Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Footnote to my story about fancy-pants tourists bringing their fancy-pants dog into a Thai restaurant at an upscale mountain resort in Colorado last weekend:

Did you hear about the new Korean cook book?

“101 Ways to Wok Your Dog”


Prayer request: A very special young man named Jeff has launched a construction company with two brothers-in-law and is full of hope and excitement at this new venture. Lord, You know his heart and how much he wants to succeed. Observe his diligence and effort, and reward and bless his business greatly. Above all, draw him closer to You, letting him know that as long as he does things Your way, all of the increase comes from You and You’re glad to make it happen. (Proverbs 22:29)

Sunday, May 29, 2005


And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased;
And he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
— Matthew 23:12

We just got back from a weekend getaway to a posh resort in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. We were attending the “destination wedding” of the daughter of some dear friends, and getting some much-needed R&R.

The views were stunning: snow still capped many mountains, and lilacs and wildflowers combined with pine trees and sage to create intoxicating mountain aromas.

The hotel lodge sported a soaring log ceiling with a massive stone fireplace and leather seating. Our room had a marble bath, lovely woodwork, and a featherbed that required a pole-vaulter’s approach.

We fly-fished in 40-degree waters on a hideaway creek, stresses and strains vanishing into the chuckling stream.

I caught the first fish, a brown trout with red freckles. I kissed him on his enormous lips and released him. My husband caught two more. Our enormous waders were slimming and we felt as graceful as Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It.”

He played golf while I read, uninterrupted, on the hotel patio. I dozed in public, drooling and snoring, completely relaxed.

Another friend of the bride and I hosted a bridal luncheon. I hauled out my guitar to sing the old Kodak song, “Where are you going, my little one, little one?” Several people cried, and not just over my funky singing. We all reveled in the sweet emotions of this special time.

That night, we were amused when some arrogant tourists brought their dog into the restaurant – a Thai restaurant. We joked that the dog had to be awfully nervous.

We returned to the hotel and toasted s’mores over crackling logs under a sky that looked like God spilled an endless sack of sparkling sugar onto a ream of celestial black velvet.

Next evening’s wedding was spectacular, under a log trellis bedecked with white flowers, greenery and gold ribbon. The bride added comic relief with a stage-voice “Whew!” when she finally got the groom’s ring on his finger.

We ate a gourmet meal, drank far too much wine, and danced like crazy people into the night.

Next morning, we drove away regretfully, savoring what had been literally a pinnacle experience.

Well, we didn’t get far before I started feeling poorly. All that wine, and we’d skipped breakfast to get on the road.

We sailed past Vail and Breckenridge, rolling up and down the foothills. The change in altitude was really getting to me. I stared at my freebie hotel newspaper, trying not to think about my gurgling stomach.

Dang! I knew better. For someone who drinks very little, a five-glass evening is a five-alarm emergency for the old tum-tum.

Finally, desperately, I groped around on the floor of the second seat . . . and came up with my husband’s half-sack of Cheetos from the trip out.

Ewwww! Cheetos!!! Now I was REALLY sick.

I opened it up, doubly nauseated by the blast of Cheetos aroma, and then, sinking my face into it like a nag into a feedbag, I did what you do “the morning after,” dramatically and with feeling.

Too late, I realized there were people in the car in the next lane, and just as I came up for air, our eyes locked . . .

. . . and from the disgust on their faces, I knew I had come down from the mountaintop, back into the Valley of Reality.

I had Cheetos ring-around-the-mouth, and any illusion of aristocracy and sophistication was long gone.

But that’s OK. You know what they say: peak experiences are just for show. The only place for real life is down in the valley. Nothing much grows on a mountaintop, and you can’t stay up there for long.

So I did the only thing I could: I looked over at those people, smiled my friendliest post-protein spill smile, motioned to them with the heavy-laden Cheetos bag, and gave them a fully humble, middle-class thumbs up.

You should have seen their faces as they roared off.

Hey! The people at the top may have more luxury . . . but we flatlanders have more fun.


Prayer request: Gracious Father, thank You for drawing Jill out to Colorado to meet the love of her life and to create a warm and wonderful new life. Her joy and fulfillment are such a profound blessing to her dear parents and family. Bless Jill and Brian in their marriage, happily ever after. May the mountains and hills burst into song before them! (Isaiah 55:12)

Thursday, May 26, 2005


OK, I admit it. I have a secret, self-centered indulgence that reveals my true nature as a spoiled egocentric:

I love Egyptian cotton bedsheets even though they cost an arm and a leg.

There. I’ve said it, and somehow, saying it makes the addiction seem less shameful and overwhelming. They should have A.A. for people like me: B.A. – Bedsheets Anonymous.

Well, the problem with such soft sheets is that they rip easily, and sure enough, ours were tattered. So I just bought a whole new set with an incredibly high thread count and pricetag.

I was standing in line with them, though, when suddenly, my pea brain perceived that the lady in line right in front of me had on THE SAME PANTS I did!!! The fabric is a riot of orange and pink floral. We got them on sale, cheap, at the same discount store a few months ago, for a fraction of what I was spending on my new bedsheets.

Wal-Mart shopper by day . . . pampered princess by night.


