Lost…& found…

When I went to get dressed this morning, I couldn’t find my pants. So, I did what we most like were all taught to do: think. Where was the last time you had your ______? That tactic usually works… except with my pants, I was pretty sure I knew where my pants were, because, hey, I don’t normally take my pants off until I get into the privacy of my own room. It’s a thing.

So then I had to ask myself the question: Is there any other place I could have taken my pants off? I have to say I couldn’t think of ANYWHERE I could have… & then I was sad. REALLY sad. Those were my pants, the pants that I liked, the pants that fit me. It is hard to find pants that fit, & those really did.

My sadness flowed into a low-grade melancholy as I searched around the closet for something else to wear… I’d had my heart set on my pants, & now they were gone, who knows where. I sighed. And remembered…

I went to the gym last night after work, & I hadn’t had time to change into my gym clothes before I left work (normally I change before I leave work. It’s a thing. But I digress). Maybe I left my pants in the locker at the gym. With no lock on the locker. NOTE: I know it’s probably not a good thing to rely solely on a presumed Mens’ Locker room etiquette or code that no one would touch my pants (& my black Under Armour polo!), but its been working for me so far.

However, I’d never stretched the limits of this “Mens’ Locker Room Code” overnight. So hoping beyond hope, I called the gym & asked if someone would check to see if my pants were still in the locker I used; left the guessed locker number, my name & number & waited for a call back. Figured it would take about 5 minutes or so. I waited 10 & decided to go check the locker room myself.


 

Arrived at the gym 10 minutes later, identified myself as the caller who may have left his pants overnight in a locker. The girl at the front desk said, “My manager was just in there & couldn’t find anything.” Wonderful. But I wouldn’t believe it until I checked.

Over the years, I have learned that when something doesn’t belong to someone, they aren’t nearly as diligent in looking for lost things as is the individual who lost it. Those were my pants, & if they were in the locker room, I would find them. I went to the locker number I had guessed & BOOM! There were my pants, still hanging majestically on the hook where I’d left them the night before.

A flood of joy WAY too big for the occasion poured over me. I was giddy. Laughed out loud & danced a little jig. The melancholy was gone as quickly as it had come, & a joy replaced it. I walked from the locker room, pants held high all the way out the front door. The girl at the front desk clapped for me & cheered, “Yay!” (Evidently she values pants nearly as much as I do.) The manager who “looked” for my pants didn’t meet my victorious gaze as I walked to my car. This was going to be a good day.


 

I sat down in my car getting ready to head to work & I heard God say, “You know how happy you are because you found your pants? Think how happy I get when a person who’s lost turns back to Me.” Made me cry happy tears. Not for my pants, but for a God who could use something as trivial as my pants to remind me how valuable each one of us is to Him.

Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” Luke 15:7, The Message


For more on what God thinks about people turning to Him, check out Luke 15.

Have faith. Have faith.

John Leavy LockeRamblings from my head – from January 22, 2016, the day that would have been John Leavy Locke’s 43rd birthday.

When I was 4, I used to sit on the sidewalk in front of my house & watch the 3 boys across the street play in their front yard. And I thought they were so lucky because they had brothers that were old enough to play with. And all I had was a 1-year old little brother, Johnny, that wasn’t good for much except crying & refusing to eat his peas & carrots. One day, my dad came out & sat next to me on the curb while I watched the neighbors playing, again, & he told me, “Before you know it, Johnny will be big & he’ll be able to play & you guys will have so much fun. And he will grow up to be your best friend.” I can remember thinking in my head, “Maybe. But that time is SO FAR away…”

But it happened. Johnny grew up. And we DID become best friends – we spent our childhood playing baseball & football from dawn til dusk in the backyard. One of my favorite things was to teach Johnny how to do something – we had a baseball tee in the backyard, & he was trying to hit the ball off the tee, without success. He said, “Help me Louie!?” And I did. And I loved it.

Sometimes the games carried into the house, with the predictable destructive results to the house – & also to Johnny – I remember trying to teach him what form tackling was in the living room. I was on my knees to make it fair – & he ran the football towards the end zone (aka the fireplace) & I launched myself at him & sent him sprawling. I was so proud of my form tackle that I didn’t notice him get up & run as fast as he could to the back of the house. I yelled at him, “Come back here you chicken. You have to tackle me now.” He didn’t come back… turns out when he fell he hit his forearm on a screw sticking out of an open door – & his forearm was sliced open, clean as a whistle, no blood at all, from his wrist to his elbow. Good times.

