  Test your mettle.  Next time you go on FaceBook, add “strawberry” to all those random “S” words out there.  Better yet, do it next time you and a friend are carrying on a strawberry simple conversation.  It’s pretty much guaranteed to elicit at least a – are you ready for it? – strawberry smile.

Mark 4:30-32 says, “Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.’”

Father, thank you for strawberries and smiles and special people to share them with.  Amen.

Monday, March 28, 2016

March 28 – “On the Beach at Sunrise”

The Seaside Easter Sunrise Service was once again an amazing event.  There were well over 400 people on the beach, perhaps closer to 500 by some counts.  It is hard to count that many people.  We do know that we gave away 400 “Jesus is my Rock” pocket coins and ran out with people still arriving.  It was a beautiful sight.  500 people in lawn chairs, on blankets, in golf carts, standing or just sitting on the sand.  All there to experience worship … at 6:30 in the morning.  And we even had 39 others at the 10 a.m. communion service who weren’t out on the beach.

Much thanks is in order to the Jamaica Beach Volunteer Fire Department.  Russell bringing his trailer and generator and Kyle setting those powerful lights really made it easier to set up in the dark.  We still had some problems with sound projection, though.  Some of the people in the back couldn’t hear very well, while on the front row were getting blasted.  I guess it’s just one of those issues that comes up when you try to fit 500 people into a fairly small area on the beach.  We’ll have to work on that for next year.  The Jamaica Beach police department was there to help as well.  They did a masterful job of handling traffic control to keep streets open and to get everyone out of the vicinity with no incidents. 

The skies were cloudy, so we missed the actual sunrise over the water.  We did get to see the almost-full moon once.  It briefly broke through the clouds and Chris P. tried to convince me it was the sunrise.  Sorry Chris.  Wrong side of the sky.  We did see a lot of seagulls and one long, lonely line of pelicans flew by.

The real miracles this year were the 10 baptisms.  One whole family. Dad went first, then he helped with Mom and daughter.  A fiancĂ© helped with his girlfriend.  Two Dads helped with daughters.  Two single guys.  One single girl.  And finally, Lynn, who has already become a Seasider.  He stayed in the water and helped me with some of the others.  The water temperature made for kind of a shock when we first walked in, but then it was just nice and cool.  There was actually no wind, a real rarity for Galveston, so the baptisms were much warmer than they could have been.

Another first for the sunrise service.  We had a minor medical emergency.  An older guy – around my age, or so I was told.  Thank you very much – apparently locked his legs and ended up passing out.  He came to and was checked out by the Jamaica Beach fire chief.  Hey, we always send out the best.  He seemed fine, though, and all was well.

We had lots of food available for the breakfast and lots of people to eat it.  Not much remained.  Then there were 600 Easter eggs that needed to be found, so the kids had more than enough to fill their bags and baskets.

The communion service had people from Dallas to South Carolina to New York, all here to  worship on Easter.  There were even eight or ten from Waco.  Three young men were students at Baylor.  Four older people were all Baylor graduates.  One other couple sported Baylor jackets.  The husband told me they had heard about Josh coming to be pastor at Columbus Avenue.  They have even seen him on TV.  “He’s the young guy who looks like he works out all the time, isn’t he?”  As a proud Daddy I squared my shoulders and firmly responded, “Well, he is a sharp looking kid.”  So Josh, the pressure is on.  “works out all the time.”  Hmm?

Revelation 19:6-8 says, “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)”

Father, thank you once again for the whole Easter experience this year.  Walk with the ones who were baptized.  Make their lives different because of it.  Amen.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

March 27 – “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed”

Just a quick Easter note today.  I have to be at the church around 5 for the sunrise service preparation.  I did a baby dedication at the beach last night.  Very sweet mommy and Grandma and Grandpa.  We did the vows part first then Mom and I took the two-year old into the water where I poured water over her head to show the covering of the Holy Spirit until such time as she can choose to follow Jesus on her own.  The little girl was cute as a button.  Stayed very quiet the whole time and even gave three or four hugs when we got done.  They are supposed to be at the sunrise service, too.  Looking forward to seeing them.  

Matthew 28:1-6 says, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.   His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’”

Father, take care of little Sarah and her family.  And please send you Spirit in a great way to the services today.  Amen.

