Yesterday, Costco was beautiful…

Yesterday, Costco was beautiful.

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

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


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

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

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

So I waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With a wave & a handshake, we parted ways.

Yesterday, Costco was beautiful.

You have purpose!

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

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

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

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

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

Valentine’s Day, families, & other musings on a windy Wednesday…

I forgot it was Valentine’s Day today. Ouch.

TheBean & I have been on the road most of this week, & just rolled into the driveway last night in time to grab a quick bite, check in with granddaughter Mila, & head to bed.

So when I woke up this morning, I had (literally) NO idea what day of the week it was, let alone the date. To my credit, I DID know it was (probably) still February. Went through my “morning coffee & Lara bar routine,” followed by about 10 minutes of wondering whether I’d taken my vitamins yet (there are 6 involved in the daily routine, & it has become so routine, I forget if I’ve taken them approx. 10 seconds after gulping them all down. I need a system, like an “X” on the calendar. But I digress.)

Anyway, by the time I realized it was Valentine’s Day, it was already 2 hours into the day & I’d interacted with theBean several times already. Gotta say I wasn’t too worried about theBean being hurt or upset at this point, as A) I know she doesn’t really pay attention to dates/holidays; B) she is in as much of a brain-jumble as I am.

But still.

So… several hours into today, I asked myBean, “By the way, will you be my valentine?” And she smiled at me, & said, “Yes.” And gave me a big hug to boot. #winning #HerLoveLanguageIsQualityTime #ActsOfService


At Hillside, we’re in a series about growing in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (loosely based on the principles of the book by the same name by Peter Scazzero. You can get it HERE. ) Last week’s message addressed the significant impact our families (defined as the 3 generations before our birth) can have on us, either positively or negatively.

For example, some negative family traits that could be passed down to us to the point where they become “just how we roll:”

  • abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, etc…) out-of-control anger; addiction/addictive behaviors; unfaithfulness; lying; favoritism; broken relationships;
  • financial instability/extremes; materialism; lack of grace, forgiveness, love; inability to grieve loss/disappointment
  • weird spirituality; lack of emotional connection/stability/balance
  • racism, discrimination; sexism; unhealthy attitudes/practices towards sexuality

You get the picture. Rarely do we do the digging into our own families of origin to look at the positives/negatives of the peoples’ lives that were lived & then passed down to us. We often don’t examine the sinful/destructive behaviors of our people, but rather generalize explanations: “Well, we’re Irish, so we lose our temper & drink a lot,” or, “We’re Italian, so if you ever cross us, you should just expect retaliation. And we never forget.”  Worse, we may never see those destructive habits/life-patterns as something we are capable of seeing transformed by the power of Christ in our lives.

With that said, as a part of my research, I looked for behaviors that could contribute to the creation of ‘healthy family relationships.’ And here’s what I found:

  • The leading contributor to a healthy family? Engaging in patterns of “positive family rituals,” both big (e.g. regular vacations with fun & shared activities – doesn’t have to be expensive, just shared; celebrating birthdays/the significance of each person in the family; how holidays are celebrated “this is the Locke family tradition;) & small, (having a regular “state of the family” check ins; eating a daily meal together, w/o television/screens; incorporating themed meals into regular routine, “Breakfast for Dinner day” etc…)
  • So what do these “positive family rituals” do to help contribute to the creation & maintenance of healthy family relationships? According to research, these positive family rituals build “a shared sense of identity, trust, cohesion, & respect.” 

As I think about this… my kids are all grown & married, with their own families. And yet, theBean & I can still contribute to helping create “positive family rituals” for our kids/grandkids… things like having “family dinner,” special birthday celebrations, hosting grandkid sleepovers (with their own traditions), & the like. It’s never too late to build up our families in whatever season of life they may be.

 

The Gospel & racism… #1

“The question we have to ask is: Does the Gospel, as we currently preach it, have the power to deal with racism?” – John Perkins, Pastor & Activist.

