Friday, March 31, 2017

March 31 – “A Walk with Anne”

Wait a minute.  Tomorrow is April already?  How did I miss the Ides of March?  Sigh …

Last night we hosted another party.  This one was to say goodbye to Ann and Eric and Cedric.  We have known Anne literally since she was a baby.  She played Baby Jesus in a Christmas pageant one year when we were in seminary.  Rocked the roll, too, I might add.  Then her family moved to Mexico City to be teacher missionaries.  Our next connection came when we took a group of boys to a Royal Ambassadors regional event in Belton, Texas.  Who were the visiting missionary speakers?  None other than Anne and her family.  She was a young lady by then, at least 10 or 12.  She was already accomplished in the fine art of, well, talking.  Whether she sensed that she could trust us, or she just never met a stranger, she engaged us the entire time we were together there. 

Our next contact came many years later when I listened to a phone message at the church from a new student at Texas A&M University’s Galveston campus.  The hesitant voice on the other end wanted to know if I was the same guy who went to seminary with her father.  We started going by to pick her up for a ride to church every week.  And from that beginning we walked with Anne through college graduation and job searches.  She sang with the Praise Team at church, and even led the effort for a while, selecting the songs every week.  She became a regular at our home group, and over the years invited quite a few friends and co-workers to be a part of our gathering.

Hers was the wedding that almost was canceled when the officiant wouldn’t proceed unless he had the license in hand.  And the license was MIA.  I offered to step in if they wanted me to, and after a quick call to Nathan to bring me my wedding book, the ceremony carried on.  The license was right where Anne said it was, by the way.  The searchers had inadvertently covered it up with some other stuff.  I signed it a day or two later and all was good.  We walked with her through some difficult times as well as some really exciting times in her marriage.  Not the least of which was the adoption of little Cedric.  I guess that one would qualify in both categories.  The process and the wait was extremely difficult, but the end result was a fine youngster who is not “little” Cedric any longer.  It was one of those proud “substitute parent” moments for us when we were honored to stand with them before the judge when the adoption was finalized.

As I told Anne when they left the house last night, we found her after her exile to Mexico, so we should be able to maintain some sort of contact with Austin.  I assume they have cell phone service there, don’t they?

Acts 2:43-47 says, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Father, continue your walk with Anne and Eric and Cedric in this new adventure they find themselves on.  Amen.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 30 – “It was a dark and stormy night …”

“It was a dark and stormy night …”

Well, I didn’t know what else to write today, and it always seems to work for Snoopy, so I thought I’d try it.  It’s not actually a descriptive statement for Galveston last night, though.  Actually it was a pretty clear night as far as I could tell.  None of the blustery weather I heard about in Oklahoma and North Texas.  Oh, it sprinkled a little as we were shoving the shed back into its place on the side of the house.  Only put one ding in the fresh paint, too.  We’ll get that rep-aired and repainted with no problem.  The hardest part of that task, once we got the shed in place, was remembering where everything fit that we took out of there.  It took me a while – long enough that I was soaked by the “sprinkles” by the time I got through – but I managed to fit everything in and still make getting the lawn mower out a fairly easy process.  And with that completed, the back yard is officially done.  Just in time for our next party tonight.  Our home group is feting Anne and Eric and Cedric on their last meeting together with us before they move to Austin.  Cedric has wanted to go into the back yard every Thursday since we started the building project so his desires can finally come true.  See you tonight, Cedric.

Now the big weather story here is the fact that it is cold this morning.  65 degrees.  That is just about as cold as I’m comfortable with, especially in March.  I left the whole Spring snow thing behind when we moved here from Denver.  So excuse me now as I go look for my heavy jacket …

2 Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Father, thank you for all the different flavors of weather you created.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March 29 – “But DadDad can’t cook …”

We shifted gears to the old part of the house yesterday.  That meant replacing a dryer vent and caulking everywhere I could find that needed it.  And once that was done I headed over to Nathan’s to pick up a power washer that he borrowed from a fire fighter buddy (Thank you so much, John).  Now I have used a power washer once or twice in the past.  It was a small machine donated to us after Hurricane Ike.  It didn’t last that long.  But this one was not like that.  It was big.  Gas operated.  Longest water hose I have ever seen.  And really powerful.  I’m not completely sure how much good it did at washing the house, but it was sure fun.  I was drenched and filthy when I stopped.  Not sure if I am done or not, though.  I’ll have to look at it in the daylight.  I might just have to do it again, or at least just scrape some more, before we kilz and begin the actual paint job.  Oh, and I discovered a few new places on my body that have never been sore before.

As I was finishing up Cailyn, who was spending the night with us, realized that it was almost supper time and Nana was getting ready to go to her ladies Bible study at church.  “But DadDad can’t cook,” she worried.  So the two of them made some chicken strips and gravy.  That’s my girl.  Thinking about me.  After Chris left we decided to have a modified picnic.  We ate on the coffee table instead of the dining room table.  Don’t tell Nana.

