Christmas music, hope, resilience, & 2020

I’ll be returning to the series I’m doing on Emotionally Healthy Spirituality soon, but I just HAD to write about this today.


If you’d have asked me this morning how I was doing, I probably would have answered “Doing ok, all things considered.” And I am/was/might be. The reason I’m waffling a bit on my answer now, 3 hours later, is that I heard some instrumental Christmas music just now.

NOTE: For years, I’ve contended that there “shall be no Christmas music played in/around the Locke household whilst I am around to hear it until the day after Thanksgiving.” 

I don’t fancy myself to be a Grinch, but (usually,) hearing Christmas music in October/early November bothers me because it feels like People are trying to rush me past where I currently am in the calendar & in life. I LIKE Christmas music, but I want to wait til Christmas time to listen to it. In the meantime, I want to listen to (just about) anything BUT Christmas music.

Until today.


As usual for Mondays, I was working on some preliminary notes for next week’s message, as well as taking care of the administrative details that I take care of in advance of the bookkeeper working her magic. Had my door shut to keep the sounds of the Kindergarten students & their classroom happenings right outside my door, outside :).

And then I heard a familiar melody. And my heart leaped in my chest & I felt a rush of emotion. Didn’t recognize it right off the bat, so I listened closer & more intently. And then I knew.

It was a piano/instrumental version of “O Holy Night.” But instead of being bothered or frustrated at the intrusion of Christmas music(!) into my world before I was ready for it, I wept. For a moment, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.

I don’t know for sure WHY hearing this song moved me so much, but I have an inkling… the theme of HOPE that entered the world > 2000 years ago is reawakened in me today.

Found myself singing along quietly, sobbing a bit through tears…

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night
O night divine
Placide Cappeau/translated by John Sullivan Dwight


After months of pandemic madness, quarantine, Stay at home orders, missing out on connecting with so many friends & family & dear ones, a complete & worldwide disruption to normal… this song gave me exactly this:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks, a new & glorious morn…
I felt hope. I FEEL hope. It’s small, & I’m definitely not overflowing at this point, but it is THERE. And the thing is, I didn’t even know that I was running 3 quarts low in my HOPE tank… but Jesus did. And today, O Holy Night stirred me up, & has me looking to our glorious hope for THIS tumultuous & difficult time… a hope that does NOT & will NOT disappoint. The Living Hope that is Jesus Christ, the One who will never leave US or forsake US.
Sustain my heart. Build resilience into my soul.
Bring on the Christmas music. #2020

The quest for “Life Abundantly” aka Emotionally Healthy Spirituality #3

I’m a couple blogs into a series exploring some of the signs of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality & how I’ve seen them manifested in my life in the past. For a refresher, here’s the list again:

  1. USING God to RUN FROM God.
  2. IGNORING anger, sadness, & fear.
  3. Dying to the WRONG things.
  4. DENYING the impact of the PAST on the PRESENT.
  5. Dividing life into SECULAR & SACRED compartments.
  6. Doing FOR God instead of being WITH God.
  7. SPIRITUALIZING away conflict.
  8. COVERING OVER brokenness, weakness, & failure.
  9. Living WITHOUT limits.
  10. JUDGING other people’s spiritual journey.

Today, I’m tackling #3 – “Dying to the WRONG things.”


I’ve always loved the simple invitation Jesus gave to those who were considering following Him… He just laid it out there, no frills, no exaggerations, no promises of glory, fame, &/or gain:

“If anyone would come after Me, let him DENY HIMSELF, TAKE up his cross DAILY, & FOLLOW me. For whoever would SAVE his life will LOSE it, but whoever LOSES his life for My sake will SAVE it.”  Luke 9:23,24 English Standard Version

Straightforward. To the point. Easy to understand, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.


I used to read & interpret this passage, personalized for me, like this.

IF I want to follow Jesus:

  • I must deny myself (repress, ignore, reject my wants, my hopes, my dreams, my plans, my ideas for fun & celebration, & all enjoyment;)
  • Take up my cross every day (be prepared to suffer, to be persecuted, to not enjoy life, to be somber & serious about the tasks & mission at hand)
  • Follow Jesus (go where He goes, do what He does, knowing that the road will most likely be lonely, the existence bleak, the pain & difficulty close...)

