Stuff #7 – “Don’t put wood on the fire…”

Continuing today in the series, “STUFF I’VE PICKED UP ALONG THE WAY.”  This one stems from a (series of?) conversations with my dad when I was just a lad… & it had everything to do with my response to my younger brothers’ antagonism.


STUFF #7 – “Don’t put wood on the fire…” 

For all of us wanna-be pyros, this seems like it would be BAD advice; of course fires need more wood. That’s how they burn! But this truth is precisely why the instruction to NOT put wood on the fire stuck with me…


I am the oldest of 4 boys – all of us born (approx.) 4 years apart. There were some lonely days between the ages of 0 to about 6. First, I was waiting for siblings; second I was waiting for them to get bigger so we could actually PLAY together. I thought that once Johnny & Joel (& later Ben) were growed up, then:

  • life would be better & more fun
  • we would live out all of our days in rapturous joy;

Not quite how that worked out.

While I loved (& still love) my brothers, our early years were often characterized by all out brawls: verbal & physical… 2 (& later 3) against 1. Them against me. And while the physical onslaught was (mostly) easy to endure, it was the psychological warfare which all of my brothers engaged in that really got me. It’s like they were born with the innate knowledge of “How to antagonize your brother…”  I didn’t get that they would provoke me to get attention out of me, & bad/negative attention was better than no attention.


My brother Johnny could push my buttons. He knew just what to say, just what to do, to get a rise out of me. When my parents weren’t looking, he’d pinch, punch, shove, or elbow; he’d lean in & call me silly names, challenge me to contests of physical (& emotional) strength, & generally dominate me & my head space. He lived there rent-free :)

I’d respond in anger. Frustration. My own antagonism. I’d get loud, go after his buttons (I could play that game too) & generally take it up a notch (or 10) until the house was overflowing with our shouted conflicts, disagreements, & antagonisms.

One day, I remember my dad pulling me aside & taking me into his study (which, to me, signaled that things were about to get REAL.) He pulled out his bible & read these verses to me:

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers & as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife. Proverbs 26:20,21 – NIV

I could see it – my dad was explaining to me that the problem, the REAL problem, was that my brothers kept putting fuel on the fires, which resulted in me HAVING to respond to them to make sure justice was served, every challenge was met, & every threat, rebuffed. Felt a little proud of myself at connecting those dots. Except…

That wasn’t the point. This wasn’t about learning to shut down conflicts by controlling the behaviors of OTHERS. This was about learning to shut down conflicts by controlling the behaviors (& responses) of LOUIE. Me. The lesson wasn’t in how to fix others… it was in how to control & discipline the only person I really could: me.


Not what I wanted to hear. I think I argued with my dad a bit, about the injustice of what he was (God was?) asking me to do – “If I don’t respond, they’ll think they WIN. And that is not RIGHT!”

Nope – that is not the thing – the thing is, the only person Louie can control, can truly take full responsibility for shaping is… Louie. And in this scenario, the Bible, Solomon – the wisest of them all – inspired by the Lord God Almighty, was pointing to a different way.

IF you don’t put wood on a fire, it WILL go out.

My responses (justified & legitimate though they may seem to me) were putting wood (kindling, gasoline, & all other flammable materials) onto a fire that would never tire of burning out.

And sometimes the only way to put the fire out, was to STOP putting wood/fuel on it. And that is what I was tasked to do.


It wasn’t perfect, but I did it. I can distinctly remember a time where Johnny went into antagonist mode; he wanted, no, needed me to respond to him, so he gradually dug into his tool bag of “fire it up” skillz, & launched them at me. One at a time. Every. Single. One.

And this time, this once, I ignored his taunts. I ignored & didn’t respond to his teasing. I thought about starving a fire of fuel, & determined in my heart & in my head (& with my mouth) that I would not, under any circumstances, add any WOOD to this FIRE. And i didn’t.

And eventually, young Johnny (who had to be all of 4 years old or so,) ran out of steam. It was no fun to stir things up without a partner/opponent. But I was determined. No. Wood.