We spent a few minutes outside swinging and inspecting all the paraphernalia that was in the shed.  We had to empty it to move it so we could paint behind it.  Once the inspection was complete we moved the party indoors for a game of Connect 4 and then checkers.  She said she had never played checkers before.  And when the time came for setup … I forgot how.  So we played a hybrid of chess and checkers while I read through the directions.  We did switch to the correct rules, but by then we were just goofing around anyway.  Our version was way more fun than following the rules.  Bedtime followed our usual procedure.  Texting Mom and Dad, then FaceTiming with Dad.  Finally we did family worship and read a chapter of her new library book.  She was fast asleep by 8:30.  That left me just enough time to clean the kitchen up before Chris got home, thus once again proving my prowess around the house.  But, umm, truth be told …I was exhausted. 

2 Timothy 2:20-21 says, “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

Father, thank you for sweet and soft granddaughter hugs and for big and powerful power washers.  They both sure made my day.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 28 – “Big is not always best”

Funerals … memorial services … are an interesting phenomenon in our society.  They are sometimes high-energy celebrations replete with fond memories and hope for the future.  Sometimes they are the exact opposite – filled with overwhelming sadness and grief.  Sometimes the room is absolutely packed with well-wishers.  Sometimes not so much.  Sometimes there is a great connection to the spiritual.  Sometimes the spiritual is forgotten or ignored.

The memorial service Chris and I attended last night would best be described, I think, by the word poignant.  Now I know there are many definitions for that particular word, but by it I mean touching and simple.  The pastor was brother-in-law to the man who died, and Pastor Dennis did a fine job of assembling scriptures related to hope and eternal rest.  The deceased, Stan, had at one time prayed and given his life to Jesus, so the promises of eternal life did apply to him.  He attended Seaside for a time, and we were even privileged to see an emotional experience of family reconciliation between Stan and his sister Anna.  He had been living way up north for a long time, and that is where he died. 

This memorial service could also be described as intimate.  Stan’s dad Ray and his wife were there.  Dennis’ two grown sons were there.  A few of us from Seaside and several from Dennis’ church in Bolivar pretty much rounded out the group.  I really appreciated the story Ray told after the service.  Seems he was an athlete back in his day.  He participated in several sports, but the one in which he most excelled was baseball.  That comment right there had me in his spell.  He said his number the whole time he played was 14.  He became quite attached to number 14, and has considered it his lucky number for his entire life.  He paused, and with a twinkle showing through the tears welling up in his eyes, he concluded, “And looking around here today, I counted fourteen people.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect number.  Thank you all for coming.” 

Big is not always best.  Thanks for that reminder, Ray. 

In John 14:1-3 Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in me also.  There are many rooms in my Father’s house. If this were not true, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  If I go and do that, I will come back. And I will take you to be with me. Then you will also be where I am.”

Father, walk with Ray and the rest of his family as they grieve and remember Stan.  Amen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27 – “Baptisms in the Ocean”

We had another big day to celebrate yesterday in the Kel Vaughan family.  Jachin and Micah were baptized in the Gulf of Mexico. 

After church Chris and I hurried home.  We were to be hosts for the big event, with our newly renovated back yard.  It was, by the way quite the big hit with the myriad of children that showed up.  Oh, I know not a single one of them noticed the paint job or the pavers we moved around or the trellises we adjusted or the dirt we swept or the extraneous matter we shifted to different planes of existence (read here put in the shed or the garage) or the dog poop we (read here Chris) picked up.  But I’m pretty sure they had a good time.  I understand one of the boys set his Mom straight when she mused as to how she just couldn’t understand why the kids liked to play in our back yard so much since there really isn’t anything there.  He jumped in with, “Because it’s fun, Mom.”  Come on, Mom.  Everybody knows Nana’s yard is fun, just because it’s Nana’s yard. 

Christina provided a crockpot full of pulled pork for sandwiches or tacos, and people started arriving a little before one.  Cailyn and her Mom were there (Daddy was working).  The Waco cousins were in a musical at their church, so they could be here.  There were cousins from Christina’s side of the family, though.  Also friends from their church and some Seasiders as well.  Their pastor and his wife even came.  Kel and Christina played a video they had made of each of the boys expressing why they were being baptized and in general expressing their faith in Jesus.  Very creative.  Simple, yet powerful.  They each said some words, then asked the grandparents in attendance to share as well.  Christina’s Mom fought back tears as she spoke.  Chris deferred to me, so I shared the specific blessings I had written for each of the boys.  Thank you, Christina, for the heads-up early on.

After lunch we headed out to the beach not far from the house.  The most difficult part was finding a place to park amid the hordes of tourists.  Once everyone gathered on the sand, Kel asked his pastor to pray, and then we headed out into the waves.  Micah went first.  He was shivering the most.  I stood on one side and Kel on the other and he went under.  Jachin is taller than both of us, so we hesitated before easing him under.  We wanted to wait for just the right moment – when a wave was coming.  That way he wouldn’t have as far to go down.  All worked well.  The deed is done.

