Category Archives: My Stuff

This is material I wrote.

This Is Us

Like most of the country, Kathie and I are completely hooked on This Is Us. We are drawn, week to week, into the intimate relationships of the multi-generational Pearson family. It’s on tonight but I won’t be able to watch until tomorrow, so don’t tell me what happens!

There is a lot to love about this show. The central idea, of course, is the unique way the writers seamlessly connect the story lines of the generations. The device is more than the use of simple flashbacks and “time-hop” story telling, which has become all too common in my opinion. It’s as if we’re standing apart from the constraints of time and watching three stories, separated by time, unfold simultaneously.

There’s the love story of Jack and Rebecca. There’s the story surrounding the birth of their triplets and their doctor. There’s the early story of Randall’s birth father, William as well as William’s relationship with his own mother and brother. There are the stories unfolding in the adult lives of the three siblings: Kevin, Kate and Randall.

The writing is superb, the acting is first-rate. I find the characters to be completely believable. Every episode grabs you by several emotions at once and refuses to let go. Just like real life.

Obviously, one of the things that becomes clear in this show is the powerful influence our parents and grand-parents have on us. On our attitudes, choices and behavior. We all know this to be true, of course, but seldom do we see it portrayed so well or so believably.

My generation, specifically, seems to make a high priority of looking within ourselves to analyze how our parents, for good or ill, have impacted our lives. I believe there is value in this. Particularly if we carry some horrible emotional scar. Understanding is the beginning point to healing.

But what we don’t think about often enough, and what This Is Us is reinforcing in my mind, is how our own present behavior has the power to impact the coming generations. It reminds me that my life is not just about me. It’s about us.

How would it affect my behavior today if I could step outside of time and watch the story of my life, along with the stories of past and future generations of my family unfold simultaneously?

I have many regrets in my own life as a parent. There are moments I can recall, with excruciating clarity, things I said or did that I was sure would leave a lasting scar on my beautiful girls. What I’m learning is that, if you would ask them about my worst parenting mistakes, they would probably remember something completely different. It would likely be something I wasn’t even aware of.

I remember a conversation with one of my girls when she was in about 7th grade, I think. I wish I could remember the context better, but I remember the comfort and encouragement I felt when she said, “I finally realized that you and mom are just people, like me.”

I’ve been a grand-parent now for about ten years. I have found that I’m more intentional about trying to leave my grandkids with something positive.

I wish I had thought of that sooner.

Steve Farrar has said:

“I’m not going to know my great-great grandchildren.
But my great-great grandchildren are going to know me.”

What will they know?



All Were Astonished

“Could ‘astonishment’ be a good synonym for worship?”

This question arose in one of my recent God Questions posts.

Luke 9 contains many amazing events. After Jesus heals a boy who was convulsed by an unclean spirit Luke tells us that “…all were astonished at the majesty of God.” (Luke 9:43)

I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days, and it seems to me that “astonishment” may not actually be a synonym for worship, but I believe it is an important aspect. An aspect that is usually far too lacking.

I remember the very first time we used drums in a worship service. Some people were astonished. Some in a good way. Quite a few in a bad way. They expressed their astonishment in phone calls, letters, and notes on the “silent roll call” cards.

I remember the first time someone had the audacity to serve communion without wearing a tie. Many were astonished that the elders would allow it.

I remember a time when I used the phrase, “come hell or high water” in a sermon. I received a phone call from an astonished church member who couldn’t believe a preacher would use profanity in a sermon.

People have been astonished at the use of dramatic lighting, modern music, video preaching, removing the organ, removing the attendance and offering statistics from the bulletin program, the way the worship leader wears his hair, an awesome guitar solo, and more. Much more.

When was the last time you were astonished in worship?

What caused it?

There have been times during a communion service that I’ve been astonished that God could ever accept me. I know me. I’m sure He does, too. It’s astonishing to me that, in spite of my selfish sinfulness, God made such a horrific sacrifice… for me.

Sometimes, when I look around me on Sunday morning, I’m astonished at lives that are changed through the ministry of my church. God does that. He uses us broken sinners to bring healing and hope to other broken sinners. Astonishing.