The feeling of satisfaction I experienced at that moment stays with me today. I DID it. Because I DIDN’T do it. And, just like my dad (& Solomon & the proverb in my Jesus book) said, the fire of antagonism went out. Walked away. Went to raid the pantry. No conflict.


This principle has remained at/near the forefront of my thoughts/interactions, even today, esp. when a situation arises where it appears interpersonal interactions are going to get HOT… & instead of responding to real/perceived injustice, antagonism, character assassination, etc… I have learned (& attempted to practice) self-control. I laid down (& continue to practice laying down) the need to be RIGHT, the need to have the LAST WORDS, the need to be JUSTIFIED in my own eyes/the eyes of others.

Years later, I was reading in the book of Nehemiah (the rebuilder of the wall around Jerusalem) – what stood out to me was his self-control & his refusal to respond in kind to the attempts made to divert him from God’s purpose & plan for his life… attempts made by 3 guys (& their minions) to distract, antagonize, & turn him FROM self-control/obedience to God, TOWARDS answering their challenges & embracing the need for self-justification.

I can do that.

I don’t HAVE TO respond to antagonism in kind.

I am not COMPELLED to put wood on the proverbial fire.

I don’t have to attempt to JUSTIFY myself in the eyes of others… esp. if I can be content & secure in the knowledge of my own (to the best of my abilities) right standing before God.

This one, “Don’t put wood on the fire,” is PURE GOLD. Grab on to this for yourself.

Christmas music, hope, resilience, & 2020

I’ll be returning to the series I’m doing on Emotionally Healthy Spirituality soon, but I just HAD to write about this today.


If you’d have asked me this morning how I was doing, I probably would have answered “Doing ok, all things considered.” And I am/was/might be. The reason I’m waffling a bit on my answer now, 3 hours later, is that I heard some instrumental Christmas music just now.

NOTE: For years, I’ve contended that there “shall be no Christmas music played in/around the Locke household whilst I am around to hear it until the day after Thanksgiving.” 

I don’t fancy myself to be a Grinch, but (usually,) hearing Christmas music in October/early November bothers me because it feels like People are trying to rush me past where I currently am in the calendar & in life. I LIKE Christmas music, but I want to wait til Christmas time to listen to it. In the meantime, I want to listen to (just about) anything BUT Christmas music.

Until today.


As usual for Mondays, I was working on some preliminary notes for next week’s message, as well as taking care of the administrative details that I take care of in advance of the bookkeeper working her magic. Had my door shut to keep the sounds of the Kindergarten students & their classroom happenings right outside my door, outside :).

And then I heard a familiar melody. And my heart leaped in my chest & I felt a rush of emotion. Didn’t recognize it right off the bat, so I listened closer & more intently. And then I knew.

It was a piano/instrumental version of “O Holy Night.” But instead of being bothered or frustrated at the intrusion of Christmas music(!) into my world before I was ready for it, I wept. For a moment, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.

I don’t know for sure WHY hearing this song moved me so much, but I have an inkling… the theme of HOPE that entered the world > 2000 years ago is reawakened in me today.

Found myself singing along quietly, sobbing a bit through tears…

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night
O night divine
Placide Cappeau/translated by John Sullivan Dwight


After months of pandemic madness, quarantine, Stay at home orders, missing out on connecting with so many friends & family & dear ones, a complete & worldwide disruption to normal… this song gave me exactly this:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks, a new & glorious morn…
I felt hope. I FEEL hope. It’s small, & I’m definitely not overflowing at this point, but it is THERE. And the thing is, I didn’t even know that I was running 3 quarts low in my HOPE tank… but Jesus did. And today, O Holy Night stirred me up, & has me looking to our glorious hope for THIS tumultuous & difficult time… a hope that does NOT & will NOT disappoint. The Living Hope that is Jesus Christ, the One who will never leave US or forsake US.
Sustain my heart. Build resilience into my soul.
Bring on the Christmas music. #2020

There is no chore list…

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

The pursuit of happiness & the gratitude experiment…

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence states a belief that the Creator has given us certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness. Even if we haven’t been in a civics or government class in a while, we know, as Americans, these things are our birthright.

