Friday, September 30, 2005


Every once in a while, you have to talk to a Texan just to get caught up on slang with a twang. I have a new “accountability partner” for my new diet – yes, I’m back on Atkins and have already lost three pounds, thank you. Sharyl is an old friend who lives in Fo’t Wo’th. She can call me for free in the evenings, so we chat about our respective trials and tribs in the war against flab. I just love to listen to a Texan talk.

The other day, she ended our conversation by saying:

“Wahhhhl, y’all go back to killin’ rats.”

Not that far from wrong, Pardner.


Prayer request: Birthday prayers for my lovely big sister Robin as she prepares for her daughter’s wedding in just a few weeks. Also, we pray for a Godly tenure as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for John Roberts, sworn in Thursday. He appears to be a wonderful person and it will be a privilege to meet his request for continued prayers. (Micah 6:8)

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I had one of “those” days yesterday, pinging from one Horrible Crisis That Must Be Solved to the next. Day’s end was a dinner for our daughter’s softball team and coaches before their conference tournament today.

I was bringing plates and such, tablecloths, centerpieces, pop and water, homemade salad dressing, cut-up fruit, and Gram D’s Fabulous Chocolate Ice Box Dessert. The latter is a multi-stage affair that kept me up late the night before, as it has to chill for several hours.

How I wish I could do that!

It was a wild day. I waited ‘til the last minute to prepare the big bowl of fruit so it wouldn’t get squishy, and fought off a squadron of fruit flies with my melon baller. Some might have pierced my defenses, but maybe the players would think they were strawberry seeds.

Naturally, this was the moment Maddy insisted that I teach her how to tie her shoes, and WAILED because she couldn’t do anything after making the “X.”

In haste, I slug-loaded everything into the car, strapped the shoeless Maddy in, said a prayer that I wasn’t running over the dog, and zoomed down the driveway, only to see our evening paper in 42 sections blowing merrily across our yard and the neighbors’ in high winds. I got out and chased it all down, then zoomed to school . . . where I realized I’d left Gram D’s Fabulous Chocolate Ice Box Dessert in the fridge at home.

I off-loaded what had been slug-loaded, raced back for it, tied Maddy’s shoes above her protests, burst back in to the dinner, and started the ultra-messy process of cutting and serving the dessert, with gooey chocolate on my hands, when Maddy announced for all to hear, “Mom, I have to go potty – NOW!”

The fetal position was sounding pretty good just about then.

Then I received this email from a reader about HER day:

“Well, this is the day the painters finished our house and wanted their check and the day the furnace people also came to put in a new one. The house is a mess and we're also keeping our granddaughter who has ringworm on her leg and can't go back to school for two more days and her brother is arriving after getting his cast off of his arm because it's too late to go back to school. . . .”

We both need someone to tie OUR shoes and feed US a swell dinner, for a change. I wouldn’t even mind a little fruit-fly garnish.


Prayer request: Allen, a good friend and staunch Christian, asks for prayer to relieve his recent bout with grumpiness that he guesses is related to his senior status. Lord, thank You for our elders, who are so honest about their feelings. Thank You for this wise old owl’s self-assessment, which encourages me to admit my own less-than-even moods. Help us all to seek prayers and help from friends when we’re feeling blue. Send Allen some “joy bombs” in the coming days so he’ll know his ultimate Cheerleader is on his side. (Hebrews 4:16)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


A kindergartner in our car pool announced that she had brought lip gloss in her backpack. She would let Maddy try it if she could guess the flavor.

Maddy gave it her best shot:



“Bubble gum?”


(Long pause)


There were gales of laughter. “NO!”


More laughter. “NO!!!!”


At this point, the lip gloss was long-forgotten in the gales of laughter. While both girls might have had dry, chapped lips all afternoon, at least they were curving upward into kindergarten smiles. (FYI: it was strawberry!)


Prayer request: Father, there’s a wonderful Christian friend named Becky whose husband appears to need a double dose of the Holy Spirit’s gifts of joy and peace. He seems so grumpy all the time, and appears to be hard to get along with. The two small children seem fine, but I get the sense that Becky is in some emotional pain. We pray that she will pray for guidance on what to change in their home, and that he will be open to her ministrations. Anoint her and empower her, Lord, to help her husband over this apparent rough patch. (Lamentations 3:25)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


OK, so I’m a dummkopf. I came home Friday night, checked my email, and discovered a scary, big message on my computer screen: “FATAL SYSTEM ERROR.”


All day, I had been getting messages that a PUP – Potentially Unwanted Program – was trying to get in to my system, and couldn’t be removed. I had blown off the warnings because I was busy. Now, this.

I did what any self-respecting adult of the modern-day world would do: I winced, shut it off, and went to bed.

Next morning, I called my computer guru. But of course, it was a weekend, so he didn’t return the call. I suffered Saturday, Sunday and Monday, unconnected, drifting, descending into a state of cyberlessness.

Actually, it was great – we took Maddy to the Care Bears Live show and an indoor swimming pool, I got a lot of housework done, and best of all, I could relax and focus last night at the final softball game of the regular season. Our senior centerfielder Eden slammed a three-run triple – KABOOM! – that was the difference in the game. There were college scouts there and she got her name in the paper and everything. I am positive she hit it because her grandma and two couples who are dear family friends came to see her play. Surely it didn’t have anything to do with that person of the BOY persuasion in the front row.

Anyway, this morning, my adorable nephew, the computer engineer who just became an Air Force officer, was on the phone. I whined about my computer’s untimely death to him. He mildly said, “Did you try unplugging it from the wall for a few seconds?”

Nooooo. So I did. And presto! It sprang back to life! It’s a miracle!

Or maybe it’s stupidity. Thanks, Lt. Mark. You hit a triple, too!


Prayer request: Lord, we lift up a wife named Sadie, whose loving husband has asked for prayer that You would move in her heart to go to counseling with him. Father, repentance and the seeking of forgiveness are sure signs of Your work in his heart. We know that it is Your will that these two work this out, and we know that You are closest of all to those who are crushed in spirit, as this husband appears to be. We pray that his desire for reconciliation would reignite her heart’s flame as well. Awesome God, make an unmistakeable move to restore their marriage and their family. (Psalm 34:18)

Monday, September 26, 2005


I was pouting this morning about the apparent computer virus attack on my computer. I'm having to type this elsewhere and it feels funny not to have my own computer and email systems at work.

