Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 30 – “…something he gets from you guys”

We had a pretty fun, crazy day yesterday.  Started out by driving out to Jamaica Beach to check out the community garage sale day.  The way they did it was to leave everything up to the homeowners to set up sales in their own driveways.  The city then promoted the day city-wide.  I think it must have been pretty successful, too.  We saw a lot of signs as we drove through the town.  We even found some Seasiders, so of course we stopped to talk to them.  One of them was the Mom of a girl I recently baptized.  Trina gave me one of her works of art that says “Jamaica Beach.”  I think I’ll hang it in my office.

Next stop was Sea Isle.  Their community rummage sale was set up completely differently.  I guess the proceeds are all going to the community coffers, because everyone brought their salable goods down to the local fire house.  Tables were set up in the truck bays in about six rows of six or seven tables in a row.  Much more stuff overflowed into the driveway and onto the lawn outside.  They had a silent auction happening, and they even had a bake sale going on at the same time.  I nabbed some snickerdoodles, one of my all-time favorites.  Good, good stuff.  I saw a canoe there.  Also saw one of those Viking hats with the two horns.  I would have bought that one, but unfortunately it was already standing in line with its new owner.  While Chris waded through the hundreds of people, I snuck inside to say hello to the fire fighters on duty.  They were amazed at just how many people were there.  Oh, and speaking of people, I saw quite a few Seasiders there as well.  They were working hard, helping people load up their new-found treasures or checking them out. 

From there we hustled over to the softball fields for Cailyn’s closing ceremonies.  Her regular season is at an end, but she made the all-star team, so they start practice soon for a season of tournament play.  I’m glad Cailyn likes to play softball.  This is a lot of work. 

Finished out our day at the fire fighter’s union hall.  Nathan threw a little bash for April’s birthday.  Lots of people.  Big water slide.  Chris and I even teamed up in a game of washers.  And we won.  Feel free to pat us on the back when you see us.  At one point a random Chinese family who lived in the neighborhood, Mom and Dad and two little bitty children, wandered in through the gates.  Nathan went over to greet them (One of his buddies said to us, “Yeah, that’s something he gets from you guys and his church going background.  Nathan will walk to anybody and start talking.”).  They didn’t speak a word of English, however, so he found an app on his phone that enabled him to type in a question, and it translated to the people.  He found out their name and told them they were welcome to stay.  Nice job, Nathan.

Oh, there was one other thing.  As we were getting ready for bed I received a phone call from Kel.  Everything is fine, so don’t worry.  He just wanted to check in and say that they were on their way home in their new Ford Expedition.  They finally found a car they could afford that fit their whole family, car seats and all.  All the children were in the new car, so Kel was driving the old minivan all by himself.  I think he was lonely, hence the call to dear old Dad.  I get it.  Take one for the team, Kel. 

Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Father, thank you for answering Kel and Christina’s need for a vehicle.  Amen.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 29 – “Painted eye … brows?”

I met another new person in my travels around WalMart.  This lady was working at the returns desk.  She has been at WalMart for years now, so it was about time I said something to her.  I forget what I was returning, but she was all businesslike about following her proper procedures.  I struggled to find just the right thing to say, and then finally jumped in.  See, she paints her eyebrows.  I don’t mean she puts that black or brown stuff on them to help bring out a natural color.  I mean she paints them.  The black stuff completely surrounds a flood of bright blue and white.  Fascinating to look at.  So, I told her so.  And she immediately brightened up.  With a big smile on her face she said, “When you get to be my age, you need all the help you can get.”  That was opening I couldn’t pass up.  I came up with a comment on how young she looked, and she replied, “I’ll have you know that my birthday is Monday, and I will be seventy years old.”  I have to admit I was stunned almost speechless.  She really did not look that old.  I would have put her in the fifties or early sixties at most.  I told her I didn’t believe her, and she reassured me that she was indeed approaching that milestone.  That was all we had time for in that encounter.  The next person in line was getting antsy.

So fast forward to yesterday.  We needed a few groceries, so we headed over to WalMart.  And as we strolled over toward the light bulb section, there she was, painted eyebrows and all, talking to a co-worker.  Chris asked if she was the one I had told her about having a 70th birthday.  Well, what else could I do?  As we walked past, I called out, “Happy Birthday.”  That brightening immediately came out again.  She reached out and touched me and said, “I can’t believe you remembered that.  Yep, the big 7-0.”  We continued on by and I tossed over my shoulder, “And I still don’t believe you.”  That’s a relationship that I think will be kind of fun to pursue. 

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Father, be with my new friend as she keeps on barreling through life at age 70.  Amen.

Friday, April 28, 2017

April 28 – “Happy birthday, April”

So, Happy Birthday, April.  Today is the anniversary of the day that the name “April” was chosen by calendar-makers of antiquity to designate the fourth month of the year.  Apparently it closely edged out July, which was relegated to position number seven, and Gorithele, which, believe it or not, was deemed too hard to spell in the original language, and hence was dropped altogether from consideration. 

