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.
Yesterday, the Southeast Church added 4 additional elders, bringing the total to 18.
The purpose for more elders is to have more shepherds to care for a flock of 1,100 sheep. Does it seem like 18 will be enough?
The service was beautiful. Prayers were led for the new elders and their spouses and families. Each new elder received a shepherd’s staff and a servant’s towel. Two reminders that they have been called to serve the needs of the flock.
Throughout the morning, as we appointed the new shepherds in both services, I was approached by people, one at a time, asking for prayers.
- The First Request: a member told me she is taking in a family in need who will live in her home for some time. The request was that God’s peace, calm and understanding would fill their hearts in the days and months to come.
- The Second Request: a member came asking prayers for another family who is experiencing some difficult challenges. Their situation is known to me, I’m aware of what is happening. It’s hard and sad and needs prayer.
- The Third Request: a member shared that her spouse has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable disorder causing severe pain that will never go away.
The prayer was written on a folded piece of paper and the request was that I place it in the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, also known as the Western Wall of the Temple. She knew I was leaving for the Holy Land this week.
I have stood and prayed there on several occasions. It’s a humbling place to pray, and if our feelings and emotions matter to God, and they do, then our Lord gives much attention to the prayers rising from the Wailing Wall.
I will place her prayer between two of the ancient limestone blocks along with thousands of others. We both know her prayer isn’t any more powerful in Jerusalem than it is in Houston. But I understand why she asked. I’ve left a few prayers of my own in that wall.
On a day when big things were happening, a day of anointing new elders, a day that made our church stronger, there were also small things happening, things that went unnoticed, things very private.
However, I suppose in the Kingdom of God, there really aren’t any small things.
A quote that I’ll use out of context:
“We aren’t here to make things perfect.
The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect.
That means God is perfect since he designed the perfect stars and snowflakes. I’m not perfect, nobody I know is perfect and there isn’t anyone who to know who would be perfect if I knew them. Perfection isn’t our thing.
But every now and then we get close, we touch the hem of the garment, scratch the surface and catch a glimpse of perfect.
Such was Sunday morning.
A new birth happened. At the start of 2nd service I baptized a man who was as excited, grateful, and humble as anyone I’ve ever immersed into Jesus. He came up from the water, raised his arms in victory and shouted enthusiastically. It was a great moment for the Kingdom of God and a wonderful start to our service. Wow!
Later, I had the honor of leading a Baby Blessing for a young family and their newest addition, an infant son.They came with their family and grandparents and our shepherds surrounded them for a prayer of thanksgiving and affirmation. We prayed he would be raised in the love and will of God and that their home would always be a haven of the Holy Spirit. It moved me deeply.
Then I introduced the Development Director of Hope For Haiti’s Children who was there to support the sponsorship drive. He built us up with words of appreciation for helping the Cite Soleil school over the past 12 years. He was so encouraging!
Then I got to share some of my Haiti experiences and the Holy Spirit stirred the hearts of many. When the day started we were sponsoring 232 kids in the Cite Soleil school and by the close of 2nd service sponsorship swelled to 301, an increase of 69, and many left their names to sponsor children when they are available. There was so much love and compassion and such a desire to serve the least of His flock.
I’m still glowing and still so very thankful to the Shepherd of our souls. It was so exciting to be there and richly fulfilling to be part of it. It was a glorious Sunday and an almost perfect day.
Or maybe it was perfect!
I don’t often blog on Saturday mornings but today is different. It’s about what’s happening tomorrow morning. It’s Sunday and it will be especially good.
Like many churches, we value new life and love blessing new babies. In 2nd service tomorrow will be a Baby Blessing. The family will come on stage, be surrounded by our elders, and then I’ll share words of love, meaning and a scripture with the parents. Then one of the elders will say a prayer of blessing. It’s a beautiful thing.
