Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30 – “The Text”

We finally got “The Call.”  Well, actually is was “The Text.”  And it was just the first of the two notifications we have been waiting for.  It was around 10:30 p.m.  Chris was already sound asleep when I heard the text notification sound go off on her phone.  I seriously considered just crawling over her to take a look, but I was still pretty stiff from the Turkey Bowl.  And besides, I figured it was probably just Words With Friends letting her know it was her turn to play.  But then it sounded again.  You know, that second warning that goes off when you don’t pay attention to the first one.  And this time Chris heard it.  I suppose it suddenly dawned on her that we were waiting for a phone call, after all.  Two of them, in fact.  So she sat up abruptly and groped for her glasses.  I waited patiently, wondering how long it would take to get packed.

Sure enough, it was Josh.  He was informing us that Christi not only had her regular doctor’s appointment the next day, but she also had a hospital reservation pending her arrival on Wednesday morning.  One way or another it was time for AnnaGrace to make her appearance.  Chris assured him that we would be on the road in the morning.  And so we were.

The big brothers were happy to have their fear of the unknown salved a little bit.  Seems Caleb in particular had been concerned about “who would watch us” when Mommy went to the hospital.  Now he knew for sure that there wouldn’t be a stranger in the house if they woke up and Mom and Dad were already at the hospital.  Happy to be of service as the “Official Non-Strangers,” Caleb. 

Last night we took Christi’s place at their church staff Christmas party.  I guess she wanted to stay at home and do her final nesting.  That or she didn’t want to deal with everyone asking when the baby was coming.  She did get her bags packed and all kinds of lists completed for whatever “Non-Strangers” would try to run things around the house while she was in the hospital.  The party was a lot of fun.  They have a considerable staff.  With their spouses included there must have been 80 or 100 people in the room, and the kids were cared for in their children’s wing until the call came for them to come see Santa.  The kids all had pizza, and the adults were treated to a catered barbeque meal from Rudy’s.  The games were different.  No spoilers here.  Seaside folks, you will probably see some version of them in the near future. 

All the people who talked to us were really proud of Josh and what he has done for the church.  That’s always good for a parent to hear.  From the college minister who looked like he was barely 20 to the 90 year old couple who sat next to us at our table, everyone seemed to have a really good time.  Now we move from festive mood to waiting mode.  Today should be the day of AnnaGrace.

Ephesians 4:11-13 says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Father, thank you for the encouragers Josh has on his staff.  Help them to grow closer so they can be more effective in working for you.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29 – “Christmas-ed”

The tree is done.  We finally had enough of a spare time window to get the rest of the ornaments hung.  Well, the rest of the ones that Chris wanted on the tree this year.  She has an amazing ability to see the finished product before construction begins, so I have learned to trust her judgment.  Oh, it still has a bit of an overload on the lower branches – the ones that our little guys could easily reach – but that in itself is part of the charm. 

Once that tree was done, Chris turned her attention to her next task.  She is quilting a quilt and diaper bag to donate to the Bethlehem Street Market silent auction at church.  (Time for a shameless commercial here.  Kind of like the Folger’s coffee that just happened to have been left out on the table in that Hallmark movie we watched last night.  The craft fair is December 10th at Seaside Church from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  We still have some vendor spaces left, so you need to ask me for an application soon.  And you need to come buy stuff).  Anyway, she ran out of something or other, so she had to go off-Island to Hobby Lobby and get some more.  She did ask if I wanted to accompany her, but I really needed to get some work done for church.  So I stuck around and computered for a while.  Then I went out to the garage and did some carving.  Hey, it’s almost December.  I have to get Chris’ present done. 

When she got back home I worked until I reached a stopping point in the carving.  She had reached her limit for sewing for the day and had miraculously transformed the house into a Christmas wonderland.  Not over the top, by any means, but the manger scene collection had representative scattered throughout the house.  Kneeling Santas were going about their prayers.  And George the Elf (Not an actual Elf on the Shelf, mind you.  This guy was one of my earliest carving attempts) was moving around the house, looking for his next stop.  I suppose he’ll stay where he is until Cailyn comes over again and finds him. 

So … decoration boxes all back in the garage (well, except for the one with outside lights.  I forgot that we haven’t done those yet.  So, officially not finished after all.  Maybe a few elves will magically hung them up while we slept.  I’ll check when the sun comes up).  But as far as the inside of the house is concerned, we are done.  Don enough that Christi can go ahead and have that baby.  Come see me, AnnaGrace.

Ephesians 4:7 says, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Father, thank you for the excitement that is preparing for Christmas.  We’re preparing for that baby, too.  Watch over her and her Mommy.  Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28 – “Top-half-gap”

Well, I suppose the Christmas season is now officially upon us.  Our Christmas tree is up.  The first on-last off ornament has found its place next to the tree’s trunk.  That would be a simple nail, to remind us that the reason Jesus came as a baby on Christmas was so that he could live a perfect life, then die on a “tree,” and finally rise from the dead.  Lights adorn the tree, strung carefully, branch by branch by good ol’ Uncle Nathan and his young assistants Cailyn and Josiah and Micah.  The bottom half of that bush is beautifully decorated (That’s  as far up as the kids could reach when they did the ornaments on Saturday).  Boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations are piled up in our kitchen, waiting for Chris to wade through them one by one and slowly incorporate a piece here and a piece there into the festive landscape.  Somewhere in there we will find plenty of other ornaments to fill in the “top-half-gap,” and the star for the top of the tree is bound to show up sooner or later.  Our plastic Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus are seated in their spot on the front lawn, waiting for Outside Decoration Day to come so they can receive power to their respective light bulbs. 