Coincidentally, today is also the birthday of our very own beloved daughter (well, technically she’s a daughter-in-law, but when you sired only sons, you welcome with open arms and hearts the loves of their lives), who carries the name of the final winner in the month naming contest.  April is a true sweetheart who has mothered our firstborn granddaughter with estimable skill and grace.  She has also encouraged her in playing softball.  And speaking of softball, Cailyn’s team clinched second place in the league last night.  Their shortstop nailed two baserunners at second and at bat even cracked an inside-the-park home run, utilizing her innate abilities to smack the ball down the third base line and to race unhindered around the bases before the fielders could retrieve it.  Oh, did I forget to mention that said shortstop is named Cailyn?  Daughter of Nathan and the aforementioned Admirable April. 

I certainly wouldn’t want to get all sappy or anything, but we love you, April.  Keep loving our son.  He needs that.  Keep encouraging your daughter.  She will grow to be a lot like you, you know.  And may you and Nathan and Cailyn grow closer and closer to God.  That’s the only way you can really unlock the bottomless pit of love that he provides. 

Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”

Father, thank you for April.  Keep her healthy and happy.  Amen.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 27 – “Cold snap hits”

We walked two more miles yesterday to start the day off.  We’ll see how Chris feels about getting outside today, though.  Something weird happened last night.  It’s 60 degrees out there right now.  We’re back to winter again.  Not sure how long this horrendous cold snap will last.  Maybe four or five hours, by all calculations.

When I went up to Seaside for staff meeting with Jim, I ended up having some conversations with the people manning the election early voting booths.  We primarily compared notes about how we all survived Hurricane Ike.  It never ceases to amaze me how everybody who went through it loves to talk with others who shared the same crisis.  Guess there is some kind of psychological bond involved. 

I came home to a lunch of homemade turkey pot pie.  One of Chris’ many specialties.  We even had some dessert, thanks to Lauren from Church.  She brought over a homemade apple pie.  It was so good, I think I’ll do a repeat for lunch today.  The fabulous lunch propelled me into some more work on Sunday’s teaching.  I may be ready by Sunday morning after all.  I still have to put together the discernment report, though. 

Kel and his family came over last night.  Jachin had a baseball game here in Galveston, so they all met here for supper after Kel got off work.  The only problem was, Josiah had a baseball game, too.  In Hitchcock.  I jumped in the car with Kel and Josiah and took in that game.  Josiah’s team won.  He hit two doubles and did a really good job in the field at shortstop and first base.  After the game we headed back here to Galveston to catch most of Jachin’s game.  His team was defeated, but he played well.  He walked in his only time at bat, and he made one smooth pickup and return throw of a single to right field.  The way the rest of their outfield was playing last night, though, that was a major accomplishment.  I think they are improving.  Maybe they’ll sneak up on one of the other teams by the end of the season and nab a win.  Anything’s possible in baseball.

Hebrews 3:3-4 says, “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.  For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.”

Father, thank you for the weather.  It does feel nice outside right now.  Kind of like an air conditioned room.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April 26 – “Walking and bubbling and a little magic”

Started out the day all healthy yesterday.  We walked two miles around the neighborhood.  A while back I discovered the health app on my phone.  Whenever I think about it I check in on how many steps I have taken in a day, and how many miles that translates into.  It’s kind of fun to see just how much moving around I really do.  Kel follows his, too.  Of course he shames us all with his mailman high stepping.  He averages 8 miles a day.  He has also lost thirty or forty pounds.  He’s my hero.  Maybe I can catch him before our Alaska trip next year. 

We had to call the plumber yesterday.  The toilet started talking to us, and we didn’t understand the language it was using.  It would just bubble up at random times, never overflowing … just bubbling.  Then it started randomly backing up in the bathtub.  That’s when we knew we were in trouble.  Our plumber is pretty awesome, though.  He was here within an hour and snaked it out all the way up into the city’s domain.  He has been convinced for several years now that there is something blocking flow in the city system.  Imagine that.  An infrastructure issue.  Not our fault.

I also tried to fix one of the plugs outside that we disconnected and replaced back when we were replacing boards on the house.  It is one of those GFCI plugs that controls everything connected to it.  I have obviously connected it wrong or it is defective.  I bought another one at WalMart last night.  If nothing else I at least have some instructions now.  I’ll give it another try before I call in the heavy artillery.  Be prepared, Nathan.

We picked up Cailyn from school yesterday.  Nathan had a doctor’s appointment and April wanted to go with him, so we were up.  She whipped out her math homework.  She was teaching Nana how to do it.  Nana isn’t quite up to speed on the new way to do second grade division problems.  Once that was completed, Cailyn was feeling pretty done with schoolwork.  We tried to get her to read the story that was included.  It was about a street magician in New York.  I think his name was David Blaine.  On a whim I decided to google the guy to see if he was real.  Sure enough, there were a number of YouTube videos of him in action.  I got Cailyn’s attention and we ended up watching several of him in action.  We even got the story read in between videos.  Never did go back to answer the questions, though.  She assured me that her Mom liked to do those with her.  Enjoy, April.

Hebrews 3:1 says, “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.”

