Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31 – “Oh Kind Benefactor”

It was another pretty good day at Seaside yesterday.  A few of the ladies who first connected through the Ladies Bible Study were there, and one even brought along her husband.  We were also surprised to see a guy we went to college with way back in the day and his wife.  He was also a rival basketball coach back when I was coaching the homeschool team when our boys were playing.  Their daughter and son-in-law have purchased a beach house as a rental property, so Mom and Dad had a chance to check it out.  Before they left they asked if we had some form of church PR piece that they could put in the house to tell people who stayed there about Seaside.  I gave them one of our new refrigerator magnets that has worship time on it.  Great idea for rental properties, by the way.  Wonder if any other of our local real estate tycoons would be interested …

After church we had a discernment meeting to talk about one of the special offerings we set up several years ago to raise money for one of those electronic signs.  We have been getting reports that those signs are not doing so well on the coast because of the salt air, so we decided to scale back and just renovate our existing sign, keeping its quirky, neighborhood character, but upgrading it if possible so we can have four lines to work with instead of three, safe and operable lighting, and a fresh look for the paint.  We still need to put together a list of exactly what jobs need to be done, but I’m excited about it.  The fund itself was renamed the Capital Expenditures Fund, and the money in it can now be used for other major expenses around the facilities.  And speaking of major expenses, one of our groups that uses the buildings every Friday, the Homeschool Music Co-op, gave us around $1200 as a donation toward replacing the rest of the air conditioners.  We immediately approved getting the second one purchased and installed.  The other action was to define the purpose of one other designated fund.  It is currently called the Seaside Born Again Fund.  We added the words “Events and Evangelism” after that to clarify that the money can be used for any activity that helps us to better connect with our community.  It can also be used if we need it for operating expenses.  The last topic of discussion was the health insurance that the church provides for Chris and me.  We just got word that the monthly premium is skyrocketing to the tune of around $700 a month more than it was.  Way too much for anybody to spend on insurance.  We just wanted the church to know we are looking into an alternative, particularly the Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share options.  Coincidentally (!), one of the families at the meeting uses Samaritan Ministries now, so we were able to get some insight from them.  We will revisit that one when more of the facts are available.  We all joined hands and prayed together after the meeting.  It was a really positive experience for everybody.

After church we went over to Nate’s with Bryan and Jennifer for lunch.  We all agreed that their hamburgers are among the best we have ever had (Especially the ones with bacon.  Hard to beat bacon).  As we relaxed and talked around the table, the waitress approached and informed us that someone had just come by to pick up a to-go order.  And along with his order he had paid for our table’s meal in full.  That kind of thing doesn’t happen very often.  Thank you from all of us, Oh Kind Benefactor.  We really do appreciate your gesture. 

Galatians 5:25-26 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Father, thank you for the order and unity we experienced at that meeting.  And thank you for the guy who purchased our lunch.  Bless him today to honor his action.  Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30 – “Recounting some good ol’days”

We started out our day pretty early yesterday.  Josiah had a flag football game at 8 a.m.  Not so bad in itself, but it was played in Friendswood, which is a good 45 minute drive for us.  And those of you who know Chris know that she is not very excited about those early morning hours.  She managed to “git up, git outa da bed” with very little assistance, though.  At least I think it was without assistance.  I did let Freddy into the house.  And she does like to make sure everyone in the house is in good shape before she settles down.  So I suppose it is possible that Chris had some canine feedback on wake up times. 

We got to the game not long after it started.  Always a joy to watch one of our kids involved in sports.  The two older boys were offering “helpful criticism” on the sidelines.  Not loud enough for Josiah to hear, mind you.  Not even loud enough for Mom and Dad to hear, in fact.  But I was standing right behind them.  It was kind of eerie, too.  They sounded just like their Daddy did when he was their age.  Not that he played flag football, but he did play soccer, and some of the “creative defensive techniques” certainly carry over into other disciplines.  You know, things like mastering the art of “accidentally” tripping over your own feet just as the ball carrier passes in front of you so that the both of you go tumbling out of bounds.  Not that their Dad ever used said questionable techniques …

Last night we had supper with some of our best friends who now live in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Mark and Melissa were in Houston for a convention where they meet with a lot of the vendors they do business with.  We grabbed a table at Shrimp and Stuff and just talked for several hours, catching up on our lives and kids and reminiscing more than a little bit about our “good ol’ days.”  Melissa and Chris have always hit it off, and now that their business sells quilting stuff, Chris was in hog heaven, talking quilts and sewing and dolls.  Mark and I are alike in a lot of ways, except he is kind of wacky and does somewhat unpredictable things.  I would never be that way.  Good old, “follow the rules” me …

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Father, thank you for great friends.  They help me remember that we never really grow old.  Just a little closer to you.  Amen.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 29 - “On people awesomeness”

