The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Meet Arty

Since my name is mentioned twice in Colossians, I have a certain affinity for other names mentioned there. Barnabas is one of those, and so are Tychicus and Aristarchus. I have never met one of these latter two, but through a little bit of creative derivating, I sometimes call Arthur, my pharmacist friend downtown, Tarchus, just to kind of spread my wealth of uniqueness around. It's a stretch I know, but he likes it. Arty has long been the nicknamer around here. Every group has a guy who makes it his personal duty to find appropriate monikers for everybody else, and he is usually very skilled at the task. The problem is that he can't justify giving himself a good nickname, and he generally goes without. But I fixed that. Tarchus is perfect for him, since he can't really offer a good explanation for it when asked. This makes it even better because we then share the same name-explaining burden, which completes the circle of illogic. Colossians says that Aristarchus was “a fellow prisoner”.

What do you mean you don't get it Chuck-icus? Ok, it's getting late. I'm starting to laugh at my own jokes.

Thanks for stopping in to MILLERWRITES. I hope this story concept is interesting to you. Should I work on it? (Should I really really really work on it, a lot?)  That's what I thought!

Meet Barnabas


I don't think his parents really wanted Barney Rubble to be emblematic of their beloved son. Remember Barnabas had been Paul's partner in touring the Asian churches in the first century, until he and Paul had something of a fight about John Mark. But they worked it out by separating into two teams and succeeded in serving the new believers across the Mediterranean. Our friend Barnabas, on the other hand, was a sucker, much more like Fred Flintstone's Barney. Boisterous and fun loving, and full of practical jokes, but Barn would also fall for every lame claim someone would make, and end up looking stupid. He could dish it out with joy, but could not really take it, at all.

The last time Barney came to the meeting, everyone else was told to come early and park around the corner. Then we all hid in the back room. It was his birthday, and when he arrived and saw that nobody else was there, he sat in his car and cried. Who knew he was so sensitive? And lonely? (Besides X-Ray, I mean.) Then Yetti ran out to tell him we had cake inside, and Barn realized we had seen him crying and drove off mad! Well, embarrassed really, but we guys sometimes use 'mad' to cover our real feelings don't we Chuck?

Anyway. Our own “son of encouragement” needs more of that particular treatment, and we have formulated a plan!

Poor Barnabas.  But life for all of us is such a mess sometimes.  How do we ever cope with all of the issues; the big and the small, the critical and the incidental, the eternal and the temporal?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Meet Charles


"Where does Charles fit in?"  Well, Charles, you came back to Riverton to interview me about the 'miracle' that happened here. It was your idea to write a book telling it all, and you were the one who noticed that the names of all the prominent players could each be assigned to a different letter of the alphabet  I was very impressed that  you only had to employ a couple of nicknames to do it! . But it looks like the “C” spot is reserved for you sir! I am sure you realized that all along; and that's why you asked me to start with Zoe and work backwards, isn't it?  I know, I know; “I'm the one asking the questions here Epaphras," you say.  It's a good thing, Charles, that I love you like a son!

A little bit of candid commenting is called for at this point.  Is this series making any sense?  Is the main plot line now discernible?  Epaphras suffered some mysterious loss, but went on to serve his Lord by ministering to the men, and thus the families, of his community.  The story will be told through the process of his being interviewed by Charles (Rats!  I have to come up with LAST names too?).  Please feel free to leave the harshest criticisms that come to mind.......on someone else's blog!  Only kidding; insert nasty observations below.  Thanks.  Mike

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Meet Drake


Torn right in half; split down the middle; the classic example of the double-minded man. This is Drake. Visiting guests at their tables in his restaurant, Drake was the most congenial host you could imagine. But catch him in the kitchen when a plate happened to be ill prepared or was slow in going out and you would see a different man altogether. One time I came out of the restroom when Zoe was heading into the kitchen. She was returning a steak that the customer said was overdone and she actually stopped and crossed herself before going in to 'Face the Drake', as she put it. It wasn't long before the shouting began.

I told Teddy that Updike was definitely not working that night. I knew, because when Updike was around, Drake was full of self-control and sweet as pie. Otherwise, he felt free to act the tyrant. Likewise, one could tell if Updike was working by the way Drake treated Zoe. He was either all business and professional, or all man and ...unprofessional.

