Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Just thought I'd share a picture of my two boys in their Halloween finest. Patrick is the intrepid firefighter, while Jacob was originally planning to go as "Diego" (from the popular kid's show) -- but ultimately refused to don the costume, and instead chose to go as Elmo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I just finished reading the book "Fatal Revenant" by Stephen R. Donaldson yesterday. It's really, really good.

Reading Donaldson's books always feels like something of a time warp for me, actually. I read the first book in the series of adventures involving Thomas Covenant when I was maybe in the sixth or seventh grade. I remember sitting in a tent at Boy Scout camp, pulling out my flashlight at night to read another chapter.

Which, you'd think, would mean that these were adventurous but fairly simple books, filled with reasonably straight-forward characters and conflicts. Not so. Actually, I think one of the reasons the books drew my attention was that they confused me. Thomas Covenant was my first real exposure to an anti-hero. He is, at least in the beginning, a deeply flawed man, pulled into another universe and hailed as it's savior. The good people of this fictitious "Land" refuse to judge him, even though he acts abominably at times, refuses to acknowledge that the Land is even real, and repeatedly refuses to be of any real help to them despite their peril. In an effort to maintain his sanity, he even refers to himself as "the unbeliever."

And yet...this flawed man comes to love the Land and its people. And in the end he saves the world, facing and overcoming perhaps the most vivid literary description of evil incarnate I have ever come across.

The stories are vividly imagined, complex, and increasingly sophisticated. The characters struggle with self-doubt, with the threat that their choices are unwittingly serving evil, with despair and hope and redemption. I enjoy them much more than, say, Tolkien's works (though I really enjoy Tolkien) -- because in some fundamental sense the characters seem more real.

They're a good real. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Things have not been well in the hearts and souls of Nebraskans lately. A beloved coach was fired several years ago because the new Athletic director, Steve Pederson, said that he would not stand to see Nebraska football "...gravitate towards mediocrity." Mind you, the team's record that year was 9-3.

We haven't had a year with that many wins since.

And to add insult to injury, Nebraska has suffered devastating losses already this year, most recently at a home game to Missouri. If I recall right, it was Nebraska's worst home loss in nearly fifty years.

So yesterday the athletic director was fired.

Today the legendary Nebraska football coach, Tom Osborne, was hired to replace him -- at least on an interim basis.

Understand that for Nebraska football fans, this is basically like saying that Jesus has returned to earth solely for the purpose of reviving your troubled and beloved football program. Such has been the level of excitement in our state.

It might be tempting to use this as a moment of reflection, to ask about our state's (even our nation's) priorities. To wonder why we react this way to a new athletic director, but hardly even notice if a new academic director is put in place.

But at least for now, I look at the faces in the stores and gas stations beaming with hope and pride, and I think that today has been a good day.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I've been thinking today about this metaphor for therapy with some people, people who tend to stuff their feelings. The metaphor goes that feelings are like water pipes in a home. If the home goes a long time without being used, the water that comes out of the pipes when the water is first turned on is...well, let's just say, unpleasant. And it stays that way for awhile. But the only way to clear up the problem is to let the water run.

Feelings, in this metaphor, are like that water system in the old house. If we stuff them, if we don't let ourselves have them, then what emerges when they bubble to the surface is pain or anger. And we have to let that feeling continue, to face them and keep feeling, in order to eventually get to the point where more positive feelings can emerge.

I found myself thinking about this metaphor not long ago as I sat with someone struggling with this kind of issue. And I thought about the strange position I was in -- asking them to feel pain, asking them to face the thing they'd been avoiding for years.

But as I saw them do so, tears streaming down their face, being fully real in some important sense for the first time in a long time...I was simply awe struck by their courage, by their strength. It reminded me of that Biblical phrase my friend more cows has shared with me -- about strength being perfected in weakness.

Indeed it is.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

on miracles

"The miracle is not walking on thin air or walking on water. The miracle is walking on the earth." Thich Nhat Hanh

So around 8:30 tonight, I noticed that it was strangely quiet downstairs. This is usually a sign that Patrick is either already asleep or tired out enough that he is ready for sleep, so I went downstairs to find him curled up on the couch. His eyes were drowsy. He had his collection of favorite kid show DVD's in a pile near his feet, as if it were his particular kind of unleavened bread -- ready just in case of the need for quick flight.

When I recommended that we go upstairs to go to sleep, he shrugged off my offer to carry him upstairs -- instead saying simply "here" and placing his prized pile of DVD's in my arms. So I traveled the distance to his bedroom with my son and his prized videos, and when we got there he said simply "lay down with me."

Laying down next to him and holding his hand, I could feel the tension in his muscles relax and his breathing slow. And I was struck at how I often marvel at his moments of growth, of development. And perhaps it is right that I do so. But the true miracle is not his growth or his progress. It is his simple presence next to me, breathing, drifting slowly to sleep.