Sunday, October 31, 2004


When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.
-- Proverbs 29:2

It was Halloween. We were patronizing an establishment enjoying festive beverages. Partygoers were sticking pins in balloons, breathing the helium, and talking like cartoon characters. High humor at the expense of a few brain cells.

Then we put upside-down jack o’lanterns on our heads (sans candles, at least).

Then we drove to our friend the med student’s house to trick or treat.

I watched from the car as my three pumpkinheaded comrades rang the doorbell, making a racket, and calling for ‘’Chief.’’

Yes, ‘’Chief.’’ There’s a doctor out there nicknamed ‘’Chief’’ . . . with friends who are pumpkinheads.

Be aware, and be scared.

My beloved, now my husband, was repeating a line from the movie about the guy with the monstrous head, ‘’The Elephant Man.’’ To wit:

‘’I am not an animal! I’m a HU-man BE-ingggggg!’’

The door flew open, revealing “Chief’’ in his BVDs. Robbers! Weirdos! Maybe both! Better slug ‘em!

He struck my beloved right in the pumpkinhead, which broke apart. He fell backward over the banister. ‘’Chief’’ exclaimed casually:

‘’Oh! It’s YOU!’’

Laughs all around. No one was hurt, except, of course, the pumpkin. Today, they’re a doctor, a lawyer and a captain of industry – wonderful people.

But if any of them ever ran for office, the way it’s going today, the opposition would root this story out, spin it, and destroy that campaign.

You know: ingesting a controlled substance! (‘Course, once a balloon is pierced, the helium is no longer ‘’controlled.’’)

Stealing and desecrating a national cultural symbol! (But at midnight, the pumpkins would turn back into carriages.)

Criminal, violent assault! (A drive-by . . . QUASHING?)

The thing is, plenty of people would BUY that trash talk.

Far too many voters don’t ask good questions any more: Is he honest? Is he productive? Has he been faithful to others? Is he kind? Is he consistent? Does he do the right things? Would he put our interests first?

Nah. That’s too much work to find out. Instead, what’s the DIRT? What clever one-liner can slice and dice his life into a tasty morsel? What ‘’spin’’ can reduce him into an amusing figure in a wax museum?

‘’May the best man win’’? Now it’s: ‘’may the man who spins the best, win.’’

I hope most voters will avoid all that, and wisely pick the one who’ll do the job the right way . . . the closest to God’s way.

For President, that person is George W. Bush.

I like how he names the Name of Jesus Christ, and who he is as a husband, father, and leader tested in the fires of 9/11. I answer “yes’’ to those key questions for him, and mostly ‘’no’’ for his opponent.

But I also deplore something his opponent did: exaggerated his war wounds.

When John Kerry did that, he was done.

Why? Because of my friend, Albert Walsh, a retired Nebraska judge, who was injured more severely in World War II Germany than Kerry ever was to obtain those three Purple Hearts. But Walsh didn’t report his injury and never got a Purple Heart.

Why not? Because a guy in his squad was killed by 88mm artillery fire that day. His corporal lost his arm. The medics had plenty of other wounded men to care for.

So Walsh toughed it out, and has only a scar for a souvenir.

What makes it funny is that the Heinies wounded Walsh in the heinie. Another reason he didn’t pursue a medal: he didn’t want that on his Army records.

That makes him a pumpkinhead.

A hero, too. Someone brave. Someone worthy. The real deal.

W is a pumpkinhead, too. If you don’t vote for him Tuesday, I may show up on YOUR doorstep in MY undies and a pumpkinhead, shouting for YOU to come out.

So be aware. And be scared.

Just kidding. Trick or treat . . . and remember, on Tuesday, ALL our heinies are on the line. So vote accordingly . . . you pumpkinhead.


Prayer request: On a serious note, Lord, we’ve heard the call for a day of solemn prayer and fasting for our country on Monday. We will heed that call to prepare for Election Day so that our nation will elect Godly leaders, from the highest office on down. Thank You for the privilege of living in a free country, and help us, Lord Jesus, to keep it that way. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Prayer request: Thank You, too, for the neat experience of holding a Bible study in our home these last several weeks. For one couple, it hasn’t been just the Purpose-Driven Life; it’s been the PREGNANCY-Driven Life! And our dear friend Kerry may be going into labor as we speak! We unite in prayer for a wonderful birth experience and a healthy, happy baby, mama and papa, in Jesus’ Name. New life! Your favorite thing, Lord! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

(Last in a special series on gambling this week. Please forward this story and direct people to for more. Thanks!)

Let your fellow readers sum up the case against the expanded gambling proposals on the Nebraska ballot this Tuesday.

A receptionist: ‘’I was married to a gambler for 22 years. He drained me and our five children both financially and emotionally. He would steal babysitting money and cash the kids would earn from their jobs. I had my own checking account to protect some of my own money. Makes sense to the normal thinking person but to the gambler it's just a small hurdle (which they seem to thrive on) to sneak around. I am praying my guts out for the safety of the families in Nebraska. Bookies don't like it when you owe money.

‘’I remember a call one evening, when my ex-husband was out ‘seeing a man about a dog,’ and a bookie told me I better start walking my kids to school and checking my brakes before going down a hill. I acted very respectful and scared. I assured him I would have Mike call him back and I would even make sure the money would get mailed to him, if he would just give me his name and address. I would take care of it immediately. He complied. Then I told him if he ever called, drove by, looked at me or my children I would turn him in to the FBI. Never heard form him again.

‘’PRAISE GOD!! I was terrified but God gave me the strength I needed at the time to face Satan and his band of evildoers. The casinos are truly a plan devised in hell. ‘Satan is out to kill, steal and destroy.’ If that's the goal, what better way?’’

An economics professor: The average cost per year to taxpayers of just one addicted gambler is between $14,006 and $22,077. Note: that’s in addition to his or her gambling losses. The costs add up in unemployment compensation, bad debts, theft, civil court procedure costs, criminal justice costs, welfare, treatment, and many more. (Source: economics professor Earl Grinols, University of Illinois, December 2001 report, quoted in ‘’Gambling: 2004 Nebraska ballot,’’ by Chad Hills, posted online last week at

An advocate for the poor and racial minorities: According to a study of gamblers in Michigan, the average lottery player there spent $313 a year on lottery tickets. But those with an income of less than $10,000 a year spent far more -- an average of $597. African-Americans spent an average of $998 per year, vs. a $210 yearly average by whites. More than half the lottery tickets were bought by 5 percent of the players, obvious evidence of compulsion. And high-school dropouts spent four times as much as college graduates, reflecting the fact that people who have the least amount of money to lose are the ones losing the most. (See the June 3, 2002, article, “State Lotteries Vs. Truth-in-Advertising’’ on

A taxpayer: “Gambling is horribly bad public policy. Talk about an enormous, unproductive waste of money. Talk about giant sucking sounds . . . that’s our money, LEAVING the state, if we expand gambling here. Now, it’s Homecoming season across the land. Instead of turning Nebraska into a no-frills version of Las Vegas, why don’t we just pile up all our money and make bonfires out of it? It’d take a lot less time and money, and it’d be more entertaining, as far as I’m concerned.’’

A teacher: ‘’Take it from someone who lived in Las Vegas . . . taught there . . . taught special ed there . . . you cannot imagine the impact the gaming industry has on every single aspect of the lives that live around it. I can tell you horror stories about the kids I worked with and the ways it ruined their lives and their families’ lives.’’

From Connecticut: ‘’We have two casinos here in Connecticut. One of them is the largest in the WORLD. Because they are owned by Native Americans, they don't have to pay any taxes. Several years ago they VOLUNTEERED to give the state 10% of only the slots. I'm sure it is a lot of money, but I have no idea where it goes, or the exact amount. It certainly hasn't helped our economy to any great extent, since we are about the highest taxed state, but it's ruined a lot of lives.’’

From Arizona: ‘’Some of our Arizona gambling money goes to Parks and Recreation, wildlife preservation and school programs, but our schools are still overfunded where administration is concerned and underfunded where the buildings and the kids are concerned. Most of the money goes to Indian tribes and especially casino conglomerates.’’

A counselor: ‘’I had a counselee with an important position in a mega-company here in Omaha. He has taken the tuition money that the business gave him to get his master’s degree, and played it all away at the boats on his lunch hour. Sometimes he gets out of bed super early and goes over before work to try to win some back. He and his wife came for counseling. We met a few times, but when it came time to take the tough love stance, she heard Satan's words come out of her husband's mouth: ‘It's not a habit . . . it's not even that much money . . . if he works overtime, he can make up the difference.’ When he leaves his wife and two precious little ones at o'dark early, her denial kicks in and explains he is ‘working so hard for his family.’ So not only is Satan winning the battle for HIS mind, but for hers as well.