For a big chunk of my early life with Christ (my teen years) I associated following Jesus & the Christian life more with things that I DID NOT/COULD NOT do (lots & lots of rules & lists of things to avoid & stuff not to do,) vs. embracing a loving, caring, compassionate, kind, generous, merciful, & hospitable way of living. I couldn’t tell you WHY I thought the way I did – I wasn’t overtly TAUGHT by anyone “Don’t have any fun, don’t enjoy your life, don’t pursue your own hopes, dreams, or goals because God does not approve of such a selfish lifestyle,” but those beliefs did shape my outlook on life, my behavior, & how I viewed & valued myself & others.


At the same time, I could never really reconcile that mindset/lifestyle with another one of Jesus’ declarations:

The thief comes only to steal, & kill, & destroy. I came that they might have LIFE & have it ABUNDANTLY. John 10:10 English Standard Version.

I tried not to think about this too much… because I just KNEW, I KNEW that what I was experiencing was not even on the same planet as abundant life. Chalked up my experience to some sort of sin &/or failure on my part… Jesus was TRYING to give me abundant life, but someway, somehow I was missing it.


Things really came to a head when my view of the world started to impact my marriage & my family. We didn’t go on vacation. We didn’t spend much time doing hobbies we enjoyed. We didn’t hang out with friends for no good reason other than to have a good time. (Hanging out for church reasons didn’t count.)

It got more & more difficult for me to reconcile the message of the joy of life with Christ that I was trying to share with the living, breathing example of ME trying to live that life in my own strength, & failing miserably… & taking my wife & kids into the abyss of despair with me.


Around the time I was exposed to EHS for the first time, theBean & I were on a 17 day mission to Frankfurt. It sounds like it would be great (& some of it was,) but it was really hard for me to actually enjoy being in Europe with my wife, spending time with friends (new & old,) & not having something tangible, something productive to show for it. To make matters “worse,” on this particular trip, a dear German friend, (Claudius Paul, now with Jesus,) who thought that theBean & I “worked too much” & “didn’t take time to enjoy God’s good things,” chose to hijack our mission trip with a 4 day all expenses paid trip to Rome. Rome, Italy. Yes, that Rome.

It almost felt wrong to accept the gift, but I couldn’t say “No,” especially after seeing the joy of a possible Roman Holiday in myBean’s eyes. So we went. (Thank you, thank you, thank you again, Claudius. So grateful for your kindness that was instrumental in helping make a change in my life direction & outlook.)


There was nothing to “do” in Rome. No lists of activities that had to be accomplished. And so we slept in We wandered. We ate at little hole in the wall restaurants with red & white checkered plastic tablecloths, drank some of the best red table wine ever (they had it in jugs! on each table,) & sampled gelato from the Gelato shops that seemed to dot every corner of every block. It was incredible. And SO. MUCH. FUN.

Upon getting back to Frankfurt, Claudius took theBean & I, along with a couple of friends, out to dinner at an upscale Italian restaurant on the Main River, under the pretense of inviting us to “compare the German version of Italian food to the real thing.” It was another wonderful experience with dear friends, great food, beautiful views (lights on water are theBean’s favorite thing) & life-giving conversation.

I will never forget Claudius’ encouragement to me that night. He said something like, “Louie my friend, God intended that we would ENJOY our lives, that we would EMBRACE His good gifts: friends, food, celebration, community, rest, & vacation. It is not GOOD to work all the time while taking no time for rest, for enjoyment, for pleasure.”

Back at home, over the next couple of months, I wrestled with WHY I felt guilty when we’d vacation, WHY it was so difficult to do FUN things, ENJOYABLE things that had no (seeming) direct or productive purpose. I had more & more difficulty maintaining the belief that I lived the way I did because God wanted me to; instead, it became clearer & clearer that the path I was walking was more one of my own making as I attempted to engage discipleship & the Christian life on Louie’s terms, in Louie’s way. Ouch.


