Friday, December 26, 2008

There's just something about boys and their boots!

Uncle John gave Ben boots for Christmas, so it's only fitting that we
got a photo of the two of them and their boots. I think Ben may have
slept in his. Not sure about John.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Past: Road through a Ugandan Village (photo)

Uganda is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people. The plants
being cultivated on the left of the road are Matoke, a type of
bananna, which is a staple of the Ugandan diet.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Remembering Uganda: Photo of Tea Pluckers in the Field

Three years ago we spent Christmas in Uganda with friends. Thought
I'd post some photos off and on to help me remember a great time.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sunset, the Flag, and a Crane (photo)

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Reliant Stadium as I drove by

You're right. No traffic jam of people going in for tonight's game.

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Someone Around You Today is Hurting!

Talking about awareness of the people around you hurting in today's Difficult Season's post.

Remember when you loved fast English racing cars?

As a kid, I was a fan of foreign sports cars, like Lotus. Seeing this modern version Saturday brought back some good memories as I tried to explain to family why they were special.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Passing Know-How from Generation to Generation

Passing know-how along is a deliberate thing.
A few years ago during one of our family holidays, our daughter Sara arranged for her grandmother to teach her to make black bottom pies.
Yesterday my sister-in-law Pam arranged for our mother-in-law to teach Heather, Danny's girlfriend, to make apricot pies.
Makes me realize I need to spend more intentional time passing along what I know how to do. And I need to eat more apricot pies.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Love is in the House

Nephew Danny and fiancé Heather are among our Thanksgiving guests. So cute.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Two of my favorite people -- Mark and Ben (photo)

Snapped this shot of son and grandson last night. Only fair that dad
gets in some of the photos I take of Ben!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ben, Bob the Tomato, and Larry the Cucumber (Photo)

Some of Ben's favorite characters were visiting the local Chick-fil-a
tonight, and as you can see, Ben was a happy guy.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don't say "You Should..."

Talking today on the Difficult Seasons blog about the damage caused by saying to people in difficult seasons, "You should..."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Kids Don't Need Toys -- Paper Will Do

I watched in amazement yesterday afternoon as Ben showed me again that
kids really don't need toys. They can and will take almost anything
and do something imaginative with it.

Nana had these leftover strips of construction paper from a Bible
class project, and asked Ben if he would like to play with them. Sure
enough he took them and walked into the den, where what you see in the
picture was the initial result.

He used them to carefully "paint" first a rainbow, and then a piano
(keyboard). And for about 20 minutes, he would pick them up and put
them back down.

Kids really seem to prefer things like this to toys, which he has a
whole room of here. And for the six hours he was here yesterday,
during which he was busy the whole time, the only toy he played with
was a stuffed dog.

I wonder what kind of "stuff" I should get him for Christmas instead of toys?

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Where I'm Spending My Morning

Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, or as Brighkite thinks, Mexico.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Paper Napkin Rings, Crackers, and Imagination...

What are 3 good things to keep a 3 year old entertained while waiting for food?

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ben's Animals at Nana/Papa's House

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WordPress tip for newbies re inserting photos and space between photo and text

I'm a WordPress newbie myself, although I've used Blogger for years.  This week I've been putting together a new blog, Difficult Seasons, using WordPress on a self-hosted site.  So my learning curve has been steep.

Writing a post earlier this morning, I inserted a photo and noticed that there was no space between the photo and the text.  Not satisfactory.  So after digging, I found two easy (if you know about them) solutions.

1.  Give the photo a caption when you import it.  That automatically puts it in a frame which also provides space.

2.  Click on the photo once it's inserted into the post, and then click on the icon that looks like a photo.  That brings up the menu to edit the image properties.  Click the "advanced" tab and type in however many pixels space you want between the photo and the text in the box labeled "Horizontal space."  That puts space on both sides of the photo, but if you want to reduce what's on the left, just go back to the advanced settings and edit the "styles" box.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

What does your treasure look like?

Here's Ben's. He put his treasure in my hand for safekeeping. Who do you trust with your treasure?

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It was an "Oh My!" morning.

"Oh my. Oh my. Oh my." That was mostly what Ben had to say this
morning as he explored some of the wonders of the back yard. He was
excited about rose bushes, little yellow "flower balls," and a variety
of other common to us objects. They're UNcommon to Ben. Maybe I need
to look again.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

I Like Trick or Trunk!

Trick or Trunk is new to me.  Since this concept of community-based trick or treating started after my kids were past that age, I was aware that our church had begun to do Trick or Trunk every year, but hadn't attended one.  That changed yesterday afternoon as we took our grandson Ben to enjoy the experience.

What a great event.  Folks who wanted to decorated their car trunks (or motorcycles in one case) or set up a game or other attraction next to their car did so, and then families were invited to come and enjoy.  There were even hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn and other goodies for everyone.  There was no scary stuff, but there were a lot of interesting costumes, both for kids and adults.

