Jesus Is Our Light

Can You Tell?

Jesus said that a city on a hill couldn’t be hidden. His metaphor was perhaps framed from the practice of building towns on top of hills, or on a tell. There were many strategic advantages to a community existing on the high ground, rising up from the plains or deserts surrounding it.

A Light In The Darkness

To those traveling, especially at night, a village on a hill would shine like a star in the dark night sky. It would be visible for miles, from any direction.

Jesus said, “You cannot hide a city set on a hill.”

Such places couldn’t be covered or camouflaged. They wouldn’t be hidden. 

A Trip In The Darkness

On Sunday evening, we were driving from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Colorado and up into the San Juan Mountains. We were scheduled to arrive by 8:30, but it was more like 11:00. For the last two hours of our trip, we drove in darkness, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Having been to our destination a number of times, I was confident I could drive right to it. But I missed the entrance, for there were no streetlights or lighted signs. But I turned around, found what I was looking for, and drove in like it was home. As we slowly approached the lodge where we were staying, a glorious sight rose up to meet us. It was our destination, the Firestone Lodge, lit up and glowing in the late night darkness. It was amazing.

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Jesus Is Our Light

To those who believe, who will open their eyes, and their hearts; Jesus our Messiah is the true light of the world. He is the light shining in the darkness. He is the brilliance of God’s splendor, the majesty of God’s glory.

And Finally,

Be encouraged this day to seek the light. You can find it, it wants to be found, it wants to be seen. And his light wants to illuminate you to eternity.

God Bless You.

Of People and Places

A Million Miles Away

I’m blogging this morning from the San Juan Mountains, elevation 8500 feet. As I write, I’m sitting at the 15-foot dining table of the Firestone Lodge. Just outside, is the Conejos River, flowing strong from the high elevation melting snow.

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It feels like a million miles from Houston. It isn’t, but it feels like it. The air is dry, clean, and pure. The temperature is high 40’s and it’s breezy. This is my favorite place on earth. I will hike, fly-fish, go four-wheeling up into the high country. I’ll fish with a great friend who is a world-class fly-fisherman. It will all be marvelous.

And it will be all the sweeter because I get to share it with friends. I brought the ministry staff from church for a mountain retreat.

Moved By Mountains

As moved as I am by the majestic beauty, I’m moved even more by sharing it with close friends. There are seven of us that came and all but one was on staff when I joined in 2008. Serving together to build the Kingdom, to advance the cause of Christ has forged great bonds, deepened connections, and created lasting friendships. I treasure these people.

My Conejos Connection

The satisfaction of old friendships is sometimes joined by the joy of new ones. My friends in the Conejos Canyon are rooted in my heart. They are just the finest people and the dearest companions, not to mention being of great faith with a sacred commitment to Christ.

They bless me over and over again. They have the gift of refreshment. They help me to unwind, to be unhurried, so I can be renewed, and restore my soul. There is a spiritual presence here, with a wondrous way of connecting me to God.

Proper Perspective

It’s easy to say that I love these mountains, the trees, the wildlife, and the rivers.

But truthfully, it’s the people that I really love. It’s the people who have opened their hearts and shared their lives with me. It’s the people I brought to the mountains and the people of the mountains who welcomed us.  

And Finally

Jesus once said to his disciples, “No man has greater love than the one who lays his life down for his friends.”

People who have opened their hearts and included me in their lives surround me.

I am richly blessed by the very best kind of friends.

Shalom

Body, Mind, and Soul!

To Be Born Again

What does it mean? How can it happen? Is it real?

A man named Nicodemus asked this:

“How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born?”

I Get It

I understand his questions. The concept seems to good to be true, to easy, to convenient. It smacks of religious jargon; of the double speak for which religion is famous.

A Different Context

There are moments when people are referred to as being reborn. Perhaps synonymous with the phrases, “Coming back from the dead,” or “getting up off of the mat,” or “he was down for the count.”

They refer to someone who was thought to be finished, down and out. But like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, they’ve risen to success.

Personal Renewal & Refreshment

Sometimes these phrases refer to physical and emotional renewal, the refreshment that comes from getting away. Taking some time off to be renewed through adventure, beauty, and restorative experience is a great idea, and necessary.

Even Today!

It’s time again to go where I most love going. This very afternoon I leave for Colorado and the majestic San Juan Mountains, and their gorgeous rivers. Specifically, the Conejos River.

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The Conejos River

Being in the mountains along with the black bears, elk, deer, and antelope; well, it all feeds my soul. The brilliant blue sky, the fresh scent of towering pines, set against the rugged snow capped peaks, well, the beauty of it moves me deeply.

