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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

Fear or Faith, Its Up To Me

Some of My Childhood Fears

  1. The neighbor’s big barking dog
  2. Something under the bed at night
  3. Being the new kid in class
  4. Going to the blackboard to do math problems
  5. Snakes

Kids have fears. I don’t think its genetic, I think it’s taught and I was taught to fear snakes. “The only good snake is a dead snake,” my Dad would say. That stuck with me. 

Some of My Adult Fears

  1. Failing in my ministry
  2. Fatal illnesses 
  3. Something happening to my kids
  4. Becoming ineffective and useless 
  5. That in the end I wasn’t good enough 

My fears were learned over a lifetime and rooted in the core of self-esteem issues.

Often our fears are based on imaginary problems resulting in unreasonable anxiety.  

An Example

Years ago, I was in my office at the church when I got a call from an elder of a very large church in Nashville. They were searching for a new Senior Minister and said I was at the top of a very short list. He told me about the opportunity and asked If I would like to bring my family for a visit. I said, “No.”

I didn’t think about it or ask for a day or two to get back to him, I just said no. 

Why?

Because I was afraid. I was afraid of the idea of leading a really big church. The fear was based in inadequacy, that I wasn’t good enough, not possessing the requisite skills. I was intimidated, flattered, by intimidated. We didn’t visit. 

Over the years I’ve wondered if that was a mistake, a missed opportunity, the shutting of a door that the Lord had opened.

The Boat Story

Remember Simon Peter asking Jesus if he could go out to him to have him on the water? Jesus said yes and out of the boat he went, walking on the water. But began to sink. He saw the stormy winds causing the big waves and he doubted. The word doubt means to lose confidence. In that moment, Peter lost confidence in Jesus. 

peter-walking-on-water

Losing confidence was about looking at things that cause fear. Peter could have walked the whole Sea of Galilee if he had kept his eyes on Jesus.

To Close

Let’s be encouraged to keep our eyes on Jesus. Trust requires us to stay focused on his word and his power. It’s a faith experience to walk with Jesus in confidence. It’s a fear experience to give our attention to anything else. 

Shalom

Just A Small Treat

Here’s what happened.

A couple of months ago I bought a new car. It was pre-owned, but it was new to me. Then a couple of Sunday’s ago, one of my little friends came up after church and asked me for a ride in my new car. I felt so cool and I said, “Sure.” 

 I checked with the parents, who I’ve known forever, and arranged to pick up their child from school. We went to dinner and had Fettuccine Alfredo. We talked and laughed and had a great time. 

We didn’t like any of the restaurant’s desserts so I asked what a good dessert would be and the answer was,

“Sugar” 

I thought, “Sugar” was a reference to anything with sugar as I know Mom is health conscious and doles out the sugar sparingly. But no, it was the name of a candy store at the mall. 

We went to the mall and found the store. Sugar was an understatement. It had more kinds of candy, chocolates, and treats then I could count. So, I wisely said,

“Get anything you like.”

And that’s pretty much what happened. 

Sugar_Factory___Retail_7-800x445
Not the store we went to, but close, really very close.

I need to say that it’s been a while since I’ve been in a candy store so I was thinking it would be around $15.00. Nope, it was $47.95. I stood slack jawed as each item was scanned and the total kept climbing. It was a Mt Everest kind of climb. Frankly, I didn’t care how much it cost, it was the sticker shock!

I left the store with a big bag of sugary delights and a very happy kid. As we walked to the car I had two immediate thoughts: 

  1. Really Rick, $47 worth of candy?
  2. Her mother is going to kill me. 

Then it was time to take my friend home. My new car is a convertible and I think that was the idea to begin with, so, with the top down we headed home and I dropped off a smiling child with a 27 pound bag of candy.  (Not really, but that’s how it felt.)

It was epic and I had so much fun.

