A legacy that lasts…

I’m a Kevin Costner fan… so when I heard (albeit belatedly) about his most recent venture, a TV series called, “Yellowstone,” I wanted to give it a shot. (You can get a more thorough synopsis of Yellowstone HERE if you’re interested.)  In a nutshell, Costner plays the patriarch, John Dutton, the head of a ranching family in Montana, & much of the show is centered around his attempts to keep the family ranch in the family… for his kids, grandkids, & beyond. There’s lots of drama, & many threats to the Dutton’s “Yellowstone Ranch.” :)

Anyway, a couple weeks ago theBean & I were watching a particularly grueling episode where Costner’s character is confronted by the reality that his adult kids lives’ are a mess, he’s only got 1 grandkid (with no more on the way,) & all his hard work (blood, sweat, tears, lawless deeds, etc) that  he poured into the Yellowstone over the previous decades might be for naught. He held his head in his hands in despair & loudly declared repeatedly (to no one in particular,) “Its ALL been for nothing. I’m going to lose it ALL.”


Ever since we watched that episode, I have been thinking about that moment & the anguish, sadness, & devastation he felt at the thought that the legacy (the family property, the history, the lifestyle, the traditions) he was hoping to leave for his family would be lost, stolen, &/or taken by greedy, money-grubbing bad guys (as opposed to the kind of bad guys that the Duttons are. But I digress.)

TheBean & I talked a bit about legacies & the (I believe ‘God-given) desire to leave one for the next generations, reflecting a bit on our own context. We’re not rich (but we’re blessed, thank you Jesus!) & there’s really no mountain of stuff, no huge collection of things, no 50,000 acres of land that we’re banking on leaving to our kids & grandkids that will make them wealthy in cash money.

But we are leaving a legacy.

Really, we all do; to me, it’s that which remains after we’re gone. It’s our ethos, our way of life. It’s the priorities & values we lived by. It’s the things we focused on as the most important. It’s our life stories, & how we treated people & made them feel. It’s the essence of WHAT, & WHO, & HOW we were. It’s our character & integrity, & it leaves a mark, for good or for bad, for our  kids & grandkids.  It’s part of the substance that plays a role in shaping what kind of humans they become, & definitely influences what they live out & what they will eventually pass on to their own kids & grandkids.


Hopefully, theBean & I have many years left together to continue adding to the story  of us, that we can directly (& indirectly) shape those coming after us. I want my kids & grandkids, & their kids (etc….) to know & be known by Jesus. I want them to be men & women of faith & character, people that are the “helpers” in a world that so desperately needs them. I want them to be able  to look at my/our example & learn from the mistakes & build on the successes (aka, “the stuff that lasts & really matters.”)

I’m thankful because I am already seeing traits, habits, & GOOD STUFF that has been passed down to & through my kids… & I am proud. And I pray that God continues to build on this & that He would complete the works in them (& in their kids & grandkids & so  on) that He has begun.

God’s work In Christ, in & through our lives, is NEVER a waste of time, it is NEVER for nothing. Thank you Jesus for that.

Walk with the Wise… #1

Walk with the wise & become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 NIV

My parents repeated some version of that from  Proverbs to me just about every day of my early life, usually right before I went to school or was headed out on an outing. I didn’t give it much thought or really (mostly? fully?) connect the dots on what that really meant for me until I was in my teen years; before that, the people I hung out with were mostly people who didn’t choose what I like to call The Way of Pain,” as their main learning method.

It was simple really: the kids who were constantly pushing the boundaries, ignoring instruction from teachers, not paying attention in class, acting out, & disrespecting/mistreating others were usually  the ones that were in the most trouble. And so “The Way of Pain” meant “if you won’t learn from what you’re told, taught, or what you observe, then you will have to learn through consequences, punishment, loss of privileges, & stricter discipline. Nobody had to tell me, “Don’t hang out with Jason,” because I could see with my own 8-year old eyes that he was a magnet for trouble & that he seemed to revel in the fact that his “thing” was getting constant (negative, punitive, & corrective) attention from the teacher, the dean, the principal.

I didn’t really  know what it meant to be “wise” or what “wisdom” was, though I was pretty familiar with what the  terms “fool,” & “foolish” meant, & I could’ve given a pretty good explanation of “foolish fools” using graphic examples from lives I’d observed in my 8 short years.


Life is a lot more complicated than the elementary years. Wisdom & foolishness don’t always readily (& immediately) present themselves as such; often the outcomes (aka ‘the fruit) of a particular way of life, pattern of choices, etc are what it takes to reveal(?) wisdom & foolishness for what they are.