The funny thing is that a man like Drake somehow thinks he's fooling everyone. But I never had to inform Teddy, and she didn't have to tell Updike. Updike never even needed to tell Queenie, and even if there was someone who could have sat Zoe down, she already had her eyes wide open, and played the game freely. It was only Drake who was “unstable in all his ways” and I knew it would fall to good old Epaphras to confront him.   

James 1:8 says that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  Yipes!  It doesn't just stay in one realm of our lives, but it spreads!  How long will Drake's restaurant, or anything else for that matter, last, if everything he does becomes 'unstable'?  And how and when can we justify 'interfering' in someone else's life when a problem is obviously threatening?



First thing people ask me? “What were your parents thinking?” Well I wasn't there, so I can't speak for them, but if I was there to speak for myself at this age I would tell them to go for it! Growing up with the name Epaphras was terrible, but the burden eventually turned into a blessing, and now I am glad for it. I could usually win kids over by laughing at my name with them, and then they would settle down and call me Epps, or Eppi or Phrasier or any one of a million derivations. Later I began to direct people to the book of Colossians where the name is found and if that didn't win me a friend, it would at least get them to shut up for a while.

I never really gave up on complaining about it though until that precious day I ran into Teddy again in that hallway and she said, as if she had said it to herself every day for 9 years: “Epaphras, the boy I miss.”
She never called me anything but Epaphras, from that day on, and it began to spread. When they heard the way she said it, even my parents dropped the nicknames they had always encouraged in order to help me through. And when I began to introduce myself with a “Hi, I'm Epaphras,” without any hint of embarrassment or shame, and instead of looking at the floor waiting for the exclamation of choice I learned to look the new person in the eye and follow through with a respectful “What's your name?” as I had seen Teddy do (her nickname was no walk in the park either). With such a simple thing my life was changed forever.

Teddy never stopped changing my life. That night at Drake's, wearing her so sexy blue dress and the biggest smile I ever saw, she started me on a new course that I could never have imagined. It wasn't enough for Teddy to see me accept and even embrace my name. Her goal was that I would become like the original Epaphras; a “dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ.” and “always wrestling in prayer.” I think your research will show, Charles, that her vision was realized over the past 20 years, and yes, you can quote me on that. But only if you also include this one; To God be the glory!

Don't tell me that you were going to guess my narrator's name was Epaphras!  (Were you really?)  I think the name and the slight description of his ministry that we find in Colossians suggest the perfect foundation for my character.  Epaphras is the leader of a small town Church's men's group.  Not the Pastor or Priest, but a layman who just wants to serve faithfully, and finds all the help he needs in God.  Perhaps you know a man or woman who has overcome much, and gives much, to every person they meet.  Please tell me about him or her  (or yourself).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Meet Francine


Not that I know firsthand, but being perfect has its own dreary set of problems. So many women were attracted to Ned that he began to think he could just pick the best looking one, and live happily ever after! So (since my Teddy was not an option for him) he chose Francine. Even the world knows that “beauty is only skin deep”, and God goes far enough to tell us that “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Francine certainly did not 'fear the Lord', as it were. And she didn't even 'fear' Ned in the sense of even caring what he thought about her. Francine didn't care about anything really, except how much money Ned had in his savings account.

Actually there were two important items that Francine truly paid attention to: too bad they were 1) her own deceptive charm and 2) her fleeting beauty. My buddy Tarchus worked at the drugstore and he used to tell me that it was Francine's cosmetics budget and penchant for romance novels that kept the store in the black! Her natural gifts did come close to Teddy's, but the choices she made about how to live with them, were so different.  

The issues that men and women must deal with are never ending.  No matter what we start out with, we each have to decide how we will invest the 'talents' we have, and accept the weaknesses we find inherent.  How do you do it?

Meet Greg(or)


The men's group always met on Saturday. Not every week, but averaging twice a month, and depending on the season and whatever else might be going on with the guys. The first time Greg appeared in church I invited him to our next meeting and he was very excited to come, until he realized that it would be held on “Holy Saturday”. Frankly I was used to believing that every Saturday was holy, but he was referring to the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. He explained that this was supposed to be “the day of waiting at the tomb” and he could not attend our meeting on such an important day.