March 26 – “On corrections, coconut, and colored eggs”

Well, I have to start out with an update on the whole Office Depot fiasco.  The corrected Sunrise Service booklets were supposed to be ready this morning.  I received a call yesterday afternoon, however, that they were complete and ready to be picked up.  Cautiously, Kel and Noa and I went right then to get them.  Honestly, I was worried.  I wanted the opportunity to do them over yet again if something was wrong.  Sure enough, the box of booklets was waiting for us.  Tentatively I picked up one of them and thumbed through it.  Perfect.  Phew.  The only problem I could see was that the picture on the cover seemed extra dark.  When I got home Chris noticed that the paper was several different shades of color (Not something I would have noticed – ever).  And so we moved on to the subject of payment.  I was all set to ask for some kind of discount for the extra trouble (and emotional trauma) we had to undergo.  But the sales clerk said, “My manager said to give it to you for free.  No charge.”  Wait.  What?  Now that’s a discount.

So why were Kel and Noa over at our house?  Yesterday was also our family Easter egg decorating and egg hunt.  Chris made a big roast in the crock pot and several cups of rice as well as some baked beans and corn.  She even did something I have never see her do.  She made a cake.  Now, she has made plenty of cakes over the years.  But this one was different.  She wanted it to look Easter-y, so she put multi-colored jelly beans on top.  Again, not that unusual, right?  But then she got out the food coloring and dyed a little bag of coconut green and spread it over the cake.  Grass to hide the eggs.  I know.  Very creative and actually cute.  But here’s the thing.  Chris absolutely hates coconut.  I have never seen her do anything with coconut.  In fact I asked if she was doing this as a dietary tool to keep herself from eating any of the cake.  And the funny thing was, several of the kids made it known that they didn’t like coconut, either (Once they sleuthed out that the strange stuff on top of the cake was coconut).  Most of them had a piece of cake, though.  Suffered through it for Nana’s sake. 

Josh and his family couldn’t come.  Something about the church he pastors wanting him around for the biggest weekend in the church year.  Actually they had a really big community event yesterday.  Egg hunt for hundreds of kids.  Our kids got hundreds of jelly beans.  That’s almost the same thing, right?  And Chris got her one Easter egg that she saves in a bowl every year.  That’s right.  A bowl full of hard boiled eggs, not refrigerated, just sitting on the counter for literally years and years.  Strangely enough, as long as you don’t break them, the insides dry up and disappear over time.  It’s like having a bowl of china eggs.  Of course if you do break one, the smell is horrendous.  Yes, that is the voice of experience.  We have had several explosions over the years.  The stench is, well, intense.  But if you are careful you have a lifetime of Easter memories for the cost of a hard-boiled egg, some vinegar, and some cheap dye from WalMart.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

Revelation 19:5 says, “Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God,
all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!’”

Father, thank you for family time at Easter.  It is so much fun to watch the kids find hidden eggs and discover the treats within.  Help them to discover more and more about the treat of the resurrection hidden within your death and burial.  Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2016

March 25 – “Print Fiasco”

Wow.  This is one of those occasions when I wish I could portray in person what I went through yesterday at good ol’ Office Depot here in Galveston.  Now before I begin I want to hasten to say that they have done really good work for us in the past, and I expect greater things from them in the future.  That being said …

Early Wednesday morning I took in the master mock-up of our Easter sunrise service handout booklet.  It has the order of worship and the words to the songs.  I worked really hard to get the pages just right and ran a full copy of the booklet just as we wanted it printed so they could follow along.  I even made a digital copy to make it easier for them to transfer it to their printer.  Not exactly rocket science if I can do that much, is it?  All I asked for was 400 copies on the proper pages, folded and stapled.  The girl who waited on me told me she would even check online and find me some discounts to bring the price down.  She said to come back in at 5 p.m. on Thursday and she would have them ready for pick up. 

Thursday morning I got a call from them asking if someone would be coming by to pay.  I told them the arrangement, so they skeptically accepted my statement and hung up.  Later in the day I got another day from them  This time they said my order was all printed and all they had to do was cut them.  She said that twice, “cut them.”  After the second time I stopped her and asked what it was she was cutting.  “Your 4 X 6 index cards.”  Yep.  Not my order.  She apologized profusely and quickly hung up. 

