Saturday, April 30, 2005


I read about a mother of a 2-year-old who diligently dieted until she had dropped a pants size. You’ll see why I chose that word in a moment:

She was proud that she could wear her yoga pants lower on her hips to show off her more svelte physique. She hauled her little child with her on errands, including a stop at the post office with an armload of packages to mail. She instructed her little one to stay close to her, and the little one complied by velcro’ing herself to Mom’s pant legs. . . .

You guessed it! The newly loose sweatpants plunged down around Mom’s ankles, right there in the crowded P.O. You could say she was more embarrassed than P.O.’ed.

But that’s why I don’t diet. It’s easy enough already for me to look silly in public. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Pass the M&M’s.


Praise report: Father, in the three houses we’ve lived in since we were married, there has always been a “signature” tree. First it was the enormous silver maple that shaded our back yard and three others. Next it was the magnificent Chinese elm that survived the wave of elm disease and gave so much character and life to our driveway and front yard. Now it is the incredibly beautiful Japanese snow crab right outside our kitchen window. It buds red, turns pink, and blossoms white, like a huge popcorn ball right now. Lord, Your amazing creativity shows up so much in the wonderful trees that share our lives. We look up at them . . . and see You. (Genesis 2:9)

Friday, April 29, 2005


(photo of an enormous beige cloud descending on a desert settlement)

This picture shows:

An eruption of dust kicked up by Susan’s sudden decision to clean the window blinds throughout her house after procrastinating for several years.

Rare color photo taken in the 1930s Dust Bowl of Thayer County, Nebraska, near Carleton, or so an old friend who used to live there surmised, even though they didn’t have color photography then, which just must explain why it is so doggone rare.

Sandstorm traveling 60 mph into an air base at Al Asad, Iraq, on Tuesday, and circulated on the Internet with the amusing caption, “Run, Forest!”


Praise report: We thank You, Father, for good news on the health front: our beloved friend Cindy has a normal white-blood count after two rounds of chemotherapy for chronic leukemia – moving from a level of 400,000 to 7,000 in less than two months, which is amazing, miraculous and wonderful, though she still has two more rounds of chemo and a bone marrow transplant ahead of her. We thank You, too, for the excellent healing of a broken arm and an eye problem, both sustained by our dear relative Robbie in Durham, N.C., who is still willing to host our daughter’s graduation party in a few weeks despite those health challenges. Bless and keep these two marvelous and righteous women, Lord, and draw them to Your heart. (Psalm 146:8)

Thursday, April 28, 2005


A neighbor’s fish named “Fish” is over 12 years old, and is still going strong, despite a few pesky disabilities. Talk about the bass “running” . . . well, this little fish is “limping,” but he’s still in the race.

He has hemorrhages, which show up as Halloween eyes – blood red. He has strokes, after which he swims sideways like a drunken sailor for a while.

The big, fancy-tailed goldfish is mostly blind, so they purposely overfeed him in hopes that he can at least stumble onto some of the food before it falls to the gravel bottom of his aquarium.

No wonder he’s lived to be such a geezer. He was a tough fishie from the start. He was purchased in a school of a dozen “feeder” fish. They are usually little ones who are kind of sick and on their last “fins,” sold as “scrap” by the pet stores. He was supposed to be dinner for the resident piranha, now long gone, ominously named “Guido.”

Apparently, our hero was able to duck and bob and weave, and avoid getting eaten, for so many days that my neighbor took a shine to him. She fished him out, and put him in his own aquarium, where he has long since outlived Guido, and had the place of honor to the left of the kitchen sink ever since.

Now, that’s a fish story they can tell at the next AARG meeting – American Association of Retired Goldfish.


Prayer request: Today is the birthday of someone I love very much, my cousin Mollie. May she be showered with Your blessings today, Lord, and reminded many times of how many people love her and wish her a happy, happy day. Give her the gift of increased faith, Lord Jesus, and strength to bear her burdens humbly and well. (Hebrews 11:1)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


This is the time of year when the fishermen flaunt their wisdom upon the rest of us unwashed masses. Spring fishing. Ah, yes. You know, they’ll stroke their unshaven chins under their ancient felt hats, give one of those “I remember how it was in 1957” faraway looks, and intone with reverence:

“Walp . . . the lilacs are in bloom, so the bass are running.”

Fish out of water, and in a hurry? What for? It reminds me of all those bulls that run through those narrow streets in Spain, and makes about as much sense. Fish . . . running? What, with Nike swooshes on their fins?

I guess these fishermen like their little superstitions and traditions. All I know is, I’d rather smell an arm full of lilacs than an armful of fish, any old day.


Prayer request: A young woman named Chris has found a lump in her skin that she fears may be cancer. She has had to have precancerous lesions removed from her skin in the recent past. Oh, Lord, she is so young! We pray in Jesus’ Name that this lump be something easy to fix and nothing to worry about. (Psalm 103:13)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Maddy is only 5 but she can already count to 10 in four languages: English, Spanish, French . . . and Gump.

She has discovered that noise you can make with your mouth closed when you push a bubble of air upward with your tongue. It makes a guttural noise – kind of a “gump.”

Well, last night at bedtime, she was making me guess what she was saying in Gump syllables. “I love my tiger” wasn’t hard because she was holding her stuffed animal and giving me lots of eyebrow clues. “I love you!” was really easy.

But then she stumped me: “Gump gump gump gump gump gump!”

Hunh? What sweet sentiment was she trying to impart?

“Gump gump gump gump gump GUMP!!!”

Whaaa? “I love Daddy upSTAIRS”? “I hope you have sweet DREAMS”?

