Two dates…

Two dates. Eventually, all of us will experience them. The first is the day we’re born. The second is the day we’ll die. Two dates.

My brother Johnny’s two dates are January 22, 1973 & June 17, 1990 – today is the anniversary of his heaven-going. (NOTE: I wrote a bit about Johnny earlier this year in a blog called have faith.)

I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit about those two dates lately. Part of it has to do with the intensive that theBean & I went through last week at HOTHIn our time there, we experienced mentoring, coaching, counseling, & therapy (if it is possible to separate the counseling & therapy. I did in my mind because, to me, there were very distinct difference between the 2. I’ll have to ask my Buddy the Therapist how he differentiates the 2. Or if he does. But I digress.)

One of the things that came out in our sessions is that, based upon negative/bad experiences (things I did/things done to me/things that happened to others,) we formulate ideas, thoughts, & beliefs that are honest (truly what we think, feel, & believe,) but that aren’t based on truth (a.k.a. what God says, what He declares is true of me & my identity.) These beliefs can & do shape our attitudes, thoughts, & behaviors, often in very negative & painful ways. One of those that has once again emerged, (& that I have been fortunate to have people wrestle through with me over the years,) is the belief that I am inadequate, insufficient, & wholly lacking in the areas I need for life, for relationships, for my ‘job.’ This belief does not have a strong hold on my life — due in large part to the many hours of theophostic prayer with Dennis & Georgia, hours of counseling & talks with Chuck, God’s boundless goodness & grace in revealing to me, through His word, through our ‘talks’ what He thinks of me, & finally through dear friendships full of good words & forgiveness.

Still, during the intensive – as I tracked negative experiences on yellow post-it notes (I will  forever associate negative feelings with yellow post-its… so say we all) – I saw this consistent theme of inadequacy & insufficiency surface repeatedly… it got to the point that, as I looked at my years from a birds-eye view, I saw the thread linking them together, a diabolical, dehumanizing thread meant to put me into a shell, consumed with self-doubt & loathing, bound by fear, too timid to DO anything for fear of being discovered for what I was. Not enough.

I saw that thread & it pissed me off. Made me angry at the time I spent dwelling on those negative thoughts. Angry at the damage done TO me & BY me as a result of those beliefs. But most of all, angry at the enemy of my soul, enemy of OUR souls, the one who strikes at us, who looks to keep us from the saving grace of God through Christ if he can, & if he can’t, he’s the one who looks to steal from us, kill us off slowly, & methodically destroy every area of our lives.

For years, I felt like somehow I’d failed my brother… that, as crazy as it sounds, I should have been able to do something to keep him from dying. And that if I couldn’t keep him from dying, I should have spent more time with him, especially in his last year of life. (The SHOULD HAVES are a crushing weight… over time I have come to believe that when I feel a should have fall on my shoulders like a ton of blame & shame, its origin is usually coming from the enemy who’s trying, ever trying, to condemn, accuse, lying, & shame. So I verbally tell the should haves to go to hell. In Jesus Name.)

I know why I feel responsible for Johnny, (not to mention Joel & Ben;) its because I’m the oldest. The firstborn. I took on the responsibility when I was 4, & somewhere in there a parental encouragement of “Watch over your brothers while I go to the store,” became something never intended: You, Louie, are the one who is responsible to make sure that nothing bad happens to your brothers. And if it does, its because you somehow failed. Or you were inadequate. Or you should have  done something better. Or different. Or both.

See what I mean about a crushing weight?

When my parents brought Johnny home from UCSF, I was unaware that he was coming home to die, & would die soon, apart from a miracle healing from God. How was I unaware? Well, if you work hard, don’t ask questions, & pretend that life is really normal & nothing bad is happening, & your brother is in San Francisco for treatment but he’s really getting better, & then he’ll come home & life will resume, it’s really pretty easy.

Until I saw him. He was laying in his hospital bed, downstairs at my parents house. His abdomen was distended, & I didn’t know why. So I asked. And he told me, “It’s my liver.” And then I knew. I noticed the yellowish tint to his eyes, his skin. The general overall weakness of his countenance. How much weight he had lost. And then I knew.

And the previous 12 months of denial reproached me like a slap to the face. I had avoided the reality of the situation because it hurt to much to acknowledge it.

