Election Day 2016 – Nobody Panic

i-votedToday is election day – and we voted. Like many of our friends, the experience left a knot in my stomach, without even knowing the results yet. I was going to say, “without knowing who won the race,” but I think it’s been stated ad nauseaum through every means and venue possible that, whoever is elected, not many of us will feel like we are really “winning.” Maybe Charlie Sheen…I don’t know… 

Anyway, we have been praying. Going through scripture to help us make sense of the state of our elections, country and world. A verse came to mind that doesn’t actually directly fit the context of our current situation, but is more of a revealing statement about my own relationship with God and what he continues to teach ME about Himself. 

In John 6, Jesus had been teaching his disciples, in their words, “hard teachings.” CRAZY stuff that they couldn’t understand yet, like Jesus telling them about this bread that just comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. They piped up and said, “Well, we’d like some of THAT bread.” Jesus said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.” And they were all…”Whaaaatttt?” I won’t recount all of those teachings here, but go read it – it’s good stuff.

The verse that came to mind in that chapter is from Peter. It is an exasperation. It is something you say when you have that moment of clarity and desperation at the end of your rope and you realize that…You. Are. Not. In. Control. Not even a little bit, in the grand scheme of things.

Disciples were abandoning ship like crazy and Jesus asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

In verse 68 – “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’ “

He says, “Lord, WHERE ARE WE GOING TO GO?” That is the question I ask of God way too often for me to admit. Lord, what OTHER options do we have? Because honestly, Yours are HARD sometimes. We have tried putting our trust in ourselves, in our bank accounts, in possessions, in our friends, in our families, and yes — in our leaders. With Peter, I say that we have examined them all and they ALL eventually come up short. 

Peter was saying, “I realize now that the answer to LIFE – this one and the next – is only found in You, Lord.” Whether we come to this realization willingly or kicking and screaming, at times, He is asking me (and you), “Do you TRUST ME?” 

Do you trust Me with your relationships? with raising your kids? with loving your spouse? with your finances? with your job? 

DO YOU TRUST ME to use whomever you elect as the leader of your country for MY purposes? Do you think that is beyond My reach? Do you not remember how I pared down Gideon’s army to THREE HUNDRED to defeat the vast Midianite army of thousands, just so they couldn’t boast, “My own strength has saved me.” (Judges 7:2)?

So, maybe we don’t have a candidate that many of us can get behind to say, “Oh, well, ________ is going to SAVE us now.” It occurs to me that it wouldn’t be ridiculous to think that – maybe that’s by God’s design and not just a sucky hand we seem to have been dealt. I don’t know for sure — those thoughts are way above my small human mind… 

I do know that, today, I pray, “Lord, we have nowhere else to go but You and I trust my life and my country to Your hands.” Amen.

Those Awkward Post-Middle-Age Days…

13331051_10208274481491527_7558355817175238360_nEarlier this evening, I was checking out at our local Harris Teeter with a few items for supper and I had Erin and Landon with me. It’s one of my favorite stores and I genuinely enjoy going there to shop. That hasn’t changed, but this exchange happened with a very nice cashier, who I’ll call Janine, as we were finishing up the transaction…

Janine asks, “Mr. Locklair, are you a senior?”

My head pops up and I look at her, and then her helper, who was suddenly staring at the ceiling, and I start looking at the ceiling…for the cameras, right?

In a measured tone, I asked her back, “A senior…what?”

Janine: “Well, I just…”
Me: “And you should pick your next words very carefully.”
Janine: “Well, I just thought…”
Me: “You mean like, do I have a son named ‘Junior’, right?”
Janine: “Well, you could get a discount…”
Me: “I have a THREE year old, see him right there?”
Janine: “Oh, I thought…”
Me: “Careful.”
Janine: “…he is so cute.”

I was trying to process this experience and I had the thought, “I won’t be a ‘Senior’ until Landon is…uh, seven.” That didn’t support my argument as much as I thought, so I kept it to myself. 

“Janine, I’m just kidding,” I lied. “We’re all good – I really appreciate you looking out for me.”

I called Erin to go stop her little brother from rummaging through the free cookie bin and, as we started walking away, I heard Janine’s helper whisper too loudly to her, “Girl, you just told that man he was OLD! What is wrong with you?” I had to laugh because that’s all I really wanted to tell her, but I think she got the idea.

Folks, just remember that the math doesn’t mean everything — it’s all about heart. Lord, help us grow old with grace, dignity and tact. Amen.