She collapsed in hilarity. Noooooo:

“I am picking my NOSE!!!”

In bridge, you get trumped. In motherhood, you get . . . Gumped.


Prayer request: A young man who was suffering and in jeopardy because of an untreated mental illness has returned home to Omaha from the Pacific Northwest, accompanied by his brother, and is speaking positively about resuming his medication. We praise You and thank You, Father, for hearing our prayers for David, and sending mature Christians into his path to help steer him toward the help he needs. Bring him all the way home now, Father – into new Christian birth, and a full and wonderful relationship with You, setting a marvelous example for his family and friends to follow. (Romans 5:3,4)

Monday, April 25, 2005


The other day, we heard about a talkative appendectomy patient who was finally stifled by an anesthesiologist’s swift and firm application of a gas mask. We agreed that a technological breakthrough that would instantly quiet a talkative wife was a husband’s dream.

Well, mine came home over the weekend with another one: he is going all out training our hunting dog, and now he has gotten her a SHOCK COLLAR.

I can see it now. He’ll put a few diamonds on one as a disguise, give it to me, and:

“Leftovers for dinner AGAIN?” ZZZZZAP!

“You spent HOW much at the garden store?” ZZZZZAP!

“You FORGOT to get the oil changed . . . since 2001?” ZZZZZAP!!!!!

Don’t feel sorry for me. I can’t wait to put one of my own . . . on the remote.

Ancient golf reruns, huh? ZZZZZAP!

Cheesy war movies? ZZZZZAP!

Talking heads on Fox, when a great movie with Mel or Kevin is on the other channel? ZZZZZAP!!!!!

This could get addictive: dueling electrodes. The real shock will be what we could spend on batteries.


Prayer request: I have a couple of important meetings this week that could help me make a longtime dream come true. Father, I ask in Jesus’ Name that the counsel I receive be wise and insightful. May Your creativity and practicality guide their words and help me see how to get where I want to go. (Isaiah 30:21)

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings,
and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
-- Luke 12:6,7

Long ago, a little boy we know encountered a dead baby bird on the driveway after a big thunderstorm. His family can still quote him exactly:

“The rain hitted him on the head.

“The thun-dare scaaaaaaaaa-wed him.

“The lightning struckeded him, and deaded him.”

He said it solemnly. He said it sincerely. And no one will ever let him live it down.

But hey: I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love baby birdies.

I’m right there with them. Recently, a bird got caught inside our porch. She kept throwing herself at the windows, repeatedly stunning herself when what seemed to be air, wasn’t.

I went out there with a broom, nudged her onto it, and gave her a quick ride to the nearest door. She zoomed to the nearest tree branch, and gave me a loud, long pep talk.

“Figures you’d use your broom,” my husband remarked. (He thinks I’m a lot nicer to timid woodland creatures than to him.)

The point is, I was desperate to help her. Everyone I know has a similar story. Why should we care so much about birds? Most of the ones around our homes, you can’t eat. Their songs aren’t that melodious, their feathers aren’t that colorful, and they don’t make good pets.

You know: robins and sparrows, starlings and chickadees. We live around a lot of little gray and brown birdies that don’t seem to be anything special.

Kind of like us humans. You can’t eat us, we don’t sing that well, our plumage is drab sweatshirts and jeans, and we don’t make very good pets, either.

But birds can fly. How we love to watch them fly! They can defy gravity! They can transcend things that tie other creatures down!

And if THEY can do it. . . .

On the wings of birds fly our own unspoken wishes, that from time to time we might fly . . . that there might be things about us that are worthwhile and marvelous and unexpected, too. Things to make others love us, and take care of us . . . including that Big Bird in the sky, the One Who made us all in the first place.

As usual, the heart of a child sees this most clearly.

It happened last week, between rainstorms: Maddy, 5, was on an evening jaunt with her dad on the ATV, down to our neighborhood pond to check on the visiting geese and the box turtle.

I was fixing dinner when suddenly, there was a noise outside like a speeding tank. The door slammed open. Furious little footsteps pounded down the hall.

“MOM!!! There’s a baby birdie! Down at the pond! He’s tangled in fishing line! He can’t fly and he’s getting tired! He’s going to die if we don’t cut him loose! I need the scissors!”

Her eyebrows formed a perfect “V” of loving concern.

Her hair had been whipped into a wet mop in the rain and the wind.

My heart nearly burst at the sight of her, in her ladybug raincoat and stomp-the-puddles boots, cautiously carrying the sharp end of those scissors in her fist while hurrying back to the waiting ATV.

They rushed back to the young robin and cut the line. He immediately vaulted to the nearest high branch, and gave them a loud, long pep talk.

When they came home, they were drenched, but beaming.

They were heroes.

They’d noticed, and they’d cared.

They’d saved a life.

By their efforts, they’d shared in the ecstatic moment of release, that joyous flight.

They felt a little bit like God feels. He does that kind of thing every second of every day, for all of His chicks, fancy and fine-feathered, or meek and plain.

It’s an old song, but it has wings:

I sing because I’m happy /
I sing because I’m free /
His eye is on the sparrow /
And I know He watches me.


