Thursday, March 31, 2005


The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a Ten Commandments monument outside an Elkhart County, Ind., government building does not violate the Constitution.

No! Duh!

The ruling overrides a 2004 district court order to remove the monument. It is placed with the Mayflower Compact, the Magna Carta and other historic legal documents as part of the northern Indiana county's "Foundations of American Law and Government" display.

The federal appeals judge acknowledged that a later ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court may undo the lower court’s decision. But, Judge Diane Sykes wrote in the majority opinion, "We see no reason why the display as erected must be purged of the Ten Commandments to survive constitutional scrutiny."

I think they need to etch in the stone a few extra stars and asterisks around the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” and put it up right next to Terri Schiavo’s deathbed in Florida.

And they need to add the Eleventh Commandment, “To all who would try to ignore or censor My words: Nanny nanny boo boo!”


Praise report: A young teenage friend named Chris, suffering from mononucleosis, is much better now. As it is no longer “catchable,” he’s back in school and doing well. Thank You, Jesus, that he was diligent to keep up with his studies despite feeling ill for these last few weeks, and that he won’t miss Prom and all the fun. Let him know that his healing, strength and peace come from You, Father. (Psalm 29:11)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


I’ve tried mousse (goopy). I’ve tried gel (sticky). I’ve tried udder balm (stinky). I’ve tried hairspray (dries too fast). I’ve tried spit (horrible manners).

Nothing will keep my left eyebrow hairs from springing upward toward my hairline in a decidedly unruly fashion. Meanwhile, the right eyebrow hairs continue to grow in a conventionally arched, rightward direction, as well they should.

I guess I must sleep on the left side of my face with turbo power, grinding my forehead into my pillow. All I know is, about a year ago, suddenly, my well-mannered left eyebrow just sprang vertical. Since the rest of my body continues to overachieve in its spread in the horizontal direction, this is too much contrast for a unified whole.

My friend Jeannie knows why it’s happening. “Just look around at everything that’s going on in the world,” she counseled. “Your eyebrow is just raising itself all the time, in shock. Maybe you shouldn’t read so many newspapers.”

Yeah, well, if I put earplugs in, then I suppose my EARLOBES will start curling up. You can’t win!


Prayer Request: There’s a beloved husband, father and valued employee who has come down with a case of pneumonia. Oh, Breath of Life, fill Steve’s lungs with cleansing air and renew his strength and endurance. Drive out all the bad bugs and bring him back to the pink of health. Thank You for his good medical care, and for all who are helping the family in this time of trial. (Acts 17:25)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


This is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard of: my adorable and wonderful nephew Dr. Jeff Darst is going to shave his head to raise money for the treatment of kids with cancer.

Please go to this webpage, and don’t worry, it’s a wig:

Here’s what Jeff wrote to family and friends, asking for them to “sponsor” his upcoming baldness for this good cause:

“At the risk of being further confused with actor Vin Diesel (with my low manly voice, my big manly muscles, my millions of manly dollars), I'm shaving my head. Yes, my golden, Fabio-like locks are getting clipped off.

“I, along with 9 other pediatric residents here in Portland, are taking part in a fundraiser called St. Baldricks. It raises money for children's cancer research by collecting donations in the names of the ‘shavees.’ The money raised is of course great, but our favorite part is that the kids who've lost their hair undergoing chemo think it's pretty funny that the doctors lose their hair, too. We'll do the shaving here at the hospital, so a few of the cancer patients can wield the clippers.

“Your next question is ‘What do (wife) Alyson and (daughter) Ashleigh think of this?’ Alyson, to her credit, stifles a snicker and says something to the effect of, ‘If that's what you want to do, Honey. . . ." Then she diverts her eyes, obviously picturing me as a cue ball. Ashleigh has been a bit more ‘vocal’ on the topic. As if I was not lame enough already . . . this takes the cake. She can't decide if this is the perfect chance to make bald jokes or if she's so appalled she wants to move out.

“You can follow along at The easiest way to find us is by clicking on ‘Teams’ and scrolling down to ‘Dr. Nick Riviera and Associates,’ which is our team name. If you want to make a donation in the name of my soon-to-be-shiny noggin, you can do that by clicking on my picture (which, incidentally, exaggerates my current hairstyle in the name of Bo Duke). If you don't donate, you can still check it out. There will be an ‘after’ picture that goes with the ‘before’ picture, so you'll get to see my lumpy skull either way. We'll probably be doing this the 2nd week of April, exact date to be determined.”

So that’s Jeff. My genetic material . . . shared with a person who’s the body double of Famous Hairheads Fabio and Bo Duke, soon to add Chrome Domes Vin Diesel and Mr. Clean to that list?!?

I couldn’t help but donate. Anything less would be . . . balderdash.


Praise Report: Thank You, Father, that the beloved, missing prodigal son David called his mother on Easter and asked her to come to his faraway city to help him find a place to live, a job, and so forth. It is good that he realizes he needs help. She leaves this morning. We pray that he will go back on his meds or come home to live with her. Strengthen and protect David’s mother, Lord, as she has a heart condition. Thank You for hearing our prayers and strengthening this family’s trust in You. (Jeremiah 33:3)

Monday, March 28, 2005


A snapshot memory from Easter Sunday: my sister organized a huge egg hunt for her five grandchildren and our youngest, Maddy, 5.

It was a free-for-all, with kids running this way and that, screaming with joy in the confusion and excitement. It was reminiscent of the chaos and noise at the New York Stock Exchange when the high rollers really get rolling.

When it was over, five of the six went inside to count their loot. But Simon, 1 ½, lingered. He only had a couple of eggs in his basket, but he plopped down and was filling up his basket with more and more round things.

But these weren’t plastic eggs filled with candy and coins. These were landscaping rocks.

Hey! He’s a little boy! Who’s to say the Bunny didn’t leave ROCKS for him? They’re what a little boy that age loves best!