While this happened about 5 years ago I remember that I was very understanding.  I said that we would be very glad to see him at the following meeting etc etc, and then I heard a low “huh” coming from over my shoulder. I turned and saw X-Ray, who was standing behind me, now striding away up the aisle and biting on a Styrofoam cup.

By the time I turned back around, Greg was gone, and I started to think that maybe I was surrounded by kooks! Now I know that Greg (who later came to be called “Gregor” by some of the wise guys in our group when he turned out to be something of a “seedy” character) was no kook, and neither was X. But when I consider all the trouble they both caused among the men, and their families, X's were of the good kind, and Greg's were of the devil. At some point he had “lost all connection with the head.”

"Sheep in wolves clothing" they say.  We might all be aware of such a threat in our own circles, but how to practice the right degree of doubt?  Trusting even a stranger is so often required of us, and is so much easier than being always on guard, that we can easily be trapped by all kinds of liars, or "experts" or by gifted, but false, teachers.  Any stories to share?  Or would you rather forget?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Meet Hannah


Hannah's life was shattered before it had even begun. The word we typically use for a situation like hers is “abused”, but why not use more descriptive language? As a toddler Hannah was emotionally shattered. During her early school years she was physically and thus intellectually shattered. Before she had a chance to wade through the normal distress and mystery of puberty, Hannah was sexually shattered. Consequently, Hannah had become a person who was for all intents and purposes, spiritually shattered.
But I have known Oscar and Hannah for a long time and I can say, with their permission, that a positive corner has finally been turned! Hannah will tell you, as she has told me several times, that it was Oscar's steadfast though sometimes bewildered love that carried her through to the point where so many of the broken pieces of her life could be reassembled.

I told you that Oscar was not a reliable driver; that he was distracted and maybe careless behind the wheel. These problems are the fruit of his love for Hannah. The man poured so much thought and prayer and downright work into addressing the complications of life with Hannah, that something had to give. But I expect the hard fruit effects will soon be ripening and the two of them will produce a fine crop of good works together. Hannah has met with at least two women whose lives were similarly broken, and Oscar has been encouraging the men to “love their wives, as Christ loved the Church (and GAVE HIMSELF for it)!”

Of course there is no salvation in "good works".  But good works should follow naturally after the joy of being redeemed.  Who can look back over their lives and see a human hand of deliverance?  Can you name the people who were critical in putting you back together?  

Meet Isaac


Isaac always seemed uncomfortable in our meetings. Guys would be talking about their “issues”, sharing openly about very sensitive matters (By the way: I never heard of one instance where the vital respect for confidentiality in our group was broken) and I would see Isaac turn red, and gulp, and shuffle his feet, and look out the window as if it was his sworn duty to monitor that squirrel's activities. He was the one odd guy who simply could not relate, even in general, to the discussions we sometimes had about temptations or pornography or household responsibilities. Even the subject of arguing with the wife drew a blank unknowing stare from Isaac! We always teased him for being either super human or subhuman; nobody knew which!

While most of us in the men's group were working at overcoming some past habit, or dealing with it's fallout, Isaac found his niche in praying for us. As a child, he told me once, he simply trusted his parents and did what he was told. As a teen, his Dad challenged him to test the Gospel for himself before his Mom and Dad would “let” him believe it. Obediently, he checked out everything he had been told, and after two years Isaac decided for himself that he could believe. Then he began to memorize scripture and implement a regular program of simply doing what he read there. His baptism at 18 was not done under any churchy peer pressure, but out of obedience, this time to God.

While other teens (most of us guys) were starting to waste at least some years in rebellion, Isaac was deliberately growing toward God. While we sowed wild oats, he was tending his soil. While we harvested our crops of suffering and compiled regrets, Isaac produced the good fruit of being a healthy disciple of Christ. Yes he was sometimes the odd man out, and could turn all shades of pink, but as he told me one day “I would rather be guilty of naivete than anything else.” I was always happy for him because while some of the guys had to cry brokenheartedly over the abortions they provoked, or the lovely women they had hurt and betrayed, Isaac could, at least in his heart, live up to his name and just “laugh” at sin.

We may sometimes disparage those who act like they are "holier than thou."  But once in a while someone comes along who actually is......holier than thou, I mean.  Do you know somebody who deserves to be recognized for his or her good example?  What characteristics would you recommend I give my Isaac, to help him cope with such a strange status?

