Wednesday, December 17, 2008


What language does Santa Claus speak?
North Polish.

Where does Santa Claus go swimming?
The North Pool.

What kind of motorcycle would Santa ride?
A Holly Davidson.

What is Santa Claus' favorite cereal?
Frosted Flakes.

What do you call Santa when he goes to the beach?
Sandy Claus.

How do Santa and Mrs. Claus travel?
On an icicle built for two.

Some children call him Santa Caus since there is Noel.

What name does Santa Claus use when he takes a rest from delivering presents?
Santa Pause!

Why will Santa go down your chimney on Christmas Eve?
Because it soots him.

If Santa and Mrs. Claus had a baby, what would he be?
A subordinate Claus.

What would Santa's grandfather be called?
Grandfather Claus.

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?

Why does Santa have three gardens?
So he can ho, ho, ho.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Over the weekend, the 8-year-old put me in my place once again. Maddy and I were joking around in front of her older siblings and assorted others. I said something that I thought was fairly humorous, and she retorted:

"Oh, Mom, you're not funny!"

Mock hurt. "I'm not funny?"

Honest reply: "Not when you're TRYING to be."

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Dyslexics probably think the martial arts include kissing, negotiating who will do which household chores, and arguing effectively without mentioning those good-for-nuttin' in-laws. But of course, the martial arts are actually about self-defense and fitness, and they're a part of our world now, with Maddy taking classes for the past two months.

The highlight of the interminable tae kwon do awards ceremony tonight, besides seeing Maddy all aglow over her first "promotion," from a white belt to a yellow one, was a little red-headed girl who was called up front to be awarded her black belt. That's a pretty big deal.

She bowed courteously to the crowd and looked solemn as they tied on her new black belt. Then, as her family came onstage to take the mike and wish her well in her big moment, her hands suddenly shot up to her head . . . and whisked off her red headband, revealing a BLACK one!

Then she danced around jubilantly, very little girl-like, and not so samurai-like any more. Her mom said she had been waiting to do that for weeks; it was a plan.

That's martial arts, American style: we've got the chops technically, but the fun is in the pageantry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


During the service, the pastor asked if anyone would like to offer up prayers of thanksgiving.

A lady stood up, came forward and said, "I have a reason to thank the Lord. Two months ago, my husband Jim had a terrible bicycle wreck and his scrotum was completely crushed. The pain was excruciating and the doctors didn't know if they could help him."

You could hear an audible gasp from the men in the congregation, as she continued, "Every move caused him terrible pain, and we prayed as the doctors performed a series of delicate operations. They were able to piece together the crushed remnants of Jim's scrotum and wrap wire around it to hold it in place."

The men in the congregation squirmed uncomfortably as she went on: "Jim is out of the hospital now, and the doctors say, with time, his scrotum should recover completely."

All the men sighed with relief, and the pastor rose and tentatively asked if anyone else had anything to offer. A man rose and walked slowly to the podium.

He said, "I'm Jim and I would like to tell my wife, the word is 'sternum.'"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Sunday's story on detailed the hilarious practical jokes of a family friend, Dick "Crazy" Worrall. Comes now some of his "victims" who reveal how they got him back:

After the Chicken Delight chicken-tossing incident, two couples put heads together and came up with a revenge plan. First, they placed an ad in the local newspaper as if his house were for sale, listing it, of course, at a ridiculously low price.

Then they bought feather pillows at the second-hand store, and, one dark and stormy night, snuck into Worrall's garage, and filled his beautiful Porsche with feathers.

Next morning, Worrall awoke to find feathers in his car, an ad in the morning paper advertising his house, and "FOR SALE" signs in his front yard. For days, would-be buyers stalked the house and attempted to buy it.

Worrall stomped downtown to the newspaper to demand to know who had placed the false ad. Turns out that's how he discovered the culprit: the beleaguered clerk had just given the prankster's money back for the real estate ad.

It seems the paper had placed the ad in the wrong neighborhood section. It was a less desirable section that didn't draw as many would-be buyers as the pranksters had hoped. So minutes before, the PRANKSTER had stomped downtown to get a refund from the paper, which the clerk gave. Therefore, she was able to describe the prankster to Worrall so that he knew who had done the dirty deeds.

Worrall claimed that until the Fourth of July the next year, every time he braked his car, a feather flew out.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Trickiest Trick-or-Treaters
Come in Pairs

Faves this Halloween:

-- Two late-elementary school girls came to our door as Salt and Pepper. They had matching dimestore gowns with the Pepper one dyed gray, and foil with holes poked in the top for crazy headdresses. Their pillowcases were nearly full of candy; they must have been working for hours. Call them "movers and shakers."

-- Another duo showed up as Laurel & Hardy, one tall and thin, and the other cute and rotund.

-- A married couple went to a party as a cross-dressing Sonny & Cher. The wife said it was really weird to put makeup on her longtime husband. She put it on thick and cheap, she said, and nobody could tell who he was. That, probably, was a good thing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


So there we were at the piano recital. All the kids were wearing their costumes. Maddy, the Ice Princess -- which doesn't bode well for her future husband, ha ha -- had gone second. So she was relaxed as we watched all the others take their turns and walk up onstage to the piano.

One of them was dressed like an old-fashioned coal miner, with a huge pillow stuffed inside a plaid shirt and jeans, with suspenders, and a truly funny long, fuzzy, brown beard and moustache.

I took a look at the big pot belly, and whispered to my family, "That looks like me!"

Maddy turned to me with great sympathy in her big, brown eyes, and said, "Oh, Mom! Don't worry! You don't have NEARLY as big of a moustache as that!"

Friday, October 24, 2008


Still fasting. Strangely, the first day was the hardest. Hubby still having problems, though. He said he was having a little trouble falling asleep last night because of his rumbling stomach. So he thought he'd start "counting sheep."

But pretty soon, they morphed into his favorite main dish off the grill, "Beer Can Chicken" -- you know, the kind where you stand a whole chicken up, pat a barbecue rub all over it, and pour beer into a container below it that rises up and moistens the succulent meat . . .

. . . and yes, I'm getting carried away. The funny thing was, in his bedtime imagination, all these Beer Can Chickens were running up to the fence and, you know, jumping over with their fat little legs pumping around.

No wonder his face was in a pool of saliva this morning!

One more night. Wonder what he'll "count"? For me, it'll be Hershey bars!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


A certain person who shall remain nameless, but who miraculously shares my last name as well as address and boudoir, has convinced me to go on a 3-day fast.

This is not only for the traditional religious reasons -- we're both concerned about the upcoming elections and want extra focus for prayer and Bible reading -- but also because we're both fighting the battle of the bulge and want to jump-start a little weight loss before the holidays.

The idea came from his close friend and Christian mentor, a business owner who is a pretty funny guy. He went on the fast, too. Yesterday was the first day. I got through it fine since I've done this before. The two men, though, found it pretty hard to not eat, after lifetimes of the opposite.

At dinnertime, my beloved got a call. "This is Valentino's Pizza Parlor," a muffled voice said. "We've got a guy who was just walking by our door, leaned his head in, and passed out. . . ."

Yes, he was making it up. Yes, we all made it through the first 24 hours. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is worth it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


First, the bad news:

We're being invaded by Martians.

Now, the good news:

They eat politicians and pee gasoline!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Threw away a little lump of soap this morning after showering. It was the last 42 molecules of a bar of Dial. Normally, I don't even blink when I do that.

Then I heard the radio blasting bad news about the economy. Sounds like hard times are ahead for a while. I remembered Grandma's Depression-era household tip about saving the last slivers of soap until you have enough to combine into one decent-sized bar, with a little water.

Would I be stinky and miserable, in the future, yearning for the day when I was rich enough to throw away perfectly good soap?

Yeah, I fished it out and saved it. Helps me feel like I'm doing SOMETHING productive during this . . . excuse the expression . . . economic soap opera.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Good thing they canceled the speech by Obama mentor and Chicago would-be murderer and domestic terrorist, Weatherman Bill Ayers, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The outcry here has been . . . explosive.