We did everything together – early morning paper routes, collecting baseball cards, cheering for the hapless SF Giants, feeding the dogs & chickens… although somehow he found ways to be missing when it was time to clean the chicken coops. Johnny was a great athlete, probably the best out of the four of us boys, & worked incredibly hard at everything he did. When I was 12, my Little League manager pulled Johnny up from the Farm division & promoted him to Majors. We got to play ½ a season together… & it was obvious that while I still had the upper hand, he was going to be much, much better than I was at baseball. I remember one of my teammates asking me if I was mad that my brother was on our team now… I said, “Nope. He’s good.”

The older we got, the better friends we became…And the more intense our fights got. I’d wake him up in the morning & he’d welcome me with a baseball aimed at my head. We’d wrestle & somehow I’d end up with a bloody nose because Johnny had ‘accidentally” kneed or elbowed me in the face… again. Our conversations shifted towards topics fitting our teen years… Sports. Girls. Music. His interest in “New Wave” fashion – he was a fashion-ista & rocked board shorts, surfer t-shirt & black/white/red Air Jordans as easily as he did cool pegged jeans, top-siders, & pastel button ups. Goodness, he was confident – so sure of himself, much more so than I ever was. I appreciated his strength, his sarcasm, his ability to show compassion, his loyalty, as well as the killer instinct on a football/baseball field. He was my best friend.

The memories whirl around me like I’m in the eye of a hurricane, & they’re flying around me, so vividly faint that I feel overcome… & I don’t want them to stop.


When Johnny was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, everything in our family got turned upside down. My strong, independent brother became fragile & dependent on others for the most basic of tasks. He spent quite a bit of his last months in San Francisco receiving experimental treatments in the hope that his body would rebound. I didn’t know how to deal with the hurt, pain, grief, & other negative emotions I felt, so I did what I knew: I poured myself into work, hoping beyond hope that when I finally lifted my nose off the grindstone, everything would be back to normal. It never happened.

And through it all, I watched my little brother Johnny grow as he experienced the closeness of a God who would never leave or forsake him, even when he was walking through the Valley of the shadow of death. In many ways, my faith in Christ had been theoretical – never before tested; then, right in front of my eyes, I got to see what it looked like to persevere in the face of adversity, to find joy & peace in times of despair & chaos. I got to see & hear the response of a 17 year old who was asked, “So, do you want to die in the hospital or at home?” He said, “I’m going home. And if I die, I will bring God glory. And if I live, I will bring Him glory. Either way, I win.” And he meant it.

In his last days, Johnny received assurances from heaven in the form of dreams. He didn’t go into a whole lot of detail about them, but there was a calm, a peace, a sort of anticipation present in his eyes & his countenance. He was in & out of consciousness quite a bit – one of the last things he said to my parents was, “Have faith. Have faith.” And he meant it.

Saturday night, June 16, 1990, Joni & I visited my parents home & Johnny in the downstairs – he was mostly out of it, but we hung out for a while & talked to him. We got up to leave & I told him I loved him. As I walked up the stairs, I can remember him faintly saying, “Love you Louie.”

We got a call from my mom early the next morning – Johnny had gone to be with Jesus at 4:34 a.m. Sunday, June 17, 1990. Father’s Day. His last words: “Help me Louie!?”

I’m still trying to “help him” everyday…


Within this last year, my two sons have gotten married; myWeez, my little princess, got engaged. So many things like this I wish I could share with my brother. So many things I wish my kids would have gotten to know about him, & having him involved in their lives. I feel like his physcial presence would more readily explain the passion with which my son Johnny attacks life; the fiercely compassionate temperament of my son Joey; the wit, sense of humor, & smile of theWeez. They’re a lot like him & don’t even know it.

I see Johnny in each of them, & I’m so glad that these parts of Johnny living on into the next generation.

So, in his honor, & to the glory of God I say to you today, “Have faith. Have faith.”

Happy birthday Johnny.