Over on another front, April was extremely excited to receive an early gift.  There is now a new blow-up yard decoration at their house.  After receiving a picture of it, we drove by last night to see for ourselves.  It’s a fire truck apparently delivering gifts.  And it might be a good thing that it is available.  Nathan was up on the roof trying to track down the source of a problem with their lights up there.  They had a large gap that decided to blink out on them, and worse still, the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh up there had lost their lights as well.  You could see old St. Nick, but not his preferred mode of transportation.  Nathan was moving slowly (his back pain was flaring up), but he was determined to track down the offending light.

And at the church, our Hanging of the Greens fellowship saw a great turnout to get the worship center decorated for the holidays.  For sustenance we had everything from leftover pizza, to ham and cheese sandwiches, to chips and dips, to summer sausage, crackers and cheese.  Robert and Jim did a great job getting the icicle lights and greenery hung around the top of the room.  Lauren and Cathy and Charlette set up and decorated the tree and hung wreaths.  Jennifer untangled lights (ah, the most coveted Christmas chore).  Bryan found some festive music on the computer, and Phil regaled us with tales of his last fishing trip before returning to Oklahoma.  We even found the missing Moravian (Hernhutt) Star ornament, nestled carefully away with the rest of the decorations.  In the midst of the operation, Cathy had a suggestion.  We moved the toys we have been collecting for our December ministry project.  They now rest under the Christmas tree until we take them over to Galveston Urban Ministries.  How incredibly appropriate.  Great idea, Cathy.  Chris and Lauren used the opportunity to box up and store away the decorations from Fall Festival, and we even had three broom going to sweep away the first round of artificial greenery sheddings (is that even a word?).  I still can’t figure out how those artificial trees can shed so much and still look the same year to year.  Miracle of modern technology, I guess.  Thanks to everyone who played a part in Hanging of the Greens 2016.  Now we can focus on the reason for the season … Jesus.

Ephesians 4:4-6 says, “There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Father, thank you for family.  The blood of me kind and the Blood of You kind.  Amen.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27 – “Guest appearances and family secrets”

Turkey Bowl 2016.  By some accounts the 53rd rendition of the Galveston event set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving at high noon.  This year we didn’t get started until closer to one, though.  A few of the principal players were late arriving and had to get a quick turkey fix (Cory and Sarah).  We did have some celebrities, though.  Christina’s brother from Houston and sister from California were both on hand this year.  Amanda (that would be the sister) is a cross-fit for kids instructor, and has taken part in several cross-fit competitions.  She was also a guest on the Biggest Loser TV show a season or two ago.  Not as a contestant, though.  Seems she works out with the show’s trainer, Bob.  He asked her to come on the show to show off her techniques of working out and to show that even really pretty girls can still work out and be in outrageously good shape.  She even wore her signature tutu on the show.  Sadly, we weren’t graced with a tutu appearance, but she did lift Micah over her head and do some squats with him up there.  She wanted to do the same with Jachin, but he just couldn’t bring himself to stay stiff.  Our neighbor across the street walked outside while she was lifting Micah and stopped in her tracks with her jaw to the ground.  I guess that’s not the most common thing one would expect to see at a family pickup football game.  Oh, and speaking of that particular neighbor, we had to declare a time out at one point in the game.  They needed help unloading a freezer they had just purchased at a garage sale.  Didn’t take long to get that whipped out.  It was a junior size variety.  Kel asked if they wanted it “where the other one used to be.”  I don’t think they understood what he meant.  See, Mom and Dad used to have a big freezer on the same back porch.  Kel was just headed to the “proper” freezer location.  That’s not where they wanted it, of course.  Sigh. 

We missed having Josh and his family with us.  No.  Still no appearance by AnnaGrace.  I did get one text early in the morning, though.  It was from Nathan.  He was on his way to WalMart and wanted to know if we needed anything for the turkey enchilada pie.  I replied with a query, “Wait.  What?  You mean we’re having that?  But Josh isn’t even here.”  To which he quickly answered, “That’s why we’re having it.”  Obviously there is a little more to that story.  It involves inter-sibling intrigue and charges of favoritism.  “Some” have said in the past that the only time we have that particular dish is when Josh comes to town.  “Others” have said having that particular dish for him is a way of acknowledging that the middle child of the family really does exist.  The rest of the year the turkey enchilada pie fades from everyone’s memory, just like …

Ephesians 4:3 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Father, thank you for guest appearances and family secrets.  They make Thanksgiving fun.  Amen.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

November 26 – “A New plan for football scoring”

We had an afternoon and evening with my girl Cailyn yesterday.  she and I went outside for a while.  She wanted to play Marco Polo.  No, not in a swimming pool.  Just out in the yard.  Well, and when I was Marco, halfway down the block as well.  One of us would “close our eyes” (Like she ever actually did that.  I did it a few times.  Scary stuff) and call out “Marco.”  The other would respond “Polo” and do his best to avoid being tagged.  There is a reason the game is usually played in a swimming pool.  A limited space swimming pool.  See, I found that by the time I said “Marco” twice, I could barely hear the “Polo” response - from the end of the block.  I tried following it one time, but after nearly falling three times I gave up on that strategy.  I decided to keep saying “Marco” to a tree until Cailyn got bored and came closer. 

