Prevented/Stopped/Forbidden…

Yesterday was a weird day.

Here’s a sum up, with a little bit of background.

Acts 16 tells of the (continuing) story of the Apostle Paul & his missionary travels with his band of merry men. (Ok – I’m just assuming that the guys were merry; they WERE, however, for sure, his traveling companions in sharing the Gospel Good News throughout {mostly} the Greek/non-Jewish world.)  And yet… This passage reveals that at least twice on this particular journey, Paul & his team were prevented/stopped/forbidden from doing the very thing that Jesus Himself had told Paul he was to devote his life to doing. No sharing the gospel. No declaring the Good News. No even entering entire geographic regions.

The provinces of Asia. Mysia.  Bithynia. Forbidden by the Holy Spirit.

And then Paul has a dream, a dream of a Macedonian man begging him to come to Macedonia. Paul determines, “I guess we’re supposed to go to Macedonia…” So they did, & as a result, we have the Philippian incident, a strong & influential 1st century church, & Paul’s letter to the Philippians.


I’ve read this passage in Acts many, many times, & I always wonder:

  1. WHY would the Holy Spirit keep Paul & his team from doing something good like sharing the message of the Gospel Good News in a place that had never heard it before?”  
  2. What was it like to be prevented/stopped/& yes, even forbidden by the Holy Spirit? How did Paul KNOW the opposition they were experiencing was God & not the enemy, his own flesh, or something else? (THIS is the bigger question for me.)

The answers I’d probably give to those questions (if someone else was asking me,) are these:

  1. God knows. :) Maybe it has to do with His timing – & it wasn’t time for the Gospel Good News in those places. Maybe it wasn’t Paul’s mission from God to go to Asia, Mysia, & Bithynia, but rather someone elses mission for the future. (Kinda like when you think about the lame man at the Beautiful Gate. He’d been there, unable to walk, for as long as anyone could remember. Jesus would have had to walk by him EVERY single time Jesus went to the Temple for prayer & worship. Jesus DIDN’T heal the man… but Peter & John DID, & it was an incredible sign that led to thousands of people being added to the Church.
  2. Good question. From my own experiences at seeking God’s will & direction, & also from what we see in the Scriptures, there is no ONE way that God speaks to people. There is no ONE way, a litmus test if you will, that, after it’s performed, will give a definitive answer, a clear indication of God’s purposes.
    1. Was it that Paul & the guys tried to make plans & they kept falling through? Maybe their preparations kept coming to naught & eventually they figured, “If this door isn’t opening up, let’s try something new, a new destination & see if THAT door opens.
    2. It doesn’t say that Paul had a “NO” vision or clear sign NOT to go to these places; it says he tried & was stopped, so he tried a couple other places & was stopped. And then he had the dream about the Macedonian man, from which he deduced, “I guess we’re supposed to go there.” Not scientific. Not a declarative & booming from heaven James Earl Jones voice.
    3. It really speaks to the fact that Paul & the team were used to letting God direct their steps; they prepared, got moving, & then were very easily redirected with the (often) subtle nudges given by the Holy Spirit to those He trusts. Paul knew his mission was to declare & share the Gospel Good News; this story shows that he also knew to not try to do it in his own strength with his own giftings. He learned to go & do what God told him to & where He told him to do it. (Kinda reminds me of what Jesus said about only doing what He saw His Father in Heaven doing.”

Here’s a time when I believe this happened to me:

Years ago, I  was offered a ‘side gig’ as an American History teacher at a local private school. I jumped at the chance… after all, my ‘dream’ job for years was teaching High School/College history. I can remember thinking to myself, “What an incredible opportunity! I’m so  thankful to God for Him giving me the chance to teach history AND continue to pastor.” The euphoria about teaching history lasted about 45 minutes, after which I was hit with a really strong heaviness… it wasn’t oppressive, wasn’t strongly negative, & it didn’t ‘feel’ like spiritual opposition (hard to explain or put words to.)  it was just heavy, almost to the point of incapacitating, esp. when I began the task  of putting together a calendar of events & happenings for the year.

