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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.  

familyworship-750x500

Shalom

The Hard Is What Makes It Great

Tom Hanks, playing team manager Jimmy Dugan, said this famous line:

“ It’s supposed to be hard.”

“If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

The Hard

He was referring to professional baseball. Of how difficult it was, of its sacrifices and demands. As if baseball was tougher than what most athletes could handle.

He said it to his catcher, the best player in the league, who was quitting and going home because it got too hard, and did so just hours before game 1 of the World Series.

Did It Work?

His speech only deepened the catcher’s resolve. He lost his best player.

They lost the first couple of games, then found their stride, and battled back to tie it up with the deciding game to be played.

While warming up for the final game, the catcher finally had a change of mind  and showed up to play. Spirits soared, enthusiasm was high, and they had the lead through 8.5 innings. It came down to the last pitch and the last out. They lost.

The movie was, “A League of Their Own” a fictitious story about the “All-American Girls Professional Baseball League,” which was founded by Philip K. Wrigley and existed from 1943 to 1954. Over 600 women played, and they were popular. In 1948, league attendance peaked over 900,000.  

A-League-of-Their-Own

The catcher was Dottie Hinson, played by actress Geena Davis. It’s a good movie, but the kind of story only found in Hollywood.

Life Lessons

We face tough choices and make hard decisions that we have to live with. Rarely can we un-ring the bell and play in the final game. It makes for a fun movie, but has little resemblance to real life.

Except for this. Life is often hard. Life takes courage, fortitude, and strength. True success isn’t easily gained, if it were, everyone would have it. The hard is what makes it gratifying, and beneficial.

To Close

I’ll leave you with this:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9                                                                                                                               

“It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.”

Shalom

It’s A Snow Day In Houston!

The 4:00 AM fireplace check list.

  1. Clean fireplace of ashes.
  2. Stack kindling wood.
  3. Use a piece of newspaper or turn on the gas.
  4. Have larger logs ready to go.
  5. Check the flue is open.

Wow, it’s a beautiful fire! And just in time because it’s a cold Houston morning with sleet and snow in the forecast. The schools are closed and if we get the sleet and snow, it’ll bring the city to its knees.

snow
Ah, palm trees in the snow! Not my street, but close, really very close.

I love it!

Apparently, Not Everyone

Lately, I’ve heard complaining about the cold weather. Houston has had more subfreezing days than normal. And more days in the 30’s and 40’s than normal. It’s almost like winter!

But people are getting tired of it, and I understand, but I’m not one of them and can’t share in the cold negativity.

For Seven Months

For most of the year Houston is a sauna. If Arizona has a dry heat then Houston has a wet one. Temperatures soar into the 90’s and triple digits are common. The humidity hovers like a wet blanket. It’s inescapable and void of value for human life.

The summer is when I join the complainers, when I’m suffering the smothering dampness of virtual asthma. 

Wait, Forgot Something

I had just begun blogging when I noticed the smell of smoke. A minute later, I noticed an uneven layer hovering above me. Uh huh, Check List Item #5:

Open the flue.

Oops. I would have bet the farm that it was open, but it wasn’t. Maybe that’s what I get for betting the farm. I don’t actually have a farm, I lost it years ago on a silly bet.

Do you agree with this, “Everybody complains about something?” Or maybe this, “If it isn’t one thing it’s another?” Or, “I wish they would give me the key to the thermostat box at church so I could set it where it belongs.”

There isn’t a key. There isn’t a thermostat that can be changed. It’s all software driven, a computer runs the entire system. But people still ask.

To Close

So, cheer up good friends. Hot or cold, windy or calm, dry or wet, life goes on so we might as well go with it. I’ll finish with:

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a depraved generation…”  Philippians 2:14-15

Shalom

Understanding Suffering, Hardly Ever

Keanu Reeves, as Ted in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” said this:

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”

Ted was right. Strange things were happening and resulted in the boys having a grand adventure. But often, strange things are neither grand or adventurous, they’re just hard.

Faith & Trust

Sometimes I struggle with God’s word, a sign of weak faith, a lack of trust?

There are Psalms that tell of God’s protection, that he is a shield about me, and will deliver me from hardships. Then there are verses that speak of being pruned and disciplined, and how suffering is good for me.

open-bible

I don’t always know the what or why of the things that happen to me. Am I supposed to know? 

A Strong Faith

A healthy faith accepts the good with the bad. It gives thanks in all circumstances. However, when does the deliverance happen? Where is the shield that protects me?

