Sunday, December 31, 2017

December 31 – “Bank Robbery?”

The day started out simple enough.  I for one slept in.  Well, “slept in” for me, anyway.  It was 7:30 before I got moving.  Cailyn was here with us, and it was somewhat later than that before they hit the deck.  Someone said it was a Saturday.  Had to take their word for it.  I have never been able to distinguish days of the week in the span between Christmas and New Year’s Day, especially when we have had company.  They all run together into one big “today.” 

Nathan came by to pick up his daughter around 9 or so, and we got into a discussion about cell phones.  He encouraged Chris to get a glass screen protector.  My phone already has a crack, and he said April has already gone through a few of the protectors.  In fact, he had an extra one for Chris’ new phone that he promised to bring over.  We did have some running around to get done before I could settle into some college football games.  Cailyn told me she doesn’t get football.  Looks like it hurts too much.  Yep.  We agree on that one. 

So you see?  So far everything is so simple, so peaceful.  What could possibly go wrong?  We started out at the bank to make a simple deposit.  I thought it odd that there was a “Closed” sign in the window next to the side door I usually use.  Never one to particularly stand on protocol, I ignored the sign and opened the door anyway.  And instantly an alarm started sounding.  I glanced around at the ready, looking for rolling boulders or hidden Ninjas.  None appeared, so I more cautiously ventured forward through the next set of doors, fully expecting to be taken to the ground and handcuffed.  Dragged away as a criminal, a bank robber, never to see the light of day again.  Sniff. 

Fortunately, my worst nightmare did not come to fruition.  Instead of the barrel of a gun, I was met with chuckles and sheepish grins and even an “oops.”  Seems they forgot to change the closed sign.  Not what I was concerned about, folks.  The alarm?  “Oh, that,” they poshed, “We just keep that set on Saturdays because we don’t get much traffic through that door.”  Saturday.  Right.  I began to wonder if they were telling me the whole story when it took three tries and input from three different tellers before they got my deposit right.  Were they just stalling until the cops arrived?  My deposit couldn’t be that confusing, could it?  I found out later that Chris, who was waiting in the getaway car, heard the alarm when it first went off, and within seconds a police cruiser spend by.  Didn’t pull into the bank lot, though, so she didn’t make any further connection.  Glad I didn’t know that at the time.  I was nervous enough as it was. 

I was finally allowed to leave with my deposit slip and my freedom intact.  I made my exit as quickly as I could … through the front door.  Maybe I’ll do my banking during the week from now on.  Or on line …

Psalms 19:13 says, “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”

Father, thank you for the folks at our bank.  They have a great attitude.   Amen.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

December 30 – “It’s just …”

The whole man-flu thing didn’t go over so well around here yesterday.  Oh, not that I woke up feeling just swell or anything.  I was still wracked with horrible flu-like symptoms.  Chris was just in a state of denial.  She refused to say out loud that it could even possibly be the flu.  “You just have a bad cold,” was the best she could muster.  Cailyn didn’t even help much.  She just ran away whenever I sneezed or was hit with a spell of agonizing coughing.

The two of them went over to see Mrs. Betty from home group and take her some homemade bread.  They also made a stop at WalMart.  I was jealous, but then I wasn’t moving around much anyway.  Man-flu, remember?  I managed to drag myself to the couch so I could watch a little of the Texas A&M football game.  The Aggies lost by three, but between the two teams I think they scored 107 points.  Pretty exciting stuff.  I watched some of another game, too.  Kentucky and Northwestern.  That one really came down to the wire as well.  Kentucky had a chance to win if they made a two point conversion.  They didn’t.  End of game.  I guess my sports reporting is not all that exciting, is it?  It’s hard to get fired up when you really don’t care one way or another about the outcome.  College football is a lot easier to watch than the pros, though.  The passion is directed toward school spirit rather than making money or showing off “how wonderful I think I am.”  If they would just put the cool commercials on the NCAA championship game, I probably wouldn’t even turn on the Super Bowl.  Can’t miss those commercials, though.

Well, that seems like a terrible place to end.  No climactic cliffhanger.  No resounding, mic-drop moment.  Just a cough and sneeze and a “woe is me.” 

Psalms 19:9-10 says, “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.  The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.”

Father, thank you for my nurse wife.  She really does make sure I am taken care of.  Pardon my whining.  Amen.

Friday, December 29, 2017

December 29 – “Christmas Eve II”

That’s what Caleb said when he arrived at our house the other day.  He was all set for Christmas, and since we were opening presents the next day, that made the day they got here Christmas Eve II.  And I’m not sure if it has dawned on his yet, but they are heading to their other grandparents’ house from here later this morning, so I guess that makes this Christmas Eve III.  Sounds like a major movie trilogy.