‘’They'll (or at least she’ll) be back begging for help now that things have gotten SO bad that the house is being foreclosed, the car is being repossessed, and he has no grades to turn in to prove he was taking classes. It is just a matter of time before it costs him his job. And the story goes on and on and on all over this country. And people who think it is harmless fun to gamble the rent money refuse to look at the facts.’’

Or do they?

We’ll find out Tuesday night, when election returns are in.

Will it be ‘’ching ching ching’’ for Nevada gambling interests? Or will the voices like the ones in these stories prevail, and keep casinos and slots out of the state?

I hope it’s the latter. But whatever the outcome, thanks for following this series, and passing these stories on to others. When people are willing to listen, the ‘’house’’ -- in this case, our state -- will win.


Susan Darst Williams,, is a writer, wife and mother of four who lives at the base of Mount Laundry, Nebraska. She is writing this series for as a public service.


Prayer request: We lift up the faithfulness and hard work of Gambling With the Good Life’s volunteer leader and spearhead, Pat Loontjer. What a mighty work You have done through her, Father. How she has glorified You and Your principles for living. Bless Your servant with victory on Tuesday, and show people that the REAL “good life’’ is that which aligns with You. (1 John 2:15-17)

Friday, October 29, 2004

(Sixth in a special series on gambling this week. Please forward this story and direct people to for more. Thanks!)

We west Omaha moms got to talking. And here’s what we decided:

We’ve got trouble in River City . . . trouble with a capital ‘’T’’ and that rhymes with ‘’G’’ and that stands for ‘’Gambling.’’

Smarts moms say thumbs down on allowing more gambling in this state. We’ve already got more than enough. It’s already stealing enough time from our kids. Who needs more?

One mom was distressed to report that her daughter, a sweet, shy freshman, age 14, is playing blackjack during homeroom, which is now called “Quality Time’’ in her west Omaha school. Some ‘’quality.’’

“I just can’t believe how widespread gambling is today,’’ the mother said. ‘’It wasn’t that long ago that everybody knew gambling was taboo. Now look at us. I mean, my little Megan? Playing blackjack . . . in school?’’

She kind of gulps when there’s a raffle at school – sure, somebody wins, but lots of other somebodies lose. She hates the casinos they run for Post-Prom parties. Gambling is just made to seem like such an integral part of a lot of kids’ lives. She has a friend whose 8-year-old is supposedly playing poker on the Internet with someone from Singapore.

Another mom reported that her son’s midterm grades from a selective college are bound to be “D’s” and “F’s,” because he’s spending all his time in the dorm doing Internet poker instead of his homework.

Another looks at all the Nebraska families who go across the river and enjoy the nice sports complex the casinos built. She worries that, in their minds, expanded gambling will equate to “nice things for kids.’’ Mass guilt may translate into throwing money at our problems – we seem to be doing that more and more -- and thinking our community is getting ahead, while really we’re losing so much more.

This mom is afraid people will vote for the gambling proposals because they think it will cut their taxes. But in other states, it’s been proven that doesn’t happen. Or, they’ll think that the civic and charitable bones that the gambling forces throw to the public as ‘’vigorish’’ will be worth it. They won’t, she said.

‘’I hope to God people think this through,’’ she said. ‘’I hope people stop and think how addictive the slots are, and how it can just eat away at your life ‘til you have nothing left.’’

If you don’t have a teenager, you may have no idea how much time our young people are already whiling away, gambling or watching it on cable TV or dabbling with it on the Internet. They’re often losing more than petty cash.

What are they giving up for gambling? Time for sports, clubs, hobbies, dating . . . and sometimes, their parents’ trust, as cash disappears around the house and grades begin to drop.

Who knows how much stealing is already going on, to support teenage gambling? They say the addiction is out of control, and mostly hidden from sight.

Especially in western Douglas County, where the household incomes are higher, an awful lot of teenage boys are getting together to play poker or throw quarters. This is going on several nights a week. There’s usually a baseball or football game on TV, and so they have bets going on that, too.

And the hours pass, and lo and behold! The week’s over, $50 has been frittered away, no homework has been done, no chores are completed, no girls have been wooed, the world’s not a better place, and very little progress has been made for each young person in the real game of life.

Just gambling their time away.

We moms believe that, if casinos are OK’ed for Nebraska on the Nov. 2 ballot, there’s no question that teenagers are going to acquire fake ID’s so that they can get into the casinos. It’s quite likely that the Iowa casinos will lower their minimum age of admission to 18, so they can ‘’compete.’’ It’s the same peer pressure and cheating that goes on with fake ID’s for alcohol and cigarettes.

And so, we predict, if these proposals pass, we will have the same desecration of homes, families and young lives from gambling that we already have from alcohol, drugs and other vices that attack our youth.

Who needs it?

We don’t . . . and we plan to say so at the polls Nov. 2.

Let’s give ‘em snake eyes . . . ‘’for the kids.’’


Susan Darst Williams,, is a writer, wife and mother of four who lives at the base of Mount Laundry, Nebraska. She is writing this series for as a public service.


Prayer request: Let the vote be overwhelmingly against gambling, and let the schools and other adults who influence our young people get the message loud and clear, so that they quit any activities which imply to kids that gambling is A-OK. (Proverbs 15:31)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

(Fifth in a special series on gambling this week. Please forward this story and direct people to for more. Thanks!)

She’s a pretty young wife and mother, dealing with her baby son’s teething woes, finishing college, and working full time. Her life is full. You’d never guess how empty she often feels inside, and how much pain she has already suffered . . . because of gambling.

Her father was a compulsive gambler who did prison time. It was right when this young Nebraskan was hitting puberty, and needing a dad in her life more than ever. Instead, gambling took him away.

The prospect of casino gambling and slots across the state frightens her. She knows it would make highly-addictive gambling much more accessible to so many more people, and provoke so much more bad behavior than what’s already here. She hopes people will vote ‘’no’’ on the gambling issues on Tuesday’s ballot, recognizing the harm that would be done, to children especially.

‘‘Gambling makes victims,’’ Lynn* said. ‘’It poisons people. It wrecked my childhood, basically. I don’t ever want that to happen to anybody else.’’

First, Lynn’s father lost his job because of gambling. The addiction consumed him. “I remember trying to show him pictures I'd drawn or poems I'd written, and he would shoo me away because I was interrupting a sporting event he'd placed a bet on,’’ she said.

The marriage came under attack. ‘’My parents’ relationship was strained as long as I can remember,’’ she said. ‘’I remember seeing my mother sitting at the kitchen table, head in hands, bills scattered in front of her, crying because she had to figure out how to make the money stretch.
There was a lot of yelling, screaming, and walking on eggshells. Our house was always tense. My siblings and I all looked for escapes when we were old enough to rebel.’’

The oldest one got into drugs and wound up in foster care. The younger two got failing grades, and started drinking and smoking. ‘’We were all very talented in one way or another,’’ Lynn said, ‘’but all of us let our talents go to the wayside because our energy was spent fighting to survive the depressing conditions we had to live in. We didn’t have unity, communication, and close bonds within the family. Those are all things that gambling destroys.’’

The parents’ relationship has never recovered, she said. ‘’My mother remains bitter at the loss of their savings, retirement, and the life we all could have had without the gambling sickness that ate it all away like moths with wool. My father has to live with the sorrow of missing the childhood of his kids, something he can never get back.’’

She feels sad about that, and regrets that her children will never have the happy, healthy extended family that should have been their birthright.

If casinos are authorized in Nebraska, how will she feel?

“Terrible. Just terrible,” Lynn said. “I hope people will think hard and long about what this will mean to children, and put what’s best for them ahead of what they think might be fun on an occasional night out. There are lots and lots of other things to do with your extra time and money that don’t hurt people, especially kids.”

• Not her real name.

Prayer request: Lord, we pray that people who are thinking about voting for the gambling proposals, or are undecided, will think first about what’s right and what’s best for the children of this state. Teach them that Your blessings flow most powerfully and directly to the children of those who follow Your principles for living, which do not include gambling. (Psalm 103:17)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

(Fourth in a special series on gambling this week. Please forward this story and direct people to for more. Thanks!)

Omahan Howard Berger used to be a compulsive gambler in Las Vegas and Reno. That was a long time ago. He’s now a successful husband, father and corporate employee. But he’s concerned about what will happen if Nebraska voters approve casinos next Tuesday.

“What two cities lead the nation in divorces, bankruptcies and suicides, per capita?” Berger asks. “Reno and Atlantic City.

“That’s what we’re inviting in.’’

He said, “When people do something obsessively, it affects their money, their marriage, their emotional state . . . it’s all intertwined.’’

The spinoff effect of one pathological gambler is enormous, he said.

