Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Changing and Not Changing

It has been hovering around 100 degrees for at least a week now. It is the hottest part of the summer. It is suppose to be hot, no different than any other year.

Precious babies are born. One of our couples in our church had a baby on Sunday. She was born around the 28th week and weighed 2 lbs. 8 oz. She was taken off the ventilator the next day and is doing just great. There are a lot of sick people around us and some of them will die within the week. Others, in great health, will experience a sudden accident and leave this earthly existence. This is all about the human experience.

We are going through the toughest economic time since the Great Depression. I heard this morning that unemployment figures have increased again. One group says that the economy is improving, while others say that we are still in the thick of it and there is no improvement. I believe I just heard that foreclosures are back up. Maybe they really never improved. The Dow Jones is slowly moving upward, but economists say, "Beware"!! Why do they say that? In 1930 the stock market gained back 50-70% before the bottom fell through and we were into a massive depression. They say that those indicators are showing their ugly heads. We've never been here in our lifetime, so it is hard to say that it is a regular part of the life cycle. Time will tell us.

There is one thing that remains constant, or the same. Our Lord is the same as He has been in the past and will be in the future. He does not change. He is the constant in our life when everything else is failing. Jesus will never let us down. He will be our constant companion. We can always count on Him, even when the weather is uncomfortable, when death and illness are knocking at our door, or even when the economy is falling apart and everything seems so hopeless. Think about that and then give thanks that you belong to Him and He belongs to you.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Hottest Day of the Year

My day started yesterday in a hospital room visiting one of our members. Then it was north on 59 to the Humble area. On 1960 East I turned into an entrance called Tour 18. It is a unique venue of 18 of the great holes in golf. Every hole is difficult. I played there for the first time in 1997 and I don't think my score has improved on that course in all of these years.

Yesterday was not about a great score for me. I was going to be playing with Jason Crandall and it is always fun to be on a golf course with Jason. Hit hits the ball as hard as anyone I've ever seen and keeps the ball in play. Jason was only +1 for Amen Corner and that is a pretty good feat. I think he scored a 90 with a 44/46.

Like I said, yesterday was not about scoring for me. I knew I was in trouble on the first hole when I had difficulty getting out of a bunker. There were some bright moments, but most of it was not worth writing about. I had a good time with Jason and that made it all worth it.

Talk about HOT yesterday. I thought maybe it was the hottest day that I ever played. It was around 100 with a heat index around 108. It just zapped you of your energy. We used ice water on our faces from time to time and drank lots of fluids, but it didn't seem to hold for the whole 18 holes. On the par 3 17th hole I landed in a green-side bunker AGAIN. I didn't play the last hole.

Am I going out today to a local course? Heavens no. It is suppose to be hotter than yesterday. I love golf, but not on days like this weekend. When I got into my car yesterday and started heading home, my temperature gauge showed 100-101 degrees. It is usually within a degree of the real temperature.

What does this have to do with our spiritual lives? There will be days when we are zapped and our lives feel like we have no strength. Ice water will do no good. Standing in the shade will not help. It feels like you life is falling apart. There is only one anecdote: Dependence on the Lord.

Monday, July 5, 2010

This year's Fourth of July weekend has been great. The whole "family" came over on Saturday for brisket and everything you could put with it. The grand kids played inside and outside to their hearts content and the adults had a wonderful time together.

Yesterday our church had it's annual Freedom Jam. The place was packed with people, lots of tailgating, great music, and great activities for the kids. It has become a huge summer activity for our church and community. A little before nine, we went across the street to the LA Fitness parking lot, which is a little higher in elevation than our church property, to watch the fireworks. It was amazing watching the "dancing eyes" of our grandchildren as they watched the fireworks explode. It was a magical moment to see that surprise in their eyes. It was like seeing a first-time experience through their eyes.

Today is becoming a day of rest. Patti and I are both on our laptops in front of the TV, but tomorrow will bring us back to reality when the normal week returns. I work at the church and Patti has a few things to do as well.

Patti has a big birthday coming up on Friday. It is the big "Six O". She seems much younger than her chronological age. We are going out to dinner on Thursday night with our dear friends of 32 years--Leroy and Sharon Krolczyk. Gosh, Patti would have been 28 then, that's younger than our own children!

I have learned something on our recent journey to Hawaii. Steve Corn, our son-in-law, has me thinking about "risk-taking" this morning. When we did the Zip Line I realized that it was not so hard to jump off of a box 85 feet in the air. If you can't jump, you never zip line. What is important is the journey on the zip line and the landing. The landing is what concerned me the most. Could I land in that small area and stop enough so the "catcher" could do his job? The answer was "Yes", but I was not sure. That was the risk for me.