It’s interesting to me that Jefferson (& his editors) included the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” – & it makes me ask the questions, “What would it take for us to BE happy?” And “If I’m pursuing happiness, what does it look like when I CATCH it?”

Think about it: what would make you happy… for a long time? Think big. Winning the lottery? Being able to live in a tropical paradise? Your favorite sports team winning the Super Bowl/World Series/etc…?

It seems like that would do the trick – surprisingly, however, statistics say something different. For example, a study of lottery winners showed an initial spike in happiness immediately following their winning the big bucks. However, within 9-12 months of the win, lottery winners reported that they felt no more “happy” than they had before they won all the money.

People adapt to their life circumstances – & in order to “be happy” we need to do something/try something new. Which works for a while – until we adapt again. It’s like being on a “pursuit of happiness treadmill,” always chasing, but never quite attaining it permanently. (The scientific name for this phenomena is “the hedonic treadmill.” Read about it HERE.)


So what can a person do to increase their longer-lasting feelings of happiness? Again statistics reveal that people who regularly express gratitude & thankfulness to those in their lives have a significantly higher sense of happiness. I think that the reason for this is expressing gratitude involves being mindful of our life circumstances, & actively looking for the areas where we have been blessed, loved, & cared for. Check out this brief VIDEO for some really great info on the ‘gratitude/happiness’ corollation’

Over the next couple of weeks at Hillside, we’ll be in a series called, “The Gratitude Experiment.” I’d like to encourage you to take time to write some lists of the people, places, & things that you are thankful for. Then, write a brief note to/call the people in your life that you’re thankful for & blessed by & share that with them.

Love languages, a card in the mail, & other musings…

One of the books that helped theBean & I learn to communicate love for each other in the “language” we best receive it is called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. In it, he identifies the 5 primary ways that people receive & give love – if you’ve never read it, they are:

  • Giving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
  • Words of encouragement

TheBean & I discovered that we come at this whole ‘expressing love” in completely different ways: she’s a quality time & acts of service person, & I am a physical touch & words of encouragement person. Which means, by default, we often ‘communicated love’ in our own love language… & we were both frustrated. Until I discovered that all I had to do to make theBean feel loved was wash the dishes. Help out more around the house. Arrange for dates for the 2 of us to interact, face to face, with full eye contact (NOTE: sitting next to each other on the couch watching TV is NOT quality time. Trust me on this.) And she has taken to writing me notes & taking time to snuggle, hold hands, & generally grope me in the best sense of the word.


With that information as background…

Yesterday, I received something Awesome. Yes, Capital “A” Awesome. From the title of this post, you can probably guess what it was… a card from a dear friend. In the mail. Sent via the U.S. Postal Service. It’s not even my birthday.  Yet… (only 15 more days until it is. But I digress.)

Not an email. Not a text. A card you can open & read & re-read. (I save all the cards that people give/send me with the good words in them so I can ‘feed my soul’ when I need it.)

The card was sent to say “thank you.” Some really great things are happening in my friend’s life & this thoughtful friend wanted to thank me for my involvement in helping her to discover some things about herself, her giftings, & most importantly, the truth about how God sees, loves, & values her.

And she took the time to send a card. It made my day & was a great source of encouragement to me.

And it made me think about how simple, thoughtful acts like this can have such a profound impact on us.

And it made me want to take the time to do the same thing for others,..to encourage them, build them up, & remind them that they’re special.

And I’m thankful for them.

And so I will do that.


 

 

Depression & other musings…

I started writing tonight… some musings on depression… launched from the context of the tragic death of Robin Williams by his own hand.

After reading the paragraphs I’d written, I erased them. Too simplistic. And I think, “man, sometimes I think I don’t understand this at all.”

Sometimes I wonder if the wrestlings I’ve been having over the last 24 months could be depression. And I self-analyze, trying to figure out the WHY’s behind the feelings. Its not that I haven’t worked through (or attempted to do so) my stuff with Chuck, my counselor… but what happens when its still there, kinda lurking? Cliches & over-simplistic ‘answers’ don’t do anything to help the situation… just make one feel a little more inadequate to address the waves of thought, coupled with unidentified emotions.