(I came across this in a book I’m currently reading called, “The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb,” by Jamin Goggin & Kyle Strobel. For more about John Perkins, I’d recommend reading his book, “Dream With Me: Race, Love, & the Struggle We Must Win.” ) In a nutshell, he followed closely in the footsteps of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. beginning in the 1960’s & stood up (continues to stand up) to injustice & racism through a life-pattern of nonviolent resistance, which Dr. King defined as “the courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love of Christ.)


Pastor Perkins experienced unlawful arrests & imprisonments, countless beatings at the hands of mobs & police officers who were professing christians intent on maintaining the status quo of their segregated & stratified society. So his question, “The question we have to ask is: Does the Gospel, as we currently preach it, have the power to deal with racism?” is legitimate & demands an answer. And if the answer is, “No,” then something about how we’re preaching it has to change. Because the Gospel tells how, in Christ, all of the things humanity has used to stratify, to oppress, to create inequity are stripped away. (see Colossians 3:11 & Galatians 3:27,28)


Though I’ve never seen myself as an activist & I definitely am not a fan of (most) all things political, I am greatly disturbed by what continues to happen in our country with racially based inequality, injustice, persecution, murder, violence, & the like. And I want to do something about it. Not in a condescending or tokenistic manner, but something meaningful.

For the last 18 years I’ve served as a pastor to our church. I have tried my best to be faithful to the Gospel Good News, to the message of Christ, to live out the Golden Rule & to encourage others to BE & DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING if He was walking in their shoes. Looking back, I’ve been Naive. Uninformed. Unaware. So, for the last couple of years, I’ve tried to be more intentional in my informal education & in challenging my own perspectives & points of view. I’m reading books, listening to podcasts, engaging in conversations, & trying to learn, trying to grow, trying to understand more about the continuing troubles flowing from racism & racist attitudes, thoughts, mindsets, & behaviors. I want to try to figure out what I can do to be a part of a solution, to be a help. I believe – anyone can be divisive, anyone can stir up trouble, anyone can tear something/someone down… but it takes intentionality, patience, grace, forgiveness, & more to BUILD & keep building something of worth.


I greatly admire & look up to my dear friend, David, a.k.a Opie for many reasons. One of the most prominent is because over the last 20 years, he has lived out his faith in Christ in practical ways in his job, his community, & his church. And it has led to him being a constructive & helpful voice in his city, as he is leading significant conversations & cultivating understanding between whites & African-Americans in his racially divided city. His grasp of the gospel, in action, gives me hope & an affirmative answer, YES!, to the John Perkins quote/question at the top of this blog.


 

Throughout 2018, I hope to revisit the topic of this blog in meaningful, thoughtful ways – & to find what path I’m supposed to take/keep taking to be able to answer “YES. The Gospel I’m declaring has the power to deal with racism.”

Enjoying the fall, the day after, Retiring, & other musings on a Wednesday…

I was just telling theBean that our current weather is probably my favorite Reno weather. Highs in the low 70s. Lows in the high 40s. The air feels different, a little more crisp, a little sad & longing, as though the Fall is mourning the passing of the Summer. It reminds me of football, my kids, & ramping up to go back to school. It’s New Beginnings, New Life, & the  re-embrace of work. I’m soaking it in, & might just do a fire in the backyard fire pit…

If this wind would just stop.


Its the day after my birthday. Didn’t do a whole lot different than a regular day (except lunch with my parents.) My highlight from the Famous Daves lunch (besides the burnt ends. Those are like beef candy,) was the picture with my dad. It took about 10 takes to get one where my face actually relayed a “happy to be here” look, instead of the (evidently) hereditary RBF that normally is on my (& Owen’s!) face. Love my parents.


Had a couple people ask how  I was doing now that I am “Almost 50.” I’m good. I mean, its not like there’s anything I can do to stop the ever moving sands of time. Tomorrows gonna come, God-willing. And with it, comes aging. My mentor, Chuck, told me one of the greatest epidemics causing issues for people is they really don’t know how to grow old & to embrace the fact they’re getting older. He wasn’t talking about acting old, stopping fun behaviors/hobbies, or anything like that. It is more the attempt to look & be a (much) younger version of oneself, as though the current (& more, um, mature? version isn’t acceptable.)