More than a decade ago, Steve was the Youth Pastor where I served as Senior Pastor. Steve wanted to start a new ministry to the street kids of that city. Many were skateboarders, but most had never been inside a church or influenced by its ministry. Steve has a dream and it was risky. Imagine 200 unchurched teenagers in your church building. Not a big deal?? You've not been where I've been! This was an atmosphere where even picture hanging was controlled by a committee. Two hundred unchurched kids and this kind of control probably did not go together.

A significant number of those teenagers came to Christ. It all started with Steve's dream, but the journey was what was important. The ministry could have come to a sudden halt at several different times during those formative years, but Steve held true in the midst of pressure and assault. Today, many of those young adults are professional church workers like pastors, worship leaders, graphic artists, teachers, missionaries and the like. I know Steve is proud of them. Some adults did not understand, but Steve did. It was all about the journey and "landing on the other side".

Thank you Steve for allowing me to watch and work with a true risk-taker!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fantasy Islands--The Epilogue

The Journey to Hawaii began the first week of August last year. I was sitting at the computer in Orange Beach, Alabama and the thought came to be about taking Patti to Hawaii for our 35th wedding anniversary. Then the thought entered my mind to take the family. I suggested it to Patti and she said, "How?" That became my adventure for the next eleven months.

I made airline reservations for us while we were still on vacation at the beach. We were then committed to at least going to Hawaii. Then came the reservations for an NCL cruise of the islands. That just seemed like the wise thing to do and now we know it was definitely the right decision for us.

Once we had a flight and knew where we were staying(Pride of America), the rest was just research concerning what we were going to do while we were there. That was fun and we all got in on the act. I planned almost every detail, but my family knows that I'm like that. They may laugh at me, but also sort of expect it.

Why did I feel that this was so important? First of all, we wanted the kids with us when we celebrated #35. Second, we thought it would be great for all of us to be together for an extended period of time. As it turned out, it was even without children. Third, we wanted them to experience some time with just their spouses, just relaxing. I think it accomplished those things. I would highly recommend it to anyone, especially if you really enjoy being together as a family.

What could be an encore? I'll keep it to myself for now...

Fantasy Islands--Day #9-10

Saturday/Sunday--June 26-27

On Saturday morning we had breakfast about 7:00 a.m. in a really crowded breakfast area. Everyone was getting ready to leave the ship as soon as they could. It was kind of sad to see this great time come to an end, but it was also reality.

We disembarked about 8:30. It was so easy. It was simple compared to our first cruises in 1986 and 2000. I guess the cruise lines have learned a lot and come a long way since then.

We were met by our excursion company at the exit to the terminal and we boarded a bus for a City Tour and Pearl Harbor. It rained during most of the City Tour, but that was okay. We ended up at Pearl Harbor about 10:30 and remained there until about 3:00. Did we need that much time at Pearl Harbor? No, but that was the way to get a guaranteed ticket to the USS Arizona. The boat ride to the Arizona and viewing it only lasted about 45 minutes, but it was a special place to be. Oil still leaks to the surface every few minutes. It is really an underwater cemetery...a place where over a thousand men gave their lives for their country.

There is also a baby girl buried with all of those sailors. You say, "How?" A sailor and his wife had twin girls. One of them died at birth. The sailor was being transferred to Pearl Harbor. He made arrangements with a chaplain to lay her to rest in the Pacific on the morning of December 7, 1941. The sailor and chaplain boarded the Arizona with the cremated remains of his daughter, but never had the time to do what they intended to do. Months later divers attempted to remove the urn, but it was too dangerous to retrieve it and the urn remains there to this day with her daddy and the chaplain.

We headed to the airport about 3:30. Our flight was scheduled for 9:15 P.M., so we knew we had a long wait. When we checked in, we found that the flight was delayed and was not scheduled to depart until 10:55. We think it finally got away around midnight, but we were offered an earlier flight around 7:20. That was magnificent.

We arrived in Houston the next morning. It had been a long ride. We were lucky to get a couple hours of sleep, maybe in smaller increments. The journey was over, but it was wonderful for our family. We will not soon forget this special time together.

Fantasy Islands--Day #8

Friday--June 25

This was our last full day on the ship. Patti and I walked our two miles like we had been trying to do each day and had breakfast. Then I think I did some more reading, before we met the rest of the family by the pool. I then read some more.