Praise report: This may be one that men post on refrigerators and bulletin boards with glee, Lord, but that’s OK. A few weeks ago, a reader of my daily email asked for prayer for her marriage, which was mired in middle-age “stuff” and looked to be ending in an ice age. Prayer warriors went to battle for her, and recommended that she turn up the thermostat, bigtime, in the romance department. That’s right, s-e-x. It’s so foreign to us women to be forward, Father, and yet You made men to need us, and vice versa. Well, glory be, the strategy worked to melt the ice and jump-start the relationship anew. She writes, “We started marriage counseling on our 16th wedding anniversary -- a new beginning. Hard work ahead, but both 100% committed that it is worth the effort. We are also going to a Christian marriage renewal weekend at the end of the month so it will be great to have a few days away together to just focus on our marriage and each other.” We praise You and thank You, Lord, for the wife’s faithfulness and the husband’s loving and delighted response, and for all those who prayed and now share in this victory. May this precious couple live happily ever after, by Your grace. (1 Corinthians 7:3)

Saturday, April 23, 2005


A very fun and bubbly friend was telling us about her emergency appendectomy in Des Moines. She was there alone with her daughter for a soccer tournament. It was quite an ordeal, but her hilarious facial expressions, gestures and storytelling skills made listening to her long, long account a very enjoyable experience.

Finally, she got to the surgery itself, which was in the middle of the night. She said she was telling a really, really funny story while they had her all ready to go on the table. The anesthesiologist waited patiently as she continued to tell this really, really funny story.

Finally, he said briskly, “That is a really, really funny story, but now it’s time for you to stop telling it,” and he snapped that gas mask on her talkative face and shut her up, faster than you could say “Jiminy Christmas.”

We all laughed when someone exclaimed, “It’s a husband’s dream!”


Prayer request: Someone who is very sweet and reserved has become increasingly dismayed over the unhealthy choices that are being made by someone she cares about. She is mustering the courage to speak out about it and risk their longtime friendship. We pray for wisdom, patience and a winning mix of empathy and reality for her in the delivery of that perhaps unwelcome message. We are sure it bears Your truth and expresses Your will. In Jesus’ Name, we ask that You bless that conversation, Father, and turn that life around fully toward You. (James 5:7,8)

Friday, April 22, 2005


I was reading an interview with Steve Brown, the dean of radio in Omaha, and he told about his friendship with the Beach Boys dating from the early days of his career in southern California.

After they got pretty famous and had leased the home of Edgar Rice Burroughs – the “Tarzan” guy – Brown was invited over for a visit.

Beach Boy Mike Love met Brown at the door and “shhh’ed” him, but not before he had spotted the formal living room. All of the furniture was gone and the carpet was covered with six inches of sand. The only other thing in the room was a little pup tent over in the corner.

Inside, sleeping, was brilliant songwriter Brian Wilson. It seems he had had five dump trucks worth of beach sand brought there so that he could “get the beach feeling back.”

Gee. I’m weird and quirky, and I have a lot of dirt in my house. Wonder why I’m not a famous millionaire by now?


Prayer request: Lord, we pray for a hedge of protection around the entire Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, especially for the pharmacies. Why? There is a report that a major arrest has been made in drug trafficking – which is of course good news – but that may portend a rash of robberies and potential violence in area pharmacies as the drug trade adjusts to the loss of a major source of supply. Don’t let it happen, Lord. We pray against addiction in all forms, and for peace of mind and Your blessing on pharmacists, now and always. (Psalm 37:28)

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Footnote to yesterday’s story about a waving butterfly: in this beautiful message from a teacher of first-grade girls in a Catholic school, we learn more about the butterfly as a Christian symbol . . . and source of delight:

“Today we released our batch of Painted Lady butterflies into the school courtyard. We nursed them through the larva and pupa stages and this week actually saw them come out of the chrysalis in our butterfly pavilion. What a grand learning experience for first graders!

“But as you know, there is always an inside, sometimes deeper story when little girls are involved. Yesterday after lunch the girls were at their highest level of excitement with the announcement that we had a Pope, and while we were writing in our journals and watching the news coverage to learn the name of the new Pope, our fifth and final butterfly was born (with all those Vatican bells for background music).

“Well, they could hardly contain themselves. Meanwhile, the night before, something happened, and in the morning, we found two of the butterflies flat on the bottom of the pavilion, supposedly dead. I thought, ‘That's OK, we'll talk about life AND death.’ But soon after the Pope was announced, one of the ‘deceased’ butterflies somehow started to maneuver his wings and began to fly!

“The girls insisted it was a MIRACLE from the new Pope and named it Lazarus! (I know, you are really shaking your head by now.) Anyway, when I shared this story with my cousin from Denver last night, she responded that she's surprised they didn't name the newest butterfly . . . yes, you guessed it . . . Benedict!

“Today it was in the 80's so we trekked outside, unzipped the pavilion and let them soar . . . except the one that died. I gently laid it on the ground by some bushes and before long the girls formed a little procession and told me they were having a funeral, and so sweetly laid layers of dandelions, hyacinths and forsythia blossoms in a mound atop.

“And then they danced around as the healthy butterflies danced above them.”


Praise report: We are blessed by Your choice of Pope Benedict, Father, and we pray down all wisdom, courage, strength, truth and health upon him. Through his leadership and example, may many apparently-dead souls spring back to life, and soar. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


A butterfly got in to our screened-in porch, where we eat dinner during the spring and summer. We were all gazing up at him. He was alternately trying to escape through the skylight and resting on the woodwork. We were wondering what kind he was.

I think he was a Red Admiral, but it’s been a while since I’ve boned up on butterflies. I need to do so, with a young daughter coming up through the ranks ready to pack in the information in every department.

Maddy then reminded me of the amusing and amazing egocentricity of the 5-year-old mind as the butterfly opened and closed its wings:

“He waved at me!”


