Friday, June 30, 2017

June 30 – “What a romantic”

You’ll all be proud of me.  I took Chris on a nice, romantic walk yesterday.  Two miles together, just walking and talking and enjoying the oppressive heat and overpowering humidity.  We did stop for a few minutes to talk to an old neighbor who moved away about a year ago.  He was the guy we always used to see walking around the neighborhood.  His wife was my Mom’s hairdresser.  As Mom got older, she would even come to our house to get the job done.  Manuel was back in the neighborhood visiting some of the old buddies he made during his earlier jaunts.  It was great to see him, and we appreciated his introduction to another of our neighbors.  But the interlude didn’t last very long.  We were, after all, on our romantic stroll through the quaint neighborhood. 

Now, you might have noticed that the walk distance was earlier recorded at two miles.  Those of you who keep up with those sorts of things might be remembering that we often walk three miles.  What, pray tell, caused the decrease yesterday?  Glad you asked.  See, that’s what brought the romance, the true ambiance to the experience.  As we approached the mile and a half marker … it started pouring down rain.  A thunderstorm off the Gulf.  There we were, with no quick way to reach shelter.  So what else could we do?  We continued our walk.  Come on now.  Don’t you remember how much fun it used to be when you were a kid?   Dodging raindrops.  Splashing into puddles.  Hoping it didn’t thunder too loud, because that’s when Mom would ring the bell and you’d have to go inside.  Yep we had a real hand-rung bell that Mom would ring when it was time for us to come home.  The whole neighborhood knew about the bell, too, so we couldn’t hide from it.  The bell sounded, and it was time for the Vaughan boys to head home.  We still have that bell by the way.  Dad got it from the old quarantine station, as I recall.  Still pretty loud, too. 

Now, I have to admit, I added to the romantic feel of the occasion just a bit.  I did a little singin’ and dancin’ in the rain.  I think I could have lasted the whole half-mile back to the house, too.  But a car was coming and I had to get out of the middle of the street.  And Chris was so overly-appreciative of my efforts that she assured me she had had about all of my romantic overtures that she could handle for one wild, crazy, wonderful walk in the rain. 

Psalms 147:7-8 says, Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises to our God on the lyre, Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who provides rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.”

Father, thank you for the refreshing from the heat that the rain brought us yesterday.  It was really nice.  Fun, too.  Amen.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

June 29 – “A serious, serious problem”

A new problem has arisen at our church over the last few weeks.  A serious problem.  A serious, serious problem.  I have been receiving reports for a while now, but I have never personally experienced the problem.  Until now, that is.  And I am, at this point, at a loss as to how to proceed, how to deal with it, how to just make it go away.  All ideas are welcome. 

See, as I was walking away from the church yesterday, minding my own business, on my way to change the date on the church sign (The pancake breakfast on Saturday starts at 7 a.m., not at 8), I felt a sudden, crushing blow to the back of my head.  Oh, it wasn’t hard enough to knock me to the ground or knock me out, but it did knock my cap to the front of my head.  Not completely stunned, due no doubt to my incredible reflexes, I whipped my body around, not knowing exactly what to expect.  Nothing was there.  But that’s when I heard it.  Loud at first, then softer and softer as it wafted further and further away.  That unmistakable, horrendous shriek of … a grackle.  A very large black bird.  After his dive bomb of my head he flew up to the roof of the retreat center and screamed at me, heckling me and laughing at his successful secret attack.  I know it was probably protecting a nest in one of the trees near the church entrance, but it was on.

After staff meeting I stepped onto the porch and issued a challenge.  A loud one.  I screamed at the avian beast.  It was nowhere in sight, but that didn’t fool me this time.  I knew that an attack could come from the skies at any moment.  And I was right.  It waited until I was out in the very center of the parking lot, totally unprotected by eaves or vehicles.  I sensed more than saw the approach, and at just the last moment, I whipped around, waving my yellow notebook in the air and screaming at the top of my lungs.  My instincts proved accurate.  The bird hit the brakes, spread its wings frantically, and instituted full-on evasive maneuvers.  I missed, and the attacker once again ended up on the retreat center roof.  This time, however, its screams were laced with frustration and fear and embarrassment rather than victorious taunting.  Bird one, Me one.  All tied up.  My next move?  Still not sure, but I may just carry an umbrella to church for the next few weeks …

James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.”

Father, help the youngsters in that bird’s nest grow quickly so they can all fly away and we can co-exist peacefully.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28 – “Beware of the Dangerous”

Our “Beware of the Dangerous” guard dog did her job marvelously yesterday.  Stopped an attempted interloper in his tracks and actually held him there until I could get to the scene of the crime. 