Even if you think you and your loved ones would be immune to getting hooked on casino gambling, if it comes to Nebraska you still will be hurt by it, guaranteed, Berger predicted. It will affect friends, neighbors, coworkers, bosses . . . everyone.

“Gamblers are just going to do nasty things. I heard about insurance agents who never turn in the premium money that people pay; they use it for their own gambling. Then, when something happens to the customer, they find out they were never insured. Their money is gone. Their agent lost it, gambling.’’

Another scam: a supermarket manager used his own money to build an extra checkstand. Most of the time, it stood empty. When the store got real busy, occasionally, he would open it and man it himself. Then he would pocket the receipts. The home office expected daily receipts from 12 registers, so the 13th didn’t even, excuse the expression, register. So he got away with it. He got gambling cash by embezzling from his employers and their customers. We all know that employee dishonesty is often the reason for price increases, over time. So we all pay for that sort of thing.

Berger said, “At some point, every addict is going to steal. They never see it as stealing, though the rest of us do. They see it as borrowing until they win and can pay it back. Of course, that rarely happens.’’

What’s also chilling is that fewer than 10 percent of problem gamblers ever seek help, Berger said. He worked as a gambling addiction counselor for nine years. He knows first-hand how tough life gets, fast, and how hard it is to quit.

The No. 1 reason gamblers don’t seek help to quit? They don’t WANT to quit.

So everybody else has to suffer in the meantime.

The No. 1 reason it’s dangerous to open more casinos and put slot machines all across Nebraska? Access. The more opportunity people have to be tempted, the more ‘’enabled’’’ their addiction will be.

‘’I’m not necessarily anti-gambling,’’ Berger says. “I’m just anti-excessive everything. The problem is, casino gambling is just strongly addictive. Some people, when introduced to it, will just immediately be addicted.

‘’The costs to industry and the social costs will be far more than the gains we might make financially.’’

Prayer request: Father, a lot of people are for gambling because they think it will help fund government services and give them tax relief. Oh, Lord, direct people’s attention to facts such as these from my good friend Michelle, a mom in west Omaha who is greatly looked up to, and using her influence to defeat these gambling proposals: (1) Since casinos have opened in Council Bluffs they have raised taxes three times (property taxes twice and 1 percent sales tax hike). (2) In 2004, the Bluffs region experienced the highest growth in bankruptcies in the U.S. (3) Bankruptcy rates in counties with casinos are 18% higher than those without casinos. (4) Economists conclude that casino gambling creates $3 in social costs for every $1 in tax revenue generated. (5) Three years after casinos opened, Council Bluffs experienced the highest crime rates in Iowa. Bless Michelle for sharing Your wisdom on this matter, Father. (Psalm 51:6)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

(Third in a special series on gambling this week. Please forward this story and direct people to for more. Thanks!)

By the time your child becomes an adult, you’d think your job as a parent is done. Now you can sit back, relax, and reap the rewards. But not Shirley*. Her daughter got swept up in a gambling addiction that basically destroyed her life and her family.

And now Shirley is praying daily that Nebraska voters will not authorize casinos in the Cornhusker State -- because she doesn’t want any other mother to have to go through what she has.

‘’I watched my daughter be desperate,’’ the Omahan said. ‘’She went through hell with it. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.’’

The daughter was in a bad marriage, and got frustrated and depressed. To cope, she started going over to the casinos in Council Bluffs. She gambled as a diversion -- a distraction from her personal problems. Before long, she was ‘’off the deep end’’ financially, her mother says.

The daughter left her husband, moved back in with her aging parents, and wrote bad checks on her mother’s account for gambling cash. Then the mother had to make good on them, or her daughter would have had to go to jail for forgery.

Although Shirley is sorry now, she did bail her daughter out of financial crises a couple of times. The daughter got right back into gambling trouble after just a short time of abstinence. Shirley calls it “the lure of the boats.’’

Finally, Shirley realized that ‘’helping’’ her daughter was just extending her agony. So she cut off the gravy train.

‘’I had to stand there and say, ‘No more.’ I told her I didn’t care if she went to jail or the pen, that I’d take the grandkids and do anything else that I could to help. But I wouldn’t bail her out any more, and I and her siblings would not issue her any more money.”

It has been very difficult for the whole family. But for the moment, the gambling addiction appears to be under control. The daughter attends support group meetings for gambling addicts, and is in the process of repairing the many relationships she damaged or destroyed over the past few years.

Shirley is passionately against the spread of organized gambling, especially casinos, in Nebraska because of the destruction she knows they will cause to many families. She also is passionately for free counseling for gambling addicts, which she sees as the key to dealing with the existing problems that the nearby casinos in Iowa have already caused Nebraskans.

She urges churches and civic groups to do everything in their power to aid the existing overstressed network of gambling help that would only be even more overstressed if casinos are voted in.

“If we let them in, we’re just asking for it,” she says. “I pray every day that we won’t. That’s all I can do.’’

* Not her real name.


Prayer request: Lord, we lift up another faithful political leader, State Sen. Pam Redfield of Omaha. She has been circulating a chart which is tremendously helpful to see how additional tax income from gambling casinos in Nebraska would be minuscule, compared to the healthy taxes that would be generated by new, bona fide business developments in retail, manufacturing, services or other legitimate pursuits. In Iowa, for every $1,000 gambled away at the casinos, only $15.48 in total taxes are generated. But that same $1,000 at a Wal-Mart generates $70 in total taxes -- almost five times MORE! In addition, $1,000 in wagers at an Iowa riverboat produces just $14.05 in payroll . . . but that $1,000 spent at a Wal-Mart produces $400 worth of payroll. Obviously, our best bet would be to develop bona fide businesses for Nebraska, not expanded gambling. That’s what we should point toward, Lord -- funding our public services in ways that help each other, not hurt our neediest and most vulnerable. (Psalm 37:16)

Monday, October 25, 2004

THE $200,000 LESSON
(Second in a special series on gambling this week. Please forward this story and direct people to for more. Thanks!)

She’s a gorgeous 40-year-old woman. But her gambling counselor thinks she may wind up as the 70-year-old bleached blonde at the end of the small-town bar. You know, the one with a drink in front of her and three failed marriages behind, pulling pickle tickets and being a lesson for all who see.

She lost a 23-year marriage and custody of her two beautiful children to a gambling addiction. Her life sank on the casino boats in Council Bluffs. And now her ex-husband is begging Nebraskans not to OK expanded gambling in the big vote this November. “Don’t go through the hell I had to,” he said.

They lived in small-town Nebraska, about an hour away from the casinos. He made a good living, so she didn’t have to work. She had all the comforts of life. But it wasn’t enough.

Her ex-husband said she craved excitement and attention. She got it by lying about her whereabouts, sneaking to the boats, plugging slots, and occasionally winning. Everybody would look at her. She felt important, for those few seconds. It was an adrenalin rush.

But eventually, the addiction took charge, and things got ugly. The total tab of her gambling addiction, counting two attempts at rehabilitation, exceeds $200,000, her husband said.

The addiction was stronger than the love of her family. She lied about where she was, and secretly took out credit cards in her own name using her husband’s salary to show creditworthiness. She hid cash. She left the children alone for days at a time when he was out of town and she couldn’t resist the pull of the boats.

Her sister once was sitting at work in Omaha when she felt like something was going through her chest. She was struck with the impulse that something was wrong with her sister, and it must have to do with gambling. She drove to the boats. She found her sister’s car, and called her brother-in-law from her cell phone: “You won’t believe it, but I’m standing here in the casino watching your wife play the slot machine.”

The wife stormed out, drunk and staggering. The sister sat on the hood of her car, pleading with her to get help. The wife cursed, “Go to hell!” and laid scratch, spinning her sister off onto the pavement, ripping open the skin of her knees.

When the two rehabs didn’t work, and she continued to lie and gamble, he felt he had no choice. He divorced her. Now he is raising two children all by himself, on top of his challenging job. He sought counseling for the children and himself. But the pain is still enormous.

“I was a basket case,” he says. “I still cry once in a while. I get spooked about raising them. It’s a load. It’s a load. It’s OK, though. We’re going to make it.”

He just doesn’t want anybody else to go through it.

“If we’re doing this (legalizing casinos) just for more income for the State, then just charge us more taxes or better yet, cut our expenses. But we don’t need any more divorces, or kids growing up without both parents, or crime, or homelessness.

“Let me tell you: we don’t need it.”