I went to the Cops and Clergy breakfast again yesterday.  I’m beginning to anticipate that experience once a month.  This time I sat at a table with a police officer, a police chaplain who is also a local rabbi, a new pastor from a Presbyterian Church, and another police chaplain from the Methodist Church.  The new pastor seemed fascinated by what was happening around her and had all sorts of questions.  The rabbi thought the event had been taking place for about a year.  The police officer said it had been much longer than that, but the earlier version had been rather sporadic.  She really wanted to know if the group ever took any specific action on things like human trafficking and other social issues.  Since my understanding of the group’s purpose was simply to put police officers and clergy together in a social atmosphere with no other agenda, political or otherwise, I was interested to hear the response as well.  The officer handled it quite well.  He explained that the group meets at a different church site every month.  At the meeting if that church, or any other represented wanted to highlight a ministry they were involved in, it was perfectly fine, in fact encouraged, as a matter of information sharing.  That seemed to satisfy her curiosity, so we moved on to talking about things like upcoming Citizens’ Police Academy classes (The officer was on the dive team) and the Night Watch Cops and Clergy breakfasts that have started.  They meet once a month as well, only at 5 a.m. when the night watch is going off shift.  My favorite new contact this month, however, was one guy who was dressed in a polo shirt and jeans and kept kind of to himself.  I managed to introduce myself to him at one point, but all he told me was his name.  At our general announcement time, though, we were each asked to share who we were and what our role was.  In his quiet, unassuming way (He never even stood up), he said his name, then added, “I’m with Homeland Security.”  Wow.  A Fed in our midst.  I so wanted to ask him if he knew Cabe Gallow.  (Nerd Alert:  Cabe Gallow is a character on the new TV series, Scorpion.  We have been watching it since the beginning).

I got home in time to accompany Chris to WalMart for our monthly BIG grocery shopping trip (Read here, “Ouch”).  This is the time when we get things like the canned goods you can buy four at a time for about a quarter cheaper (Not one fourth off, mind you.  I mean literally a quarter, as in twenty five cents.  But hey, it all adds up.  Not as fast as the rest of the bill, but we’ll take every penny we can get).  We stopped and talked briefly to one of the local pastors.  About the only time we see her is in WalMart. She agreed that WalMart is the place to go to do some people watching.  Our favorite watchee yesterday?  Probably the fellow with the really thick backwoods accent.  Sounded like he would be a lot of fun to spend some time with.  We didn’t stalk him, though (Confession … I probably would have altered my basket course a bit if I had been alone, just to listen to him talk some more.  Makes me feel like I’m not the only strange one walking around.   People are absolutely awesome). 

Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

Father, thank you for the awesome, weird, funny, beautiful people you create.  And thanks for the venue where we can come into contact with each other.  Amen.

Friday, October 28, 2016

October 28 – “The bonfire of all bonfires”

Ukulele class went well again yesterday.  We learned that our “Recital Concert” will be on November 10th at 11:15.  That gives us an hour for a so-called “dress rehearsal” before friends and family start streaming in and filling up the remaining seats.  Yeah, I agree.  That’s probably just a tad over-expectant.  Nevertheless, we are pretty amazing.  I mean, for a bunch of old coots who have little to no experience ever touching a ukulele before.  I guess it could be a performance to remember … one for the aged.  Oops, I mean one for the ages.

I’m getting ready to head over to Grace Episcopal Church for the monthly Cops and Clergy breakfast.  It’s always fun to go back to my roots.  Grace is where I grew up going to church.  Which was pretty convenient, seeing that we lived across the street.  We have old home movies of us as little kids running over for church.  I have also seen pictures of hundreds of people standing at the front doors.  And speaking of pictures, the last time I was there I saw a picture of Mom and Dad’s wedding hanging in their hallway.  We go way back. 

I don’t remember much about our time there.  I do remember the massive bonfires we used to build in the street in front of the church.  That happened on one of the church calendar holidays sometime after Christmas.  Not sure which one.  Apparently the church had permission from the city for everyone to bring their old Christmas trees and toss them on the pile.  It made for a huge flame.  The bonfire of all bonfires.  I think that’s probably where I first learned the term, “Festival of Light.”  It has certainly been my standard for every reference to Christmas lights or bonfires since then.  Of course in my current role as fire department chaplain, I would never call for a return to such a dangerous practice.  Unless, of course a few fire engines and fire fighters could pick up some overtime being there on fire watch.  Then that would change everything.  I’m pretty sure I would be there.  In an “official” role, of course.  Have to support those fine fire fighters as they carry out their duties, you know …

Galatians 5:14 says, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Father, thank you for wacky fun times with ukulele playing and for pleasant memories.  Amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 27 – “Fire Pup to the Rescue”

One of the things the superhuman Administrative Assistant of the fire department (A.K.A. Trish) does every year is coordinate Fire Prevention Week activities with local elementary schools.  She arranges for meetings with the kids to show instructional videos, let them see firsthand the turnout gear of a fire fighter, and hear from a “real-live fire fighter” about how his engine is more than just a ride to the fire.  It is a huge tool box that even carries its own water – 750 gallons of it.  I was privileged to witness one of those elementary school sessions yesterday.  Who were the players in this memorable event?  Just take a look at the lineup:
The Boss – Trish Anderson
Fire Pup - Jeremy Progner
Turnout Gear Guy - Matt Gonzalez
The Captain - Willie Roy
Tool Box Truck Man - John Carlson
How could we go wrong with such a prolific crew in charge?

Trish was well into her role as Mama/Teacher/Boss in spite of some laryngitis issues she was working through.  She commands attention just by standing in front of a group.  She did have some help, though.  One of the teachers was standing by with a whistle.  When she blew the code, every student in the place responded with a double clap and instant silence.  I have to admit, it didn’t take the fire fighters long to follow suit. 