Chris had already left for her ladies Bible study at the church.  I was casually watching the Astros baseball game on TV.  Suddenly, a horrendous racket burst forth from near the front door.  Oh, I knew right away the source of such a din.  “Beware of the Dangerous” guard dog was hard at work, guarding the castle from any and all who dared even show their face within ten yards of the entrance.  But this warning was somehow different.  For one thing, it didn’t stop, nor even slow down like it usually does.  Non-stop.  Louder, in fact.  Insistent.  Ear-splitting.  Oh, yes.  That’s the adjective I was searching for.  Ear-splitting.  There is nothing quite like the persistent, unrelenting cry of a deadly mix-breed terrier/Chihuahua when she feels her post is being threatened. 

I made my way to the front door, cautiously, of course.  And there he stood, transfixed by the now-angry challenge exploding from the deepest part of Freddy’s being.  See, once she realized I was in the same room, her instinct for protection kicked into a higher gear.  This was no longer about guarding the house.  Now it was getting personal. 

And still the interloper stood.  Still as he could.  Obviously afraid to move.  And rightly so.  It was frighteningly evident that one false move would send Freddy right through the glass of the storm door and onto his heel, with painful repercussions.  I watched the scene for a long three or four seconds before moving to intervene.  As I reached for the door handle, the intruder on the other side finally broke eye contact with Freddy and looked up at me.  Eternally grateful, his eyes, wide with terror, slowly returned to normal.  He took a noticeably deep breath.  As I opened the door to speak with him, he reflexively took a few steps back.  Freddy feinted a frantic attack.  Just kidding, she immediately backed away and awaited further instructions.  So did the UPS guy.

I thanked him for the delivery and asked, “So are you sufficiently terrified?”  He looked at Freddy, then back at me.  And as he ran back to his truck he tossed this simple reply over his shoulder, “Yes, I am, sir.  Yes, I am.”

James 2:18 says, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

Father, thank you for our little guard dog.  And for UPS guys with a sense of humor.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 27 – “A promise to live for”

We started out on our walk yesterday, but almost immediately we ran into some rather ominous difficulties.  Oh, the dark and threatening sky and the rolls of deep thunder were certainly enough to get our attention, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Oh, no.  Not nearly so powerful as the fact that Chris was feeling squeamish, a little sick to her stomach.  OK, maybe a bit more than a little bit.  She said her stomach was alternating between churning and calm acceptance.  Not a good combination.  We stopped after a mile. 

I spent the morning taking care of all my usual Monday work stuff.  It went pretty well, too.  I even managed to get into the beginnings of next Sunday’s teaching.  Speaking of the teaching, I received a very sweet text from a friend at church.  She read an article that said, “Your Pastor does not study the Bible easily.  He is not a Bible super hero.”  She then mentioned a certain photo she has seen of me in a superman cape.  I did my best to convince her that the picture was all a ruse to protect my secret identity.  After all, who would expect a super hero to be so flagrant as to wear his costume in public?  The perfect cover.  I really do appreciate the encouragement, though, Lauren.  It makes all that “hard work” worth it.

Christina and her kids came by in the afternoon for a quick visit before they headed to the library.  I got to hold onto young Ezra, the Nickel for most of their stay.  I was also entertained in the process by that up and coming star, Noa.  I don’t think she stopped talking for longer than a few seconds the entire time they were here.  She told me she was going to marry me, even though I would be really old.  And she knew I would be old because she wasn’t going to get married until she was 76.  I told her all I wanted was one dance with her at her wedding after she dances with her husband and her Daddy.  She assured me that, “If you’re still alive and not dead you can dance with me.”  Ah, another promise to live for.  Let’s see … She is 4.  So that’s 72 more years until the wedding.  I’m almost 64 now.  Watch out, young ladies.  You never know what to expect from a 136 year old DadDad …

James 2:17 says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Father, thank you for my three little granddaughters.  I would sure like to be there to dance with them one time at their wedding.  I think we could really shake things up.  Amen.

Monday, June 26, 2017

June 26 – “Forty at Floyd’s”

We were invited to be a part of Christina’s surprise 40th birthday lunch yesterday.  Actually we didn’t make it in time for the surprise part, but we did get in on the celebrate part.  We joined Christina’s Dad and sister and her family and of course Kel and the rest of their family.  We met them at a place called Floyd’s in Hitchcock. 

I had never heard of the place before.  Chris said she had seen the sign for it many times on our prior jaunts into Hitchcock to watch baseball games and the like.  It was back in the area that used to be highlighted by huge pink flamingos at the entrance.  It was much further off of Highway six than I expected, but they have carved out quite a harbor and marina and upscale subdivision.  The restaurant really matched the area, too.  Very nice.  Cloth tablecloths and napkins.  Overlooking a canal.  High class dining where you don’t have to dress up.  We arrived in time to be a part of the Sunday brunch.  That meant one of the options was a guy who would make you an omelet of your choosing, another who carved prime rib, or you could choose fried shrimp or several other seafood dishes, or even ribs.  I think everybody around me chose bacon.  Oh and we did eat a few other things, but bacon … and it had some kind of glaze on it as well.  Good stuff. 

