Monday, October 31, 2005


Footnote to Sunday’s story about the Pumpkinheads and the sleepy med student:

It was a Halloween night long, long ago. The ghosties and goblins were out in full force. One group in particular featured two tall dads and four little kids. It had gotten very cold and icy.

When they went up the steps of one small porch and rang the bell, the master of the castle opened the storm door outward, and the wind must have caught it.

It banged into one little ghost and knocked him all the way into the snow below.

Not a very nice trick . . . but it sure provides a funny treat in the telling, years and years later.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


(H)e hath no form of comeliness;
and when we shall see him
there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men. . . .
-- Isaiah 53:2b,3a

A bunch of us new college graduates had gathered at a local establishment which served festive beverages. We had pretty much taken over the place, which was all decked out for Halloween.

I must admit, I had overimbibed that night. No, not on festive beverages: on helium. I loved nothing better than to grab a balloon, suck its contents deeply into my lungs, and then, in a ridiculous Munchkin voice, say something rapidly, like:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . . .”

You get the idea. We were young, we were nerds, and we were up to no good.

Well, my beloved, his ex-college roommate and some other guys had grabbed the jack o’lanterns that had been carved for the occasion. It was long after midnight. They didn’t think the business establishment would mind if they took a few souvenirs.

I am relieved to report that they DID think to remove the candles. What they did next was inexplicable, unless you know guys: they cut a hole in the bottom of each jack o’lantern, and wore them out of the place.

Pumpkinheads, walking tall.

In perfect late-night logic, we then proceeded in a caravan of cars to the quiet home of another one of their ex-roommates. He had not joined us for the revelry, because, unlike us, he and his dear wife were serious persons, and in medical school. So they’d skipped the party.

Their relative maturity drew the ire of the Pumpkinheads.

While we embarrassed wives and girlfriends slumped in the cars, holding our heads in our hands, the Pumpkinheads staggered boldly up to the door, hung on the bell, knocked loudly, and shouted “Trick or Treat!” and other things that only sound funny when it’s 2 in the morning and you’re up to no good.

The popular movie of the day, which dates me, but it was a good movie, was “The Elephant Man.” My beloved staggered about on the porch, quoting the movie’s key line, “I am not an animal. I’m a human being!” while the other Pumpkinheads howled similar epithets.

A light snapped on at the back of the house. Then the porch lights. Then the door burst open. There was our med school friend in his T-shirt and jockey shorts. (Yes, I was peeking.)

We forgot he was a redhead, and gets mad easily.

Thinking they were rowdy vandals, terrorists or psych ward escapees, he PUNCHED the nearest Pumpkinhead, who flipped backwards over the iron porch railing onto his hands and knees on the lawn below, continuing to mutter, “I am not an animal. I’m a human being!”

His pumpkinhead split in two. At that instant, the med student realized who he had just punched – my beloved -- his close friend.

Did he come down off the porch, throw his arm around him, and apologize for the mighty blow which would have surely broken his nose, if not for the two-inch pumpkin shield in front of it?

Did he laugh appreciatively and remark that he should have known who Jack O’Lantern and his friends really were, enjoying the practical joke in the spirit of fun?


I think he and his wife, also in med school, were tremendously annoyed because they had an enormous test the next day. So his heartfelt message to them was something like this:


Like, “You guys are out of your . . . gourds!”

That’s the thing about Halloween, and real life, too. You never know who it REALLY is behind that mask. And that’s bad, both ways.

Best to make sure people know who you are before you ring their doorbell at 2 a.m.

And best to hold your punches ‘til you find out for sure whether it’s a monster or a friend under there . . . before you turn their brains into . . . well . . . squash.


PRAYER REQUESTS: Please check in regularly to my new prayer blog, Please send any prayer needs that you have, and updates and praise reports, too!

Thursday, October 27, 2005


This is upsetting but I thought I should pass it along. It seems that they’ve posted everybody’s driver's license on the Internet. I just searched for mine and there it was . . . picture and all!!

Thanks, Homeland Security! Where are our rights? I definitely removed mine. I suggest you do the same.Go to the web site and check it out. Just enter your name, city and state to see if yours is on file. After your license comes on the screen, click the box marked "Please Remove.” This will remove it from publicviewing, but not from law enforcement.


PRAYER REQUESTS: I’ve dedicated a new blog just for prayer requests, updates, and praise reports that come my way. See Please keep sending your prayer needs and I’ll post them at least once a day on the site.


DAILYSUSAN will resume on Sunday, Oct. 30.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Our 5-year-old slumped back on our heavy iron kitchen barstool while savoring her pb&j, and got her right arm stuck between the slats. She panicked, and pulled left, then right, and found herself even more stuck, so she wailed for me.

By the time I got there, Maddy had changed positions so the angle was off kilter, and my attempts to free her by pulling on her arm or pushing it from behind yielded yelps of fear and pain.

That’s when the practical mind of the 5-year-old surfaced. Through her tears, Maddy cried, “I’ll just have to walk around all day with this on my back.”

We couldn’t have that! It weighs as much as she does!

Luckily, a pull upward freed the arm . . . and her fears of spending the rest of her life as a hunchback were laid to rest.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I’m not the only mom who has heard her own occasional verbal slips echo back from the innocent lips of a little one. Oh, those pitchers and their big ears. A friend wrote:

“When Scott was just 2, I was strapping him into his child-seat in the back seat of my car. My mom was waiting patiently outside the car, ready to open the passenger door as soon as I had Scott strapped in safely. Scott and I were going to lunch with Grandma, and we were all pumped.

“I could not get the seatbelt into the lock, because I could not see it around the carseat. So, I was reaching, groping blindly, and struggling, and making frustrated grunting sounds as I struggled right in front of -- and over -- quiet, patient Scott.

“Mom said from outside, ‘What's the matter?’ And I muttered as I groped over the carseat, ‘I just can't seem to get the seatbelt fastened, Mom.’

“At that, Scott slapped his hand down firmly on the padded seat arm in front of him, and said with great feeling:


“I practically hit my head on the inside ceiling -- then I backed out gingerly, looked at my mom, and she said, ‘Where did he get THAT?’

“Then we both turned away from Scott and laughed as quietly as possible.”


PRAYER REQUESTS: I’ve dedicated a new blog just for prayer requests, updates on answered prayer, and praise reports that come my way. Read them on, and one day soon they’ll be available directly from the website. Please keep sending your prayer needs to me and I’ll post them at least once a day on the site.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Becoming a reader is Job One for kindergartner Maddy. So when I read stories to her every night, I try to get her to read some of the words and sound out the ones that are unfamiliar.

Now, I know little kids know more words than they can read. But things went quite a bit too far last night when she sounded out the word “she” and I asked her what OTHER word was within that same word.

Of course, I was shooting for “he.” But she looked at the word, knew I always harp on sounding words out, thought the word I had in mind must have the “sh” sound in it, and sounded out:

“Sh . . . sh . . . SHI***?!?!?!”

Ohhhh, that DARN day care, where they pick up words like that. . . .

Sh . . . sh . . . SURE they do.


PRAYER REQUESTS: I’ve dedicated a new blog just for prayer requests, updates, and praise reports that come my way. They’re on the Looking Up Prayer Line blog over at the right on my website, Please keep sending your prayer needs and I’ll post them at least once a day on the site.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily,
as to the Lord, and not unto men. . . .
-- Colossians 3:23

There I was, down on my hands and knees on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon, scrubbing a really grungy concrete floor with disinfectant so strong it curled my nostril hair.

Me? A college graduate who once wore elbow gloves as a debutante?

Well, it might have been a lowly job – but it had the highest purpose.

After a long softball season, I was shutting down the concession stand in our city park. The tiny building, run by parents to make money to support sports teams, became my home away from home this fall -- spider webs, concrete block walls, bare overhead lightbulb and all.