Prayer request: In the afterglow of Easter, it’s sad to have to report that there’s a husband named Randy who is being less than kind. There’s also a wife who is hanging in there in the marriage in obedience to the Lord, but wanting things to be so much better. Christ didn’t die for us to be miserable. He wants us to be happy and fulfilled in every way, especially our key relationship, marriage. Father, we pray for a work of Your majesty in Randy’s heart and marriage, to make both a lot closer to Your design. (Ephesians 4:31,32)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

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Happy Easter, everyone, and God bless you!



And as they went to tell his disciples, behold,
Jesus met them, saying, All hail.
And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
-- Matthew 28:9

I’ve got a “tingle meter.” It goes “tilt” when wonderful things happen.

It tingles big on Christmas and Easter, when the old hymns are sung, the candles glow, and the promises in the Word jump out and hug me.

I get tingles whenever I hear about people overcoming obstacles, forgiving harmful deeds, and loving each other – as our youngest says, “the way we’re ‘posed to.”

Today, my tingle meter is on “turbo.” It’s because of what’s about to happen to a young, unwed mother who recently wobbled to the brink of having an abortion. Fortunately, a wise mentor from her church helped her see that wiping out her baby’s life wasn’t the answer. She decided to keep the child.

The baby’s father is not there for her, so she’s been working 60 hours a week, saving up. A place to live and an affordable car have materialized. She has had good prenatal care, since she is at risk for complications. The ultrasound pictures show a beautiful baby boy. He’s due around June 1.

I’m sure she’s feeling alone this Easter Sunday, worshipping among the picture-perfect families, worrying about the challenges to come.

That’s why my tingle meter is going off, imagining her receiving her surprise baby shower gifts from some anonymous angels today.

See, a group of us found out about her plight, and chipped in. She will receive a Target card for $500 to spend as needed. There are also books and clothes, and a scrapbook with cards from strangers she will never meet . . . but who love her, anyway.

Their messages are sweet:

“You made God very happy when you made your decision to keep your baby boy. I’m sure you know it will not be an easy task, but with faith and trust in your Heavenly Father, you will do just great.”

“You are my hero and I pray for you and your little one daily.”

“I shall add this young lady to the prayers we say daily for all pregnant mothers and for all those who chose abortion, that they would find healing and a better path in the future.”

Some sent emails; others wrote in feminine script on fine papers. Many sent comforting Bible verses:

Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart. -- 1 Samuel 16:7

Though my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up. -- Psalm 27:10

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. – Jeremiah 29:11

One quoted Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day.”

One wrote about another unwed mother she knew who’d had to go on welfare, but has since become an RN and built a good life with her child, now 13. “I guess I’m saying she made it . . . and you can, too.”

They all gave me tingles. But this one made me cry:

“I helped my sister get an abortion 26 years ago. God has forgiven me for that sin. I feel deep in my heart His forgiveness, yet not a day goes by that I do not think of my niece or nephew who is in heaven. . . . Hold your sweet child with a heart of NO REGRETS – that gift will be overwhelming to you then.”

Oh, the shower of love that’s pouring out on that girl today, through these sisters in Christ she didn’t know she had.

Oh, the joy that comes to those who heed the Savior’s words: “Love one another.” That’s all. Just love. Just like Jesus. Just do it.

May it be a great blessing to this young woman and her son, always. May it give her tingles.

Just like Easter . . . the way it’s ‘posed to.


Prayer Request: On this day of miracles and comebacks, Father, we lift up to you everyone who is suffering and desperately needs the saving grace of Your Son Jesus Christ to overcome and triumph. We pray especially for Terri Schiavo and her family and all those associated with that case. Lord, we ask that hearts would be softened toward Your will and Your ways, and that everyone would put aside their own opinions, and value and affirm life, no matter what. (Mark 16:16)

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Our daughter Eden got to have a free photo session for her senior pictures at a leading studio yesterday. As one of five representatives from her school, she’ll get great discounts on her pictures in return for helping promote their services and model some of the poses and effects they can do.

The two photographers were smooth as silk, and skilled at making mom and daughter feel at ease. At one point, I went back to her dressing room to get her state softball championship medal for her “jockette” pose.

When I returned, the photographer paused, narrowed his eyes, and stared at me.

“Do you have a little yellow puppy?” he finally asked.

I was amazed. “Yes, our new Lab, Sunny! How did you know that?”

He smiled, and pointed to his forehead. “I have ESP.”

I was impressed. Then he paused again, narrowed his eyes even further, and inquired, “Do you have a strawberry cookie jar?”

My eyebrows must have hit the high ceiling. “That’s creepy! Yes, I do! Oh, my gosh! You have a gift! This is just too weird. . . .”

Too late, I beheld the smirk on my daughter’s well-scrubbed face. They high-fived each other.


But you know what? Her pictures from that point on were beautifully relaxed and her already-beaming smile was even brighter, at old Mom’s expense.

But old Mom was happy about that. A good picture’s worth a thousand put-ons.


Prayer request: Thanks and praise, Lord Jesus, for the reappearance of a missing person. David, the manic depressive son of a friend’s friends, surfaced in his Pacific Northwest location and called home, safe and sound. Just as we’d prayed, a Christian man from a church where David had attended AA meetings befriended him and offered him some work. Thank You, Father, for this contact. Send the Holy Spirit to work in David’s heart and mind to resume therapy and medication, and let his family know where he is and how he’s doing. (John 16:7)

Friday, March 25, 2005


Here’s a wonderful activity to do with children on the night before Easter:

1 cup whole pecans (or Easter colored M & M's)
1 tsp vinegar
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Zip-lock bag
Wooden spoon
Masking tape

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Place pecans or M&M’s in bag. Have children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. (Tell them this represents how, when Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the soldiers -- John 19:1-3)

Put vinegar into mixing bowl. (Let children smell it. On the Cross, when Jesus was thirsty, this is what they gave Him to drink -- John 19:28-30)

Add egg whites to vinegar. (Eggs represent life; Jesus gave His life to give each of us eternal life -- John 10:10-11)

Add a pinch of salt. (Children should taste salt; this step represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers and the bitterness of our own sin -- Luke 23:27)

Add 1 cup sugar. (The sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know Him and belong to Him. -- Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16)

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. (The color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus -- Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3)

Fold in broken pecans or M&M’s. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. (Each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid – Matthew 27:57-60)

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.

Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. (Jesus' tomb was sealed -- Matthew 27:65-66)

Go to bed. (Children may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed -- John 16:20, 22)

On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! (On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty -- Matthew 28:1)


Prayer request: We praise You, Lord, for some great news on the medical front: our teenage friend Amanda has a friend Chelsea who has had cancer. She had an MRI and it looks like the cancer hasn't returned! They don't have to do surgery. They are going to try a new drug to see what will happen. Thank You, Jesus, for granting this precious girl and her family joy and peace this Easter season. (Judges 6:24)

Thursday, March 24, 2005


We’ve been married a long, long time. Compliments come few and far between. I know he loves me and he doesn’t have to strain himself.

But last night, he burst through the door, gazed at me, beaming enthusiastically, and exclaimed:


I blushed. Hunhhh? After all these years, my female “talents” are suddenly noteworthy?!?!?!

Nawwww. He’d been waiting all day to get a look at what had just been installed: a new heating and air conditioning system with a heat pump. Outside were two new, expensive, matching condensers.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Most practical people realize that Feng Shui is a bunch of hooey. But it can still come in handy.

I got an email on housekeeping tips to that effect. See, my husband is a neatnik, but I am a terrible piler. Several places in the house, you will see my leaning towers of partially-read books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, letters, bills, jelly sandwiches, and who knows what all else.

But now, I can claim that these haphazard towers actually provide the valuable Feng Shui aspect of a tiger, thereby reducing our “vulnerability.”

If I roll my eyes when I say it, as in, “EVERYONE knows this!” do you think my hubby will buy it? I don’t, either, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Prayer request: A friend’s daughter has a friend in her early 20s who has just come up pregnant with her third child out of wedlock. Oh, Father, that baby is going to need You in that mother’s life. Meet her needs as only You can. Surround her, oh God, with wise advisors and friends to help her turn toward You and away from the life she’s been leading, for the benefit of those children. (Psalm 32:8)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I was pleased to read that a district judge in North Platte, Neb., John Murphy, issued a ruling last week that blasted people who try to outshout others to try to get their way. He lamented that public discourse is being coarsened “by their willingness to degrade and debase those that oppose them.” Hear, hear! That’s just what I advocate: vigorous, but classy use of our First Amendment rights to free speech.

Then why, oh, why, did I smile when I saw the banner outside the downtown Elkhorn liquor store? Emotions are running at a fever pitch against Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey for promulgating annexation against small-town neighbor Elkhorn, and I’m one of the opponents.

The liquor store owner’s nickname is “Big Dog.” He’s about seven feet tall and 1,200 pounds, give or take.

His banner, which made me smile but exposed my hypocrisy, bigtime, reads:

“Big Dog Says, ‘Bite Me,’ Mayor Fahey.’”

At least you can tell he was kidding. Kind of.


Prayer request: We pray for another sweet teenager, Lord, whose name is Jayne, and who is struggling with her academics this spring. She tries so hard, Lord! She means so well! She is smart in lots and lots of ways. But it’s a tough struggle with the difficult classes she is taking. Father, grant her some success as the semester comes to a close. Reward her determination and hours of study with much better grades on that next report card. (2 Timothy 2:6)

Monday, March 21, 2005


Sign of the times: the Easter Bunny was arrested over the weekend at a big shopping mall in Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the river from Omaha. Someone dumped water on the 36-year-old man while he was on duty. He changed out of his costume and came back, threatening two people with bodily harm.

Police arrested him on suspicion of two counts of harassment.

Now I’ve heard everything. But maybe not: if his attorney is a leprechaun, the jailer is the Tooth Fairy and the judge is Santa Claus, THEN I will have heard everything.


Prayer request: A teenager named Megan has uterine cancer, and has to make a difficult choice: try to treat it, or have it removed. The second choice could possibly be more likely to save her life, but would render her unable to bear a child, unless medical science advances a great deal in the next 20 years. What a decision for one so young! Father God, bless and comfort her and her parents, and thank You for their Godly example of bravery and acceptance in this trial. Remind them of Your promises to be with them. You alone are faithful, every time. (Hebrews 10:23)

Sunday, March 20, 2005


On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
-- John 12:12,13

I am typing this with my pinkie finger. It is the only one that survived yesterday’s Puppy Party. Since our daughter Maddy is crazy about our new puppy Sunny, and since the indoor gym wanted an incredible $165 just to put on a simple kiddie birthday party, we had it in our home with a puppy theme.

Now I will need to spend far more than $165 on medical care, shock therapy, pitchers of margaritas and jet fare to the Bahamas, to recover from the multisensory assault of 14 hyperventilating 5-year-olds rampaging through my once-peaceful abode.

Don’t get me wrong. We had lots of fun. Big sisters Neely and Eden painted the kids’ faces to look like Dalmatians, beagles, spaniels and Labs. Neely made Puppy Chow and they had to eat it off plates on the floor.

We played “Simon Says.” More enthusiastic wagging, barking, panting and scratching were never experienced this side of the American Kennel Club championship finals.

We decorated a paper “tablecloth” with puppy stickers and rubber stamps, and painted paper-bag puppies with blotches of tempera paint. Then we shared a bone-shaped cake, while the real puppy, whom Neely has nicknamed “Sunny Bone-O,” enjoyed the sizeable quantities that fell on the floor.

But the loudest howls of the two-hour ordeal . . . I mean, party . . . were in the giant cardboard-box doghouse maze in the basement. They raced around on all fours, scrunched through tunnels, and had a giant food fight with Maddy’s plastic kitchen set. Utter bliss for the midget set.