Even though it was a buffet style, we still had a waiter assigned to us.  He removed the used plates whenever someone went back for something different.  He also kept our drinks full.  And the kids immediately recognized his thick accent.  Micah figured that he must be Red Skull in disguise, German all the way.  My guess was more Eastern European, maybe Russia.  We finally asked him.  He smiled and told us, “I am born in Germany but my blood is Ukraine.  I am married to Irish lady from Baltimore.”  Nice call, Micah.  I guess we were both right.

When we first arrived and were waiting for our table to be set up, one of the waiters walked up to Micah and Josiah and started doing magic tricks with them.  Basic stuff like pulling a coin out of their ear and making their hands squeak.  Very cute stuff.  He returned toward the end of our meal and started up his antics once again.  This time, though, he was blowing up balloon animals and swords and even a big old pacifier for the young ones.  He made Christina a flower for her birthday.  And speaking of birthdays, he led us all in a round of “Happy birthday to you.”  He wasn’t happy with our singing, though.  At one point he stopped us completely and finished on his own.  In full-on opera style.  Amazing voice.  It certainly made the day memorable for me.  I hope Christina felt the same.

James 2:12-13 says, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

Father, thank you for that first daughter you gave to us when Kel got married.  We love that girl.  Take care of her and make her happy.  Amen.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 25 - “Business, business, business”

We were back at it, hard and heavy, yesterday.  It was yard work day again.  One of the trials of living in Paradise, yard work day comes a little more often, at least once a week.  If you stay on top of it, though, it gets to where it doesn’t take quite as long, even after a drenching courtesy of Tropical Storm Cindy.  I finished pruning the tree that was intruding upon the cable and telephone wires coming to the house.  I lopped off a few other branches here and there as well.  I had to try out my brand new inch and three quarters, beasty pruning shears that Nathan gave me for Father’s Day.  Absolutely one of the best yard tools (short of power tools, of course) that exists today.

During my subsequent recuperation period I did some more work on the sermon for today.  I also returned some phone calls about possible weddings later in the summer.  I got the dates confirmed on all of them.  Finalized the time on another.  Even did my question array for personalizing of the ceremony with one of the brides.  Ah, business, business, business.

Also put together some media stuff for the P & B Breakfast at Seaside this coming Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m.  Proceeds go toward purchase of new playground equipment.  I know it’s a holiday weekend, but hey, you still gotta eat.  Everybody’s gotta eat.  There’s the commercial.  Well, except for the explanation of P & B, I guess.  It’s simple, really. Pancakes and Bacon.  Can’t beat bacon, right?

Chris is still working on the center square of the current quilt she is working on.  How she combines all those squares and triangles into stars other patterns is beyond me.  She’s amazing, in case you didn’t know.

And today we get to stop by the donut shop to get some for church.  That means a bit of an early departure.  So I better switch gears and go over my teaching notes again. 

James 2:8 says, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”

Father, join us at Seaside today.  Draw people to church who you want to be there.  And show us how best to minister to them.  Amen.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 24 – “Back home”

Well, I guess we are officially back home again.  Tropical Storm Cindy has come and gone.  Basically a non-event for our area.  We were supposed to have Cailyn for the day while her parents both worked, but I got a text from Nathan around 5:30 to let me know she had been throwing up all night.  He was staying home with her so he could take her to the doctor.  Poor baby.

We did walk our three miles again.  It wasn’t quite as hot as the last time we walked … whenever that was.  It was before our two-day vacation whirlwind, so I don’t remember much.  We also went shopping.  Real shopping, though.  Not WalMart.  Amazing, I know.  But the thing is, we already searched WalMart for the specific item we were looking for, and they didn’t have it.  What item?  Now it was for a birthday gift.  I can’t tell you that yet.  Quit snooping.

We thought about going into Houston to check out another swing set company for the church.  I just couldn’t bring myself to get back into the car again so soon after our 15 hour marathon the other day.  Any of you Seasiders want to go play on some swingsets?  Let me know.

We enjoyed a random FaceTime call from Josh’s kiddos.  Zak and Caleb had just completed their respective weeks of camp.  Zak went to pre-teen camp, which is a massive, week-long overnighter.  We saw a video of him climbing a rock wall, so the venue looked pretty exciting.  Caleb spent the days of last week at Zoo Camp.  He got to pet turtles and snakes.  The news about the latter was not received too well by Nani.  Not a great fan of snakes.  She’s such a girl.  We also got to say hi to AnnaGrace.  She showed us the toys she was currently enraptured by.  Never saw Luke.  Guess he was either asleep or overly busy.  Things can get pretty hectic when you are three years old, you know. 