Father, help us with our determination to stay healthy.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April 25 – “Vets and verses and some Vaughan baseball”

Well, our friends returned to the confines of far-away Texas yesterday.  They did stop by on their way out of town to say good-bye, and let us all sing Happy Birthday to Kay Lynn one last time.  Or was it two last times?  Three?  That gave Chris a chance to gift them with an armful of plant stuff from our flower beds.  I also gave them each a copy of my Visual Verses book as a thank you for including us in the weekend and in the plans to attempt this Alaska cruise thing next year.  The more research that goes into trip planning, however, the more I think we should have started last year.  It’s going to take a long time and a lot of belt-tightening to save up enough money to make it happen.  Oh, well … here goes …

The rest of our Monday/workday was consumed, as usual, with computer time, getting started on a sermon and home group study and an article for the church website.  Still a long way to go on that end, plus I have to put together the discernment update booklet for Sunday as well.  Freddy has a vet follow-up appointment this morning, and we have to pick up Cailyn this afternoon.  Freddy is fine.  She had an ear infection, so this is just the check-up for the vet to make sure it’s gone.  Cailyn is fine, too.  Apparently she just filed a formal request with her female parental unit that we be the ones to pick her up from school today. What can I say?  She hasn’t seen us all weekend, so she doesn’t want to forget what we look like.  Or maybe it’s that she doesn’t want us to forget what she look like.  One of those must be right.

Last night we went to a couple of baseball games.  Jachin and Josiah both had games at 6:00, and Micah followed with a game at 7:45.  I went to Jachin’s and Chris took in Josiah’s.  Then we met back up at Micah’s.  They did pretty well.  Jachin came in as a relief pitcher in the top of the first inning after their starting pitcher never threw a single strike.  Jachin did much better than that.  He threw a lot of strikes, but he didn’t receive much fielding support from his team.  The score was a bit lopsided, but all the damage was done early, and the team did finally settle down and play a pretty decent game.  Josiah’s team came through with flying colors.  He got a few hits and made several putouts against the team they were not at all happy to be up against.  Micah let his coach know earlier in the week that he knew how to play the catcher position, so last night was his debut there.  And he did an excellent job.  He walked a few times and scored as well.  So, nice job all around for the Vaughan boys last night.  I know Caleb has started games up in Waco, and I think Cailyn had a game last night as well, but I haven’t received reports as yet from out on site correspondents.  But whatever happened … know that DadDad, for one, is proud of you all.

Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

Father, thank you for a weekend filled with friends and great worship.  Thank you for a new week filled with grandkids and baseball.  Nice.  Amen.

Monday, April 24, 2017

April 24 – “One last time”

Ah, yet another happy, happy day was yesterday.  Now, there could have been a third “happy” in there, but our birthday celebrant friend KayLynn made me promise not to tell her happy birthday from the pulpit at church.  I guess I must have agreed a bit too readily, because she saw through my ruse.  See, we don’t have a pulpit as such at Seaside.  We do, however, have a podium, so in her quick-thinking mode, she hastened to add … “or from the podium.”  Feeling greatly restricted in my options for revelry, I grudgingly agreed.  And then I met Alex.  Alex and his family were in town for the weekend, so they decided to stop in at the little church they passed on their way to the beach house.  Not that unusual an occurrence.  Happens all the time.  After all, Seaside is a resort missions outpost.  But this particular visit was more than a chance vacation encounter.  Nay.  This was nothing less than Birthday Destiny.  I hastily explained the birthday restrictions I was operating under for the morning.  And as we talked further, a tiny seed of a plan began to germinate in my mind.  Could it work?  Would Alex come through?  I knew we were golden when he looked over at his wife and she rolled her eyes.  He had that twinkle in his eye.  We were on.

When the time came for welcoming everyone to Seaside, I explained: “Today we are incredibly blessed to have a visitor in attendance who is someone very special.”  As I continued talking I moved over to stand right in front of the section where KayLynn was seated.  Gazing into her eyes, I continued, “This person is all the more special because this is a birthday weekend.  So I would like to ask this wonderful individual to stand so we can all express our love and best wishes on your birthday.”  At that I turned away from KayLynn’s section, gestured dramatically across the congregation, and concluded, “Alex, would you stand, please?”  The congregation reacted perfectly, applauding and calling out “Happy birthday’s.”  And as the noise quieted, just before he sat down, Alex looked out across the congregation and said, “Happy birthday, KayLynn.”  You gotta admit, that was a classic move.  Very nice work, Alex.  Welcome to Seaside. 

And speaking of KayLynn’s birthday, we did continue the celebration into the afternoon and evening.  Chris and I went out to the Taj Mahal condo they had rented for the weekend.  Pretty amazing place.  We walked on the beach a while, and then I fell asleep in a lounge chair by the pool (but not before verifying that the Astros came back from a 4-0 first inning deficit to beat the Rays 6-4 in ten innings).  Supper time brought an agonizing decision from the birthday girl.  Where to go to eat the last seafood meal.  She struggled between Jimmy’s on the Pier and a return engagement with Shrimp and Stuff, but in the end, Shrimp and Stuff prevailed.  And what a grand decision it turned out to be.  We had yet another birthday celebration.  First Sheri regaled us with an exciting tale of The Glove Box Black Hole that eats Christmas gifts and then regurgitates them just in time to completely humiliate any husband foolish enough to trust the dark confines of its treacherous reach.  We also appreciated the color commentary provided by first-hand unwitting participant in the Black Hole’s antics himself, Wayne Spray.  I don’t how Sheri pulled off such a celebrity coup of epic proportions.  Rumor had it that a certain alter ego named Laura might possibly have been involved, but that was never confirmed.  After story time, Sheri passed out those fireworks-quality pull-poppers.  Even the table next to us got into the act.  We all sang “Happy birthday to KayLynn” for one not-so-last time and enjoyed our meals with the marvelous Happy Birthday napkins Sheri brought with her. 

