Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 30 – “Spare”

After Honor Guard graduation (Which went really well, by the way.  I got to deliver the invocation and benediction), Chris and I put the spare tire back on the truck.  It was one of those underneath the bed jobs with the cable that lowers it down and up.  They are usually pretty easy, but not this time.  The little pipe that is the entry point for the jack handle was bent.  It appeared that a previous user got frustrated and just pinched it with a pair of pliers and used a wrench to turn it.  I followed suit, frustration and all.  It took us a while, but we accomplished it. 

Next we took off the tire we had just changed – the one that had the bolt in it that had to have the emergency repairs.  Why? Because the only way the hubcap would fit back on was from the inside out.  And of course, in the heat of the moment I forgot to stick it in there when we were putting it on in the parking lot.  At least there weren’t any surprises there.  Just cranking the jack up and down.  I had a great supervisor, though.  She even got me a cool glass of water just when I needed it.  Mission number two accomplished.

By that time I was on a roll.  I decided to do the absolutely unthinkable … open the hood.  I used to do a lot of work on our vehicles, and honestly there is so much room in the truck that I bet I could get in there and do some damage.  So I decided to replace the windshield washer pump.  It’s been out a long time. Like … years.  And once I got it off, it looked it.  All corroded and literally crumbling in my hands.  No wonder it didn’t work.  So note to self: change the washer pump in less than 25 years.  I went to the nearest auto parts shop, Autozone on Ave. S.  There were several customers ahead of me, so I settled in to wait a few minutes.  But then one of the three employees declared that she had to leave to cash a check, and she was out the door.  Both of the other employees were working on the same computer with the same customer.  That immediately increased the number of customers ahead of me to six or eight.  And no one had even bothered to acknowledge my presence.  Nope.  I was already east of 61st Street, so I decided to go to O’Reilly’s on Broadway.  It’s where I wanted to go, anyway.  They helped us out on the AC blower that Nathan changed out.  Sure enough, they had exactly what I needed, and even greeted me when I came in the door.  I’ll go back there.

While I was all dirty, I also checked on the air conditioner.  Sadly, it’s the old kind, the type that’s been banned since the late 90’s.  I priced getting it updated to the new system.  It was less than I thought.  $150.  Still, when you don’t have it, it might as well be a million.  We’ll start saving up for that one, I guess.

Mark 9:36-37 says, “He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’”

Father, thank you for the transportation you have provided us with.  We’re trying to be good stewards of it.  Amen.

Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29 – “Field trip”

The Honor Guard Academy has a session on proper techniques for folding the flag at a funeral and presenting it to the grieving survivors.  Training for such a serious and solemn occasion can take a really stressful toll on the presenters, so sometimes a little levity is helpful to break up the tension.  On one such occasion the presenter knelt on one knee before one of the instructors to present the flag.  The instructor sniffled a bit, pretending to cry.  The student took that in stride and removed his cap, placing it in the instructor’s hands as well.  And then he shocked everyone when he quietly, and without breaking a smile, said, “Oh, and there is one other thing.”  With that he reached into his pocket and pretended to bring out and open up a ring box.  Needless to say the instructor lost his focus just a bit.  That’s one that will be remembered a while.

The group’s assignment yesterday was to prepare a funeral.  But it was not just a random, make up your own details kind of thing.  The instructors created a scenario of a line of duty death and the students had to work together to role play talking to the families and the funeral home and the heads of the departments and even the press.  One instructor transformed himself into a reporter from the National Inquirer who was trying to gain access to the proceedings.  The guys went out of their way to be patient and kind to him at first, but he continued to be a problem and eventually wound up “being arrested.”  I got to be a part of the scenario as a clergy consultant, and I have to admit, I did get into the role almost as much as the instructors did.  I threw a few wrenches into their venue plans when I told them the local Cardinal would be coming to the service and the church simply wouldn’t hold more than 160 people.  I also refused a request for a dog to be in the church.  They ended up changing to a bigger venue, which was the point of that glitch anyway.  Typically line of duty deaths draw way more guests than could ever be anticipated.  To their credit, the students did a tremendous job.  One of the guys from Dallas had been through several real life situations, so he took command of the group and helped them through everything. 

And all that happened before 10:00.  The next phase was a field trip to a local mortuary.  Malloy and Sons Funeral home graciously opened up their entire facility to the group, so they could walk through standing guard at caskets.  Again, the guys had learned the procedures well earlier in the week, so here on site they were able to execute with very little difficulty.

Lunch was next, with phase two at the City Cemetery, where they would walk through an actual on-site funeral, with one casket on a fire truck and another in a hearse.  I never made it to lunch.  When I got to the parking lot I had a flat on the truck.  Big old bolt sticking in it.  And a flat on the spare.  Poor form on my part, I know.  My Dad would have really “Tsk’ed” me for that one.  I managed to get hold of Nathan, and while he came I got the tire loosened and the spare off its rack.  He tried to fill up the spare, but it wouldn’t hold any air.  So we ended up taking both tires to Firestone to be repaired.  Chris met us there, gave me the car so I could get to the cemetery, and Nathan took her to his house where she borrowed one of their cars so she could pick up Cailyn while Nathan and April headed into Texas City to pick up the crawfish for April’s birthday bash on Saturday.  Whew.  How’s that for on the spot logistical planning?

I wasn’t too late for the mock graveside.  I played the officiant role in the procession, as they unloaded caskets and followed a flag detail to the mock gravesite.  Some of the police officers had shotguns to portray a 21 gun salute.  There was even a bugle to play taps.  Fascinating contraption.  A tape player of sorts (OK, OK, I’m showing my age) was inserted into the bugle.  With a tap of a button, all the bugler had to do was hold the instrument to his lips and allow the recording to play.  During one of the preparation run-throughs, the music didn’t start right away, so the bugler turned the bugle around to look at the mechanism.  And of course it started playing right into his face.  Good thing that didn’t happen during an actual funeral.  Teachable moment.