So I’m trying to embrace it. And the things, beyond my control, that come with getting older. But I’m not going to go sit in a rocker somewhere & stop living life.


Speaking of my parents – a couple weeks back, my dad announced to the church he planted & has pastored for the last 30+ years that he will be retiring at the end of 2017. (You can watch the video about it HERE. Good stuff, especially if you’re in the spot of considering WHEN, HOW, & WHY retirement could happen for you.) He’s not retiring because “he’s toast.” Nope. He’s healthy, got a lot of energy, & has quite a few “at-bats left in him,” or “bullets in the chamber,” or “pick your favorite expression describing a person with a lot to give still.”

No. He’s retiring because he wants to start the clock on the next 30 years of life & ministry in Carson City, a city he loves, a city he has invested his lives & his family in, a city that drew our family there in the 80s like the proverbial Sirens (without the crashing on the rocks part.) He’s going to stick around (at the request of the incoming pastor, the perfect guy for the job, Chris White.) He’s going to teach every once in a while. And he’s going to be sent as a missionary to churches in our area (& beyond) that need a seasoned pastor, a guy whose been through the ringer, who has experienced “the worst” & lived to tell about the mighty delivering, restoring, healing power of Jesus Christ. He gets to be a Sage, a guy to be sought out & listened to in a time where too often the Sages are ignored or passed over as irrelevant for not being the flavor of the month or not having a large enough #twitter following.

I’m really proud of him – & I think he’s a forerunner, an example for other pastors  (in our movement & beyond)  to be able to look to & emulate. He’s giving them an example of long-term thinking & planning, as well as permission not to have to cling to the current role/title WAY after it was time to let it go & pass it on to another. My dad is a living breathing example of a man who knows his role, his significance, & his value on Earth, to his family, the church, & the world, is not minimized because his role is shifting. He’s still going to be “Him.” That won’t change. He gets to be the biggest cheerleader for a people who a) aren’t born yet, or b) are little kids.

And that inspires me.


I’m going outside to sit on a bench & enjoy the Fall weather.

If the wind will just stop it’d be perfect.

A partial list of my favorite ThoughtFormative books… & other musings… pt. 1

Sitting in my office at the end of the workday, waiting for myBean to get off so we can grab some dinner… And I’m thinking about the things that have shaped many of my thought processes & formed a bit of who I am/am becoming. And I coined a new word: ThoughtFormative. I’m looking into trademarking it, but feel free to use it royalty-free for the time being. Try doing that with “3-peat.” Pat Riley (C’mon ! Really?)

Anyway, one of the ‘things’ that have been so ThoughtFormative in my life are books. Books have always been my 1st “free time” choice… & I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pass some information (or a point of view, or a new idea, etc…) & I’ve done it by giving someone a book. If you’ve ever gotten a book from me, you can know it is one of the Best ways I can think of to say, “I love you. I care about you. This has helped me, & I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”


So, I’m going to do a very, very, partial list, 5 or so..(consider it part 1?) of the most ThoughtFormative books I’ve ever read… (or of the books that have read me. Dr. Evil face with my pinky curved by my mouth*(I wonder how pretentious that sounds. In my head I picture it more as a little bit funny way to say something & then make a , which would have been preceded by an imaginary mic drop. But I digress.) DISCLAIMER: I am not going to include the Bible on my list. For a similar reason that I wouldn’t include Jesus Christ on a list of “People From History I’d Really Like To Meet:” I KNOW Him. I HAVE met Him. And I talk to Him all the time, & a part of me *double-facepalms  every time I hear a well-meaning follower of Christ say, “I’d really like to have met Jesus…” Maybe it’s that we’re such Thomas’ that we want to SEE, in the flesh… which would make it like really MEETING Him. But I usually keep those thoughts to myself, because when I say stuff like that out loud, I am inevitably misunderstood & thought to be a Pagan & a Judger (both of which are not true. Mostly.) The Bible IS my list – & all of the books on my list point to or remind me of, or illustrate something beautiful, some Scriptural concept, some life-giving way of ThoughtFormative-ness. (Not saying I’m equating my list with the Bible, or claiming these titles are God-breathed. Felt I had to say that.)


