Rick and Monique

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Candy Sticks

Candy Sticks      a poem by richard elgersma

God loved on the day a strong, 
social, welcoming and responsive
helpmate filled a cracked man 
on the fault line.

The man quaked and she mended.
He gave hope to him
when He gave him the strength
to see you.

Four words and the experience
of an honest, honorable 
and tough woman covered him
and laid an entire foundation 

Beneath a man 
who might one day
serve with her to become
the same for the fractured.

Four words,
"I believe in you"
she said.
I believe in you.

Now, she is sweet,
and he yearns for her
as if a wondering child,
dips his hand into the jar 

To grasp eagerly
and taste the cacophonous 
striped rainbow candy stick
as if his soul depends upon it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who is opposite of Lucifer and the Angels?

I'm writing to those who understand that the Christian bible, the words of God, is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.  I'm writing to those who believe that Salvation comes by the will of God the Father, through the blood of God the son Jesus Christ, revealed and sealed by the power of God the Holy Spirit, and that the three are one.

The challenge says, "I'll give you a word and you give me the opposite of the word given."  The one will say "night" and the other will say, "day" and so on.  So what does one say if the word was, "God"?  Would you automatically say "Lucifer" or "Satan"?  

You would be wrong.

The opposite of "Lucifer" might be, "Michael" but is most definitely not "God."  God has no opposites.  Angels were most definitely created.  Angels awe God, fear God, and worship God, do not know when the day of the Lord will be and do not understand the salvation of man.  Lucifer is extremely power and intensely beautiful, but can by no means oppose God with any type of finality, and thus could never be His opposite.  

Therefore, we verbalize Lucifer oddly and wrongly.  I've written about angels before.  Angels are not cute winged babies pinging arrows off of would-be lovers and they're not a frenetic, lanky gathering of sweet choir members. 

But they are created beings.  The angels were created by God.  Psalm 104 gives us a small picture about the order of the creative act.  The next act after the creation of the cosmos is the creation of the Angels after which God laid the foundations of the earth, meaning the entirety of the Angel population was created in and around what Genesis said was the second day. 

It's also true that Satan is not red, not ugly and does not have grossly enhanced horns.  Lucifer is the son of the morning, an angel of light. The meaning of Eden means "delight" and God calls the created Lucifer "eden" in Ezekiel 28.  Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost writes:
Musical instruments were originally designed to be means of praising and worshiping God. It was not necessary for Lucifer to learn to play a musical instrument in order to praise God. If you please, he had a built-in pipe organ, or, he was an organ! That’s what the prophet meant when he said, “The workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes....” Lucifer, because of his beauty, did what a musical instrument would do in the hands of a skilled musician – bring forth a psalm of praise to the glory of God. Lucifer didn't have to look for someone to play the organ so that he could sing the doxology – he was a doxology. (Your Adversary the Devil, p. 16, about Ezekiel 28)
This was, I believe, the indelible impression of the serpent Lucifer by Adam and Eve when confronted by Lucifer.  The serpent was, for some reason, awe inspiring (Adam and Eve seemed to be mesmerized by the serpent), and undeniable.   F. C. Jennings writes:
The word for “serpent” in Hebrew is nachash, which may come from the root, to hiss; or, as Dr. Taylor Lewis writes, “is far more likely to have had its sense from the secondary meaning of that root – to shine, whence brass, the shining metal.” This gives, as the first thought in the word for serpent, “splendor,” “glistening,” “bright,” “shining,” either from its glossy appearance, or, more likely, from the bright glistening of the eye. The first impressions of mankind in regards to the serpent were of the splendid and terrible kind – beauty and awe. (Satan, His Person, Work, Place, and Destiny, p. 15)
Lucifer's perfectly created duty was to watch over the earth, to tend to it (Job 38:4-7), and so to be thrown to the earth to be viewed by all the rulers of the world was a great punishment.  Lucifer had a great and mighty duty, and the loss of the duty was a loss to the nations of the earth, a great tragedy (Isaiah 14:12).  It's clear that Lucifer's sense of overreach and sense of duty were still at conflict when he came to Jesus in the desert to tempt him.  He teased God with the duty that God Himself had originally given to him.  God was approachable to Lucifer as he did when Job was tormented.  Therefore, it was little surprise that he would approach God in the desert.  Jesus knew He was God, and there's no difficulty understanding that Lucifer understood this as well.  Many other fallen angels during Christ's ministry were unquestioning as to Jesus's identity (Mark 3:11).  Jesus knew Himself being in the very nature, God.  He did not consider it even a question that He was God, therefore because He acts according to His perfection, part of God's nature is humility and is justice, as evidenced by Christ's fulfillment to His Covenant with His people by His death and resurrection.  Lucifer has no real need to understand God in this way because mankind is not qualified by the existence of an Angel.  Lucifer is no less in a battle with God, but not in the matter of taking sides as it were--Satan still truly believes he has more power than he does, and he has truly distorted the charge over the earth that God gave him (Ezekiel 28).  