Prayer request: Hearts are heavy at the death Tuesday of a beautiful wife and mother named Anne. She had been stricken while teaching at a local university three weeks ago, and apparently never recovered consciousness. As her grown children gather and friends surround this family, we pray that the unbreakable strand of faith in You will wrap everyone together, with the hope that they’ll all see her again one day in heaven. (Proverbs 14:32)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


I love this neighborhood. The other day, someone’s gelding got loose and galloped through our yard, leaving hoofprints six inches deep in the rain-soaked lawn. I helped corral him with a bucket of sweet grain, and don’t mind the gashes in our grass because it was such a fun few moments chasing him down.

Periodically, we have to deal with a flock of very tall, very bossy wild turkeys who stroll across the roads out here and refuse to move faster than their customary 1 mph. Again, we don’t mind sharing the road with them. I marvel at how much they all look like E.T.

But this latest one takes the cake: my neighbor thought she saw a deer out her main-floor window the other morning at 7. She grabbed a camera, and sure enough, in her front yard, there was a yearling. He still had white spots on his flank, but he was pretty big.

She crouched down low, hands on knees, to get at eye level with him, and said soothingly, “Hi, Baby!” But he wasn’t soothed.

He lowered his head and ran at her – butting her with his head – knocking her to the ground!

She scrambled up and got inside, grateful that he hadn’t grown any antlers yet.

She is the first person I’ve ever met to have been butted by a Bambi. Let’s just be glad it wasn’t a baby buffalo!


Praise report: Two little girls who had to undergo surgeries for bone spurs in the Twin Cities have returned after highly-successful procedures for both. Thank You, Jesus, for the good medical team surrounding Chasse and Hazelle. May they run and play painlessly, and joyously, this summer. (Psalm 89:15,16)

Monday, April 18, 2005


A friend’s aunt passed away recently while singing “Cabaret” at a karaoke bar. She was in her 70s, which paints a rather unusual picture. The words to that song make it a pretty apt swan song:

What good is sitting

Alone in your room,
Come hear the music play!
Life is a cabaret, old chum,
Come to the cabaret.

Put down the knitting,
The book and the broom,
It's time for a holiday.
Life is a cabaret, old chum,
Come to the cabaret.

Come taste the wine,
Come hear the band.
Come blow your horn,
Start celebrating!
Right this way,
Your table's waiting!

No use permitting
Some prophet of doom
To wipe every smile away.
Life is a cabaret, old chum,
Come to the cabaret.

I used to have
This girlfriend known as "Elsie"
With whom I shared
Four sordid rooms In Chelsea
She wasn't what you'd call
A blushing flower
As a matter of fact
She rented by the hour.

The day she died
The neighbors came to snicker;
Well, that's what comes
From too much pills and liquor.
But when I saw her
Laid out like a queen,

She was the happiest corpse
I'd ever seen.

I think of Elsie to this very day.
I remember how she'd turn
To me and say:

What good is sitting
Alone in your room?
Come hear the music play!
Life is a cabaret, old chum,
Come to the cabaret.

And as for me,
And as for me,
I made my mind up
Back in Chelsea
When I go,I'm going like Elsie!

Start by admitting
From cradle to tomb
There isn't that long a stay.
Life is a cabaret, old chum.
Only a cabaret, old chum,
And I love a cabaret!


Prayer request: The same friend whose aunt died with her singing boots on has since lost the stepfather of her ex-husband – two family deaths within a couple of weeks. She’s not sure either person was a believer. Lord, we pray that they were, and we pray that this loss will inspire others within that family to come to saving faith – the REAL Cabaret! (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Sunday, April 17, 2005


We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,
and not to please ourselves.
-- Romans 15:1

When we got our puppy Sunny Bone-O, a friend of mine was extra happy for us. He had a very special canine companion for 16 years. He swears he’ll never have another one.

Fremont was a German Shepherd mix with stand-up, show-dog ears. He weighed over 100 pounds. My friend lived then in Fremont, Neb., so he gave him that name temporarily. It stuck.

They were inseparable. Fremont had the wisest eyes, and never messed up a thing. He seemed to know what you were thinking. Maybe he did.

The years passed. The hips began to go. Fremont downshifted to an occasional lope, then slow padding. Finally, he moved very little at all.

My friend gave Fremont the best of veterinary care. He nearly drove him to a vet school in another state for a series of operations. But there was no guarantee. So they didn’t go.

Time passed. People said he really ought to put that old dog to sleep and put him out of his misery.

My friend would stiffen. Misery? What misery? There was no evidence Fremont was in pain. He never whined or made a mess. He was just old.

Finally, they went to the dreaded vet appointment. The doctor said now was the time. It had to be done.

My friend’s eyes filled with tears. He picked up his dog in his arms, loaded him in his car, and went back home.

The vet, who got a little choked up himself, waited ‘til the end of the day, and then he called.

“Well,” my friend said, “if you come over right now, and do it right here, where he can be at home with me right by his side, I guess I’ll let you do it.”

And that’s how it went down: a gentle needle stick, and a beloved dog’s eyes closed for the last time, his head cradled in the lap of his master, who sobbed his heart out, right there on the front porch.

Even though it was more than a year ago, when he told me about it, there was such love and pain in his eyes, reminding me so much of the dogs I have loved and lost, that I got a little choked up myself.

Throughout the recent Terri Schiavo ordeal, my mind kept replaying that scene, evidence of a loyal, faithful, covenant relationship.

You know, so much of what goes on with pets mirrors what goes on with people. Companion animals are family, after all. They’re the “farm team” for human relations.