Chris said Josiah told her that he is going to be baptized as well, just “not in the ocean.”  She asked him why and he replied, “Four reasons: 1. Crabs.  2.  Seaweed.  3.  Crabs.  4.  Waves.”  Well, it’s a well thought-out repudiation of the process, if nothing else. 

2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Father, thank you for Jachin and Micah and the step they took yesterday.  Help them continue to grow in you.  Amen.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March 26 – “Opening Day”

Opening Day.  just hearing the words brings excitement to the heart and chills to the spine.  There’s nothing quite like the very first time, the new start, the butterflies in the stomach.  Baseball.  Gotta love it.  Well, I do, anyway.  And there is nothing quite like Opening Day for Little League baseball in Small Town, America.  That’s where we spent yesterday.  Hitchcock, Texas.  Little League Opening Day festivities. 

The day began with a parade.  Yes, the whole town turns out for this one.  All of the volunteer fire vehicles lead the way.  Well, following a police car lead vehicle, of course.  The mayor turned out.  After all, it is an election year in Hitchcock.  And each of the 22 teams in the league followed in floats they had decorated, usually somebody’s old trailer they used to haul hay.  The kids proudly wore their crisp, new uniforms and tossed candy to the spectators along the parade route.  Chris and I took up our position at the last driveway before the end of the parade.  I think the kids realized we were the end of the line, because we were inundated with candy.  There was so much on the ground around us that I began to toss some back to the kids.  I had on a pair of those shorts with regular pockets and one of those big square pockets on each side.  By the time we walked back to the fields, my pockets were bulging with candy we garnered from the ground.  Oh, we won’t eat it all.  I was just going for granddad of the year.  And part of that title entails having a full array of candies available. 

Opening ceremonies were treated with all the pomp and circumstance you might expect from a major league franchise.  All the kids lined up on the field for team introductions.  The Hitchcock Volunteer Fire Department Honor Guard presented colors.  A taped voice sang an interesting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  The kiddos recited the Little League pledge.  There was even an opening prayer from one of the coaches.  After the ceremonies the games opened, the most popular of which was the ring toss around the 2-liter bottles of soda.  Micah captured four bottles.  Jachin stopped at two.  They also had a silent auction, with each team donating a basket of some kind. 

The games themselves were designated as exhibitions.  None of the results counted toward the standings.  The idea there was to let the kids get their first game jitters out of the way with less stress.  It also made the day more of a fun one, rather than a beginning of the inevitable harsh competition that is to come.  Josiah held his own at first base, making several putouts.  He also hit a nice single down the third base line.  Micah played center field for his team.  He didn’t have any fielding chances, but he did get on base both times he batted.  In fact he was the potential winning run at first base when the final out was made.  Exciting games.  Proud of those boys.  Jachin’s ganes don’t start for another few weeks.  

It was a full and exhausting day for these grandparents.  We snuck in a trip to Home Depot between games to pick up some outdoor electrical outlet covers and some rocks to put under the outdoor section of chimney in the back yard (That was my last chore of the day when we got back home.  Chris went to WalMart to get some goodies for the baptism party today while I worked).  Oh, and I almost forgot.  On the way home we saw something neither of us can ever recall seeing.  About halfway up the causeway heading back into Galveston, we saw, parked on the side of the road … an exercise bike.  No rider, though.  Just the abandoned bike.  Guess the poor guy just couldn’t make it any farther.  Gotta admit, though, he got a lot farther than I would have.

2 Timothy 2:13 says, “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

Father, would you make it possible for those youngsters involved with Little League to be happy?  Thank you.  Amen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 25 – “Finished … or not”

Back at it.  All day this time.  We are down to the wire.  I reinstalled the two regular electrical outlets.  We still have to cap off and install the new electrical box for the 220 power source originally installed to power the hot tub.  Sigh.  I could sure use a good thirty minute hot tub session this morning. 

I worked on painting white trim in the back yard.  Strips around the windows and door as well as the ultimate pain creator – eaves.  Leaning back and painting over my head.  Oh, boy.  I can still feel it right now just thinking about it.  I did get much of it finished, though.  The entire back wall and the half of one side that extends to the gate.  Chris worked on the other side, painting the blue/gray walls up as high as she could reach.  That and the accompanying eaves will be one the docket for … not sure when.  We have to go to Hitchcock today.  Kel’s boys (except for Ezra) are all involved in opening day ceremonies for the Little League season.  Josiah and Micah even have games today.

Back to the day yesterday … Chris was pretty determined and resourceful besides the painting she did.  She took down screens and washed two of the windows.  She also washed the two glass doors.  And all that was after she snuck off for a little while to visit with the H&R Block specialist who has been doing the taxes on her Mom’s last remaining account.  Hopefully this is the last time he will be needed on that front.  Oh, and speaking of taxes, our packet from our preparer came yesterday.  We owe.  Lots.