It took almost three hours, but Firestone finally managed to repair the leak in one tire and put a new one on the spare.  Chris took me back to the truck and we got the tire back on.  Forgot the hubcap though.  Seems it was supposed to go on before your put the tire onto the truck.  Great.  I didn’t stop to fix it, though.  I didn’t hook the spare onto its moorings, either.  Those will be projects for another day.  Like maybe today.

Mark 10:27 says, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’”

Father, thank you for the opportunity these fire fighters and police officers had to experience this hands-on training for such a solemn occasion.  Help them remember the training and to call on their new network of resources if they should need it.  Amen.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 28 – “Inside St. Mary’s”

Chris and I went to another funeral yesterday.  This one was for our neighbor who was the recipient of an emergency some nights ago.  The service was held at St. Mary’s Basilica, a church I haven’t been inside since I went there once a week for chapel when I was in kindergarten.  It was damaged pretty badly by Hurricane Ike, and the Catholic church spent a lot of money getting it refurbished.  When it was reopened, an archbishop came down to lead the dedication service. 

So, what’s a basilica?  I did my homework.  It’s not the snake that Harry Potter fought.  That’s a basilisk.  The word “basilica”comes from a Greek one meaning “royal house.”  The official Catholic definition is fairly simple: a basilica is a church building that has been accorded special privileges by the pope.  There are four main ones in Rome, and more than 1,580 minor ones world-wide.  There are only 69 in the United States. 

A church can be designated a minor basilica “because of their antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic worth, and/or significance as centers of worship.”  That’s from a 1989 document out of the Vatican.   

I’m pretty sure That last one is the reason this church made it.  It is certainly old.  The priest referred to it as “The Mother Church of Texas.”  The architectural and artistic value is most assuredly there as well.  In fact, that’s what really struck me.  It is ornate and beautiful and amazing – all things I tend to say about really old structures – but it also looks brand new.  It was like entering a time warp back to the 1800’s and being a part of it when it was first opened.  Well, except for the air conditioning, which worked really well.  I recommend checking it out next time you are in downtown Galveston near the old Martini Theater.  I’m not sure if it is open to the public, but it would sure be worth your time.

Mark 9:50 says, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Father, walk with Mr. Quiroga’s family through their grief.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 27 – “Through the storms”

We woke up this morning to some serious thunderstorms.  Lots of lightning and heavy rain.  And the Honor Guard Academy is about to start an intensive two days of training.  Today they are learning how to properly handle caskets.  That should be no problem.  It can be done indoors and under the cover of Moody Gardens’ drive through area next to the parking garage.  Thanks, by the way, should go out to the ER Johnson Family Mortuary.  They are loaning the Academy a casket and hearse for the training. 

Tomorrow might be an issue, though.  It is predicted that the rain will continue.  That will be a difficult scenario, because the whole day is set aside to perform a mock line of duty death funeral.  They are even scheduled to go to a local cemetery and perform the duties of a graveside burial.  These instructors seem to be pretty creative, though.  It’ll be interesting to see how they handle whatever comes up. 

I can’t go to the sessions today.  The older guy who was the recipient of the 10:30 p.m. fire call next door to us a week or so ago died the other day.  His funeral mass is this morning at the local Catholic basilica, so Chris and I are planning to go.  We are kind of praying the rain backs off a bit for that, but it came down so heavy already this morning that they might have already postponed the actual burial. 

Wow.  Caskets and hearses and funerals and cemeteries and basilicas and line of duty deaths.  Not to mention dark, stormy, unsettled weather.  The next two days hold the potential for stirring up a lot of buried emotions for these young academy guys. 

Mark 9:41 says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”

Father, would you wrap your arms around the young men who might have some deep-seeded issues about death?  Draw them to yourself through the storms … of the weather, of this really tough training segment, and most especially, of their lives. Amen

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 26 – “The Flag”

I attended my first session at the honor guard training academy yesterday.  We learned some of the many regulations regarding the American flag.  In no particular order, here are a few of the things that jumped out at me:

There is always supposed to be a flag posted at every polling place.  Seaside has been one for years, and I don’t remember there ever being a flag there.  I’ll have to look into getting us one.
When a flag is displayed on a wall, the union of the stripes and the block of stars should always be at the upper left corner.  Similarly, when a flag is displayed between two ladder trucks at a funeral, you have to pay attention to the compass.  If the road runs north and south, the block should always be on the east side.  If the road runs east and west, the block should be on the north side.  Easy way to remember that is our first states were in the Northeast.  Complicated stuff.
The American flag is always flown above other flags, like states or POW or local entities.  If there are numerous state flags represented, they can be lined up in one of two ways.  Ideally they should be in the order in which the state joined the union.  If there is no resident historian, option two is simply alphabetical order. 
If the American flag is being flown with the flags of other countries, such as at the United Nations, the flags are all flown at the same height.
There is one occasion when another flag can be placed above the American flag:  When worship services are being conducted on a naval vessel, the Christian flag is placed on top. 
The American flag can only be lowered to half-mast on a direct order from the President.  He can give permission for governors to make the call in their own jurisdiction, but ultimately it is his responsibility.
The position of the flag that is draped over a casket at a funeral is very specific.  The block of stars is placed at the head of the casket such that the viewer at the foot of the casket sees the block to his left.  And as an aside, caskets adorned with a flag should always be carried feet first, except for fallen presidents and clergy.  Not sure why clergy are included with the presidents.
If a flag is painted on the tail of an airplane, it should look like the flag is flapping in the breeze as the plane is flying.

Now let me close with a quiz for you.  See how you do.  The flag must be taken down for the night unless there is adequate lighting for it to be illuminated.  There are only two places that are exceptions to that rule.  Anybody know where that is?  If you can’t find the answer, let me know and I’ll post it. 