SPEAKING OF NEW BIRTH
Also in 2nd service will be the baptism of a young man who has realized that his infant baptism was something others decided for him and not through his faith but the faith of others. So, tomorrow morning he will born again. It’s a beautiful thing.
For 12 years our church has been heavily invested in Haiti. We parter with a faith based non-profit called Hope For Haiti’s Children, a ministry doing Christian Education, Orphan Care, Health Care and other services in Haiti for 25 years. Families and individuals in our congregation sponsor some 240 children in the Cite Soleil school in Port-au-Prince. Tomorrow morning we aim to sponsor seventy more. It’s a beautiful thing.
We are in the process of appointing additional leaders for Southeast. Tomorrow morning, in both services, will be a video of the candidates. We will see and hear the husbands and wives speak of their experience at SE and share what it means to be an Elder. It’s a beautiful thing.
- A NEW BIRTH
- A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
- NEW SPONSORED HAITIAN CHILDREN
- NEW ELDER CANDIDATES
It’s going to be a wonderful day at Southeast, you don’t want to miss it and may God be praised for his providential blessings. Thank you Lord!
I was at an awesome party last night. The food was delicious and there was plenty to go around. Everyone was excited and ready for a fun filled evening. Some really sweet kids were there too, kids I’ve watched grow up over the past eleven years. Yep, I was with friends.
There was also a game on TV, the last one of the season, and the biggest.
- The women filled their plates and went to the dining room.
- The men filled their plates and went to the TV.
- The kids filled their plates and went to an undisclosed location.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE GAME
- It was a defensive battle, that’s code for low scoring and dull.
- Many of the commercials were well crafted but beyond my comprehension.
- Twice I went to the dining room to ask them to please lower their voices.
- Twice those in the dining room laughed heartily and shooed me away.
- Nobody cared that much about the Rams, only that the Patriots wouldn’t win.
- The jalapeño poppers were excellent.
THE BEST PART
The food was excellent, the house was lovely, spacious and comfortable and the game was the largest event of the football season. But for me, the people were the best part!
I didn’t see the first half because I was in the kitchen engaged in conversations with others who, like me, were from our church. It was so enriching to connect and catch up. They were the best part of the game. But I did get to watch the second half and it was almost exciting there at the end.
I don’t know if the Lord was rooting for a team, I mean, the Cowboys weren’t even playing. Nevertheless, I congratulate the World Champion New England Patriots, again.
And I’m grateful for sweet people who are dear friends. I would have watched the game regardless of who was playing. But the fellowship, the sense of belonging, and the expressions of love and care were what was really super about the Super Bowl.
Thank you Super Bowl 53, until next year!
THE THREE C’s?
Those would be: careless, clumsy and confused, along with the three F’s: forgetful, fatigued, and falling.
The three C’s and the three F’s pertain to getting older, to aging. I did’t notice it until I turned 62. Being 61 was fine, it seemed like 60 or 59. But 62, oh my goodness have I noticed.
A Few of the C’s
- Sometimes lose track of what day it is.
- I’m bumping into things more than I used to.
- It’s taking longer to get the caps off of bottles.
- My mind is giving me the word I need but I say something else.
- Find myself not caring as much about some things.
A Few of the F’s
- I sometimes can’t summon the name of people I know.
- Sometimes can’t remember what day it is.
- I go to a room to get something and when I get there can’t remember why.
- I remind myself about something and half way down the driveway I remember.
- And then, there’s falling down the stairs.
I realize that what I’ve said risks making me look like a doddering fool or a man drifting into senility. I’ll assure you that it’s neither.
Most of the C’s and F’s only occasionally happen, and I’ve always done some of them, but now it seems to have increased a bit.
FALLING DOWN THE STAIRS?
You might have wondered about that one. Well, here’s what happened. We had a kitchen table and chairs that wasn’t being used and offered it to our son who gladly accepted. He lives in a 3rd floor apartment.
