Tuesday musings…

There’s been construction of some sort happening at work for so long I almost forget what it’s like to NOT have men (& women) at work, with things in a constant state of not quite finished. It’s a reminder that we can get used to just about anything through prolonged exposure. I guess that’s why its important to always invite “Outside Eyes” to look into our lives to point out the things that might be off, weird, or just need questioning.


Baseball is a metaphor for life. For so many reasons. Think about it: its possible to fail 70% of the time & still be considered an All-Star. You can knock the cover off the ball & make an out, or you can do THIS & drive in the winning run for your team in the bottom of the 9th. Go Giants.


The last few days I have been on a Sam Harfst kick – he’s a German musician/artist whose music I became acquainted with about 10 years ago when a dear friend gave me his Audiotagebuch CD. I’ve been a fan ever since… a lot of the music is in German, but he’s got quite a few songs in English… & I think one whole album. THIS is a video of one my favorites, “Das Leben ist schoen,” or “Life is beautiful.”  To me, what he does is a better version of Ed Sheeran – thoughtful, melodic, simple, & easy on the ears. Check his music out on Spotify. You’ll thank me later.


Its funny to me how God speaks to people in different ways… it seems a lot of the time, He inspires a thought or idea, one so simply placed that it seems to originate in one’s own heart/mind… & then what follows from acting on that initial thought is so obviously something He had a hand in orchestrating it makes me wonder how we could ever have thought the original idea had its genesis with us. Case in point: last week, our preschool team leaders, theBean & Steph, had a request from a couple of parents of existing students if we (the preschool our church runs) would be open to taking babies into the school when they delivered their kids at some point several months in the future. Now, we’re licensed for babies, but we haven’t done baby care for years because of the amount of work & labor they require. But, this time, with these requests, it seemed like a good idea. We could do 2 babies. And be open to the idea of more should there be anyone calling needing baby care. This was Thursday, May 19. As of yesterday, May 23, we have 5 babies on site, with 2 more coming soon. Not counting the original 2 we agreed to open the baby side of daycare for. Boom!


One of the things I underestimated about my boys getting married: the oceans of love that I feel for my daughters-in-law. What incredible gifts they are.


I saw pictures of my daughter, theWeez, in her wedding dress, all decked out with Swag & a veil… pictures taken during a fitting last week. It must have gone well, as the dress has now been squirreled away until its time… I could see hints of my little girl in those pictures. Mostly what I saw was a beautiful woman… with all the hopes & dreams of life & love in front of her. Makes me cry happy tears. Go figure.


Everybody has a story. A past. Many have unmentionable things they have endured, survived. And they’re somehow functioning, making their way through life with varying degrees of success. Reminds me to be a person who lives out & extends God’s grace to people, even when its tough. Because God gives His grace to me.


Read something yesterday from Jerry’s journal – his thoughtful take on what it meant, to him, to be a spiritual person. I thought his 7 points were spot on, & even better, they provide some concrete reference points in a world where its hip & cool to identify oneself as “spiritual, but not religious.” Check it out, & click the links for the verses he references:

7 ELEMENTS OF SPIRITUALITY – from Jerry Cook’s Journal

1. My awareness and acknowledgement of God’s presence (Heb. 13:5; Col. 1:23-27)
2. My ability to recognize and respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:25)
3. My ability to sense and respond to the needs of those close to me (James 2:14-17)
4. My ability to verbalize my faith (1 Pet. 3:15)
5. My ability to see and appreciate beauty (Psalm 19:1-4)
6. My ability to live a life of worship (Psalm 117:1-2)
7. My sense of destiny (Eph. 2:10)

Sure miss that man. Once he called me “A little piece of Jesus…” And each day, I do my best to live up to that… Jerry could really say, maybe better than anyone I’ve ever met, “Follow me, as I follow Christ…”

Still following…

Family dinner, IT’S A BOY!, & a journey to feeling…

One of my favorite things at this phase of life is getting together with my family – my kids, their spouses/fiance’ & families – for a meal. Being able to gather in one of our houses for a couple hours of good talks, laughter, fun, & of course food. This last Saturday we got together at Joey & Grace’s place for an early dinner – tacos. It was a little surreal for theBean & me as we brought drinks & let the rest of the family take care of the cooking. And goodness! Those Locke girls are really great cooks! I could get used to this.