We also watched an old Star Trek movie.  Well, I watched it while Chris did some quilting at the table.  Gotta love ol’ Kirk and Spock and my personal favorite, Scotty.  Sigh.  Brought back memories of college days … watching an episode of Star Trek every day from 5 to 6 p.m. on my little black and white TV, right before heading over to supper.  Ah, the good old days. 

James 2:5 says, “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

Father, thank you for old memories.  And thanks for the chances you give us every day to make new ones.  Amen.

Friday, June 23, 2017

June 23 – “A natural phenomenon”

Whew.  Catching up is a tiring thing, isn’t it?  So … fixing the sound on the TV was not a difficult task at all.  As you might imagine, Mr. Tech here had it all under control.  I unplugged everything, plugged it back in, and let it all reset.  Bingo.  All’s right with the world.  I still think I need to pick up a spare TV though.  Strictly for storm coverage backup, you understand.  If you agree, please send your words of encouragement to Chris.

After our long day of travel and late night arrival, neither of us felt much like doing anything on Wednesday but watching the weather.  We both kept falling asleep all throughout the day.  I remember waking up one time to answer the phone.  It was the Seaside worship pastor.  Jim was calling about the fire sprinkler system guy informing us about another inspection that was due.  It would involve a few more hundred dollars.  I gave him an appropriate answer.  Thank you for handling that, by the way, Jim.  We did stay awake long enough to make our Walmart supply run.  It was not much different than any other tourist Wednesday.  There seemed to be fewer batteries, and the water aisle was low.  Otherwise, it was business as usual.  And rightly so, as it all turned out.  Tropical Storm Cindy decided to head up the Sabine River.  Knew right where that was, too.  We crossed it a time or two. 

So about that Tropical Storm … We had some high winds and a few drops of rain.  Well, maybe more than a few drops, but certainly not tropical storm quality stuff.  Jamaica Beach made the news and was a big hit on social media because of the tides.  The whole back half of the community gets under water at big high tides anyway.  Add the little bit of a storm surge that we had, and you get water-covered streets.  A “natural phenomenon” playground for local kiddos.  I understand Sea Isle was a little wet as well. 

Oh, and we just realized that not once did I remember to use the selfie stick.  Even brought it along special for the occasion.  Sigh.  I guess everything was such a “whirlwind” that I forgot …

James 2:1 says, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.”

Father, thank you for Jim taking care of things at Seaside.  Bless him for that.  And be with the folks who are bearing the brunt of the storm.  Amen.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

June 22 – “608”

Well, we passed up the Elephant Sanctuary in Hugo, Oklahoma.  It was only open Friday and Saturday.  We also were disappointed to miss out on the Cockroach Hall of Fame.  Sadly, it has closed and moved to Phoenix.  Chris was heartbroken.  There is a Seasider who has a home in Atoka, Oklahoma, but we weren’t sure if they would be there or in Galveston, battening down the hatches.  So where to go next?  It had to be to the West, though.  Best we could tell from afar, Tropical Storm Cindy was going to be a major rainmaker in all of Louisiana.

Shreveport.  What could be in Shreveport?   Well, you might be surprised.  We uncovered a mural covering one entire side of about a five story tall building.  Even bled over onto another side.  And then there was the Giant Dalmatian waiting to use the facilities over in Beaumont (remember that giant fire hydrant?).  Right around the corner we stumbled across The Elvis Statue (There was one of that other guy, too – James Burton).  Gotta say, though, that the highlight of Shreveport had to be the giant chicken who was too “afraid” to cross the road because over there was the police department.

So that was enough Shreveport-ness for one morning.  Time for the international part of the trip.  We passed by Farkleberry Lane.  Best name of a road so far on the trip.  We saw a big cross in somebody’s front yard with a big roll of barbed wire draped on it like a crown of thorns.  Impressive.  Not sure where we were when we passed by the Blackburn Syrup Company.  We searched frantically to see if they had tours or something, but apparently their recipe for liquid sugar is a closely guarded secret.  I started getting hungry.  Miracle Mart for lunch?  Nope.  How about Nini’s CafĂ©?  No.

After a long drive, a really, really long drive, we found ourselves in Pittsburg.  I started looking for Pirates, but all we could locate was perhaps the result of one of their raids.  On the side of the highway, perched atop a building, was … a Giant Bo head.  Bo Pilgrim the chicken guy.  I never knew he was such a huge giant guy.  Sad that his head was all that was left of him after the Pirate attack.  Siri redeemed herself here for that Gibsland snafu.  She took us to a convention center across the freeway for a photo op.  My trip was pretty much made.

But I still had to make the ultimate romantic gesture.  I was taking my beautiful wife to Paris.  Pittsburg seemed too far north, so we made an adjustment.  That put us in Bogata.  Nope.  Too far south.  Rugby showed up for a quick game, but we didn’t stop.  Then we drove into Deport.  Only 578 residents.  Wonder why?  Think about it …
They did have The Dream Center.  What do you do at a Dream Center?  Sales?  Returns?  Nap?

