Sunday, February 29, 2004


"I come to the garden alone..."

That's how the first hymn we sang in church today starts. I thought of that after church as we sat down to a pot luck lunch. I'm adhering to my lenten fast which eliminates almost every known form of Baptist cuisine.

The garden crossed my mind as I snagged a few carrots, a little fruit, and some salad. Meanwhile my friend Sam proudly engorged himself on pies and cakes.*

I went to church alone again today.

Amy's making some progress, but it's slow at best.

Instead of sitting alone during the service, my very young friend Chloe asked to join me. I've known Chloe for more than half of her life and, although she's a fidgety kid, she's always been a source of joy to me.

She fidgeted some today...untying and re-lacing her shoes during the sermon, but each time we prayed she grabbed my hand and we bowed our heads together.

Today Chloe was again a source of joy...and a source of comfort.

"And He walks with me, and He talks with me..."

I originally hadn't planned on staying for the after service meal, but another young friend, Erin, was present too. In the flesh, not simply in our prayers. Erin has recently returned after spending the past year learning about God and herself in China. This is the first time our congregation has seen her since she's been back. Oddly enough I've probably grown to know Erin better via blogs and email over this past year than when we worshipped together in the same building.

Erin and I ate together and had a good visit. She was able to speak with Amy on the phone for a few minutes as well.

As we talked we both marveled at Sam's ability to rationalize eating habits normally reserved for contestants on "Survivor."

I came to church alone today.

During our meal, my food choices were indeed limited.

Yet I left church today feeling nourished.

"And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known."

*Sam...Sorry, couldn't resist...sort of like you felt with the pies...and the cakes...and the donuts.

Saturday, February 28, 2004


What are the odds?

The first time I got drunk I was 12 years old. I was sitting next to the neighborhood railroad tracks with one of my brothers and a friend. We had a six pack of "tall boy" beers. I drank two.

My friend threw up.

I laughed a lot and wondered if we could get more beer somewhere.

Both of my parents were alcoholics, one of my great-grandfathers was as well. My brothers and I battled alcohol most of our lives.
These days, one of my brothers attends AA meetings, and has been sober for 15 years. The other drinks very infrequently, if at all.

I quit drinking for ten years, but in recent years - except during this season of Lent when I abstain entirely - I have allowed myself a few glasses of wine.

I have rules. I only drink wine, and I have vowed never to lose control.

For the past two years I have had no problem abiding by those restrictions.

What are the odds?

I started taking illegal drugs when I was 12 or 13. One of my brothers and some friends gave me some pills...downers, seconol to be precise. We called them "reds" and soon found someone to sell them to us like candy...four for a dollar. We gobbled them down with the short sighted sense of abandon reserved for the very young...and the very stupid.

When I was 14, my parents died. I used drugs and alcohol to escape my pain. Not being one to change course often, I stuck to that plan for 17 more years.

There were some setbacks along the way.

I ran my 1967 Camaro into a fire hydrant when I was 17. It was broad daylight in the middle of suburbia. There was no other traffic. My car was packed with kids all smoking pot and I simply forgot I was driving. I veered across a road, ran up in someone's yard, and slammed into the fireplug...head-on.

I was stoned out of my mind, but no charges were filed. No one was hurt.

I was arrested for minor drug possession when I was 18, but the charges were dismissed on a technicality. I was guilty, but not in the eyes of the legal system.

I wrecked that same Camaro a year or so later. I ran into in a 400 pound pig head-on on a deserted farm road while racing to a liquor store in the middle of the night to buy beer before the store closed. I was drunk at the time. There was a 16 year old girl in the car with me, but friends came and took her away before police arrived.

I wasn't arrested. No one was hurt, except the pig. She was dead at the scene.

I drove drunk often for years. When I was 19, the practice landed me in jail for a few hours. I called a bondsman that night and was released. He drove me home. I got out of his car and walked back to the police station, still in my car and drove back to my house. I hired a lawyer and pled no contest. I was put on a form of probation known as "deferred adjudication" which meant if I kept my nose clean for a year the entire incident would be forgotten.

I left court, went home...and got drunk with friends to celebrate.

There were many, many close calls after that, but I was never arrested again. I never had another drunk driving or drug related accident.

What are the odds?
Throughout much of my college career I was surrounded by people whose lives revolved around drugs entirely. There was no distinction between being high and reality...being high was reality.
My brothers were much the same.

Today, both of my brothers are infected with hepatitis C, a disease you can contract several ways - promiscuous sex and sharing drug needles are two of the most common. That disease may kill my brothers one day. It will kill a lot of people who lived similar lives.

I certainly wasn't sexually pure, but for whatever reason I always avoided intravenous drugs. Despite the fact I lived life without any thought to my own safety or those around me, I do not have hepatitis.

What are the odds?

I married a woman when I was 28. She was an alcohol and drug abuser, as was I. Although we were married in the church, neither of us had a commitment to God. We barely had a commitment to each other. It took us less than two years to admit our marriage had failed. We divorced, and I spent the next 6 years or so escaping from the pain of failure in the manner with which I was most adept...drugs and booze.

This week, Amy and I will celebrate our tenth year of marriage. A union grounded in love and centered in Christ.

What are the odds?

I was an avowed atheist for most of my life, at least I thought so. Looking back now, I realize you have to at least believe in God in order to hate Him, but that distinction was lost on me for many years.

Before I met Amy I decided to change. I quit drinking and drugs. I started exploring my beliefs.

Soon I became a member of a church. I eventually became a Sunday school teacher. Today I serve as a Deacon.