Sadly, our friends must return today to the Northern Wilderness that is Texas.  Sigh.  I have no idea what progress we made on this whole Alaskan cruise thing, but I have to say, this has most assuredly been one of the most memorable weekends of our Galveston hosting career.  We truly hate to see it end.  But, on the other hand, there is some leftover birthday cake.  And plenty of Blue Bell.  Does KayLynn HAVE to be here for me to sing Happy Birthday to her one last time?

Hebrews 1:14 says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”

Father, thank you for the great people you draw to Seaside every Sunday.  Grant Alex – and KayLynn - a truly happy birthday.  Amen.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

April 23 – “Happy birthday to you …”

Hey, it’s cold outside.  What in the world just happened?  Well, I guess it had something to do with the rain that came through yesterday that almost caused the outdoor wedding I was performing to be moved inside.  The bride was determined, however, to be married outside, so hotel officials wiped down the chairs and guests tentatively filed onto the Promenade Lawn of the San Luis Hotel.  We got the wedding in with no trouble, save just a little bit of rain.  There was an “almost incident” involving one of the two little flower girls, a three-year-old.  For some reason she kept balking at performing her duties.  Her Dad was one of the groomsmen, so he encouraged her to just walk down the aisle to him.  Still uncertainty.  Finally someone actually listened to the little sprout.  Seems she thought her Daddy was going to marry the bride-to-be and leave her and Mommy and brand new baby brother.  That misunderstanding settled, she did completely fine the rest of the way. 

Day Two of the VSW Reunion (Vaughan/Spray/Winkle) is in the books as well.  Many hours were spent yesterday watching Wayne pore over his computer, agonizingly searching for the best deals on flights and train tickets and bus tickets and cruise line offerings.  At last a decision was reached.  Just kidding.  “But we could do this.”  “Oh, wait.  Here’s a price if we go here instead of there.”  “If we fly all the way to this airport and float on the boat back …”  “Going on the cruise first lets us …”  I’m not real sure what has happened on the Alaska cruise planning front, but I do know this … we have had a great time celebrating KayLynn’s birthday.  Over and over and over and over. 

I think we sang to her three or maybe four times when planning got just too intense for us to stand the pressure.  Something had to give.  I was banished to the far back seat of the vehicle so Chris and Sheri could engage in the Battle of the Buckles every time we went somewhere.  Lunch at Shrimp and Stuff was wonderful, as usual.  A totally random couple at a nearby table somehow found out that it was KayLynn’s birthday and called out their best wishes to her.  We sang to her there.  I was pretty sure KayLynn missed me terribly for the hour or so I was missing at the wedding, so as soon as I walked in the front door I belted out a quick Happy Birthday chorus.  I was fairly certain that I had missed at least one rendition while I was gone, and I didn’t want her to think I had forgotten her (although I did text Chris right before we started and asked her to wish KayLynn a wonderful birthday from me.  She said KayLynn was asleep at the time, obviously worn out from all the festivities surrounding her celebratory weekend). 

Once I got out of my monkey suit, we headed out for supper (Yes, I was once again relegated to the far back seat, but by this time I had grown accustomed, nay, quite comfortable even, to its confines).  This time we went to The Mosquito CafĂ©.  Sadly, they had no kitchen capacity for frying seafood, so Wayne was somewhat sorely disappointed.  He visibly rallied, however, when we sang Happy Birthday to KayLynn.  I’m not so sure how comfortable the denizens of that particular establishment were with our birthday antics.  But, hey, KayLynn is certainly worth a little discomfort among the upper society snuff. 

After supper we made our way downtown to take in a little of the Galveston Island Art Walk night life.  We stopped in front of one of the random street musicians and danced to a little “Twist and Shout.”  Chris even joined me, as did a more than slightly inebriated gentleman nearby.  And can you believe it?  The street musician suddenly stopped his performance and led the entire bustling crown in a rousing rendition of none other than … “Happy Birthday to KayLynn.”  Imagine that.  OK, OK.  It didn’t hurt that the random street musician happened to moonlight at another job … worship pastor at Seaside.  But that doesn’t mean the birthday sentiment was any less appreciated.  Leaving Jim to continue his entertainment sequence we went across the street to Mod’s Coffee Shop for some hot chocolate or chai latte (Whatever that is.  Say it three times quickly in a Hebrew accent) or hot tea.  Cary also bought a slab of some kind of coffee cake.  And to our surprise, guess what he did at the table?  What an incredibly loving husband.  He led us all in singing Happy Birthday to his lovely wife, KayLynn.  And by the time we finished, the entire coffee house had joined in.  What a surprise to us all.  Great husbanding job there, Cary. 

We finally made our way back to the car and back to our house.  And what should be waiting for us there on the counter?  Some leftover KayLynn birthday cake.  Well, come on now, wouldn’t you?  We sang Happy Birthday one last time to KayLynn. 