The plan is to list a book with one of the reasons I believe it is/was so ThoughtFormative to my life… or a something (or 2) that I immediately think of when I see the book’s title. So here goes:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis – These kids classics from CS Lewis were the 1st real books I can remember reading through. I immediately think of a quote from the 1st book, The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, in reference to Aslan, Lewis’ Christ figure:  “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about SAFE? ‘Course he isn’t SAFE. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Reminds me that Christ is NOT a Christian bookstore bumper-sticker version of Himself, easily grasped, understood, & known in His entirety. He is fierce. He is gentle. He’s not safe & life following Him is anything but… But He is GOOD.
  • The Space Trilogy – C.S. Lewis – I’m struck by how the main character, Elwin Ransom (referred to as “Ransom” 99% of the time,) finds himself in situations not of his own making or choosing where he gets to stand for good & against a malevolent evil. Standing firm is a big theme for me & my life. (Finding out Ransom was based on Lewis’ dear friend Tolkien only makes me love this more.)
  • A Wrinkle In Time – Madeline L’Engle – A phenomenally written book (series) with a conflict of good & evil, where power, intimidation, & hate are overcome by love.
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien – I didn’t read these books until I was in my 30s. Now I try to read through these once a year – esp. when I’m traveling. My lot in life, my calling reminds me a lot of Frodo, & is summed up in an exchange Frodo has with Gandalf about WHY he, a small, seemingly inconsequential hobbit, is the one that will carry the One Ring to Mordor to destroy it in the Cracks of Doom: “Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
  • Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness – Jerry Cook – This book transformed my (warped/undeveloped) view of Church & the purpose for her existence. It isn’t about building a big gathering. It isn’t about celebrating a few talented individuals. It isn’t a social club. The Church are Jesus’ ministering representatives on earth, meant to guarantee His love, acceptance, & forgiveness to EVERY person encountered. Sometimes people had an issue with this stance, believing the Church instead was supposed to take a STAND for righteousness, making sure to “love the sinner & hate the sin,” etc…  What gets missed in that kind of a STAND, is that people will fall through the cracks because they don’t measure up to be able to enter such an institution. That kind of a STAND makes the Church a little more exclusive, a little more ‘holy’ than Christ intended it to be. (By ‘holy’ I mean the Church not associating with the kind of people with bad reputations & obvious sin issues… the very people Christ came to save.)  Jerry said: “Love is NOT license. Acceptance is NOT agreement. Forgiveness is NOT compromise.” This book started a life-long journey for me, a life of practical, applicable, LIVED OUT Christ-likeness. And one of my life highlights happened on my birthday a few years ago, Jerry told me in front of the church I pastor, “You, Louie, are a little piece of Jesus. And you live this love, acceptance, & forgiveness as good as anyone I know.” I will never forget that. And it inspires me to keep living it.

What books have been the most ThoughtFormative to you in your life?

Offended… by Jesus? & other musings…

Continuing in the vein of my last post, “Who? Me? Offended?” I’m writing about being offended by Jesus. (Yes, you read that last sentence right. Offended. By. Jesus.) “But how,” you might ask, “would it happen that I would be offended by JESUS?” I’m glad you did.

