Tuesday, December 24, 2002

So here we sits... Christmas Eve, 2002. How cool is that? Approximately two thousand and two years after the birth of the Son of God. Amazing. Something else amazing has already happened this Christmas. It's kind of hard to believe. It's true though.

How many gifts do you think are for sale in the average mall this year? Ten thousand? One hundred thousand? Maybe a million? Is that a low number? I have no idea. Suffice it to say there are a lot of gifts out there on the market. My kitchen is already full of fudge, chocolates, home made breads, assorted cookies, and truly wonderful "turtle popcorn" made by Ashley and Kelli Brown. I happened into their home one day this week. As you know, Ashley is in the process of beating the tar out of a nasty case of Leukemia. I don't know how else to phrase it. She has her down days but all in all... she's kicking it's butt. She's my first 13 year old hero. But baby, she's earned the title. Anyway, a lot of cool things have already come my way. If Christmas ended now I would already be blessed way beyond the imagination of most people in the world.

But something unique... even weird... happened this year. I don't cook very often. Debbie discourages me from entering the kitchen unless it's for a glass of orange juice or maybe I'm allowed to cut through to the garage. But cook? It just doesn't happen. And yet this year I received something I have never owned before. A friend gave me a fork. A big fork. A truly large fork. This is, perhaps, the mother of all forks. It's one of those big jobs that you use to stick into a roast or maybe a turkey to either flip it over or pull it out of a pot. You have seen a hundred of them in stores and kitchens far and wide. But this fork is a little different. It is a product of the new millenium. It is... a digital fork. That's right. When you stick this fork into a piece of meat it gives you a digital read-out of the tempreture of the meat. Not being a cook, I'm not totally sure why I want to know this bit of information. I suspect it has something to do with making sure it is done. I know enough about cooking to realize that nasty things like... salmonella, exist in poorly cooked meat. I've always wondered about salmonella. Did it originate with salmons? Did some fish get sick while swimming upstream? Maybe he had the fish sniffles, or a sore fish throat. Did the sickness slow it down so much that maybe.. oh... a moose caught it and ate it? And then a hunter caught the moose and ate it? And then the hunter got what the fish had and so they named it "Salmonella?" It makes sense, don't you think? You have to wonder about these things. If you don't ... you just are not thinking.

Ok, I'm getting off track here. Where was I? Oh yeah.

So now I have this mega-fork that tells temperature. But wait.... that's not all! I got another gift yesterday. It came from my father-in-law in Richmond, Virginia. His name is Jim. "Jim the father-in-law" I call him. That's because I also have a "Jim the brother-in-law" and simply a "Jim the brother." Most men that I know are named Jim. If you don't believe me ask Jim George, Jim Barzee, or Jim Gregory. I don't know why it is that way but it is. But Jim the Father-in-law mailed me a Christmas gift. My kids made me open it becuase they already had and they wanted me to see what it was. That's one of the really special things about my kids. They like to check my gifts out ahead of time. It's probably because they want to make sure I'm going to be happy. Or maybe they know that Jim the father-in-law has always wanted me dead for stealing his daughter and so they check to make sure my "gift" isn't going to explode. Nah. The kids love me but they aren't that passionate about it. So anyway, I opened the package. SURPRISE! I got another fork. This one also tells the temperature of the meat. But wait... that's not all! You can unscrew the computerized handle and screw it onto a cool spatula that will now also tell you the temperature! And then you can unscrew that and screw it onto some other nifty utensil... I forget which one... but you get the drift. In reality THIS is the mother-of-all-forks/spatula's/utensils. Because this one also.... talks. You read me correctly. It verbally tells you the temperature of your meat. I'm not sure who gave me the original mother-of-all-forks but if you are reading this... you just got "one-upped."

I can think of a lot of uses for this puppy. I've already told Chris that there will be no more skipping school because of some mysterious phantom fever. Now if he wakes up and wants to stay home I simply jab the talking fork into his rib cage... and wait for a verbal report. If it says anything even close to 98.6 I send him packing off to school. I think this will cut down on his tendency to want to stay home or stop by the nurses office in the middle of the day asking to go home because he feels poorly. I can use it to test the coolant level in my home and auto air conditioners. A simple jab of the mega-fork into the coolant system should reveal everything I need to know. And then there is the toilet seat dilemma. You know how you hate sitting down on a cold toilet seat in the middle of the night? Well, if I leave the fork on the toilet seat I can pick it up before I sit down so I'll know what to expect. Of course, if someone else gets up to go to the bathroom and doesn't know the fork is there... well, that will probably only happen once.

What a happy Christmas this has been and it's only Christmas Eve! I love this gift giving thing! At the present rate I may have 7 or 8 mother-of-all-forks before the holiday is over! Feel free to come on over. I'd be happy to try it out on... I mean with... you. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2002

I have a problem. Most of my friends say I have more than one. But I wish to key in on just one for a minute. Indulge me. I am concerned and maybe talking about it here will help. Listen up.

I have two doctors. One is your everyday general M.D. He handles your sore throat, your ear ache, your sinus problems. The basic stuff. Recently he tapped into my system and stole about a pint of blood. At least it felt like a pint. I was woozy for days. Ok, I'm kidding about the woozy part. But in my opinion he took more than he needed. His wife is probably a vampire and he has to keep her well fed. Who knows? Anyway, he sucked the lifeblood from my veins. The next week I got a letter in the mail telling me my cholesterol was 311. You might remember this story from an earlier blog. Indulge me. So the doctor gets all upset and tells me I have to start taking medicine and working out again. I have not worked out seriously since January of 2001. That is due to having gone through a bout of Adrenaline Exhaustion. This is where doctor #2 comes onto the scene. Doctor #2 is an honest to gosh psychiatrist. I go to a shrink. How cool is that? There are not any shrunken heads in his office but there are frogs. That's an entirely different story. Anyway, doctor #2 tells me I cannot work out. He says working out injects adrenaline into my system and that is a no-no for 30 months from the onset of adrenaline exhaustion. Makes sense to me but what do I really know? I'm a pastor. Adrenaline is my addiction. It is what wakes me in the morning and sings me to sleep at night. It has for years. 28 of them to be precise.

So there is my dilemma. Do I work out or do I not work out? Do I listen to the doctor who thinks I could have a heart attack or the doctor who tells me working out could throw me back into the hell of last year. Hmmm. How come I never get to choose between... oh... say, a backrub and a foot massage? How come I never get to choose between Club Med and Cancun? The best choice I get to make at the moment is between a heart attack and adrenaline hell? Geez. To complicate the issue, Doctor #1 gave me this little white pills. They are oblong and very cute. Unfortunately, they hate me. They are suppose to lower cholesterol. I started taking them and within 48 hours I thought Debbie had been beating on me with a baseball bat in my sleep. It's still possible that is what happened but I don't think so. I stopped taking the pills and the pain went away. So, being the wise guy that I am, I called doctor #1. He told me to stop taking the pill for two weeks. If the pain goes away start taking it again. (huh?) And then if the pain resumes we will know for sure that the pill is causing it. So I did what he said. I've been taking the pill for 2 weeks now. All I can say is... ouch. My body doesn't like me. I won't get any more graphic than that. But I don't like it.

Here is where the real problem comes in. As you know if you show up on this blog very often, last week... a week ago today... I killed my dog Bear. Death by lethal injection at the hands of a veternarian. He was not guilty of any crimes. Bear was not the Timothy McVeigh of the canine set. He was just... old. And his hips had gone. And he was getting miserable. So, bam, I made the call and down he went. Now, I started taking the pill AND working out. I voted against the heart attack. Now I can barely walk. After two weeks of running again my right knee is singing the blues. Loudly. It's a duet because my left knee agrees. It just isn't singing as loudly. My hips are fine, thank you. But my back feels like Barry Bonds has been taking batting practice on it.

Are you getting the picture? I am suffering from the same things that I killed my dog for a week ago. Sadly painful legs. Lack of energy. Undefined aches. Debbie keeps looking at me with that look. It's the look she used on Bear about 8 days back. I noticed her putting pills in my meat tonight and leaving it on my plate, thinking I wouldn't notice. I saw her talking quietly to a friend on the phone tonight while looking at me... staring at me. She occasional tests me, asking me to sit up straight... putting a cookie across the room and then watching me walk toward it. She looks at my knees when I put on gym shorts preparing to go to bed at night. And most ominous of all... I noticed my orange juice mugs are now being stored in the back of the cabinet.... as though they are not going to be needed.

Well, I just wanted this behavior noted. I wanted it written down somewhere. If I turn up missing... please... make sure her next husband sheds even more than I do.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Today I killed the only friend I’ve ever had that never talked back to me. I gave the order and he was executed. The politically correct way to say it is, “I had him put to sleep,” or “I put him down.” No matter. I looked him over, judged that he was unfit to continue to live, and I had him put to death. His name was Bear. He was a Golden Retriever. He trusted me up to the very last minute and I betrayed him.

It would be easy to say, “Bear was just a dog.” That is what I usually think when other people tell me that they killed their family pet. Usually I’m right. But Bear was not just a dog. You see, if being good would get you into heaven, Bear would be the first one in. He obeyed better than anybody else in my family.

I know you’ll find this hard to believe but it is true. If I told Bear to go get in the bathtub… he went and got in the bathtub. I didn’t teach him that. Nobody did. He figured it out after his first few baths. Bear took great pride in only going to the bathroom in his dog run. It is a simple concrete slab encased in a chain link fence. The dog run has a gate, which I never locked. It still managed to swing shut on it’s own though it did not latch. When Bear wanted to go outside he would walk to the kitchen door and run around in circles. A wise man would pay attention to that signal. Then he would run out of the door, make a courtesy lap around the back yard, and then he would open his own dog run with his nose and his right paw. If I am lying I will use the dog run myself for the rest of my life. I have had neighbors come to me and ask how I taught him that. I could not take the credit. Bear was a self-taught dog. When we would take Bear on trips I always thought he was going to explode until he finally decided, out of desperation, that any concrete would do in a pinch. Bear would sleep by my side of the bed every night. Every night I would get up in the dark to go to the bathroom and I would step on him. He never complained and he seldom moved. We had this working relationship. He knew it was coming and I knew he would still be there when I got back. He would forgive me for the first time and I would avoid him on the second.