So is there a way that we can know before we see the outcome?

The Psalmist points us to & celebrates the Law of God as a way (path) towards wisdom; rather than depending on our own experiences or trying to sort through myriad examples of how others have chosen to live. In doing this, he challenges us to engage with the idea that God gave us His law not to restrict, bind up, limit, &/or minimize the things of life that are enjoyable, life-giving, & fun. His Law isn’t merely a laundry list of things NOT to do; it’s an invitation to walk a path that has been laid out in such a way so that we can be blessed by God – by  taking His word for what is wise & what is foolish, beforehand, so that we don’t have to see the consequences/results show up in our lives & then, at that point, determine if we’ve been following a good course of action or a bad one.

There’s a lot of trust & faith involved – not “blind trust” or “blind faith,” but the kind of trust & faith that comes from careful observation of a long list of people, just like us, who either made their own choices to do it “My Way,” or who made the choice, over & over, to follow the trustworthy guide of God’s law. Learning from those examples in the Bible is one of the reasons we have an Old Testament – to see how people lived, what they chose, & how their obedience to God’s law (or rebellion & abandonment of it,) worked out in their lives.


And  so. Here I am at 50. I (still) start my day with  Psalms & Proverbs, with an invitation to God to lead me on His paths, that I can walk with Him & grow to be wise. The longer I live & the more I experience the consequences/results of those choices to walk on God’s path, the more thankful I am that my parents showed me that way, back in the day, when I was just a kid.

A thought on conflict & other musings on a Friday…

This morning I was listening to one of the podcasts I try to catch weekly (The Ryen Russillo Podcast – its sports, entertainment, discussion on movies, & life advice.) Today’s episode featured a conversation with longtime NBA referee (& now Head of Referees) Monty McCutchen. Something McCutchen said about conflict really jumped out at me. Here’s my sum-up version (with apologies to Mr. McCutchen):

“I’ve been in this business for 30 years; I don’t try to avoid conflict, but rather to maximize the positive impact conflict can have on relationships. Think about it: if we’re both in the same field over a 30-year period of time, there will be countless opportunities where conflict can & will arise. It might be over a differing opinion over a call I make, it might be a personality clash, it could be anything. But  the fact that we BOTH are going to be interacting in each others lives for decades is enough reason to use conflict positively, as something that allows us to build & grow our relationship. Because our lives are about MORE than this conflict we’re having – if we both can keep that in mind, we can learn to embrace humility, recognize our own faults & challenges, & contend for lasting relationship. Because in the end, that’s what’s most important in life.”

I’ve been thinking about that statement all day… especially because in my experience, conflict is something that I don’t relish, let alone look forward to as a potential “growth opportunity.” (Honestly, most of the growth opportunities I seem to have encountered are as attractive as a novacaine-free root canal. But I digress…) This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the “conflict leads to growth” idea, but it is the first time in a long time I’ve thought about it long enough to begin to grab ahold of & work on embracing it… again, not seeking conflict just to stir things up, but seeing conflict as an inevitability for people who have chosen to walk through life together. Maybe its in a workplace, family situation, or more pointedly for me & my life, in a church community.

Looking back, the greatest friends that I have in this life are people with which I’ve navigated significant conflict & come out the other side.

I’m going to be thinking on this some more…


In other news, I went to the doctor in January of this year for my annual checkup. As I just turned 50, I discovered that there are several recommended tests & procedures recommended for this man who is now of a certain age. Let’s just say there were lots of “discussions” about prostates, colons, & other fun & (exciting!) procedures that need to be undertaken as a part of the new “50 year old’s health & wellness journey.” I left the office that day not necessarily looking forward to what was in front of me.

Fast forward 6 months – I received an email with a reminder that I need to get a colonoscopy scheduled & performed as soon as possible. In the midst of the pandemic & other craziness of 2020, it had completely skipped my mind. Until yesterday. Oh joy.

I called & left a message & then received a return call a few short minutes later. The P.A. on the other end of the call started off the conversation saying, “So, I hear that you are wanting to schedule a colonoscopy…” Now, words MEAN things to me; I can’t say, “Yeah, I want to schedule this…” as – I HAVE NOT & DO NOT want to have this procedure, but my primary care doctor strongly recommended this for me. So I relayed this to the nice lady: “Want to schedule? No. Need to schedule at my Doc’s request? Yes.”

And she laughed.