Don't think anything Ayers might have to say would have been well-received here. In fact, I think his speech would have . . . bombed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


A wild and wacky event is coming up Oct. 26 in west Omaha: Pug-O-Ween, featuring dozens of pug dogs in costume. There'll be prizes for the funniest, best look-alike, most original, and best group costumes starting at 1 p.m. at Chalco Hills, 154th & Giles.

I just think pugs are the craziest-looking little bug-eyed Winston Churchills to begin with. But to see them in little costumes . . . well, it's not to be missed.

You can see more about it on

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I was in line in the pet store with my $100 worth of guinea pig purchases, and gagging over the extravagance for Miss Maddy's favorite indoor pet. Uff da! For an $8 rodent, this is getting ridiculous.

Anyway, through the store window I could see the license plate on a jaunty red car:


Couldn't translate it, so I turned to the guy behind me. He happened to own the car, and told me what it meant:

CUTIE PATOOTIES -- his wife's name for their beloved grandchildren.


Got a jolt about my future: if I will drop one hundred bucks for a glorified pet RODENT, how much am I going to be spending on my adorable GRANDCHILDREN some day?!?!?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Do I dare give a bunch of little girls the finger this Halloween? I came across a recipe for a funny snack that gives a whole new meaning to the term "finger food." Think we'll serve it at Maddy's Halloween party.

You use refrigerated breadstick dough as the top and bottom of a long, fat "finger," putting ham and Monterey Jack cheese inside with some mustard. You kind of pinch the top breadstick to the bottom and round it and shape it like a finger. You even let a little of the top part of the dough hang over the edge of the "front," like a long fingernail.

You score around the oval where the fingernail "cuticle" would be, and score a few wrinkles for "knuckles."

Then you beat an egg yolk or two, and add food coloring to make green or blue or yellow, and then you "paint" the fingernail and the skin different wacky colors with a basting brush.

Bake 12 or 13 minutes at 350 degrees, and you have a fun snack for the kids of the . . . ahem . . . digital age.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Received a number puzzle today that I think the folks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could've gotten on the very first try.

With just one stroke, how can you make this add up?

5 + 5 + 5 = 550



The answer is that you make that first + into a 4.

Then it's 545 + 5 = 550.

Now you're ready to take a cushy job in one of those sleazy, slimy bailout companies and "make deals happen" like that. Uff da!!!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Dave was walking Maddy out to the car to take her to school this morning. I called after him, "Controlled Rain is coming at 11."

Maddy's eyebrows shot up, and she beamed. "Controlled BRAIN?!?"

Yikes! I had just been researching RFID chips yesterday, and learned for the first time that the radio frequencies in those chips are thought to be able to mess with yo' mind, in a covert, neurological kind of way.

But noooooo. Controlled Rain, not Brain, is our sprinkler system company, shutting off our lawn sprinklers for the fall.

The only thing controlling MY brain is the thought of dark chocolate. Ahhhhhh! Like a zombie, a robot, my brain causes me to stagger hypnotically toward the treat drawer. . . .

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Maddy, 8, just loves, loves, LOVES her new tae kwon do class. That's Korean for "hand foot art." But in American, it translates as "even though I am less than four feet tall, I am now a certified BAD ASSSSSSSSSSSS."

At bedtime, she was showing me some of her moves. "Wow!" I said. "Take it easy! Just because you know tae kwon do doesn't mean you can beat your mother up."

"You're not my mother anymore," she announced solemnly. "NOW YOU ARE MY MINION!!!!!"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Back after a busy summer and completion of the 112-page November/December issue of RFD-TV The Magazine:


Two new studies indicate that it is "random, wind-induced circulation changes in the ocean" that is causing the recent ice loss in the Greenland and West Antarctic glacial sheets.

No!!!!! Duh!!!!! That wind is coming straight from the U.S. election campaigns, too. Thank goodness it will subside after November.

Full story at

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That Hot, Huh?

Maddy was leaving the first soccer practice of her new team after 90 minutes of strong effort in the hot afternoon sun. In front of all the new teammates and parents, she reported:

“I’m so hot, I’m going to have to have my underwear surgically removed.”

The kid’s got a reputation, all right. Maybe the other teams they play will fall down laughing when she’s around, and she can score!


PRAYER REQUEST: We praise You, Father, for Trevor’s wonderful, marvelous, outstanding medical checkup regarding his lifelong heart problem, which isn’t such a problem any more thanks to medical intervention and Your tender care. The good news really puts his mother’s mind at ease, and she’s a dear friend who deserves to have her mind at ease. Thank You, Jesus! (Jeremiah 17:14)

Monday, August 18, 2008

(Back from summer hiatus!)

A Silver Medal for Frugality

Sheesh. I was feeling like enough of a slacker after Dara Torres won three silver medals in the Olympics at age 41. Comes now an L.A. woman, Jessica Higgins, who gave birth to a daughter on her front lawn the other day, all by herself. Mother and daughter are doing fine. Man, if I could’ve done that four times instead of being in the hospital with all those bills, think of the tens of thousands of dollars I could’ve saved!

The baby, Mary Claire, came six weeks early and weighed in at five pounds, 11 ounces. Mrs. Higgins, who lives in Fullerton, was driving home with her 2-year-old son in the back seat and barely made it to her house when the baby emerged.

Here’s a humor note: she was on “hold” on her cell phone with her doctor’s office when the baby was born. Isn’t that just always the way?


PRAYER REQUEST: We pray for guidance for a young woman named Katie who is engaged at age 20 after just two months of dating. Lord, if this is the husband You have for her, great – bring on that wedding. But if she is being too hasty, Father, slow her down and give her time to be sure. (Titus 2:4,5)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wind Out of My Sails

I was trying to explain to Maddy why no, she COULDN’T go to Build-a-Bear Workshop and get some new clothes and accessories for her koala. The last thing she needs is more “stuff,” I told her.

“We’re going on vacation in northern Minnesota for a whole week, and you’re going to have that huge, blue lake and deep, green forest to play in, and all the wildlife you can imagine, and the Northern Lights, and toasting marshmallows, and going fishing . . . who needs more toys, when you get to go to a LAKE?”

Maddy eyed me shrewdly, trying to make a case for her "need" for new toys:

“Aw, a lake’s just a hole with water in it.”

Nice try. Didn’t work, though I thought about letting her get some cute jammies and shorts outfits from Build-a-Bear Workshop that would fit a REAL Minnesota black bear, if she REALLY wants more excitement in her play time.


PRAYER REQUEST: Saw an old friend in church who has lost both his mother and his father to very difficult health problems in less than a year, plus has had all the stress of having to organize and sell off all their worldly possessions, comfort his wife and children, stay employed (!), and just manage an incredible amount of stress. Lord, touch Bill with Your mercy and rest, grant him comfort and peace, and make sure he knows that his parents are with You, waiting for the day that they’ll be reunited. (Psalm 9:9)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Or Whomever

At a local industrial plant, an employee mentioned that there were no restrooms in one of the buildings on the campus. People had to walk across a muddy industrial yard to get to the other building to find facilities.

I suggested that they put up good, old-fashioned outhouses, with a big half-moon on the front. Of course, they’d have to put “MEN” on one, and “WOMEN” on the other.

Based on the crazy happenings in our neighboring Colorado, they’d have to have a third one, titled:



PRAYER REQUEST: A friend’s hard-working, creative and adorable adult son in another state is suffering a mysterious malady in the morning. He has diarrhea and vomiting every morning until about 11 a.m. He has been checked for allergies, and all they found was a sensitivity to dust mites. The parents are shipping him one of those pricey, but effective, mattress covers, and pillow covers, too, to try to stop his symptoms. He wants to go on to graduate school but couldn’t succeed if nearly half his day is eaten up with this illness. He’s a young man who has dedicated his life to God and is about as faithful as anyone in his generation. Heal him, Lord, so that he can continue to do great things for You. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sense About Sixteen Cents

Sheesh. A student in Great Britain has been charged $1,600 in bank fees and interest after her account went overdrawn by sixteen cents:

There may be more to the story; the bank says the overdrafts have dated back to last September. But still. . . .