My favorite part of the day, of course, was the interaction with the children.  Well, maybe I enjoyed Fire Pup a little too much, but he was so cute when the tiny little girls wanted a hug.  I was wearing my class B short sleeved shirt with my badge and nametag pinned on.  One little guy approached me hesitantly and then let fly a barrage of questions:
“Who is the captain, the lady?”  (That one be an all-time favorite for perception).
I pointed out Captain Roy as the guy with the yellow radio.  That elicited an audible “Oooh.”  I’m not sure if it was for the Cap or for his radio, though.
Then , noting the difference in uniform, he queried: “Are you the chief?”
I assured him I was just the chaplain.  So he pressed, “What do you do?”
Not sure if my answer helped, but he seemed to understand it: “Sometimes when the firefighters come out of a fire or after they have helped someone who was hurt really bad, they feel really sad.  Then they can come talk to me and I try to help them feel better.  I’m like the fire department pastor.” 
Good enough for him, as I said.  By this time I had a tiny entourage, and another one asked, “What do all those things on your shirt mean?”
I explained it this way: “This one is a name tag to show who I am.  My badge shows I am with the Galveston Fire Department.  So does the patch.”
From another in the crowd, “Why does the badge have a cross on it, and what are those other things on your shirt?”
Ah, yes.  I had forgotten about my lapel pins.  “The crosses all show that I am a Christian, and I can pray with them, too.” 
Not sure how all that came across to the kids, but I was honest at every point.

Later as two boys were walking out to see the engine, one of them pointed to my badge and asked, “Is that real?”  I responded, “Yes, it is.  Do you want to touch it?”  He gently brushed it, and then hurried off to his buddy, exclaiming, “I touched a real gold badge.”

One shy little boy approached me while the rest of the group was lining up for the engine tour.  He spoke softly, so I knelt next to him so I could hear.
“I want to tell you a story.  When I was little (This from a second grader, mind you), my Dad was cooking on the furnace and a fire came and the fire fighters and police came and let me show you what I got.”  Here I expected some cute little souvenir that perhaps he had been given by one of the first responders.  Instead he lifted up the long sleeve on his shirt to reveal a burn scar.  I responded,
“So you have seen what happens in a fire, haven’t you?” 
Still in that shy, quiet voice, “Yes, I have.”
“Was everyone else OK?”
“Yes.  They all got outside.”
“Did the house burn?”
“Well, not the whole house.  Just around the furnace.”
I think maybe that little guy should have had a part in the program.

The final story came, not from a student, but from the school’s PE teacher.  He leaned up against the wall next to me as Tool Box Truck Man was explaining the jaws of life. 
“It’s amazing what those things can do.”  And what followed was a pretty intense story of a car wreck his Mom and two cousins were in where the fire fighters had to use the jaws to cut the roof off of the car to reach the passenger.  There were some hospital stays involved, but everyone was eventually OK there as well.    

So … kudos to Trish and her Fire Prevention Team.  I was proud to be identified with what you guys do. 

Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”

Father, thank you for the positive connections that were made between those children and the fire fighters yesterday.  Grow those little guys up healthy and happy and well-protected.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 26 – “Family Business”

Kel and I went over to the AT&T store yesterday.  We are combining our family’s phones into one big account to save some money.  And because his phone was tied to the church that laid him off.  We are already doing this with Nathan, so it was a pretty easy fix.  The only difficulty came in getting the transfer information needed from the church.  They couldn’t find the tax exempt number to verify the account.  It was quite comical, actually.  Kel told the person to call him back when she found it.  Meanwhile he simply went to the IRS website and found it himself.  We were almost finished when the return call came.  And she hadn’t actually found the correct number, but a different state version.  It all worked out in the end, though.  They were able to use the phones they already had, so their part of the bill will only be the service.  Makes me feel like we are running a family business with 6 or 7 phone lines.  On the way home we picked up a few of those $5 pizzas from Little Caesar’s.  All the kids had gone to the library, so they were plenty hungry when they got back to pick up Daddy.

Last night I drove up to the church to check on the group staying in the retreat center.  They are a group of fire fighters doing some water rescue training out at San Luis Pass.  I got there around 6, but no one was there.  I saw their daily schedule on the wall, though.  They have classes until almost nine.  Then some of them stand watch over their equipment on the beach throughout the night.  I left my business card on the table, so maybe someone will see it.  Or if they haven’t left yet, maybe I’ll catch someone this morning.  We moved staff meeting to 8:30 so Jim could get ready to do an air duct cleaning job and I could go to the elementary school and help Trish with a fire safety training day.  In fact, it’s almost time for me to leave, so I’ll cut this short today.

Galatians 5:6 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Father, thank you for my family.  Help Kel find a job soon where he can be really happy.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 25 – “All in an afternoon”

Sunday afternoon, after the baptism of Snorkey McSnorkel (Not his real name.  That was changed to protect the innocent), we went to lunch at Nate’s (renowned eatery of the West End) with ten or eleven other Seasiders.  We were the last ones to arrive since we had to lock up the building, but the fellowship was well worth waiting for.  Even Jim came, and it’s hard to get Jim to come to lunch on Sundays.  He’s pretty committed to steak night with his wife, and I guess it takes him all afternoon to prepare.  We usually get some kind of seafood when we go there, but this time everyone was bragging about the burgers, so we tried one.  Absolutely hands-down the best burger I have had in a long, long time.  Of course the last seven or eight burgers to make their way through my lips have been from Whataburger.  I definitely recommend the  burgers at Nate’s.  Oh, and I have to add many thanks to Bob and Amber for taking care of the tab.  We sure do appreciate your generosity.