Sweet iced tea is too sweet for me. But I love to  put a packet of Splenda in my Pure Leaf Unsweetened Black Tea. Go figure.


After an 18 month writing/blogging hiatus, I feel like I am beginning to get back in the swing of things. I missed this.

For such a time as this…

Yesterday while a friend & I were waiting for the rest of the (virtual) attendees of our lunchtime Zoom Bible study to arrive, we got to talking about the challenges of navigating the current circumstances w/COVID, quarantine, etc. We commiserated a bit about loneliness, isolation, & the challenges of church, small groups, outreach, & other ministry (service) opportunities during this time where physical proximity (esp. if it is < 6 feet) seems to cause many the heebie-jeebies & all sorts of worry.

And then she made a comment that has been resounding in my ears for the last 24 hours:

“I was all caught up in worry & asking God, ‘Why?’ I don’t really know what it looks like to be in Christian fellowship in the middle of quarantine, or even how to carry on in any sort of ‘normal’ way through this process. But instead of getting worked up or fearful about the times I’m living in, I was thinking about Esther in the Bible & the threats of genocide & extermination she (& her people) were facing. And I remembered what was said to her. It was something like ‘maybe you’re here in the middle of this mess, intentionally, because God knew you were His person FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.'”


Her statement really resonated with me. It reminded me that OF COURSE God has not been taken by surprise by the events of 2020, nor have His plans for salvation, transformation, renewal, rescue, healing, & the like been derailed due to COVID, quarantine, 6′ bubbles, & all the fear & speculation that runs rampant.

He knew, & He knows. He is STILL in charge, STILL on His throne.

And God’s people, the Church, are STILL called to be Jesus’ healing presence in the world where we live, to BE & to DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING if He were walking in our shoes. And for SOME reason, He believes that we are exactly the RIGHT the people to be living as that healing presence in SUCH A TIME AS THIS. Personalizing this:

It’s easier for me to cheer for Esther to take on the challenges of her day, (“C’mon sister! You got this! God has your back, & He’ll give you what you need DAILY to obey Him & put into practice what He’s calling you to do, no matter how scary it might be!”) than it is for ME to BELIEVE, to HAVE FAITH for the SAME input into my own life, for my own challenges that I am facing TODAY, in THIS time.

And then I remind myself that God knew. And He knows. He knows what is needed today & He knows what He’s got to work with by working IN & THROUGH me & my actions. And I get to thank Jesus that His ways & thoughts are FAR above & beyond mine, & that as Lord, He is able to pour out my life where He sees fit. He’s promised to equip me with what I need for each day, & has also promised that He will never leave me alone or abandon me. God created me to live & be where I am for these days we live in. THESE DAYS.

I’m in the process of experiencing something new – a new way of seeing the current world, a new way of seeing myself, w/a new skill set & tool belt to move forward with in serving others in the BEING & DOING... & I’m praying that I will be able  to see things around me with His eyes. I’m asking for teammates to walk this out with, people who recognize & respond to their own call from Jesus, that we wouldn’t shrink back & (continue to) live in fear, but to look how we can respond to Jesus, by grace through faith, for such a time as this.


Reminds me of this exchange between Gandalf & Frodo about the One Ring in Fellowship of the Ring – & how Frodo wishes the ring had NEVER come to him.

The  quote:

Frodo: ‘I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.’
Gandalf: ‘So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”


All we have to decide is WHAT to do with the time that is GIVEN to us. And I’m believing we’re here for such a time as this.

Reeds & wicks…

I threw his binder.

We were between classes in Jr High, 7th grade if my memory serves me correctly. I was on the 2nd level of our outdoor campus, heading toward the stairs & there was a commotion… wasn’t sure initially what it was, but as I drew closer, I could tell it was a game of keep-away. I was always up for a good game of keep-away, because they are SO much fun for all involved (except for the person who is having their stuff kept-away from them.) At first, I couldn’t even tell WHO’s book bag was being tossed around, nor who was chasing it. Until I got closer.

It was Zach. He wasn’t a friend or a person I hung out with… we had a couple classes together, but we’d never really talked, & had never hung out. HOW he was chosen to be the one who’s stuff was being tossed around over our heads & up/down the stairs was a mystery. It was just happening. 

At some point, someone popped open the book bag & started tossing the individual books (as if this particular ‘game’ wasn’t already challenging enough for Zach.) He was running around, frantic & desperate (like ANYONE else would be if your lifeline (that’s what book bags were) was being treated so cavalierly 20 feet up from the ground level.