I woke up this morning with my right hand in intense pain, though, because I:

n Slammed my thumb in a drawer looking for the stapler for their collar nametags, rushing around because the first guest came 20 minutes early.

n Cracked off the luxury nail from my forefinger hauling bales of bedding for the Milk Bone dig.

n Sliced open the middle finger at the knuckle with a utility knife making the doghouse maze from cardboard boxes plucked in daring deeds of dumpster diving on the loading docks behind stores.

n Blistered the tip of my ring finger on the hot-glue gun making the paper puppies.

With all these Band-Aids today, my right hand looks like a mummy’s, not a mommy’s.

Now, I know this is a strange analogy. But today is Palm Sunday. On this day, we remember the pageantry, excitement and fun of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem: the palm leaves waving in the air, the shouts of “Hosanna!” and mass adoration for His miracles and healings.

But at the core, there was a bittersweet reality: after the partying would come pain.

My pain today is only a minute fraction of our Savior’s, of course. But it’s a lesson to me.

I don’t really mind the pain. The party was so much fun for those kids, it’s worth it.

I think that’s how Jesus thinks of the Cross. That Palm Sunday, Jesus knew about the suffering and death He would have to go through to secure the right for believers to be with Him, celebrating, forever.

He went ahead with it, anyway . . . because we are worth it, and He wanted us at His party for all time.

Do we deserve it?

Do we realize what a gift it is?

Do we live every day like Palm Sunday, joyous in His Presence?

Do we thank Him?

This morning, I was making breakfast, left-handed, when Maddy came bounding into the kitchen in her jammies and post-party bedhead. She threw her arms around my legs, and exclaimed:

“Oh, Mommy! Thanks for the party! It was FUNNERIFIC!!!”

I gave her a big squeeze back, with my left hand and my right pinkie. Yes, it was all worth it.

I resolved to spend this week smiling through my pain . . . and thanking Him for His.


Prayer request: Someone dear to me suffered a sudden cardiac problem about a month ago that deprived her of oxygen for 18 minutes and nearly took her life. Praise God, though, a doctor happened on the scene of her collapse and administered CPR. She is now in rehabilitation and doing much better, although she is not entirely “back” and is continuing to suffer in myriad ways. So is her family, especially her wonderful husband. Oh, Father, send Your smartest and best angels to their side to effect a complete healing, for Your glory, for this precious mother of two. Bring her back to us completely as another miraculous testament to Your love and grace. (Philippians 1:6)

Saturday, March 19, 2005


It was an amazing sight: a litsy bitsy pair of socks was dangling from the ceiling tile high above Maddy’s preschool classroom.

How on God’s green earth did they get up there?

It turns out a LEPRECHAUN had snuck into the preschool, and someone must have come while he was still there. He didn’t want to get caught, so he jumped up to the ceiling and got away by moving the tile aside and escaping through the ceiling. But he was in such a big hurry, his socks got stuck and were still hanging there the morning after.

He did get away, though. You could call it . . . the sockless luck o’ the Irish.


Prayer request: We ask Your blessing on Maddy’s birthday party today, Father. May all the children have fun in our home, and whimsy as with the leprechaun socks at preschool. May their parents recognize our Christian faith and notice the different atmosphere that we have here. Oh, it’ll be different all right: there’s a huge cardboard DOGHOUSE in the basement! More later on that. But we praise You and thank You for the fun and joy of birthdays, Father. (Isaiah 55:12)

Friday, March 18, 2005


Our whole family took our oldest daughter, Jordan, to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the start of her freshman year. It was fun to tour what many say is the prettiest college campus in the country, see her dorm room, and soak up a little Tar Heel culture.

One of our fondest memories is the orientation session in a huge auditorium. We were all informed that the big basketball rival over in the next town, Durham, is a university that is spelled “Dook.” A popular T-shirt on the UNC campus is “Friends Don’t Let Friends Go to Dook.”

Jordan and friends have had a lot of fun with sports rivalries over these past four years, and she was in the Dean Dome the other night when UNC beat “Dook” in a fabulous finish.

Now it’s on to the NCAA’s and what some are saying could be a national championship. What a thrill for our Nebraska girl to be a part of it. Although she’s one of those classic fans who’d trade an NCAA basketball title any old day if the Huskers could beat THEIR “Dook,” also known as the “Okies.”


Prayer request: Soon, a friend’s friend is going to make her first attempt at leading someone to the Lord. His name is Gene. She has asked that we pray for his heart to be tendered, and for her to have great boldness to share Who the Lord Is and what He has done for her. Father, we also pray for protection and energy for this woman, who has such a light in her eyes to tell people about Your Son. May all of us Christians follow her example, and start sharing our faith. (Ezekiel 36:27)

Thursday, March 17, 2005


We went out with old friends and were delighted to celebrate with the husband, who had lost 45 pounds. He had to, for health reasons. He looks and feels terrific.

What particular diet did he use? One we’d never heard of before:

The “When Judith Rolls Her Eyes Diet.”


He said he would eat until his wife Judith rolled her eyes. Then he would quit. Brilliant! Portion control was never so pragmatic.

Think of the millions that could be saved if more spouses would use their natural gift for affectionate sarcasm around their pudgy mates.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day! For fun, here’s a quote from Irish playwright John Millington Synge you could mutter next time someone cuts you off in traffic:

“May I meet him with one tooth and it aching, and one eye to be seeing seven and seventy divils in the twists of the road, and one old timber leg on him to limp into the scalding grave. There he is now crossing the strands, and that the Lord God would send a high wave to wash him from the world.” (The Playboy of the Western World, 1907)


Prayer request: We stand before Your Throne, Father, to intercede for Christi, the friend of a friend in Springfield, Mo. She has a prodigal son, Christopher, mixed up with alcohol and marijuana. She is up praying most of the night when he does not come home, which has been the case the last few nights. It hurts all the more because her oldest child, Craig, 21, was killed in a horrible alcohol-related accident seven years ago, on his birthday night with his buds, engaged to be married in six months. Meanwhile, her parents are both so sick with the flu they can't function well and need her, but she’s struggling with a respiratory illness herself. Last, but not least, her best friend's father is dying of cancer, so Christi has been driving a couple of hours each way to support her friend amid other family members who are very angry at God. She’s overwhelmed, Lord. We pray for her to make time to seek Your face and hear Your voice, since You never want Your children to be exhausted, depressed and hopeless like this. Let her release her agony to Your tender care. Grant her peace, rest, strength and hope. (Romans 10:11)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


You might not have seen those two words in tandem before. But it has been asked, by the resident 5-year-old as of yesterday’s birthday, and must be answered.