We all have stories about times when our beloved pets have died. It’s important for kids to see our tears and experience the wrenching loss and loneliness. They’ll see what love is, and how the more civilized you are, the better you treat the ones who are weak and sick.

So here’s what keeps going through my mind: would anybody I know purposely starve and dehydrate a pet to death?

No matter how old and frail and “useless” they had become, would anybody do that?

Furthermore, mercy killing may be humane stewardship of an animal, but what about doing anything that you know will kill an innocent human being made in the image of God? And your action would prevent God from working a miracle if He so chooses?

Much less outright killing them by denying them food and water?

And yet here was Terri Schiavo, a disabled woman, younger than I am, on no special life support other than food and water – no ventilator, no “heroic measures.” She was not in a “persistent vegetative state,” according to solid medical opinion. There was hope she might revive.

And yet she was deprived of food and water until she died.

You know the old saying: “That shouldn’t happen to a dog.”

No kidding.

And if she had had the love in her life that Fremont did, and legal backing for her absolute right to life, it wouldn’t have.

All we can do is live and learn . . . and promise each other, “Never again.”

Praise report: Father, we are so thankful that our beloved friend Cindy’s leukemia is so responsive to chemotherapy. Her white count dropped from 400,000 to 60,000 after the first course recently. The doctor said it was the most “brilliant” response he’d ever seen. Help keep her spirits up and keep her body fighting so successfully. We praise You and thank You for sending so many prayer warriors streaming in to the river of her life, and we ask that they keep it up. (John 7:38)

Saturday, April 16, 2005


I’ve just heard about the most creative food that will be served at an upcoming high-school graduation party.

The son was a baseball jock all through school, and the daughter has played softball since she was itty bitty. So the parents have basically spent the last 15 years at ballfields, and enjoyed many a traditional concession stand meal.

So it makes me smile to learn that, at her graduation party, Kristy is going to serve “Frito Pies.”

These are the immensely high-calorie, sodium-drenched, but delicious, treats where you tug open an individual-size sack of Fritos corn chips, mush the chips to the sides a little bit, blob in a big dollop of chili, and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Close it and shake it. Then eat this pie right out of the sack, with a plastic spoon. Ah! Now, THAT’S good.

What a way to mark the end of an era: with ballfield gourmet.


Prayer request: We pray for two young people, Dan and Caroline, to be guided by the Holy Spirit in conversations they are having this weekend about their future. O Lord of all relationships, keep them tender-hearted toward one another, gentle in patience, excellent in trust, heeding Your counsel, and working together to compromise and be of one accord, for their good and Your glory. (Hebrews 10:23)

Friday, April 15, 2005


Back and biceps are barking this morning after several hours of yardwork yesterday. What a glorious spring day for it. But I’m dog-tired, my muscles are howling, and working that hard at my age can be . . . rough, rough.

Maddy, 5, cheered me up. She dashed around, barefoot, long braid flying, green shorts outfit making her look like a tulip about to pop. She brought me countless dandelions, which she calls “flowers,” and helped me spot the rest.

She made me smile, too. “Mom! Why are you digging up the Lucky Charms?” she demanded.

Naw, these are only THREE-leaf clovers. Not the same at all.

Ohhhhh. That’s OK, then. She zoomed off.

I felt lucky and charmed, with a more cheerful attitude about weeding . . . though I’m still a crab about crabgrass.


Prayer request: We lift up for Your tender guidance this morning, Lord, a man named Patrick, who is going to see an old friend in the hospital, at her request, to explain the Gospel to her. Margie has cancer and is hemorrhaging in the brain. Oh, Jesus, prepare her heart and propel his words for direct hits, so that she will believe and be able to spend eternity with loved ones, most of all You. (John 3:3-7)

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Some people remember their times tables. Some remember their science experiment that went awry, or their big report on Nicaragua.

But what my friend Dan remembers about school is the time his kindergarten classmate Tommy pulled a KNIFE on the teacher. For money? Power? More graham crackers with his milk? Noooooo.

He wanted her to let the class finish Show ‘n’ Tell.

Now, there’s an intense individual. Wonder what he’s like all grown up? Gulp.

It seems the class had been rowdy, and their teacher stopped Show ‘n’ Tell in midstream as a punishment. Tommy snapped, because he had something COOL to show, and now here she was, canceling his turn in the spotlight.

So he pulled out the cool thing that he wanted to show and tell about – his brother’s KNIFE – and brandished it with his demands.

My friend says the teacher’s eyes got like saucers. She gingerly inched toward Tommy with her hand outstretched, murmuring something like, “That’s nice, Tommy, everyone has seen it; now put it in my hand, and go see the principal.”

I’m sure the principal did a little show ‘n’ tell of his own, with Tommy’s parents. With the reports coming out about weapons in schools today, maybe they should rename it “show ‘n’ tell ‘n’ frisk.”


Praise report: Thank You, Jesus, for the happy, healthy birth of a friend’s new granddaughter, Elizabeth, to be called Lizzie. May these days of joy and great change in that family be savored and shared, for Your glory. May Lizzie’s parents lead her to come to love You, and may Lizzie be close to her grandmother all her life and gain from that very special relationship. (Psalm 91:14)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


A few of us were talking about our fondest school memories. Mine was the day three things happened in rapid succession in algebra class. It was like a movie. This shows you why, although I never liked algebra, I always liked algebra class:

1) A girl was so intimidated by our teacher that she wet her pants at her desk rather than ask for permission to go to the restroom, and . . .

2) A rather chubby girl at the next desk was so shocked by this that, when she leaned over to helpfully put a piece of paper on the puddle to try to blot it up, she came crashing down onto the floor. She landed on her side, her girth wedged tight in between the desktop and attached chair, and . . .