To Close

The older I get the more I understand why Jesus enjoyed children. If children decide they like you then they’ve also decided to love you. The love of a child is a pure thing, freely given, without guile and without measure.

jesus-and-the-little-children

I learned a song when I was a kid, “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World.” Its true. I think it’s the parents that give him fits. 

Thank you Jesus for your example and for teaching us how and why the Kingdom of God belongs to the little children of the world.

Shalom

Gathering a Circle

My cousins and I were once asked to heard some chickens. It was a joke on us.

Chickens won’t heard. 

boy and chickens
Not me or the chickens I chased, but close, really very close.

Other Animals Difficult to Heard

  • lizards
  • goats
  • badgers
  • humming birds
  • small children  . 

Last Night

We tried something different. We asked our Life Groups to come to the building. They didn’t all come, but 16 groups did and about 250 people gathered. We had to set up more tables and chairs. We talked and visited and enjoyed seeing everyone. There was a fun table game for everyone to do.

FullSizeRender   FullSizeRender[3]

Then we stood and lined the four walls of the gym. We were crowded and people stood shoulder to shoulder and two and three deep. We sang a few songs, had a prayer, and then left to have our Life Group meetings in classrooms. It was organized for two groups to meet together, an older and a younger, it was inner-generational. The teens, middle schoolers and children had their own events. 

It was simply marvelous. 

FullSizeRender[6]   FullSizeRender[4]

The Connection

People got acquainted that had never met. We each shared a few thoughts about ourselves. We laughed a lot and realized how much we all had in common, from people in their 30’s to people in their 80’s. 

We called the event, “The Circle.” 

Jesus had circles. His apostles were a circle of followers. Among them were a smaller circle of three: Peter, James and John. He also had a close circle of friends: Lazarus, Martha and Mary, a family of a brother and two sisters. Jesus often stayed in their home. 

To close

Crowds can be unruly. Goats will find their own way. Kids run and play. Getting any group of people to cooperate can be challenging. 

But last night, we had the Circle and then had smaller circles. It was tremendous. I enjoyed people of all ages and could easily see Jesus in their lives.

It wasn’t like the chickens at all!

Shalom

Even His Clothes

Labor Day

Sure, why not? Let’s have a national day of non-labor.

 Labor Day was created by the labor movement and inaugurated as a federal holiday in 1894. For a 124 years we’ve recognized the first Monday in September as Labor Day. Congratulations, you don’t have to go to work.

The Timing

I find the timing interesting. After three months of Americans taking time off for vacations, trips, and get aways, we enter September with a day off of work. Banks are closed, schools are closed (having just started). Federal offices are closed, no mail.  

You know who isn’t closed today:

  • Starbucks
  • Home Depot & Lowe’s
  • Denny’s 

So it isn’t all bad. Even on Labor Day you can get a cup of coffee, a Grand Slam breakfast, and whatever you need for home care and repair, so labor on. 

My Labor

I’ve labored, here’s a partial list:

  • 8th grade I did yard care for my Bible Class teacher.
  • 9th grade I used a hoe to weed crop fields.
  • 10th grade I worked on two different farms and a hog farm. 
  • 11th grade I put up hay bales, all summer long.
  • 12th grade I worked after school at the Skelly Gas Station out on the hi-way.

I earned $1.00 an hour for weeding fields. Farm work got $1.25 an hour. The Skelly Station paid a $1.50 an hour, It was skilled labor! 

And Now?

Well, now I’m the Senior Minister for the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood, Texas, a very pleasant Houstonian suburb. It’s a great job and I’m blessed to have it.

Reasons for feeling blessed:

  • I have a job instead of being unemployed.
  • I make more than a $1.50 an hour.
  • Only work one day a week. (as some suggest)
  • It’s a great church
  • Get to work with a phenomenally gifted staff.

 

And Jesus?

Was Jesus ever employed? Scripture says he was a carpenter, which is a bit confusing since the word translated as “carpenter” actually means builder. Most building in Palestine was done with stone. Was he ever paid? 