I think banks should pay us customers for maintaining UNDER-drafts consistently over the years, never even coming close to Point Zero or below. Don’t you?


PRAYER REQUEST: There’s a teenager whose parents are having marital difficulties. She thinks she’d rather move with her dad to another city and go to a different school for her senior year. But he’s the irresponsible one in the marriage, and not a good role model at this time. Lord, that would be a big mistake to uproot herself away from her more stable parent and extended family, and have to make all new friends and adjust to a whole new school, wouldn’t it? Only You are sovereign and only You can see the future. We pray that You will help this family see it the way You do, and keep her with her mom. Use this crisis as a teaching tool about maturity and following through, for this precious young lady. Deliver them, Father. (Psalm 3:8)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Social Calendar For the Older Set

I attended the funeral of a family friend the other day and sat next to my mother. She’s at that age where she goes to a lot of funerals. In fact, she was going to hang out at the church after the 1 p.m. funeral, because she was supposed to help serve in the kitchen at another funeral at 4 p.m.

Her term for this cracked me up:



PRAYER REQUEST: Father, there are a couple of familiar names in the obituaries right now, especially the mother of my wonderful old boss, Bob. Funerals are sad, but it’s sweet to see children honoring their parent’s memory with well-planned, touching ceremonies. Be with Bob and other grieving people at this tender time, as they say their earthly goodbyes to loved ones, in preparation for heavenly hellos some day. Help us remember that You’re the one who makes the preparations for us, coming and going! (Exodus 13:8)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grass-ias For the Smile

An advertising slogan on a passing truck made me smile. It was pulling a trailer fuller of lawn mowers and equipment, and made this bold claim:



PRAYER REQUEST: Thank You, Lord, for a certain someone’s 100% “clear” doctor’s visit today, 15 months post-cancer surgery. We asked You to watch over her, and You have. Oh, Jesus, it’s so good to be able to trust You, now and always. (Psalm 37:3-5)

Monday, July 21, 2008

When Odd Is Cute
Met a nice young man from Michigan over the weekend. We were discussing weird things that younger siblings say and do.

He contributed this:

Any time a couple would kiss on a TV show, his little sister would say loudly:

“What a wonderful species!”


PRAYER REQUEST: High praise to the Lord Who Hears, because our prayers have helped our dear friend Joan revive. She was on a ventilator in Kansas City, and last week, the situation was grim. The family was given a choice: either transfer her to a nursing home where she’d live out her life on the machine, or the hospital would find a way to help her pass away peacefully. Both options were bad, so the family prayed . . . the medical team tried one last-ditch effort . . . and it worked. As of this morning, Joan has been breathing on her own and doing well for nearly two full days. We thank You and praise You, Jesus, for making that family wise enough to depend on You. (Proverbs 22:4)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Diet Shorthand: Ain’t It the Trut’?

Did you ever notice: the Roman numerals for forty (40) are XL.


PRAYER REQUEST: There’s a neat lady named Junette, from Fatima, Portugal, who often sends interesting pro-Christian emails to a friend of mine, who forwards them to me. She has just been diagnosed with lymphoma and is readying herself for therapy. Her friend has asked for daily prayer for Junette. Lord, we all know about the “beautiful lady” that the three shepherds saw at Fatima. May Junette – a beautiful lady in her own right – feel the power, protection, comfort and healing of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and may she defeat this disease for His glory. Grant her unfailing courage and a firm hope. (2 Thessalonians 2:16,17)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

So There, to the Golf Busybodies

Went to a funeral yesterday for a darling family friend, Don, who died in his mid-80s, and left a wide swath of loving, appreciative friends and admirers. My favorite funeral speaker was Don’s friend of seven decades, a gentle pediatrician who broke down and cried a few times during his remembrance. I think he is either the father or the uncle of the Omaha-born, world-famous emo musician, Conor Oberst. Now we know where Conor gets his emo!

But the funniest story came from a golf buddy. He said that, one time during a friendly game that wasn’t for prize money or anything, Don kind of whiffed trying to get the ball out of a sandtrap. In mock rage, to delight his playing partners, he reached down, grabbed the ball, and THREW it toward the flag. They all laughed.

But here came a golf cart up from behind them. They had seen what Don did, and they didn’t like it. They were the golf equivalents of Pharisees and Sadducees. “You can’t do that!” one of them shouted.

Sticking your nose into another foursome’s business is just as bad golf etiquette as what Don did. And they were sooooo self-righteous. So Don decided to have a little fun:

“The %#*@(% I can’t!” he retorted.

“Oh, no, you can’t! That’s against the rules!”

In reply, what did Don do? He made a sideways swipe with his foot, and pushed the ball another 20 feet toward the hole.

Now, THAT’S style.


PRAYER REQUEST: Father, thank You for the commendable life of Don, and thank You for guiding him to help dozens or probably hundreds of people financially, legally, and health-wise. He mentored employees, abused women, alcoholics, boys from troubled homes, and served You in so many other ways. He loved his work and was so enthusiastic about the good causes he supported and building up the community. May his example spread in the lives of those who attended his funeral and recognized what a great guy he was. Make us more like You, too, just like Don was. (Ecclesiastes 5:18,19)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another Plug Bug

Follow-up to Sunday’s story about a speedboat owner who forgot to put the plug in his boat and nearly sank it:

Our air conditioning was on the fritz, so the fix-it guy came over. Afterwards, we chatted. Turns out he loves to fish and has been to many of the same lakes we have.

Also turns out that one time, this sailor with decades of experience was so excited to get to one particular hotspot, where his brother-in-law had caught 16 walleye the day before, that he and his friend got their boat launched and then in their haste and excitement, turned their attention to other preparations for the fishing expedition.

After a few minutes, a crotchety old local yokel who was fishing for carp (yuck!) on shore drily called over to him:

“Didja put the plug in?”

“Well, yes, I think I did.”

“I think you didn’t.”

He whipped around, and his boat was half-sunk. Not only that, but it was a rural boat launch with gravel underneath, and his truck didn’t have four-wheel drive, so even though he scrambled fast enough to get the water-laden boat up onto the trailer, the truck couldn’t get a purchase on that gravel to haul it up on land so that it could drain.

Finally, the old codger offered HIS four-wheel drive truck. So he hitched his truck to their truck, which was hitched to their soggy boat, and eventually, they got ‘er done.

After all that, when they finally got out on the lake for the day of fishing, guess how many they caught?

You’ve got it: ZERO!

Fishing: it’s just like that. But we agreed: A good day at work is still not as good as a bad day of fishing.


PRAYER REQUEST: (Yesterday’s prayer for Karen was answered with a resounding and relief-filled YES! No further surgery or major fussing required to manage her condition. Thank You, Jesus!) Today’s prayer focus is a precious son named Trevor who had heart problems as a baby. Now he has to have an "ultra-3D MRI" of his heart and aorta on Wednesday, August 13th. He is such a delight to his parents, Father, that we know You take delight in him, too. Lord, we will climb inside Your heart, and perch there for the next month, as we pray Trevor and his wife and parents through the many feelings and emotions they will be going through until this big test. We pray for the best possible outcome of the test, and peace of mind and tears of joy for all, in Jesus’ Name, because He is the source of all peace and joy. (Psalm 37:4)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Staying Abreast of Health-Care Challenges

A friend with a well-developed sense of humor and a not-so-developed bustline was arranging for her mammogram. They set a date. The appointment secretary asked all the required questions:

"Have you had any breast surgeries?"


"Any problems with your breasts?"

Fleeting thoughts of how she could never qualify to be a Playboy bunny came to mind, but she bit her tongue, and said, "No."

"Can you get around?"

That was too much.

"Oh, yes. I am flat-chested, so I can get around quite well with no interference from my breasts."