We started out our Christmas together as we usually do.  Well, sort of.  We had to wait for Uncle Kel to get off his mail route and for Aunt April to get off work at the Emergency Room.  But by near seven o’clock everybody was either here, or arrival was imminent.  Our first order of business is to get photos of all the grandkids under the tree.  That, as you might imagine, is no mean task with ten of them ranging in age between fourteen and one.  I haven’t seen any of the photos yet, and I wasn’t involved in taking them, because I was next up to get my picture as Santa with all of them.  Once all that was complete, the kids told the Christmas story.  I helped by asking questions along the way, but they did a pretty good job.  I especially enjoyed Noa’s background singing. 

The actual gift opening time was kind of chaotic, even though we do our best to control it.  Each family presents the gifts they have for the other families.  Finally Nani and DadDad hand out their gifts to everyone.  I think this year there was enough activity that no one got overly bored.  I know I had to get out of the Santa suit pretty quickly because I was burning up.  One of my gifts was an impact drill I have been wanting.  But the best thing about it was that it had all of the kids’ signatures on the card.  I’ll hang onto that one for when they become famous.  The gift that most surprised Chris was the spotlight she opened from Nathan and April and Cailyn.  Who gets a spotlight for Christmas?  She was trying to figure uses for it like, brighten up the back yard or shine into the new neighbor’s house, if anyone ever moves in there.  But the real surprise came when they took her outside.  Seems they had another use in mind.  They had made one of those outdoor cutout figures of a Precious Moments-looking Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus.  The spotlight was to illuminate the figure.  Great surprise.  Couldn’t enjoy it for long, though.  It was just too cold out there. 

I ended up the evening with the beginnings of what I feared might become a case of the dreaded man-flu.  I maintained the premise that it was just a cold, however.  Once you admit to having the man flu, there are certain protocols that have to be followed.  As it was, I just went to bed earlier than everybody else and stayed away from the little guys.  Josh and Christi leave this morning, so maybe when they are gone I can kick it into man-flu gear.  Hmm.  Cailyn is supposed to stay with us tonight.  Maybe I can get her to wait on me hand and foot …

Psalms 19:8 says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Father, thank you for a great family Christmas.  It would sure be nice to be over this gunk by Sunday.  Amen.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December 28 – “The Ellington Excursion”

Yesterday we saddled up the youngsters on hand and finally made our first visit to the new airplane museum.  That would be the one that moved away from Galveston and up to Ellington Field near Houston.  We were going to go to the big grand opening they were planning, but the dates for the opening just happened to coincide with the biggest event of the year in Galveston County, so we didn’t make it.  As it turned out the event was canceled anyway.  Oh, that big Galveston County event?  Hurricane Harvey. 

Sure we felt the requisite sense of betrayal and all when they made the decision to leave, but after seeing their new digs, I can hardly blame them for jumping ship.  The building they are now in is huge.  Not one, but two hangers hold the planes themselves.  And they also have several different exhibit halls and a special events room.  The exhibits are hands-on, and each one teaches something about flight from the perspective of science, engineering and technology.  They even had a place that taught you how to make a paper airplane that would actually fly.  Mine was a bomber.  Last time I saw it, it was flying in the direction of Kemah and Galveston Bay (No, not really, but it did fly pretty well and almost smacked Zak in the head one time).  Speaking of Zak, he and his brothers and even his Dad all did a passable job in the hang gliding room.  Fascinating contraption where you sit in a swing and technology combined with a huge video screen takes you on an actual flight.  Each movement you make causes your screen persona to react as if you were in flight.  Zak and Caleb and Josh got within 100 feet of the target.  Not bad.  Luke was having too much fun just swinging to pay attention to the movie in front of him.  Not totally technologied out yet, that one.

The boys (That would include Josh – in Luke’s name, of course) also took part in a scavenger hunt the museum provided.  It was self-paced.  All you had to do was find the exhibits mentioned on the paper and answer the questions.  At the end of the journey you turned it in at the gift shop and received a little toy airplane and a certificate signed by the president of the museum, himself.  To Josh’s credit, he did allow Luke to choose which toy he wanted.  Now whether he lets Luke keep it remains to be seen.  About the only thing we didn’t get to do was experience a flight simulator.  As it turned out, you have to be ten or older, so Zak was the only one who would get to do it.  Problem was, by the time we got there the flight instructor was out to lunch.  We salved our disappointment with a quick shopping trip in the gift shop. 

Our final destination in Texas was … drumroll here … Pancho’s.  Yep, Josh’s all-time favorite Mexican food haven just happened to be less than ten minutes away, so where to have lunch was a no-brainer.  And it was indeed a grand experience.  Josh downed nine tamales (Much fewer than the record-setting numbers he put down as a teenager).  We were there as he passed on to the next generation the finer points of eating a Pancho’s sopapilla.  It was enough to choke us up a little bit (or was that the enchiladas I had?).  It was truly a touching experience.  One that we will certainly have to repeat as often as we can, at least until Waco opens its own Pancho’s.