As 5:00 came around I hurried over to see what sort of magic had been worked on our booklets.  Sur enough, as I approached the desk, I saw the familiar cover strewn about.  OK.  They were obviously not ready yet.  I got in closer and to my surprise, and horror, the booklets that had been “completed” were totally unusable.  First off, they were stapled haphazardly from front to back instead of in the center at the fold.  And when they were opened the formatting had been drastically changed.  Fonts were different sizes.  Page numbers were located in the center of the page.  The entire print of the front page wasn’t even on the front page.  There was no way anyone could have looked at that mess and assumed it was what the customer wanted.  But my salesgirl did.  I asked to see the booklet master I had provided, and I showed it to her again.  She replied, “But the digital file you gave me came out like this,” gesturing to the pile of paper on the counter. 

It didn’t take long for the manager to come over to try to smooth things out.  I guess he heard me the third or fourth time I said that what had been done was totally useless to me.  He gently pushed her aside when she tried to blame me.  Now he understood immediately what the problem was and set out to fix it.  He entered the digital file and did some simple reformatting there on the spot.  Wouldn’t let me leave until what he printed out matched my master booklet and was approved by my own eyes.  Once that was done I requested that the stapling be done properly as well.  He assured me he would see that it was taken care of, but I’m still a little uneasy about that one.  Now the booklets are scheduled to be ready Saturday morning.  They will be seeing me not long after their 8 a.m. opening time.  And the thing is, I still haven’t paid for them, so I have no idea how much all of this will cost the church.  Ah, well.  Must mean God has something special planned for this sunrise service if Satan is so intent on messing it up.  We’ll see …

Revelation 19:1 says, “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God’”

Father, will you add the folks over at Office Depot to your watch list?  Give them wisdom and common sense as they work on our order, and give them peace in their own lives as well.  Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

March 24 – “The Girls”

One final anecdote from our quick trip to Waco.  We were sitting around the table having some lunch and talking about all manner of world issues and concerns, when Caleb proposed a trade: His older brother Zakary for our little puppy Fredericke for one week.  He was quite the negotiator, too, especially since Zakary was actually all for it.  Seems he really wanted to go to Seaside’s sunrise service on the beach.  He figured that would just have to be better than the Easter service his Dad was planning on.  But, ever the first-born, Zak is cursed with that one exasperating characteristic that always hinders final execution of matters such as these … he is annoyingly realistic.  His comment?  “Caleb, I think we have to get the girls in on this one.”  Wait, what?  The Girls”?  As much as I related to Caleb’s middle child logic in the situation, I knew I just couldn’t deny that Zakary was right.  Most of the time first-borns are right, but that doesn’t necessarily have meaning to us middle-kids.  But “The Girls”? 

Oh, I get it, I guess.  I grew up in a household of four boys (counting Dad) just like his.  Mom is the odd one out.  Well, that’s not exactly accurate.  More like Mom is the royal princess who has final say on all matters.  And then you bring a Nani into the mix – the Queen Mother.  What chance do young princes have?  And what better way to reference this impenetrable voting block than “The Girls”?  Even free-spirited Caleb couldn’t deny the wisdom of waiting in this instance.  Needless to say, the trade was ultimately nixed by the powers that be.  You know, the powers that be … female.

Revelation 15:4 says, “Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name?  For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Father, thank you for the wonderful females you have placed in my life.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

March 23 – “The Tale of the Haunted Bathroom”

During our excursion to Waco we were regaled with more than just church musical programs and grandchildren doing incredibly cute things.  Ah, yes.  This particular weekend was like no other, for we experienced … “The Tale of the Haunted Bathroom.”  Caleb unfolded the twisted tale of terror to us out on their deck.  Fortunately, it was still daylight, so we managed to avoid some inevitable screaming.  I cannot say with certainty that such shrieks will not result from your own reading, should you decide to continue.  Let the reader beware.

One dark and stormy night a young boy had to go to the bathroom before he went to bed.  It was very late and very dark.  As he went, he hit the center and before he knew it he found himself in the sewers, covered with rats who were biting him all over his body and before he knew it he became a green, slimy monster.  And that monster went back to his home and ate up all his family so he would have no descendants. 

Now, anytime anyone gets up to go potty late at night, between 1:00 in the nighttime and 9:00 in daytime, and when they hit the very center, he reaches up through the potty with his green slimy arms that have powerful suction cups on them that you can’t break away from no matter how hard you struggle and he grabs them and eats them.  That’s why they always find all those bones and body parts down in the sewers. 

And the main thing to remember from the story is this: “Don’t hit the very center of the potty when you have to go late at night.”