Mark 9:36-37 says, “He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’”

Father, thank you for the effort those instructors put into a fascinating look at flag etiquette.  I sure had no idea there was that much to it.  Amen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

April 25 – “Sweat the details”

Yesterday was not one of those “take a leisurely nap on Sunday afternoon” kind of days for us.  I went to the opening session of the National Honor Guard Academy over at Moody Gardens.  Personnel from fore departments, police departments and EMS units all over the state are here to learn how to most effectively honor the flag, the fallen, and the family.  It started at 1:00, so after church I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and headed over.  They are graciously allowing me to sit in on whatever conference topics I can without paying the $400+ tuition.  It pays to be the host group, I suppose. 

Looks like this conference may be a little more than some of these guys and girls anticipated.  They have to start each morning 6 a.m. with physical training “to get them stretched out.”  They will be doing a lot of drilling and learning formations, so the instructors “don’t want any pulled muscles.”  It will be very close to a military training mission, and I could tell right away the ones who were familiar with military life.  They stood a little more rigid when at attention.  They moved instinctively at the commands given.  Not to say the others didn’t do well, however.  I look forward to seeing how that particular intangible spreads throughout the group over the course of the week. 

They have a lot of ground to cover in the teaching modules.  Things like Establishing Standard Operating Procedures, Flag Etiquette, Funeral Planning, Colors Posting, Casket Vigil and Casket Movement, and Line of Duty Death Notification and Planning. Beyond the classroom, though, the training group’s stated core values are honor, dignity and respect.  They will attempt to instill that in the group as well.  And the other thing that stood out to me was their emphasis on family.  Your own family, the family you are dealing with in a crisis situation, and the families of your fellow emergency personnel. 

And finally, they teach the group to do it all with excellence.  Comments like, “You set the standard,”  You are the Blue Angels,” and “You are the Tip of the Spear” all reflected that goal.  The lead instructor kind of summed it up this way … “It’s up to us to sweat the details.”   

Mark 9:35 says, “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’”

Father, thank you for this opportunity for our Galveston fire fighters and police and EMS guys to get a taste of this form of ministry.  Give them all energy to get through the next few days.  Amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April 24 – “It’s hot out there”

Add one more experience to our tally of “first experiences.”  Yesterday we joined Christina and her kiddos for the re-enactment of the Battle of San Jacinto at the San Jacinto monument.  I have been to the monument and the Battleship Texas before, but that was a long, long – OK, really long time ago.  And I never had been to the top of the monument, so that was my particular goal for the day. 

We had to park several miles away from the site and hop onto one of their old yellow school bus shuttles.  That actually wasn’t so bad.  The morning was still fairly cool and the windows were down.  Noa loved it.  But the coolness would not last.

First up was a birds of prey demonstration.  Very interesting to meet falcons and hawks and owls and even an American eagle.  Problem was, the aforementioned departure of the cool had begun in earnest.  It was, in fact … hot.  We made it through the demonstration and headed inside the monument.  We had to buy tickets for the ride up to the observation deck, but I managed to get us the senior rate.  Fifty cents off the cover price.  Hey, it all adds up.  The elevator ride was … an elevator ride.  Took 30 or so seconds to go up something like 50 stories.  The most interesting thing about it was the tiny little window.  It was there so you could watch the 800 plus stairs flash by on the way up and down.  Strange attraction.  The view was pretty incredible up on the deck.  Ships and swamps and trees and tiny little ant-people.  Hey, I told you we were high up. 

On our way to the re-enactment area we walked through the vendor booths.  Everything from real camel rides to a fake bucking bull ride.  Plenty of crafty stuff for Chris to look at, and lots of kid-oriented paraphernalia.  The highlight of that leg of the journey was when Noa and Josiah each held a snake.  The older two?  Uh, not so much.  Way to show up the older generation, guys.

We managed to snag a ride on the golf cart express get to the re-enactment site.  The breeze during the ride was a welcome respite from the heat.  Now the site was really interesting.  They had tents set up and characters in full period dress welcoming you into the Mexican and Texican camps.  We met one Mexican soldier who had a tiny little camera strapped to his hat.  He told us he was a teacher, and he planned to show his movie to his class.  Only thing was, he was scheduled to die in the re-enactment so he wasn’t sure how the whole camera idea would work.  We located him during the battle and I watched his demise.  Comically, a few seconds after his character bit the dust, I noticed his hat mysteriously turning itself toward the action.  Hope he got some good footage.  Micah suggested that he have a sub show the video and let the class think he was in a real battle. 

The re-enactment itself was certainly interesting.  Longest 18-minute battle I have ever seen.  The viewing area was out in a field with no shade of any kind.  And did I mention that it was hot?  I finally bought a little souvenir parasol for some shade.  It did help a lot.  There were explosions and guns shooting and canons firing.  Horses sped by.  A wagon pulled by two Texas longhorns.  A narrator told the story of the Battle of San Jacinto.  Problem was, he would tell a segment, then have to wait a long time for the actors to complete what he had just said.  I think the final time total was in the ball park of an hour or more.  And that was after they postponed the start time 30 minutes so more people could get there.  Trouble on the freeway was slowing down those yellow school buses.  The crowd did finally get into the performance.  A raucous cheer went up as the Texicans charged the Mexican camp.  Texas won … again.

The wait to get back on the bus to get back to the car was over an hour.  The heat was so bad by then that they had set up a free water station and were encouraging people to go inside if they got too hot.  Of course the line to get to the free water was too long to bother with.  They even brought over some of their entertainment: a flea circus operator, a guitar player, and a fiddler.  Nice try, but did I mention it was … hot?

We finally made it to the bus and headed home.  I was able to watch the Astros progress on my phone on the way.  Micah wanted a play-by-play account, so that kept us occupied until the good guys won.  All in all it was an educational experience that everyone should do at least once.  But when you go … take an umbrella.  See, it’s hot out there …

Mark 9:23 says, “'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Father, thank you for the dedication of those volunteers who put on that event.  As hot as it was for us, it must have been really bad for them.  Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 23 – “An actual date”

I woke up with a really sore and swollen left knee, I suppose from my yard work efforts the day before.  Chris woke up with her usual sore and tight right leg from her I-band-itis, or whatever they call it in medical terms.  But between us, we figured we had one good set of legs, so we decided what we needed was some exercise.  And what better way to get the ol’ legs moving that to go on a date.  Yep, an actual date.