Hebrews 1:10-12 says, “He also says, ‘In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.  But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’”

Father, thank you for birthdays.  Especially the kind that last all weekend.  Amen.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

April 22 – “Life as Laura”

We are in the midst of a reunion of sorts this weekend.  Two couples who we knew and were good friends with (Yes, it is certainly possible to have known someone and the resulting study of the relationship reveals a less than mutually agreeable relational connection.  At least that would be the “Flower Lips” ways of saying that there are some people you just don’t like.  We actually really like these people) when we lived in Mansfield came down for a visit.  Cary and KayLynn and Wayne and Sheri (the accent is on the last syllable, but I don’t know how to stick that in when I’m typing.  I guess I could do it like when I’m transliterating Greek for a sermon: Sheh-reeeee).  There was a purpose in their madness, too.  We are in the early stages of planning a cruise to Alaska, perhaps as soon as next summer.  This weekend is supposed to be the kickoff to that week or two of mayhem and madness, my introduction to the world of cruise ship living.  I am pretty excited about it, although I haven’t yet started my own research into the trip.  My plan is to binge watch every episode of Love Boat to refresh my memory as to what an experience on a cruise ship is really like.  I know they wouldn’t have let them put it on TV if it wasn’t the truth.  

Now, the secondary reason for the gathering was unknown to one particular person in the group.  See, this weekend is KayLynn’s birthday, and we intended to fete her royally, whether she wanted us to or not.  We began the afternoon of their arrival mainly by sitting around and chatting, getting caught up on each other’s lives.  I had a wedding rehearsal to sneak off to, so the chat session came to an end when I got ready to leave.  Of course my wardrobe had to be duly approved by my wife.  And my other wife.  And my other wife.  It was like looking into some kind of 3-D mirror.  “Are you going to wear that?” echoed three times is a frightening experience.  I would only kiss one of them goodbye, however.  It was her night.  Everyone else would have to wait her turn. 

They went off to check into their condo rooms they rented for the weekend, and I left for the rehearsal.  By the time I finished, they were on their way back to the house, ready for some Galveston-quality seafood.  We chose Benno’s to act on a recommendation from someone in their lives.  The food was pretty good.  Their crab balls were fried in their Cajun batter, so they tasted really smoky to me.  I’m a straight corn meal or flour batter guy, myself.  What was inside was really good, though. 

There was one “interesting” occurrence at the restaurant.  The girls chose the table while the guys stood in line to make our order.  Their selection was the one farthest in the back, right next to the men’s restroom.  Unusual choice, but perhaps a bit quieter than other spots if the raucous dining room.  Me and Chris and Wayne sat facing the wall.  Cary and KayLynn faced us, with Sheri taking a spot right next to the bathroom door.  Honestly, I didn’t think anything about it at first.  At least not until the other two ladies reported on her antics while we were waiting dutifully in line.  Seems our dear Sheri has a bit of a past.  Her fluttering eyelids and “cough drop” fresh breath mints and no doubt occasional perfectly timed winks were attracting gentlemen of all ages who apparently suddenly ”felt the urge.”  One fellow even leaned over and whispered some sort of sweet nothing in her ear, and then leaned back a bit further and queried, “Laura?”  Sheri tried to play it off and maintain her cover identity by insisting her name was Sheri, but I’m not sure the fellow was completely convinced.  After all these years none of us (I’m not sure even her own husband knew) had any idea.  I for one am looking forward to further revelations about her “Life as Laura.”

After the meal we managed to tear Laura/Sheri away from her prime spot to head home.  Wayne kept his arm around her to discourage further “mistaken identity” hits.  We adjourned to our house for some Blue Bell ice cream and, unbeknownst to KayLynn, a birthday cake.  She blew out all three candles on her cake and we sang “Happy birthday” and there were even presents.  “Special” presents that Chris graciously allowed me to pick out.  Thirteen of them, to be exact, plus the Galveston flipflops coffee mug that Chris helped pick out.  Each one had a certain sentimental memory attached to it, and by the time she finished, I for one, was teary-eyed.  I couldn’t believe everyone else was laughing so much, though.  Guess they just didn’t get the emotional connection one can have with a tiny plastic elephant that bellows like a stuck pig and poops candy. 

Hebrews 1:8-9 says, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.’”

Father, thank you for great friendships that last and last and last.  Amen.

Friday, April 21, 2017

April 21 – “all things outdoor”

Yesterday was yardwork day and I can feel it right now.  While Chris cleaned house for Home Group (which, by the way, ended up being Mrs. Betty.  Well, and Corey came by for a few minutes just as she was leaving.  One of those nights …), I was assigned “all things outdoor” duty. 

I was going to start with mowing the lawn, but on my way to the shed I remembered that we had decided to cut off one major limb of the oleander in the back yard.  So I grabbed the shears instead of the mower and went to work.  That kind of expanded into trimming up all the trees and bushes in the back yard.  Which includes (and I still have trouble saying this) the four or five huge sunflower weeds, er, I mean lovely flowers, stalks that are growing in the middle of the back lawn.  Just a trim, mind you.  No real hair styles. 