He once said that he had no place to lay his head. People gave money for he and his apostles to travel and minister; and we know Judas stole from the fund, but was that gainful employment? 

At his death Jesus owned nothing. Even the clothes on his back were taken. With outstretched arms he hung naked on the cross and the King of Kings owned nothing; no money, property, or possessions.

He preached, healed and ministered to the masses, all for no charge. He never asked for anything. Well, he once asked a woman for a drink of water.

Thank you Jesus. You were the son of Joseph, the son of David, the Son of God. You were the Lamb that gave his life. You were the perfect sacrifice to bring us back to God. You  labored to get it all done and get it done you did, you even said so:

“It is finished.”
And then you died.

The Bible

Happy Labor Day

Which One Are You?

Sponge, Funnel, Strainer and Sifter

sponge  funnel  strainer  sifter 2

 

What?

From the Rabbinical Jewish Talmud, there are four types of students, or hearers, who sit among the Rabbis.

1.”The sponge,” who soaks up everything.

2.”The funnel,” who takes in at one end but lets it go at the other end.

3. “The strainer,” who strains the wine but retains the lees. 

4. “The sifter,” who removes the coarse meal but collects the flour.

Sound Familiar?

It is similar to the teaching Jesus gave about the farmer who went out to plant his seed. It wasn’t about the farmer, but the different soils the seed was cast upon. There were four:

  1. The packed soil of the hard path that was impossible to penetrate.
  2. The rocky soil so full of rocks the roots had no place to go.
  3. The weedy soil that kept the plant from maturing and becoming fruitful.
  4. The healthy soil that was soft, receptive, and ready to support life. 

As we know, Jesus spoke the parable to illustrate four kinds of hearts.  

The Project

Over the summer I’ve been transforming my back yard. Not the whole yard but the flower beds that line the fence on three sides. They were overgrown with bushes, shrubs, trees, flowers, vines, and ground cover; it looked like a rain forest. Besides being an overwhelming jungle it was just too much to maintain. So, I’ve been thinning, pruning, and removing. I’ve been pulling out three kinds of wild vines and all the ground cover.

Along the way I encountered four kinds of dirt:

  1. Dirt that hadn’t been worked in years, it was hard and unyielding. 
  2. Dirt that was saturated with small rocks form earlier landscaping.
  3. Dirt that was rooted from the weedy and thorny vines.
  4. Dirt that was soft, clean and without rocks, roots, or weeds. 

I’ve spent the summer digging, pulling, uprooting, cutting, raking and leveling. It’s September 2 and it’s finally coming together! Yeah. 

If the soil had all been #4 soil I would have been finished weeks ago.

When it comes to cleaning up an unkept flower bed, give me soft soil without weeds, vines, or rocks. With clean and receptive soil I can easily plant new things and shape the soil to accommodate whatever I want to do.

With Jesus

I hope that’s how Jesus finds my heart. With a clean and receptive heart he can easily plant new teaching and shape me to accommodate whatever he wants me to do.

clean soil

But am I? Am I the 4th soil? Am I the sponge? Or am I something else. What about you? 

Shalom

My First & Last Day On The Farm

He handed me the keys to a 4 x 4 truck, a dually, towing a propane tank. I was 14. 

truck and propane trailor
Not the truck and propane trailer I used, but close, really very close 🙂

So there I was, an unlicensed driver, with no experience, driving a truck pulling a large propane tank. Uh Huh, sure. 

The Why

It was a summer job. He was a deacon at church and needed help around his farm. I had never worked on a farm largely because I had never been on one. 

The What

He had several large fields and various properties. My job was to drive to them and do weed control. When he offered the job he asked, “Rick, you can you drive a truck can’t you?” I replied, “Yes sir, I can drive a truck” 

I couldn’t.

