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.”