Through the valley…in the fire…

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting with dear friends, a couple that’s been married over 50 years. The wife is recovering from cancer surgery… recovering well. We’ve believed for a good prognosis & post-surgery update. It turns out the doctor’s report said the cancer they went in to get was “got…” but… There were other cancer cells that they found somewhere else. And they weren’t contained. And the doctors were in the process of putting together a plan of attack, a plan for treatment. The room swam in front of us.

My friends are faith-filled. Hopeful. Tired. Sad. The whole gamut of emotions. Wanting to hear what the doctors will say, & at the same time knowing that the doctor’s prognosis isn’t the final word.


I had a flashback. Cancer. My brother Johnny – he had an (at the time) experimental treatment in the attempt to eradicate the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that had ravaged his body… the bone marrow transplant. I remember hearing the all-too-simple sum up of what this procedure entailed: 1st, the docs harvest the bone marrow from the hip; 2nd they bombard him with enough chemo to kill the cancer & hopefully not him; 3rd, they reintroduce the bone marrow & hope that it acts like a ‘reset button’ allowing him to recover & heal, sans the cancer. Post-procedure, the news came in… it didn’t work. And there were more cancer cells, in other places. Not contained. One nurse callously asked him, “So, you want to die here or at home?” I could’ve punched her.

Johnny & I talked once about this upon his arrival at home – I asked him what he was thinking, especially about the prognosis he’d been given. He said, “I feel like Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego. You know when they were threatened with the fiery furnace if they didn’t worship the golden image (you can read the story HERE.) This is my fiery furnace… & just like they said, ‘my God is able to deliver me from this… but even if He doesn’t, I’m still not gonna bow down.’”


That was the same general feeling/spirit in my office yesterday – no matter what, we will hold onto the fact that God is in charge, & that He is the one with the final say on our lives & when we go home to be with Him. And in the meantime, we will live with determination, persevering in our trust in Christ. With the knowledge that this faith in Christ really shines in the midst of our difficult times. He’s our Rock. Fortress. Deliverer. Healer. Salvation. The One who is with us, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

 

Monday afternoon musings…

This morning I observed the normal hustle & bustle of our start to the week – thePastyGangster dropped Mason on his way to work so that Auntie Weezie could take him to preschool. He entered the kitchen in a whirlwind of energy & didn’t slow down. Frank came bounding down the stairs so theBean could take him to school… then rushed back upstairs at least 2 more times because he forgot something. (For such a little guy he sure makes a lot of noise.) iDoey was up & at ’em making breakfast… everyone was headed in different directions at 100 m.p.h. Still, it was a good morning.

The flurry of activity common to our weekday mornings stands in stark contrast to our Sunday afternoons/evenings.  The afternoons are peaceful, quiet, & restful, with only the occasional football game related noise (cries of anguish for 49er fans like me,) breaking the silence It’s a time for rest, catching up on a good book, eating a favorite snack, or just hanging out. The evenings we gather around the dinner table (or counter,) usually with family & friends for a good meal, even better discussion, & time together to be savored. I love it.


I’m really enjoying our current series, “The Jesus Way,” a study through the gospel of John. The thing that really stands out to me is Jesus’ use of the words/imagery of LIGHT & LIFE in describing what He came to bring for any/all who would put their trust in & follow Him. In my studies, I came across the Didache(a.k.a. the teachings of the 12 Apostles,) a document most likely put together in the 2nd century. Like its name suggests, it shares teachings of the early church on topics such as water baptism, communion/the Eucharist, prayer & fasting, etc…

An area that really jumped out to me was the section called “the 2 ways.” In a nutshell, it says there are 2 Ways – one that leads to LIFE (trusting & following Christ) & one that leads to DEATH (anything else.)  It reminds me of Jesus’ declaration from Matthew 7:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide & the way is easy that leads to destruction, & those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow & the way is hard that leads to life, & those who find it are few.


I have been on a ‘soup’ kick for the last few months. Seems like I just can’t get enough. My current favorite is made with grilled onions & garlic, cumin, green chiles, diced jalapenos, black & white beans, chicken stock, & the meat of a Costco rotisserie chicken. Lots of flavor & a little bit of spice. I think I’ve been eating it an average of 2x/day.


