Featured

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

Could They Save a Life?

Life’s little inconveniences can, at times, seem annoying.

Summer Serenity

They’re gone. Those lovely months of stress free driving are gone. They’re gone because school is back and now we’re coping with more cars, slow-down speed zones, and clogged drop off lanes. What of drivers who haven’t a child to drop off, must they be forced to endure?

Kids walking to school

Tax Dollars at Work

Could the taxes I pay for public schools also pay for school zone express lanes? Just imagine, a designated lane for drivers not dropping off kids. It would be so great!

I know

The school zones aren’t there to inconvenience me, I know. But it feels like it. Here are five alternatives I’m considering:

  1. Leave earlier and beat the school rush.
  2. Leave later and avoid the drop-off crush.
  3. Use Uber and leave the driving to them.
  4. Have a helicopter fly me over them.
  5. Did I mention designated express lanes?

Here’s a Thought

Let’s say the school zone speeds limits were eliminated. So, I’m driving along, appreciating the faster pace, and a little girl runs out from between two parked cars and I’m going too fast to stop. How would I feel then?

If such a horrible thing happened, how would I approach that school zone the next time? Would I slow down even if it wasn’t required?  Would I feel the need for caution? Of course, I would. It’s the difference between an inconvenient law and a respected value.

Here’s Another Thought

Long ago, an ancient prophet predicted that God would make a new covenant with his people. It would be different, it would be a covenant of the heart. Not a list of rules, but honored values and respected principles living within.

To Close

Jesus brought such a covenant. The old rules, chiseled in stone, were replaced with divine values written on hearts. Christ’s teachings can vibrantly exist when they exist within our souls.

I shouldn’t resist the inconvenient rules. They may have value, they may save a life.

Shalom

Jerusalem or Shechem: You Decide

They stared at me, glared and watched me. I didn’t belong.

In China

I was taller than most, had different skin, and my language was different. The Chinese stared and glared.

In Haiti

I was taller than most, had very different skin, and my language was different. The Haitians stared and glared.

But in Houston, where I belong, nobody stares, glares, or notices me. Its home.

About Jesus

In Galilee and Judea, Jesus wasn’t noticed either. But when he went to Shechem, he stood out like a sore thumb. He…

  • looked different.
  • sounded different.
  • had different customs.
  • was a foreigner.

Shechem was the epi-center of everything important to its residents.

  • It’s where Abraham received God’s covenant.
  • Jacob owned land in Shechem.
  • Joshua led the Israelites to Shechem.
  • It had Mt. Gerizim, the mountain of worship.

The problem was that Shechem was in Samaria and the Samaritans hated the Jews. The Jews were racist, despised the Samaritans and considered them less than dogs. Twice the Samaritans built a temple on Mt. Gerizim and twice the Jews tore them down.

But Jesus had to go to Samaria. Not by lack of roads, but because he had spiritual business. He offered salvation to a Samaritan woman, who told her community about him, and then he offered salvation to them too.

The woman wasn’t rich, powerful, or respected. She wasn’t morally acceptable. But Jesus offered her living water, the Holy Spirit, not because she deserved it, but because she didn’t. She was a broken, fallen person and a perfect representative of a broken and fallen people, the Samaritans. 

The Amazing Messiah

He didn’t argue their differences, didn’t debate who was right, or attempt to change her perspective. He just offered a new perspective, that he was Yahweh’s anointed and that he came to offer the Father’s love and the Father’s gift, the Spirit.

To Close

Shechem was Samaria’s spiritual center and Mt. Gerizim was their sacred place to worship. She had reason to worship there, and reason to be proud of it.

But in the Messiah’s kingdom, worshipping God wouldn’t be about geography, skin color, or historical significance. Nor would it be a religion for the morally superior. Jesus came and waited by the well for her. 

jesus-and-samaritan-woman05sm

His Kingdom calls forgiven sinners to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.

Shalom

Love Is The Greatest Command! If Only We Believed

Racism, prejudice, and hate; three of the moral cancers in our country.

I Remember…

  • The KKK, in full costume, marching around the city square, in 1993.
  • The racial jokes, and the laughter, told on the front steps at church.
  • The first black family to join our church, met with opposition.
  • I remember a church in Alabama with a tract in their tract-rack entitled,

“Does A Black Man Have A Soul.”

An Ancient Attitude

Hate isn’t new. Cain killed his brother. Discrimination victimizes the different. Bullies brutalize over religious preferences, sexual orientation, or skin color. When kids rope a gay teenager to a tree and throw rocks until he’s dead, then hate still lives.