We did finally reach Paris.  Never knew the Eiffel Tower had a big red cowboy hat on top, but we have the pictures to prove it.  Very romantic.  As was our quiet dinner at world famous Scholl Brothers Barbeque.  Shared sweet conversation and a stuffed baked potato.  As a result of our dinner conversation, we settled on a drastic change of plans.  We were heading south.  We were going to race Tropical Storm Cindy to Galveston.  The Island simple can’t have a tropical without us there to beat up on.  And we continued to make adjustments on the fly.  First we planned to spend the night in Tyler.  But no.  We got gas near there, I think.  We made our way through Palestine to continue the international theme.  We saw a live, walking around, pre-roadkill deer.  There was that beautiful sunset over a really big Lake.  And then it got dark.  I found the Astros game on the radio (They were playing in Oakland, so they didn’t even begin until 9 p.m.).  We were pointed South and on a mission to defeat that threatening tropical storm.

We finally pulled onto the island (ahead of Cindy, I might add) about the time the ninth inning of the Astros game began.  608 miles in one day.  I think we were in the house around 12:30 a.m. or so.  In my attempt to watch the last few seconds of the game on TV, I discovered that the TV had picture but no sound.  Not a problem for a baseball game, but we were also anticipating tropical storm coverage.  My early morning was cut out for me.  Not to mention that we had to make our usual post-vacation supplies replenishment run.  Will there be anything left at WalMart?

James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Father, thank you for the fun we had on this storm-shortened vacation.  Guess 2017 was not the year for an actual vacation, was it?  But we appreciate your care over us, wherever we are.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 21 – “An Uncle Si Bobblehead … really”

The hotel we selected randomly on our first night in Louisiana ended up being five minutes from the funeral home.  Great.  Well, it would have been if we hadn’t gone to the wrong funeral home first.  Not great.  It also had that kind of slimy water that feels like your skin is all greasy and the soap never washes out (The hotel, not the nursing home).  Not great.  They even had a special page in the room handbook that was a disclaimer assuring us that the water comes from a special aquifer in Arkansas that is perfectly safe.  Great?

Then we figured out that it was less than four minutes from … drumroll here … none other than … the Duck Commander Warehouse.  Now we’re talking truly epic.  We were forced to drive by after supper and take a selfie.  Then, since the hurricane hadn’t hit yet, we just had to go back during business hours and check out the phenomenon.  I was hoping for an appearance by Uncle Si.  Of course it was worth it.  Well, we didn’t get to see any of the family.  It was only 9:30 when we were there.  I don’t imagine they have to get out of bed before noon, much less come to work.  I did fill for Godwin in his chair for a few minutes.  Chris wasn’t satisfied with my redneck ambition though, so she had me switch over to Jase’s chair for another photo op.  Next we made our own duck calls.  Got to keep them, too.  Mine has Uncle Si’s name on it.  Chris’ is pink.  It says Mrs. Kay.  As part of the tour deal we also got Duck Commander caps.  Oh, and bobble heads.  I got Uncle Phil.  She got Mrs. Kay.  We did add a little bit to our souvenir bag before we left.  Chris bought a Mrs. Kay cookbook.  They gave her a second one free.  I found an Uncle Si bobble head.  It was screaming at me to pick it up.  Had to do it.  Besides, it was only 5 bucks. 

The rest of the day was kind of a blur.  An amazing, Vaughan-vacation kind of a blur, though.  We left West Monroe and found a road that was generally pointed west.  That wasn’t originally our intention, but we were also monitoring a certain unwelcome visitor named Cindy that was rapidly forming in the Gulf of Mexico.  It looked to be headed for Louisiana, so we hightailed it out of the swamps.  Along the way we found a few strange and unusual sights as well as some more eating places that Chris wouldn’t stop at. 
Downtown Rustin, home of angle parking and “We Buy Guns.”  We didn’t stop.
Fred’s.  We saw a few of those.  I think it was a grocery chain, but it was named Fred’s.  That’s an awesome name.
Grambling State University, mills, logging and railroads.
Chickadilly.  Nope.

Finally we arrived in Gibsland.  That was supposed to be the site of the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum.  We followed Google Siri’s instructions to the letter.  Well, until she said we had arrived … in front of a bunch of trees and a ramshackle house or two.  Chris quickly turned around and headed back into town.  On a hunch we kept going for a few blocks in the opposite direction of Siri’s instructions.  Imagine that … there was the museum.  Come on, Siri.  The museum itself used to be the very deli where Bonnie and Clyde stopped for sandwiches just before they were ambushed on the road.  That “last meal” motif carried throughout the museum.  It was a tiny place, really.  But then a lot of floor space was dedicated to the mannequins they had dressed and bloodied and laid out next to replicas of their graves.  Every speck of wall space was covered with photos, including the gruesome crime scene photos taken immediately after the shooting.  They had a brick from the chimney of the actual house that served as a hideout for the pair.  One exhibit was and interesting array of buttons and cloth fabric scraps and a lock of hair.  It was entitled, “Things that people may have collected as souvenirs from the bodies.”  My favorite was the Superboy comic for sale ($30) where Superboy meets Bonnie and Clyde.  I remember that issue.  It was hard to tear ourselves away from all that gruesomeness, but we were getting hungry. 