Ben actually was more attracted to the pumpkins that were decorating many of the venues than he was to the candy.  But when he figured out the pumpkins weighed too much, he was happy to focus on filling his monster bag with sweet treats.  He also found the games to be totally uninteresting -- just heading straight to the candy bowls.

I personally liked the game set up where older kids popped up and down from a box while someone tried to hit them with a balloon type mallet.  Sort of like the machines in Chuckey Cheese, but harmless to the ones being hit on the head.

So I give Trick or Trunk a big thumbs up.  It's great for the kids, easy on the adults, and creates a great sense of community.  It's a great, safe addition to our Halloween traditions.

And I still look forward to seeing the neighborhood kids come by for the old fashioned trick or treat later this week.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Huge Hurricane Relief Gift Coming to Sugar Land

An email from half way around the world announced that hurricane relief was on its way to Sugar Land, Texas.  The email came from Mbarara, Uganda.  They had heard about Hurricane Ike and that members of our church had suffered damage.  They wanted to help.  So they decided that they would give today's entire contribution to help.  Their usual weekly church contribution is about $11, but this week through sacrificial giving, they contributed more than twice that much, a little over $24.  They're sending it all, in a money order, to our church to help our members.

The absurdity of this situation has to be clear to you.  The poorest member of our church in Sugar Land has vast wealth compared to even the wealthiest member of the church in Mbarara.  While $24 is a very significant amount of money in Mbarara, it's probably not enough to replace one section of fence in Sugar Land.  They know that in Mbarara, and we know that in Sugar Land.

The only story I know that is more absurd is the one in the Bible that tells of the widow giving her two mites in the Temple contribution, and Jesus remarking that that her two mite contribution was greater than all of the large contributions put in that day by the wealthy.

Absurb stories by the way we usually measure things, by the way we usually value things.  But not when measured by the heart behind the gift. 

This is a huge gift when measured by the heart.  I'm touched by their compasion for people half way around the world, by their desire to do what they can to help, to express their compasion in a concrete way. 

And I'm forced to re-examine my own expressions of compasion in light of both the folks in Mbarara and the widow.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Eating a Bowl Full of Cherrys!

Here's Ben at Benihanas. They brought him a bowl of cherries. They went fast!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's Making an ICU Visit Like for a Lay Chaplain - Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 I provided general information about making an ICU visit and the preparations I usually go through prior to walking into the ICU area.  In this post, I'll talk some about the actual visit.

At M.D. Anderson, where I regularly make chaplaincy visits, the ICU units are organized as Pods, with rooms enclosed by glass sliding doors arranged around the stations where the medical staff works when not in a room.  That allows a visitor to see into the room before entering, and get some idea of what's going on and who's in the room.  After washing my hands, and sometimes putting on required protective gear such as gloves, a mask, and a gown, I gently knock on the door to let those inside know that I'm present.  I open the door and walk in, at the same time trying to get a picture of what's going on.

I've learned to introduce myself clearly and slowly to give the patient and family members a chance to figure out who this new person is and why he's there.  They're used to people coming in and out frequently, but it gets confusing to figure out who's who and why they've entered the room.  I also hand the patient or family member one of my business cards, as that also helps them process who I am.  The words I usually say are, "Hi, I'm Jim Hughes from Lifeline Chaplaincy.  We're the church of Christ chaplaincy here in the Texas Medical Center, and I just wanted to come by and see how you're doing today."  Most of the folks I visit have identified themselves as members of the church of Christ, so that provides an immediate connection, even if they're not familiar with Lifeline Chaplaincy.  Sometimes I add a little more information, especially if they've been referred to us asking that we visit.  I'll tell them that, and mention the name of the person that asked us to come by.

Sometimes just that introduction is enough to start a conversation.  But most of the time, I ask a couple of questions to stimulate the conversation.  One that nearly always works well is, "So, what's going on today?"  That gives them an option to say as little or as much as they want to, and I just listen, and try to respond in a way that they know I've heard them.  I find that I use words like, "Wow!" or "Oh My" a lot.  Sometimes my response may be, "Sounds like things are getting better, right?"  Other times I may respond, "Sounds like you're having a tough time right now."  Again, those are not only words to let them know I'm hearing what they're saying, they're also invitations to say more if they want to.  If they don't bring it up in their conversation, which is maybe half the time, I'll inquire about how they're doing emotionally and spiritually.  Sometimes I'll just ask using those words.  Other times, depending on how the conversation has gone to that point, I'll use a phrase that's a little different, like "How are you and God getting along these days?"  That's a different question to many folks than "How's your relationship with God?"

The conversation may be quite short, depending on circumstances.  Or it may go for a lengthy period.  We may talk about a lot of other things, and they may be important.  It's not uncommon that the patient has a question that they've been thinking about, and want to have a discussion around that.  I'm there to go where they want to go -- they lead, I follow.