I see our worship team, our children’s ministry volunteers, our greeters, and many more servants, and I’m astonished at the number of people in my church who give an astonishing amount of time, energy, talent, and money in serving in the church, and in their community through Whiz Kids, Habitat for Humanity, and elsewhere. Astonished and thankful.

Sadly, I’m also astonished at the people who refuse to see any of that because they’re uncomfortable with the music, or the lighting, or whatever.

I don’t think comfort and astonishment mix very well.

“And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”
Luke 9:43

What astonishes you?

I think it depends on what you’re looking for.

Next Sunday morning, look for God.

He’s there.



Cincinnati’s Noteworthy Cheeseburgers

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time, but I’ve been afraid. We live in a highly charged and divisive time, and I have no desire to add fuel to the fire. I believe we should be able to express our opinions freely, and respectfully disagree on important topics like this without resorting to name-calling.  So, I think the time has come for me to man up and just put it out there. It’s time to express my opinion on what is sure to be a controversial issue…

Here are what I believe to be Cincinnati’s most noteworthy cheeseburgers.

Before I dive in, I want to make sure we all understand what I’m doing here. The words of the title are carefully chosen.

The Haunted Hamburger – 2007
The Haunted Hamburger – 2007

First of all, notice the word “Cincinnati.” So far, the best cheeseburger of my life was consumed in 2007. It was “The Haunted Hamburger” in Jerome, Arizona. It was the perfect combination of a great burger at the best table, with the best view, in a unique location on a vacation with some of my best friends. We sat on a small deck on the side of a mountain over a vast expanse of valley with more mountains in the distance, watching the sun set on a perfect evening. The experience is etched in my memory as one of the most enjoyable and satisfying meals of my life.

But it’s not on the list. It wasn’t in Cincinnati.

Second, notice the word “noteworthy.” This is not a ranking. These are not listed in order of my favorite to least favorite. I will be clear at the end about which cheeseburger is my favorite in the city, but the rest are merely a list of what I consider to be noteworthy culinary experiences. The burger I desire on any given day could vary with my mood. And to be perfectly clear, being “noteworthy” doesn’t necessarily mean I even like it.

Third, notice the word “cheeseburger.” If you’re not going to put cheese on it, why bother?

So here we go, in alphabetical order… Tavern and Grill is a local restaurant and bar on the northwest side with a friendly staff and regular patrons. They have added a new “stuffed” burger which I recommend. The filling varies so you’ll have to ask what’s in it. The last time I was there it was a “Reuben” burger stuffed with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese. It was wonderful. But if you’re more of a purist, get the “Naked Burger” or the “Bacon Cheddar Classic.” You won’t be disappointed. Get the beer battered fries to go with it. They are outstanding!

Bru Burger Bar is a small chain with locations in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. The Cincinnati location is right downtown on 6th Street making it a great place for dinner before a baseball game. Sit on the covered patio during the summer. They offer a variety of burgers with unique toppings. So far, my favorite is the “Mexicali BBQ Burger.”, I love the onion rings! One more thing: they make their own catsup. Or, is it ketchup? I’m never sure. Either way, stay away from it. They’ll bring you regular catsup (ketchup) if you ask for it. And you should.

Five Guys know this place. You can find them all over the country. If you want a perfectly cooked basic cheeseburger with no frills, this is place. They know what they’re doing. Plus, their fries are fantastic!

Flipdaddy’s are four locations in northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. They offer quite a few unique burgers, but what makes Flipdady’s noteworthy is the meat itself. Here’s what they say about it: “We have our very own awesome proprietary blend of premium quality cuts of brisket, short rib and chuck. Years of research, tasting and tweaking went into creating this blend.” I don’t know about all that, but it does taste good. I’ve had a few of their “brilliant” burgers including the Gaucho and the El Paso. Both were quite tasty. They also serve a “Burger of the Month” to add some variety to the menu. Oh, and you should try the Beer Cheese appetizer with the pretzel bites. Mm, mm!

Gas Light Cafe is a small local joint in Pleasant Ridge. I suppose it’s mainly a bar but the atmosphere is cozy and welcoming. Be careful when ordering. My first time there I made the mistake of ordering a “Cheeseburger Deluxe.” Sounds good, right? Wrong. It was ok, but nothing worth ordering a second time. Go down the menu a little farther to the “Gas Light Favorites” section and order the “Gas Light Burger.” There’s a world of difference! It’s twice the burger. No fancy fixin’s but a delicious, juicy, perfectly cooked burger that is very satisfying. After dinner you can go next door and browse Everybody’s Records, one of the few remaining record stores.