Prayer request: Lord, I just heard about a bride whose wedding is this weekend, but her mother committed suicide last week. A brother killed himself some time ago, too. The tangle of emotions must be unbelievable. But we pray that Your love will shine through and give everyone a strong sense of peace and joy despite the circumstances. May they call upon You, and hear Your answer loud and clear. (Isaiah 58:9)


DailySusan will resume on Tuesday, May 31. Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I had mentioned my new theme song, the jingle from “the dumdum ad” for Cingular, “Doot dooooooo, doot, doot, doot.” Comes now a story about a friend’s adult son that could be scripted as an ad in that series.

He’s a highly organized engineer, and he was supposed to meet a friend to go biking after work one day. He got to the trail and realized he’d forgotten to pack his bike shoes. He couldn’t ride in the steel-toed workboots of an engineer. So he had to cancel.

He was driving home in his car when, right before his driveway, he had to stop as a ball bounced into the street and a boy ran to fetch it. Distracted, he then turned into the drive, hit the garage door opener, and . . .


The house withstood the hit, but the bike and rack did not.

Doot dooooooo, doot, doot, doot!


Prayer request: Father, we lift up to you a husband, father and grandfather named Richard, who is on life support with serious head injuries after a traffic accident. His wife Kathy is the friend of a friend. She often calls her husband her “gentle giant.” The prognosis is not good, but Lord, oh Lord, You can help him, and we ask for that merciful help now, in Jesus’ Name, the original Gentle Giant! (Isaiah 30:18)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Over the weekend, one of the softball dads had me in stitches with his take on a popular TV ad by Cingular. You know, “the dumdum ad,” where they show a guy plunging to his doom on an errant snowmobile and other dumb things, and the high-pitched, ironically cheerful background music goes, “Doot dooooooo, doot, doot, doot.”

This guy is a firefighter, and I guess when they are riding around on the truck, if they see anybody do anything stupid, they sing that little song and laugh like crazy.

I fight fires all day long, too – many of them caused by none other than me. So I have adopted that little ditty as my new theme song. I’ll try to hum it all day. It might not keep me from doing dumb things, but at least I can be ironically cheerful about it.


Prayer request: We pray for the family and friends of Sarah O’Mara, Nebraska Right to Life past president and board member, who died Friday. She is described as “the smiling little lady in the wheelchair who devoted her life to the pro-life cause.” Father, into Your hands we commend this lovely spirit. (Matthew 25:21)

Monday, May 23, 2005


Maddy made a comment that was ill-timed, considering that at that moment I was reluctantly reconciling myself to the fact that I have to buy a new swimsuit, since mine is pre-World War II. Like most everybody else, I dread the swimsuit shopping process and what I’m likely to see in the dressing room mirror.

She didn’t mean anything by it. But JUST as I was thinking about that, Maddy, who was chattering away about the day’s events, coined a new phrase: “humoungus bo-boungus.”



Praise report: In the whirl of graduation parties this past weekend, it struck me how many good and nice young people there are in the Class of 2005, who have befriended our daughter, one year younger, and encouraged her and mentored her in a natural kind of way. Thank You, Father, for providing such good role models in our daughter’s life, and thank You for providing such great parents for those older kids. Continue to build them up to lead lives that are pleasing to You. (Jude 20,21)

Sunday, May 22, 2005


And when she hath found it,
she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying,
Rejoice with me;
For I have found the piece which I had lost.
— Luke 15:9

We were halfway across the country last weekend, under the blue skies of Chapel Hill, N.C., for our daughter’s college graduation. An old, old friend of both my mother and my mother-in-law lives in nearby Greensboro. She arranged a wonderful reunion luncheon.

She and my mother-in-law grew up together in Lincoln, and with my mom were members of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln over a half-century ago. Dad called them “Theta Potatas.”

And Dad loved Ginny. I had never met her, but it was love at first sight. Under snow-white hair were sparkling eyes, a radiant smile, and the confident build of a lifelong athlete. She’s an active grandmother who loves to refinish old furniture and volunteers to hold newborn babies at her local hospital. She loves ‘em all, old and new.

My daughters and I were outgunned verbally – what a rarity! -- so we sat back and reveled in the warmth and energy of the reunion of the three long-lost friends. When they looked at each other, they must have seen the girls they used to be. In my mind played the old camp song, “Make new friends, but kee-eep the old; one is silver and the other’s gold.”

Just then, Ginny brought something shiny out of her pocket.

It was a sterling silver I. D. bracelet. On one side was engraved, “Ginny Noble.” That was her maiden name. On the other, it read: “From The Gang. 2-10-45.”

It seems that earlier this month, a fellow was using a metal detector up at the Minnesota lake where the Noble family, my mother-in-law’s, and many other families from Lincoln spent the summers in the days before air conditioning.

There was snow on the ground up there, but the guy still found something in the sand. It was badly tarnished and had some writing on it that he could barely read. He slipped it into his pocket.

Later, two older women who were staying at the cottage next door came outside. It was a surprise, since it was still about a month early for the summer residents to arrive. He waved to them, and took out the bracelet.

“Who’s Ginny Noble?” he asked.

Who’s Ginny NOBLE?!? Their jaws dropped. They were old, old friends. They’d known her since she was a girl. They had hung out with her at that very cottage . . . 60 years ago.