I finally got to the lawn mowing task.  It goes so much better with the front wheel drive vehicle we got this time, and it hasn’t fallen apart yet, either.  The biggest problem is having to remove Heidi’s doggie door ramp that we built out of pavers so the machine has room to get through the gate.  Mowing in the front revealed another “situation” we have discussed taking care of, so I got distracted again.  I shoved the lawn mower back into its hole in the shed and grabbed the clippers.  This time I trimmed the Mexican oleanders (sensing an oleander pattern here?) so they resembled a tree rather than a bush.  Chris appeared out of nowhere when she realized she wasn’t hearing the mower any more.  I told her the activity occurring at the present time required higher security clearance than she had been approved for.  Basically, the work decisions were above her pay grade.  Needless to say, she dug in her heels and stuck around to help.  At least now she can’t blame me for it.  It was a mutual decision.  It actually looks much better than it did, too. 

Next, I tried to trim the bushes in the front yard, but my non-electric, antique hedge clippers are dull and don’t even slide together properly, so they are useless.  That’s when I realized that I hadn’t yet done the edging.  I trudged into the garage and got that apparatus all hooked up.  It doesn’t take all that long to accomplish, and it was a good thing.  It was hot outside and I was sinking fast.  And as I rolled up the last little bit of extension cord to head into the back yard, I remembered that I hadn’t yet hooked up the blower to “sweep” up the cut grass off the sidewalk.  Back to the electrical outlet (which is a whole other story.  The outlet in the back yard that we had to remove for repairs and painting was apparently hooked back up incorrectly – by me - and it is the one that controls the power getting to the outlet in the front yard.  I know.  I don’t understand it either).  I got the grass blowing done in record time, and finally stumbled into the back yard to finish the weed eating there.  I gave up on sweeping, though.  I was thoroughly beat, and besides, the Astros game started in just about the time it would take me to shower and crash onto the couch.  Not that the Astros game had any bearing on my decision to leave the sweeping for Chris.  Oh, no.  She totally volunteered for that.  On her own.  She is awesome.

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Father, thank you for my totally awesome wife.  She is a great gift.  Amen.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 20 – “Presentation of the Year”

Estelle, my new/used iPad Air, had her first big test yesterday.  Chris was making her annual presentation to the Wednesday Club, an organization of ladies who gather and share research on some topic of interest.  Chris’ topic was our trip to some Civil War battleground sites two years ago.  Actually it was our trip to the Coon Dog Cemetery and the horrifically frightening Cabbage Patch Doll Hospital.  Same trip.  All a matter of perspective, I guess.  She included places like Vicksburg and Shiloh, anywhere we had some good photos from.  And speaking of photos, that’s where Estelle came in.  I figured out how to get a copy of Dropbox installed on her so I could put the photos Chris wanted to show there.  Then she could call them up and pass the little Blue Bombshell (Her cover is blue, if I haven’t mentioned that) around so the ladies could relive the experience digitally.  I’m fairly certain that presentation by Chris and Estelle will win the Presentation of the Year award from the club.  Chris by herself is amazing.  With Estelle as a member of the team, they are unstoppable.

When they returned home, I looked into downloading a word processor app that Josh recommended.  That’s when I discovered that Estelle needed an operating system upgrade.  So the word processor was put on hold while I left her along with the download, a process that takes at least thirty minutes.  She did well, though.  All updated and ready to go again this morning, so my next move will be to get that processor app download going again.  I also have to clean out Dropbox so I can have room to shuffle files back and forth between the laptop and the iPad.  Ah, so much to learn.  I am nostalgic to be eight years old again.  That golden age when technology is actually easy. 

Last night we went to one of Jachin’s away baseball games.  That would be away from Hitchcock, his home field.  The game was here in Galveston over at the airport about three minutes from our house.  Jachin played a good game at first base.  Made several putouts and one perfect throw to the plate to erase an incoming baserunner.  We saw some old friends there, early-on Seasiders Camille and Mark.  They were there to watch their grandson play, too.  Their son was in the youth group when Kel was the summer youth pastor many years ago.  Discovering connections like that can either get you really excited or really depressed or drive you crazy.  I lean toward the crazy one.  It’s way more fun.

Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

Father, thank you for old friends and new technology and youngsters who can operate it.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April 19 – “The Package”

We actually made it out of the house for a little while yesterday.  Not because we were both so engrossed in tasks around the house that we needed to escape, although that is, of course, quite true.  It had been raining pretty much all day, so we took advantage of a brief respite from the clouds and ran some errands.  Bank first to make a deposit, then over to Pet’s Mart.  They are the only place on the Island that sells the replacement flaps to our dog door.  Yep.  Once again one or more of our canine pals have chewed an entire corner off of the existing flap.  It happens virtually every time we out a new one on, but it is beginning to be fly and mosquito season here on Gilligan’s Island Paradise, so we need all the help we can get to keep them out.    I haven’t installed the replacement yet.  I’ll get to it.  Soon. 

From there we ran by our mechanic’s shop to drop off a payment.  There I met a guy who recently retired from the postal service.  He had lots to say when I told him my son just started there.  He even told me some names of people to get to know.  And some others to avoid like the plague.  I also got a detailed explanation of the government’s retirement program.  I shared his thoughts with Kel last night.  He has already met the folks the guy told me about.  Good and bad.  Our final stop was … drum roll of wondering excitement here … WalMart.  Chris needed something for her Wednesday Club ladies meeting that is today.  She is presenting a project on some of the Civil War battle sites we saw on our vacation a few years ago.  She’ll do great, of course.  She won “Best Project Presentation” last year. 