Someone tossed me the binder, just as the warning bell rang. (It seemed like between every class there was a “warning bell” & then a “tardy bell.” You were technically supposed to be IN class when the “warning bell” went off, but you HAD BETTER be in class by the “tardy bell” or there would be detention. But I digress.)

I frisbeed the binder toward a fleeing classmate, over Zach’s head. It came open & ALL the papers, dividers, etc… EVERYTHING that was in it, came out.

The courtyard cleared as all the participants (except Zach & me) ran to their respective classes. The contents of the binder fluttered in the air for an eternity, floating like leaves falling in the fall toward the ground below. It was a mess. Worse, I had caused it.


If the book bag was a Jr Higher’s lifeline, the binder was the heart of the student. It contained all the assignments. All the information & syllabi for all the classes. Extra paper, pens, pencils…  you name it, it was probably in the binder. But not anymore. The contents of Zach’s binder were all over the stairs, some on the 2nd floor, most on the 1st floor & courtyard.  Everyone was gone. Except Zach. And me.

I wanted to run away. This wasn’t any fun. The idea of participating in keep-away sounded great, but its not like 12 year old me thought through the consequences, THESE consequences before I decided to join in the ‘game.’ I didn’t think about the possible mess, the possible damage to books/supplies, the possible destruction of the book bag & binder… I didn’t think about any of it. But now I was looking at the  mess, the mess I helped to make. The chaos of his binder, potentially lost assignments, trouble he could get in from teachers/parents, etc… all rushed into my  head at once. I DID THIS. And Zach just stood there,  looking back & forth between me & the mess. I wanted to ignore him, ignore what I’d done, maybe laugh it off, & hurry to my own class. I wanted to run away.

But I didn’t.


I didn’t run away because I had a nudge. Actually, it sounded like a booming voice in my head – “HEY! Help him clean it up!” So I went over to Zach & said, “Let’s clean it up.”

I don’t think he was expecting this response from one of his tormentors. (It would be wonderful to remove any personal blame for the afternoon book bag fiasco, but that would just be wishful thinking. I was in the thick of it, & I had been the one who’d done the most damage. Without even giving a 2nd thought to it, I had jumped into a mess & made Zach’s life a little bit more unbearable than it already was that day.)


As we were cleaning up the mess, I didn’t know what to say to Zach. He had his head down & was on his knees. He kept clearing his throat, which in retrospect makes me think he was trying his best to maintain a shred of dignity by not crying. Oh man.

I felt the nudge again: “Apologize.” So I did. I said something like, “Zach, I am really sorry that I threw your binder. I had no idea it would explode like that. I didn’t think about the mess it would cause or the problems that having your binder trashed would cause for you.” I  know that I rambled on & on, hoping & praying that he would somehow speak up, interrupt me, do SOMETHING to alleviate my own embarrassment & shame at my actions. He mumbled, “That’s ok,” & kept picking up papers.

“No, it’s not ok,” I heard myself saying. “It’s not ok. It was wrong, it was mean, it was not something I (or any of us) should have been doing, because NONE of us would have wanted to be in your shoes, to have this happen to us. Please forgive me.” He looked up at me & I saw him for the 1st time – hurt, broken, weary, so sad, alone. This wasn’t his 1st time being bullied (that’s what it was) & familiarity hadn’t made it any easier for him to get used to. And then he spoke, “Ok. I forgive you.” He gave me a weak smile, & followed that with, “But you stayed to help me clean it up. Thank you.”

I shook his hand, apologized again, & ran, head down, to my next class. He said he forgave me, even after what I’d done. I didn’t deserve it – but he gave it to me anyway.


When I think back on that incident, I am pained by my actions, my insensitivity, my lack of perspective. I am embarrassed & ashamed that I did something so thoughtless to a vulnerable, obviously in pain individual. Even as a 12 year old, I knew that what I had done was not the Jesus-Way. It seemed that if I hadn’t paid attention to the initial nudge & prompting, I might have gone even further down the road of “having fun” at the expense of others, without regard for them, their value & worth.

Something that ran through my head that day & that has continued to play a significant role in how I engage with people is the scripture that  talks about Jesus & His heart/attitude towards people. It’s the fulfillment of a prophecy from Isaiah 42:1-3. Its says:

A bruised reed He will not break, & a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He has brought justice through to victory. In His Name, the nations will put their hope. Matthew 12:19-21.

THIS is Jesus to me – He won’t break me when I’m bruised & damaged; He won’t snuff me out when my flame, my light isn’t catching fire, but just smoking & smoldering. He nurtures, He comes alongside, He helps, He restores.