I wish I’d spent more time talking with Johnny through his months of treatment, because the conversations I did have are some of the most precious memories I have. Because in the middle of the sickness, the pain, the suffering… my brother found a depth of faith & trust in God, something I can only call true maturity in Christ. I’m thankful for my mom recording & writing down some of the conversations she had with him too. Because they provide an insight to what really matters.

Here’s what I mean:  Instead of getting bitter or angry at God about his short life, the cancer, & all the things he’d lost or wouldn’t get to experience, he fully embraced what he HAD. His life. And his life’s purpose – to live for the glory of God, in the middle of WHATEVER circumstances he faced. In the face of death, in the midst of pain, he lived & died for that purpose. To have that kind of resolve, that kind of outlook on life, that kind of focus is something that motivates & inspires me every single day. He lived a good story, the kind of story that makes me want to be a better man.

Two dates. My first one is September 19, 1969. And my second one? Don’t know.

But I can tell you this. I will live & strive to live for the glory of God in every area of my life. To live a good story. To be the best husband, father, grandfather, son, & friend that I can be. Because when I do that, I’m honoring Johnny & God.

“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything & that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, & how happy it makes us to repeat them.”

Donald Miller – A Million Miles In A Thousand Years

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.

musings on a quiet Friday…

Woke up this morning with a start. I think I was responding to something in a dream, a dream that faded as quickly as my eyes opened. My heart thumped & raced for several minutes as the adrenaline push kept me on ‘high alert’ status, while I talked myself down to calmness, reminding self where I was.

Fun way to wake up. Reminds me of the days when our big kids were oh-so-very-little, & they’d sneak into my room on tip-toe, trying to make it to mom’s side of the bed, trying not to wake dad. As if.

Then they’d poke theBean in the arm with their poky little fingers & whisper (ever heard a 3 year old whisper?) Which of course would wake theBean in a fright, (like when we watched the oh-so-suspenseful The Count of Monte Cristo & the over/under of theBean surprise-screams was 10. And anyone who knows her always takes the over. Always.) Which then would wake me in fight/flight mode.

Yeah. It was kinda like that.

Planning my 1st trip to catch some Ace-ball this coming Wednesday – the first day game of the year. TheBean got the day off from work, so she & I, Brintus & Meekus, will be soaking in the rays & enjoying baseball. Hmmm. Can’t wait.

This last week, my dad’s aunt passed away. Which meant that Tuesday was a family graveside ceremony & Thursday was a public memorial. Which meant time with family & friends, many that I haven’t seen in a while.

Which makes me see the benefit of a family reunion. Never thought I’d be contemplating putting one together. But I digress…

Standing graveside, I wept. For so many reasons. When someone you’ve known, & has known you for every day of your life passes, there is a shaking, a bit of a tearing, in the fabric of life, as though a well-loved & favorite pair of pants develop a significant rip along a seam, a seam that can be patched, but that will forever be different & less-than-whole.

The woman I knew as Dottie, my Grandpa Locke’s sister, & her husband Bruce had been the ones that had prayed with my parents 40 years ago, & had led them into relationship with Jesus Christ, an event that has forever shaped our family & altered my destiny.

Thinking of the influence of one person on another, & the long lasting & multi-faceted ripples that touch so many unforeseen people & places. Makes me want to be a better man.

I hear people apologize for crying all the time, as though the revelation that GASP! their emotions have moved them, & surfaced in the form of tears is a violation of an unspoken social contract.

Crying, weeping, happen because of the circumstances of life. Joy. Grief. Disappointment. Fulfillment. Hope. Loss.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 ESV

More coffee, & I contemplate the spectrum of experience this week. Aunt Dottie’s funeral & memorial Tuesday & Thursday; & Matty & Nicole’s wedding Saturday.

I’ve known Matty since he was about 9, when his world revolved around Batman, baseball, & cheese & crackers. (Now that I think about it, not much has changed… ) The joy I feel at my friend stepping into this marriage relationship, especially with someone as wonderful & incredible as Nicole, brings tears to my eyes.

Seems that tears will always be a regular part of the human experience, especially where your life touches & is touched by others in meaningful & significant ways. Which means being vulnerable. Risking. Persevering. Stretching. Hoping. Repenting. Forgiving. Living life well.

Gymnasium is calling, singing the siren song of the Kettlebell.

I’m coming, I’m coming!

catching-up on my musings on a Friday, & Happy Birthday Johnny!