Lessons from The Garage

13315589_10208253948338211_1695274950127848744_nToday, I changed the belts on my ’98 4-Runner. To say that in so few words doesn’t really give justice to the whole ordeal. I mean, the YouTube video guy said he did it in about 45 minutes. My brother said it should take about 20 minutes. Well, it only took me about FOUR hours, but I got it done! 

I used to work on cars a lot with my Dad and brother – a loooonnng time ago, and I’m a bit out of practice. But I actually ended up enjoying the experience in the end. Yes, I saved about $250 by doing it myself, but it was more than that. Even though Dad passed away over 5 years ago, it was like he was right there with me today. 

The memories were so real… him telling me where to shine the light (turns out – not in the trees)… raking through my scattered assortment of sockets and wrenches, trying to find the one I just had… washing my greasy hands with Gojo and Lava soap, wondering if they will ever come clean again… missing his knowledge of how to do just about anything.

But, the greatest memory of all was somewhere in the middle, when I got really discouraged. I couldn’t find a couple of bolts that I needed to loosen to put slack in one of the belts. My arms were all scraped up from working in close quarters around the fan blade that I had to remove. It just…wasn’t going well. That $250 price was looking pretty good right then and, well – I wanted to quit. 

I just sat on the garage floor, frustrated and tired… and then God started to bring to my mind all the projects my brother and I had helped Dad with over the years. I remembered that they rarely went perfectly and I remembered my dad’s tenacity – he just didn’t quit. He couldn’t afford to and he wasn’t going to let his family down, even in the small things. It wasn’t in his nature. When something had to be done, he pushed through.

And so did I. It took another 2 hours and I think I made up some new cuss words (just kidding, Mom!), but I got it done. And the car runs and everything!

Next time, I’ll probably shell out the money to have somebody else do it, but I think God carried me through this project today to remind me of a principle that Dad and his generation held onto with both hands – whether it’s cars, or relationships, or governments – when things are broken, you work together and fix them. Never give up.

The Case of the Missing Lawn Mower

So, this afternoon, I edged and mowed the front lawn, emptied the grass clippings into a paper lawn bag on the edge of the yard and went to weedeat the back yard. 15 minutes later, I came around front to push the lawnmower to the back yard to mow. 

No mower. I looked in the side yards, the garage, the back yard, under the trampoline – NO mower. I wondered, “Is punking people still a thing?” I traced my steps and I was certain I had left the mower right by the leaf bag on the curbside. Cuuuurbside… In a panic I looked down the street for a neighbor’s old grill I had seen earlier – gone. 

I remembered seeing a fellow driving a white truck around collecting scrap metal and other items of value on this day before trash pickup. 

Then it hit me – my beloved $300 Husqvarna lawn mower had been trash picked right out of my front yard. 

I blurted out what had happened to Penny. She took off in the golf cart and I screeched off the other direction in the van. I drove down every street in my half of the neighborhood and then started back the other way. I wondered what I would do when we found the truck…if we found it. I wasn’t all that mad at the guy – I think it was mostly a misunderstanding. 

Well, a few blocks down, I came upon the truck and a car and a golf cart with a blonde lady gesturing and pointing at the guy’s truck and sure enough – Penny had the guy cornered – with our lawnmower perched on top of the cab of his truck. 

The guy was very apologetic and swore that he doesn’t steal and it *was* on the side of the road. I said it’s OK and clarified a few points for him – it was on the side of the YARD…with a mostly full tank of gas…and a hot muffler…next to a lawn bag. I advised him – next time just ask. 

We shook hands – the universal gesture acknowledging, “We all good, but don’t touch my lawnmower no more.” Penny took the van home and I drove the mower home on the back of the golf cart so I could finish mowing my lawn before dark. 

So watch where you leave your stuff, folks, or you might find yourself wondering whose lawnmower you could borrow to finish your lawn.

Simple Cabinet Organization Solution

We needed a better solution for our cabinet for cutting boards, pizza pans, cookie sheets, etc. – mostly vertical storage, but with one shallow shelf to store a couple of pans. We made this from leftover boards and screws in our garage. Cost for materials: $0. Justification for keeping my scrap bin full: priceless.

Our original cabinet space

Our original cabinet space

BTW, this might go in my Old Redneck Workshop posts...the grooves going from side to side were the first ones I cut - the wrong direction! So, I just cut some new ones the right way.

BTW, this might go in my Old Redneck Workshop posts…the grooves going from side to side were the first ones I cut – the wrong direction! So, I just cut some new ones the right way.

Top shelf and bottom piece secured.

Top shelf and bottom piece secured.

Add the dividers

Add the dividers

All done!

All done!

Everything in place.

Everything in place.