I couldn’t do  it. Not even a little. Imagine the worst writers block you’ve ever had & multiply it by 1000. I was stuck before I even got out of the gate. I can remember asking God, “Lord, please, will you please help me please? I’ve got  to prepare this so I can submit it to the administration so I can teach. Please?” 

It was at that point I got the sense of God saying, “But you never asked Me if this was for you to do.” And I knew. All the heaviness, all the difficulty, all the stuck-ness… that was what it felt like to try to do something (that I loved & aspired to do!) in my own strength, without the grace of God to empower or strengthen or equip me to do.

And so I prayed. Asked God for direction, asked Him “If not this, then WHAT am I to give this extra energy & attention to?” Couldn’t have been more than a minute when i got an idea for something I’d not given much thought to before… but that now seemed to be exactly what would come next for me. I pursued it & it flowed. It wasn’t easy – but it was simple. I could better differentiate between doing something in my own strength vs. doing something with the grace of God.

Which leads to my weird yesterday.


I’ve been working on & prepping for a project for church for the last 3 months; it’s been tough going, but I thought as we got closer things would  come together & get simpler.

Nope.

(In case you’re wondering, without going into specifics, it’s a project I love & a project I believe in.)

Finally, yesterday around 11 a.m., I realized I’d been wrestling for almost 3 hours with the same question & had a total of 3 words (not even a complete sentence) on my notepad. My head felt foggy, I had no ideas, no motivation, no insights, nothing. It felt like I couldn’t progress in this if my life depended on it. I was desperate.

I prayed. Talked with theBean. Interacted with my staff. And then I prayed some more, for wisdom & insight into what I was dealing with. All of the sudden, I had the thought, “What if we DON’T do this project? What if we just pull the plug on it today?” 

“Yes.” I heard it in my spirit. “Yes. Pull the plug.”

And so I did.


Immediately, my brain cleared.

I had ideas for 10 things that  I/we could do  instead of the project we’d been working on.

I felt normal. Better than normal. Like I’d just woken up after a long, wonderful nap. Couldn’t believe HOW MUCH different I felt in just a moment of time.

As I processed through it with theBean last night, I  wondered WHAT had been going on & what had lifted (& WHY) when I said “No” to the project. I’d never felt this way before, except… the history teaching gig. Ahh. Is that what this was? Me going out in my own strength & abilities to try to make something happen, (something GOOD I’ll have you know,) something that was not on God’s agenda for now/the near future? I tried to remember: “Did I ask God if I was supposed to continue with this project even though it wasn’t progressing, even though we’d done a version of it before & found it to be incredibly helpful & GOOD!?” I don’t know.

I’m still not 100% sure, but are we EVER 100% sure? As I have continued to think about it today, I process how many times we’re led to act because it “seems good to me/us & the Holy Spirit.” No direct words from on high. No ringing prophetic words. Nothing. Just a big, hard, seemingly impenetrable wall in one direction & clear skies & clear sailing in another one.

Still processing… And thankful for the grace of God in & ON my life.

Taco! Taco!

For the last 5 or so Labor Days, theBean & I have rented a cabin at Lake Tahoe & then invited our kids & their families to come up & experience it & the Lake with us as their schedules allowed. We were inspired by the movie Dan in Real Life – (this is a must see. If you haven’t seen it before: WATCH IT! If you have: WATCH IT AGAIN. So good.) Anyway – we rent a cabin because it’s a great way to have ‘our’ cabin at Tahoe without the cost & upkeep of owning a cabin at Lake Tahoe.

One of our great joys over the last couple of visits to our cabin has been the anticipation we all experience in the week to 10 days preceding the getaway… as well as the fun of telling the grandkids about Lake Tahoe, the cabin, time together away, etc… Who cares if they have little to no understanding of what it means to “go to the cabin” or what “Lake Tahoe” is. They can sense the excitement we’re feeling & they want it too. Whatever “IT” is.