What are the odds?

This is the season of Lent, a season of repentance, but that's not why I'm detailing these facts about my life today. My family and friends are already aware of the shameful aspects of my past. I have repented for these sins long ago.

I have been forgiven.

I wanted to write this today because this morning I read an article about a physicist who believes he has figured out the odds that God exists. He pegs the chance of God's existence at 67 percent. Better than two to one.

I picked up the newspaper this morning and saw that headline.

I laughed a lot.

I don't know what criteria this man of science used to reach his conclusions. I'm sure he went to great lengths and torturous detail. There are certainly complex formulas involved, which no doubt he is willing to explain to all who will listen or buy his book.

I won't be among them. I have another approach.

I need only look back at my life.

I see the huge mistakes I have made which defy numerical value. I recall the countless times I was spared pain that I truly deserved.

I look toward my future and see my wife, my stepchildren, my church, my friends, and an infinite number of other blessings to come.

What are the odds that God exists?

I have no need to even ask that question.

Friday, February 27, 2004


I don't like to re-cover the same ground. This applies to many aspects of my life including business meetings and phone calls from creditors. It also pertains to my daily walking regimen. I've never been one who could walk on a track. I get bored. I need a starting place and a finish.

While walking these past couple of days I realized that to walk entirely around my neighborhood takes me almost 40 minutes, but after only a day or two of walking I could see that soon I was shaving a few minutes off that time. Today I looked for a way to stretch the walk without doubling back. I decided if I simply turned down a couple of cul-de-sac's along the way, I'd easily add the minutes I needed.

I saw them as soon as I made the turn. They were at the end of the street, beneath a small bridge, having a wonderful time. As with most dead end roads there is little or no traffic so I'm sure these two small red headed boys have become accustomed to ruling the area with their imagination fueled outdoor glee. Cars are a rarity. Overweight middle aged men stomping down the road wearing headphones must be an even more peculiar site.

It became apparent that they didn't think I could see them. As I lumbered their way, they would poke their bright red heads up every so often to catch a glimpse and then quickly retreat. Soon I not only could see them, I could hear their giggles. When I came upon the bridge, they threw themselves against the cement culvert in a last attempt to conceal themselves. I smiled and said, "I see you, ya know."

Their giggles erupted into full-fledged laughter and they punched each other playfully as I marched past them smiling.

I thought about those boys as I walked along. Although they were playing a game of concealment, in truth they were hoping very much I would spot them. The game wouldn't have been any fun otherwise.

It reminded me of the times in my life when I have claimed to hunger for God's attention, but have, at the same time, tried to hide from His influence.

How silly I must seem to God.

I wonder how often He wants to reach over, tussle my hair gently with His hands and lovingly say, "I see you, ya know."

I guess in way today, He did.

An excessively long nap this afternoon. A sunny day and it's Friday.

Time to walk.

It's all good.

Thursday, February 26, 2004


This morning, my friend Roy leaned on the dustmop he had been wielding with authority in our church sanctuary and said, "You know I've been thinking about this gay marriage thing."

This is how my conversations with Roy usually start. Roy helps me clean the church on occasion and we often pause between scrubbing floors and emptying trash cans to remark on the news of the day or topics of interest. Our conversations don't usually last very long although they certainly could; Roy is a wise man many years my senior, but we both know when we talk, the floors don't get mopped.

On the political spectrum, Roy considers himself a liberal, and I suppose that's true at least by the old time Baptist standards with which Roy tends to gauge things.

He said, "I believe marriage is something between a man and a woman, but it doesn't feel right telling homosexuals in real relationships that they can't have certain rights. Ya know, legal stuff."

I told Roy he wasn't alone in struggling with that, and I wondered if a man well into his 70's whose life has included combat, chasing criminals and quietly converting many a man to Christ ever envisioned decades ago that our country would be debating issues such as this one.

I suggested that one day perhaps marriage would be something only blessed by the church, while the government might be in the business sanctioning so called civil unions.

Roy said, "Yeah maybe...sure seems like it's going to be a mess no matter what though."

He winced a little as he added, " A lot of folks are going to be hurt no matter what."

Our conversation stopped there, both of us realizing neither knew how things will play out.

Roy went back to sweeping. I went to scrub the toilets.

I suppose it crossed both our minds that some messes are easier to clean up than others.

I haven't made up my mind about seeing, The Passion of The Christ, yet. I will likely see it, but I'm not in a rush.

I've read the book.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God - Acts 1:3

I stood, staring out the window. Excuses raced easily through my mind.

"Doesn't Lent actually start at sundown on Ash Wednesday? Couldn't today be considered wiggle room, sort of a launching pad for my vow to walk every day? I'm sure I'd get off to a better start tomorrow."

It's about 45 degrees, with a strong north wind blowing.

"Technically I vowed to walk for 40 days during Lent, but actually there are more than 40 days between now and Easter, perhaps I could exercise something like a get out of walking free card to avoid this exercise for the day?"

I opened the door and felt the blast of cold air. I looked skyward wondering if it might it also rain.

"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky?." - Acts 1:11

It's amazing how easy it is to rationalize my way out of commitments, or at least contemplate the idea of not following through - even on day one.

However, I abided by my pledge. I bundled myself up in a sweatshirt and hat. I pulled on my headphones and cranked up the music on my pocket PC.

I girded myself against the wind, and loped out the door.

There are not many people on the streets during the mid afternoon. Even fewer in weather like this. I did see several people though, but almost all of them didn't make eye contact. In fact most looked away.