I wish I could say, “And then everything was all better, & there was never again a struggle that I had when it came to embracing & enjoying the things that God MADE to be embraced & enjoyed.” It took several more years to get to the spot where rest, rhythm, vacation, time away, nights off, & the like became a part of our regular lives. But that time in Frankfurt & Rome was definitely the start of me learning to stop equating self-driven self-denial & asceticism with being a mature disciple of Christ.

Today, 15 or so years later, I feel like theBean & I are truly experiencing abundant life; it’s not perfect, but it more closely ties in with 1) Jesus’ invitation to follow Him & 2) Living out the purpose that He came… that we would have LIFE & have it ABUNDANTLY.

What happens when you ignore anger, sadness, & fear? aka Emotionally Healthy Spirituality #2

In THIS blog I wrote last week, I talked a bit about my introduction about 15 years ago to the idea of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. As I mentioned, one of the things that most intrigued me (still does to this day) was the list of “10 Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality.” When I read these symptoms the first time, I couldn’t help but notice that I most likely would have gotten a “Perfect Score…” meaning, I could see ALL 10 of the symptoms in some way/shape/form evident in my daily life.

  1. USING God to RUN FROM God.
  2. IGNORING anger, sadness, & fear.
  3. Dying to the WRONG things.
  4. DENYING the impact of the PAST on the PRESENT.
  5. Dividing life into SECULAR & SACRED compartments.
  6. Doing FOR God instead of being WITH God.
  7. SPIRITUALIZING away conflict.
  8. COVERING OVER brokenness, weakness, & failure.
  9. Living WITHOUT limits.
  10. JUDGING other people’s spiritual journey.

Today, I’m tackling #2, “Ignoring Anger, Sadness, & Fear.”


Many of the lessons we learn in church about God, about following Him, & about how we treat other people aren’t the ones we’re supposed to learn. They’re (usually) not overtly taught; they’re more “caught” through observation, interpersonal interactions, & sometimes even the pain that comes from being rejected, marginalized, ostracized, &/or avoided. Here’s what I mean:

Jesus tells us to love one another – in our words & in our actions.

Sometimes, as I experienced “love” from other Christians, I also experienced a (not-so) subtle judgment when I shared with another person about struggles I had with anger. With sadness. With fear. With a lot of things. Sometimes I’d get the “I’ll pray for you” which was usually code for, “I can’t believe you’re admitting that & it makes me uncomfortable to be around you now.”

Sometimes I received the MORE encouragement: Read the Bible MORE. Pray MORE. Worship MORE. (One buddy told me the best thing I could do was to get a punching bag so I could hit it.)

I also got “Bible-versed” (yes, that is a verb) quite a bit: “You’re feeling angry? Well Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry & don’t sin!” So don’t let it get out of control.”

“You’re feeling sad? Don’t you know that “Nehemiah 8;10 says, “the joy of the Lord is our strength? Be filled with joy brother.”

“You’re afraid? What do we have to be afraid of? The Bible is full of instructions telling us not to be afraid. Plus 1John 4:18 tells us that Jesus’ “perfect love casts out all fear!’ So don’t be afraid.”


Looking back, I had plenty of reasons I was feeling each of those emotions – & I didn’t know what to DO with them. Turns out, many/most of the people I talked to didn’t either.

And so I stuffed them into a little tiny space somewhere in my heart & decided that any time I even began to feel even the first hint of one of these terrible, negative, unchristian feelings, I’d stuff those. Deny what I was feeling. Keep going. And I never cried.l

Ask me how that worked out for me.

Poorly. It worked out poorly.

Simply stuffing, denying, &/or spiritualizing away those inconvenient feelings didn’t make them actually go away; they just went under the surface like a sewage spill, affecting & infecting every area of life, albeit without being acknowledged.


I was able to Keep It Together (KIT) pretty well around most people, but it was EXHAUSTING. I’d get home from work/from being around people & drop my guard pretty quickly. TheBean got most of the brunt of the overflow of junk… on a scale of 1 to Volcano, I was running at a constant 7-8, & it didn’t take much to push me over the edge into “eruption” mode.

