Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I am currently on a forced Sabbath from my computer. It simply wouldn't turn on Sunday. Viva la Mac! So it's at the shop, being admired for its beauty, and, I hope, being fixed. The good news is that it is under warranty and will continue to be under warranty for the next three years.

The bad news is that I was unable to finish my work. The other good news is that I have an understanding "boss."

Anyway, this update comes to you live from the Denton library. I hope to have the machine fixed and back in my possession shortly, but until then, the peace and grace of Christ be with you.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Dirt

Took a quick day trip down to Fort Fisher, NC, beach and aquarium yesterday - beautiful and fun. Got some frozen custard on the way home. Yummy.

I've got some work that I'm working on and need to finish in the next 30 hours or so. I'll try to get back to posting and unfinished stories soon after. Until then, here's some of the dumpster finds (good shape): extension cord, lots of markers, beaded hanging candle holders, laptop lap desk, urn/plant pot, half-eaten cheeseburger.

Apparently it's not the best time of year to Dive. Who knew there were seasons?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Initiate, Part 1

Three grown women in overalls chat softly and amiably. They sit in the Gray Ghost (a 1985 Chevy Cargo Van with duct-taped windows), park in the shadows, and wait. They are Dumpster Divers all. And they are anxious for darkness to fall. Darkness is their element. Darkness is their time to dig.

The Warden holds "The Digger." (The Digger is a rake-hoe. It's shaped like a hoe, but it's actually a little rake - I want to call a spade a spade, after all. Maybe it has some special garden-y name. But even if it does, I will still call it a rake-hoe.) The Digger is one of the important tools of Dumpster Diving. It separates the garbage from the other garbage.

The Warden waits as the last load of garbage is emptied into the dumpster behind the Store That Shall Not Be Named. She picks her teeth with the pinky of her free hand. The employee re-enters the store. The lights go out. The doors are locked.

"All right, ladies. It's time," she says. They take out surgical gloves and snap them in place. "Let's roll." On the third attempt, the Gray Ghost jerks into staccato life and they roll and lurch toward their target dumpster. The Initiate mouths the Dumpster Code, ticking off each point on her fingers, taming the butterflies.

The Dumpster Code

1. Always wear proper clothing.

2. Always carry a good flashlight or wear a headlamp.

3. Don't dive without a buddy.

4. There's a difference between a dumpster and a compactor - don't learn that difference the hard way.

5. Avoid dumpsters that

  • smell.
  • are littered with the bones of small animals.
  • are crawling with black widow spiders.
  • have arcane symbols painted on them.
  • have professionally posted Hazardous or Medical Waste signage.
  • are being emptied or will be emptied while you are inside.
  • are guarded by large rats.

6. Dig in dumpsters that

  • don't fall under Category 5.
  • are popular with the Fair Folk of the Shopping Cart.

7. Good girls don't kiss and tell - so don't divulge delish dives.

8. Never ever leave anyone behind.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


The teenagers watching my children told them a ghost story tonight. It's all my oldest, Sophie, talked about on the way home - disregarding my empty threats and vague exhortations. We ran into a thunderstorm on our way, but we were still able to catch glimpses of a full moon through dark clouds.

I repeated myself, "Ghosts aren't real. No, she didn't lie to you, she was telling you a story. Not all stories are real. Some are pretend, just like you tell stories when you play with your Barbie dolls."

Lightning momentarily illuminated the woods around us as we drove through the countryside.

Anna said, "I just saw a ghost in the trees."

"No, you didn't, Anna." I said. I didn't want her scaring everyone. I didn't want her scaring me.

"Maybe we'll see Mommy in the trees," Sophie said.

"Mommy is treasure hunting, Sophie. We will not be seeing her in the trees." I said, now thoroughly uncomfortable.

"I don't like ghosts," Sophie said. "They scare my head off."

"Dey scare head off?" said Avery, who was sitting next to Sophie in the back seat.

"I don't want to talk about it anymore, Avery," Sophie said. "Just go to sleep."

The rain continued tapping on the windshield. Thunder grumbled west of us as we drove south.