Perhaps it’s always there? If he lifted his shield of protection, even for a minute, would I  realize just how much he’s doing for me, in spite of my confusion, pain, and grief?

Some Confusion, Pain and Grief

  1. our stillborn child
  2. sudden, tragic deaths of family and friends
  3. hurtful attacks from wolves in friend’s clothing

When experiencing those “strange things,” I don’t feel thankful, or delivered, or sense his shield is about me.

But later, I do. Strange, isn’t it?

We each face life’s trouble with our experiences and levels of faith, maturity, and knowledge. None of us are the same.

To Close

I’ve not yet found a simple theology that explains everyone’s pain and suffering to everyone’s satisfaction. So, I’ll leave you with this:

Paul wrote:

“—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Don’t be scared of God, be in awe of him, and respect and humble yourself for he works his purpose within you and there is just no way to comprehend the depth of what that means.

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”

Well put Ted, there are indeed.

Shalom

Yes, You Drive In The River!

Chris Farley, as motivational speaker Matt Foley, perfected the phrase,

“I’m living in a van down by the river.”

Rivers

Perhaps you’ve considered a simpler life with a riverside van, or maybe not? Some rivers are deep while others are shallow, some run fast while others barely move. In the winter, some don’t move at all.

A Recent River

My wife and I spent a few days at a secluded cabin in the Texas Hill Country.

We made the five-hour drive, found the place and checked in. We were looking forward to getting to the cabin, which, as it turned out, required a bit more driving. Now here’s the odd part. The road suddenly ended and it ended in a river. There was a dirt road and then there wasn’t, just a river without a bridge and no way to cross. However, there was a sign indicating that we were to turn left, into the river. At the bottom of the sign was:

“Yes, you drive in the river!”

The river was shallow, slow, and the bottom easily seen, but still, driving into a river seemed wrong, but I finally did, the river bed became our road to the cabin! 

Fall-on-the-Frio-River3
Not our cabin, or the river, and it didn’t have a van, but its close, really very close. 

Another Sign

Here is sign, of a sort, that the apostle Paul wrote:

“For we live by faith and not by sight.”

His message was clear: nothing eternal can be seen in this life. Nope, it’s by faith, by trusting in what our Father promised.

To Close

I read the sign, but my eyes were fixed on the water. The choice was obvious: trust the sign or sit there doing nothing. 

It’s the same with God. The choice is obvious: trust his word or sit doing nothing. It’s a choice we make every day. It’s how we walk by faith.

“Yes, you drive in the river.”

Shalom

So, Until Next Year

Day Twelve: The Twelve Days of Christmas

It’s the day after, a day to reflect.

I’m reflecting on this year’s Christmas experience. About the parties in our house, the lunch our elders hosted for our staff. And the gifts, cards, and encouragement from friends.

I’m thinking about our Candlelight service. Seeing hundreds of candles lifted up in honor of the infant king always moves me!

Then Christmas morning, with the fireplace crackling, the filled stockings, and the brightly wrapped presents.

I love Christmas.

Regarding Joseph & Mary

Their trip to Bethlehem was a hard one. And I’ve tried to imagine them out in the stable, on a cold night, with the animals. I’ve thought about the angels, the shepherds, and the Magi.

It was a night divine, a silent and holy night.

cole-angel-shepherds

I’ve wondered about Herod’s attempts to kill Jesus.

I’ve wondered if Mary and Joseph knew the families who lost their sons in Herod’s sweeping attempts to kill the infant king. They took their son and escaped to Egypt, but in their absence, other sons died, how very sad. Did Mary know? If she did it must have been a terrible burden to carry. 

To Close

Christmas can mean lots of things. For some, it’s the lights and decorations. For others, it’s being with family. Or is it the food, parties, and gifts, with snow on the ground?

In the beginning, it was about God coming near, the night of Emmanuel. So, when I say, “Merry Christmas” what I’m really saying is: 

“May the God of grace bless you in the celebration of his Son’s birth.”

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581

So, until next year, Merry Christmas!

A Silent Night, A Holy Night

Day 11: Twelve Days of Christmas

It’s early Christmas morning and I’m the first one up.

A Christmas Tradition

 I light the candles, turn on the tree, and start a fire. Then its coffee, carols, and my daughter in her PJ’s sitting with me by the fireplace. She’s 28 and married, but she still likes to begin Christmas with her Dad, as she’s done since childhood. The family will be up later. It’s how we do Christmas.