We have season passes to Moody Gardens, and Chris has been wanting to go to the Imax theater over there, so that was a good place to start.  I know.  Where’s the walking in watching a movie for an hour?  But we would have to walk in from the parking lot and up all those stairs.  That counts.  There were very few cars in said parking lot, though, and Chris actually parked fairly close to the front door.  We wondered what was going on elsewhere that no one was at Moody Gardens.  But as for us, we trudged on and made our way in to the theater.  No line at all to get in, and only about ten others in the whole huge place.  We settled in with our 3D glasses and waited for the show to begin. 

Do you know why they don’t tell you to put on the glasses until the lights are out?  We were playing with them before the feature began.  If you put them on with the light on, the entire right eye is completely blacked out.  Is it a principle of 3D technology that it is easier to fool one eye – one side of your brain?  Indeed a query to ponder. 

Our reverie was grossly imposed upon just as the movie was about to start.  The entry doors opened and a flood of elementary-aged youngsters began to file in.  They completely filled the row in front of us and didn’t stop there.  I have no idea how many finally made their appearance, but the place was suddenly bursting at the seams.  It was fun to watch the kids watch the 3D movie, though.  More than once they reached out to try and touch something that seemed so close yet was so far away. 

The movie itself was a visit to some of the National Parks.  Apparently this is National Parks Week.  We joined via video a team of crazy people who did weird things like climb Devil’s Tower and run up mountains and worst of all … go camping in between.  One good thing … now that we’ve seen it we don’t actually have to go there, right?  Yeah, didn’t work with Chris, either.  Now she has even more places to see on her bucket list. 

After the movie we actually did do some walking.  We decided to make our way through the Rain Forest Pyramid.  It was very different from the last time I was in there, which would have been sometime before Hurricane Ike, so at least eight years ago.  We saw a monkey.  And a little deer.  We even saw one monkey pretending to be a two-toed sloth.  We never found the actual sloth, though.  The bats were very active.  The otter was chewing on her own foot for some reason.  Gotta love those otters.  The komodo dragon was roaming around in his habitat.  There was a netted area for the Jurassic butterflies that Moody Gardens has become famous for releasing to terrorize the island every so often.  We heard part of the teaching on the rays swimming in the pond area.  I liked the humongous coelacanth-looking fish that was swimming around.  The birds, as ever were making lots of racket.  All in all it is still a fascinating experience, made somewhat more so by the installation of a makeshift air conditioning system that blew cool air at the walkways.  They must have had too many people pass out from the heat.  It didn’t seem to be affecting the creatures, though. 

As we left we noticed one other thing.  The place was suddenly packed.  There were school children everywhere.  There were families making their way between the lines of matching t-shirted youngsters.  The parking lot was almost full.  What a difference an hour or two made.  And the reason behind the sudden influx of attenders?  Yesterday was Earth Day.  Can’t beat a great opportunity like that for that most awesome of reasons to skip school … Field Trip!

Mark 8:35 says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Father, take care of all those little guys who are learning every day.  And walk with their teachers as they work with them.  Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2016

April 22 – “Trapped!”

It was a dark and stormy night …
Well, not exactly night.  It was more like early afternoon.  And it wasn’t dark and stormy … yet.  Black clouds loomed on the horizon to the North, however, their churning promising storms to come.  At least if they made it across the Bay.  All signs pointed to a gloomy couple of hours ahead.

But Chris did have those follow-up x-rays to attend to from her earlier doctor’s appointment.  And she was determined to then attend the meeting of the Wednesday Club.  All on the East End of the Island.  All right in the path of the rapidly approaching storm.  Although she had her new umbrella with her, she offered a brief prayer, “All I want is to make it into the building before the rain starts.”  That prayer was answered, but perhaps she should have started it a little differently than “ALL I want …”

Not long after she checked in at radiology, she began to hear the incessant patter of rain on the roof.  But she was safe inside now.  What could possibly happen?  Soon the typically chipper radiology tech led her back to the x-ray room to begin.  The doctor had ordered pictures of her back, hips, and knees to get a full picture of what was going on to cause the pain in her leg.  And that process began. 

First all of the standing pictures.  None of those were difficult in any way.  It is usually the MRI or CT scan experience that causes Chris’ extreme claustrophobia to kick in.  But this was just x-rays.  There would be none of that, right?  Well …

Next came the pictures to be taken while she was lying on the table.  Again, shouldn’t be a problem, right?  It’s just an x-ray, right?  It did start out that way.  The tech got her arranged on the table just so.  She positioned the x-ray machine’s arm so that the little “X marks the spot” light was exactly where she wanted it.  And then in that move that always creeps me out every time I have x-rays, she left the room.  Oh, she was close enough to continue with her pleasant, perky conversation, but she was protected from the evil radiation rays.  And then, just as she was about to pull the trigger on one final shot, an explosion of thunder literally rocked the room.  The lights flickered briefly and then and then went completely black.  The computer operating the x-ray machine went dark and began its slow, automatic rebooting process.  A flurry of activity began as the entire building was in the dark after an apparent lightning strike.  It took a few moments for the backup generators to kick in, but by then “it” had begun.  What’s “it,” you may ask? 