After our outdoor activities it was time to settle in and … watch basketball and football, of course.  Well, she did help Nana bake a Texas sheet cake.  Baylor’s basketball team pulled off an amazing upset over Louisville to win a tournament championship game.  Cailyn decided to join me for one of the football games.  I think it was the Baylor versus Texas Tech game.  Both teams were scoring right and left, keeping the TV graphics guy on his toes.  Their way of tallying up touchdowns was to show what looked like one of those Let’s Make a Deal spinners.  It would spins and stop on the six points they scored.  Cailyn watched that a time or two, and then the wheels in her head started spinning.  She looked at the screen and queried, “DadDad, when they score a touchdown, do they spin a wheel and whatever number comes up, that’s how much they get?”  I dutifully gave her a lesson in football scoring.  But the more I thought about it … just think how much more fun the game would be if that’s how they handled scoring.  You cross the end line, whether on a kick or a run or a pass.  And immediately the scoreboard shows an image of a computer generated random selection number wheel.  It spins.  The crowd waits, holding its collective breath.  The wheel slowly comes to a stop.  “And the score is …”  It could be anywhere from one to one hundred points.  No one would ever know the outcome of the game, literally until the last wheel comes to a stop.  Hey, NFL.  How’s that for a great fan idea?  I think you should institute it at the next Super Bowl game.  It might capture everyone’s attention away from the commercials.

Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Father, thank you for Marco’s and Polo’s and touchdowns and spinning wheels of fun.  Amen.

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 25 – “Head on fire”

Ah, Thanksgiving Day.  It started like the last few have for us.  We got out of bed and immediately put together six bags of fried turkey.  Then, while Chris attacked  lunch preparations, I headed for the fire stations to make the turkey deliveries.  I started way out west at station 8.  They have reconfigured their common room, so it actually looked like they had more space than they actually do.  From there I went by station 7 in Pirates’ Beach.  Some of the guys were watching TV while others were embroiled in an obviously high-level discussion in the kitchen.  At station 2, the farthest East of the bunch, the whole crew was hard at work on their respective computers or cell phones, no doubt studying for upcoming advancement testing.  At station 1 I just touched base with a few of the guys and let them know the turkey was in the kitchen.  Station 5 was busy preparing their smoker to take care of nine or ten big turkey drumsticks.  A green bean casserole had just come out of the oven.  Finally station 4 was a hub of activity already.  Potatoes were being sliced, one turkey was being roasted in the oven, and they were just about to fry another one in one of those grease-less fryers.  Never seen one before.  I wonder if they are as good as what we do?  I headed home from there, and the fire chief passed me as I got to the corner.  Uh-oh.  Chief alert. 

Ah, Thanksgiving Day with no blood relatives in attendance.  That part was rather strange.  But we had several good friends over instead.  Jim and Charlette from church came (before they had to rush out to get to Houston to meet with their son who is a cheerleader with University of Oklahoma.  He was working with some cheerleaders in the Houston parade.  Oh, and Jim promised to go shopping on the way home.  He was especially excited about that), as did Bryan and Jennifer.  And the surprise of the day that we were all excited about … Betty Head joined us as well.  her kids were otherwise engaged for the day (as were ours), so she slid right in with her peach pie donation to the cause.  The food was great as always.  Did I mention that Chris is an amazing cook?  Add that to the fried turkey and you get a meal fit for a king, to be sure.  And for dessert, joining Betty’s peach pie, we had pumpkin and apple pies which carried the distinction of having been made (with a bit of Nana-assistance) by Jachin, Micah, Josiah, and Noa.  Tasty, to be sure.  My personal favorite was the apple, though.  Micah, you outdid yourself on that one.  Can I get you to come over and handle the “cinnamon/sugar drop on top” every time?  It was the first time I haven’t had to add more after I cut my slice. 

Things kind of devolved to a blur sometime after the Baylor basketball game ended and the Dallas Cowboys football began.  I know they both won, but I can’t exactly guarantee that I saw the winning actually take place.  Maybe it was the audio that was embedded in my brain.  Perhaps it was the fact that I read the accounts in the morning paper a few minutes ago.  I vaguely recall getting comfortable in my Archie Bunker chair.  The ding of the microwave reheating leftovers and the occasional ping of the texting tone on my phone kept me from exiting reality completely.  Oh, the texting?  Nathan and Josh were sharing affectionate, brotherly posts.  Josh sent a serene photo of his boys gathered around a blazing fire in a proper fire pit.  He added the text, “Don’t worry.  My pants are just fine.”  Obviously he was just expressing his heartfelt appreciation to his little brother for the life lesson he had learned from said little brother’s previous frightening brush with the deadly Tongues of Turkey-Frying Flame.  With his typical, laugh in the face of danger bravado, Nathan replied with a video of a little guy running in circles with his head on fire.  Now, see?  You were worried about where in the world I got that title for today’s post, weren’t you?  Thank you for your concern.  Keep praying for the fire fighters, and all the first responders and military who are away from their families on holidays.