Mad Mike’s*%2C*Mad Mike’s is noteworthy to me for personal reasons. They opened in an old run down building that was occupied for years by The Chili Company. The building sat empty for many years and fell into a sad state of disrepair.  It sits on an awkward triangular lot at a busy intersection which I pass several times a week. For a long time I just wished someone would just tear the place down to open up that corner and rid the community of the eyesore. However, when Mike opened up a burger joint I shouted, “Hallelujah!” and did all I could to help the business succeed. To be honest, the service and the food have been inconsistent. It started out great, but kind of slipped for a time and lost my support. But it seems to be on the rebound again. The building and parking lot still look a bit run down, but don’t let that keep you away. The burgers seem to be grilled somewhat differently than most. They have a slight crunch on the outside, but juicy and tasty on the inside. My favorite is the “American Outlaw.” I don’t know what they put in that “Mad Sauce” but it is wonderful!

Red Robin, who doesn’t like Red Robin? “Yummmm!” Yes, they’re a little pricey, and it’s not really a “local” business, but I haven’t had a bad burger there.

Terry’s Turf Club you truly want a unique experience, this is it. The place has been featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The burgers are all hand formed. You can get them topped with any of 10 imported cheeses and 12 specialty sauces, including wasabi, béarnaise, mango curry, peanut garlic and more. You might be interested in trying his famous filet mignon chili. Don’t ask me why you would want to put a filet mignon in chili, but Terry does it. It’s a small dive with limited parking on Eastern Avenue so be prepared to wait for a seat at the busiest meal times. While waiting for your delicious and messy burger to arrive, you can occupy yourself by simply looking around at all the amazing neon signs that Terry has collected.

Tickle Pickle is another small local business located in Northside. The burgers are good, but it’s worth going just for the rock & roll themed names they give them. There’s Buns & Roses, the Nom Petty, the Hot Chili Peppers (you can guess what’s on that one), the Meatallica, etc. The last time I was there I went with the basic Bread Zeppelin. The kid’s menu features Bean Day, Bun Jovi, and Fleetwood Mac & Cheese. Oh, and don’t forget the milk shakes! I had the Oreo Speedwagon.

Zip’s Cafe think Zip’s is noteworthy for being so over-rated. It seems like every list of top burgers in Cincinnati includes Zip’s at or near the top. Apparently people really like it. Honestly, I don’t get it. When I was there it was very crowded and we were seated at a long table with at least 15 other people we didn’t know. normally doesn’t really bother me to share a table with strangers, but this seems to be a popular neighborhood place where everybody knows everybody else. I felt like we were intruding on a family gathering. The burger was just ok, in my opinion. I think I’ll just leave this place for the yuppies in Mt. Lookout. They seem to like it. Oh, I did think the model train circling the place near the ceiling was pretty cool.

My Favorite Burger in Cincinnati

I kind of hate to admit it, but my absolute favorite burger in Cincinnati right now is found at a national chain…

Quaker Steak & Lube avoided going to this place for a long time simply because I couldn’t get past the name. I’ve been to lots of service stations and garages where mechanics work on your car and change your oil. I wouldn’t want to eat at any of them. Eventually I was with a group who decided this where we were going so I relented. I discovered the Arizona El Camino burger. Oh my! I don’t like to get my hands messy when I eat, so I generally have to eat this with a fork. Until I can once again make the trip to Jerome Arizona, this one will do. Must be something to do with Arizona. Anyway, it is, in my opinion, far and away the best burger in Cincinnati.

P.S. – Don’t go on “Bike Night” (Thursdays). Unless, of course, you ride your Harley…


Of course, I’m always open to trying new places in my never ending quest for the perfect cheeseburger.



These Kids Own Me

These kids own me.

Iris, Asher and Oliver are my grandkids, and I simply cannot imagine, nor do I want to imagine, my life without them.

Two years ago there were only two of them. When I learned there would be another it was sort of hard to see how a third kid would fit into this. There’s simply no way another child would bring the sweetness and caring that Iris adds, or the exuberance for life that Asher brings. What would a third kid bring? What was lacking? I couldn’t imagine.