So they called her, down in Greensboro. She was elated to hear about it. She vaguely remembered receiving the sterling silver bracelet as a birthday present from her friends, and later losing it when the clasp must have broken.

“Send it right down to me,” she asked, telling them of the upcoming reunion luncheon with my mom and mother-in-law. She had the clasp fixed and polished it all up, good as new.

For six decades, that bracelet lay in the sand, forgotten and meaningless, and would have stayed that way . . . except for the lucky break that the two ladies were there and could tell the guy who Ginny Noble is, so that the bracelet didn’t get tossed away.

And lose its chance to say so much.

You see, my mother-in-law was in that gang of girls who gave Ginny that bracelet on the occasion of her 13th birthday, six decades ago.

And my mother, like Ginny, is a widow, for whom reassurance that relationships are forever means everything in the world.

It was obvious that this happy accident wasn’t just for Ginny. This was a God thing. We all got tingles, and a little teary. We all were beaming.

So who’s Ginny Noble? I’ll tell you who she is:

Someone for whom the circle of life is coming complete, just like that bracelet encircling her wrist.

Someone for whom all that has been lost is being found.

Someone with silver hair rejoicing with pure gold -- old friends -- over faithfulness . . . the faithfulness of the best Friend of them all.


Prayer request: Father, there’s someone very special who’s struggling with depression, bouts of suicidal ideation, and lots of “stuff.” He needs Your tender, loving care, delivered through the wisdom and kind words of a Godly counselor. Precious Redeemer, let him know that You are with him, and make him patient to wait for Your deliverance. In the meantime, we pray for a hedge of protection around him, and peace and courage for his loved ones through this trial. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Saturday, May 21, 2005


The North One-Fortieth, the garden my brother-in-law tends in a former horse paddock behind our barn, is up and at ‘em. There are tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and much more on the grow. I’m slowly developing a cutting garden along the fence, too, in my four spare seconds per day.

It’s my job to provide the mulch, since he buys the plants. Last year, I couldn’t get much grass hay, and the straw I bought was full of weed seeds. It was more trouble than it was worth.

This year, I got 20 bales of good brome, but it’s hard to place around tomato plants. We’d prefer a thick layer of grass clippings. But nobody around here picks up their clippings any more; everybody mulches it right back onto the lawn. And I can’t rake much up in four seconds per day.

So I found myself calling a mower guy whose ad runs in the local weekly, and asking him to deliver a load of clippings to our driveway instead of hauling them to the dump. I paid, in other words, for grass clippings. They’ll be great in a thick layer around the tomato bushes. But I’m sure my agricultural ancestors are spinning in their graves over my lack of frugality.

At least I had an opportunity to leave this message for Ernie: “I got some really great grass you can do out behind the barn this weekend.”

I think I’ll leave him a rock concert T-shirt and a leather bracelet with spikes to wear while he’s doing it.


Prayer request: A new friend has opened up to me and revealed a deep sadness: her husband and she are rarely, if ever, intimate. She feels confused and rejected. From his family history, I can tell that he needs a lot of pampering and nurturing, but she works full-time plus and has little energy to give. Father, fill her with Your supernatural strength and warmth, and empower her to reassure him of her love, and Yours. (Psalm 27:10)

Friday, May 20, 2005


I organized the neighborhood garage sale last weekend. It was a bit of work, collecting the information for ads for a dozen households and a church, making and distributing maps, having new signs made up, and putting them up around the area. To defray expenses, everyone was supposed to send me $10. I gave them a self-addressed envelope, and most stuck a check in the mail.

But one lady put cash from her sale in the envelope, and planned to drop it off to me “later.” Day after day, she would glance at it on her kitchen counter, but day after day, she was so busy she would forget to bring it with her in her car and complete the errand.

Finally, she emailed me, promising to drop it off that day. By way of apology, she explained that she has “CRS.”

I said I was sorry to hear that. I thought it was like MS or something.

But noooooooo. She explained what it is: “Can’t Remember Squat.” Or words to that effect.

AAAIIIEEE!!! I think I’ve got it, too!


Prayer request: A very loveable but abused Chesapeake Bay retriever named Angel needs a good home, where she can be the only dog and can give and receive a lot of love. She looks like a chocolate Lab and is said to be house-trained, very good with kids and cats, and very loyal to “her” people. Her former owner drank too much, and reportedly she would growl at him to “protect” the lady of the house. So he kicked her out. What a world, Lord! This story comes through an organization called Helping Hands For Animals. Anyone who is interested in adopting her should please call (402) 426-9330 or email rosehh4a@hotmail.com. Lord God, You have someone out there for whom Angel would make the perfect companion. Holy Matchmaker, do Your blessed thing for this sweet dog. (Psalm 104:24)

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Maddy, 5, and I were en route to pick up Sunny Bone-O from the rural kennel in which she’d vacationed during our recent trip. We passed a common sight in springtime Nebraska: an irrigation ditch full to overflowing from recent rains. The water looked cool and inviting on a hot May afternoon.

“Ooh, Maddy,” I murmured. “Would you like to go swimming in there?”

“NOOOOOOO!” she exclaimed, adamantly. “There might be ALLIGATORS!”


