Monday, August 31, 2009

It was a ho-hum weekend, until ...

... one of the guys said, "Hey, do you still have that old crash helmet, and that raggedy black wet suit, and that really long yellow rubber slide thing? ...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Why is Lamentations Just 5 Chapters Long?...

Answer: God got tired of lamenting...?

Hey, check out this link when you have 9 minutes. It's called God's Chisel. This is the first skit I've seen by these guys. It's about God shaping his masterpiece: you.


Just real quick ... I like calling the hospital to see what's on the menu. Dr. Fleet Feet wanted to go out there the other day so I called and the nice lady told me they had "smothered steak and chicken fried steak with with gravy, glazed carrots, green beans, rolls, cornbread, or you can get a sandwich or a hamburger, or a Hospital Special Burger, which is just like a regular hamburger except it has more meat, and a lot more stuff on it."

Dr. Fleet Feet has not been pleased with his portions there lately and feels he is being 'profiled' because his hair is white. It's been a bit dicey. I don't want him to "go off" right there in the hospital line. I'll keep you posted, and I'll remind him he could always get the Hospital Special Burger, which is just like a regular hamburger, except it has more meat, and a lot more stuff on it.

Hope your weekend is fun. Check out those Skit Guys.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm tru$ting in ... ?

Generosity is not as much an overflow of wealth as it is an overabundance of faith. Stinginess, on the other hand, is a sure sign that a person trusts things instead of God. And make no mistake, we serve what we trust.

-- Charles R. Swindoll, "Ragged-Edge Faith and Reckless Generosity," Insights (May 2007)

Sleeping For School (Not IN School): An encouraging and supportive list addressing the importance of sleep for back-to-school teens is here.

Dad update: Resting at home, sore but recovering. Thank you for asking about him, and thank you for prayers for him.

Mom update: Loves her dentist! Got a new tooth, didn't hurt (this time!) and all is well.

Casey update: Last home game of the regular season tonight at Fair Grounds Field. Don't know if he's working the playoffs or not. His squad this week, El Paso, lost again last night, but like I told him, it shouldn't be a surprise: their first name starts with "L." L-Paso. ... Hope they get the W tonight; a winning locker room tips better.
Casey might actually be looking forward to school starting in a couple of days.

Pickles update: Ben is 5 and a friend of mine and has made more pickles from his home garden's final batch of cucumbers from this high-yield Cucumber Season. So we could possibly have more homemade pickles on the job site either today or tomorrow. It has been the Summer of Brine. Sweet! Ben's got it together.

Hope your day is fun. Seeya!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hymn of Promise

This will sound a bit ridiculous but I heard this song last night for the first time in a long time and was crying. Not crying all over the place, but crying, about like I did at the end of "My Dog Skip." Just sort of sunk (sank?) down in my seat.

I used to keep this hymn close by back during the Little League coaching days and read it a few times each season to remind me to not get too visibly mad at any practice or game, that all these little people were just that: little people, and who knows what they could become with a little confidence and care, and what a privilege it was to participate in this tiny window of their lives. Wish I'd been a better coach...

This song made me cry then, made me cry last night; I don't know how you can listen to it without getting sort of watery eyed. And I don't know if you struggle with the thought of ever letting a little one down in the past, but if you do, join the club. God, teach me. Let's do better from now on....Seeya!

In the bulb there is a flower;
In the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise:
Butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter,
There's a sping that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see.

There's a song in every silence,
Seeking word and melody;
There's a dawn in every darkness,
bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future;
What it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see.

In our end is our begining;
In our time, infinity.
In our doubt, there is believing;
In our life, eternity.

In our death, a resurrection;
At the last, a victory
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see.

Composer/Author: Natalie Sleeth, 1986

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy birthday wishes to ...

* ... Mrs. von Frapp, who is 178 today. She'll relax tonight with her youthful husband, some Geritol, and a football game. Go Titans!