The bible makes no claim to the equal position of the Angels with God.  In fact, God says through His scriptures that they have no idea about the time of the day of the Lord (Matthew 24:36-37), that the Angels fear God (James 2:19), that the Angels are servants of the Lord, and lastly that the Angels do not understand the idea of the salvation of God (I Peter 1:12).  They have little idea about the conception of the plan of God.  Therefore, Satan couldn't understand why Christ died but instead, I believe he knew that God had not gone away, but was very much...God.  Furthermore, because Angels, including Lucifer, cannot understand Salvation, I also believe that Satan is not trying to "wreck" the salvation of man.  While they are in charge of the Judgement (read Revelation), they are most certainly not in charge of judging.  Lucifer does want to devour man, devour creation (I Peter 5:8).  Lucifer does want to convince man to separate himself from God in the same manner that he himself did (Genesis 3:1-10) because he believed and believes that the human creation could (and can) separate himself from God.  And if he could convince man to do so by his own power, that he would be poised to usurp the power to rule for himself, and in such Lucifer's dominion would be complete--or so he thought.  Angels were created with many different purposes than man; in part they were created to tend to all of creation, specifically man himself.  God created Angels with powers and abilities man could not conceive of, and at the very least, Satan understood his basic powers were no match for man.  Satan illegitimately believes he can act independently of God (Job 1:6), can thwart God, and continues to this day to aspire to more power than he could possibly grasp.  In regard to man, Lucifer proves jealous, having seen God walk with Adam -- I believe it's more possible that Lucifer and the fallen angels simply seek to devour because they're furious with God and jealous of him, not because they intend to remove the rite of salvation from man, as if it was creation's choice to do so in the first place.  It's not possible that Satan wants man to go "to be with him" (in hell) because Satan only understands that he was given dominion over the earth, and doesn't grasp anything beyond that particular reality.  I'm not sure that Lucifer comprehends that man can be saved or lost; instead I believe that he suffers from the age old delusion that he can assume God's position.

Angels, nor man himself, can expound on God's glory; any man who has come close falls over dead and any angel who tried was thrown out of heaven.  By getting thrown out of Heaven, Satan did not suddenly achieve the status of cosmic and equal opponent of God.  Do not get in the habit of worshipping angels, nor wishing upon their work (Col. 2:18).

Angels do not age and do not spend time trying to earn their wings.  Humans do die and do not become Angels.  God's Angels exist eternally as they were created, and humankind exist in the same manner.  

Angels start with all of Creation:  Col. 1:16 says for by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible or invisible, thrones, dominions, principalities or powers--all things were created by Him.  

I might be wrong about these things, and I most certainly did not exhaust the study of angels within this blog entry.  But I wanted to open this study to you, in hopes that you might be strengthened and emboldened.  I believe that Christians fall vulnerable to the wiles of evil in part because of our false perception that God has an opposite, and that somehow God, by being amongst us, potentially falls prey to whom we perceive is his opposite.  By no means was this ever true.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Judge retention, politics and God

I need the ear, or the eyes as it were, of Christians and the non-religious alike. 

Many Americans often vote according to a candidates views about one or two specific issues such as military benefits or taxes or abortion, and some vote straight-line Republican or straight-line Democrat because that's what their family has always done. But I've met very few haters--I have met a few--but only a few.  The recent Iowa vote proved interesting not because the candidates that were chosen was an unpredictable vote, but because three Iowa Supreme Court justices were voted out of their jobs.  Their positions had come up for a retention vote.  A judicial retention vote differs from a regular election.  Voters can't vote between a list of judicial candidates and the judges do not have opponents.  Rather, the voter chooses to elect incumbent judge(s) to a further or not the judge's term in office.  Iowa retains judges if ballots cast in favor of retention outnumber votes against.  In 1962, Iowa voters approved constitutional reform replacing the judge selection by popular vote with a merit selection and retention election process. The process intends to select the best qualified applicants and judicial accountability and protects public oversight, a nation of the people, by the people and for the people.  Why must the people be involved?  Because the judicial nominating committee by the nature of the committee itself won't be impartial--like everything they need checks and balances.