Monday, May 23, 2011

False Expectations vs the Promises of God

My take on the GBE 2: Blog On weekly challenge:  The theme is EXPECTATIONS

The first significant application of the word "expectations" came to me coupled with the adjective "false", and it was related to marital issues.  As in: Many conflicts in marriage are caused by FALSE EXPECTATIONS.  The idea was straightforward and made a lot of sense.  When two young people get married they come together all smiles and delight because they both have been steeped in storybook dreams and Hollywood visions.  "Of course he'll bring me breakfast in bed twice a week" she says dreamily.  "Of course she will skip breakfast every morning, and stay in bed with me" he dreams.

But our expectations are typically built out of blocks which don't fit together even as well as Legos do.  They come from different kits, all of different sizes and colors, and were never meant to go together.  To build a proper expectation, one can only use material provided by the master designer.  True, reliable expectations can not be based on wishes and fantasies given my mere men, but must only be based on the solid promises we find in God's Word.

I expect you will be awestruck by the wisdom and eloquence of this posting, and will be expecting checks, nay, cash, to be filling my mailbox soon!  Right?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meet Joanna


Joanna liked living with Stan the man. She wasn't thrilled with sub sandwiches or with our little downtown, and she certainly resented that our little newspaper made a point of calling her “Stanley's new girlfriend” when they featured his shop's story on the front page, but she liked Stan. And for all of his gruff ways, and his determination to be hard and cool and...practical, I could tell that Stan was deeply in love with Joanna.

How the two right people so often find each other is one of life's mysteries. How Joanna willingly gave up her family in the city to move into Stan's over-the-shop apartment, is the other one.

Oh the complications!  Isn't life messy enough within a single straightforward marriage without introducing ex spouses and step children and half-siblings?  The men and women who rescue the broken, and form new families are heroes.  But what heartache and trauma do we open ourselves up to and why?

Meet Kris(py)


I've heard that Kris was playing Ping Pong the first time someone thought to call him Krispy. No matter what he's playing (or doing, for that matter), he always moves with a staccato, automatic motion. He looks like some kind of hyped up robot with a computerized eye-hand coordination. He was good at every sport, but it seems that baseball suited his style best and he became a high school star. For a while.

It turned out that he was only a follower. Kris had followed his brother into sports, but when he graduated, Kris just followed someone else; unfortunately he chose to follow “Crash.”

Kris is a new man today (and the best softball player I know), but still struggles with old guilt over the things he used to do. When X-Ray asked Krispy to be his prayer partner, he was dumbfounded. He looked at his feet and cried while nodding his ascent.  

What does it mean to be "redeemed"?  And are there any limits?

Meet Lenny


Who ARE these people anyway? If I were you, I'd go read my intro here and then start from "Zoe" on May 2nd!

Years ago I worked on a farm during summer breaks. There were four daughters and only one son, so they had to hire me. The son's name was Lenny and he must have felt threatened when his dad hired another guy that first summer, because he ragged me about my name more than anybody ever had. And that is saying a lot! It wasn't just my name, at first, because it took me a little while to catch on to the routine and to get in shape, but I worked hard to make sure the name thing was the only thing he could use on me. Then one day I was on the porch and heard one of his sisters, Abigail, call him Leonard with a sing-song teasing voice, just inside the screen door. I saw him flinch and then a sudden look of horror come over him as he realized the full tri fecta: He had been riding me all morning, Abigail liked me, and now I was coming into the kitchen, fully armed. I heard, but because I knew that Abby was even meaner than Lenny, I pretended that I didn't hear anything and made sure the subject was changed by saying something about Abby's outfit. Later, Lenny and I were working alone in the tool shed. The silence, as he could not bring himself to use one of his standard barbs on me, was deafening, so I had to say something. “I would kill,” I said, “to have a name as normal as Leonard.”

It's amazing what one good moment can do for a relationship, and to a life.  I had no idea at the time, but Lenny desperately needed to know how to forgive. What he learned that day from little old me changed his life forever.

Have you ever had such a moment?  Or provided one?  How deep into the soul would such an encounter reach?