The How

The procedures:

  1. Go to each place and park the truck
  2. Open the handle on top of  the propane tank
  3. Use the striker to light the torch
  4. Torch the weeds as far as the hose allowed
  5. Move the truck and repeat the process

The First Incident

He told me to stay on the “path” that bordered the fields on each side. I was in the fields to kill the weeds growing around the fence posts. His warning, “Rick, don’t get off the path or you’ll get stuck in the field.” Guess what happened? That was the 1st incident and he wasn’t happy.

The Second Incident

I’ll avoid explaining how it happened and just say that I burned down several cotton trailers and damaged some others. The good news was that the 2nd incident overshadowed the 1st one. He totally forgot that I stuck the truck in the field.

It was my final day on the farm.

cotton trailors
Not the trailers I burned, but close, really very close.

 

Some Thoughts

Jesus talked about farming. Northern Palestine was fertile and good for growing wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and olives. He told a parable about a farmer who went to sow his field. He did it by using a sack tied around his neck that he held with one hand while casting the seed with the other.

casting seed

The parable illustrated…

  1. Seed on a hard path won’t grow, can’t get through the packed soil. 
  2. Seed on soil with lots of rocks will root but not deeply, roots can’t grow.
  3. Seed on weedy – thorny soil will grow but not well, too much competition.
  4. Seed on clean and fertile soil will grow and grow well. 

His wasn’t criticizing farmers but illustrating how people are like the soils. Some have hard hearts and the Word can’t penetrate. Some have rocky hearts and the Word won’t last due to shallow roots. Others are like the weedy/thorny soil, the Word roots and grows, but won’t mature since there is so much competition. But some have soft, fertile and open hearts so the Word roots, grows and becomes fruitful. That’s the good stuff. 

His point to each person standing there:

How do you listen to my Word; what kind of heart do you have? 

Shalom

Flamingo & Flamenco

I didn’t know the difference between flamingos and flamenco.

But Different They Are

A flamingo is a large pink bird, a rather ridiculous looking bird with an oddly shaped beak.

flamingo

But Flamenco is a stunning presentation of dance, Spanish music with classical guitars, and non stop clapping. It was athletic but graceful, simple but complex, I was mesmerized. 

flamenco

The Audience!

During the performance the audience called out affirmation to the dancers, in Spanish. Without words the dancers told the ageless story of love. Their facial expressions and dancing revealed attraction, pursuit, heartbreak, and happiness. It was sad and celebratory. I loved it.

During the intermission a local book publisher explained to me that Flamenco was born in the underground during the Spanish Inquisition. Ferdinand and Isabella chose Catholicism to unite Spain and asked the Pope’s permission to launch an inquisition to purify the people of Spain. 

The expression of dance was most likely an unacceptable art form to those tasked with purifying the people. So the commoners went underground and found a way to celebrate happiness and sadness, they called it Flamenco.

Anyway

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. We left uplifted and so pleasantly surprised. Its life affirming to see performers who’s passionate talents developed over years in the pursuit of perfection. I appreciated their art and artistry.

Me, A Dancer?

Nope, not even a little. Dancing wasn’t encouraged when I was growing up and it didn’t seem prudent after I was grown. But from ballet to flamenco I am drawn to its beauty.

On A Different Note

Dancing in the Old Testament is often mentioned as a means of worship and praise to God:

“… a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:4

“Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with delight.” Jeremiah 31:4

“Joy is gone from our harts; our dancing has turned to mourning.” Lamentations 5:15

And Finally

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalms 30:11-12

To Close

Mercy Me released a song,

“Will I Dance For You Jesus?”

I don’t know if I’ll dance for him. If I do it won’t be a Flamenco, probably more like a Flamingo. I’ll likely jump up and down and scream and shout with my oversized beak.

If that’s dancing, then a dancer am I. 

Shalom

It’s Time To Go

This morning we will fly home from our anniversary get away. That’s what couples often do for their anniversaries, they get away. It’s what we did for our 40th anniversary, we left town.

It’s not that we don’t like our house because we like our house just fine. It’s not that we don’t like Houston because Houston is a lovely place with millions of nice people and even more millions of nice cars and boasts a summer climate the likes of which can’t be enjoyed elsewhere!

