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.

Come on in…

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

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


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

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

 

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.

 

Laptop drama, memories of GG, & other Thursday musings…

My 2018 ‘intention’ to blog at least 1x/week was blown out of the water by a freak computer accident last Tuesday, 1/9. I was on an especially fun Skype call with a couple of dear friends, & in my excitement, I evidently began waving my arms around (I didn’t know I did that.) The 32 ounce Nalgene bottle I take with me EVERYWHERE happened to be just to the left of my laptop, all prepped & with the top off so I could get hydrated much quicker than if I DIDN’T have the top off… & you know the rest. The spill (about 4 ounces, thanks for asking,) wasn’t so bad, but the screen started displaying crazy pixelations almost immediately, & I feared the worst: A dead laptop – the one laptop I use for writing, for studying, for just about everything… with me not sure if I had done an iCloud backup recently.

Today, the verdict is in: lappy survived with all data intact. And I have purposed to keep my trusty Nalgene bottle (& any other cup/glass containing ANY liquid,) far, far, away from him. And I will do that until I forget to.


Today is 1/18… my Grandma Necie’s (GG) birthday. She would have been 97 years old today; she died 4/16/2001… I found myself reminiscing about her several times today. (I actually reminisce ALL the time. Being a Pop to 4! grandkids has brought new waves of reflection, a desire to look back a bit, & to make the next years really count.)  The memories I have of GG are many – & some of my most favorite ones are disjointed recountings from my first few years of life that don’t really have much context. And yet they still shape me. Here’s a few things I’m thinking on:

  • The Wizard of Oz – I watched it with her multiple times.
  • Chocolate pudding – a required dessert she made with my invaluable help. And then I ate it while watching Wizard of Oz.
  • Pets – Maynard the dog (Granny Dell, GG’s mom, lived with GG until Granny Dell’s death. She called Maynard, “Maynus” in the cutest southern Georgia accent. Now that I think of it, she called me “Little Loodie” & my dad “Loodie.” Just remembered that.) Margaret, the black & white cat who permitted me to pet her 1 or 2 times.
  • Her sense of dignity. She was a Southern belle, through & through.
  • BBQ beef ribs – at the Liberty Belle. Closed in 2006. Boo. Goodness. Best ribs I ever had. The power of nostalgia will always keep the Belle’s ribs #1.
  • GG’s rib sauce – she made her own rib sauce to put on our version of the Liberty Belle’s signature ribs. This is a recipe that our family still uses (with some Louie tweaks to it.) It is a point of comfort to be able to remember her when I make the sauce. I should tell more GG stories to my kids when I make the sauce.

There’s much, much more, but you get the gist. The amalgamation of images, sounds, smells, (imagined) tastes… all conjure up myriad memories. A hint of sadness. And now, shock, at just now discovering that the year I was born, 1969, she was 48 years old.

The same age I am right now.

Makes me think of my own grandkids: Mason, Luca, Owen, & the Littlest Turkey of them all, Mila. And what their memories of me will be.  Makes me want to be the Best, Healthiest version of me I can be.

Happy birthday GG. I think you’d like my version of your rib sauce.


Word on the weather channel says the wind is coming. Joy. 100 mph winds predicted in the mountains. Note to self: stay inside until it subsides.


I’m wrestling through a response to my 1st post of the year, The Gospel & Racism #1.  Trying to formulate something coherent & tangible, without it being patronizing. I know the gospel Good News is good news for EVERYONE, not just for a few. And how can I, a 48 year old white dude, preach a gospel/live a life that not only declares this gospel Good News, but does the hard work of Luke 4Like Jesus said in fulfillment to the promise of the prophet Isaiah

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
    because He has anointed Me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

So say we all.

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.

What’s in a NAME? A couple more ThoughtFormative books (pt.2), & other musings…

12 years ago, theBean had a dream – to start a preschool in our church. With the help of a dear friend & a lot of hard work (& through too many twists, turns, & versions to mention,) it is thriving & is functioning far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. She (& her team) rock. About 2 weeks ago, most/all of the Kindergarten-age kids transitioned out of the preschool & into “the Real World;” at the same time, the school has had an influx of kids (babies through age 5) that has not only kept our enrollment up where it was at the end of the last school year, there are actually more kids currently attending than at any other time in our school’s history. Very cool to see.

What’s also cool is that, through the school, we get to reach people from all over the world, right here in our town. Currently,(in addition to the U.S.) we have kids from:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Mexico
  • Syria
  • Nigeria

It stands to reason, we’d have our share of interesting names… & we do…  In that vein, I’ve noticed a baby name-trendSee if you can pick up the pattern – we have:

  • Jackson
  • Jaxon
  • Jaxson
  • Jaxzyn (also pronounced JACK-son)
  • Axton
  • Paxton
  • Daxon
  • (STACK-son)

True story. (Mom of Staqxson said she had invented the name. I believe her.) No judgement from me. It does make me wonder, however, what do people consider, what do they think about, what is the process for picking a name for their baby? In Bible days, kids were given names specifically because of what they meant, because of the significance. Take for instance the name –John it means, “the grace/mercy of the Lord” & “God’s gracious gift.”  I can totally get that (named my own kid that. Makes sense in the case of Zechariah & Elizabeth too. And in the instance of Hosea’s kid, the name given served as an object lesson from God to His people – the boy was named Lo Ammi” which means, “not My people,”  (Sorry kid. God told me to call you this. Nothing personal.) People could end up naming their kid after a favorite movie character like Edward. Jacob. Bella. The Twilight Saga.)  or after a favorite TV channel, like ESPN, (there are estimated to be 93 kids named ESPN in the US.) Made me giggle a little bit to see that there is even a web page dedicated to the topic, “How To Pick A Baby Name” which includes helpful insights like “5 Pitfalls to avoid when choosing a name.”