At 2:00 the cruise ship departed the island. The next time it docked would be in Honolulu and the trip would be over. We spent some time packing and then went out on the deck to see the area where Jurassic Park was filmed. It was beautiful.

That evening we had our last meal with Christian, our waiter, who had made some really wise choices for us during the week. He became a special element of our evening meals. After dinner I wanted to do something that I knew would be soothing based on my experience from the last cruise we were on ten years ago. I went to listen to a guy play the piano and sing in the piano bar. It was quiet, peaceful, and relaxing. Patti met me there and we went to a show.

We put our luggage outside our cabin door, where it would be picked up after midnight and went to bed.

Fantasy Islands--Day #7

Thursday--June 24

What could top snorkeling in a cove off the coast of Kona? I am not sure much could top it, but let's look at Thursday. It may not top the snorkeling experience, but it is up there in that area.

We had a really leisure morning on the ship following breakfast. I love to read novels. So I was working on novel by Vince Flynn entitled Act of Treason. My favorite place to read was out on the deck in a deck chair, but I also used the library and our cabin. I did some reading on this particular morning outside. It was refreshing and restful. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Around noon we got a taxi cab and drove to the Zip Line facility. We were all excited, with some of us probably a little anxious. They met us at the front gate and then we walked to a staging area, or a waiting area. It wasn't long until they were setting us up with the gear and giving us an education about zip lining. Then the fun began.

The first thing we did was climb a rope ladder that was probably 60 feet in the air. I did wonder how that would work when we got to the steepest part of the ladder, but it was doable. I didn't have any problem in stepping off into space, but worried about the landing area. There was someone on the other side ready to catch us, but that landing area was pretty small! It went well. Patti "unfroze" and she did very well too.

This was the only Zip Line in Hawaii that once you went up into the trees, you didn't come down for 2.5 hours. You would zip line from tree to tree, usually about 85 feet in the air. You would go use more rope bridges along the way. Most people think that is the scarest part of the experience. I guess it was from my perspective as well, but you are strapped in.

We covered seven zip lines over the next couple of hours, the longest was about 800 feet. I never did have a problem stepping off, but it took me three our four lines to overcome the fear of not hitting that small platform. It was fun. They had snacks waiting for us at the end. We could not have asked for better people helping us enjoy this experience.

Imagine the opportunity to overcome fear two days in a row. Imagine conquering this fear with your family. These were the same people who stood by me through thick and thin. You know what? They did the same thing in the water and up in the trees! It was a great experience for our entire family.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fantasy Islands--Day #6

Wednesday--June 23

We woke up on "hump day" on the island of Kona. We had a similar breakfast to what we had been having and then it was off to our next excursion.

This was the one island that we had to take a tender to shore, so we left early in order to make sure that we arrived by 9:00. We got there at 8:30, so we had to wait, but it was worth every moment.

We finally boarded the boat about 9:20 feeling like we may have missed 20 minutes of our trip. This would turn out to not be true. It was one of those boats where you sit around the perimeter of the boat. We went out about 16-17 miles down the coast. We saw many dolphins on the way right next to our boat. When we got to the spot our guides were looking for, it was time to snorkel. There were about 20 of us and Patti and I were the only ones who did not snorkel at that point. The others were in the water a good 45 minutes.

Then to make up for our late departure, they took us down the coast a little further to a beautiful cove where we anchored. They put small air vests on Patti and I and over the side I went. I felt a state of panic at the outset, but as soon as I began to float, the panic left me. Then I put my face into the water and the whole world opened up to me. The fish were beautiful and the coral was magnificent. I guess we were there about 45 minutes also, but I lost all track of time. I really did not want to leave when it was over. Patti experienced it as well.

We conquered our fear. It was almost a spiritual experience. I can't quite put it into words. Our two guides showed us so much kindness, patience, and caring concern. I thought that this must have been what it was like to be on an adventure with Jesus. We got back about an hour later than it was scheduled for, so we really got our money's worth and we all knew it.

That evening we ate in the more formal dining room. That really meant long pants and a polo shirt or Hawaiian shirt, as opposed to shorts. I had swordfish and lobster on this night. We just had a great two-hour, multi-course dinner together and the food was secondary to the great family fellowship.

Then it was another show or maybe shows and off to bed.

Fantasy Islands--Day #5

Tuesday--June 22

We woke up to Hilo this morning. Had a great breakfast outside on the aft of the ship. I could handle the breakfast outside every day. The difference between Hawaii and Texas was about 10-15 degrees and much lower humidity. Maybe that is why I enjoyed the outside breakfast.