I believe we can be offended by Jesus (God, the Holy Spirit, & God’s Word,) when:

  • We have expectations that aren’t met.
  • Prayers go unanswered.
  • A tragedy strikes us/someone close to us.
  • We’re confronted with the “hard sayings” of Jesus. You know, the passages of Scripture which tick you off. Make you say “no way.” The passages that seem to fly against what we, personally, know & believe to be Right. And Good. And Loving. Sometimes they’re passages about sin. Sometimes they’re about the cost of Christianity. Sometimes we just don’t get it, like the passage where Jesus tells the crowd, “Want eternal life? Eat My flesh, & drink My blood.” Eww. (For the context, look at John 6:22-66 )

In 1Peter 2:4-8Peter compares Jesus to a stone: for some people (those who believe in Him & obey His teachings,) Jesus is the Cornerstone, aka the stone that is used by builders as a reference for every other stone in the structure. For others people, (those who do not believe Him/obey His teachings,) Jesus is called “The Stumbling Stone,” & “The Rock of Offense.” Notice: the thing that determines HOW we experience Christ is what we do/how we respond to His Word. With belief & obedience or with unbelief & disobedience.


There are several passages in Scripture where people get offended with Jesus. Here’s a few examples:

  • Matthew 15:1-20 – The Pharisees: they came to Jesus complaining because His disciples didn’t follow their special tradition of ceremonial hand washing before eating. It really bothered them… And Jesus’ response: “It really bothers Me that you’re NOT concerned with the direct commandment of God to honor your parents. What’s worse, you make up religious reasons to justify it. Bunch of hypocrites!” And they were offended.
  • Matthew 13:53-58 – The people in His hometown: Jesus went home for a visit & continued declaring the gospel Good News, & inviting people to believe & put their trust in Him. You’d think the ample evidence shown by those healed, transformed, etc… coupled with the powerful declaration of God’s truth, with authority, would be convincing. It wasn’t. Their response: “How can this be? We KNOW this guy. We KNOW who His dad was? We KNOW His mom? We KNOW His brothers & sisters (they’re right over there.) No way this guy can be who He says.” And they were OFFENDED at Him, & did not believe. And as a direct result, Jesus didn’t do many mighty works there.
  • Mark 3:1-21 – Jesus’ family: In Mark 3, we hear stories of Jesus healing a bunch of people, bringing deliverance to people oppressed by evil spirits, & calling a group of guys to follow Him, learn from Him, & then DO what He was doing. He went home, the crowds gathered, people followed, & Jesus’ family freaked out. They couldn’t believe what He was doing. And they didn’t see it as good or positive. They said, “We have to take Him & put Him away. He’s out of His mind!

All that to say… It stands to reason – if it hasn’t happened already, there WILL come a time where we will be at a crossroads… where the very edges of commitment to believing in Christ unconditionally are tested, when our own sense of Right & Wrong are challenged by something in Scripture… & how we respond to Jesus (& His Word) in that situation will determine if He will be our Cornerstone or the Rock of Offense we stumble over.

Changing vision, a hot summer, & other musings…

Last summer, I went to the eye-doctor & found out while my ‘distance’ prescription for contacts/glasses had not changed, soon I was going to need ‘a change’ for my up close seeing. I didn’t really pay attention to what she said, because she said, “SOON” I would need it, not “NOW” you need it. So I went happily on my way… until last September. I was reading (translation: attempting to read) something & found out that my arms had gotten much shorter. Or that my contacts (& glasses too, dangit,) were no longer adequate in less than perfect light to read. Anything. Especially fine print (anything less than, say, 10 pt font.) I panicked & went into the eye doctor w/o an appointment, content to sit & wait through the day until I could see her & she could tell me WHAT was wrong with my eyes…

After sitting down with her & explaining what was going on, she reminded me, “Remember when I told you that SOON you would need a change for your close up seeing? Well it seems that SOON has become NOW.” Great, I thought, & asked what that meant… It meant… progressive lenses. I had no idea what those were. So she explained:

BIFOCALS. I needed bifocals.

It’s not like I was in denial about the fact that I am aging – my mirror tells me all the time that I am not the spring chicken I once was. (BTW: where the HECK did the term spring chicken come from? Who decided it meant a young(ish) person? I don’t get it. But I digress.) But BIFOCALS? I was not ready for them – so I asked, “Is there anything I can do to avoid having to get bifocals now?” The doctor assured me that I could probably buy a pair of 1.5-2.0x magnification ‘cheater’ glasses to wear with my contacts, for reading, & I’d probably be fine. But, for my ‘glasses only’ days, I would need to purchase a pair of bifocals. “Ok,” I thought, “one day I will. But that day is NOT today.” So I walked around the corner, bought my cheater glasses, & went about my business.