Ephesians 4:1 says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Father, watch over the first responders and military who are working and on call every day to keep us safe and pull us from the aftermaths of our stupidity.  Amen.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

November 24 – “A ‘Filling’ Morning”

Today promises to be a busy Thanksgiving Day for us, even though, for the first time we can remember, none of our kids or their families will be with us.  Nathan and April and Cailyn are in Corpus with her family there.  Josh and Christi and Zak and Caleb and Luke are waiting out the arrival of Baby AnnaGrace by staying near the Waco hospital (With our full blessings, I might add).  Kel, Christina, Jachin, Micah, Josiah, and Noa are at their house in LaMarque, enjoying the day with Christina’s family.  We are expecting some guests, though.  Friends from church, Jennifer and Bryan will be here.  Jim and Charlette are also planning to drop by unless they get a call from their son (He’s a cheerleader for Oklahoma University.  They are performing in the Thanksgiving parade in Houston).  And our door is always open for surprises as well.  So, even though we finished the turkeys on Monday and she did a lot of baking yesterday (including cornbread for her famous cornbread dressing) Chris has a full morning of pulling together the sides for lunch by noon.

Now before you go jumping all over me about helping in the kitchen, I don’t plan to crash in front of the basketball/football marathon until after lunch (Well, maybe after eleven.  Baylor has a basketball tournament game then).  My morning will be spent making the rounds of all six of the fire stations.  The plan is to take them each a bag full of fried turkey and let them know I am thinking about them and praying for them and appreciating them for working on the holiday.  Most of the stations usually have a time for a family dinner where their wives and children join them.  Our little bag of turkey won’t put much of a dent in what they need for those feasts, but maybe it will make for a sandwich or two while they wait.

Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Father, thank you for our family and their extended families.  Give them, all a fun day today.  And thank you for our fire fighter family as well.  Keep them safe today, and give them some joy as well.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 23 – “See you next year”

Well, I was officially sore when I woke up yesterday.  A full day of turkey frying did my muscles in.  We still made our way to water exercise class, though.  I was glad we went … when it was over.  The pool is heated, so it’s a little easier to ease into the movements than if we were, say, walking or running.  But then I’m not allowed to run anymore, so I was in the right place, I guess.

My next stop was Firestone.  We have had a very slow leak in one of the tires for several weeks now.  It has been long enough that Nathan even took to sending us shame text messages.  Ever see one of them?  The one we got was a lady wagging her finger back and forth and back and forth, on an eternal loop, reminiscent of my Mom or my Grandmother.  It’s a good thing there was no sound.  I could already hear the voice of my Dad tsk-ing me.  I had originally planned to stay and wait, but since I had to double-park in the parking lot, that didn’t look like it would be happening.  The guy took a look at the book I had with me and said, “I hope you have enough reading material for about three hours.”  Needless to say, I called Chris for a ride.  They did get the leak fixed, though.  It was “a tiny leak caused by a tiny nail right in the center of the tire.”  Thanks to the road hazard warranty it didn’t cast us anything.  Minor inconvenience, major win.

We also broke a personal record for the Thanksgiving holidays.  We emptied the grease from the turkey fry and got it out for the trash day BEFORE Thanksgiving.  Never been done before that quickly.  Of course we forgot to include the innards we had in the freezer to throw away.  So that record will stand for another year.

Our final outing of the day?  Three guesses.  Wal Mart, of course.  We needed a few staples like fruit and dog food.  I was also looking for another Helmhutt Star Christmas decoration for the church.  It has a bunch of points to it, all equal angles and lines geometrically.  The concept was developed years ago in Germany by a geometry teacher challenging his class to construct something different.  The star is what they came up with.  We have had one at the church for years, but it has disappeared for some reason.  I know it’s probably somewhere easy, but we need it on Sunday morning to kick off the Advent season with the star of hope.  As it turned out we didn’t find one, but we settled on a five-pointed gold one .  The symbolism is the same.

While there we saw the checker that I gave the fried turkey to.  I eased up to her and asked if she had eaten it yet.  And I was rewarded by being engulfed in hugs and smiles and thank-you’s.  I introduced her to Chris, and the hugs and thank-you’s transferred over to her.  She told us all about how she heated it up and ate it in her bedroom so she wouldn’t have to share (“since there wasn’t all that much anyways”).  She even avoided the puppy dog eyes of her pet.  And when her husband got home and asked about the great smell in the house, she scolded him a little bit, and reminded him, “that you wanted roast and ham and you weren’t gonna get me my fried turkey so I just got MY fried turkey somewhere else.”  I told her the only catch was that she had to pray for us now.  She gave some mighty strong assurances on that.  I think she might have enjoyed it.  She made a point to tell us that she would be working at Christmas time, too.  Chris told her we only fry turkeys around Thanksgiving, so with a huge grin she replied, “See you next year.” 

Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Father, thank you for the giddy joy on the face of that WalMart checker.  Give her and her family a happy season, and draw them closer to you.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22 – “Turkey Fire … er … Fryer Day”

Well, we officially made it through one more Turkey Fry Day.  Nathan and Cailyn came over around 8:30 or 9:00, and we kept at it until about 3:30 or 4.  I guess that made it a pretty full workday.  It sure felt like it last night (and this morning), with all the soreness.  Nathan is heading to Corpus for Thanksgiving, but Chris and I have to go to water exercise class this morning.  That’s not going to be a fun experience.