Psalms 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

Father, thank you for excitement in Caleb’s eyes as he tried to take in all the airplane-related goodness around him, for the determination in Zak as he searched for the next clue in his scavenger hunt, for the awe in Luke as he surveyed the hanger from the balcony, and for the absolute glee in AnnaGrace when she finally located her Mommy way up there in that balcony.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

December 27 – “An iPhone Saga”

Sigh.  Ah, the travails of being a good husband.  Especially when your wife has been using her Start Trek hand held communicator since the early days of consumer level five iPhone computerdom (and has been perfectly content with it.  Familiarity breeds peace, and all that).  And for the last several months said communicator has been completely on the fritz.  Switching from one program to another for no apparent reason, requiring recharging two or three times a day and then there was the ever-present message: “Your storage bin is completely full.  If you want to avoid imminent death, you will immediately purchase more storage space, after which we will once again love you.”  Well, maybe not in those exact words, but …

So Christmas time came around, and guess what was on the top of my list to get for my Sweetie?  Yep, a table top calendar.  Hey, she can’t get from one month to the next without one.  And then came the carving.  I always have to do a carving, but then third, or at the lowest fourth, was that brand new iPhone.  Oh, not the hotshot newest possible model.  Those are always too expensive and the powers that be haven’t had time to work out all the bugs.  Besides, a jump from iPhone 5 to ten might be too much of a shock for us technologically challenged last generationers.  So I got her the iPhone 7.  Kept it in the box.  I thought about having them go ahead and switch over service.  Then when her phone stopped working entirely she would know for sure it was time for a new one.

And then came that glorious Christmas morning.  Down to her very last gift, she hastily unwrapped it.  A new iPhone.  What a wonderful surprise.  She said she had almost decided to wait until after the first of the year before thinking maybe possibly about looking into getting a new one.  Since it wasn’t set up or anything (it had never been released from its original packaging), she looked at it, admired it, and put it away for the day.  And the wait began …

The day after Christmas.  First things first, right?  We went to the grocery store to stock up on food for the impending descent of ten grandchildren upon our domestic abode.  But then we went right over to the AT&T store to have them help us get the new iPhone all set up and ready to take its first picture (Hey, this is Chris’ phone, OK?  Her phone, her priorities).  And then ... uh oh …  Seems her phone was not signed into iCloud.  And as such had never been backed up into that miraculous nothingness capable of swallowing up and regurgitation virtually our entire lives.  Nothing.  Zero.  Unbeknownst to us, then, her precious collection of photographic memorabilia had been in mortal danger for … for … forever.  We hastily retreated from the store, reeling from the shocking news, yet determined to rectify this unfortunate, potentially horrifying situation. 

It took me a long time … the rest of the morning, actually, to figure out a way to convince my laptop computer that it was, indeed, OK with me for it to back up Chris’ phone to iTunes.  After an hour or two, it assured me that the backup was present and intact.  Frightening, isn’t it, when you have to trust the word of a 10 by 15 inch metal box?  I hesitantly began the next phase of the operation, downloaded the recent backup onto the new iPhone. 

The first part was easy enough.  Hello, back to you in 100 different languages.  What country are you in right now?  Do the stripes on your underwear run vertically or horizontally?  But then the laptop’s careful nature began to kick in.  Do you really want to trust this device?  Let’s make sure.  We’ll play a game.  I’ll send a text to one of your other devices.  You have to figure out which one it is, find it, and enter the code I send before time runs out and you have to start all over again with Hello and aloha and bonjour.  Oh, I played a time or two, but I could never find the right device.  Finally my impatience got the better of me.  Well, that and a phone call.

My landline rang and the caller ID indicated that it was from none other than Apple, Inc.  Great.  I had obviously done something completely stupid and now the powers that be were calling to laugh at me and take away all iPhone privileges, put me in iPhone time out, if you will.  The voice on the other end was in an incredibly thick foreign accent (from where, I have no idea).  I finally pieced together that he was informing me that my iCloud account had been hacked by somebody in Russia.  He could take of it, though.  All I had to do was go online to a website of his choosing and he would walk me through taking care of it.  Before agreeing, however, I asked where he was.  I think he said somewhere in California, but I couldn’t hear him because of all the background noise of others speaking with the same thick accent in the cell of an office they were obviously working from.  I told him I would call just call Apple myself and talk to someone I could understand who worked in a quieter office.  He tried to call back a few times but I never answered.  I did take my own advice, though.  I gave Apple a call and once I waded through the computer welcomer, ended up talking to an actual Apple rep (a very sweet girl who spoke with a perfectly understandable Alabama accent).  Before moving on to the Chris phone issue, I asked her about the call.  Nope.  Wasn’t them.  She said it was a common phishing call and to ignore it.  Deal. 

