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.
FROM PROVERS 22:15
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”.
I guess that’s right, it sure seems to be.
- Adam and Eve had trouble with Cain
- Noah cursed one of his sons
- Eli’s sons were wicked men
- David had a son who plotted to steal his throne
- He had another son who raped his sister
- Isaac was lied to and deceived by a son
- Jacob had sons who wanted to kill one of their brothers
- Joseph and Mary had sons who didn’t believe in Jesus
- Aaron’s sons were killed because of their foolishness
- The children of Israel were stubborn, rebellious and sinful
WHAT ABOUT ME?
- At five years old I buried my mom’s watch
- At eight I set the back fence on fire
- At eleven I got caught for public mischief
- At twelve I got swats for talking too much in class
- At fourteen I burned up some cotton trailers
- At seventeen I went around town opening fire hydrants
WHAT ABOUT JESUS?
He was twelve when he separated himself from his parents and stayed behind in Jerusalem while they traveled north to Nazareth. When Joseph and Mary discovered he wasn’t with the caravan they headed back and it took them three days to find him. When they did, they were not happy. Nor were they impressed that he was sitting with the Rabbi’s studying and discussing the Torah.
I could tell stories of my own kids, but I won’t. But I’ll leave you with this. Kids can be foolish, impulsive, rebellious, unwise, disobedient and snarky. They are capable of mischief, breaking the law, fighting, stealing, cheating, lying, and other such behaviors.
Not all kids do all those things. I didn’t. But I did enough. Moms and Dads, I love you and pray for you and I know sometimes you want to pull your hair out. It’s okay, go ahead. But also know that from the first family on the planet to the very last, parents will know frustration and even heartbreak over what their kids can do.
Hang in there. You are in good company!
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.”
According to the internet the biggest car wash in the world is here in the Houston area.
Also big is the Astrodome that opened in 1965 and was the world’s first multi-purpose sports stadium and the first air-conditioned dome. It cost $35 million to build and into today’s economy would cost $278 million. It was dubbed,
“The Eighth Wonder of the World”
There is an anti-Astrodome group who lobbies to have it torn down to make room for parking and green space. However, early in 2018 Harris County Commissioners voted unanimously to restore the Dome at a cost of $105.
The chief advocate for Dome revival was Ed Emmett but he lost his seat on the Commission to Lina Hildago who steered the Commission to put a hold on Dome renewal believing that Houston needs to invest funds in flood control and other needs essential for a better quality of life for its residents. So once again, the debate rages and it seems unclear if the plans for the Dome will resume or not.
One day in sunny Jerusalem, the Christ was teaching the crowds in the temple courts. Some of his disciples commented on the stones used for the temple, and rightly so, for the base stones weighed 165,000 pounds each.
They said, “Look, Rabbi, What massive stones, what magnificent buildings”.
Jesus had some interesting interactions with stones, of which Judea had no short supply.
- The temptation in the desert, “Tell these stones to become bread”.
- “God can raise up these stones to become children of Abraham”.
- Speaking of children, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out”.
- “And they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus slipped away.”
Big or small, for good or evil, stones, rocks and boulders were a daily part of life in Judea. Houses were built of stone walls, as were fences and buildings.
He would also say of the temple to his impressionable disciples,
“All these stones will be torn down, not one will be left upon another”.
Houston has other impressive buildings, quite a few actually. But perhaps nothing as impressive as the Dome, or at least as it once was. Will it stand? Will it be torn down? Who knows?
But perhaps it’s not the most impressive thing. For somewhere in the Houston suburb of Katy is the world’s largest car wash. It’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records. Its 255 feet in length, which is almost a football field. Seems fitting since the Dome was the home of the Houston Oilers Football Team, as well as and Astros. It’s still home for the Houston Rodeo, which receives 2.5 million visitors annually.
I just ask that we take a moment to see Jesus, high and lifted up, and offer a simple word of praise to his name. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and is bigger than Buc-ee’s Car Wash.
It’s not everyone who gets Ga-Ga about sports, but lots of us do. I’m not sure why. Here are a few suggestions:
- we have nothing better to do
- competition boils the blood
- a proclivity for getting attached
- community pride
- love sports like professional wrestling and hi alai
- the spectacle and pagentry
- we miss the gladiatorial days of blood sport
The Houston Astros are in the World Series with the Washington Nationals. Houstonians thought we would smoke the Nationals four games to none. We didn’t.
The Nationals came to Houston and won the first two games, and the second game was a total blow out. The sporting world was stunned. I was. It was crazy. The Nationals were unbothered by our Hall of Fame pitching and unfazed by our rowdy Texas crowds. They flew back confident that with three games in their home park they would win the Series. They didn’t.