I walked for my 40 promised minutes and returned to the warmth of the house, my nose running and my knees creaking.

I went upstairs to find Amy working in her office.

She looked at me for half a second and said, "You look like the Unabomber."

She has a point there.


"Open your present..."
"No, you open your present..."
Kaczinski Christmas

- My favorite Unabomber Haiku

Tuesday, February 24, 2004


I have to pass along this comment from my now oft mentioned old friend Harlan who responded to my post about religious jewelry in email.

Forgive me Harlan, but the anecdote is too precious to keep to myself.

Harlan is Jewish and commented that there really is no equivalent in Judaism to the secularization of the cross as decoration in his faith, although some Jews wear the Star of David. He admitted wondering how the "secularization of the cross as decoration feels to practicing Christians". Then he pointed out that it is also common...and these are his exact words: "for someone to wear a "chai," (pronounced more like "hi" than the Indian tea's name) which is the Hebrew letter combination for the number '18' as well as the word "Life.""

He went on to say that during this particular jewelry "fad" many people bought such items not because of their religious significance but because...again Harlan's words:

"Apparently, they thought it was a profile of a dog...."

Spent the afternoon at the dentist, which is always great fun. I sampled nitrous oxide for the first time and I am apparently immune to its effects. The dentist kept asking if I was feeling "happy" and I kept responding that I was feeling like I had a hose stuck on my nose and was sitting in a dentist's chair. After a few exchanges along these lines he cranked up the gas to the max and looked hopefully at me like I would be buzzed into some blissful state...when I shrugged, he gave me a disappointed look. We then agreed to simply remove the hose from my face and get on with the business of fixing my tooth.
I devoured a double cheeseburger this evening. I don't eat a lot of fast food as is, but I figured since I start my fast tomorrow I'd indulge. Now that was a moment of bliss.

Monday, February 23, 2004


The devil has the power to assume a pleasing shape.
-- William Shakespeare

I think if you ask most folks if they believe in God, the majority would say they did.

Whether they go to church, live by the ten commandments, read the bible, or pray might get different responses, but I suspect when it comes to the basic question, "Do you believe in God?" most people would give an affirmative answer.

Moreover, I don't think a response of, "Yes, I do believe in God", would raise any eyebrows in most circles.

If you walked into your workplace tomorrow and said, "It's a glorious day! I feel truly blessed. God's hand is on me" would anyone react with any thing more than a smile, a nod or perhaps even a more fervent affirmation?

He may make us uncomfortable at times, but most everyone is seemingly comfortable with at least the concept of God.

What if you walked into your workplace and said, "I am loaded down today. I feel burdened. I believe the heavy stench of satan is in the air. I can feel his rancid influence around me."

What would the response from your coworkers be then?

I know it would get a different reaction in my office. I suspect there might be a few whispers in the hallway.

Before you start whispering, let me admit I've been thinking about this lately.

I know many a devout Christian who rightly credit God with every blessing in their lives. Count me among them. Yet, there is a certain reticence among many of these same folks to label the misfortunes and sufferings in their lives as the work of satan.

It seems to me that a lot of believers are ashamed to admit they the devil.

Maybe it's because we've read so many newspaper stories of people who have committed heinous, unthinkable acts and then claimed that satan ordered them to do those things.

Perhaps we don't want people to lump us in with those insane folks.

Maybe it's because we have this image of satan as flashy and flamboyant...the great satan...and our burdens and miseries seem small and unworthy of his meddling.

Maybe it's because we are a society that rewards those who accept responsibility and we feel uncomfortable placing blame...even on the devil.

Maybe it's because we believe if our faith is only strong enough satan will be powerless against us.


I must admit though, lately I have wondered if maybe it's because satan wants us to think those things.

The devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still.
-- A. W. Tozer

Sunday, February 22, 2004


It was a simple Sunday.

Our church dedicated itself to helping raise a child in the ways of Christ.

A small child.

A simple pledge.

I know of no greater thing man can do.

Saturday, February 21, 2004


Quote of the day:

"The cross has become such a benign jewelry item . . . The shock of its original form . . . is lost to modern people"

- Charles Houser, publications manager for the American Bible Society's Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship.

I suppose that's true. I've certainly seen people wearing crosses and wondered if they even knew the symbolism behind them.

The hottest selling "Christian souvenir" now is supposedly this:

The Jesus nail pendant.


Friday, February 20, 2004


He came like a knight of old...alone and prepared to defend.
Unfettered by armor, he steeled himself before our building...ready if need be to do battle.

My company hired a temporary guard today. One of the radio stations in the building changed music formats and there was a fear that some listeners might be upset.

I glanced upon him from our ivory tower, reassured by this noble visage.

Later, I met him in the building lobby and was his bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and countenance.

His trusty steed was equally impressive.

Yes, I knew he was a man who could handle anything on his own...he must be, since every inch of his car's interior, with the exception of the driver's seat, was filled with fast food wrappers.

At least I know no one will be able to sneak up on us....we'd hear them laughing first.

Thursday, February 19, 2004


A lot of Baptists don't even know what Lent is, but it's a season that I especially enjoy...and dread.

I usually fast in some fashion during the Lenten season. This year I've given it more thought than in years past, or at least I've been thinking about it a little earlier than usual.

I don't like to think in terms of giving up something for Lent, rather I like to believe I'm substituting things more spiritual for things that are perhaps less so.

This year it seemed easier to decide what rules I will be observing for 40 days.