* Daddy is all doped up in the hospital in Atlanta but doctors say he's recovering nicely and should be home over the weekend. His shoulder's going to hurt him a lot, which I don't quite understand since they operated on his LUNG! But hey, I'm just happy for him that he'll get to go home soon, put his Claiborne Parish sheriff's department hat on and kick back with his cracked rib and some tea. Some of my other peeps are suffering from nicks and bruises, but they are still in the game.

* Found this prayer a couple of days ago, and right on time. People who have sort of known me have always felt I was an optimist because I was mostly smiling. The few people who knew me really well would agree that I was a pessimist and, at best, a pessimist with a decent attitude. Lord, deliver me...

"Lord, let me be an expectant Christian. Let me expect the best from You, and let me look for the best in others. If I become discouraged, Father, turn my thoughts and my prayers to You. Let me trust You, Lord, to direct my life. And, let me be Your faithful, hopeful, optimistic servant every day that I live. Amen."

* Hope you have a good weekend. Seeya!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cracked ribs hurt

Bro Allen Update: My dad had heart surgery back at the first of the summer. He showed me his scar when I visited him this weekend. It's a nice one.

He had to go back into the hospistal today for a surgery scheduled to drain fluid off one of his lungs. That happens after heart surgery, they tell me. Like his heart surgery -- it was to last six hours and lasted 13 -- this was more complicated than they had feared. They couldn't do it with the tiny incision thing but had to made a big one and crack a rib. And his diaphram, which helps us breathe, isn't working just right. He's supposed to be OK, but he won't get out for three days and the recovery time is 4 weeks instead of a few days as we'd hoped. Cracked ribs are bad hombres.
I've come to know my dad a little better lately; I feel bad for him because patience hasn't been one of his stronger points. But he's learning. And I'm proud that he's been fairly patient through a tough summer. I hope he's eating ribs soon instead of recovering from a cracked one. He does love to eat.

Thank you for your prayers for him. We all could use someone praying for us. Thank you for your prayers for me, too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Sick as a dog yesterday with something that might have been a brain tumor. I think the weekend's events -- trivia game until late Friday night, driving to Georgia in the middle of the night to see daddy, not getting much sleep, working Monday -- caught up with me. I don't try to cram that much stuff into such a little bitty time anymore, but it worked out and Georgia really was needed and fun; so glad I went. For whatever reason, it's when I was supposed to go, if that makes any sense. And I'm better today and hopefully will not miss my next scheduled start.

Catching up at work. So here is some ee cummings to help get you through the day. For a guy who refused to use Big Letters, ee could still take over a game. This is one of my favorites of his. Some people think poetry is stupid. I don't think it is. If you're not familiar with it, hang in there with this one for a minute; if you do, I think you'll like it.

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear

no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

-- ee cummings

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hope your weekend is sweet

"God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all...The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it...

"Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them — living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored."

From The Message, Romans 8: 3-8


My circumstances were never my problem. Circumstances are never anyone's major problem. I don't know that from special spiritual insight, ( if!) I just know it because I can read. And today I can understand and accept what I read a little better. Used to, I didn't want either to accept or understand.

My circumstances were never my problem. Character flaws were my problem. Foolishness, pride, selfishness, denial about sin and denial about my flaws. And most of all, as I heard it neatly wrapped up one time, "the false illusion that I could handle life without God."

For most of us, it takes suffering some pretty bad stuff to knock that out of us. When the bombs fall, Paul suggests we make good use of those mistakes. By conforming us to his Son, God does that, through his grace and our faith. We can either be about the hard, hard work of character change, or we can pray that God will zap us. It seems that Paul really strongly urges us to excercise "in real life" the new moral muscle we've been given.

Even when I was in my most pitiful state, God never struck me as the lazy sort. He doesn't want me to be lazy either. He isn't pleased at being ignored. And the Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of rest and perfect peace, isn't pleased at lazy. " me." I tried working outside of Him and resting outside of Him. That got me nowhere, really fast. All that did was make life miserable for me and for the people who really did love me. Maybe it could be different for you. It wasn't for me.

Who can deliver us from ourselves? "Thanks be..."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We came, we saw ...

...we watched the tower fall. More story Sunday in The Times.