I think about my friend Bobby. He was 16 – & his girlfriend had broken up with him. He was home alone, despondent. And he decided to take his life using a shotgun. His little brother found him the next morning when he didn’t show up for breakfast before school. I remember riding my bike in front of their house, dutifully delivering newspapers at 6 a.m., & the alarm in my heart to see 2 police cars. An ambulance. And the feeling of hopelessness that accompanies such moments.

I went to his funeral. Heard people talk about depression. Said it was such a waste that he had killed himself, that he had so much still to live for, if only he could have gotten through that night. I can still see the family – attempting to keep it together, grieving at the horrendous loss they had just experienced. And I also sensed the family’s guilt & shame… as though somehow, someway what they were experiencing was a result of their own failure… that they’d neglected something important which led to the depression & death.

And I didn’t know what to say.


I think about my first year as a pastor in Reno – I was 30, & many of the people I was called to care for were as old as my grandparents… I can remember thinking, “How am I supposed to pastor people who have more than double my own life experience?” I knew I didn’t want to offer up cliches or Bible verses as “pat answers” (I’d learned as much enduring the onslaught of well-meaning but oh so terrible words of ‘encouragement’ I received after the death of my own brother, Johnny after his battle with cancer.) I’d only been at the church a couple of months, & I’d preached on the topic of hope (looking to Jesus as our Living Hope – I still have the cassette tape of the message. Which is weird.) A frail looking lady who looked to be in her 70’s came up & wanted to talk to the pastor about her problem. Depression.

After a couple of minutes, I discovered that she wasn’t in her 70s. She was around 50 – the care-worn face bore the scars of years of a life of pain, & a life lived having seemingly experienced all the rough spots & none of the grace. She knew Jesus. Had a relationship with Him. And she was depressed. Down in a hole. Mental, emotional, & physical pain. And suicidal. Would I talk with her? And pray with her?

I remember the lump in my throat – the quick & silent prayer I sent to God asking for His insights, to intercede on this lady’s behalf, to work a miracle, to take away her pain. I don’t remember anything I said to her – I do remember listening a lot. Crying with her. Praying with her for hope. She told me she didn’t want to die, but also that living hurt so much. And she felt so alone.

A couple of days later I got a phone call from someone in our church in the early morning… she relayed that this lady who I had been talking with on the previous Sunday, this lady who lived in the same mobile home park as she did, had been found by her family that morning. Dead by her own hand. I felt numb.

I went to the mobile home park, & walked up to the police car outside her home. Yellow “crime scene” tape was being put up… I wandered around, looking for someone to talk to, someone official. One of the officers asked me what I was doing, & asked if I knew her – & I told him that I was her pastor, & I’d just heard what had happened & I didn’t know what to do. The officer shook his head, & said something like, “this kind of thing happens all the time.”

And I didn’t know what to say.


 

I just re-read what I’ve written above… & I took some time to think about it. And pray. And here’s what came to mind.

When I don’t know what to say or do, & when I’m overwhelmed with intangible & hard-to-identify cloud of doom & gloom, I know I’m not alone. I know that I know that I know that in my middle of my own helplessness in attempting to care for others, in the times where I feel like I can’t even help myself so well, I have hope. At the worst, I’ve never been in that hole that many others find themselves in, depressed & hopeless, where suicide seems like the solution.

And I feel something inside rising up – I want to know what to say when I come in contact with others in their point of despair. I want to be able to transmit to others the hope that I cling to, the rock & safe place where I hide.

I’m praying that God builds me in my heart & my guts to “be becoming” a man of depth & compassion – a person God is healing, that He will use to help heal others.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about tonight.

 

 

O Holy Night #1 – Where is God in the silence…?

In preparation for our Christmas series, “O Holy Night,” I’ve been studying the Inter-Testamental period (a.k.a. the 400 years of time between the book of Malachi & the Gospels) leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. Part of the reason I’m wrestling through this is that I love exploring the history & context of Scripture; another reason is that this time period is often referred to as “God’s Silence.” That grabbed me. WHY is it called that?