Amy and I have joked on several occasions recently about feeling like we're in a Frank Peretti novel. I know it sounds a little crazy, but it seems to me like the world is more out of balance these days. I know a lot of our friends and family are struggling. It also appears there is a little more ugliness out there. Cynicism has become so common - "Hello pot...kettle calling, you're black".

I feel like our lives are a bit out of balance too. I want to spend some time reflecting on that.

This past year it's also become very easy to become fixated on ourselves. Amy's health concerns, our various other fears and ruminations make that somewhat reasonable I suppose. I don't want to turn away from us as much as I want to look out a bit more. In return, I hope those inward glances will become more focused.

I want to hunger.

Jesus fasted for 40 days. No food. Not squat.

Thank God, I'm not Jesus.

However, I do want to experience hunger, think about hunger, remember how blessed I am not to truly know hunger.

My junior high school friend, Harlan, whom I reunited with over the Internet this past year, sends me emails occasionally which carry a small tag about ways you can help alleviate hunger in the world. Members of my congregation devoted themselves to prayer on this issue recently as well.

Over these next 40 days, I want to spend more time contemplating hunger. Hunger in my belly...and in my soul.

The blessing and the curse of a blog is I'm committing myself to this in writing.

I will be accountable to myself...and to folks from New Zealand to Ohio, Oklahoma, France, and the Phillipines who for some reason read my ramblings.

My Lenten plan is simple really. I will restrict my diet severely. I will follow my own modified version of the Daniel diet..very organic..very vegan. The modifications are that I will allow myself small portions of fish, and tea. I will drink water for the most part. No soft drinks. No wine.

I will walk every day for 40 minutes...rain or shine....for 40 days.

During this time I also plan to read and reflect on the book of Acts.

The easy commitment is also to write every day during this time. Hopefully, I will be able to provide food for thought rather than only thoughts about food.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


Well, now I've shot my day of rest completely. Moments ago I learned that Tim Derk was in the hospital. Virtually no one in San Antonio knows Tim....and everyone in San Antonio knows him. He is the man who is the super creative, wonderfully talented mascot for the San Antonio Spurs, as the Spurs Coyote. He's always been in costume and has kept his identity a secret to many.

Apparently Tim suffered some type of brain disorder on Friday. The Spurs organization peeled away any illusion of anonymity today saying it's "important to give San Antonio the opportunity to pray specifically for him."

I ask that you join me in doing so. He has brought many people great joy over the years, I hope he will be able to continue to do so.

Okay, I did have one thought today I wanted to pass along.

Does anyone else feel like the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has started to mimic a season of "Survivor"?

We start with a handful of contestants, some seemingly more prepared than others. Then the guys you expect to do well fall by the wayside early. Scheming weird people suddenly look like they're going to win it all...only to stumble over their own personalities.

You're left with a couple of guys you barely the favorite and the other the underdog that suddenly you kind of hope wins it.

Doesn't really matter to me, of course. When it comes down to whose tikki torch gets doused, I'll be at another tribal council.

I think I'll start the tradition of saying very little on my blogging anniversaries. This is made easier by the fact I have very little to say today...and I have a new cell phone that I have to figure out which has already consumed most of my afternoon.

Tomorrow my wisdom will resume I'm sure.

Tuesday, February 18
This is my first post to my "blog" and admittedly it's simply to see if it works. Since I suspect it won't, I don't think I'll say much more.

This was posted on The Main Point by Michael Main at 2/18/2003 03:35:41 PM © 2003; link

That was my first post on this year ago today.

Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you

When I think of ribbons I think of bright colors and pretty bows.

Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

There's a little company down the road from us that I'm sure makes pretty ribbons.

Well actually I'm not sure...I'm afraid to ask.

This little ribbon company has been operating only a mile or so from our house since before we moved here, but we've never visited. To my knowledge, no one in the neighborhood has ever visited either.

Something about the place makes me believe they don't offer company tours.

Maybe there are super secret processes to making pretty ribbons. Perhaps it's like's best not to ask how it's made.

I do see an occasional car or truck parked behind the six foot high chain link fence topped with barbed wire at the pretty little ribbon company, but the place certainly isn't flooded with workers.

Maybe making ribbon doesn't take much manpower.

There are some employees though. I see them every day. 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But only from a distance.

It feels safer that way.

The little pretty ribbon company workers.

I'm sure they're not as mean as they look.

Maybe one day I'll go up and knock on the door of the pretty little ribbon company and suggest the guard dogs would look better with pretty ribbons in their hair....when I'm ready to earn my ribbon for bravery.

It's your day today, but every day with you I cherish as a gift from God.

Happy Birthday, my darling wife.

Monday, February 16, 2004


Well I meant to write today about vicious dogs, barbed wire fences and pretty ribbons...but we got caught up in doctors, airplanes, stories of puke, and surprise visits.

Amy and I met with her pain doc...somewhat anticlimactic, but I think we both feel better.
I put Amy's sister on a plane right after my niece called to tell her mom (Amy's sister) she was puking (yellow and some came out her nose).

Tiffany is here visiting (okay, she's also doing laundry, but it still counts).

My eldest brother, Stan, is in town, and I've convinced him to stay with us tonight.. that's somewhat monumental in ways I won't explain.

And tomorrow my wife celebrates another birthday....I need to call her parents and thank them.

Dogs, fences and fancy bows will have to wait another day.

This is the blessing of time.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


Amy's birthday is Tuesday so we had an impromptu party tonight, before her sister leaves town tomorrow.

Oh the excitement.

No one was left matter how much they tried.


It's the small things.

The Sun is out today.

The backyard is drying out.

The dogs can play outside, and won't be covered in mud.