I had been outfumbled by the other softball moms into running it. They were younger, nimbler, and met behind my back to elect me by acclamation . . . the finks.

I hated the assignment. Volunteering, to me, is white-collar, no-brainer tasks. Fun! Easy! Clean!

This job, though, was hard work. Ewww!!!

So I found myself pushing a heavy, overloaded dolly of supplies through a warehouse store, mushing like Nanook in the Iditarod.

I washed and lined shelves, stocked and priced items, fumbled around with keys to four locks, supervised volunteers, counted cash, balanced books, iced countless coolers, and learned how to load heavy “udders” of cheese into the nachos machine, run two persnickety microwaves, and several ancient crockpots.

My coffee tasted bad. My trick wrist ached. I failed to master the circa 1957 can opener.

It grossed me out to change the flypaper hanging from the ceiling. Worse, I had to fix Frito Pies – blobs of canned chili and cheddar cheese dumped into a sack of Fritos – right underneath those flypaper strips. Ewwwww!!!

I got black knees from kneeling on the filthy floor, and broke three nails and our cooler handle.

Why do I whine about all this?

Because I thought I would hate the job.

But I loved it!

Isn’t that always the way it is? Taking on a tough job that nobody else wants to do can be the best thing for you.

These are the jobs that serve people’s needs . . . and give you a good, strong dose of reality for just how cushy your life really is.

I mean, some people work that hard all their lives. I only had to make it through softball season.

It was a lot of fun, too, with lots of camaraderie. We were playing a pretty good team one night, and one of their fans ordered a chocolate sundae. We exchanged good wishes for the game, but as I was spraying on the Redi-Whip, I said, “This here’s WHUPPING cream!!!!!” She cracked up.

Everybody pitched in, and that was inspiring. Dear friends helped staff the stand, “just because.” Dads made sloppy joes, wings and super-secret chili. One donated a ton of free hot dogs, and another got us day-old buns to go with.

We made almost $1,300 for the softball team, and that was the best of all.

Or maybe it was what happened when I was scrubbing that filthy floor at season’s end on that rainy afternoon. Buckets of black water had gone down the drain. Dead bugs and petrified gum spots had been dealt with. My joints ached. But I ran outside to throw something away . . .

. . . and was treated to a gorgeous, full-size rainbow in the purple sky above blazing red and orange trees.

I almost dropped to my knees in awe, which would’ve been fine, since they were already black from scrubbing.

I knew what this was: heavenly payola for doing a thankless job.

It was God’s way of making concessions – a little treat to remind me that He’s with me in my glory moments on the mountaintops of life, but also while I’m making Frito pies under loaded flypaper and scrubbing a dirty floor.

Which, by the way, looks fabulous. Hmm. Wonder if they’ll ask me to run the stand again next year?

AAAIIIEEE!!! I’ll have to tell ‘em – I may be your servant, but I’m NACHO slave!


PRAYER REQUESTS: Please check my website,, and see my new blog, Looking Up Prayer Line, over at the right. I will post prayer requests on there from now on, at least once a day. Please send any prayer needs that you have, and updates and praise reports, too!

Saturday, October 22, 2005


OK, so I thought I was providing an educational treat by driving across the autumnal prairie to Aurora, Neb., to take Maddy and her kindergarten friend to the Edgerton Explorit Science Center.

It’s a tribute to Aurora native and famous scientist Harold E. “Doc” Edgerton. He was an electrical engineer and photographer who invented the strobe light, high-speed photography, and underwater lighting using sonar technology in collaboration with Jacques Cousteau, among many other accomplishments. Edgerton was a legendary professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he never forgot his Nebraska roots.

The girls moved among the more than 30 exhibits for two hours, fascinated and chattering. There were activities with light, sound, motion, magnets, hydraulics and much, much more. The highlight was popping a balloon in front of a computer-driven strobe that yielded a photo on paper of the instant the balloon burst before their surprised faces.

After all that, we got back in the car for the two-hour drive home. I expected to hear conversation about all the scientific learning that had gone on.

Instead, they took out their souvenirs – rainbow play-dough.

“LET’S MAKE PUTTSIES!!!” they shouted. You know, warming up the plastic clay and pushing it together to imitate rude body sounds.

So much for science . . . humor trumps it.


Prayer request: Rest and time to savor tender memories for my good friends Bobbie and Kathy, who lost their husband and father, respectively, this past week, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Dick was a wonderful man. Oh, Lord, use this trial to draw his loved ones ever closer to You. (Titus 3:4-6)

Friday, October 21, 2005


(Today's DailySusan is an animation of the Mona Lisa making funny faces)


Prayer request: We are grateful that the Iraqi people had a chance to vote to become a democracy, Father. Growing into a more just and equitable society is bound to be good for those citizens in everything from their economy to their health. It is also likely to open up their culture to allow teaching about You, for the first time. We know it is Your will and Your plan to break the censorship and inspire the free flow of ideas in that country. We look forward to the day when the Iraqis can know the source of our peace, Jehovah-Shalom. (Judges 6:24)

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Took the day off yesterday and went with a neighbor and some kids, who were off school, to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in beautiful downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa. It’s in a fixed-up Carnegie library in the Beaux Arts style, a truly beautiful setting for a very well-done museum. A little history never hurts, and the kids got to cavort at Chuck E. Cheese’s afterwards, so they were on their best behavior and didn’t break a thing.

My neighbor is 70-something, and her dad worked for the U.P. for 45 years. She played the drum and her brother played the bugle in the company’s old Drum and Bugle Corps for parades and festivities. She remembers sitting on the lap of U.P. President William Jeffers once in the 1930s, and having him tell her that her freckles were “angel’s kisses.” That’s sweet, since Jeffers was the rough, tough railroad president who helped us win World War II with some rough, tough maneuvers.

By far the favorite exhibit was a locomotive cab simulator. The kids could sit in the engineer’s seat and pull all kinds of levers and twist knobs, while realistic video scenery of North Platte, Neb., and Feather River, Calif., flowed by on all sides of you. It was weird, with no steering wheel. You’d rush into a tunnel and it’d be all dark. You’d follow a chuckling stream in the mountains or enjoy endless prairie vistas, and then suddenly: “WOOO! WOOOOOO!!!!” here’d come another train, passing you.

The kids got to see how massive train wheels are, and looked at maps, saw a demonstration of track replacement, learned what train signals mean, saw amazing Indian bead work, and a stuffed buffalo, and . . . well, it was wonderful.

The engine of learning got fully stoked. We’re all railroad buffs now. Full steam ahead!


Prayer request: My neighbor Norma, a widow of about a year, needs to clean out her basement, but the job seems overwhelming. Lord, help balance her desire to sort through decades of possessions and give things away with her need for rest and recreation. She mustn’t overdo, and she should have the time and energy to really savor the process. Father, use this season of organization to remind her of all the blessings You’ve bestowed on her over the years. (Psalm 118:15)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


(Today's DailySusan was several Internet cartoons)


Prayer request: Health and happiness to someone very special in my life who celebrates a birthday today. May her prayers for a united family come true, and may she grow in Godliness, peace and all the other virtues in the coming year. (Isaiah 32:17)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Today’s DailySusan is an eye-opener! Enjoy!


Prayer request: We lift up Helen for healing, rest and clarity. Her husband of 50-some years died six weeks ago, and her head is literally spinning after months of dealing with extreme stress. She’s going in for an MRI to diagnose the cause of the dizziness, but she dearly wants to go to Texas in about six weeks to attend her grandson’s wedding. Lord, hide Helen in Your healing wings, and grant her favor and equilibrium so that she can do all that she wants to do. (Psalm 32:7)

Monday, October 17, 2005


Anyone would say that my beloved is the more serious, dignified and responsible one of our union. I have been known to do some pretty silly things, but he is a stalwart captain of industry with tremendous self-control and admirably good table manners.