Well, there was no prophetic literature added to the Scriptures during this time; no insights, visions, or directions recorded from God to His people. Israel had been scattered from the Promised Land in 583 B.C. (see 2Chronicles 36 for the story,) & had experienced oppression & persecution from Babylon, the Medo-Persians, various Greek empires, & finally, Rome. Throughout the 400+ years, Israel suffered, attempted to rebel to gain their freedom, were put under occupation & dominion over & over, & at no time is there a record of God addressing His peoples’ plight, let alone stepping into the situation to bring deliverance & redemption.

Was God really silent during these years? Was He just letting Israel twist in the wind as a payback for their hundreds of years of disobedience, unbelief, grumbling, & serving idols & other gods?

I say, “No.” Here’s why.

Even though there wasn’t any prophetic messages added to the Bible during this time, & even though Israel endured terrible persecution & unmentionable ordeals at the hands of their enemies, the LORD God’s “mighty hand” & “outstretched arm” were very clearly & powerfully at work:

  • Throughout centuries of bloody & terrible war between ruthless rival empires, wars over possessions, resources, & strategic territories, God protected His people, keeping them from repeated attempts to annihilate them (read the book of Esther for one such account.)
  • God used the evil of Alexander the Great’s greed & quest for world domination for good as Alexander brought the known world together, from the East to the West, under a common culture, Hellenism, & a common language, Greek.
  • This common culture & language, coupled with a dictator’s desire to create the greatest library with the best books on the planet led to the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (called the Septuagint) at Alexandria, thereby making God’s Word readable & accessible to all Greek speakers/readers on the planet. The Septuagint Greek Scriptures were what was used when the Old/First Testament was quoted in the New Testament by the apostles & disciples.
  • God used Augustus Caesar, the murderous & tyrannical self-proclaimed “Prince of peace” to bring about the “Pax Romana” a period of relative peace (enforced by soldiers & the Roman war machine) which helped create the relatively stable time period into which Christ was born.
  • And there’s much, much more.

I hope you can begin to see where God is at work, behind the scenes, between the lines, in the activities of the pagan nations, in the middle of the oppression of His people, in order to bring ultimate deliverance to humanity: relationship with God, forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God & man through Christ Jesus our Lord.

During this coming Christmas season, especially in the areas of difficulty & throughout the  times of silence, be on the lookout for God at work in, through, & around our lives. Because He’s always at work.

Even in the silence.

Wind and fire, a return to school-ness, family, & other musings…

Oh LORD. Have mercy.

Fire is one of my favorite things – candles, camp fires, a back yard fire pit. Fire. In moderation, under control, providing ambiance, warmth, cheer… Sigh. I’m sitting at my desk looking out my window at the smoke filled sky… yet another wind-blown rager has descended upon the Reno area, consuming at least 10 houses in the Pleasant Valley-ish area. Oh LORD. Have mercy.


Sunday evening marks my return to my Master’s program & with it a 6 month deluge of reading & writing before my next break. I find myself wanting to drag out the days until I go “back to school” as long as possible. Its not the work – its the stress that keeping my school schedule in the context of an already full life – puts on my attempts to live “in rhythm,” balanced; to not only have a good day off, but to Sabbath. To cease. Rest. Celebrate. Reflect. Deadlines, assignments, pressures have taken me & my resolve to Sabbath to the bending point… bending to the point of recognizing a great need for an iron backbone and a forehead made of flint that, for the good of me & mine, will enable me to navigate the next phase of life & school. Oh LORD. Have mercy.


It has been exactly 5 months & 7 days since #1 son, the Pasty Gangster, moved to Knoxville, TN. He is doing well, has a great job, is prepping for a return to school in the fall, & his relationship with Alexandrea is going gangbusters… (He inherited from his Papi the uncanny ability of having a beautiful, talented, compassionate, caring woman fall in love with him. 3 words: Jedi mind tricks.)

I miss him something terribly. There’s a part of me that is so happy for him – the prayerful choices he made to get where he is, the hard work he’s put in to excel at his job, & set himself up for the next phase of life… And there’s a part of me, that is still grieving, missing him; it is so close to the surface that merely thinking on it moves me to weepyness, & I find myself “dad-gumming” the dust in the room that has gotten in my eyes. Oh, the joy of feeling one’s emotions… Don’t have a date to see the boy yet, but I’m hopeful. And praying for him. And us. And asking the LORD for mercy on our lives, and favor upon his.