No, you see, getting away isn’t about leaving where you are it’s about arriving at where you’re not. It’s about someplace else, someplace different. Elsewhere may be a romantic hide away or somewhere interesting and exciting, or fun. The leaving is about escaping routines and the tyrannies of regular life.

From within such liberty are moments of continuous conversation or moments of rare repose, pristine and peaceful. Strained eyes are refreshed to see new sights. A diminished sense of adventure is awakened to once again explore the unknown. We come alive again and we remember.

It’s good to get away and I am most grateful to have had four days with the girl I married.

But, just like Dorothy said,

“There’s no place like home.”

She was right. But every now and then a romp down the yellow brick road is a good thing.

It’s time to go.

Morning Coffee

It’s 6:50 in the morning. It’s 59 degrees and the sun is about to be up. It’s a beautiful dawn. Danielle is still asleep but I’m sitting on the balcony of our hotel room drinking a cup of delicious coffee, it’s going to be a glorious day.

We are celebrating our 40th anniversary and having a splendid time of it too. Forty years is a long time. Our kids aren’t even that old. (a joke)

We got married on July 7, 1978, in LaJunta, Colorado. Yep, married me a Colorado girl. It’s my favorite state.

I didn’t drink coffee then. Wasn’t old enough. Adults drink coffee and I was still growing up. I drink coffee now, obviously, but I’m not sure it qualifies me as an adult.

Our children are 34 and 29 and we like them. They turned out pretty well I think. They both drink coffee.

I bought a beautiful necklace for her anniversary gift. It’s spectacular and I think she really loves it. Even after forty years I’m still a bit nervous about such things. But so far so good.

Last night at dinner we talked about our 50th wedding anniversary and how we want to celebrate it. A cruise was mentioned. Maybe a European River Cruise. Maybe a Carnival Cruise to Cozumel. I’m guessing it’ll be the former.

Well, I hear her stirring inside the room, getting ready for the day. Exciting plans have been made and adventure awaits. Who knows what may happen today? I’m open for something truly memorable.

I better go, don’t want to keep the lady waiting. But I think I have time to see the sun get up and to finish my last bit of coffee.

Until next time.

The Nature of Awesome

Awesome defined: “extremely impressive, inspiring great admiration.”

Actually

“Awesome” is a word used in a diet of verbal overindulgence. 

It’s used to describe our children, marriage, profession, vacations and the cat.

Each generation has their jargon. When I was young everything was cool and super. As in, “That was so cool,” or “That was just super!” Looking back on it the “super” was just super annoying. 

My Point?

If everything is amazing and awesome then what words are left to describe what is actually awesome and amazing? If I repeatedly say my kids are amazing for everything they do then what do I say when they actually do something awesome? If my breakfast burrito is amazing then what word do I use to describe the grace of God? 

Okay, Something Actually Awesome

For the past eight summers I have spent some time in the San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado. I fly fish, hike and ride ATV’s. But mostly I sit quietly, look at the mountains, and reflect and pray. I seek clarity and inspiration, and find them. I leave as if I’ve touched the face of God. To me, that’s awesome, it’s, “extremely impressive,” because it “inspires great admiration.” 
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IMG_0140elk herd

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For the past three summers my San Juan Mountain friends have hosted my ministry staff for an annual retreat. They house, feed, and take care of us, and freely let us play with their mountain toys! They refresh our souls and restore our spirits. They minister to us so we can return and better minister to others. They do all that for us, but really they do it for the Lord, for they are believers, the church family of a sweet congregation up high in the mountains. We are one of their many ministries and they pray for us throughout the year. We return to Houston fresh and freshly prepared to faithfully follow Jesus. 

Now that is the nature of awesome!

Mountain Churhc
View from parking lot up at the mountains.
San Juan Mountain Church
The San Juan Family, truly awesome to me!

 

Thank you my mountain friends, you are the best!

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