And that is what  I want to do to. And every time I remember Zach, I recommit myself to be a part of the Jesus-Way.

Predictably good…

CALL: “God is good!”  RESPONSE: “All the time!”

CALL: “All the time!” RESPONSE: “God is good!”


It was a Don Moen song, but the saying “God is good, all the time,” has been around much longer than 1995 when that album/record came out. I get it – the saying, the song, the sentiment that is being communicated is an important one, though a part of me thinks that at times the core message of God’s predictably good goodness gets a bit lost in the (can I say?) cheesiness of the delivery of the message. This can be especially true when one is experiencing a WHOLE litany of things from life that are anything BUT good.

When a person’s world is falling apart (take a look at 2020 to see some examples of what this could look like physically, economically, emotionally, relationally, etc..) it can be over-simplistic, at best, to offer up a cliched “God is good, all the time” in the face of suffering & life devastation.

With that said, I won’t get caught up in a debate about whether or not I believe God is truly good, predictably good, all the time, because for me there is NO debate. I believe that He IS good, & that His actions towards His people are always good, working towards the accomplishment of His purposes & plans in & through our lives. Over the years, I’ve developed my own theology of suffering & a beginning understanding of why bad things happen, to I people, & to bad ones too.)


My late friend & hero-of-the-faith, Jerry Cook often talked about his experiences of being in the hospital while battling cancer. One particular story addresses a well-meaning individual who came into Jerry’s hospital room & woke him up with the question, “Jerry, WHY would God be doing or allowing this cancer to happen in your life?” It brings a smile to my face to remember Jerry’s righteously indignant response to the individual. In a way that only he could, Jerry sent  the person out of the room with a declaration: “Jesus has had NO involvement in causing or prolonging this disease in my body, anymore than my oncology doctor could have any involvement in causing this disease? What kind of a doctor would that be? A BAD ONE. So, I can say that I know God to be predictably GOOD & He is only involved in my life in GOOD ways & for GOOD. Now leave me alone, because I don’t have the time or the energy to try to recover from you & the cancer too.”

Jerry’s reasoning (simplified & explained by me,) was this: SINCE Jesus is the source of our salvation, our healing, our restoration, our transformation, our forgiveness… literally EVERYTHING good in & around our lives, then He CANNOT & WILL NOT be anything other than predictably good in ALL of His interactions with us. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen in our lives (sickness, loss, death) to teach us lessons; He’s a MUCH better & more consistent teacher than that. Otherwise, how could we with “confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive MERCY & find GRACE to help in time of need? “Hebrews 4:16

It is His predictably good GOODNESS that gives us the confidence we need to RUN to Him, knowing that what we’re going to receive from Him is always going to be good, is always going to be working towards good.


As a result, one of the main prayers I pray over myself is that I would continue to ‘be-becoming’ more & more predictably good in my interactions with others… that NO MATTER WHAT the circumstances, NO MATTER WHAT bad/negative/destructive things are happening in someone’s life, they can KNOW beyond the shadow of a doubt, because of Jesus & His work in me, that they will find someone in me who is ever-growing toward predictable goodness. I’m claiming that “God-family trait,” & I’m looking to live it out every single day, NO MATTER WHAT sort of chaos, confusion, & darkness may be happening in the world around us.

Someone to look up to…

Thank you to my friend & fellow pastor Matt Messner for the encouragement to resume blogging. I encourage you to check out his writings – he’s a man worth listening to & he lives an example worth following.


As the oldest of 4 boys – each of us 4 years apart –  I always felt a lot of responsibility to set a good example for my 3 younger brothers. Early on, a bit part of the responsibility came via encouragements & instructions from my parents to “make sure to make good decisions, because the boys will do what they see you doing.” And that they did. It was often like an impromptu game of “follow the leader,” as I’d be going about my daily business only to find one (or more) of the brothers mimicking my actions, attempting to DO what they saw me doing. Sometimes, I know they did it just to get under my skin (or was it to get me to pay attention to them & interact with them?) Sometimes they did it because it looked like what I was doing was fun (or was something they didn’t know quite how to do, so they chose the ‘monkey see, monkey do” approach to learning.)

There were people I looked up to as well; people whose actions, words, people & God-interactions, etc. helped to shape what I thought to be normal & prescriptive for what Louie should be & do, both with people & in pursuing relationship with Christ. I rarely gave any thought or intention to the process – it was more like, “I look up to these people, I respect them, & they’re older/wiser than me, so maybe I can learn from them & kinda walk in their footsteps.” But I never had an official mentor.