Which leads me to this afternoon: I was helping theWeez get MilaJoy & BrodyBenson to her car after a long, fun day at preschool. MilaJoy was crying & resisting leaving. Initially, I thought it was because she wanted to go with her Gram (favorite person on the planet. Of course she is.) Then, I heard MilaJoy saying “Taco! Taco!” & I thought to myself, “Oh, she’s hungry & she wants to eat a taco. Me too Mimi. Me too.”

But then theBean interpreted MilaJoy’s words: she was saying “Taco” but what she meant was “Tahoe.” After hearing all the stories about the cabin, the Lake, the swimming, the fun, she wanted to GO to Taco. Because even if she has zero clue what Tahoe is, what it means, & what she’ll do there, she knows that her favorite person (people? I can wish, right?) is going to Taco & if Gram will be at Taco, MilaJoy wants to be at Taco as well. I had BIG laugh at the sweetness of it all, & said a BIG “Thank you!” to Jesus for His provision for us in this season of life.

And then I sensed God talking to me. It was like He was saying, “Mila doesn’t have a clue about all that the destination of Taco means, but she knows who will be there, so she wants to go, & she wants to go now. She KNOWS Taco will be great because Gram will be there.”

To me, THIS is what childlike faith is – a belief & trust that the One I love & trust more than any other is inviting me to come with Him – to be with Him, even if it means I don’t have all the details of what it means to go with Him. Faith & trust reveal His invitation to be a good one, because HE is good & He is working things for good in, through, & around us.

And that is really something.

More than enough?

When I read through the Gospels, I like to imagine myself in the disciples’ shoes (sandals?) as each story unfolds… it helps me with understanding & also keeps me from distancing (or at least attempting to distance) myself from their often less than stellar responses to Jesus’ teaching, His questions, & what He’s asked them to do. Here’s what I mean.


Today during the Zoom Bible study I’m a part of, someone brought up the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, in the context of what specifically Jesus asked His disciples to do. (For a refresher, check out Mark 6:30-44.)

The disciples are tired. Bone tired. All they want to do is go somewhere quiet to rest. WITHOUT crowds. WITHOUT interruptions. WITHOUT anything to DO. And yet… somehow, the crowds find them, & like He usually did, Jesus had compassion on the masses & taught them. At some point, a couple of the disciples, (don’t know who) saw that it was late. They had been tired before, but NOW… now they were exhausted. Some brave soul among them encouraged Jesus to send the crowds home so they could get something to eat (& perhaps so the disciples could EAT & get some well-earned REST.

And then Jesus threw them a curveball: “YOU feed them. You guys – feed THEM.” I can only imagine the side-conversations between the disciples as they tried to figure out what Jesus really meant when He told them to feed the crowds…

“He said to feed them? No way. No how. HOW would we be able to do that? We are TOAST & we have NO supplies.This is impossible.” We don’t know if anyone tried to reason with Jesus at the unreasonableness of His directive, or if any disciple attempted to explain that feeding people (esp. so many people!) required either a) a whole bunch of money &/or b) a whole bunch of food, both of which the disciples DID NOT have.

If this is me in this situation, I am frustrated. Not because I’ve been asked to do something when I’m super tired (ok, maybe that is part of it) but really, mostly it would be because I was asked to do something that was IMPOSSIBLE to do. On my best day, with a veritable Costco/superstore amount of food at my disposal, I would be hard-pressed to do THIS. The impossibility of the task highlights one of my (our?) great struggles: I am inadequate. I do not have the resources to do  what needs to be done. I am (I feel like) a failure. I am not enough. And now I am exposed.