One night Bear woke me with an unusually stern bark. It was a bark that said, “Hey, somebody get up. This is for real.” I crept into the living room where he was staring at the front door. I trusted his judgment and peeked out of the window. There was a police car on the street sweeping my house with a spot light. I decided to wait the situation out. After a few minutes the doorbell rang. I peeked out and a policewoman was waiting on my porch. As I opened my door Bear ran by me at the speed of sound. In an instant the officer was on the curb trying to decide whether to shoot him or hire him. It turned out that my chimney was putting out an inordinate amount of smoke and she was checking to see if we had a chimney fire. She should have called Bear first.

But perhaps his proudest moment came when I taught him his famous “Milky Bone Trick.” You see, Bear loved Milky Bones. He was especially fond of “Old Roy” Milky Bones from Wal-Mart. I use to hand them out to him for free whenever he wanted one. I kept them in the laundry room and when I was down there he would come and just stare at me. His penetrating eyes told me the story of his stomachs desire. I would almost always toss him one and he would trot away happily to eat it under the kitchen table. And then one day I realized that I was doing all of the work and Bear was getting all of the fun. And so I waited until he came for a Milky Bone. I hesitated and then said, “Bring me a dirty sock.” He looked at me like I was from Mars. And then I walked him to Scott’s room, picked up a dirty sock off of the floor, and handed it to him. He took it in his mouth and together we walked back to the laundry room. I said, “release” and he dropped the sock. (I don’t know where he learned what “release” means either.) I picked up the sock, praised him, and handed him a Milky Bone. We repeated this little escapade 3 times… and he had it down. For the last few years of his life he would find me in the laundry room and start staring me down. Sometimes I would toss him a complimentary Milky Bone and sometimes I would say “Bring me a dirty sock.” When I said it… he always complied. Oh, he might bring a bath towel. He might bring a tennis shoe. He might bring underwear. But he would always run to the kid’s room and bring me something. I decided not to press the “sock” issue. I always rewarded him with the almighty Bone. Eventually he learned not to wait for the command. He would show up in the laundry room with dirty clothes in his mouth, effectively cutting out the middleman and about 30 seconds worth of waiting. One day he actually came to me with three bath towels, a pair of underwear, and a tennis shoe, dangling from his mouth. I gave him three bones. I knew he was smart but I didn’t know he was so athletic.

I have a vision. I have never believed in a doggy heaven. I think that God gives us animals as gifts. We are to take dominion over them. We are also to care for them with love and respect. This is especially true of domesticated animals that God has given us as personal pets. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe… just maybe… there IS a doggy heaven. If there is I fear that I am in deep trouble. My vision is of Bear arriving at the gate this afternoon and meeting doggie St. Peter. He is immediately asked why he has arrived early as he was not due for a year or two yet. Bear replies, “My owner had me killed.” As doggy St. Peter opens the gate allowing Bear in he promises to pass this bit of information along to the human St. Peter. The vision goes downhill from there.

I called Bear, “The King of Canines, The Prince of Pooches, The Duke of Dogs.” I miss him tonight. I keep hearing his choker collar clinking against his dog tags. I ate pizza for dinner and caught myself just before I threw the crust on the floor. Bear was sick. He had a seizure this morning and I held his head in my lap until it passed. His hips didn’t work anymore, and they were not going to get any better. He was having trouble controlling bodily functions. I think … if he is still out there somewhere… he is probably pretty ticked off at me. He was my friend and I loved him. But I think… had the shoe been on the other foot… he probably would have done the same thing for me.

I miss ya, buddy. Sleep good.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

While traveling with my wife in Minnesota recently I came across a store in the mall of America called the “Lake Woebegone Shop.” It was a typical tourist trap. But in the back of the store I found a true treasure. Treasures don't come your way in life very often and when they do you need take advantage of them. You need to soak in them as though they were a hot bath on a cold winter's night. You need to remember them much as you would remember a quiet conversation with a good friend. The back corner of the store was called “Old Lutheran”. Evidently Lutherans inhabit much of Minnesota and so they needed a place to purchase their own memorabilia and artifacts. Although I've never been a Lutheran I do know a good time when I see one and there was one waiting for me in the back of this little shop. I found Lutheran T-shirts, Lutheran coffee mugs, Lutheran beer steins ( those Lutherans drink you know,) and a vast array of other Lutheran produced holy hardware. But the crowning glory stood 8 inches tall and had a big head on it. You can keep your Mark McGwire, your Sammy Sosa, your Barry bonds. I am now the proud owner of a Martin Luther bobble head doll. He sits on my shelf clutching his Bible to his chest, wearing his jaunty hat and looking for all world like a centuries old reformer should look. You have to admire those Lutherans. They know how to turn a buck. At least they made one off of this Baptist.

Speaking of Baptists, what is wrong with us? Why don't we have our own Holy hardware, our own Jesus junk? When was the last time you saw an old Baptist beer stein? OK, maybe that was a bad example. But have you ever seen old Baptist golf balls? Have you ever seen old Baptist baby bibs? Have you ever seen old Baptist pencil holders? I think not. We make Sunday School literature. We print bibles. This is all well and good but who is going to hold my pencils? I have to turn to the Lutherans.

Fortunately for the Southern Baptist Convention I am here to save the day. More specifically, I have come up with a plan with which the First Baptist Church of Bethalto can raise $5.9 million in record time. It will not require any fund-raising dinners or signed commitment cards by weary, over giving members.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the John the Baptist bobble head doll. This is a doll unlike any other doll. Purchase a John the Baptist bobble head doll and the head is sold separately. That way we double our money! The doll itself should cost $20. Purchasing the head should cost an additional $20. Here is the beauty of the plan ... when you put the head on the body, every 20 minutes it pops off and lands on a silver platter! I figure if our overhead runs 50% we will have to sell 147,500 John the Baptist bobble head dolls and 147,500 John the Baptist bobble head heads before we find ourselves sitting in grand comfort in our new auditorium.

Deacons. Building committee. Trustees. Church members. I say we take this hill! First Baptist Church ... let's roll!

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Things I am most thankful for...

1. God
2. God's love.
3. God's love shown through His Son.
4. God's love shown through His Son's sacrificial death.
5. God's love shown through His Son's sacrificial death applied to my life.
6. Grace
7. Grace that is sufficient.
8. Grace that is sufficient for me.
9. Grace that is sufficient for me to forget the past.
10.Grace that is sufficient for me to forget the past and not fear destroying my future.
11.My family.
12.My family being home.
13.My family being home and enjoying each other.
14.My family being home and enjoying each other with laughter and joy.
15.My family being home and enjoying each other with laughter and joy big enough to make them hate to go to bed.
16.My friends.
17.My friends that love me back.
18.My friends that love me back and let me be real.
19.My friends that love me back and let me be real even when I am obnoxious.
20.My friends that love me back and let me be real even when I am obnoxious with little chance of getting better.
21.Other stuff...a cozy fire in the fireplace/Debbie's corn casserole/quiet conversations about things that matter/funny conversations about things that don't matter/milky bones that makes Bear forget about my cookies/music that brings me into the presence of God/fresh hot cinnamon rolls/gadgets/medicine/plungers/sleep/a fall day warm enough for motorcycles/leaf blowers/kids that get excited when you show them how to serve others/digital camera's/vanilla/coke/vanilla coke/ice/candle's/friends that understand/the laughter of my children/the smile of my wife/standing ovations deserved/back rubs/carpet.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Everybody needs a good dog. I have the best. his name is Bear. And here are the BEAR Facts...

1. I want to be as good a person as Bear thinks I am.
2. If being good would get you into heaven, Bear would be the first one there.
3. Bear, unlike most people, understands the meaning of "shame." When he makes a "mistake" on the floor he hides. When my kids make a "mistake" on the floor they just lay on the couch and watch tv.
4. I want to love God as much as Bear loves me.
5. Bear is satisfied with a pat on the head and an occasional milky bone. I want to be satisfied with the knowledge that I'm doing right and an occasional vanilla coke.
6. Bears hips are giving out. I have not been hip in years.
7. Bear chews his butt. This is where my parallels breakdown!

Stay tuned, world. A star is about to be born. The Tanner Brown Express is preparing to leave the station! I have an official autographed copy of Tanner's latest composition, the aforementioned song written for his sister, Ashley. I have procured the services of one Joseph McGill to produce Mr. Browns first "single" to be ready for airplay before the end of the holiday weekend! All that is left is to get the 9 year old to name me as his agent. Then we'll hit the road with our first North American tour!

I thought you might enjoy reading Tanner's song entitled... "Jesus." Here you go...