In the mornings when Mason comes over, I’ll hear him call out, “Hey Grammy.” And I look, expecting to see a grandmother… & I see theBean. Sometimes this doesn’t quite feel like real life, like somehow I have been transported into a future that isn’t my own. And then I look around for my little kids & instead I see 3 adults… 2 grown men with grown man jobs, & a grown woman who’s working really hard & setting herself up for the next chapter of her life. And I wonder, “Is this real life?”

And then Mason says, “Whatcha doing Poppy? Can I have a doughnut?”

And I remember, “Ah, yes. This is real life.”


Just signed up to be a part of a spiritual direction program for the next 9 months. It’s a 1x/month meeting via Skype & I have no idea what to expect, except that I am expecting good things.


 

I’m convinced that whatever you look for in somebody, you’ll find.  If you’re looking for the good, for the areas that God is at work in & through, you’ll be able to uncover it, even if it’s small. And if you look for the negative, the bad, the ugly part of us that everyone has, you’ll find that too.

On that note, there’s always something in life to be complaining about, but really? Why? Why complain about life circumstances, another person who isn’t meeting your expectations about how they’re living their life, etc… ? It doesn’t help, & it makes it not very fun to be around you. Trust me. I’ve been that guy – & one of the best days of my life was when someone told me, “You are SO negative, & you complain about SO many things. It’s tiresome.” I was forced to look in the mirror of my soul & I found a lot of discontent – stuff that was for me to address about myself… & the complaining & negativity were just symptoms, a distraction maybe, that oriented me towards living as a pessimist/realist/negative Nancy. a real downer who was very critical of myself & others. No fun. Don’t want to go back to that.

Here’s to a great day.


 

 

 

Sanctuary Guy & other musings…

One of my favorite things about my job is getting to know the kids that attend our preschool, Little Lites, during the week. I love going into their classes during lunch time & talking with them – & hearing how their days are going & what they’re thinking about. Because my now-grandson is in the preschool, most of the kids have taken to calling me what he does – “Pop-Pop Louie” or “Poppy Louie.”

There is one exception – one little 3 year old boy calls me “Sanctuary Guy.”

It comes from the times that I would lead worship for the preschoolers in the sanctuary – & for some reason, this little guy decided that “Sanctuary Guy” was the name he would call me. It’s always made me laugh, especially when he talks about me to his parents.

This last week, I was on my way to run errands & this little guy was standing in line waiting for lunchtime recess. I heard him yell my name, “Hey Sanctuary Guy!” I responded, “What’s up?” And he said, “Sanctuary Guy, my parents got in an argument this morning, & it made me feel really sad & I’m scared.”

I immediately knelt down to look him in the eye & asked him if I could pray for him – he said yes. I prayed for peace & joy, & for his parents to get along… At the end of the prayer, he said that it helped.  I got up to leave & almost made it out the door when he said, “Hey Sanctuary Guy! If my dad needs to talk to you from his work, would you talk to him?” I said, “Absolutely I would talk to your dad. I’d talk to your mom too if she wanted.” And he said, “Nope. My mom doesn’t need any help.”


 

Today marks the beginning of week 3 since we’ve been back from our sabbatical… still getting used to the routine of work & life again… slowly adjusting to wearing real shoes…  The thing I miss most about our time away is the uninterrupted days with theBean. No distractions. No work to do. Nothing but each other & whatever fun we wanted to fill the day with. I’m trying to find ways to capture some of that in the middle of life’s hecticness – to remind myself (& theBean) of the great gift God has given to me in her. I love that woman.


 

Entering God’s rest…

In  the middle of life’s busyness & hectic pace, have you ever had the thought, “I wish I was on a quiet beach somewhere with no noise, no demands. Just the sun, a good book, & a loved one? THAT is where I’ll finally be able to get rest.”  I have… & I’ve been thinking more & more about what theBean & I going to do on our sabbatical when this quiet beach becomes our reality.

But I know me. It will do me no good at all to get away for 8 weeks, no matter how incredible the beach is or how isolated, quiet, & perfect the surroundings if I don’t REST. In my head… you know, find the relief, the mental & emotional tranquility that brings a refreshment to the depths of your soul. I know that the last thing I want to do is be laying on beach next to theBean, all the while going 100 miles an hour in my brain, preoccupied, distracted, worried, & stressed.