Prayer request: My baby brother Danny will undergo Lasik eye surgery today in Boston. Father God, protect his eyesight so that he can continue to have a vision of Your will for his life. Sharpen his focus after successful surgery so that he will be even more skilled at making his loved ones happy and healthy, and living his life for You. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


A friend’s son was graduating with his engineering degree. At the ceremony, there were engineers as far as the eye could see, in all facets of that challenging field.

They all looked alike . . . EXCEPT . . .

. . . the mining engineers all wore their lighted mining hardhats instead of mortar boards.

How fitting: a little “miner” humor . . . to celebrate completion of a very difficult major.


Prayer request: Baby Jackson arrived last week, 6 pounds, 12 ounces, and lots of blonde hair. Mother (and father!) are recovering nicely, though Jackson does have some medical problems. Oh, Lord, what a gift You have given with this precious and amazing life. What joy and peace we have in knowing that You are above all good and giving. We pray fervently for solutions to his medical challenges so that he can join his big sister Maci in all sorts of childhood fun. (Romans 15:13)

Praise reports: We praise You, Father, for a young Christian graduating with high honors, a true light in Your world. The son of Nebraska Right to Life director Julie Schmit-Albin is graduating from Kansas University and has accepted a full ride scholarship to the University of Minnesota for their MD/PhD program under the National Institute of Health's Medical Science Training Program. He wants to be a medical researcher. Bless and keep this great young mind and the heart that seeks to help others. (Psalm 121:5-8)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


A big college graduation ceremony is a circus of creativity in the ways graduates find to signal their parents and loved ones where they are sitting.

In the football stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Sunday, there was a sea of Carolina blue caps and gowns. There were big green balloons and red heart balloons, striped golf umbrellas opening and closing, posters with big arrows pointing downward, and lots of cell phones buzzing.

But our favorite sign was duct-taped to a mortar board:



Prayer request: Father, there’s a very nice young man named Matt who is pitching in the state baseball tournament this evening. His dad is a honey, and is trimming our trees today. Lord, if it be Your will, be with Matt and take him out on a . . . limb . . . of excellence today. Let Matt pitch the game of his life, and let that . . . branch . . . of Your family revel in an awesome memory and celebration in this precious graduation time. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Friday, May 13, 2005


Pleasant words are as an honeycomb,
sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
— Proverbs 16:24

We’re going halfway across the country to attend our eldest daughter’s college graduation. We’re bringing loads of Kleenex and film. We will wear bikinis and carry umbrellas for a typical May day in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Like a million other mothers at graduation time, the soundtrack in my heart is the song from that old Kodak ad, “Where Are You Going, My Little One?”

And, like all those other moms, I’m wondering if I did my job OK. Did I pack love into every molecule of our daughter’s being, enough to last her through thick and thin?

Can she function in a kitchen, the executive suite, or both? Can she thread a needle, dance the tango and change a tire?

Does she have her feet solidly on the ground, and yet is still reaching for the stars?

Most of all: did I praise her enough to polish her heart ‘til it glows?

Sometimes, we mothers are more critics than coaches and cheerleaders. And that’s too bad.

All children desperately need words of praise from the important people in their lives. That’s how they get the crown of blessing . . . the knowledge that they are somebody special, one in a billion, irreplaceable, irresistible, unique, awesome, amazing and miraculous.

They get a glimpse of how God sees them. And that’s crucial, for a happy life.

My mother did it for me. She used to call me her “joy child.” Wow! I felt important! My siblings might have been smarter and funnier and better-looking. But I was the one who gave my mother joy.

Ever since, I’ve tried to live up to that billing, and give people joy. I don’t always make it. But I try.

It’s funny how my mom tagged me, so young. Or maybe her words created that desire in me – the spark of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

All I know is, you can provide a turning point for someone else’s whole life with just one comment. And it doesn’t cost a thing. That’s God’s economics: a little goes a long, long way.

The praise can be from strangers, too: when Jordan was two days old, my milk hadn’t come in yet at the hospital. They could give her only sugar water while we waited.

She was frantically hungry and crying nonstop in the nursery, waking the other newborns. The nurses brought her to me every hour, hoping milk production would begin so she’d eat, and quiet down, before they lost their minds or their hearing, not necessarily in that order.

Consequently, I had gotten little sleep for 48 hours. My anxiety was building moment by moment. In the middle of that long, terrible night, one nurse carried Jordan, still screaming, out of my room, crooning melodramatically, “Oh, you poor little thing. You’re so hungry! So hollow!”

I burst into tears. I was a complete failure as a mother. Better put her up for adoption. Maybe she can have a decent life with someone who’s competent.

But an hour later, a different nurse brought her in. There was still no milk, but this nurse was patient and smiling. On the way out, she looked at the baby’s nametag, and exclaimed with a voice full of sincerity and awe:

“Jordan Williams! That sounds like an AUTHOR!”

An author? Gee! What a compliment! The nurse couldn’t have known that I worked as a news reporter, and considered authors a cut above, worthy of high praise and admiration.

It made me feel sooooooo good. I relaxed. I slept. Next morning, Dairy Queen opened for business.

Now fast-forward 21 years. Jordan Williams is graduating Phi Beta Kappa as an English major, and her honors thesis on poet Edmund Spenser was named the No. 1 best undergraduate thesis this year.

That sounds like an AUTHOR, all right!

She lived up to her billing!

But what do you expect? It’s in her blood. She’s a joy child, born and bred.