Everything was fine until May 1. That is the day my allergies returned… the day my eyes & sinuses & throat rebelled against the constant inflow of pollen into them… & I’ve spent parts of every day since then coughing, sneezing, wheezing, & rubbing ‘gunk’ from my eyes.

And it became really irritating to wear my contacts.

No trouble, really. I could do this. I’ll just wear my glasses. Which worked great. Until I needed to read something. And then I was out of luck.

In my job (& at home) reading is kind of a thing for me… so, when no one but my long suffering Bean was around, I would ‘double stack’ my glasses so I could read. You know, put my regular glasses on first. And then put my cheater glasses on over them. And then I could read fine. But its not like I could go out & about double-stacking my glasses all the time.

Things came to a head a couple of weeks ago. Hanging out with the kids for Fathers’ Day – went to an escape room (check it out HERE. A really good time.) An escape room, for the uninitiated, is a room where you are locked in with clues on how to escape. And you have 1 hour. It was a blast.

Except I couldn’t read the clues. Because the print was too small. Pasty caught me putting the paper the clues were on down on the counter & stepping back to try & catch what was typed on the paper in such an impossibly miniscule font. And he asked, “Uh, dad? You ok?”

And then I knew. The gig was up. I needed to get bifocals.


Years ago in therapy (it was more like conversations where your counselor challenges you to think about & do things that seem so counter-intuitive to the Way Things Have Always Been,) when Chuck, my counselor/mentor/friend said in an aside, “You know, Americans don’t know HOW to grow old. They spend their lives trying to get to an age, then spend the rest of their lives trying to stay at that age.” (Reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote about in “The Last Battle” – Book 7 of the Chronicles of Narnia.) At the time, I just nodded my head & filed away the fact somewhere in the filing cabinet that is my brain. And when Pasty asked me “Uh, dad? You ok?” I was taken back to that conversation… to Chuck’s wise words, & I heard God say something like, “You’re getting old. It happens. And it’s time to EMBRACE it.”


Finally got a doctor’s appointment to get my sentence, err.. my new prescription. My distance vision is holding strong, (“YES!”) but my up close vision definitely requires a change to progressive lenses (so nice & euphemistic to call them progressive lenses instead of bifocals. It is supposed to soften the blow for those fighting the losing battle against time.) Went through the whole ordering process, & they should be ready for use. Wish me luck.


In this process, I have heard God quite a bit talking to me through Scripture, little whispers, & life experiences… the idea of my vision changing is no longer something that I am trying to fight or (vainly) hang on to. It’s an idea that I’m trying to grab hold of, full force. Because as my physical vision fails, & the doctor is helping to correct it, & help me see the world (& to READ, which is oh so important to everyday life,) God is also at work in me, changing & transforming my vision so that I can see the next steps for what’s coming in our lives, & for church, & for ministry. And when He does something, He does it well. So I’m believing in that & contending for that, & trusting that my see-ers (spiritual eyes) are being refined as well. Thank you, Jesus, for never wasting a change to teach, to reveal, & to encourage.


Dang it, it’s hot. I remember less than 1 month ago we had SNOWAnd now we’re on a streak of 95F+ for the foreseeable future. Summer.

“What is the BEST spaghetti sauce?” & other musings about growing in our relationship with God…

Over the next couple of weeks, our church is offering a series of “Marriage Refreshers” with the theme, “GROWING TOGETHER IN…” So far we’ve talked about GROWING TOGETHER IN communication & intimacy. Tonight, (10/13) we’re looking at GROWING TOGETHER IN our relationship with God. This past week at church, I promo-ed the topic; afterwards, someone asked me: “So, what is the best way that my spouse & I can grow together in our relationship with God?” I answered him, tongue-in-cheek: “That’s the wrong question.” And then I explained.