What was lacking was Oliver.

What was completely unclear two years ago is utterly obvious today. There was an Ollie shaped hole in our family and we didn’t even know it.

The blog will likely be quiet for the next few days because tonight these three kids will begin spending a few days with Nana and Pop while their mother gives birth to her fourth child, and our fourth grandchild.

Right now, it doesn’t seem like anything is missing. Our family feels complete. My heart feels full.

But I can’t wait to see who joins us to fill his own unseen hole.



Why I Like Running In My Neighborhood

I went out for a run around my neighborhood the other day. (Something I haven’t been doing as much as I should, but that’s another story.)

There are a few things I don’t like about running the streets in my neighborhood, like the hills, for example. But one of the things I do like is saying hello to my neighbors.

Neighborhoods are interesting in Cincinnati because there are a lot of them, and they seem to be very close together. I can go through Mount Airy, College Hill, White Oak, and Monfort Heights on a single three mile run. Each neighborhood feels subtly different, and the people you meet on the sidewalks seem to fit in their respective neighborhoods.

But sometimes, being a 63 year old white guy, I don’t.

I have made it a habit to greet every single person I meet while I’m out on a run. It may be a small thing but I feel like it’s a little move in the right direction. I do my best to make eye contact, which isn’t always easy. It’s interesting to me how we do that. We walk right past someone and act like we don’t even see them. Why do we do that?

Anyway, the other day as I was heading down the sidewalk in the picture above. It was January, so it wasn’t that green. I saw that I was coming up behind some kids. There was what appeared to be the oldest sister with a dog leash in one hand and her smartphone in the other, a younger sister walking close to her, and an even younger brother who seemed to have some excess energy.

It’s always tricky when I approach someone from behind while I’m running. No matter what I do, it always seems to startle them. This time I decided to move off the sidewalk and into the street until I got around them. Sure enough, they were startled when I came alongside, but the little boy said, “I’m gonna run, too!”

I laughed and said, “You can probably blow me away!”

Sure enough, he did.

For about 50 yards.

He stopped with his hands on his knees and breathing hard. But when I caught up to him he fell in beside me. I asked his name. I’m pretty sure he said it was Denarii. I’m not sure of the spelling but he pronounced it De-NAIR-ee-eye. I think he was about seven or eight years old. He asked my name and I told him. We chatted as we jogged until we got to the next cross street and his sister told him to “Get back here!”

Cute kid.

I don’t know why I felt like telling about this, but it made an impression on me.

An eight year old black kid and a 63 year old white man jogging together.

Not something you see every day.

It made me smile, and “I like smiling. Smiling’s my favorite!

I believe there’s hope for our future.

I don’t believe it comes from Washington.

It comes from me and my neighbors, and you and your neighbors, building little bridges.

That’s why I like running in my neighborhood.


All Worship Is Contemporary

As I think about the above definition, it seems to me that all worship is contemporary worship. If it’s not happening in the present, it’s not happening. It might’ve happened in the past, and it might happen in the future.

But authentic worship occurs in real time. It’s a present action.

Yes, there is a sense in which our worship gatherings recall, and retell past events. But those past events are not the events of a mere generation or two ago.

Here’s the thing: Jesus is alive today, and will be alive forever into the future.

Jesus is contemporary.

In any generation.

So, when our churches use modern tools, language, and music in our worship, it’s not in an attempt to make Jesus relevant to the present. He’s already here. He’s already relevant without our help.

No, we use these things to try to keep up with Him.

He’s boldly going where no one has gone before.

Let’s try to keep up.


Core Values

What are your core values? We all have them whether we can actually name them or not. The choices we make every single day demonstrate our values. How we spend our money, who we date and why, how we drive, our work habits, all this speaks eloquently and clearly about what we think is important.

I suggest that it can be a healthy exercise to take the time to examine ourselves and describe what we think our behavior suggests about our values. It might provide clarity for future choices.

It also might be a wake-up call. This exercise could reveal that we’re not really the person we want to be. Or, more to the point, the person God wants us to be. Of course, that assumes that wanting to be what God wants us to be is important to us.

Naming our core values can be descriptive as well as prescriptive. Yes, it helps us see who we really are in practice, but it can also paint a picture and provide a guide for becoming who we aspire to be.