A moment of shocked silence, and then the secretary’s professional demeanor dissolved into laughter. "I HAVE to ask that so we know that you can stand up for the test."

If not, what do they provide? Size Double D crutches?!?


PRAYER REQUEST: A friend’s friend, Karen, must undergo a cardiac catheterization today. Father, thank You for the amazing medical technology You have taught us to create, to provide for such a time as this. We lift up Karen and her medical team for Your mercy and compassion, and pray for the easiest outcome, that won’t require further surgery or medication. May she be an obedient patient and be free of all worry and dread. Thank You for blessing us with the privilege of praying for one another, and may Karen feel our support and encouragement now and always. (Isaiah 30:18)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sing them a Puppabye

This guy could rent out to bleary-eyed parents of newborns:

PRAYER REQUEST: Blessings and honor to the brave fellow who got up in front of church yesterday and told about his 20-year struggle with pornography. Jesus helped him win, with a late-night, supernatural visitation, and a simple question: choose, now, whether to keep on sinning, or follow Me. He chose to give it up, and now he’s helping others do the same. He was nervous and tearful, but what guts it took to overcome the shame and embarrassment of going public. We pray it did a ton of good, and that he will be blessed by finding out about people who decided to follow his lead. It’s hard to believe, but the stats indicate that as many as 50% of men, and over 25% of women, are hooked on porn. Lord, we know it is Your will to free these captives, and You’re aching to be gracious to them. Let each of us help someone who’s trapped in that vicious addiction. (Isaiah 30:18)

Monday, July 07, 2008

It’s Not So Dumb to Be Dense

With the price of gas, any thoughts of a leisurely Sunday drive go out the car window. Who can afford mileage without purpose?

Forget going downtown to see what’s up, too. It’s a long way away. A round-trip costs $10!

Comes now a Wall Street Journal headline that sums it up:

With Gas Over $4, Cities Explore
Whether It’s Smart to Be Dense

The story is about Sacramento, Calif., where city planning is attempting to inspire clustered development of housing and jobs to cut down on commuter time, traffic jams, energy use and pollution. Instead of a downtown core with dependent suburbs radiating outward, there’ll be lots of mini-downtowns all over an urban area. Lots of pockets of dense development is thought to be better than one big, highly developed downtown and lots of spacious housing all around it.

It’s plenty controversial: the rule of thumb out there is to have an average of 10 housing units per acre. Ouch! We live on three! The idea also is to offer streetcar systems and bike paths sufficient to make individual cars unnecessary. Yow! Don’t want to go there, and doubt many other Americans would, either.

But the idea is to cut down on the sprawling suburbs, encourage the use of bicycles and public transit, and congregate office parks, shops and restaurants near neighborhoods. Saving time and money, and helping the environment: maybe going denser isn’t so dumb.


PRAYER REQUEST: Saw the engagement picture of a dear friend of our daughter’s in the paper yesterday. Lord, bless Jenny and Chris, who love You very much. Be in that engagement and marriage, as long as they both shall live! (Ephesians 5:31)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Where Do They Come Up With These?

I was leaning down to kiss Maddy goodnight, moments after taking a tall swig on my gotta-stay-up-late-tonight coffee mug.

She made a face. Must’ve been my breath.

“AWAY WITH YOUR FILTH!” she commanded.

Think what we could save on the military! The kid could clear terrorists out of an entire country with one toothpaste-scented breath.


PRAYER REQUEST: It’s hard to see Your perfect timing in the death at age 50 or so of one of my college friends. Karen succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s Disease, leaving a husband and children. Lord, reassure them that what You have for her in heaven is beyond our wildest dreams down here. Bring them to Your lap, comfort them, and teach them of Your never-failing goodness, even in a tragedy like this. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Sheesh, these gas prices. The hubby and brother decided last night that the United States and other food-overproducing nations ought to form CornPEC, along the lines of the oil-producing nations’ OPEC.

Then every year we would tell all those price-gouging Mideast countries how much food we’re going to produce, but not sell to them.

That ought to fix their sandy little wagons.


PRAYER REQUEST: Thank You for being with my good friend every step of the way as her marriage has broken down, and thank You for letting her know that You are there, Lord Jesus. She has been so faithful to Your ways, in trying to reconcile, but he is the one who has been unfaithful and refuses to repent. It has been like a captivity for her, for so long. Now it’s time to get the divorce over with, though, Lord. Bring things to a constructive and forward-looking resolution, for the good of herself and her children. Refresh her weariness and douse her depression with hope and promise. (Psalm 69:33)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Photo taken at about the same time, in about the same part of Iowa
as the storm described in this story,
shows a mesocyclone with a wall cloud; photo by Lori Mehmen of Orchard, Iowa

Blown Away

Hereby perceive we the love of God,
because he laid down his life for us:
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoso hath this world’s good,
and seeth his brother have need,
and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him,
how dwelleth the love of God in him?
My little children,
let us not love in word,
neither in tongue;
but in deed and in truth.

-- 1 John 3:16-18
My friend’s sister survived a tornado that devastated a small town in Iowa earlier this summer. They say it looks like a gigantic weedeater took out nearly half of the town. The 200 mph winds caused eight deaths and $160 million in insurance claims.

Her husband was not at home, but her best friend was there with a couple of children. They crouched down in an area of the basement that the cat slept in. The tornado roared upon them – and literally scooped the house and all its contents up and away.

To everyone’s horror, the homeowner’s young daughter started rising up, sucked into the vortex. Screaming, the mom jumped to her feet and grabbed the girl by her hips, pulling her back down. The eye of the tornado was then upon them, giving them a moment to grab onto a pipe, and then the back end of the twister roared by.

When it was over, they just kept huddling, whimpering, for a few minutes, and then got up and looked around.

Not a stick was left of the house.

The boat was gone. The jet-ski was gone.

They never found any of their furniture, and what they did find was mostly ruined.

But praise God! No one was hurt.

And it wasn’t too long before people they didn’t even know started coming around. These volunteers just appeared, giving them food and water and material goods to tide them over until they could get back on their feet.

The family couldn’t get over how kind these strangers were, and how eager they were to help with the cleanup. Some of them were college students and church youth group members who had headed out just as soon as they heard about the tornado. They knew their help would be needed. These volunteers literally would have given them the shirts off their backs.

Which would have been nice, since the family didn’t have any clothes now. They didn’t have any anything.

And worst of all, without a house, where would they live?

In the days after the tornado, the mom had been on TV a couple of times, detailing the ordeal, and her gratitude for all the help shone through. However, the fact that the family was now homeless also was clear.

Then boom! They got a call from a doctor who lived a few miles away. He had seen the TV report, and he wanted to make them an incredibly nice offer:

Would they like to live in his house, rent-free, for a year?

It turns out that the doctor and his wife were going through a divorce – devastation of another kind. Neither wanted to live in the house any more: too many memories. But it was a bad real-estate market, so they didn’t want to sell it. It was just going to sit empty.

Why not share it with this devastated family?

Why not create something good in a situation that was so bad, for both families?

It’s a gorgeous home. The family joke is that the tornado victims were “blown away” by this kindness, and accepted gratefully on the spot. It had to feel good to that hurting couple, too.

You know, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) because of how it hurts. But He loves generosity in all its forms, because of its sweet and refreshing healing. Both couples experienced it, for their mutual good.

What a lesson for us all. In the aftermath of disaster, peace comes through the gifts of others. If you want to operate straight out of God’s heart, you’ll look around and see who needs help, and how you can deliver it.

We all go through many storms in life. The best way through them is to put one hand in God’s . . . and give your other hand in friendship and service to someone else.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Piece of Lint

Maddy, 8, and I were brainstorming about a story she’s writing. It’s about some canny little monkeys in the Amazon rainforest who outwit some circus poachers. The humans expect to bag a bunch of them and bring them back to the States for big bucks. But the monkeys foil their hunting efforts in an engaging way, and the whole thing is more fun than a barrel of . . . well, it’s a cute story.