While I was going through my Masters program (the MASL at LIFE Pacific,) I was exposed to TED talks for the 1st time. What an incredible resource – delivered in 20 minutes or less every time. Here’s how it came about: during one of the lectures, our professor asked the question: “What is the BEST way to make a disciple of Jesus Christ?”

And then, he promptly answered himself, saying: “THAT is the wrong question. Find the RIGHT one.” As a part of our homework we were tasked with watching Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk, with the idea that it would help us, in essence, to do exactly that. (That TED talk can be seen HERE. It’s definitely worth the watch.)

In it, Gladwell tells the story of how a spaghetti sauce manufacturer (it was Prego,)  hired a renowned researcher to answer the question: “What is the BEST spaghetti sauce?” After a couple of weeks, their researcher came back & told them: “You’re asking the wrong question… but I think I know the right one: It’s ‘What ARE the BEST spaghetti sauceS?'” The answers his question had garnered were numerous – & far from definitive in determining which 1 sauce reigned supreme. In fact, he found that the sauce 35% of America craved more than any other sauce wasn’t even on the market… (It was the thick & chunky spaghetti sauce, in case you’re wondering.) So Prego took their research & decided to develop several of the best, most craved spaghetti sauceS they could – & in response, their business boomed. When they stopped trying to find the ONE best sauce & instead brought forth SEVERAL of the best sauces, they found they could reach a much broader & more diverse cross-section of the population. (NOTE: Today, Prego has more than 35 sauces available…)


Which brings us back to the original question, albeit modified: “What ARE the best wayS that my spouse & I can grow together in our relationship with God?” And my answer (which is far from all-encompassing,) is, it depends. And, there are probably several ways you’ll find that are very helpful in growing together, in God. Some of the factors affecting how we (individually & as a couple,) learn, grow, & best experience God are:

  • Our personality type. Are you more introverted or extroverted? Sensing or intuitive? Thinking or feeling? Judging or perceiving? And what combinations of the above? (you can take a free, online “type” test HERE)
  • Our learning style. Are we visual (pictures & images)? Aural (sound/music)? Verbal (words/speech/writing)? Physical (hands on/kinesthetic/touch)? Logical (logic/reasoning/systems)? Social (in groups/with others)? Solitary (alone/self-study)? You can find out more about learning styles HERE.)
  • Our primary way(s) of experiencing connection with God. Are we:
    • Naturalists – moved by creation/time outdoors
    • Sensates – experiencers of God with the 5 senses, sights, sounds, smells
    • Traditionalists – find great meaning in ritual, symbols, sacraments, celebration of the ancient practices of our faith (e.g. the Daily Office, Lectio Divina, etc..)
    • Ascetics – don’t need ‘stuff’ – find meaning in solitude, simplicity, & a quiet internal world.
    • Activists – experiencers of God through confrontation of injustice (think Isaiah 58)
    • Caregivers – lovers of God displayed through caring for & loving others.
    • Enthusiasts – experiencers of the mystery & celebration of faith, (think: cheerleaders for Christ & Christ-following.)
    • Contemplatives – experiencers of God through adoration & “being” (think” Mary of Bethany sitting at Jesus’ feet.)
    • Intellectuals – experiencers of God through study, worshiping with the mind through exploring theology, the Bible, & faith concepts.

In a nutshell – for a couple to grow together, in God, both parties will be pursuing their own relationship with God, taking faith steps, spending time with Him in a variety of ways & places. And both parties will also be engaging in their lives together with God as the context in which they do so… relationships are built when we share time & space, with a common focus. So going to church together; having ‘spiritual’ conversations about each one’s own interactions, experiences, questions, & wonderings; participating in a “marriage refresher” & then intentionally taking time to talk through personal & “as a couple” applications, goals, & growth points; engaging with one another in our spouse’s preferred context for connecting with God; all of these are ways we can grow together, in Him. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of possibilities that await…

When both parties are pursuing God & each other – it’s a beautiful thing. And it never grows old.