It’s difficult because it’s hard to arrest and convict people based on what they think. Law governs behavior, not ideas.

Jesus In Samaria

When Jesus went to Samaria he was going against the grain. Jews and Samaritans had been fighting a race war for 500 years.

He entered a town and offered salvation. Yes, they looked different and had different customs. They were the descendants of those who at one time were pure blooded children of Abraham, but that changed, and it changed everything, for everyone except Jesus.

The Greatest Command

Jesus said to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and that it was the first and greatest commandment. The second was to love others like we love ourselves.

  • Love is the greatest command.
  • Love triumphs.
  • Of faith, hope, and love, love is the greatest.
  • Love is the most excellent way.

I received a text from a friend. My friend is educated, well credentialed, and highly respected, and happens to be black. Some won’t like it, some will be saddened by it, some will think about it. Here it is:

“I have been dealing with the fact that many Christians I know voted for the current President. I tried to rationalize it as a misguided political decision steeped in fear of the illusory loss of white privilege in America.

But I am now dealing with an even deeper wound that folks could actually support the racist behavior and support the symbols that go with those white supremacist movements. I’m not quite sure how to manage my own feelings of disgust or how to stand in love for someone who has such low regard for me and others like me.  

I’m just saying, church folk can be quite hurtful.”

“I Feel Your Pain?”

Jesus said to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Those in the majority may fail to grasp the pain the minority feels as they struggle to love the hurtful and the hateful.

To Close

Politics and politicians come and go. Political parties rise, fall, and rise again. As they do, some rejoice, some rebel, and some get deeply discouraged. Such is the way of a free society. Unless, or course, you are the boy tied to a tree, swinging from a rope, or severely beaten on a playground.

Love is the greatest command. If only we believed it.

The Bible

Shalom

It Happened at the Well

It would be unusual, surprising, and perhaps even shocking.

The Well

Jesus and his disciples traveled north from Jerusalem to Samaria. Their route isn’t known. What is known is that they went to the village of Sychar. Tired from the 35 mile journey, Jesus sat down by a well.

jesus-and-samaritan-woman05sm

The Woman

A Samaritan woman came to get water and was surprised to see a Jewish man. But Jesus was friendly and asked her for a drink. Her response was predictable.

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

It was a fair question, probably reflecting her surprise that a Jew would drink from the bucket or cup of a Samaritan. Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. It was a boiling feud that had been boiling for 500 years.

The Issues

  1. A man speaking to a woman in public
  2. A rabbi talking to a woman in public
  3. A Jewish Rabbi talking with a Samaritan woman 
  4. John 4:17-17 revealed she had a checkered past
  5. It was unusual, surprising, even shocking

Is that why she went to the well at an odd time? Was she hoping to avoid other people? Was she not respected and therefore not accepted?

But Jesus

He didn’t care. He really didn’t. It mattered not that engaging her was taboo and broke a bunch of social norms.

He offered her living water, which from a study of John means that he offered the Holy Spirit, but she didn’t understand. The story ended well, in fact, it’s an awesome story and has much more depth than we typically see. It’s one of most significant events in his  ministry.

To Close

Jesus was more than a Rabbi, or a Prophet. He was the Messiah of God, his anointed. He came to seek, find, and redeem those in need. The Samaritan woman needed him, and he was there for her. In fact, he was waiting for her.

He came for me and he came for you too. If you don’t know him, he waiting for you!

Shalom

5:00 AM, Really?

Exercise, fitness, and determination. 

Yesterday Morning

I don’t workout every morning at 5:00, but I do most days. I did yesterday, and it was it tough to get out the door for an early Monday workout.

700-02798064
Not me or my work out place. But close, really very close.

Late Afternoon

I have a yard project that’s slowly taking shape. It’s slow because I’m working at a not too rapid pace. Its Houston, in August, and the heat is falling at a not too rapid pace. But I was out there in the heat digging, hauling, and lifting. It was brutal.

But Mid-Morning!

Sunday, we collected backpacks and school supplies for families in need. On Monday morning, adults, teens, and kids came to fill the packs with the supplies and get them ready for delivery.

One of the helpers was a good friend of mine. So, we eased down the hall to the gym, got a basketball, and played some one-on-one. I was soundly beaten.

That was three work-outs in one day. I am so fit. Well, fitt’ish.

Oddly

Going at 5:00 AM was hard and happened only by determination. The afternoon project, though enjoyable, was tough due to the heat. But oddly, the mid-morning basketball wasn’t hard, tough, or brutal. Nor was determination required.