First time I remember hearing the word “mentor,” was watching the ’70’s TV show “Shazam!” (We watched it because the star of the show grew up across the street from my mom. But I digress.) The Shazam character had an older, trusted friend named “Mentor.” (so much for subtlety.) Mentor’s role seemed to be advising Shazam & his alter-ego in the “why’s” behind choices, values, & practices – he didn’t tell him what to do, but guided him down a path that would help him to develop his own metrics, decision making processes, & rule-of-life. Later on, Star Wars’ Jedi/Padawan learner model emerged as my very favorite picture of what a mentor is/could be. But I never had an official mentor.


In January 2000 I became the pastor of Hillside & in short order, found myself in a huge mess of confusion, loneliness (the kind that comes from not being KNOWN, being new in a new place,) unpaid bills, unclear processes & procedures on WHAT, WHY, & HOW I was to do my nebulous, barely defined job of local pastor. I can remember thinking “I have GOT to find someone or a couple of someones that will SHOW me how I’m supposed to do get out from under this mess, do this job, & care for these people.” You know, a MENTOR. I needed, desperately WANTED a mentor. And yet I had no idea where one could go to acquire one, esp. in such a real/perceived desperate point of need.


And so it happened by accident. Looking for something to fill the silence of my long Mondays of ‘doing the books, paying bills, sorting through & organizing an administrative challenge,’ based on the recommendation of a friend, I sought out the Sunday morning STREAMING ONLINE teachings of some people that I knew from the larger Foursquare family I am a part of. (If you’re interested, the rotation consisted largely of Ralph Moore, Daniel Brown, Jerry Cook, & a few others.

For the most part, these weren’t people that I had really ever had personal interactions with – they were more well-known for many years of faithful & fruitful ministry, esp. in regards to raising up & releasing others into the callings that God had put on their lives. And every Monday, I listened to these guys lead their churches in Sunday worship through various teaching series, & over the next couple of years, I began to feel like I really knew them. What motivated them. Their loves & values & strengths. Areas of frustration, traps & pitfalls they’d discovered over time. I even got to know their families & family dynamics. And not one of them ever knew that they were mentoring me, shaping me, challenging me to grow into what God was calling me to be & do in my own life, family, & ministry context.

In the middle of this time, I can remember praying, asking God to ‘send me a mentor, someone that I could look up to & interact with that would help point me in right directions.” And God answered, “I have. You’re being mentored right now. Listen. Learn. Question. Wonder. Pursue Me in the context of what you’re hearing, what you’re learning & I will guide your steps.”

It was revolutionary for me – at that moment, I saw my own life from a mile-in-the-sky view & saw that God had been working in (& THROUGH) my life for years through the men & women He’d brought into my life, whether in person (like my dad & dear friend Chuck Shoemake) or from a distance, (the teachers I was listening to, Steve Taylor, Annie Herring, & many, many others.)

The funniest part of the whole interaction with God was the very subtle but very real understanding that I came away with – I, Louie, am to live a life of someone to look up to. I am a part of the great challenge given from Paul to the Corinthians, “…follow my example AS I FOLLOW the example of Christ. 1Corinthians 11:1, NIV.)  Instead of trying to find a person to be my mentor, I was to follow the great examples of those men & women in my life who were following Christ… & to expect that there were those that would then use me to do the same.


All of this to say – there aren’t any short-cuts or “7 steps to…” anything that substitute for the process of growing as a disciple of Christ, physically, relationally, emotionally, & spiritually. And if we look around, there are many, many men & women who are someone to look up to, people who are living flawed but exemplary examples of what it means to follow Christ, in their context, on their mission. Look for them. Be one of them. Keep moving forward, & bring others with you whenever you have the opportunity.

 

Yesterday, Costco was beautiful…

Yesterday, Costco was beautiful.

I went shopping at Costco yesterday. It’s something that I find myself doing on a regular basis. Not because I enjoy it so much, but out of necessity. In a perfect world, theBean would be doing the Costco (& other grocery) shopping… because she LOVES it. However, due to our current work/life situation & the fact that her job is much less time-flexible than mine is, I ‘get’ to be the shopper.  TheBean gets to live vicariously through me & my glorious shopping experiences because we use an app called “Wunderlist,” which allows us to create, save, & share shopping lists with each other. And with every item I check off the list & put in my cart, she gets a notification of what I’m doing… as well as a visual of where I am in the store.