So, it took a couple of trips to get everything up there, but we did, and we got it put together. So, as I was leaving and going down the stairs I accidently missed a step, lost my balance, and went crashing down onto the landing. I missed a step and wished I hadn’t. Bang goes the dynamite.
My head crashed into the corner pillar of the landing and wrenched my neck. My left shoulder hit the railing attached to the pillar. My right ankle felt like it was sprained or broken. My left foot was in immediate pain and shooting up into the knee.
THE EXPERIENCE OF IT
- It happened in a blink and I couldn’t react fast enough to prevent it.
- I knew on the way down it was going to be bad.
- I haven’t fallen like that since slipping on ice when I was 32.
- I had the presence of mind to think: “I hope no one is watching.”
- Nothing broken, no major injuries, except to my pride: ouch.
It’s got to be the aging? Right? This is my first time to fall down stairs and hope to never do it again. I’m not clumsy or careless. As least I didn’t use to be. However, I have twice crashed through the ceiling from up in the attic, but that happened back in my 50’s.
I’m fine, a little sore and banged up, but fine. If the fall had been recorded I could submit it to America”s Funniest Videos, I bet I’d win.
I’m gearing up though. I turn 63 in May.
I’ve never been more productive in my work. My best life and best years are right now. I write a BLOG, have a VLOG, have published two books, working on the third, and I’m in my 10th year serving as Senior Minister for a great church. In a few weeks I’ll be leading a group to the Holy Land, my fifth trip to Israel.
You are as young as you feel. Age is just a number. Watch out for those stairs.
A couple of years ago I bought two Carolina Jasmines from a high quality nursery. They were equals in size and vitality. I planted them in identical fashion with no variation, and no kidding, they were planted exactly the same, even the large pots were the same.
I chose the Carolina due to its hearty reputation. It’s impervious to summer heat, winter cold, and is easy to grow. They like containers and they seemed happy and well suited to their surroundings.
Such was my optimism.
Joyfully, one grew tall, full and prospered beyond expectations. It grows so rapidly that it demands pruning every few months. I could take a machete to it.
Sadly, its twin hasn’t done as well. It has toiled, struggled and failed. Well, its grown from where it started but compared to her sister she’s produced a shameful result.
No, not giving up, not yet. I have fed and fertilized. I have pruned and carefully snipped the dead vines. I’ve given extra care to make sure it’s neither under or over watered.
Is it making a comeback? I don’t know yet, but I’m hopeful.
The tale of two Jasmines has offered some insights:
- There was no guarantee that each would be as the other.
- Although identical when purchased, their appearances rapidly differed.
- I’ve been discouraged over the Jasmine that dared to be dull.
- I could have been grateful for the one that’s prospered, but I didn’t.
- It could be said that I’ve been a bit obsessed by the Jasmine plants.
Jesus taught that a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. But he wasn’t really talking about trees, he was talking about hearts, about us.
He once cursed a Fig tree for looking healthy but on closer inspection discovered it was barren, producing no fruit at all. Isn’t the value of a Fig tree the fruit it produces?
The Prophet Jonah complained bitterly about the heat. So, the Lord provided him with a shade tree. But Jonah was bitter about other things too, like the Assyrians, whom he hoped would be annihilated. It seemed that he cared more for the tree than he did for the people. So, he lost his tree and its shade. Jonah was obsessed with two things: Assyrian annihilation and a tree. Of the two, the tree was most important.
- Are we irritated with God about the “failed Jasmine’s” in our lives?
- Do we think too much about how we look compared to someone else?
- Has bitterness seeped into our souls from the unfairness of it all?
- When we obsess over the superficial do we risk a barren, unfruitful heart?
- Is there risk for striving to look good on the outside but are ugly on the inside?
Isn’t the value of a good heart the good fruit it produces?
It’s The Tale of Two Jasmines
This is an important update, almost a retraction, but not quite.
Yesterday morning in 2nd service I was in the middle of my message, just droning on and on as is my way, when I commented about pet ownership. It wasn’t favorable.