Prayer request: Lord, thank You for faithful public servants like State Sen. Mick Mines of Blair. He is circulating an anti-casino email this week that points out the deceptions in the pro-gambling ads. They lead voters to believe that, with casinos in Nebraska, we could keep $300 million here in our economy and get bigtime tax relief, instead of losing it to Iowa’s casinos. Sen. Mines writes, ‘’That is absolutely not true!’’ The $300 million represents gambling LOSSES at Iowa’s boats. Only a small fraction of that money ever makes its way to tax funds. So gambling would NOT be some sort of a tax relief solution -- not in the least. Gambling legislation doesn’t even MENTION funding schools, either, though pro-gambling ads imply that. Bless Sen. Mines for sharing this truth, and spread it far and wide, Dear Lord. (Psalm 57:3)

Sunday, October 24, 2004


But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
-- 1 Corinthians 8:9

On vacation, we stopped at a restaurant in Reno. I was 10. While my parents weren’t looking, I slipped a quarter into a slot machine.


Lights flashed! Music sounded! Quarters spilled! Heads turned!

Was I mad when my parents pried open my grubby little hands and gave the coins back so we wouldn’t get thrown in the clink.

But the gambling bug didn’t get me. Why not? I didn’t have access to more gambling -- not ‘til years later, when I went to Omaha’s Ak-Sar-Ben horseracing track.

Fumbling with my racing form, I approached the window, and said I wanted $2 to-win tickets on, uh . . . I looked at my form . . . uh, Numbers 4 and 12.


Noooooo, she couldn’t. She’d already produced the tickets. You dummy.

BUT NUMBER 4 CAME IN . . . AT 45-TO-1 ODDS!!! I won a fistful of cash!

But the gambling bug didn’t get me that day, either. How I won was too embarrassing. So I did that rare thing: quit while I was ahead. Even though I was 2-for-2 with gambling ‘’success,’’ I knew that for someone to win money, someone else has to lose it. I didn’t like that.

Years passed. My life filled with other things. As a reporter, I saw how gambling steals from the poor and gives to the rich, keeps people from productive work and service, and brings a lot of harm to society.

My friend Andy’s dad was a professional gambler. He witnessed beatings and drunken people. His dad died penniless, his family splintered . . . and now he can’t even stand the sight of a deck of cards.

My brother Danny worked in Las Vegas. The busiest days were Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everybody acted lonely. They talked to themselves. The casinos got people drunk so they’d lose more money. When Danny worked in the casino cage, people came back repeatedly to cash checks, acting desperate. He could tell they were spending money earmarked for necessities. He, too, wants no part of gambling now.

So obviously, I’m against the big gambling proposals on the November ballot here in Nebraska. Even though I’m one of the people who could handle it responsibly, I still see it as despicable and wrong.

I see the faces of people, especially children, instead of cherries and lemons on those slots. I see how much it would hurt Nebraska’s economy, human service agencies, and families. Nobody wins, with gambling. We all lose.

Nevada is spending millions on this. But I’m not scared. All we have to do is pray, and we’ll keep casinos and slots out of our fair state.

I know it’ll work . . . because prayer once kept ME out of a casino.

See, after the casino boats started up in Iowa, across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, crime and bankruptcy raged. I vowed never to set foot in them.

Then one day, my husband told me a ‘’must-attend’’ business event was scheduled there.


I prayed I’d get sick or it’d get canceled. I procrastinated ‘til the very last minute. But we HAD to go. And then we were in the car, and over the river, and almost there.


My husband NEVER gets lost! But that night, we wandered up access roads and down country lanes. The longer this went on, the better I felt.

It reminded me that, when you pray, you don’t just roll the dice and hope He hears. Life with God is not a game of chance. He hears. He really does.

I smiled. Isn’t He fun?

Finally, I said, ‘’Look, Lord, we really HAVE to go. Nevvvver mind.’’

Presto! We found it. We hurried in, smiled politely, and left. Nothing hurt.

So I’m praying hard, and hope you will, too, about Nov. 2:

Oh, Lord, help us tell the gambling casinos to . . . get lost!




Praise report: It is with awe that we can rejoice over the turnaround made by the 23-year-old pregnant young lady we prayed for this past Thursday on DailySusan. She CANCELLED her abortion appointment for today. Thank You, Father, for using us to save Your favorite thing, a brand new life! What made the difference: prayer, a miraculous ‘’coincidence,’’ and the loving intervention of an older friend from her church, a mentor, the "mother" this young woman felt she never had. The ‘’coincidence’’ is that a prayer warrior, Chris, had been praying that God would bring BABIES into the young woman’s path before the abortion. Lo and behold, her coworker popped in to work the next day with HER new baby. The young woman held the baby, and the rest is history. We thank You and praise You, Lord, and seek Your help and blessing on her and this baby. Reward her faith in You! (Jeremiah 29:11)

Saturday, October 23, 2004


In the ‘’now I’ve heard everything’’ department, guess why archaeologists in Wittenberg, Germany, are excited? They think they’ve unearthed . . . drum roll, please . . . MARTIN LUTHER’S BATHROOM.

I’ve never heard this before, but according to a news report, Luther is quoted as saying he was ‘’in cloaca,’’ or ‘’in the sewer,’’ when he was inspired to proclaim in contrast to Catholic Church teachings that the Bible says salvation is granted because of faith, not deeds. That started the Reformation and the Protestant Church.

And they think this was the scene of that inspiration . . . though there’s still no word yet from the science of archaeology as to exactly what was used in those days for toilet paper. If they unearth a Charmin wrapper with a logo in Old English type, then we’ll have something.

Seriously, now, the scholar suffered from constipation and spent many hours in contemplation on the toilet seat, the report said.

The stone room, nine meters square, was discovered during an excavation of the garden on Luther’s property, which dates to the 1500s.


Prayer request: Lord, I just thank You for the way You always encourage me with Your Word, which reminds me of all of Your promises and all of Your love for me. Thank You for my good prayer-mates Cindy, Chris, Lois and Audrey. Grant our requests and intercessions, that we all might see Your glory. (Isaiah 58:9)

Friday, October 22, 2004


My little brother lives in Boston. Everybody’s going nuts over the Red Sox making it to the World Series, especially since they were down three games to none in the playoffs series, then won four straight.

‘’This entire region is on celebration overload,’’ Danny says. ‘’The local car dealers are running promotions: ‘Come on down! Why not FLIP OVER one of our pre-owned vehicles, or START A FIRE in our large, expansive lot?’’’

Somehow, I think he’s kidding.

Don’t tell him, but personally, I’m for the Cards. We named Maddy after my best friend from college, Madeleine, and she’s a St. Louis belle, so that’s that.

Attended a town hall meeting last night with big shots from the County Attorney to the head of the N.U. Med Center’s ER telling why it would be a huge mistake to allow casinos and video slots across the state.

Since a lot of the people I know say they’re not really for it, but they might vote for it because they think expanded gambling is ‘’inevitable,’’ I asked one of the speakers, Tom Teckmeyer, a financial planner, how he would answer that.

‘’It’s not inevitable!’’ he retorted. ‘’Forty-three out of 46 recent gambling ballot initiatives across the country have been defeated.’’

I was impressed, but not convinced. Then he added:

‘’Nobody thought the Red Sox would come back!’’

That did it. The crowd beamed.

I wouldn’t flip over cars or start fires in celebration if gambling loses in Nebraska . . . but I’d be happy.



Praise reports: Two dear people are doing better, health-wise. A pastor named Paul is home after having a cardiac catheterization to relieve a blockage that was 99%. The stent is doing its job and he feels wonderful. He will no doubt preach on Sunday, praise the Lord. Then the neurosurgeon showed Pam (Sept. 30, Oct. 9, Oct. 11) how the clot in her brain had extended down into her jugular vein. If it had been one centimeter higher, she would be dead. Her friend and prayer chief Chris says, ‘’Isn’t it wondrous that the God of ALL creation, limitless, immeasurable, unfathomable, STILL works in itty bitty measurements like centimeters, too?!?’’ We thank You and praise You for Your awesome ways. (Lamentations 3:31-33)

Thursday, October 21, 2004


My mom was having a busy day getting ready for a trip to New York City with her cute little old lady friends, where they attended several Broadway plays . . . and ate at McDonald’s every night. That’s the Depression generation for you.

On that day, though, unfortunately, she had a flat tire but didn’t have her cell phone or AAA card with her. Then her dog threw up in three places on the new carpet.

Finally, she was racing home from taking the dog to the kennel -- which she calls ‘’putting her away’’ -- when all of a sudden, something big and hard, like a rock, fell -- BAM! -- on the hood of her sleek, new car.

It came from the schoolbus in the next lane.

She drove on for a block or two, steam hissing from both her ears. Oh, the nerve of these young whippersnappers! Should they get AWAY with that?

She noticed that the bus had pulled into the lane behind her, and here came a red light. She stopped . . . and got out . . . and marched back to the bus . . . and knocked on the door, startling the bus driver and, I’m sure, all the observers in surrounding cars, not to mention the wide-eyed kids.