In the car, I asked her what the poachers would end up with. After all, they spent a lot of money on plane tickets, hiring local guides, meals, pack mule feed and so forth. What would their boss pay them, for their efforts?

“A piece of lint,” she deadpanned.

Attagirl! She’s a budding environmentalist!


PRAYER REQUEST: A relative’s adored adult daughter named Janet is hospitalized in Arizona with chest pains and dizziness. Oh, Lord, thank You that she got there and is being treated. Speak to her in her affliction if there are things in her lifestyle she should change. Let what ails her be eminently treatable, and let her return home feeling like her not-so-old self again, very soon. (Job 36:15)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Moses, Found in the Tall Grass

A kissin’ cousin in another state was relaxing with her husband when they thought they heard a kitty meowing in their back yard by their swimming pool. There are several cats in the neighborhood that roam. They thought nothing of it.

Next morning, though, they went out to investigate, and it wasn’t a cat at all. It was an adorable yellow Lab puppy! He’s cute, healthy, and has gigantic feet, an ominous sign for these empty nesters with a smallish condo . . . with brand-new carpet. They put up flyers attempting to find the owner, but no one has called. They’ll probably wind up keeping him. They couldn’t bear to take him to the pound, for so many unwanted dogs are having to be euthanized these days.

Love their name for him: Moses, because he was found in the plants by the pool.


PRAYER REQUEST: Bless and prosper all those who show tender mercies to stray animals, Father. (Proverbs 12:10)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

My favorite story over the weekend was of a clever spider monkey who escaped from a zoo in Michigan City, Ind. Workers left a garden hose hanging down the wall of the moat, and the monkey used it to scale the wall and dash away.

What’s really hilarious is that the monkey was recaptured at a nearby boat dealership, perched on top of a blue and white speedboat.

The public didn’t go ape over the safety threat, because the zoo director said this monkey was very “sociable,” and posed no danger to people. No danger, that is, except that he made a MONKEY out of them with such an easy getaway!

PRAYER REQUEST: Lord, grant favor and fortune to the people of Iowa, who face grave dangers from flooding as the Mississippi River crests. Protect life, limb and property, Lord, and use this episode to train Your people to help and serve others, and continue to trust You. (Psalm 31:24)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

(Photo received by email, reportedly the same tornado that destroyed
the Scout camp, taken by a woman who lives in the area)

Obeying the Scout Law

But put forth thine hand now,
and touch all that he hath,
and he will curse thee to thy face.
— Job 1:11
My sister and I were Camp Fire Girls. About the coolest thing we had was the Wo-He-Lo deal. You slammed your fist into your palm and then swirled two fingers up, like smoke, three times, while singing the Wo-He-Lo song about work, health and love.

Lame. Totally.

Our brothers were Boy Scouts. Both made it all the way to Eagles, in fact. We’re convinced that Scouting helped them excel in medicine and business, and to earn the kinds of merit badges you can’t sew on, like love and financial success and self-esteem.

In Scouting, they got to do all kinds of camping and building and outdoorsy sports. We went to all our brothers’ events and sat through countless Courts of Honor as they rose through the ranks. We knew they were supposed to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient cheerful, thrifty, clean, brave and reverent. So when “boys will be boys” at home, boy, would we remind them of how they were SUPPOSED to behave, as good Scouts.

We knew the three-fingered salute stood for honoring God, helping others and obeying the Scout Law. We even memorized their oath:

On my honor
I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
And to obey the Scout Law:
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
Mentally awake,
And morally straight.
So, the other night, when a 135-mph tornado slammed into the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in western Iowa a few miles away from Omaha, and four boys were killed with 42 injured, I literally got sick to my stomach.

It’s a 1,800-acre wilderness camp, ironically donated by a man whose wife used to work for my grandma at Mutual of Omaha. That’s a huge expanse of space, rare around here. But the maps of the tornado’s path show it practically took a bead on the very spot where the 94 boys and their 25 leaders were encamped, and mowed them all down like a buzz saw.

In the storm’s aftermath are lots of questions:

Why, God? Why wouldn’t You put Your Hand in front of that one spot where those boys were taking cover?

Why, God? Why would You allow those boys to be killed, when people are trying to build them up so that they can mature enough to love and trust You, too?

Why would You let that tornado skip over the crack-dealers and baby-killers, and snatch away the young lives of Godly Boy Scouts, who were sure to be part of the leadership team of tomorrow?

When death takes children, it’s a real test of faith. If yours is just the smiley-face, shallow kind, lacking roots deep enough to withstand the storms of life, you may not ever understand God’s design in a disaster such as this.

But if you have the faith of a Job – someone who pretty much lived by the Scout Law thousands of years ago – then you can see the gold in the midst of the mud and debris and death.

I’m trying. It’s hard. But as the stories surface of the heroics of those Scouts before, during, and after, you can see the Light of the World shining, even in that dark night:
  • The teenager named Rob whose hip was dislocated, but he ignored the pain to heave away rubble off another boy to save his life.
  • Jacob, 13, who used his bare hands to hold a fellow Scout’s scalp onto his head so he wouldn’t bleed to death.
  • The one who did CPR to save another kid’s life.
  • The one who thought to shut off the propane tank.
  • The one who had the presence of mind NOT to describe the details of the carnage to a reporter, thinking of the feelings of the families of those who perished.
  • The fact that the Scouts had just reviewed emergency first-aid treatment earlier that week, so they were equipped to deal with rib fractures, broken bones, head and back injuries, a punctured lung and deep cuts.
  • The parents, leaders and boys who found each other in that dark night and instantly fell into a prayer huddle, thinking of those no longer standing.
  • One of the four victims, who was named Samuel, had been adopted. So his parents named him for the baby Hannah had prayed for in the Bible. This Sam gave a sermon at his church this past spring about being obedient to God in tough situations. The sermon was called “wonderful” by his pastor for its insight and maturity. Excerpts were printed in our newspaper. I couldn’t believe how prophetic it was: Sam talked about a tornado, and the episode in the Bible in which the Biblical Samuel told his “boss,” Eli, that he had a vision that his wicked sons were going to perish, and Eli replied, “He is the Lord, let him do what he wants.” Sam ended his sermon, “But when the time comes, say, ‘Here am I, Lord, use me.’”

I think He did. I know He did.

He used these four deaths to remind us that He is sovereign, but if you live by His laws, you’ll be in the Court of Honor on high. I know they’re there. All of them.

He used the disaster to turn us to each other, and to Him. As the old song goes, Trust and obey, for there’s no other way.

He used the heroics of these young teenagers to remind us how important it is to train up the next generation. Just imagine how many more deaths there might have been, with some less-able group of young people out there in harm’s way that night.

There’s no other way to comfort the families and friends of the victims, other than to tell them how very, very proud we all are of the example both parents and boys set for all of us -- of trying to rise above the culture, practice good principles, and be the best person you can. They were on their honor. They did their best. They obeyed the Scout law.

That’s what God was trying to show us: you honor Him most when you put others first, even above your own life.

Remember? There was another good Scout Who did that for each of us, once . . . on the Cross.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Let’s Do a Little Flag-Waving

Here’s a neat website full of fun facts for Flag Day:

PRAYER REQUEST: Peace and rest for the Boy Scouts and their leaders who survived the tornado the other night. They went through some horrendous things. Give them a spirit of gratitude and a resolve to continue to “be prepared” and to help others always. When the next thunderstorm rolls around, Lord, let them know You are with them, and keep friends and family there, too, so they know that no matter how powerful Nature gets, at those times when it is our enemy, we still have You, Who is even stronger. (Colossians 3:15)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Chicken to Try a New ‘Do?

I’m reading a lot of books this summer, but one I enjoy turning to a lot is Pocketful of Poultry by Carol Ekarius. It’s a picture book about 104 kinds of fowl, including some stupendous chickens, like this one with the poufy mohawk.