Together we returned two of the trellises that surround the chimney structure.  We have to wait on the third one.  Chris is experimenting with ways to keep things from growing inside the penned off area.  She had already put down a tar paper base and some old pavers we had, but she decided it just looked tacky, so they will be coming out.  Our next idea is to get a bag of those white rocks from Home Depot or WalMart and pour them in there.  I think that will look a lot better.  Once the rocks are down we can tie off the third trellis and be pretty much done with the back yard.  I have a sneaking suspicion that when we get back from the ball games, there will be some more back yard final touches in my future.  The baptism party is tomorrow.  Bring it on, finished or not …

2 Timothy 2:11-12 says, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.”

Father, be with all the youngsters involved in the parade and games today.  Help them to have fun.  Amen.

Friday, March 24, 2017

March 24 – “Tiptoe through the trim work”

Trim painting has officially started.  Well, at least in the back of the house where we have already done the main wall painting.  Like I said yesterday, Chris WILL get the backyard looking good before the baptism party Sunday.  It looks like the trim around the doors and windows will have to have a second coat.  Just didn’t look right.  The hardest part for me, though, has been painting the eaves.  I don’t too well with looking up.  Never had much Michelangelo blood in me, I guess.  Thus far there is ample evidence of my inability to be precise as well.  White bleeding onto blue/gray.  Thankfully I bought a much smaller brush for touch-ups today.  Ah, well, I’ll head back to the salt mines as soon as it gets light enough outside.

I only worked until lunchtime.  Chris called me in for some homemade hash.  Haven’t had that dish in some time.  And after lunch I had to head out to ukulele class.  I had missed the last two, and next Thursday is our big end-of-the-class recital, so I felt compelled to attend.  The recital is open to the public, by the way.  We expect thundering hordes of adoring fans, music lovers all.  I imagine there will be screaming and vying for position near the front of the room so they can hope for a close-up glimpse of one the entertainers.  Wait.  What?  You mean that’s not what happens at recitals?  Sorry.  My bad.  But you are welcome to join whatever silver hairs and family members see fit to support the whimsical doddering of aging uke players.  2:45 next Thursday.  4700 Broadway in the Community Room.  Oh, what kind of music will you be hearing?  Well, that’s a surprise, I suppose.  I will give you one hint about our instructor, though.  As we were leaving he handed us an extra sheet of music.  “This will not be in our recital, but I thought you might want to practice this one a bit for your own edification.”  The song?  Tiptoe Through the Tulips.  I will work on that one.

2 Timothy 2:3 says, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

Father, help us work through our sore muscles to get this painting all done.  Thank you.  Amen.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 23 – “Piggy-backing to painting”

Now that we have the truck back, I went to the registration office yesterday to pick up the new windshield sticker.  The cost of an inspection may be very cheap for a classic vehicle, but the cost of vehicle registration is still way up there.  At least it is nothing like it was in Denver, where the inspection was outrageous and the registration cost was based on the weight of the vehicle.  It was basically another tax.  I love living on this island near Texas and piggy-backing on their laws.

From the tax office it was out to the church for staff meeting.  It was time to hammer out which songs and which verses of those songs we would be singing for the Easter sunrise service on the beach.  I needed that info so I could get the song booklet completed and to the printer so they would be back in plenty of time.  All successful on that front so far.

When I got home I found Chris out in the back yard, already hard at work … painting.  She is focused on getting at least the back yard all gussied up before we have a house full of people over on Sunday.  That’s the day we are hosting a baptism gig for Jachin and Micah.  Everyone is gathering here at 1:30, and then we are heading to the beach for the baptism.  So, back to the work at hand.  After a quick lunch I joined her with a bucket of paint, and between us we knocked out the main wall in the back with the gray/blue color Chris settled on.  Still have to get the trim around the windows and doors done, though.  I’ll start that after breakfast … which Chris just handed me.  Guess she’s ready to roll.  Good thing I finished the Thursday night Bible study prep early this week.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

Father, please begin now preparing and drawing people toward you so that they will want to come to something like a sunrise service on the beach.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22 – “Good news, bad news, good news”

We finally had to take the truck in for some much needed maintenance.  The power steering system just couldn’t keep fluid from flowing out.  It hadn’t really affected the actual steering of the truck, but it sure could make a lot of racket.  We have been putting it off for some time, but since the inspection and registration are also due this month, we figured we’d get Dennis the Mechanic to check it out.

And while we were (Ha. Fooled you) inside recuperating from another bout of scraping paint and working in the flower beds, the dreaded phone call finally came.  Chris answered it this time.  The official word from Dennis the Mechanic?  “I have some good news and some really bad news.”  Not ever words you want to hear from a mechanic, especially one who is also a preacher.  He is going to tell the truth.  That’s one reason why we like him so much.  He doesn’t try to upsell us at every turn.  He tells us what work we absolutely need and what can safely be put off until next time.  So good news and bad news.

He started out with the good news.  Always helps soften the blow to come.  Since our truck is 25 years old this year, it has become an official “classic vehicle.”  And what’s so special about that designation?  It means (and here is Dennis’ good news) our inspection charge from here on out is only seven dollars.  I’ll take that.  Oh, and the truck passed with flying colors.  Well, after the bad news was taken care of.