And so I’m trying to prepare myself, in advance… wrestling through Scriptures on Sabbath & rest, wrestling with God in thought & prayer, determining to find those “unforced rhythms of grace” that Jesus talked about in Matthew 11:28-30


 

One passage that I’ve been spending time in is Hebrews 3 & 4 – & I have really been digging into  Hebrews 4:1-13 & the specific wording about entering God’s rest & what it means. The authors of Hebrews talk about how Israel was unable to enter God’s rest (a.k.a. the Promised Land, the place promised to God’s people) due to their disobedience to His word & instructions. So, as I see it, there is a direct tie in between entering God’s rest & obedience – hearing God’s word, the Good News & receiving it (acting on it.) And there is a Sabbath rest promised to us…

…there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

For the word of God is living & active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul & of spirit, of joints & of marrow, & discerning the thoughts & intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked & exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.        

Hebrews 4:9-13 English Standard Version


As I’ve been pondering the question, “What do I have to do to enter God’s rest & to really experience the Sabbath rest this talks about?”, I keep coming back to verses 12 & 13 above. You know, the part about the power of the word of God – & its ability to cut through to the very core of our being, even weighing our thoughts, motives, & intents of our heart… & it makes me think that entering God’s rest (& finding true rest for my soul) is tied to time with Jesus… meditating on His words… allowing Scripture take root deep in my heart. Because it doesn’t seem to be about doing something – its about transformation of heart & mind… not striving… learning to BE & BE dependent on His word.

It reminds me of what Jesus said when He was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4:

“Man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

That’s my goal. That’s how I want to be becoming, more & more. And I’m gonna find rest.

Do I ever REALLY stop? & other musings…

Just looked at the calendar. Five Mondays from today, theBean & I will be on our first day of sabbatical. I’m trying to prepare for this time away, with the purpose of being as intentional as possible about what we’re doing. So, I’m revisiting some studies that I began about 10 years ago on the Sabbath & Sabbath rest. I’ll be blogging some of my thoughts, discoveries, wonderings, & questions here over the next several weeks…(If you’re interested, you can read more about WHY we’re taking a sabbatical HERE)


 

A couple of my favorite ways to study something in the Scriptures are to

  1. find the word in the original language, along with a working definition of the word;
  2. do a word-search & find the first place in the Bible the word is found…
  3. ‘popcorn’ around to other places the word is found, referenced, discussed, etc…

I looked up Sabbath & found the first time the word itself is used is in Exodus 16:23  & it shows up quite a few more times, most notably in Exodus 20:8 – the place in Scripture where God gives Moses the commandments (of the most famous “10 commandments,” the command to remember the Sabbath & keep it holy is #4. But I digress. Fun rabbit trail though.) The definition of Sabbath is “to stop; rest; come to rest; cease.” The more I dug, I discovered that though the word first showed up in Exodus, the first time the concept or practice of Sabbath appears in the Bible is in Genesis 2:1-3 as a part of the creation narrative. It says:

Heaven & Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By the seventh day God had finished His work. On the seventh day He rested from all His work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day, because on that day He rested from His work, all the creating God had done. The Message

Think about it. The final ‘act’ of creation was God creating Sabbath, Holy Time –This was so important that He built it into the fabric of creation by working six days, then on the seventh day, He STOPPED. And then He RESTED.


The more I roll this around in my head, the more I see how tied together the two are: you cannot rest until you stop. So I think about what it takes to stop, to REALLY stop. And I think about myself & my own life patterns & pace of life. I reflect on our cultural norms, behaviors & attitudes that are normal, at least until they are held up to the mirror of God’s Word. And I ask myself, “Do you ever really stop? Do WE?”


We live in a 24/7 city – in a country that celebrates busyness, activity, & multi-tasking. We rarely think about let alone embrace the fact that we have limits – on our time, our physical/mental/emotional capacity, & on what we can do & do well. We often push ourselves & our schedules to the limit, cramming as much activity into our days & weeks as possible. We usually don’t get enough sleep & survive/re-engage with life because of coffee/energy drinks. (An interesting fact – in 2006 when I began my studies on Sabbath, I researched the caffeine, how much was consumed in the US, & how much money was spent on it. Here’s what I found: In 2006, more than $12 Billion was spent on coffee, & another $1.1 Billion was spent on energy drinks, most of which were consumed by people in the 18-25 year old range. Fast forward to 2014 – close to $40 Billion was spent on coffee last year & a staggering $13.5 Billion was spent on energy drinks, a figure which is estimated to rise to at last $21.5 Billion by the year 2017. And the reason more than 60% said they drank coffee/energy drinks? In essence it was, “I need it to get going & keep going. Can’t do what I do without it.”)