Why DID God make the leprechauns?

Here’s what the first three people we asked said:

1. Because they’re wonderful and everything God makes is wonderful.

2. He made the leprechauns so that short people wouldn’t feel so bad.

3. He made green people because green is His favorite color. How do we know? Well, in a couple of weeks, look all around you – just about everything will be green then.

The Blarney Stone is wet with kisses as we speak. But those are doable answers as far as this 25% Irish lassie is concerned.


Prayer request: A darling neighbor girl named Jaimee has an important job interview today with a law firm out in California that she’d really, really like to work for. We pray that the Lord will open doors for her and that the feeling will be mutual. (Psalm 34:15)

Praise report: Another big birthday in our family circle is today. Thank You, Lord, for our wonderful grandpa, father and father-in-law, Hugh, a.k.a. “NoNo.” Bless him and keep him throughout the coming year. Continue letting him know You’re there saying “YesYes” to “NoNo.” (Psalm 34:15)

Prayer request: Lord, we regret hearing that a gracious and good man, Joseph, a longtime judge of the local court system who distinguished himself as a jurist and a Christian, has cancer. He awaits further tests to see what therapy he might be placed under. But his lungs are very weak; he has been on oxygen for a few years now. We are thankful for this man’s impeccable example of Your ways here on Earth, and we pray for faith, courage and grace in the coming crisis for him and his family. (Proverbs 22:4)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Maddy turns 5 today, and in a few months, I will hit the Big 5-0. Therefore, I will be 10 times as old as my youngest child.

I realize that can be fairly common for those who have their children really young – the 2-year-old and the 20-year-old mother, and the 3-year-old with the mom who’s 30.

But I bet our 5-50 combination is about the oldest expression of this phenomenon that’s around.

I wish it meant that I am 10 times as mature, intelligent and well-behaved as my daughter. But I’ll reserve those praises for my own mother – only to quickly add that nooooo, she is NOT almost 500 years old – she doesn’t look a day over 29 1/2.


Prayer request: Lord, we thank You for Maddy’s excellent health, for her sparkle, her freckles, her sense of humor, her curiosity, her interest in books, her fascination with nature, and most of all, for the way she’s a unique reflection of Your love and is always thinking about You. Yesterday, she asked me, “Why did God make the leprechauns?” May she always seek to know You, even if her questions are unconventional. Father, thank You for this precious birthday girl, and give me strength as I continue to be challenged by old-age motherhood. (Psalm 27:1)

Monday, March 14, 2005


There was a strange piece of paper on our kitchen counter. It had a capital “F” and a frowny face.

Eden, 17, explained. Maddy had told her that she looked like p__p. So Eden retorted that Maddy SMELLED like p__p.

That was so offensive to Maddy, who conveniently forgot that SHE started it, that she graded Eden with a big, fat “F” and drew the frowny face for emphasis.

As long as it isn’t Eden’s AP Chemistry grade . . . now, THAT would be p__py.


Prayer request: My dear friend Michelle had to fly back from Rome unexpectedly last week to have surgery on a broken elbow and forearm. I teased her that she must have been whirling around to slug some Italian man who was pinching her . . . but it has to be painful and an extreme inconvenience. Meanwhile, her darling daughter Cori is struggling with a maelstrom of feelings as the one-year anniversary approaches of that fatal traffic accident in which she was driving, and her best friend Kayla and another classmate were killed. Oh, Lord, thank You for making that family so strong and loving and loveable. Send them help and smiles and a double dose of hope for their tired hearts, Father. Above all, remind them that You are near. (Acts 17:27)

Sunday, March 13, 2005


(T)hy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
-- Genesis 3:16c

In the beginning, God made marriage, and behold, it was good.

But God didn’t make marriage like a tube, where the man and the wife shoot through life joined at the hip, always at the same speed, never veering to the left or the right of each other.

Neither did He make it like railroad tracks, with the two identical rails equally joined at the same distance and depth, traveling at the same velocity through mountain and valley and canyon and plain.

Nooooo. Like everything else in Nature, marriage had to be, well, natural.

And let’s not forget: at the same time God made marriage, He made thunder and lightning . . . and tsunamis and tornados and hailstorms and earthquakes and 100-mph winds.

So God made marriage like a river. It’s alive! It’s complex! It has different speeds and different layers.

At times, it flows along, slowly, sweetly and silently, with gentle curves. Sometimes, it chuckles along on shallow rocks. Sometimes, the flow is fast and change happens quickly. But other times, as with a river-fed chain of lakes, movement is almost imperceptible, and that’s OK, too.

But then there are the rapids. And the swamps. And the waves. And the whitecaps. And the floods. And the droughts. And the waterfalls.

And anytime you have water, you can also have . . . ice.

And that’s what happened to the marriage of some friends of mine in a faraway state. On the surface, their marriage and family life looked terrific, and mostly, it was. Where he was strong, she was weak, and vice versa. It was a good match, a perfect fit.

Life flowed along well for over 15 years. Then, gradually, in came the Ice Age.

Maybe it was job stress or midlife crisis. Maybe it was bills or chores, or the brain paralysis that comes with parenting young teenagers.

Instead of flowing, their marriage pooled up, cold and dark and lifeless. Communication froze into the same old patterns. “Didja take the dog out?” “What’re we having for dinner? Oh. Again?” “You always make such a mess.” “You never get anywhere on time.”

The glacier of disaffection spread. They never went out together. They never laughed and talked or opened up to old friends. If one rented a movie, the other would fall asleep. If one suggested a trip destination, the other would sneer and sigh.

Nobody knew this, of course. They kept it underground. And like stalactites and stalagmites in a cave, the estrangement slowly grew and hardened.

It got to the point where she wondered if he was planning to divorce her. He was going to a marriage counselor, but told her not to come. He wouldn’t let her touch him or hug him. They barely spoke.

She was afraid. Deep down, she still loved him very much. There was their teenager to consider. There were their marriage vows.

Finally, she confided in a friend. How could she break the stalemate? The friend gave her this advice:

Love, to a husband, is spelled s-e-x.

It’s not manipulation: all’s fair in love and war. It’s not deception: it’s what she wants, too. They prayed about it together, and asked others to pray, too.

I don’t know the details, but one night not long ago, she initiated intimacy.

I got tingles over her description of how it went: she said it was “beautiful and sweet.” She expected rejection, but he was open and said he missed that part of her so much. So very much.

She was a wife who met her husband at their deepest centerpoint of need . . . and it broke the ice.

It’s not a solution. They still have a lot of work to do. But the flow is back. There’s warmth. There’s life. There are currents again.

And the heavenly Weatherman? He’s happy. He forecast it, after all.

He knows ice has its purpose from time to time . . . but the real fun is making it melt and go away.


Prayer request: The Battle for Cindy begins this week. If all systems are “go,” my best friend Cindy will begin chemotherapy this week for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. She will endure chemo for several months before the climactic bone marrow transplant. Oh, Father God, we lift up Cindy and her family to You for Your encouragement and blessing as this battle for life and precious health begins in earnest. Thank You for sending so many prayer warriors to fight in her behalf. You say in Your word that the life is in the blood, and that’s true on all levels. Just as the blood of Jesus Christ has saved Cindy’s spirit for eternity, we pray with all our hearts that this treatment will renew, repair and defend her precious physical body and blood and save her precious life. This is for Your glory, Lord. We unite with You in loving her. (Leviticus 17:14)

Saturday, March 12, 2005


I was taking Maddy and a 5-year-old friend named Andrew downtown to the Children’s Museum when he started chattering about how much he likes going to his church.

There are no STRRRRRRANGERS there, he explained. I could tell his parents had warned him about STRRRRRRANGERS.

He enjoys seeing Annie, another little friend from their preschool circle, who quit coming to preschool but attends that church with her family.

And he likes the “talker.” The “talker” is named Pastor Mike. He’s “really, really nice.”

Talker? That sounds like a fun job. My husband says I’m a really, really experienced talker. I wonder if it’s too late for me to go to “talker school” and do that for a living?


Praise report: Our neighbor Steve has organized a work detail to help out an older couple who have a lot of downed limbs from the high winds this past week and other tasks that need to be done. My husband is helping along with several other neighbor men. That’s finishing the work of Jesus, a wonderful purpose. Father, may it please Your heart that these men are giving up their Saturday mornings in this way. Bless their efforts in the hearts of that dear couple and all who hear of this kindness. (John 4:34)

Friday, March 11, 2005


She stands up a lot at work, and she came home that night with aching feet. She changed into her play clothes, and sat on the floor of her closet rummaging around for the arch inserts for her running shoes.

Then she remembered that they were inside another pair of shoes laying under a pile of clothes she had worn while painting a room. That pile was several feet away from the closet. But she was sooooo tired. So instead of standing up and walking over there, she just crawled over on her hands and knees.

She had just come to a stop when she saw her husband’s workboots . . . with him in them . . . and her eyes traveled all the way up to his face, which was displaying a bemused smile.

He walked away, but turned and said with a twinkle in his eyes, "I really don't need to know."

Marriage: sometimes, keeping your dignity can be . . . rrrruff.


Prayer request: Speaking of cute canines, an old friend’s char-pei, Fred, is really sick. His fever was 106 degrees. His “folks” rushed him down to the Kansas State veterinary experts. But they can’t figure out what’s wrong. Father God, we know he’s only a dog. But You made all creatures, great and small, including Fred. They’re all good, including him. He is loved, and he is special. We pray for an end to this mysterious malady so that he can continue to give joy to so many people. (1 Timothy 4:4)

Thursday, March 10, 2005


It’s a brave new world of mothering, here in the Computer Age. I was lecturing Maddy, 4, about something minor that she had done wrong. She didn’t like hearing it, not one bit. She turned to me and said coolly:

“Delete, delete, delete!”


Prayer request: An older friend of mine, much admired, has been through the medical mill lately. Joe’s legs swelled up, and they discovered clots. Then the CAT scan showed that a spot in his lung hadn’t changed despite six weeks of antibiotics. Now they suspect a tumor, and he will have to have a biopsy on Friday. Lord, Your servant Joe has glorified Your name with his faithful and fruitful life. We ask in Jesus’ Name that this medical trial be over with soon, and that Joe will be restored to health to continue to be a good influence for many years to come. (Isaiah 48:9)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Mom called, and I told her that my husband of 27 years was going out with that blonde again. “Oh, where is he going to take your puppy?” she asked, not taking the bait.

My deranged but loveable better half is enjoying a reborn interest in hunting as a hobby. He is intent on training Sunny, our new yellow Lab, to be an excellent hunting dog. He was taking her with him to the trap and skeet range to condition her to the noise so she won’t be gun-shy.

It sounded kind of interesting – something different – so I asked my mom if she would like to go along.

“What? Be around guns AND my son-in-law?” she instantly retorted. “That wouldn’t be a good idea.”

‘Course, if it were a two-legged blonde, he’d be the one to beware. His mother-in-law might not know exactly how to shoot a gun, but she would sure conk him a good one up ‘side o’ his head.