“The bad news is actually the worst possible situation we could have found once we got into the job,” Dennis began.  Again, not something you want to hear from a mechanic or a plumber.  Now I don’t remember all the mechanic-y words he used, but it seems the gear box was almost completely shot as well as one other part that, “if this one goes out you will have no control over your vehicle at all.”  Ouch.  Once he realized that part was almost gone, he made an executive decision to replace it instead of the high pressure hose, which was still working fine.  That kept the cost he quoted me the same while making the vehicle safer.  I have given him absolute sovereignty over such decisions.  I trust the guy.  So the bad news in all its parts involved that gear box and its buddy that operates the truck’s steering.  Well, and the $700+ bill that accompanied the procedure.  That was pretty bad news, too.  Especially since we had to do all the work on the house.  Oh, the steering wheel sits a little catty-whompus because of the way it fit into the new gear box, but (the good news) that can be fixed with an alignment if we want to fix it.  Or (the better news) we can live with a crooked steering wheel.  It doesn’t affect the mechanical operation of the truck in any way.  But the good news is (And you always have to end on some good news) we now have a safe truck.  A safe Classic Truck. 

2 Timothy 1:3 says, “I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.”

Father, bless Dennis this week with some good work at his shop and some good times at his church.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March 21 – “Out of the boredom …”

Ah, so the infamous Blog of Boredom starts much the same as it has for the last week or so.  We were outside …

After working all morning at my computer, I scraped more paint off the house.  In case you have never done that, it is a seemingly never-ending task.  The more you scrape, the more you uncover more that needs to be scraped.  But I scraped.  And I scraped.  And I scraped.  And then it got hot.  So I moved to the other side of the house.  That’s the “benefit” of having to scrape the whole house, I guess.  There’s always somewhere in the shade. 

While I scraped Chris hit the flower beds again.  She finished her task, though.  One front bed is completely cleaned out.  Another is clean down to the bush she started trimming.  I got to take a break and help her with that.  I had a junior high-esque revelation while working on the side of the house yesterday.  I realized that scraping paint is a lot like trimming bushes, or mowing grass, or vacuuming carpet.  How are they all similar?  Because they are all a lot like that time you finally get hold of that especially long or hard to break loose booger.  You can finally see some progress, and all that hard work was worth it.  OK.  I guess I digress.  But when you are scraping, you find you have a lot of time to think creative thoughts. 

And out of the boredom … last night (It feels weird to say “last night” when it was still light outside, but it was seven o’clock.  That’s officially night) we had a surprise visit from someone we haven’t seen in at least five years.  James, the young man who used to live where the vacant lot is next door to us (before it was a vacant lot, of course, back in the day when there was an actual house on the property), knocked on the door.  I teased him for knocking instead of just walking in like he used to, but he said, “It’s been so long, I was afraid you wouldn’t recognize me.”  We did.  He seems to be doing quite well for himself.  Lives in Magnolia and works in LaPorte driving a fuel truck.  He asked all about the old youth group from when he went to Seaside.  Told us he still has his baptismal certificate and a group photo from the year he went to camp with us.  He also said he was pretty sure he still has the Bible he got at camp.  Along with many of his things, it is still packed away in a box.  At that thought he glanced over at me with a sheepish look in his eye and added, “I know.  That’s not where it should be.”  Gotta love it when the youngsters start growing up and developing consciences and spiritual senses of their own.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Father, watch over James as he does all that driving, but in his rig and in between home and work.  Amen.

Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20 – “This Old House”

I know now that we are well on our way into the painting phase of the external house restoration process.  For one thing, I have spent parts of the last two days scraping peeling paint off of the side of the house.  (There is something insanely satisfying about seeing the old paint peel back and fly off).  But that could be just a momentary fancy.  No, the real indicator came last night as we watched a little of the Baylor basketball game.  Well, as I watched the game.  See, Chris was busy.  Not sewing this time, for she was seated on the couch right next to me.  This time she had her little iPad out and was doing research.  That’s it.  That’s how I know we have reached critical mass … when Chris begins her internet research. 

This time she was on the website associated with that TV show, This Old House.  I suppose our house qualifies as “old,” since our entire neighborhood received “historical” status after Hurricane Ike.  It’s what allowed us to rebuild without tearing the houses down and starting over with the homes on stilts.  I was interested to hear what they had to say.

For one thing, they nixed the idea of power washing.  Apparently there is too much that could go wrong on an old house.  I think, reading between the lines, that it must mean some houses are probably held together by the layers of old paint and accumulated dirt.  If you wash away too much, the whole house might fall down.  I don’t think that would be the case with our house, but … noted.  The website recommended doing scraping the old-fashioned way (like I have been doing), then spraying with a garden house to remove dirt and cobwebs and the like.  Oh, and use a bristle brush that is not metal to brush away any remaining paint flecks.  Then when that dries, sand down the areas to make for smooth transitions on the wood.  The only part of all that I question is the non-use of the power washer.  Seems to me that if the house can handle it, the power washer would be the easiest way to go.  One of our go-to guys at church (who owns a lumber yard/hardware business) mentioned doing the power wash, as did Nathan and his buddies.  Of course in their case it would be another opportunity to operate a power tool.  And I certainly can’t fault them for that.  But whatever we do, stage one is still scraping the loose paint away.  And that means more hours in the beautiful (hot) sunshine.  Can’t wait.