What she doesn’t get, however, are the joys that come from people-interactions & people-watching. No. Those are all for me, the fearless “Costco-shopping-in-December-5-days-before-Christmas” guy. Sometimes those experiences are cringe-worthy & painful. Sometimes they are beautiful. Yesterday’s was beautiful.


I raced to the checkout line before theBean could remotely add yet-another item to the shopping list, & rejoiced that there were ONLY 2 carts in front of me. The first belonged to a couple of Hispanic ladies; one of the ladies translated for the other, & then communicated with the checker in broken yet very understandable English. The second belonged to a 30-ish dad wrangling his 2 sons… probably 3 & 5 years of age. It’s not like I was trying to pay extra special attention, or that I sensed that somehow, something incredible was happening. Nope. Just checking out at Costco on a Wednesday, overjoyed at the fact that I’d survived yet another trip into the belly of the beast.

In due time, my trusty cashier took his hand-held scanner & painted every item in & below my cart with flair. I put my Costco card on the scanner & “BOOM!” I’m done, receipts in hand, heading for the car & the Promised Land of the parking lot.

Thing is, I had another line to stand in… the dreaded “after you check out at Costco you have to get your receipt double-checked to make sure you paid for everything &/or got charged wrong” line. And yesterday, the second “double-checker” was helping a woman get her motorized Costco chair/cart up to speed & adjusted to fit her frame. Which left 1 double-checker to do the work of 2. Which meant a long, slow line to get to the Promised Land.

So I waited.

A younger, less-refined, more impatient version of Louie would have been fuming. Places to go. Things to do. Crowds to navigate/avoid. That Louie isn’t around much anymore. He’s not much fun & I’ve learned (painfully) to put him in his place (mostly) before he emerges & makes life more challenging for all who get the privilege of experiencing him. (Hopefully I’m becoming more like Christ, one step at a time…)

And then I heard the older boy that had been in the cart in front of me asking his dad questions.

NOTE: As a rule, I pay attention to little kids when I see them out in the real world. Part of it is all the fun & joy they bring in to the world, fun & joy I see (just about) every day at theBean’s preschool. Part of it is that kids get marginalized & ignored a lot of the time, & I believe it makes a difference if you acknowledge them as miniature humans when you encounter them. Sometimes they’ll surprise you.

The questions flowed rapid-fire in true 5-year old fashion:

  • KID 1 – “Daddy why did that lady speak a funny language?”
    • DAD – “Probably because she learned her language first & hasn’t gotten a chance to learn ours yet.  It’s called ‘Spanish.'” (KID 1 repeats it to himself, “Spanish.”)
    • DAD – “God made all sorts of people in all sorts of shapes & colors & sizes that speak all sorts of languages. Our language, English, is just one of them.”
  • KID 1 – “But the other girl could kinda speak our language. Better than him,” (pointing at KID 2, little brother).
    • DAD – “She probably has worked really hard to be able to do that… & I bet the more she does it, the better she will get at it. Wasn’t it sweet that she was helping the other woman so she could shop at Costco today?”
  • KID 1 – “Yes. But it makes me sad that the other lady couldn’t talk. What if she didn’t have the other woman to help her?”
    • DAD – “That would be sad. Sometimes God will put people in places to be able to help, & I bet He might even put someone at Costco who could help that lady if her friend wasn’t there.”
  • KID 1 – “I wish we could help next time.”
    • DAD – “I could… I can speak some Spanish.” KID 1 is over the moon, blown away by the fact that HIS DAD could have helped. 
  • KID 1 – “Daddy I WANT to learn Spanish too. So I can help. Can I learn Spanish too!”
    • DAD – “Yes you can – it might be hard, but you can do it.”
  • KID 1 – “I don’t care if it’s hard. God will help me, because I KNOW He wants me to be one of His helpers.”
    • DAD – “That’s great, buddy! He will help you. And you CAN be a helper.”

At this point, we’d reached the double-checkers, & his cart was summarily reviewed & released. Then mine was. I pushed my cart to the car, while tears ran down my face, making it a little more difficult than normal to navigate the brisk & bright parking lot. Turns out I was parked next to the Dad & his 2 kids. We both loaded our goods into our respective cars & then I took my cart back to the cart return. He was (attempting) to get both boys into their carseats & finding it to be a challenge. I asked him, “Hey, can I return your cart for you?” I could tell from his expression & his obvious relief that he hadn’t even considered that yet, & he expressed his appreciation at my small gesture.