So you know that CRAZY MAN in an ENORMOUS Afro wig, whirling a softball bat and ball around in the air, and running along the main drag of our town as the high school softball team’s bus came by on their way to the State tournament?

That would be him.

Nobody could believe their eyes. I’m sure it’s why they won. Sometimes, when you’re in shock, your muscle memory takes over and you can do even better than when you’re in control of your faculties.

Which, as the ultimate softball fan, he obviously was not. But as it turned out, that was a good thing.


Prayer request: Thank You, Father, that no one was killed in an accident in another city early Sunday in which a 20-year-old, Sarah, was driving drunk and slammed her car into a garage of a house. It flipped onto the homeowners’ car and caused an explosion and fire. Miraculously, Sarah got out and the homeowners found her in the yard. She had third-degree burns on 40% of her body. The house was burned to the ground in front of this couple’s eyes, and now Sarah faces skin grafts starting today and a long recovery process. Sarah had just started going to a church youth group this month, a huge step after her father divorced her mom three years ago, wounding the three kids -- he remarried just two weeks ago. Prayers are needed for healing and protection from infection, reconciliation of hearts to God and to each other, for physical and emotional strength for Sarah's mom and aunt, and for the couple who lost their home and belongings. Moreover, Lord, we pray for the spirits of judgment and accusation to be quieted, and for compassion, peace that passes understanding, and patience to wait on God, as He works through each heart. May this crisis bring them all to relationship with You as they realize how much they need You. (Job 5:19)

Sunday, October 16, 2005


To every thing there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under the heaven.
-- Ecclesiastes 3:1

We were warned about softball. Our friends told us about a dog-pilin’, hair-pullin’ fistfight after a game that spilled over into the parking lot. Not players – parents! Our friends backed away, pretending to throw punches. They didn’t want to fight, but didn’t want their fellow parents to see them not fighting.

Whoa! What were we getting ourselves into?

When our daughter was 13, her team made it to Nationals. They missed a game because of a scheduling snafu that was not their fault. The forfeit knocked them out of the tournament. What a way to end their season! The girls huddled outside the tournament office, a few of them crying.

A big, burly woman came along. Frowning, she lectured, “There’s no crying in softball!”

One of our mothers said testily, “You don’t understand the situation. They have good reason to cry.”

The stranger put her hairy-knuckled hands on our mother’s shoulders, and SHOVED her to the ground.

Yikes! What HAD we gotten ourselves into?

Just a wonderful slice of life rich with lessons, and sweet with friendship, courage, sacrifice and character. The other night, our softball experience culminated in the second straight state championship for Eden’s high-school team, the Elkhorn Antlers.

The girls were jumping and whooping, beaming so brightly we didn’t need the balllfield lights. I looked around at the parents, and saw plenty of glittering tears.

There’s no crying in softball, huh?

We’ve watched more than 500 games over the years, coming to love Eden’s teammates and their families, sharing their joys and sorrows in and out of softball. Though Eden hopes to play in college, we’ll never have this close community again. It’s precious, and addictive. A whole bunch of former players and their parents came to the championship game, to relive it.

Afterwards, we took over a popular restaurant. We ate and drank, watched reruns of key plays on a laptop, and jumped on chairs singing and shouting, including my silly signature cheer:





“AH-BOOG-A-LOOOOOO!!!!!!”There were quiet moments celebrating a different kind of victory, too. The championship game was against Beatrice, a perpetual softball power. Their pitcher is Tara Oltman, an All-State ace. We beat them twice to take the title this year, just like last year. Last year, Eden didn’t know their pitcher when she boomed the winning hit to the fence. This year, Tara’s a dear friend, because the two of them spent the summer together on a traveling team.

After the game, they hugged and cried. Eden surprised Tara with a DVD she made commemorating their summer season. Tara gave Eden a picture of the two of them after their last game, with their arms around each other, smiling through their tears. It was framed in a silver ball glove. That’s the real victory: opponents, yet friends. What a life lesson.

Next morning, I started to wash Eden’s uniform for the last time. The outfielder’s grass stains and ballfield dirt from sliding would come out. But the good things gained from softball are in Eden’s heart forever:

How discipline, training and practice pay off, bigtime.

How to overcome adversity, be aggressive, play fair, accept defeat with grace, and be a loyal teammate.

How to use your sense of humor as a leadership tool.

Lessons well learned. And now it’s time to move on. The season’s over, in more ways than one.

So I scrubbed those uniform stains for the last time, musing and smiling over all the memories. Spittin’ seeds! Rhubarbs over bad calls! The look on a coach’s face when a girl who was slumping follows his advice and gets the game-winning RBI at State. . . .

My heart flooded with emotion. That happened to Eden.

That’s God: using lowly things like softball so that, if you let Him coach you, you can get game . . . and make big plays when it counts.

Tears filled my eyes and plopped down onto the fabric.

Anyone who says there’s no crying in softball: YERRRRR OUT!!!


Prayer request: We stand up against discouragement and division for a dear neighbor who is dealing with a mean boss and impossible demands on his time right now. His job woes are spilling over onto his marriage and family life, with insomnia and arguments making life pretty miserable. Father, we are grateful that his wife has asked for prayer for a swift resolution. Hear their cry! May his career take a positive new turn and may their home life improve drastically, for Your glory. (Psalm 10:17)

Saturday, October 15, 2005


We had a rootin’ tootin’ good time last night as our beloved Elkhorn Antlers won their second straight state softball champsionship. Our daughter Eden was so elated, they didn’t need the lights to illuminate the field. Here’s a totally silly video that’s rootin’ tootin’, too. Celebrate with us!


Praise report: Praise and thanks for the wonderful experience at the state tournament: for Eden’s rocket-style hit in the championship game, for her terrific coaches, for the many relatives, friends and neighbors who came out to support her and the girls, and most of all, for the many lessons of love, relationship and diligence that You taught all of us through this good sport. (Psalm 48:1)

Friday, October 14, 2005


Thursday, I admitted that I’m a control freak. Today, I also admit that I’m a scatterbrained, attention-deficit type person who has a heck of a time staying on task a lot of the time. So this joke struck me as funny:

Q. Why did the attention deficit disorder / hyperactivity person cross the road?

A. Let’s go ride our bicycles!


Prayer request: Lord, I love watching You work in all facets of our lives. I know the earthquake in Pakistan and the hurricane in the Gulf are of far, far, far more significance, but I saw You make a move yesterday that bore profound spiritual meaning for our high-school softball team in the state softball tournament Thursday. To make a long story short, a player who did some not real sportsmanlike things, apparently on purpose, and hurt our team in the past, had the exact same things happen to her teammates at State by another team, purely by accident, and they lost their game because of it. We rejoiced that we had not retaliated against her, but had taken the high road, and then saw the fulfillment of the verse: “Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, sayeth the Lord.” – Hebrews 10:30. We rest in Your sovereignty, Father, and rejoice in how You always make things come out right. We pray for favor, a big hit for Eden, and a second straight state championship today, but bow to Your will and Your good pleasure, and trust that You and You alone have the big picture for what’s best. Play ball! (Hebrews 11:3)

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I suffer from time to time from major bouts of Controllicus Freakicus, so this one struck me as funny:


“Who’s there?”

“A control freak; now YOU say, ‘Control freak who?’”


Prayer request: Encouragement for Eden and her softball chums, who are playing in the State tournament today; may they glorify You with excellent play, Father . . . but on a much more serious note, one of my favorite spiritual mentors, Audrey, is hospitalized with a painful colon problem. She was my Bible Study Fellowship leader and did a wonderful job as a shepherd, exhibiting such kindness and thoughtfulness. Father, grant her relief from pain and a quick recovery, and guide all of us who love her to see ways that we can give her a touch of Your TLC in the coming weeks. Teach us all through her beautiful character, even in suffering, and help us to be more like her, since she is so much like You. (Romans 5:3,4)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Got another silly email that reported that President Bush sold the State of Louisiana back to the French at more than double its original selling price of $11,250,000. Well, it’s an idea. It went on:

“This is a bold step forward for America,” said Bush. “And America will be stronger and better as a result. I stand here today in unity with French Prime Minister Jack Shiraq, who was so kind to accept my offer of Louisiana in exchange for 25 million dollars cash.