1 Timothy 6:12 says, “Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Father, thank you for the many resources available on virtually any topic.  Information is an amazing thing.  Amen.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 19 - ”Surprise”

After a morning of scraping old paint and digging in a flower bed, we drove into Texas.  We had been invited to be a part of an attempt to surprise a sweet lady from Seaside.  Sam is about my age and has never had a surprise birthday party before.  In fact from the sounds of the scuttlebutt as we waited for her to arrive, she hasn’t been surprised for any occasion … ever. 

The venue was a family-style barbecue and chicken fried steak restaurant near Ann’s (Sam’s step-mom) house.  Apparently it is their family’s gathering place of choice for all family events.  Last night they even had a live band made up of several retired workers from the Houston Chronicle.  We had the inside scoop on them because Ann worked with them all for 30 years as the Chronicle’s food editor. 

The word we got was that we needed to be there by 5:15, and Sam was supposed to arrive by 5:30.  Traffic was horrendous.  Imagine that?  Spring Break in Galveston and Rodeo in Houston.  Why wouldn’t the traffic be bad?  We made good time, though, and arrived right at 5:30.  Hustling inside so we wouldn’t spoil the surprise, we had a surprise of our own.  We were the only ones there.  Not in the whole restaurant.  It was hopping.  But no one from the party was there.  Not Ann.  Not Sam’s sister, Cathy.  Not Jennifer from church (the one who invited us).  We thought maybe we had been punked.  But there was a reserved table.  And the guy who owned the restaurant personally welcomed us, encouraged us to get a drink, and helped us find our way around.  And I remembered that Sam has told us before that her family has a way of being late for virtually every event imaginable.  Ann finally got there around 6.  Jennifer arrived shortly thereafter, as did Cathy.  Traffic was the culprit and the topic of conversation all around.  Well, that and the fact that Cathy’s weimeraner had won a dog show competition in Dallas that morning.

Cathy had the cake, so now we were officially ready to party.  When Sam finally walked in around 6:45 or so, our little band of revelers was ready to do our shouts of surprise and get started on some chicken fried steak or baked potatoes or even catfish.  So Sam was surprised.  The Squirrel special cake from HEB was delicious.  The company was lots of fun.  Thanks for the invitation, and as someone at the party said, “Thanks, Sam, for being born and giving us an excuse to have a party.”

1 Timothy 6:11 says, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

Father, bless Sam.  Give her healthy and happy days.  Amen.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 18 – “Trimming”

Short and sweet message today.  I finished with the Kilzing coat of paint on the raw wood around the house.  Next step is scraping and power washing.  Can’t wait.

Then I joined Chris working in the back yard.  She is trying to get everything up to snuff for the party we are having in a few weeks to celebrate Jachin and Micah getting baptized.  That means digging through all the flower beds.  So yesterday, I trimmed a tree.  Brazilian pepper that does its best to take over everything, and right underneath the power lines to our house.  And I trimmed an ivy.  This one has been around for a long time.  It was growing under the deck steps and onto the deck steps and into the ground and running out into the lawn.  Crazy wild ivy.  And I trimmed some sunflowers.  We have a mine field of sunflowers from some that Cailyn planted a few years ago.  Why the “mine field” reference?  Because they chose to grow, yea to thrive, right smack in the middle of the grass.  Makes it really difficult to mow, so I’m trimming out all the lower branches like they are some kind of tree.  Wow.  I have never treated a weed so well.  Oh, speaking of trimming, maybe I can get my hair trimmed at church tomorrow …

Once we finished outside and had a bite to eat and watched SMU lose a really close game to USC, we got cleaned up and went to WalMart.  Yep.  WalMart on a Friday evening during Spring Break in Galveston.  Life doesn’t get much better than that.  Actually we did need some things, but the people-watching was particularly extravagant.  We ended up introducing ourselves to one guy who was not following any particular pattern in his shopping, but we kept running into him.  Our checker almost lost it when the guy behind us asked what time they started “not allowing people to go down on the beach.”  Chris and I helped out with that one.  We assured him that as long as he didn’t fall asleep or start a fire, he would probably be fine.  I really want to go back again today.  Maybe I can come up with some excuse after I’ve done some paint scraping …

1 Timothy 6:9-10 says, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Father, take care of all these tourists through the rest of the weekend.  Thank you for the great weather you have provided for them.  Amen.

Friday, March 17, 2017

March 17 – “Oooold friends”

Boy did we ever have a great treat yesterday afternoon.  We were visited by some old and very dear friends from our days in Denver, Colorado, Mike and Olivia Wilson.  Olivia and I spent at least two weeks together every summer we lived in Colorado … OK, have you thought about that one for a few seconds?  Actually she and I were usually the only adults who could always go as sponsors to youth camp and mission trips.  Mike is now a professor at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.  He was finishing up preaching an old-fashioned revival meeting at a little church in Louisiana, so they decided to take the southern route back to Fort Worth. 