But I got the telltale message, "FATAL SYSTEM ERROR," on the screen late Friday night. I'm pretty sure it was a PUP -- Potentially Unwanted Program -- that I was trying to destroy earlier in the day, and couldn't. The guru who I hope can come and figure out what happened and retrieve my stuff has not yet called back. So I'm in limbo.

As usual, my Bible has been my guiding light. It opened this morning to Joshua 7:12. Joshua had been pouting, too, over an apparent battle defeat despite his having followed God's instructions diligently on how to take the Promised Land. God revealed to him that some of his people had looted stuff from the pagans, some gold and silver, against God's specific instructions.

Until Joshua got rid of that "accursed thing," they could never prevail. So they rooted it out, and lived happily ever after.

A computer virus is keeping me from the Promised Land of trouble-free publishing -- so here's hoping my guru can help me get rid of THAT "accursed thing."


Prayer request: Father, protect all of us who have computers from malevolent viruses, and help us take the steps to protect ourselves that You have provided for our safety. Help us to remember that Joshua dealt with a "virus" among his people, and won in the end. (Joshua 8:1)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

(Technical difficulties prevented email delivery to most readers today. A thousand pardons! Hopefully, it'll get fixed ASAP.)


(F)or there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed;
and hid, that shall not be known.
-- Matthew 10:26b

We did a major remodeling on our house several years ago. One of the Hideous Things That Had to Go was a brown plastic intercom in the kitchen. It looked like a spaceship console from a cheesy 1950s sci fi movie.

I ordered a new intercom system with a nice master console for the wall next to my computer in the kitchen. It came with several replacement speakers for around the house and hooked up to the doorbell. The wiring was already in place, so installation would be a snap, the salesman said.

But when the intercom workmen arrived, all they could speak was Spanish. They smiled broadly and nodded their heads, but peered into closets, frowning and arguing in rat-a-tat Spanish. Then when I’d walk by to check their progress, they’d smile broadly and nod their heads.

"Tacomargaritaelgrandemegustoarriba!" they said when the job was done. They smiled broadly and nodded their heads, handing me a thick manual, and vamoosing it, undule!

Well, the thing never worked right. Deafening static would erupt from a speaker in the middle of the night. We had to shout into it so loud to be heard, we could just as well holler across the house. The doorbell worked for a while, then died.

Other guys from the company came out a couple of times and tried to fix it, but it soon regressed.

I resigned myself to intercom-less living. At least the radio played, but eventually, that died, too. I grimaced every time I cast eyes on that useless box.

Then one day this past summer, it fritzed out. The little LED sign kept switching from "listen" to "talk," with bursts of loud static:





I turned every switch off, but it still did it. There was nothing to unplug. I had a deadline, and couldn’t stand the noise. So I did the only thing I could do:

I leaned a heavy ceramic flower pot up against the button, and duct-taped it tight.

Eureka! Blissful silence! That fixed YOUR wagon, you worthless slab of plastic.

Over the summer, the kitchen was the scene of many family conversations, large and small. With a man and wife, three young adult children and a 5-year-old, a juvenile delinquent Labrador, and various comings and goings of a large supporting cast, it was Verbal Central.

One evening, Maddy and the dog, Sunny, were cavorting in the kitchen. Maddy was singing, "Sun Bun! Doodly doodly! Oh, yeah! Oh, yeahhhh!" and other fascinating lyrics. I slipped outside to get the paper from the driveway.
And what do you think was blaring out all across the front yard?




What did I THINK would happen, taping that heavy pot to the button so that the LED read "TALK" at all times?!?
Doodly doodly! Oh, yeahhhhhhh. . . .

I cringed at what I might have said that might have been overheard. The gossip! The harsh rebukes! I was so, so busted. Is THAT why my neighbors smiled kind of funny lately? Every heated discussion, every judgmental remark, every bit of salty language, and all the things we said to each other in what we THOUGHT was total privacy, had gone out there for the world to hear.

Who needs TV soap operas and reality shows? Let’s stand outside the Williamses’ and get an earful!

Then I waxed philosophical. Maybe this was a God thing, to make me clean up my verbal act. If I conducted ALL my conversations as if the world were eavesdropping ALL the time, I could get a lot more stars, and a lot fewer frowny faces, on my "chart" in heaven.

Riiiight. But how many SECONDS do you think it took me to rip that duct tape off that flower pot and stop the embarrassing accidental broadcasting?



Doodly doodly!

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Technical difficulties beyond my control -- since I'm a technoboob -- render me unable to email stories temporarily. Please forgive, and bear with me.


Prayer request: Father, it is never Your will to allow us to waste Your time and resources. So I pray fervently that my computer problems will be solved, and that I will learn my lesson about being "too busy" to heed virus warnings and so forth. Don't allow this virus to wipe out my hard drive, but do wipe out sinful impatience from my heart! (1 John 1:9)

Friday, September 23, 2005


A friend of ours mentioned that it was the vernal equinox the other day. We decided that would be a typical Midwestern name for an older lady – “Vernal Equinox and I are going to the flea market, Harold.”

Then he said he knew someone whose last name was Shipflinger. We remarked on the genesis of that name and what occupation it might have represented. You know, like the last name “Baker” must have had a great-great-great-great grandpa who really was a baker, and so on.

We decided he should marry Vernal Equinox. Then their child would marry someone whose last name was Knucklehead. Of course, they would have to hyphenate, in this day and age. And of course they would name their first-born after Grandma.

So we would have:

Vernal Equinox Knucklehead-Shipflinger.

I just feel sorry for the headline writers of the future, trying to cram all that on a one-column space.


Prayer request: We pray for the protection of the levees in New Orleans and that Hurricane Rita will be turned aside so that loss of life and property can be minimized. Lord, be with the Gulf Coast and show them Your compassion and glory in sparing life and limb in miraculous power. You promise in Your Word that You will not forsake us. Hear our prayer! (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Thursday, September 22, 2005


A friend of our family is a high-school senior interested in becoming a veterinarian. He is enjoying his internship this fall semester at a local veterinary clinic for some hands-on experience.