The state, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild.

“Jack understands full well that this one’s a ‘fixer upper,’” said Bush. “He and the French people are quite prepared to pump out all that water, and make Louisiana a decent place to live again. And they’ve got a lot of work to do. But Jack’s assured me, if it’s not right, they’re going to fix it.”

The move has been met with incredulity from the already beleaguered residents of Louisiana. “Shuba-pie!” said New Orleans resident Willis Babineaux. “Frafer-perly yom kom drabby sham!”

However, President Bush’s decision has been widely lauded by Republicans. “This is an unexpected but brilliant move by the President,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. “Instead of spending billions and billions, and billions of dollars rebuilding the state of Louisiana, we’ve just made 25 million dollars in pure profit.”

“This is indeed a smart move,” commented Fox News analyst Brit Hume. “Not only have we stopped the flooding in our own budget, we’ve made money on the deal. Plus, when the god-awful French are done fixing it up, we can easily invade and take it back again.

”The money gained from “The Louisiana Refund” is expected to be immediately pumped back into the rebuilding of Iraq.


Prayer request: Father, when terrible things happen to people, we pray that victims remember they can still trust in You nevertheless. Devout Christians who are dear friends of friends of mine were devastated Friday evening when their 25-year-old son was killed in a motorcycle accident in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. To make matters worse, nine years ago their other son died in a freak accident. He was riding on the hood of a friend’s car when somehow he lost his balance, fell and struck his head on the ground, killing him. So now the parents, Bill and Cathy, are alone. Lord Jesus, show Your goodness to their souls and soothe and reassure them that they will see their boys again in paradise. (Lamentations 3:25)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Today's DailySusan is a music video showing various kinds of accidents.


Prayer request: Lord, we lift up all those who have been in accidents and pray for their rapid healing and restoration. Getting hurt is not funny at all, but we pray that they will look to you for deliverance and peace. (Psalm 3:8)

Monday, October 10, 2005


Our daughter’s softball coach has a habit on fly balls. If it looks like the outfielder is going to catch it, he yells rapidly to his base runner, “Back! Back! Back!”

The other day, I couldn’t help myself. “He sounds like a giant, estrogen-deprived chicken.”

Well, he DID.


Prayer request: Lord, an acquaintance was sharing his bitterness about a former employer, who he says “ruined people’s lives” with heavy-handed management and a cold, hard approach to the bottom line. This friend has been out of that man’s employment for 20 years, but is still angry at him. Father, help him to let it go and be glad he’s not under the guy’s thumb. Help him to see the price that man has paid for his negative actions, so that he’ll remember that only Your ways bring joy and peace. (Psalm 37:7)

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Take therefore no thought for the morrow:
for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
-- Matthew 6:34

This week is the Nebraska state softball tournament, our daughter Eden’s fourth trip to The Big Show. She’s a senior centerfielder and clean-up batter. Her team is 27-4, defending state champions.

Pressure situation! The team’s fortunes may depend on how well Eden and the other seniors can lead the team . . . keep them loose and having fun.

Meanwhile, we parents are hiding our purchases of Maalox, Preparation H, Pepto Bismol and smelling salts. We’re feeling the squeeze, but don’t want them to.

Maybe we shouldn’t worry. This team oozes personality and fun. They all dressed up like their coach for Twin Day at school, down to the Mr. Magoo bald wigs. Their “in” jokes and hand signals have gotten so complicated the CIA couldn’t break the code.

We have a coltish sophomore pitcher who wears her little brother’s underwear elastic as a headband – it’s a long story – but is among the state’s leaders for throwing strikeouts and hitting home runs.

We have a catcher with a Band-Aid on the front of her helmet, her whimsical solution when told by a peevish ump to cover up the brand-name logo.

There’s a lot of laughing on that bus and in that dugout. They know how to be supportive when someone’s slumping, and how to celebrate success without getting stuck-up. Three of their losses happened recently, so they’re humbled, but more united than ever. We parents get along. Everybody loves the coach. Most of all, these girls love each other.

It has been that rarity in youth sports today: a total delight.

Do they know how special that is?

Do they realize how much these memories are going to mean?

I hope not. Because then they’ll play tight. If they can just stay loose, have fun and practice hard, and keep away from stress and worry, they’ll win. I can feel it.

And I was reminded of the importance of that attitude last week by my favorite copy shop guy, Reggie. He tells this story:

It seems he played Midget football in south Texas in the 1950s. These were poor boys, from a rough neighborhood. They couldn’t afford uniforms. But the game against their arch-rivals was coming up.

Then their coach, a career Air Force man, called a buddy connected to Notre Dame football. He told him of the boys’ plight . . . and by bus came several duffel bags full of old Notre Dame uniforms.

Hand-me-downs from heaven!

There were enormous football cleats, leggings and jerseys. There were leather helmets and preposterously wide shoulder pads. Best of all, everything was . . .

. . . GOLD!

They were no longer poor kids from San Antonio. They were GOLDEN BOYS! The Midget Fighting Irish!

Actually, they looked ridiculous. Everything was ‘way too big. But they didn’t care. They stuffed newspapers into the shoes, and tried not to trip. They pushed the helmets back so they could see. And then they gathered for their coach’s pre-game speech.

He was honest: they may look cool, but they were still going to lose. Get out there, give it your best and have some fun, but don’t be surprised if you lose.

First, there was silence. Then, they burst out laughing. It struck them as hilarious. Knute Rockne, he ain’t!

They went out on that field and were definitely the weaker team. But they were still laughing, and it was contagious. Reggie remembers one dad cupping his hands and yelling to his son, “You’re running the wrong way!” and then falling down on the sidelines, laughing.

But do you know what?

They won!

They were loose.

They had fun.

And they won!

Now, I certainly hope my daughter’s team plays up to their potential, with excellence and error-free ball. I don’t want them to look or feel ridiculous.

But I hope they play with that positive perspective and spirit – with love for the game, and for each other.

No worries, ladies.

Stay loose.

Have fun.

Get out there . . . and play ball!


Prayer request: Eden’s team posted three losses in recent days, and the picture looked bleak for the state tournament. Fortunately, they made it in on a wild card bid. My heart nearly burst, Lord, when Eden showed me the brackets -- her team actually got a better path to the championship than if they’d won those games. Beaming, she pointed to the sky, to You, as Author of this good turn of events. How wonderful it is when your child gets the big picture and sees the opportunity that often arises out of adversity! Thank You, Lord Jesus, for this lesson. May all the players on all the teams stay healthy, have success, and see Your provision in this upcoming tournament. May our Eden always remember that You are behind her and ahead of her, above her and below her, within Her and throughout Her – her God and her strength. (Psalm 18:2)

Saturday, October 08, 2005


We had a softball game in a town 30 miles away yesterday. Unfortunately, we lost, but this story softened the blow:

One of the girls, a senior, and no, not my daughter, boarded the bus to ride up there with the team a couple of hours before the game. She realized she’d forgotten something, though. She called her mom on her cell phone to ask her to bring it with her. The mom was away from her desk, so the girl left a message. The noise on the bus was pretty loud, and it was hard to hear.

But the mom thought the daughter had asked, “Would you please bring my thong?”

WHAT?!?!?! How inappropriate! Not to mention they were wearing WHITE uniforms!!! So she ignored it, fuming a little bit at her daughter’s . . . excuse the expression . . . cheekiness.

Well, after the game, the girl came up to her mother, and asked, “Did you bring it?”

“NO WAY!” the mother replied harshly. “I’m having NONE of that! What were you THINKING?”

The girl, puzzled, replied, “What’s wrong with bringing my phone?”