Joey, aka iDoey came into our room last night, and laid across the foot of the bed. The whole thing. He was even hanging off the edge of it. What HAPPENED to that kid? When did the little man turn into the tallest member of the family? His drivers license tells me he is 17. I don’t believe it. I still see the 2 year old boy that used to try to sneak into my room in the morning (if 4 a.m. is the morning), dodging pillows that I’d toss at him, trying to make it to his mom’s side of the bed so he could alert her to his need for food & drink: “I’m hungry, and thirsty, and hungry!” Always the same words. The same intensity and desperation.

iDoey is passionate. His personality is reminiscent of my brother Johnny’s – super strong, articulate & well-expressed. I have oft been tempted to counter his strength with my own tidal wave of forcefulness, strength, & power… but that’s been shown, long ago, to be ineffective. Meekness, controlled strength, patience and perseverance is what was required. Oh, so many times I blew it in a blow up, only to repent later, asking forgiveness of my God & my boy. There’s not much time left before the world we live in calls my son an adult, challenging him to move out on his own to pursue life, dreams, & God’s plans for His life. I resist the temptation to control, and find myself praying for this boy/man. Oh LORD. Have mercy.


Alyse, theWeez, Princess Weezer-brooks just had birthday #15. She takes great joy in tormenting her father with stories of her dreams of getting married in just a couple more years… Oh theWeez, you can wait a little while, can’t you? I will spoil you something terrible, & you will get to have your mom & I all to yourself…

We, she & I, picked out a ring for her birthday – its special, with her birthstone – we call it a “getting a vision for sexy-time with her husband and only her husband” purity ring. To save the specialness of intimacy for marriage. Because my girl is special, & worth waiting for. Oh LORD. Have mercy.


Thankful for the peace of God that transcends understanding & circumstance, filling my heart & mind with the comfort of KNOWING that I KNOW that He is with me. Is sufficient for me. For my life situations. And my kids.

So say we all.

Day 1 – Deutschland Fall 2010 – Travels

Left early on Wednesday morning for the airport with my favorite Transporter, theBean, in the drivers seat. We had the full gamut of emotions on the trip, from laughing to tears. It’s hard to leave home.

My flight from Reno the LAX was uneventful, but the gate for my LAX  to Washington-Dulles flight was on the other side of the concourse. Which meant a sprint. And a prayer to hope that the baggage handlers were sprinting too… :)

On my flight, I felt the LORD dealing with me about faith & believing – specifically in regard to anxiety that I have had about this trip, most pointedly about the “Revolution of the Soul” mini-seminar I’ll be doing in Frankfurt this Saturday. I’d like to say that I’ve been the picture of a man of faith, full of resolve & confidence about what I’m doing, & about what is happening. But if I said that, it wouldn’t be true. I’ve been anxious. Worried. Stressed. About the unknown. And even some of the known.

I felt the LORD saying that He’s given me everything that I need for what I’ll be doing – the mini-seminar included. And that by worrying, stressing, & being anxious, I was not believing Him for that provision, for the words, for the direction, & that somehow, someway, whatever happened good or bad, was somehow MY responsibility.

Ooh. Not good.

So I repented. Asked forgiveness for my ego-centrism, worry & preoccupation. Prayed for a heart & mind  renewal. Thanked God for what He’s preparing for Saturday… & that I get to be a part of it.


After my 4 1/2 hour flight to Washington Dulles, I looked around to see what gate my Washington-Frankfurt flight would be departing from. It wasn’t listed. That made me a little nervous, so I checked with a couple of United personnel to see if they had a clue. No dice. I pushed away my anxiety, & thanked God for the peace that I knew He gave & will give, a peace that I determined to contend for.

Walked to the other end of the C Concourse to the United Customer Service desk – & on the way, called United Customer Service as well. The automated ‘agent’ on the phone was very helpful & told me exactly what I needed to know, & where to go. The personnel at the airport were having some troubles locating the airplane & gate, & my flight never did end up showing up on the Departures board. I did however board my flight. Right where the automated agent said it would be. Thanks Hal!