Remember where our beloved Chris was when all this excitement began?  That’s right.  Stuck on the x-ray table about to have one last picture taken.  And something began to happen when the lights went out.  The massive photo-taking arm of the x-ray machine interpreted the computer crash as an order to shut down for the evening.  So it began its automatically programmed journey to its final evening resting place … right on top of the exam table.  But Chris was still on said table.  And she watched as the huge arm slowly approached.  Somewhat frantically she began to weigh her options.  The machine itself abutted the table on one side.  No escape there.  The arm inched closer.  If she could maneuver her gimpy leg just right she could make her way off the table in the other direction.  Still the arm droned its way closer and closer.  To her credit, at about that moment the technician came to her senses and raced to Chris’ side, repeating, “I’m coming.  I’m coming.”  And the arm got closer and closer.  The side she arrived at, however, was Chris’ only visible means of escape from the slow unending drop of that mechanical beast, sure intent on crushing her like a tiny little big.  The situation was rapidly reaching MRI claustrophobia levels.  Closer.  Closer.  Trapped.  Crushed.  What would that be like?  Closer.  Closer. 

Finally, after what seemed like hours of agony, the tech heroically reached out and grabbed the approaching behemoth and managed to wrestle it to a stop mere inches from Chris’ body.  The electricity began to return.  The computer finished its reboot and regained control of the maniacal machine.  A second tech arrived breathlessly to make sure all was well.  And my little trooper?  Chris was awesome.  She even let them finish out that last picture. She was a little late to Wednesday Club, but to make it through an experience like that?  Priceless.

Mark 8:34 says, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”

Father, thank you for answered prayer, whether it be a respite from the rain or the strong arms of an x-ray technician.  Amen.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 21 – “An Eerie Musical Tribute”

I went to the funeral the other day of a lady I knew from First Baptist Church Galveston and from her connection to one the local funeral homes here.  She was the secretary in charge over there, and she knew pretty much everyone who walked through the door.  I didn’t know much about her before the funeral, though.  She lived quite the impressive life.  Not the least of her accomplishments was the fact that she served in the Marines and later joined the Navy Reserves.

The funeral itself was impressive enough, even down to the accordion that was part of the praise team.  Never seen that one before.  Her daughter preached a right decent sermon before the sermon.  We sang some old hymns and heard eulogizing from friends and family.  We were not able to do a graveside service because of the massive amounts of rain we have been receiving in the area.

But my favorite part of the service by far involved the military honor guard.  It was a mixed team with two guys from the Marines and two from the Navy in full dress uniforms.  One of each took an end in the folding of the flag at the end of the ceremony, and the respective commanders each made his salute before presenting it to the family.  By far the most impressive pointy in the whole affair, though, was the playing of Taps.  A bugler from the Navy and one from the Marine Corps joined together to play the most eerily beautiful rendition I have ever heard.  They created an echo effect, answering each other like I would have expected only from a team who had been playing together for years.  The fact that it was indoors made it even more effective as the sound careened off the walls and into our listening ears.  It certainly made people stand just a little taller and inspired just a little more respect than usual. 

Mark 8:29 says, “’But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ 
Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ.’”

Father, thank you for the experience of hearing that tribute.  It always helps to put appreciation in its proper place.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April 20 - “A fool in love”

I had a little scare Monday when Chris went to a doctor’s appointment.  She has been having some problems with pain shooting down the side of her leg.  There is a name for it, but I don’t remember what it is.  Some kind of inflammation that results in tightness of a really long ligament (hip to ankle, as I understand it).  The pain has been keeping her awake at night, so it was time to check back in with the doctor for some relief.  And let me hasten to say that she received a prescription for some anti-inflammatory medication as well as some exercises to be doing, so she is set for the near future. 

But what of the scare?  She texted me to let me know that it was taking a long time for the doctor to get to her.  But in that text-versation she happened to include this little tidbit: “At least in a room!  Elevated BP and low oxygen level!  Had to do pulse several times because the machine had it high!”  OK.  Now I am decidedly not medical personnel, so I confess that high blood pressure, low oxygen level and a racing pulse, all while sitting quietly in a doctor’s office caused me more than the usual level of concern.  And to top it all off … exclamation points.  Who uses so many exclamation points in a text?  At least it wasn’t all capital letters.  Then I would have panicked for sure. 

I texted back to ask if I needed to come over there (the office is within walking distance of our house).  When the answer didn’t come right away, I hustled Freddy into the laundry room and set out on foot – a trek to be at my bride’s side, to be a comfort and help in times of stress … and no doubt to be in the way.  I made it to the office in record on-foot time, and managed to force myself to sit quietly in the waiting room.  No one asked what I was doing there, so I nervously fumbled through FaceBook to kill some time.  It wasn’t long before Chris made her way out and signed out at the front desk.  I wouldn’t say she was particularly exhilarated to see me, but I don’t think she minded having me to talk to on the way home.  It did surprise her that I walked, though.  Hey, a fool in love will do anything …

Mark 7:37 says, People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”

Father, thank you for the good news that Chris’ only problem was her original problem.  Would you give her some relief from that?  Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April 19 – “Sirens in the night”

I responded to a late-night fire call last night.  Well, it was late for me – around 10:30.  Usually I check out the call on the fire department app on my phone, but this one was different.  The sirens stopped somewhere in our neighborhood, somewhere just outside our house, in fact.  I was puzzled that no dispatch had come through, so I kept checking my phone app between words on my crossword puzzle.  And finally it came.  The call was in our neighborhood, all right.  How about right next door?

I quickly dressed and went out to see what was going one.  Sure enough, an ambulance was pulled up to our next-door neighbor’s house.  They have been caring for an elderly brother with a heart condition for about a month now.  His sister told me he had been complaining of pain, so she gave him his medication, but he reacted to it in an unexpected way, so she called 911 for some help.  Definitely the right thing to do.

Paramedics and fire fighters arrived in record time and began working on him, first in the house.  Then they got him to the ambulance and continued working for what I’m sure seemed like an eternity to the family.  One of his sisters and his son drove on to meet them at the hospital.  One sister stayed to ride in the ambulance.  I spent some time talking with her and praying with her while waiting for the order to head to the hospital. 