That should go in the Mother-Daughter Communication Snafu Hall of Fame.


Prayer request: Lord, the girls on our team are hurting after being embarrassed and beaten Friday by a lesser team. But they still get to go to State. May this lesson be turned to gold and may the girls follow the counsel of their older, wiser parents, who should lovingly but firmly guide the girls toward better preparation and disciplined practice habits for next week’s state tournament. Father, don’t let them squander their talent or underachieve! Humble them and drive them to try harder. We pray that the girls will listen to our advice, and prudently regard this setback as an opportunity to polish their considerable talents and win big when it counts. (Proverbs 15:5)

Friday, October 07, 2005


By popular demand, here’s that email I referenced Thursday about a shelter for Hurricane Katrina victims in Mississippi. It’s long, but fix a cup o’ java and read it, because it’s worth it:

Command: Category 4
Lt Col Randy Coats, 333d Training Squadron/CC

Command. There's no better job in the world. After seven years in jobs with “command authority” and two squadron commands, I figured I had a good idea what command was all about. I was wrong. What changed my mind? Four words--"Shelter Commander" and "Hurricane Katrina."

From 28 Aug - 2 Sep, I lived with 730 of my "closest friends" in 50-year old Bryan Hall at Keesler AFB, MS. It was my third stint as a shelter commander, but it was unlike anything I had experienced before. As life slowly returns to normal on the Gulf Coast and I reflect on the experience, I've come to appreciate the unpredictability of command and how much an event like Katrina can change people and communities.

First, you have to understand some basics. My shelter is a unique animal on Keesler. Most shelters here are dedicated primarily to one unit. Mine is not. I have all the active duty and family members from a wide variety of units--two training squadrons, CE (editor’s note: civil engineers) and Security Forces (and prisoners), 100+ Marines, communications students (NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and roughly 60 Lt's), 150 NCO Academy students and their faculty, and 50 international officers and their families. The building is an old nuclear fallout shelter, with no windows and no shower facilities. With that setting in mind, I offer the following memories and thoughts on Hurricane Katrina.

25 Aug (Thu): One of my sharpest young MSgt (master sergeant) points out Katrina "may grow into something over the weekend" and suggests we update our shelter/evacuation data sheets. I admire his enthusiasm, tell him “that's not a bad idea", then promptly forget to do anything because Katrina's not headed our way at all and I've got other things to do besides worry about a piddly Category 1 storm.

27 Aug (Sat): Two CAT (thought to be Catastrophe Assessment Team) meetings. Katrina has strengthened and is headed our way, due to arrive Monday afternoon. Tentatively plan to open shelters Monday morning. I remember the MSgt's words and begin repeating every officer’s golden rule--"Never ignore a SNCO (senior non-commissioned officer) …Never ignore a SNCO."

28 Aug (Sun): Turn on CNN before heading to 0800 CAT. Radar picture shows Katrina is Category 5, taking up the whole Gulf of Mexico and headed straight for us, due to arrive before dawn Monday. "Never ignore a SNCO…Never ignore a SNCO."

- 1000: Initiate full recall and order all personnel to evacuate or shelter NLT (no later than) 2100. Many people out of town for the weekend. Accountability is a nightmare.

- 1700: Open the shelter. People/families begin arriving. Have to stop two refrigerators, one 21" TV set, and three mattresses at the door. Students (of all ranks) drafted to help carry bags into the shelter. People told to bring food and water for three days. Most bring food for two days; smokers bring cigarettes for twenty days. Have to break the news--no smoking inside the shelter and once you're checked in you can't go outside (Hotel California rules).

- 2200: Doors locked and boarded up from the outside by CE (one door in an alcove left uncovered).

29 Aug (Mon):
0500: Winds howling; can hear them best through vents in bathrooms at the end of the hallway (It didn’t sound like this during Hurricane Ivan)

0800: Shelterees (hereafter referred to as "the Natives") start moving around 0800. Smokers looking for nicotine fix, but remain calm.

1000: Local news reports indicate rising waters, violent winds. Plywood ripped from external doorways (I start getting uneasy; plywood has never moved in previous storms, much less flown away).

1200: News reports 20+ feet of water in local mall. Natives getting anxious. Smokers getting jittery.

- Power goes out; generators kick in. Not good. CE told us power can only go out if high-tension cables that survived 200-mph winds during Hurricane Camille go down. A/C stops working; ventilation fans stop working. No windows, no open doors, 731 nervous people…in Mississippi…in August. Ask for generator fuel status and burn rate. Have enough fuel for two days.

- Natives who smoke starting to visibly shake; many look physically ill.

- Cable TV goes out. Natives get creative with antennas. Spotted the bottom half of an NCO sticking out from ceiling tiles. Apparently reception is better if you connect a stripped copper comm cable from the TV to pipes in the ceiling. I appoint a safety observer and hope for the best.

- CE reports primary generator has flames coming out of it, so shut it off. Lost internet connectivity. Down to one generator; power only in hallways and a few rooms.

- Water stops running. Toilets overflowing. With medical advice, I brief the Natives on how to use plastic bags for toilet facilities (someone used this method within 10 minutes). Disposal of plastic bags in a sealed building is a concern. Adventurous major goes into the basement and finds 1961-vintage Civil Defense Survival Sanitation Kits. Basically, a 3-foot tall cardboard porta-potty with a hole cut in the top. This does not look fun. However, 44-year old toilet paper (it was dated) is surprisingly soft.

- One hour later: Water comes back thanks to CE heroes going out in the storm to repair pumping station. I hug the first CE troop I can find. Sanitation Kits thankfully not used, but kept on standby.

- CE troops coming off shift report half of flight-line underwater; BX and Commissary 6 feet deep and rising; trees down all over base; CE building collapsed. Natives begin to get the picture--this is worse than Hurricanes Ivan or Dennis.

1800: Winds still dangerous so cannot open doors. It's hot…it's humid…Natives are getting cranky. Smokers showing signs of extreme duress. One is carrying two unlit cigarettes around. I suggest he tear one open and put it behind his lip for a nicotine fix. He informs me he's already eaten an entire pack and it didn't help. Can't think of anything to say in response, so I pat him on the back and wish him luck.

- Babies and young kids getting grumpy; too hot to nap.

- Barely-visible news reports (on very fuzzy TV picture) report massive devastation in the area. Dead silence in hallway as Natives crowd around the lone TV with a discernible picture. Tension rising.
2000: Too hot to breathe. 731 nervous people generate a lot of sweat and a variety of smells. Command Post says stay locked down, don't open doors. Natives make strange noises when I walk by. Not sure the "Shelter Commander" badge is a good thing to be wearing right now. First Sergeant reports Natives consider me the embodiment of evil.

- Cops go on shift. The best NCO in the AF is assigned to patrol base housing; he offers to try to check on my cat during his shift (we left her in the hallway of my house).

2100: Even hotter. Poked my head outside--it's ugly but winds have died down. Command Post says stay buttoned up. Natives mumbling in small groups about how to eliminate a commander. Survival instincts tell me to get some air in here. Posted Marines at every exit and opened all the doors. I'm a hero; Natives love me. Haven't heard "thank you" this much since I put my shirt back on at the squadron pool party.

2200: Smokers running out of cigarettes to eat. Open a side door and rope off a 10' x 10' smoking area. No more than five people at a time; no more than five minutes. Sucking cigarettes look like blow-torches in reverse. Everyone loves me.

- Nobody sleeps much. Tough to sleep in pools of sweat.