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Fly-fishing the rivers, with the breezes washing over me, is like the Shekinah of God, the wind of his presence refreshing me.

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My Happy Place!

For the next 12 days, life will slow down, become simpler, and will reconnect me with my creator, in the place I connect with like no other on earth.

As Good As The New Birth?

Vacations are good and healthy. But as good as they are, they are not the New Birth. For the former is of the mind and body. But the latter is of the spirit. To be born again is to experience the regenerating power of God, to receive the grace that transforms us spiritually.

The New Birth revives us in the Holy Spirit. It renews us by the cleansing power of Christ. It restores us and returns us to innocence, to moral purity, and to a divine connection with God.

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To Close

So enjoy your vacations, be refreshed in mind and body. But do not forget the source of authentic spiritual renewal.

Praise God Jehovah!

Shalom

It’s Not About French Toast

OPENING THOUGHTS

The words we use to describe something directly determines how others perceive what we describe.

The more specific we are with our words, the clearer our meaning becomes, and those listening gain a brighter understanding of our meaning.

SOME EXAMPLES

  1. If someone says that your baby is cute, you wouldn’t respond with, “It was a good delivery.” Referencing the delivery doesn’t communicate the joy and happiness a parent feels about their new baby.
  2. When describing a painting that hangs in your house, you wouldn’t say, “The best part is the wire we used to hang it.” The hanger-wire has nothing to do with the painting.
  3. When complimented on a wonderful meal, you wouldn’t say, “It’s a pretty good stove, older, but still functional.” The stove’s age and function wasn’t the point of the compliment.

We often don’t say what we mean. We often use word pictures that are clear to the speaker but seem as a foreign language to the hearer.

A CASE IN POINT

It’s been suggested that men speak sequentially and women speak conceptually. For example, a husband might ask, “Honey, do you need anything from the store?” And a wife might respond with, “We’re having French Toast for breakfast Friday.”

In less than a second she processed his rather pedestrian question and leapt to what was important, that she needed some maple syrup. But she didn’t ask for syrup.

The husband heard her reply, which left him scratching his head. He either has to figure out what she meant or has to ask, “What do you mean?”

He’s just a man going to the store. He is thinking about the list and has no concept of French Toast Friday. Does he need to add:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Syrup
  • Bread

This assumes he has a working knowledge of French Toast.

NOW FOR SOME SPIRITUAL VALUE

In chapter one of John’s gospel, it mentions that God grants us the right to be born again, to become his children. John gave these four qualifiers:

  1. Born not of natural decent
  2. Nor of human decision
  3. Nor of a husband’s will
  4. But born of God

What did John mean? He offered no word pictures; he gave no commentary. Was he speaking conceptually, specifically, or symbolically?

I believe John was teaching that becoming a child of God:

  1. Doesn’t happen because you’re of the right race, nationality, or family.
  2. Doesn’t happen because someone gives their permission.
  3. Doesn’t happen because a husband decides for his wife.

Being born again is all about God and the believer, and that’s all.

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IN CLOSING

Language can be confusing. Sometimes there’s symbolism and sometimes there’s specific meaning. Our words matter. What scripture teaches matters. 

Be sure of this:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Shalom

Lift Your Head Up

I’M THINKING

I’m thinking about disappointments both large and small.

How should I respond? What should I do? Are feelings of disappointment a reflection of unbelief, a lack of trust? Are some disappointments harder than others?

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Sometimes Despair Is All You Have 

SOME DISAPPOINTMENTS

  • The shoelace broke on my brand new shoes and I couldn’t wear them.
  • A rainstorm interrupted the satellite feed during my favorite show.
  • The expensive steak I ordered came out overcooked.
  • A traffic snarl on I-45 caused a three-minute delay.
  • I called a company to complain but could only leave a message.

Those are disappointing all right.

SOME MORE DISAPPOINTMENTS

  • Criticism and negativity from people you thought were mature.
  • Friends and family who canceled at the last minute.
  • Discovering how low the bar of excellence is set for some people.
  • Not getting the bid, the offer, or the job your heart desired.
  • Back stabbing betrayal from someone you trusted.
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Disappointment Is Common and Global

DISAPPOINTMENT?

Was Noah disappointed when no one responded? Was Jeremiah devastated when no one repented? Were Adam and Eve disappointed in their sinful behavior? How did Moses handle the grumbling, complaining, and negativity from people whose lives he had saved, repeatedly? Was he disappointed in them?