An EMS supervisor eventually arrived on the scene, and not long after the order finally came to pull out.  With both paramedics and one fire fighter in the rear still working, one of the firefighter crew drove the ambulance.  The other two fire fighters followed in the engine. 

I was not just proud to be chaplain for these guys who were working so hard to do their job efficiently and professionally ... and with compassion.  I was relieved and encouraged as well that they were doing it in my back yard.  Thank you fire fighters of engine four and paramedics who responded last night.  I haven’t heard yet what the ultimate result of the call was, but the family can rest assured that everything possible was  done for their loved one.

Psalms 5:11-12 says, “But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And  may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You.  For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.”

Father, please walk with that patient and his family – our neighbors.  Surround them with your love so they know you are with them.  Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 18 – “Sunday Afternoon”

We had a really large contingent of visitors at church yesterday.  From Dallas to Kansas to brand new residents of Sea Isle, they all converged upon Seaside to have a chance to worship Jesus.  And then a lot of them agreed to stick around after church for our Third Sunday Dinner on the Grounds.  Lots of food and some good connections made with great people. 

Our afternoon was one to covet, for sure. At least part of it.  Cailyn and Chris went on a long walk and collected sea shells from the vacant lot next door.  Hey, this is Galveston.  There are seashells everywhere.  Meanwhile I watched the bulk of the Astros victory over the Tigers.  See?  How was that for being honest?  I know I might have dozed off just a little, maybe once or twice.  But I did see the Springer homer and the final rally with the Marisnek headfirst slide into home plate for the winning run.  Oh, and a home run or two for the bad guys as well.  So, see?  What could I have possibly missed? 

The not-so-covetable part came after the ball game.  I was actually going to mow the grass, a feat that requires a trip over to Nathan’s house to borrow a lawn mower and edger.  But it was doing its best to rain.  I think the humidity had reached about 98.9%.  So instead I pondered my second option - spreading out the bag of Weed n Feed we had in the garage, just waiting for such an opportunity.  So take your pick, oh allergy connections in my nose.  Grass clippings or dust particles from fertilizer and weed killer?  The Weed n Feed won out.  The looming dark clouds and the possibility that the rains would soak the chemicals into the ground without us having to use city water tipped the scales.  Of course we didn’t really get that much rain.  Not like the swamp land to the north of us commonly referred to as Houston.  I understand they had 16 inches of rain last night.  Schools, busses, even city government is all shut down.  Not so much here on the Island.  The ground is wet.  The sky is cloudy.  Pretty much a typical April day. 

Mark 6:56 says, “And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”

Father, please give the Houstonians some relief from all that rain.  Amen.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April 17 – “Softball, surfing, and the sky is falling”

Cailyn’s softball tournament continued yesterday with the infusion of teams from Lake Jackson and Angleton.  Boy, those youngsters from the country are sure well-fed farm girls.  Their entire teams were bigger than Cailyn.  Come to find out, they sent all-star teams of seven and eight-year-olds to play against our four through seven-year-olds.  Our gals acquitted themselves well, but were simply overmatched.  Cailyn did have an RBI against the Lake Jackson team to go along with her game-winning triple against another Galveston team.  The final outcome looked like it would be the Angleton team winning it all with Lake Jackson in second.  Great experience for our girls, though. 

The rest of our afternoon was spent at my little brother’s house on Tiki Island.  He and his wife have sold it, so they had a going-away party.  Kind of sad.  Remember, we stayed there for a while after Hurricane Ike.  They were also giving away some of the items they have collected over the years they have owned the property.  We picked up a surfboard for Cailyn and delivered it to her house.  Then we had to return into Texas to babysit Kel’s kids.  He and Christina were going to the Art Walk in Galveston.  Seems the assistant coach of Micah’s baseball team is in a band, and they were to play.  Unfortunately the band’s lead singer got sick so they had to cancel the gig.  Hopefully Kel and Christina still had a good time. 

Back at the house, I drew Noa duty when it came to bedtime.  I read a few books and stayed with her until she went to sleep.  Then I had to make my way out of her bed.  Noisy creation, that bed.  But she must have been pretty tired, because she never moved in spite of the squeaking.  The boys watched part of a movie.  Something about Chicken Little, I think.  The sky is falling and all.  They didn’t get to finish it, though.  Bedtime struck.  Once they were off to bed I found the Astros game on the radio.  They didn’t have ROOT TV on their television.  Another loss for the Astros.  They will come around.  Gotta have faith.

Mark 6:50 says, “Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.’”

Father, thank you that our faith in you results in something far greater than an American League pennant.  Amen.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 16 – “Batman vs. Superman”

Well, we finally made it to see Batman vs. Superman yesterday.  I will try to be careful to avoid spoilers, because at least one of my sons has not seen it yet (Josh).  Now, at the outset I have to say that Chris really liked it.  The jury is still out for me.  I am in the process of working through all the Marvel Disease moments (that would be where every superhero is fundamentally flawed, and whatever their angst of the moment is can take up a substantial portion of the story line, making for the psychological intensity that led me as a child to be bored stiff with all things Marvel) to get down to the actual DC-classic story line, climax and resolutions.  Or in this case, resolution and then climax, which felt a little backward to me. 

OK. So in no apparent order, here are my DC-ish struggles.
Metropolis and Gotham just across the bay from each other.  If they were that close I’m pretty sure Superman could have handled things.  I think they were more like New York and Chicago.

Batman doesn’t die when Superman hits him the first time (pre-kryptonite gas).  Something about a super suit of armor.  But hey … it’s Superman.  Suit or no suit.  Besides, all Superman has to do is punch Batman in his exposed jaw and lights out.  Sorry … too much revelation there?  I’ll back off some. 

Again, it reeks of the aforementioned Marvel Disease.  Batman is the DC poster boy for a flawed guy, but he is never evil.  The whole point of superheroes, especially Superman, is to show good triumphs over evil.  So, Batman and even Superman to some extent falling victim to Luthor’s two-year ploy to turn them evil?  Batman has overcome enough strife in his life to handle whatever psychological warfare ol’ Lex can throw his way.  And Superman?  He lost his entire planet, for crying out loud. 