After lunch we raced over to Dickinson to catch some of Cailyn’s softball game.  After missing the turn and ending up in the parking lot of a country club, we had to backtrack before we finally located the fields.  She had no less than three games scheduled.  It’s Fall Ball, so they play on a strict time limit and don’t really seem to care about the score.  We made it for part of the second game and all of the third.  The girls all did really well.  Cailyn hit it every time she batted.  Got on base all but once.  And she even scored a few times. 

Sunday night we traveled back to Jamaica Beach to have supper with a couple who have been visiting the church.  They are renting a home on a canal, and planned to spend the rest of their week out fishing.  They both have fascinating life stories, and it was exciting to hear how God has drawn them to himself through some really tough times.  Their plan is to eventually move down to Galveston, so I look forward to getting to know them better.  God is still on the move.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Father, thank you for the way you are working at Seaside.  Please continue to draw folks your way, and let that be our way as well.  Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 24 – “lunch break beach baptism”

Well, that was perhaps the most memorable baptism I have led in a long, long time.  Yet it was so fitting for Seaside.  The service started out pretty much as usual.  Singing.  Teaching.  Praise and worship.  But all throughout the experience there was no sign of the one to be baptized.  His wife was there, but not him.  We reached the part of the service where we usually dismiss from the building and head down to the beach.  Still not there.  So what was going on?  How could we announce a baptism with no baptismal candidate?

Well, here’s the thing.  Ed is the Park Ranger for Galveston State Park, which is right next to the church.  He works just about every Sunday of the year, so we only get to see him at special events or church workdays (where he is a beast, I might add).  But for this particular Sunday special occasion he had made some extra-special arrangements.  Ed and his staff from the park went on their lunch break together … and met us at the beach.  A lunch break beach baptism in true Seaside style. 

About 30 or so folks who had been in church gathered along with Ranger Ed and his staff, as well as numerous people who thought they were just out for a relaxing morning at the beach.  We huddled up and prayed together before Ed and I started out into the water.  Now, my usual approach in baptisms is to have the candidate hold his nose, and I grasp his arm with one hand and place my other hand behind his neck.  I had to alter my approach with Ed, though.  You see, I haven’t yet mentioned one other tiny little fact.  He was wearing goggles and a snorkel.  Yep.  Quite the picture.  And we did take pictures, I assure you. 

After the baptism we walked back to shore and everyone gathered again for prayer and the singing of our traditional “Family of God” chorus before scattering back to our Sunday afternoon activities.  Oh, and remember those folks I mentioned who were just relaxing on the beach?  I stopped on our way back to the church and apologized for obstructing their view for a few moments.  They assured me that they didn’t mind at all.  In fact one lady told me, “I gotta say, I have seen some baptisms before, but none like this.  Not ever.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.” 

Galatians 4:6-7 says, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

Father, thank you for your son, Ed.  Surround him with you love like the water surrounded him in his baptism.  Amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October 23 – “Fireman Party”

I have one of those song tunes in my head that just won’t go away.  Ever had that happen?  Now, this one isn’t a show tune or a TV jingle or even a Christian song.  This is the one that Cailyn made up in the car on the way home.  She placed one of those flexible Frisbee things up to her forehead and began to sing, “I’m in the Ball High marching band.”  Very strange and totally off the wall behavior, I know.  I was quite proud.

Luke’s fireman birthday party went well.  lots of little totlets running around, aided by the fact that there was another party at the next table over.  Our little guys loved the plastic fire fighter helmets and fire prevention goodie bags graciously provided them by Trish from the Galveston Fire Department.  They also loved seeing Nathan’s real helmet.  Some were scared to even touch it.  Others even dared to try it on (As did a few adults, though they hoped no one was watching).  Most who did commented on just how heavy the thing is.  The cake was shaped just like a 3-D fire engine, complete with the number 3 on the side.  I sent Nathan a picture, since it looked so realistic.  His comment was that they should have put a number 1 instead (That’s the engine he works on).  All in all, it was an amazing reproduction, down to the fire dog (Dalmatian) cookies. 

My favorite event of the party came when Luke sidled up to the pile of presents and oh, so casually began removing the paper from one of the gift bags (The kind where you just put the present in and stuff paper around it so it can’t be seen from the outside).  Since it appeared that I was the only witness, I eased over and said to him, “Why don’t you wait just one more minute, just until Mommy gets over here to help you?”  He grudgingly agreed.  But then he leaned over toward me, glancing conspiratorially from right to left.  He flattened his hand as if to salute and placed it with fingers pointing straight up at the very center of his lips, an incredibly cute attempt to duplicate the adultish maneuver of hiding our mouth when we wish to share a secret.  And he whispered, “One day I want to have one of those right there.”  And son of a gun if he didn’t get one just like it.