One day, when I came home from work & I was approaching the front door, I heard one of my kids yell, “Dad’s home!” & then I heard the joyous sound of 3 sets of feet running. Running AWAY from the front door. To hide in their rooms. They were running FROM me. Scared of me & whatever the evening might hold. And it freaked me out.

Had a very pointed conversation with theBean – & when I asked her what was going on, she bravely & directly stated it like it was, without regard for any response or outburst I might have. “It’s you. You’re out of control. The littlest thing sets you off. You snap. We’re walking on eggshells when you’re around, & we’re scared.” My oldest son, ThePastyOne, who must have been about 9 at the time, agreed, & yelled from  the relative safety of his room, “It’s true, dad!”

Therapy helped. I learned a lot about emotions & about my inability to identify let alone process the strong negative ones that I was having. When I talked to Chuck, I didn’t have to pretend that I had it all together. I didn’t have to deny there was a problem (it was obvious there was one. Can’t deny what is out in the open.) I could be vulnerable & speak from my heart… & as I did, it felt like the floodgates opened up. It felt a little out  of control but it also felt wonderful to no longer have to attempt to Keep It Together (KIT). I could just FEEL, & I could just BE.

Through EHS, Chuck introduced me to the idea of “Praying the Psalms.” In a nutshell, praying the Psalms involves using Scripture, (the words penned & originally expressed by the Psalmist for worship & interacting with God,) & making them your own. I found that the Psalmist used words & expressed feelings that I was uncomfortable expressing. He told God how angry he was. How disappointed he was that God wasn’t responding to him & his situation. He shouted at God, asked God to break his enemies necks & bash their teeth in. I could picture David on a hill somewhere in Israel, screaming at the top of his lungs.

And the funny thing? God could handle David’s rawest emotions & strongest words. Didn’t phase Him one bit. So I tried it – & found that while I started with reading the Psalms out loud, I grew to praying my own prayers from the depths of my heart. I expressed ugly stuff, the kind of stuff I’d repressed, avoided, & dodged my whole Christian life. And God handled it. It was like every time I finished with my prayers, with expressing all the junk, I felt a nudge from God saying, “Ok. Are you done? You feel better? Now, ask Me what I have to say about that.”

And I did.

It wasn’t that long (6 months?) until theBean noticed something was up – “You’re not as angry as you were. You’re not agitated, you’re able to sit & just BE with me & the kids. What’s going on?”

I told her something along the lines of “I’ve been praying the Psalms. Actually, I’ve been yelling at God then listening to what He has to say in response.”

That was really the beginning of the healing that God wanted to do IN me – that I’d be able to feel, identify, & process my emotions, no matter how inconvenient. And it wasn’t unchristian to do so… it was actually INHUMAN not to.


I discovered all the places in the Bible where God shows emotion. That God is the One who actually gave all of us the emotions we have, & that they serve as indicators of something going on in/through/around our lives, something that needs to be paid attention to. In & of themselves, the emotions aren’t bad or wrong – I’ve found over time that they’re usually pointing at something that God wants to address, to challenge, to change, to bring growth.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality has helped me to leave behind a life of denial, out of control emotions/behavior, & relationships that were on the rocks. And it’s been a great tool for me (& many others) to grow deep in God & with those around us.

I’ll be tackling #3 “Dying to the Wrong Things” next.

In the mean time:

  • What has been helpful for you in feeling & processing your emotions in a healthy, life-giving manner?
  • What are some of the obstacles that can get in the way of acknowledging the “negative” emotions of anger, sadness, & fear?

People are complex… aka Emotionally Healthy Spirituality #1

I first encountered Peter Scazzero & his “Emotionally Healthy” books in 2006. TheBean & I were in therapy together & we were coming to the realization that a big chunk of the issues we were facing in our marriage stemmed from unresolved “Louie-issues” (aka things, behaviors, attitudes, practices, etc… related directly/indirectly to my own emotional immaturity, unresolved hurts, & a Type-A bent.) As our therapy transitioned from “US” in therapy to “ME” in therapy, my counselor suggested I read through Scazzero’s book & then process with him the things that stood out to me, the things the Holy Spirit was speaking to me, & the areas I saw that needed something more than a little change… I needed a wholesale extreme makeover. A transformation. Something not orchestrated & conducted by me, attempting to put my life back together again in my own strength & resources, but a transformation instigated, worked through & completed by God the Holy Spirit.

