Deutschland #11, #12, #13+

I’m writing my last couple of Germany posts from home, very jet-lagged, sleep-deprived & very fuzzy. So if/when you read this & it doesn’t make sense, that’s my excuse.

DAY 11 – SUNDAY

Like at home, I woke up early… it’s Sunday & I’m speaking… my brain was running a mile a minute, so it was pointless to attempt to catch an additional 20 minutes of sleep. Ate some oatmeal with Jan, then headed off to church. He delivered me to the espresso bar in the fellowship area, where I was able to caffeinate to my hearts content while he took care of business.

The EnChristo Church in Mainz feels a lot like home – informal, personal, & relational with a definite focus on Jesus. I really enjoyed worship & also connecting with Flo (big guy, about 6’6″) my translator for the service. I find that it always helps me to talk with the person translating me in advance of the actual message. Spoke on John 20:19-22 – simple message on Jesus sending us as His representatives into the world where we live, work, & play. Had several comments afterward on the simplicity of the message – & its applicability. That’s what I was aiming for. Had an interesting moment in the beginning of the message when a lady in the front row started yelling… she eventually stopped, got up & left. No one knew who she was. Good times.


After service, Jan & I grabbed a quick bite at one of his favorite Chinese restaurants – then headed to the train station.

Waves of fatigue hit me when I got on the train. Hard. I have been pushing myself for the last 3 weeks of travel (Mexico & then here) & have been running on fumes, knowing that at some point I would have to pay the price for it. And that was today. I fought off slumber because I knew if I crashed, I would miss my train stop & end up drooling & confused on the other side of Frankfurt. Somehow, I managed to stay awake until my stop – at which time the heaven’s opened & a thundershower of epic proportions kicked into full gear. It was only about a mile from the station to my host’s flat, & I was thoroughly soaked by the time I arrived. They weren’t home from their own weekend jaunt yet, so I dried myself off & threw myself on the bed. Don’t know how long I was out, but Alex woke me up just in time to head out to watch the World Cup Finale – Deutschland v. Argentina.


I can honestly say that the atmosphere in the pub was the most electric of any I’ve ever experienced – & the tension was tangible. And when Mario Goetze buried his shot in the upper right corner of the net during extra time, the celebration was beyond words… only to be surpassed when the final whistle blew. Unbelievable. Truly a life-highlight for me, as was the celebration afterwards. We drove around Frankfurt along with thousands of others, honking horns, waving flags, singing at the top of our lungs. It was AWESOME. The theme for the night was Pharrell’s “Happy.” Every time I hear it from now on, I will be transported back to that moment.


DAY 12 & 13

My last full day in Germany was packed – &, as hard as I tried, I was unable to connect with several people that I really wanted to see. Such is life. Had a great final evening of talks & dinner with Alex & Linda.

Then, on Tuesday, Levent & Ines picked me up & took me to the airport (thank you!) & I spent the whole trip home reading & trying to stay awake to make my acclimation to Pacific Standard Time easier.

Slept most of my Wednesday, & now I’m trying to stay awake so I don’t mess with my sleep cycle any more than I already have.

I’m grateful for the last 2 weeks – for the opportunity to see friends & for God to work in & through me in reaching a people/place that I love so much. And I’m so happy to be home with my theBean & my kids. And I can’t wait to reconnect with my church family – so thankful for them.

Now, back to real life. After a nap.

Thank you for your prayers while I traveled – it made a difference. Blessings to you.

 

Deutschland #9 & #10

#9 – My good friend Eddy picked me up from Alex and Linda’s with his car full of kids… really fun to see how much they’ve grown, & also to meet their new addition: the adorable & precocious Kira. When we arrived at their home, Laura, Eddy’s wife was preparing a round of gluten-free pizzas to go along with the Dueck’s weekly/Friday “Pizza & A Movie Night.” The pizzas including pepperoni, peppers & mushrooms, hawaiian, & regular cheese. Laura can cook.