It was Houston’s turn to stun the sporting world by winning all three games. Two of them were total blow outs. The Astros return to Houston for the final two games. We believe one is all they need, the next one.
People get a little nuts in professional sports playoffs. They throw things at the opposing players. They boo. They shout profanities. They yell ugly words and say tacky things. Wow, tacky things, sounds rough.
It’s all in fun, right? Sure it is. Of course it is because it’s only a game. So hearing people shout, “Let’s kill em,” shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
People get carried away when they are upset, angry and jealous. In France they shouted, “Off with his head, off with his head.” In the old west the crowd shouted, “Lynch him, string him up.” In more modern times, “Gas him” or “Give the Chair.” In ancient Rome the crowd voted for death with a thumbs up or thumbs down.
In Jerusalem, with Jesus on trial, they shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Was it all in good fun? Only a game? Was the crowd just a little rowdy?
No, they were genuinely riled up. Not for sport, or politics, or food or human rights. It was about religion. The craziest stuff of all happens when people are consumed with religious hate and bent on religious violence.
Riots, ethnic cleanings, genocide, inquisitions, violent crusades, murders, and lynchings are but a few examples of religious fanaticism.
In crucifying Jesus his opponents believed they delivered a total blow out. They didn’t.
I like fan fanaticism. It makes the game more interesting, the sport more appealing, and the playoffs more intense.
Religious fanaticism? Well, no thank you.
Last Sunday morning, in 2nd service, I was holding a basket for our children’s collection, to gather funds that bless our kids in Haiti.
A little boy, I think he is 3 and one of my favorites, came up to give his dollar. He stood with his hand poised over the basket but was having trouble letting go. Others were waiting so his mom coaxed him to drop it in. But he wouldn’t. Then he happened to glance at one of the screens and saw himself “on TV.” That was his moment!
It was then I noticed that he had folded his dollar into a kind of airplane. He wasn’t gripping it due to its monetary value, nope, he just wasn’t ready to let go of his plane. But finally, he gave it a safe landing, smiled, and walked off holding his mom’s hand. It was the sweetest thing ever!
I suppose we all hold on to something, to our…
- the past
- fears and anxieties
- old letters
- trust in the Lord
NOW: A FISHING STORY
Simon was preparing his nets for the next night of fishing, he was a commercial fisherman, and had just spent all night catching nothing. Then Jesus came by and asked him to take his boat to deep water and let his nets down. Simon didn’t want to. He knew successful fishing only happened at night. He argued a bit but reasoned that Jesus was an important rabbi, and so, he let them down and instantly they became full of fish. He shouted for his partners to bring their boat to help. When the nets were emptied both boats were overflowing with fish and looked as if they might sink.
When they returned to shore, Jesus invited Simon to go with him and become one of his disciples, and he did. Simon let go of the greatest catch of fish in the history of the Sea of Galilee, or so I’m saying. He walked away from a boat full of “dollars” to walk on with Jesus.
Jesus didn’t fill the nets so Simon could make a killing at the market. He filled them so Simon would know that the Messiah had come, that Emanuel had arrived, that the long awaited Anointed One had appeared.
Simon could see that there was something more important than fish or money.
We know that Simon was Simon Peter, the Apostle who preached on the Day of Pentecost and helped thousands to get saved. Peter demonstrated that a connection with Jesus was worth all he had.
And the little boy and his airplane? Well, he demonstrated an innocence and wide eyed wonder that made children the all time favorite of Jesus our Lord. Jesus loves the little children indeed.
Last night we had an All Church Skate Party at Fun-City SK8 & Play. It was a blast. Mind you we didn’t get the whole church; I don’t think 445 families would have fit. But we had a lovely group and it was fun.
I didn’t skate. I can skate. I know how to skate but I didn’t. Mostly, I didn’t want to fall down a lot. There, I said it. It’s possible that I could have gone around without falling but it wouldn’t have been probable. What would have been probable is that I’d fall and couldn’t get up,
“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
People would have helped me, at least the kids would have. There is nothing more kind, more sweet, or more reassuring than a pod of five year olds assisting you to your feet. Bless their skating little hearts.
Children of various ages asked why I wasn’t skating. Within the following responses is one honest answer. Can you discern which one?
- “I accidentally brought my ice skates instead of my roller skates.”
- “My skates have metal wheels and those aren’t permitted.”
- “My rollerskating skills would have intimidated you kids.”
- “I was a professional Roller Derby skater and now I have bad knees.”
- “Falling a lot would have been injurious to my ego and other parts.”
So, instead of skating I did what most of the adults did. I socialized while watching the kids, and some of their parents, go around and around and they did great. Hardly anyone fell. Well, one dad repeatedly fell and we tried not to laugh but we did.
Here are but a few of the conversations I enjoyed:
- Talked with a new family that’s been coming to church for a few weeks.