During this time, I clung to the verse: “…and I am SURE of this, that He who BEGAN a good work in you WILL BRING IT to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6


One of the first things that stood out to me was the “10 Symptoms of Emotionally UNHealthy Spirituality.” They are:

  1. USING God to RUN FROM God.
  2. IGNORING anger, sadness, & fear.
  3. Dying to the WRONG things.
  4. DENYING the impact of the PAST on the PRESENT.
  5. Dividing life into SECULAR & SACRED compartments.
  6. Doing FOR God instead of being WITH God.
  7. SPIRITUALIZING away conflict.
  8. COVERING OVER brokenness, weakness, & failure.
  9. Living WITHOUT limits.
  10. JUDGING other people’s spiritual journey.

(List taken from “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero. (re) Published by Zondervan in 2017. p.22.)

Today, I’m going to tackle how #1, Using God to Run from God, showed up in my life.


1 – USING GOD TO RUN FROM GOD

I have been a Christian since I was 3 – prayed the prayer with my mom on Easter 1973. My earliest book I read was the Bible. All of my earliest memories involve our family going to church. Being involved in church. Leading others in the church. I am eternally grateful for the foundation that was worked into my life: a foundation of God’s love, grace, compassion, stability, & faithfulness, esp. as revealed in the Scriptures.

The problem was, I often never considered HOW living as a Christian would involve Jesus as Lord & Master of EVERY area of my life (physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, & emotional.) Mostly I just focused on the accepted, tried & true “spiritual practices” of church, worship, Bible study, serving, etc.  How I “felt” was irrelevant, don’t you know? Because feelings would LIE to you, & feelings CAN’T be trusted to drive the Louie bus.

At the time, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate this, but the answer to just about every challenge was strongly implied: Read the Bible MORE. Pray MORE. Get MORE involved in church. Do MORE. (This isn’t something I was taught by my parents; it was more ‘absorbed’ through observation & participation in the daily/weekly life of the church.)

MORE always seemed to = BETTER.

The real world has a way of blowing up our illusions of being in control of our lives.


At about 30 years of age (right when i began as the Lead Pastor of our church, BTW) I was angry. I was frustrated. I was volatile. I was in all sorts of turmoil inside my head & heart & I had no idea what the issue was. So I did what I’d always done when I didn’t know what to do about how I was feeling: I did what I was currently doing, MORE & with MORE gusto.

It didn’t help.

How I used God to run from God:

  • My schedule was so packed there was literally no room in it for any of life’s surprises, emergencies, &/or challenges. Keeping busy made it so I never actually had to evaluate (let alone invite the Holy Spirit to review) how my life was going & if there were any changes/course corrections necessary.
  • Instead of following clear Scriptural instruction (stuff like, “If you have an issue with somebody, go to them & work it through;” or “Forgive in the same way Jesus forgives;” or “Don’t be harsh with your wife,”) I would “pray about” the issues – I was having, almost as though Scripture wasn’t clear enough for me so I had to triple-dog-clarify with God what I should do & how I should interact with my spouse.
  • Things were never my fault. There was always a very valid (& RIGHTEOUS I’m sure) reason WHY I was acting the way I was acting.
  • I didn’t really ask for God’s directions for me – my prayer life was more of a wish-list looking for Divine validation of my priorities & values.
  • I blamed God, to others, for my own opinions, thoughts, & preferences.
  • This list could go on, but I think you might get the point.

In my solo-therapy, I was forced to STOP & CONFRONT the fact that the wheels had come off of my life, my marriage, my family life… the only thing that was going “well” was church, & that was only through force of will & the denial of the inner storm, struggles, rejection, turmoil, & pain I lived with.

Chuck, my therapist, asked me a few questions. Went something like,

  • “What do you really think that Jesus NEEDS you to do for Him that you are constantly so busy?”
  • “What are the reasons you believe that God loves you?”
  • “What evidence is there in your life today that you believe & live out the fact that God’s grace applies to you & not just other people?”