Happy graduation, Jordan . . . and all you other graduates. You’re great! You’re wonderful! God loves you! Now, get out there and spread some joy!


Prayer request: Father, we lift up the community of Liberty, Mo., suffering in the wake of a public-school bus accident that killed two men. My good friend reports that the school district is doing a great job with the children, helping them sort through their fears and feelings in this tragedy. We pray for comfort for the victims’ families, and for a spirit of hope to pervade that town. (2 Corinthians 4:8)

Thursday, May 12, 2005


I was putting Maddy to bed after a busy day. She laid back, stretched and sprawled out on her cozy bed, spreading out her limbs as far as they would go.

Then she chortled: “Look! I’m a STARFISH!!!”

A miniature sea monster, a tiny tuna and a little mermaid, too.


Prayer request: Father, we pray earnestly for an unwed mother, Michaela, to answer softly and wisely in her conversation tonight with the father of her soon-to-be-born little boy. Turn this man’s heart toward her, Lord. Of course we would ask for him to marry her, or at least provide significantly for them financially. But his family has been very discouraging about that. It just makes us sad, Father, to see people stray so far from Your design for life, birth and child-rearing. But it’s never too late. Do a big work in his heart and inspire him to be a Godly man, we pray. (Proverbs 15:1)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Teenage girls have a finely-honed sense of irony. They have nicknamed our daughter’s very gruff, serious, intimidating, tough, but excellent, chemistry teacher, whose first name is Jerry, “Jer-Bear.” Behind his back, of course!

Well, the other day, Jer-Bear was writing on the blackboard when an older student burst into the room.

“May I ask you a question?” he asked the teacher. The teacher nodded and put his chalk down.

The boy then asked brightly: “Are you going to bring your special brownies to the Advanced Placement review session tonight?”

You could have heard a pin drop. The teacher remained silent.

“Or how about those ‘blondies,’ with the chocolate chips?”

Again, the teacher was silent. The student left, perplexed. So the class was left wondering:

Has Jer-Bear gone soft on us?

Does he run home from school and put on a frilly apron?

Does he wear footie pajamas at night with a Barney motif?

Does he sleep in a racecar bed?

I’m not sure much chemistry was executed after that odd interruption. But at least there was a chemical reaction of humor and mirth among the kids, which is much needed right before final exams.


Prayer request: We pray for successful surgery in Minneapolis Thursday for a young Nebraska girl named Berea. Father, there’s a darling baby scheduled to be delivered on Thursday, too, two weeks early because of his mother’s preeclampsia condition. We call down a squadron of saints and angels to surround Jaci in the birth of Jackson, and we praise You for her healthy pregnancy and alert medical team. Lord, we praise You for my dear friend Cindy’s energy rebound and relative lack of symptoms as she goes through her third round of chemo. Last, but certainly not least, we lift up a 39-year-old man who is hospitalized with an acute liver problem. His mother and sister are friends of my friends, and they are wonderful Christians who have served You and Your people with grace. While doctors don’t hold out much hope, we point to Your word and the many times where impossible situations are met with miraculous solutions. Our two favorite words in the whole Bible are: “. . . but God. . . .” Lord Jesus, we pray that You will spare this young man and show us Your glory, once again. (1 Peter 1:23)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


What was the most wonderful Mother’s Day gift, besides, of course, that fabulous new garden bench? The one sitting out near my new shade wonderland? You know, close to The North One-Fortieth? The world’s most schizophrenic garden since I tend it like mad on some days, and ignore it, neglect it and flood it on others?

You may say mothers who received expensive electronics, jewelry, clothing and dinners out were the luckiest. But I beg to differ. I know someone who trumped ‘em all.

Cousin Joy got hollyhocks. They’re pretty hard to beat for sheer sentimental value.

She remembers her mother’s hollyhocks, and taking straight pins to make ladies’ ballroom gowns out of the blooms. Well, last summer, some strange seeds must have blown into her daughter’s garden, and zoom! The plants shot up into what Cousin Joy eventually “diagnosed” as hollyhocks. And boy, were they tall, pink and gorgeous last year; everybody commented on them.

So it was fitting that, this year for Mother’s Day, several pots of them appeared for Joy, shared from her daughter’s happy surprise. She was delighted. Childhood memories: you may not be able to flaunt ‘em, and you can’t hock hollyhocks, but boy, are they priceless.


Prayer request: Father, there’s a pitcher who is looking for a team to play with this summer, and there’s a team in dire need of a second pitcher. Give our coaches extra persuasive power to bring this excellent girl onto our team and make this a summer to remember, for their good and Your glory, Lord. (James 1:12)

Monday, May 09, 2005



Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

A study by Salary.com shows that stay-at-home moms would earn an average of $131,471 annually, including overtime, if they received a paycheck.

The annual base pay for a 40-hour stay-at-home mom's workweek would be $43,461. Mothers would earn an additional $88,009 a year for 60 hours of overtime each week.

Manicure, pedicure, massage, limo, diamonds, furs, Godiva chocolates . . . start lining ‘em up.


Prayer request: We have a lot of loved ones on the road today, in California, Colorado and North Carolina. Keep them alert and safe, Lord, and to their destinations in apple-pie order. (Isaiah 43:2)

Sunday, May 08, 2005


But I have all, and abound:
I am full, having received . . . the things which were sent from you,
an odour of a sweet smell,
a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.