We got home and I put them to bed and tucked them in by myself. They were insecure, wondering about ghosts and fretting about bad dreams. They wanted to know that Mommy would be home soon. We prayed.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Rookie

Dumpster Diving is the newest in extreme sport. It requires stealth, planning, and a heavy dose of loopy. A headlamp is useful. Other important tools include repelling equipment and a nice pair of work gloves. A hoe (the garden variety hoe will do) can always be put to good use in a Dive. And knowing what Medical and Hazardous Waste symbols look like is handy information, especially for Rookie Divers. A six pack couldn't hurt, surely.

Dumpster Diving is not for everyone. It is not for me. I have a fear of needles and rats. And my weak stomach puts me last in the competition every time.

Dumpster Divers aren't elbowing aside teams of bag ladies and hoboes over half-eaten sandwiches (although if they're hungry and they've been diving for a couple of hours, there's no telling). They're elbowing them aside for chairs and computers and Pier 1 Imports' crap. I suspect that the bright lights and colors of eBay lurk somewhere behind the lunacy. And to think you pay for what these people get for free. Silly, silly, you.

Why pay for something when you can go out at the witching hour, crawl in and out of dumpsters, party with Doberman-size rats, and get it for free? That's the mantra anyway. Granted, it's a convincing argument. You decide. I was always taught to be wary of pyramid schemes and anything to do with garbage, but then my parents are just plain nuts.

A husband and wife become more and more like one another the longer they travel down the same road. Unfortunately for my wife, I'm half Polish. Therefore, she is a quick convert and a now-eager Rookie Diver - mostly due to the bad influence of the pastor's wife. After some intensive training courses, my wife's first Dive is tomorrow night after Bible study. An odd time, I thought. But what do I know, being Polish?

I know, you're wondering what my address is so you can send me money, but we're not that bad off. Hell, we are, but I wouldn't want any of you crazies out there knowing where I live.

I'll keep you posted on the Rookie Diver.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


My kids are driving me nuts today! I'm an elevator and they're pushing all my buttons - stopping on every floor and laughing (mwha ha ha ha). And they've turned the pacifying Musak off by shoving some coins into my car's CD player. They're little devils, I tell ya. Must . . . find . . . quiet.

Habakkuk 3.17-19

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.

Your Turn

I was just over at Backyard Missionaries and Hamo tells about his daughter getting three "needles" (Oz-speak for "shots"?) and it reminded me of a funny story concerning Sophie and Anna, my two oldest children.

Sophie was around 3 when she caught a virus that eventually lodged itself in her hip joint. I never knew this was even possible. But one evening, Sophie suddenly went all Jacob on us and began limping around the house. It was scary.

We went to our pediatrician who sent us to the hospital to get some bloodwork done. The bloodwork was to rule out something major being wrong with our little girl. Laura and I were at DEFCON 4 at that point. I pushed the stroller with Anna in it and my wife walked with Verbal (from Usual Suspects) through the empty hallways of our hospital looking for the lab. When we got there, the nurses asked for Sophie to get on the table, at which point Sophie immediately began crying. Two nurses and Daddy held her down as she screamed bloody murder (this is one of the worst parts of being parents) while a third nurse drew the blood. Finally, and I mean finally, the blood was drawn and a Band-Aid was applied. Sophie sat up red-eyed and snuffling and pointed at her little sister. "Now it's Anna's turn," she said. Anna's eyes widened in horror until we were able to assure her that she was not next. I could have died laughing.

The limp went away after a few days, but while we waited Sophie got some interesting stares from people. She was happily oblivious.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Rock-a-Bye, Baby?

If you haven't seen Million Dollar Baby and you're going to - don't read this post. It's a total spoiler.

I'm sure it's been around the blog a time or two, but I am solidly out of the loop. So what I'm writing is fresh for me while it may be old news for you. Indulge me. I just saw Million Dollar Baby. An hour and 45 minutes into the movie, I thought to myself, I might have to buy this movie - that's how much I was enjoying it. And then the ending comes: Maggie breaks her neck. She's on a respirator. The doctors take a leg. She wants to Frankie to kill her. Frankie kills her. The End.

"The Fighter Who Stopped Fighting" should have been the subtitle for Million Dollar Baby. Maggie refuses to be who she is, a fighter, and the masses applaud. Maybe that is appropriate for loser boxers, for quitters, for babies. But for fighters? To throw in the towel is the antithesis of what it means to be a fighter. A fighter stays in the ring.