The 15 member committee, as I understand it, is balanced by gender and a number of other factors, but is not balanced by political affiliation.  Currently, the board is 86% Democrat.  Of the Judges  Democrat Governors appointed 5 of the judges, and none of the 7 judges are or ever have been registered Republicans.  Judge Baker, although claiming to be independent gave thousands to the Democrats.  There are others who've donated to the Democratic party over the years including Wiggins, and Appel, the latter donated tens of thousands to Democratic party.

My point is that all of these people, including past Governors have implemented their rights within the process.  It's easy to over-politicize the system based on prejudices, but I'm alright with a process based on the rights within a system.  Does that mean the system is fair?  I don't think this process is entirely fair or impartial, but it's still a system that protects and expects judicial impartiality, and does a good job of it.  I suppose I just muddied the idea of "good", but there's nothing new there -- For example, I did good yesterday, even though I probably didn't do everything quite right.  There's another post in that sentence alone.

I voted to retain the judges, and many did not.  In the end, they were not retained.  I voted to retain them because they made many hundreds and probably thousands of decisions and many (probably not all, they are human) of them were just decisions, meaning they performed exactly as the system requires them to perform and beyond.  Thousands of times they did exactly as the citizens of the state of Iowa and the United States of America expected them too.  Some decisions fell well outside of popular opinion, but they were just and, according to them, the Constitution experts, constitutional. I agree the majority of Iowans said that they did not want something, and the Judges, said "too bad, we have to go against you on this one."  I personally can't say whether or not their political agendas biased them--I have a feeling they did--everyone has leanings.  Their political leanings probably helped usher the issue to the front of the line, and they were pleased to proceed unrestricted, but that doesn't mean they made an unconstitutional decision.  

I personally do not want the Judicial branch to become politicized.  I don't want them to have to campaign for an impartial job.  They do not necessarily have to cater to the will of the majority because they don't act as legislators, they act as guardians, unmeasured by popularity.

But the people are the last check in the balance system, and I'm for that.  We are a partial people, for one idea, against another; most of these yeses and nays are based upon partial nurturing.  I'm not afraid to tell you that I'm against abortion and by saying that I oppose legislators that are for abortion. That vote alone doesn't make me against women or against families or against men because anyone who knows me, knows better.  None of us can be pigeonhole by the vote.  I'm inconsistent because I'm partial and by no means does that make me a bad person.  I'm partial to military families and so Rep. Boswell (D) falls on my positive list some of the time. I was against some of the things Grassley (R) did, but I love his affiliations to Camp Hope and so he falls on my positive list some of the time.  Sometimes I vote for something because I'm against another something, and sometimes I vote for something because I'm conservative and sometimes I vote because I want to protect something.  My partiality is one reason why Judges should be protected from my politicizing them because they voted for or against something, and I disagreed with them.  And yet the people need to protect their constitutionally driven right that the system works because of them.

But, while I'm concerned about decisions, no political decision changes the message.  I believe God is despite the politicization of what we've decided God wants.  Sometimes we try to put words in God's mouth, and by doing so often shoot the wounded, and maim the sick.  Therefore, my message of salvation doesn't change, won't ever change whether you put me in prison for my beliefs or not.  If you're willing to politicize whomever you decide you need to protect, you're willing to put someone else in jeopardy by that very politicization.  History reveals many bad laws that allowed for the persecution of Christians, laws that allowed the genocide of the Jews, and laws that prepare eight year olds for war.  Please don't be willing.

All I'm asking you to do is come and see what I believe about God, about Grace, about the blood of Christ.  We are made of imperfect people who need God.  But I'm also certain that the majority of the Christians I've ever come in contact with, and that have become my friends are not haters, in fact most of them love more genuinely that most other people.  But they're afraid of losing the value system that they believe has held this nation together, and in some ways, they're right.  Studies show that Christians are generally happier, live longer, are sick less often, are less bitter; and yet tunnel vision sets in and Christians settle into their recessed vision of morality with the belief that these set of principles are how we can wrest this nation from the hand of the devil for God, as if God is not already intimately involved in the process of history, present and future.  