I spent the next two hours on the phone with Apple.  I’m not sure what the girl and her supervisor were doing other than being very nice, but I suddenly remembered that Chris also has an iPad mini.  On a whim I checked it out … and there was the missing text message.  Where’s Waldo?  Check the iPad.  The code worked, and by the time the supervisor got himself hooked into our phone so he could see it, I had the whole thing solved and was ready to move on.

Then we had to return to the store and politely ask them actually transfer the service.  Come to find out, I was supposed to know a particular code to access my phone records.  Didn’t know it.  So after checking my drivers’ license photo and scanning every bit of information included therein, we finally were approved to transfer service.  And Chris’ old phone was officially history.  Oh, and she also got a new case.  I think she actually has a phone she can use now.  iPhone 7.    WooHoo.

Psalms 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Father, thank you for sweet Alabama girls and knowledgeable supervisors and even for phishers in California.  Draw them all to you.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

December 26 – “Christmas Day 2017”

We started our Christmas Day experience like any good grandparent should.  We made our way up into Texas to watch Kel and his family open gifts.  Oh, and to have some of the delicious breakfast Christina had simmering in the crockpot.  No idea what it was called, but it was a mixture of chopped up ham (I guess the proper word would be “diced”), eggs, cheese, and the pies de resistance (Funny how that phrase didn’t get auto-corrected.  Wonder if that’s really how you spell it.  No, she didn’t cook a crock pot pie.  That’s a French word for the crowning blow or something along those lines.  In this case it refers to …) - a layer of tater tots on top.  Good stuff.  Kel read the Christmas story from his phone’s Bible app (Hey, we were at the home of another generation.  The Bible, along with just about everything else, is all electronic-y).  Then they opened gifts one at a time.  The kids all seemed happy with what they received.  Ezra was all over the place in his one year old wonder.  So was their dog Mercy (a lab mix) and the dog they are babysitting (a boxer).  Yep.  That’s some big dogs.

We returned to the Island around 9 or so (Oh, I forgot to mention that we left here at 6:30 … a.m.), and finally exchanged gifts between just the two of us.  Chris received a designer copy of her favorite book (Redeeming Love), and she’s started re-reading it already.  I also got her a new phone.  Her current one (an iPhone5) is giving her constant trouble.  We have to go in today to get them to help us set it up and actually transfer the service from her old phone.  Oh, and I did her a carving again.  It was a seashell to go with the Christmas legend I made up and revealed at the Christmas Eve service (Another of our quirky personal Christmas traditions.  I try to make some mention during the service, or at least give some clue as to what the carving is.  If I have room I’ll include the new legend below so you can begin passing it on to your kids and grandkids). 

I received a desktop computer stand.  It can do all sorts of things, like allow you to use the computer in bed.  Not why I was gifted such a marvel, however.  Its purpose in the Vaughan household is to help me sit up straighter while typing in hopes of rescuing my neck from pain-causing stress and positioning.  The only issue I have with it is the fact that you have to be a geometry genius to figure out what angles you want the legs to sit at.  Oh, and I still don’t know for sure how to install the mouse holder.  Fortunately I don’t need it on the desk.  She also got me a few books on National Parks (She has a plan in there.  I just know it.  But I still refuse to go camping …), a great all-purpose fishing tool (Mine is rusted shut), and some underwear, of course.

We also managed a FaceTime call with Josh and his kiddos.  Looked like they had a pretty great Christmas experience as well.  Looking forward to hearing from Cailyn later today to see how her day went. 

So … How about a By-the-Sea legend?
Legends and traditions are fun and interesting.  How about we make up one of our own?  Maybe a Legend of the Driftwood or a Legend of the Seashell.  Or maybe both. 
It seems a piece of wood drifted up on the Mediterranean shore many miles from Bethlehem.  He was sad, for the creatures of the sea had been all abuzz with talk of the special birth taking place in that far-off place.  Oh, that’s not so unusual to think about.  All of creation had been waiting for just this very moment for many, many years.  The wood had ridden on waves and tides for miles and miles, hoping to make it shore in time.  And he had.  But now what?  Now he was just a random piece of driftwood stuck on the beach with no place to go. 
As he moped about his sad condition, a seashell drifted beside him and embedded in the sand.  But the seashell didn’t share his depressed demeanor.  On the contrary, the shell was whistling a happy tune as the sea air blew past its hidden archways. 
Intrigued, the driftwood asked how the shell could be so happy in such a gloomy estate.  So close to the Birth yet unable to … to …
Shh!  Said the shell.  Listen.  Right here next to me.  Closer.  Closer.  There.  Right there.  Hear it? 
Sure enough, what at first sounded simply like the roar of the ocean suddenly changed.  Instead of the constant whooshing of the sea, he heard … singing.  Faintly at first, then louder and louder until it drowned out even the crashing of the waves around him.  And oh, so beautiful.  And the words?  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 
Why is driftwood so content to loll around on the ocean until it comes to rest peacefully on the shore?  Legend has it that the wood drifts because it is content to listen once again for the song of the sea shell.  And some say if you should discover one of those shells yourself, if you hold it close to your ear … and listen very carefully … you, too, can hear the song of the angels. 
Merry Christmas, all you Shell-listeners out there!

