Monday, July 30, 2007

Joe the Wrangler

Please, people, please know this is a joke. Inside those stirrups were my city Sketchers and yes, that's a Yankees hat I'm wearing.


Friday, July 27, 2007

seuss or keats?

Every Tuesday night during the month of July our little neighborhood garden is teeming with moms, dads and kids. That's because every Tuesday night stories are read and lemonade and cookies are offered. It's a fun time and a great way to socialize with the neighborhood folk. This Tuesday, I'm one of the readers.

While we have a vast collection of books at our house I'm at a loss as to what I should read. And that's where you come in: Any suggestions?

I'm guessing that the books can't be too long as most of the children are pre-school or early elementary aged. I've been encouraged to bring props if need be like puppets or musical instruments. And the pictures should be lively.

Any thoughts?


Thursday, July 26, 2007

three beautiful women

We were fortunate to see a lot of people we love and adore while on our trip. (We were also sad to miss out on seeing others we love and adore.) Laura and I, having been away from our respective homes for quite some time, were feeling especially nostalgic for our extended families. So it was quite special when we got to see our grandmothers.

Grandmother Hays now lives in Brownfield, Texas so we got to see her one day while in Tahoka. (I was born in Brownfield which is 30 minutes from Tahoka.) While Grandmom's memory isn't what it used to be she was definitely aware of Ira and getting to meet him. I loved watching her watch Ira.

My other grandmother, Grandmother Lambert, turned 90 this summer. Our entire trip was scheduled around her birthday party. It was incredible seeing her and celebrating with her. She was married to Ira Lambert. This was her first time meeting our Ira. There was something special between those two.

And finally, on our way back to Brooklyn, we made an excursion to northern Arkansas to Ash Flat where Laura's maternal grandmother lives. Grandmother Sharp is still sharp at 96 years old. She's had her moments over the past few years so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was in awe of her. And so were my kids.

All of these women are women of faith. Each one has prayed for Ira and our family over the past two years. Such is their faith that I knew that every morning began with a prayer for Ira. This not only gave my family comfort but their faithfulness was and always will be an example to us. I hope to someday realize their steadfastness and unwavering faith. In the meantime, I'll keep looking up to them and striving for what they have.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

picture time

According to someone I love dearly I should post some pictures of our trip. If you click the photo below, it will take you to my flickr account and you can check out all the fun we had in Tahoka. Click the picture below that and you can check out all the fun we had in St. Louis.

Originally uploaded by joechays

Originally uploaded by joechays


more on god talk

I'm reading Barbara Brown Taylor's Leaving Church. In it she says,

"...on the subject of divine guidance I side with Susan B. Anthony. 'I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do,' she once said, 'because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.' Having been somewhat of an expert on the sanctification of my own desires I try not to pin them on God anymore."



Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mike Hope

from the pen of Laura

In April 2005, a son was born and began the fight of his life. That same month a young husband and father of four found out he had stage four colon cancer. He also began the fight of his life. For two years Mike Hope graciously endured all the medical field had to offer his increasingly frail body. Side by side so many prayers offered for the sick baby and the sick man. Even through his physical and emotional pain, Mike remembered and prayed for the sick baby. When green wristbands were made in honor of the child, Mike wanted one. As his fight became more and more bleak, the child's fight was growing with hope. Side by side the two families clung to their own and prayed for the other.

After two years, Mike's fight has come to an end. Mike Hope passed from this earthly life on July 17, 2007. On his wrist, the green wristband, signifying a passing of the torch to that now two year old to keep up the fight. Thank you, Mike, for your glorious example of selfless love and a life lived with humility and grace.


Monday, July 23, 2007

trip memory #1

We were on the last leg of our journey. We were all kind of irritable and by this point, kinda sick of each other. The kids were pretty tired. Laura and I were snapping at them pretty easily and Sophia was catching the brunt of it. Finally, Sophia spoke her mind.

With narrowed eyes, a slight shake of the head and with arms crossed defiantly Sophia frustratingly said, "I am exalted! Everyone is being the boss of me!"

We're fairly certain that she meant to say "exhausted". It was a great moment in which we all laughed and it certainly lightened the mood.


god talk

god talk: communicating what God is doing here and now; it usually involves phrases like "I'm blessed" or "God found favor with me"
People a lot smarter and more capable than I have pontificated on the role of God in our world. There are folks out there who are more eloquent than I at communicating their understanding of the way God moves today. So you'll have to forgive me if this is a bit rough around the edges. (This, of course, is an ominous way of beginning a discussion on God's work in this world and gives me an out at any point. Don't think for a minute I won't employ some kind of excuse like, "Hey! What the heck do I know!? I'm just a young 33 year old!")

I said in my most recent post that I can't, with genuineness, say something to the effect of, "God knew about Ira and knew that we needed to be in NYC at one of America's best Children's hospitals so that Ira would have a higher chance at survival. Boy, are we blessed!" I have a problem saying that because the immediate implication is that the family and CDH baby in Rural Area, USA was not blessed because they couldn't pick up and move to NYC. If I'm the father of the family in Rural Area, USA whose CDH baby doesn't survive because of inadequate medical care and I read the blog of some father whose CDH baby does survive because of the best technology and the best doctors and that father says something like the above then my reaction is one of anger, confusion and grief. I might, if I were the father of the family in Rural Area, USA, offer the benefit of the doubt and wave it off as insensitive talk but there would still be confusion at the heart of it all.