(I distinctly remember her little legs churning helplessly fore and aft, trying to right herself. I don’t remember laughing; I just remember my disbelieving eyes being riveted on the scene, until, last, but not least:)

3) The teacher got so stressed out over all of this, he lit a CIGARETTE and smoked it right there in the classroom. He kind of hunkered down low to his desk, pretending to be absorbed in his teacher’s manual, although of course we could all see the cigarette smoke curling up from behind the big book.

I think this was in the days before early retirement. Maybe he’s the one who INVENTED it!


Prayer request: A very sweet and loving Christian drove a friend of hers from church to another town several hours away Tuesday so that she could see her ailing sister. This woman is depressed and doesn’t feel up to driving. She brought up suicide and showed other signs of unhealthy thinking patterns. We pray, Lord Jesus, for Your intervention in her life. Protect her and guide her to the help she needs and the changes she should make, to feel happy and whole. And we pray Your blessings on the kind soul who reached out to her. (Lamentations 3:25)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


You know how sometimes, you can totally agree with something that someone is saying, but hate the way they say it? That’s how I feel about a guy who has been standing outside different area high schools in recent days holding up a sign with an anti-homosexuality message.

He was certainly within his First Amendment free speech rights to do so. Although he was on school property, he was outside the buildings, so he wasn’t disrupting class. Apparently, at least one administrator asked him to leave, and he refused. But again, he was within his rights.

I agree that homosexuality hurts people and should be treated, at minimum, and overcome, like alcoholism and other complex behavioral syndromes. But I don’t think in-your-face tactics work, and I don’t think they’re very nice.

That’s why I’m still laughing over what a student did, at our local high school. He made a sign that read, “My Life Partner,” and drew a big arrow. Then he went out and stood next to the anti-gay protestor as school was letting out.

Hey! He was just exercising HIS free speech rights. I’d say pretty darn well, too.


Prayer request: A neighbor, Cindy, hears the news about a biopsy today. She is a sweet, solid believer with a very worried husband, three young children, and a family history for breast cancer. But it could very well be something benign and easy to treat. Father God, we lift Cindy and her family up to You for extra-special attention and comfort today as this news is shared. We pray for mercy and for good news. May it make her rejoice, and be something mild and very treatable, we ask in Jesus’ Name. (Matthew 21:22)

Monday, April 11, 2005


I’m so old, my kids think I rode a dinosaur to school. They think I wore a Pilgrim’s outfit to the Prom, which they take to have been a combination square dance and barn-raisin’. Or maybe I wore a raccoon coat, strummed a ukulele and climbed flagpoles to swallow goldfish. My youth, you see, was before they had microscopes and discovered salmonella.

Actually, it’s true: I am so old and out of it, I never know what the cool teenage jargon is any more. But daughter Eden took pity on me. She supplied a new term, which I believe you say when you have accomplished something exemplary, which, believe me, is NOT how the kids talk today:

“Boo ya!”

At first, I thought it was a throwback to the ‘20s song, “Boola Boola.” Nope.

So now I’m swaggering around saying “Boo ya!” – and trying to remember what context is correct for it, and when, in the alternative, one should exclaim “Hoo Hah” or “Woo Hoo.”

It’s confusing. It’s far less stressful to be old and out of it.


Prayer request: A friend of a friend is struggling today to make sense of something that happened over the weekend. A long-ago love has resurfaced in David’s life, but the circumstances are fishy. He thinks she’s trying to manipulate him, bigtime. Oh, Lord, expose and reveal any motives and activities that are not pure, holy and pleasing to You. Protect David’s heart and lead him to the truth. (Isaiah 2:3)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

See today's Radiant Beam, "Is the Pope Catholic?" on

It will be filed under "Hot Topics" in the Radiant Beams archives.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


My mom has 12 grandchildren, ages 29 to 5. She loves to hear from each and every one of them, from North Carolina to Oregon. She had a lot of granddaughters in a row, so she has been receiving a lot of emails lately with pictures of girls modeling prom dresses and formals, and just doing lots of girly girl things.

Then she got an email from her youngest grandson back East. He just got back from a camping trip.

He bragged to Grandma that he won “a farting contest.”

Hey! She was proud. She believes in individuality and excellence, in whatever form or fashion they come. In fact, when she hears fun things from any of her grandchildren, she thinks it’s a . . . gas.


Praise report: What a wonderful witness for life and love my brother Don gave my sister-in-law Janet last night, with a big surprise party and dinner-dance for her birthday. All their beloved friends were there from far and wide, and they led off the dancing to “Pretty Woman” by a live band. They’ve banked 30 years of marriage but they still act like newlyweds, and it’s very sweet. Father, we praise You for this model of successful marriage, well-rooted and grounded in You, and for the joy that they have given to each other, and to so many people. (Ephesians 3:17)

Friday, April 08, 2005


Here’s a day-brightener that might make your personal circumstances look a little better:

After church services this past Sunday, a friend named Jim was called aside to give some benevolence money to a stranger who had come in. Turns out she had stopped because she saw the steeple, she was totally out of money, and she was desperate.

She was driving from Pennsylvania to Denver with her three kids, and everything they owned was in that U-Haul. You could tell it was a time of enormous life change. Each child clutched a bag full of leftover doughnuts from the fellowship time against their chests. It was obvious it was their only food.

Jim asked her to follow him to a nearby gas station and put 30 gallons into the car. He also gave her enough cash to get to Denver and feed the kids a couple of times along the way.