We left for another excursion about 9:00. This day we were headed to the Volcano National Park. We stopped at a Macadamia Nut Factory along the way. It was interesting. When we reached the park we really saw a lot. Walking on an old lava flow was great and seeing where it emptied into was pretty neat.

The highway has been closed to the active volcano because the acid content is so high, but we did see a lot of steam from a distance. Then we traveled to another crater that exploded, creating a crater within a crater. The steam was still pouring out of it. Then we walked through a lava tube, like a tall tunnel the lava made as it fell to the ocean. We ended up at what I think was called The Candy Store, where we sampled Kona Coffee that sells for about $40 a pound. It really is the smoothest coffee I've ever tasted.

That evening we ate in the dining room and then Patti wanted to attend a 50's Sock Hop. I wasn't wild about going, but I knew Patti was really looking forward to it. When we got there couples starting dancing. Patti leaned over to me and said, "If they play the Twist, will you dance with me?" What could I say?

Moments later the music came on and we went out to dance with many other couples. At the end of the music, one of the employees tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Can you help us?" I said, "It depends on what you want me to do." He said, "We want you to be in our finals." I thought, "What has she got me into?"

There were three couples in the finals and they introduced us to the audience. Then we were the first couple to dance. I just had to let it all hang out. I could tell that Patti was really enjoying herself. Then the other two couples danced and I think we both thought that we had won. They then did the applause thing and the crowd went crazy. I was embarrassed. They presented Patti with an NCL shopping bag and she was happily ready to leave. She had done her thing and was satisfied. Then we saw another show and went to bed.

I was excited to be a part of Patti's adventure on this night. She beamed from ear to ear!

Fantasy Islands--Day #4

Monday--June 21

June 21 was our 35th wedding anniversary. We had a leisure breakfast and then went on our first planned excursion. We used a local company through gorabbitgo.com. They picked us up at the ship and we went to one of the beautiful beaches of Maui. They dropped us off about 10:30 and picked us up at 3:00.

There were actually three beaches that butted up against each other. One seemed to be for families, children's groups, and youth groups. Another one seemed to be mostly adults of all ages and the third was a mixture.

My son-in-law, Steve, is a natural explorer. Steve never sits still and is not the type to lay on the beach. Jared and I went with him exploring the three beaches. Steve found a large lava rock formation about 75 yards off the beach. We made our way out to the formation and then Steve jumped off of it into the Pacific. On the way back to the beach I reached out for some lava rock to steady my balance and yup, it "bit" me! Talk about sharp!! I now know what lava rock can do.

That evening we celebrated our anniversary by going to one of the speciality restaurants. It was a "Texas Steak House". The food was great and the service was impeccable. They presented us with an anniversary cake and sang to us at the end of the evening. It was nice. Then there were more shows and off to bed.

We learn a lot about Jesus in the gospels, but not everything is covered. With what we learn about Jesus in every day life, I would be surprised if He did not celebrate big days with His disciples. We just don't read about most of them in the gospels.

Life has changed a lot in the last 35 years. In June of 1975 it was just Patti and me. Today, our family includes two grown children, their spouses, and four grandchildren. The "two" has turned into 10. We lived and were married in Alabama. Now we have lived in Texas for 34.5 years. I was in management, but now have been in the ministry since 1976. The only thing that has not changed is that Patti remains a teacher. Thank God for these 35 years.

Fantasy Islands--Day #3

Sunday--June 20

This was the first of two days in Maui. So, this was a golf day for Jared and me, plus a day of exploration for Patti, Tiffany, Miranda, and Steve.

We played at the most beautiful golf course that I have ever had the opportunity to play. It was almost completely surrounded by the Pacific and where there wasn't water, there was mountains. It was hard to concentrate on playing. Every hole was unique and awesome. When I made an easy par on the first hole, I knew that it was going to be an enjoyable day( I never par the first hole).

Then name of this course was the Wailea Golf Club, the Emerald Course. This was not the course where The Skins Game was played for so many years. That was the Gold Course, but we were looking for something even more picturesque and the Emerald Course was it.

The Pro from our ship played nine holes with one group and the other nine holes with us. He joined us on hole #8 and I triple bogeyed the next three holes. By hole #11 I began to settle down again, with a birdie on a par 5. I ended the round with a sand shot into the cup on 18. I should have shot a 95-96, but ended up with a 102. Probably not too bad for not touching a golf club in a year. The teaching Pro taught us something on every hole, so it was very profitable. It was a great day of memories. I would recommend it to any golfer.