Back to the turkeys.  We got the fryers set up and the oil heated up and the first two turkeys going.  Then Nathan and I headed over to WalMart.  We needed to trade out our two reserve propane tanks for full ones.  The guy at the gate said to pay inside first., so we tracked down a clerk.  Rita was stocking Christmas stuff, and had a very sad look on her face.  We told her what we wanted, and she said we needed to bring the empties to the gate first, then come to her.  So we headed back to the gate.  Before we left, though, I asked her if she was having any fun.  Judging from the quizzical look I got, I guess that was a disarming question.  She sighed a deep sigh, dropped her head, and said a simple, “No, not really.”  I encouraged her to hang in there, and ran to catch up with Nathan.  He was at the gate trying to convince the guys there that the clerk inside told us to drop off the empties first, then pay.  They finally agreed to her plan.  When we finally reached the pay station again, Rita was still looking kind of gloomy, so I tried striking up a conversation with her.  I told her we were frying turkeys, and she finally responded with a slight smile.  Still forlorn, but a smile nonetheless.  “I love fried turkey,” she began, “But I never get any.  No one in my family likes it.  They all want roast and ham.”  Wow.  Talk about an Eeyore kind of day.  I couldn’t help myself at that point.  I told her we would bring her some.  She brightened a little bit.  I asked when she got off work.  She brightened a bit more.  She even offered, “I work the holiday, too.  All day Thursday.”  I’m not sure she really believed me, but she was warming to the conversation.  When we left she was sporting a real smile.  But that smile was nothing compared to the one that exploded onto her face when I returned later that afternoon with a drumstick and some white and dark meat samples.  I had to track her down to the break room, but when she saw me enter, she jumped up from her chair with a huge grin on her face and engulfed me with a massive hug.  I apologized that it wasn’t really very much, but she said, “It’s turkey.  And it’s for me,” over and over.  I guess we have another forever friend at WalMart. 

Now back to the turkeys.  A few years ago Chris decided that it would be a good idea to protect the pavers that make up our patio from any errant droplets of hot oil, should any such remnants manage to sneak over the side of the pot when a turkey is being lowered in.  an admirable idea – on most normal Turkey Fry Days.  But our name is Vaughan, and we don’t do “normal” very well.  This year was no exception.  Early on the newspaper under one of the pots played host to tiny little pockets of fire as the oil managed to grasp flame on its way to the ground.  Nathan extinguished those using the lid of the pot and, surprisingly, another pile of newspapers.  But later in the day we glanced out the window and noticed that the other pot was hosting a second conflagration.  This one was much bigger than the first.  I was elbow deep in carving turkeys this time, so Nathan and Cailyn and Chris went out to deal with the situation.  April had arrived by this time, but she stayed indoors, obviously trusting her fire fighter husband could safely handle any emergency.  All seemed to be going smoothly until Chris burst into the house, laughing so hard she could barely talk.  Through her peals of laughter, she managed to get out this bit of the story.  Seems that Nathan squatted down so he could do some on the fly teaching with Cailyn.  He was showing her how it wasn’t really the newspaper that was burning.  Instead it was the oil on top of the paper.  As he talked, though, he began to notice that things were getting hotter and hotter.  A quick inventory of his premises revealed his dilemma: “My pants are on fire!”  And he managed to get the blaze under control with minimal damage.  And we didn’t burn the house down or anything.  Always good to have a fire fighter on hand for frying turkeys.  Oh, and as a bonus, he was rewarded with the opportunity to go with his girls to the outlet malls to buy … a new pair of blue jeans.  Well, I have a hunch there were other purchases in his future as well.

Ephesians 3:16-17 says, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Father, thank you for protecting us through our eleven turkeys this year.  Use them to bless somebody else like Rita this holiday season.  Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21 – “What are the chances?”

We had one of those “interesting” occurrences at church yesterday.  We have been praying for one of our families whose cousin in Oklahoma was fighting cancer.  The cousin died, and after the funeral, her husband came down to Galveston to get away for a few days.  He joined his cousins-in-law at church Sunday.  In fact, one of those cousins actually joined Seaside yesterday.  He’s been coming for a long time with his Mom and sister, but never did join up.  So, not such unusual circumstances as they stood at that point, right?  Well, as they joined the pre-church banter and the Oklahoma kin was introduced to several Seasiders (several of whom are also from Oklahoma), our worship pastor Jim approached (ALSO from Oklahoma).  And in that moment both of their jaws dropped to the floor.  There was a moment or two of, “you … it’s … what are you? … how? …” before some semblance of clarity began to emerge in their thought process.  What was so disconcerting about meeting a visitor from Oklahoma?  Only this … the visitor and Jim had been roommates … back in 1985.  What are the chances? 

And on the other side of the room …
The Matthews family arrived with Bob’s booming welcome filling the room, “Jesus loves you and so do I and there’s not a thing you can do about it.”  But it was Amber who did somewhat of a double-take on her way to her seat.  For quietly sitting in a seat near the back was another first time visitor.  This lady was by herself, and had just decided to try out Seaside since she was staying nearby.  She told me she had been involved with a Korean church in Houston for a long time, but driving two hours one way was just getting to be too far for her to deal with.  So why the double-take?  She and Amber had been co-workers – three years ago.  Hadn’t seen each other since then.  Yet here they were, reunited at a little church on the beach on Galveston Island.  What are the chances?