Now Jesus

Each morning, while still dark, Jesus got up and went to quiet places. Not to exercise his body, but to nourish his soul. Walking Palestine’s roads was exercise enough, especially in the blistering desert heat.

Then, his day was spent preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing those brought to him. He also blessed some who weren’t sick, or in need of his teaching, for the kingdom already belonged to them. They were children. 

“He said to them,

 ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”   Mark 10:14

To Close

It’s good to be physically fit. It’s good to be spiritually fit. Let’s pursue the one without neglecting the other.

Speaking of children, my friend who beat me badly was an eleven-year-old girl. I’ve known her since she was a toddler. Good going sweetie.

Shalom

Celebrating My 400th Blog!

Friday was my 400th blog. Today is 402.

Some Numbers

  • Been blogging since January 2016
  • Average twenty blogs per month.
  • Each takes about 2 hours to write.
  • That’s 800 hours or 33.3 days.
  • I’ve had 11,275 visitors
  • With 18,686 views

As blogs go, it isn’t yeasty, but I’m okay with that, it could be worse!

Some Observations

  • I can’t believe I’ve come up with 400 things to write about.
  • Some posts have been silly, about raccoons and such.
  • Some have been life observational.
  • Others have been serious.
  • Many have been about Jesus our Messiah.

Some Things I’ve Learned

  • I started the blog to teach, encourage, and entertain.
  • I kept the blog going because I fell in love with writing.
  • Eventually, I learned to blog not so much for others, but for myself.

Some Advice For Budding Bloggers

  • Write first for yourself, if it blesses others then great.
  • Many will tell you how to write and if it’s any good, ignore them.
  • It’s your blog, write what and how you like. They don’t have to read it.

To Close

I suppose I’ll keep blogging. It’s enjoyable, challenging, and beneficial, at least to me and occasionally to others.

So, here’s to the next 400 posts. Mercy, I have no idea what I’ll write about.

rick2
Thanks for reading and for following!

Shalom

“Just Outplay Them”

It’s what the coach said.

The Game

It was a non-district game against a school three times our size, who happened to be the reigning 5-A champs. The local papers said we didn’t stand a chance, predicted we would lose and lose big, suggested a thumping of 56-0. The other team had some terribly arrogant trash talk in their local paper. As a team, we were mad and we wanted to play mad. But just before the game, the coach said…

“You show them by outplaying them.”

Sadly, we lost. But not 56-0, it was 14-7, and one trick-play gave them the win. We knew we played hard, and above expectations. They were bigger, stronger, and faster, and deeper in every position. On paper, we should have been annihilated. Instead, we walked off the field with our heads up.

Now, the Messiah

Jesus didn’t talk much about his power and abilities. He didn’t boast about his greatness. He said in Matthew 5 that he would fulfill the Law and the Prophets and in Luke 24 he said that he had. But he wasn’t arrogant or boastful. Mostly, he just went about serving, helping, and preaching the good news. 

Depending on interpretation, there were 250-300 Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. He didn’t much mention those either, he didn’t keep a running count. There wasn’t a Prophecy Thermometer Board keeping a total. He didn’t strut about proclaiming, “I’ve fulfilled another one!”

Frankly, I’m comforted by how humbly, gently, and quietly he went about it all.

To Close

On paper, his enemies were bigger, faster, stronger and deeper in every position. They watched him die on the cross. They believed they had won and won big, and they smugly walked away with a 56-0 victory. 

The Bible

Three days later!

resurrection-of-christ

I guess God believed in the, “go and out-play them,” approach. Jesus did.

Shalom

The Twin Towers

There was a sanctuary with two pulpits, affectionately, the twin towers.

First Ministry

My first church had a worship center with identical pulpits. They were large, made from hard wood, and imposing. In-between was a lot of space as the twins were proudly perched at the far edges.

Church christmas interior 2
Not my first church, not even close, but you get the idea.

The announcements, prayers, and songs were done from the right while the preaching was done from the left. It’s how it was done, it was steeped in tradition, for as long as anyone could remember and no one could explain why.

Tradition

For some, tradition frames faith, holds to a heritage, and connects us to the right place and the right things to do. Long held traditions can be comforting.

However, I’m concerned when tradition gets elevated to the plane of doctrine, leaving believers incapable of separating them from scripture. At that place, traditions aren’t harmlessly comforting, they are just wrong and bind believers with knots that remain knotted for life. Such were the dual pulpits in my first church.