Luke 2:18-20 says, “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured these things, pondering them in her heart.  The shepherds went back, glorifying God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

Father, thank you for joining us down here to take care of the business of destroying the sin barrier.  Pretty big task for such humble beginning.  You did well.  Amen.

Monday, December 25, 2017

December 25 – “A flexible, fabulous Christmas Eve”

All the Christmas preparation at church finally came to its climax yesterday.  We had a pretty good, average size crowd at the morning service.  Of course the people who made up that crowd were way above average.  There was a lot of holiday hugging among the family.  Chris and I were presented with a really nice gift basket with popcorn and assorted candy as well as gift cards from the movie theater and several restaurants.  We were admonished that the gift was for just the two of us … no sharing.  They wanted to make sure we took some time to relax.  I guess we may get to go see Star Wars after all.

Then came last night … wow. 

One family arrived a little before five (our start time was six), but they were looking for the Catholic Church.  I gave them directions and returned to helping Chris with the pre-service preparations: putting drip guards on 101 candles and getting Communion ready for 80 (We never know what kind of crowd we will have at our special services), entering worship stuff into the computer, plugging in the Christmas lights, setting out the worship bulletins and trivia tests, going over my notes.  Just a typical preparation time. 

We knew something was going to be up when the first couple to arrive were visitors, one from Houston and one from Las Vegas.  And then more people started arriving.  And arriving.  And arriving.  Before the night was over we had set out every one of the 100 new chairs we just bought along with 15 or 20 others we scrounged up.  When all was said and done, we figured there were more than 120 people there, in a room that comfortably seats probably 80.  Don’t tell the fire marshal.  It was amazing. 

It was also challenging.  Chris and Jennifer scrambled to prepare more communion cups and candles.  The people were all flexible and in a great Christmas spirit.  When we sang “Go Tell It on the Island” (Our Galveston version of the Christmas classic), I saw several 20-somethings making up hand motions and laughing with the children near them.  And towards the end of the service a gentleman sitting in the back of the room near Chris volunteered to join the Praise Team right there to play the conga drums.  He was good, too.  Made it possible for Dale to move back to his first love, the guitar.  The Visual Verse went over great.  People were taking pictures of it, and many of them knew the verse already, so they had a great time trying to match the pictures with what they knew it was supposed to say.  Oh, the verse was Isaiah 9:6.  Check it out below.

They really got into our tradition of giving away donuts and ornaments to people who have to work on Christmas Eve.  We only had nine ornaments left of the 100+ we ordered.  The ten boxes of donuts were all grabbed up, and people were telling me who they intended to give them to.  One lady was especially excited.  She wanted to try to duplicate her experience from two years ago (the last time she was in town was two years ago on Christmas Eve).  She told me, “Two years ago when we were here we took some donuts to a policeman at Moody Gardens when we went to see the Festival of Lights.  I was really scared I might get arrested when I ran up to a police cruiser in the middle of the night.  But he laughed and really appreciated the donuts.”

Perhaps the most humbling part of the evening came when we entered into our communion candlelight portion of the service.  Folks were encouraged to go to the communion station first, then pick up a candle and light it from the Christ Candle of the Advent wreath.  With 120+ people in our little worship center, all lining up for communion and then lighting candles, you can imagine how crowded it became.  But the people were all patient and kind to one another.  Jim and the Praise team did a great job covering with the music.  We sang “O Holy Night” two or three times (And new Praise Team member David led out in that one with power and a sweet spirit), and then “Silent Night” no less than five times.  We certainly needed the extras so hastily prepared, but in the end everybody got a candle.  And the final verse of “Silent Night” that we sang acapella was beautiful.  Most assuredly a Christmas Eve to remember.

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Happy birthday, Jesus.  We love you and thank you for the myriad of people you bring our way.  May they have a safe and happy Christmas.  Amen.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

December 24 – “Love amongst the Grinch-dom”

I went to the donut shop yesterday to order donuts for Seasiders to give away after our evening Christmas Eve service.  Sounds kind of funny to say Evening Christmas Eve, but with it being a Sunday we have two services today.  The donut shop folks recognized me and even remembered my order from last year.  Well, and the year before that.  And the year before that.  They even gave me a ten percent discount.  I do have to pick them up this morning, though.  The store closes at noon for the holiday, and I might not be able to get there in time.  I also need this afternoon to stick on the message from Seaside acknowledging the sacrifice they are making by working on the holiday and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

I also had to make an Office Depot run.  I didn’t have any more of the full-page label paper for the donut boxes.  Now that was an interesting trip.  There were only two people working in the entire store.  I stood in line for quite a while, but everyone seemed to be staying relatively calm and jovial.  The workers told me they had seen a few Grinches during their short-handed shift, but for the most part everyone had been understanding.  It was great to see some love amongst the Grinch-dom.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Chris worked hard on finishing up last-minute gifts.  A little sewing here, a little wiring there, and she was finally finished.  Well, not with everything.  She still had some baking stuff going on.  The house smelled angelic again as she made some more bread.  Oh and she also managed a little bit of divinity.  Jachin got the entire last batch for his birthday (well, except for the one he shared with me). 