(Footage from Louisiana Tech News Bureau)


About to walk over and see the engineer guys knock over the Louisiana Tech Water Tower. It's been there about 75 years. It's not a life-changing event or anything -- unless I'm standing in the way -- but I've never seen a water tower get knocked over before. I've always just seen them in their natural state -- standing up. Filled, I've always assumed, with water. They've knocked a big hole in this one and sawed off a piece of a leg. They're supposed to make one more saw and then .... seeya. The tower's water-holding part is supposed to just pancake when it hits the ground. We'll see. Hope you didn't park over there...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy Wednesday

It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what keeps things running right.
-- Anne Lamott

God is God. He knows what He is doing. When you can't trace His hand, trust His heart.

-- Max Lucado

Monday, August 10, 2009

'Have you seen the new baby?' (Wait...ALL babies are new...right?)

Below is yesterday's newspaper column about new things for babies and moms, like the bottle warmer and swaddle blanket (both pictured -- and frankly, the 'swaddle' picture freaks me out a bit.) I especially liked this one comment from a parent/reader...

"This takes me back about 30 years! We took our son to the pediatrician, a little worried that he wasn't crawling, sitting, moving around like we thought he should be.

The very wise, old doctor asked us "Does he have a swing?"

YES Doc!

"Does he have a baby seat?" YES Doc!

"Does he have a walker?" YES Doc!

The Doc said, "No wonder he's not doing anything, put a quilt on the floor and let him alone!! "

He was moving around in no time......Sometimes progress is not very progressive."


The whole job of a baby is to be spoiled. It's what they do. Naturally.

So why are we making it too easy for them?

Ridiculously easy.

My friends had their first baby. The grandmom sent me an e-mail with a list of the new infant-aid contraptions on the market and now in her baby grandson's home, technological marvels new to the scene since me and you and the billions of babies before us were diaper-clad.

I ran this list of contraptions by a veteran, a father of three, my friend Dr. Pickles. His boys are 5 and 3, his baby girl not 4 months. If you are planning on having children, or if you were ever a parent or even a baby, you might find a kindred spirit in this young father who, along with his wife, has experienced infancy on the front lines, both with and often without the modern conveniences.

QUESTION: The new mom has a handheld timer she sets when her newborn boy wets and poops, nurses, sleeps and whatnot. This is supposed to keep the both of them on some sort of schedule.
Dr. Pickles: We didn't use that approach. We went with the "action-reaction" approach: she wets/poops, we change. She cries, we feed. She sleeps, we rejoice!

Q: They have Wipes Warmers!, so the baby's bottom won't get cold during cleaning. Wipes Warmers?
Dr. P: Heard of those. We even tried that with the first boy but found it dried out the wipes more than kept them warm. Nothing pleasant about burlap disguised as a baby wipe.

Q: They have a bottle warmer. Not a microwave or a boiling pot, but a bottle warmer.
Dr. P: My wife breastfeeds. Sort of God's built-in bottle warmer. And it's free!

Q: There's a gadget the baby rests on while he nurses from this first-time mom.
Dr. P: We always used a pillow, but I've actually heard of these. Even saw one. Looks like a fanny pack ate a ferret.

Q: They have a thing that helps the baby sit up, too.
Dr. P: Really? We just always yelled, "Sit up and fly right!" It worked with the boys. I don't plan to yell ANYthing at my baby girl. She can sit, lay, curl, whatever she wants.

Q: A diaper with a line in it that turns blue when he wets so you don't have to stick your finger in there. I've never heard"»
Dr. P: We have those! One of God's greatest inventions! Reduces the need for hand sanitizer by 50 percent. The line is right down the middle, like a runway at an airport. Turns blue and you know you've hit paydirt.

Q: Another new thing is a swaddling blanket that is sort of pre-wrapped in swaddle mode.
Dr. P: It's kind of like a baby pita pocket, if I remember correctly. We had one for the first guy, and it was good. But, it's much more fun to make the baby burrito with a real baby and a real blanket: fold up over the feet, then left fold over, right fold over. Hot or mild sauce optional.