Now all of our adventures aside, I have to say that we almost never left the house.  When I opened the front door to leave, there sat a mysterious package.  We never heard the delivery truck, so it surprised us both.  Like a couple of kids at Christmas, we hustled it inside and clumsily tore away at the packing tape.  Nice sealing job, by the way.  And inside we found a note from some very good friends of ours who we knew during our stint in Denver.  They now live somewhere in the hills of Arkansas or Missouri.  Janet is one of the few of you folks out there who actually reads my bloggings fairly faithfully.  She even makes a comment just about every day to encourage me to keep on writing.  It seems that Randy and Janet remembered a blog post a while ago where I mentioned something about not having one of those new-fangled iPad devices to use for reading notes when I teach.  They happened to have an extra one that they got from an aunt who no longer can use it.  Dear sweet Aunt Estelle told them that she was fine with them sending it along to me so it can be used.  They had it wiped clean and made factory fresh, and sent it on to me.  They included these parting words of wisdom: “If you have any difficulty with your new/used iPad, talk to any kid under 8 years old for expert advice.”

Gotta say, I was floored.  What an incredible gift.  I think I can find a few ways to get this thing some use.  Think I’ll name it, too.  How about … Estelle?

Philemon 7 says, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

Father, thank you for long-distance friends and surprise expressions of love.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 18 – “Regular life”

Yesterday I think I had that disease you get the day after an incredible high and it’s now over and you have to reboot back into “regular life.”  It’s not that I felt particularly bad or anything.  I was just in somewhat of a funk, trying to get into Monday mode so I could accomplish all the usual Monday tasks at hand.  I finally got moving, but I’m afraid I’d better go back over what I did yesterday to make sure it makes sense.

We actually started the day out right.  Chris and I walked two miles around the neighborhood.  We saw one of the old ladies on our “route” who hasn’t been around for some time.  Come to find out, she broke her foot, so she has been out of commission.  That’s one of the things that I really like about our treks through the neighborhood.  We have made a connection with several of the residents, and most of them enjoy it enough that they stop us to talk for a few minutes.  Not great aerobically, but it sure fits relationally.

One of the biggest obstacles to my getting Monday business started was the fact that I had to wade through all the Easter paraphernalia that had collected on my desk from the services the day before.  When we got home on Sunday, it all got piled up there.  I was too tired to deal with it then after such an early morning.  In fact, all I was hoping for was an Astros game on TV and no phone calls.  The game was cancelled due to rain.  The phone did cooperate, though. 

But back to Monday … we had one of Lauren’s awesome leftover cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  Remember, I said we walked two miles, so that automatically puts the cinnamon rolls on our diet, doesn’t it?  Wait.  What diet?  Are we on a diet now?  See, I told you I was in a funk.  I really do need to check my work from yesterday …

Fast forward to last night.  That much I do remember.  We went to Cailyn’s softball game.  She played a really good game at shortstop.  Fielded a few grounders.  One of them took a bad hop and smacked her in the shoulder.  She lost focus for just a few seconds, but by the time her coach got to her she was assuring him that she was fine.  I told her that’s why God gave her two shoulders.  Not sure she understood that logic.  The injury didn’t affect her hitting, though.  She was three for three and scored every time.  The team lost by a run in the bottom of the last inning, but it was a really exciting game.  Know what Cailyn was most excited about?  Her neighbor Mr. Pete was there to watch her play.  Know what she was most saddened about?  No sno-cone after the gems.  They hadn’t had supper yet, so Mom and Dad wanted her to get some real food in her first.  Sigh.  The ups and downs of a second grader playing softball.

Philemon 4-6 says, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

Father, thank you for my “regular life.”  I really appreciate having it to come back to.  Amen.

Monday, April 17, 2017

April 17 – “The Easter Report”

It is hard to say much beyond “Wow.”  We had our Easter Sunrise Service along with a communion service yesterday.  To say our expectations were vastly exceeded by God would be a gross understatement. 

Our setup crew began at 4:30 a.m. getting things ready.  They hauled chairs and sound system paraphernalia out to the beach and did some arranging so that the most people could hear effectively.  The Jamaica Beach fire department once again helped out with lights and a trailer and a generator and fire department vehicles strategically parked to muffle the generator sound.  At least one police officer (who is also a Seasider) was on hand to help with traffic and parking.  Another crew was preparing the kitchen for the onslaught of breakfast goodies that began to arrive well before our 6:30 start time.  A third crew prepared the baskets with song booklets and gifts (we give a small token of remembrance every year to the folks who come).  Cailyn had spent the night with us, so she was alternating between napping on pews (with her recently finished quilt that she did all by herself) and roaming among the workers, giving a hand to anyone who would let her.  Wow.