Turns out the bus was from the local middle school in the Westside district, where us four kids and some of her grandkids had gone. She told him what happened, and he said he hadn’t seen it but was sorry. He told her to call the Chief of Buses. The Chief of Buses told her to call someone else . . . who turns out to be in charge of that district’s youth mentoring program. And THAT person recognized Mom’s name right away, because Mom and some other family members have been faithful DONORS to the youth mentoring program.

You know: the program that matches up nice adults with errant, troubled or at risk kids, to befriend them and counsel them, and prevent the kind of discipline break-down that can lead a kid to throw a rock off a bus onto a little old lady’s sleek new car.

Instead of getting mad or demanding that the perp get the chair, Mom’s just going to send them more money with hopes that more kids can be reached.

She’s left with a dramatic story -- and fortunately, the damage is so slight she doesn’t have to get the hood repaired. The TEENAGE hood could use some repair, of course . . . and with the help of nice citizens like Mom, maybe he will.


Prayer request: Father, we stand in the gap today for the unborn child of a 23-year-old woman, who is set to abort that child this coming Sunday. Lord God, You know how hard her life has been -- she was adopted, her biological mother will have nothing to do with her now, her adoptive mother has been married four times, and now her boyfriend has rejected her, too. Oh, Jesus, we just sigh with You, but plead for a double dose of Your Spirit to come over this young woman to comfort and encourage her, and turn her away from this horrible mistake. Send her help and grace. Open her eyes to this lovely psalm, and bring love for her child and peace into her heart. (Psalm 139:13-16)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


In the “Aw, Ain’t That Sweet?” department, consider the friendship between Anita Oser of Cullowhee, N.C., and Carol Vogt of Blair, Neb. The two of them became penpals as children and finally met in person for the first time last week after 56 years of writing.

Anita is a librarian and geography teacher at Western Carolina University. Carol is a farm wife west of Blair. In 1948, as a sixth-grader, Carol had put in a request for a penpal to a national children’s magazine, and Anita wrote to her after noticing they shared a birthday, Jan. 21.

In all that time, they just wrote letters. They had never talked on the phone, and Anita had never even sent a picture of herself to Carol. For various reasons, a meeting just never worked out. Recently, they had a date set but then Carol’s husband sustained an injury, and then the hurricanes interfered with trip plans.

Finally, Anita took advantage of her university’s fall break to come to Nebraska. Their picture is just adorable in the Washington County Pilot-Tribune this week.

I suppose the Internet has made parents wary of the idea of having a ‘’penpal,’’ since the cyber-penpal your child THINKS is Tiffany in the next town who likes Johnny Depp, soccer and pizza might REALLY be Delbert, a bearded, beer-guzzling pedophile from South Dallas.

But these penpals of more than a half-century shared something beautiful and good. How does the old song go? “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, and the other’s gold.’’

Prayer request: Lord, only You know who is going to buy Steve and Tammy’s house in Gillette, Wyo., that’s been for sale for so long. Only You can free up the finances and bring everything together to make the sale happen. We have faith, Lord! We know it is Your will to bless them in Your perfect timing. We turn to You to ask that it happen soon. ‘Til then, may the family practice steadiness and patience. (Hebrews 10:23)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Almost lost in the excitement of last weekend’s state softball tournament was a great gift from my mother-in-law. It’s a two-piece bundt pan set shaped like two halves of a pumpkin.

You can make a pumpkin cake by baking the two halves and putting them together, then topping with drippy orange icing for a darling fall effect.

That’s the good news. The BAD news is, today is her birthday, and I don’t have ANYTHING for HER, and no ideas within miles. I hate when that happens.

I must be stuck on softball . . . but she made a HIT with that BUNDT. Now I need to hit a HOME RUN for her.

Any ideas? Like, ASAP? I’m afraid I’m going to . . . STRIKE OUT.

Prayer request: A little girl in Kansas named Eliza Mae has a very difficult diagnosis: anaplastic astrocytoma, a brain tumor. It’s grade III. Visit her page at go to state ks and name elizamae. This little darling’s mother is the music therapist for the autistic son of one of my best friends. They’re asking for prayer support. Thank You, Lord, for making their faith so strong. They say not to worry about her because she belongs to Jesus. But we lift our hearts in prayer for this young family, plead the blood of Christ and the fullest extent of Your mercy for them, and ask that You send many friends and supporters their way. (Psalm 110:21)

Monday, October 18, 2004


Talk about a whirlwind weekend: we had the softball state championship, two daughters home from college, Maddy’s social engagements including a hilarious bowling party, a Husker home football game, and three houseguests from Texas.

Our second daughter Neely goes to Baylor. That’s who played Nebraska. So these kids invested their fall break into a 13-hour drive up here to find out that they were right: there IS so much corn in Nebraska, it’s in people’s front yards!

Actually, I bought six bunches of decorative cornstalks at the hardware store because ours from our garden had been on the ground too long and looked icky. I tied the cornstalks up on our front pillars and added some Indian corn, autumn ribbon, pumpkins and gourds. They don’t exactly look like they grew there, but they do look Nebraska-y.

The thing about these Texas college students was that they were SO nice and SO neat and SO polite. They made their beds and hung up their towels. They said ‘’please’’ and ‘’thank you.’’ They raved about the Cornhusker State. They asked questions about our lives and interacted beautifully with 4-year-old Maddy and her 70-something grandma. We just fell in love with these young people.

Don’t mess with Texas . . . because Nebraska’s got its back.


Praise report: Thank You for the safe return to North Carolina and Texas of our precious young adults. Thank You for giving these houseguests such wonderful parents, who did such a great job teaching them manners. Bless their studies and reward their obedience. (Job 36:11)

Sunday, October 17, 2004


For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
-- 1 Corinthians 12:12

Maybe it was Jeannie’s chili, left on our counter because she knew we wouldn’t have time to cook during the tournament.

Maybe it was the red paint our neighbor Sharon got in her blonde hair after making signs and putting up streamers outside our house.

Maybe it was Hulli’s mom’s flags, bright red felt symbols of the whole town’s pride.

Maybe it was the crazy camp song the players sang in pre-game huddles to calm their nerves. Or how their bus had fake spider webs, popcorn ‘’hands’’ made of clear plastic gloves, and the slogan, ‘’Fear the Deer.’’

All I know is, the Elkhorn Antlers took State in softball this week for the first time. Four wins, all shutouts. Athletic ability and community support fused powerfully for our daughter’s team. It was a profoundly spiritual experience.

Softball? Spiritual? Of course it is. Who says faith, hope and love are only for church?

They had come close at State over the past 10 years, but lost, heartbreaker after heartbreaker. Maybe this year? They kept winning, all season. The cheering section grew from three loyal seniors to a grandstand full. Then it was State. The freshman boys painted themselves red from the waist up to brave the 50-degree breeze. Seven kids made T-shirts that spelled out E-L-K-H-O-R-N and sat together in a row.

We moms made signs and decorated lockers, filled treat bags and served nutritious dinners with outrageously nonnutritious desserts. We erected an enormous bat and ball outside school,

I didn’t actually pray they’d take State. I just prayed that Eden would get a triple and that every girl on the team would find a way to contribute.

In the first game, she belted one, high, wide and handsome. A triple. My head fell to my chest. Why be surprised, though? After the game, I told another mom. She said, ‘’We’ve sent some prayers up, too. Let’s see how they’re answered.’’

Well, they were, in ways expected and unexpected.

The senior pitcher, Jenna, the field marshal, pitched tougher and tougher under pressure. The senior catcher, Hayley, deserved an Oscar for the way she framed balls into strikes for the ump. Our tallest player, Christine, a 6’3” first baseman, did the splits with one long leg toward the fielders and the other all the way back on first base. I swear she got the put-outs before the batter even dropped the bat.

Great play is expected, from veterans. But the rookie, freshman Mackenzie, played error-free and got some big hits. Amanda, moved up from JV, contributed some key outs.

Inspiration came from all quarters. Senior shortshop Kelly went 4 for 4 in the first game, and shot sideways for one ball at 100 mph, horizontal to the baseline, her passion firing up the team.

In the semifinal, Gatsby, a cool-headed junior, raced for first base when the third strike hit the dirt. The opponents ran into their dugout as if the inning were over. But Gatsby knew the rule, and stayed put. She prevailed. Instead of a K, she sparked the team.

In the next inning, the designated hitter Jasmine, our cleanup batter, got a rare walk. But they didn’t put in a speedy courtesy runner for her. THAT was different.

Second later our daughter Eden, nicknamed ‘’Beamer’’ for her bright smiles, ripped one. You know how a good hit sounds? Well . . . yay-uh. It soared, supersonically, all the way out to the fence. The crowd of boys moaned in ecstasy -- ‘’Ohhhhhhhh!’’ -- revealing that THEY all wished THEY’D made that hit. Jasmine lumbered around the bases to home. The grandstand erupted. Beamer stood on second base, beaming back a laser-bright smile. It was the only run of the game.