Indeed, I did not feel completely at ease in the bathroom for the rest of our visit, especially late at night.  And I have to admit that I, for one, was careful to aim for the side and not the very center.  Oh, I know what you are thinking.  “It’s just a story.  None of that is true.”  Perhaps.  Perhaps.  But Caleb did say he saw it happen with his own eyes.  Someone just disappeared down the toilet, held tightly – unescapably – by two slimy, green, suction cup-filled arms.  Frightening.  Horrifying. 

Revelation 15:3 says, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.”

Father, thank you for the creativity and especially for the inner joy that was about to explode forth the whole time Caleb was telling his story.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 22 – “Silos”

OK.  Yes.  We did it.  “Once in a lifetime.”  “Don’t miss it.”  “You have to go.”  We have heard them all, and now we can honestly say we have done it.  We went to the Silos.  Magnolia Farms.  Chip and Joanna Gaines territory.  HGTV was even filming a commercial outside … with a drone camera.  Wow.  What excitement.

We had hear all sorts of horror stories about lines wrapping around the block and wall to wall people.  In fact we have even driven by the place once before and seen those lines.  But not yesterday.  Not for us.  No line at all.  Now don’t get me wrong, the place was really crowded inside.  But we could get inside.  Easily. 

On our way in we were walking up the ramp when what to our wondering eyes should appear but the wife of the guy who was our pastor when we lived in Denver.  Jean Cooper was leaving with some friends.  As if that wasn’t unusual enough, they told use our family had been the source of their travel conversation on the way to Magnolia that very morning.  Seems one of their group had just joined Josh’s church and they were making the connection with his stint as a youngster in Colorado.  We introduced the new member to Christi.  How’s that for a small world?

As I said the inside of the place was really crowded.  We twisted and turned and finagled our way around slowly.  Christi finally said she was taking the boys outside to let them run around before they broke something.  Here it comes.  No sooner had they exited the building than someone in the room finally touched something.  First thing he had touched the entire time.  He just wanted to see how much this scale costed.  And as this mystery shopper lifted the machine to check for a price, the metal bowl on top slid off its moorings and clattered to the floor, piercing the already loud room with a distinctive clang all its own.  What a knucklehead.  The poor guy stooped quickly to pick up the unbreakable object making such a racket.  And as he did, his beloved companion of 40 plus years?  Walked away.  Quickly.  Disavowing any knowledge of the poor sap who just knocked something over in the Holy Grail of HGTV-dom.  I – er - I mean “He” managed to get the bowl back in place to the overly-kind chuckles and knowing grins of the audience of shoppers. 

We didn’t buy anything.  Chris almost went for a couple of those candles that are tied together by the wicks.  She even picked up (and didn’t drop) a teapot or two.  I think the “Made in China” tags kind of dissuaded her on several objects.  A Magnolia mug almost made the cut, but $26 for a cup of coffee?  Even the baseball caps cost $26.  That’s a hefty profit margin.  Ah, well.  We took a selfie with the sign in the background.  Now we can remember it forever.

Revelation 11:16-17 says, “And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.’”

Father, thank you for never forgetting about us.  Amen.

Monday, March 21, 2016

March 21 – “Follow the GooMVil”

We set off on another adventure yesterday.  We were trying to get from Galveston  to Waco by 6:30 p.m. in time for a children’s musical at their church starring Zakary and Caleb.  More about that in a bit.  But first, the trip.  We were stuck in traffic – slow traffic – bumper to bumper traffic – from around League City all the way through Houston.  On a Sunday afternoon.  Took us two hours just to get that far.  And then we received an ominous warning from Google Maps Voice Lady (GooMVil).  “Redirecting.  Redirecting.  Redirecting.”  It didn’t matter that we were insisting on taking the route we were on, GooMVil kept insisting that we get off of Interstate 45.  Apparently the slowdown just south of Huntsville would rival what we experienced in Houston. After some negotiation, we decided to go with the Voice.  We turned off on some road out of Conroe.  And guess what?  Good ol’ GooMVil came through once again.  We saw baptisms taking place in Lake Conroe.  We drove through Montgomery Trace (whatever that was).  Chris saw her fill of bluebonnets everywhere.  We drove through Dobbin (isn’t that a horse?), but I had glanced down at my phone, so I missed it.  We made our way through a place called Plantersville.  I looked and looked, but I never saw my hero.  You know … that peanut guy.  I admit I did hum a few bars of “I’m a Nut,” though.  And not ten miles outside of Waco, within one short stretch of road, we saw goats, then sheep, then cows, then horses, and finally some chickens.   Gotta love the country.  Thank you GooMVil, for a wonderful scenic excursion.  And  we made it to the church with 13 minutes to spare. 