When we have time off, we use it to get everything done that we couldn’t finish during the work week, &/or we pack our free time with all sorts of activities. Technology doesn’t help us out here – the modern conveniences of ‘staying connected’ through our smart-phones, computers, omni-present wifi, mp3 players keeps a constant barrage of stimulation & noise bouncing around our brains.

No wonder silence seems strange.


 

Do I ever REALLY stop? When was the last time I took a day, set apart as Holy Time, & didn’t work… didn’t get preoccupied/distracted with something… just intentionally set myself up to BE?

The defense mechanisms kick in quickly. Countless reasons for WHY I do what I do, & WHY taking much time (let alone a day) is just about impossible with all the things that fill my busy schedule come to mind.

And then I think about what I read last week from Matthew 11:25-30, especially the part about finding God’s rhythms of grace for life… & I contrast that to the driven, life-sucking pace & practices that lurk around me… And I want that rhythm, God’s rhythm for me. And so I invite Him in to the mess of me… & I trust He will FINISH what He starts.

Ready? Set? LISTEN…

At Hillside, we just finished up our most recent series, “Who am I REALLY?” (You can listen HERE & HERE if you’re interested.)  It was an exploration of WHO God says we are, in Him, & WHAT the ramifications of that are in our lives. I really enjoyed it, & got to hear lots of feedback from others on the things that they were learning & hearing from God as He did work in helping them grow in Him.


My process for deciding where we go next involves prayer, planning, looking at the calendar, & thinking… all of which usually happen (& are completed) in advance of needing to start another series. Not this time. Finished the series yesterday – no idea where we were going next… that is a bit of a feeling of desperation, exacerbated by the fact that theBean & I are starting a sabbatical June 22 at the strong ‘urging‘ of my district supervisor, Ron. In a nutshell, here’s how it went down:

Last Summer, theBean & I had a conversation with Ron, & he asked very specific questions about our lives & about our time in Reno. And when we affirmed that we were celebrating year 15 in our city, he said, “It’s time for you to take a sabbatical.” I knew what those were… And my mind raced. And he continued: “And it needs to be at least 6 weeks. Preferably more. Make it happen.”

And when one’s supervisor says such things, you does them.

BTW: Here’s a SUM UP of what a sabbatical is (it’s wikipedia – don’t sue me:)  – & here’s some INFO on why sabbaticals are helpful to pastors:  – & here’s MORE.  


I had to take a 2 hour drive this morning (1 hour each way.) Time in the car + a car with a broken antennae = lot’s of quiet time. My time was filled with prayer (open eyes… I didn’t ask Jesus to take the wheel) & pondering something deep in my gut. It was a couple of verses that I have a lot of history with:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me & you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me & work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me & you’ll learn to live freely & lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

And it hit me – a strong nudge from God – “I want to you come to Me & recover your life, & as you prepare for your sabbatical, bring Hillside along in the process.”


 

This might sound to you like a no-brainer – if the pastor’s going to be gone for several weeks, wouldn’t it be a good idea to talk quite a bit about it & to prepare the community for it as well? I would say, “Yes. Yes it does.” And, to be fair, I have talked about it. A little. And so I repented. Asked God for forgiveness for getting caught up in the speed & race of life. And for dis-remembering what it means to live life at God’s unforced rhythm of grace. Cause a sabbath (& a sabbatical) are not just meant to be a recovery time so that we can jump back, helter-skelter, into the out of control mess of life. Rather, they are to form a pattern for how life is lived the rest of the week/month/year, etc… a life lived at God’s pace, with His values, purposes, & goals directing every step. It’s counter-intuitive to the world-system (& even church-system) & requires both LEARNING to walk at God’s pace & REMAINING dependent upon Him for what comes next… Here we go!