And don’t get me started on the whole secret sex relationship with Lois Lane.  Totally out of character.  But apparently necessary to sell movie tickets.

There are also quite a few visuals to push Superman as the Jesus/Messiah figure.  That idea has always been kind of in the background in the Superman story.  Both are somehow more than just human and have entered the world to save it.  I’ll forego some of the other connections I made along these lines for the sake of spoilers.  Let me just say that it ends sort of like Jesus Christ, Superstar.  It’s like you have eaten a full meal of Chinese food, but you are still not quite satisfied. 

Speaking of which, then there was the blatant introduction to the next movie with the group of meta-humans (great term stolen from the TV show, The Flash) Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman fighting the unknown danger that Batman somehow senses is coming.  I know there was another one, but I went to the bathroom while Diana Prince was looking through those computer files.  Chris recognized Flash and Aquaman, but not the other one.  Any help here?

 OK, so did I like the movie.  Well, sure I did.  I like pretty much all live action super hero movies (even if they do come from the Marvel stockhouse).  I don’t abide cartoons well, though.  But if a cartoon of any kind is longer than 20 minutes or so, my body shuts down and I go to sleep.  I think my Mom must have used them to calm me down when I was a kid.  Operant conditioning and all that.  But anyway … go see the movie.  Decide for yourself.  Become enraptured in the whole soap opera-esque universe of it all.  It is … fun.

Mark 6:45-46 says, “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”

Father, thank you for things like movies that entertain.  Actually thank you for the capacity to be entertained, to experience fun.  Gives us the tiniest taste of the joy that you offer.  Amen.

Friday, April 15, 2016

April 15 – “Honoring Chief Brantley”

I went to the funeral of a retired fire chief yesterday.  His son is a captain for the Galveston Fire Department.  It was a full honors affair.  Ladder trucks from Texas City and Alvin extended ladders and hung an American flag between them.  Several antique restored fire trucks (Chief Brantley was an avid restorer in his own right) as well as some industrial fire trucks (He was fire chief at one of the local plants) joined engines from Santa Fe (Where he lived for many years) and neighboring districts in a post-ceremony parade from the church to the funeral home.  Dozens of uniformed personnel from the area arrived to pay their respects.  We were all instructed to sit on the right side of the sanctuary.  That was quite a sight to behold.  Several of the local fire chiefs sat on the front row.  The representatives from Santa Fe filled the next few pews.  Then the rest of the section was covered with fire fighters, EMS technicians and paramedics, and even some police officers.

I paid special attention to the actions of the honor guard.  The Galveston guard members had worked hard with the Santa Fe guard to pull together into a cohesive unit for the process of guarding the casket at the wake and before the ceremony, and I couldn't have been prouder.  Their hard work was evident as the guard changes went off without a hitch and looked respectful and honorable every time.  Galveston guard leaders Cook and Vaughan offered their assistance quietly from the background and were careful to allow the Santa Fe group to honor Chief Brantley from a position of leadership. 

The ceremony revealed that Chief Brantley had been a strong believer in Christ, and because of that his family has a strong hope to see him again.  Powerful songs, whimsical anecdotes, and heartfelt sentiment reached out to family and friends with sympathy, encouragement, and peace.  One of my favorites was something along the lines of, “I know Joe is in heaven, because if he went to hell, he’d have the fire put out in no time.”

The ceremony ended solemnly with the final radio call-out and the ringing of the last call bell.  The uniformed personnel were then dismissed first, and we lined both sides of the pathway from the door to the back of Chief Brantley’s own restored fire truck, which would carry him on his final ride.  The uniformed personnel all stood at attention and saluted as the casket-bearers made their way between us.  And of course there were the spine-tingling strains of GFD bagpiper James Short playing Amazing Grace as he slowly walked away from the scene.  Always an intensely emotional experience.

And what a final ride it proved to be.  All of those fire vehicles that had waited patiently for the ceremony to end suddenly sprang to life and joined the parade of celebration back toward the town of Santa Fe.  And the town didn’t disappoint.  People lined the streets waving American flags to pay tribute to Chief Brantley and to give him one last “thank you” for a job well done.  Cars were pulled to the side of the road in that special show of respect only seen in small towns.  In fact, I noticed at one point traffic was so backed up on a side street that an 18 wheeler was stopped straddling a railroad track.  And as we drove further down the road, I saw a train headed in that very direction.  I haven’t heard of any altercation between the two, so I assume that either the truck got moving in time or the train managed to come to a stop.  Trucks and cars began to peel off and head home once we reached the funeral home.  Honor guard members were there to assist the family with last-minute details.  All in all, a fitting tribute to Chief Brantley. 
1 Corinthians 15:54 says, When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’”

Father, walk with Chief Brantley’s family.  Welcome him into your presence.  Amen.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14 – “A Few little things”

I did a few of those little things over the last couple of days.  You know, those little things that are intended to show your wife with the love language of acts of service that you really do love her.  First we finished building a little shelf.  Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but this was a project that she designed to make use of the only remaining remnant of Mom and Dad’s old secretary desk they used to have in their living room.  It was the decorative piece that was on top.  Kind of an ornate flair that had no real purpose except to look pretty … and survive a hurricane.  We cut a nice piece of plywood to the proper length, and then Chris spent three days staining it to just the color she wanted.  Once that dried we attached the top piece to it and hung it on the wall.  Then she put a few things on it and stepped back to admire the job.  It looks really good.  Even fits the new décor of the room.  Sounds so simple now that it’s done. 