Upon our arrival, we discovered that the girls had planned a surprise for us – not only were we going to eat great food… it was a gender-reveal party for Johnny & Joelle’s little 22-weeks-along-or-so biscuit… our grandbaby. They were really creative in how they set up the living room/kitchen… there was a white board where everyone not in the know could place their vote (Mister or Miss)… pink & blue balloons abounded… as did white-chocolate covered pink & blue popcorn… Nuts or No-Nuts M&M’s… lots of fun.

And then it was time to find out… a closed box full of chocolate strawberries was produced & Joelle teased the moment just long enough for my emotions to kick-in & my eyes to get misty… & then she popped the lid… IT’S A BOY! They’re having a boy. Which means grandson #3 for us. We couldn’t be happier.


Up until I was about 30 years old, I would have had a difficult time identifying the majority of emotions I felt. Mostly I cultivated a stoic, Spock-like (or Lt. Data, pre-emotion chip, for you TNG fans,) visage to cope with the overflowing cauldron of unidentified, powerful, & often incapacitating feelings swirling around somewhere near where I’d identify the location of my guts.

Sorting through faded memories I remember some of my early life’s painful things: being bullied… I was a pretty small kid who turned his L’s & R’s into W’s, which made me the target of a handful of boys (& one 5th grade girl) at ages 5 & 6. Being mocked for wearing Toughskins jeans sized “Husky” (which evidently got translated as “Fat” by my 3rd grade class). Being picked last for sports. Abuse at the hands of a relative. Being told in 6th grade I didn’t have a good voice for public speaking (I had had to do a speech for reading class & after I finished my ‘helpful’ teacher was evidently trying to point me away from a career path where I’d have to talk in public…) The list goes on.

I also remember GOOD memories. Positive things. Finding out I was going to be a big brother, 3x/over. Excelling in school. Making a real friend who would stand with me. Parents who worked long hours at multiple jobs to provide for our family. Falling in love with the Giants via my transistor radio & a headphone… knowing in the deepest part of me that I knew Jesus Christ, & even more importantly, He knew me too.

Through all of it, good & bad, joy & pain, I never really knew what to do with my feelings when they rose up, other than not being quick to get angry… (learned that from the Bible). So, I kinda just let them be, not realizing the impact that would have on my own life, but especially on my relationships with others. I kept people at a distance (physical & emotional). I rarely shared my real thoughts & feelings with others, & the few times I really risked, my over-correction/self-protection responses kicked in at the speed of a snapping resistance band that’d been stretched too far. This led to me being angry a lot of the time… or at least on the verge of being angry. Loved ones, esp. theBean, Pasty, iDoey, & theWeez, walked on egg-shells around me, never knowing what would make me ‘snap.’ And I never cried.


So what changed when I hit 30? I came home from work & heard my oldest son say, “Dad’s home!” This was accompanied by the sound of little feet scampering… AWAY from the front door. They all ran to hide. In their rooms. I was crushed… & asked theBean if I was really as bad as it seemed I was… & she bravely answered my pop-the-lid-off-the-can-of-worms question truthfully. And hearing her answers, watching her tears, & seeing her pain (& fear) hurt worse than just about anything I’d ever been through… I hated this, & felt powerless to do anything about it.

And then I felt a nudge. “Go see a counselor.” A guy I’d grown up with had just moved back into the area to open a counseling office… & his name was the one that I believe God popped into my head… so I called his office, & made an appointment. I saw him 12 times, (1x/week for 12 weeks). There were no real “A-ha” moments in those weeks, no ground-breaking, earth-shattering times when the angels sang, the heavens parted, & the lights shone down on me. But something definitely changed, or at least began to change. The counseling sessions, the questions asked, & the investment of money we really didn’t have to spare (still remember it was $120/session…) coupled with my drive for self-improvement & the insights of the Holy Spirit helped me identify WHAT I was feeling… another dear friend & mentor, Chuck, helped me through countless conversations & questions discover how to find out WHY I was feeling what I was. Through it all I was growing in what I’ve since discovered is called “Emotional Intelligence.” 