I couldn’t answer the questions adequately. I could ANSWER them, but even I, in my state of turmoil, could see that I was merely offering up platitudes & not touching on what was going on in the depths of my heart & life.

And so I gave up. Surrendered. A little bit at a time. And God met me.

To be continued…

So, what DO you have?

I was reading in the Gospels the other day & came across the account often referred to as “Jesus feeds the 5000.”  Here’s a sum up:

Jesus & His disciples are dead tired. They’ve been working & interacting with large crowds of people seeking out Jesus for who knows how long. Jesus invites the disciples to “come away” to a secluded place to rest… but on the way, a few people spot Jesus, & they tell a few friends, who tell a few friends, who tell a few friends… you get the picture. Eventually, when Jesus & the disciples get to their “come away” spot, they find that there’s a crowd of more than 5000 waiting for them. Jesus has compassion on them & teaches them… for a long time. At the end of the day, some of the disciples come to Jesus & say, “Hey! It’s been a long day. We were tired when we started, but NOW we’re toast. Would you please send the people away so they can GO HOME & get some FOOD to eat?”

Jesus’ response? “You feed them.”

Immediately, the disciples responded with all of the reasons they COULDN’T feed the crowds; chief among the reasons (excuses?) was that they DID NOT have enough.

Not enough money to buy food.

Not enough food among them for the crowds to share.

Big problem – no solution (that they could see.)


Jesus, however, asks them a question, “So, what DO you have? Fish? Loaves of bread? What DO you have?”

After taking stock of potential resources, they return with the answer, “2 fish & 5 loaves of bread. THAT”S not going to go very far when it comes to feeding THIS crowd.”

It was as though Jesus hadn’t even heard them… after they told Him what they DID have, He simply instructed the disciples to tell the crowds to sit down in manageable groups, & that they’d start the food distribution in a minute.

I wonder what was running through the disciples minds as they were herding tired & hungry (& hangry?) individuals into groups of 50 & 100. “We’re supposed to be telling these people to sit down & wait for FOOD? When we don’t have enough for 2 hungry dudes, let alone 5000. What are we gonna do?”


Jesus took the bread, blessed it & gave thanks, then gave it to the disciples to pass out. “This won’t take long,” they had to be thinking. And then Jesus took the fish, blessed it & gave thanks, & passed it on to the disciples for distribution.

And distribute they did.

Where is the food coming from?” they wondered. “We started with 5 loaves & 2 fish, & now we’re working on our 10th group of 100, & there is still  MORE food to pass out. What’s going on?” 

All the while person after person, big group after big group were fed to the point of fullness… & there was still more food. Jesus sent the disciples out to gather up the leftovers (Waste not, want not), & by the time they were finished & the last of the crowds were waddling on their way home, they’d collected 12(!) small baskets full of leftover bread & fish. What they had at the END of their feast was MUCH more than what they’d started with.


It’s funny to me how different Jesus’ perspective is from His disciples – they both can see the challenges in front of them:

  • We’re all tired & hungry
  • The crowds here are HUGE
  • We don’t have enough money to buy food
  • We don’t have enough food to share with everyone

However, instead of focusing on the (very real) issues of not having enough of multiple resources to accomplish the task, Jesus challenges (invites?) the disciples to THINK DIFFERENTLY. Instead of focusing on what they DON’T have, how about exploring what they DO have.

It’s a subtle, but significant shift. Jesus is inviting His disciples to evaluate & weigh the challenges in front of them seeing their contribution of loaves & fish as a PART, (not the whole) solution to the food dilemma. Basically, He’s asking, “What do we have to work with, to bring to Father God? What can we offer up to Him?”

Jesus’ actions of giving thanks & blessing the food wasn’t about “protecting the food.” No – it is about acknowledging that God has provided enough, for the task at hand, & that, coupled with faith-in-action of obedience (it took guts to start the food distribution for sure!) was enough for God to make a way & do FAR MORE with seemingly meager & insignificant amounts of food than they would’ve been able to do with lots of money & adequate time to plan. It’s like Jesus was inviting them to believe that God can (& will) do great things (in scope & in number) even if all we have to offer is a real small token (or a mustard seed portion of faith.)


