Monday, November 28, 2005

Glad to meet you!

We had a great Thanksgiving. My mom and dad came up from Tahoka, Texas. My sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew came up from Atlanta. And my other sister and brother-in-law and two nephews came up from College Station, Texas. They all arrived on Wednesday and left on Sunday. We effectively added ten more people to our daily routine here in Brooklyn. Wow.

We went to the Macy's Day Parade, had a huge meal, visited Grand Central Station to watch the laser show and see the train exhibition in the Museum Annex and visited until we couldn't visit any more! Everything went as planned.

Well, almost everything. What I didn't expect was how hard I would fall for Joey. Joey is the foster baby of my sis and bro-in-law of College Station. We've met several of their former foster children but this was our first time meeting Joey. I can't give the details of Joey's life situation as I don't know many of them but let me just say that my sister and brother-in-law are hoping to adopt Joey. And we hope will all our heart that Joey gets to be a part of our permanent family. Jackie and Ryan, thanks for taking on a ministry that many of us dare not do.

Joey is the baby not looking at the camera. He's looking at the family as if saying, "Do I want to be a part of this?"

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Advent 1

Today we embark upon the season of Advent. "Advent" means "coming". It is the season of remembering Christ's coming into the world, and anticipating his coming again. This evening, I'll preach from the lectionary gospel text, Mark 13:24-37. In the passage, Jesus warns the listeners to "keep awake - for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at a cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

The Christian claim is that as we wait for Christ to come in the future he takes up residence in the present. Therefore, we must heed the words of Jesus to keep awake because he is here among us. I conclude my sermon saying:

A funny thing about my son's name, Ira, is not that upon first hearing it one isn't sure if it's a boy or girl name or that it's an old-school name hardly used in this age or that it sounds particularly Jewish and to think that a protestant pastor would give his son a Jewish sounding name is kinda funny. Okay, so maybe those are funny things about my son's name but for our purposes today, what's funny about the name Ira is it's meaning.

The name "Ira" means "watchful, vigilant." A little divine humor on this day that we are called to be watchful, maybe? Perhaps Ira stands as a reminder that we are to be watchful, alert to Christ winking at us through the circumstances of life. The spiritual rigor to which we are called is to set aside our small preoccupations and recognize what's really important. We are to allow ourselves to be lifted up by the expectation of Christ present and active.

Each of us can take "Ira" as an Advent name, whether we are man or woman, boy or girl, we can add this name to our own in the depths of our hearts for the period between now and Christmas, and let it remind us to be vigilant and watchful. And so we will have "Joe Ira" and "Laura Ira" and "Mary Ira" and "Gilda Ira" and "Tom Ira" and ...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Keeping Up With Ira

Stay at home spouses work full time...and some. But let's be honest, there are times when those of us who work outside the home secretly desire the job of staying home with the kids thinking thoughts like, "It can't be that difficult. Entertaining the kids with crayons while catching up with Oprah sounds pretty manageable. Anybody could do this!" But before this self-assuredness sets in we spend an evening or Saturday with the kids alone and are quickly reminded that the spouse who stays home works hard and we find ourselves thankful for their desire to do what they do.

I'm incredibly grateful for Laura's willingness to take over and manage Ira's schedule. Ira's week last week was as follows:

MONDAY: speech path/feeding at 3:30 PM
TUESDAY: Children's Hospital to see pulmonary at 10 a.m. and surgery at 1 PM
WEDNESDAY: physical therapy at 8:15 a.m. and speech path at 3:30 PM
THURSDAY: speech path/feeding at 7:30 a.m. and occupational therapy at 3:30 PM
FRIDAY: physical therapy at 8:30 a.m. and pediatrician at 9:30 a.m.

Keeping up with Ira and his schedule is a full time job and I'm thankful that Laura is willing to take it on. Laura, Ira and Sophia are fortunate to have you, as am I.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Ira at Willie

My friend, Steve, flew up from Houston to hang with me for a couple of days. He took me to a Willie Nelson concert. I'm not a huge Willie fan but I must say, Willie rocked the house. The guy is like 73 or 74 years old and still plays over 200 shows a year. It was an impressive show and I found myself captivated by his performance.

Ira at Willie
Originally uploaded by joechays.

In other breaking news, our upstairs neighbor and friend, Yael, passed her BAR exam. She's anxiously been waiting for those results for a couple of months. When her fiance, Bryan, shared the good news, Laura and I were overcome with chills! Yael, great job! You Go Girl!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Liturgy

Not only was Ira dedicated at Christ's Church for Brooklyn but also at the Manhattan Church of Christ. So many in that family have reached out to us in so many ways. It was only appropriate that Ira meet those who have ministered to him and his family. Larry Mudd, the worship minister, wrote the following liturgical prayer after asking Laura and I what we wanted out of the service:

We praise and thank you, Loving Father,
For bringing Ira and his families to this time,
For carrying them through long and difficult struggle
To this moment of light and life.
We praise and thank you, Lord.

We praise and thank you, Blessed Jesus,
For Your many gifted servants
You have used to minister to this special child:
The doctors and nurses, and so many others.
We praise and thank you, Lord.