Interesting week. Got a call from a friend Sunday evening – someone who’s been living out of the area for a while, but that is still near & dear to my & my families hearts for a plethora of reasons. His younger brother, E-Lib (my name for him; his parents are truly kinder than THAT,) had been in a fight in Reno, & had been stabbed. My friend was coming to Reno to see his brother, & wanted to crash at the house.

Absolutely. My heart broke. I have 3 younger brothers. I know his brother.

Though we only had a couple of minutes for greetings when he arrived at our home, it was good to reconnect, even under the duress that such a situation brings with it. And the good news is that E-Lib should be okay, albeit with a lengthy recovery.

It was good to see you Kurt. And to meet your buddy Tyler too.

Left in the wee hours Monday for a 3 day meeting with our larger church family leadership in Glendale. In a nutshell, the group I met with has been charged with determining a process for & the selecting nominees for the presidency of our denomination. It was lively, though my sitting muscles are incredibly sore from parking on hotel ballroom chairs for way to long. Truly. By the end of Day 2, I needed a crane to lift me out of my chair because my poor bum hurt so bad. Not funny.

Ed Stetzer led a big portion of the ‘presidential profile creation.’ I love listening to him process out loud, & always come away challenged in my own thinking & assumptions. He’s a living example of “iron sharpens iron.” Thank you Ed.

Today marks what would have been my brother John Leavy Locke’s 37th birthday. Which means that this June will mark the 20th anniversary of his death, & his going to be with Jesus. Looking back, I can believe that its been 20 years… & at the exact same time, it seems like only yesterday. My memories of him seem like moving snapshots. Thinking of our hours of playing Batman & Robin in our backyard on Upson Lane. Playing wiffle-ball in the backyard & his constant quitting when he didn’t get his way. I’d try to tell him, ‘You forfeit. I win.” This caused confusion because he was 4 years old & must’ve thought it was an age thing I was referring to, because he’d always respond, “Nuh-uh! You 7-fit!”

Playing & wrestling with all 4 of us – Louie, Johnny, Joel, & Ben. They’d gang up on me, & I had to develop a strategy to deal with the waves of brothers’ attacks: charley horse to Ben’s leg. Charley to Joel. With them both incapacitated, I was left to take on Johnny. More often than not, he’d leave me with a bloody nose. Only person (besides theBean,) to give me one of those.

When we shared a room, we’d have late night talks about life, family, hopes, dreams, & sports. He was a terrific athlete in Football, baseball, & basketball. I was so proud to be able to watch his games & see the ease at which he played them. Amazed me.

And his gentleness & compassion. And tenacity. All of those came out full bore when the cancer was diagnosed. In how he interacted with others. Faced adversity. Grew & matured in his faith in Christ, the One who gives a hope in times of hopelessness & despair. I learned so much about what it means to be a Christ-follower from him, esp. because he didn’t shrink from difficulty or disappointment. Didn’t question why. Just kept going.

I miss him terribly.

When I look at my own kids, I see things every day that remind me of him. Pasty’s rosy cheeks after a work out, & his intense, self-motivated competitive drive which makes him invaluable on a team. IDoey’s intensity & combustability… Weezer’s sweetness. And her laugh. All 3 of them have his compassion. Truly. I’ve seen it. Like to see it more. :)

I’m looking forward to the day when we’ll be reunited. Hope its a while away, but it will be a good day when it happens.

Time flies. Today is also marks a great anniversary – the 5th anniversary of the day my brother Ben married Jessica. She is truly a gift, & I am so thankful for her & how she loves my youngest brother; you truly are a source of joy. And for the girls, EllieB & Zoe-Hawk. Many blessings to you 2 today.

Working with Pasty on the possibility of going to a nearby JC for school & football. He’s a workout beast, & is really pressing into preparation for this. I’m very proud of his determination, & KNOW he can do it.

Can’t wait to watch the Vikings-Saints game this week. Colts-Jets will be good too, I suppose, but the NFC game is the main one on my radar.

Think I’ll make some more coffee.

Francisco Aranda

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15

This afternoon at about 2p.m. Francisco Aranda died.

He was a hero to me – & was one of the key people that God used in my early days here in Reno to keep me standing, living on task, & what it meant to be faithful to the call of Christ.

I’ll never forget his answer any time he was thanked for one of the myriad helpful things he had done, for the people he fed weekly, for the odd-jobs he did to keep the physical building of the church looking good, & the prayers from the church flowing. He always responded:

…unto the LORD.