Chris wouldn’t stop at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club.  That was all her.  I didn’t even see the sign until she pointed it out.  We finally ended up at a Five Guys hamburger place.  Ah, somewhere familiar.  We went inside to evaluate where this storm was at the moment and to plan our next move.  We decided it would be prudent to head further west to outrun that scamp.  We received updates throughout the day from Nathan and Christina, and April, bless her heart, actually went over to the house and secured Chris’ plants and our table umbrella.  Thank you, darlin’ daughter-in-law.  Left us free to …

James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless.”

Father, thank you for family we can count on to keep us in the loop of important events.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June 20 – “Into the East”

If you haven’t been watching us on FaceBook, Chris and I are not in Galveston today.  In fact we’re not even in Texas.  We are in the neighboring, potentially storm-sighted state of Louisiana.  Why?  Well, we actually came over last night to attend the funeral service of one of Chris’ uncles.  He’d been in Hospice care for two years, so the death was not completely unexpected.  Chris hasn’t had much contact with that part of her family for a long time, though, so we weren’t really sure if she would know even her cousins.  She did just fine, though.  One of her cousins greeted her, and the two of them rapidly did some catching up.  The service itself was a little odd.  The speaker was the local Hospice chaplain, but he was really hard to follow.  I think he presented the gospel six or eight times, but it was so jumbled that I couldn’t follow him.  I pray somebody was able to make the connection, though.  The gospel is the gospel, after all.

Our trip here was full of interesting sights.  There was a whole list of places we didn’t stop to eat: Stomps Burger Joint. TBone Tom’s.  Crazy Allan’s Swamp Shack.  Fasteau’s.  Chadeaux.  Herbert’s Boudin and Cracklins.  Burger Inn.  Paradise Catfish Kitchen.  Sigh.  We settled on Whataburger and Cracker Barrel.  Can’t go wrong with old family favorites.

We also saw the Sukup Granary in Fenton.  That’s all on that one. 
Then there was the Louisiana Rest Stop.  It was a dirt pull-off area with one port-o-potty.  Frightening.
The Rush Funeral Home.  What’s your hurry?
South Dakota Treasures.  Wait … in Louisiana?  But then, we did drive through Iowa at one point.
The Robert Strange Nursery had a big wooden cutout of him waving.  I waved back.
They were doing a major construction project somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  They were laying a sidewalk … right in the center median of the freeway.  What?
We drove through the town of Ball.  Ball had a Wall … Mart.  Awesome.  Also a National Guard Center.
We passed three or four prisons.  Louisiana must be a good spot for them. 
The search for roadkill pizza ingredients was really hampered here.  Oh, I saw roadkill, but for the most part what I saw was totally unrecognizable.  All squashed flatter than a pancake.  Except for the one possum skeleton I saw.  Totally complete, perfectly preserved skeleton on the side of the road.  I almost asked Chris to stop so I could pick it up.  Wonder how that would have gone? 

I suppose we’ll head back in the general direction of Texas sometime tomorrow.  We had planned to take a few more days off to make up for the shortened vacation attempt we made earlier (The Evil Shingles Trip).  And what should happen?  A potential hurricane in the Gulf, of course.   Nathan assured Chris that the weather in Galveston is gorgeous.  Maybe if texts her the weather report every morning … and three or four times during the day … we can still get in a few days.  Or we can just drive back over into Texas and get on the other side of the projected storm track.  Decisions, decisions.

James 1:22 says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

Father, thank you for our safe journey to the funeral.  Be with the family as they take care of all the post-funeral arrangements they still face.  Amen.

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 19 – “My Dad’s Day”

Pretty good Father’s Day for this old guy yesterday.  Started out when we got to church and I received a video text from Cailyn.  It was something she was watching on TV that she took a video of.  At first it seemed quite odd.  The caption she wrote was, “Here is something that Freddy would not be able to do.”  OK.  She really likes our little dog Freddy, so I pushed play.  There was a man in his kitchen apparently working hard on preparing something.  A little dog slowly walked up behind him, paused for a second or two, and then suddenly leapt straight up into the air and took a nip of the guy’s rear end.  And in the background you could hear Cailyn laughing uncontrollably before a final guffawed, “Ouch.”  Now that was an entertaining way to start the day. 