A few years ago my church spent quite a bit of time identifying our core values as an organization. We named each value, added a brief phrase that describes it, then wrote a longer sentence or two that breathes life into it and explains what we mean and how we intend to act. I absolutely love the result. These are the things we believe are important. The things we truly value. They provide a guide for everything we do and how we do it.

The statements might need to be massaged a bit, but these things are important to me on a personal level as well. I can’t honestly say that my life and behavior reflect these values perfectly, but they describe what I want my life to reflect.

So, by God’s grace, and in his power, I pray that these six core values of White Oak Christian Church will provide a guide for my life choices as well:

We will refuse to pretend.
We will be honest with ourselves and genuine with others. We are more concerned with God changing who we really are than pretending to be something we’re not.

We will hold absolutely nothing back.
We will give our time, our abilities, and our money in a relentless desire for others to experience God’s outrageous love.

We will reproduce ourselves at every level.
Engaging in God’s mission means we’ll have to intentionally multiply churches, leaders, and followers of Jesus.

We will build bridges between people and Jesus.
We will use the most effective language, technology, and resources necessary to get Jesus into people’s lives.

We will actively pursue people who don’t know Jesus.
To reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing.

We will choose faith over fear.
We step away from what feels safe and move towards God who shows up in the impossible.

So, what are your core values? You have them.

Do they describe the person you really want to be? The person God wants you to be?


Where did that come from?

No automatic alt text available.My mind kind of goes wherever it wants when I’m on a run. That is, if I can distract it from the actual…you know…running.

I feel my heart beating and hear my lungs breathing.

I wonder: where did I come from?

I could say I was born in Louisiana, but I lived most of my life in and around Cincinnati, so when someone asks, I tell them I’m from Cincinnati. But that’s not really what I’m asking.

Where did I come from? My life, I mean.

My heart has been beating for 63.5 years. What started it? My lungs have been breathing, maybe not as hard as they are right now, but for just as long. What started this? My thoughts? My questions? Not just these specific thoughts and questions, but the existence of any thoughts and questions.

Where did they come from?

I begin looking around at my neighborhood and the streets of Cincinnati. Where did they come from? I suppose one answer is that a bunch of Germans, a bunch of Catholics, and a bunch of folks from eastern Kentucky decided to build a city here. (I realize that’s a major generalization, but I’m trying to keep this short.)

But where did they come from? And what was here before they came to town?

I suppose there were some Native American folks here. Some wildlife of some kind. A river.

But where did they come from?

I don’t know all the details, but I think science tells us that the animals and people probably evolved from fish. The river was probably formed by the ice age. Ok. That’s what all the evidence seems to indicate. But still: where did the fish come from? What caused the ice age?

Where did the ice itself come from? Well, it’s frozen water.

Ok, but where did the water come from?

Well, I know that a molecule of water is comprised of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. So I suppose that if you can somehow combine two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen you would get water.

I think this might be harder than it sounds. I don’t really know if it can even be done. I saw Matt Damon do it in The Martian, but I don’t know if that’s science, or just science fiction. Either way it begs the question:

Where did the hydrogen and oxygen come from?

Where did anything come from?

No automatic alt text available.Back to me.

I occupy a few cubic feet of space. What was in that space before me? Air? Probably. Before that?

Or maybe harder yet…

What was here before there was a here here? Where did this few cubic feet of space come from? Was this space always here? The truth is, this space wasn’t always here because it’s moving. The whole planet moves around the sun. In fact, the entire universe is in constant motion, so the actual few cubic feet that I occupy is never stationary. So, what occupied that space before I got there, and what is there when I leave?

More than that, where did the motion come from? What started it? A big explosion of unimaginable power?


But, where did the explosion come from? What caused it?

An enormous compression of all the matter in the universe into an indescribably monstrous black hole until it could no longer take the pressure and caused an energy release of cosmic proportions?

I just made that up. I know that smart scientific minds can explain it better than I can, but I still have a question:

Where did the matter come from?

Well, it’s been here for billions of years of time…maybe even billions of billions…

Ok. But that still doesn’t answer the question.

Where did it come from?

Where did any of this come from?

Was it always here? Always? For eternity? No beginning and no end? Seriously?

