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

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

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

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

…but here I am living my new life.

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

There is no chore list…

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Embrace the mystery…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jake’s encouragements were simple & straightforward:

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

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

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

Be LESS & Do LESS…

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

We had NO IDEA what  was coming.

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

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


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

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

Be LESS productive? Do LESS? WHAT?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

A legacy that lasts…

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

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


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

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

But we are leaving a legacy.

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


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

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

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

A thought on conflict & other musings on a Friday…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

And she laughed.


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


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

For such a time as this…

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The  quote:

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


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

Predictably good…

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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?”