And that southern route just happens to take them right through beautiful Galveston Island.  We met up with them at Nick’s (that place on the seawall that uses Gaido’s kitchen and serves the same food as Gaido’s but charges a little less and doesn’t use cloth tablecloths).  I had fried shrimp and crab cakes.  The shrimp was OK, but they left the crab cakes in the deep fryer a little too long.  Not that they were inedible by any means.  I managed to force myself to enjoy them anyway.  OK.  They were actually pretty good.  But the great company made everything taste just a little better.  And they even joined us at the house for a cup of coffee after we ate.  Nick was probably happy to see us go.  Lots of laughter.

Cailyn was with us, too, and I think she would agree that Mike and Olivia are pretty fun folks to be around.  In fact, when I took her to softball practice, she was ecstatic when there wasn’t a soul to be seen anywhere near any of the fields.  That meant she could go back home and hang out with “our friends.”  We did our best to talk them into spending the night with us, but they had been away from their own bed for five nights.  And in Mike’s words, “when you get a certain age, you know, your own bed has a certain appeal.”  They did stick around until after six so they could miss the bulk of the Houston traffic.  I think they have made another friend for life in Cailyn.  She even reminded me to pray for them last night at family worship time.

1 Timothy 6:6-7 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Father, thank you for the chance to catch up with Mike and Olivia.  Help them to be happy.  Amen.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16 – “Sagas are quite tiresome”

Next round in the homeowner’s insurance saga.  The bill is taken out of my bank account monthly.  Our agent set it up so we would have a set amount to anticipate every month.  Then last month, the first month of the draw, we discovered there was an extra $3 fee imposed.  OK.  I can understand and live with that.  Until this month’s draw came through with another dollar taken.  Now we are not at the point yet where one dollar will make or break up, but that was just a bit much, don’t you think?  Our agent is tracking that charge down now. 

Oh, they did appreciate the pictures I took of the finished carpentry.  They had one request, though.  Wanted me to send a picture of the same areas they took that were in such bad shape.  I informed them that I had done just that.  They replied that they didn’t recognize the “area where the board was pulling away from the house.”  My frustrated answer?  “That’s because it is fixed now.”  With understanding behind us, they moved on to their next request.  Could I please send them photos of those same areas again once they are painted?  As reasonable as that sounds, we are planning to paint the entire house.  That entails deciding on a paint color, getting the paint, borrowing a paint sprayer, borrowing someone who can operate the paint sprayer, and a myriad of prep stuff.  Did they want us to just paint the area we have repaired and send them a picture, or would a snapshot of the area covered in a coat of Kilz be sufficient?  Initial queries made it appear that the Kilz coat will be acceptable.  So I painted just the areas in question with a quick coat of Kilz, and then sent the pictures on.  As of press time I haven’t heard the outcome.  Sigh.  Sagas are quite tiresome.

1 Timothy 5:17-18 says, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’”

Father, thank you for the many, many, many opportunities you have given us to develop patience through our little home improvement project.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 15 – “Done … so prove it”

The carpentry work on the house is officially all done.  Nathan and his neighbor came over yesterday and finished the last of the trim work on the soffits.  After they left I caulked all the cracks and seams so that all that remained would be painting.  In fact I even got one side of the new siding painted over with the Kilz coat before I was done in for the day.  I noticed while I was painting though, that there are some areas that need more caulk.  Guess that’ll be on the list for the next round. 

I sent our insurance agent pictures of the new work before painting so they could see that the work has been done.  All’s well, right?  Well … maybe.  I got a reply from the agent.  Now the company wants to see the contractor’s invoice showing that we have paid at least 30% of the cost.  They also want an estimated completion date.  Well, OK.  I sent back a reply that it is 100% paid for.  There is no contractor invoice because we did the work ourselves (Well, Nathan and his buddies did.  I was just the glorified gopher and future painter).  I haven’t received any further reply as yet.  I guess I could send them the Home Depot receipt.  Oh, and maybe the Little Caesar’s ticket for the pizza we fed the guys. 

Chris and I made another trip to Home Depot to return some materials we didn’t use.  While we were there we picked up some paint samples.  Chris and April put their heads together this morning and came up with four possibilities.  That was up from the one I thought we had decided on.  We did manage to narrow the field back down to two, though.  So we got samples of each and Chris slapped some on the wall outside.  Then she took a picture and sent out a phone poll.  I’m not sure, but I think the one that is more blue is winning over the more gray one.  Translation for people like me … the lighter one rather than the darker one.  Whichever one she chooses, I hope we can get it all done in the next week or so.  One of the fire fighters has a paint sprayer that we can use, so that should cut our time way down.  Then all we have to worry about is the white trim.  Well, that and convincing the insurance company that it is really painted.  Don’t worry.  I’ll save my receipts.