And then one day I was wrestling with a general feeling of “blah.” Like I was stuck in emotional quicksand, aware of the overwhelming-ness of being down in a hole with no real idea or ability to get out. I remember asking myself out loud, “WHAT is wrong with me?” And I got a response from the Holy Spirit… “You need to grieve the loss of your brother.”  I had no idea what that meant. I thought I’d done that when he’d died 11 years earlier.. How was I supposed to grieve him again?

So I talked myself through it, & verbally identified different feelings I had surrounding the memories of the discovery of Johnny’s cancer. The months of separation, distance, & treatment. Good news from the doctors only to be followed by news of a relapse. Nothing more to be done. The anger I felt at the nurse who asked him, “So, you want to die here in the hospital or at home…” His last weeks. Our last conversation. My heaven-directed, heart-rending desperate prayer in my parents driveway, asking for a hope-beyond-hope miracle. The phone call that came on Fathers’ Day, June 16, 1990 at the crack of dawn/doom. The empty spot in my heart. The funeral. The conversations with well-meaning friends who, not knowing what to say, said stupid things anyway. (NOTE:” If you don’t know what to say, limit your words. Sometimes your presence does more than any words you could say.” -Jerry Cook.)

And the tears started to flow. Like a summer rain, it started slow & then turned into a tempest. I was crying. Snotty-faced, out of control, can’t breathe, no sounds coming out/terrible anguish sounds coming out – Crying. The dam in my soul that had been there seemingly my whole life broke. And not just a little. It BLEW UP.  And I cried. About everything. Nothing. It felt like I spent the next year crying, & I didn’t know how to make it stop. Chuck wisely said, “Well, maybe you’re just catching up on all the years you DIDN’T cry.” And he smiled when he said it.


I don’t think any of my kids remember their dad who didn’t cry & who was pissed off most of the time. What they remember (& rehearse to the point that it’s an inside joke) is that I am a crier. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry at movies. When I listen to really great music. I cry when I’m proud of them, & I cry when they hurt. TheWeez said she didn’t want me to do her wedding because, after all, “You’ll just be a crying mess. You can sit in the front row & do that.”  She knows me :).


And so I go back to Saturday, to the gender-reveal party… I had already cried at finding out they were pregnant. And in that moment right before the pink box was opened to let us know IT’S A BOY!, I felt the flood of emotion overcome me. By this point in my life, I have gotten more comfortable with my feelings & emotions, & its not a foregone conclusion anymore that I’m going to be a weepy & melty mess when it happens. I can remember thinking, “K.I.T. Keep It Together.” And I only cried a little bit. A couple tears, rolling down the face in a most-meaningful way.

And we celebrated our soon-coming grandson. And a growing family. And I thought about the  journey of emotional discovery, growth, & freedom of the last 16 years… & I’m so thankful for a God who wouldn’t leave me bottled up & broken, but who answered my prayers with people to help me.

Readin’ books, thinkin’ thoughts, processin’ stuff, & other musin’s…

Just finished going through Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” again. Check it out if you haven’t.

We used it as a reference point in our most recent teaching series, & also hosted a couple of book talks with a few folks who had finished reading through it, individually (if that makes sense.) The first time I went through the book was back in 2006 at the suggestion of my friend & mentor Chuck. I would guess over the years I’ve read the book 10 or more times. And every time through, something else stands out to me. I think the combo of the 8-week teaching series & the book talks were the most significant in seeing the topic in a different light. Here’s a couple of insights gleaned from our talks:

  • Generally speaking, people don’t have a reference point on how to process through strong, negative, &/or inconvenient emotions. We feel out of control, unsure, anxious, & guilty… & as a result, stuff those emotions in a locked,dark room in their souls that they never plan to visit again. Several people found it helpful to go through a process to get a handle on their emotions; this includes taking the time to experience/feel the emotion, to invite God into the process by asking for His take/His input through reflection on what we’re feeling, then to express those emotions in manner than honors God, that doesn’t sabotage/hurt ourselves, or wound/cause injury others.
  • Christians don’t know how to grieve, mourn, or process through life’s losses. Not just the big ones – like death of a loved one, catastrophies, like war & acts of terror, divorce & infidelity, among others,- but also other losses, like the change in a friendship when someone moves away, the disruption of relationship when a person leaves a church, & even things that look/feel like a POSITIVE change, like graduation from school, or an adult child moving out on their own. Instead, quite a few people deal with loss through denial, avoidance, blaming others, minimizing the loss, rationalizing why the loss isn’t so bad, or developing an addiction (to avoid & numb the pain). The most common way of running from loss that came up in our talks was using God to hide from grieving – this could look like quoting Bible verses, “We don’t grieve like those who have no hope…” as though that is supposed to address the hurt & pain we feel. It could be like offering up words we’ve heard before, like, “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” or “God must have needed another angel in heaven,” or my favorite, which I have heard from more than a handful of people in response to my own grief at my brother’s passing: “God must have known He was going to fall away into sin in the future, so He took him home now.” Not only do those phrases not help, they don’t accurately portray God as He is revealed in Scripture & in Christ’s incarnation: as predictably, consistently good. And ultimately when people said them to me, I wanted to punch them in the neck.
  • Getting our thoughts out on these topics & talking with safe people helps. I was amazed at how significantly people were impacted as they listened to others, heard that their own story/feelings/experience isn’t unique or weird, prayed together, & spoke words of encouragement to each other.

There’s probably more, but those are the biggies that have been bouncing around my head for the last couple weeks.


Jerry Cook has a new book coming out in the next 8-12 weeks. He’s the writer of a couple of my favorites, including, “Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness,” and also, “The Monday Morning Church.” The next one is called, “So… What’s The Big Deal? Six Events That Changed The World”, & it is written in response to being asked this question: “So… what’s the big deal about the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian?” I have seen a rough draft of the book & I will tell you this – when it comes out, I’m buying a case of them to give away. Great & practical theology communicated in a manner that a Jr Higher could “get.” Be on the lookout.


Over the last year, I’ve been praying for the kind of clarity where I could say, “I only do what I see my Father in heaven doing.”(John 5:19-21). To me, this means – I’m not just living on purpose, I’m living according to God’s agenda. One thing that I have noticed – a lot of people have an idea of what THEY think I should be doing… & if/when it doesn’t line up with what I think I’m supposed to be doing, it is “relationally uncomfortable.” I’m praying for insights & ways to gracefully communicate with others on this, esp. when I don’t meet their hopes or expectations. A work in process, am I. Thankful that the One who started this process WILL bring it to completion. (Philippians 1:5-6)

So say we all.

I say, you hear…

Currently, my school studies center on communication within organizations. This is especially intriguing to me in the context of large/small scale communication within the church (anything from to one-on-one conversations, to addressing large groups.)

One of the most common means of communication within the church is the speech/teaching. It consists largely of “Information Transfer:” I talk (download), you listen, (upload). Information transferred & accurately communicated. Done.

Except not.

Stuff gets in the way, that keeps us from ‘getting’ it.

Stuff like INFORMATION OVERLOAD – at some point, there’s just too much information & the brain says “No más.” Which is unfortunate, especially if the speech goes on for another 15 minutes.

Stuff like NOISE – maybe its actual physical noise that distorts & distracts, like a baby crying or people talking; it might be internal noise caused by stopping “full listening” in order to think on something that was said; or it could be external noise that comes from the surrounding environment. Regardless, the end result is the person/individual stops processing.

Stuff like AMBIGUITY – words mean things, & often, the same word can have vastly different meanings depending on the person hearing it. For example, I could say, “We are wanting to bring more structure to our church.” You might hear, “Structure? You mean everyone gets put into a cookie cutter? No thanks.” What was intended by the word “structure” was a trying to create a more effective & efficient way to help connect people to/within the church body, to coordinate our efforts in mission & purpose, & to accurately & quickly get vital information to those that need to hear it.

Big difference.

I know what I’m saying, but I don’t know what you’re hearing. Anything that you hear that remotely resembles what I said, is a miracle – Jerry Cook