Landed in Frankfurt, & picked up my bag (Yes!) then headed out to meet Eddy, the pastor of our sister church, Treffpunkt Leben Foursquare Church (TPLF.) We took a few minutes to catch up as he drove us back in to town to pick up his 2 oldest boys from school. On the way, he took me by the site of the old TPLF building – there is literally NOTHING there – The entire building, all the way down into the ground, was torn down & the rubble removed. A new building will be built in its place as soon as a new foundation is being poured. I hope to get a picture or 2 of it when I go on my walk this afternoon.

We took a brief foray by the new TPLF church offices, said hello to the multi-talented & imminently gifted Elena, then made our way back to Eddy (& Laura’s)  house for lunch. I have to confess: one of my favorite things about staying with Eddy & Laura is the FOOD. Spaghetti & meatballs. So. Good.


It was about at that time that I passed out on the couch, & woke up… slowly. It took me a while to realize who (let alone) where I was. Turns out, I slept for about 30 minutes, then stumbled around groggily to get my bearings. Took my daily “EmergenC” & myVitality. And my brain turned on, & I took a few minutes to catch up on the election coverage from the vote Tuesday, & decided to blog a bit.

The sum up: I’m well, encouraged, jet-laggy, in a safe place with great friends, in one of my favorite cities & places in the world. Praying for focus, clarity, & the ability to see what is really important for me to pay attention to & do today. I’ll post pictures later, God-willing.

20 years ago… an anniversary…

I woke up this morning a few minutes before my alarm… not surprising… except for the fact that the alarm was set for 4:50 so I could have enough time to get to to the church office to make coffee & read a little in advance of the guys showing up for Thursday morning prayer. The blurred numbers on the clock came into focus as I clumsily fixed my glasses onto my face… 4:34. It would be 4:34 today. Sigh.

My mind raced, mentally flipping through the calendar that exists in my head (isn’t there one in yours too?) finally coming to rest on today. Yesterday was June 16th, so that would make today… June 17. Hmm. It’s the 20th anniversary of the day my little brother, John Leavy Locke, went to be with Jesus early on a Sunday morning, Father’s Day, at 4:34 a.m.

I wrote a little bit about my brother not too long ago HERE. And as I sit here pondering the fact that its been 20 whole years since his death & ‘home-going,’ I take the time to revisit & rehearse the memories I hold most dear of my brother. They flicker through my brain like the rapidly turning pages of a picture book.

Folding newspapers together in the early morning as we prepared to go do our paper routes. Football. Soccer. Baseball. Hoops. What an athlete. He was the best of the 4 of us, by far. Rocking the mullet that shook Carson City on Day 1 of his tenure at Carson Middle School. I don’t know if it was the surf shorts, Jetson’s T-shirt, vintage Air Jordan’s or the infamous mullet that got him called to the office as a “distraction.” They hadn’t seen anyone like him before. His mix tapes. The rosy cheeks I see every time I look at thePasty Gangster. The smile. The temper. The baseball being thrown at me simply because I went in to wake him up. The grumpy comments because I was on the phone (again) too late with theBean. And a million others…


The picture at the left was his last school picture before he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. And yes, he was wearing MY red bow tie, the same one I’d used to complete my Pee-Wee Herman outfit… It’s not like this day is a dark, morbid day that I dress up in black & mope around. Not at all. Rather, its a day of remembrance. Prayer for my parents & brothers. Thanking God that we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. But a day where I still grieve. Laugh. Play his favorite songs on my mp3 player (he’d have loved the iPod & iTunes, & the ease at which mixes could be created. He was a Master mix-master.)


Father’s Day has been forever linked with Johnny since 6/17/1990. Can’t seem to think of one without the other; not that I want to think about death an inordinate amount, but hey, its inevitable, barring the preemptive Return of the King. Came across a great book about death, heaven, & processing the loss of loved ones called Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die. Great book, which I’d heartily recommend.

But I digress.


It’s a celebration, a day of remembrance. So join me:

Here’s to Johnny – & the profound influence he has had & continues to have on me & the man I hope to be.