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Looks Can Be Deceiving

“She looks just like you!”

I said that to someone I had recently started working with, about her daughter. Then she told me their daughter was adopted.

An Adoption

My sister was adopted. It was public and well known. Most adoptions are not that way, but this was different.

  1. They adopted when I was 10, my brothers were 13 and 12.
  2. When you show up for church one Sunday with a baby, it gets noticed.
  3. Everyone knew my parents didn’t have a baby girl.
  4. And she didn’t resemble either parent.
  5. She was from Viet Nam.  

The Resemblance

No, she obviously didn’t favor either parent. But when she learned to talk, she talked like us. Her mannerisms reflected those of our family. She ate what we ate, did what we did, and went where we went. She was ours and we were hers. We belonged to each another. We were the same, we were family.

How That Happened?

Here are some things that made her one of us:

  1. She had our name.
  2. She had our values.
  3. She was believed as we believed. 
  4. She was loved equally and in the same way as her brothers.
  5. She was a Fyffe, through and through.

A Spiritual Adoption 

Paul wrote in Ephesians that God adopted us into his family, 1:5. That we are the Father’s workmanship, the result of his divine will, 2:10. That we were given his name, 3:14. And that we grow to become like him, 5:1-2.

We were created in the image of God, but that wasn’t about appearance. My sister didn’t look like my parents, but they were her parents, she was our sister, and we were one.

Our spiritual identity comes from God. We wear his name, reflect his values, and share his purpose. We became one with him.

  1. Identity
  2. Name
  3. Character
  4. Purpose
  5. Family

It all came from him, it all points to him.

To Close

We look different, but we were adopted and fitted into God’s family. It’s not about who you look like, but who you belong to.

I said to my friend, “She looks just like you!” Spiritually, we all look like the Father.  

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Shalom

The 92

Kids go to camp. Many go to more than one.

Yesterday at church I called for all the kids who were going to Camp Bandina to come on stage. There were 92 of them. I offered a prayer of blessing and then moms and dads got their kids and their stuff on two huge, beautiful busses and off to camp they went.

I saw a few parents with a few tears and a few parents running to their cars in freedom.

With 350 total campers and 80 adults to serve them there will be an outpouring of love and faith; an amazing experience of friendship and fellowship.

Here are nine thoughts about the “9” in “92”

  • nine are first time campers
  • nine will miss home and want to call mom or dad
  • nine will develop a crush on someone
  • nine will make friends with kids from other places
  • nine will deepen friendships within our group of 92
  • nine will have life-affecting conversations with their counselor
  • nine will come home thinking about their futures for the first time
  • nine will make some kind a decision about who they are with God
  • nine will return a bit sad because it’s their last year at Camp Bandina

We have excellent people at the camp this week. People who will guide the campers well, who will model Christ for them, share their lives with them and be available at all hours of the day and night.

Camp is for having fun and the campers will have a blast. But camp is also for disconnecting from their tech, from gaming systems, cell phones and tablets. It’s a week of discovery about themselves, others and God. It’s a week of personal connection. A time when their hearts and minds will be open, available and receptive to healthy influence.

May God bless them all.

I loved camp.

The Following Is a True Story

Have you ever imagined winning the lottery? That one day all the magic numbers line up and you are an instant millionaire. Or even more!

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Not the lotto tickets my wife bought, but close, really very close.

Have you ever wondered if somewhere out there was a distant relative you didn’t know about? Then one day a lawyer calls requesting your presence for the reading of the will and you inherit millions of dollars!

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The reading of the will, a pile of cash! 

WELL, IT HAPPENED TO ME

Yep, it’s true. I was contacted by a law firm in Alberta, Canada informing me that a relative had passed away. The relative had a life insurance policy but the benefit hasn’t been paid because the deceased didn’t leave a will or stipulate a beneficiary. The firm has been searching for a living relative and they found one, me. 

HOW MUCH?

I know you’re wondering. Well, it’s a staggering amount: $9,820,000.

After reading the letter and then getting up off the floor I started thinking of what I would do with the money. How much would I give to my church? How much would I give to my kids? How much would I give to my government?  I would definitely get new tires for my wife’s car and probably buy a new fly rod. I’m such a visionary. 

I wondered if Sunday would be my last day on the job? 

AND THEN?

I should probably mention that the law firm didn’t contact me in person, nor by phone, email, registered mail or by telegram. It was by fax. I didn’t know people still used fax machines. We have one in the office, it’s a dinosaur, but it’s how I got the letter. They obviously tracked me down and discovered where I was employed.

HOWEVER

After further reflection, and some internet surfing, I’ve determined that it’s probably a scam aimed at getting my SS number, bank account numbers and so forth. Wouldn’t surprise me if they needed money to pay filing and processing fees and to compensate them for their time. 

Also, the fax had misspelled words, a rather awkward writing style and other clues indicating it was less than a professional document. 

Therefore, amidst great sadness, I’ve concluded that I’m not going to be a ten-millionaire and should forget all about it.

Sunday will not be my last day on the job. I hope.

TO CLOSE

Wow, now I wish I hadn’t gone ahead with the tires, talk about spending money before you have it! 

Oh well, live and learn. 

Sonora Smart Dodd and What She Did

THE DAY AFTER

It’s the day after Father’s Day and all the working dads are back on the job. We got the day to celebrate and we are grateful, but it didn’t include Monday off so, back to work.

It’s okay, I had such a good time with my kids I’ll gladly start the new week back at work! Yesterday, we were about to give thanks at the dinner table when my son, who is thirty-five, asked, “Dad, do you have any wisdom?” He was being a bit snarky, but really he was  encouraging me to talk about being a father.

So I did. 

I told my son and daughter that being a father has been the greatest honor and joy of my life. That I love them more than ever and am thankful for them every day. I said how proud of them I am and how blessed I feel to be a Father. That’s what I said.

 I like Father’s Day, but I’m one of the lucky ones who has the sense that Father’s Day happens all through the year.

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One of my Father’s Day cards. Not a card thats close to the one I got, but the actual card

FATHER’S DAY? 

Did you know that Father’s Day started in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910, by a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd? And why? Because she felt her dad deserved to be honored.

Her father was William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and a man who had fathered six children, one of whom was, of course, his daughter Sonora.

GANG BUSTERS?

Father’s Day didn’t catch on. Sonora did what she could but life got busy and she let the banner drop. But in the 1930’s she renewed her zeal and restored her efforts and brought Father’s Day to a national awareness. She solicited help from the trade groups who benefited from Father’s Day, groups like the men’s tie manufactures and the tobacconists with their pipes and such. She succeeded in getting the New York Associated Men’s-Wear Retailers to commercialize Father’s Day. It took some time, but it worked.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers. In 1972, it became  a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. 

So, Happy Father’s Day and thanks to everyone who helped us get here!

And a special thanks to Sonora for her loving efforts. 

BUT ACTUALLY

The person deserving recognition is Mr. Smart. We honor him for his service, and for being such a good dad to his six kids. And by the way, Mr. Smart wasn’t just a conscientious father, he was also a single parent. Yep, he raised his family of six children on his own.

So we honor him for being the kind of father who inspired his daughter to grow up and invent Father’s Day.

And it’s been another great Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

The High Five

WHAT’S A HIGH FIVE?

We have lots of ways to demonstrate our excitement. One of the most prominent is, “The High Five,” the act of raising up a hand, thus the five fingers, and slapping someone else’s raised hand.

Although it seems to have been around forever, dictionaries have only included the term as a noun since 1980 and as a verb, or the action of the high five, since 1981.

WHY DO WE DO IT?

  • it’s the joy of victory
  • it acknowledges someone doing something noteworthy
  • it’s a celebratory gesture for anything that makes us happy
  • it’s just fun

THE FIRST HIGH FIVE

It first happened at Dodger Stadium on October 2, 1977, in the last game of the season. Dusty Baker hit a homer that made the Dodgers the first team ever to have four players hit thirty home-runs. As Baker was rounding the bases, Glenn Burke, the next hitter, went to the plate to congratulate him.  He did so by raising his hand up high, and Baker returned the gesture.

From Dusty Baker:

“His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back. So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed liked the thing to do.”

And the High Five Was Born

WHO GIVES HIGH FIVES

  • professional athletes
  • athletes of all kinds
  • coaches of all teams
  • children, teens and college kids
  • adults of all ages for all kinds of reasons

WHAT HAPPENED?

It happened last Sunday morning during first service. It was time for the offering, and the children were cued to come and give their gifts that support Haitian kids for Christian education. They drop change and dollar bills into a basket. It’s a big deal in our church and the kids love it.

Afterwards, they walk back to their parents. On that Sunday, as they were walking back, a little girl sweetly smiled and put her hand up. So, I smiled back, put my hand up and she smacked it. I loved it. A few feet behind her was a mom with her very young son, I think he is almost two. He was adorable. She’s teaching him to be generous with those in need. He doesn’t understand yet, but he will, and it will become part of his character.

Then it happened. 

He had watched the girl give me the high five, so he headed my direction. He could barely walk and was holding one of his mom’s fingers. He looked at me excidedly and raised his little hand. We shared a high five. He was so happy. The whole thing made me emotional.

IN CLOSING

I like kids. I’ve learned that kids like to have adults pay attention to them. An adult who notices them and cares about the things they care about is very like Jesus, who always welcomed the children, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

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“And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” 

Mark 10:16

 

 

 

A Day For Firsts

A  recent box office hit that I enjoyed was “First Man” the story of Neal Armstrong, the first man on the moon. It was a good story and I’m a sap for all things NASA. If I had been twenty IQ points smarter, a bunch of pounds lighter, and a whole lot more gifted, I would have been an astronaut. I would have been a kickin’ astronaut.

Anyway, last evening I was watching the movie (again) when suddenly there was a loud roar overhead. Not in the house, but up in the sky. I new what it was, it was an Air Force jet of some kind. I hear and see them all the time because we live close to Ellington Air Force Base which has a long and proud history with NASA here in Houston. I see all kinds of aircraft. Huge jets, fighter planes, trainers, and helicopters of all shapes and sizes. I think its cool.

There I was, watching a movie about the first man on the moon when I hear a massive jet roaring over my house. A jet I know will be landing at Ellington. I’m not certain, but I may be living in Neal Armstrong’s house when he was in the space program, probably not, but maybe.

Anyway, it got me thinking about firsts:

Yesterday at church, a little boy came up to talk to me for the first time, I think he was three. I’m not sure what he said, but I felt great that he said it.

In the opening of my lesson I compared a lion to a cat, it set up the message of how God  transforms us to something greater. To illustrate it, I had a picture of a cat on the screen. I’ve been preaching for forty years and a cat picture is a first.

At the close of 2nd service I had all the teens and adults who were about to go on their annual mission trip come up on stage. There were about 60 of them and I was proud to pray a prayer of blessing over them. Mostly, I was captivated by all the 7th graders going. It’s their first mission trip. The first of many I hope.

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So joyful to see so many going to help people in need. Yes, that’s me on the right, close to the edge, really very close.

In the afternoon we stopped by to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.  I know that every year is the first of its kind. Just the same, acknowledging someone who has been married for 50 years is a good. It was a major first for them.

IN CLOSING

Jesus was the first of his kind. He was the first savior, the first God to come near. He was the first divine being to sacrifice himself. He is the first King of Kings and Lord of Lords and he will be the first to come and take us home for eternity. He is the first of all firsts.

Have a good week and may the God of firsts bring something amazing to your life.

 

 

 

The Future Looks Bright!

FAMILY CAMP

Camp United is our annual retreat for young families. Young means parents with children of all ages. We use the Trinity Pines Christian Conference Center just a few miles outside of Trinity, Texas. It’s camp! But it’s a fun camp.

There’s paddle boating, fishing, swimming, kid’s games, a ropes course, a fabulous playground, hiking trails and so much more. We have a massively chaotic color war and a hilarious finger rocket battle. We worship and praise and we learn and we grow. We become a little better equipped as parents.

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Cups of colored corn starch, 140 people, you can do the math. That’s not me at this year’s Camp United, but it’s close, really very close. 

THINGS I NOTICED THIS YEAR

Parents holding hands with their kids while they walked around the camp. With one family the kids were fourteen and twelve.

Watching single moms with their children. Single moms are all in because they have to be. Everything is up to them. Some of the sweetest and most impressive kids at camp were one parent kids.

I watched young mothers caring for their babies and toddlers. They were loving, patient and nurturing. I got to hold a few of them. They still wiggle and squirm and want down!

I saw young fathers spending time with their young children. They played games and walked along the lake and hung out together. Nothing touches my heart like watching a young father be a good dad.

The campfire Saturday night was special. We were sitting in circles around the campfire, kids, teens, parents and adults, worshiping and singing praises. Then, it was Smores. It was so on.

At the pool I laughed and laughed watching some dads compete to make the biggest splash off the diving board. It was comedy gold.

In our Sunday worship we took time for each family to find some space on the floor or to circle their chairs. They were to share the Lord’s Supper as a family. They huddled close to read scripture, to talk and to learn about the bread and the cup. Parents were teaching their children. Fathers were leading their families. It was a beautiful thing.

IN CLOSING

Saturday was my birthday. I spent my birthday at camp; at my age you don’t really care where you celebrate your birthday. But being there, and turning sixty-three, reminded me that there are far more days behind than there are ahead. I will be long gone when those parents reach my age.

So, I have to tell you, I like how the future looks.

Listen To Our Hearts

A HARD DAY

Someone said there would be days like this. Someone was right. We all know tough times and discouraging days, certainly I do. But not like today.

Today, there is a funeral at my church. Actually, it’s a Celebration of Life Service. That’s what we call them now, a Celebration of Life. Mostly it means there won’t be a long-winded preacher preaching something nobody wants to hear.

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We hurt and grieve and wonder if God is listening.

The celebration allows for laughter, joyful memories and sweet stories. It’s not to prevent tears but to embrace other emotions and expressions. It’s surrounding those we care about to help them celebrate the life of the one they’ve lost. Sometimes, the one they’ve lost is a child.

Today’s service is for a little boy who died a few days ago.

LEVELS?

There are levels of grief. One is when a distant relative, whom we barely know, passes away in their sleep at the age of 89. Another level is when a young child tragically succumbs to illness or is struck down by a senseless accident.

All the deaths of children are tragic and senseless.

Arguably, the only grief that is harder than losing a child is losing more than one. Today, many will gather to support a family who has lost four children in just a few years. It is beyond words, beyond explanation, beyond answers.

The things we say at times like this can seem trite or useless. Sometimes, all we can do is hug the grieving, weep with the hurting, and hope they can hear our hearts because our words have stuck in our throats.

YET, WE PRAY

We pray to Him who seemingly turned a deaf ear to the calling, ignored the praying and abandoned the grieving. We pray because prayer is what we have, along with our faith.

Gut-wrenching grief can leave the shattered with a deep-seated anger at God. We know, we try to understand, but we lack the words, the theology, or the wisdom to comfort them. And yet, we pray. We pray, for our faith reminds us that the God who sacrificed his own son knows something of loss.

TO CLOSE

So, please pray today. If words fail then trust the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf. Please forward this to others and allow this day to be a day that God our Father listens to  our hearts.

Thank you.

Civility Is Alive & Well

GETTING MY COFFEE

This morning I saw a teenager exhibit some lovely behavior. She was at least 16 because we pulled into the Starbucks parking lot at the same time. I parked, gathered my things, and was headed for the door when I saw her standing there and smiling at me. She was holding the door open. I asked her,

 “Are you holding the door open for me?” She said, “Yes Sir I am.”

I thanked her, put my bag on a table and went to order my coffee. By then, another person had come in and the young lady invited us both to go ahead of her in line. I tried to resist, suggesting that she had already been courteous by holding the door for me. But, she politely insisted! I got my coffee, sat down, and then noticed her again. 

When she got her drink she saw another coffee that hadn’t been picked up. So, in a loud but sweet voice she asked, “Is this somebody’s coffee?” A hand went up and she walked it over to him. Then she looked to see if anyone else needed anything, flashed her pretty smile, and left. Wow.

Some Thoughts I Had:

1. She’s had fabulous parenting.

2. She was actively practicing her manners.

3. She was a naturally helpful person.

4. She was part of a group committed to demonstrating kindness.

5. She was filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Could be that it was all the above, who knows? But she made a lasting impression on me. In fact, she became the topic of this blog. My other thing got bumped.

In a fast paced world where most of us are focused on our going and getting, she stood out like a shining star.

Kindness and goodness are fruit of the Spirit. Loving our neighbor means treating them at least as well as we would treat ourselves. And didn’t Jesus command his disciples to love each other as he loved them?

TO CLOSE 

Young lady, whoever you are, you are a beautiful beacon of Christ-like courtesy and kindness. Thank you for blessing my life.

Civility isn’t dead, it’s alive and well and offered by a teenage girl at a Starbucks .

Shalom 

Different But Not

A DEAR FRIEND

A friend of mine was at church yesterday. It’s a friendship that was born through Hope For Haiti’s Children (HFHC), a faith based non-profit serving the needs of Haitian children. My friend, who is now Vice President of HFHC, was in Houston over the weekend and came to visit.

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Not me as I am today, but close, really very close.

Between the two services she gave a presentation about HFHC and shared some stories that really touched me. She spoke of a chance meeting with a little girl from Cite Soleil, a horribly impoverished slum of Port-au-Prince. As her story unfolded she shared how she was, of course, wearing shoes but the little girl wasn’t. Holding hands, they walked along  when suddenly the little girl hurt her foot. It was cut by broken glass.  

THE IMPACTFUL PART

She had assumed that since the girl lived in poverty that her little feet would be tough, hardened and immune. They weren’t. She ended her story with this confession. 

“I would never have walked barefoot there, but for her, what did it matter?”

Then it hit her: she actually had a lot in common with the girl. In fact, they were very much the same. We all have a lot in common with one another. We all hurt, grieve and struggle. We know loneliness and fear. We know heartache and heartbreak. Poverty doesn’t toughen the heart or callous the soul. The poor aren’t immune. 

It was a tough lesson to learn but a beautiful lesson to embrace.

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IN CLOSING

Of the many characteristics of Christ the one I respect the most was his ability to see everyone the same: young or old, healthy or sick, rich or poor. It didn’t matter. He saw everyone and sought everyone, for everyone needed him, and we still do. 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Tonya, thanks for helping us look past the differences to see the similarities.

We are all different, but not!

Shalom 

Mental Snapshots

Yesterday was Easter and we, like most churches, do a little extra for Easter Sunday. Here are a few memories I’d like to share, I call them mental snapshots.

PASSOVER MEAL: The Wednesday before Easter we held an authentic Passover Meal, complete with roasted lamb. It was open to everyone, for members and guests, and was a beautiful experience. I especially liked seeing the young families with their kids. 

NEW CLOTHES: In both services I saw bunches of children in new clothes. It’s tradition for kids to get new outfits for Easter. Often the moms and dads get new clothes too. It was funny that so many girls came up to show me their new outfits. They were so happy and adorable. They were super-cute. Predictably, not one boy came up to show me his new clothes. Yep. 

HEIGHTENED ENTHUSIASM: Special Sundays elevate the energy of the church. The singing gets louder, the worship is sweeter, and the special readings and presentations add a depth of meaning that blesses the experience. Yesterday’s worship was wonderful.

GOOD TO SEE YOU: I’m not sure why but Easter brings people to church like no other Sunday. Maybe Christmas rivals Easter when it falls on a Sunday. But on Easter I know I’ll see people who I haven’t seen in months, and it’s always good to see them!

IT’S NOT UNUSUAL: I’m one of millions who celebrates the resurrection daily, who rejoices in the empty tomb and bases their faith on his rising from the dead. It isn’t unusual that I do. In fact, I would say that most believers require no special Sundays to acknowledge his resurrection.  

Just the same, I love Easter Sunday. 

TO CONCLUDE

Maybe I’m sentimental. Maybe. But I love seeing the kids in their new clothes. I like the big crowds. I’m lifted up by the heightened energy and the greater enthusiasm. And I’m richly blessed by the rejoicing on Easter Sunday. 

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He is risen, he is risen indeed!