While the kids watched “Ice Age,” (which I haven’t seen. Any of them. Not because I hate movies. Or animation. Just because, man. Just because,) Eddy, Laura & I caught up on the happenings of the last couple of years since Eddy left as pastor of TPLF. Most of it I’d already heard, as Eddy & I Skype & pray with each other, but it was great to hear from Laura as well. The Dueck’s are doing great, & it makes my heart happy to see that even in a very trying, difficult situation, they are coming through it with grace & their genuine smiles intact. Also got to meet Reinhard at dinner, a Spanish/German musician from Colombia. We got lost in the labyrinth of musical inspiration & favorite guitarists (started with Jimi & Jimmy, headed to Roland Orzabal, & Clapton, then meandered around through the maze that is modern music. A really fun time that I thoroughly enjoyed.


FRA-bridge-nite800-1Too quickly it ended & Eddy dropped me off to meet Alex & Linda – though I’ve been staying at the house, we haven’t had a ton of time together, so Friday night on the town with the Kriegers it was. They wanted to take me to a favorite place of theirs. From the outside, it looks like any of the entrances to the myriad flats lining the Main River.  A knock on the door (along with the appropriate password/reservation) revealed a 20’s style speakeasy. No pictures are allowed of the inside, but suffice it to say, it was a memorable & tasty experience.

We walked from there to a local pub to hang out & talk – the time flew by as we wrestled through all sorts of meaning of life (& also totally fun) questions, thoughts, & musings. They are musers, like me. Which makes for good talks. Called an Uber private taxi around 1:30 a.m. & went straight to bed & crashed hard.


#10 – Woke up early-ish for breakfast, then packed up a borrowed backpack (so I didn’t have to take the monster bag on my travels) & headed to the train station for my hour long trip to Mainz, the city where Jan, the Foursquare Deutschland national leader & pastor of EnChristo Gemeinde (In Christ Fellowship) is based. Got to see my first “pro-Palestine, death to Israel,” demonstration outside the train station. I will come back to that in a later blog.

Jan picked me up, & we walked to a Lebanese restaurant for Schawarma, & then to a local cafe for espresso. We spent several hours in the afternoon sitting in an open square next to a huge church (St. Martin’s I think) talking about life, & family, & the like. It’s one of many things I appreciate about Jan – when we talk, he starts with the important stuff, (his phrase is “let’s talk like men!”) which to him seems to be focus on the things that are eternal, personal, & precious. Church talk happens too, but it isn’t at the forefront & it surely doesn’t define us.

Spent the last part of the evening outside on the veranda with Jan & Susanna (Jan’s wife) talking more about family, husband/wife relationships & parenting. Sat in the dark with a beautiful lamp throwing the only light. Finally, around 11, everyone was tired, so I headed to my room & crashed hard.

Thank you for your prayers – blessings to you.

 

Deutschland #8… a Thursday

DAY 7, Part Deux –

I left the house around 12:15 p.m. to head over to the home of Levent & Ines  via the Ubahn. One of the most confusing things about using the transit system isn’t figuring out the trains – instead, its deciding which of the 4 exits leaving the underground to take. Each one leads to a different corner of the block, so choosing wrong can mean that you’re exactly opposite of where you wanted to go, & to make it worse, you can’t just ‘cross the street’ to get where you need to be. Instead, you have to go back down into the underground & guesstimate which exit is the correct one. Today, I ended up going to three (yes. 3) different exits, walking up 2 flights of stairs for each, only to find that I’d chosen…. poorly. There’s just some things you don’t know until you memorize them I guess.


My appointment was for 14:00 (2 p.m. for us ‘mericans) & I was running a little early, so I stopped at a pizza place for a slice. Turns out, ordering was simple – the majority of the staff spoke Spanish; while I’m definitely not fluent, I can have a conversation. And so I did. It was nice, & a little bit surreal to be speaking Spanish in Germany. But at least I got the right pizza. I walked across the street to Levent & Ines beautiful big Green Apartment Building, & within a couple of minutes, I was sitting at their kitchen table, watching 1 year old Samuel crawling around the room, stopping every couple seconds to try to figure out just WHO this person was in his house.