In other words, there's always a flip side. If one says, "I'm bessed!" or, "I've found favor with God!" then the implication is that one in a similar position is not blessed or has not found favor with God. Theologically speaking this is problematic. The Old Testament witness certainly gives examples of this kind of thinking and believing (God blesses some and not others) but with Jesus comes a new way of thinking about how God moves and works. It seems to me that Jesus is an equal opportunity kind of Messiah who wants and then does save the whole world. (See, the more I type the more I'm getting in over my head.)

And for this reason, Laura and I are extremely cautious about how we talk about God's work in this world. In all honesty, we probably err of the side of being too cautious as we sometimes turn our faces away from God's apparent work in this world so as to not have to interpret what's going on. As you can imagine this isn't so great as one who gets up every Sunday and professes to say the things of God but I've found a place within the Good News to proclaim what I hope for and encourage us to reach for that hope. But I'm not completely satisfied with preaching only in this way. I want to get back to a place where I can see the things of God now because it is true that he has come and his kingdom is here. (It isn't here in its complete form but it is here.) So I want to get back to a place where I'm comfortable with what I call God Talk. But I want to do so in a way that is genuine and honest and sensitive. Does that make sense?

So how do you make sense of God Talk?


Sunday, July 22, 2007

a quick hit

A friend of mine sent me a link to the quarterly Children's Hospital of New York newsletter in which they highlight CDH in one of their articles. Check out the pdf here and read pages two-three. The thing I learned was that while the national statistic for survival of CDH babies is around 50%, it is a whopping 90% at Children's in Manhattan.

I'm so very thankful we've had access to Children's in NYC but you won't hear me say, "God put my family in NYC for this very reason!" More on this later...


Friday, July 20, 2007

safe in brooklyn

We're back. And, boy, does it feel good! The trip was a rousing success. On a scale from 1-10 I rate the trip a 10! Everything about the trip was perfect. I might post some pics of the trip if I get around to it but for now, here are the numbers:

Days traveled: 17
Miles traveled: 3,944.5
States driven through: 13 not including NY (NJ, PA, WV, OH, IN, IL, MS, OK, TX, AR, TN, VA, MD)
Hotels stayed in: 5 (OH, OK, AR, TN, VA)
Hotel breakfasts: 5 (continental breakfasts, how I love you so!)
Fast food joints: 8 (2 Subways, 2 Burger Kings, 2 Chick-fil-As, 1 Schlotzsky's, 1 Wendy's...I never want to see a fast food joint again!)
Suburban restaurants dined in: 5 (1 Chili's, 1 Outback Steakhouse, 1 Abuelo's, 1 St. Louis Bread Co, 1 Mercardo Juarez)
Times filled the gas tank: 12 (172.17 total gallons. Forgive me, dear earth.)
Speeding tix: A BIG FAT ZERO! Yippee!
Hours spent in the car: approximately 65 1/2! Lord, have mercy!
DVDs kids consumed while spending 65 1/2 hours in a car: too many to count


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

safe in Tahoka

Our time in St. Louis was awesome. We took in a Cards game in which they actually won. The new Busch Stadium is an incredible venue. If you are there you should take in a game. On a side note, I've got an idea I think I'm going to pitch to the MLB: Fans who sit in the upper decks should have to pay less for consessions. Don't you think?

We also visited Grant's Farm. It's kinda like a zoo but not near as extensive. Oh, and it's home to the world famous Clydesdales. After a night at Busch Stadium and a morning at Grant's Farm I was in desperate need of a beer! (Yep, Busch owns and operates Grant's Farm too.)

We went to church with Laura's family. Mid-County Church is a church I have come to know well. The community there is loving and compassionate on so many levels. During the service they announced that Ira was in attendance. The church has obviously followed Ira's story as they immediately started clapping at the announcement. It was a moving moment and once again, I realized how many people have lifted our family up to God.

But the main event in St. Louis was a five game basketball series that my 22 year old brother-in-law and I played. We were talking some pretty heavy smack before our gathering so we both knew we were going to have to back up our talk. The schedule was as follows: two games on Wednesday, two on Thursday and a decisive game five on Friday if needed. The last time I played Jonathan was when he was in high school and his thin frame couldn't handle my - ahem - matured frame. I honestly thought I would wax the floor with him. However, Jonathan isn't in high school any longer and his frame isn't so puny. I ended up taking the series but it took me five games and the final game's score was 15-13. It was a hard faught battle that I'm fairly certain I won't win again. In the meantime, don't think Jonathan hasn't heard the end from this 33 year old about who won!

We're in Tahoka now. Sophia and Ira are loving being surrounded by their Atlanta cousins, Lydia and Jack, and their College Station cousins, Isaac and Joey. We call this gathering Cousins' Camp. My mom and dad have been gearing up for this for months. The kids (and parents) swam all day yesterday and will do some horseback riding today. There are other things on the schedule but mostly we'll all be swimming...and playing the Wii.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

safe in st. louis

Our first day of travel was by far our most labor intensive. We pushed hard and drove for ten hours. With stops, it was a twelve hour day. The kids handled it beautifully. That's not to say that we didn't have our moments but all things considered, they - and therefore, we - did well.

Some observations made:

1) When I told Sophia that we were headed for St. Louis her response was, "Everyone has backyards there!"

2) Saw a pick-up truck with the phrase ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS GO HOME shoe polished on the back window. Note to self: not in NYC any longer.

3) No one flipped me off while driving over the past two days. Note to self: not in NYC any longer.

4) I've suddenly started saying y'all again.

5) Even Sophia will get tired of watching DVDs after a while.

6) We rarely eat fast food in the city. We ate fast food meals twice in two days. I'm feeling it.

We'll catch a fireworks show tonight, go to a Cards game on Thursday (Sophia will wear a Cardinals t-shirt but her Yankees hat!), and relax the rest of the time! On Sunday, we're headed for Tahoka, TX!