There's only one way to heaven
The way is through Him
But let me tell you something
He's the number one man
It's real easy to get through
All He asks is this
To believe the Christ and Lord
To believe in Jesus
To read the bible, that's for sure
And to pray for forgiveness when you sin
Because there's only one way to Heaven
The way is through HIm
But let me tell you something
He's the number one man
It's real easy to get through
All He asks is this
To believe the Christ and Lord
To believe in Jesus
To read the Bible, that's for sure
And to pray for forgiveness when you sin

So how does it happen that a 9 year old kid manages to pull off something like this? You get to see lots of things as a youth pastor. Today was what I will call an "onry day." I got to deal with some onry situations... onry people. That's being kind, really. Onry makes it sound like just some good old boy (or girl) that is in a mood but usually can be counted on. Ain't necessarily so. Sometimes kids manage to develop a mindset that says you OWE them your attention. ALL of it. And if you do not give them what they are owed they will manipulate and conive until they get what they feel they deserve. I do not respond very well to that attitude. Today I actually surprised myself. I had to deal with one of those attention-grabbing kids. And this 8th grader did not like what I did. She did not feel I was giving her the attention she deserved and so she implied, through an email, that she was considering suicide. My response was to contact her schools social worker, a social service agency, resulting in the young person being pulled out of class and interviewed until the social worker was convinced she was not going to harm herself. After school I got a phone call from the little darling. She planned on taking me to task for my actions. The poor girl lost for the second time today. After hearing her arguments and long moments of silence following my questions, I informed her that I do not take kindly to manipulation and that anytime she makes a threat in my presence it will be reported. She "accidently" mentioned that she didn't know why it was wrong to cut herself. This is a troubled child. She mentioned it a second time just in case I had not caught it the first time. I informed her that God made skin for a reason and that it is suppose to hold her insides together. Furthermore, anybody that intentually poked holes in skin for the singlular purpose of watching blood flow out was unstable and needed serious help. She was silent. I asked her if she understood what I was saying. 10 more seconds of silence. I concluded our conversation by stating that I cared for her and that was why I will consistently hold her feet to the fire and that if she was going to be a part of my youth ministry she would be expected to deal in truth and integrity. Silence. I asked her if she had any further questions. She responded with, "No." I said, "Then have a nice day, young lady" and I hung up the phone. Rumor has it she called my house tonight to apologize but I did not take the call. I was busy reflecting on the meaning of dust.

And then there is Tanner. He writes songs about Jesus to his 13 year old sister with a life-threatening case of Leukemia. Tanner doesn't expect all of my attention all of the time. If he had it he probably would not want it. Geez, even I get tired of me. But I owe the kid a debt of gratitude. Today I needed somebody to remind me that not everybody in the world has gone of the deep end. I needed somebody to inject me with a ray of hope that the human race might still be worth saving. Thanks, Tanner. I owe you one.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Last night I went to see Ashley Brown. We had a great visit. We sat around in her room while she showed me picture albums she is putting together. Very cool stuff. Her mom and dad came up and we talked about life, the world, and how it can all change in the blink of an eye. And then it was time for me to go. As I walked downstairs I ran across Tanner. Tanner is Ashley's 9 year old brother. He began telling me about a song he had written for Ashley. He showed it to me. As I read it I was shocked. It was titled, "Jesus." The topic is... heaven. I asked him to read it to me and he did. And then he sang it to me. His mom had to leave the room. His dad chewed on his lip. I raved about the song to Tanner. He ate it up. And then I told hm that I have a friend that can help him record music and put the song on tape so he could remember the song he had written for his sister while she was very, very, sick. I took my leave of the Brown household knowing that God is doing something special in this little family. A crises beyond compare is turning their home into a place where Jesus is showing up on a regular basis.

Speaking of Jesus showing up, I saw her tonight. Yes, her. Tonight I "saw" Jesus in the form of a female high school student. We call the event "JPL-Dress For The Mess." I have been doing various forms of JPL on Thursday nights for 25 years. We have been known to throw sardines at each other, blow egg yokes in each others mouths through a tube, eat entire chocolate cakes face first, and too many other odditys to mention. We have even bobbed for banana chunks in Raspberry Jello. Did you know that if you stick your face in Raspberry Jello for extended periods of time your face will turn red? It will. Trust me. I am one of the few people on the planet that know this.

Our latest edition of JPL took place tonight. I was short on adults and long on kids. That's been the norm for a decade or so. It is no big deal. We get through it, usually with the building intact and no serious bodily injuries. But this night was just... different. A lot of kids that I do not know have been showing up lately. Tonight I had a kid with tattoo's from his wrists to his biceps. One of my junior high school girls was hanging on his arm. I have no idea who he is or where he goes to school. He was nice enough. He just keeps mistaking his skin for canvas. Some of my regular kids are pierced in odd places so I guess I can handle a tatoo or 5.

Anyway we started off the evening with an old favorite called "Wink-em." It's an goodie until you play it for five minutes. They you remember why you hate it. You go home with no knees. So we shifted gears and began playing "Steal The Bacon." We played it and played it and played it. In the middle we stopped for pizza and cokes. Later we played some "Fruit Basket Upset" too. No, we didn't break any chairs. The trustees can sleep well tonight.

When it was all said and done I called all of the kids together. I read them scripture about how a woman lacking wisdom is like a fine gold ring in a pigs snout. They seemed to like that one. Especially the boys. Then I read one about how a man lacking wisdom is walking in the darkness of death. The girls applauded for that one. So I talked to them for a few minutes about wisdom, what it is, how to get it, and why you might want it. Then it was time to pray. We shared a few prayer requests. I finished them off by telling them how Ashley is doing. All is going well except for "The Great Wig Hunt." Nothing has turned up yet. They are working on a place from St. Charles, Mo. I can't help but think about what it must feel like to stop worrying about saving enough money to go to Disney World and saving to buy a wig for your child with Leukemia instead. We live in a land of extremes.

Finally we prayed and I told them that they should go home now and be back on Saturday for the "Rake 'n run." They all left happily, noisely, except for one girl. She lagged behind. I don't remember ever meeting her before. Her name is also Ashley. This Asley asked me how much hair the other Ashley was going to need. I told her, "Alot. A full head of the stuff." I asked her why she wanted to know. She said, "Because I have the same hair color that she has and I want to give her mine." I looked, and yes indeed, her hair is a pretty good match. The length is right. The color is nearly perfect. I asked this Ashley if she knows the other Ashley. She replied, "No but I have seen her and I know who she is." I thanked her very much and told her that as wonderful as her offer is it really would not be necessary. I am sure a store will turn up a good fit for the other Ashley. She looked a little disappointed. Or maybe a little cheated. She said, "Ok, but here is my email address. if you decide I can help please mail or call me." And then she turned and went home.

What do you do with a kid like that? How can you ever wrap your mind around that kind of sacrifice? Several adults have contributed of their own free will and I have no delivered to Ashley's mom approximately $850 toward near hair for Ashley. That is quite a sacrifice. And then one kid... one little high school girl... trumps them all with an offer of her own hair. For free. For a girl she doesn't even know. Why? Because she loves. It is that simple. Andit is that complicated. I will never tire of watching God do what He does in the life of a kid. When He gets their heart and mind... ANYTHING can happen.

God bless you Ashley #2, wherever you are. Please... keep your hair on your own head. We will find some for Ashley #1. And please know that your heart touched the slightly jaded heart of a youth pastor tonight just when it needed touching.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

The world is ending. There are no more surprises to be had. The last one just happened. Today, at 3:13pm... I was attacked by the WalMart greeter. It was vicious and unprovoked. My lovely daughter and I walked through the big automatic doors, expecting to have a fine shopping experience. She moved a few steps ahead of me (you know how women are in WalMart.) As I hurried to keep up and to grab some of those prices that keep falling, I reached out for a cart. Actually I grabbed the front end of one as I walked by. A terrorist disguised as a grandmother was behind the cart. She, in theory, was pulling them out toward the onrushing crowd, making it easier for us to get our cart and get to shopping. But when I latched on to the cart of my choice... she would not let go. I was not even looking at her. As I said, I just latched on to it with my hand as I tried to keep up with Kelli. The tension from the greeters grasp rushed through the cart and up my arm, whipping me backwards and spun me around to face her. I'm pretty sure I tore my rotator cuff in the process. I pulled the cart toward me again. She pulled the other way. Now she had my full attention. I wanted my cart. I pulled. She pulled. I pulled. She pulled. I pulled harder. She let go and turned to look at me in surprise. She said she didn't know that I was there. In order to believe that you have to also believe A) She thought the cart was trying to run away on it's own; B) She tought that all of those carts she kept putting out there were just stacking up because obviously nobody was taking them. I have my doubts.

No, I was definately attacked by the WalMart greeter. I am proud to say that I was victorious... though injured. Probably seriously. Surgery could be in my future. I am sad to say that nobody seems to believe me. I mean, even Kelli had her doubts and she almost witnessed it. She turned around just in time to see the little monster in the blue vest give me a grandmotherly smile and let go of the cart. She missed the evil intent. She missed the vile grip with which she grasped the handle. She missed the snapping of my tendons.

So I just felt the need to get the word out. WalMart greeters are terrorists. Do not trust them. I suggest that you only go to WalMart in groups. Watch each others back. If you see a cart unattended in the parking lot take that one instead of expecting one from an employee. If a greeter offers to open a door for you watch your blindside. There could be another one about to hit you low. Who would have thought that it would be "WalMart" that turned you into a "Target."

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

10. I want Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein accidently showing up at a Teamsters Convention
9. I want Whitey Herzog to buy the Cubs
8. I want a cholesterol number lower than Barry Bonds batting average
7. I want a scientific study proving that caffiene is good for you
6. I want the development of a hybrid orange tree that thrives year round in Illinois
5. I want new hips for my dog Bear
4. I want a youth building at church that will hold more kids than a school bus
3. I want a self-cleaning chimney
2. I want a red convertible Mustang GT with a Khaki top, 6 CD changer, automatic transmission, and a blonde named Debbie in the passanger seat
1. I want a perfect job for Joe McGill in St. Louis

Saturday, November 09, 2002

I believe in living a symmetrical life. Things should look right. Right should match left. Left should match right. Who wants one bushy eyebrow and one skinny one? Who wants one brown sock and one black one? No one, that's who.

A week ago I went to the doctor. I needed a refill of Nasonex. Nasonex is this really great, effective, medicine that you shoot up your nose once a day. In exchange for humbling yourself in that way you forego the joys of sniffling, sneezing, and crying through allergy season. And as I have learned, allergy season lasts 365 days in these parts. The stuff really works and I was running low. I called my doctor's office for a refill and they said I'd have to come in and see the doctor to get one. So I made an appointment and I went. That, as I said, was a week ago.

Really all I wanted was the refill. Just write me the script and I'm outta here. No such luck. An hour after I arrived I left, prescription in hand. I also had a reciept for a chest x-ray, EKG, blood work, urinalysis, and the ever beloved male mid-life thrill... the prostate exam. Woo-hoo. And he didn't even buy me dinner first.