Heaven rejoices today.


My brother, Johnny, was something of an artist – & the thing that we all wanted him to draw for us was his “Mickey Mouse” – just Mickey’s head. He’d sign the bottom of the picture with a flourish… we had tons of them.

Maybe it was because Disneyland is/was such a happy memory for all of us – one of our favorite places on earth to go together & spend time & build shared memories. Perhaps it was the Mickey Mouse pancakes that we ate at the River Belle Terrace… (which, by the way, my dad could make better & more of, for cheaper… :)

When Johnny got sick, drawing Mickey was a miniature vacation, I think, for him & for us. Throughout the illness & treatment, Mickey (along with baseball cards,) remained a way to escape the reality of what was going on, if just for a few minutes.

Here I am 18 years after his death, missing him. I regret that my 3 kids never got to know my brother personally… I am intentionally & purposefully trying to help them get to know Johnny & what he was like through stories, pictures, & the little things he liked & disliked.

And one of the things he liked, was Mickey. And when Mickey Mouse is around, it doesn’t seem like my brother is so far away, & it gives me hope for the time when we’ll be reunited.

Last Saturday, I got a Mickey tattoo on my left shoulder blade – because it reminds me of my brother, John Leavy Locke.

I’ve got a good heart…

Over the last week, I’ve been undergoing tests on my heart, some of which I’ve written about HERE. Yesterday, I went in for my ‘evaluation’, where the good Dr. Nylk (rhymes with Milk) would interpret for me the results of all the tests I had last week, & let me know what, if anything, I’d need to do to follow up…

After arriving & being ushered to the chilly examination room, I had the privilege of waiting an hour. I took the opportunity to reflect, send text messages to theBean, & to kick back with my eyes closed… Waiting has its perks.

Dr. Nylk came in & started with, “Great news,” which I think is a nice way to start a ‘heart-test-result-evaluation’ if you ask me. The EKG is ‘perfect,’ (his word, that he used throughout the evaluation.) The echo-cardiogram is ‘perfect, as a heart should be.’ The thickness of the heart muscle is ‘perfect.’ The results of my lipid panel (cholesterol test) show that my LDL (bad) levels are well within acceptable limits at 97. My triglycerides came in at 88, also very good, & my HDL (good) levels were a whopping 85, which he said was incredible, as it is a real treat to get the HDL level on most people to 40.

The evaluation bottom line: I don’t need to go back, & he doesn’t ever want to see me again.


Part of my reflection in the waiting room was about the process that I’ve been going through in getting my heart muscle evaluated… going through various tests, examinations, indignities, & pokes, then waiting to hear from someone with some good perspective, someone who could speak with authority as to the health of my heart. It reminded me how similar this process has been to my own journey on emotional health & well-being, my time at CSR, meetings with Chuck, re-evaluating priorities, values, & asking God to 139me. I may blog this in more depth…

I’m glad to hear that my test results were ‘perfect’. I also underestimated what the effect of said results would be on my kids, esp. the Pasty Gangster. He held onto me for about 10 minutes & told me how happy he was that my heart was good. At one point, I tried to detach from his squeeze (he’s 6′, 180# of solid muscle & he was loving me TIGHT) & he said, “Dad. I’m not done.”

I want the results of my spiritual heart exam to be good as well. For me, & for my kids, & for the kids they eventually have, because a bad heart can be & is often hereditary.

Here’s to good hearts.

Goodbye to Sue L. & other thoughts…

Good bye Sue L. You’ll be missed. Esp. when I’m trying to figure out what exactly the little knobbys do on the soundboard.

On that note: I wonder what part of our psyche is affected as we try to deal with the death of friends & loved ones… cause I know there’s a part that is numbed, & does everything possible to try to function like Everything Is Normal, when at the same time a logical portion of the mind(?) is stating, matter of factly of course, the ‘reality’ of events that have led to our friend/loved one not being on the planet.

I remember the 1st time I prayed after my brother’s funeral… it was bedtime prayers, of course, just me & the Bean. I was covering all the bases (meaning praying for family & extended family,) & I prayed for Johnny, Joel, & Ben… (their birth order btw…) It took about 10 seconds before I realized that I’d prayed for Johnny. And that he had died. And I knew it, & wasn’t in denial. But at that moment, I had thought, “I need to pray for him…”

And I cried w/the Bean. Tears of grief. Loss. Sorrow. Loneliness. And I thought about my brother, & wondered if praying would ever be the same again…

The numbness fades over time, but I don’t know if it ever goes away totally – maybe its a sorrow or the residue of missing someone. Or the part of our psyche that screams out, “NO!” & does everything possible to protect me from the pain of feeling.