- Talked with a school teacher about her class and how it’s going.
- Chatted with a grandfather who was there to take pictures of his grandkids.
- Had some discussion with a couple of Dads who are in men’s group with me.
- Had conversation with some of our ministers who were there.
I left a little early. Went home to watch the Sunday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. Cowboys lost 12-10.
I should have stayed at the party.
It was fun and I’ll go again. Probably won’t skate, again. Probably will stand and socialize with parents and interact with the skaters, the kids going around and around and stopping to tease me for not skating.
It was a sweet time with some of my brothers and sisters and some very fun moments with those to whom Jesus has pledged his kingdom.
Maybe I need to invest in a new pair of skates.
The mail comes about the same time each day, it’s rarely early and occasionally late, but about the same time. Getting the mail was once a big deal but now, not so much.
It’s not unusual for us to forget to check the mail and when we do to discover its packed.
USED TO BE
The mail used to be about letters from loved ones and good friends. It’s how people stayed in touch, but not anymore. In this era the cell phone has become our connection point. It makes calls, can email and text and facilitates all kinds of social media.
The Mail Box is less about personal correspondence and more about:
- unwanted catalogues selling every kind of thing
- flyers and shopping guides
- promotions, political stuff and propaganda
The mail box has become a wasteland of useless junk destined for the local land fill. How many trees in my lifetime have been sacrificed to produce the tons of junk-mail I didn’t request or want to receive?
A man named Tertius once wrote a letter that needed to be delivered. It was an important letter, the kind that made it into the cannon of scripture, and we know it as the book of Romans. In those days such letters were delivered by a brave and trusted messenger for the delivery was fraught with peril.
I know, Tertius didn’t write Romans, it was authored by the Apostle Paul. Actually, Paul verbalized the letter and Tertius wrote it down. In fact, he said so in Romans 16:22
“I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”
PAUL’S DELIVERY PERSON
But how did Paul get his important letter to the church in Rome? The letter probably originated in Corinth, a trip of nearly 1400 miles. The person delivering the letter would need to be extraordinary.
- unimpeachable character
- completely trustworthy
The person Paul selected to deliver his mail was a Christian, which makes sense. Also, the person was a deacon, a special servant of the church known for being dedicated to the Christian community and committed to advancing the gospel.
Who did Paul choose? Who had earned Pauls’ respect to compete such a long and dangerous journey? Who did he ask to deliver his letter to Rome?
It was a woman named Phoebe.
I love the book of Romans. It’s easily one of two or three of the most important writings in the New Testament.
The mail at my house is nothing to get excited about. Imagine going to the mail box and finding a letter from Paul.
Thank you Phoebe.
Sunday evening we hosted some 5th-6th graders for a pool and pizza party, and twenty-three kids attended. It was a great event and we had a really good time.
Here are some of their questions that I found amusing:
- “Has anyone ever died in your pool?”
- “Does your house have anything to drink?”
- “What should I do with my money while I swim?”
- “Can you hold my towel so it doesn’t get dirty?”
- “Can I have more than one brownie?”
And there were others.
They were sweet kids and I knew most of them but not all so was glad to get better connected. Our church calls them the CROSSOVER KIDS because they are too old for Children’s Ministry and too young for Youth Ministry, they are in the process of crossing over from preteens to teens. Each month they have a fellowship event and last night was the first of the new school year.
At the beginning I was in the pool and holding my own, but then the kids got in. I did okay with the first ten or twelve, but by the time fifteen or more got in they just sort of beached me like a big sad whale.
- 5th and 6th grade boys live somewhere between wanton destructiveness and shyly asking for a second brownie.
- They used the pool “noodles” for sword fighting and for whacking each other and found all manner of other unimagined uses.
- At no time did the genders interact. The boys populated the deep end while the girls frolicked in the shallow end.
- As a rule, the girls manifested a more mature behavior than the boys.
- They boys were showing off for each other, and for the girls, while the girls pretended not to notice. I think they were doing a little showing off too.
After swimming for 90 minutes and devouring nine large pizzas and a big tray of brownies their parents arrived to pick them up. Before leaving they each came and thanked us for having them to our home.
They were well mannered and delightful kids. I’m proud to be their Preacher.
I think we will have them over next year!
A woman in our Life Group asked if someone could help with her Sunday morning Kindergarten Class. Her usual assistant was dropping off a kid at college.
So I responded, “Sure, I’ll help.”
My duties were basically crowd control. You know, help them stay seated, keep them from getting crazy with their neighbors and make sure nobody got hurt.
The teacher, who is a professional school teacher, was phenomenal. Her teaching skills were impressive. Her ability to engage each child with respect and dignity was effective. She could do a lot with just the sound and tone of her voice.