It's the small things.

A white cat ran across the street as I was driving to church this morning.

I'm not superstitious, but if black cats are bad luck on Friday the 13th, what does a white cat on the 15th symbolize?

I took it as a good sign.

It's the small things.

Late last night, Amy started having some unexplained twinges.

She became apprehensive and fearful of going to sleep.

Her sister, Lisa, came and joined us on the couch.

Lisa prayed a gentle prayer for peace, and sleep, and comfort.

It's the small things.

My wife stood next to me in church today.

We held hands and prayed to God.

Amy worshipped the Lord in song and I spent much of the time simply listening to her voice trying to conceal my tears.

It was the second time this year Amy has been healthy enough to be in church with me.

It's the small things.

That sometimes are big things.

Saturday, February 14, 2004


Let me start this rant by saying Amy has received great health care. Her doctors, the nurses, almost everyone involved has been wonderful. There is no price I wouldn't pay for Amy's well being.

That being said....

We received the generalized bill for Amy's hospital stay the other day. She was in the hospital for 24 days. The bill: $83, 668.77. That's roughly $3500.00 per day and that doesn't include the cost of her surgery!

We have health insurance. We will pay a tiny fraction of that cost as time permits, but I still was stunned to see the grand total. I called the hospital and asked for an itemized statement. The woman I spoke with almost scolded me saying something to the effect of "well, insurance is paying most of that" seemingly implying that due to that fact I shouldn't really be concerned with the costs. I asked for an itemized account anyway to which she replied, "Well, it'll be a lot of pages".

I told her that I certainly hoped that would be the case and assured her I was up to the task of reading it.

It arrived a thick manila envelope.

What do you pay for Tylenol? Even if you buy actual Tylenol, not the generic acetaminophen I would suspect you pay pennies per pill. In the hospital, one 650 milligram pill of acetaminophen cost $2.65.

Amy had a private room, but we were charged the semi-private room rate because all the semi-private rooms were taken when we checked her in. Even going "coach" in the hospital cost $635.00....per day. It was a nice room. There was a bed. A window with a view of the parking lot. It had a TV, a chair, and a bathroom. Thank goodness there were no mints on the pillow.

One of things they did while Amy was in the hospital was check her blood sugar several times a day after she came off her daily "feedbag". They pricked her finger and put a drop of blood on a tiny glucose test strip which is inserted into a little device that gives you a readout. We have one of those devices at home. We buy the test strips at Walgreens. At the hospital each test strip was $37.00.

Each feedbag, by the way, cost $721.41. I've taken Amy to a few fancy restaurants in our time. Even the restaurants that are so ritzy that they don't list the prices on the menu don't have the gall to charge 700 bucks a meal.

I could go on and on. At Sam's you can buy 20 pills of benedryl for probably a buck. In the hospital, in I.V. form, one 50 miligram dose of benedryl was 25 dollars. Coincidentally that is the same price as a shot of morphine. It's also what they charge for air. Okay, oxygen. 8 hours of oxygen-$200.00.

My health insurance costs went up at the first of the year. We had meetings at work explaining the reasons and a lot of my coworkers whined and complained.

I didn't say a thing.

The itemized statement from the hospital we received today is 22 pages long...but I can boil it down to one word: insanity.

There's got to be a better way. I hope our country finds it before we all end up in the rubber a cost of 635 dollars a day...if we share a room.

Well, this doesn't happen often in San Antonio.

I'm not certain this creation made in the middle of the night by the kids across the street actually qualifies as a snowman...I'm thinking Snowglump might be a more appropriate name.

We're not going anywhere until the Sun comes up. It's not like I even own an ice scraper.

In terms of the snow and ice most folks around the country deal with..what we have today doesn't even merit a mention...except it doesn't happen here, so it's worth mentioning. At least to me.

Friday, February 13, 2004


It's's wet...anyone who tells you to watch, "Lost in Translation" is not your friend.

Got an email from our friend in Oklahoma. She's been approved for her "adoption".

This is a picture of the "new baby" - Sam.

I'm clinging to the hope that he's not chewing on some body part of his previous owner.

Thursday, February 12, 2004


Last night at church I mentioned to one of the many people who asked me to update them on Amy that I was praying for strength a lot these days. He said perhaps I should start praying for something else. He theorized in our case God seemed to be taking a "no pain, no gain" approach toward strength training.

He was joking...I think.

Lately though I have been wondering about prayer and the particulars

One of the Sunday traditions in our church is to voice our prayer concerns. Some people are quite brief, simply asking for prayer for a friend or loved one with little or no explanation. In church, I fall into that category. Others can go into great detail about ailments, work problems, fears, and frustrations.

No matter how it's done, I cherish this time, although not everyone in our church family feels the same about it. Some folks feel that many of the details are unnecessary. They cringe when someone starts explaining the intricacies of a medical malady or the nuances of their financial misfortunes.

I had a friend at church tell me that she believed we should restrict the prayer requests to something along the lines of, "Please pray for Bill" or
"keep the Main family in your prayers." She said, "God knows the details."

I guess that's so, but I have to disagree. Some of these intimate moments of sharing are used to unfetter my friends from heavy loads they carry. In turn they are lifted up. Who better to hold them; who better to nurture and calm them; who better than us...the body of Christ?

Certainly God knows my heart, knows my needs, knows my every desire before I do. However I also believe God wants us to engage Him...often and unashamedly. I suspect God wishes we'd communicate with Him a lot more and leave nothing out. In my moments alone with God I ramble and rage. At times I bellow and beg. I hold nothing back.