For Mary and Joseph?

Christmas morning was different for them. They had arrived in Bethlehem, but not to what they were expecting: a warm room and a comfortable bed. It didn’t happen, the inn was full.

The exchange:

Inn Keeper: “Sorry folks, but we’re full.”

Joseph: “You don’t understand, we’ve traveled for days and my wife is expecting. You must have something?”

Inn Keeper: “No, we’re booked solid, there isn’t a spare bed anywhere.

Joseph: “You must have something, we’ll take anything.

Inn Keeper: Well, it isn’t much and it isn’t clean, but you’re welcome to stay in the stable with the sheep, donkeys, and camels.” 

Joseph: (glancing at his fatigued and very pregnant wife) said, “Okay, we’ll take it.” 

It Was Time

Mary was in labor. Was it a difficult delivery? Was her mom there, or even a midwife? Was it only Joseph? We don’t know, but there’s no mention of anyone else.

Regardless, the savior was born. I imagine him swaddled in his mother’s arms. Was all of heaven in joyous celebration? Did the universe shudder in awe seeing the creator arrive as a helpless babe? 

It was a silent night, a holy night, as God came to be with us, he was Emmanuel.

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581
Was their Christmas morning a different experience? 

To Close

It’s early Christmas morning. It’s just me and my beautiful daughter. The fire is crackling, the coffee is fresh, and the carols are softly playing.

I’m guessing it was different for Mary and Joseph. But whatever it was God forever changing our world. It was good news of great joy for all the people.

He came because we needed him.

We still do.

It’s Christmas morning.

TheNativity (600 x 300)

 

Pregnant, Traveling, and Historical

Day Ten: Twelve Days of Christmas

Traveling can be rough.

I measure a trip’s success based on flight delays, bag arrivals, and how rude the passengers are. Traveling is tough! I know, bless my heart.

In Bethlehem

Caesar declared a census of the entire Roman world and since Rome ruled Palestine, Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to register. The census required everyone to register in their ancestral homes.

Joseph took Mary and off they went, traveling around Samaria, then south to Jericho, and up to Jerusalem, then the last few miles to Bethlehem.

Mary Joseph 2

It was a ninety-mile trip and Mary was nine months pregnant.

Traveling

The trip usually depicts Mary riding a donkey, although it isn’t recorded in scripture. But given her condition, it’s unthinkable that she would have walked the ninety miles. Would a ninety mile donkey ride be easy and comfortable, nine months pregnant?

Temperatures would be in the 40’s at night, and if it was late December, it could drop to freezing. Their journey would take several days: Did they pitch a tent, cook over a fire, sleep on the ground?

It would be tough for Joseph and miserable for Mary.

On The Trail

The baby was close. They knew they were having a son, and that he would be named Jesus. They knew Micah’s prophecy about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem. Did they realize what that meant for them? 

On Arrival

For us, Bethlehem was a village in a faraway place. But for Joseph and Mary it was a difficult and dangerous trip. But necessary, not only for the census, but for his birth, for Jesus could not be born elsewhere. 

His birth was announced by angels, witnessed by shepherds, and honored by Magi. He survived King Herod. And after all that, when the time came, he died outside of Jerusalem, just a few miles from his birth place.

To Close

They were so young, and were having their first baby, and not at home but in a Bethlehem stable. I don’t know their standard for a successful trip, but by my standards, they would  never have left Nazareth.

baby-jesus-mary-joseph-by-dewey

We should be grateful.

If not for them there would be no Christmas.

Noel

Searching For Messiah’s Mom

Day Eight: Twelve Days of Christmas

God’s search for the Messiah’s mother.

His Criteria

What was God looking for? An upwardly mobile woman who was highly motivated and possessed high intelligence? Did those things matter? Or were there other considerations?

 Other Considerations

Some of what was required:

  1. From the tribe of Judah.
  2. In the line of David
  3. Had to be a virgin
  4. From Nazareth
  5. To be favored by God

The Lord needed a young woman, from Nazareth, of the line of David, who was a virgin and of unimpeachable character. I wonder, how many could there be?

He only needed one, and he found her, her name was Mary.

Something Deeper?

Gabriel told her that God favored her, and would give her a son, and she would remain a virgin as her son would come from the Holy One. Her son would be great and that his kingdom would never end.

Can you imagine?