But I got what I wanted. And then I got more than I wanted. The mail came today, and with it, the results of my testing. EKG looks good. I have a heart, it beats, and seems to stay in sync. (Who says I ain't got rhythm?) I am an expert pee'r too. That's a relief. I figured it was pure caffiene. My chest x-ray indicated the presence of lungs. They function. This is good because I've become attached to breathing.

And then there is the blood work. I knew it was coming. There really wasn't any doubt. About 10 years ago I was walking through Northwest Plaza with friends when we stumbled across a booth in center court where they were doing a cholesterol screening. I had never had mine checked, so I went for it. Uh oh. It was 211. Not good. I went to the doctor and he gave me medicine. The medicine made me sick. Actually, it made me wish I was dead. Everything hurt. I went back to the doctor and he ran more tests to find out why I hurt. There wasn't a reason. I threw the bottle of medicine in the toilet. The next day I was healed. Sometimes a good move in the bathroom relieves a multitude of symptoms.

I found a new doctor and he told me to work out more and eat better. I was already working out 3 days each week. But ok, I do want to live to see my grand kids. I upped the work outs to 5 days a week. I would run 3 miles each time, stair-master 100 floors, and finish up with 5 nautilus machines. Then it was off to the hot tub and the pool. A quick shower later and I was on my way home. I didn't touch a french fry for months. Chickens feared me. Turkeys had nightmares about me. I went back to the doctor and... miracle of miracles... my cholesterol was 187! My triglycerides were down from 800 to 300! He told me I was his poster boy. Eating well and working out NEVER works because no one ever really does it. I did. And it did. I was soooo proud.

And then last year came and the roof fell in. I got sick. Just a little thing brought on my over useing my adrenal system. Suddenly it stopped working. Not good. Let's just say it was a year in hell and leave it at that, shall we? If you wanna know more ask me. Other wise, suffice it to say, it was not fun. And a part of the problem was that I was too avid about my work-outs. I kept competing with myself... trying to beat my best time. Trying to always raise my total weigh lifted. Trying to climb 100 flights of stairs faster than last week. So what was good for me... was bad for me. It saved one system and trashed the other. Or at least it helped trash it. So I quit working out. I had to. I could not run, climb, or lift. So I took time off. Over the past few months I've worked out a little but nothing like I use to. I keep promising to get on an even keel and work out at a healthy, less driven and yet equally advantageous level. But everytime I start something goes wrong and I start feeling the old symptoms. So I quit. I have become a couch potato without a couch. (The kids occupy that spot.)

So today when I got the results of the blood test I didn't think I'd be surprised. But I was. I was REALLY surprised. Since reading the numbers I swear I can hear my blood as it oozes through my veins. If I cut myself I'm quite certain I'll clot quickly. Shouldn't be a problem. As a matter-of-fact, I think I'd probably clot if you cut my juggler vein. I am considering draining all of my blood, skimming the fat off the top, and putting it back in. Shouldn't be too hard.

This is where the symmetry problem comes in. My cholesterol is 311. That's three hundred and eleven if you don't do numbers. But my triglycerides just laugh at that number. You see, it comes in at a nice and tidy 1111. Again, that is one thousand one hundred and eleven. 1111 is symmetrical. But it ceases to be if you put it either before or after the 311. You wind up with 3111111 or 1111311. That three just gets in the way. And I don't think I'm going to be able to get my cholesterol down to 111 anytime in the near future. So, for the sake of symmetry, I have no choice but to try to add another 3. I need my triclycerides to go from 1111 to 1113. Then my composite number can be 3111113. THAT, my friends, is symmetry.

And I'm going to make it happen. I might have already achieved it tonight. I decided to celebrate my statistics with dinner at my favorite restaurant, Cannolli's. I really got them to dish it up! I started with fresh baked bread dipped in olive oil with parmesian cheese and pepper. I polished off a salad with more cheese and french dressing. Next was a nice hot bowl of pizza soup. I didn't put the pepperoni or the sausage on the napkin either! My main course was... get ready... a lovely plump Calzone. I finished off the evening with the restaurants namesake... a triple chocolate Cannolli. Yum!

I don't suppose I'll ever really know if I made it to 31111113. I started on another lovely pill tonight. It's your basic anti-fat-in-your-bloodstream-causing-massive-cardiac-arrest drug. I added it to my already formidable arsenol of meds. I'm starting to like pills more than ice cream.

Well, it's late and I need to go to bed. I use to hear my heart beat sometimes when it was really quiet late at night. Now I hear this oozing sound. I wonder if it has any significance. Nah...

Friday, November 01, 2002

10 Major Pet Peeves To Really Tick Me off (Part I... Personal life)

1. Drive my car and leave it on your radio station with the volume cranked. (hacked off level - 6)
2. Play one of my CD's and leave it out of the cover and laying around when you are done. (hacked off level - 9)
3. Finish all of the orange juice except for a teaspoonful and leave that in the refrigerator as though you were thinking of others. (hacked off level - 7)
4. Give out my cell phone number (if I gave it to you I did so as a sacred trust!) (hacked off level - 10)
5. Leave chapstick in your clothes pocket when you put it in the dryer. (hacked off level - 10+)
6. Leave the house without turning off the TV or closing and locking the doors. (hacked off level - 9)
7. Use my laptop without asking. (hacked off level - 10)
8. Take a nap on my pillow. (hacked off level - 8)
9. Let Bear out and forget about letting him back in. (hacked off level - me: 7, Bear: 10+)
10. Stack garbage next to or behind the garbage can because it is full. (hacked off level - 9)

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Excuse me, but do you mind if I whine for a moment? I mean, this IS my little corner of the world wide web, right? You don't have to read any further if you don't want to. You have my permission (not that you need it) to go to the kitchen and whip up a ham sandwich or something. Maybe you would be better off surfing over to You know, catch up on the news. But if you stick around, just understand... it's about to get ugly.

You see, it's not like I've got nothing to do. I've been receiving a phone call from an individual for 4 straight days. This individual is only available to talk at certain hours. He goes to bed early. But he has no job. He has no responsibilities of any sort that I can see. He's not totally healthy but he's certainly not at deaths door. So this person has been calling me and wanting me to come by and see him. He gave no reason when he spoke with my secretary, my wife, and my son, all at different times. I tried to go see him Wednesday. It was nearly 10pm. I had not been home yet. I was logging my 13th hour of work for the day. Yet it seemed important enough to go and see him. I mean he had called FOUR TIMES. But when I arrived he was already asleep. I had tried to call him twice earlier and he was unavailable or could not be found. Same difference.

Sunday through Thursday were all long days for me this week. I'm not griping. That isn't a complaint. It is just a fact. I am a pastor which means that I really should show up in the office in the mornings. But I am also a youth pastor which means I really should be available when kids get out of school. And so 3 out of 7 nights each week I am with teens until at least 8pm and often until 9 or 10pm. So if I show up at the office at 9am and work until 9pm, that is your basic 12 hour day. It happens in every industry and in every office at times. But when you do it 52 weeks a year it can begin to wear. God help me if somebody should call a meeting on another night. And I can't seem to come home from being with kids and go straight to sleep. I use to but not anymore. That's why I'm blogging at 12:30 in the morning. Hey, I'm 47 years old. It's tougher than it use to be! I use to actually participate in foot races with teens. I would occasionally even win. Now I just try to wear shoes that they don't laugh at. It's a compromise at best.

On Thursday afternoon at about 3:30 I decided to put everything down and go see this man. I had a desk full of things to do. But 4 days is a long time to be calling your pastor. So I went. When I showed up at his place of residence he was surrounded by 6 women. Six. They were in an animated conversation and obviously enjoying themselves. The last time I was surrounded by six women my sleeve was rolled up. One was taking blood (mine), one was filling out forms, one was "tsk, tsk, tsking" over my blood pressure, one was sitting behind a desk waiting for me to write a check, and two were sitting in the waiting room wishing I'd hurry up. Life is not always fair. But my friend here was the smiling center of attention.

He saw me and said, "Where have you been?" I explained that I had been quite busy. I apologized that it had taken me so long to make an appearance. I asked him how he was. He said, "Let's go outside." So we did. I sat down on a rocking chair. He was already sitting. He began talking about his day. Somebody had come by and brought him a basket of fresh fruit. An Assembly of God pastor had happened across him. They talked for awhile and then my friend got prayed for. He had a great lunch and told me what they had served. I noticed the rumbling in my stomach and realized I had not eaten since the night before. No, wait. The night before was Wednesday and I had missed the "Family Fellowship Meal" at church because I had been at a hospital in St. Louis visiting a very, very, ill person. I missed supper altogether. I quickly calculated that it had been about 27 hours since I had eaten a real meal. And that was a lunch that doubled as a meeting. (Note to self: eat occasionally.)

It was at this point that I decided to cut to the chase. I asked, "So how can I help you? What do you need?"

It was his reply that pushed me over the edge. He spoke very casually as he looked out across the street at some squirrels running across a lawn and up a tree. The words are branded in my mind. He said... and I quote... "I don't need nothing. I was just bored." He kept talking but I have no idea what he said. He rattled on for about 2 minutes. I did not hear a word. I know he was talking because his mouth was moving. I however, was listening to a different voice. It was a voice in my head. The voice said.... "Kill him." Then the voice said, "Make it hurt." Finally the voice said, "You are too weak. You have not eaten. Go eat and then come back and kill him."

I compromised with the voice. I stood up, interrupting him in mid-sentence. I vividly remember what I said. I would like to share it with you. I said, "You have fresh fruit. You had a nice lunch. You are talking to nice ladies. You have been prayed with. I have a 13 year old in the hospital with leukemia. I have teenagers coming to church tonight and I'm not ready for them. I have a children's anti-halloween party to plan for Saturday. I have to speak to 400 people Sunday morning and I don't yet know what I am going to say. I have not eaten in 27 hours. I do NOT have time for bored." And I walked away. I left him sitting there. I had ridden my motorcycle. I took the helmet off of the right handle bar and slipped it over my head. I closed the face mask. Passing traffic did not need to hear what I was about to say. I started the engine. I revved it up. Loudly. I drove off leaving as much noise in my wake as I could. I made my way to Arby's and as I did I talked to God. I will not tell you what I said. It was not intended for human ears. But God understood. I don't think that God has time for bored either. Somehow I cannot picture Jesus being approached by a centurian, asking what he wanted, and hearing the centurian reply, "Nothing. I was just bored." It didn't happen. But it does now.