— Philippians 4:18

A friend's mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness at age 81.

She came to her daughter’s home to die.

Nobody would have thought a thing of it, if the family had decided to pay professionals to take care of her in a nursing home or hospice center to ease the transition and conserve their time and energy.

But my friend wanted to be her mother's final caregiver, even though she had no nursing experience and had never done anything like this before.

She went to part-time on her job, and transformed her living room into, well, a dying room.

A cheerful one, though. The hospital bed was surrounded by chairs, for lots of expected visitors in the sunny room, just steps from the kitchen.

My friend's whole family helped. But most of the burden still fell to the daughter: making meals, shampooing her mother's hair, lifting her, dispensing her medications, changing the sheets, questioning the medical people, handling the endless paperwork, and on and on.

The dying lady made just one simple request: her favorite flowers were sweet peas. She asked her daughter to plant some outside the window, where she could watch them grow.

My 40-something friend had never done much more than water store-bought flowerpots. She didn't even know what sweet peas are. They're an old-fashioned flower you don't see too often these days.

But, glad to have something tangible she could do to please her mom, she bought the seeds for 79 cents, scratched up a little dirt, and planted them.

Under her mom's coaching, my friend coaxed the seeds to germination and kept the roots cool with a little mulch. She rigged up a string trellis for the vines to climb.

The weeks passed. Together, mother and daughter watched the vines spread out across the trellis. The tendrils were holding on tight . . . just like my friend and her mother.

The illness got worse.

Finally, one summer day, the mother died.

My friend came home from the funeral exhausted. She saw her mother’s empty bed. She grabbed the pillow and sniffed her mother's fading scent. Painful reality slammed into her. The good front she had put up suddenly collapsed. She threw herself on the bed, and burst into horrendous sobs.

"Mom! Mom! You're dead! You're gone! I'll never see you again!" She sobbed some more.

Finally, blinking through tears, she looked outside. Her cried-out eyes focused on the sweet pea plant. The first flower had blossomed!

It was big.

It was white.

It was perfect.

It was beautiful.

She ran out and found that it had a scent that could only be described as . . . heavenly.

She cried some more. This time, they were tears of joy.

Job well done, the flower was saying.

That’s spiritual economics. The sweet peas had cost just pennies but gave her mother great pleasure in the midst of suffering. The daughter had made a relatively small sacrifice of time and effort for her mother in those last days, but the simple little acts of love are the ones that mean everything.

Doing what’s right. Expressing love. Bringing joy.

It’s the fullness of a summer morning, the promise of a bud about to burst wide open, the persistence of a vine climbing eagerly up, higher, toward the light.

Isn't that how the Gardener wants us to be?

Stretching toward the light. Growing. Expanding. All the while holding on tight.

Then, when you’re ready . . . you bloom.

Later, a friend told her that in the language of flowers, the sweet pea means "delicate pleasures and departure."

Departure leads to arrival. The flower signaled that her mother had arrived in a better place, complete and well, and in full bloom.

She knew it was true. She rejoiced. She felt peace.

That's the Gardener's perfect timing.

And you can count on it, Sweet Pea.


Prayer request: We lift up all mothers today for Your tender blessing and encouragement, Lord. We especially pray for Karen, who is very sad because she lost her own mother just over a year ago and misses her a great deal. We also lift up Bobbie, the mother of my dear old friend, whose husband has Alzheimer’s. May the Holy Spirit’s gentle nurturing, reassurance and inspiration be theirs on this special day, and always. (Proverbs 31:28)

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I was driving around yesterday afternoon enjoying the warm breezes, a little overtired after a late night. I drowsed through a stoplight, and motored onward in a bit of a trance in the soothing sunlight. All of a sudden, I could swear I saw this sign in front of a bank:




Whaaa? I blinked. The middle word melted into “Community.”

Ohhhh. Whew.

Gee. I know that creeping socialism and Big Brother overregulation are concerns, but I didn’t know things had gotten THAT bad.

At least the logo didn’t look like a hammer and sickle.


Praise reports: I read a column by a Christian writer exhorting you to imagine how it will feel some day in heaven to know that people aren’t there because you didn’t tell them about your Savior. You’re supposed to pray, “Open a door,” to give you a chance to talk about spiritual matters with someone in your circle of influence . . . then “open their heart” so they will be receptive to your message . . . and “open my mouth” so that you won’t chicken out. I bowed my head right here at the keyboard and prayed those things. Then, boom! On errands Friday, I ran into someone I haven’t seen for a year, who is on my “spiritual things-to-do” list. We talked, and we’re going to talk again. It was just so natural; I knew I was in the right place at the right time. Lord Jesus, You are such an amazing paving contractor – paving the way for each of us to make a difference for You wherever we go. It’s great to be out on the roads of life, knowing that You’re always one step ahead, making them ready for our journeys. (Proverbs 22:4)

Friday, May 06, 2005


There’s a million ways to make a buck in this world. But here’s a new one: you rent out your GOATS to eat poison ivy off people’s property!

In another one of those “That’s Incredible” quirks about life on Earth, it seems that goats are the only critters who are not bothered when they are around poison ivy. In fact, they consider it a delicacy. So a friend of mine down in North Carolina, where there are lots of tall trees and lots of poison ivy, knows a guy who rents out his goats.