Did Mary faint? Did she offer excuses and objections, maybe suggesting to Gabriel that he look elsewhere? Was that what God was searching for, that deeper thing, a quiet and submissive spirit? Her amazing response,

              “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.”

Incredible Strength

The Messiah’s mother would need incredible inner strength. Do you remember what Simeon said at the dedication?

                    “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Mary heard the insults and hateful comments. She watched the beatings and scourging.  Did she wince at each hammer fall on the spikes or when she saw her first born hanging on the old rugged cross? 

Only a mother could do that, and maybe not just any mother.

The Bible
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

She was amazing. She had to be, for she was heaven’s choice for the Messiah’s Mom.

In Closing

I think of Mary as lovely and beautiful, and perhaps she was. But God’s criteria had little to do with such things. He was looking on the inside, for deep faith, an abiding spirit, and incredible inner strength.

I’m deeply thankful for Mary.

She gave birth to a son and raised him to die.

Merry Christmas

Joseph: Divorce or Destiny?

Day Eight: Twelve Days of Christmas

Knowing what’s right is easy, it’s choosing what’s right that’s hard.

Difficult News

Imagine this: Your fiancé is pregnant and the baby couldn’t possibly be yours. You were promised to each other, pledged for marriage, and purposed in God to spend your lives together. Now, your hopes and dreams for that life are over.

Devastated, you ask yourself, “How could she do this to me?”

Even Worse

 In tears, she promises that she hasn’t been with anyone. In disbelief you ask,

“Then how can you be pregnant?”

 She says,

“The baby is from God, from the Holy Spirit, the angel told me.”

From an anguished soul you say,

“I can never trust you again, you have lied and betrayed me, we’re through.”

The Right Thing

However, what if instead of vengeance you chose righteousness? What if you chose to be considerate and not disgrace her with a public termination of the betrothal?

Could you make that choice? Believe it or not, it’s exactly what Joseph chose to do. Afterward, 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.”

We celebrate the story of Joseph, Mary, and the infant king. But 2,000 years ago, in a sleepy little Galilean village, there was a moment when it seemed unlikely. A lesser man would have walked away and not looked back. But Joseph wasn’t a lesser man.

In Closing

Just like his Dad, Jesus chose righteousness over vengeance. He forgave us all and forever changed our world, for the name “Jesus” means, “the Lord saves.”

Nativity

Joseph was heaven’s choice to be the Messiah’s earthly father. 

In this season of Emmanuel, I am grateful for Joseph.

Merry Christmas

Day Seven: Do You Still Believe?

Day Seven: Twelve Days of Christmas

My Dad knew some things.

Believing Him

When I was a kid I built a balsa-wood glider, from scratch. My enthusiasm was high, but my skills were less so. Since Dad was a pilot and an aviation expert, I asked him for help. He advised me to rebuild it. But I thought it unnecessary, as it would be a lot of extra work. However, he was right. I should have listened and I should have believed him.

16_73_14_father_and_son_modeling_toy_airplane_in_garage
Not me, my Dad, or my glider, but close. I should have listened to him.

Believing God

Here’s some things the Father said about his son. That he would be:

  1. born in Bethlehem.
  2. born to a virgin.
  3. called Emmanuel.
  4. David’s heir.
  5. anointed with the Spirit.

He said his son would be:

  1. despised
  2. pierced
  3. abandoned
  4. denied
  5. betrayed

Is all of that true about Jesus? Have we listened, do we believe the Father?

A favorite holiday movie is, “The Polar Express,” an animated film about some kids discovering the spirit of Christmas. A main character is a boy who struggled, but eventually believed. As a reward, Santa gave him a perfect silver bell with a clear, beautiful sound. Because he believed, he could hear the bell. Only those who believed could hear it.

The adults never could.

In A Few Days

Hundreds of millions will celebrate the birth of Christ. Fireplaces will glow, stockings will hang, and gifts will stack up under the trees. Christmas morning will be fun, and a little chaotic, as we stand knee deep in torn, wrinkled paper. It will be glorious!

Let us also reflect on what God has done. He sacrificed his son because we needed him to. We were lost, helpless, and broken, and by his death we have life. But I wonder, have we listened? Do we  believe?

Spiritually, are we the adults who stopped listening, and no longer believe? 

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581
Do we still believe?

In Closing

The glider turned out sweet, it looked great and flew like the wind. But not at first. I had to go back and fix it, to make it like my father said. I should have listened, I should have believed.

God sent his son to seek and to save the fallen.

Do you believe?

Merry Christmas