The genius of having a three-year-old’s birthday party in a park is, aside from the easy cleanup, the kids wear themselves out playing outdoors and are pretty much ready for their afternoon naps.  The party was a success in more regards than just that one.  Nice job, Mama Christi.

Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

Father, thanks for the joy we saw in those little guys yesterday.  Help us adults remember what that was like.  Amen.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

October 22 – “Senior Agent Field Report ALUKEIZ3”

We made our way deep into the veritable bowels of Texas with little incident yesterday.  Well, there was that one time when we were just eight minutes (per Google maps Siri) from our final destination.  An emergency stop had to be made.  No questions asked.  It simply had to happen.  And this time it wasn’t even my demand that made it such an emergency.  Our junior agent Cailyn made the initial request, which rapidly evolved into a strongly urged suggestion, before exploding into an all-out demand.  Hey, I’ve been in her shoes (except she wasn’t wearing any shoes).  We were thankful that a way station appeared just after our exit and we were able to control the situation just long enough.  Apparently the facilities weren’t the best we have seen, but when you are involved in a case with senior agent and master-driver Chris, you often have to accept what comes.  Sometimes when you gotta go … well, you just gotta go. 

Our arrival was heralded by newly installed junior junior agent Luke.  He has finally come of age where he can begin his field training, and the requisite celebration is on tap for later this afternoon.  He did receive several of his training tools this morning, however.  Older brother agent Caleb (Hey, when you are in this business, all relationships are like family.  I have it on good authority, though, that these particular connections are closer than business) presented him with a powered fire engine replica for practicing stage one missions on the tabletop.  Brother Zak came through with a level two remote controlled police vehicle.  It will be useful for more detailed mission replications, and some have said that the actual drone capabilities in these small vehicles make them a dreaded part of every agent’s arsenal.  Finally, senior agents Mom and Dad presented him with an actual mission quality helmet.  Well, I say finally, but it was not to be so. 

Word came in that enemy agents had been seen approaching the vicinity of home base, and estimates placed them in direct connection with home base by 10:30.  Agents, regardless of battle status, would be all-hands-on-deck for this one.  With that disturbing report verified, senior agents Mom and Dad swallowed hard.  Determinedly, Dad left the room for a brief moment, then reappeared with a call for all agents to fall in in front of him.  Directing his attention toward young Agent Luke, he made that fateful declaration.  “You are ready.  You have the helmet.  Now receive your vehicle.”  And with that, he opened the door of the special operations room.  There, in all its glory, was a Luke-sized race-quality vehicle.  No more training on this day.  This is the big time.  “Junior Junior Agent Luke, you are hereby promoted to full Junior Agent status.  You have about two hours to become proficient on your vehicle.  I suggest you begin.” 

And begin he did.  Junior Agent Luke leapt astride the car and sped off, ignoring the warnings the more conservative Senior Agent Nani.  Cheered on by a certain other senior agent (who may or may not have suggested he try driving down the stairs) and his other fellow agents, Junior Agent Luke mastered the controls and was driving like a pro within mere minutes.  So masterful was he, in fact, that he returned to the more controlled tabletop and drone operations to fill in some of the blanks in his all-too rapid training regimen. 

As I write this report the clock is ticking.  Time for the expected invasion is almost upon us.  But we are ready.  All senior agents are prepared.  All junior agents are focused.  And that newest Junior Agent Luke is chomping at the bit to see some real action.  It is coming, young Luke.  It is coming.

Galatians 3:26-28 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Father, thank you for celebrations and fellow agents who seem like real brothers.  Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2016

October 21 – “Back on the Road Again”

And here we go, back on the road again.  No, I’m not practicing a song that I learned in ukulele class.  We really are getting ready to leave for a trek into Texas.  And we are taking Cailyn with us.  This time we are headed back up to Waco for Luke’s birthday party.  Number three.  This one promises to be exciting.  It’s being held at a park near their house where the playground apparatus looks like a big fire engine. So the theme for the party?  Of course.  Fire fighters.  I’m not sure what kind of creative genius Christi has applied to this one, but I’m sure it will be worth photographic documentation.  And of course Chris will have that covered.  I look forward to some good sound bites as well (Is that how you would spell “bites”?  Maybe “bytes”?  I’ll have to look that one up.  I have a four hour car ride ahead of me.  I think I may have time).  Kind of like this tidbit from when Cailyn spent the night with us:

Cailyn (with no apparent motivating factor): “You have a mansion, DadDad.  Your house is so big.”
Me (Responding to the rather off-the-wall, out-of-left-field comment): “Wait a minute.  Isn’t your house bigger?”
Cailyn (In that endearingly condescending way of a child patiently teaching the older, obviously challenged adult): “Well, that’s OK, DadDad.  Y’alls is wider.  Ours is just taller.”

And there you have your lesson of the day in architecture from a seven year old. 

Galatians 3:23-24 says, “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”

Father, thank you for road trips and seven-year-old wisdom.  You do some of your best teaching through them.  Help me keep my ears open for some more.  Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

October 20 – “Normal responses to an abnormal event”

I went back to the classroom yesterday.  I had to drive up into Texas and deep into Friendswood to get to a class I signed up for called Psychological First Aid.  It is a new “strongly suggested” class for anyone on the Critical Incident Stress Management teams across the state.  As it turned out, the basic information in the class textbook was all included as a fraction of the general fire chaplaincy course I took several years ago.  I even had an app on my phone that I had pretty much forgotten about that has all the information in “nutshell” form. 