For me & theBean: we wanted all of our kids names to mean something significant to us & them. We named all of the kids after loved ones. We (mostly I,) also used a couple of tests to screen names. They were:

  • The SCREAM IT FROM THE BACK PORCH test – (patent pending). It’s pretty self-explanatory. You yell the full name, out loud, outside & then listen to what you said. Many things in life can be avoided by simply Saying Them Out Loud before you do it. Think on that.
  • The KINDERGARTEN FRUSTRATION test – I figured when my kids were in Kindergarten, they probably had enough issues to deal with other than trying to spell out a long, unusual, elaborate name (esp. if it was something many adults couldn’t spell.) We avoided this with my daughter because she went by Weezer, Weezie, or theWeez for the 1st 12 or so years of her life.

Anyway – should be an interesting school year.


ThoughtFormative Book List, pt. 2 (pt. 1 can be found HERE.) 

  • The Monday Morning Church: Out of the Sanctuary, & Into the Streets – Jerry Cook – in a nutshell, this book explores what it could look like if every person who follows Christ would pray, think about, & then act as if they were doing what Jesus would be doing, if He were walking in their shoes, in their world. Because, in essence, that is EXACTLY what our mission is. And we are all little pieces of JesusEphesians,, & we all know how much the people of our world need that. It’s also a study through the letter to the & it is a (30 years later) sequel to Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness.
  • A Long Obedience In the Same Direction – Eugene Peterson – this ThoughtFormative gem is a breath of fresh air & a slice of real-life Christianity on the topic of discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ. Life w/Christ is NOT all emotional, “on-fire,” mountain-top experiences where it seems God is SO close, all the time. Many times, it feels like God gives us an encouragement, a direction to head in, & then… nothing (real or perceived.) It details the need for perseverancea never give up, never surrender , a stick-to-itiveness, life outlook (ala, Isaiah 50:7). The clincher for me is the quote Peterson used for the name of the book: The essential thing in heaven & earth is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction, there thereby results, & has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil. 

Enough for today. Look for opportunities today to BE & DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING in your shoes. Because He is. And you’re it. #BeTheGood

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.

Who? Me? Offended? And other musings…

Ask a person, “Did I offend you?” & you’ll sometimes get an answer like, “What? No. I’m not offended.” Even if they really are. I don’t think its because we’re all liars who sit on a Throne of Lies who smell like beef & cheese; I think it might be because we think being offended is a bad thing, & so, rather than acknowledge, “Yeah, what you said really bothered me,” we go into denial or avoidance mode. And that’s where the trouble starts.


A couple weeks ago, I was almost done with our “Be At Rest” series & needed another one to take us up through September 3rd. (Long story, but the nutshell version is we’re launching our Fall series, “Perseverance: a study in the Psalms of Ascent” on September 10th.) So, after praying about it, I decided to do a series on being offended. And here’s some of what I found.

There’s about 3 different words (2 Hebrew/1 Greek) that are utilized to describe/define offense.  In essence, the 3 say: OFFENDED: to stumble, trip over a stumbling block, to get tripped up. To be wronged/violated/rebelled against. Stumbling blocks, points of offense. A trap/traps.

Something that causes you to stumble. A stumbling block. A trap.

Sounds diabolical.


Offense/being offended is NOT the EMOTIONS that come with the (real/perceived) being wronged, hurt, let down, disappointed, violated, etc… by another person/persons. Taking offense/being offended is the result of our RESPONSE to being wronged or being hurt. It’s putting ourself in a place of judgement upon others. It’s covered with unforgiveness, denial, & pride. Here’s some of what I’ve discovered happens to us when we take offense/stay offended:

  • Offense limits the miraculous/God’s work in our lives
  • Offense breaks up/damages relationships
  • Offense introduces judgement by us, which then brings us under God’s judgement.
  • Offense causes us to be stuck until we thoroughly deal with it
  • Offense cuts off our ability to produce Godly fruit in our lives – NOTE: this doesn’t mean God stops working in/through/around us. It doesn’t – because God doing those things in us etc… are the result of spiritual gifts. Godly fruit in our lives comes from living congruently & faithfully following God & His principles. (Thank you John Bevere for that.) 
  • Offense causes us to focus solely on the person/persons who hurt us & what they did while ignoring/glossing over our own role/responsibility/fault in the matter.
  • Offense can be transmitted to other people completely uninvolved in the situation, causing them to stumble & become trapped too.

So, how do we deal with it? How do we get out of the trap & back on our feet? It’s easy. And it can be the most difficult thing we will ever do.

For starters, WE DIE. (See Galatians 2:20 for more on that.)  We die to ourselves. We lay down our pride. We process our feelings, our emotions, & take stock of the hurts. We repent for holding on to unforgiveness. We ask God to help change our heart, change our thinking, change our ways. We answer the question: “Could you be wrong?” affirmatively, knowing that our perception, no matter how much we think is the RIGHT one, could be off. And so could we. We invite the Holy Spirit into the process, & pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23,24 – 

Search me, O God, & know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, & lead me in the way everlasting

And we stay at it – & refuse to be offended, choosing instead to be a person who takes God’s point of view on our lives, vs. our own. We embrace God’s ways & means, & lay down our own, believing His to be far better. And you know what happens then? This. Peace.

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165.

Guess what the root word that’s translated there as “STUMBLE”. Yep. Its one of the words from above, one of the words for OFFENSE. 

Love God & His law, & you will have a great & divine peace. Nothing will be able to make you offended.