Levent & Ines were some of the first people I met when I came back to Frankfurt in March 2005 – they had just been married a year at that time. Over the years, they’ve added two kids to the family, 3 year old Saraya & the aforementioned 1 year old Samuel. The last 6 months have been very stressful on them, as Samuel has had to be hospitalized with an unknown condition that caused a lot of physical issues, including seizures. I can imagine that the strain of that, plus trying to care for another child, plus trying to work must have been overwhelming. We had great talks, & I was very blessed & honored to be able to be with them today, just a few days short of their 10th wedding anniversary.

IMG_1595After hanging out for a couple of hours, Levent needed to leave to pick up Saraya from her kindergarten, so he offered to drop me at the rendezvous point for my next meeting in Bockenheim, a region of Frankfurt I’m pretty familiar with because it is where the German church we have had relationship with, Treffpunkt Leben (TPLF) is located. (The picture to the left is the Bockenheim Tower, an old military/defensive installation set up on the edge of the city to give warning if any danger approached.) Saraya’s kindergarten is bilingual, using both German & Spanish. It was pretty cool to be able to hear the 3-6 year olds speaking both languages, sometimes in the same sentence. One of the students was a little Korean girl – couldn’t have been more than 3 years old, & she was talking to her mother, a mile a minute, in Spanish, about her music & dance class. It was precious.


IMG_1593Levent, Saraya, & I parked & walked to Leipziger Strasse so IMG_1594that they could buy a pastry, then we said our goodbyes, & I headed up the street & towards Kurfuerstenstrasse 14, where TPLF used to meet. A few years ago, the old church building was torn down, & this was built in its place.

IMG_1592I also went by to see if anyone might be at the TPLF office, but it was too late in the day, so I missed everyone. Ended up walking to the Kurfuerstenstrasse Park & sitting on one of the park benches & people watching until it was time to go meet Steve. Walked back to the Ubahn station just in time to catch him – we decided to head back to the park to talk until it was time to meet his wife, Sarah, for dinner. I had never met her (Steve was only engaged when he was in Reno, & they just celebrated their first anniversary last week.)


We had a great time catching up over the events of the last couple years since Steve visited us in Reno – the time almost got away from us. Fortunately, Sarah called & reminded us that she was on her way, so we walked back to Leipzieger Strasse to get dinner at KISH, a Persian restaurant right off of the main street with a great outdoor eating space. That the owner of the restaurant didn’t want us to sit at. He wanted us inside for some reason – didn’t catch it, but I think it had to do with the fact that it was a ‘prime table’ & we were there a little before ‘prime time’ with no reservations. Not that we needed them at that point, as there were a grand total of 5 other people at the place, & there were at least 40 open tables. He finally agreed to seat us outside, & brought us menus. The food followed quickly.

And then the rain started. It began with rolling thunder & a light sprinkle.

That lasted for about 10 minutes – we were protected from the rain by a large sun shade, so we didn’t think we had to worry about anything. Until the rain began to fall in earnest. Sideways. After a couple minutes of trying to ‘weather’ the weather, we gave up & took our food inside to an open table. And we watched the lightning show. And the rain falling, harder & harder until it seemed like the downpour rivaled the hurricane theBean & I endured in the summer of ’94. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I had no umbrella & I forgot my rain jacket at home. IMG_1597

We finished dinner & tea, all the while hoping for a brief respite that would allow us to walk the 1/2 mile or so to the Ubahn station. It didn’t happen, so we decided to make a run for it. By the time we hit the station, I was soaked. But it was a warm rain.

Said goodbye to the Greenhills at the main U station, & we went our separate ways. Fortunately,  I had a beautiful walk home from the station near Alex & Linda’s. I tried to be as quiet as possible so I wouldn’t wake them if they were sleeping, yet somehow in my attempt to turn off the light outside their front door, I managed to ring their doorbell, making their giant Rhodesian Ridgeback bark at the sudden noise. Smooth. Very smooth.

Alex was just finishing a workout, & Linda didn’t wake up, so my faux pas wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Took out my contacts & headed towards bed, & took a couple of minutes to catch up on emails that couldn’t wait to be dealt with until later. It was a great day.


As I think about my yesterday (Thursday) on  this fine morning (Friday, about 10:40 a.m.) I’m musing on how much has changed since I was last here almost 4 years ago. In me. In others. And it feels really good to know that in the middle of all of that, we still have something very, very important: Friendship.