So, technically Zak and Caleb didn’t have the lead roles in the musical.  I think there might have been 20 or 30 other kids involved.  But for some reason the photos we took only included them, so they must have had a pretty significant part.  Actually Caleb had a musical solo and sang it without missing a beat.  Zak had a few dance numbers.  Yep, dance.  Their music minister tried to disguise it as “Movement,” and the program billed it as “Choreography.”  But they danced.  And they did a really good job at it.  Zak was especially adept at the western step.  I was surprised when six or seven girls came out in flapper dresses for a 1920’s number they did.  The costumes alone grabbed attention.  All in all the Vaughan boys (That would be my grandsons) did a fabulous job.  And the rest of the kids were pretty fantastic as well. 

Revelation 11:15 says, “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’”

Father, thank you for the creative ways kids – and grownups - can lead in and experience worship.  Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

March 20 – “Waves”

Waves.  It’s a great word for imagery.  Especially for those of us living on a small barrier island off the coast of Texas.  People use the word all the time.  Waves.  Waves crashing onto the shore at the beach.  Waves of thunderstorms bearing down upon us as the leading edge of a hurricane or a cold front.  Waves of happy, laughing guests leaving after the successful party.  And there it is. 

See, that last second, desperation half-court shot that led to a Texas exit from the NCAA tournament was, unbeknownst to me, a harbinger of how my sleep would go the rest of the night.  One of our neighbors had a party.  No problem there.  Maybe they were watching the basketball games just like I was.  Maybe it was just poker night.  I don’t know for sure why they gathered, but one thing I am sure of … the party was fun and everyone had a great time. 

Now, how would I know that?  Well, I didn’t suddenly become psychic.  That’s just silly.  And, no, I didn’t sneak down there and clandestinely observe the goings-on from behind a bush.  That would be just weird.  And illegal.  I did know there was a party going on.  The sudden influx of cars parked in every possible spot of the street attested to that fact.  But I didn’t even know which house was hosting the party until it was over. 

So how did I figure it out then?  Simple.  Because every time guests left and returned to their cars, I could hear them.  Oh they all were really nice to say “Thank you” and “I had a great time” to their host, who walked each of them to their car.  OK, by this time I was sneaking a peak through our window.  But they were loud.  Very loud.  Again, even that would be OK with me.  But they left in waves.  The first batch departed for home around midnight, I guess.  And just as I settled back in to the rhythmic breathing of sleep, the next group left – at exactly 2:50.  A.M.  And there was one other exodus, as well, but I didn’t feel up to checking the clock that time.  It would have necessitated rolling over.  That wasn’t scheduled until later.  Much later …

Revelation 7:16-17 says, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Father, thank you for our neighbors.  They are really good folks.  Thank you for blessing them with so many friends.  Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

March 19 – “Satisfying to exhilarating to priceless”

Working for hours in the backyard clearing out flowerbeds with my wife and my dogs at my side … exhausting and painful, but satisfying.

Yep.  Three more flowerbeds done.  Just one to go.  Well, I guess you could say four more done, if you count the batch of sunflowers that have sprung up right in the middle of the lawn that Chris won’t let me mow over.  They’re there for the grandkids, right?  That’s where I spent a good amount of time, pulling weeds out by hand so as not to disturb the fledgling flowers.  And while I was down there I managed to discover that we have a wide selection of weed choices, including one in particular that stings.  Chris experienced the joy of the stingweed through her gardening gloves on a small patch on her hand.  I had a similar problem, but over a larger section of my anatomy.  See, I was wearing shorts.  Not only did my hand burn, but so did both legs and one foot.  I thought sure I had been sitting in an ant bed.  And the burning didn’t go away easily. Not a fun experience.

Watching the University of Texas basketball game until the wee hours of the morning and seeing the impossible half-court shot that sent them to defeat .. exciting and exhilarating.