1 Timothy 5:1-2 says, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

Father, thank you for Nathan and Trey coming back and helping with the house.  Bless them for their time and effort.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March 14 – “Colors and cold”

I’ve had just about enough of this whole “March comes in like a lion” thing.  Although in our case it has been more like a polar bear.  OK, OK. I appreciate that the Northeast is getting socked with an aircraft carrier load of snow about now, but here on our island paradise we are hitting the low 50’s again.  That’s just … too cold. 

And to make things worse, Nathan and his crew are supposed to come over today to finish up the work on the house. We still have to get done with phase two of the house work.  That would be work on the house, not mopping the floors and making the beds.  I finished up caulking all the seams of the siding and hammering down the metal water barrier.  Now all that’s left is changing out the rotten boards on the soffits.  Well, that and painting, of course. 

And speaking of painting, Chris and I went over to Home Depot last night.  We wanted to check out paint colors and look for a new swing for the back yard.  Eight grandchildren have taken their toll on the ones we have.  In fact we are already on swing number three as it is. Sadly, they had no swing.  They recommended we try McCoy’s.  That’s a rival home improvement store around here.  Guess somebody’s been watching Miracle on 34th Street.  Isn’t that the one where Santa tells people at Macy’s that they can find what they want over at Gimbel’s instead?  Anyway, no swing.  Also sadly … too many colors.  Shades of colors in particular.  I thought Chris already had one picked out, but there are so many.  And she insists they are all different.  We want something that is somewhere between blue and gray, not too dark.  Trim will be white, so that one will be easy.  I checked out the base aisle to see if we would have to do a primer coat first.  Looks like we’ll need to do either a primer or at least two coats of the actual paint.  Exterior paint with primer built in costs over $40 a gallon.  And one of the companies, can’t remember if it was Glidden or Behr, didn’t even have five gallon buckets.  Oh, they looked similar, but the actual contents line read 4.43 gallons.  Marketing ploy to charge more without appearing to, of course. 

Well, we left Home Depot empty handed.  Unless you count the color charts Chris brought home.  I told her she had to choose the color by this morning.  Think she can do it?  Oh, but we did get to see a friend there.  Seasider and fire fighter Cody was looking for a dog door to replace his before he went on shift this morning.  Hope he got finished in time to keep this horrible winter weather at bay.

1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

Father, keep us warm and the folks in the Northeast safe.  Amen.

Monday, March 13, 2017

March 13 – “Let the repairs begin”

How many of you were able to enjoy a nice, relaxing Sunday afternoon, lounging on the couch or in your easy chair, watching some World Baseball Classic on TV and drinking a tall glass of iced tea?  Sigh.  Sounds inviting, doesn’t it?  So was that the image of my house yesterday afternoon?  Not exactly. 

Immediately after church, while Chris got her hair cut by our incredible church hair stylist, I entertained some students from Texas A&M who are staying in our retreat center.  They apparently arrived shortly before their sponsor, do they were huddling inside to get away from the cold, damp air.  They were quite amiable, too, and even agreed to help remove some stickers from our new driveway reflectors.  Oh, and they carried the trash out as well.  Great start for their ministry trip to Galveston.  By the time we got home Nathan and his fire fighter buddy John were already well into the demolition phase of the house repairs our insurance company required of us.  John had to leave soon after, but two of Nathan’s neighbors soon arrived, and they were there for the duration.

Nathan and I headed off to Home Depot to get the supplies while the finishing touches were accomplished on the demo.  We found most of what we were looking for.  They didn’t carry the nails we really wanted, so we had to settle for next best.  And then when we got back to the house we realized they didn’t fit the nail gun we had anyway.  Fortunately, the guy who owned the gun had plenty of extras that he happily donated to the cause.  We stopped on the way home to pick up some pizzas for the guys to eat.  They took care of two of them in short order.  Of course they had help from Cailyn and the daughter of one of the workers.  Cailyn had to leave very soon after we got started working, but the other youngster stuck around.  Little did Chris know that she was going to have an opportunity to be Nana for the entire afternoon.  And she apparently did a bang-up job.  The little one cried when it was time to go home.  She just didn’t want to leave.

And finally, let the repairs begin.  The three neighbors worked well together.  Measuring twice, cutting the siding, adding a two by four brace as needed, making sure the moisture barrier was in place, carefully placing the pieces, and nailing it.  And then there was the old guy, hanging out with a broom, acting like he was actually part of the process.  Occasionally Nathan took pity on me and asked for help cutting something.  I appreciated the chance to whatever I could without getting in the way.  We finished up most of the siding part of the job.  Still have to caulk the seams and prep it all for painting.  We didn’t get to the eave work, though.  That will be a job for another day.  Tuesday, actually, weather permitting.  That’s Nathan’s next day off.  Once we get that done I’ll take some pictures and send them to the insurance company to see if they will sign off on them.  Hopefully they will give us a few days to get the painting done.  We want to do the entire house when we do paint, so there is a lot of prep work we still need to do there.  In the meantime, though, our work crew is to be soundly applauded for their efforts.  Thank you so much fellas.  Couldn’t have done it without you.

1 Tim 2:8 says, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.”

Father, thank you for the guys who worked so hard yesterday to get the house fixed up.  Bless them for their efforts.  Amen.