We praise and thank you, Holy Spirit,
For your steadfast, faithful love
In and through the darkness of these months,
Often hard to feel, but never missing.
We praise and thank you, Lord.

We praise and thank you, Almighty God,
For this singular, special moment
As we gather around your throne together
To love and bless this precious child.
We praise and thank you, Lord.

Many times, we feared this day would never come;
So at this moment especially, we are mindful
Of the beloved children who were not able to go home,
But instead are at home with you, Father
May they live in the hearts of those who love them.

We pray for their Moms and Dads.
Strengthen their hearts and spirits, Lord.
We pray for their Grandmas and Grandpas.
Strengthen their hearts and spirits, Lord.
We pray for their brothers and sisters.
Strengthen their hearts and spirits, Lord.
We pray for their family and friends.
Strengthen their hearts and spirits, Lord.

We are also mindful of others
Whose battles still continue.
As you have done for Ira, Lord,
Let them come home from the hospital.
Heal and make them whole, Lord.

As the days and months go on,
Let them know that You are with them.
Strengthen their parents and families,
And let them grow to full health.
Heal and make them whole, Lord.

Now that Ira has come home,
We pray for your continued blessing,
For special favor on the Hayses
As this new chapter of life unfolds.
Bless and refresh them in every way.

We give you thanks for Joe and Laura,
For their hearts they have for You, Lord,
And the faith you have nurtured in their lives
In preparation for this journey.
Bless and refresh them in every way.

We ask your blessing on Joe, Lord,
Calm his spirit with Your peace,
Strengthen his body and faith with Your power,
Uplift his mind and heart with Your Spirit.

Give him grace to be the best son to You he can be,
To love you with all that he has and is.
Give him grace to be the best husband he can be,
To love Laura with a love from you,
Give him grace to be the best father he can be,
To love Ira and Sophia with Your love.

We ask your blessing on Laura, Lord,
Calm her spirit with Your peace,
Strengthen her body and faith with Your power,
Uplift her mind and heart with Your Spirit.

Give her grace to be the best daughter to You she can be,
To love you with all that she has and is.
Give her grace to be the best wife she can be,
To love Joe with a love from you,
Give her grace to be the best mother she can be,
To love Ira and Sophia with Your love.

We ask your blessing on Sophia, Lord,
Cause her faith in you to grow,
Give her wisdom throughout her life,
Especially in her relationship with Ira.

We ask your blessing on Ira, Lord,
Continue his healing and make him whole.
Protect him from sickness and infection,
And allow him to breathe on his own.

Bless all who care for and love him
With health, wisdom and strength,
To be sources of learning and healing
As Ira grows and matures.

Lord God Almighty,
We place Ira before Your throne
And dedicate his life - his every breath -
To You and to Your glory.

And we as a family of faith
Pledge our love and support
To Laura, Joe, Sophia and Ira
Whenever they need our help.

We will live as examples of faith
Measured in steps of integrity
We will teach and encourage in love
and walk by their side in Your light.

Surround him with Your power, God,
Anoint him to Your glory,
Lengthen his days to many years
That he may show Your love to many.
We dedicate Ira to You, Lord.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

'Tis Midnight

I can't sleep. Not sure why. It was a long day. Ira had more appointments back at Children's Hospital. Today we saw a new doc, the pulmonologist, and Ira's surgeon. Both visits were smooth and relatively quick. After we saw Dr. Stolar, Ira's surgeon, we decided to take a trip over to the NICU to see our old friends.

As soon as we walked out of the elevator the ladies at the front desk greeted us with huge smiles. We walked back to floor and Ira was immediately surrounded by nurses. They were equipped with all the right responses: "He looks wonderful!" "He's fattened up!" "You guys look rested!" "I'm so happy for you guys."

I wasn't anxious being there nor did I have any weird feelings or flashbacks. In fact, it was kinda the opposite. It was nice being there. Why was it that I felt so comfortable? Maybe because it felt safe. Maybe because those surrounding us know us and know Ira. Maybe because those who work there walked with us day after day and cast no judgments upon us for not always being at the top of our game. Maybe because Laura and I, as Ira's primary caregivers, often feel inadequate compared to those who cared for him in the NICU. Maybe, and I'm going out on a limb here, maybe I felt so comfortable being there because I knew that I could leave the NICU with my baby boy in my arms.
I wish that were the case for Diana and her parents. Diana is now 9 months old and still in the NICU. I wrote about Diana on August 5. She has a whole different set of issues than Ira. She can't quite seem to take the next step she needs to go home. It saddened me to see her there.

Holy Father, grant them peace.
Holy Father, grant them peace.

Holy Father, grant them peace.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Say what you want about A-Rod's performance in the playoffs (and I'm sure you will in the comments) but if it weren't for his magnificent play in the regular season we wouldn't have even made the playoffs. And that's why he won the AL MVP today. Congrats, A-Rod, on a well deserved MVP award! (He does read this blog, doesn't he?)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Magic of TV

This is before TV was turned on:

Before TV
Originally uploaded by joechays.