I wish more people who knew my brother, talked to me about my brother. Cause, Man, that is the best. My kids never met their Uncle, as he died in June 1990, & the Pasty Gangster didn’t enter the world until 9/1991. I wish they could have known him, because he was a piece of work. (The closest to his personality is #2 son, Prince Darrell – esp. when he doesn’t get his way…) So, I want to reminisce – look at videos, & ‘introduce’ my kids to him… Because then, his memory is carried on by more than just a picture.

If a loved one or friend has died, keep talking about them. It helps.

Walking with a friend as they bury their wife is hard… but it would be harder for them alone. Life’s too short to do that kind of thing by yourself. Let’s not go solo.

peace to you

had a friend in town for the last few days, Morris Chapman; his visit had been on the books for a while. I invited him to come & spend time with our church family in extended worship. God knew what would be happening the week prior to his visit – I was physically, emotionally, & every other -ally you can think of – spent. Done. Finito. You get the idea.

When Morris started playing, “I Will Restore” (it’s on his mySpace page at the link aboveI felt my insides melting – not a pleasant feeling – I knew that I had to lay down on the floor. The weight of my soul felt like it was pulling me to the ground. I told the Bean that I was going to lay down – don’t know if she understood what I meant,… or where I meant. I just remember hitting the floor & weeping from the bottom of my soles. I thought I had cried my tears already this week; I’d run out a couple of times & had the “dry cry” not to be confused with the “dry heave.” Hurts about the same though.

I sobbed.

After an indefinite period of time, I felt peace. And the raw, exposed nerve of my soul was no longer raw, exposed, & angry to the touch. I was still tired. Bone-weary. But the soul despair, the pain faded & I had peace. The circumstances of the week hadn’t changed, but I had peace. We are still grieving, but I have peace. I could sleep the clock, but I have peace.

Thank you Jesus – to any/all that may be reading this: Peace to you. The peace of Christ to you.

Why Do Bad Things Happen…? #1

For the last couple of months, I have been planning on teaching on the topic above at our Sunday, 3/30 – 9:15 Learning Community. I had no idea that we’d be experiencing tragedy, crushing loss, & this kind of pain so up close & personal within our church family.

“Why do bad things happen?” is a tough question – one that usually gets answered with one of the trite statements or religious cliches that are so infuriating to the people that they get bequeathed to. Things like:

  • Well, the Lord moves in mysterious ways…
  • God took (fill in the blank with a loved ones name) because He must have needed (loved one’s name) more than we did..
  • God is trying to teach us to depend on Him in hard times…

    My personal favorite, which was passed on to me by several well meaning people after my 17 year-old brother had died from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer that starts out in the lymph system.

  • God must have known that your brother was going to fall into some terrible sin in the future, so He decided to take him now…

    Huh? What the fat? Are you serious?

    These & other statements have caused me to spend a lot of time pondering – to me, here’s what some of the above statements are saying:

  • Mysterious ways? What does this mean? That God is unpredictable & just might SNAP when we least expect it, killing loved ones in the process. “Sorry. My bad.”
  • God kills our loved ones because He “needed” them more than we do? Hmm. I read in the Bible that 2 people were ‘translated’ into heaven by God: Enoch & Elijah – He wanted them with Him, & He didn’t kill them to get them.
  • God is trying to teach us something by killing our loved ones? The lesson today will be “you need me.” I’m going to illustrate this by killing your brother.
  • God killed my brother in a preemptive strike to prevent his future falling into sin? Hmm. I had always thought that God dealt with our sin through the cross…

    God is good – & is predictably good – everything that we need to know about the person & nature of God is wrapped up in Christ Jesus – not just the “good” stuff. All of it. (Check out Colossians 1:19,20 & Colossians 2:9,10 He thinks good thoughts towards us, likes us (not only loves us,) & is dependably the same yesterday, today, & forever. We can rest assured that He is & will be our ever-present help in time of trouble, & is not the one capriciously causing our pain to drive us to Him.

    Next time – we’ll examine the cause of all things bad…