It’s called the Appenzeller, developed in Switzerland. One variety, the Spitzhauben, is named for a fancy Swiss hat. Can’t you just see it? These bawkers like to roost in trees even during snowstorms. Guess they don’t worry about their feathers getting ruffled – they already are!

Makes me want to try a new and exciting hairdo. But I’m afraid to . . . lay an egg.


PRAYER REQUEST: Just heard about a mom whose teenaged son has shared that girls are sexually aggressive these days, and pressuring HIM to have sex, instead of the other way around. She wants him to be independent and make his own decisions, and so far, she is washing her hands on this decision. One senses that she lacks the resolve to tell him flat out that sex before marriage is wrong, and he shouldn’t be around girls who don’t realize that. Lord, give her the strength to advise him what she knows is right. Help him stay holy and just, because that’s Your design for our lives. (Isaiah 30:21)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hot Flashes and Icelandic Performers

Our college-aged daughter Eden had tickets for a fantastic concert by an innovative musical group from Iceland. She took her best friend, who she owed for taking her to a similar great concert a few weeks ago. The two of them got all dolled up and drove downtown to Omaha’s famous Holland Performing Arts Center, arriving a bit early.

As they waited in the lobby, each kept her thoughts to herself about the other concert-goers around them. They were ALL women! They were ALL in their 40s, 50s and 60s! Oops, there was ONE man in the crowd. But everybody else was . . . a LADY FOGIE!!!

What the . . . .??? This was supposed to be a hot ticket for the teenage and 20-something crowd, which would include, one would think, plenty of persons of the boy persuasion.

Eden’s guest was thinking, “Geez, some ‘treat.’ I took HER to The Police. But look at this crowd! This band must be really lame. Look at all these old ladies!”

Eden was thinking, “Am I losing it? Am I no longer in touch with reality for what is good music?!?”

Finally, the doors opened and they gave their tickets to the usher. “Oh, you girls are in the wrong place!” she exclaimed. “This is Menopause: The Musical!!!

Turns out the performing arts organization in Omaha runs shows at both the Holland Center and the older, but equally fabulous, Orpheum Theater, a few blocks away. The group from Iceland was performing at the Orpheum, and so that’s where the now-and-wow crowd was assembling at that moment.

As soon as they picked themselves up off the floor from laughing, they high-tailed it – or high-heeled it, as it were – and arrived in plenty of time for what turned out to be an outstanding good time. So good, in fact, that Eden had a little crying spell of joy, and it was pretty hot in the crowded theatre.

So, yeah – it was musical, and it was a lot like menopause, after all!


PRAYER REQUEST: We pray for tremendous peace and blessing to rain down on the families of the four precious Boy Scouts who were killed in the tragic tornado last night in western Iowa. Three were from Omaha homes. Lord Jesus, be with those families, and let them know that their entire community grieves with them and surrounds them like a spiritual shield in prayer and good thoughts. (Psalm 5:12)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If a Pumpkin Worked For Cinderella . . .

Have you seen how small some of these new cars are? Sheesh. Instead of yelling “Slug Bug!” when you see a Volkswagen Beetle, with one of these micro-mini’s you’ll have to get out a magnifying glass and yell “Germ Gotcha!”

This Halloween, after we carve out our pumpkin, we ought to put four wheels on it and add battery-powered headlights for a “Jack-o-Lantern-Mobile.” ‘Course, we can only go downhill . . . but that’s our wish for gas prices, that they would go . . . downhill.

PRAYER REQUEST: Lord, we lift up all those people whose lives are so stressful that they descend into fits of road rage. It happened to me yesterday, a verbal attack, laced with expletives, from a woman in a quiet neighborhood who thought I was tailgating. She whipped into her own driveway, burst out of her car and ran toward mine, screaming and threatening me. I apologized, but she took it as sarcastic, and unleashed another torrent of expletives that still ring in my ears. I was so shocked and frightened, Lord. This was a nice neighborhood and she looked like a nice gal, otherwise. She definitely needs You, Jesus. Bring her to Yourself. Bring peace to those who have no peace. Keep our streets safe, and clear of threatening, irrational, aggressive drivers. Help me be a more defensive driver and better time manager, since I know I do have a tendency to drive in a rush and to tailgate from time to time. And thank You that she didn’t actually hurt me, and for letting me see one more glimpse of what the world is like and what I might be like, without Your rule. (Isaiah 55:7)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

‘Eyeclops’ Shows Spider, Beard, Etc.
Maddy went to a great little workshop at the library. “Insect Investigators” focused on spiders. The kids went outside to the library’s prairie garden, found a big spider, put it in a see-through container, and then shined a magnifying device called an “Eyeclops” on it. The device was connected to a TV and so every minute detail of the spider’s physique was displayed on the big screen.

Ewww! It was gross! The spider’s fangs were green, and it must’ve been a female, because she had really hairy legs that cried out for eight little disposable razors, pronto.

A computer technician wandered past. The librarian called out to him to come in and join the fun. Next thing you knew, the kids were shining the Eyeclops onto his very bushy beard. You could see every follicle in living color. Ewwwwwww!!!!!

Kids being kids, they then tried everything they could think of: a shoelace, a freckle, an open sore – ewwwww!!!! that one was really gross – and the workshop went a half-hour too long, they were having so much fun, and learning, too.

PRAYER REQUEST: There’s a guy we know who does not get along very well with his dad. Turns out he didn’t even spend time with his mother on Mother’s Day, even though they live in the same city. Now Father’s Day is coming up, and reportedly he has no plans to get together with his father. As nice as he is, the problem must be mostly the fault of the mom and dad, but Lord, this isn’t right. We pray in one accord for reconciliation and closeness before the parents pass away. Let it begin this coming Father’s Day, Lord. Bring them together, and inspire them to put love first, as we are commanded by our Heavenly Father. (Exodus 20:12)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Equine Margaritas

Just got back from the barn watching the vet float our horse Teddy’s teeth. Since horses’ teeth never stop growing, every so often they need to have them filed down so that they can chew just right. Teddy’s teeth had “points.” It was time for some equine dentistry.

It was quite an operation! First, Dr. Black gave our 20-year-old gelding a shot with a sedative. We watched his head drop down, down, down, but he stayed standing. Then, the vet strapped Teddy into a weird harness with a roll-bar, and put a special bit in his mouth that looked like an open bear trap and kept his mouth open. Open wide! Dr. Black wrapped a rope around the frame of the stall door for leverage, to keep Teddy’s head raised up.

Then he strapped on rubber gloves, stuck what looked like a long drill bit into Teddy’s mouth, and began grinding away at the points. They call it ‘floating” the teeth because vets used to use hand rasps, but it seemed more like “grinding” to me.

But it didn’t hurt him at all. It was comical: Teddy just stood there, drugged, while the vet stood in all different postures to get all the angles. It sounded and smelled just like the dentist’s office.

Then the vet took all the contraptions off and left, and Teddy continued to stand there in his stall, dopey, motionless, his head hanging low . . . but smiling, because it was over.

I swear, he looked like he’d had one too many margaritas.


PRAYER REQUEST: The loss of a child . . . is there anything more difficult for us, Lord? We lift up John and Debra, who just lost their son Logan to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Sweet Jesus, tend to their heartbreak and communicate with them of Your love and caring. Be there for the grieving grandparents as well. If the autopsy report should show a connection to mercury in the vaccinations the baby might have had, we pray that that fact will come out, and that the medical community will do something about it, to spare other families this terrible tragedy. Thank You for this family’s strong faith. Reward them with peace and hope. Draw their family and friends even closer around them. Let them see that a lot of good will come out of this loss, since You are good, all the time. (Jeremiah 33:3)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Garden Lessons

The field is the world;
the good seed are the children of the kingdom;
but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
The enemy that sowed them is the devil;
the harvest is the end of the world;
and the reapers are the angels.
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire,
so shall it be in the end of this world.
-- Matthew 13:38-40

Life started in the Garden, and we modern-day Adams and Eves can still learn a lot out there. Life Lesson #403: Weeds Happen; Deal With Them.