And  yet…

Jesus isn’t messing with His guys – He asks, “What DO you have? I know what you DON’T have, but what DO you have?” A quick survey discovers that there are exactly  2 fish & 5 loaves of bread that were offered up by someone to share with the 5000. (We also don’t know if other people had brought food with them & hadn’t wanted to SHARE with others when the disciples were asking around for any donations… I can totally see people in the crowd hiding their own resources to make sure that they’d have food for themselves, & if other people wanted to eat, well, “…they should have been responsible & brought their own.” But I digress…) 

A disciple brings Jesus the meager offering & He blesses the fish. He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it & hands it to the disciples nearest Him.

“Go ahead. Pass it out. These people are hungry! Get to it boys!”


I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist or an overachiever, though I would say I like to get things right & I want to (need to?) follow through with an assignment I’ve been given. To not be able to finish something, to not have the ability to accomplish what I’ve been tasked with… that is one of the worst feelings in the world. The 1st-born (perfectionist overachiever?) part of me takes pride in my hard work, my ability to DO what needs to be done, to Step Up & be responsible & perform well. And if I can’t? Not usually an option…

When I think of Jesus asking me to feed the 5000 with an inadequate supply of food, my stomach turns. I think of the awkward conversations. Hungry people looking to me for dinner only to find that I’m not able to give them. Excuses. Worries. Fears. Insecurities. I am not enough & now I am exposed.

But Jesus didn’t ask if I had enough – He asked WHAT I had. HE gave thanks. HE blessed it. HE gave it to me &  HE told me to start passing it out. He didn’t give any qualifiers. He didn’t ask my opinion on how I thought it would go or if I thought it was fair, right, or good of Him to ask me to pass out the fish & bread.

He just asked me to take what HE gave me & share it with others. Not to keep track of it. Not to measure how much each person got. Just to give to others as I’ve received. To OBEY, not evaluate.


The disciples passed out the loaves & the fish… & kept passing it out. And kept passing it out. And pretty soon, everyone had enough. More than enough. People were leaning back on the grass with contented bellies, big smiles on their faces, & the beginnings of a food coma creeping up on them. As they began to head for their homes, Jesus had the disciples pick up the leftovers(!) from the feast… & there were 12 small baskets FULL. (I’m not a math whiz, but 12 small baskets FULL of fish & bread seems to be > 2 fish & 5 loaves of bread.)

There’s no indication that anyone besides Jesus, the disciples, & maybe the dude who shared his food had any idea of the miracle that Jesus accomplished that day. And really, it wasn’t about food. It was about His disciples. It was about trust & faith. It was about believing that if Jesus SAID to do something, you did it. You didn’t look at your inadequacy, your lack of ability to perform, your potential for failure… you just obeyed & believed that the responsibility for providing the feast fell on Jesus.


Ever since the lunch Bible study/discussion, I’ve been thinking on how often I evaluate situations I am facing based upon my ability to accomplish the tasks in front of me instead of looking to the One who’s asked me to simply do what He said, to share what He’s given to me. Without looking at my resources, abilities, energy (or lack thereof…) And I’m reminded that the Jesus in the Bible is the same Jesus that is working so patiently with me to transform me, to work through me, to make me a blessing & a help to people who need some sort of sustenance, physical or otherwise.

And in that situation, I am enough, because Jesus is MORE than enough & I can share what He’s given (& continues to give) to me, with others.

…but here I am, living my new life & other musings…

I have a namesake: Moses Louis Heifner. I’d like to say that  one of the requirements I gave to Mo-Lou’s parents, Chris & Natalie, for me hiring Chris as our Worship/Creative Arts guy was that they had to agree to use MY name for one of their children, but that wouldn’t be accurate or right, esp. seeing that Mo-Lou was born BEFORE I hired Chris. But that would have been a good story.

As confusing, chaotic, difficult, & stretching as 2020 has been for me & mine, I can only imagine how the  ‘utes’ (youths/young people) are navigating it, esp. with the school year starting (albeit in a typical-for-2020 herky-jerky manner.) The utes & their teachers have been on my prayer list for reals.