They’ll come on your property and eat you out of house and home – kind of like distant relatives – and do whatever on your grass and generally make you look wacky. But then they leave, and the poison ivy is gone.

We call a less-than-Pinehurst-quality golf course near us the “goat ranch.” Come to think of it, I’ve never seen any poison ivy on it. Hmm. Maybe they’ve got goats. Maybe THAT’S what happened to all my lost balls.


Praise reports: Thank You, Jesus, for the great outcome on a medical test about a heart condition for a prayer partner with a very great heart, Chris . . . and for the good victory for State Sen. Mike Foley along with pro-life lobbyist Gregg Schlepperbach and Julie Schmit-Albin of Nebraska Right to Life, for obtaining a half-million dollars in federal funding for emergency pregnancy services in Nebraska, emulating a program described on
www.realalternatives.org (Mark 9:23)

Prayer request: We lift our hearts in prayer for Kay, a woman in the prime of life who is battling a rare form of malignant melanoma . . . we also pray for solace and strength in what may be the last days of Sarah O’Mara, immediate past president of the Nebraska Right to Life board, who has breast cancer and is hospitalized in Kearney. Father, they have been faithful; reveal to them and their loved ones Your covenant of love. (Deuteronomy 7:12)

Thursday, May 05, 2005


He’s now in his 50s and she’s about 10 years younger. Their dad was a teacher and their mom stayed at home. So they didn’t live lavishly. But they had a great childhood, and still have a great relationship as siblings – the big brother and the baby sister.

Except for one thing: the brother’s suppressed desire.

Recently, his sister teased him about something from their past, and the big brother with the gray hair whirled around and retorted:

“Oh, yeah? Well, if it hadn’t been for YOU, we could have had a BOAT!”


Prayer request: On this 54th Annual National Day of Prayer, we lift up our nation, its leaders and its people to Your Throne, Father, for correction, guidance and encouragement. We pray that our leaders will look to You first for direction, and that all of us will be filled with Your love and grace. Special thanks, Lord, for my good friend Marilyn, my spiritual mentor, the one who was there for me when I was being born again, who chaired this morning’s huge citywide prayer breakfast. What a wonderful and powerful warrior You have raised up in her. And may her son David finish school strong and move on with confidence, making a mark for You. (Hebrews 4:16)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


They must be studying music from other countries in preschool. We were riding along in the car with the radio on when Maddy informed me that the music we were listening to was made by “pipe cleaners.”

Hunhhh? I got an image of colorful pipe cleaners waving to and fro to the beat, or being used as a very kid-friendly violin bow. But somehow, I knew that was . . . twisted.

Then it hit me: BAGPIPES!

But I didn’t correct her. Great Scott, why spoil her fun? I decided to take . . . the high road.


Prayer request: Today marks the one-year anniversary of the horribly tragic traffic accident just a few blocks from our home that took the lives of two popular and Godly teenagers coming home from a Christian youth group meeting. We are grateful for the strength and grace of the teenage driver, Cori, who did run a stop sign to cause the crash, but miraculously survived it. Although she has had some serious, private struggles, she has set a wonderful example for other students, all of whom are bound to make mistakes in their lives and will need to know how to deal with them, with humility and with full trust in You. Lord, we praise You for the love and kindness of Cori’s classmates, who elected her Prom Princess a few weeks ago – a richly deserved award and one that points Cori more toward the light and less toward the dark forces which would seek to use her anguish to pull her down. We pray for her dear parents and brothers, who have suffered with her every step of the way. We stand in the gap against those same attacking dark forces on behalf of Nick and Kayla’s families and friends -- particularly their mothers. Many times, it must have seemed to them that the earth gave way and the mountains fell into the sea. They need You so much, Lord. Oh, Savior and Master, come to them afresh and anew, and show them that their children are safe and alive eternally in Your arms. We trust that someday, we’ll all understand why this happened, and it will be well with our souls. (Psalm 46:1,2)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I’m not the only one who did too “mulch” of a good thing and got a sore bod over the weekend. Some friends bought and unloaded 80 bags of mulch, and spread most of it around their yard, working hard all day. They tottered, stiff as Frankensteins, and fell into bed.

At 7 a.m., the Mrs. hobbled over to the alarm clock, eyes still tightly shut, and smacked the snooze alarm, hoping to finish her interesting dream. She hobbled back over to the bed, which has a brand-new mattress about five inches taller than their old bed. She’s only 5’1”, so it was a stretch anyway. But sore and sleepy, it was a dangerous precipice.

She lifted her knee onto the mattress for some leverage to pull herself in . . . but she merely hovered on the edge, not in, not out, but in the twilight zone of balance for who knows how long . . .

. . . when suddenly, out of the Mr.'s total deep sleep, with his eyes still closed and his breathing deep and rhythmic, his big hand reached out, grabbed her jammy top, and yanked her onto the mattress with a mighty tug. Then he continued his deep sleep.

Thanks! She needed that! But no, she didn’t finish her dream. She got the giggles: she’s heard of sleep-walking, and sleep-talking, but never, before this, “sleep-tugging.”

Her aching muscles were still a . . . sore subject . . . but at least she could face the day with a smile.