Isn't it ironic how upset the writers want us to feel when her family tries to steal her money, but how sympathetic they want us to feel when her trainer steals her life? Why? Because she wanted to die? That can't possibly justify it. What if she had decided to give her money to her mother? You would have been upset. You would have been screaming for her not to sign the contract. But if she decides to die? Well, sure - it's her life.

Forgive me for sounding unsympathetic. I know the pain of it all must be overwhelming. I can't imagine. But it's a fight to win. And you keep fighting - make them drag you out of the ring - and make them wish they hadn't.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Tiny stars descend out of the heavens into my yard. They get into the garden and they blink among the branches of my river birch. They light up my daughters' eyes and put wings on their feet. The wonder of them washes away the fear of bugs and little hands beg to hold them. The world is full of magic again. Living sparks light on me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Land of the Lost

Land of the Lost was a great show. Do you remember it? The Marshalls, the furry little monkey boy (was his name Rupret?), the Sleestacks. It's amazing how frightening the Sleestacks were even though they moved as if they had serious problems with piles (Itching! sss-shh-ss Burning! sss-shh-ss Swelling!).

That's what my son sounds like right now as he crawls around the house, a Sleestack. He moves around a little better than one, I suppose, though he's not walking yet. He's croupy, carrying around a pink string of beads that could have come right out of the Crystal Cave or off the Matrix table inside that aluminum teepee. Occasionally, he'll stop to bark like a seal. I don't think the Sleestacks ever did that. I'll have to speak to him about it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Lawnmower Man

My enjoyment of lawn mowing goes no further than its being an activity in which I can engage without interruption by my lovelies. I would enjoy it more if I had a very slow riding mower to cut my quarter-acre lot, equipped with shade umbrella and drink holder. Mowing my lawn is a sweaty price to pay for an hour and a half of Daddy Downtime, but I am willing (reluctant, but willing). And, frankly, I don't have a choice since my boy isn't walking yet.

In the meantime, my yard suffers under the tyranny of my procrastination. It groans more deeply and more emphatically, I imagine, than the rest of creation.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


I will not be moving to Ohio this fall to teach. Apparently, as of now, I will be continuing my SAHD journey for a while longer. I hope that it does not continue indefinitely (unless the Lord provides more freelance writing and editing opportunities). Not because I don't enjoy being with my children, because I do. I just feel life is "off" as it is. If that makes any sense.

Thanks for your prayers.

All His biddings are joys.

Friday, July 08, 2005


I was on my way home from church with two of my daughters, Anna and Avery, and we stopped at a local grocery store to pick up drinks and snacks for the trip home (we live 45 minutes from church - it's a long story). As we checked out, an old man bagged our groceries for us. Normally I would say "an older man," but this man was old.

"You are old," Anna said to the employee.

I felt the hairs on my head shocking into gray. I was horrified - even though Anna might as well have plucked the words straight out of my brain. Fortunately, the man was hard of hearing and he asked if Anna was telling him how old she was. I lied and nodded and told him she had just had a birthday.

I bent down to Anna and whispered in her ear to shut up. It's what I meant. I actually said something more along the lines of, "Anna, let's talk about this when we get to the car, okay?"

"You are old," she said again. "Are you about to die?"

I'm surprised I stayed on my feet, as one liter of blood after another rushed into my face. I was fervently praying for the Lord to close this man's ears - more even than He already had. I didn't stick around to hear an answer. I grabbed my groceries and properly ran out of the store.

On the way to the car, I tried to explain to Anna the importance of not asking people if they're about to die. That it just isn't polite.


"Well," I began, "people don't like to think about dying."


"Just because," I finished. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you understand?" is how I stop my children from arguing with me or from asking questions that I'm just not sure how to answer for them at their ages. It is how I end the conversation.

Anna has been talking a lot about not wanting to die since then. I wonder if I did that. I'm afraid to know the answer.

The Wisdom of Friar Lawrence

What! rouse thee, man; thy Juliet is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;
There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slew’st Tybalt; there art thou happy too:
The law that threaten’d death becomes thy friend,
And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:
A pack of blessings light upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array;
But, like a misbehav’d and sullen wench,
Thou pout’st upon thy fortune and thy love.
- Romeo and Juliet, 3.3.143-152

I'm a good complainer and I often feel I have plenty to complain about. The truth is, I am blessed. And as I viewed Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, and read the text, I understood: Life is beautiful. I just fail to appreciate it.