She insisted on taking pictures, and vowed: "I will pay you back some day."

Jim said, "No, YOU have blessed US, and some day, God will bless you by having you help someone else the same way." She smiled, loaded up the kids, and said, "I WILL send you a picture!"

She already sent one to us: here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors . . . and you really will find God’s people.


Prayer request: May that traveler, Colleen, and her kids find safe harbor and a fresh start in Denver. May they quickly find a truth-preaching church and wonderful friends. And may Jim feel the extra-special warmth of Your approval, Father, for doing what You’ve asked us to do: love one another. (John 15:12)

Thursday, April 07, 2005


The other day at the grocery store, I grabbed a “Complete Skillet Meal” to make Chicken Teriyaki. It was a nice, big sack. I figured it contained lots of healthy stir-fry vegetables, ready to go.

I was in a rush, and knew I had some chicken in the freezer, so a “skillet meal” sounded perfect. However, I was planning to use my wok. That’s because I like to torture my family with wok jokes: “Take a wok on the wild side,” “I’m gonna wok around the clock tonight. . . .”

I defrosted the chicken, cut some up, and started the rice. Then I opened the stir-fry package. What was this? Inside was a packet of pre-cooked chicken, and a packet of rice. I had just doubled up on two of the main ingredients! How “convenient” was that?

“I didn’t know they were in there!” I protested to my hooting, skeptical family.

My daughter grabbed the sack, and pointed with gusto to the not one, not two, but FOUR prominent places, plus the color picture, that made it clear that the chicken was included, and so was the rice. And that was just the FRONT of the sack.

Hey! When your schedule is so hectic your brains are stir-fried, it’s not always conVENient to read the packaging instructions. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it – non-stick wok and all.


Prayer request: Eden has the ACT college admissions test this Saturday. But she has been battling a post-Prom sore throat and flu symptoms from getting overtired last weekend. Oh, Lord, send rest and healing her way so that she can be in tip-top shape for this important exam. (Matthew 7:7)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


That makes our family 2-for-2, with one college daughter at Carolina (men's NCAA) and the other having just transferred from Baylor, which she loved, to be closer to home.

This puts immense pressure on our THIRD daughter for what school SHE will attend in another year, and bring the family blessing of a national title. :>)

Our young daughter drew a smiling face on a purple water balloon, and has been carrying it around like a precious baby in a tea towel.

“It’s such a GOOD water balloon,” Maddy, 5, informed me proudly. “It doesn’t throw tantrums and it does everything I say.”

My face must have revealed my thoughts, for she quickly added, “That’s because it’s SIX.”


Prayer request: A friend named Jane is hurrying to Chicago to be near when her first grandchild is born, any minute now. Lord, be in the hands and minds of the childbirth team so that the precious new baby can be delivered skillfully and peacefully. Help Jane soak up the memories of this big life event as she transitions into becoming a grandmother. And may the little one have her gorgeous eyes! (Proverbs 23:18)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Footnote to the Fear Factor event I chaired over the weekend for our daughter’s high school Post-Prom event:

A friend lent me her enormous, 30-gallon aquarium as a prop onstage. We filled it with water and got some special de-chlorinator juice. Then we put 750 Minnesota leeches in there, to swim around and pump up the fear and dread in the audience.

Now, I’ve always wanted to be first in the world at something. I think I’m finally there. I may be the first in world history to have uttered the following statement. Someone asked me if the leeches were for a Fear Factor event, and I replied:

“No. The leeches are for decoration.”

Oh! Yeah! Decoration! What’s next? Lampshade fringe made out of worms? Spider webs for curtains? Pig’s feet for the chair legs?

Oh, well. One woman’s decoration is another’s . . . fear factor.


Praise report: Father, we know basketball is only a game, but we praise You and thank You for the display of skill and will in the exciting NCAA finals last night. We thank You that our daughter Jordan, a senior at the University of North Carolina, got to experience the fun of celebrating a national championship at her alma mater, where she has been so happy. Lord, we know basketball isn’t that big of a deal in Your scheme of things . . . but You scored a three-pointer of blessing with this family. (Psalm 89:15,16)

Monday, April 04, 2005


Boy, what are the odds? Our eldest daughter Jordan is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Their men’s basketball team is playing in the NCAA finals tonight. She says the campus went wild when the team won the semifinal game, and everyone massed on Franklin Street, the big campus hangout, for a bonfire and pep rally that was pretty crazy.

On top of that, our next daughter Neely attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, until this semester, when she transferred to her home state university, but has kept in close contact with her Baylor buds. Their women’s basketball team also has attained the NCAA finals. Students at Baylor are also going crazy with pride and excitement.

Our family is two for two in two Final Two’s! Guess you could say we’re . . . hooping it up.


Prayer request: Comfort and sustain all Catholics and all believers in the death of the much-beloved Pope John Paul II. We suspect his crown in heaven is laden with extra jewels, indeed. Father, we plead for wisdom and discernment for those who will select the next Pope. May the choice be Your choice, and may that important world leader be the best-ever representative of the Body of Christ, the Rock of Ages. (Matthew 16:18)

Sunday, April 03, 2005


And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul:
but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
-- Matthew 10:28

You could tell something was up by my daily planner:

1. Bake cookies
2. Call Pat
3. Defrost tongue

A cow tongue, to be exact. It has been in our freezer for weeks. We’ve also had a cooler with 750 Minnesota leeches in the garage, and three plastic tubs of waxworms in the refrigerator.