The Christian morality does, in fact, intend life's beauty to be engaged abundantly.  We don't have to compromise others because of our faith because politics doesn't change the message.  We can promote Christ to them, and God will change those whom hear us speak (II Corinthians 5:14-18) Our politics becomes our law-ridden sacrifice, when God asked for our obedience.  I fear that many of the religious, Christian or not, bend to politicizing their beliefs, or at the very least allowed professional, impassioned politickers, to influence them.  Politickers are often good people--they are--but they're also experts at knowing what information influences constituents, and it works because most constituents don't have the time for due diligence.  But these politickers are also willing to vilify someone in order to deface him or her or them.  A Christian must read Romans 13 before the process begins again in another year.  So many Christians, so many of the religious in general, and also the so many of the non-religious believe that politics will save their religion, save their beliefs.  We're asked to hate sin, we're asked to hate injustice--even judges are prone to error sometimes, and they must be held accountable.  Iowans had a right to make their own decision and I am pleased that the process again meted its voice, based on its own merits.  The people, all people have a right to decide what they believe would be best for their societies. But don't engage because you think you're holding the system in check for God.  The message of God can come from a politician.  I'm a Christian statesman, I can't be anything but Christian.  I'm also for upholding the Declaration that all men of every taste have a right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness according to their sense of what that means, as long as we're not every man for him/herself.  You can't ignore me, and thus I won't ignore you. God hears and listens and acts.  I'm not trying to put words in God's mouth.  Rather, God puts words in mine.  Your rights do not change my message that you need a savior.  Despite how you wish to live, it's a simple thing to believe that Christ died for your sins and rose again securing for your salvation.  It's a simple thing to believe that God reigns and simply, is.  More difficult, scary and mortifying is to believe that we're random.  You say I sound crazy, I say I sound more sane than the impossible fixation on another cause.  In the end, there is no other way.

You can try to legislate against me for that belief, you can even kill me for it.  Conversely, I can attempt to make you act Christian by political promotion.  Neither succeeds in the end.  The problem with trying to politick God is it's never right to make God relative to one's politics.  One Christian's methods, actions and word choices might deem different than another Christian's methods, actions and word choices.  Inject yourselves into politics, of course! Misguided as we are sometimes, doesn't mean we shouldn't fully vet ourselves into the American political system.  I'm not afraid to be right, and neither should you be.  Remember, God is neither Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent. Therefore, your politics spewed without love is only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol (I Corinthians 13). You want an ordered and Christian-like political system--but you sacrifice so many by your feelings of what that should look like (II Corinthians 5:16 NLT).  

Look--God does not need to imbibe your politics.  He doesn't derive power from an external source, as if he needs a good weight lifting session in order to flex his muscles.  I know the words of God through Scripture and I understand what it is to guard my heart and I am fully aware of the gift of faith that streams through me.  But I live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Judgment is God’s.  All of you are welcome at my table.  I'm not a Republican or a Democrat--I have my leanings--I am conservative, and I understand why I am conservative, and I appreciate the conservative point of view--and yet many of you on any side of a table has influenced my paradigms and I am better for it.  Either way, my politics and my country require me to be generous to all, allowed to love on you, allow you to pursue your rights, allow you to be an amazing person (II Corinthians 5:16 NLT); but my bent or yours is merely that.  I'm not saved by my political affiliation; I'd only be disappointed if I were.

As always, my ideas aren't always the right one, but in the same way, just because someone whom doesn't think like me says something is just, doesn't necessarily make it so.  What is truth though is that you and I still need a Savior.  Come and see.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tattoos and Hope

I understand why some people ink tattoos into their skin.  Well, I understand many of the reasons people ink tattoos into their skin.  Most tattooees want to remember something meaningful about their life, want to give an event such significance that serves as a constant memory driven banner.  Of course tattoos bear a tougher, more gritty, more fashionable aura than say, a string tied around around a finger.