God chides me for my sullenness and he slaps me on the head, just as Friar Lawrence chides Romeo. He takes me by the arm and drags me through every room in my life and says again and again, "There art thou happy. There art thou happy too. There art thou happy. A pack of blessings light upon thy back. What! rouse thee, man: thy Juliet is alive."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Anna: Orange Period

Lula, Hula, and Bambi
©2005 Lymws Productions
Anna (4 1/2) says she's not finished yet, but I had to take a picture before it mysteriously disappeared.

Medium: Colored Pencils on Copy Paper.


©2004 Wikipedia

"Shall we indeed accept good from God's hand and not evil?"

Sometimes we receive evil from God's hand. We may either accept the evil or reject it. My favorite ways to reject it are depression and self-pity. (How cheerless my life would be without them.) And when the evil comes, we form our complaints. Some of us speak them. Some of us bury them. God hears all of them.

As Orual does in Lewis's Till We Have Faces, we stand before our Judge and read our books of complaints. We read and we read until we become aware of how selfish, foolish, and naked we are. We realize that we stand before the One whose name is too wonderful for us. The One whose sandals we are unworthy to tie. The One who spoke the universe into being. Who calls the stars by name. The One who redeemed mankind. The One who breathed life into us and sustains us. Who gives us rest each night. Who causes us to wake each morning. The One who builds our homes and watches our cities. Who provides. The One, the only One, who is faithful. Who keeps his promises toward us, promises that are greater and more glorious than our minds can contain. The One who holds the oceans in the palm of his hand. Who measures the heavens with his fingers. The One who fashioned the joints and sinews of Diplodocus. The only One who could approach and subdue Leviathan. The One who was and is and forever will be.

That was Job's answer. And it was sufficient for him.

Monday, July 04, 2005


It is a beautiful summer day in Virginia. The skies are blue and not white with haze, as so many summer days in the South are. The temperature is in the mid 80s and I am beginning to get a little nervous. Roanoke is a beautiful city. It's also a city my father has never been in before and he is alone in it, shopping, on some pretty hefty pain meds. It's a wonder he makes it back in time and doesn't end up in the hospital or in jail. But there he is in his tuxedo, smiling his toothy, goofy smile. He is as happy as if he were on medication.

Rewind the tape a few hours and my wife and I are alone in the church with the wedding planner. We are dressed casually in shorts and T-shirts. We have a basin of water and a towel and we wash one another's feet. It's private and beautiful. It's holy.

My brothers are dressing in their tuxedoes. I am sitting in a chair, dressed in mine, wondering what I am doing here, feeling like an observer taking notes, a stranger. I'd felt that way since people began to arrive - like I was an inconsequential part of the process. Like I was luggage. It's who I am. We are family and it is a special day. I don't think anyone knows how to act. We don't really look at each other. We don't really talk to each other. Five years before, my brothers and sister did this. Got married. And here I am following in their footsteps, following in the footsteps of countless generations before me, in a small cinderblock church that is an odd shade of green. It is not a beautiful church, but there is beauty within it.

I stand at the front of the church with my brothers waiting. Bridesmaids walk down the aisle and I start to get emotional. I'm an emotional guy. Don't tell anyone. I start thinking about what I am doing. I start thinking about the implications of what I am doing and I shift my body slightly and then replant my feet. One of my nieces, Emilee, who is three, is the flower girl and seeing her come down the aisle brings tears to my eyes. Perhaps she is the harbinger of my future or the signpost of my past. Regardless, she is Emilee, and seeing her makes me cry - just a little.

Then she is there, the one I had been waiting for all my life. She is beautiful. I waited for this woman to say yes to me. I waited for her acceptance, her love, her walking down that aisle. Forsaking all others flashes through my mind, hand in hand with a gasp of Do you want to do this? Why at this moment? Why now? In a heartbeat the thought comes and leaves and I refocus on the brunette in the white dress. Absolutely, I answer.

We take communion as part of the ceremony and she and I enter into that lonely place again, that holy place. Her father is conducting most of the ceremony and as we near the end he cannot continue. The other pastor with him finishes the ceremony and pronounces us man and wife. I kiss the brunette in the white dress in front of God and everyone.

The reception is finger foods and mingling and a crazy blur. It is our love feast, the consummation of our holy communion.