30 August (Tuesday):
0145: One of my NCOs wakes me up because "Cops want to talk to you, Sir". SFS NCO (first sergeant non-commissioned officer) is direct. "The good news is your cat is fine." Next question obvious. As he hands back my house key he adds, "The bad news is I didn't need this to get into your house." Doesn't quite register. "How'd you get in?" He looked me straight in the eye and said, "I walked through your back wall." That can't be good at all. Looks like a total loss. My wife was on a cot in the hallway. I woke her up to give her the news. Her response? "I guess it'll be easy to pack when we move next year." (She's getting anything she wants for Christmas, forever). Spend the rest of the night thinking of how to stay focused and project a positive attitude given that all my worldly possessions will probably fit in a gym bag. (note: we were eventually able to save most things above 4 feet)

0700: Bad news spreads like wildfire. Entire shelter knows about my house. Lots of supportive comments as I wander the halls but I see the struggle behind the words--they're sorry for my loss but worry about their own. Their concern for my family despite fears for their own touches me deeply. First time in 19 years I've really had to fight back tears, but I've got to do the commander thing and project a positive attitude. As I walk the hallways I truly feel "the burden of command." My family is safe; I have to push my losses aside for now. These 730 people have no access to information other than what I tell them. I am their link to the outside world. I see them watching me, watching how I react and looking for cues as they try to figure out how they should feel--is the commander scared? Depressed? Worried? Confident? I realize that their mood over the next few days will be a direct reflection of what they perceive as my mood. I've been tested in command before, but never like this.

0800: Drive to CAT meeting across base. Devastation is shocking. Trees down everywhere. Cars trashed everywhere. Windows out. Walls out. Buildings collapsed. Roofs ripped apart.

0930: Mass briefing to the Natives. Most uncomfortable briefing I've ever given. Reports indicate widespread devastation. Death toll probably in the hundreds. Power out for at least three weeks. Must begin water conservation. Minimum three months to resume base mission. Will not leave shelter for at least three days. 730 stunned and scared faces focused on me. All are easy to read. (1) realization of how bad it is, (2) fear of what it did to their homes. Worst possible situation for a commander--troops need reassurance I can't give. Struggle to keep my voice steady. Not sure how well I did.

- Natives' supplies running out. Most critical shortfalls: food, diapers, baby food, and feminine hygiene products. Issue MREs for adults. Assign "Baby POC" to track baby supplies. Develop new metric for morning/evening briefings--diaper burn rate. 17 infants in shelter x 5 diapers/day & 4 jars of baby food/day. Have one day supply of diapers, two days of baby food, but at least three more days in the shelter. Submit urgent supply request to Command Post. Luckily, Sanitation Kits include 44-year old feminine products.

- Still no cable TV and no internet. Information is life. I average (I counted) no more than 10 steps before someone stops me to ask what's going on outside.

- Lieutenant students offer to take over operation of the Children's Recreation Room. One has been to Clown College; several brought coloring books. First Sergeant asks me later (a) "How come the officers have coloring books?" and (b) "How come some of the pictures were colored in before the children started using them?" Honor of the officer corps is at stake; I quickly assign the Shirt to a meaningless task to distract her. Hope it worked. Best not to ask. (Note: to be perfectly honest, that actually happened during Hurricane Dennis in July, but it's 100% true and was too good a story not to include here)

- Pregnant Native goes into premature labor. Ambulance evacuates her to hospital.

- Another uncomfortable night. All Natives (and myself) report profuse sweating in lieu of sleep. Set up special room with lots of fans for children to sleep in. Authorized Chaplain to take a small raiding party to Chapel next door to get rocking chairs for parents with small children.

31 August (Wed):
- 731 people, 36+ hours with no a/c and no showers. Natives stink. Shelter stinks. Natives convinced everyone stinks but themselves. Shirt reports Natives blame it all on me. Wife asks if I can boost SGLI from here. Tasked my most creative NCO to come up with some way to hose people off. Result: water hose connected to sink in bathroom supply closet, with sandbag walls leading to drain in center of bathroom. No hot water, but showers are a success. Still rationing water--3 minute shower every other day. Nonetheless, Natives can wash away the stink for at least 10 minutes till they start sweating again. I'm a hero.

- Still hot. Two cases of dehydration evacuated to hospital. I'm dehydrated, nauseous, and weak despite drinking constantly. Can't believe I let this happen. Check with medics, but saline solution is in short supply and if I'm still walking I don't need it bad enough. They give me some good drugs to control symptoms. Eight hours, 240 ounces of water (I had to keep track), and 9,000 bathroom breaks later I feel much better.

- Lots of debris around the building. Still dangerous for people to go outside, but Natives are getting stir-crazy. Assigned a team to clear and rope off an area near the building. Post guards to ensure nobody wanders off, then allow small groups outside for fresh air for short periods of time. They love me again.

- Wing/CC (commander in chief) reads off list of inbound aid at CAT meeting. Not the same as hearing it on TV. I never imagined that it would mean so much to know that so many people are focused on helping you.

- Baby supplies critical. Wing/CC orders a raid on what's left of Commissary and BX. Deliveries to shelters save the day.

- Another bad briefing to the Natives. Only one way to explain why they can't leave the shelter--tell them the truth as I know it. Looting rampant off-base. Looters in base housing. AF member car-jacked right outside the gate. No gas in local area; $5/gallon three hours away. Chaos in New Orleans is moving our way. Extra Security Forces with .50 cals (machine guns) on HMMWVs en route to help secure the base.

- Natives frantic about their homes. They fear anything that survived the storm won't survive the looters. Try to focus them on aid headed our way. Emotions running high. One woman goes into shock; evacuated to hospital.

- Another sweaty, sleepless night. Natives apparently locate world's largest stock of extension cords.

- Conservative estimates indicate we're running 500 fans off 5 power outlets and 2,000 extension cords. Confiscated the most impressive daisy chains as a safety hazard. Briefed Shelter Management Team to increase fire checks of the building.

01 Sep (Thu):
- Cannot release people to return to homes overnight due to security concerns. However, must let Natives assess their homes or risk bodily harm trying to keep them here. Strict guidelines for home assessments--provide written route of travel; must have a wingman; no dependents can go; max of one hour to save what you can and return to shelter; must be decontaminated before reentering shelter because many houses (mine included) have sludge/sewage inches deep. Lieutenants do great job controlling departure and decon lines.

- Natives return to shelter. Many are homeless. Commander School never taught me how to respond to "I have nothing left," or how to comfort women and men crying uncontrollably in my arms. Some cried for what they lost, some for what they saw. News reports didn't prepare them for seeing not just their home but their entire neighborhood destroyed, or for the cops telling them the bad smell they noticed was probably neighbors who tried to ride out the storm and were buried in the rubble. My only consolation is that I know how they feel. The stink in the house made me gag; the mud was gooey, sticky, and got on everything. My wife spent years building a beautiful collection of Amish figurines. Seeing the trail of broken figures across two yards (I never found the curio cabinet) was painful to endure. Crabs running across my feet in the bedroom (which scared the bee-geezus out of me) was a comical twist to a non-comical situation.

- In an attempt to improve morale, the chow hall (excuse me, “Dining Facility”) next to the shelter opens for one hot meal of whatever was available. Natives happily wait in line 2+ hours for rice with spaghetti sauce and a piece of bread. After the week we’ve had, it’s like Grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner.

- Third straight day of gorgeous weather. Security still a big concern. My DO reports her neighbors shot a looter (it may not be politically correct, but I applaud their initiative). Natives don't care, they just want out. Shelter Commanders compare notes at CAT—we’re all seriously concerned about tempers rising in the shelters. Believe the Natives are just about at the breaking point.

- Still no a/c. Lots of sweat and little sleep.

02 Sep (Fri):
- Security situation better. Natives' are about worn out. Wing/CC authorizes release from shelters. Six days and five nights we will never forget, and the recovery efforts have only just begun.