Prayer request: Wisdom for the voters of Lincoln today, Lord, that they would choose people who live by Your rules. We also ask for miraculous healing for a dear mother and grandmother, Jo Blume, age 58, who went to the doctor because she was dizzy, and found out she has several tumors pressing against her skull. In addition, there are three women, all under 45, who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and are embarking on chemo and radiation: Katie, Julie and Diane. We pray for mercy, compassion and comfort for them, Father. (Exodus 33:19)

Monday, May 02, 2005

ALOHA . . . OY!

In a fit of energy and frugality, I had a mountain of mulch dumped on our driveway last week. I ordered 25 cubic yards of primeau shredded hardwood to be lovingly spread on our garden areas to make them the best-dressed in town.

I forgot the one thing about mulch: it doesn’t just JUMP to where you want it to go. You have to PUT it there! Ohhh, my achin’ back.

Job One was to weed under our beautiful but sprawling Japanese snow crab tree, and then pile the mulch on thick underneath. The tree is in full blossom right now. You know how low to the ground crab trees are: I had to hunch over and crawl under there with bucket after bucket of mulch, kind of like Snow White’s dwarves lugging sacks of coal up out of the mine. Yeah, Grumpy: that was me.

Every time I’d back out for another load, I’d get little sprigs of white blossoms tangled up in my hair.

Since it was in the 40s and I had on my oldest gardening duds, with dirt smudges on my cheeks and my nails worn down to the nubbin, I looked like the Hawaiian hula dancer from hell.

I don’t think Hawaii’s tourist bureau is going to call me to pose for brochure photos any time soon. But that’s OK: I fully expect “Mulch Magazine” to call any minute – and make me their centerfold.


Prayer request: Our daughter Eden has wrenched her back and is in quite a lot of pain today. Heal her quickly and help her focus on her studies and not miss a beat in softball, Lord. She loves You and claims You as her Protector. Let her know that You are the God who will . . . watch her back. (Psalm 91:14)

Sunday, May 01, 2005


But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship one with another,
and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
-- 1 John 1:7

She’s a lovely, talented girl, and she’s dating the son of a friend of mine, away at college. Like everybody else in the world, she has a past.

Oh, she was active in Christian groups in high school. But then she did some “stuff” she shouldn’t have. Eventually, she repented. Since then, her faith has been growing by leaps and bounds.

Well, her roommate this year is an agnostic. She has been trying to witness to her, but has been rebuffed many times. The roommate would say that the idea of a personal relationship with God was “irrational.” She declined to read the Bible and pray.

The roommate had lots of quotes taped to her dorm walls, though. None were from the Bible, but it led my young friend to believe she really was a seeker. So she asked her to come to church with her.

To her surprise, the roommate agreed. It turns out this really cute BOY was there every week, and that was the real reason. But oh, well. Whatever works.

Then the roommate agreed to go to a women’s retreat, another surprise. That night, they stayed up really late, talking about all kinds of things, including faith. The young Christian continually prayed for words of wisdom to help the roommate with her doubts.

Next morning, she left a Bible verse on her pillow, Jeremiah 29:13: "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

That week in youth group, the discussion was about baptism. She remembered how, when she was in fifth grade and was baptized, her sponsor gushed, “Don’t you just feel wonderful? All clean and new?” but she hadn’t felt that way at all. She had been too busy deciding whether to plug her nose, and anticipating getting to take communion.

Now that she had sinned big and repented, and matured in her faith, it had crossed her mind that maybe she should get re-baptized – and this time, mean it.

She left the baptism discussion early to go to her boyfriend’s Ultimate Frisbee game – but like a Frisbee, her head was spinning. The rest of the week, she felt stressed out and down about her finances, her schoolwork, and her tendency to excessively diet and exercise, something she knew was bad for her, but she kept doing it, anyway.

That Sunday morning, her devotional was on Romans 7 and how we keep doing what we know we shouldn’t, even though Christ has defeated sin for us. You know, the age-old problem: “the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak.”

At church, her minister suddenly announced something new and unusual: they were going to offer people a chance to be baptized, right then and there. In the Bible, baptism was always spontaneous, never scheduled. So they thought they should follow suit.

Then what did the minister read? That same passage from Romans 7.

She sat there, stunned, with her boyfriend on one side and her roommate on the other. Her heart raced and she got tingles. This was a “prompting.” She should go forward, up to the front of the church, and be baptized. Just do it.

Oh, but she didn’t want to.

She was nervous!

What would people think?

What would she say for her testimony?

Worst of all, she was wearing a brand-new skirt that day. It had not been cheap. But it would get ruined: it was DRY-CLEAN ONLY!!!

Wait a minute!

Stop it!

That’s a dumb reason!

She scolded herself. There’s the flesh, winning out over the spirit again.

But she sat there, agonizing, not wanting to be the first to stand up.

And then guess who did?

Her roommate – the agnostic!

The FORMER agnostic . . . thanks to her.

With smiles and tears, they got baptized together – fully immersed – skirt and all.

How much better than dry-cleaning, though . . . to be bathed, refreshed and made new in the Water of Life.


Prayer request: We lift up to you all the students who are facing their final exams this week, Father. Reward those who have been working hard throughout the semester. Grant them strength and stamina for these last days of effort. Let them know how much You like to see Your children doing their best. (Hebrews 10:23)