It wouldn’t have been, if not for tiny little Kristi, with the great, big heart. The senior was moved to right field this year, and had never played in a strong wind. Wouldn’t you know? Two enormous hits literally blew by her in gusts. But in the last inning, another one, a game-stealer, blasted out. Kristi drew a bead. And the littlest girl made the biggest catch.

Then it was the title game. Win that, and we’d win it all. Lose it, and we’d be forced into one more game and might lose it all. This opponent, Beatrice, had done that to Elkhorn twice before in recent years, and wrested the championship out of our hands. This time, would the bounces go our way?

The game was scoreless into the last inning when our ninth batter, Shannon, struggling recently with illness, came to the plate . . . and got the winning RBI.

Go figure! Go crazy! Go Elkhorn -- TOOK STATE!

The stands emptied onto the field, with coaches and grandparents and neighbors and students rejoicing. Our two older daughters, back from college on fall break, got to see it. The senior moms handed out red roses. Cameras flashed.

I looked over at Shannon’s mom, glittering tears filling her eyes, sitting there just soaking it all in. She’s the one who’d confided about her prayers, earlier. We embraced.

I looked over at Jeff and Cory Petermann, brothers who are summer coaches of some of the girls. Their eyes sparkled, too.

Several people had on the T-shirts the girls had designed for themselves and their fans. The message proclaimed:

‘’It’s All Good.’’

It sure is. Old and young, weak and strong, slow and fast, from tried-and-true to totally improbable, we all found a way to contribute, and it all came together on that starry autumn night.

All for One and One for all . . . and this one’s for you, Lord. Thanks, Coach!


Prayer Request: Father God, thank You for the joy and encouragement You grant to teenagers through high-school sports and other wholesome activities. We turn our hearts toward other teenagers who right now are struggling with negative emotions and impulses to the point of depression and thoughts of suicide. One in particular, the son of a friend’s friend, is in trouble right now. Lord God, in Jesus’ name, we ask for good thoughts and feelings directly from You to flood his heart and mind. Inspire him to open his heart to You so You can lift the darkness, for Your glory and his good. (Lamentations 3:25)

Saturday, October 16, 2004



Praise report: Father, how beautiful are Your ways and how faithful You are to accomplish within each of us that which will bring us closer to You. I’m joyful and tearful today over the state championship for our daughter’s softball team, mostly because of the team unity, balance and love that was demonstrated throughout the year. I pray that the young women will always remember how it feels to be in Your will, exercising their gifts from You with excellence and grace. Oh, thank You, Jesus, our Champion for all time. (Psalm 81:1)

Friday, October 15, 2004


Eden’s team won both their games yesterday at the state softball tournament. They are two games away from a state title. That’s why I put that huge black plastic softball bat made from a 10-foot PVC pipe up at school -- because ‘’big sticks,’’ excellence in hitting, wins championships.

Now, I try not to use God as a slot machine. You know: it’s wrong to think up something that you want, and plug your prayer into the Lord like a coin, expecting it to come up all cherries because you said “please” and “thank you,” and didn’t kill anybody that week.

But I did pray for something specific: I prayed that Eden would get a triple, for the wonderful lifelong memory that would make.

And Eden stepped up to the plate in the first game yesterday, and ripped one -- high, wide and handsome, to the fence, scoring two runners, and electrifying that sunbeam of a smile of hers that won her the nickname “Beamer.’’

Oh, Lord, You are so good. Oh, Lord, You are so faithful.

Oh, Lord, let the big hitting continue today, and let them take state. But if it’s not in Your will, we’re still happy. Just being in Your game is victory enough. Lord, You TAKE UNIVERSE!


Prayer request: Father, thank You that so many girls contributed to the two wins yesterday, especially at the bottom of the batting order. A couple of them have really been struggling, and it was tremendous to see them get hits. Those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear know that it’s from You. Thank You for the success and satisfaction You’re giving so many young women through softball . . . and, especially for our team, keep it up today! (Isaiah 32:3)

Thursday, October 14, 2004


I was enthusiastic about getting a pretty new gas log in our living room fireplace, just in time for our college daughters’ visits home with friends from North Carolina and Texas. I knew they were going to think temperatures in the 40s and 50s here were blizzard-like conditions. So a homey fire in the fireplace seemed just right.

But I had a hard time getting a hold of the company to set up the appointment. My calls weren’t returned, and when I went there in person, they were closed when the sign said they should have been open. This is their busy season, so I understood.

Finally, I got through on the phone. I couldn’t help myself. I said, ‘’Come on, Baby, light my fire!’’

There was a long pause. I’m sure the receptionist imagined me in a Sonny Bono haircut, with love beads and paisley bell-bottoms. My cheeks were flaming.

Finally, though, thank goodness, she laughed.

The guy came out yesterday, and the new log is just beautiful. Before he left, he threw a bunch of little gray blobs in. Turns out they are the fake embers that go with the fake logs.

Fake embers: think of how that would sound at a party, if somebody asked you what you did for a living, and that’s what you made.

Then he gave me a little sack of powdery stuff labeled “Crackling Material.” You throw a little handful onto your fake fire, and you get the crackling sound effect of a real fire.

This is the age of specialization, indeed.


Prayer request: We pray today for the swift recovery of an old hand, who had hand surgery. Lord, put your Hand on Rich and make sure he’s a good boy for his nurse/wife and doesn’t try to do too much too soon. Give her patience throughout the recovery, and joy in being needed so much by the one she loves. And let’s give the medical folks a hand, too: oh, the marvels of the human body and the many ways it can go haywire, and yet still be repaired. Lord, it’s wonderful to know You’ve got the whole world in Your Hands. (John 10:9)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


My friend was about 4 when she asked her big sister, a sophisticated, knowledgeable 7-year-old, the burning question of the moment:

‘’What are eyes made out of?’’

The older, wiser sister hesitated only a nanosecond, which added to her impressive credibility. Cocking her head and squinting into the sun, she replied:

‘’Well, they're either meat or Jell-O.’’

Yep. That’s about the s-eyes of it.


Prayer request: Safety, Father, for our daughter flying home today from North Carolina for fall break, and for our other one, driving up no’th from Texas Thursday with several friends to discover autumn in Nebraska and possibly witness Baylor’s first away-game victory in Big 12 competition. Uff da!!! May our times together be blessed, and may I have many chances to purely and simply baby my two oldest girls the way You baby me. (2 Peter 2:2)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Nebraskans were rocked last weekend by a 70-10 drubbing of our high and mighty Cornhusker Big Red by a bunch of no-name rednecks in Lubbock, Texas! How could this be?

Then I happened on the online front page of the Houston Chronicle, with headlines like these:

Report says seniors left in ‘horrific conditions’

Grounded Dallas girl accused of killing mom

Man’s bound body found dumped in ditch

Fight at nightclub leads to fatal shooting

Fetus found in trash bin outside Houston bar

Couple charged with public lewdness at the Alamo

And I got to thinking: all that terrible stuff . . . hurricanes . . . earthquakes . . . a volcano . . . wars and rumors of wars . . . AND NOW THE HUSKERS GET BEAT 70-10 AND IT WASN’T EVEN BY OKLAHOMA!

It can mean only one thing: the End is near.

Dropkick me, Jesus, through the goalposts of heaven . . . and Lord, don’t let me hit the uprights, OK?


Prayer request: We lift up to You our friend’s friend, whose divorce is going through court today and tomorrow. Her husband of 20-some years had an affair and left her for the other woman, right as she found out she had breast cancer and started treatment. Now he is trying to get full custody of their two teenage boys, take half of an inheritance her parents left her, and half of a business she owns. And it looks like he will win. Lord, protect this righteous woman, body and soul, and glorify Yourself and Your justice and grace in the mind and heart of that judge. (Matthew 13:43)

Monday, October 11, 2004


Sunday’s bat story revealed once again that we all lead parallel lives. Many readers have similar bat-battling tales.

My neighbor went to college on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She lived in a huge old house for 10 co-eds, with 10- or 12-foot ceilings and long curtains draping from the windows. This huge old house was surrounded by huge old trees and, every night, gobs and gobs of huge old BATS.

Well, late one night, one got in. It made it all the way up to the fourth floor, her attic abode. It started working its way down. Soon, a bat-talion of screaming girls formed, trying to swat the bat.

They wielded pillows, tennis rackets, vinyl tennis racket covers, beach towels, album covers (Beatles, white album if she remembers correctly), shoes, HAIR SPRAY(???), and a can of Raid.

‘’Um . . . yeah,’’ she recalls. ‘’We were ready for war.’’

Finally, the screaming brought over five big, strong engineering majors with boxes and jars. In very macho fashion, they put a jar over the poor bat as it hung on a curtain rod.

It was a fun night on the U.P., she recalled fondly. Sure beat studying, anyway.