If I had been the teacher I would have been outwitted, outplayed and outlasted by a bunch of sweet little five year old kids. I was barely getting by with crowd control.
While making the first letter of their names with Play-Doh one kid asked another:
“Where does Play-Doh come from?” The kid shrugged and said, “I think it’s magic.”
When asked what they knew about God and his Son:
“I think God and Jesus are basically the same person.”
“Jesus went to the cross and there were fireworks.”
When asked, “Can you name something God made that we can see.”
“Kids riding bikes. I saw a picture of it on the wall.”
The Play-doh kid said, “Play-Doh.”
MY TAKE AWAY’S
They were adorable and smart. One child knew the days of creation, of what happened each day. One named four or five things she learned in school that week. One child wanted to talk and say all kinds of things. Some raised their hands when they wanted to speak or answer a question. I went away blessed to have been there.
I laughed, marveled and thanked God for such precious people. They were obviously from loving families who are talking about God in their homes. It was so sweet.
I think I’ll go back next week!
At this year’s Orange Conference in Atlanta I heard Kristen Ivey talk about the five questions a child needs an adult to answer in order to trust them.
- Do you know my name?
- Do you know where I live?
- Do you know what matters to me?
- Do you what I have done?
- Do you know what I can do?
It makes sense doesn’t it? Before extending trust to an adult a child needs to know the adult understands who they are, that the adult has a sense of what matters to them.
When I think about it, the five questions work pretty well for me too.
- I’m flattered when someone takes the trouble to learn my name.
- Not my home address, but aware of something that’s going on in my life.
- I instantly like a person who understands what’s important to me.
- The person who has some sense of my history will sooner earn my trust.
- The person aware of my abilities and achievements gets my attention.
These questions make it personal for the one who is asking and for the one who is answering. If a child asks and I know the answers, then the child will more readily view me as a friend. It isn’t easy because it’s a lot to know, and will take effort and intentional interest.
I like seeing Jesus reaching out to people. Take Zacchaeus for example, it’s Jesus making an effort with intentional interest. It’s Jesus getting personal.
DO YOU KNOW MY NAME? Jesus looked up and called him by name.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE I LIVE? He wanted to go to Zach’s house for the day.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT MATTERS TO ME? Jesus knew money was important to him.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HAVE DONE? Jesus knew he collected taxes for Rome.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT I CAN DO? Jesus knew Zach would trade extraordinary greed with extraordinary generosity.
AND US TODAY?
How does Jesus get personal with us? Does he know who we are, does he know our name and what’s happening in our lives, a sense of “where we live” or “Where we are at?”
In my next blog I’ll write about some ways that God gets personal with us.
Jesus spent most of his time with huge crowds. But he often reached out to individuals and did something to change their lives. It’s how Jesus made it personal.
On his way to the cross to save everyone he often stopped to save someone.
There are several phrases used in church that I haven’t located in Scripture. It’s okay, they don’t have to be found in scripture to be used.
Here Are a Few of Them
- Have the communion trays been filled?
- Who has our opening prayer?
- Who’s officiating the Lord’s Supper?
- Are we singing old or new songs?
- Do we have announcements?
- Is it time for the children’s contribution?
- Don’t you think his sermons are too long!
These and others can be heard in my church on any given Sunday.
That’s because on any given Sunday we sing, pray, observe the Lord’s Meal, have a sermon and take up an offering. Sometimes we have a baby blessing, or a blessing for a mission trip, or for donated items to the less fortunate. Often there is a video, a testimonial or a baptism. It’s all pretty good.
Frankly, I find it reassuring that the Holy Spirit left “the worship service,” fairly vague. If a global, all time Order of Worship (another phrase not found in scripture) was important to the Spirit then it makes sense the Spirit would have given one. But he didn’t.
Clearly the early church sang, prayed, heard the word, shared the bread and wine and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Obviously they gave and they gave a lot.
Growing up in conservative churches our worship focus was about 40% on what we were doing and about 60% on doing it right. Doing it right was big in our church. Doing it right meant making sure we didn’t do it wrong. Doing it wrong might incur the wrath of God bringing judgment and condemnation on us and we sure didn’t want any of that.
It’s different today, or maybe I’m just different. The last few Sundays we took time to bless two groups of kids. The first were children about to start Kindergarten, a big change for them and their parents. We prayed over the parents during Bible Class and then over the kids in the worship assembly. The next week we did the same with kids, and their parents, entering the 7th grade. Both are important milestones. I’m glad we do that kind of thing. It’s important for the families and for the church family.
I’m glad the Holy Spirit left us some wiggle room regarding what happens in worship. The wiggling is some of the best stuff we do to encourage and bless others. I think the Spirit would be happy about it, but that’s just me.