(I still get all the free manure I need for my garden from Lenny and his SIX daughter's!)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meet Macy


Who ARE these people anyway? If I were you, I'd go read my intro here and then start from "Zoe" on May 2nd!

I admire Macy for several reasons, but mainly because she is able to keep such a good attitude going all the time! Macy is the ultimate multi-tasker; able to keep her shop downtown thriving while at the same time raising four kids and, managing Peter. If someone mentions her name I picture Macy following Peter through the woods. Her blonde hair is up, perfectly neat as always, and so are her arms. Peter is ahead,on some important mission and while Macy is perfectly willing to support his efforts, she has to deal with all the branches he sends whipping back at her in his zealous and careless rush forward. But even in my mind's eye, Macy is laughing and going with the flow. They are the perfect pair. Together, with their combined massive brain, and complementary brawn, they can tackle any job!

I've sat in Stan's with Peter and Macy eating lunch. He attacks his sub just to make sure it doesn't get away. She attacks hers because she can then check 'eat lunch' off her list and get on to the next item. It works out great because they're done together and out the door together before the flap on the garbage can stops swinging.

How does Macy do it?  What is it about such a woman that allows her to be so selfless?

Meet Ned


Who ARE these people anyway? If I were you, I'd go read my intro here and then start from "Zoe" on May 2nd!

Ned was always one of those guys that everybody hated to love, but did anyway. Good looking, built like a rock, solid and tall, smart as can be, and friendly too! The guy excels in all he does, and has developed his carpentry business to the point where, at 25, he just built his third house. Like a lot of those 'perfect' guys, however, Ned has a problem that he can not manage. (I knew a guy like Ned years ago who simply could not whistle; the one factor that became his hallmark trait for those of us who would otherwise have been irreparably jealous and resentful of his many natural gifts.)

I might have never known about Ned's one weakness, if he had not been working in my kitchen one day when X-Ray came over. Ned managed his regular big smile and easy banter throughout our mutual conversation, but I have learned to recognize when X's alarm bells are going off. Very subtle they are, but if X breaks eye contact, even for a few seconds, there is something wrong. Of course he never said anything to me about Ned, but he asked me if I had one of his business cards before he left.

Later, I got much more deeply involved.

Thankfully I have caller ID, so that when X-Ray calls I can pretend I'm not home!  How about you?  Might you avoid the X-Ray call?  Or are you more perfect still than Ned is?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

N is for No excuses Necessary!

So I'm behind a couple of days on my character sketches...........
How could I type with my Grandson asleep on my chest?
Dancing with my favorite Granddaughter!
I'll catch up......

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Meet Oscar


Who ARE these people anyway? If I were you, I'd go read my intro here and then start from "Zoe" on May 2nd!

There was a time I thought Oscar would be a good driver for me.  Until I let him drive for me.  In any other venue outside an automobile's driver's seat, Oscar was at ease, in charge, seemingly capable and responsible.  But behind the wheel he suddenly became nervous and irritable, unsteady and downright dopey.  Confident in the old man's nature, I asked him to drive me all the way out to the cemetery one day.  I discovered quickly that if we ever made it, we just might be staying for more than a visit.

The first thing I noticed about Oscar's driving was that his right foot was not very steady.  Stepping on and off the gas pedal in perfect time like a drummer playing the high-hat, I imagine he averaged the posted speed, but I also found it easy to imagine I was getting whiplash.  Oscar's steering also gave rise to a musical simile; like a violinist's bow, we turned back and forth across the highway from the dashed lines to the solid line and back again.  I may have looked like I was enjoying the concert with one arm draped over the seat and the other laying along the door's window, but I was really bracing myself for the inevitable rollover!

Normally, this one on one time with one of the guys is invaluable.  Two guys alone, and without the pressure of eye contact, can sometimes cover a lot of ground in discussing important matters.  I believe that Oscar was thinking about some of his issues with Hannah, and wanted to talk, but his deepest thoughts were all being expressed through the wheel and pedal.  And that was not safe for anyone.

Do you have any trouble communicating your important thoughts?  Are you safe?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Meet Peter


Who ARE these people anyway ? If I were you, I'd go read my intro here and then start from "Zoe" on May 2nd!

