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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

Book Ends: Framing Our Lives

I’m a big fan of book ends.

They aren’t a hobby, I’m not a collector, and I don’t have a cabinet displaying my collection. I just like them. They do a good job of doing what they were designed to do.

book ends
Not my book ends, but close, really very close.

Book Ends

They can be made of wood, metal, or stone. They can be ornate or plain. They come in all sizes, colors, and textures. On second thought, maybe I’ll start collecting book ends. But, probably not.

A Different Kind

 The apostle Peter, like all of us, had his struggles. He was at times proud, egocentric, and presumptuous. He was famous for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

He and I could have been twins.

From John 1:42

 “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.’”

Then, from John 21

 “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

 “Again, Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’”

 “A third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’”

When Jesus spoke to Simon the first time, he used his formal name and said that his name would change to Cephas. Simon would become a Rock, known in the Greek as Peter.

When Jesus spoke to Simon for the last time, he used his formal name again and asked a question three times. But having denied his Lord three times, Simon wasn’t ready to become the Rock, and so he gave answers that were less than Jesus was looking for. Or maybe not, maybe Jesus was pleased that Peter, at last, had demonstrated humility.

Book Ends

Jesus and Simon began and ended with, “Simon, Son of John.”

When Mom was upset she would say,

“Richard Neil Fyffe come in here right now.”

Odd that they called me Rick unless something was wrong, and there was always something wrong, and then it was my full name. Why do parents do that?

Simon was weak sometimes, but he eventually became the Rock. He strengthened his brothers after the crucifixion, organized the replacement for Judas, kept the disciples together in the upper room, and was the key speaker on the day of Pentecost. He became the man Jesus had envisioned.

To Close

Book ends. They frame the outside edges of whatever’s in the middle. What are you on your way to becoming? How is Jesus shaping your life? Can you see it?

I’m a big fan of book ends.

Shalom

Feeling Blessed

I’m blessed every day in so many ways.

But this morning I’m appreciating my blessings a little more than usual.

On Retreat

I’m writing this blog from my room at Camp Allen, a Christian Retreat and Conference Center about an hour outside of Houston. It’s beautiful and the accommodations are fine. The bed was a little stiff in the way that a concrete slab is a little stiff. But I slept well, woke early, and rose to write.

I’m here with our church’s elders, ministers, and spouses. We arrived Friday for dinner then had an evening of sharing our lives and getting better connected, what a blessing.

My Daughter

My daughter and son-in-law live in the down town Houston area. They are young, urban professionals and think that coming to our house in the suburbs is a two day drive with a hotel stay. She texted me this week to say that she thinks about her Mom and Dad everyday and that she loves us, what a blessing. 

My Friends

I have great friends, not many, but they are enough. They are enough in the way that warm maple syrup covers the whole pancake. The way that a cool, sunny, Houston morning in February is an absolute pleasure. They provide a wonderful sense of belonging and connection, what a blessing.

 To Close

I could go on, but won’t. I’ll close with this. Garfield the cat once said:

“Ah, Christmas, it isn’t the giving, it isn’t the getting, it’s the people.” 

The Christmas season has passed, but I like the sentiment. My friends and family are more than what I get or give. It isn’t about that, it’s about the people, the bonds of caring and mutual acceptance.

god lending a hand

The true joy of life is the people.

Shalom

The Half Pipe, Someone Had To Do It!

Snowboarding in the half-pipe.

My Past

It’s not that I’m old or past my prime or out of touch. It’s just that back in my day, before cell phones, color TV, and breakfast burritos, the Winter Olympics was about skiing, ice skating, and curling. That’s about it. 

Today’s Olympics

In these modern winter games are sports and competitions that I used to think of as hobbies and kid’s activities. Just the same, last night I watched Shaun White win the gold for the third time in four Olympics. It was exciting to watch, amazing to see, and incredible what those guys could do on a snowboard.

Grandma

My maternal grandmother gave me my first skateboard. It was in the 60’s and I was maybe eight years old. I think it was a Christmas present.

skate-party-wood-decks
Not my skateboard, but very, very close.

Skateboards were all the rage. We didn’t think we were skiing, we thought we were surfing, just like the Beach Boys. But watching the competition last night, I heard terms and phrases that came right out of the skateboard culture. It was cool.

Fun?

You bet it was. I skateboarded everywhere. Every time I hit a small pebble it was like putting on the brakes and I would be launched off the board and onto the sidewalk. This was before knee pads, elbow pads, and helmets. I was always banged up, missing skin on my knees, and bruised. We were idiots. Maybe that explains some things. But I loved it.

We built ramps to jump and set up all kinds of little race tracks. It was summertime in Phoenix, Arizona and we wore denim cut offs, with no shoes or shirts. And no sun screen.  We were idiots. Maybe that explains some things.

To Close

I congratulate Shaun on his amazing achievement and want to say good luck to our whole Olympic team. You guys are doing great.

But 55 years ago, my two friends and I were paving the way for your success.

Just saying.

A Game of Simon Says

Simon said, “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 

What an awesome thing to say, it was fearless and fiercely loyal.

Then Messiah said, “Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”

Sifting was done by repeatedly beating the wheat with a stick. The process loosened the outer husks so they separated from the wheat. Then, it was tossed in the air so the wind could blow away the chaff.

winnow
The sifting process: are the wheat or the chaff?

Jesus was saying that Satan was going to, metaphorically, beat Simon with a stick to see what he was made of, to see if he too would just blow away. 

Simon said, “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Messiah said, “Peter, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

I Believe Peter

He was willing to die for his Rabbi. Here is the evidence:

“Then Simon, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant,”

That happened in Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. But then, it all changed.