The tubs look like sour cream containers. I’ve been worried that somebody was going to load up a dollop on their baked potato, and then notice the fat, wriggling bodies, and scream, “Oh, my God, the sour cream’s ALIVE!!!” One can only hope they notice it BEFORE they take a bite.

The leeches, on the other hand, have been docile in the ice-cold water in that Styrofoam cooler. They’re the ideal pet: no barking, no whining, no chewing slippers. I’ve fantasized about having friends over and asking them to plunge their hand into that cooler to grab something cold and refreshing.

Then again, I don’t have any friends left – not after word got around about what’s in my fridge and freezer. But that’s life with a Post-Prom Mom . . .

. . . who’s spent the last few months planning a one-hour Fear Factor show with several other diabolical parents. It came off like clockwork this morning at O-dark-thirty: six events involving 76 kids with a chance at $800 in cash prizes. The point was to keep the kids in a supervised setting, having wholesome fun instead of out doing all those other post-Prom things that parents really fear.

So we had them hold leeches and suck waxworms up a straw.

They drank a nightmare shake of a Burger King meal prepared in a blender.

Two teams did a relay race, passing such objects as the cow tongue, a catfish and an octopus.

They ate baby food, and one boy gagged.

Pairs were handcuffed and had to grope through a black goo of leeches, nightcrawlers and dirt in an aquarium to find the key.

They came onstage for a Wet T-Shirt Contest, amid hoots and hollers from the boys, and frowns of concern from the adults in attendance. Surprise! The T-shirts were wet, all right – frozen solid. They had to be wrestled apart and put on first to win.

Even though it was all in fun, I learned a lot about fear through these games. I saw how people face it, and get through it. I saw kids kind of gulp and size things up, then steel themselves and do what they had to do.

I saw the big, strapping football players trembling when they held the leeches, but they did it. I saw the girls flutter their hands, shriek and jump around, but then they buckled down and tried each task.

Now, fear is healthy. It’s a sign of intelligence. Something would be wrong if kids DIDN’T think it was scary to put on a shower cap and goggles and plunge their faces into a vat of baked beans, stewed tomatoes, sardines and who knows what else to retrieve five barbecued chicken wings with their teeth.

You know, we’ve had a lot of fearful things happen recently: Terri Schiavo, the Pope, the tsunami, the terrorism . . . plus all the sad and scary things of everyday life, from chemo to unemployment to death of a loved one.

To deal with fear, we just need perspective. Like those kids, we need to face our fears, size them up, shudder a little, but then respond with effort and action. There’s nothing to be afraid of, if you can focus on the big picture.

No matter how things turn out, if you tried, then you beat fear. And that feels good.

Not as good as it felt to say sayonara to that octopus and cow tongue this morning. But pretty good. And that’s good enough . . . for the long run.


Prayer Request: There’s a lonely young teenager at a middle school who, for whatever the reason, is currently an outcast among his peers. Nobody will even sit with him at lunch. His parents are afraid that getting school staff members involved will just make things worse. We turn to You, Father God, to give him solace and a touch of Your presence every day. We pray that You’ll send friends and encouraging adults into his daily path. Show the other kids how wrong it is to shun someone, how much You want them to reach out to others and be friendly, and how much worth there is to this young man. Help him, Lord, to take his place among his peers and represent You to them. (Romans 12:13)

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Maddy, 5, has a bit of an overactive imagination. She received a set of 12 little horses for her birthday and has named them after different kinds of weather:






You get the picture. Well, now she informs us that every time one of these horses stomps its “hoove,” that form of weather erupts.

No, she doesn’t have one named “Tsunami.” But we here in the heartland are keeping a wary eye on that “Tornado.” Let’s hope he’s not too much of a buckin’ bronco this spring.


Praise report: We thank You, Father, for the faithfulness of all those who prayed for our young law-school friend Jaimee, who had an important job interview. She is elated to report that the law firm she had hoped and prayed might extend a job offer to her did so! Thank You for this bright, dedicated and pure-hearted individual. Give favor to that firm and continue to guide Jaimee in Your ways. (Proverbs 23:18)

Friday, April 01, 2005


I had fun the last two days torturing high-school kids over the lunch hour. We brought new meaning to the old term “Cafeteria Surprise.”

That’s because for the all-night Post-Prom party this coming weekend, we parents are putting on a Fear Factor event. It’s like the gross-a-thon TV show, only better. The whole idea is to keep the kids in one supervised place, having wholesome fun, instead of out doing that other stuff that causes parents the REAL fear.

On Wednesday, we made them plunge their hands into an icy-cold cooler filled with 750 leeches. They had to fish one out and hold it in the palm of their hands for three seconds to “earn” $1,000 in funny-money for the Post-Prom games.

On Thursday, they had to suck a waxworm partly up a straw and deposit it into another container, though of course, three or four of them overachieved and got the waxworm all the way into their mouths. Ewwww!

Yes, it was funny. No, nobody barfed or fainted. Yes, a lot of them trembled while they were doing these stunts, or shrieked. But no, the girls weren’t the ones who were the biggest sissies. It was the great, big football guys who were the most fearful.

Either that, or they were pulling an early April Fool’s joke on us moms. Which reminds me – enjoy this day of fun, and if anyone puts a leech or a waxworm down your back, don’t look at me!


Prayer request: Nebraska State Sen. Dwite Pedersen of Elkhorn is asking for prayer on behalf of his wife Priscilla. She has cancer in both lungs and has been in the hospital for chemotherapy treatment. Senator Pedersen said, “I believe the only answer for her is the Lord in prayer.” Father, we give thanks for this longtime public servant and we pray for his wife’s healing. (Psalm 102:2)