Prayer request: When it rains, it pours. We prayed recently for the sight of a father who was in an accident involving a staple gun. Despite a lot of pain, he is making progress, thank God. But now his son has been in an accident, too: his thumb was severed. Doctors believe it is going to reattach quite nicely, but the family is wondering why their number came up so distinctly with two huge trials. Father God, You are sovereign, and You have allowed these trials. We pray that this family will continue to trust You. We pray that the pain will end soon, that they will remain steadfast in You, and that they will understand the purpose of their suffering and use that knowledge to help others. (Luke 6:23)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


We enjoyed the movie about “Winn Dixie,” the friendly dog with the winning smile. The Southern town, dialogue and scenes depicted in the movie were fun and fascinating. I was happy to add a new epithet to my collection:

“Well, ain’t you just a steamin’ pile o’ pancakes!”

It has it all: the cornpone sarcasm . . . the juxtaposition of warmth and folksiness . . . the suggested shock value of vulgarity averted at the last instant by the unexpected denouement.

Yes, I’m a student of this stuff. No, I don’t think you can have too many epithets in your collection. Yes, I’ve already put it to good use, muttering about a crazy driver in traffic who cut off my lane change just to be ornery.

I called him a steamin’ pile o’ pancakes. Then I smiled like Winn Dixie.


Prayer request: A friend’s son is a pastor at James River Assembly near Springfield, Mo. On Sunday, Kimmy, an eighth-grade girl, came forward at an altar call and dedicated her life to Jesus. She prayed, the congregation prayed and the pastor prayed. Her mother, a 40-year-old believer, was at her side. Well, on Monday morning, her mother, Deborah, was killed in a car accident. Naturally, the pastor seeks concerted prayer that the flame in Kimmy's heart will not be extinguished by the trauma of this tragedy. As his mother put it, we should pray that “the Holy Spirit's breath will gently and steadily blow over Kimmy, and that the prayer shield of the saints will protect her until the fire that was ignited inside of her yesterday is raging and spreading; that she will know that her mother is in the presence of Jesus, celebrating with the saints and angels the newborn-in-faith that Kimmy now is. Her daddy and two younger siblings need major coverage as well, as does the body of James River as they come alongside this family.” Oh, Lord, the timing here speaks eloquently of Your provision, but also may give the Enemy an opportunity to plant seeds of doubt. We humbly pray Your protection over this family, in Jesus’ Name. (Zephaniah 2:3)

Monday, March 07, 2005


Last week, I bragged that our daughter Neely had found a dress for her college formal on sale for $16. She sent us a picture. Wow! She looks beautiful, in shimmering hot pink.

I have NEVER looked THAT good, much less for $16. You can’t even buy STEAKS for $16. At my age, $16 wouldn’t even cover the wrinkle cream. Besides that, there’d be the nuclear-strength girdle, cheaters’ haircolor, 42 weeks of personal training, etc. etc.


Prayer request: Lord, we lift up to you my best friend Cindy and Dave’s best friend Steve. They both love You and worship You, but both are needing an extra special touch from You today. Teach them of Your love, perhaps in a dream or in a silent, private moment of prayer. Send them a message or a sign to let them know how much You love them, and how near You are. Holy Spirit, their true Best Friend, come. (Psalm 16:7)

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love;
In honour preferring one another. . . .
-- Romans 12:10

Everybody in our town is up in arms about a hostile takeover battle waged against us by our big, bossy neighbor. Omaha is determined to annex our little Elkhorn on the far western fringe of this county. They’re marrying us strictly for our money. There isn’t even going to be a honeymoon.

Oh, we’re trying to fight it. There’ve been defiant letters to the editor, and tears from tough guys at public meetings. Protest signs are going up. At the hardware store and Dick’s Hillrise Market, the heart of the community, you see people standing in little groups, chewing things over, trying to find a way out.

People live here because they DON’T want to live in the big city. That’s being taken away from us, against our will, with the stroke of a pen.

We left our midtown Omaha home on a four-lane street to settle on our spacious three acres here, six years ago. We love it that you can have horses, and there’s more grass than pavement. All around, you see boats, campers, dogs, kids, big gardens, tall trees, wild turkeys, snowmobiles, ATVs, swingsets, joggers, walkers and . . . life. Lots of life.

Best of all are the stars. The city lights are far enough away that you can go out on your patio, look up, and see layers of shimmering diamonds on black velvet. Just like out in the country. Which this still is, no matter what the slick city attorneys say.

Our old neighborhood in midtown Omaha, “back East,” was pretty formal. You didn’t wear sweats to the grocery store. You drove someplace to go work out. People barely knew their neighbors’ names.

But out here, there’s a Progressive Dinner and an Easter egg hunt, two neighborhood clean-ups with potluck picnics, a great Fourth of July celebration, and a newspaper that focuses on encouraging local kids. Two of our neighbors are on the City Council; two others serve on the Park Board. You see the city administrator at the quick shop, and there’s, like, two crimes per year.

When we moved in, we quickly realized we’d left the stuffed-shirt neighborhood far behind. The doorbell rang. It was two cute kids, their cute mom, and their 6’5” dad . . . holding out an enormous zucchini and other homegrown vegetables, sporting a T-shirt depicting fishing equipment and the message:

“Reel men play with their flies.”

The neighborhood welcome wagon! Are these our kind of people, or what?

But now Elkhorn people are getting ridiculed as rubes for opposing the annexation. Our public servants are getting bashed as being “unprofessional,” implying that they’ll lose their jobs.

Let me tell you about “unprofessional” public service.

Last weekend, we took Maddy to the Shrine Circus at the Civic Auditorium downtown, operated by the City of Omaha. I phoned ahead for three reserved seats at $11 each. With the order fees, it came to an astonishing $47.40 for the outing, not counting Maddy’s snow cone and cheesy lightsword. We got there at 3:55 for the 4 p.m. circus expecting to get right in . . . but we had to stand in line for 30 minutes. Why? Because the City of Omaha didn’t have a Will-Call set up. They had only three cashiers for the hordes of would-be circus goers.

Talk about a clown act.

Now contrast that with this: last month, I took Maddy to the very nice kiddie section of the Elkhorn Public Library. They give you service with a smile; you walk in and they greet you by name. Well, it was a snowy day, and I didn’t realize I’d left my library card there ‘til late that afternoon, when my doorbell rang . . . and the librarian handed it back to me.