We saw an old WWII war ship retired on the Ohio River on the banks of an Illinois town.  She now serves patrons as a museum and a gift shop.  I suppose, like a tattoo that, while none of the most important technology even exists on the ship anymore, being forever classified, that the ship serves as an American tattoo of triumph and tragedy.  I'm not sure the appeal an old but furious gun ship that grips onlookers.  If you were honest, when she was in full service you would not have wanted to be close to the ship.  Some get the tattoo, others the scar of war.

I'm slightly offended that a man's work aboard that ship, any ship, can be reduced to souvies and treats.  I guess monuments such as a stripped down ship offer people hope of triumph, for what it's worth.

And so there she was, proud, strong and dormant.  I suppose she still echoes with the scars of deep waters; we all do in our own way.  I turned from the big ship and I and my friends drove away still wondering what there was to remember.  Earlier we'd taken a walk down a path along the Ohio river to a visitor center nearby.  A flag rope clanked against a flagpole near the center and hanging from it was an old, tattered, ripped up American flag--looked more like a rat hanging from a pole.  I was offended and I told someone that I was.  I tell you I'm not a people of rats.  The flag did not inspire hope.

I'm not sure the old retired ship did either. I get that people fight, but I hate that death remains the only way to save a people.

That's how it was with Christ.  I'm glad I'm safe, but I'm not glad that he had to suffer like he did.  I wish humans hadn't needed such sacrifice.  But a person willing to go out and save his people seems like something to honor, even if you're not glad about it.  Their wounds are our tattoo, our honor are theirs.

And so yesterday, the triumphant waved banners and promised balanced budgets, integrity in the office and new ways of thinking.  The last night's speeches rang triumphant, but hinted toward an uppity tremor of supremacy and leaned into disdain.  I heard the same disdain, even cruelty four years ago when the Democrats won the House, the Senate and then two years ago, the Presidency.  The winners bore their Visigothic chests.  I think people hoped that leaders lived their message, that being hope, unity and fairness, but instead gained division and more disdain.  The same has been heard all over the world for as many years as the world's existed.  But I'm here now.  This means something to me now.  Now some new folks are in D.C., and last night, more triumph with a slightly distasteful edge.  I know what I don't like.  I don't like abortion, testing from aborted children, high taxes and big government.  I have my vote, but friends, neighbors and Americans alike certainly do not have my disdain.

And I heard little last night about those of us who were on other lands striving for freedom within the longest engaged war effort in U.S. history.  They desire that their leaders ink another honored tat on their hearts, but were instead, virtually ignored.  I think we need less disdain.  A kind word turns away wrath says the Proverbs.  Civil disobedience can do as much harm as all out war.  But maybe we should be thankful for sacrifice and want less death, less suffering.  By one death, many are often saved.

Maybe one party or another can triumph with grace.

I do have hope.  I think it's worth flying a clean flag.  I'm gonna get a tattoo sometime soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

War and Shadows

You know what?  Today's election day.  I suppose one might call it an off-election because the leader of the land won't be elected for another two years.  I believe today are the most important elections however.  These are the real days when the checks and balances become done or undone.  These are the days when the people test their turf against the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, exactly as the Constitution of these United States intended.

Today is more than a memorial of the fallen--this is war out of the shadows, a day no one is fallen, but a battle waged.  Freedom is more than the will of the people; even the people need to be checked and balanced.  Today you and I work to maintain the balance against unlimited power by any citizen, by all citizens.  You may be a President or a legislator or a judge.  You might teach or preach or heal.  One must wonder about the days when our freedoms were declared, a day when we became unique.  Fall back to the day when the entire central America was purchased in a landmark deal called the Louisiana Purchase.  They were men who needed to be united, but united under the idea that they or anyone else restricted themselves; were unwilling and disallowed to usurp any more than what their constitution gave them.

I encourage you not to vote to protect your entitlements or your ideas about the class structures or your thoughts about the rich.  Don't begrudge the rich their riches or the poor their freedom or the religious their joy.  Limit yourself to engage in their freedom today.  By their freedom you can be most generous with resources and love.  There are many who expanded our freedom by limiting their life for your good.  I wrote about it and presented it to two men who entered into the battle long ago.  It's oft said they went to war, but theirs was a healing adventure--they fixed the wounded, and tended the sores of freedom.  Hopefully you get that today.  It wasn't always that way.  We've pursued types of freedom for others all around the world.  Freedoms mean greater things for all men, greater advantages and greater opportunities.  Your government is trying to tell you they need more and more from you. Today you get to demand that the American dream was never the big house.  The American dream was inexhaustible freedom, but checked and balanced freedom, and a government was established that would model exactly that dream.  You used to have your backs turned when military servicemen returned home.  You were too busy worrying about issues other than what they meant to secure for you.  These days many welcome our military service men and women home exuberantly, and I'm glad of that.  But today let me share with you the poem written for two very special men, but now also shared with you to remind you what foundations are set, that today might happen.