I’m not particularly a Texas fan, but I was hoping for another Texas team to advance.  A&M and even Stephen F. Austin had done their part earlier.  It was a game of streaks and runs.  Texas tied the game with two seconds left and it sure looked like overtime was in the books.  Northern Iowa threw the ball inbounds up to near half court, and the guy launched a prayer shot from about five feet behind the half court line.  It seemed to stay in the air forever, as those types of shots are inclined to do.  And finally it smashed hard into the backboard … and into the net.  Amazing shot.  Sorry about that, Texas. 

Walking down the block hand in hand with my granddaughter, looking at the Easter decorations in the only yard in the neighborhood that is decorated and discovering a nickel, a penny, an old metal emery board, and a Pizza Hut coupon designed like a credit card … Absolutely priceless.

Revelation 5:13 says, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’”

Father, thank you for special times that Cailyn will probably never remember.  But they sure will be embedded in my memory.  Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2016

March 18 – “Madness”

And … the NCAA basketball Road to the Final Four has officially begun.  I filled out a bracket this year.  And I did pretty well on the first night.  Perfect, in fact.  The two teams I picked in the new First Four round both won.  Notice I said “two.”  There were actually four games.  I totally missed the other two games.  So I started out at 50%. 

I also never expected Baylor to be blindsided by Yale.  Wow.  The Yale kid from Hawaii was nothing short of amazing.  Thirty-one points.  And the Baylor boys had some attitude problems on the sidelines that need to be addressed.  At least for national television audiences.  That wasn’t the only upset, though.  Wichita State, one of those play-in teams, beat Arizona.  That knocked out a few of my predictions.  And Little Rock beat Purdue.  There went another run I anticipated.  I was proud of Gonzaga, though.  They have always been one of my favorite teams, primarily because I like to say their name.  Apparently they do, too.  Their mascot is the Zags, whatever that means.  Anyway, they took down Seton Hall to advance to the next round. 

I’m still waiting to see how the other Texas schools do.  Texas Tech is out.  Texas and Texas A&M both play today, and both have a pretty good chance at advancing, if they don’t fall victim to the sleeper upset like Baylor did.  Texas plays Northern Iowa.  I know nothing about them.  Not sure anyone does.  Do people really live in Northern Iowa?  A&M plays Green Bay, so I may have to awaken a little rivalry with my buddy who lives up there in those northern reaches of nowhere.  Are you reading this, Gary?  Here come the Aggies.  Stephen F. Austin plays today as well.  They are the representatives of my alma mater’s (Houston Baptist University) conference bracket.  They face West Virginia, though.  A number three seed.  Uphill battle there, for sure. 

Oh, my picks for the final four?  So far all of them are still alive.  I know.  Easy to say in the middle of the first round.  I picked Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State and A&M.  Then Kansas and Michigan State in the finals, with Kansas winning it all.  So there you have it.  Bracketology by the worst of us.  But you gotta love that March Madness.

Revelation 5:12 says, “In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’”

Father, help us all remember that the hope we have in you is a lot stronger than what we have in our final four picks.  No chance at all of an upset.  Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

March 17 – “In the marketplace”

Well, I suppose we officially have a new best friend at WalMart.  We were walking through the breakfast foods section – where they have the cinnamon rolls and apple turnovers and chocolate chip cookies.  Hmm.  I guess it’s not just a breakfast section.  Out of the corner of my eye I notice some movement from over near the in-store McDonald’s and the place where they make lunch things like fried chicken.  There was the checker we have been building a relationship with over the last few months.  The last time we had her in line she ended up throwing her hands in the air and saying she was praisin’ Jesus.  Meant it, too.  This time she ran up to us and immediately gave us both a hug, saying, “My church people.  These are my church people.”  That would be us, I suppose.  I reminded her again that we are having an Easter sunrise service on the beach.  She wanted to know when Easter was.  Lost track of the days.  I can understand that.  Happens to me all the time.  She assured us that if her church wasn’t doing anything, she wanted to come.  We’ll see … or not.  Either way, it is really fun to connect with another believer “in the marketplace” and not have to draw a picture of half a fish in the dirt and wait to see if she completes it before we start talking. 

Revelation 5:9-10 says, “And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’”

Father, walk with our new-found friend and sister in Christ.  May she have a spiritual impact on her WalMart world.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March 16 – “Discovering Pasadena”

We made our trip into Texas yesterday to check on Jennifer of the Broken Legs.  She has finally been transferred to a rehab facility in Pasadena near east Beltway 8 and I45 – much closer to home than the last one way up north of I10 by Ikea.  She is still settling in, so no complaints about how hard physical therapy is yet.  She does seem ready to take it on, though.  She scored a really nice room this time.  It is much bigger than the last one, and even has a little table and a few chairs to add to its homey feel.  Sounds like the facility is having a difficult time with staffing, though.  Hopefully that won’t affect her ability to get the therapy she needs from here forward. 