To say that Hurricane Katrina has been a "life event" would be an understatement. During my time running the Bryan Hall shelter I saw the best and the worst of people first-hand. Some sat in their little piece of floor space and watched others work to make the situation better. Most looked for every opportunity to help others and to make our little slice of hell a little more comfortable. I was amazed at how easy it was to read their faces. I could see clearly as fear changed to shock, disbelief, then anger. I watched in amazement as the anger was replaced with a calm sense of resolve and focus to simply move forward and do what needed to be done. From the little boy I found wandering the halls at midnight (obviously looking for a bathroom) to the lieutenants who stepped up, took charge when I asked, and showed all of us what "officership" is all about, every person in that shelter taught me their own unique and valuable lesson about command.

The CE troops and the Cops in my shelter taught me the meaning of dedication. I watched them tramp in and out on shift work throughout the storm and its aftermath. They were wet, muddy, sweaty, and tired. But every time they came through those doors they took time to find someone whose house they checked on and they always stopped by to give me an update on what they saw. To quote a favorite TV show of mine, "They were…magnificent." My Wing/CC described it perfectly a few days after the storm. Some puffed-up colonel called him up in the CAT and said "General so-and-so is coming down there. I want to know who the most important person on that base is and I want their name right now." The boss' response was classic. "Well, colonel, the most important person on this base is a Staff Sergeant with a chainsaw and if you'll give me ten minutes I'll get that name for you." CE and Cops. If you're looking for the heroes of Keesler, I'll be happy to escort you to their buildings.

As for the rest of the folks in the shelter, they were just as amazing in a different way. For all but the first 16 hours of our 6-day adventure they lived in a hot, poorly-ventilated building with virtually no amenities but running water. Most slept on tile floors. All slept in puddles of their own sweat. All spent 5 days not knowing whether or not they had a home to go home to. Yet through all of it, they kept a sense of humor and worked together to make the best of a bad situation. Even in the darkest moments I never walked down the hall without hearing a constant stream of "Morning, Colonel!" "How's it going, Sir?" or "Hey, Sir! When's the beer truck getting here?" I was only chewed out once by a shelteree. I would argue that in a "typical" group of 731 people, I would've been chewed out several times a day at least.

In my 19 years of service I have never seen a better demonstration of the military "family", or a better demonstration of true professionalism. I have to add, though, that what I've seen in the 12 days since has been just as impressive. The base and its leadership have been amazing. In addition to bringing our mission back on-line in less than 3 weeks, we've provided critical support to local communities. At last count, we'd sent nearly 50 missions out the gates to deliver food, water, and medical support. I was the CAT Director when a local cop showed up and said the shelter down the street had an outbreak of diarrhea and vomiting. The boss had medical teams, food, and water on site within 30 minutes. The list goes on and on.

The same is true for my own unit. With more than one-third of my squadron homeless, my troops (military and civilian) have done things that will bring a tear to anyone's eye. Not one single person in my unit has cleaned out a storm-damaged home alone. We've had teams out every day helping squadron members and retirees (and sometimes people we didn't even know) cut trees and clean out flooded homes. They have made me proud to be part of their team and proud to be part of the US military. They have taught me when it comes right down to it they don't need leadership. They are, each and every one of them, leaders in their own right. Leaders with the willingness, the desire, and the compassion to do the right thing without being told. In truth, they don't need a commander, they only need a cheerleader who will give them the support and the freedom they need to do what needs to be done. When I look back in years to come and ponder what Hurricane Katrina taught me about command that may just be the most important lesson of all.


Prayer request: Father, we praise You and thank You for leaders like this man. The heroism and courage he describes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina stand in stark contrast to the few shameful episodes of looting and violence. We are certain that Your people, like this man and the more than 700 people he shepherded who behaved themselves admirably, are much more the rule than the exception. Bless and keep Lt. Coats. Let him know You are pleased by a job well done. You are our stronghold, Lord God, and people like Lt. Coats glorify You. (Psalm 37:39)

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Have you seen the email that’s going around by an Air Force lieutenant colonel who served as the commander of a hurricane shelter for 731 people in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina’s ravages?

It’s funny, instructive, and touching. These people were stuffed into an old nuclear fallout shelter but handled the deprivations with grace and humor. There were no showers, no windows, for a while no air conditioning or ventilation, and no smoking. They improvised, improving TV reception with copper tubing, running something like 500 fans off five power outlets using 2,000 extension cords, and Rube Goldberg-ing a rudimentary shower using sandbags.

My favorite anecdote is when the water stopped running and the toilets overflowed. Again, they improvised, preparing to use plastic bags as toileting facilities. Then an enterprising major explored in the basement and found a whole bunch of Civil Defense Survival Sanitation Kits.

That’s right – toilet paper. It was from 1961. And it was still soft!


Prayer request: The Nebraska Family Council seeks prayer that Nebraska’s Defense of Marriage Act will be upheld at the 8th Circuit Appeals Court, and that the next Supreme Court justice will be dedicated to honoring God’s laws and interpreting the Constitution strictly, rather than attempting to legislate from the bench. Oh, Father, we plead for righteous judges and wise legal decisions. Guide our leaders in these important matters so that we can rejoice. (Proverbs 29:2)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


One of the worst-kept secrets about parental involvement in schools is how much fun it is to be with the kids. An opportunity to chaperone a field trip is a learning experience for the Moms and Dads, too. It starts the instant you get on that bus and smell those old smells, sing those old songs, and play those old games to pass the time, like Thumb Wars, and Rock, Paper, Scissors.

If you go to a place like a demonstration farm, there are the funny-looking beards on the tom turkeys for the kids to discover, and the enormously fat pigs, and the bantam chickens with feathers on their ankles, and the emus and llamas, and horses and ponies, and the kids’ first up-close look at soybeans and windmills and threshing machines, and a ride on the world’s largest handmade wooden rocking horse, and a chance to shout into an empty grain bin and hear the echo, and a hayrack ride, and that ultimate farm field trip experience, stepping in doo-doo of unknown origin.

And after all that, what do they talk about for years to come? The bus ride.

One mom went to the zoo on a class field trip, and was puzzled when the teacher assigned the other moms to small groups and dispatched them, but asked her to come with her and the last small group of kids. What, did the mom need a chaperone? It turns out one little girl was prone to epileptic seizures unexpectedly, and was not well-controlled on her medication. So the teacher didn’t want to abandon the other children if she suddenly needed medical attention.

But all went well . . . until they were nearly done with their sack lunches and one little boy exclaimed, “I don't feel good -- I'm gonna 'frow up." Then he proved he was not bluffing. The teacher whisked him away, and here was the mom, left alone with the epileptic girl and classmates after all.

They had a ball, though. They even got lost. But they saw lots of cool stuff the other groups didn’t see. That’s the ultimate bragging rights when they got back on the bus for the trip back from wonderland to reality.


Prayer request: He’s only 58, and he’s a devoted husband and father of three gorgeous blonde softball girls from our same high school, and grandfather to four adorable grandbabies. But boom! He’s suddenly diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and it is throughout his body. His name is Denny and he and his wife Connie are devoted to the Lord and their family. Now they must plan for the end here on Earth for him, and what their faith assures them is a new beginning for him with his Savior. Lord Jesus, we lift this precious man and his loved ones up to You for TLC and most of all, peace. Kindle compassion and help in the hearts of all those who know them so that this crisis can reveal Your provision in their lives and Your overwhelming caring and concern that Denny and all those who love him still recognize that You are always, always good, and what happens is always, always OK. O Death, where is thy sting? There is none, for those who are in Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


The kindergartners are going on a field trip this morning, and I am one of the chaperones. I’m packing earplugs, sunglasses and tranquilizers. Not really: it’s going to be a very good time.

It’s amazing what excites the kids, though. Their teacher told them they’re going to a farm, and they’re going to get to go on a hayrack ride, pet some pigs, shuck some corn, and do all kinds of other fantastic outdoors-y things you get to do when you live in Nebraska, the heart of farm country.

She also told them they’re going to go on a school bus. For most of them, it would be their first bus trip. She told them a bunch of other things about what to expect and how things were going to be so that no one would get too nervous.