Thank you for praying. Blessings to you.

 

Deutschland #7+

DAY 7 –
I have to confess, I’m a little discombobulated & am not really sure what day it is… either of the week or the # of days I’ve been in Germany. I do know that this day was my last with Julia’s family. Woke up early & drank coffee & spent the day with Julia talking about everything. And nothing. Made our way to a favorite spot of hers in beautiful downtown Achern, the RatKeller, which literally means, “the advice cellar” as it used to be a place where the local politicians gathered to share information. I ordered “Grandma’s potato soup” & a salad. The soup was inedibly salty – when I told the waitress, she shrugged & said, “The cook must be in love,” which evidently is an acceptable explanation as to why it was ok for me to be served the Great Salt Lake with potatoes… & pay for it.


The family Kern came home just in time for me to depart for the train station. What a special family. Saying “goodbye” is tough – it makes me sad, but thankful to have such wonderful people in my life. Pia (Julia’s mom) told me next time I come to their region, I will have to stay with Julia & her husband, who is not currently in the picture :). Yes, that would be nice. I’m praying for him right NOW. And if I need to export an American who wants to live in Germany & marry a beautiful, smart, & confident woman, I will do it. :)


The train trip from Baden-Baden to Frankfurt was fast & uneventful. Jumped on the U-Bahn & made it to the grocery story meeting place where Alex picked me up so I wouldn’t have to walk in the rain. We made it home just in time for a phenomenal dinner Linda made for us – it was several different types of sweet potatoes baked with peaches, chilis, shallots, & radishes, along with some red-wine vinegar & balsamic, acoompanied by carmelized bacon-wrapped dates. Dessert was a coconut milk-vanilla pudding with rose-water & Johannes berries, a tart berry that added a great kick to the dessert. Fan-TASTIC. Alex & Linda usually eat paleo-style, & Linda is ultra-creative when it comes to making great-tasting & very healthy foods. Alex & Linda remind me a lot of Colby & Claire in so many ways, (interests, gifts, personality, etc…) & I dream of eating a dinner prepared by Claire & Linda one day. It shall happen, I declare.

I was pretty wiped out from staying up so late the previous night celebrating the German victory that I headed to bed fairly early for a night of fitful sleep.


 

DAY 8?

Woke up this morning just in time to wish theBean a good night’s sleep. Sigh. Coffee & good talks, along with another great meal – omelette, proschutto, salad, a corn muffin & banana-crumble. Goodness.

It’s about 11:27 a.m. & I will be heading out in just a few minutes. My appointments today include Levent & Ines this afternoon, then Steve Greenhill this evening. I am looking forward to meeting Levent & Ines’ 2 kids for the first time, & celebrating their anniversary with them. And I haven’t seen Steve since he got married. I’ve got a feeling today is going to be great.

Talk to you soon – many blessings to you, & thank you for praying.

Deutschland, #1

On a whirlwind trip.

My flights to San Francisco & then to Frankfurt were on time… early even. For the 11 hour flight to Frankfurt, I ended up next to a burly Russian bear of a man. He claimed the center seat’s armrests & didn’t give them up for the entire flight.

Either I haven’t flown United in a long time or my memory of palatable airplane food is revisionist history – both dinner & ‘breakfast’ this morning went largely uneaten, in large part to a) my inability to discern WHAT it was I was eating & b) the gnarly gnarly odors coming from the food trays. I ate yesterday, thanks. I’m good.

Claimed my bags (yes!) & navigated out to the U-Bahn – I had confirmed with Alex that I’d be going to the Hauptwache (main station) & waiting until I heard from him, so I followed the plan & grabbed an authentic German delicacy, “Coke Light” from the McDonald’s. And I waited, read, people watched. And then I got Alex’s call. Jump on a U1, U2 or U3 (UBahn trains) & get off at Hueglestrasse. And then wait for instructions. Man. It seemed like I was James Bond for a second.

After getting off on Hueglestrasse, I waited at the Rewe (local supermarket) for the Uber taxi driver to pick me up. Uber is a phenomena we experienced in San Francisco over spring break – & I’m really glad its made its way to Germany. Uber are run by private citizens with 2010 or newer cars – & they serve as an on-demand taxi service. I was picked up by my driver & delivered to Alex & Linda’s home in about 20 minutes.