After we left Jennifer we stopped at Carl’s Jr., a fast food place across the street for a burger.  I think we might have been to one before sometime in our history, but I sure don’t remember it.  I had a Western burger.  Not too bad.  After lunch we stopped in to a Craft and Antique Mall in the same parking lot.  Really big inside with row after row of vendor booths.  I would have to say, however, that the vast majority of them were crafts rather than antiques.  And some of the crafts were just things you can buy at Hobby Lobby (which, by the way was also in the same parking lot).  There were a few instances of baseball cards and comic books, and even some fire department paraphernalia, but nothing really old.  Don’t think I would hasten to make a return trip any time soon. 

Then it was off to the true second part of our Texas journey.  We had to stop at Lifeway Christian Store to get three things.  First was a New American Standard Version Bible I could use for teaching.  It has a word by word translation rather than thought by thought, so when I do that kind of teaching it will be much easier to follow.  It was not an easy one to find, though.  I think they might have had a total of five in the whole store.  I settled on one that will work well, though.  The other two items were both church related as well.  We are getting low on communion cups and baptism certificates, so I picked up refills of both.  Looks like we could have as many as five baptisms on Easter this year.  And I have been asked to do a baby dedication for a two-year-old the day before.  Easter is looking to be quite a busy weekend once again.  Exciting stuff.

Psalms 5:7 says, “But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.”

Father, thank you for getting Jennifer set up in her new digs.  Help her to really focus on PT and OT now.  And be with Bryan as he “walks” with her.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March 15 – “The Web … no, really”

I just walked outside to get the morning newspaper.  Yes, we are still among those dinosaurs who have the paper delivered and enjoy perusing the printed page with a morning cup of coffee before starting our day.  Although Chris generally double checks what she reads with an online news source … often before she even gets out of bed.  She just can’t bring herself to fully trust what she affectionately calls The Daily Gossip.  I, on the other hand, can’t wait to get the paper.  First I have to check and see whether I am listed in the obituaries.  Failing that (thankfully), I continue on with a look at every page in there.  So, it was important that I was retrieving my morning jolt of news. 

At least it was until I walked right into one of those hidden spider webs that had been surreptitiously constructed during the night, stretching between our front yard tree and the front door of car parked in the driveway.  That’s not so unusual in itself, mind you.  And I respect the hard work our spider neighbors do at maintaining some semblance of control over the bug population.  But the strand that I ran into was exactly at eye level.  Strange feeling to suddenly have a strand of sticky spider web draped across both eyes.  Temporary blindness.  Frantic flailing of my arms and wiping of my face.  Those situations have to be some of the funniest ever for an outside observer, don’t you think?  From afar there is no discernible intruder.  Just a strange human being waving his arms and slapping himself in the face.  Perhaps sometimes, though not in this particular case, also adding a particularly girlish scream into the mix.  Go on.  Imagine it right now.  It has to bring forth at least a chuckle. 

Yeah.  So … not exactly excited about having that happen again.  Ever.  Gotta love the spiritual applications, though.  Sometimes circumstances can rise up literally overnight and catch you totally unawares, temporarily blinding you to what you know to be the guidelines of God.  Others watching you wallow in your worries don’t necessarily see the real cause of your distress.  To them you appear to be struggling with thin air, with nothing.  And they may even say things like, “Get over it” or “What’s your problem?” or “How hard can it be?”  you want to lash out at them, but to be honest, they are well down on your list of priorities at the moment.  All you can think about are the circumstances you are drowning in.  Whew.  Ever been there?  It’s not fun.  But it doesn’t have to be a permanent state of affairs either.  Usually isn’t.  Best approach is always to stop being frantic for a second.  Look up in prayer first.  Then, with the wisdom (and peace) of a divine set of eyes, begin to deal with your circumstances.  The answer might be as easily forthcoming as an “Oh, of course” moment.  It may require actually asking for help with that one particularly sticky part of the web that just keeps hanging on to your ear, annoying you over and over again.  But once it is removed, the feeling is oh-so wonderful.  May God be with you today in your web cleaning.