 

A birthday ode, to theBean…

I love to hold theBean’s hand. Love it. I can remember the first time I ever did – it was August 21, 1988 & we were walking across the Florence Avenue Church parking lot, & I used the excuse of wanting to “keep her safe & close” in case there were any runaway vehicles. In the parking lot. She didn’t let go. (Point of order: we had actually touched hands accidentally on August 12, downstairs at my parents house – I was watching baseball… go figure –  but once I realized what was happening, I tried to play like I didn’t know our fingers were touching. And of course I left my hand there. But I digress.)


A little background:

TheBean was headed into her Senior year at Sonora Union High, & was preparing to go to UCDavis & study medicine. To become an osteopathic physician. She’d served as a trainer for the Varsity football team & loved it, & figured a career in medicine would be just the thing for a girl that A) didn’t want/need a man to support her & B) didn’t want kids. She even worked at a local eatery in her spare time (looking back: where she found the time, I have no idea, between school, cheerleading, training, etc… She always has been good at doing  a lot & doing it well.)

And then there was an US.

We both realized at the same time that this was the person we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with – we didn’t tell each other that we KNEW what the other was thinking… I think it was the first time that we’d read each others face with a glance, the first of thousands.  This lightning bolt changed everything for both of us, but mostly for theBean. I remember the day she told me, “Where you go, I’ll go. Where you live, I’ll live.” I was taken aback by the commitment, by the fierceness of her statement, so I asked her, “What about UCDavis & becoming a doctor?” Her answer? “Now that I have you, what I really want is to be a team with you, in what you do… to support you. To support US.”  I know that I did not at that moment understand the enormity of the decision she made, the incredible tidal wave of love that choice brought with it, nor the cost she would pay (willingly) to follow through on it.


So instead of pursuing medicine, theBean pursued US. We got married July 1, 1989.  Instead of pursuing school, she picked up a food service job, the first of a few she would work in Reno/Carson over an almost 25 year period: El Charro Avitia, Carson Station Grille/Rotisserie, Pinocchio’s, & Starbucks.) In each job, theBean found herself rising to the top, a valued employee, skilled in customer service, the best at hospitality. A person  loved by management & her fellow employees. (Sound familar? :)

I’ve never worked food service, so I didn’t know one of the downsides of the job is that your hands are always in bleach water/sanitizer. And the constant exposure to this wreaks havoc on your hands, drying them out to the point where they get cracked, rough, & raw.  I don’t think I ever really noticed theBean’s hands being rough, but she did. (Remember, I love holding her hand.) She was self-conscious about the state of her hands, & often when I’d take her hand she’d make a comment about how dry they were or how bad of shape they were in. I didn’t really pay attention to that. I just wanted to hold her hand.


Nevada’s dry climate + 25 years of exposure to bleach water/santizer DID make theBean’s hands perpetually dry, & I know she still battles the self-consciousness of how her hands must feel to me. I’ll tell you what I think:

When I hold mytheBean’s hand, I feel the hand of the woman who traded in the pursuit of her solo dream to hitch herself to the idea of an even better dream in her eyes, the dream of US.

I feel the hand of a woman who has worked hard – enduring the demands of being on her feet all day/evening; who endured stupid, rude, & inappropriately flirty demanding customers; who survived on not enough sleep; who sacrificed for me, for US, & for our family.

I feel the hand of a woman who has contended for us to be a team in life & work, even through my own stubborn pig-headed meanness, selfishness, & times I didn’t treat her right.

I feel the hand of a woman who has never, ever, once given up on me or held a grudge, & has extended grace, mercy, & forgiveness through dark & stormy days & nights.

I feel the hand of a woman who could have chosen to do whatever she wanted to do in this life, a woman who is beautiful, intelligent, hospitable, hard-working, driven, a visionary… the kind of woman I’m proud that theWeez has become, the kind of woman that I have prayed that my sons would have the privilege of marrying someday.

When I hold mytheBean’s hand, I feel the evidence of her lifetime of love & devotion. It doesn’t feel rough to me – it feels as beautiful as the first time we touched. She has been, is, & will continue to be the girl of my dreams (the good ones, not the bad ones,) myOne, myOwn, myLover.

Happy birthday Bean. You are loved. You are IT for me. And will be. As long as we both shall live…