That doesn’t mean the class wasn’t helpful by any means.  Of course any update or refresher course is good to keep the important stuff fresh in your mind.  And in this case there were fire fighters and police officers from all over the county and beyond, so lots of networking was going on.  I was at a table with a fire fighter from Houston who was one of the team leaders of their CISM team, a sheriff officer from Brazoria County and a patrol officer from Nassau Bay who was working on a master’s degree in psychology.  There were folks from the Texas Department of Corrections, as well as several community services representatives.  It was quite the diverse group.  The teacher was a BOI who still lives in Galveston, so we had something in common right off the bat.

The point of the class was to prepare us for situations where we might be a part of a team brought in to assist in the event of a tragedy, such as Hurricane Ike or an explosion like happened in West, Texas, a few years ago.  We went over some of what seemed to me to be common-sense approaches to dealing with people who are dealing with the extreme shock brought on by the disaster, whether it be loss of a home, loss of a loved one, or even just confusion about what to do next.  We even acted out a scenario of a disaster relief station.  I got to play one of the victims.  Problem was, the first place I was sent?  The FEMA table.  Not a good choice for a Galveston Ike survivor.  I played it out like I saw many times back in 2008.  Distrust.  Anger.  Walking away.  The ones playing FEMA workers even got frustrated beyond their ability to handle it.  They started promising luxury RV’s and immediate checks; all we had to do was sign our name that we accepted their terms.  Way too real for me. 

The essence of the course in one sentence would be that people are just having normal responses to an abnormal event.  It’s hard to see that when you are the one in the throes of the “abnormal event.”  Like I said, lots of what we did brought back memories of when we were on that side of the coin after Hurricane Ike.  Gave me a lot of perspective, at least. 

Galatians 3:22 says, “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

Father, thank you for training opportunities like this one.  Helps keep a lot of things in perspective.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 19 – “Common core subtraction …”

Guess what I did the other day?  I figured out the new math.  Yep.  That ridiculously silly stuff they are requiring kids to learn instead of just showing them how to borrow and how to learn what 9 plus 7 is just by knowing what 9 plus 7 is.  Common Core math.  Great stuff, you know. 

So, I was helping Cailyn with her homework.  We usually do the math part.  She is quite the whiz at it.  Problem is, she’s like her Daddy was as a kid.  She can just look at it, you can see the wheels turning in her head as she focuses on nothingness in outer space somewhere, and suddenly she knows the answer.   And in most cases she is right.  Very frustrating to the teacher who wants to see her work, as you might imagine.  I was kind of following her on the addition  word problems. They have to find different numbers to combine to make ten so they can put them off to the side and later add them to the rest of the tens and then to whatever ones are left over.  About seven extra and really unnecessary steps, if you ask me.  But no one asked me.  When we got to the subtraction part the fireworks started.  We argued (good naturedly, of course).  I tried to show her the old-timey way of doing it.  “You put the bigger number on top,” I began.  “No, DadDad, the little number goes first, then you go to the big number.”  She looked at me and sadly shook her head, quite condescendingly, I might add.  She insisted that you could combine a 0 and a 5 and somehow get a 3.  She circled every number she came to.  I stopped her and asked her to show me what she was doing.  She did.  And I still had no idea what it was.  I finally  reverted to drawing pictures.  And finally we found common ground.  You can’t argue with a picture.  It was all very confusing and quite comical, actually.  In a final fit of laughter, we just wrote down the answer.  She did know it.  It was just the getting there that we disagreed on.

Later on, when she went into the bedroom and was reading with Chris, I went online and googled “common core subtraction.”  Took me about an hour of working along with the explanations, but I think I understand it.  At least until they start subtracting in the hundreds …

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Father, thank you for new learning situations.  Even if they are strange and require so many extra steps … Amen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October 18 – “not done yet …”

Chris and I had a chance yesterday to spend much of the morning with some old friends from way back in our early South Oaks Baptist Church days.  That would be back when there was a 19 in front of the year and 80-something was how it ended up.  Great memories of those years, and they all center around the people we knew, several of whom are still close friends to this day. 

Mike and Celia Philpot showed up at Seaside this past Sunday.  He pitched right in and helped the guys who were folding up the bounce house from the Festival to return it to the block party trailer.  So yesterday we went to visit them at their second home that they are in the process of renovating in Galveston’s East End historical district.  They are taking their time on that project, and they even have a permanent renter so they don’t have to worry about meeting two mortgages.  They wanted some advice on how to manage a satsuma tree in their backyard and what to do about cutting back oleanders in the front.  The satsuma was huge.  Made our poor little guy look like chump change.  I told her to trim off the branches that looked like they were growing downward (after the growing season, of course – the thing was loaded with fruit).  The oleanders would be no problem.  We assured her that oleanders are almost impossible to kill.  You can cut them down to the ground and they will still find a way to come back.  I’m sure they will have no problem training them to match their fence.

Oh, and I got another e-mail yesterday.  Lauren wanted to know what she had to do to become an “official” member.  This would be the Lauren who so marvelously coordinated the Fall Festival.  Easy enough fix on that one.  She was baptized years ago in a horse trough.  But then I got some extra great news.  Her husband Ed the Park Ranger wants to be baptized.  That’ll take a little bit of doing since he works every Sunday.  We’ll get it done, though.  Lauren said maybe we could get it done on his lunch break.  Apparently the Lord is not done yet.  Keep on workin’, God. 