It was so hot and humid the other morning, I felt like wearing only a fig leaf to go out and weed. But I knew that would cause a big Rumble in the Jungle from the neighbors hitting the ground in dead faints after fits of extreme nausea. Besides, there was beaucoup poison ivy out there.

Along with mulberries, volunteer trees, and weeds of all kinds, poison ivy was threatening to take over my Shady Wonderland, a large area in our backyard that’s under big pine trees. It’s supposed to have vistas of hosta and Virginia creeper, but was getting overrun by herbaceous intruders.

So I strapped on my battle gear:

  • Army boots so the poison ivy couldn’t get my ankles.
  • Pants so the poison ivy couldn’t get my legs;
  • A long-sleeved, winter running shirt with an index finger hole to stretch fabric halfway down my hand so the poison ivy couldn’t get my wrists.
  • A winter headband and a severe ponytail to hold my hair back so the poison ivy couldn’t get my ears if I had to tuck errant strands behind them;
  • Extra-strength gardening gloves;
  • A bandanna in my pocket, so if I had to scratch my face, I could use that, not my gloved fingers, which might get poison ivy on my face.
  • A hat, to ward off ticks – eww! – but also so if I had to scratch my head, I’d have to push in on the hat, and IT would scratch my head, and I wouldn’t get poison ivy there, either.

As you gathered, I have a mortal fear of poison ivy, already expressed in a story, Poison Uh Oh. My good friend Jeannie told me about a great new anti-poison ivy product, Tecnu, and I’d stocked up on it. So even though I was going to cook, I was ready. Let’s roll! I grabbed my spade and trowel and moved out, like an astronaut /guerrilla / beekeeper.

Weeding reminded me that gardening is like life. You tend your cherished relationships and plant new ones. Weeding is like ending the relationships that aren’t right, or correcting ones that have gone astray:

· The fragrant peonies, spectacular irises and plump fruits and vegetables are like your favorite friends and relatives, who you love to see and be around, and who set a colorful and beautiful example.

· The shallow-rooted mulberries are like bossy bullies: they take up a lot of space and crowd others out. But once they’re uprooted and taken away, the other plants can spread out and grow properly.

· The volunteer trees are like those people who don’t like to follow the rules, butt in where they’re not supposed to be, and stick out like a sore thumb.

· The prickly-stemmed weeds have a knack for growing right alongside a wanted plant, so you have to be very careful when you pull them out. You might get hurt, and you might damage or destroy the good plant, too (Matthew 13:29). That’s good advice for ending a romance.

· The long, skinny, sticky, clingy weeds tend to multiply ‘til they’re literally tying down the wanted plants. If you don’t pull them out by the roots, they’ll just break in half and stay there, like wimpy-whiny-clingy-stalker people that the kids call “creepers.”

· Then there’s my nemesis, poison ivy. It’s not enough to pull up individual poison ivy plants; you have to get rid of the whole vine, or they’ll spring back up. Be vigilant, but be careful. Exactly like irritating people: once you know them and their traits, you can avoid them, or interact with them only on certain terms so you don’t get a “rash.”

The bad news is, I can be like all of those weeds: Bossy! Pushy! Prickly! Clingy! Irritating!

Uh oh! When the big Weedeater in the Sky comes down here for the harvest of souls, and they’re bringing in the sheaves, will I go with the wheat . . . or the tares?

Here’s the great news: because of Jesus, believers will be wheat, not weeds. Whew! It’s reassuring to be one of the Gardener’s keepers, not creepers.

Of course, we should all still try our best to stop acting like a weed so much . . . and just put our faces to the light and bloom where we’re planted.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Surgeon Must’ve Been Wiped

Over in Japan, they found a softball-sized lump in the area of the spleen of a man, age 49. They thought it was a tumor, so they scheduled surgery.

Come to find out, it was a surgical towel that had been left there in 1983, when the fellow had an operation for an ulcer.

Might not have ever heard about this, but a different hospital did the more recent surgery.

Think about this next time you misplace your glasses . . . or a softball.


PRAYER REQUEST: Lord, You’re wonderful. Our friend Joan didn’t have to have surgery yesterday. The bowel obstruction passed . . . well . . . naturally. She looks and feels better. Your ways are amazing, Lord, and that’s no . . . well, that’s no joke. Thank You for hearing our prayer, and we praise You, Great Physician. (Isaiah 2:3)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Be Nice!

I was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Maybe a nice jolt of store-bought coffee would help. So I pulled in to a drive-through at a specialty coffee hut, and had kind of a long wait at the squawk box. Finally, a 20-something Valley Girl voice came on and I told her I wanted a 20-ounce coffee, plain.

“So that’s 20 ounces? she asked.

“Yes,” I replied, brusquely, my tone implying, “. . . you dummy.”

“Would you like cream in it?”

It was one frustration too many. “NO! PLAIN! BLACK! NOTHING IN IT!” I retorted angrily.

I was frowning as I pulled around to the window to pick it up, when suddenly, I saw a prestige license plate on a car parked right at the corner:


I tipped my head and smiled. Yes, I can sure be nice to the coffee hut girl, instead of going off on her, as I might otherwise have done. So I WAS nice. And she was confused over the beast who had been at the squawk box vs. the beauty who thanked her for the 20-ounce, plain black coffee with a bit of a goofy smile.

Life just goes better when you make everybody else feel that . . . they’re the cream in your coffee.


PRAYER REQUEST: Today our dear friend Joan undergoes exploratory surgery, and it’s her son’s birthday. It’ll be a happy birthday indeed, Lord, if the surgery is successful and solves these medical problems once and for all. We pray for wisdom for her medical team and peace for her family and friends. May there be a simple solution to her bowel obstruction and no lingering complications, and may she regain strength and come home in time to enjoy the summer flowers. (John 14:27)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jolly Pennoes

Our daughter’s friend has a part-time job in a pizza parlor. He was taking someone’s order the other day when they mentioned that they would like “jolly pennoes” on their pizza.

He thought and thought what the person might mean, and then it came to him:

“Do you mean ‘jalapeños’?”

The customer stared at him. “Yeah,” he repeated. “Jolly pennoes.”

How to keep from laughing in such a situation? Well . . . it’s a pickle. No pun intended.

PRAYER REQUEST: According to the weather reports, it is our understanding that it is 122 degrees in Iraq right now -- and the low will be 111! Our troops need our prayers for strength, endurance, and safety. Lord, encourage our soldiers. Give these men and women an extra layer of protection from the heat as well as the ravages of war and the loneliness from being so far away. They need . . . Sonblock! (2 Thessalonians 2:16,17)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Granite Banan-its

We took our college-age daughter and her friend Jack out to dinner after Maddy’s softball game. I was seeking an explanation from these learned young people about why the heck the bunch of bananas I bought last week never did get ripe. They’re still green, and hard as a rock. I put them in a brown paper sack in the oven and everything.

Jack said, “Well, after all that, you might as well just throw them out.”

From the look on my thrift-driven Scotch-Irish face, he quickly added with a wink:

“Or maybe not. After all, bananas don’t grow on trees.”


PRAYER REQUEST: Lord, I am pleading for patience and maturity. It is hard being my age and dealing with little-kid stuff again, for a second round with our “whoopsie daisy” daughter, Maddy. She left her softball bat and glove at the ballfield last night, but we didn’t realize they were missing until 5 minutes before softball camp began this morning. After a mad scurry through the house, the car, the porch, the back yard and a quick drive over to the field, I wound up dropping her off at camp, late, without a glove. I yelled at her for being irresponsible and told her she was grounded for a week. But my tone was one of anger and not loving discipline. Her face showed that she was hurt and sad, instead of learning a good lesson. Now I’m stressed out worrying over her getting hit in the face with a ball. I have a low tolerance for frustration and a quick temper, but I know You made us to grow in peace, perseverance, patience and humility. Thank You for making Yourself so accessible, instantly, at all times. Help me be more like You and less like me. (Proverbs 8:17)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Here he is being set in place a few years ago, by crane.
They say the policemen in front are actors. Yeah, right. (AP photo)
King Kong Escapes!
I mentioned King Kong in yesterday’s Radiant Beam about blurting out a joke mixing him up with King George III of Great Britain to disrupt my second-grade class. Come to find out, the media is claiming he was destroyed by a massive fire over the weekend at Universal Studios’ King Kong attraction and several movie sets. The King Kong exhibit, in northwest Los Angeles, was a cool place to visit because the 6,000-pound, 20-foot tall ape roars at you while mysteriously you start smelling bananas.