Among the guests at Seaside were two families that mad the day special.  One was the daughter and her family of some really old friends of ours, Jack and Jamie.  Not that they are that old.  They are just a year or two younger than us.  They were in the youth group during my first stint as youth pastor many, many … many years ago.  Great to see Josh and Courtney and their kids again.  Especially when their little boy told me he really liked the Visual Verse.  And their little girl told me I was a cute boy.  They can come back any time.

The second family was a blast from the past as well.  Brandon was the young man there with his girl friend.  He towered over me, but that’s not so unusual.  Come to find out he had been in Josh’s youth group at South Oaks many years before.  But it was his Dad who almost ran up the aisle to greet me when they arrived.  He looked very familiar, but I couldn’t place him at all.  Finally he told me that he had been among the crews that helped rebuild our house after Hurricane Ike.  He did some sheetrocking and Brandon and Josh had spent some time breaking up concrete in the bathroom.  Apparently he had been looking forward to coming to church at Seaside ever since.  Talk about pressure. He said afterwards that he loved it, though.  We invited them to come by the house any time and see the finished product. 

The rest of the day was even better.  Nathan texted to set up a lunch.  We had to set it up for later since we had dinner on the grounds scheduled after church.  After my nap, Josh called so Luke could see who the mystery man would be who answered the phone.  Seems Luke was trying to figure out who his Dad’s Dad was.  I think he recognized my voice when I answered, but he was still not completely sure.  So Josh switched over to FaceTime.  Great expression of surprise and delight on his face.  Then Micah texted to invite us to tag along on their annual Father’s Day meal at Gringo’s, Kel’s favorite establishment.  Kel gave me a book about Galveston’s minor league baseball team of the 1930’s.  Yep.  Pretty good day.

James 1:19-20 says, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

Father, thank you for my sons and all their kiddos.  Makes an old Dad proud.  Amen.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

June 18 – “Here’s to quick recuperations”

Oh my.  Two nights ago I was awakened around 3 a.m. by the attempted emergence of a stomach bug.  Bravely, and as quietly as possible, I fought the little monster back and managed to get back in bed around 4 or 4:30.  The little dickens returned with a vengeance at 6:30, however.  Woke me from a pretty sound sleep and introduced me to my fate for the next 6 or so hours.  I stayed in the bathroom for until well after 7, at which time Chris was awake.  I treated the day like any other … except for the times (Yep, that’s plural.  I stopped counting how many) I was inspired to revisit those friendly confines of Indoor Plumbing-ville.  Not a pretty picture.

During one of my periods of relative health-dom, Chris and I went downtown to the Strand area.  There was a craft show of some kind going on, so we walked the block checking out the homemade items.  It was fun seeing a few of the crafters from Seaside’s show last year.  Chris also introduced me to one of the ladies who has been coming to the ladies Bible study on Tuesday nights.  We bought some pickles from her. Nice lady.

Right across the street from the show was that nautical salvage place we have been trying to go to.  Chris is still looking for something to use that looks nautical that will hold a box of Kleenex.  It’s a big place, and it is chock full of stuff they have salvaged from old ships.  Unfortunately, none of it fit the bill for what she has in mind.  And I have said it before.  If it is in her mind, nothing else will be good enough.  Ah, well.  I’m sure she’ll keep on looking.

Since we were in the area I texted Kel to see if he was delivering mail anywhere nearby.  We tracked him down and said hi.  He asked us to do him an interesting favor.  Wanted us to go by a certain shop and pick him up some coffee beans.  Being the incredibly wonderful parents that we are, of course we headed right over.  Interesting place.  Galveston Coffee Company, or something equally creative.  The guy running it apparently moved here from Hawaii.  The beans Kel wanted were the Hawaiian bold version.  I’ll have to taste some next time I’m at his house.  The guy running the shop also gave me a piece of gum.  He warned me, though.  Said it was the strongest mint flavor he has ever tasted, also from Hawaii.  He assured me that it would clear out my sinuses.  Grinning, I popped it in my mouth.  Let me just say … he was right.  It was powerful stuff.  I may have to go back by there just for the gum.

I was pretty worn out when we got back home.  Chris let me crash out while she worked on another quilt.  She’s trying to finish another one that she is doing by hand.  The part she’s doing now is a pretty intricate star-looking thing.  It will look pretty amazing when she gets done with it … as usual.

When I woke up we went over to WalMart (of course).  We had a very specific list.  Five items.  They only had one of the five available, though.  Not a problem for me.  I was enjoying every minute of it.  Lots and lots of tourists mean lots and lots of people-watching opportunities.  I was sinking pretty fast though.  Chris kind of hustled me out of there before any problems arose that couldn’t be handled quickly and quietly. 

I’m doing pretty well this morning.  I had a grilled cheese sandwich when we got home last night, and some toast and a banana this morning, so I think I’m good to go for this fine Sunday morning.  Bring it on.