-- TA

Friday, August 7, 2009

Love believes all things...

Who but God would have thought to make a whale AND a dolphin, a penguin and a puppy, a squirrel and a sloth.

What kind of man is it who makes both the eagle and the hummingbird, the seas and the water well, the Rockies and the rocks, the stars and the starfish.

Waves and wind, sand and sea, sun and moon. What a man, who gives gifts like those.

A guy reminded me the other day to look for God's gifts all around. All the things he's made for us. And he reminded me to do the next right thing. Do the basics of building this relationship with God. Pray for awareness. Help somebody. ("Make 'em laugh!") Perform the most obvious and needful tasks. There is plenty of magic in the mundane.

But at the same time, don't discount the divine, he said, or forget that the supernatural can overcome the natural in a heartbeat. "The most amazing miracle in the Bible is that of conversion, a person yielding to God and being changed in ways that humans cannot begin to measure accurately." Don't give up on people; Jesus didn't give up on Peter, on Paul, on Moses, on Matthew. The list goes on.

And he's not going to give up on you. Or on me. Not today.

"Love believes all things..."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Anybody got a crescent the Russian can borrow?...

Remember when the nice astronaut lady lost her toolbag (SEEYA!) while spacewalking outside the International SpaceStation? When something starts floating off into space, it's an issue. You can't just reach down and pick it up. Well, I mean, you CAN, but you'd have to reach down to, say, India. I felt bad for her. Fortunately, the special tools only cost, well.......

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER -- A tool bag lost in space is now space history.

Astronaut Heidi-Marie Stefanyshyn-Piper flew aboard STS-126 and lost the bag full of specialized space tools worth about $100,000 during a spacewalk.

The tool bag met its end Monday, when it plunged into the earth’s atmosphere and was incinerated.

The bag has been tracked by members of the U.S. Air Force at their Joint Space Operations center since November 18, 2008 when it floated away.

"There was that split-second thinking that maybe I can go jump for it and grab it. Then I realized that it would just make everything worse and then we'd have two floating objects -- one of which would be me," she said in an interview from orbit the day after the spacewalk.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The wind is bound to change...

"Little help!...Little help over here!"

Hang with me. The news will get better. But today...

...I just took another phone call from a buddy, reporting another suicide. I say 'another' because that's three in three weeks, each a close friend or relative of a close friend of mine. If you would, maybe say a prayer for people knocked down by a tragedy like this.

I got a note last week from one of the closest friends of a mutual friend whose son had killed himself; the short note from this quiet and entirely humble man ended like this:

"I just hope that during this tragedy I was able to reflect God's glory."

And this gentleman had. He had been devoted to and at the service of this family through the whole ordeal. But he'd been the same way before this happened and I'm sure he'll be the same way in the days and months ahead.

Because he's dug in.

"Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." I can't remember where I wrote this down from a few weeks ago, but here it is: "When we radiate God's light in the world — his moral and spiritual attributes (i.e. when we allow God to live his life in us and through us) — he manifests his glory through us, and he is glorified through us."

I know we're supposed to be like little mirrors that reflect the nature of God, his character and kindness and goodness. And without him really changing our hearts, all we do is artificial. Without transformation, we're imitators.

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

I'm a spiritual invalid. This is more clear to me each day. God is good, and one of the best things he does is show you just how lacking you are. If we want to be transformed, all he asks is that we bring nothing. And as I heard a guy say once, while all he requires is nothing, some of us haven't got that. But God can't do a lot until you come to him with zip, topped out, at the bottom. He's not one to top off the tanks.

My prayer is that we can better reflect the Savior, since it's not about us. Everything, every single thing, is to revolve around the Son. In tragedy or harvest, God help us remember that, help us renew our minds, and may you transform our hearts, and make us mirrors that reflect you and not the world, a fallen place that none of us are equipped to handle.

I can't remember where I got this from either, but I wrote it down: "Learn what it means to be set apart. Others should notice a difference in our character and conduct when comparing us to the rest of the world. What they ought to see are biblical principles at work. But we can look like kingdom dwellers only when we are training our minds to think like the King."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

For People Broken in the Pile

The receiving line stretched from the open casket past the back door and into the lobby where we signed the guest book.