“Put your sword away.”

When he had to surrender his sword and watch Jesus go willingly with the soldiers, his world turned upside down.

“You are not one of his disciples are you?” the girl asked Peter. “I am not.” 

The fearless apostle became a frightened betrayer. Simon was being sifted, that was the first of his three denials.

Was he chaff or was he wheat?

For Us

We relate to Simon. We can fearlessly defend our Lord and we can fearfully deny him. It’s about the situation and how Satan sifts us. But here’s the question,

Are we chaff or are we wheat?

To Close

Jesus also said to Simon Peter:

“But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” 

Jesus knew Simon would deny him.

He also knew Simon would return and help his brothers.

What Does Jesus know about us?

Shalom

Betty: A Force of Life

Betty Davis was a member of my church and her funeral is tomorrow morning. She was a force of life! And she will be missed.

My Top Ten Favorite Things About Betty

  1. She and Ed got married at 16 and ran off to California.
  2. She called him “Cowboy”
  3. Did babysitting for months to buy him the guitar he wanted.
  4. She loved Hallmark movies.
  5. She was a red head.
  6. Made Oreo Cookies and Ice Cream a food group.
  7. Got her hair done every week, until Ed died.
  8. They lost their two sons in 1974 and 1981, but chose to live happy anyway.  
  9. Ed and Betty opened their home and their hearts to everyone all the time.
  10. Her house was a safe haven for many kids, a home filled with joy. 
  11. She loved her Lord, her church, and her family, and everyone was family.

Okay, that’s eleven things. But the list could go on and on. She leaves a legacy of faith, family, and fortune; not the kind that fills your bank account, but the kind that fills your soul. 

Pink lemonade, turkey sandwiches, coconut cream pie, chocolate cream pie, every kind of cookie, cold milk, soft drinks galore, and of course, the Oreos and ice cream. These are only some of the things Betty kept in her home so everyone who came to her home would always find their favorite snack.

To Close

Her funeral service will be packed, probably standing room only. She lived a full and purposeful life. She overcame great adversity and gave great advantage to so many others. She was happy.

Betty Louise Davis

1935-2018, she was 82 years old

She is with the Lord

Feeling Trapped, Needing to Sin

Most of us pray for forgiveness after we’ve sinned, not before.

Not These Guys

 Jonah was on a ship headed for the Southwest tip of Spain. He was getting away from God and his prophetic assignment, to go to Nineveh, in Assyria, but Jonah didn’t want to go, so he didn’t.

Well, the Mediterranean developed a violent storm and the sailors realized that Jonah was the cause. They asked him what they should do and Jonah said to throw him overboard, they didn’t want to, but they did.

However, before doing so they prayed to Jonah’s God. 

“O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Jonah 1:14

“Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard.” Jonah 1:15

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Fascinating

Praying for forgiveness before we sin, what a concept!  

Some Things Some of Us Do

  1. Pray for safety and break the speed limit the whole way.
  2. Teach kids to respect the law and then throw paper and cigarettes on the ground.
  3. Uphold honesty and integrity but justify little indiscretions. 
  4. Hide our sins because we care more about what others think than what God thinks.
  5. Swear, gossip, complain, and grumble, all sinful, but just little sins, right? 

Feeling Trapped

The sailors were desperate and felt trapped. Their ship was about to break up and they had to do something.

Don’t we feel trapped sometimes? So, we lose our cool, get irritated, and say and do the wrong things. Maybe out of frustration, and maybe out of fear.  

It’s hard to do right every time. Jonah and the sailors didn’t, and neither do we.

To Close

Keep the faith. Stay strong. Wrestle with temptation. Give thanks that we have a Savior who gives mercy and grace. Thank God that he lifts from our shoulders the burden of moral perfection. Thank you Lord!

“Lord, we’re absolutely going to kill this guy, but please don’t hold it against us.”

“Okay boys, chuck him over the side.”

Uh Huh

Shalom

It Was An Excellent Game!

“Underdog Beats Favored Champion

There were five kinds of viewers of last night’s game:

  1. Patriots Fans
  2. Eagles Fans
  3. Football Fans
  4. Socializers
  5. Commercial Watchers 

Some rooted for the Patriots. Some rooted for the Eagles. Some wanted a close, competitive game. Others watched because they were at a party. And some watched to watch the commercials. 

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It was the Super Bowl. 

A Good Game

I thought it was entertaining. It had several lead changes, some fantastic plays, and was close down to the final seconds And my wife had excellent snacks. 

But the underdog beat the favored team. 

The Underdog

There’s just something special about the little guy upsetting the big guy.

In regular life, where the consequences matter, it gets more serious. Both David and Goliath stepped onto the battle field, but only one stepped off, it was the shepherd boy, a huge upset.

We have giants:

  1. competitors
  2. enemies
  3. rivals
  4. setbacks
  5. circumstances 

 How we face our giants may be as important, or even more important, than the outcome.

Jesus Said This

“Blessed are you when insulted and persecuted…” Matthew 5:11

“Be reconciled to your brother.” Matthew 5:24

“Make peace quickly with your adversary,” Matthew 5:25

“If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39

“Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

To Close

It’s not a popular viewpoint. Some say it reeks of cowardice and appeasement. But Jesus taught that loving one another was more important than winning the fight.

Certainly, we should stand for truth or we’ll fall for anything. Conviction is vital. But our  path is one of peace, not the sword. We don’t beat others with clubs, or with the truth, we shouldn’t be beating heads at all.

“Underdog Beats Favored Champion”

Congratulations to the Eagles for upsetting your favored opponent!

But for regular life:

“As much as possible, as far it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.” 

Shalom