Today, Natalie shared something from Mo-Lou’s school day that I thought was encouraging, inspiring, & even a little bit of a tear-jerker.

…but here I am living my new life.

I can identify with that statement. Lately, I don’t feel ready for many things. And a lot of the time I find myself wishing I could fall back on one of those tried & true “do-overs” from when I was 8. You know, when you didn’t know if the ball was fair or foul, or who touched it last, or something was in question… you just declared, “Do-over” & you got to reset, to start new, to “do-it-over.” But in the meantime, I think that Mo-Lou’s answer is a perfect one that we can learn from: “I feel like I am not ready, BUT here I am living my new life.” Here’s to living our (new) lives to the best of our abilities, even when (especially when?) we don’t feel ready. May God give us the grace & faith to go forward into the unknown with the encouragement that He won’t leave or abandon us.


Fires. Man! All over the place. Wreaking havoc, instilling panic, threatening to destroy entire lives, homes, & livelihoods. And the smoke from the fires (so many fires) has filled our valley for the last couple of weeks, & made it really difficult to breathe, do anything physical outside, &/or even SEE across the city like we’re accustomed to. So imagine  my surprise (& joy!) this morning to wake up to a clear(er) sky with many thanks to early morning rains.

I’d gotten used to the smokiness. The status quo. And it only took 2 weeks. And now…

I see the sun & it looks normal. I can see the other side of the  valley. I’m reminded of the beauty I’m surrounded by that I so often take for granted.

TheBean & I went out back & sat in the fresh, rain-scented air to read, drink our morning water & coffee (2 separate drinks, not watered down coffee. That would be gross & that would be wrong. But I digress.)

So thankful for the rain that cleans, purifies, & makes new (if even for a short-time. Skies are smoky again.) I’m praying for more rain (the regular stuff that falls from the sky) & also for a God-given rain that will fall on & around me & mine… to clean, purify, & make me new.


Little Lites just opened our “Kinder Lites” Kindergarten class today. They meet in the classroom right outside my office & I have to say I was thoroughly entertained by their songs, excited voices, & goofy playfulness as they began their own school journey in a really great place.

Reminded me of how many things I can remember from my own early life, the Kindergarten years. So many memories, some good, others not so much. Stuff that I still think about at times, stuff that helped shape my thinking (again, in some good ways, & others not so good.)

In Mrs. Morris’ class, (my Kindergarten teacher at Jessie Beck Elementary back in the olden days) I learned:

  • I talked funny (couldn’t say my “L’s”  or my “R’s”) until about 3rd grade
  • If I asked the wrong person for help, I would get made fun of
  • Recess was (& remains) the best
  • No matter how big a problem is/seems, rest/a little nap helps a lot
  • Clean up time, while not being fun, was/is one of the most important life lessons
  • School District toilet paper is THE WORST (2″ x 2″ 1-ply squares? Seriously.)
  • Reading opens up all sorts of worlds & provides a phenomenal respite from the ‘real’
  • Girls are interesting & VERY different from boys

For the stuff I’ve had to unlearn: I’m thankful for my parents & for the people who  took the time to show me another way. For those who God worked through to re-shape that which was intended to mar, to warp, & to damage me, into just memories & reminders that things don’t always go our way, & God’s  word on ME & who I am & will be is THE final say.

There is no chore list…

On September 21, 2015, I was in a hole. Not a physical hole; a dark night of the soul kind of hole. (This is best explained through the lens of Peter Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” – check it out.) Without getting into all the gory details, I was a mess: personally & in all of my “roles” (man, husband, father, son, friend, pastor, etc…)

That particular day, I came across an “ad” on FaceBook that my friend David posted, advertising a 9-month invitation to participate in Spiritual Direction (SD) with him. I was down & desperate, so I thought, “Why not? Could it get any worse?” & I reached out to him & set up my 1st meeting. Basically, I’d describe spiritual direction as the process that happens when a trained ‘director’ sits with a person on a regular basis (for me it is 1x/month for 1 hour,) for the purpose of pursuing spiritual growth within the context of Holy-Spirit led questions, silence, reflection, some conversation, & prayer. (Very oversimplified definition, I know. But, I wanted to give you something here… & it is definitely NOT “finding a spiritual guru who will tell you what to do & how  to do it. Sitting with someone & being fully present is an incredible gift to the one receiving the gift of presence – both of God & of the director.)