Don't ever call him Petey, or even Pete! My friend would not even allow Macy to call him anything but Peter.  I understand that he admires the original Peter, but Jesus got away with calling his Peter Rocky! It's really something special to have a Biblical name when you've become a believer (I know that better than anyone!), but Peter might be better off if he could relax a little bit and admit that accepting the grace is what really matters.  In fact, if he weren't so determined to emulate the great preacher, teacher and humble martyr that Jesus' Peter became, my Peter might have avoided the impetuous, rash and sometime cowardly aspects of his hero.

Maybe I'm just jealous of his simple, straightforward, classic, non-weird Bible name.  I appreciate  mine now, but it sure has made my life more interesting than it ever needed to be.  The best part for me?  When I caught up to Teddy in that hallway, she remembered my name too!

Peter has always been a hero to the Church.  Not just because he became a great man of faith, but because he was a real man with real failings.  Jesus probably shook his head more than once at the man He called Rocky, but later made it a real point to make His love abundantly clear.

So......any guesses before I reveal the name of our narrator(sometime before the alphabet runs out of letters)?

Meet Queenie


 Who ARE these people anyway ? If I were you, I'd go read my intro here and then start from "Zoe" on May 2nd!

Queenie was tall for her age when she was eleven.  That was probably the first thing she had in common with Zoe, and perhaps why she seemed to idolize her when Zoe started working at Drake's.  The first time Zoe waited on me and Teddy, Queenie was tagging along.  She gave Teddy a little wave that night instead of the usual hug, as she was watching Zoe adoringly from a few feet away.  A few months later I noticed that Queenie's laugh had become more like the one I had heard from the kitchen; there was more of a raucous, "look-at-me-laugh" aspect in there that made me shiver.

Drake was never concerned about her, until about 6 years later, when she was really in trouble, and it was  almost too late.

There are all kinds of trouble a girl can get into.  What are the worst kinds, and what can be done to help her out?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meet Ralphie

 Who ARE these people anyway (Read my intro here)?  If I were you, I'd go start from "Zoe" on May 2nd!

I think I told you that Stan “never took his eyes off of mine”, but he is a piker compared with Ralphie!  When Ralphie caught your eye, she never let go.  Not that she had the reading-your-thoughts kind of insight of someone like old X-Ray, but her look made you feel like you were the star of the show.  Instead of looking to make a judgment or settle on a verdict, Ralphie just wanted to know a) what made you tick b) who wound you up c) when you next had to be cranked and d) all of the particulars about your gears and flywheels!  Not to be nosey, well, yes, to be nosey, but not for its own sake; Ralphie was out to discover and document for herself everything she could about the people she met and the God who had designed them.

Ralphie is kind of short and roundish and has appropriately big eyes (a mean spirited cousin had her wondering for weeks when he said she looked like Ralph Kramden, but when she saw “The Honeymooners” she adopted the name gladly  Once I asked her what her real name was, and she paused, and asked me "What is the significance of a name in your mind?").  Sometimes Ralphie crosses too far into your space as she peers up and asks the most pointed, all encompassing question, but she limits herself to one.  And if you ever did answer that one question, however,Ralphie would learn as much as a lawyer from an afternoon's worth of cross examination.

There is nothing to fear from Ralphie.  Would that more of us were more intrigued with, and less judgmental of,  our fellow createes!  But what do you think I am missing about this character?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Meet Stan

 Who ARE these people anyway (Read my intro here)?  If I were you, I'd go start from "Zoe" on May 2nd!

If X-Ray was my rock, my right hand man and my shoulder to cry on, then Stan was my quick-sand, my second left foot, and my personal storm cloud.  How can one guy always manage to say the perfectly wrong thing at every wrong time?  I don't know, but I do know that something positive was usually formed when these apparent double negatives canceled each other out.  Stan managed the sub shop near my office, and since I was having my regular lunch there before, I continued, and have never missed one Wednesday.  I remember the time Stan asked me if I still thought God loved me.  I remember especially because Wade was with me and, coming to God's defense, he reached in to pull Stan over the spit shield!  Then I had to manage Wade's big temper, my own shock, and Stan's big mouth!