I really don’t know how atheists do it. I think most atheists look at belief in the existence of God, and Christianity specifically, as so much fairy-tale make-believe. The thing is, if I’m honest, I have to admit I can see their point. It does sound that way to me sometimes.

Until I start asking the questions.

Where did the thoughts, the ability to think, a sense of good and bad, right and wrong, DNA, an atom, the energy that holds the atom together, the solar system, the universe, movement, time, love, eternity, the ability to even think of the concept of eternity…where did any of this come from?

I love science. Scientists can analyze and describe what is. And the more they do, the more amazing it all becomes. But scientists can only theorize about where it all came from.

And then there’s the big question…


Science can’t even touch that one.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about while I was out for a run.


Diversity is Hard 1

There are those who cringe when they hear the word. Usually, when they hear it, it’s being spoken by someone who is different from them. To them it sounds accusatory. They get defensive because they will tell you that they believe in diversity. Admittedly, their closest circle of friends only include people who share their view of the world, but they deal on a daily basis with people who don’t. These relationships are peaceful and respectful.

As long as the subject doesn’t come up.

The thing is, they have a hard time looking at life through the eyes of the other side, and don’t really see why they should try. They see the other side as arrogant elitists. And who can blame them when the only communication they get from the other side confirms their assumption? The other side is constantly telling them they are ignorant, gun-toting rednecks who are filled with hate.

They know this isn’t true. They love their family and friends. They’re good people. If everyone shared their values the world would be a better place.

Side 2

There are those who love the word. They talk about it a lot. To them it sounds beautiful. They feel a sense of pride in the fact that their closest circle of friends includes people of other races, other religions, and other sexual orientations. Admittedly, these friends all share their view of the world, but they deal on a daily basis with people who don’t. These relationships are peaceful and respectful.

As long as the subject doesn’t come up.

The thing is, they have a hard time looking at life through the eyes of the other side, and don’t really see why they should try. They see the other side as backward and ignorant. And who can blame them when the only communication they get from the other side confirms their assumption? The other side is constantly telling them they are arrogant, amoral liberals who hate America.

They know this isn’t true. They love their family and friends. They’re good people. If everyone shared their values the world would be a better place.

The thing is, we all have a hard time looking at life through the eyes of the other side.

But what if we tried?



How was your Christmas?

“How was your Christmas?”

I’m glad you asked.

It was good.

Allow me to try to explain what I mean by that…

December 24

When our girls were little we started the tradition of giving them each one gift to unwrap on Christmas Eve. It was always pajamas. The idea was that they would have nice new pj’s for the pictures on Christmas morning. They caught on after about…one year.

Our girls are now 35 and 33. They can buy their own pajamas. But we continue the tradition with our grandkids. On Christmas Eve they stop at our house either before or after the Christmas Eve worship services at church. They get one gift each. They know what it’s going to be. They just don’t know what they will look like. But we also throw in a little something else, like a book or a stuffed animal, just for fun.

It’s our tradition. It warms my heart.

And it’s good.

December 25

Christmas morning used to be just the four of us. Lloyd & Kathie & Liz & Kate. The LKLKs. (Pronounced “lick-licks.”) This was still true when Liz & Kate grew up and moved out. But now it revolves around the next generation. This is as it should be. But the transition has been a little awkward, I think. We want to keep family traditions alive, but we recognize the need for the next generation to establish their own traditions. Like we did.

We’ve settled into a pattern where the kids have their own Christmas celebration at home, then, later in the morning, everyone comes to our house for brunch and another round of gift giving. By “everyone,” I mean Kathie and I and our kids, and kids-in-law, and grandkids.

We take turns opening gifts. There is chaos, mess, laughter, and love.

And it’s good.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but earlier in December, Kathie’s mother took a turn for the worse. Her health hadn’t been good for a while now, but it had worsened to the point where hospice care was called for. During these weeks Kathie made the 45 minute drive to be with her mother almost daily. We had even discussed how things might go if her death occurred before Christmas. Her condition weighed on our hearts during our Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day activities. But, as I reflect on those days now, I realize that, even though there was sadness in the knowledge that Louise could pass into the arms of Jesus at any time, this knowledge did not cast a gloom over our family times.

In fact, I think it added warmth and meaning and depth.

This is why we celebrate.