Galatians 2:15-16 says, “’We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners”’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Father, thank you for old friends and for new commitments.  I can’t wait to see what you have in store next.  Amen.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17 – “Bella joins …”

There are some really exciting things going on at Seaside lately.  As we were setting up for the Festival a young lady from Israel (She identifies herself as simply a Jew who believes Jesus is Messiah) stopped by to say hi.  She gazed at the decorations – pumpkins and squash gourds and scarecrows and cornstalks and hay bales.  And her eyes lit up with excitement.  She has a pretty thick accent, and it took me a time or two to understand what she was saying, but I finally got it.  She was bubbling over and over, “I see it.  It is Sukkot. It is Sukkot.  The feast of tabernacles is here.” 

Beyond the Fall Festival kind of community events, we have seen some folks step up as individuals in highly creative ways as well.  For example, one of our newer Seasiders, Suzann, is a hair stylist.  She approached me at the Festival to tell me she had been talking with another stylist about offering their services to other Seasiders in exchange for them making a donation to the church, or even free if they can’t afford it otherwise.  I told her any kind of creative ministry like that is sure OK by me, so we will be planning a haircut ministry weekend in the future.  Someone already jumped the gun on her offer, though.  I saw her cutting Dale’s hair after dinner on the grounds yesterday.

And speaking of Suzann, the sisters I mentioned yesterday (one from Tennessee and one here 8 months of the year) did come to church.  I was talking to them about the recent loss of a spouse each had experienced not too long ago.  And who should walk in the door have a seat right in front of them?  None other than Suzann, who had experienced a similar loss not too long ago herself.  I introduced the ladies, and … what a remarkable “coincidence” ... they live in the very same community neighborhood.  It didn’t take long for them to exchange phone numbers and talk about doing some carpooling to church.

Yesterday we had another family approach me about membership.  Lynn and Stephanie have been attending for quite a while now, and have totally immersed themselves in what is going on here.  Lynn has replaced one of our church air conditioners already.  Stephanie leads the Tuesday night Ladies Bible Study.  They are also the ones who come with Bella, the tiny little service dog.  Ah, yes, Bella, who has most assuredly become comfortable at church every week, and we have all come to look forward to her antics.  (Quick Bella anecdote: We learned a few weeks ago that Bella has a thing for cows.  I don’t know if she likes them and wants play with them, or if she senses danger from the massive beasts and wants to protect her pack.  But apparently every time she sees a cow, and even when she hears the word “cow” spoken aloud in her presence, she barks a caution to all around).  Anyway, Stephanie told me, “We are totally committed to the church here.  This is without question home to us now.  We love it here.  We just have never said that out loud before.  So … I guess … this is our ‘out loud.’”  We welcome new members by assuring them as a group that we will pray for them and encourage them and support them in their search to discover what God wants them to do and as they carry that lifestyle out.  Everyone says together, “We will.”  Then I ask the new members to agree to the same thing, to be encouragers, to pray for the church and support it in every way that they can.  They also respond, “We will.”  We did all that before we even started worship yesterday (I couldn’t wait).  And then I had a thought.  And that thought began to form a plan.  And that plan was just swelling within me.  And then I couldn’t stand it.  It burst forth from me before I could contain it.  I slowly returned to where Lynn and Stephanie were sitting, and I said, “And Bella … COW.”  True to form, Bella responded with a hearty bark of her own, thus sealing her membership in the community as well.  And her task as a Seasider?  We will always be protected from interloping bovines. 

Galatians 1:3-5 says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Father, thank you for being at work all around us at Seaside.  Keep on moving any way you want to.  Just be patient with us as we try to keep up.  Amen.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

October 16 – “Festival Debrief”

The Family Fall Festival was nothing short of amazing.  There were well over 80 people who came through (Chris could put a face to at least 70 of those, too.  She told me that when we were both awake at 3 a.m.  My allergies kicked in and she had one of her “head won’t turn off” moments.  Oh, and both of us were so sore we couldn’t hardly turn over).  There were a lot of young couple with little kids, but actually a pretty good cross section of folks.  And just about everyone was from the West End.  Even the Jamaica Beach fire chief made an appearance.  It was a true community event, which was our goal from the start.

Jim and his new band did a great job with the live music.  They set up on the balcony of the retreat center overlooking the festivities.  The live music and their interaction with the crowd really added to the atmosphere.  Not to mention that they are locals as well, so many of the folks knew them already.