Words can’t describe the joy I feel at reconnecting with Alex & Linda – a very special couple who we hit it off with in 2007– &, on top of that, the joy of being able to be in their home again. Alex was at the dentist when I arrived, so I had a glass of water & took some time with Linda to catch up on the happenings of life for the last 3 years. Linda is a teacher – & she is a bundle of energy, very passionate about education… but even more so, she is passionate about Jesus. With her job in the German school system, she gets paid to share the gospel – to give students an understanding of what Christianity is – & I can’t think of a better messenger than her. If you are a Hillsider, let me describe Linda for you, using people in our church family as examples of a little of what she’s like. Imagine crossing Katy D & Danae L – & you get a little insight as to the kind of person Linda is. Alex arrived home & our talks were precious – pointed, raw, real, & full of wonder. I love these 2.

Tomorrow I’m off to Baden-Baden to see our dear Julia, our adopted daughter who lives near the Germany/France border… Julia lived with us for about 6 months, then came back & visited for about 2 more months. Can’t wait to see that girl & her family too. Also, we’ll be connecting with the regional pastors for a youth group/youth leaders event. Saturday, we’re heading to a town on the Swiss border called “Engstingen.” It’s a one-day gathering of pastors from all over the southwestern/south central region of Germany. Then Sunday, I will be joining a gathering of 5 churches for their monthly ‘celebration’ service.

I’m having fun already :)

Surprised & other musings on a Monday…

After Church yesterday, I was in the typical rush to prep for the next thing we had to do… 45 minutes of “free time.” Which means running around crazy to make sure life is dialed in for the next round of stuff. And then a smile. KIRSTIN. A dear friend who moved away a couple years back. But now she is HERE. Standing there with her Kirstin Smile. Surprise. Had to come to town for a ‘thing’. Thought she’d swing by to say “hey.” I wept.


We connected with Nick & Kirstin at College Group. Sunday night Study. Eating dinner together. Sitting in our living room with other friends. Reading the Scriptures. Questions. Debates. Ponders. (I declare Ponders is a word.) Prayer. Connecting. Sharing life’s joys. Pains. Challenges. Celebrations. It knit us together in a way that time & life will never separate. And it makes me think.

Last night, we had Study. Dinner. A great group of very diverse people gathered around the counter. Eating. Laughing. Enjoying each other. To the living room, everyone claiming “their” spots. Sharing their highlight of the week, giving us insight into what makes them tick. Reading the Scriptures. Talking about them. Chasing rabbit trails. Praying. Talking about the happenings of the day. I brought up my highlight – seeing Kirstin this afternoon. Daniel asked, “Who’s Kirstin?”

The flood of memories & life experiences shared flooded my brain as I thought how to answer him. And I said, “Kirstin is YOU Daniel, in a different lifetime.” We had a good laugh. And it made me think.

For the majority of the last 25 years, theBean & I have hosted people in our home on Sunday nights. It’s looked different – I’m cracking up thinking about how we used to go to the park next to our house & play BALL, a hybrid between rugby, football, soccer, basketball & handball. And MMA. There were several trips to the ER before that round of Study. I think of Cap’ns coffee stains on my floor. That boy couldn’t control a cup of coffee to save his life. I think of Josh-bum semi-napping on the couch, only to respond in context when asked a question. I remember pulling a newly dating couple aside & asking them to stop groping each other. I think of the Squirrel Gurls – 2 opposites that became like sisters.

I think about the privilege of seeing peoples’ lives developing & growing as they moved through high school/college into the life standing in front of them. In my minds eye, I see lives opening up like flowers as God healed them from life’s hurts, & blossoming into the people God made them to be. Pete & Debi becoming best friends. And then getting married. There are literally hundreds of memories of people flooding my mind. And I’m privileged to have been in this spot.

And many of these people have become ‘chosen family.’ People who have left indelible marks on our lives – & they have moved on, moved away, pursuing their lives, careers, & passions. And these people follow Jesus & inevitably help others learn to do the same through their life examples. And my heart sometimes aches as I miss them & the impact they’ve had on my/our life/lives.