The other little thing was a bit more clandestine.  Chris had a dental appointment yesterday, and afterward she had some shopping to get done.  I volunteered to stay at home.  I know.  It was a sacrifice, but that wasn’t the “little thing” I mentioned.  While she was gone I printed out several updated photos of our grandkids and surreptitiously (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence) inserted them into frames that were already in use around the house.  The idea was to see how long it took her to discover and comment on them.  Sneaky, huh?  And how did that work out for me?  Honestly, she either hasn’t discovered the changes or has elected not to say anything as yet.  So the jury is out on those.  I may be replacing some pictures before the day is out. 

Mark 6:30-31 says, “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

Father, thank you for a wife who likes little things.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April 13 – “Rugs”

We finally managed to procure a second purchase for the house.  We went to Home Depot and found a rug for the office.  “I thought there was already a rug in there” you might presume.  Well, there was, but when Chris got started redecorating the den to fit in better with our new couch and chair, the office rug rather quickly became the den covering.  It fits well with the décor in there, too.  Not sure if Chip and Joanna would be proud, but I sure am. 

So, a rug for the office.  We put the little 5X7 one in there for the time being, but then we had to put the two rocking chairs on old towels to keep them from scraping up the wood floors.  And I had to be extra careful with my rolling office chair to keep it off the wood floors.  Picking up a theme here?  Protect the wood floors at all costs.  The makeshift arrangement was working OK, I guess.  It was just ugly.  And a wood-floor scratch incident just waiting to happen.  You know, it’s one thing if the grandkids do something like that.  Hey, grandkids can be forgiven for anything.  But I’m gonna be really careful.  I love my wife.

Now we found just the rug for the office the other day while on a Home Depot run for another project Chris is attacking.  I’ll save that story for another day.  We didn’t get it then because I remembered that I had a coupon sitting on my desk for 10% off any purchase.  That would probably cover the tax at least, so we waited.  We were also in the car at the time, and the rug we wanted was an 8X10.  That would have required some finagling to get into that little car.  So for this new excursion we took the truck.  Everything went fine at the store.  Plopped it on one of those rolling carts they have sitting around everywhere.  It was not nearly as heavy as I expected.  We got to the checkout counter and Chris remembered that she wanted to get one of those smaller versions to put just inside the front door for people to “wipe their feet on without seeming to because they feel bad about messing up the pretty little rug but even worse about touching the wood floors with dirty shoes.”  OK, that was a presumptuous look inside the heads of visitors everywhere.  Actually it was just a peek into what my head would be screaming in a similar situation.  We pulled out of line and camped off to the side.  Chris babysat the rug while I went back into the fray for the mini-version.  Thankfully they did have one, made to order for the very rug we were purchasing. 

And now all rugs are in.  Well, that little one is “in” the garage, along with the old couch and love seat and that huge, garish coffee table.  Does anyone out there know if someone needs some furniture?  It served us while since it was given to us after Hurricane Ike.  Still has some years in it, I would imagine. 

Luke 10:21 says, “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’”

Father, thank you for the roof over our heads and the stuff inside it that you have provided for us over the years.  We appreciate you letting us use it.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April 12 – “Passing out …”

The young girls on Cailyn’s softball team had an unexpected occurrence at their game last night.  After our first girl hit a double and the second got to second base on a fielder’s choice, a lady came flying out of the opponents’ dugout doing her best to get the ump’s attention by hollering “Time out, time out.”  A little but of chaos ensued, as first one then an entire array of people disappeared into the dugout, including our coach, a retired police officer, and the assistant coach’s wife, a trauma nurse.  Our team was quite confused, but they all stayed in our dugout and waited quietly.  The other team’s girls went out into the outfield with their coach to await the outcome. 

Seems one of the parents who was there to help out passed out and had a seizure.  Quite a frightening occurrence if you have never seen one.  Hey, it’s scary even if you see one every day.  I did some praying in the stands as we watched the volunteers do what they could.  Finally the San Leon Volunteer Fire Department vehicle arrived and everyone breathed a little easier.  They were followed shortly by an EMS team, and the lady was in good hands.  She was able to walk out of the dugout and onto the stretcher with a little assistance.  At that point I made my way over to our dugout to reassure Cailyn a little bit if she needed it.  And I was really glad I did.

She wanted to know first of all what was happening.  Hey, who wouldn’t?  I gave her the Readers’ Digest version – the lady passed out and they were taking her to the doctor. That brought up another reasonable query, “What does it mean when somebody passes out?”  One of her teammates likened it to going to sleep, so I stayed with that approach, but assured her that it wasn’t exactly like sleeping.  Then came question three, “Will she wake up?  Is she going to die?”  I assured her that the  fire department guys were over there, kind of like when Daddy gets a call, so they were going to take care of her until she can get to a doctor.  And I let her know that I had been praying for her, too.  She pondered for a long moment, then said, “Passed out.  That’s what MeeMaw did when she died, isn’t it?”  And there it was.  Bless her heart.  She was taking this way beyond a sick lady in the other dugout.  I agreed that MeeMaw did pass out, but “just because you pass out doesn’t mean you will die.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes the person is just fine.”  By this time they were wheeling the lady to the ambulance and Cailyn could see her.  “Look, DadDad, she’s talking to those people and I can see her sitting up on the cart thing.”  Good news. 

And so the game eventually resumed.  Our team won 4-2, but sadly, Cailyn struck out twice.  She was particularly dejected because she promised her Mom that she would try to get a hit for her.  Too much going on, I think.  We assured her that Mommy just wants her to have fun playing and to do her best.  I think the quick FaceTime call with Daddy helped erase any other thoughts of woe. 

She hadn’t completely forgotten the event this morning, though.  As she was getting dressed for school, we were talking about my grandmother, my Nani.  I said, “I really loved her.  You didn’t know her, but you had a kind of a Nani like that didn’t you?”  She immediately replied, “MeeMaw.”  I said, “And you liked her, didn’t you?”  She finished off the conversation with this gem, “No, we loved her, DadDad.  And we still do.”  Yes, Cailyn, we certainly do.

Mark 6:31 says, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

Father, would you tell my Mom that she has definitely not been forgotten down here.  We still love her.  Amen.