Both of these special guests stayed for our dinner on the grounds that also just happened to be scheduled for yesterday, giving them the opportunity to reconnect and really catch up with each other.  What are the chances? 

Hey … when God arranges for people to reconnect, “chances” has nothing to do with it. 

Ephesians 3:14-15 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

Father, thank you for the “old home week” we had at Seaside.  Great to see old friends reconnect.  Amen.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20 – “Two beginnings”

Interesting Saturday.  Full Saturday.  It started out with a funeral in the morning.  Not one that I was officiating, though.  This one was for a lady who lived in Jamaica Beach.  Her husband has been a police officer, and even the mayor there over the years.  I knew him, but never got to meet her, as far as I can remember.  A lot of the community turned out for the ceremony, though.  I was introduced to the new pastor of First Baptist Church in Galveston.  (We almost met him at the convention last week.  We were apparently two or three booths behind him in the exhibit hall.  The exhibitors were amazed by the fact the two people from Galveston were visiting their booths just moments apart.  We never did make contact, though).  Two pastors led out in the service, and several of her friends managed to share some really nice eulogistic remarks.  I was surprised by two young brothers who used to hang out around Seaside all the time.  They are now working and one even has a youngster of his own.  They both seem happy, and I appreciated their respect and especially their hugs.  Funerals of believers are always much more peaceful.  The family understands that death is just the beginning of a brand new adventure.

Speaking of beginnings, last night we took Cailyn with us to the much-anticipated wedding in the fire station.  And I have to say, I was impressed.  They transformed the bay into what could only be described as a huge wedding chapel.  All of those swoops of material hanging from the center really worked to make the “Big Top Ten” a really  beautiful venue.  They even had an ice sculpture with their names and last initial carved into it.  Some of the guys from the fire department were there, of course, so it was good to connect with them.  The groom and one of the groomsmen went to the fire academy with Nathan.  He did everything he could to switch shifts with someone, but I guess the holidays made it impossible.  One of the four top Galveston chiefs was in the wedding party.  Two others were in attendance, and the third sent his wife to represent him.  Of course the Santa Fe chief was the father of the groom.  That’s some high-level brass representation there. 

Just before the ceremony one of the fire fighters asked me, “Are you a real preacher?  Uh, I mean are you a real preacher with a real church?”  wondering where he was coming from, I assured him that I was pastor of a church in Jamaica Beach.  He replied, “When I got married I wanted you to do my wedding, but my Dad insisted that it be a real preacher of a real church and I didn’t know if you were one.”  I think that was sort of a complement.  After the ceremony one of the fire fighter wives approached me and told me she really appreciated the way I worked sharing the gospel into the ceremony.  Always good to hear that kind of encouragement. 

The ceremony itself went off pretty much without a hitch.  All the guests were seated at tables, so the only chairs were reserved for family members.  The kids involved figured out where they were to sit, and they made their way up to the sand ceremony table at just the right time.  The bride and groom did show their nerves at one point.  I asked them to join right hands.  The joined left, then right to left, then both.  I finally reached out and touched the correct hands and whispered, “Put this one, here.”  Of course the sound system was turned way up, so any whisper was magnified for the whole crowd to hear.  We got through it all, though, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. 

Ephesians 3:12 says, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

Father, encourage Stave and his family as they move through their grief, and walk with Chris and Ashlyn and Trent and Mackenzie and Cameron as they work together to form a brand new family.  Amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

November 19 – “Under the Big Top”

Last night Chris and I went to the rehearsal for the big wedding this weekend.  They had been working all day to get the fire station to look more like a wedding venue on the inside, and they were actually doing a pretty good job.  The walls were lined with that see-through fabric stuff so popular at weddings.  It was hanging from a cable they had strung.  Apparently there had been some difficulties getting the cable to stay attached.  It had already pulled out of the sheetrock a time or two, and they were still holding their breath that nothing would cause it to collapse completely.  Especially after they started the final, coup de grace of the decorations plan.  They were hanging strips of the material from a loop at the center of the room to the tenuous support of that cable.  It amounted to about twenty swoops coming down from the center, forming what looked like a peaked tent that Ringling Brothers would have been proud of.  “Under the Big Top,” as they say.  They still had a long way to go, and we even pitched in at one point to help separate the strands.  They were headed back there after the rehearsal dinner to finish it up. 

Because of the streamers all over the floor we weren’t able to do the rehearsal in exactly the same spot as the wedding will be.  That shouldn’t be a problem for the adults, but there are three kids involved, so I hope they can make the adjustments.  Oh, and speaking of adjustments, we went through the whole ceremony, from entry to exit, with the men and women on the flip side of where they were supposed to be.  I guess I got so used to either having a wedding coordinator or to the bride deciding she wants to buck convention that I didn’t even notice.  We got it straightened out with the wedding party, though, before we left for dinner.  And in my usual final bit of encouragement, I assured the bride that whatever happens will be fine.

The rehearsal dinner was at La Brisa, a Mexican food place in League City.  They served (buffet style) beef and chicken fajitas.  Very tender beef.  The chicken wasn’t bad, either.  The only problem was, they had served a bowl of queso as an appetizer, and it was good.  Really good.  See, Chris and I had been sitting at a table by ourselves before we were called over to join the groom’s family.  We had already been served that bowl of queso, so I took it with us.  Between the two of us, we finished it off handily.  That didn’t leave room for more than one of those fajitas.  We were full when we left and ready to face the next key task of our day … bedtime. 