And so I am declaring a "State of Emergency." It is for all of the bored people in America. I wish to point out that boredom is dumb. Oh, there are occasional exceptions. I got a letter from my little friend with Leukemia this week. She told me she was writing from "my boring bed." That, my friends, is a different story. Boredom has been forced upon her by a disease that threatens to rob her of breath and heartbeat at a very early age. But to all of you who are bored because things are good and you can't find anything worth doing I just want to leave you a little message. Here it is....

Get a life.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

At long last we have an intelligent response to the question of how to deal with drivers who dart ahead of the crowd at construction zones rather than merging along with everyone else. This email comes from Judy in Bethalto, Illinois...

"Well, I read your Blog and this is really one of my BIGGEST PET PEEVES. I encounter this usually on I55 going to Pawnee or Springfield since there is always construction traffic jams. You stay in the right lane when you have had the warning countless times about One Lane Ahead, and people buzz right by you thinking they know more than the people obeying the signs, then when they finally get to the end of their lane, they expect the generosity of the "rule compliers" to let them in. This is one place my christian attitude suffers because these people make me sick, and usually I wont give them the opportunity to get in the right lane, let them sit there, yeah let them grow a beard in the wrong lane, let them catch up on reading, or balance their check book.....yeah!!! Okay I feel better, here is my solution to this problem. Hang out at a truck stop and follow the burrliest, haryiest, scariest trucker you can find and get in front of him, because sooner or later he is going to make the sacrifice for all of us and stop all that buzzing past us by getting in the wrong lane. Yeah why didnt I think about this sooner, gotta go because I want to scope out the best truck stop, see ya.

Ya gotta love that kind of logic! Judy, congratulations! You have cut through the crap and have gotten right to the heart of the issue. The truck drivers are our hero's. The line jumpers are traffic terrorists. We must align ourselves with the good guys by getting in front of them and allowing them to do their job. Hey, these truckers spend a lot of time out there tearing up the roads with their big-rigs. They crack the pavement and cause pot holes. They often drive too fast and tailgate my little Dodge Neon. And when they get an opportunity to actually HELP me for a change... I say they should go for it! I'm certainly not going to stop them!

Wondering in Waukesha... why couldn't you come up with something like this. I hope you are paying attention...

Well... obviously America is not as smart as I thought it was. Idea's and observations have been very few. Let me show you one. Let us hear from a curious young lad...

"What if the construction is in right lane? Wouldn't the right lane drivers be the ones merging. Is it ok to jump ahead of the people in the left lane, just because you are a right lane driver?

-Wondering in Waukesha"

Don't you have anything better to do up there in Waukesha than to re-establish the outer limits of "dumbness", Wondering? I mean, who is to say if this is a left lane vs. right lane issue? Put down your cheese for a second and think about it. Who is to say this is not an east/west/north/south issue? How can you be wrong if you are right? If everybody else is doing it right... doesn't that mean you alone are left? Actually, Wondering, I don't give a rip what lane you are in. I could care less what lane they are working on. JUST STAY BEHIND ME WHERE YOU BELONG AND LEAVE ME ALONE! I know truck drivers, Wondering. And I know your license plate number. You want I should fix your problem once and for all?

Friday, October 18, 2002

I think I have finally figured it out. It took hundreds of miles, countless gallons of gas, and more money than I knew I had… but I’ve GOT IT!

You see, we Homo sapiens like to categorize things… especially people. Life works better for us if we have a handle on each other. Let’s see. There are African-Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, Jews, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, Yankees, Rebels, Catholics, Protestants, athletes, couch potato’s, soldiers, men, women, teenagers, adults, Cub fans, and everybody else. Categories. Hundreds and thousands of categories. And all of them are dead WRONG. Totally illegitimate. Vain efforts to understand the nearly un-understandable.

There are only two legitimate categories to put people in. Yep. Two. The light came on in my brain last Monday as I was driving home from Minneapolis. Debbie and I had spent the night in De Forest, Wisconsin. Our hotel was right across the street from “The Cheese Chalet.” This is a landmark location in my life. Over the years I have consumed more cheese from The Cheese Chalet than all of the vast hordes of invading mice in my laundry room have ever dreamed of. Swiss Cheese, American cheese, Colby-Jack Cheese, Smoked Cheddar Cheese, and now the squeaky Cheese Curds. This is the wonderful stuff scraped right from the tip of the cheese when it floats up during the cheese making process. It is the cheesiest cheese of all. It is so cheesy that it squeaks against your teeth when you eat it. I bought the white Cheese Curds. They had yellow Cheese Curds but us cheese experts know that ALL cheese is really white. They just add the yellow coloring to trick you. I don’t like to be tricked. Who knows what they put in that stuff to make it yellow. Think about it. No! Don’t! Just trust me and buy the white Cheese Curds. You’ll be better off.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I was driving home. It was chilly so the top was up on the Sebring. Somebody or other was singing about Jesus on the stereo. That’s a rule in our cars. Somebody always has to be singing about Jesus. It isn’t that we would forget about Him or something if nobody sang. It’s just that one day I realized the ramifications of hurtling down a concrete ribbon at 75mph in a thin steel cocoon with other thin steel cocoon’s hurtling AT you doing approximately the same speed. At that point singing about Jesus seemed appropriate. The cruise control was on and we were talking about things that married people talk about when they still love each other after 25 years. Suddenly, taillights appeared up ahead. I kicked off the cruise and coasted up behind the car that had previously been at the end of the line. That job was now mine. I was the default anchor man. I was not too happy to have the position. Fortunately, it did not last long as some poor soul stopped behind me… and then somebody behind him… and then somebody behind him… and then somebody behind him… you get the idea.

At some point it occurred to us that it really was nice out and if we were not going to have to deal with a 70+mph wind chill factor we might as well pop to top on the car. Down it went. We sat for awhile. Didn’t move an inch. Then we would slowly glide forward for a few yards only to stop again. That brings up an interesting question. When everybody has been stopped for 10 minutes… and then you all move forward 15 feet… where did those 15 feet come from? Did a car suddenly evaporate? Was the stress too much for someone and they drove off into the ditch? Are there people out there with propellers in their cars causing them to double as helicopters and they just aren’t telling the rest of us? Why 15 available feet all of the sudden?

So anyway, there we are, stopped dead still on I-94 southbound just below Madison. Suddenly the left lane begins to move. Naturally I am in the right lane. They are soon cruising along at about 8mph which looks supersonic when you’ve been in “park” for 10 minutes. Then we begin to move too. We get up to 3mph. Suddenly big orange signs appear ahead of us. These signs say what we hoped they would say. They said, “Road Construction Ahead.” We hoped they would say that because, even though that means the construction is still at least a mile away, at least we won’t have to look at sheets covering somebody’s cold carcass fresh from 150mph (closing speed) head on collision. Come to think of it you could probably use a handkerchief for that. The next sign one mile and 20 minutes later said, “Left lane closed ½ mile.) Is this good or is this bad? I’m not sure. It means that we are not the “merger’s” but the “mergee’s.”

And then it happens. Most cars in the left lane immediately put on their right turn signal and wait for a decent human being that will allow them to enter out lane. Most of us do so willingly. You know, “Do unto others” and all of that. But as the left lane begins to empty out something become compellingly obvious. There are a few cars that have no desire to merge. They wait until the mergers are all gone and then they stomp on the gas and fly ahead of all of us, rushing up to the place where they finally have no choice but to slide into our lane. And some guy way up there ALWAYS lets him in. Now I don’t know about you, but I think I am mad at two people here. I am mad at the guy that took advantage of the situation and jetted ahead of me, and I’m mad at the guy that whimped out and let him in our line. What’s the deal with that?

And then some trucker finally takes matters into his own hands. He’s a right lane trucker. He’s seen what’s going on. He’s had enough of it. And so this courageous right lane trucker stands up for all of us little right lane car drivers. He eases his big rig over into the left lane and blocks the steady stream of out-law line cutters. I suspect that he has organized this feat with his truck driving brothers via CB radio. In my rented convertible I stand up and applaud him! He is my latest hero! He has stemmed the tied of this hideous highway criminal element. Only a truck driver can get away with this. He’s up too high to make obscene gestures at. He has too many truck driver buddies to shoot at him. And chances are very good that the weapon he is packing is bigger and more broken-in than yours. So he cuts off the bad guys and once again peace reigns on the nations highways. Thank God for the teamsters!

But here is what it all means. Forget black and white, male and female, protestant and catholic. There are only two categories of human beings in this land we call America in this season we call “construction ahead.” There are those of us who merge to the right and wait out turn … and there are those that blast ahead and try to cheat us and take advantage of our gullible kindness. These people are not nice. But they are also your neighbors. They share a pew with you on Sunday at church. They work in your office. You invite their children to your children’s birthday parties. In other words they have infiltrated our ranks. And I am none to happy about it.

So what do we do? This scourge upon the face of our national highway system must stop! Well, I have had nearly a week to think about this event. It is fortunate for you that I have noticed this trend and that I have directed my brain cells toward formulating a fix for this situation. However… it is possible… improbable, but possible… that you have a better plan than I do. So I am not going to tell you what my plan is just yet. Instead I am going to invite you to send me your plans… your thoughts… maybe just vent your anger in a positive way… by email instead of Road Rage. My email address, set up specifically for this purpose is I’m out here for you, America. Don’t keep me waiting. You don’t even want to think about what would happen if I became a left-lane-driver…

BREAKING NEWS.... Mouse #3 has been caught killed in action. The laundry room remains under intense attack. THE GREAT BATTLE OF THE LAUNDRY ROOM will take longer than our mousekateer analyst (Debbie Woods) projected. Originally thought to be an attack by a rogue rodent it appears increasingly obvious that we have stumbled upon a hot bed of vermin activity. The most recent attack was launched by a mere mouse child. He was apprehended before any damage could be done. More traps are being loaded and rushed to the site at this moment.

Stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

BREAKING NEWS.... In my absence (vacationing in Minneapolis... sunny and 70 today. snow and 30's tomorrow. convertible top down today... walk the Mall of America tomorrow.) it would appear that another mouse attack has been repelled in THE GREAT BATTLE OF THE LAUNDRY ROOM. Early reports indicate that mouse #2 was found dead this afternoon behind my gym bag. Christopher removed the corpse from the deadly trap and, I trust, performed necessary procedures. More to follow and details become available....

Friday, October 11, 2002

Hi Katie! Your favorite uncle loves ya!!!!

Thursday, October 10, 2002


This morning dawned with muted light. A layer of mist clouded my little portion of the planet. The sun came up on time. Glen Zimmerman just told me so. I didn't see it. I was up late last night, sitting quietly in my laundry room... indian style on top of the washing machine. Listening. Listening. Dozing. Dozing. Snoring. Snoring. I finally had to admit that my very presence might delay the attack of the renegade rodent. I cleared my throat loudly, jumped off of the washer, stretched, and said in a loud voice, "Well, that's about it for me. I'm off to bed. I won't be back down here until after the sun comes up." And I tromped down the hall, a final confirmation to my little furry friend that he, once again, owned the night. I slept deeply, secure in the belief that my traps were more than able to handle the attack without me. Even field Generals must sleep.

And then it was morning. I rolled over in bed, reaching once again for the remote control, cursing myself for having stayed up too late yet again. And I froze. The battle. The rodent. The trap. I felt the beloved surge of adrenaline as I rolled over the edge of the bed and began working my way from "all fours" up to a standing position. I staggered down the hall, gazing ahead toward the battle ground. I delayed for a glass of orange juice served up cold and tasty in my favorite cheap, Wrigley Field plastic cup. Mmmmmmm. I moved into the short hallway leading from the Kitchen into the laundry room. Half way between the two is a bathroom. Just as field Generals must sleep they must also occasionally take a whiz. Some things will not wait. I took care of business and step anxiously into the hallway once again. As I entered the laundry room I glanced to the left. The trap by the garbage can was undisturbed. This is one smart mouse. I peered behind my gym bag only to find the same loaded trap that I placed there last night. What kind of beast is this? I might be dealing with a Harvard graduate here. At the very least he has attended "Mouse-Queda" training camps in the fields beyond the city limits.

I walked toward the corner containing the shoe rack, leaning to gaze over assorted items blocking my view. The trap had been sprung! At first I saw nothing. And then... I saw it. I saw HIM. He was upside down and I almost missed him. His white underbelly blended well with the pale, laundry room tile. But there was no denying those 4 little feet pointed stiffly sky-ward. His three inch tail told me that this was no amatuer. His entire length exceeds 6 inches. I heard a noise behind me and turned to see Bear glancing down the hall. I think he already knew. There was no smile on his golden face. Warriors take no delight in the killing. Life is precious. The moment calls for an aura of gravity. This mouse had not killed. He had not attacked human flesh. Oh yes, he had damaged my equipment and eaten my cheese but he was no killer. Still... he had to be stopped. For the sake of all that is holy and right... he had to be stopped. He was a thief... a raider. He struck without warning in the night. One of my children could have wandered into the laundry room in the dead of night searching for pajama's and he could have bitten a toe. He could have (and indeed, may have) pooped in Bears bowl. I have not told him... but I have reason to believe... And so while there is no joy... there is relief. There is a sense that justice has been done. The floors are safe for bare feet again.

I am currently processing the crime scene. Photo's are being taken. The chalk outline is being drawn. Prints are being taken. Dental records are being checked. Soldiers fight and soldiers die. It is a tragic fact of life. But he had a family and they need to know. In moments I will don my thick rubber gloves, my black motorcycle helmet with the face shield down, and I will remove the corpse. There will be no buriel... no memorial service. I will draw close to the garbage can next to my garage and I will flip his cold, lifeless body through the air and toward the can. He will fly end over end and smack into the side of the Rubber Maid container before sliding down with the rest of the garbage where he belongs. Justice has prevailed. Justice always prevails.

Case closed.


Many people are sad tonight that the Cardinals lost game one against the San Francisco Giants. We tie our lives up in petty issues to easily. A ball wrapped in cow hide. A bat carved from hard wood. Strapping young men throwing the ball. Other strapping young men trying to hit the ball with the bat. We would like to believe that these are the great wars of our times. But we cannot afford to live lives lost in the luxuries of the niave. There is a great war. It is being played out as I type. It has raged on into this... the sixth night.

The war revolves around my clothes dryer. It would appear to be the bunker for at least one mouse. This mouse is not from Florida. He is from a field. He is not here to make children laugh. He is here to chew through our wires, eat our food scraps, and scare our women. I hear him under the dryer. He is plotting. He is planning. For five nights he has raided my laundry room traps. These are the best traps that money can buy. They have big, tightly wound springs anchored to sanded pine. They sit behind the waste can that holds our rejected lint, behind my gym bag holding its smelly socks, and under the shoe rack. Each evening when I go to bed the traps are fully loaded with only the best Kraft Swiss Cheese. By morning they are empty. And not one trap has been sprung. The score going into tonight is Mouse 6 - Ron 0.

Tonight that all changes. The cheese is molded around the traps trigger. There is no way to remove the cheese tonight withough setting off the trap. The mouse sees the cheese. The cheese calls to the mouse. "It was safe last night. It was safe the night before that. I should be safe tonight too." But it is not safe. It is a highly dangerous, innocent looking, mouse killing, instrument of war.

I plan on winning tonight. In the morning I will get up to find a little mouse head nearly seperated from a little mouse body. At least one. maybe more. There will be sadness in the mouse house tomorrow morning. But there will be joy in my laundry room. My dog will be able to eat his Milky Bones in peace again. My wife can do laundry without fearing her fuzzy faced friend. I will take crime scene photographs. I will draw a chalk outline where his little mouse-body lay. There will be no warriors buriel for my rodent nemesis. There is only a trash dumpster with his name on it.

Tonight is the night. Gosh, I love the smell of swiss cheese in the morning.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

And awaaaaay we go! Thursday evening at this time my little bride and I will be holed up in a Holiday-Inn Express in Eden Prairie, Mn. It has been almost 25 years since she signed on as my side-kick on this wild ride we call "life." At least that's what I want to believe. As it turns out, reality shows that I am her side-kick. It's a pretty awesome thing when your wife is the most Godly person you know. It use to be that whenever I would lose something, she would know where it was. I have never seen anything like it. You see, I am one of those people whose brains have gotten full a little early on in life. I am now storing all new knowledge in my toes. It takes longer to retrieve it there. But Debbie knows everything. I use to do what I always do... come into the house... take off my glasses... set them down... and walk away. Within five minutes I was trying to figure out where they were. I would ask Debbie. She would always know. The amazing thing is that usually she had not even been in the room where I had left them. Still... she would most always be right. I finally wised up and bought a spare pair of glasses to I can usually trip over one by sheer accident. That means I don't have to ask her where they are nearly so often. But if I were a betting man my money would be on her.

I have been married one out of every nine days that the United States has existed as a nation. Say what? Yup. Do the math. I think this whole experiment in democracy began in 1776? That is convenient when you are dividing by 25's. Four quarters in the 1800's. Four quarters in the 1900's. One quarter in the 1700's. Two years to spare in the 2,000's. So I'm more or less correct. I find that positively shocking.

And what does the little woman get for putting up with me for this long? Well. She gets a rented Sebring convertible for a few days. She gets to ride up north where the leaves are already peaking in their race to their doom. She gets a tour of the biggest mall in America though she isn't much of a shopper. (By the way, I really didn't take that into consideration when marrying her. It has worked to my advantage though.) She gets to eat wherever she wants for five days and she doesn't have to wash one dish. She gets showered with love and affection. She gets my undivided attention. She gets to sit beside the clean part of the mighty, muddy, Mississippi River. And then she gets to race the water that she sees home so that she can see it pass by again. It doesn't really seem like much for giving me three children and twenty-five years. I ought to be able to come up with something better. It's just that, well, how do you thank somebody for sharing their life with you? How do you say thanks for being your partner, washing your dirty socks, and expecting so little in return?

Last year, 2001, was a pretty tough year at our house. It was mainly my fault. I was sick a lot last year. It wasn't fun but it was educational. I learned that when you treat life like it is long... by savoring the moments rather than packing all you can into them... life seems longer. I learned that as important as my work is my personal relationships are more important. That is especially true about my personal relationship with God. But that's a Sunday School thing to say so please over look it for now. Human relationships are more important than my work too. But then, human relationships are my work. Look, I don't want to talk about work right now so forget that I said that too. Life is about relationships. Lot's of people loved on me last year and a few of them paid big bucks for the privilege. I owe them a debt I cannot repay because they helped me to get well. But this wife of mine, this woman that sleeps next to me every night... wow. When I hurt... she held me. When I couldn't work... she did my job for me. When I couldn't see straight to drive... she drove me. When I needed to rest... she lay down next to me. When I couldn't pray... she prayed for me. When I couldn't find words... she spoke for me. My wife knows what it means to be a wife. She is an expert at it. She could teach a college level course in wifeship. Unfortunately, nobody is going to ask her to. That's a shame because wives to be, and young wives, need to know what she knows. Her knowledge could save a lot of marriages.