At then end of the visit, I usually say something like, "I'd love to pray with you if that would be okay."  Most of the time, the answer is "Please."  But sometimes it's not, and that's okay.  If they want to pray, I also like to ask them, "What would you like to pray about today besides the medical issues going on?" or simply, "What would you like to pray for today."  I'm surprised by how often there are other issues that are weighing on them that need prayer as well.

Then we pray, and what we pray about is what we've talked about during our visit.  In addition to carrying their needs and concerns to God, I want my wording of the prayer to convey to the patient and family that I've heard what they've shared with me, and that I am also concerned.  We generally then visit for another minute or so to close out the visit.

Sometimes, I'll also have a visit with a family member in the waiting room.  That conversation usually follows the same general path, but with some additional conversation about how things are for them in the role of caregiver.  That gives an opportunity to talk about issues that the family member might not want to talk about in front of the patient.

No two situations are ever the same.  I remember one patient I visited weekly for a couple of months.  He couldn't talk, but was awake.  I'd reintroduce myself, say a few words of encouragement, and pray with him. Sometimes the patients are delirious.  Sometimes they are alert and feeling good.  Sometimes their church experience has been good, sometimes it hasn't.  Sometimes they're getting better, sometimes they're in the process of dying, or anywhere in between.  But what they all have in common is that they're going through difficult days, they're anxious, and they're glad to have someone stop by and for a few moments share their life.

So what's it like to make an ICU visit?  Seeing the pain, seeing people in such critical situations, seeing the effects of cancer up close and personal is not fun, sometimes even shocking even though I've been doing this for a while.  But making a deep connection with someone, even for a few minutes, is an amazing feeling.  And the more of life I experience, the more certain I am that making deep connections with others is what this life is all about.  Learning to love, as God is love.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Slide Set for Tonight's "How to Deal With Difficult Seasons in Life" Presentation

I'll be speaking tonight at Uplift at First Colony Church of Christ in Sugar Land on "How To Deal With Difficult Seasons in Life."  Here's a link to the slide set I'll be using:

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Monday, October 20, 2008

This is What Friendship Looks Like

Sometimes while doing chaplaincy rounds at M. D. Anderson, I happen to be in the right place at the right time to participate in a special moment.  Today I got to be present for another one of those times.

I'd just entered a patient room, a guy I'd visited last week as well.  He could hardly wait to tell me that the preacher and one of the elders from his home church had driven down from Oklahoma City to spend some time with him.  And almost before he could finish the sentence, in they walked along with the patient's wife.

For the next 15 minutes, they took turns telling great church stories, which had us all (including the nurse who came in to do vitals) laughing, and enjoying each others' company.  When the elder began telling about announcing to their Bible class yesterday morning that they were coming to Houston for this visit, both he and the patient shed tears -- evidence of the close bond they share.  And then the five of us joined hands while the preacher of 60 years prayed about God's power and our shared desire for healing. 

On our way out after the prayer, the preacher explained to the patient that they would visit him four times during this trip, the second time tonight after dinner.  Each visit would be short, and would include prayer.

That these two men would drive from Oklahoma City to Houston speaks volumes about how valued this patient is to that church.  And there are no words to express how valuable it was to this patient to have two dear friends be present with him during this time of trial.

I want to be that kind of friend.  Because I need those kinds of friends.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Long Fence (Now Upright)

To fully appreciate this photo, you have to realize that this fence was leaning at about a 30 degree angle following Ike. It could only be straightened post by post. Slow, hard work.

Most things in life are like this fence - fixing them requires a post by post approach. There's no magic to just pop them all up at once. So we're overwhelmed by looking at the long line of things to be done. It's hard to get started. But the truth of the matter is, you'll only get it done by starting, and then patiently going from post to post. Slow, hard work.

In actuality, I'm not finished. There's another section just about this long to straighten. And there are other similar challenges in my life. But it's great to have one piece done, and to take a moment to enjoy progress

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Firecrackers (the plant, not the exploding kind)

I planted these last year to attract hummingbirds, which they do. But
I've also found that I enjoy just seeing their brightness. And of
course, Ben thinks these are what firecrackers are, which at two, is
probably okay.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Just a Rose? No such thing!

As I look at this photo of one of our roses, I'm tempted to say, "Just
another rose." But then I'm attracted to the layers of petals
unfolding. To the droplets of rain water hanging on to the petal.
The nearby bud trying to bust out from it's green cover. It's not just
a rose, it's a glimpse into the beauty of this earth, if I'll but

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Photo of My Porch Spider

This cute(?) little guy lives on our back porch. Looks hungry to me!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ben grew ears at Mickey Mouse's house!

Mark sent this photo yesterday during their first day at Disney World.
I just hope Ben is enjoying being at Mickey's house as much as Mark
and Kathy are!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

It Only Takes a Moment for Things to Change

As we watch the sunset, changing minute by minute, suddenly back over our shoulder a new light appears to mark the passage of time. Change is a constant.  If we're paying attention.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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