And yet… God is good. He always sends more people. And it seems that the only thing we have in common is Jesus & a desire to pursue Him, His words, & wanting to figure out HOW to apply this to our lives, to bring it from theory to action & practice.

It gives me joy. And I feel rich. Because there is life. Meaning. Worth. In relationship. Community. Fellowship.

I love this.

Friends

This week at our church we’re continuing in our series, “Navigating Relationships” with this week’s focus being “Mutual Relationships.” As I’ve been studying for this topic, I keep coming back to an encouragement found in the book of Ecclesiastes. It reads:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, you up! But if there’s no one to help, tough! Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. The Message

This passage speaks of our need for close, trusting give/take relationships with people that will walk through life with us – in work & play, in times of celebration & mourning. People that will encourage us, help us, & ‘be there’ for us…. & then will allow us to do the same for them.

At times, this sort of mutuality has been a struggle for me – not because I didn’t have a dependable spouse or great friends that would stand with me – but rather because I lived a life of self-sufficiency. It felt ‘selfish’ to lean on people. Worse, it felt like I was not carrying my share of the weight of my life if I tried to bring others into the rough areas of my life.

Instead of leaning on others, I’d pray & seek God’s help – & He did help. But one day when I was praying, I felt God say, “I want to answer your prayers for help, support, & encouragement with PEOPLE.” Faces of friends flashed in my mind – & I recognized what God was talking about – these dear, trustworthy people were already there in my life as an untapped resource – they were people I wanted to support & walk through life with… & they were there to help pick me up when I fall. To be Christ’s ears, hands, & feet to me. I just needed to put aside fear of hurt, take captive the lying thoughts that would say, “You’re weak if you need people,” & be willing to risk. To ask for help.

I still wrestle with this self-sufficiency… but I’m much quicker to pray & then run to the friends who I know have my back, & who’s back I have as well. And as a result, life is much, much richer & much more enjoyable.

Thank you friends. I need you.

school’s out for summer… er, 2 weeks, an anniversary. And other musings.

Sunday morning I woke up early… earlier than normal for my Sunday workday. Many reasons for that:

    -the nagging of unfinished school work; had to write a couple paragraphs for the conclusion to the paper for the END o Class project for TH600 (which is a fancy way of saying Advanced Theology & Worldview. Its a 600 class, not a 500 class. So it is 100 better. Or bigger. Or badder. But I digress.)
    -My back hurt enough that rolling over repeatedly didn’t make it go away. Better to rise than to lay there.
    -I smelled the foff (coffee for laymen). The timer went off at the weekday time instead of the weekend time, calling to me with her siren’s call: “Come & get me! I’m Guatemala today!” Sounded just like that too.
    -Bad dreams. Woke up thinking I’d gotten a certified letter LEGALLY declaring the demand that I cease & desist, with no further talking to or interacting with my family. That was a fun. Felt real until the afternoon.

And yet, the biggest reason was it was Father’s Day. June 17, 2012. Exactly 22 years since my little brother John Leavy Locke went to be with Jesus. He passed at 4:34 a.m on that day in 1990; I’ve written about it a few times. Here. And here. And now, every year on the anniversary of his passing from death to life, I wake up at precisely that time. I’ve probably tapped into some latent superpower that allows one to wake up WHEN they WANT to, though this one is a bit out of control as I don’t wanna wake up then. But I do. Perhaps I always will. I do know that while I still grieve, it’s not without the hope of seeing him again. And perhaps I shall write on this topic yearly… until such a time that other such days color my world grey.


The last 9 months have been something of a blur – I have felt more than a bit overwhelmed emotionally – talked with my friend Chuck about it a couple weeks back over a Shepherd’s Pie & he asked the question: “Have you experienced any loss or significant relationship change over the last while?”

I got to thinking, & images of people, dear friends & pseudo-family members, rushed through my brain. All people that have moved on. Many due to school, jobs & opportunities outside of the Reno area, a couple due to the moving on associated with life change & finding a new church to attend. Tried to count the number of people that had moved/transitioned since January 1. Stopped at 30. I looked across the table at Chuck through misty eyes & he said, “I’ll take that as a yes.” It happens. Its a part of life. And it hurts. Love these people, & when they go, it leaves a mark. More than when Charlie bit my finger… it really hurts.