And now they say he’s gone. A LIKELY STORY!!! Don’t they KNOW who they’re DEALING with?!?!

They probably wanted to avoid a panic. But make no mistake: KING KONG WENT ON A RAMPAGE, GOT FREE, SET A FIRE AS A DISTRACTION, AND IS ON THE LOOSE AGAIN!!! AAAIIIEEE!!!


PRAYER REQUEST: Our good friend Joan, hospitalized for nearly a month now in Kansas City, is battling a suspected bowel infection, yet another complication. She may need surgery if her body can’t fight it off. She is alternately confident and anxious. Father, we pray for peace and rest for her so that her body can defend itself against this latest attacker, and for assurance of Your presence and provision during this crisis for her family and friends. Grant them all perseverance and full healing. (James 1:2-4)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Teacher’s Pets

Look not every man on his own things,
but every man also on the things of others.

— Philippians 2:4

Bet I know what Mrs. Johnson did on the last day of second grade – lit a candle, clicked her heels and dived into a double vodka martini. We were a handful, and I was the Ringleader of Chaos. That year, I had the feeling that I was “teacher’s pet.” Turns out everybody ELSE thought so, too.

There was that the time I put a quarter down on the sidewalk by the playground, hid behind the bushes with a rag, and then when a certain heroically-proportioned teacher bent over to pick up the quarter, I tore the rag – RRRRRRRRIP!!!!!! – so that she thought it was her skirt. The other kids howled with laughter.

Mrs. Johnson, who was kind and good but also firm and fair, knew what was best for me. She sent me straight to the principal’s office, to face Mr. Dunn and the vaunted Spanking Machine. Mr. Dunn, who knew my older sister and brother were angelic, and that home and school were in a brain trust together to keep me from slipping down into the dark side, let me off with a stern warning.

But a little later, Mrs. Johnson was reading us the American history classic, Johnny Tremain, and momentarily forgot the name of our foe, King George III. “Now, class, this was in the time of King . . . uh . . . King . . . uhhhhh. . . .”

“King KONG?!?!” I volunteered. The class erupted in laughter.

Mrs. Johnson was again kind, firm and fair. Even though I was “teacher’s pet,” she sent me straight back to Mr. Dunn. This time, I faced him across his massive desk . . .

. . . and much to my relief, he broke out laughing. We made it our secret pact: we wouldn’t tell Mrs. Johnson that he’d laughed, and I would again avoid the terrible Spanking Machine if I would promise never, ever to do that again.

And believe me, I haven’t. Mixed up King George and King Kong, that is.

But because of Mrs. Johnson, who had a knack for making each child think he or she was very special, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for second-grade teachers. So does our daughter Maddy, who just finished second grade last week, and absolutely loved her teacher. The night before the last day, she cried, facing the prospect of a summer without Mrs. Scott in her daily life.

Mrs. Scott is that priceless teacher who, on the last day of school, is visited by a steady stream of “alumni” in upper grades, coming back for just one more hug. That’s proof of her influence.

As the parent-child “reading café” she set up for the last day was winding down, I asked her what she normally does after the last backpack disappears down the hall for the summer.

“Oh, I usually straighten up a few things, and then sit down at my desk, look out over the room . . . and cry,” she said.

God bless you, Mrs. Scott, and all the Mrs. Scotts out there. Hope you know we’re crying, too.

There’s yet another second-grade teacher I know and love, who is kind and good, firm and fair. Lisa Roth is another one of those teachers who gets visited by her former students, and makes every one of them feel like teacher’s pet.

But Lisa narrowly avoided being killed in a horrendous car crash this past year. I’ve written about her miraculous deliverance before, in Out For a Spin. I recently found out that the first person on the scene, who carried her away from the smashed car, was – wouldn’t you know? – a teacher, too.

She tracked him down – in another coincidence, his son is in a class with her friend’s son – and sent him a beautiful letter. Here’s an excerpt, with the most telling part in boldface:

I have wanted to write to you for a couple of reasons. Most importantly to thank you. I can only imagine how horrifying it must have been to see the accident and how much courage it took for you to run over to our car. You had no idea what you would find when you came to my door and yet your voice was so calm and reassuring.

You told me you would help me and you gently unhooked me, helped untangle my hair and lifted me out of the car. I remember holding you around your neck as you carried me to the grass. I’m sure you thought I was a crazy person, the way I was kissing you . . . but I had never felt so thankful and relieved in all my life. . . .

The night of the accident I remember standing in the street with you, looking at my car and realizing how tragic it would have had been for my students if I had been killed. Being a teacher, you understood how I felt. . . .

I spent many days watching the class, like I couldn’t get enough of just being with them. I think the experience changed me as a teacher, and perhaps made me more patient.

Did you catch that? Her first thought was for her STUDENTS. Now, that’s a teacher.

She knows she has them in trust from their parents for the school year . . . and in return, she gets their love and gratitude, for always. Like all great teachers, she has a heart the size of King . . . uh . . . King . . . uhhhhh . . . well, YOU know.

Here she is last week, with Charlie, the four-legged teacher’s pet who also survived the crash no worse for wear, and the lucky little ones who will always remember second grade with Mrs. Roth, the year they were all “teacher’s pets.”

Friday, May 30, 2008

And You Think Gas Is Pricey

Holy schmoly. It’s just coming in to salmon season, and I just got a load of the price of a really good kind at the local fishmonger’s:

Copper River King Salmon, $39.95 a pound!

Would love to know the “fish tale” of why that costs so much. Guess I’ll just have to drool for a few weeks ‘til the price comes down, and I can snap some up.


PRAYER REQUEST: Travel mercies, Lord, for a good friend who seems to be going through kind of a dry patch in his life, and suddenly decided to go on a trip to see if a change of scenery might help. I get the sense that it’s a little bit of a retreat or a self-banishment, more than a vacation. He’s not aware of You very much in his life, Lord Jesus, and he needs You very, very much. Come in to his heart and his life and let him know that You are real, and You love him, no matter where he is. (Isaiah 30:18)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Moment They’ll Treasure

Last year, Maddy invited a little girlfriend to come with us on a four-day vacation on Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri. It’s about a seven-hour drive there and back, towing the boat. We stayed in a great condo in a resort right on the lake, with a swimming pool with a waterfall. We went in to Branson for a couple of fabulous shows. We went tubing and swimming and picnicked on the boat. It was a wonderful time.

Well, we’ve let her invite the same little girl again for this summer. Yesterday, Maddy was rhapsodizing about it. She said, “Do you know what we’ll always TREASURE from the trip last year, Mom?”

I thought through all the wonderful (and expensive) things that we did. “No, what?”


A “Furberry” is a little furry toy, worth about 15 cents, heavily promoted on TV, and yes, they both got one shortly thereafter. So much for trying to build our children’s memories. . . .


PRAYER REQUEST: There’s a troubled teenager who ran away from home for four days over Mother’s Day and worried her parents sick. She’s a beautiful girl, but she lacks self-worth. Apparently, she has gotten in with some bad peers and may have gotten involved with drugs. Lord Jesus, send good guiding people into her life, who will teach her about You and how she can rely on Your love. Touch her heart with the certain knowledge of Your love and provision for her. Awaken in her a desire to live a holy and productive life. Her folks have found a good, small, Christian college for her, and we pray that she goes there with a determination to change, stay away from bad influences, use the many gifts You have given her, and get on with a happy life that honors You. (1 John 4:16)