When I got back from returning the cart, he was JUST finishing with the boys & had JUST gotten the back doors shut. He said, “Thank you. Shopping with the boys is an adventure. This is our third store of the day already, & I bet if I’d gone alone I could have been finished with everything in 90 minutes. Here we are on Hour 3…”

I smiled & encouraged him, “The time with your boys is worth it. And while you’re doing the shopping, you’re shaping them to be good men who look to help others & trust God will give them what they need to do it. Good job, Dad!”

With a wave & a handshake, we parted ways.

Yesterday, Costco was beautiful.

You have purpose!

This Advent season, I’ve been using a friend’s book, “ADVENT Encounter” as my guide… Each week of Advent is marked by a different theme, with this week’s theme being PURPOSE. I really resonated with the premise that no matter WHO we are, WHAT we do/our job title (or lack thereof,) or HOW mundane, insignificant, or blah our lives seem, we ALL have purpose.

In the story of Jesus’ birth, one of the places this pops up is with the shepherds tasked with caring for their sheep in the open pastures by night. Who were the shepherds? Traditionally, shepherds were the one’s in the family structure that could be spared for the mundane labor of caring for sheep. This included the very young, the old, & others who weren’t needed for more ‘vital’ family jobs… low man/woman on the totem pole got this job.  (For example, the story of David’s being anointed as king, found HERE, comes to mind. When the prophet Samuel asked David’s father, Jesse, to gather ALL his sons for a special meal & celebration, he brought everyone. Everyone, that is, except David, the youngest, the runt. He was left out tending the sheep. He wasn’t thought to be significant enough to invite. You get the picture. David ended up being the very one that Samuel was there to anoint.)

The shepherds in the story of Jesus were in the middle of nowhere outside the sleepy town of Bethlehem when they saw the angelic hosts declaring “A Savior is born here today!” THEY were the ones who God chose to announce His Good News to, & they were the 1st to greet baby Jesus & His parents, & to share that news with others. They had a purpose, a God-given purpose, something that didn’t depend on their social standing, their real/perceived intelligence, or how well they were/were not regarded by others.

My mentor used to say, “There are no unimportant roles or jobs in the kingdom of God.” See, God doesn’t rank our importance the way much of society does – it’s not about our accomplishments, wealth, job title, academics, etc… it’s about our willingness & availability to God. Personalizing this, EVERYTHING I do is significant, because of WHO I’m doing it for. Ephesians 1 references how we live, work, & play for the glory of God –> pointing to Him in & through everything we do. When I’m cleaning the toilets, I’m doing it to the glory of God. When I’m serving in a place of special significance & honor, I’m doing it to the glory of God. The venue might change, but the motivation behind it doesn’t. I have purpose – to bring glory to God.

This ADVENT/Christmas season, I want to encourage you to consider this: BE & DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING if He was walking in your shoes. Your purpose is clear: BE a blessing; DO good; LEAVE peace in your wake: & SHARE God’s Good News when given the opportunity.

Come on in…

One of the great joys of my life is I get to have 3 of my 4 grandkids in & around our preschool at least 4 days a week. This means Lucs, O, & Mimi get all sorts of special extra attention from Poppy & Gram; it’s not been uncommon to have the boys (4 & 2) come barging into my office on one of their “breaks” from school for playtime with Poppy. This usually means lightsaber/sword battles, playing catch, & more recently, jamming on our guitars. During my playtimes with the boys, Mimi, the smallest of them all at 1 year & 18 pounds, has become a fixture on my office sofa… because she’s so small, she’s not been able to engage in the full-on boy play. Rather, she’s sat on the sidelines & screamed & hollered & laughed. Until today…

Today I was working at my desk on my computer when I heard a big “THUMP” & saw my door begin to slooooowwly swing open, finally crashing to a halt against the door stop. And in came… MIMI! All by herself, with the biggest smile on her face – she toddled around the side of my desk & extended her arms to me in the universal “Pick me up!” posture. And I did. And she gave me the biggest hug & nestled her little head against my shoulder for what seemed like an hour but was probably only about 10 seconds. And then she pointed at the door & made the “Put me down!” motion. She hit the ground running, & headed out of my office into the classroom next door where her mama was.


As I sit here typing this, I’m overcome with love & thankfulness that my granddaughter, Mimi thought to crash through my door to come see me. I was working, but there is NO work in the world too important to keep this Poppy from sweeping up his Mimi for hugs & attention. (You know what I’m talking about?!)

Made me wonder: “How much more does our Heavenly Father love us & long for us to come to Him so He can sweep us up in His arms, to receive us with love & grace?”