This is what hope can do.

This is what Jesus’ coming to earth can do.

And it’s good.

December 27

On Tuesday morning we got the call. Louise’s breathing had changed. It was starting to happen. Kathie left work and I met her at the Hospice Care Center. During the rest of that day the room was filled with her children and grandchildren. There was laughing, and talking, and serving, and remembering, and loving. Louise wasn’t really conscious, but I’d like to think she could hear it all. I believe she did.

As evening came, some decided to go home. The lights were lowered. It got quieter.

A couple years ago, Louise was very sick. We thought we were going to lose her then. During some of those times of delirium she would call out for her older sister who had passed away some years ago. “Ruby!” she would cry.


She did this again a couple weeks ago. When she was more alert she explained that she had dreamed she saw a door in front of her. Light was streaming from under the door, and she knew that Ruby was on the other side. But Ruby wouldn’t open the door to let her in.

I don’t really know what to make of these kinds of experiences, but there are too many stories like this to ignore. There is something going on here that we cannot quite understand.

What I do know is that, around 2:30 on Wednesday morning, surrounded by her children, Louise’s breathing slowed to about 6 breaths per minute. Susan whispered to her to ask Ruby to open the door and let her in.

She did.

And it was good.

The following days were spent planning a memorial service.

December 31

Just as Kathie and I have had to transition our family Christmas time from one generation to the next, my parents have done the same thing. Not only do their kids have families of their own, their kids’ kids have families of their own, and we don’t all live in the same state. So, it takes a little effort to figure out how and when we can all get together. But we believe it’s important, so we do it. This year, the 31st was the day.

It’s nothing fancy. Just the usual holiday food and gifts.

I picked dad up at the nursing home and brought him home for the day. I can’t tell you in a few words what that man means to me. This is the man who would throw the childhood me in the air. The man who would make the teenage me work with him in the hot sun building a stone patio behind our house, and I just couldn’t keep up. The man who consistently demonstrated to the grown up me what it means to stand for what was good and right, regardless of the personal cost. He’s the same age as my mother-in-law. He is certainly not dealing with the same life threatening issues she was, but his physical ability seems to deteriorate every time I see him. This is why my heart aches every time I’m with him.

I want him to experience the love of his family as often as possible.

Four generations celebrating together make for an interesting afternoon. There is certainly a lot of joy, a lot of love, and a lot of warmth, but there are definitely stressful moments. It can’t be helped, and it shouldn’t be avoided. The stress is where love grows. You deal with it, recognize it for what it is, forgive, and move on. You’re family. That’s what you do.

And it’s good.

Then there’s New Year’s Eve.

We have celebrated New Year’s Eve with the same basic group of friends for many years. These people mean the world to me. This year, I think I needed their presence more than ever. Yes, it added one more activity to what was already a busy and emotional couple of weeks, but we needed it. It was life giving.

And it was good.

January 2 & 3

Funeral services.

Monday evening’s visitation. Watching a video collage of photos and telling stories. Covered with love from family and friends. Oliver, 18 months old and currently the youngest reminder that a part of Louise lives on, oblivious to the purpose, but enjoying the gathering, bringing life and charming everyone.

Tuesday morning’s memorial service. A bit of a delay as we wait for one family member to arrive. Typical. While we sit and wait like mature adults, inwardly we run and explore vicariously through Oliver who has a hard time sitting still but easily brings a smile. Young life. It’s sort of hypnotic in these circumstances.

It’s a dreary, drizzly day, and kind of muddy around the gravesite, but we’re thankful it’s warm for a January day. After the short committal service, we were invited to take a flower from the beautiful spray on the casket. I was deeply touched when my daughter Liz took one of the flowers across the road to the nearby grave of her great-grandparents and placed it in the small vase on the marker. Her sensitivity impresses me.

The chain of life. Generation to generation.

These connections are important. We do live on after we die. I carry the life blood of those who came before. A part of me lives on in those who come after.

It’s humbling.

And it’s good.

I think maybe it’s fitting that our Christmas season ended with a funeral. This is why Jesus came, isn’t it?

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
-1 Corinthians 15:25-26

So, maybe our Christmas didn’t look like a Currier and Ives print.

Everything wasn’t perfect.

But we were reminded why we celebrate.

And it was good.