Praise report: We thank You, Father, for progress and healing for a Christian sister. Pam (Sept. 30 and Oct. 9) has had good news that the latest “bleed” in her brain is very small and won’t require surgery. She is feeling much better, and has moved out of the ICU. Thank You for placing Chris in her life to listen to her and love her at this time. We pray for ultimate healing. Lord, You are faithful! (Deuteronomy 7:9)

Sunday, October 10, 2004


I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door. . . .
-- Revelation 3:8

There’s a 15-foot softball bat in our garage. We made it last week out of PVC pipe, newspapers, poster board, black landscaping plastic, and lots of black duct tape.

We put it up outside school to cheer on our daughter’s softball team for Districts. You know: big sticks, girls. Big sticks!

Lo and behold, they made it to State, thanks in part to our daughter’s spectacular triple. The door’s wide open now to win it all.

‘Course, we’ll have to fix the big bat. A rainstorm morphed it into a droopy shepherd’s crook. Not real inspiring.

The four-foot softball also needs work. The paint never dried. A bunch of grass and stuff stuck to it. It looks like it has a beard. Not real inspiring, either. So it’ll get a papier-mache facelift. And back up it’ll go this week, along with the big bat.

When people ask if we’re crazy, we can reply that no, we don’t have a bat in our belfry. It’s in our garage.

But one night years ago, we had a big bat in our house . . . and Daddy became a superhero.

Our older girls, about 5 and 4, shared a room, and the baby -- today’s hard-hitting centerfielder -- was in another. My husband had returned to work after dinner. I had put the young’uns to bed and was reading downstairs.

All of a sudden, I heard the older girls scream, then fall silent. I thought they were just horsing around, so I ignored them. That’s my usual mothering strategy: avoid effort by feigning deafness.

But then I heard the 1-year-old exclaiming: ‘’Boody! Boody!’’

After a few seconds, the other two screamed again.

‘’Don’t make me come up there!’’ I finally croaked, weakly.

The oldest one responded, ‘’Mommy! Come quick! There’s a big bird in the house!’’

Envisioning a gigantic raven pecking their eyes out, or at least pooping on my nice carpet, I took the stairs two at a time. Jordan and Neely were standing on a bed, hugging each other in the dark. Something was flying around the room at ceiling height. It whizzed over my head, down the hall, and into the baby’s room.

“Boody! Boody!’’ she exclaimed, chuckling.

I ran in and flipped the switch. There was Beamer in her footie jammies, hanging on to her crib rail with one hand, and pointing to the ceiling with the other . . . where a huge, black, ghastly BAT was circling the light fixture.

‘’Boody, Mommy,’’ Beamer said, beaming.

I was envisioning her foaming at the mouth with rabid vampire bat bites down her neck. I wouldn’t need to make her a Halloween costume that year. She would BE a Halloween costume!

Just then, the bat plunged to the floor, folded its huge wings, and looked at me plaintively.

‘’Get me out of here,’’ the message seemed to be.

Well, whaddya know? The bat was as scared as we were.

Because Beamer’s nursery was also my office, there was a computer paper box lid handy. I threw it on top of the bat. And then I performed Mothering Strategy No. 2: I called my husband.

‘’AAAIIIEEE!!!” was the gist of what I said.

He leaped into his black Thunderbird, thereafter designated ‘’The Batmobile,’’ and sped home. He masterfully grasped his hero’s weapon, a racquetball racquet, and slid it under the bat. Lifting the racquet and lid with the bat between, like a macabre hamburger, he strode outside. We tippy-toed behind.

Batman took off the lid. The big bat looked at us with a mixture of thanks and disgust over how hysterical we girls had been, and flew off into the night.

We couldn’t help ourselves. We sang, ‘’Born Free!’’ Then we searched the house to make sure that which was born free would stay free. Aha! We’d left the fireplace damper open. That’s how he got in.

You don’t give big bats an opening, because they’ll take it.

‘Course, this week, we hope that works to our team’s advantage.

The door’s wide open! Go, big bats! Take State!


Prayer Request: We lift up a Christian missionary for urgent prayer. Dan Lague has a rare brain cancer that has returned. More surgery is not possible, so he is taking oral chemo. Learn more about him on and read his booklet, ‘’Dealing With Physical Affliction.’’ Lord, we thank You for blessing Dan and his wife Carol and three sons, Zach, Blake and Mitchell, with the faith and courage to go through this trial. We join them in praying for a miracle healing, if it be Your will. (Matthew 9:22)

Saturday, October 09, 2004


We pulled up to our destination. I stopped the car and went around to get Maddy out of the carseat. Her forehead was puckered. Uh oh. I knew what that meant: another question.

‘’Mommy?’’ she asked. ‘’What happens to the music when the car stops?’’

I did my best to explain how there’s a little storage dealie inside the car and it kind of stores the music until you turn the car back on and want the music again.

‘’Oh,’’ she said. ‘’Like a piggy bank?’’


Praise report: Thank You for the softball team’s good play and sportsmanship yesterday, especially Eden’s triple (!). Help them focus now on TAKING STATE next week!

Prayer request: A friend’s friend named Pam remains in a hospital ICU with a very puzzling and painful brain disorder. Father God, equip her medical team to understand what’s wrong and what to do. Help them stop the bleeding and relieve the pressure. Comfort Pam and her family with Your mighty but tender power. (Psalm 25:6)

Friday, October 08, 2004


For our daughter Eden’s softball districts, I made a 15-foot tall bat out of some PVP pipe, poster board and landscaping plastic. It looked awesome. I wanted a ball to go with it, of course. A friend suggested one of those rubber bouncy balls people use for exercise. Perfect! I got a four-foot one, and spray-painted it fluorescent yellow-green, just like a softball.

I did this on Tuesday. On Wednesday, because of the rain and so forth, it wasn’t quite dry. But my husband was able to draw lacing on it and ‘’Go Antlers!’’ with a red magic marker.

At 6:30 a.m. Thursday, when I loaded the bat and ball into the back of our pickup to put up outside school, the paint was still pretty sticky. Oh, well. It still looked great.

Well, after school, I guess some boys got the ball out of its moorings and were playing with it. The principal had to come over and get them to stop.

One of Eden’s friends cracked me up when he said:

‘’Well, since it was still sticky, we know who moved it. They were caught GREEN-HANDED.’’


Prayer request: Thank You, Father, that Eden and her teammates played well yesterday, but they do face three tough games today. Give them a double dose of strength, and some old-fashioned luck, in today’s district finale. Reward their hard work and Godly discipline! (Proverbs 13:4)

Thursday, October 07, 2004


They call it the penitentiary. Or prison. Some call it the pen. Or it’s the Big House. Or jail. Or the pokey.

But after a police officer came to Maddy’s preschool and gave an age-appropriate presentation on criminal justice, we now have a new nickname we like:

“Grownups’ Time Out.”

If they would rewrite all our criminal laws and restructure our corrections system to reflect that name and the compassionate attitude that goes with it, offenders might get a lot more of what they need to quit doing bad things.

Moms and dads already know that milk, cookies and a quiet little chat can do wonders to soothe the savage beast.


Prayer request: Eden’s softball team was supposed to start districts today, but it’s raining off and on. Father, whenever the games get under way, we pray for Eden and her teammates and coaches to compete with excellence. Oh, Lord, be Thou their arm! (Isaiah 33:2)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Yesterday, our daughter went to school in a . . . gulp . . . in a . . . I hate to admit this . . . OK, ‘fess up . . . in a TOGA!!!!!

Shades of John Belushi and “Animal House,’’ although this was totally nonalcoholic and G-rated fun at school.

It was Costume Day as part of Homecoming Spirit Week. The whole softball team went ‘’classic’’ with the togas, and actually looked very adorable. Teachers kept asking Eden whether she was Socrates or Plato. She kept up her endearing little fake laugh all day, even though she heard the same joke from all seven teachers. That was strategic, so that they would maybe give her a better first-quarter grade. The care and feeding of teachers is not all Greek to her!

Monday was Class Color Day; Eden and her friends made sponge-painted green shirts on our pingpong table over the weekend. Cowboy Day, Twins Day and Red-White Day remain.

Actually, togas work well for us frugal moms. With an age-old white sheet and three safety pins, she was covered -- and better covered for a lot less money, I might add, than a lot of teenage girls are MOST days.