The Towers

Being young and unseasoned, it seemed odd to exalt one pulpit for sermons while relegating the other for “lesser” functions. I didn’t attempt to remove one, nor move one to the center. Nope, I crafted a neck-strap for the mike that was on the preaching pulpit, ordered a 50-foot cable, and mounted center stage.

I got closer to the congregation, was unfettered, and preached from an open bible. It defined my preaching style for life. It was my new tradition!

Now Jesus

He was accosted for breaking tradition.

  • He associated with sinners.
  • He befriended prostitutes.
  • He entered Zacchaeus’s home.
  • He touched lepers.
  • He ministered to Samaritans, in Samaria.
  • He and his apostles failed to properly wash their hands.
  • And there were other sacred traditions he didn’t keep.

His violating tradition put him in bad odor with the religious elite. The self-righteous defenders of the ancient ways were appalled. The broken sinners were refreshed. He said that he came to save the lost and to make them righteous, not self-righteous. And no traditions of the Pharisees, Rabbis, or Synagogue rulers were allowed to interfere with his mission and message.

To Close

Jesus didn’t simply discard tradition or lessen the law, at least not until all was fulfilled and he fulfilled it all. Salvation by a covenant of law was ended at Calvary and replaced with a covenant of grace, a better covenant, a covenant of the heart. And we are all the better for it.

The first Sunday I preached in the middle, without a pulpit, there were gasps.

Shalom

Garrison May Be Right

Yesterday I spoke to the faculty of a Christian school.

We Have History

They used to have me speak several times a year. For their In-service days, chapel services, and other occasions. I once gave the commencement address. I think the last time I was there was May, 2004.

What Happened?

The one who did the inviting moved on, and well, we lost touch. Then Mike White, the one who now does the inviting, invited me back. He remembered me from the old days when he held a different position. He went on to become Head of School, and me, well, I just went on. 

 Attitude?

I opened by saying that I was a speaker you invite back every 13 years or so, and they laughed. Am I wiser, more knowledgeable, a better speaker than I was in 2004? Or have I peeked and now I’m just slowly sliding into irrelevance? Does it matter?

Garrison Keillor wrote:

“Ignore those studies that tout the benefits of a positive outlook. Being stubborn and righteously angry is what’s going to give you staying power.”

Mr. Keillor may be right. But I don’t think so. The path forward isn’t better traveled by negativity and a self-righteous anger. There’s an attitude that helps us, that keeps life better, stronger, and effective. 

Jesus wasn’t self-righteous or angry. Nor did he espouse a Pollyanna attitude. He had enemies. He knew hardship, heartache and sadness. He wept. But his eyes were full of light, his heart filled with love, and each day was lived in service to others. 

To Close

Westbury

It was great to back at Westbury Christian School. For 15 minutes, I purposed to encourage and build them up, for encouragement has value for all ages and for every season. It’s a matter of perspective, a certain attitude. It’s the heart of Christ.

I look forward to going back in 2030!

Shalom!

Husbands & Wives In Cars

Here are some things that I’m not, and some things that I am.

  • Not a bible scholar, but a bible student.
  • Not a gardener, but always working in the yard.
  • Not a great preacher, but preach with great effort.
  • Not a great thinker, but I do think.

Men Don’t Think

There’s an idea floating about that men don’t think. It’s not, “Men can’t think,” but that they choose not to, for long periods of time.

I can’t speak to the validity of that premise as I lack research and data. Sure, I could Google it and find something, but, I don’t know, I’ll try to think about it.

The Car

The cliché scenario is played out while men are driving with their wives. The dialogue goes something like this:

Wife: “Honey, you seem awfully quiet, something on your mind?”

Husband: “O, nothing really.”

Wife: “Well, feels like you are preoccupied with something.”

Husband: “No, I’m not.”

Wife: “You have to be thinking about something?”

Husband: “Nope.”

Wife: (with growing angst) “That’s crazy, you can’t just think about nothing.”

Husband: “Sure I can, do it all the time.”

fast driver
Not me or my car, but close, really very close.

An Admission

I’ll admit to “zoning out” more than I used to. I’m missing exits on freeways, driving past streets I wanted, and other things. Lately, I’m missing my own street. Not every time, but sometimes. The fun part is seeing how far I’ve gone before realizing that I have. My excuse? I don’t have one. I’ve admitted to not being a great thinker, so, that isn’t it.

In Closing

You may be saying, “Wow, Rick’s getting old.” I can’t debate that. But I don’t have dementia nor am I experiencing black outs, at least none I’m aware of. 

Mostly, I’m just not thinking. I used to think, at least I think I did.

Shalom