We had incredible participation from our team of Seasiders.  Can’t go any farther with this, though, until I shout out to Lauren Dawson.  She put the whole thing together and did a massive amount of work organizing.  She and her Mom, Cathy Duncan, even made some trips to Oklahoma to get pumpkins.  You were truly amazing, Lauren.  Thank you.  By the way, Lauren even convinced one of her co-workers who lives in League City to come help.  I think Terrilynn had a pretty good time.  Several of the ladies from our Tuesday night Bible Study group pitched in to help.  Bob and Houston Wyrick brought up a trailer load of hay bales for decoration and traffic control.  The event just wouldn’t have been the same without that.  Bryan’s incredibly realistic cornucopia was filled to the brim with canned food for the food bank.  Jennifer’s little booth marker signs dotted the landscape, directing kids and adults alike to their favorite events.  Around 20 or so other Seasiders proudly sported their Seaside blue t-shirts and manned the booths.  The food that they brought was delicious (And the ladies who took over food the food serving table did a great job.  Thanks, Amber and Sharon and anybody else who pitched in), and it looks like we had plenty left over to be enjoyed today at Third Sunday Dinner on the Grounds (to go along with the already-announced brisket and Mexican corn and bean soup).  And the great participation carried over to the clean-up phase as well.  Everyone who was still around pitched in to help, and we were done in no time. 

So what could people do?  Glad you asked.  The huge photo booth of hay bales and pumpkins and miscellaneous gourds was a big hit, for one.  I finally learned how to play cornhole.  Thanks for the lesson, Lynn McClung, even though that “lesson” meant he smoked me 21-8 (I am still not completely clear on the scoring process, but I think he was being generous with that 8).  Horseshoes and pitching washers and even volleyball were available.  One game tested your NFL quarterbacking skill to see how accurate you were at tossing a football.  A huge painted pumpkin (painted, by the way, by Charlette and Jim Kachelmeyer) was covered with balloons, and kids were given a chance to actual propel real darts in an attempt to pop them, under the watchful eye, of course, of a Seaside volunteer.  The duck pond was a huge draw to the tiniest of our guests, as a patient Bob Matthews encouraged them, not simply to dip their magnet into the water and claim a duck.  What kind of long term training is that?  No, Mr. Bob encouraged them to actually cast the magnet into the pond, thus forcing them to reel in their target.  Tossing rings over 2-liter drinks was popular, and we still had quite a few drinks left over.  Painting pumpkins was extremely popular.  We even had one adult who confessed she had never painted a pumpkin before in her life.  She said carving them always seemed awkward to her, so she was loving her new skill challenge.  Craft jewelry making, bingo, guess the number in the jar, pumpkin relays, toss a wiffle ball into some baskets were some of the others.  Oh, and the bounce house was always full, of course.  There should have been some worn out kids ready for bed last night (I know at least one worn-out old man).

I met a fire fighter from North Richland Hills.  We have a mutual friend who works there, David Smith.  His Mom and Dad just moved here full time and it looks like they plan to settle in at Seaside.  While we were setting up a lady stopped by to see what was going on.  She lives in Tennessee, but wanted to know about our worship time.  Her sister lives in Galveston about 8 months out of the year, and she was looking for a nearby church to attend.  They plan to be at church this morning.  Several Seasiders invited friends and family to the event, and they plan to be at worship this morning as well.  One lady stopped by just because she heard the music and wanted to know if the event was for everyone.  Two other ladies stopped to see if they could possibly buy a pumpkin or two when we got done.

Our goals for this event were fairly simple.  Collect canned goods for the food bank.  Introduce Seaside fun to the community.  Develop a non-threatening touch point for folks to meet their neighbors and begin to understand that knowing Jesus is not a dull, boring existence.  It is life, itself! 

2 Corinthians 13:12-14 says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints send their greetings.  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Father, thank you for all the people who worked at the festival.  Bless them with a chance to get some rest.  Thank you for all the folks who experienced a touch with Seaside and with you.  Draw them closer to yourself.  Amen.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 15 – “Fall Festival Tonight”

Yesterday was a day of preparation.  Tonight is our first attempt at church to host a Fall Festival.  Not a Halloween thing at all.  That comes later.  This is just an evening of games and food and fun and music that we designed to be a gift to our community. 

My morning yesterday was spent making a Sam’s run to pick up the food and paper goods for the event.  Then in the afternoon I hunched myself over the dining table and made ten posters designed to point out parking.  We are blocking off the actual parking lot to use for foot traffic.  Lauren is also bringing in some yellow tape to rope off other areas.  Should be enough to  keep traffic flow manageable. 

Thursday I went with Lauren from church (she is the originator and head banana for this event, and has already done an unbelievable job) to LaMarque to pick up the Galveston Baptist Association block party trailer.  Inside are all sorts of treasures available for our use.  Things like: tables, miscellaneous outdoor games (not sure yet what those are.  We’ll see them when we open up the trailer later today), a generator, and most importantly for our cause … bouncy houses.  We’ll get that set up and add to it horseshoes and cornhole and pitching washers and pumpkin painting and dart throw at the giant pumpkin and ring toss around the 2-liter drinks and I have no idea what else.  We’ll have hot dogs and chili and frito pie, and you can even buy a good ol’ Seaside t-shirt.  Our worship pastor Jim has put together a band that will play.  The event promises to be a pretty fun one.  I want to play some horseshoes, and I have heard so much about this cornhole game that I want to get in on some of that action as well.  I was introduced to the style of pitching washers using those platforms with holes in them by the fire department guys.  That one I enjoyed as well. 

So, the event begins at 5 p.m.  Lauren wants to make sure everything is ready in plenty of time, though.  Set-up begins at 11 this morning.  Guess I’d better get a good breakfast in my system …

2 Corinthians 13:11 says, “Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Father, please use this event as a time where you are glorified and people are introduced to you and your church.  Amen.