Mourning with those who mourn…

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something…” So says Westley/the Dread Pirate Roberts to Princess Buttercup in the 1987 classic, “The Princess Bride.” While I don’t totally subscribe to the idea that life is ONLY pain, I can say from my own experiences, life involves a lot of pain… & I believe one of the greatest sources of pain comes from the grief & sadness which accompany the loss of a loved one.


Over the last year, I have walked through this thing called grief with several dear friends as someone dear to them – mother, husband, father, son, friend – died unexpectedly/without warning. These experiences of soul devastation have a way of shaking a person to the foundation of their very being, as life after the loss will never be the same as it was before. Living & loving in connected relationships leaves an indelible mark on us – & when our loved one is gone, life is not ‘ok’. Nothing is normal. Our emotions are all over the place. And anything more than merely gutting it through each day seems to be a pipe dream.

Places. Songs. Special events. Holidays. All things that remind us of our loved one, with a pain that mocks us with the fact that Nothing will ever be the same again. And then there’s the people – mostly well-meaning people that can see we’re in pain, & they’d like to do something about it, but they really don’t know what to say… & yet they say stuff anyways. These words can range from the silly, like, “The Lord just needed another angel in Heaven,” to religious clichés: “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” or “One day you’ll know the reason God took your loved one.” Then there’s the insensitive, “How long are you going to grieve? Should you be past this already?” only to be topped by the horrifying: “God took your loved one because He knew that later in life they were going to fall away from Him,” or, “If only you had had enough faith, your loved one wouldn’t have died – it’s on you.” (I’ve personally heard each of these in reference to my brother’s death.) In the words of a great man, “If you don’t know what to say, limit your words.” (Thanks for that, Jerry Cook!)


Earlier this year, a dear friend lost her husband – & as part of her grieving, left her home town & went with her daughter to visit a collection of “safe people:” Close, supportive friends, the kind who have your back in any/every situation. TheBean & I count it an honor to be on this friend’s list of “safe” people. I can remember her sitting in our kitchen & matter-of-factly saying, “Tell me everything you know about grieving. Because I want to grieve well.”

Here’s the jist of what I said:

Our grieving, mourning, & hurting from the loss of a loved one can make us want to isolate. To withdraw. Turn inward. Pull away. Attempt to work through our grief solo. I get it. But I think doing that only makes it worse. As Christians, we (hopefully) have the benefit of a community of people that we’re walking through life with – people that we can celebrate life’s joys with… & people that we can mourn life’s great losses with as well.

I personally know how uncomfortable it is to be in a public place (like church) & be so overwhelmed & overcome with grief that the sobs just roll out, along with an endless supply of tears, & even a sense of pain that’s so fresh it feels like the loss just happened. Being around others in a situation like that can be awkward, because we’re totally vulnerable. Totally exposed. Raw. On our last nerve. And we hurt. And in that spot we cry & we pray & we ask God to make the hurt stop.

And then God answers our prayers with people.

  • People who will sit in silence with us, not having to say anything, but rather just offering the gift of their presence in our grief.
  • People who will hold & comfort us, no matter how long the grieving has been going.
  • People who aren’t in a hurry for us to “get past” or “get through” our grief – because they understand that even if its been years since the loss, the grief can still come in fresh & powerful waves.
  • People who will reminisce with us about our loved one. Who will tell stories about what they loved about them, about the things they did that impacted their life.
  • People who recognize that everywhere they go, they are a little piece of Jesus. And as such, when they come across others hurting, in pain, grieving, & broken, they can be a point of life & comfort.

There will always be those who say/do something that makes us wonder if its really a good idea to grieve/work through lives in the company of a community. I say It’s worth it. Maybe I won’t open up to everybody, but with the safe people, yeah, I do. And I will. Because when a friend comes alongside us in our grief, they shoulder some of the hurt & pain & loss… & it makes the situation just a little more bearable.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 NIV