When I wasn’t working on the sermon or making copies of the Christmas Eve bulletin, we watched some Hallmark movies.  Wait … or were they Lifetime?  I forget.  Then came The Wizard of Oz.  Yep. Watched it.  Again.  Well, there was a period of time when it was muted while we FaceTimed with Josh and his family as they decorated Christmas cookies for Santa.  And not just for Santa.  AnnaGrace was chomping on one already, and Luke was masterfully mixing a bite of an apple here and a sprinkle of sprinkles there.  The most impressive part of his performance was that he never touched the apple with his hands.  It rested on the table in front of him.  Come on … his hands were full with important stuff, like the aforementioned sprinkles … and icing.  Can’t forget the icing …

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Father, thank you for Christmas cookies and divinity and the smell of bread cooking and donut shop friends and understanding office supplies shoppers.  Amen.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 23 – “The Boyer Girls and … the gift”

We had a wonderfully unexpected visit yesterday.  The Boyer Girls came by to say hi.  Rita and Kelly we have seen a time or two since Hurricane Harvey.  But this time even LoraPat was with them.  She lives in Seattle now, “chasing boys” (Her words, not mine).  The three of them knocked at the front door wearing headbands of cheer – Rita’s head held light bulbs, I’m not sure what Kelly’s adornment was.  But Lora’s was my favorite of all … Moose antlers.  OK, maybe they were supposed to be from some other far-north creature perhaps related to the season, but a guy who still has “See a Moose in person” on his bucket list can dream, can’t he? 

They even came bearing gifts.  To Chris they handed a tall cylinder containing a delightful collection of pretzels and all the fixin’s for transforming them into holiday chocolate-dipped, candy and sprinkles covered, delectable delights.  The other gift, however, was carefully wrapped in Christmas paper with a decidedly French/Spanish influence.  The words were certainly Spanish.  Something like “Pez in la tiara,” which sounds like somebody adorned a headband with little candies.  Once translated it becomes more like “Peace in the Earth,” though, so it was definitely Christmassy.  It also had small pockets of three men dressed in robes walking around all over the paper.  I’m pretty sure they were French guys.  They all looked pretty smart to me.  The ribbon draped tightly around the box was not your usual Christmas ribbon, either.  It was gold and it was difficult to remove.  That should have been my first clue (if you don’t count the weird wise guys on the wrapping paper) that whatever was inside might best remain there, hidden from unsuspecting eyes. 

Now we talked for a long time, catching up on their goings and comings and feelings since the hurricane nailed the Boyer homestead.  And all the while that second gift sat on the table, mocking me, warning me by its very presence of the danger that lurked within.  I could be strong here.  I could resist the temptation.  I could … not be strong.  I was weak.  I succumbed.  I finally made mention of the beast roaring out at me from across the room.  I humbly suggested that Chris open it, knowing that whatever was inside would be less likely to explode if it re-entered the world in the lap of Mama Chris.  But no.  This one was for me to open.  This one was for me to experience first-hand, up close and personal. 

I trembled at the mere touch of the object placed in my hands.  I struggled mightily with that deceptively beautiful ribbon.  Every tug I made was met with a return pull.  My poor weak fingers were aching when I finally managed to pull one end off the package and slide the remaining bits onto the floor, silently stepping on them in the process.  Hey, I couldn’t be sure of anything.  It might fight back if left to its own devices.  Then I had another decision to make.  Respect the integrity of the foreign script and alien interloper trios on the paper itself by carefully, best bomb removal skill approach, removing said paper, one strip of tape at a time.  Oh, I know how to do it that way.  That’s how my older brother used to open all his gifts on Christmas morning.  And since we tended to open gifts one at a time, it created an interminable delay in the morning’s proceedings.  So as those thoughts leapt into my consciousness, I determined that I couldn’t bear to put these dear friends through the same life-changing agony of anticipation I had experienced as a child.  Nay, for I loved them all too much for that. 