Makes me wonder about the challenges I/we face… where the 1st thing that I usually do when examining the challenge is to review whether or not I have the resources to pull off working through/past the challenge… & sometimes I don’t even consider or remember to ask God what He has to say. I just pull a “we don’t have enough money/resources, etc… There’s no way…”

What if Jesus is wanting to issue the same sort of invitation to us that He did to His disciples 2000 years ago – the invitation to look at what we DO have vs. what we DON’T. Maybe He is inviting us to submit ourselves & our resources to Him & to THANK Him for His provision & to BLESS what He’s given us & then to look to take steps of obedience, wherever He’s directing us.

It’s a definite shift in perspective & requires a bit of stepping back from practicality, feasibility, & sometimes even logic. Jesus’ perspective seems to be, “I can do MORE with the little you have to offer than you can at your best, fully resourced & ready to go. TRUST Me, put your FAITH in Me, & don’t merely look at what you DON”T have to take on the task at hand; consider what you DO have…”


What situations are you currently facing that Jesus might be asking you to evaluate, “What DO you have?”

If Jesus was to ask you, “What DO you have?” what would your response be?

Monday Musings on “September” day…

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away…” – 

One of our favorite movies is “Dan in Real Life.” (BTW: if you haven’t seen this one yet, it is time. And if you have seen it, it is time to watch it.) And one of our favorite scenes in the movie is the “family workout on the front lawn” scene where they do some Jazzercise (?) to Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “September.” (Stop, click on the link, & dance! You’ll thank me later.)  I needed that today.


I’m finding myself sending out a lot more “Help me God’ quick prayers lately. Feels like we’ve been “knee-deep in the proverbial alligators” for a while & it is only getting more intense. Also, I’m thankful for the Psalms. Just about every day, I find one in my daily reading that says EXACTLY what I want to say/pray… & so I make it my own & pray/read it.


Had a conversation with a 20something the  other day & realized that the majority of my “pop-culture” references (stories, analogies, & the like) are older than they are… which can really undermine the whole point of the analogy.

On that note, I turned 51 on Saturday. That probably has a lot to do with the previous observation. I’m contemplating starting sentences with “Back in my day…” (Not really. But I could.)


I have a confession – I am a serial book collector. And I currently have a stack of new (to me) books that I haven’t read; that stack continues to grow & (sometimes, like today) that stack seems to be looming over my desk like an insurmountable peak that will never be climbed. Over the years, I’ve tried to self-impose a moratorium on all future book buying until I thin the herd of current selections. (BTW – the new stack always has competition from my “old friend” books; you know, the ones that you re-read every year or 2? That stack isn’t shrinking either.) Inevitably, I hear about/read about a book that sounds SO interesting or good that I just have to make an exception for the book. And I buy it. And I put it on the stack.


A few of my favorite books to re-read:

  • Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” & “Jack Ryan, Jr.” series
  • Conan –Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” collections
  • Pretty much anything CS Lewis, but especially “Mere Christianity,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” & “The Space Trilogy.”
  • Same for JRR Tolkien, though “The Lord of the Rings” is my favorite of his.
  • Same for Eugene Peterson – I love to re-read, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction,” regularly, as well as a handful of his other classics.
  • Jerry Cook’s “Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness,” “The Monday Morning Church,” & “A Few Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All.”

What are your “go-to’s” for re-reading? What are your current reads?


Waking up & being able to see across the valley is underrated. Here’s to the fires in the vicinity (all of them actually) getting under control. The smoke can GO AWAY, post haste. Please & thank you.


I love talking to my elders (those who have a few years more experience & life under their belts.) I love getting their perspectives on our current difficulties, & hearing how they’ve experienced life disruptions (similar to the current one) at various times in their own lives. Inevitably, I come away encouraged, strengthened, & more resolved(?) to keep on keeping on.


A rainy day or 10 right about now would be greatly appreciated. (With no thunder & lightning, please.)


I’m discovering, more & more, that intentionally (& daily)  practicing gratefulness & thanksgiving has a way of completely shifting my outlook on life… for the better.

Happy Monday to you –

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.