Anyway, over the last 5 years, I’ve seen how God used this 1 hour/month to transform & “grow” me in an ongoing manner. The focus rarely has been on my role as a pastor; it is 99.99% about me, the man, pursuing growth in my relationship & understanding of God. Spiritual direction has played a key role in the overall plan God has used in/on me to make me more like Jesus. This has never been more true than over the last 5+ months of the pandemic, quarantine, & chaos that we all have experienced due to the COVID-19 world shutdown tour.


Like you, I’ve been forced to revisit my WHOLE LIFE over these last months: my devotions, my life-rhythms, the things I do/don’t do on just about every level. One issue I’ve wrestled with my whole life is equating my worth/value with what I am doing/producing. This isn’t just a Louie problem; its something that many, many people embrace as our culture subtly (& not so subtly) reinforces the message that busyness, productivity, doing, & accomplishments are what are valued & important & should be pursued.

I’ve battled in the “being vs. doing” war for years, & I’ve seen great growth in my life… I (mostly) structured my life to give myself time to BE (being physically & mentally present with people, celebrating a Sabbath, taking regular vacations, not over-scheduling myself, etc…) The pandemic & forced stoppage has (temporarily?) taken away our ability to ‘get away.’ (I find it easy to get away & be on vacation when I am far from home. Mexico is nice.) Three short getaways & a 2 week Puerto Vallarta anniversary trip cancelled. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to God about this – “So, if I can’t GET AWAY for the times we scheduled for rest, recharging, & connecting with each other, WHAT am I going to do to make sure I don’t slip back into doing all the time?”


Yesterday during my spiritual direction time, this same theme (being vs. doing) came up. As I was pondering one of the questions David asked me, I got a picture in my mind of the interactions of the two sisters, Mary & Martha, with Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)

You may have heard this one – its where Jesus goes to the sisters’ house & one of them, Martha, rushes around doing chores & sprucing the place up (the Savior is here! Of course the place needs to be clean, right?.) But while Martha is cleaning up a storm, her sister, Mary, just sits at Jesus’ feet. Martha gets ticked off & finally asks Jesus to make Mary help out… & Jesus’ gently corrects her & reminds her that Mary has chosen the BETTER part by just sitting & being with Him. (BTW: Kate Miner has an incredible song that addresses this, “Prodigal Martha” which for some reason I can’t find a free recording on the inter-webs, so you’ll have to do with just the lyrics. Buy the album – Prodigal Martha on her SITE. You’ll thank me later.)

The image of the 2 sisters has been one that God has used for YEARS to remind me of His invitation for me to JUST BE with Him… I don’t need to be constantly occupied with stuff (even good, well-meaning, church-y stuff…) but to be occupied with Him. These days, I’d even say that most of the time, I would readily identify with Mary the BE-er more than I would Martha the DO-er.

And then God interrupted my thought process with an image of a list of chores that I was rehearsing in my head, stuff that needed to be done if/when I’m with Jesus doing my Mary impersonation. Yes, I might be sitting at Jesus’ feet, but was I really listening to Him, or was I looking at my chores, my to-do list?

I felt a gentle nudge in my Spirit & ‘heard’ God say, “You’re coming to Me & you know that I want you to just BE here with Me, but you’re still thinking that somehow, someway, that it isn’t enough, that you aren’t enough for Me when you just BE. And you’re rehearsing this list & I want to tell you: ‘THERE IS NO CHORE LIST.'”


That realization cut me to the heart: there’s no chore list? God isn’t bored with the idea of me just BEING with Him? He’s not waiting impatiently, (in my head at least) for me to get moving & get doing? To get the chores done?