It's called War and Shadows.

I’ve been in the shadows but never in the hole.
I’ve never faced my enemy
twixt a bullet and some steel.

I’ve never left the Green Latrine
With guns in hand,
From salty beach.

I’ve never hung off highway one,
Last chance my son,
You duck, you done.

Rare have any of us, bewitched by cause
strove through our enemies.
and the fated deaths those that sustained us.

I can retell the stories heard but could never relive
jungle rotted footsteps, atrophied wills.

And I could never duplicate the yellow in a man’s eyes
after scores of days amidst holes and shadows,

Behind the steel and fatigues, behind the pale of war
behind the fire, is a man used to death.


Freedom’s costs are those with discolored souls,
marked well through their eyes


Strength built in them are freedom’s price.
Liberty’s quest never ceases; her requirements fierce;
Freedom must be paid,
and by you she beckons,


The only shot above my head were my father’s honorable,
alacritous words, held strong deep in holes
bullets nigh,

Crimson blood.
Man dies, under God’s eyes
and in saying so – you might,
should you need of our way of life.

For what I stand for,
as a soldier, as a parent, as a sibling and as a friend
I also live and die for.

Courageous and terrible choices formed the free path you and I tread today.
The rockets glared red above them… And I live free.

Trust enough not to rely on outcomes
Trust enough to allow a broken heart
Your spouse is freedom and you loved her well.

I’ve never felt the furrowed shadows
of a silent home,
a living grave,
a deep hole
a cloistered fox

But in the shadows the cracked freedom bell rung,
Each bullet being freedom’s clapper and the ring.

Freedom lives beyond my breath
For liberty welcomes all
And even cracked freedom bells always, if not faintly, ring.

I know you’re tired brother.
But take the tong and strike the bell, brother
And she will yell with us: “Welcome home!”

Rings the call,
my salute;
Welcome home, brother.

Welcome home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Life and Weary

Why are adventures
and journeys consistently
firm against gale winds?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kansas Speedway and Back-street Hoodlums

You can experience the racing life.  One-hundred bucks and you've gained access to three laps at one-hundred and sixty miles per hour.  

"Why 160?" asked my wife, "Why not 180?"

"Twenty miles per hour is the difference between completely out of control and only slightly out of control" said Sandy of the K-Love Christian radio sponsored Nationwide racing team number 81.  Their car spreads the message "I am second" meaning God is first.  We spent enough time with them to understand that the team believed it--the message rallied them.

Monique and I spent a weekend at Kansas speedway watching Nascar's best drivers and teams do what they do.  Baker Curb Racing granted us garage/pit passes via my professor Dr. Shane Merritt, also part of Baker Curb racing.  Baker Curb runs two cars, but we were there under the #27 racing team.  The team had lost their primary sponsor, but the team's spirit seemed undiscouraged, including the significantly charming driver Drew Herring, hired to drive for only the third or fourth time this year.  Team 27 were serious about racing but allowed us access to just about every inch of the trailer and garage, even finding time to allow us a fantastic barbecued meal.  At race time, they're focused.  We spent our time viewing the race from every angle we could.  One-eighty sounds fast on T.V., but at the track, looks fast, super fast, inspiringly fast...intentionally fast.

Practice.  The drivers love practice--the pits are wide open, no speed limits off race day.  They turn off the garage area and nail it.  The noise comes at one like the second coming, but feels wholly exuberant.  I know they're working out there.  Crew chiefs, mechanics and drivers talk talk talk.  The drivers listen to the road and their cars and communicate back, the crew chiefs help the driver understand marks, and the mechanics plan their strategy for when the driver rolls into the garages.

The garage--a frenetic pile of full crews, sponsors and some fans, although not many.  We felt privileged to be back there.  There's order to the mess but there's also an invisible safety net, one where guys like Rusty Wallace can hang out with whomever, and enjoy a good story.  I thanked him for designing the Newton Iowa track, a 7/8 mile short track that races like a massive speedway.  After that, my brain was due for some de-icing.