I can't repay Debbie for the wife she has been for twenty-five years. Certainly a trip to Minnesota to see the leaves change isn't gonig to even us up. I don't know what to do to possibly tell her what I'm thinking and how I'm feeling. I owe a debt I cannot pay. But the really strange thing is this... she doesn't seem tired of me yet. She does not mind when I forget where my glasses are. She lets me pile all of these wires by my side of the bed so that I can sit here and Blog while she sleeps next to me. I suspect that most wives would use the scissors on them. She doesn't usually laugh at my jokes but that's because they usually are not funny and she is, if anything, honest. I am not sure but I think she's signing on with me for another twenty-five years. That's the only thing I can think of that makes me wonder if she really isn't as smart as I have believed. What it all comes down to is this... the woman has one flaw that I can find... she has bad taste in men. And you know what? I"m really, really, glad.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Top Ten Reasons Not To Go To Work Today

1. Hey, even Jesus went to the mountains to pray.
2. Let's celebrate a victory for Cardinal Nation!
3. They "oil and chipped" my road and I don't want to disturb the new gravel pattern.
4. Solidarity to my Premcor Brothers!
5. Time to show the Administrative Assistants that we trust them.
6. Mice in the M&M's!
7. My hearts just not in it until we get this economy turned around.
8. Waiting for a phone call to interview for managing the Cubs next year.
9. Resting up for the big Civic Memorial home-coming parade on Friday.
10.The Rams don't work... why should I?

My brain is blocked. I’m not certain what has happened. I was coasting along just fine, running through life like a warm V-8 engine on a cold winters night. Sure the elements knock against it when you crank it but by the time you round the corner she’s purring like a kitten and pouring heat onto your frostbitten feet. Ok, that made very little sense. Truly a dumb sentence. See what I mean? My brain is blocked.

I guess I know what to attribute it to. Could be too much caffeine. I don’t think so. Might be a pending wedding building up steam in the back of my brain. I doubt it. It isn’t illness and it isn’t insomnia. It’s Ashley.

Ashley Brown. 13 years old. Pretty. Smart. Quiet. Long brown hair to match her long legs. Fast fingers on the keyboard. 8th grader. Cheerleader. Loves Centrifuge. Loves life. Has Leukemia.

How is that for a horrible ending to a fine paragraph? 28 years as a youth pastor and you think you’ve seen it all. Kids who love church. Kids who hate church. Kids who wreck their cars and live. Kids who wreck their cars and die. Kids who get scholarships. Kids who join the army. Kids who get married and make babies. Kids who don’t get married and make babies anyway. Kids who have sex change operations. Kids who have to act like adults. Kids who don’t seem to ever stop being kids. Kids who go into ministry. Kids who join cults. Kids who become detectives. Kids who go to work for Arthur Anderson and wish they hadn’t. Kids who throw up in multi-million dollar auditoriums. Kids who run through plate glass windows. Kids who fall into the fountain at “Six Flags” and come out blue. Kids who overdose on Tylenol and live. Kids who hang themselves and don’t. Kids who have too many toes. Kids who lose an arm. Kids that get a try out for a major league ball club. Kids in wheel chairs. That’s just a sampling of what I’ve seen in 28 years of trying to be Jesus to kids. But this is the first time I’ve ever had a kid with Leukemia.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do for the kid. I know how to help Ashley. That’s simple. You love her. You love her loud. You love her long. You love her when she’s feeling well. You love her when she’s feeling crappy. You love her when she’s in the hospital. You love her when she’s at home. You love her in email. You love her on the telephone. Most of all you love her in person. Because love makes you show up wherever she is. Love makes you take her an animated mooing stuffed cow. Love makes you send her flowers or balloons. Love makes you help her hook up a laptop to talk to friends from the hospital. Love makes you blow up a surgical rubber glove, tie it to a chair, and write “Hi Ashley” on it. Love makes you turn your back when she needs to get out of bed to go to the bathroom because she’s wearing “one of those gowns.” Love makes you turn and face her when you really want to stare out the window because you aren’t sure if she’ll notice your eyes are kind of wet. Love makes you get out the oil, pray over her and anoint her.

I understand that we live in a world where reality is seldom fair. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. Even when they are only 13. My problem is not philosophical. My problem is not theological. My problem is not medical. My problem is not what to say to those who ask “why?” I can answer others questions. I can satisfy them. But I do have a problem. A practical problem.

My problem is what to do if ASHLEY asks me “why?” You see, if Jesus were here… in the flesh… right now… what would He do? He would smile at her the way you can only smile when you are in total control. It would be the smile of a parent on Christmas morning. A parent who is holding that special present behind their back…the one the child has asked for and is wanting so badly. Jesus would smile the smile that would be smiled for the 5 seconds before the present was handed to the child. The smile of great anticipation. Great anticipation comes when you know something really, really, good is about to happen. And His smile would turn to exuberance and utter joy as Ashley saw His present to her. Jesus would heal Ashley. Is there really any doubt in anybody’s mind that Jesus would heal Ashley?

And my stated purpose in life is to be Jesus to teenagers. So what do I do if Ashley asks me someday soon “why?” My brain is blocked. And I think I know why.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

So I'm cruising down highway 140 this evening shortly before sunset. My lovely wife is in the passanger seat. The new Sara Groves CD is in the player and I had just announced that the current song reminds me of her (side note: always look for ways to score extra points when with the little woman... you'll need them someday) when I noticed the pick-up truck in front of me. It was a late model, silver, step side. Very nice. And very dangerous. We were going to a funeral home in North Alton to sit with a friend who had just lost her last uncle and was quite distraught about it. There was only an hour left before the visitation ended. And then this truck showed up. We came across it east of Powder Mill Road. She was in front of us and in our lane. Then she was on the shoulder of the road. Then she was in the left lane. Then she was on the left shoulder. Then she decided to straddle the white line down the middle of the busy 4 lane highway. I slowed down to stay behind her because passing seemed to be a really dumb idea. Suddenly she was only doing 25mph. The speed limit is 55. Several vehicles didn't know what was going on and shot around us only to put the death stomp on the brakes when they encountered this truck driver from hell. (no swear word... fact.) Then they would get bold and dart around her when she swerved to the right. I decided, after consulting my bride, to stay behind her and call 911. The operator connected me with the Alton Police Department. The dispatcher said that they were rather busy and wanted to know what was wrong. I told him. He was not terribly interested because the truck signaled to turn onto Fosterburg Road. It was about to be not his problem. He said she was entering the counties district and their officers were scattered all over the place. Except that she was just kidding about the turn signal. She went straight. She ran the stop lights at Homer Adams Parkway and in front of the Holiday-Inn. The she stopped in the middle of the road for no reason. Debbie suggested that she was making up for past sins. When she drove her right wheels onto the grass near the watchful eye of Robert Wadlow Debbie let out a mini-scream. We now had the dispatchers attention. (I silently hoped she'd run over a few dental students from the school across the street... that would have pleased me to no end.) He asked us if we minded staying behind her and on the line. Duh. What had I been doing for the last 5 miles? So, like good tax payers, we stayed behind her and watched her careen from shoulder to shoulder, narrowly missing many cars and more than one street sign. The dispatcher told me he had located an available unit and we kept up a running conversation of our location. And then she pulled into the long, tree lined, driveway of Alton Memorial Hospital. I told the dispatcher that maybe she was injured and trying to get to an emergency room. I heard him pass this information on to the officer cruising in our direction. She missed one of the two stop signs at the top of the hill by the hospital and then turned into the parking lot of the professional building. Huh? The professional building is closed at 7pm. The emergency room is another 100 yards down the road. The truck driver chose a spot in the nearly empty lot. I told the dispatcher that I was parking about 50 feet from her and watching to see what would happen. Nothing did. Her foot was on the brake because her brake lights were on. Then they went off. I looked to the right and an Alton Police car was pulling into the lot. For a second I was concerned for the officer. It was obvious that this driver was intoxicated or high on chemicals. We had no idea what we were about to witness but it occured to me that I wish my wife was at home watching TV or at Garden Ridge shopping. The world is a weird, dangerous place. I watched the officer warily approach the drivers door. His right hand was in its customary position, near the butt of his pistol. He knocked on the trucks window. The door opened. It became obvious that the driver was a little gray haired elderly woman. Their dialogue took about 5 minutes. And then another police car pulled into the lot. Back-up in case this "Bonnie-minus-her-Clyde" should turn evil. The first officer closed the little woman back into her truck and turned to the approaching second officer. And now curiousity had me. No way I was leaving without knowing what evil lurked in the heart of my first official "bust." Was she Al-Queda? Iraqi? A home grown terrorist perchance? I got out of my car and walked across the parking lot to the pair of Alton's finest. I introduced myself as the man who had followed the human pin-ball. As we talked I looked around. Surely John Walsh from "America's Most Wanted" was hiding behind a bush someplace. At the very least I expected to see a camara man from COPS. No such luck. And so I inquired as to exactly which substance was flowing through grannys bloodstream causing this traffic debacle. And the officer said... "She's asleep." Huh? "She was asleep when I knocked on her window. She said she's having trouble staying awake and this is where she goes to the doctor so she came here to sleep until she could drive herself home." Batman and Robin were laughing. They didn't know what to do with her. She had broken numerous laws but they had not observed any of them and at the moment her greatest crime was "Malicious Snoring." I asked if they thought they could handle it from here. They allowed as how they figured they could. I thanked them for keeping our streets sleep-free and returned to my car.

Debbie said her heart was pounding. Women. Personally I was terribly disappointed. I wanted a DUI. I hoped for a brick of "premium s###" on the seat next to one seriously doped up dealer. I would have settled for a deranged escapee from the Alton Mental Health Centers criminally insane unit. Instead I got a geriatic Rip-Van-Winkle. You know, this law enforcement stuff isn't all it's cracked up to be. I did a ride-along with Mike Hogan, a close buddy who is an Illinois State Trooper. We patrolled the interstates through East St. Louis on the midnight shift. I wore the vest but nobody shot at me. I held the flashlight while he did a "field sobriety test." (We ran that sucker in. That'll teach him.) I helped him search an abandoned truck on the side of the road. We scanned the tree lined center of an expressway clover leaf intersection looking for bad guys who were suppose to be hiding out in it. Nothing. The most dangerous thing we did all night was eat "lunch" at 4am in a horrible truck stop. That was the only time that I felt like our lives were on the line.