I am enough because HE is enough, & what He says, goes.

In the way that only God can, He took me on a mental review of how my Bible-reading time has shifted over the last several months. It’s no longer a minimum list of chapters or a minimum time to be fulfilled… more & more, it’s morphed into a “I read & then reflect until I’m done. There were several more examples He brought to my mind, but suffice it to say, He re-showed me that He IS transforming me, & is inviting me to:

  • Keep sitting at His feet on a regular basis
  • Put away the chore list, the mental arrangement of things to do because He said so – there is no chore list.
  • Just BE. –  (if you’ve never clicked on the “JUST BE” link, click on it. GREAT song by Jesus Culture & Kim Walker-Smith. You’ll thank me later.)

I wept. And I came away from that time feeling different. I knew that God said I am enough because HE is enough, & that He enjoys time with me just because… not because of what I can do, but because we’re together. My heart is lighter & I’m feeling some of my Type-A personality fading away to the point that it is getting difficult to hear the ticking of the clock that’s always run in my head…


You are enough because HE is enough. Just BE. And great news: There IS NO chore list…

Embrace the mystery…

One of the more challenging aspects of navigating through this pandemic & the resulting quarantine, isolation, disruption of any kind of normal, is the fact that there is no end date in sight. Over the last 5 months, we’ve seen just about every agency under the sun offer up a date on the calendar… a time when we could expect (hope?) that Things Would Be Back To Normal & we could expect the craziness to Be Over.

The  dates have moved. The stated target goals have shifted. It’s almost like we’re in  a holding pattern, waiting for someone, somewhere to offer up the “ALL CLEAR” so we can all take off our masks, let out a collective HEAVY SIGH of relief, & resume life.

It’s definitely taken a toll on mental, emotional, relational health & well-being. People are more stressed, more anxious, & more depressed.

I know I have experienced this 1st hand. I sought out (& got, & continue to get) help to process the mental/emotional/relational challenges. Some of the things that I’m doing as a part of my  life & health routine are:

  • Exercising at least 5 times a week;
  • Checking in regularly with my spiritual director;
  • intentionally reading my Bible a little more than usual, daily;
  • daily worship times (sometimes w/my guitar, sometimes just listening to Spotify & singing along);
  • spending more time reading for fun;
  • sitting with theBean for at least an hour a night; no TV, just us, some good music & Nevada scenery
  • making sure to check-in, in person as much as possible, when/where possible, with loved ones

Today I had lunch with a dear friend, Jake. In addition to being a top-notch homebrewer, baseball aficionado, husband, father, & friend, Jake is a mental health professional.  So, over an incredible “Stetson Burger” (bacon & bleu cheese, w/the BEST onion rings I’ve ever had) from Beefy’s, I  asked Jake for a suggestion (or ten) to help me (& others) with our mental & emotional health through this prolonged period of This Is Not Normal.

Jake’s encouragements were simple & straightforward:

This kind of mystery isn’t something we can call in Columbo or Sherlock Holmes or Monk (or pick your favorite detective) to solve. It is the reality that many times in life, there are things  we can’t know, & as much as we’d like to be able to control & schedule & plan & dial-in our lives, in reality we can’t (anymore than we can control the wind or the tides.)

I  was greatly  comforted by Jake’s words – & I spend time on the way back to the office breathing in & out  – prayers, asking God to continue to give me His peace & be peace to me that I can pass His peace on to others. I prayed for contentment – to be content with  the  mystery of Not Knowing, in the middle of the  Not Normal. I thanked God that even while I am wrestling with my own struggles through this, HE is  still in control, He is STILL on the throne, & He has been, is, & will continue to be preparing me for such a time as this. No matter how I feel.

Thanks Jake.  Mystery, here I  come to hug you.

