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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

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.

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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.

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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

Salty & Shining Brightly

The essence of salt and the nature of light.

Salt

We were created to need it. It’s not our only need, but we die without it.

Light

The physical universe begins with light, for God spoke and gave it birth, it was day one. Not till the fourth day were the sun and moon purposed for day and night.

The light came first.

The Messiah

Jesus proved his authenticity by healing and he revealed his identity by the Scriptures. They recognized him as the Messiah, for his miracles and teaching were as the prophets predicted. They believed.

He launched his ministry by offering gifts to the disenfranchised. There were eight gifts in all. He said that blessings would come by having them. There were correlating actions or attitudes for each one. For example, those who mourned would be comforted, the merciful would receive mercy, and so forth.

The final gift was unique because there wasn’t a correlating action associated with it. The gift wasn’t given because of what they did, but because of what others would do: 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 

for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Salt & Light

In the context of persecution, he said they were the salt and light of the world, which  was about their influence, their message, and a ministry that would bring the persecution. In that context, he cautioned them not to lose their saltiness or to hide their light.

The core meaning: Don’t let persecution leave you unsalted or afraid to shine your light. Discipleship must never hide under a basket.

To Close

He reached out to the lost sheep of Israel, to those who were unwanted because of their demon-possession, disabilities, and diseases. They were unclean and defiled. And Jesus came to seek and save them. He restored dignity and divine purpose by declaring them to be salt and light.  

He was the Messiah, called Emanuel. He was God among them and he came to save.

The Bible

Shalom

Where Did I Put My Keys?

Reflections from a sexagenarian. It’s not what you think.

Sexagenarian:a person between sixty and seventy years old.” That’s me.

Actually, I’m 61

61

However, for my sixtieth birthday, my wife gave me a book that wasn’t about fly fishing or something spiritually uplifting, nope, it was,

“Things To Do When You Turn 60.”

UhHuh.

A Good Book?

It turned out to be a good book, full of suggestions about possibilites, adventures, and raising the bar of expectations.

Frankly, turning 60 wasn’t a big deal. The reason is obvious. People are turning 60 at a much younger age than they used to. Sixty is young, and there are 78 million boomers who will back me up.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see an old person, just someone who isn’t 30. Sure, I have lapses in memory but I can still find my way home every night. I can attend an Eagles concert knowing the band is older than me. During my workout, I can listen to their music with Bluetooth earphones that are wirelessly connected to my iPhone Six Plus. I’m still cool. Sort of.

Getting Better

In 1930, the life expectancy for a newborn white male was sixty. Turning 61 was cheating death and thought a minor miracle. I’m ahead of the curve.

Currently, 13,680 youthful Americans turn 60 every day, that’s 570 per hour. If I play my cards right, the best years of my life are still ahead.

But Here’s A Thought

By the time he was 33, Jesus of Nazareth had achieved the following:

  1. Equipped a group of men to change the world.
  2. Taught the masses about his kingdom.
  3. Reached multitudes with his message.
  4. Fulfilled every prophecy in the Law, Psalms, & Prophets.
  5. Submitted to the cross, was entombed, and resurrected.

I know, he was Emanuel, God with us. Not comparing, only inspired.

To Close

I think about all that’s possible, all that can be acheived. There are more Holy Land tours to lead, new books to write, and a vibrant ministry to serve. I have a family to love and enjoy.

Actually, life looks pretty sweet as a sexagenarian. 

Now, where did I put my keys?

“Burn Me Twice”

People who’ve been burned are sensitive and guarded. With good reasons.

Examples

  • Having a bad sunburn
  • Touching a hot stove
  • Spilling hot water on yourself
  • Grabbing a hot handle
  • Touching hot coals or embers

It’s Understandable

There’s an adage, “Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.”

People who’ve been hurt are careful to not let it happen again. We learn to wear oven mitts, use the fireplace tools, and apply the sun screen. Do we also learn to avoid people?

 Emotionally

When a friend hurts us, when a spouse betrays us, it’s brutally hard to forgive. We learn to keep our guard up and to watch our backs. We become good at it.

An Exception

Jesus didn’t act defensively. He wasn’t foolish or unaware, he just didn’t change who he was or what he was about because people didn’t like him. He went on doing what he did, being who he was, and going forward with his life. Yes, they ultimately succeeded in killing him, but it was his choice to let them. 

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Not everyone supported him and he had enemies. But he loved everyone the same.

No one likes being rejected or betrayed. It leaves us vulnerable, feeling foolish, and second guessing our judgment. Yes, its wise to be careful. But getting hurt isn’t the end of our lives.

To Close

If we can, we should allow ourselves to heal, to grow stronger, to find God’s grace to reengage. Not everyone will hurt us, in fact, most people won’t. We need to give them a chance.

We weren’t born to be an island, but made to be in community. Give it a try, don’t give up, and God bless you. 

Shalom

Can’t Remember Names!

 I’m barely keeping up. Which basically means that I’m not.

With Names

I see people I know, but can’t remember their names. It’s embarrassing and awkward. Then as I walk away their names come to me within 15 seconds.

After nearly 40 years of ministry, I still struggle with meeting new people and then forgetting their names almost instantly.

With The Pace of Life

Tomorrow is August 1. What happened to June? Did we skip July? I’ve traveled some this summer. Between the trips, family gatherings, church events, weddings, funerals, birthdays, and so forth, the summer has flown by at light speed.

There is more going on with people and places than I can manage.

Now Jesus

It isn’t fair to compare myself with him. He had some scheduling advantages. He wasn’t married, didn’t have children, didn’t own a home, have yard work, or need to get his cars serviced. Seems like his days were more productive than mine. And he got up while it was dark and found quiet places to pray. Maybe that’s why?

Then he had all the people with all their needs and concerns. Every day he took care of those who were:

  1. Hungry
  2. Hurting
  3. Deaf
  4. Blind
  5. Lame
  6. Leprous
  7. Demon Possessed
  8. Diseased
  9. Deceased
  10. Lost
  11. Defiled
  12. Unwanted

While daily helping the multitudes, he also had to cope with enemies, detractors, and persecutors. He was daily confronted by Rabbis and Pharisees who challenged him with questions both sincere and duplicitous. It must have been exhausting. Was it? 

To Close

Did Jesus ever feel like he couldn’t keep up? Did he get tired? Was he ever frustrated by their constant wants and desires? Probably not.  

Either way, I’m guessing he was good with names.  

cross_jesus_wood_236183

Shalom