And the hits keep on coming – TheAge & Sandra Nell are relocating to Boston – TheAge, one of the truly greatest creative musical artists I’ve ever known, is off to Berklee School of Music to pursue a dream that I know he will catch. Sandra Nell, teacher, baker, artist, & cake designer of the rarest sort… Chris & Natalie (& their progeny, including my namesake, lil Mo’Lou, are heading to their hometown of Vegas…was just hired as the worship pastor at the church he grew up in. Chris. a gifted songwriter, artist, worship leader… Natalie Rose, writer, photographic artist, creative soul, and freestyle, stream-of-consciousness thought sharer.

My friends. People I love dearly. My eyes are swimming.


And in other news: now that I have 2 whole weeks off from the required reading & writing of grad school, I shall endeavor to reread the LOTR (aka, The Lord of the Rings.) It is one book, not three, divided into six sections. J.R.R. Tolkien, how I love thee.

Went to Father’s Day lunch at the Little Wal with theBean, theWeez, iDoey, & the 3 of the last 4 people to live with our family, along with their spouses. (Missed you YoooooouuuulleeeeeeeeAHHHHHHHH!) It was like a family reunion. Beautiful, especially seeing the lives that the girls are living now with their very own boys. Brings me great joy.

The Little Wal has an extra special Sunday Special – buy one burger at regular price, get another for 1cent. Booyah.

TheWeez got up from the table at the end of the meal to go home with iDoey – her long dark brown hair fell perfectly across her face, partially behind her right ear. I was mesmerized – & I told her, “Wow, Weez. You look absolutely Elvish! All you need is the pointy ears!”

Which of course in my world = Absolutely Beautiful. It makes total sense. To me. And to other Tolkien speakers.

TheWeez grimaced at me & left.

Three of the ladies at the table, one being my wife, the other two being grown up, surrogate daughter-types, let me know that I had committed a faux-pas. Fortunately, they gave me some good advice for communicating with my girl in the future.

    -“if you think she looks beautiful, tell her she is pretty. Pretty. Not elvish.”
    -“elvish is definitely not something a girl wants to be compared to. No matter what any other man at the table might say.”
    -“if you keep that up, you could give her a complex.”
    -“don’t mention her ears. She doesn’t want to hear about her ears.”

Duly noted. I will keep my sci-fi/fantasy comparisons & metaphors to myself.

TheWeez – you are beautiful.

musings on a Valentines Day…

Our first Valentines Day is a little blurry in my memory. I know that I made myself sick with worry (really, I barfed. TMI, I know, TMI.) I wanted to get theBean, my fiancee a gift. A good gift. Something that would perfectly describe my commitment to her, encompass all of my undying love & devotion, & make her absolutely positively sure that she was making the Right Choice by marrying me. I wanted all of this to be communicated in the gift I got her. And I wanted it for under $50 (Which was a lot of money back in the day… But I digress.)

I don’t remember what I bought her. Neither does she. Funny. And I’d gotten so worked up, anxious, stressed, and worried. What I do remember is that she kissed me good after I gave her the present, & that I never wanted it to stop. The kiss that is. But it had to because theBean couldn’t (still can’t) breathe so good through her nose.

I knew I loved her, & for some reason, she loved me back. I didn’t (don’t) understand it, but I am not one to argue with a stunningly beautiful woman who wanted to pledge her undying love & a lifetime of devotion to me. Go figure.

Something that I’m thankful about is that theBean doesn’t need presents to make her happy; they’re not her main “love language.” (Go to that link. Learn about love languages. Talk to your loved one. Listen to what makes them feel loved. Do it.)

Granted, she likes bling, appreciates kind gestures like flowers & cool looking cooking pots, but what she wants is me.

Me. That’s a tough one. Because I know the depths of my heart, the levels of junk I’m capable of. The things I’ve put her through out of my immaturity, selfishness, and brokenness.