Lessons from Screwdrivering

12747883_10207463894147350_3918153922244560210_oToday, Landon picked up the biggest screwdriver he could find and helped me reassemble the piano keyboard. It was fitting for a couple of reasons: 1) he was the one who poured a bottle of water into it last week and the one most thankful that it still works, and 2) it reminded me of a picture of me and my dad trying out my screwdrivering skills when I was about his age.

I’ve been thinking about that picture a lot today. Dad went home to heaven 5 years and 1 month ago today, and we all still miss him so much. He played many roles in life and we were all molded and impacted by his presence as a father growing up. So, we know the void when that strong presence changed to memories.

We found out last night that the father in another one of our dojo families, Ted Vliet, passed away from cancer. We hurt so badly along with them and, while we rejoice that he is in the presence of Christ, right now…there is pain. We will pray for them, pray with them, bring them meals and hug them tightly – as we have done with the Rylands family since Tom went home just last year. The cultural expression is that “we lost [these men]”, but we know they are not lost at all – they have been truly found, in Heaven.

Well, this started out as another cute kid photo, but my heart has been heavy today and somehow I’ve come here. I’ll end with this thought… I have been working on a longer post about “Finishing Well” in life and I have an ever growing and changing list of attributes – things we should strive for to live a Godly and honorable life. As I look at the lives of these great men who have gone ahead of us and finished well, I think we can narrow it down to two basic principles that Jesus taught us sum up everything in life: Love God. Love People. 

Everything else flows out of those two pillars. Our prayer is that we would deeply love our Father in Heaven and those people God has placed in our lives, while we have them. Remember – the thing about finishing well is that we never know when we’ll be finished, so finish today well. Love y’all.

The Smooth Slide into Senility…

So, one of my running shoes broke. Don’t wear them that often – hard to believe, I know…but I’m working on it. So I look up the number for Nike support and put it on a list where it sits for a few weeks. 

Finally, yesterday, I’m out running errands and I call them. Jack answers the phone and he’s really helpful. I tell him the problem with my left shoe and he apologizes and assures me that they will take care of it. He creates a support case for me and tells me a couple of numbers they need from the shoe. I tell him I’m away from home, but I’ll call my wife, get the info and call him right back. Great. 

I call Penny and tell her the info Jack needs from the inside of my left shoe with the “N” on the side. The moment I tell her that is the moment I realize what she confirms to me next, “John, you have New Balance running shoes.”

I’m pretty sure I’m up on some sort of wall at Nike headquarters in Oregon. Jack was still laughing in the kindest way possible when we hung up. I think I’m just going to buy a new pair of tennis shoes and not try all that again with New Balance… It’s rough gettin’ old, folks!

Finding The Wonder

“However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—”
1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

Yesterday, in church, Landon was quietly drawing on the back of Penny’s bulletin with a ballpoint pen. I confess I was watching him from time to time, in part, to ensure he wasn’t drawing on anyone’s clothes. He was drawing blobs and rough circles, scribbles and lines – not bad for a three year-old. 

At one point, he handed me the pen and pointed to a bare corner of the paper. I took the pen and just quickly drew a star, the kind we have all made, without picking up the point of the pen. In my eyes, it wasn’t even a very good one…the top point was shorter than the others. Blasted perfectionism. 

I moved my hand and, when Landon saw the star, he looked up at me with wide eyes and said in that excited whisper-that’s-not-a-whisper, “Daddy! What did you DRAW?!” 

His laughter was a great reward in that brief moment. His wonder and awe at my simple star made me wish that I wasn’t such a grown-up who often lets the wonderful and awesome moments in life slip by without much fanfare.

And then, I read that verse in I Corinthians this morning and am reminded that the most wonderful visions that I can conceive in my mind are but scribbles and stick figures compared to the plans He has prepared for my future – in this life and eternity – and for all of his children.

Lord, help us look for and find the wonder you will show us today.

Landon’s First Cereal

Here’s a little 60-second video of Landon’s first try at eating rice cereal. In the end, I think we can call it a mixed review…

How to Install a Toilet in 53 Easy Steps

So we discovered a little water on the floor around our upstairs toilet and I determined that we have some sort of leak going on. I was in an adventurous mood – I mean, lately we’ve been painting, refinishing our stairs, changing lightbulbs, watching HGTV, etc. so I thought, “I got this.” What I meant to think was, “I eventually got this.” Here’s how to install a toilet in 53 easy steps:

  1. Mop up all the water from around the leaky toilet and pull the little shut off valve.
  2. Put down a couple of towels that you are willing to throw away. Forever.
  3. Go to Lowe’s and look at ALL the toilets. Call a couple of close friends and ask them classy questions like, “What kind of toilet do you have?” and “Does it, you know…flush pretty well?”
  4. Ask a couple of fellow toilet shoppers at Lowe’s the same questions.
  5. Ask Ed, the guy in the toilet department at Lowe’s, what he thinks. He has some great recommendations and you decide on a nice Kohler which is on sale for $189, down from $209.
  6. From the looks of your fellow shoppers, you realize the baby has probably been crying long enough in the stroller. You thank Ed for his time and determine to come back tomorrow to make your purchase.
  7. Let a couple of days go by.
  8. Drop kids off at choir and run over to Lowe’s to purchase the new toilet.
  9. Pick one from the top of the stack. Look around wildly for a forklift as soon as the bottom of the box clears the top of the one beneath it.
  10. Recover using your knee and your foot to keep from dropping it and somehow manage to get it onto the flatbed cart, sticking your foot behind one of the wheels to keep it from rolling any farther.
  11. Wonder where Ed disappeared to. Turns out it’s his day off.
  12. Get to the checkout and realize the toilet rings up at $209.
  13. Ask David in your nicest frustrated voice, “What’s the deal?” but cut him some slack because it’s his first day.
  14. Realize that you have to pick up the kids from choir in about 7 minutes.
  15. Go back to the back of the store where the toilets are with Lynn from Customer Service and find that the tiny little price sign reads $209.
  16. Express genuine disbelief. Grunt “Me, too.” when Lynn says, “I’m sorry, darlin’.”
  17. Jump up and down like an idiot when you pass by a small stack of YOUR toilet with a big sign that clearly reads, $189!
  18. Check out at Lowe’s, wiggle the toilet into the back of the van. Buckle your 5 year-old in. Put the stroller on his lap.
  19. Pick up the kids from choir and head home.
  20. Wrestle the toilet box out of the well of the back of the van. Breathe. Finally let your wife grab one end of the box, halfway up the stairs.
  21. Realize that she’s probably stronger than you.
  22. Read the 6-step directions on the top of the toilet box. Think, “Really? That’s all there is to it?”
  23. Practice your Spanish by comparing the top two paragraphs on each installation step.
  24. Gather all the tools you could possibly need to unscrew the two nuts holding down the old toilet.
  25. Have both T-bolts start turning in the thing they’re in underneath the toilet.
  26. Determine that you have to pry up on the washer to hold them in place while you use your power drill / driver to unscrew the nuts.
  27. Realize you’ve got the wrong hex bit and go back down to the garage to get the correct size.
  28. Watch the last half of a “Big Bang Theory” episode with your wife on the way back upstairs.
  29. Finally get the bolts free and remove the old toilet. Find more towels with zero sentimental attachments.
  30. Remember from the first time you ever swapped out a toilet some 16 years ago that that is JUST the wax ring – nothing more.
  31. Ask the kids to please stop asking, “Daddy, are you all right?” and assure them that you are…fine.
  32. Mildly panic when the bottom of the new elongated toilet looks longer than the old one.
  33. Take measurements and determine that all is well, with a full eighth inch to spare.
  34. Install the new wax ring on the bottom of the new toilet and notice that they don’t look much better when they’re brand new.
  35. Manage to get the new toilet flipped over without your wife’s help AND have the wax ring stay in place.
  36. The new nuts and bolts work like a charm. Hope that the directions weren’t being really strict when they warned against moving the toilet after the seal was in place.
  37. Manage to install the bolts holding down the tank.
  38. FINALLY use the level on your iPhone to make sure the tank is level.
  39. Congratulate yourself on buying that LifeProof iPhone case and express relief that there was no water in the tank yet to test it out.
  40. Install the new “non-slammy” toilet seat and lid.
  41. Make mental note to instruct 5 year-old that both of the other toilets in the house are still “slammy.”
  42. Realize that the 6-inch connector is about 4 inches too short to reach the new “comfort height” toilet.
  43. Drive to Walmart to buy a longer connector hose for $5.
  44. Drive back home and install the new hose.
  45. Turn on the water and allow the tank to fill.
  46. Make the first flush and…it works! Breathe.
  47. Put the little trash basket against the wall and notice that the PVC connection for the shut off valve seems to be slowly dripping…
  48. Put a bucket under the valve and determine to call it a night.
  49. Ponder why you didn’t call your brother to install the toilet with for you.
  50. Remember the conversation you had with him 16 years ago regarding number 30 and the resulting promises you made to yourself.
  51. Wonder why an ad for a plumbing service shows up on your Facebook sidebar. Are they just messing with you?
  52. Make mental note to call Comcast to see if you can just remove HGTV from your channel lineup.
  53. Ask your wife if she knows anything about fixing a PVC valve joint…