I simply can't believe the Creator of time itself has any need for the Reader's Digest condensed version.

Psalm 105:4
Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


When my stepdaughter Lisa was younger she would sometimes chastise us to spend time together as family, and whenever she said the word, "family" she would gesture with her hands, carefully tracing a heart shape in the air that was completed when the tips of her fingers touched at what would be the heart's bottom.

I am in love with Amy for any number of reasons, but one of the perks of being in love with her is that I also get to love her side of the family.

We travel to Ohio each summer to spend time with the whole passel of relations: Amy's folks, her brother Mike, his wife Terry. Amy's sister, Lisa and her husband Michael "Wayne". All their kids. All our kids. It's a great thing.

I didn't grow up with family. My parents died when I was young, my brothers and I have never been especially close. I have an Aunt whom I adore, but cousins are out of the picture...or in asylums.

Once, many years ago, while driving back from Ohio with the kids, I halted the conversation because it had started to drift into nit picking about family. I felt compelled to emphasize what a precious thing our children enjoy. It may be hard to believe considering the vast wisdom I spout here so often, but I rarely imposed my grand thoughts on our kids when they were little...this time was an exception.

I knew it was important.

I believe each of our kids can still remember that conversation, at least as well as the first time I inadvertently uttered the word, "Hell" in exasperation (that's a story for another blog).

What our children had then, and still have today, is such a treasure that I wanted to make sure they didn't overlook or underestimate it. They have relatives who love and cherish them, not only parents, but grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. But they're not simply relatives...these are people with whom they have relationships!

I don't know how to put a value on honesty I don't think you can.

Mike and Terry went back to Ohio yesterday after an all too short visit which was wondrous in many ways, not the least of which was how comfortable it felt. I know their visit helped Amy immeasurably. I know it also helped me more than I can adequately express.

Tomorrow, Amy's sister Lisa arrives. She too will be welcomed easily...because she is family, and we are completed by each other.

Family life is full of major and minor crises -- the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce -- and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It's difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul- Thomas Moore.

This is a cute article about people who like say like too much. My real pet peeve these days is people who say, "basically".

In writing, the word I like really try to avoid is basically "just". I think I had an English teacher once who basically thought that the word "just" had like no real purpose unless you were talking about fairness.

Like how just is that?

I don't like to write about politics, there are already enough folks doing that. I have to note however that Michael "miserable failure" Moore's candidate for the Democratic nomination has waved the white flag.

As of this writing, Michael "miserable failure" Moore is the top response in Google when you search for "miserable failure", but that may change. Sometimes Google is weird.

Anyway, Wesley Clark..the man who favored abortion up until the time of birth is out. I think we should all breathe easier.

See ya General and remember, when the going gets tough...well, never mind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004


Moments ago I gave a friend a reference for adoption.

I wasn't expecting to. The phone rang. It was some woman on a bad sounding phone line asking to speak with Amy. Since Amy is sleeping, I asked if I could be of help. She said she wanted a reference for a friend of ours who wanted to adopt...a bull mastiff.

Because of the poor quality phone line I asked her to repeat that....but sure enough that's what she said.

I'm something of a dog freak so I know what a bull mastiff is....for those of you who might not be acquainted try to picture a Shetland pony...on steroids.

I didn't mention our friend lives in Oklahoma where I think dog fighting is still legal. I didn't mention that I thought our friend might quite possibly be insane.

I gave a good reference.

I sure don't want her ticked off....she might sic her dog on me.

Monday, February 09, 2004


I try to live my life according to certain rules. Most are spelled out clearly in my religious beliefs, but some I admittedly make up on my own.

One of my rules is that if I make an appointment with someone and end up waiting more than 25 minutes without an explanation...I leave.

I started to abide by that rule this afternoon at the dental office. I was on time for my appointment...there were no other patients visible, yet I waited...and waited.

I was only there to get my teeth cleaned.

I've become accustomed to waiting for doctors - and I might add for those faithful readers that this rule does not apply to Amy's surgeon, who has no concept of time or propriety...these are my rules not Amy's - but my rule does apply to dental hygienists, perhaps that's unfair but it's my rule.

I was walking out the door when a receptionist poked her head out from behind her glass enclosed sanctuary reminiscent of a scene from the Wizard of Oz, saying, "Oh my..Oh my! Someone will be with you soon!"

It worked. In mere seconds my very apologetic dental hygienist magically appeared.

On the upside, my teeth are now clean.
On the downside, I need a crown.

If you look into your crystal ball you'll see a Visa bill for 350 dollars in my future.

I mention rules only because yesterday we broke a few. Amy was untethered for the first time in months. No feed bag. No central line. No nothing.

We had to go to New Braunfels to drop off Lisa so she could head back to Baylor, and also to see a client of Amy's who has patiently waited for a computer issue to be resolved for the past month while Amy dealt with her medical situation. As a bonus, Tiffany agreed to meet us there.

Amy wasn't feeling real well, but while her brother and his wife were here she wanted to go to Gruene (pronounced Green for those of non-Germanic heritage), a quaint little town with shops and restaurants resting on the Guadalupe river. We knew we wouldn't be there for long, but we were all eager to get Amy out of the house.

We didn't behave.

It was wonderful.

We went to a fine restaurant just for potato salad and onion rings.

We made the waiter think we were escapees from a nut hatch.

Tiffany tried very hard to pretend she wasn't with us... and we laughed.

We laughed a lot.

Soon, Amy was in dire need of rest and we left....her pain was still very much present.

But so was this small memory.