I'm sure team members miss their families.  A couple of the guys said so.  A few guys are away for a long time.  Sometimes the brightest days seem foggy when you miss someone.  And yet the team can't wait to get their car to the track.  When lulls approach they're comfortable, but they're pacers.  We didn't meet anyone who was seriously wound up though.  They all seem like fish in water.  Pit crews checking tires and gear and talking to mechanics, drivers like Drew Herring stroll here and there, obviously nervous, but obviously calm--I perceived Herring's satisfaction to be driving one of Nascar's super cars.  He had something to prove after crashes and mistakes gave the #27 car a bad day the previous week.  

Tools clank and knock and ring.  Monique and I hung out in the garages and watched them work.  They bend the metal on the left side of the car inward, and also turn the tire somewhat inward.  They do this to compensate for deep turns and powerful side force...actually improves aerodynamics.  Awesome.

In the end, even the spectator feels intensity watching men and women drive at super-speeds.  The average driver feels the intensity, they must.  They lick up the track like fire and wind.  Drew Herring, humble, grateful Drew Herring said "we look good, but we're all half crazy."  Maybe he wanted to give me a good quote, but maybe he didn't think twice about telling me like it is.  

Yet these guys--these race teams are class-at least the teams we met, they're friendly and sweet, and most of them taller than I am.  Racing legend Bill Elliot is 6'3 for cryin' out loud.  I didn't know.  Some of these guys carry sacks of money to the bank I'd guess.  But some we met don't tarry amongst the wiles of the super rich.  In fact, most of who we met and saw were simply the best of the back-street bible-belt Johns itchin' for a race.

And race they did, every horse in the complex motor ran their legs off.  They wear speed like old comfortable shoes that've been perfectly broken in.  Except turn four; turn four tested the famous, the infamous and the non-famous alike.  Some drivers came into the turn too hot and were tight on exit.  But the cars, they're not simply safe, they're 3500 pounds of bars, belts, hans devices and body tight seats.  They're not as nervous that the cars will crush them, they're nervous about the 169 mph blur of a three-wide run into turn-four.  They're nervous about hitting their passing mark one-hundred yards ahead of turn one.

And the pit-crews, they're hard on themselves.  Tenths of seconds matter and if a teammate lags or screws up, they're bent.  Racers lose several spots on a two-second mistake.  But they're fun to watch.  The gas guys are massive, and they should be.  They've got to move lightening fast into the fuel-tank of a hot race car with 95 pounds of flammable super-juice.

These teams and their cars are trend setters--you find some of their ideas on Buicks, Chevys, Fords and Dodges.  But these guys aren't headed to a party on some gravel road.  Trunk-space has been used up with more tubes and lines and bars.  Of course the average Joe doesn't pay half a million dollars per car built.  But these cars gleam like artwork and that's exactly what they are, fine-tuned, fantastically sophisticated sculptures.  

Y'know, some guys are Ph.D's in something flashy, and some guys are less educated, but as knowledgeable; all of them know racing better than they know their own behinds, short of a few fart jokes from time to time.  But they're just guys.  They literally use the same bathrooms as everyone else.  I almost had a pee with Joey Logano.  I can't imagine what they feel like on the corner of Main and 4th street.  I don't have the capacity to understand.  They're probably a tick away from a neighborhood burnout, a flash away from another adrenalin rush, maybe.  Maybe they get it all out on the track.  Maybe they simply do their jobs.  But in some ways you get the feeling that race day is like hitting fast forward on a video of a group of kids cruisin' the loop in shiny, detailed cars off highway something-or-other around streets rife with Americana.

I'm not sure how any given person describes experience.  I suppose I'd say that some experience must be like arranged marriage, it is for better or for worse and ya live with it.  Some experience wears one out like force and gravity and time.   And some experiences indelibly invigorates new inspirations that live with a person forever.  That's us.  We weren't merely close to the action, we were part of the action.  That's how we deal with that race-weekend and that's why we'll never forget.  

Some day, I'm going to spend a hundred-bucks for three laps.  I'm going to test the boundaries of this side of eternal life.

There were Gatorade stations all over the pits!  Sweet Perk.

Well, ya have to start somewhere right?  She's already in winner's circle!

That's A.J Almendinger--Monique's favorite driver!  I think she just likes to say his name.