I shouldn't really say that, because he didn't ask the question with a sneer or with any malice.  He had rightly guessed that I had asked myself (or, had asked my worldview) that question, and that I would have had an answer by then.  When I began the short answer, Stan actually locked the door to his sub shop at 12:20 during a Wednesday lunch hour and sat down with me and Wade to hear the long answer.  For the next 27 minutes (I know because I read about it in the paper) the door was repeatedly tried and only rattled, hungry wannabe customers glared in at the three of us sitting, of course, right by the window, Wade ate two 12 inch subs (and later complained that I ordered too many banana peppers on mine!) while still hoping I would let him clobber Stan, and I sat and talked about my favorite subject: God's perfect love.

Stan never took his eyes off of mine, and never said a word until I was done.  Then he said "Right", unlocked the door and began rebuking his most faithful customers for complaining.  "You just had lunch yesterday!" he yelled.

Stan wavers between faithful and foolish, trusting and testing.  He knows there's something there, but will he believe?  What do you think?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Meet Teddy

I first met Teddy when I had to play her at a chess tournament when I was 12 and she was 10 years old.  I saw the name and rating on the pairings sheet by mine and  knew I would take another win, but when I got to the table and saw "Teddy" I forgot how the pieces moved!  I really was a much better chess player (if ratings mean anything) but she beat me good in just 18 moves!  It was the undeniable promise of her coming beauty that knocked me off my game, and it was the mature expression of that promise I suddenly recognized one day nine years later in a crowded college hallway.   I literally chased her down the hall calling her name(of course I remembered her name!), but Teddy did not even slow down. But when I yelled "check" she did stop abruptly, turn her head just a little bit, and I saw her lips say "checkmate"!  Apparently she also had our last conversation entirely memorized.  At that moment I was so happy that I only blundered through that game of chess, for a plain looking guy like me would never have had a chance in that hallway with such a beautiful, confident woman!

There is nothing like a woman who lives out her life with the understanding that she represents the pinnacle of God's creative work; His highest achievement in flesh and bone.  No matter what form or shape her particular body is in, such a mature woman, like Teddy, will stand tall and use her precious days to minister with the confidence and humility that empowers great works.  As her husband, I later became one of Teddy's great works.

When we re-met, Teddy was one year behind me in school, so I added another major and we graduated together.  Since we were married, Teddy and I have done everything, well, all but one thing, together.

Who ARE these people anyway (Read my intro here)?

So I have made some bold statements about what I see as God's view on the role and nature of women (Is it any wonder that a gentleman would honor such a creature by at least holding a door open for her?).   By the way;  the greatest of good works accomplished are sometimes unrecognizein life and may go completely unacknowledged by the world , but they are entirely known and honored by God.  Any comments? 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Meet Updike

Pardon me if I say "Updike" a lot.  There is just something about the way that name clicks off the tongue that makes me want to keep saying....Updike!  And what a character.  Always bright, cheerful and compassionate, Updike seemed to be involved everywhere and with everybody.  With a servants heart, and even looking like one of Santa's most cheery and productive elves, Updike (just saying the name reminds me of the cool dual sounds made by a line drive coming off the bat and shooting right back into the pitcher's glove!) was always willing and eager to help out at our meetings, but was never, never allowed to.  Our goal instead was to see what we could do for.......Updike!

Who ARE these people anyway (read my intro here)?

Some people love to serve.  And who doesn't love to have such a person around?  Maybe that is a loaded question, but you still have to answer it!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Meet Victor

I never knew Victor back in the day, and so I scarcely believed it when he told me this part of his story: He said that ever since he learned to write, and for many many years after, he whispered to himself “Yeah, right!” every single time he wrote his first name. I started to cry when the small skinny guy (he is only 5”10!) told me about that miserable set of lies, and the burden of foolishness that he had believed, and carried. But while I was tearing up, he started to chuckle, and then suddenly burst out laughing! Then I caught on and started laughing too! Like an irony wrapped up in....another irony, Victor has become a real victor! And that's the Victor I have known and loved!

I'm afraid the younger version of my Victor is all too common.  Hopefully you are not all too familiar with his condition, but maybe you do know of his ultimate Victory!  Pray, do tell!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meet Wade

Another big man. Why have I known so many big men in my life? I'm only 5'8 myself, or at least I used to be that tall. But Wade is up there at 6'3 or 6'4. For a middle age guy it seems funny that he still wears his brown hair kind of longish over his ears, like The Hulk. But YOU tell him he's out of date.  One time I made some crack about whether HE could have stopped that lineman better than the guy he was mocking in the Super Bowl and he gave me a look that settled the matter. He could have. But Wade might also have gone bursting into the other team's locker room after the game, or tried to stop the guy again outside the stadium just to prove the point. His thin skin and excitable nature did not work very well with his impregnable body.  