This is after TV was turned on:

Originally uploaded by joechays.

Nice parenting job, Joe.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Coming Home

Our families have viewed it, Laura and I have watched enough to let it sink in and now I want to share it with those of you who have been following our story: Ira's Coming Home video.

Jason Isbell has helped me make it available for your viewing. In order for the movie to work you must have a high speed internet connection and QuickTime 7.0.3.

If you use a MAC (which all of you should), then click here to download QuickTime and then you're ready to go.

If you use a PC, then click here, install QuickTime, restart your computer, and you will be ready to go. Don't you just hate restarting your computer so often? (Psst, make the switch already!)

Click below to watch.

Coming Home

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Primed and Ready?

It was this day three weeks ago that Ira left Columbia Children's. So it's only appropriate that we go back there today for two doctor appointments (GI and pulmonary hypertension). This is how our day goes down on days like today.

What we think about prior to our departure:
1) Air tanks. Do we have enough of them? Are they full and ready to go?
2) Food. Ira's appts are at 11:30 and 1. He's supposed to be fed at 11 and 2. Trouble! Get milk in portable bag with ice. Get g-tube primed and ready. Make sure the pump is charged.
3) Meds. Ira normally gets meds at 11 and 4. The 11 med can be taken at 10:40 before we leave but the 4 med (Viagra) is very important and can't be missed. If appts run late, do we have that med ready to go?
4) Food. Laura will need to pump at some point during this excursion. Should we take the portable or should she slip out at some point, go over to the NICU pumping rooms and take care of business there?
5) Other equipment. Is the sat monitor charged and ready? And do we have an extra pulse-ox with us? We might need tape. Pacifiers a must! Change of clothes? The boy vomits like Mount St. Helens. Diapers? etc...

What actually happens:
Ira gets poked and prodded by several doctors, undergoes an EKG and an echocardiogram and waits for quite some time to see other doctors. Ira acts like a pro. Been there, done that. Mom and Dad and Nurse are all exhausted and feel like they've been worked over. Time for sleep.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Order of Worship

The following is the order from Ira's dedication at Christ's Church for Brooklyn.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Remembrance of NICU Babies in Silence
Scripture: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-18
Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy
Scripture: Pslam 78:1-7
Dedication and Anointing
Charge to Parents
Charge to Church Family
Hymn: Shout to the Lord
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Hymn: Holy Ground
Children's Circle and Communion
Blessings from Church to Ira

It was an incredible night. We were proud to show Ira off and those who attended were more than happy to be recipients of our pride. It's hard to take anything too seriously at Christ's Church for Brooklyn as two two-year-olds run around the room but it was a special evening nonetheless.

My favorite part of the evening was toward the end where people had the opportunity to speak a blessing to Ira. I stood in front holding Ira and voices spoke words of hopes, wishes and dreams for Ira. Some spoke of physical health, "May you continue to heal." Some spoke of ability, "May you sing like your mom and not your dad." Some spoke of attitude, "May you be laid back and able to laugh." Some spoke scripture, "May you run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint." Amen.

Thank you, family and friends. Thank you.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


blogger pose
Originally uploaded by joechays.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What Language Shall I Borrow?

Ira is being dedicated at Christ's Church for Brooklyn this Sunday evening. I usually lead the service there but have handed this particular service over to a couple of others. After all, it would be kinda weird presiding over my own son's dedication.

I take baby dedication events seriously. In dedicating Jasper, the first baby born into Christ's Church for Brooklyn, we took the entire service to think about and meditate upon what it means for life to be brought into this world and specifically into the world of our faith community. Every element of our worship was centered around the event of Jasper's dedication. With this first dedication service, I hope that I have instituted a tradition for Christ's Church for Brooklyn. One that takes seriously the words of Jesus, "for the kingdom of God belongs to them."

It would seem natural for Ira's dedication to be filled with pure joy and elation and talk of blessings. It would seem natural for this to be a time of celebration and thanksgiving. It would seem natural for there to be dancing; unabashed, shameless dancing! After all, there were many moments when we didn't think Ira would make it. The cards were stacked against him. The prognosis wasn't good. The talks with doctors early on were not positive in outlook. Ira is a miracle! Let's get this party started!

However, that's not the tone Laura and I desire. Laura and I will talk endlessly and proudly about how far Ira has come and about how relieved we are that he is with us. We will recount for you with huge smiles and tears of joy about the day he came home. But we do so choosing our words carefully.

Laura and I still have images of babies who did not make it out of the NICU. Conversations with parents who lost their babies are still fresh on our minds. The desperate look on parents faces when they visit their baby for the first time in the NICU are etched in our memories. And so Laura and I proceed carefully and gently and humbly when we talk of Ira's journey still searching for a language that will please God.

I look forward to Sunday evening because I completely trust those that will lead us. I expressed Laura's and my desire to remember those infants who did not make it out of the NICU and remember those who are still in the NICU. This will be a time of thanksgiving but also a time of remembrance. After all, the kingdom belongs to Ira and Diana and Lily and Ava and Alix and Hime and Sebastian and Luke and Noah and ...