Psalms 5:3 says “In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

Father, be with all of us as we clean off the annoying webs of circumstance that keep us from really connecting with you.  Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2016

March 14 – “Anderson Addendum and Awesome Accounting”

I wanted to add just two more quick anecdotes to the Anderson wedding account of a few days ago.  I will try to make the changes on that page, but just in case I can’t figure out how, here they are:

Next up was the request of the bride that I appeal to the crowd not to use their cell phones to take pictures during the ceremony.  I figured I had to do something to get their attention first, so I regally approached the stage.  Once there I pulled out my own cell phone and with great rigor and exaggerated motions, I took a selfie with the crowd in the background.  Then I turned to the group and said, Sara has asked that you not do anything like that with your cell phones during the ceremony.  And remember, she is a cop, so if you do she will probably arrest you.”

Oh, and speaking of Ethan, that showman disguised as a ring bearer.  When I asked, “Who presents this woman to be married to this man?” the bride’s Dad dutifully and respectfully answered, “I do,” at which point an echo was heard bouncing through the building.  It was Ethan crying out, “I do, too.” 

As I said before, there were many, many others.  Cory and Sara … write all this stuff down.  You’ll want to remember it in days to come.

Now to the Awesome Accounting … We had a great time of worship Sunday morning.  More than fifty folks were there to hear Kelly Boyer, Missionary Accountant (hence the article title) and to worship Jesus.  Kelly did a masterful job, by the way.  In fact check out this post from the Seaside web page by one of our visitors, Lori Wilson:

Worshiping with folks at Seaside Church in Jamaica Beach church, in Galveston, and today a girl who grew up in that church came back from Ethiopia, where she had been for six months setting up a refuge center for girls under age 17 who are in the sex industry.  She just graduated from Baylor, felt God calling her to Ethiopia, then God lead her to manage the finances for the non-profit, Arise Global. It’s refreshing to see how strongly God is moving, even at a tiny church on the beach. Praise the Lord!

After worship a group of us just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.  We were rehashing old Glorieta youth camp stories.  Someone even had the bright idea that we try to arrange a reunion of any Seasider who has ever been to a Centrifuge camp with us.  Maybe even have the reunion at Glorieta.  I heard Marcus might be willing to drive a van if we could cram fifteen people in it for the entire 13 hour drive.  After all, it wouldn’t be any fun otherwise, would it?  We’ll see how serious you guys are.  So who’s gonna do all the legwork?  Call Glorieta.  Get the word out to Seasiders.  You guys are adults now, remember?  Ouch.

Revelation 7:11-12 says, “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’”

Father, thank you again for every one of those youngsters who attended camp with us over the years.  Guide them in their adult journey, and draw them to yourself.  Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

March 13 – “Sowing machine”

I am sore today.  The kind of sore that has wormed its way unto the nether reaches of the realm of body parts I didn’t even know I had.  And why would this be so?  What possible reason could exist for inflicting such displeasure upon my person?

It was the flower bed.  We worked yesterday to clear out one whole flower bed in the front yard.  That task usually takes four or five days if Chris does it alone.  But together we hammered it out.  We were a sowing machine, so to speak.  Well, not exactly sowing.  We weren’t planting anything.  More pulling weeds and bagging up the sycamore leaves that have provided ground cover for the winter.  And tugging on dollar grass.  You never really get rid of dollar grass.  It’s roots are endless.  It has a peaceful coexistence treaty with the other plants that allows it to wrap its roots around and through the most difficult of spaces.

Speaking of other plants, we uncovered what looks to be a tomato plant returning on its own from last year’s crop.  Maybe a bell pepper as well.  We also uncovered some more Easter lilies.  Well, Mother’s Day lilies, to be more accurate.  We have yet to have one bloom on Easter. 

Actually, Chris had an ulterior motive for doing that particular task yesterday.  It was so Cailyn and she could plant some flower seeds that Mrs. Betty gave her.  Cailyn is quite the little farmer.  She made several rows in the dirt with a spade and carefully placed each seed in its proper spot.  And all without getting even a little bit dirty.  Well, maybe a little bit, but she did wash her hands right away.  Gotta avoid that extra bath at all costs, you know.  So I guess in the end we did do some planting of a crop.  That’s sowing.  So with Cailyn in the mix we did indeed become the sowing machine.

Revelation 7:10 says, “And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

Father, grow those seeds so Cailyn can see again your miracle of new live from buried seeds.  Amen.