James 1:16-17 says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Father, thank you for quick recuperations.  Amen.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June 17 – “Storm prep mode”

Well, I actually gave up a fishing trip yesterday.  Not that it was some big event planned for weeks or anything.  I was just hoping to go out to the beach and do a little wade fishing.  It’s been a long time.  But, the beachfront was pretty choppy when I checked the beachcams on the computer, and I remembered that it was Friday.  What’s so big about Friday?  Well, in Galveston at my house Friday in the summer generally means it’s time to mow the grass.  And it was.  Sigh.  Guess my sense of responsibility usurped my deepest inner desires.  This time.

As generally happens, I took care of the mowing and edging while Chris tackled flower beds.  She really has the back yard looking great.  It didn’t really take all that long to do the mowing and edging, so I made the mistake of pondering the trees.  See, Chris had told me at breakfast that there was already a tropical disturbance working its way into the Gulf.  We’ll probably see evidence of it sometime about the middle of next week, if it stays on track.  And that always adds one more step to our homeowner summer preparations for storm season.  It was time to trim some trees. 

Not the huge pruning jobs that happen in the Fall when the trees start losing leaves.  This one has nothing to do with the shaping and beautifying of the plant.  It has everything to do with getting it out of the way.  The obvious place that needs help is anywhere a branch has access to the roof.  At the very least the wind from the storm can cause the branches to sway and scrape and totally ruin shingles.  At the worst a branch can break off and land on the roof, doing even worse damage.  We have seen the effects of both.  Another potential disaster is when tree branches hit against or fall onto power lines, or in our case, power lines, computer access lines (telephone) and cable lines.  They all run right through a Brazilian Pepper tree that has taken up residence right on the property line (other side) between us and 40 Steps (the lot next door, which, by the way, has allegedly been “officially” sold.  Still has a For Sale sign on it, though, so our hopes, however slight, remain). 

After a brief foray onto the roof to take care of some minor trimming there, I attacked the pepper tree with a vengeance.  I got the lines free from the alien incursion, but it took the last few hours of energy I had left.  It was hot again.  Something like 80 degrees with a heat index of 98.  We drank plenty of water, and even found reason to walk through the house every so often, so it wasn’t too bad.  It did warrant a nap in the afternoon, though.  I don’t think it was optional.  I was out like a light.  Yard looks good, though.  We’re still praying the storm season is a light one for Galveston.

James 1:5-6 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

Father, watch over out Island, our home, for the next few months in particular.  Amen.

Friday, June 16, 2017

June 16 – “It was … hot”

I spent a morning outside the other day.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Spending a few hours outside in the midst of the wonderful tropical island sunshine.  Yeah, well … not so much.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the company was great.  But the much vaunted beautiful weather?  Not so much.  It was hot.

I joined three other guys to finish one of our projects at church that has been ongoing for several months now.  The metal railing bolted to the wooden railing leading up the handicap ramp to the retreat center has, as do all things in Galveston, been doing some serious rusting.  Rather than pay the thousand or so dollars to have someone come in and cut out the really bad sections, sand down the rest, apply rust inhibitor, prime and finally paint it with industrial grade anti-rust paint, we decided to entrust the task to our amazing team of volunteers.  Of course that meant we had to be patient and live within their availability.  We were finally down to the final leg of the painting portion of the journey.  Actually there is still some patching and welding that needs to happen, but it is the least crucial of the project.  We can fill that in slowly, and besides, there are actually very few gaps that had to be cut out. 

So there we were.  Four of us.  One professional painter, Mel, who came along with Dan, who is quite the handyman in his own right.  Jim was there.  He was the actual straw boss of the project, so he definitely knew what he was doing as well.  And then there was … me.  Just as definitely … the weakest link.  Now one thing I might have neglected to mention thus far.  It was hot.  Oh, I did mention it?  Well, you don’t understand.  See, it was hot.  Hovering around 90 degrees, 70 or 80 percent humidity … hot. 

Now, Dan and Mel did their best to keep me hydrated.  They made several trips inside and brought back water.  Every time.  Of course their volunteering for that arduous task also allowed them the luxury of a few moments in the air conditioning.  Kept them rejuvenated.  And the water kept me going, probably for longer than I should have been going.  As it turned out I still had to leave before the job was done.  I just couldn’t shake the encroaching heat issues.  And when I began to feel the nausea, I knew that was it.  Classic heat exhaustion/stroke pre-symptoms.  I made it home just fine, but, boy, was I out of it for the rest of the day, even after a nap. 

Hats off to those three guys, though.  They were determined to get the job done.  I feel a lot better about the groups who stay in the center using that ramp now.  And those three guys?  They were already talking about the next project.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Father, thank you for gifting Seaside with guys like Dan and Mel and Jim.  Amen.