Or maybe they did.   When he was my driver, I always / never felt safe in the passenger seat.

So who do you know that scares you and makes you feel safe at the same time?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

Pardon this interruption in my Z to A character sketchings, but it's time to reflect on April's Challenge.  What a ride!  I made the mistake of writing virtual articles instead of posts.  My subject demanded that I do some preliminary research to decide who to write about, careful reading and editing of the biographies for basic facts, and then a bit of analysis to identify what I thought might be the lovable traits in my subjects.

It was very demanding, but also very rewarding!  I definitely confirmed my suspicion that God loves us all, and I hope I established the idea that our response to God, our application of the gifts He has given, is what really matters.

Between June 2009 and March of 2011, I had attracted ONE follower.  Since April 1st, 30 more!  I am so honored, and grateful for all of the visitors and comments and money.  Oh, no one left any money?  Well, then for the visitors and the comments then.

And I have had a great time visiting and commenting on some really cool, inspiring blogs out there!
I hope you come by and check out my 26 characters this month.  I am looking forward to discovering who they are just as much as you might be!

Meet X-Ray

It didn't take long for a new guy to figure out why Ray was called X-Ray. He always came into our meetings quietly, grabbed a cup of coffee, and just sat down somewhere along the wall.  A guy might be forced to sit nearby if he came in late, but the guys always felt naked around him (Krispy once told me that when X was around, he wanted to wrap himself up in a lead blanket!). It didn't matter how far away you sat, however; because if you had something you were trying to hide, after the meeting you would turn around and there was X-Ray, with a full cup of cold coffee still in his hand. He would stand there and blow into his Styrofoam cup for no good reason, take a little sip, and maybe even burn his lip. Then he'd look right in your eye and with a wall breaking compassion say, “How's it REALLY going?” Real X-rays never bother with small talk either.

No body ever helped me through the rough times like X-Ray did. And nobody ever knew.

I bet you know an "X-Ray".  Would you give me a clue about what other characteristics mine might have?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Meet Yetti

His nickname alone should give you a good idea of what Yetti looks like. Yes, big and hairy. If Yetti was in my way, I would just go around; like I would drive around a dump truck stopped in the middle of the road, slowly and carefully and kind of peeking up at the driver for permission to enter his right-of-way.   One time I saw Yetti in the pool, with the mass of his hair all wet and melted down tight to his skull. I didn't let him catch me staring, but I saw that his head was really pointy! He had this pointy row like the ridge line of a house running right down the middle of his head. I wanted to laugh out loud, but we weren't the good friends then that we later became. And you know that great big smile? Well he didn't have that smile back then and I knew that laughing in his face would not be safe. If I had the chance now though, I'd laugh my head off!

Do you know anyone that Yetti reminds you of?  If you leave a comment, tell me what some of the common characteristics might be for this kind of person.  Thank you!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Meet Zoe

Tall and dark with long thin black hair, Zoe seemed to make up for her weak figure with an extroverted, nervous zeal for contact. Whereas some curvier women seek to camouflage their vulnerabilities, Zoe exerted her dearth of inhibitions. As the bad dream girl of too many failing husbands, she was every good wife's nightmare,. She was a waitress at our favorite restaurant, and if it was just Teddy and I going out to eat, we tried to avoid going in when she was on duty. But Zoe was there that night.

Do you know anybody like Zoe?  What else do I have to know to depict this character well?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Z to A in May Challenge Introduction

Welcome to the MILLERWRITES  take on the Z to A in May Challenge!  My posts will be much shorter for the challenge this month. And with a new theme:  Each day will be a brief character sketch of the 26 people populating the novel I've been thinking about for a couple of years now. My hero will be telling a little bit about each person from the perspective of his contact and experience with him or her. You will have to wait a while to find out just who the hero is, for his first initial is way down the line! But go to Monday, May 2nd to meet Zoe (just don't get too close!).