Well, on the way home, I had to ask Maddy what she was most looking forward to. A ride on a tractor? The baby colts? Ducklings on the pond?

Nooooo. She hyperventilated in the back seat:

“I GET TO RIDE ON A BUS AND THERE WILL BE NO SEAT BELTS!!!” She pumped her fist skyward, as if that were the most exciting development since the Dawn of History.

Kindergartners . . . take a walk on the wild side!


Prayer request: There’s a mother and a father with two young-adult sons. The older is an atheist, and the younger, Nick, has just been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. At 21, he will have to quit his job and undergo six months of chemotherapy. The cure rate is high, but it’s a very tough diagnosis. Nick is not saved, and his mother seeks prayer for his salvation -- and that the older brother will not become even more bitter toward the God he professes to not believe in. Besides that, understandably, the mom is so scared she sobs when you ask her about it. Oh, Lord, grant this Godly mother a spiritual two-fer – healing for her son who is sick physically, and salvation for both of her sons through the miraculous spiritual healing that comes only through Jesus Christ. (John 3:3-7)

Monday, October 03, 2005


Postscript to Sunday’s story about a pharmacist who was having a terrible day and then heard a still, small voice reassuring her that God sees her and thinks she’s great:

Early the next morning, she had to run an errand before work, and drove down a back country road, through a park. She was listening to one of her favorite songs, and enjoying the peaceful drive when suddenly, she saw two fawns grazing. She stopped her car and watched, and thanked God for delighting her. “Feel free to do it again, Lord,” she whispered.

The car rolled past a lake covered with lily pads, and she saw what she called an “absolutely astounding” cloud covering the lake. It was so beautiful, she stared in wonder, even into her rear-view mirror.

She crested the next hill, and the main lake was below her. A huge, white, misty cloud was hovering over it -- moving and swirling. It reminded her of the clouds in the Bible, which signified the presence of God. Ducks and geese were gliding though it, appearing out of nowhere in the mist.

She took a photo with her cell phone as a lone goose appeared from the deep mist like a dream. She thanked God for the moment, for the errand He sent her on to have a chance to tell her He loved her more than she knew.

Not only that, but she stopped at her favorite coffee shop and they were featuring her favorite flavor, Crème Brulee. It was a good day at work, and she got to see several of her favorite patients.

No, she didn’t also get a million-dollar raise and win the lottery . . . but it was great to go from a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day, to beauty and wonder. You know what they say: what a difference a day makes!


Prayer request: A great friend who is to become a grandmother once again, quite a bit later in life than most, seeks prayer that she can be a different kind of blessing “to this wee flicka.” She may not be as active, but she can sure be wise and sweet. She asks prayer for the mother’s many mid-term contractions, that they would abate and a full-term pregnancy could be achieved. And she prays for a stepgranddaughter who must have her gall bladder taken out on Friday. Lord, thank You for giving us grandmothers like this, whose unfailing love means so much to those who look to them as role models. (Hosea 10:12)

Sunday, October 02, 2005


I am the good shepherd,
and know my sheep,
and am known by mine.
-- John 10:14

The pharmacist had been stressed out at work lately. To make things worse, her manager had an "all about ME" attitude. All she cared about was her bonus, and whatever it took to make it bigger. She was "getting" to the entire crew.

The pharmacist is a born-again Christian, but every time she mentions faith matters, the boss gets downright surly. That stuff’s not scientific, or important to the bottom line.

So the pharmacist gets hammered a lot as a department manager reporting to this rather unpleasant boss. Her co-workers don’t know how she takes it. Her motivation is the people she truly works for -- the patients. Serving them, and encouraging them along the way, is what she’s all about.

Well, recently, she marked her 33rd anniversary with the same company, an amazing achievement in this day and age. It was just another day as far as management was concerned, and she knew that. But a simple, "Hey, congratulations!" would have gone a long way.

It had been a terribly busy day. Near the end of her long shift, she had a conversation with a nurse about a patient who was just being dismissed. They had to call each other back a couple of times to make arrangements for prescriptions. Then the wife of the patient came in. They talked about the medications and what to expect.

The pharmacist, ever friendly, asked her about her unusual middle initial, "Q,” which turned out to be for “Quinn.” The customer thanked the pharmacist for all the work she had done with the nurse to make her husband’s meds affordable. They talked about his condition and his heart catheter. They talked about his emotional state, and hers. Then the wife left.

The next day, someone called to speak to "a supervisor.” The pharmacist took the call. A woman said, "I have never done this before, but I wanted to launch a compliment." How refreshing! Then the customer said, "I didn't get the pharmacist's name, but she was wonderful!!! She was short, with dark brown hair almost to her shoulders, and it was 9:45 p.m. . . .”

The pharmacist said, "And you are Marilyn Quinn!"

The caller gasped, "Was that YOU?" Then she asked to speak to HER supervisor, so the pharmacist shifted the call to her crabby boss, smiling a little about the praise that would be lavished in her behalf.

During that day, she had to go into the office twice, but the boss said NOTHING to her. She regretted not having shifted the caller to the district office instead.

The other pharmacists were livid that the boss said nothing. She started getting angry herself, about fielding a patient compliment on her 33rd anniversary, and no one cared, NO one. . . .

She fumed and griped to herself, walking angrily through the drugstore . . .

. . . and as she passed the Robitussin section, a still, small voice said quietly, "I know who you are."

She didn’t even break stride. She continued to rant and rave to herself about how unfair it all was . . . what is the point of trying so hard . . .

. . . and the voice said, "I know who you are."

By then, she was in front of the vitamins, muttering, "Yeah, sure, YOU know, but THEY don't know OR care, and it isn't asking TOO much to be told something GOOD once in a while . . . some MINOR praise in a SEA of turmoil” . . .

. . . and the quiet voice simply repeated, "I know who you are."

She stopped short. What had just happened finally sank in.


She said out loud, "And that IS enough, Lord."

The hurt was instantly gone. She went back to work, smiling.

There’s nothing like a supernatural “Atta girl” to get you back on track . . . just the right medicine for a sick and tired spirit, from the Great Physician who always knows the right Rx.


Prayer request: There’s a husband named John who fervently seeks prayer about his marriage and family. He prays that his wife Martha will leave sin and choose holiness now and forever in Jesus’ name. He pleads that his marriage and family will be restored, healed and made better than ever. Savior Lord, it is so inspiring to hear from a husband who knows what his main job is, here on earth – to make his marriage work in order to glorify You. Reveal Yourself in this situation and work in their hearts to bring them to You for the changes they need so that they can live happily ever after. (Ephesians 5:25)

Saturday, October 01, 2005


She’s a loving grandmother, and she has bought countless boxes of Girl Scout cookies, magazine subscriptions, candy bars, giftwrap . . . you know the drill. Adorable grandchild asks, and adoring grandparent says, “Of course, dear.”

Well, now that they’re older, the principle’s the same, but the product being supported is a little different. Our friends in the Kansas City area found themselves purchasing tickets to an all-day, all-night rock concert in which their grandson, a high-school junior, was playing. They would get an eyeful of scary Goth attire, orange hair, pierced everythings, and bras being tossed around by the crowd like a beach ball at a baseball game.

“Thank God he has already lettered in golf and swimming and has no earrings or piercings, or I probably would be a tad queasy,” the grandmother wrote.

“Truly, I would really rather swim up the river to Lawrence to do absolutely nothing -- but I plan to stick some ear plugs in my bag and hopefully, find my way out of the theater as soon as he is done.

“So, is this is a "What I Did For Love" thing?? NO DOUBT!!!!!!!!!!!

“My hearing is already giving me problems, so I can at last blame it on something besides old age!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”


Prayer request: Father, I need an invisible cork in my mouth today for all utterances that would not be absolutely pleasant and clearly understood. I need to keep my opinions to myself today. Make my speech short but sweet, and my attitude sparkly, to be a better representative for You. (Proverbs 13:16 )