When I was just a lad I had visions of a life in law enforcement. I thought I'd start off cruising the interstates like Mike. Then I'd move up the the FBI and prove my metal by nailing the big fish. I'd finish up a well rounded career by taking down some bad agents that had gone dirty while working in the Hoover Building. The rest of my life would be spent on the speaking and writing circuit, making the big bucks by telling my crime-fighting stories.

And it all comes down to this. A sunny, cool, autumn evening. A chance meeting with a hardened criminal on the cruel city streets. We match wits. One on it ought to be. And as the dust settles... as the cold metal door clangs shut... I am the one walking away... satisfied that, thanks to my quick reflex actions, the highways are once again safe. And granny is asleep in the front seat where she belongs.

Sleep well America.

Friday, September 20, 2002

(Note: If you are not in the mood for serious... move along. Read yesterday's blog. Watch The Weather Channel. Find a Sienfield rerun. But don't read this blog. Fair warning.)

His name was Zac and I didn't meet him until he was dead. That is way too late if you are a youth pastor. I know his sister. She went to Centrifuge with us last summer. i know his aunt, his uncle, and his cousins. They are all still alive and doing quite well, thank you. They are members of my church. But somehow it slipped past my attention that Zac even existed. He was not quiet. he did not keep to himself. We just failed to cross paths. Last year he got into trouble at school. He had a substance that he was not suppose to have. So when they found it they threw him out of school. His parents, in a rage of wisdom, enrolled him into a very small Christian high school. I am sure they were very angry at him for getting in trouble. Most likely they wanted to kill him themselves! And I really doubt that Zac wanted to go to this new school. All of his friends were back at Civic Memorial But he stepped up to the plate and served his sentence. And something extremely wonderful happened to Zac at this new school. Zac met Jesus. He was ambushed by the Son of God when he least expected it. Evidently Zac knew a deal when he saw it because he jumped at the chance to pray and ask Jesus into his heart. This year Zac continued on at that small, Christian high school. By all indications he was quite happy there. He retained his friends from Civic Memorial High School. Life was good for Zac.

And then came Tuesday. It was raining in the afternoon. Zac was at home but he told his mom that he had to go out for a minute but he would be right back. His mom did what most mom's would do... she said, "ok." Five minutes later Zac's mom got the word. Zac was dead. His car evidently hydro-planed. He hit a utility pole. The pole snapped. It landed on his car. It landed on Zac. A 16 year old life ended immediately.

Zac's death makes no sense. And to make matters worse, he is the third teenager to die in our community in the last three months. The police are in shock. The hospital emergency room workers and talking about it. The story has transcended our local Alton Telegraph newspaper and has been told by the more prestigious St. Louis Post Dispatch. It has been called "a horrible coincidence," a "shocking turn of evvents," and even "fathomless." But strong adjectives don't breath life back into a young mans dead body.

How odd that the very thing that seemed so bad... Zac being tossed out of public school... would wind up being the singular thing that was responsible for bringing him to Jesus. I told that to his parents today standing over his casket. I reminded them that, because they loved him enough to discipline him, he was doing much better in every area... except for his driving. I pointed out that what looked like evil turned out to be good. We talked of eternity and of Zac enjoying life far more now than he did a mere 3 days ago. They smiled through their grief and said that they had not thought of that. There is pain in the Crews family tonight. I did not know Zac and yet I share that pain. I felt it as I entered the viewing room with the family. I felt it as I clasped his father by the shoulders and felt this big blue collar worker tremble. I felt it as I hugged his little sister and brother and prayed with them. I felt it as grandma thanked me for coming and as she told me to pray for her family because not all of them know Jesus. And pray I did. I prayed the prayer of a lifeime.. And I quoted scripture about Jesus defeating death. I held them as they leaned over the casket and stroked Zac's hair and touched his cheek.

So there you go. That's what it is like to be a pastor. We live for the moment of crises. That is when we get to do our job and people actually listen. But man, a 16 year old boy that should be doing math homework tonight is laying in a casket in a funeral home instead. What do you do with that? And you know what? Zac is the boy that dated my sons girlfriend right before he started dating her. And you know what else? Five weeks ago my son was stopped for speeding on the same road ... at the same place... where Zac died two days ago. What do you do with that?

You pray. You sneak into his room late at night after he has finally fallen asleep on this stressful evening and you pray. You thank God for protecting him. And you ask Him to keep on protecting him because he has a lifetime of driving ahead of him... and you want it to be a long lifetime. And you stay up really late blogging because you can't get the picture of Zac, all dressed up and laid out in his coffin, out of your head. You feel his mothers tears drip onto your hand again as you remember leaning over the casket with her and whispering to her that her son is not here... that this is a tent that has been taken down... and that he now lives in a new home. One not made with human hands. And you pray for the many teenagers that are sitting up right now... wondering about death... and about God. They are unable to sleep because they have a funeral to go to tomorrow and teenagers are not suppose to go to funerals. They re suppose to laugh and eat and go to parties. And it occurs to you that, though life is not fair, and though it has no discernable rhyme nor reason, it is worth it. But only because of one name. Jesus.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

I rolled over in my bed this morning and, as usual, reached for the elusive remote control. Eyes closed (see earlier blog) I punched the power button and keyed in 02. The weather was of utmost importance to me. My super-high-sensitive-atmospheric-condition-sensors indicated clouds above my roof. It also indicated clouds outside my window. I thought I could feel clouds even creeping in under my garage door. I would not have been at all surprised to find clouds in my bathroom and maybe even the refrigerator. Internal alarms were going of THAT loudly.

I was in luck. Glen Zimmerman was on right now, preparing the 2.5 million St. Louis people for the day. I remember thinking, "You go, Glen. Give me the latest, dude. I can handle the truth." Oddly enough, Glen was rather upbeat. He warned of thick fog this morning, particularly in the river valleys. But he assured me that it was no big deal because it was... and I quote... "sunny outside. We have blue skies. We just have to burn this fog off." Selah. (Pause and reflect.)

Huh? It is sunny outside? We have blue skies? We just have to BURN THIS FOG OFF? Might I ask a question? I didn't go to meteorological school. One of my former teenagers actually MARRIED a TV weather man. That is as close as I have ever come to meteor-anything. Oh wait, Debbie and I had lunch once at the "California Pizza Kitchen" at the Galleria. Paul Goodloe was there eating with his significant other. We didn't talk to him. Geez, he's a big guy. Shoulders like an aircraft carrier. Maybe that is a closer connection than knowing somebody who married a weather man. Nah, probably not. I think I even did the wedding and that means that I actually know a TV weatherman myself. He was in St. Louis but now he's in Peoria. Whatever. The really cool part is that Paul Goodloe now works for The Weather Channel! Now THAT, my friends, is the big time. I ate lunch in the presence of greatness. Grant it, it isn't quite like knowing somebody on "The Naked News" but I think you get my point.

What was my point... Oh yes. My point was... isn't fog a cloud? Sure it is. That was "Lesson A" in Science 101 back at Lincoln-Way High School in 1970. Fog is a cloud with an attitude. Fog is a cloud on steroids. Fog is a cloud that descends to earth, grabs you around the throat, and won't let go. Other clouds just kind of float around up there. Sometimes they make rain (word picture intended) on you, and sometimes they just float. But fog, my friends, is most certainly a cloud.

So. Who is Glen Zimmerman trying to fool? Does he really think he can get by with this kind of fraudulent forcasting? It is now 3:18 in the afternoon. I just looked outside my office window. Guess what. It's still foggy. Only now the fog is at about... oh.... 2,000 feet. In other words it's foggy way up high. Down here it's just dreary and depressing. Oh, but don't worry... it's still a sunny day! The sky is still blue! You only have to go about 3/4 of a mile to see it... straight up.

Glen. You disappoint me. St. Louis weather has never been the same since The Dual Whammy. For you new folks I'm referring to Bob Richards on channel 5 committing "suicide by airplane" a few years ago. And more recently the departure of Trish (moment of respectful silence please) Brown from channel 4. Bob did himself in because it was discovered (by his wife) that he was having an affair. Trish moved to Lincoln, Nebraska ... which come to think of it, is kind of like committing suicide... because she was making babies. Have you noticed that, in one way or the other, all good weather people leave the business because of sex? Kind of makes you wonder about all of those "warm fronts" they keep talking about.

Well, that's about all I have to say about that. I just noticed that I have an itching bump about 3 inches above my right wrist on the inside of my arm. It has all the marks of... a mosquito bite. Drat. It's even shaped like a pyramid. I think we all know what this means. I'm doomed. I should have been a weather man.

Since my Blog Spot is named "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me" (a Shakespearean quotation) I thought it only appropriate to list...

(in no particular order...)

1. Pacing. (I really must stop that... or get more therapy.)
2. Reading
3. Journaling (no, you can't read it. it's passworded AND encrypted.)
4. Riding my Hardley with no particular place to go but winding up someplace where I want to be.... either someplace alone and quiet or full of friends and conversation..
5. Finding new and interesting "web cams" ... particularly of unusual places and things. If you are interested, try (God is watching... PASS on the "adult" link.)
6. Finding the most cushy chair at Barnes and Noble or Borders empty when I've got an armful of books I want to look over. (FYI, the best bookstore is the Barnes and Noble on Watson road just across the street and east from Crestwood Mall. Or The Borders across I-40 from the Galleria. Oh, or the Borders in Mid-Rivers Mall. Fairview Hgts. Borders got rid of their cushy chairs so I got rid of them.)
7. Surprise Debbie.
8. Dreaming about my future Mustang (red, khaki convertible top, GT, 6 CD changer.) I'm late on my mid-life crises car. Check with me next summer after the wedding...
9. Waking myself up by snoring too loud in the middle of my day off.
10. Talking to somebody (usually a teenager) who doesn't believe in God. They are so gullible. They have generally invested at least 35 minutes into reaching their conclusion. I eat them for lunch. (I call this "wasting time" because they are too self-sufficient and cool to admit that I've made hamburger out of their arguments.)