So with a deep breath I worked a finger into one of the tiny openings and let loose with a strong, long tear.  And another.  And another.  And finally, paper on the floor at my feet, now reunited with its former ribbony friend, I managed my first glance at the box in my lap.  Fortunately, it was still covered in the saran wrap packaging, so there was no real danger.  But when I read the first words, I must admit my heart raced.  A single bead of sweat formed on my forehead and began its trickle down my rapidly reddening cheek.  For those first words, the title of the “wonderful gift” from the Boyer Girls, screamed at me.  No, perhaps “yowled” would be a better word.  For there in front of me was what appeared to be a game, a knock off of one of the most popular games in the history of the world, so I would be sure to recognize it as such.  There, in my own lap was a game called … “Cat-opoly.”  That’s right.  An entire game board and playing cards and playing pieces – all cats.  The very description of the game was something I almost couldn’t abide.  Something about finding “cat houses” and “feline spas.”  How could I play this game with my grandchildren?  How could I subject them to such cat-astrophic danger?  In hurricane terms, that would surely be a cat-egory four or even five disaster.  They might even cat-ch some kind of feline fever. 

But I knew they heart of the Boyer Girls was pure.  Well, somewhat pure.  Well, actually, I knew they did it on purpose to torment me.  Yet I love them still.  Thank you, Boyer Family for being our feline-loving friends for many years.  Love you guys. 

Psalms 18:49 says, “Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O Lord; I will sing praises to your name.”

Father, bless those Boyers.  Amen.

Friday, December 22, 2017

December 22 – “That is the question”

We had a bit of a busy day yesterday.  We were descended upon by five grandchildren.  Christina had a little bit of Christmas shopping left to do, so she dropped all the kids off so she could concentrate on her task at hand.  They did fine.  Usually do.  In between gnawing on pizza, they each found ways to be entertained.  Jachin read a book.  Micah and Josiah cornered Nana into a game at the table.  I alternated between chasing Ezra around in circles and hanging out with Noa in my chair.  Tough work, but somebody had to do it in the name of all that is Santa Claus. 

And speaking of the jolly old elf, Chris and I made one of those shopping excursions ourselves once the kiddos headed home.  Just a few more items and we would complete our list for the year.  It took some doing.  We started at Home Depot (where we ended up chatting with our plumber for fifteen or twenty minutes about our families and our respective Christmas plans … I love Galveston), popped into Target while we were at that end of 61st Street (no, we didn’t have to cross over 61st into “The East End,” thank goodness), and then ended up at WalMart (of course) to finish the run.  We even got most of the wrapping done when we got home.  Best I can tell the only thing left for us to get is … wait.  We only have one banana left, and the grapes are almost gone, too.  This whole grocery thing is a never-ending battle. 

I started working on our Christmas newsletter.  First one we have attempted in several years.  Chris did all the groundwork for it.  She pulled together all the significant happenings of 2017.  All I had to do was come up with some flower-lipping to make it sound presentable.  Then she did some editing, and voila, a newsletter is born.  I haven’t looked at our mailing list yet, so if you want to be on it, you better let me know so we can make sure we have an address.  Yep.  We usually send this thing snail mail.  Can you believe that?  Never occurred to us to do it through email.  Hmm.  Maybe we could enter at least the 20th century.  Snail mail or email?  I guess that is the question.

Psalms 18:46 says, “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!  Exalted be God my Savior!”

Father, thank you for food.  Amen.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

December 21 – “Christmas Complete Land”

Chris went to a big working lunch yesterday.  She and her Bethlehem Market cohort Lauren were going to debrief and evaluate the event from an “eyes backward” perspective.  Sounds like most of the comments received were generally good ones.  In fact, while she was gone I received the second or third message through the church FaceBook page asking for specific vendor contact information.  The inquirers had seen some merchandise at the market and wanted to track down the vendor to complete their Christmas shopping. 

She let me stay home and crash.  Second day of fighting upper respiratory gunk.  You know, I didn’t want it to degrade into that dreaded disease of all diseases … Man Flu.  And I confess right up front, when I fall under the Man Flu spell, I am gone.  Little baby right here.  I want to be coddled and have my poor head stroked and back rubbed.  Well, OK, so I want those things all the time.  But the desire increases exponentially when the Man Flu hits.  So far I have avoided it.  Just on the cusp, and as usual it gets a bit worse at night, but I managed to sleep until 4 this morning in our own bed rather than on the couch.  Surely that means I have this thing licked.

Part of my responsibility while she was gone was to deal with the glitch in the cable that took out our DVR capability.  Turned out to be an easy fix.  Every time I have called with an issue, the first thing they have me do is reset the box by unplugging and re-plugging.  The ultimate fix for all things technological.  It’s kind of a pain in the neck to do that with cable service, because it just takes so long for everything to reload.  The reboot was all that we needed, though. DVR now working.  Hallmark movies, here we come. 

Oh, and by the way, I also finished wrapping my Dad gifts and my gifts to Chris.  That puts me in Christmas Complete Land.  Well, as far as me by myself is concerned.  Together we still have to make at least one more shopping excursion.  Not this morning, though.  I understand we are having some young guests while Mommy Christina finishes some shopping of her own.  Hang in there, WalMart.  Be strong, Target.  Don’t give up, Home Depot.  We will be there soon …

Psalms 18:32-33 says, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.”