Be LESS & Do LESS…

January 19th of this year, theBean & I celebrated 20 years pastoring at Hillside. It was a beautiful day with great friends, incredible BBQ (thank you Peter & Pete’s Meat). There were many encouraging things spoken, prayers prayed, & good words from our guest speaker, my dear friend & spiritual director David P. We came away from the weekend incredibly thankful & full of anticipation about what our future at Hillside & in Reno might hold for us.

We had NO IDEA what  was coming.

About a month into Nevada’s stay-at-home order (aka the beginning of the quarantine,) the depth & breadth of the impact of what humanity, worldwide, might be facing was beginning to emerge. I can remember feeling overwhelmed, & somehow, more tired than I’d been in who knows how long. Even though we weren’t meeting in person for church, I found my workload had greatly increased, & in addition to the mental/emotional/relational toll ALL THE THINGS were taking, I was constantly drained & often felt like I was running on fumes.

It’s not like I stopped self-care (exercise, Sabbath/rest, eating well, etc…) but I definitely underestimated the impact of our circumstances on me & my sense of well-being.


One of the resources my boss made available to me (& to the other men & women that wear the same hats that I do,) was our District’s “Director of Leadership Development,”  Jessie Cruikshank – she’s  a wonderful, caring, & brilliant! woman  who’s been a real Godsend to me & mine (& to many  others, directly & indirectly.) Among her specialities are the mind, brain, & education,  leading in a prolonged crisis, & spiritual transformation. (Greatly encourage you to check out a couple of those links. Some really good resources are available.) Anyway, on one of the Zoom calls that she lead our District team through, Jessie made a comment that went something like this:

“One of the keys to navigating a crisis like the one our nation is in is to intentionally be LESS productive & do LESS than you would normally do. Try to give away no more than 60-70% of your schedule, your time, your energy. Because you are facing things right now & in the next weeks & months that will put demands on you that  you can’t even begin to imagine.”

Be LESS productive? Do LESS? WHAT?

That really stuck with me – partially because it is counter-intuitive… the bigger the crisis/challenge, the harder you work, right? (Its what was in my head at least.) And yet… I could tell ‘the normal self-care routine” wasn’t cutting it, & I love learning new things & how to navigate through them/incorporate the  relevant & effective & healthy, & good into my everyday life.

And so, theBean & I changed our schedules – it helps being somewhat self-employed (we, thankfully, have a pretty good ability to adjust our work schedules). We started taking extra time (an hour or so) in the morning to sit in the quiet, read our Bibles, have coffee, & JUST BE. (Check out that link for a great song from Kim Walker-Smith.)

Sometimes we’d sit downstairs on our couch. Other times we’d be in our room under the big window, or on the little balcony (where we can see the sun rise.) But we did it, & have continued to do it.

In the last month, we’ve expanded our “do LESS/be LESS” times to the evening as well… at the end of our evenings, we find our good sitting places, listen to music, talk, & relax.

While it doesn’t take away or ‘handle’ all of the challenges associated with this long-term mess, it has helped. Is helping. Will continue to help.

So – maybe you needed to hear that – be LESS productive. Do  LESS. Just BE.


TheBean is turning into Elmer Fudd. And it’s all because of the Wabbits.

Last August while we were off celebrating our 30th anniversary, I surprised her with a new front yard, complete with new, healthy, lush, & beautifully green grass (or at least as good as it  gets in Nevada). One of her favorite things in the world is to sit on the little balcony in the evening, enjoy the view, the quiet, & look at the beauty…

Lately, however, we’ve noticed the grass has gotten… well, patchy. Our lawn guy told us it was because the local rabbit population found our lawn to be Oh So Choice & had obviously chosen to make it their preferred dinner location ad infinitum.

And so theBean bought (water) guns. And we now sit each evening on the little balcony enjoying ourselves, relaxing in the quiet, WHILE waiting with our (water) guns locked & loaded, just waiting for any Wascally Wabbit to show up onto OUR grass. And then the bunny gets it with both barrels.

I’m sure there will be updates on this later…

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.