Ephesians 3:6 says, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

Father, thank you for all the help the bride and groom were getting to decorate their venue.  Give them some rest before the ceremony tonight.  Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2016

November 18 – “Patience …”

I am officiating at a wedding tomorrow night involving one of our fire fighters.  Yesterday I had a chance to meet with the bride and groom to go over the ceremony before the actual rehearsal tonight.  So we met at the wedding venue.  Not exactly what you may have expected, but apparently not the first time it has been used for such a purpose.  The wedding will be held in the bay of station one of the Santa Fe Fire Department.  The station is a brand new one, and it is really big.  Good thing, too.  They are expecting as many as 300 guests.  The plan is to have table set up for the reception, and the guests will go ahead and find a seat at their table to watch the wedding.  The ceremony will take place on the portable dance floor being brought in for the occasion.  As part of the window dressing, I’m wearing my fire department class A uniform (the groomsmen are all wearing tuxes).  It is shaping up to be quite the event.

I made a troubling discovery when we arrived home from Waco Wednesday evening.  As I was unloading my briefcase and reloading it with church stuff I pulled out my computer to get it set back up.  And there was no electrical cable to go with it.  That crucial lifeline to information was missing.  OK, I know I still had access to my phone, but I still do a few minor things like journaling - and working - on my laptop.  But without the power cord I had a few hours at best.  I knew tight where it was.  I had been hooked up to it when we were at Josh and Christi’s.  She needed to download some pictures we took onto her laptop, but it was dead.  So I just plugged it into our cable.  Never thought about it again until that  gut-dropping moment Wednesday evening.  I texted them and they agreed to get it here in the mail as soon as they could.  Should arrive later this afternoon.  In the meantime, I dusted off our old laptop, the one Chris uses on the relatively rare occasions when she needs one (she is incredibly proficient on her cell phone).  I turned on mine long enough to save a few key files (Journals, weddings, Sunday sermons) to Dropbox so I could have access to them, then shut it down as soon as I could.  That gave me some breathing room, but I had forgotten how incredibly slow this computer is.  Not that I’m not thankful to have it, though.  I just have to be patient.  And who doesn’t want more chances to exercise patience?  It has worked OK so far, though, so I think I can hold out until this afternoon.  Here’s to patience …

Ephesians 2:14 says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”

Father, thank you for those excruciating times when you teach patience.  They really do work.  Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 17 – “Convention”

We actually did make an appearance at the Texas Baptist Convention.  Monday morning, all the way from Josh’s house we looked for a place to pull over and have some breakfast.  There just wasn’t anything that wasn’t McDonald’s or Whataburger-esque.  Suddenly we found ourselves at the convention center, still hungry.  We decided to go on inside and take our chances.  Best case scenario, there would be a food station inside.  Worst-case scenario, we would duck out for an early lunch.  As it turned out, there was a little stand set up inside the hotel that served breakfast burritos.  We each had a bacon, egg and cheese–er, I had a cup of coffee and Chris had a bottle of orange juice.  Any guesses as to our total bill?  $5.75.  Not at all bad. 

We finally decided to join one of the very long lines for registration.  As we waited, the elderly lady in front of us (OK.  That means she was obviously older than us) turned and cheerily greeted us with her name and added, “I’m from Columbus Avenue Baptist Church here in Waco.”  I couldn’t resist.  I responded, “I am Kelley (pause here, then much louder for emphasis) VAUGHAN.”  She looked at me a little funny, so I filled in the blanks, “I’m Josh Vaughan’s Dad.”  Suddenly it dawned on her.  She was talking to her pastor’s Mom and Dad.  And her entire demeanor, already bubbly, was suddenly off the charts.  We heard how much she loved Josh and Christi and how great they were for their church (All things a proud parent hates to hear, right?).  we now have a friend for life.  Or at least for whenever we come to Waco. 

She wasn’t the only person we connected with.  As we made our way around the display part of the facility collecting free stuff, we ran into several others.  An ex-Seasider, a college student ministries pastor, the ex-pastor of South Oaks Baptist Church in Arlington, a couple from FBC Texas City who knew Kel and Christina, the chaplain guy fron the state convention (He introduced me to the guy who is redoing the CISM and Psychological First Aid training with a spiritual slant to it so they can certify chaplains and others for crisis response), and two associational directors.  We stopped by the HBU booth.  It made us sad.  It was … boring.  Not even a fun give-away item.  We also went to the Guidestone Insurance Booth.  I complained about their lack of concern for the small church pastor in offering health insurance.  I asked him to register a complaint.  He won’t.  He was just there to sell life insurance.  We did get a lot of free stuff, though.  Toothpicks in a plastic holder, level and tape measure about the size of a credit card, 3 or 4 shopping bags, a backpack, lots of candy, a thing that sticks on your phone and peels off to clean off the screen, then sticks back on and never loses its sticking power, a specially treated towel for cleaning computer screens, lots of pens, a coffee cup, and several chip clips.  OK.  I know.  That wasn’t supposed to be the highlight of the convention.  But it kinda was … 

Ephesians 2:13 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Father, thank you for the chance to see old friends and meet some new ones.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16 - “And finally … Sunday”

I had a great start to Sunday morning.  I was sitting quietly on the couch with Luke.  No, really.  We were both quiet.  Out of the blue he turned to me and said, “DadDad, I saw you on Mommy’s phone.”  Instantly intrigued, I had to follow this one, although I had no idea where it would take us.  “What did you see?” I followed up with.  He looked up at me with a Vaughan-ish twinkle in his eye and said, “You did this.”  And then he started kicking his feet and flopping his right hand up and down across his left wrist, all the while making a weird trilling noise with his mouth.  It looked and sounded eerily familiar.  What could Christi possibly have on her phone that would create such an impression … and of me?  And then it hit me.  He had seen the FaceBook post of my ukulele recital performance.  It apparently made an impression on someone after all.  I wish I had a video of the Luke-style rendition of the DadDad uke extravaganza.  Believe me, it was one for the ages.