We finally got the service started, even as more and more people made their way to the beach.  Golf carts lined the beach edge, protecting the crowd from the effects of the wind off the Gulf, and giving a warning buffer when the tide started rolling in.  Families lined the sand dune bunkers on the other side, with babies playing on blankets and older kids enjoying the sand.  We set up around fifty chairs from the church, and those filled up quickly.  Behind them row after row of lawn chairs of all shapes and sizes started to form as more and more people arrived.  Some folks decided they would stand.  One man told me he would alternate knees.  We printed 400 handouts, and they were soon gone, as were the gifts.  And still people came.  One of our newer Seasiders took it upon himself to attempt a head count, moving from section to section.  He came up with a number that astonished all of us: “754 people and three dogs.”  Wow.

The service flowed really well.  There was a bit of a glitch with the sound at one point.  Seems some moisture got into one of the power connection points.  Jim scientifically fixed the problem by unplugging and plugging back in.  Hey, it worked.  The Praise Team led out with assurance and the people followed their lead, many spontaneously standing for every song.  Several of the selections (or maybe the Holy Spirit) apparently hit home with lots of the folks.  I saw more than a few tears as well as hands in the air in praise.  It was great to see several of our Seaside kids who went to camp with us in years past, as well as some families we haven’t seen in quite a while.  As always, my favorite part of the service came at the very end, when we did the baptisms.  I knew about two of them.  Two young girls.  They were best friends, and have come to Seaside several times with one of their Moms.  Just before the service began a lady who has been coming to Seaside for quite some time asked if she could be baptized.  She vaguely remembered a baptism as a small child, but she wanted to make a statement about her clear adult choice to follow Jesus.  Also just before the service began, a strapping young man I had never seen before walked up.  He looked to be in his late teens or early twenties, and he, too, said he wanted to be baptized.  We talked about his salvation, and one of the things he said will stick with me for a long time.  “I’m about to enter the armed forces, and I want to stand with Jesus before I go in.”  It didn’t stop there.  As we entered the water and began our walk out to get deep enough, I noticed over my shoulder that another young man was following us as well.  As I completed what I thought would be the last of the baptisms, he stepped right into position next to me and said, “I guess I’m next.”  Again, we talked briefly about his salvation, and then continued on.  I found out later that he was a young Dad with three little kids.  He had been waiting to be baptized at just that moment, because his wife’s Dad had been baptized here, and he wanted to honor him.”  Wow.

After the service we invited everyone over to the church for breakfast.  I’m pretty sure all 750 of them didn’t come, but there were several hundred who did.  There were six tables filled with fruit of all kinds, breakfast casseroles, breakfast burritos, donuts, cinnamon rolls, and even cookies.  We even had bags of pancake mix and syrup ready to go if we ran short.  But, again, there was more than enough food.  Chris and I even took a dozen donuts over to one of the fire stations on our way home.  I was able to walk around and talk to people while they ate.  I was introduced to one grandmotherly lady by her son.  Seems her husband had just died about a week before, and this was her first outing since then.  She was incredibly animated as she assured me that she would be back every Easter for “many years to come.”  Wow.

After breakfast came the kids’ Easter egg hunt.  We had around three hundred eggs strewn about the playground field.  Somewhere around twenty kids lined up for the big event, and all of them went away with plenty of candy and stickers.  This year we included two of those oversized golden eggs among the batch.  The winners received a brand new children’s Bible.  As it turned out, one of the visitor kids found a smaller egg that happened to be painted … you guessed it … gold.  We made arrangements for all three winners to get a Bible.  Then later Chris was talking to one of the Moms who had three very little ones.  Chris paid attention to the Holy Spirit, and gave her a preschooler Bible that we had.  The Mom was very excited to get it, and immediately began thumbing through it.  And who did that Mom turn out to be?  The wife of the last guy who got baptized.  Wow.

The clean-up/reset crew (which consisted of many of the same folks who had been there since 4:30) kicked into high gear.  They swept and carried chairs back up to the retreat center and took out trash and washed dishes and set up the sound system and prepared the computer program.  And then they shifted gears and started welcoming the folks who were arriving for the communion service.  The vast majority of these folks had not been to the beach service, and many indicated that they regretted the decision.  As more and more people kept arriving, Chris went back into the kitchen and prepared some more communion cups just in case.  We ended up with a final count of 82 folks at this service.  The Praise Team bounced back from their incredible work at sunrise, and did an equally impressive job of leading worship.  This “traditional Easter crowd” is usually a hard one to crack, but for some reason this year they jumped right in.  The singing went well, and they even responded to the non-rhetorical questions in the teaching and in the directed prayer time.  Wow.

Let me close with some of the comments I heard or that were related to me.
“It was like a Billy Graham crusade.”
“You told us … and I believed you … but you just couldn’t do it justice.”
And one that was left on the Seaside FaceBook page:
“It was so wonderful to attend the Easter Sunrise Service with over 700 other people.  Absolutely beautiful.  Then, the pastor invited us all to the church for breakfast and an egg hunt.  My girls were thrilled!! Delightful people, a well balanced meal and tons of eggs for everyone.  It was a soul refreshing time for our family.  Thank you Seaside for opening up to strangers and making us feel loved.”

Matthew 28:5-7 says, “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’”

Father, thank you for each of the ones who helped in so many ways yesterday.  Thank you for all the ones who came to the services.  Bless them all as you draw them closer to yourself.  Amen.