That evening we ate in one of the Dining Rooms again. This dining room was more casual. You could wear shorts, rather than long pants and a polo shirt. It served the same menu as the other one. In addition to the dining rooms, there were speciality restaurants at one extreme and buffet dining at others. It was all good!

We took in some shows and went to bed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fantasy Islands--Day #2

Saturday--June 19

I did not think I would have any more time today, but here is a pocket of unexpected time, so I'll use it to continue with the journey.

We got up on Saturday morning and went to the restaurant in the hotel. We had vouchers for a free breakfast and the hotel is known for its pancakes. Three of us ordered the pancakes and it was enough for an army. They serve three 14 inch pancakes! That is like a box of pancake mix!! I hardly put a dent in mine and the others did not fare any better.

Then it was a trip to the beach until about noon. The water was beautiful, very similar to the gulf of Mexico along the northwest corridor of Florida. The beaches were pretty, but did not compare with the white sand beaches from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Panama City, Florida.

Our limo picked us up at the hotel around 2:00 and we boarded the ship about three o'clock. We walked around the ship and made dining reservations and golfing reservations. We went to dinner about 6:00 and met our waiter, a young man by the name of Christian from El Paso, Texas. We got to know him better as each day went by.

I think we went to a couple of shows that night and got to bed at a decent hour. We were finally on the ship and it was on its way to Maui. All we needed was a good night's sleep.

This must have been how Jesus felt when He had traveled all the way to Bethany and finally settled in with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. He was relaxed to be with friends, but glad to be at this point in the journey.

Another installment tonight or tomorrow.

Fantasy Islands--Day #1

Friday--June 18

On June 18 the Mathews clan took off for Hawaii. The purpose was to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, but the hidden agenda was to just be together for an extended period of time. We accomplished both. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I was able to get a non-stop flight from Houston-Honolulu last August(before the Continental merger with United). My choice was Continental because of my satisfaction with them over the years. The cabin crew was the worst I've seen in all of my years. They seemed to not be engaged with the passengers, seemingly unhappy, and "flying" down the aisles as if no one was on the plane. The rest of our family picked up on the same thing. It was not a bad start, but the whole plane was happy and looking forward to their vacation in Hawaii. The crew could not have failed, you would have thought.

It was a long flight. It felt like a trip to Amsterdam, but we arrived in late afternoon Hawaii time. We transferred to our hotel. We took a shuttle from the airport. After about 20 stops at other hotels and two hours later, we finally arrived at our hotel. That trip was worse than the flight over. NOTE: The shuttle cost was $9 each, or $54 in total. The next day we rented a limo to go to the pier for $25. Skip the shuttles!!!

We checked into the hotel and then went out to dinner. There are many restaurants to choose from, all within walking distance of the main hotels. It was nice, the food was really good, and we had a great time together. We went back to the hotel for some hot tub time before turning in for the evening. It has been a long day, but a good one.

We read in the gospels that Jesus often wanted to get alone with his disciples. They needed to get away from the crowds and just relax. They needed to be together. The Mathews family needed some of this "away" time as well. We needed some extended time together without so many interruptions and every day life getting in the way. It was happening.

Tomorrow, I will go on to day #2. The best was yet to come.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Home Alone 4????

No, there is not a Home Alone remake on the horizon, at least as far as I know. I am reminded of this series of movies on the eve of our 2010 vacation. What I liked most about the first two movies was the family excitement leading up to their departure.

Don't you remember how family members arrived from out of town and spent the night? The house was full of relatives, everybody was running all over the house and then pizza was delivered. Then the star of the movies was sent to his room because he would not apologize to his brother. The next morning the entire house oversleeps and they have to make a mad dash to the airport.

Patti and I both get excited the night before we go somewhere. I enjoy the last few days as you pack and live off of a To Do list. It is about 10:30 and we are both packed. We are waiting on Steve and Miranda to arrive from Fort Worth. Patti has spent some time in the kitchen tonight preparing Monkey Bread and Baked French Toast for breakfast. The kitchen/den smells like cinnamon.

Our kids and their spouses will be leaving for Hawaii in the morning. It is our 35th wedding anniversary, so I thought we would just all go over there together. We will spend the night in Honolulu tomorrow night and then board a cruise ship for seven days to island hop. It should be great for us to all be together!

I would not trade anything for my precious family. We enjoy being together and we are all looking forward to the week ahead. There will be hiking in Volcano National Park, a Zip Line experience, and a Rafting experience, just to name a few of our family events. It sounds like fun, but the best part of it will be just being together. It will give us memories for years to come.

Now, all we have to do is not over-sleep in the morning and take everybody with us!