We finally left for church.  Upon arrival Christi assured me that there would be donuts available for public consumption, so we headed in the direction she pointed out.  No donuts.  There was a coffee pot, though, so I took advantage of that one.  We continued our trek, past the Sunday School class she recommended.  No donuts.  On around another corner.  My nose was picking up a scent by this time.  It wasn’t donuts, but it was most assuredly food.  Pancakes to be exact.  As the hallway reached a dead end, we found ourselves at the college classroom.  Mixed in with the youngsters, though were quite a few old-timers.  I mean really old old-timers.  One of them invited us in.  Seems the old ones had given up this particular classroom to the college-agers in a move to make better use of space.  They were dedicating the room to some old guy they had a portrait of in the corner, and formally handing over the “keys to this particular kingdom.”  Interesting approach to re-allocating space to better promote growth.  But it was sure working for them.  We almost stuck around for some pancakes, but I was sure we could find donuts somewhere.  We trudged up the stairs and made our way down yet another hall.  No donuts anywhere in sight.  Defeated, we made our way back to the class that Christi recommended. 

The couple doing the teaching had apparently been asked to fill in for one of the regular teachers.  Well, I guess that would be filling in for six of the regular teachers?  They seem to have had a rotation system of some kind going, and all of the regular ones were going to be out of town.  Except they weren’t.  They were all there.  And that made the sub feel a little intimidated.  And then they found out who we were.  The pastor’s Dad, who was also a pastor.  More intimidation.  And then they introduced the visitors.  One of them was a very nice guy from Tennessee.  And he shared the remarkable coincidence about the Sunday School literature the class was using.  He was the publisher.  The subs almost got up and walked out.  They did a great job, though. 

The worship service was … big.  They have a big, Baptist flavored, God-style auditorium with a balcony.  The stage was large enough to hold a grand piano, a full choir, encased drum set and a full contingent of percussion instruments, and most of an orchestra.  The brass section sat in the overflow area, which was on the floor of the auditorium in front of the stage.  And there was still plenty of room for the kids choir to file in and stand on the steps for their special song.  I’m not sure how many people they had in there, but it was a lot. 

When the music began I literally had to turn my hearing aids down a notch.  The sound was big, too.  They even used hymnals for several of the songs.  I can’t remember the last time I used one of those.  We couldn’t find Christi and the boys, but we did locate Cary and Kay Lynn, some really close friends from Arlington.  They had driven in for the afternoon’s activities.  They were sitting next to the guy who used to be pastor at South Oaks.  He just retired from there and started working for the state convention, so he was in town for that.  And before we started, Cary and Kay Lynn’s youngest son Corbin walked in.  He was the guy most famous for calling us a few weeks ago and giving us about two hours lead time before he descended upon us with three of his friends.  They had been camping and were rained out and needed a place to crash so their weekend would be a total disaster.  I think the jury is still out on the disaster part.  Christi and the boys did finally get there, but the show started on the road and we still hadn’t seen Pastor Josh anywhere.  I suggested to Corbin that he keep his eyes on the ceiling.  Maybe Josh would enter on a zip line from the balcony.  Sadly, he simply strolled in a few minutes late.  Boring entrance. 

The afternoon was incredibly busy.  We all went to a new place for a quick hamburger meal.  Christi described it as a step above “usual fast food.”  I think I’ll agree with her on that one.  The “Steakburgers” were really good.  After wolfing them down we had to rush over to an old Waco estate home that was to be the site of Zak and Caleb’s piano recital.  Actually there were also cellists and a couple of singers and even a violin.  A few local music teachers had pooled their talent base and put the recital on together.  Of course the Vaughan boys were fabulous.  It was Caleb’s first recital ever, and he handled it with the grace of a James Bond.  Zak was a level or two more advanced, so he had to play one song alone and one with his teacher.  Nice job, both of you Vaughans.

After the recital there was no rest for the weary.  We had to hurry back to the church for the boys to take part in a kid’s choir presentation.  Once again, they both did a great job, as expected.  Before they went on stage Zak told Christi that he was just about “musicked out” for the day.  Sadly, he had forgotten that he still faced another rehearsal after the concert.   He is also playing piano in the church Christmas pageant.  Poor Zak.  It’s tough to be so talented. 

We finally made it back home and munched on some cheese dip for supper.  Josh had his fourth or fifth meeting of the day (I lost count), so he was a little later getting home.  I’m praying he gets some rest soon.  This being a pastor of a large church is not an easy job, and he has been through some tough times of late.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Father, be with Josh as he leads this church through some more difficult times and decisions.  Amen.