With a smile.

We both smiled, in fact.

That’s “reel” public service. That’s how “reel” neighbors treat each other.

I can see why Omaha wants to bag us. We’ve got something they want. I just wish there were a way for us to tell them, “Go fish!”


Prayer request: Regan, a little baby girl in Columbus, Neb., has died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), one of 2,500 victims each year in this nation of that hard-to-understand syndrome. Her parents, Lynn and Jason, are devastated, but relying on their strong Christian faith to pull through this trial. The local newspaper ran a heartbreakingly cute picture of the baby at Christmastime, in the arms of her two older sisters. Lord, we lift up this precious family and pray that their trust in You and the blessed hope of Your gospel will sustain them. (Colossians 1:5)

Saturday, March 05, 2005


I got an emailed news story out of Nairobi about a baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami but got separated from his mama. He has bonded with a foster parent, a giant, male, century-old tortoise, in an animal facility in the port city of Mombassa.

The hippo, nicknamed “Owen” and weighing about 650 pounds, eats, swims and sleeps with the tortoise, following him just the way he would follow his mother. An ecologist said hippos are social animals who remain with their mothers usually four years.

I’ve seen a lot of things in my time, but this belongs in the Cuteness Hall of Fame.


Prayer request: We pray for a strong recovery from quadruple-bypass surgery for our good friend Tom, the father of three and a former assistant softball coach for our daughter. Lord, he’s such a good man, and so young to have such serious cardiac problems. We pray in one accord that this intervention will gain him decades of rich, fulfilling life, ever growing in the knowledge of You and how You are his one and only true hope. (1 Peter 1:21)

Friday, March 04, 2005


My cousin’s friend is very sad. Her mother died, and it’s been a shock.

Turns out the dear lady was 88 years old. I immediately thought of the keys of a piano. There are 88 of them. I can’t imagine any notes that are lower or higher than those on a piano. Therefore, having 88 years in the song of your life seems good and full and complete, on a mysteriously beautiful and very grand scale.

You can’t say life doesn’t have its sharps and flats . . . ‘course, mine lately has been so busy, it’s in thirty-secondth notes with no rests.


Prayer request: A friend’s niece, Kelly, sustained brain damage in a snowmobiling accident a couple of weeks ago. The mother of two young children, she is having some short-term memory and speech problems amid other injuries. The doctors are convinced she’s going to be good as new, but it has been a big scare and a trial for the family. Father God, bring Kelly all the way back. Restore her strength and vitality for the sake of those two innocent children, and for Your glory. (Genesis 18:19)

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Meth addicts struggle hour by hour.

Alcoholics struggle day by day.

But Girl Scout cookies addicts can go a whole year without giving in to the temptation to carbo-load themselves into oblivion. I’m afraid I succumbed to my annual Thin Mints obsession yesterday.

I told myself they would make me thin. Dang! Never believe advertising claims. Before I knew it, I’d eaten a whole box.

Blurb, blurb, blurb. I was feeling pretty bad about myself until Maddy came home from preschool and announced that Jacob’s brother had eaten a whole box.

I thought I was caught. I asked mildly, “Imagine that! A whole box of Girl Scout cookies?”

Noooooo. A whole box. Just a box. A cardboard box.


Bet that whole box wouldn’t make you thin either. . . .


Praise report: Our college daughter Neely hit two home runs with one email to her father yesterday. First, she thanked him for paying her sorority bill. How many young adults ever think of that? And then she said she had found a dress for the big formal dance this weekend for $16. She’s such a clotheshorse, you KNOW it’s pretty, too. Father God, we praise You for the thoughtful and frugal people in our lives. Bless Neely for her lovely ways. (Psalm 147:13)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Here’s a story from the Imogene (Iowa) Hub, a truly wacky monthly newspaper:

A rural family with three daughters was raising a flock of sheep. One day, one of the girls saw that a sheep had crawled under a parked pickup. She ran to Mom for help.

Mom had the girls throw rocks at the animal to get it to move out from under the truck. It wouldn’t budge.

So Mom figured it must be stuck. In front of her three little girls, she went to pull the animal out by its protruding leg.

She gave the leg a jerk . . . and it came off into her hands.

Turns out the poor thing had passed away, and had started to decompose.

Ewwww! I’m sure the little girls’ screams are still echoing. Pass the mint jelly? NOT!


Prayer request: When it rains, it pours, Lord. Strengthen and console my good friend Penny, who will have to be in pain for another week after her rotator cuff surgery until the staples come out . . . and be with her daughter-in-law, who had two precancerous skin cancers detected . . . and help Penny’s dog Cooper heal after he consumed a bunch of chocolate and nearly died . . . and help her son Rodney understand why he had to contract mono and miss a mission trip to Thailand. . . . We’re surprised that the Bible doesn’t have a verse with “uff da,” Lord. But You are sovereign, Your purposes are always good, and somehow, this will all work out for Your glory. (Psalm 46:1-3)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


We took the Madster to the Shrine Circus last weekend. Despite the thrilling acrobatics, the human cannonball, the dancing dogs, the clown on stilts, what do you suppose captured her attention?

The size of a certain pile that was left in the center ring after the elephant act.


For this, we spent $47.30 for the three of us? Oh, well, the experience also included a snowcone and a cheesy plastic lightsword for Maddy. It telescopes out in a rainbow of colors and she loves it.

The trouble is, she calls it her “lighter.”

I’m sure there’ll be a lot of tsk-tsking in the homes of her fellow preschoolers tonight, as they contemplate our family, which is so depraved, our 4-year-old must already smoke because she has her own lighter!


Prayer request: The love of our earthly parents is a foretaste of You, Father, and so when they are taken from us at any age, it hurts. We lift up for Your gentle touch a married couple, Marilyn and Bob. Bob’s mother has died after complications from open-heart surgery, and his father died last April. Continue to draw Marilyn, Bob and their family to You with Your lovingkindness, a foretaste of the joy their parents are experiencing with You now. (Jeremiah 31:3)