Father, thank you for the rest last night, and for the respite from coughing.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December 20 – “in the 20’s”

Well, it’s in the 20’s now.  No, I don’t mean the temperature.  We don’t live in Oklahoma.  I mean the date.  It’s December and it’s the 20th.  That means time is running out for Christmas shopping.  Better get on the stick out there, folks.  Speaking of that, where does that saying come from, anyway?  “Get on the stick”?  Is it the stick shift in a race car that you should shift into higher gear?  Or maybe it refers to a literal stick from the perspective of a dog whose master has just tossed it in a game of Fetch?  Yeah.  I think the dog one must be it.  It’s always the most reasonable in the end. 

We did do some Christmas shopping yesterday.  After a quick run to the bank to make a deposit we made a quick run to WalMart to make good use of what we just deposited.  We are getting close to completion, though.  Chris spent most of the evening wrapping presents.  And I helped.  I get to write names on the gift tags.  Great fun.  That’s where I honed my calligraphy skills … or lack thereof.  It’s great to be so incredibly helpful.  Especially at Christmas.

We did experience a bit of a crisis last night.  We were watching a DVRed episode of Once Upon a Time (It’s gotten pretty weird, by the way.  Guess they ran out of all the cool characters).  Suddenly it shut down and switched over to regular TV.  And in the next few seconds a message came across telling us to contact the cable provider.  Well, we never jump the gun on messages like that one.  We waited in out.  Sure enough a second message eventually appeared that the problem was theirs and would be repaired soon.  Of course “soon” probably means “perhaps by Christmas.”  Guess I’ll check in on it again later today.

Meanwhile, it’s back to work today.  I’m struggling with upper respiratory gunk, so plenty of fluids.  I know.  I know.  I always leave off the other half of the equation, “Get plenty of rest.”  I’ll work on that.  Maybe after Christmas.  No, wait.  Josh and his family will be here right after Christmas.  So … next year.  That’s it.  Next year for sure …

Psalms 18:31 says, “For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?”

Father, thank you for sleep.  It’s a really amazing invention.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 19 – “A Bucket list check-off”

We started our day early again yesterday.  We attended a funeral in Houston for a gentleman from our way-back past.  When we were at Langwood Baptist Church back in our early years of college (my first youth pastor position), Joe was the church treasurer, a deacon, and as I recall, a pretty decent church league softballer.  He had three kids, so I got to know them as well.  It was good to see the kids, Connie and Rhonda and Mike, and their families, his wife Mary Nan, and a lot of the old crowd from that era at Langwood.  Most of them even recognized me.  Well, all of them did except for one guy.  Gary assured me it was because he was getting old.  Nothing to do with my long, flowing, gray locks and white Santa-ish beard, I’m sure.  On the other side of that particular coin, though, his son recognized me, but had to introduce himself.  Last time I saw him he was about three years old.  Now Keith towers over me like Aaron Judge over Jose Altuve.  There was one lady who looked very familiar to me, but I couldn’t come up with her name for the life of me.  Made me feel even worse when she told me she recognized me when she saw the back of my head during the service.  Ouch.  Mrs. MacBee finally helped me out with her name, though.  Very sweet lady, I might add.  Bo, one of the kids in that youth group when I was there who later became Langwood’s pastor, did a fine job leading the service.   You know what, folks?  How about next time we do this in the form of a youth group reunion or something rather than a funeral?

I got to cross something off my personal bucket list yesterday.  I never even realized it was on the list until yesterday, actually.  On the way back from the funeral we stopped at a restaurant called Red Robin.  Browsing through the menu I was stopped cold by one description, and I just couldn’t get away from it.  They called it the Red Robin Special or some such nonsense.  What it was, was a hamburger topped with bacon and a sunnyside up egg on top.  Never had a hamburger with bacon and eggs on top before.  Now I have (Well, I could only finish half of it, but I knocked off the rest of it for supper).  The combination of tastes was quite interesting.  I’m not sure I would order it again.  Chris says it’s a heart attack waiting to happen.  But I can check that one off the list. 

Since we were already in Texas we stopped at a few places to do some Christmas shopping.  I know, I know.  It’s the week before Christmas.  Why are we waiting so late?  Well, if you had lived with Bethlehem Market preparations for the last few months, followed closely by hosting a church Christmas party, and then a trip to Alvin to deliver presents to some great families, all wrapped up between day to day operations and preparations for Sundays, you might be a little late getting to certain things as well.  Wouldn’t trade any of it, though.  We even got home in time to watch a Hallmark movie.  I’ve started sneaking a kiss from Chris (of course) whenever the characters on the movie have their Hallmark kiss moment.  Most of the time it’s the very last scene after the misunderstandings have all been cleared up (Hey, the plots aren’t all that different).  But it’s been fun to do the whole mistletoe without the mistletoe action.  I love that girl.

Psalms 18:30 says, “For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?”

Father, be with the Tisdell family as they walk through missing their father and husband and grandpa and friend.  Amen.