And still, what she wants is me. My attention. Approval. Support. Encouragement. Ears. Commitment. Good words. Touch. Eye contact. Heart. Acts of service. Cleaning up around the house. Pretending I know what I’m doing in the kitchen/bbq.


Today, she asked me to be her Valentine. Again. Still. I said, “Yes. Will you be mine too? Forever and ever and ever…?” She agreed.

I watched her drive off to work, & as she started to pull away, she rolled down the window & said, “You’re all mine, baby!”

Like I’m a prize worth having. Like she still means it. Goodness.

My heart is full, & I am so thankful for the favor of God on my life that He would give me such a woman.

Saturday morning musings, over coffee & spoonfuls of skippy crunchy peanut butter

Sitting in the quiet of the morning enjoying my hot foff (coffee for those of you that don’t speak Isaiah Scofield,) & my occasional breakfast of spoonfuls of Skippy Crunchy Peanut Butter. Peanut butter tastes best solo & from a spoon, though I would not mind it on toasted bread. Right. Now. Thinking deep thoughts this morning, and random ones as well.

It would be possible to never add to the collection of what I call “my” music – which usually means the stuff I listened to when I discovered the radio in middle school (Huey Lewis & the News, Journey, & the Talking Heads,) & the oh-so-sophisticated “New Wave” sounds that I gravitated towards in high school (New Order, Tears For Fears, U2, INXS, the Hooters, & several other now-too-obscure-to-drop-as-a-reference groups.) They even occasionally play ‘my’ music on BOB 97.3, & on 103.7 (OLDIES? My music is on OLDIES?!) & Pandora, the “Music Genome Project” (which sounds so hi-tech its funny) makes it so that I can get what I want musically, when I want it.

Music provides cultural insight, so years ago I determined that I’d at least try to stay up on what my kids preferred, & anything else that might serendipitously drop into my ears. On that note, a couple of bands I’ve come across that have held my ear: Mumford and Sons and Burlap to Cashmere . Both have hints of Simon & Garfunkle & the Hooters – thought provoking lyrics, simple (& yet intricate) musical arrangements. Good stuff.


Haven’t had a Bible study in our home for 2 years now – after close to 20 years of just about every Sunday night, theBean & I decided to take a hiatus that got extended longer than I thought it would. I’ve missed it, especially the people in the living room, over food, good coffee, & lively conversations about the just-read-aloud-Scriptures.

Missed it, did I, so I decided to tag-team with Katy for a study through Revelation, & to have it in the main office of the church. Revelation came & went, but the desire for study didn’t, so we invited the group that had come to Revelation to keep coming Wednesdays as we decided to go through a collection of other Bible books… Finished Esther a couple weeks back; now we’re in Daniel.

My favorite parts of being in a Bible study, long-term, are the relationships that develop with the other people that participate. Looking over the last 6 months, a perspective of life & growth emerges, & I can see where each person has not only grown closer to the others in the group, but also has grown in their understanding & love for Scripture, & in their relationship with God. And then there’s the power of the Scriptures, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, to transform lives – inevitably our discussions begin on something we’ve just read out loud, & somehow end up on an area from the depths of our hearts that is being plumbed, challenged, & healed. Its water for my soul.


Somehow, it doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I make in the morning; if I sit here long enough, the whole pot manages to disappear. Like clockwork.

Heading into our first weekend as a family of 4 since theWeez was born. Pasty is in Knoxville, hitting job interviews & preparing to move into his quad on Monday. I’m noticing that I miss his routines; he definitely isn’t a loud person (especially in the morning – because being loud in the morning is wrong. The Bible’s against it. See Proverbs 27:14 if you don’t believe me.) No, Pasty’s routine meant that no matter how caught up he was in school, work, MissAlexandrea, or ESPN, he always managed to be in the same places, doing the same things, at about the same times each day. And when his alarm didn’t go off 24 times this morning, alerting him it was time to call his girl, I noticed. And missed it. Sigh.

It’s Eddy Dueck’s birthday today – he’s the pastor of our sister church, TPLF, in Frankfurt, Germany. Please join me in praying blessing & favor for Eddy & Laura today – he’s a good man, husband, father, friend, and pastor. My life is richer because he’s in it.

Time to take on the day.