Even after two days of a houseful of friends, the mom and dad were not close to being hugged-out. I don't know what else you do when your child, 25, is gone. Suicide. And there's the open casket, and you're at church on the business end of the receiving line.

I guess you keep accepting hugs, and you hold on.

And you wish you could turn back the clock.

We all wish we could turn back the clock on some things. I suppose you never wish it more than at a time exactly as this.

Who has answers?

And what do you do? One day a brother and son and teammate is quietly neat, efficient, a good-grades maker, a championship junior golfer, a young believer. But after one semester at school on a golf scholarship, his room looked like the inside of a clothes-washing machine, his grades reflected indifference, his clubs just idle, old toys. A bad crowd, a bad decision, a bad deal.

He couldn't leave the stuff alone. The drugs. He'd have good runs, then a trip to the bad side of town. Nothing he did was out of the ordinary for a guy chasing a lie he's bought into, hook, line, sinker, future and life. Stories like this more often than not turn out the same way: somebody gets killed in the end.

He was sweet. He was gentle. He helped the little-boy golfers on the course where the family lived. Polite to everybody. Lots of friends who reflected most of what he had been before The Big Lie knocked, and he'd answered, and invited him in.

He was talented. Three years ago he dusted off the golf clubs, practiced a few days, won the city championship, flashed all the old promise. No big surprise: he was that good.

But his problem was worse. And a lot bigger than he was. So it was never a shock when the shadows would come and he'd be gone again until, at age 25, he was gone for good.

His parents did all they could. Tens of thousands of dollars invested in the last year alone, getting him help. Loving him soft and loving him tough. Hugging him close, giving him space. Praying and hoping. They never lost hope. But for a tiny window of time, their son did.

It must be a terrible weariness, the one that hits someone just before they call it quits. The moment when all motivation is gone. To some it comes after a pink slip or a divorce paper or a dream's death. Desperation blasted with a kind of veiled self-honesty that must say, "Well, this is the only way left. The only thing right. The only way out."

A hopeless, frustrated kind of tired and weary. Hope's not gone, but it's lost. And if a piece of it isn't found quickly enough, a receiving line and a shovel and a lot of tears are just around the corner.

When they found him in his room, his faithful dog Dice, 14, wouldn't leave him. Dice would have stayed by him forever. Same as everyone else. But a guy at the end must feel as if he's taking up space, and always will be. Maybe when hope is lost, the whole system breaks down.

"His whole life, he was good to everybody but himself." I heard that time and again the day of the funeral, the day of the open casket and the hold-tight-to-the-promises preaching. Heard it from people who loved him, from people scared and hurt by so much of what he'd done, people who knew the beautiful boy inside him but could never push the good deep enough in there to change his heart. Why do some of us in the dirty pile of broken people believe just enough to dodge the early darkness, and some of us don't? No answer fits.

But I know there's a pile. This funeral was proof of that. In it are the once used and no longer wanted, the never used and never useful, the cracked and the torn and the misshapen. And I know there's a guy who wants the pile to stay just as it is, a guy who wants us to feel worthless and hopeless and ashamed.

But I know there's another guy too, one who wants us to see grace and mercy and to feel a conviction to change, a guy gentle and humble in heart, a man who offers rest for the weary and the burdened. He champions the underdog. He loves a comeback story. And he majors in solving the problems of people broken in the pile.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Muddling Glory of God

"Sometimes grace works like water wings when you are sinking...

"That's me, trying to make any progress at all in family, in work, relationships, self-image: scootch, scootch, stall; scootch, stall, catastrophic reversal; bog, bog, scootch. I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things; also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in silence, in the dark.

"I suppose that if you WERE snatched out of the mess, you'd miss the lesson; the lesson is the slog. I grew up thinking the lessons should be more like the von Trapp children: more marionettes, more dirndls and harmonies. But no: it's slog, bog, scootch."

-- Anne LaMott, from "Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith