Dropping the coffee cup got my attention. What happened next got my respect.
“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.
My sister was adopted. It was public and well known. Most adoptions are not that way, but this was different.
- They adopted when I was 10, my brothers were 13 and 12.
- When you show up for church one Sunday with a baby, it gets noticed.
- Everyone knew my parents didn’t have a baby girl.
- And she didn’t resemble either parent.
- She was from Viet Nam.
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:
- She had our name.
- She had our values.
- She was believed as we believed.
- She was loved equally and in the same way as her brothers.
- 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.
It all came from him, it all points to him.
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.
Back to the summer camp in the New Mexico Mountains that I wrote about on Monday.
One of the fun activities for campers was to go on hikes. Once or twice each week the counselors would take their campers hiking.
I would hurry, as the Pots & Pans Washer, to get the kitchen cleaned up so I could go on the afternoon hike.
The hikes always took us to a places with amazing views. Once we arrived we rested, or explored a bit, until it was time to head back to camp.
On one beautiful mountain day at a magnificent vista were some hikers who were there when we arrived. There were four of them and they were sitting at the edge of a high cliff looking at whatever there was to be seen. One of the counselors and I walked over to say hello. They seemed surprised by our presence and were not in a chatty mood. They seemed familiar to the counselor, he smiled visited for just a moment and then we walked back to our group and back to camp.
They were interesting to see. They were relatively young, I guessed maybe in their 20’s and had long hair and were wearing things that seemed odd to me. They wore old ratty jeans, hiking books, vests and had head bands. They wore bracelets of silver and leather and they sat there at the edge of the mountain, quiet and still.
BACK TO CAMP
As we walked along I sidled up to the counselor and asked if he knew those guys. He said, “I don’t know them personally, but I know who they are.”
It turned out that they were a rock band, and a famous one at that. Being 14 I didn’t know much about rock bands, but Milton, the counselor was very excited that he got to talk with them.
So that night, after washing the evening meal pots and pans, I got cleaned up and ready for the devotional. The guys in the band had long hair and wore leather head bands. So, I unlaced a leather lace from one of my hiking boots and wrapped it around my head and tied it in a bow at the back. UhHuh.
I thought I looked really cool. Mind you I had a buzz cut hair style, and there wasn’t a hair on my head that any chance of falling into my eyes. I walked up to Milton and he said, “What is that on your head?” I said, “Its my hair band.” He said, “Why are you wearing it.” And I said “To keep the hair out of my eyes.” Then he said, “You look ridiculous, take that dumb thing off.”
I didn’t really know what cool looked like and I really wasn’t the kind of kid who looked to rock bands to imitate their look.
Eventually, I learned that my identity, values, and choices needed to be influenced by better sources, beginning with my relationship to God of holiness and righteousness. My life didn’t need to reflect whatever was popular at the moment. It wasn’t from the world that I needed to base my life, but on things eternal.
Besides, I needed to put the lace back in the boot for the next hike.
SAD, LONELY & DISCONNECTED
The first time I ever felt alone and disconnected happened the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I was fourteen. I had been “hired” to work at a camp in the New Mexico Mountains for eight weeks as part of the kitchen staff, not the cooking part, but the cleaning. I washed the pots and pans. I was, “The Pot Washer.”
The lonely part happened when dad dropped me off. He stayed long enough to see me settled in my log cabin room, a space about 10′ x 10′ with no windows. There was a saggy bed, a rickety dresser that came over with Noah, and a wooden chair. Welcome home!
Dad gave me a hug, said to work hard and behave myself, then he drove off. I stood watching until I couldn’t see his car, then went into my room and started crying. It was an emotion I was unprepared to have.
The tears ran down my face for a few minutes when suddenly I heard a knock. I dried my eyes, opened the door and to my great surprise there were two girls, college girls. They were there to be counselors, and like me, for the whole summer. They were friendly, fun and super cute. There were more counselors too, for the boys and girls cabins.
I was the only high school kid on the staff. For eight glorious weeks I hung out with a dozen college students, it was the best summer ever.
On the last day my brother arrived to take me home and the tears streamed again. Not because I felt sad, alone and disconnected but because I didn’t want to leave!
A FEW THOUGHTS
- If I knew how sad I was going to be when dropped off I wouldn’t have gone.
- If I knew how small, sparse, and lonely my room was I wouldn’t have gone.
- If I knew how grimy and greasy those pots would be, I wouldn’t have gone.
- If I knew how much fun I was going have I would have hitched hiked to go.
We never know what’s around the corner, it’s because we can’t see it. From the worst situations can come the best experiences. From that which we suffer can come surprising blessings of happiness. Keep the faith because, you never know!
Hey, I think I hear someone knocking on the door!
The mess has been cleaned up. The confetti, streamers and hats have been dumped into America’s landfills. The calendar has turned.
Happy New Year
It’s January and about a week’s gone by since we put up the new calendar. I’t’s on the refrigerator and it has pictures of cats, and it’s cute if you like that sort of thing and several in my family do, and me, well, let’s move on.
I can’t say the New Year has made much difference. Maybe it’s just me. I wasn’t jumping up and down about 2018 being over and I wasn’t bouncing about the new year starting. The new year hasn’t made me new, I’m just a week older.
However, a few thoughts I had:
- it’s 11 months and two weeks until Christmas
- it’s eight months until the new college football season
- it’s four months until my birthday
- it’s one month until my next Holy Land Tour
- it’s tomorrow that I have breakfast at a Waffle House
I know, my life is seems terribly exciting. But it’s not all glamor and games.
The new year will bring some good things.
- more progress for the gospel with the people of Cuba
- more homeless families will find a home
- more hot food will be served to the hungry
- more souls will come to know the love of God
- more lives will be forever changed
Whatever you do with New Years and however it affects you just know that the God of all grace cares for you. His plan for your life remains steadfast and authentic.
Some say that God is good. Some say God is good all the time. Life can be good, but defintely not all the time.
Sometimes there are days when life is good, really good, and you rise up to the highest peaks of Mt Victory! But sometimes there are days when life isn’t so good and you drop down into the valley of despair. When those days come try to keep your chin up, decide not give up, and keep looking up, because on your hardest days God is still there, he still cares and he’s still good.
The Final Blog of the Twelve Days of Christmas
It’s the day after Christmas, a day for doing other things. Will there be shopping? Probably, but for different reasons. I’ll reflect on the season and think about the time spent with family and friends, I’ll think about the cards, gifts, and events.
I’ll think about our Candlelight service. The carols were beautiful, the Spirit was generous, and the hundreds of candles lifted up for the infant king moved me deeply.
I’ll remember Christmas morning, with the fireplace crackling and all the fabulously wrapped presents. But, mostly I’ll think about the people who gathered around the tree.
I love Christmas.
REGARDING HIS PARENTS
Joseph and Mary had a hard trip to Bethlehem, but they made it, for the child could only be born in Bethlehem. I’ve imagined them out in the cold stable with the animals. The stable wasn’t where they wanted to be, but it was where they were.
It was a night divine, a silent night, a holy night.
I’ve considered Herod trying to eliminate the infant king. Mary and Jospeh escaped to Egypt, but other people’s sons were murdered in Herod’s death sweep. Did Mary know them, did she experience overwhelming sorrow, grief, and guilt?
Mary and Jospeh, you were such good parents. Thank you for protecting him.
It’s largely because of you that we have a Christmas to celebrate!
Christmas means different things. For some, it’s a holiday with a few days off work. For others, it’s the most wonderful time of the year with lights, decorations and events. Maybe the magic of Christmas is the time with family and friends. It’s all good.
But, in the beginning, Christmas was about God coming near to help us. So, when I say, “Merry Christmas” what I’m really saying is:
“May the God of grace fill your hearts in the celebration of his Son’s birth.
Until Next Year,”The Twelve Days of Christmas” are finished.
May the peace of the Prince of Peace be upon you.
Day Eleven: The Twelve Days of Christmas
It’s early Christmas morning and I’m the first one up. I’m always the first one up.
- I make the coffee
- light the candles
- turn on the tree lights
- get a fire going
- start some Christmas music
Then I wake my daughter and we sit on the sofa to watch the fire and sip our coffee and listen to the music. Since she was a little girl we have welcomed the first blessings of Christmas.
The rest of the family will wake up a little later. But for now, it’s just the two of us. It’s how we do Christmas.
AND FOR MARY AND JOSEPH?
They had arrived in Bethlehem weary and needing a warm room with a good bed. But it didn’t happen.
Imagine the Conversation
Joseph: “We need a room please.”
Inn Keeper: “Sorry folks, but we’re all full.”
Joseph: “You don’t understand, we’ve traveled for days and my wife is expecting”
Inn Keeper: “Look, I’m sorry, but we’re booked solid and there isn’t a bed to be found.”
Joseph: “You must have something, we’ll take anything.”
Inn Keeper: “Well, it isn’t much and it isn’t clean, but you can stay in the stable.”
Joseph: Looking at his exhausted and very pregnant wife said, “We’ll take it.”
Like the journey itself, they would be back in the cold.
IT WAS TIME
Mary was in labor. Did she have a midwife? Did she have any help at all? Was Joseph tending a fire for a little warmth? Were the sheep, donkeys and camels all looking on? We don’t know.
However it went, our savior was born. I imagine Joseph cutting the cord and placing his son in his mother’s arms. But in that moment of divine new life, did all of heaven erupt in rapturous praise? Did the universe shudder in awe watching the creator come as an infant child?
It was a silent night, a holy night, as our God came near.
It’s early Christmas morning. The fire is crackling, the coffee is fresh, and the carols are softly playing. In a minute I’ll wake my daughter, but in a minute. This is my moment to remember.
I’m guessing the experience was different for Mary and Joseph. But however it was, it was God forever changing our world. It was good news of great joy for all the people:
“A savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.”
It’s Christmas Morning
Day Ten: The Twelve Days of Christmas
I measure trips as good or bad based on the following criteria:
- on time departures
- on time arrivals
- rudeness/kindness of passengers
- professionalism of the flight crew
- the freshness of the pretzels
All I’m saying is that I shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money to be treated badly, alive late, and then discover that my suitcase didn’t arrive at all!
Modern day traveling can really be hard.
Caesar Augustus declared a census be taken for the entire Roman world and everyone under his rule had to comply. That included Joseph who would have to travel to his ancestral home to register.
But he didn’t go alone, he took Mary, his betrothed wife. From Nazareth in Galilee they traveled south to Bethlehem in Judea, just a short distance from Jerusalem.
It was about an eighty-mile trip and Mary was about eight months pregnant.
Although the bible doesn’t mention it, artists often depict her riding on a donkey with Joseph by her side. It seems unlikely that Mary would have walked. Even so, would an eighty-mile donkey ride be an easy thing for a woman in her final stage of pregnancy?
If in December, temperatures would be in the low 40’s at night, and could drop to freezing. Their journey would take several days if they averaged 10 to 15 miles a day, and in Mary’s condition, maybe longer. I wonder, when they stopped for the night, were there places to stay, or did they pitch a tent, cook on a fire and sleep on the ground?
It would be tough for Joseph and miserable for Mary.
They knew they were having a son and that he would be named Jesus. They would have known Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy regarding the Messiah’s birth. Did Joseph realize the time was at hand to get Mary to Bethlehem?
A JOURNEY SOUTH
For us, eighty miles is a short and easy trip. For Joseph and Mary it was difficult and dangerous, and so very necessary. There’s was a determined effort, not just for the census, but for Emanuel’s birth, for he could be born no place else.
His birth was announced by angels, witnessed by shepherds and honored by wise men. The infant Messiah survived King Herod, hid in Egypt, and was later raised in the safety of Galilee. And after all that, when the time came, he would die outside of Jerusalem, just a few miles from his birth place.
They were so young. They were having their first baby and not in their Nazareth home but in a Bethlehem stable. I don’t know what their standard for a successful trip was, but by my standards, it would have been unthinkable. They were brave, strong, and deeply rooted within God’s will.
In this holiday season we owe a debt of gratitude to Mary and Joseph.
We love your son.
Day Nine: The Twelve Days of Christmas
I was thinking about God’s “search” for the Messiah’s mother. What qualities was He looking for? An upwardly mobile professional woman? Someone highly motivated? A woman of exceptional intelligence? I respect those, but I wonder, did they impress the Lord or was he looking for something else? For sure he searched for someone who:
- was a virgin
- came from Nazareth
- had unimpeachable character
- possessed amazing fortitude
Consider: God was searching for someone unique: an unmarried virgin from the village of Nazareth who had strong faith and inner strength. How many young single women in Nazareth were there? How many could qualify?
He needed to find just one, and he did, her name was Mary.
A DEEPER THING
Gabriel told her that she was favored by God. That she would have a son by a virgin birth, and that her son would be of the Holy Spirit.
Can you imagine? How did she respond?
Did Mary faint? Did she offer excuses or objections? Did she raise concerns about how Jospeh would accept it? Did she suggest to Gabriel that he look for someone else? No, she did none of those.
Was that the deeper thing God was searching for, that quiet and submissive spirit?
Mary’s response to Gabriel:
“I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.”
God knew that the Messiah’s Mom would need incredible strength. That her faith would need to be unshakable. Remember the temple dedication:
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
A sword in her soul? Mary would hear the ugly words, the demeaning comments and feel the hate towards her son. She probably watched the scourging. At calvary, did she wince at the hammer strokes upon the spikes? How could she be there and watch her son get nailed to the old rugged cross?
Only a mother could do it, and not any mother, but one who was heaven’s choice.
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
I think of her as being lovely and beautiful, and perhaps she was. But God’s criteria had little to do with appearance. No, what God needed was a woman with phenomenal inner qualities: a deep faith, an abiding spirit, and indomitable strength.
In this season of Emanuel, I am thankful for Mary.
She gave birth to her son and then raised him to die.
Day Eight: The Twelve Days of Christmas
Imagine this: Your fiancé is pregnant and for sure you know the baby isn’t yours. How do you feel about it? What are you going to do? You were promised to each other since childhood and purposed to spend your lives together. Now, your hopes for that life are over.
Devastated, you ask yourself,
“How could she?”
In tears, she promises that she hasn’t been with anyone. In disbelief you ask,
“Then how can you be pregnant?”
“The baby is from God, of the Holy Spirit, the angel told me.”
In anguish you respond,
“Really, that’s what you’re saying? You’ve lied and betrayed me, we’re finished”
THE RIGHT THING?
Knowing what’s right is easy, it’s choosing what’s right that’s hard. How about this as a possible scenario:
“Joseph, instead of being angry and hateful, how about being kind and righteous? Don’t disgrace Mary with a public termination of the betrothal?”
Could you have made that choice? Could I? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Joseph did. Then an angel said to him in a dream,
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Can you imagine Joseph going to Mary, of how that conversation would go:
“Hey Mary, you’re never going to believe what happened to me last night?”
Actually, it wasn’t hard at all
We celebrate the story of the infant king’s virgin birth. But 2,000 years ago, in a little Galilean village, there was a moment when the story might never have happened. Joseph was facing what he thought of as an unfair future. But it wasn’t.
A lesser man would have walked away. But Joseph wasn’t a lesser man.
Like his Dad, Jesus chose righteousness over vengeance. He forgave and through his forgiveness brought salvation to our world. For the name “Jesus” means,
“The Lord saves.”
In this season of Christ’s birth, I am grateful for Joseph.
Day Seven: The Twelve Days of Christmas
I once built a balsa-wood glider from scratch. My confidence was strong but my skills, well, not as much. With weak skills and poor results I approached my Dad for help, he was a pilot and an aviation expert. He advised me to rebuild the plane in ways I thought unnecessary, so, I didn’t. My plane didn’t glide, it just struggled to get off the ground.
I should have believed my father.
What the Father said about his Son, that he would be:
- born in Bethlehem.
- born to a virgin.
- called Emanuel.
- David’s heir.
- anointed with the Spirit.
He said he would be:
Everything the Father said was true. Do we believe everything the Father says to us? Or, spiritually speaking, are we a plane struggling to get off the ground?
A favorite holiday movie is, “The Polar Express,” a film about kids and the true spirit of Christmas. There is a boy struggling to believe. But then, the Polar Express train eases into Santa’s Village. Later, Santa gives him the first gift of Christmas, a shiny silver bell with a clear beautiful sound, but a sound he couldn’t hear because he didn’t believe. But he soon finds his faith, and…
when he believed he could hear the bell.
IN A FEW DAYS
Millions will celebrate Christmas. With their fireplaces glowing and their stockings filled, wide eyed children will see their gifts under the trees. Within a couple of minutes they will sit knee deep in torn wrapping paper and ripped ribbons. It will be so much fun.
Millions will reflect on the birth of Christ, that Emanuel came, sent by his Father to one day be sacrificed. I’t’s what we needed, it’s why he came. Do we believe?
My balsa-wood glider, the 2nd one, looked great and flew like the wind, but not the first one. Nope, I had to start over and build it just like my father said. I should have believed. But hey, be of good cheer, because it’s never too late to start over.
The Father sent his Son, Emanuel, the God who came near to help.
Do you believe?
Day Six: The Twelve Days of Christmas
My school had a milk program. Each day a student from each class was selected to be milk monitor and occasionally, they chose me. It was an honor because I would bring in a box of milk cartons so the kids would have milk with their peanut butter sandwiches.
Heaven had a program too. When God his messengers when he wanted to send important messages we know them as angels. One day God sent a messenger to some shepherds to announce the Messiah’s birth. Luke 2:8-11:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were much afraid.
The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior’s been born, he is Christ the Lord.”
RECEIVING THE MESSAGE
Most likely, they were just poor, ordinary men. Or they may have been priests, or shepherds who served the priests, by caring for the sheep used in the temple sacrifices. Either way, when the angel appeared they were frightened but the angels wasn’t sent to frighten them, but to tell them that they had been chosen to see the infant king. Think about it. An angel bathed in heavenly light brought the message to men reeking of sheep. The Lord chose keepers of flocks to visit the Lamb of God.
Where did they find the baby Jesus? In a warm house, a five star hotel or in a royal palace? No, they found him in a stall used for keeping animals.
Were they chosen because the new born King had the smell of the barn?
In our home, whenever I left the door open my dad would say, “Rick, were you born in a barn, shut the door, I’m not heating all of Texas.” I wonder if Joseph ever said to Jesus, “Hey Jesus, were you born in a barn, shut the door, I’m not trying to heat all of Galilee.”
Well, back to the Shepherds.
SHEPHERDS BECOMING MESSENGERS
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
I loved being milk monitor, it was an honor and I did my best. The shepherds did a pretty good job too. They were monitors to a message of hope for the world. It was the message of angels, that good news of great joy had come for all the people.
A Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.