We change out of our wedding clothes. We spend some time with family. We get in our car and we drive away.

We miss the fireworks that evening. But I am okay with it.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


I'm tired. I don't feel well. In fact, I feel let down - like I've asked for bread and I've been given a stone. A friend of mine told me that this year. I understand. I don't understand. I don't know. I have trouble knowing. I mix metaphors. I sabotage style.

I've been in the ocean for a while. At first it was very cold. And I didn't have time to adjust. I was just dropped in it. Then, slowly, I grew used to the water. It's become comfortable even. More - I enjoy it. There's risk and adventure in the ocean. There's possibility in the ocean. There's uncertainty in the ocean. The thing that just bumped up against me - was it a shark or was it driftwood? It makes a difference, you know. Crabs scurry by my feet. Shells crunch under my feet. I imagine the formal demise of these breakables filling the ocean with deep concussive booms - like a U-boat being struck by a torpedo. But they don't. The shells suffer quiet deaths, the noise of their destruction subsumed in the breaking waves, in the every day, in the ordinary.

I am an odd little mollusk wanting to be a U-boat. Death comes to both, but at least one is heard. I want to be heard. I want to be something. Someone. I'm just a servant of God. And other people are servants of God. It's all rather mundane, isn't it? Isn't it rather ordinary serving the Creator of All, the Redeemer of Man? It's just so . . . been done. People I don't like do it. People do it better than I do it. People have made names for themselves doing it, but not me. Is that what this tripe-post is all about - me? Heaps and heaps of tripe.

Steve Martin finds his name in the phonebook, "I'm somebody! I'm somebody!"

Not so long ago I wanted to make an impact in this world. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to get to the end of my life and realize that I had not wasted it. But I think I've just been heaping tripe in a different pile. It's just another way for me to be somebody. Another way for me to be the hero of a story that's not mine. Another way for me to be a rock star. I don't want to be a servant of God. Hell! I want to be like God!

A wave knocks me over and rolls me along the sand. I'm burned and scraped and so very tired. Who's stronger, Sophie? Daddy or the ocean? The ocean. Yes, that's right. The ocean is stronger. Wave upon wave, full of kinetic energy. I'm beached. I'm burned. I'm more beluga-like than Christ-like. I have sand in my butt crack.

I come out of the ocean briefly, but I have to go back in. The water's colder than I remember. But I'll get used to it again.

A ghost crab is on the beach. Its sandy eyes pop perfectly into its shell and then pop out again. Its eyes are cleaner and, I imagine, more useful. Staring at these people. Two big. Two little. Staring people. Staring crab. Each puzzling over God's creation. How perfect the crab! Ar! Ar! Ar! Mr. Krabs - salut! Calm and white and content with whom you are. With whose you are. No brain that hurts from trying to understand what you are meant for. No brain deceived into wondering what you might have been. Salut, Mr. Krabs.

Ar! Ar! Ar! The crab is delightful.

Friday, July 01, 2005

All His Biddings Are Joys

In C.S. Lewis’s novel Perelandra, the main character, Ransom, is sent to Venus where he meets The Green Lady, a type of Eve. The thing forbidden for this Eve, however, is not eating a fruit, but rather spending the night on a piece of fixed land. (In the novel, the Edenic planet is almost entirely covered by water. Free-floating islands make up most of the land). Ransom comments that obeying such a mandate is not hard in such a world as hers.

“That . . . is a strange thing to say," replied the Lady. "Who thought of its being hard? The beasts would not think it hard if I told them to walk on their heads. It would become their delight to walk on their heads. I am His beast, and all His biddings are joys.”

What if His bidding is Sudan, New Guinea, or the inner city? What if His bidding is that I lose my job? What if His bidding is that I be Christ to the stranger at my door? What if His bidding is that I be a cancer patient? What if His bidding is that I sell all that I have and give my money to the poor?

It is He who is bidding you. You may never see a reason behind the bidding. A reason is not necessary. The beauty of being His beast, His creature, is that you get to be His beast. You are His. You are His, and He is yours. And all His biddings are joys.

Goat-Footed Sheep

Homeless, Crazies, Poor People, Strangers, Abortionists, Muslims, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Thieves, AIDS Sufferers, Liberals, Druggies, Convicts, Murderers - to hell with them.

Isn't that what Jesus said?