The name of the clinic: “The Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital.”

Why’d they have to name it that? Because otherwise, people might think it was “The Sadistic Doctor Animal Hospital”? Come on – all animal doctors are gentle. Have you EVER heard of a mean veterinarian? In my experience, they are nicer than the people doctors, and they wince just as much when they have to give the patient a shot.

Actually, the veterinary ads in the Yellow Pages are full of fun phrases like that. For example, did you know there’s a term for gerbils and hamsters? “Pocket pets.” Here’s more:

“No Barking Dogs to Upset Your Cat!” – oh, those stuck-ups at the Completely Cat Clinic

“Interest in Dermatology, Allergic Skin and Ear Diseases” – now, there’s an offbeat hobby

“Behavior and Nutritional Counseling” – but can they do anything with teenagers?

“Warm Hearts for Cold Noses” – that may be the perfect slogan for an animal clinic; heck, it makes ME want to go there!


Praise report: We join in joyous celebration with Sharyl, a friend who over three pregnancies had gained more than 100 pounds of excess body weight. Because of the medical complications of all that weight, she had gastric lapband surgery and has lost 62 pounds in a year. She looks and feels great, and has a lot more insight on why she overate. She says it is striking how people look at her more, listen to her better, and treat her better now. She thinks they used to dismiss her as “fat” and therefore unworthy of attention and credibility. Lord, bless You and thank You for Sharyl’s success, and let her insights teach all of us to treat people of heroic proportions with more respect and love. (Romans 14:15)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


My friend who works at a giant medical center in Texas said there are tons of penniless but very nice and grateful patients there now. They are Hurricane Katrina refugees from the Gulf Coast. They are being given free medication and free health care, which is as it should be.

At times, she feels sad about what has to be done to process all those extra patients. It’s kind of a zoo. They just kind of line them up along a wall and interview them to find out who needs help STAT, and who can wait a little bit. It makes all the medical privacy regulations seem pointless, since it is so hard to obtain necessary medical information in confidence in that kind of a chaotic, crowded situation.

The other day took the cake. She couldn’t quite hear what a man was telling her was wrong with him. She cupped her hand to her ear and asked him to repeat it.

“I HAVE GENITAL WARTS!!!” he shouted. Naturally, at that instant, the noise in the room had died down. After that instant, it died down considerably more.

You know, they can blame that hurricane for a lot of things . . . but not for that poor guy’s problem, nor for my friend’s new permanent blush.


Prayer request: Comfort and TLC for our softball friends Rick and Lori, as Rick’s dad has died after a long illness. He was only 65. May the funeral this week be a time for family bonding and sweetness, and may the grandchildren always remember how much they were loved. Help them find the joy of salvation that is like a jewel hidden in the cold lump of sorrow. (Psalm 33:22)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I took Maddy down to the Omaha Children’s Museum for a Sunday afternoon outing when other family members were busy and we felt like going on a lark.

We’ve been so busy these past couple of weeks that I haven’t worked with her on her reading, which was one of my resolutions this crucial kindergarten year.

Well, down at the museum, I saw a huge sign with the word “KIDS.” I wondered whether she could read it, so I pointed it out to her.

She looked for a second, and I encouraged, “Sound it out! K – K – K. . . .”

“Oh!” she interrupted. “Construction!”

On the same sign, right under the word “KIDS,” was the name of the sponsoring company for that exhibit – you guessed it, a construction firm.

I think she’s getting it JUST fine.


Praise report: Father, we praise You and thank You for a happy ending to a scary incident involving our cousin’s daughter. Her 7-year-old son was in his seatbelt ready to go to school and they were on the downward-sloping driveway. Suddenly, the car became a runaway, and the mom found herself with one leg on the ground, and the other inside the car. She fell out and watched helplessly as the new Volvo wagon raced down without her, striking a four-foot stone wall, and coming to a stop with the front end hanging in mid-air. Her son was fine – he thought it was like a roller coaster ride. That’s when the mom fell apart, and all the what-ifs came into play. Lord, thank You for the gift of automobiles, and help us all resolve to be more careful and vigilant, all of the time. (1 Peter 5:8)

Monday, September 19, 2005


Footnote to Sunday’s story about our daughter’s car accident in which school officials found a sack of wigs in the back of her car – not a bong, not a meth lab, not guns and knives. The media may portray teenagers as having more of THAT kind of stuff. But most parents know that a sack of wigs is much more representative of the kinds of things that go on in their lives.

Those wigs could serve a cultural anthropologist attempting to piece together the story of our family.

The Dolly Parton wig? My dad wore it for me one time so I could style it in an updo to go with the $1 cowgirl dress I got at a thrift shop for a singing gig at a cousin’s rehearsal dinner.

The long blonde one? Our black lab Shadow wore it for Halloween one year.

The black skunk mullet was when I was Morticia for a Halloween haunted house we had in our basement, and the close-cropped, curly gray one was for Eden in fourth grade when she played the lead role as “Granny” in the school musical comedy, complete with a stuffed behind and rolled-down knee-high pantyhose.

A friend wore the humoungus Afro to the grocery store on a dare once, and we all wore some of the blonde ones to my sister’s 50th birthday party, in which we made fun of her once again for being a blonde.

On second thought, don’t let any social scientist near that sack of wigs. They might conclude that our “tribe” is crazy and needs to be put on a reservation for safekeeping. And they’d be right.


Prayer request: A wise friend read the story of the crash, and asked whether we were praying for the teenage driver who was at fault, that he would accept responsibility, repent, and vow to drive safely for the rest of his life. Lord, hear our prayer of thanksgiving that he wasn’t hurt, either, and work in his life to encourage him and draw him closer to You and maturity. We also pray that Eden will be able to fully forgive him and let him know it, whole-heartedly and without reservation, because she walks in the joy of Your keeping. (Psalm 121:5-8)

Sunday, September 18, 2005


. . . (B)ut I am among you as he that serveth.
-- Luke 22:27c

Our third daughter Eden was a happy baby. We nicknamed her “Beamer” because she smiled all the time. Still does.

She has a glow about her, from her honey-colored hair to her high-beam smile, polished by the ever-present laughter from the Four F’s: Friends, Family, Fun and Fone.

She’s a top student, a senior leader. She bats fourth on the defending state champion softball team. She’s never been in trouble, except when she was small and wrote on the wall a love note to her teddy bear and security blanket: “Bonkey and Blankey, Together Forever.”

Well, one afternoon last week, the phone rang. It was the strained, serious voice of the principal. “Mrs. Williams? Eden has been in an accident. I think she’s OK, but they put her on a stretcher with a neck brace and took her away in an ambulance. . . .”

Stretcher!?! Neck brace!?! Ambulance!?! AAAAIIIIEEEE!!!!

Right after school, she had been moving her car to be closer to the bus so that, late that night, when they returned from the softball team’s away game, she wouldn’t have to lug her heavy bag clear across the parking lot.

But in the process, she was broadsided by a speeding 16-year-old in his mother’s fiance’s car. He slammed into her beloved little red Mitsubishi Eclipse.

According to the police report, he was going at least 30 mph. Her car was probably totaled. On the way there, I prayed: Oh, God, let her be OK. Oh, Lord, protect and heal. Oh, Jesus, thank You she wasn’t killed.

In the emergency room, she looked 6 years old. Her tear-streaked face was downcast. She was laying back. There was a fly on her leg, and she didn’t even swat it.


The things that go through a mother’s mind. . . .

But we hugged and cried, because she’s fine. Really! It’s a miracle. They didn’t even do an X-ray. She just has a bruised elbow.

The doctor advised her not to play in the next two softball games, and gave her a muscle relaxant.

“So you don’t think she’ll need a sedative?” I asked. No. Just watch her.

She walked out of the E.R., and her boyfriend leaped up and hugged her. He’s a college man now, and I got my first look at his new (gulp) goatee and (gulp) earring and (gulp) longer hair.

I turned to the nurse. “How about a sedative for ME?!?!?”

We ran to Dairy Queen for medicinal purposes, and reviewed the accident . . . seeing God’s provision, as you always can. Whenever one person helps and serves another, He is there.

A mom who is a nurse was there driving a carpool, and took charge ‘til the ambulance arrived.

Several friends took pictures of the scene and her car with their cell phones.

An assistant principal hopped into the ambulance with her. Another had the car towed. The principal arrived in the E.R., and told how there were three police cars and a fire truck at the scene.

One of Eden’s best friends volunteers at that hospital, and read stories to Maddy in the waiting room while it all got sorted out.

Her teammates were upset. They were tied 0-0 midway through their away game, when Eden arrived in sweats. She told them she should have come in a fake head wrap and body cast in a wheelchair. They went out and had a four-run inning and won the game.

But my favorite memory was a message on our answering machine from another assistant principal. “I collected everything that was left in Eden’s car before it was towed,” he stated, “her purse, her backpack, her softball equipment . . . and her sack of wigs.”

Yes, wigs. They were left over from the hilarious initiation rituals Eden and the other seniors put the softball freshmen through a while ago.

That was just God’s way of giving us all a little comic relief. I mean, we were all concerned. But with His loving provision all around, there was no reason to . . . flip our wigs.


Prayer request: There’s a family in Nebraska dealing with extreme joy and extreme sorrow right now, needing the Savior’s tender loving care. A nephew, a college freshman, died inexplicably while playing touch football in Lincoln. A description of the funeral: “His former FFA friends lined one aisle of the church. His classmates and former teammates lined the other aisle, and his new fraternity brothers lined the center aisle. Four people fainted. His mother’s sobs could be heard throughout the church. There were also people in the basement and outside. The service itself was very nice, ending with the song, ‘I've Never Been More Homesick Now.’ The 15-mile processional to the cemetery had miles and miles of vehicles. On the side of the road stood a John Deere tractor with a hand-painted sign leaning against it which read, ‘Watch over us, Rob’" . . but in the same extended family, there was joy . . . because a newly adopted son arrived from Korea. Luke was greeted by about 35 friends and family members. He was laughing and smiling up a storm, though everyone else was crying up a storm with tears of joy. We know it’s no coincidence that the joyous event came in the same week as the tragic one. We pray that everyone in the family will reach out to You, Lord, and know You are near, as we learned this week from Beamer’s crash. You’re there in our crises and our quiet times, our joys and our sorrows. (Psalm 9:10)

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Boy, it’s a different world. I attended my adorable neighbor’s elegant 75th birthday party, complete with a beautiful “75” ice sculpture, flower arrangements featuring Birds of Paradise, food from shrimp to Brie to Belvedere martinis, and a deejay playing some great tunes for dancing and fun.

The spell was broken, though, when one of the 70-something guests tried to request a song from the deejay. “I Only Have Eyes for You,” he said.

The deejay replied, frowning, “I’m worried!”


Prayer request: After a long day at a grocery-store cashier’s stand, my local clerk was planning to drive 30 miles to go see her best friend’s husband in a cardiac care unit. He’s in his late 50s, and he had a serious heart attack this past week. Lord, she was so tired, and her friend is so scared. What a testament to the caliber of friendship that You call us to display, Lord. Be with her, give her Your confidence, and inspire her to say and do the things that matter and will really help. Grant healing to the husband and a long life. (Proverbs 14:26)

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Maddy and I had just read a bedtime story in which the dad had tenderly called the son “Little Mister.”

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I tucked her in, kissed her goodnight, and started lumbering up the stairs, only to hear her call:

“Good night, BIG MADAME!”

Made me feel like a housemother at Hooter’s who needs to go back on Atkins. Which actually isn’t all that far off.


Praise report: I just heard about a young adult believer who has just managed to lose 35 pounds by merely watching what she eats and exercising daily. She feels great about life now, after some bouts with depression and other difficulties. Oh, Lord, we praise You and bless You for this turnaround. It’s evidence that, with You, we can defeat anything that besets us – anything! May she give You the glory and stay under Your wing . . . and may the old, tired “Big Madames” out here get the gumption to follow her lead! (1 John 4:4)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Our kindergartner attends a phonics school, and this week they’re studying the letter “g.” At the “letters center,” she is going to have to come up with words that start with “g” and draw a picture of them. So I was helping her “g-g-g-get” ready with a bedtime brainstorming session.

“How about ‘girl’?” I suggested.

She smiled, and nodded.

“How about ‘goat’?”

Another bingo.

I was soooo tired by then, I was stumped. But she came back with:

“Gore-made foods!”


Well, you know: you have home-made foods, and school-made foods (the class made applesauce on Monday – yum, yum), and food made in restaurants . . . so she had heard of this special type of food called “gore-made,” and thought it would fit right in on her letters paper.

I did my best imitation of a French chef. “Ho ho ho!!!! Sacre bleu!!!”

She frowned. “That doesn’t start with ‘g,’ Mom.”


Praise report: We are filled with gratitude over the very close call our high-school senior, Eden, suffered yesterday. The school parking lot is a speed raceway, and a boy going 35 mph slammed in to her car right at the driver’s side. We thank You for the miracle that she sustained only a bruised elbow and a slight case of shock, and we thank You for all those who helped. We fervently pray that this will be the end of the accidents there, and that changes will be made to protect kids in the future. I’ll write about it on Sunday. ‘Til then, Father, we fall at Your feet with thanksgiving and gratitude that no one was hurt, and for the lesson in how precious and wonderful Eden is. (2 Chronicles 32:7,8)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Maddy came home from kindergarten with a little booklet similar to booklets sent home from kindergartens coast to coast, no doubt. It’s titled “All About Me,” and it features her drawings about her house, her family, her friends and so forth.

Besides the amusing lack of hair on my husband’s head and the graceful, swan-like, four-foot neck on the drawing of me, the most striking thing about the book is its dramatic style. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since she calls me “O Mother of All Lords” when she’s sucking up and actually bows and “worships” toward the sack of cheesy Lay’s potato chips since they’re her favorite.

Now THAT’S cheesy.

But these drawings are quite dramatic. “My Home” depicts a four-story purple castle with many blue windows. “My Birthday” shows an enormous cake, floating in the sky, with kelly-green frosting.

What really makes the booklet dramatic, though, is Maddy’s subtitle for it. She calls it:

“The Deeds of Life.”


Praise report: Lord, You blow me away. Yesterday, we prayed for a senior in high school who revealed to one of his teachers that he cannot read or write. Within hours, not one but TWO women came forward offering to tutor him, for free, using systematic, intensive, explicit phonics, such as he should have had in the early grades of school many years ago. Both are mothers of sons who also struggled with reading, and both became experts at supplying the phonics skills the schools should be supplying, but so often don’t. Both, also, are strong Christians who live their faith. Their community spirit, compassion and willingness to shuffle their schedules around to help a complete stranger are extremely inspiring and encouraging. Bless both of them, Lord, and work all the details out to make this happen, for the boy’s good and Your glory. (Romans 8:37-39)

Monday, September 12, 2005


My late Uncle Dave was a liberal Democrat in a family of conservative Republicans. I admired how he lived out his politics. For example, he ran a brass and aluminum foundry on Omaha’s Near North Side, where the workforce was mostly poor, black and undereducated.

During the 1960s, as civil rights battles erupted around the country and even in sleepy old Omaha, other businesses fled the city’s central core. Crime and unrest became very difficult for business people. But Uncle Dave stubbornly kept his foundry open. He knew how important a regular paycheck was to a family’s stability.

He even innovated: he had the wives come in on Fridays to pick up those paychecks, since the men had a tendency to squander their earnings each weekend at the racetrack and in the bars and so forth.

Well, things got pretty intense down there, and he did eventually close the business. Just before he did, though, a wife called in to say that her husband wouldn’t be in that day.

Why not?

“Because I shot him last night.”


Prayer request: Father, my teacher friend Tracy was telling me about a high-school senior in west-central Omaha who can’t read or write, yet has been given “social promotions” from grade to grade all these years. He isn’t really learning-disabled, just illiterate. His future is so uncertain, and his self-esteem is so low. We pray that You will inspire people at his new school to find strategies and methods to help him bridge the gap toward literacy and find a constructive career path. And we pray that all those educators who looked the other way over the years would realize the harm they’ve done to this precious young man, and would never allow this to happen again. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

Sunday, September 11, 2005


. . . (A)nd lo, I am with you alway,
even unto the end of the world. Amen.
-- Matthew 28:20b

We buried my uncle, David J. Miller, last week, after a battle with emphysema. It was one of those funerals where you laughed really hard, and cried really hard, and went away with such a sense of the person it was as if they were going home with you in the car.

Uncle Dave was just what you’d want in an uncle: handsome and impish, funny and tender, great at business and sales, and always giving his all for his family. He was one of those dads who was out there throwing the football with his two boys and playing a clown at the school carnival to the delight of his two girls. He was incredibly good to Aunt Nancy throughout her life and in her final battle with leukemia.

We called him “Uncle Ace.”

He was my mother’s only brother, a little older. Since my grandmother was a working mother before working motherhood was cool, as one of the first employees of Mutual of Omaha, Uncle Ace was often responsible for my mother.

He would have to take her places on the streetcar and around the neighborhood. He started calling her “Sister.” Pretty soon, everyone called her that. He finally admitted that he did it to make sure the girls his age wouldn’t think she was his DATE.

She was impish, too. She got into an argument once with a little boy, and they conspired to have their big brothers settle it. She stood there and held Dave’s coat as he was forced to get into a fistfight with a much bigger boy. But guess who won? No way was he going to let “Sister” down. He never did, either.

I love looking at photos of them from the 1930s and ‘40s. He was always grinning, with his head tipped and his big ears sticking out, and she was kind of nestled in to him, with a big hair bow on the side. They had matching “take on the world” expressions.

Life sped by, and they both married wonderful people. Each had four kids. They lived in the same city and their relationship just got stronger and sweeter.

On Sundays at Grammie’s, the adults would pull the pocket door shut in the study so that they could talk quietly, while us eight kids rampaged, unsupervised, outside their grasp. The message was clear: relationship is everything. One time, we cut the shag carpet in Grammie’s living room with scissors and “raked” it into piles for “burning.” After that, they left the pocket door open a few inches.

Oddly enough, three times my mom was in a traffic accident . . . and Uncle Dave happened by.

Once, we were hurrying to pick up Dad at the airport, and got into a fender-bender. We had to wait for the police, and were worried about missing Dad’s plane. Presto! Here came Uncle Dave, pulling over out of rush-hour traffic. He leaned out of his car, grinning at my mom’s predicament, and said he’d go to the airport and bring Dad back to us.

Another time, Mom had a flat tire just a couple of blocks from home. She was wondering what to do, when, what in the world? Here came Uncle Dave, pulling over, grinning, and changing the flat in nothing flat.

We can’t remember what the third time was. But we know these weren’t coincidences.

They’re examples of how each of us believers has a few people “assigned” to us here on Earth, to look after us, and love us, and let us know that we’re never alone if we love the Lord. Uncle Dave, the sales rep, was a “rep” for the Lord.

So now that he’s gone, I’m not sad. He’s still with Mom in spirit, and they’ll be together again. In the harsh light of this 9/11 anniversary, and the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, it’s good to know.

It’s good to think about all the Uncle Aces out there -- being there for others, doing the Lord’s work, being in the right place at the right time.

And when Mom gets to the Pearly Gates. . .

. . . Uncle Ace will be there, smiling, his halo tipped impishly on his big ears, holding out a pair of wings to “Sister,” and teasing her: “What took you so long?”

‘Til then, Beloved, rest up . . . and know that you were loved.


Prayer request: Father, we remember the victims of 9/11 today, and pause to reflect on the message of that terrible day. We all need to live by Your rules, loving one another, and standing up against evil wherever it emerges. Lord, comfort our fears by letting us know You are always with us, and strengthen us as our country recovers from the corresponding shock and harm of Hurricane Katrina. Let a million Uncle Aces rise up to “be there” for others, in Jesus’ Name. (Isaiah 41:10)

Prayer request: Lord, we lift up the family of the 18-year-old college freshman in Lincoln who inexplicably died while playing touch football with his new friends. Death is so difficult at any age, but so hard to accept and understand when it happens to someone so young and full of life and promise. We pray that his life will have purpose and meaning forever, and his family will find peace, as they begin to pick up the pieces of their hearts in this tragedy. (Psalm 29:11)

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Don’t blame me. Blame email:

At a Car Dealership:

"The best way to get back on your feet -- miss a car payment."

In the front yard of a Funeral Home:
"Drive carefully. We'll wait."

On a Septic Tank Truck in Oregon:
”Yesterday's Meals on Wheels”

On a Septic Tank Truck sign:
"We're #1 in the #2 business."

Sign over a Gynecologist's Office:
"Dr. Jones, at your cervix."

At a Proctologist's door:
"To expedite your visit please back in."

On a Plumber's truck:
"We repair what your husband fixed."

On a Plumber's truck:
"Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber."

Pizza Shop Slogan:
"7 days without pizza makes one weak."

At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee:
"Invite us to your next blowout."

On a Plastic Surgeon's Office door:
"Hello. Can we help to pick your nose?"

At a Towing company:
"We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want tows."

On an Electrician's truck:
"Let us remove your shorts."

In a Nonsmoking Area:
"If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action."

On a Maternity Room door:
"Push. Push. Push."

At an Optometrist's Office:
"If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

On a Taxidermist's window:
"We really know our stuff."

In a Podiatrist's office:
"Time wounds all heels."

On a Fence:
"Salesmen welcome! Dog food is expensive."

Outside a Muffler Shop:
"No appointment necessary. We hear you coming."

In a Veterinarian's waiting room:
"Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!"

At the Electric Company:
"We would be delighted if you send in your payment.However, if you don't, you will be."

In a Restaurant window:
"Don't stand there and be hungry. Come on in and get fed up."

At a Propane Filling Station,
"Thank heaven for little grills."

And don't forget the sign at a Swansboro Radiator Shop:
"Best place in town to take a leak."


Prayer request: Friend Cindy faces a CAT scan and a bone-marrow biopsy next week as her battle against Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia comes to a climax. Father, we pray for clear and convincing results of these tests to guide the medical team to the most surefire course of action. Cindy has been so steadfast in her faith during this trial, despite two recent hospitalizations for complications of chemotherapy. Bless her with great results, Father. You promise in Your Word that all Who seek You will know that You are good, and will never want for a thing. We lift Cindy up to You. Oh, hear our prayer. (Psalm 34:6-10)

Friday, September 09, 2005


(video of a baby making an adorable "fluffy")


Prayer request: Jenna, our neighbor and an all-state pitcher, was supposed to be starting her college pitching career on scholarship in South Dakota. But medical tests suggest she might have a heart murmur. She is to have more tests today. We pray for a miracle, and that the first diagnosis be wrong, or that they conclude that it is inconsequential and she can still play ball, for that's how she glorifies God, with diligence and skill. (Matthew 5:16)

Thursday, September 08, 2005


With gas prices going up, I had to purchase a new form of transportation.

(animation: man on a moo-ving motorcycle -- a cow!)



Prayer request: Oh, Lord, these gas prices are very difficult to take for many people. Help us find ways to conserve and combine trips, and bring this fuel crisis to an end as soon as possible. You say in Your Word that You take pleasure in the prosperity of your servants. Magnify Your Name by prospering us! (Psalm 35:27)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


A friend is a great decorator, and was asked to spruce up a quaint old barn in central Nebraska for a special wedding reception barn dance. The bride’s mother wanted it to be “country elegant,” so the transformation into magazine-quality rural-chic décor was carried out with a lot of love and a lot of work.

The toughest spot to fix was the age-old barn restroom. A fresh coat of paint, new curtains and colorful towels all helped a lot, but that toilet seat! Eww! So scratched and icky-looking.

Well, it was an unusual size, and no store for 100 miles around had a replacement in stock. It would take weeks to obtain. So she did the only thing she could: she painted it glossy black. Yep, those scratches and stains just disappeared, and it looked as good as new. It was the last thing she completed, and she was happy with the result.

Well, the wedding came off without a hitch – except that the bride and groom got hitched, of course – and the barn dance was in full swing, literally. It was the cutest thing everybody had ever seen, and my friend was getting loads of compliments on her decorating . . . ‘til . . . PSSSSST!!!!!

A wedding guest was beckoning her urgently to come to the bathroom. Once there, she suddenly lifted her skirt and turned around.

Making a perfect “U” on her backside was black paint – glossy black paint. You guessed it: the decorator had used the wrong kind of paint on that toilet seat, and it only SEEMED dry. This guest was apparently the first to “try out” the seat.

Luckily, she thought it was funny, and no paint got on her skirt – just her pride – so all in all, it was an even more memorable wedding reception than anyone had bargained for. In fact, it was the living end!


Praise report: Thank You, Father, for the success experienced by one of our daughter’s softball teammates, Jasmine, last night. She faced a pitcher who had broken her ulna, an arm bone, on a wild pitch in summer ball. She was just released to play again and wouldn’t you know? It would be against that same pitcher. But she did things Your way, Lord. She went over and chatted with that pitcher before the game to show her there were no hard feelings, and faced down her fear to hit a sizzling line drive deep into centerfield to help win the game. Bless Jasmine and her parents for navigating this trial with grace, and continue to grant her success on and off the field, Lord. (Philippians 2:13)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


My handsome and wonderful Uncle Dave has passed away at 77, and his funeral is planned for Thursday. Emphysema is a crummy disease, and his last year was not without suffering. But his bravery and sense of humor sustained his four adult children and extended family until the end, and onward.

I love how he teased his doctor in his very last days and hours about how much time had left. One day, the doctor said he was doing a little better, and Dave rapidly fired off these questions:

“So I can cancel the flower order?”

“So I shouldn’t give up my football tickets?”

“So I can start buying green bananas?”

He was a believer, so he’s enjoying perfectly-ripe, celestial bananas as we speak . . . surrounded by the most awesome flowers imaginable, at a Husker game where there are never any fumbles or fourth-down sacks.

Have fun up there, Uncle Ace. And save me a seat by you. Your one-liners are part of my eternal reward.


Prayer request: We lift up my four cousins and their families for special TLC during this difficult week as they lay their father and grandfather to rest. May the stories and scriptures we’ll share inspire the grandchildren to love Christ and serve Him all the days of their lives. (Psalms 27:4)

Monday, September 05, 2005


On Thursday, the softball concession stand of which I’m in charge distributed more than 200 free hot dogs. I vowed that I never wanted to see another hot dog again.

On Friday, I took Maddy and a friend to the pool for two hours and caught them at the bottom of the water slide. I got a reddish sunburn on my schnozz.

On Saturday, we went to the Husker football game. I was sitting there minding my own business when ‘way down below by the field came the Der Weinerschlinger guy. He has rigged up a cannon that can shoot hot dogs from ground level up into the cheap seats. It’s the highlight of the game, for many people, to try to catch one.

Well, one came right toward us. I didn’t even reach for it, since I was so sick of hot dogs at that point. But I craned my neck skyward to see where it would land.

It landed two rows up . . . but the guy right behind me leaped for it, missed, and brought his hand down – SMACK! – right on top of my uplifted sunburned nose.

It hurt. But not that bad. I told him I knew my nose was sunburned, but I didn’t know it was so red it looked like a hot dog. And I told him I wished our pass receivers would put as much effort into trying to catch a football as he had in trying to catch that hot dog.


Prayer request: Father, we are thankful to hear about so many rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Let each of us search our hearts and ask You to show us a way we can help be Your hands and feet in this terrible tragedy. (Proverbs 16:3)

Sunday, September 04, 2005


And we know that all things work together for good
to them that love God,
to them who are the called
according to his purpose.
-- Romans 8:28

I had a lot of mundane days as a newspaper reporter. I wrote stories about the turnip that looked like Ronald Reagan, and what Mrs. Fleeblegetser served at the tea. But one time I helped expose a public utility’s insurance practices that wound up saving $707,000, and another time I discovered the description of a gun in court records that helped solve a murder mystery.

That’s why I became a reporter. I wanted to make a difference.

There are rare times in each of our lives when everything else falls away, and we clearly and convincingly see our purpose: why we’re here.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is one of those times.

Every tragedy has a flip side. There’s an opportunity to do good and to show love. You can be the right person at the right time to restore order and bring light where there’s darkness, healing where there’s pain. Remember Todd Beamer? Let’s roll.

Let’s roll, indeed.

And so I got goosebumps from this brave letter from a physician new to New Orleans, a friend of friends. He has suddenly put aside his sedate specialty, pathology, and has become an intrepid, battlefront-style doctor in a life-or-death, triage situation.

He’s in a position to really help people – the reason you go into medicine in the first place. He gets to do things of eternal significance. He gets to be used by God. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Here are excerpts from his letter, dated Wednesday:

”Personally, my family and I are fine. My family is safe in Jackson, Miss., and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans. I figured if it was my time to go, I wanted to go in a place with a good wine list. . . .

”Things were obviously bad yesterday, but they are much worse today. Overnight the water arrived. Now Canal Street (true to its origins) is indeed a canal. The first floors of all downtown buildings are underwater. . . .

”The city now has no clean water, no sewage system, no electricity, and no real communications. Bodies are still being recovered floating in the floods. We are worried about a cholera epidemic. Even the police are without effective communications. We have a group of armed police here with us at the hotel that is admirably trying to exert some local law enforcement. This is tough because looting is now rampant.

“Most of it is not malicious looting. These are poor and desperate people with no housing, no medical care, and no food or water trying to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the people are armed and dangerous. We hear gunshots frequently. Most of Canal Street is occupied by armed looters who have a low threshold for discharging their weapons. The looters are using makeshift boats made of pieces of Styrofoam. We are still waiting for a significant National Guard presence.

"The health care situation here has dramatically worsened overnight. Many people in the hotel are elderly, or small children. Many other guests have unusual diseases. . . .

“We have commandeered the world-famous French Quarter Bar to turn into a makeshift clinic. There is a team of about seven doctors and PAs and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be the major medical facility in the central business district and French Quarter.

”Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into garbage bags and removed them, all under police escort. The looters had to be held back at gunpoint. After a dose of prophylactic Cipro, I hope to be fine.

”We will start admitting patients today. Many will be from the hotel, but many will not. We are anticipating dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water shortages are imminent.

”In a sort of cliché way, this is an edifying experience. One is rapidly focused away from the transient and material to the bare necessities of life. It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care physician. We are under martial law, so return to our homes is impossible. I don't know how long it will be and this is my greatest fear.

“Despite it all, this is a soul-edifying experience. The greatest pain is to think about the loss. And how long the rebuild will take. And the horror of so many dead people.

”PLEASE SEND THIS TO ALL YOU THINK MAY BE INTERESTED IN A DISPATCH from the front. I will send more according to your interest. Hopefully their collective prayers will be answered. By the way, suture packs, sterile gloves and stethoscopes will be needed as the Ritz turns into a M*A*S*H.”

It was signed by Greg Henderson, M.D.

God be with you, Dr. Henderson. Thank you for this incredible service. Angels above you, below you, and all around as you work and heal and save.

Oh, Dr. Henderson, these are the worst of times . . . but these are also the best of times. You were made for a purpose, Sir. You’re lucky to see yours so clearly. When your calling intersects with crisis, and you’re willing to be used for good, great meaning and beauty result. May this be the adventure of your life.

That’s why you’re there . . . and it’s our privilege to pray for you.


Prayer request: Father, we cannot understand Your purpose in allowing this horrible tragedy on the Gulf Coast. But we know You are good and You are sovereign. Human failing, not Your Hand, caused most of the problems and suffering. We know You love us, each and every one, and we have faith that the lessons of love and mercy that will come out of this will more than assuage the impact. Send more servants like Dr. Henderson into the area, and kindle more compassion in people’s hearts around the world to send help and pray for all those involved. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

Praise report: Come see! Thank You, Lord, for fulfilling this longtime dream of mine, to try to make a difference in K-12 education in my beloved home state. I have been terribly impatient in this long process, and constantly jumping the gun on Your plans for me. But Savior, You are so faithful to complete Your end of any bargain, and You’ve done it here again, strengthening my faith in You. I rest in You, depending on You to take it from here. (James 5:7,8)

Saturday, September 03, 2005


So far, so good on kindergarten. Maddy loves it. She says it gets over too fast, which is a good sign, and we’ve noticed a marked improvement in her coloring already. We love it that they’re teaching Saxon phonics and Saxon math, the tried-and-true curriculum we wish all children could have. And we love it that there’s plenty of art, music and play mixed in.

The other day, Maddy came home all bubbly about something new she had learned in school that day.

Hmm. What? Calculus? Conjugating French verbs?

Noooo. She exulted, “I can hang upside down from the bar! And I can go down the poles!”

Look out, Oxford. If you ace recess in kindergarten, who knows where it may lead?


Praise report: I’ve heard of two Hurricane Katrina refugee families who arrived in our small town in Nebraska with the clothes on their backs and not much else. They already have their children enrolled in school and are receiving an outpouring of help and support. Lord, let Your light shine into hearts that have been darkened by the hurricane with proof that Your world is a good place, with many good people who are going to bear this burden with the hurricane victims ‘til all is calm again. Show them You’ve got the whole world in Your hands. (1 Peter 5:7)

Friday, September 02, 2005


We made a bundle on softball concessions last night with a triangular meet over the dinner hour. We are going to donate some of it to two refugee families from New Orleans who arrived here in eastern Nebraska with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They have enrolled their young children in two local grade schools, and we’re finding out more about them so that we can help them adjust.

More than 200 people jammed our jewel-like city park last night for the softball games, and I was struck by the contrast between our lifestyle, and what people were going through in the hurricane aftermath.

We had free hot dogs, sloppy joes, Frito pies, nachos, and all the fixin’s . . . while a lot of them starved.

We sat on really nice bleachers imported for the occasion from a nearby rodeo arena, with many others perched on picnic tables or sprawled out on comfy spectator chairs . . . while a lot of them huddled in big stadiums and couldn’t really stretch out.

We were entertained by the sights and sounds of youth sports, with youngsters displaying real skill and a lot of grown-ups relaxing and chatting . . . while many of the hurricane victims were dealing with death, destruction, chaos and crime.

It’s hard to make people in crisis believe that things are going to get better soon, but they will. They will! Believe it, New Orleans. One day soon, you’ll have an evening like we just had. You’ll have peace and contentment . . . the good life in America.

That’s my prayer, anyway, and I’m sure it’s one shared by all Americans at this difficult time.


Prayer request: A dear friend’s handsome nephew Russ is en route as we speak to the New Orleans aftermath with his Nebraska National Guard troop. Father, we thank You for his service and all the helpful things he’s going to do for others down there. We pray that he knows You are with him. We plead for his protection and safety, along with all others who are in the thick of things in this crisis. (Isaiah 41:10)

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Maddy, 5, was chattering about how many different sounds there are, and how each means something different.

Aha! A teachable moment! I put on my brightest “listen to me because this is good for you” smile. “Yes! Sounds mean things, just like words on a page, only sounds are invisible, so our brains have to tell us what sounds mean,” I said enthusiastically.

As if she didn’t KNOW that.

“GEEZ, MOM,” Maddy retorted. “What did you EXPECT? Little pieces of PAPER flying around with the names of the SOUNDS on them?”


Prayer request: My good friend used the New Orleans hurricane aftermath and her own chemotherapy treatment as a teachable moment with her teenager. The girl was complaining about summer being over and having to be so busy back in school already, and how she didn’t feel like going that day. The wise mother said that the people in New Orleans probably wished they didn’t have to do all that clean-up, and she certainly wished she didn’t have to go to chemo – so get some perspective, Honey. The teenager got the lesson beautifully. End of pity party. Oh, Lord, thank you for the people in our lives who can help us keep our priorities straight, and our eyes on You. (Proverbs 3:22)