We bent the rules, it caused some pain. It also caused some laughter.

In the end, I believe the scales will balance out in our favor.


We have a friend who chews ice all the time.

She shouldn't read this story.

It does present some interesting possibilities when it comes to choices for caskets though.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


At some point in our marriage, Amy and I had to establish a rule that if something was bothering her, i.e. I did something to tick her off, she couldn't hold it in all day and them dump it on me at bedtime. I have a hard enough time sleeping.

I'm thinking of a new rule now...don't let the first thing you say to me in the morning be, "Guess what happened last night?" referring to some medical crisis I slept through.

As Amy recovers from her surgery she's been for the most part entrenched on the couch. She finds it more comfortable sleeping there. We've now renamed this spot, "Camp Amy". This morning I staggered out to check on her and she was awake. She said, "Notice anything different?" - my astute observational abilities were working as usual...i.e. I hadn't a clue what she was talking about, so she then pointed out that her central line (the semi permanent IV that provides her with food and some medicines) was no longer attached to her body.

She apparently tripped over it while getting up at some point during the night and the whole thing yanked free. There was no bleeding. She got on the phone immediately and called the folks who provide our home health care and they suggested having another one put in. When I got up, we woke up a doctor, who didn't seem particularly concerned and said we could wait until Monday to have another line inserted.

I was bleary eyed when Amy told me what happened. I was a little freaked out.

Now that I've had some coffee and a little time to reflect I think I may look upon this as a backwards blessing.

Her health is not jeopardized, and we'll be able to address this latest situation with little fanfare.

For today though, Amy has no foreign objects in her. It's the first time in months that has been the case. Part of me wonders if God is borrowing a line from a McDonald's jingle and saying, "You deserve a break today."

I'm going to look on the bright side and consider today a day of rest...sort of how it should be all the time.

One addendum: We did establish a new rule right away...medical crises in the middle of the night are not dealt with alone.

Saturday, February 07, 2004


I took a walk with my brother in law yesterday and found some truths along the way. We came across a skateboard left in the street by some neighborhood kid.

There was a momentary temptation.

An abandoned skateboard.

An empty street.

A glorious day.

My brother in law is far more athletic than I, and probably could have taken the board for a quick spin. I might have had marginal success, but the odds were certainly better of calamity in my case. We both realized though that if the imagined escapade ended badly, no matter the additional padding we carry, we probably wouldn't bounce back from our folly as quickly as in years past.

We eluded the enticement, stepped over the skateboard...kept walking.

There was some passing sadness in the realization that as we grow older - and for the record we're both still in our prime - some limitations must be recognized.

However as I enjoy this early morning time of solitude and thought, in the quiet of a sleeping house, I also realize I am sitting quite comfortably on an unbruised posterior.

There's something to be said for this wisdom thing too.

Proverbs 16:31
Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.

Friday, February 06, 2004


He looked pitiful. A grown man holding a small tupperware container of soup. His face fallen by guilt. He arrived at our door last night apologizing. My dear friend had offered to bring us soup for the evening meal, but when he arrived he confessed he had taken the tureen from the fridge and spilled it all over his kitchen. All that was left was perhaps a portion for one.

He could have called and said, "I'm sorry...there is no soup." Instead he packed up what soup he could salvage and came to our door.

I'm grateful we have a relationship with our friend where we can admit our failings and still offer up ourselves to each other honestly.

My life has often included grand recipes. I have stirred in my ingredients of good intentions, lofty goals, and noble thoughts. Some recipes I have seasoned and allowed my mind to savor before they were fully prepared. Many times though, my best efforts proved in the end not to be my best after all.

My dreams spilled. My plans spoiled.

I go back to God with a small bowl of humility salted in failings.

He accepts me with grace...for this I am thankful.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever

Thursday, February 05, 2004


Family is in town...much joy...little blog time.

Tomorrow is Friday and life is good.


Pardon the "ALL CAPS"...this is how broadcast copy is written. This is straight from the Associated Press.


Wednesday, February 04, 2004


No one would ever eat hot dogs if they knew how they were made....I know someone said something similar to that once.

I reveled in a mailer my office received today. It says "HOT DOGS!" and is from a one man company offering me the services of a "Hot Dog Cart and Vendor". This hot dog salesman says he's fully licensed and available for daily or hourly rates (4 hours minimum). Condiments included: mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, onions, relish and jalapenos (this is South Texas).

He also promises that his hot dog cart will be "shiny, new and clean."

I'm not sure when I'd have the need for a personal hot dog vendor, but I'm hanging onto his mailer just in case.

I also got word today from the Baptist General Convention of Texas that the AMC movie theatre chain has rejected an ad designed to run in conjunction with the premiere of Mel Gibson's new film, "The Passion of Christ".

The ad depicts a young man saying, ``You want to see the most scandalous story ever?"


The actor then says, "Redemption"

The ad ends "Now playing at a Baptist Church near you."

AMC says the ad is too dark" and "too Christian".

Maybe I'll send out a mailer...


Our story is shiny and new....and far more palatable than hot dogs.

No condiments required.

No minimum.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Well, I somehow deleted the previous post which I was referring to, so now none of this makes sense. We have another doctor to go see, so I'll straighten it all out at some future point.


The aforementioned posts have been reconstructed to reflect something close to my original thoughts, and to get the comments applied to the right posts. I know no one cares about this stuff but me, but I cling to these feeble attempts at maintaining order in my life.

That was weird. Amy and I went to the eye doctor today. We were rushing out the door as I was about to hit publish on the previous post. I ran my spell check function and sent it on its away.