Now I’m under siege from those who love their pets and are wondering how they ended in a church with a Minister who hates pets. They will probably call for my resignation or a show of no confidence. Pet owners are serious people.
FOR THE RECORD
I don’t dislike pets, I’m not a hater. Over the years the following hairy little critters have shared our space:
- a Golden Retriever named Mitzi
- a Dachshund named Spot
- Shatera the cat
- Peaches the cat
- Newman the cat
- Merlin the Cat
- Various unnamed fish in a bowl
- Fritz the parakeet (that may not have been his name)
- a hamster named Fluff Ball or something
Our years of pet ownership spans 1979 to 2017 or 38 happy, wonderful, fun filled years.
Happy Wonderful and Fun
But now, we are pet free. My wife would like another dog, and maybe another cat. We had a cat named Merlin (see picture below) who we donated to our son when we were selling our home.
Merlin and I struggled. Ours was not a peaceful, happy relationship. He chose to urinate on every horizontal surface that I usually sit or sleep on, multiple times.
LET ME BE CLEAR
In general, I have nothing against pets or anyone who has them. In fact, I love animals and enjoy watching Animal Planet. I like those shows about the cute, adorable puppies and the super-cute playful kitties. So sweet.
But after 38 years I called it quits. Here are just a few of things I miss the most:
- every corner of the house being confused with a litter box
- puppies who required months to house train, if lucky
- the bird that tormented the cat (some epic battles between the species)
- a cat bringing dead birds, lizards, mice and a few snakes into the house
- an 85 pound dog that ate more than I did
- a squeaky hamster wheel that no safe and harmless lubricants could silence
- visits to the vet, followed by follow up visits to the vet, and then more visits
- cats with snarky, snooty attitudes who got more attention than I did
- cleaning up the back yard even though I was promised I would never have to.
That’s probably enough of what I miss most.
The Golden Retriever was my daughter’s dog and the two of them were best friends. Actually, I was really glad about that. My son likes cats, he finds them cool and interesting. His cat Newman terrorized animals and humans alike, but he sure was entertaining. Frankly, I’ve never found fish easy to connect with emotionally, or hamsters or parakeets. But we had them.
I don’t hate animals or despise pets, I’ve simply retired. It was time.
We moved a lot when I was in school and as the new kid the others would exclude or treat me different. It was always hard being the new kid.
In high school there was a girl with braces on her legs and used canes to walk. She was often treated mean and cruel, not by everyone, but by too many.
Kids can be mean and cruel. Where do they learn to be like that?
FIRST CENTURY ISRAEL
The dominant Jewish spiritual leaders were known as Pharisees. They were typically devout and dedicated men of God. But there were Pharisees who were not good men, not all of them but too many. Some were so extreme in their views they flirted with fanaticism. They could be thought of as radical extremists, and mean.
They were known, “To throw people out of the synagogue.” It was breaking fellowship by casting out being cast out anyone they didn’t deem suitable. Who would they throw out? Anyone who disagreed with their interpretation of Torah. The sick, diseased and defiled. Those who they pronounced as unclean and unwanted.
Religious leaders can be mean and cruel. Where do they learn to be like that?
Well, he was altogether different. He was passionate, devout and dedicated too. But his devotion to his message and ministry wasn’t about exclusion, but inclusion. Read this:
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
While some were busy throwing people out Jesus was busy bringing them in. He came for those who were lost, he came for the sinners: defile and rejected.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Jesus wasn’t “soft” on sin, just soft on sinners. He taught righteous living and keeping the covenant with Yahweh. He practiced love, mercy and forgiveness.
Some are expert in shunning sinners and throwing them out. That’s a shame, because Jesus was expert in accepting sinners and bringing them in.
He had compassionate towards the lost, for they were sheep without a shepherd.
Sinners are often treated mean and cruel, not by everyone, but by too many.
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!