Prayer request: The Nebraska Family Council is seeking prayer from now through Election Day along these lines: “Lord Jesus, Your Word tells us that You love righteousness and hate wickedness and that righteousness exalts a nation and sin is a disgrace to any people. So, Lord, we pray that on November 2, 2004, You would give us elected officials, men and women who fear You and honor Your ways. Please open our eyes to the candidates -- people who are the same in private as they are in public. Stir within the hearts of the American voters a desire to be led by men and women of character and conscience. Embed within our leaders a moral anchor that refuses to be moved by any storm of controversy. May they stand on the solid foundation of Your Word, which lasts beyond the culture’s current definitions of morality. Grant us strong and courageous leaders who are unafraid to take unpopular stands. Give them a sense of Your presence and a willingness to be guided by Your standards. May they lead us with humility and understand that their authority comes from You. (Joshua 1:9)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


There’s nothing like a 3-year-old at a funeral to put the basics of our faith in proper perspective.

“I’m going to a ‘wake-up’!’’ the excited little boy told his mom’s boss outside the church.

Later, as he saw the casket, he asked his mom, “Why is Don in that treasure box?”


Prayer request: Praise the Lord! Our Sept. 11 prayer request has been answered. My friend’s elderly mother’s house back East has sold. Now she won’t have to pay to keep it running vacant for another winter. It feels so good to have closure on this long-running problem. Thank You, Jesus. Much praise, too, for healing Pam, our Sept. 30 prayer subject, who had the blood clot on her brain and suffered a lot of pain. She is feeling much better, thanks to Your tender care. (1 Peter 3:15)

Monday, October 04, 2004


Saturday morning was hectic. We had five visitors to our garden after having spent the day before in overdrive, harvesting gourds and veggies and tying sheets over what was left before the first frost of the fall. Then they left, and the phone rang. Then there was email to handle. Then there was laundry. Then. . . .

All this time, Maddy was in her jammies, watching the ‘toons, waiting to be served her breakfast and dressed for the day. I guess I kind of temporarily forgot about her, because at about 10 a.m., she stalked into the kitchen, naked except for her Care Bear undies, and proclaimed:


AA-OO-GAH! I clothed her and fed her, and never did hear the sirens coming. But I bet she’s gotten them to open a child neglect file on me, downtown. I’d better watch my step.


Prayer request: Father, some of Your children stay home in the heartland of America and plug away at a dreary, routine, workaday existence. But SOME of Your children get to go on an exciting European vacation this week! We pray for safety and a spirit of adventure for our friend Jean and her mother as they travel to Belgium. May travel connections go smoothly, and may she not rub it in too much what a great trip it was, when she’s back. Remind us all what a refuge and vacation we have in You every day. After all, home is where the heart is. (Psalm 142:5)

Sunday, October 03, 2004


Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee. . . .
-- Jeremiah 1:5

There’s a new baby in the family, the first child of my nephew, Chris, and his wife Jana. Her name is Paisley. I held the tightly swaddled, nine-pound, pink burrito, and searched her face for family resemblances. Aha!

The wide-set eyes!

The smirk!

The wrinkled forehead over what’s wrong with the Husker offense this year!

Yup. She’s one of us. She’s already known and loved. And proof of that is the quilt made for her by the world’s youngest-looking great-grandmother, my mom.

The quilt is called ‘’Just Like Daddy.’’ It’s a love song in pastel fabrics and tiny stitches. Though it was given to the baby, it’s an expression of love for her father, and his father, and all those who came before them.

Maybe I’m getting old. But to be born into a family that hopes you’ll be as fun and active and quirky as the ones who’ve come before . . . that, to me, is the best kind of blessing.

Naturally, there’s a border around the quilt squares in a paisley pattern. The baby’s name is, after all, sparkling and spectacular. ‘’Paisley!?!’’ people exclaim. ‘’What’re you going to name the next one? Herringbone?’’

I’ve been through this. Our eldest is named Jordan; Dad thought we should name our second daughter Argentina. (Tina, for short, of course.)

But this quilt. It’s so sweet. It gives me tingles.

Each square has a little girl’s silhouette, ‘’Sunbonnet Sue.’’ In each square, she’s doing something different or has some kind of 3-D fabric prop.
‘’I am Daddy’s little girl,’’ the first square establishes, in pink hearts and mint-green flowers.

‘’I want to be just like my Daddy,’’ the next one states. She’s wearing sandals with a tattoo on her toe.

‘’I hope I’ll have an animal blankie.’’ There’s a little yellow fabric square under her arm, with a moose, an elephant, a lion and a koala -- just like the ‘’significant other’’ of Paisley’s dad more than two decades ago.

‘’I’ll pray to the Lord,” the next square promises. The little girl is in a Sunday School dress with lace, and has a silver cross necklace.

‘’I’ll have lots of friends.’’ There’s a smiley sunshine face on that one, the truest statement of all about the new dad. He’s very social and he loves people.

But he has his standards. ‘’And I’ll hate Brussel sprouts, just like Daddy.’’ When he was little, Chris and his parents once had a long standoff over whether he would eat his. There are green, 3-D, fabric Brussel sprouts dropping out of the little girl’s hand behind her back in this square. That’s a clue to who won.

‘’I’ll bike and I’ll jog,’’ the next square claims. The girl has a Nike swoosh on her shoes, and our high-tech great-grandma downloaded a picture of a bicycle from the Internet to copy in appliqué.

‘’I’ll climb mountains.’’ The girl has on cleats and is holding a thin ribbon as a rappelling rope. Her dad has had some exciting adventures with mountaineering, most of which happened in actual mountains, and most of which we can talk about without getting shhhh’ed.

‘’I’ll swim like a fish,’’ she maintains, alongside cute fish symbolizing his lifelong sport.

‘’I want to study and work hard.’’ There’s a bookbag on her back acknowledging his graduate-school course load.

‘’I know I am loved,’’ she adds, with lace hearts on the hem of her dress.

The last one brought tears to my eyes:

‘’I love Mommy most of all . . . just like Daddy does.’’ That square has fabric daisies, the new mother’s favorite.

Oh, Paisley. Welcome, child. You are loved. You are blessed.

Be just like Daddy, precious girl. Be just like Great-Grandma, too.

Love life. Love people. Try new things.

Most of all, be yourself.

You’ve been sewn into our family quilt to add to its warmth and color in your own special way.

Just like your Daddy.

Just like your Father in heaven meant you to be.


Prayer Request: Just as this quilt is evidence of God’s creative love at work, may the certainty of God’s creative design and purpose flow into the heart of my good friend who has multiple sclerosis. She is suffering, Lord Jesus, but she has so much love in her life that somehow, it is OK and it is well. If anything, she is even more beautiful and precious. Savior, wrap her with the quilt of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, and bless her with good-feeling days and much joy. Thank You for showing a little bit of Yourself in her. (John 17:23)

Saturday, October 02, 2004


We were exchanging hair-raising tales of high-school hijinks that our kids had pulled, but one story was more hair-raising than the others. Actually, more fur-raising.

A mom and dad came home to find their furry little white dog, a miniature American Eskimo, had been dyed hot pink.

Yes, the kids got in trouble. But afterwards everybody laughed about the funky, colorful sled and traces that a hot-pink Eskimo dog would pull. That would spice up the frozen tundra! Or at least make the bears stay in hibernation a little longer.


Prayer request: It is with joy and trepidation that a reader seeks prayer for reconciliation in her family. Her husband obtained inpatient treatment for alcoholism this summer and has not been back to the house more than a handful of times since early June. Now he is talking about moving back in and making a new start. Though she’s terrified, she believes firmly that it is Your plan for their family, and she wants it to work. Lord, hear their prayer and reunite them, in truth and love. Give them faith, love and humor to salve the wounds of the pain this addiction has caused. We stand together firmly against the power of damaging addiction. We point to You as the substance of life, the only thing any of us needs to depend on. Thank You, Jesus, for making this wife open to reconciliation, which is always Your will. Reward her faith by satisfying him with the true thirst-quenching of the Water of Life. (2 Corinthians 5:18)

Friday, October 01, 2004


Last night, our daughter Eden’s softball team won the conference championship. Eden had two hits and three RBI’s in the first game, which was thrilling for her as she had been in a slump, and a nice hit in the second one. Every girl seemed to find a way to contribute.

The dads were happy.

Then, in the latter part of the second game, with us ahead 3-1, the other team suddenly got two girls on base with their cleanup hitter at bat. The winning run was at the plate! Man, it was stressful!

We moms in the stands did what moms do. We started our Lamaze breathing.

Huff! Hoo! Huff! Hoo! Huff! Hoo!

No doubt energized by our support, our fabulous, All-State pitcher struck her out, and the next girl, too. We won the game.

The moms were happy, too.


Prayer request: The family of God gains strength by being together, and that’s what’s happening this weekend. There’s a family reunion going on for my friends Barb and Tom and their siblings and parents. It’s associated with the Nebraska-Kansas football game. We pray for safe air travel for those coming from afar, especially Barb. Father God, we know You are pleased when the bonds of love draw people closer together. Thank You for this blessing for them. You make life so easy: all we have to do is believe in Jesus, and love one another. (1 John 3:23)