We came home from the eye doctor and I noticed Janet Jackson had been changed to Jammed Jackson, and Britney Spears had been changed to braided Spears.

I guess I hit the wrong buttons, but it was somewhat ironic to read it after the eye doctor prescribed us both bifocals.

Who would have guessed?

Am I the only person who never heard of Paris Hilton until reports surfaced of her being "horrified" that a three year old tape of her sex romp was being released over the Internet?
Isn't it amazing that controversy surfaced just as she was about to launch a TV series on FOX?

Does anyone believe Britney Spears New Year's Eve wedding was an impromptu event not designed in total to garner publicity?

Is there a person alive who thinks Janet Jackson didn't orchestrate her "bust a move" move at the Super Bowl from day one?
Isn't it amazing her record company released her new single the next day?

I call it "flash marketing".

Welcome to the new reality.

The most telling comment I heard on Ms. Jackson's display came from the 15 year old son of my boss -presumably the target audience for the half time extravaganza. He reacted to her fading pop star pop-out by saying, "She's old...ewww".

Monday, February 02, 2004


When we left the hospital I handed a note to Sarah, one of Amy's nurses, thanking her for her care and kindness.

When Amy is well on the road to recovery I don't know how I'll be able to adequately thank her home health care nurse, Margie.

Margie, has stopped by once or twice a week for several months. She is abundantly patient and equally encouraging. She has been a source of strength that we have both come to rely upon.

Amy hasn't quite felt at ease since she came home from the hospital, which is to be expected I suppose. For more than three weeks she knew if anything went wrong, there was medical help only a few feet away. Now she knows if something goes wrong she has to rely on me and or the three dogs. God willing it won't come to that because I'm not taking bets on which of us she'd choose.

Tonight, Margie stopped by to check on Amy and once again watched over her as she administered her meds, she offered some of her own perceptions about Amy's well being, but most importantly she reinforced the message that Amy is getting better and that life in general is going to get better.

Sometimes the source of the message is as important as the message itself.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest

I believe it's beneficial to our personal growth when we can name our demons. Therefore I would like to personally thank Justin Timberlake for coining the phrase, "wardrobe malfunction."

I'm going to remember that next time I bend over to do some plumbing chore.

Sunday, February 01, 2004


These truths have been established-
I don't ask for directions.
I'm not handy.

Our kitchen sink has a pull out faucet. While Amy was in the hospital it suddenly started acting like a flower worn by a circus clown. It began squirting water in my face every time I turned on the tap. My diagnosis: we needed a new faucet, but today I realized I might be able to simply replace the hose which had sprung a leak. I know this is obvious to everyone else, but it was a big step for me. I've been known to buy a new car because my old one needed a tune up.

Actually, I have ignored the leak for a while, learning to duck the spray, not extend the hose at all, or better yet just let stuff pile up in the sink. When Amy came home she informed that even if I didn't pull out the hose, it was still leaking, under the sink. That revelation resolved the mystery of the moldy musty smell of which I was frequently getting a whiff, but in return I also felt better about my personal hygiene.

Since the person normally in charge of all home repairs in our household is on the injured list, I took it upon myself to venture to the store known to most as Home Depot, but which I refer to as the place where I go to buy something, and then have to go back 4 or 5 times to return it and or buy additional parts.

I did have the sense for once to take the part I wanted to replace with me, and this is where I crossed into new territory. I actually asked someone for help. A woman employee eyed me with suspicion, looked at my flaccid sink hose and said, "shower hose replacement...over there by the shower heads" as she pointed and walked away.

Assuming she knew more than I did, which is normally a good bet, I went to the shower hose area and searched diligently. Soon I realized that there was no replacement part there.

Normally this would have resulted in me throwing up my hands, and buying a new faucet...and then waiting for Amy to get well enough to install it. However since I had already broken new ground by asking for help, I decided to try again. I approached a young male employee who told me with certainty, "If it's not here, we don't have it".

I was struck by the profundity of that statement. It seemed like the perfect response if you wanted to be of zero help to anyone while still being truthful; however I was emboldened by this point so I tried to get past his self imposed barrier to communication by holding up my sagging sink hose and saying, "It's a sink hose not a shower hose."

At that instant I penetrated his resistance. He looked at me, looked at my limp hose, and said, "Well, it might be in the area for sink replacement parts". Suddenly we were moving at a brisk pace. He led me down cavernous aisles and then pointed to a wall and said, "If it's not there we don't have it."

With that, he was gone. I was left wondering if Home Depot actually trains people to be so dispassionate.

Nonetheless I had a new found sense of hope which was vindicated within moments when I found a "universal" sink hose replacement.

I got the kit home and started the repairs only to be stymied by the fact that the cabinet under our sink is not made for people of my girth. At one point I was forced to ask Amy to see if she could tighten the ends since she is considerably smaller than I, but it was soon evident she didn't have the strength.

This is another point where under normal circumstances I would have given up, but I dug deep to some inner source of power and bent my considerable frame into that tiny space. I'm certain practitioners of yoga would call this position "stretching the beached whale" but in any case I was able to lay there and fiddle with attachments in hopes of finding the karma like balance between hose and water that is reached when the water stays in the hose and out of my face.

It was trial and error...and error...and error, but then all of a sudden I turned on the faucet and it didn't leak!

I had done it! I had attained a state of dryness.

A tear came to my eye.


Several days after writing this I noticed we still had a water leak under our sink.   My brother in law came to town soon afterwards.   He is handy.   He fixed our sink...and restored my ego to its usual position.