Was Jesus disappointed when his disciples lacked faith? When they wanted to burn a Samaritan village to the ground? When they couldn’t stay awake to support him in prayer? When they viewed him as a means for advancement in the coming kingdom?

Did the Father weep at the brutality given to Jesus? Did knowing ahead of time what was going to happen ease the pain of the hatred and violence dished out to his son?

Was God disappointed in humanity?

THIS MORNING

Whatever setbacks and losses I experience in life, there are always others who have suffered more, and worse. Acknowledging the suffering of others won’t dissolve the bitter sting of my own disappointments.

But it does help to acknowledge that I’m not a martyr. I’m not alone; I’m not the only one. Life’s disappointments are common and global.

AND FINALLY

Hang tough. Don’t give in and don’t ever give up. There will be another day. There will be a better one.

So lift your head up.

Trust in God. Believe. Smile, for the world still turns and something joyful may be just around he corner.

Shalom

Right Idea; Wrong Name

THE ROUTINE

Here’s the routine. We use a yard service to mow our lawn. They come and go and most of the time we don’t even see them. We pay with a check that is hidden outside but in a place obviously known to them.

The routine works. It’s a good system.

THE SYSTEM BROKE DOWN

A couple of weeks ago I left the check as usual. Then the following week I discovered the first check was still there. Oh well, I figured they just forgot to pick it up and would collect them both the next time they mowed.

They didn’t.

When I set out last week’s check, there was still an uncollected check.

REALLY ODD

So I picked up the orphaned check and immediately saw the problem. It wasn’t them forgetting to collect it but my failing to write it.

The check was made out to the Southeast Church of Christ.

I’m no expert, but I’m almost certain the check was of no value to them.

On the other hand, I’ll bet the contribution counters at church were wondering why I gave a check made out to Floyd’s Yard Care.

You have to pay attention.

JESUS OUR MESSIAH

I’m trying to imagine Jesus making a mistake like that. Imagine appearing before his throne and hearing him say, “I’m sorry Rick, but you don’t get in, you didn’t make it.” And the Archangel whispers, “Excuse me Lord, but there’s been a mistake, it’s Rick Fife who didn’t make it, Rick Fyffe is just fine.”

Or imagine it the other way!

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Not going to happen? Of course it won’t. But isn’t it wonderful that it won’t? We are assured that come Judgement Day, there will be no clerical errors, no unfortunate mistakes, and no red tape foul ups.

Not even one.

FINALLY

At the end, Jesus will have the final word, and it will be good!

Shalom

An Unky & Chunky Picnic

 

NORMALLY…

Normally, an unmarried middle-aged man wouldn’t choose a semi-domesticated raccoon for a best friend. But I know one who did, my Uncle Unky.

scary man   Chunky smiling

They are very close. The family has concerns, and some questions, but who are we, and who are any of us, to judge the happy choices of a man not entirely well, or normal.

A NICE OUTING

One day, Unky and Chunky decided to have a picnic. They filled an old Piggly Wiggly grocery bag with some left overs and out they went. Unky was careful to set the door lock, which is just a bungee cord attached to the knob and hooked into the Frog’s Mouth Mail Box duct taped to the trailer. Unky loves that mail box! He got it one night on the home shopping network while washing his socks in the sink.

Well, back to the picnic. They walked down to the field next to the Doofus County Landfill, its close to home and offers a nice view. He enjoys sniffing and clawing around in the filth and Chunky really enjoys the garbage. So it’s a fav. 

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That Chunky Loves His Garbage

Anyway, there they were, all spread out on the painting-tarp picnic blanket, enjoying some leftover Lima bean salad and boiled ham when out of no where came a group of raucous raccoons.

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The Raucous Raccoons

Apparently, the angry horde had recently claimed the field for themselves and didn’t appreciate odd people picnicking without permission. Chunky got his dander up and before you could count to two, there was a tussle the likes of which Unky had never seen, or wanted too. 

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Chunky At His Menacing Worst

Those feisty critters were sneering and snarling and sneering some more and making all kinds of menacing sounds. Little tufts of grey and black fur just flew through the air. It was a sight. It went on and on and seemed like it would never end. But after a minute it did. 

One of the values of having a semi-domesticated raccoon is his ability to handle complex machinery. Turns out Chunky was quite the heavy equipment operator. 

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Chunky At The Wheel: Go Chunky!

Before Uncle Unky could yell, “Careful Dude,” Chunky had buried those interlopers under three feet of sticky-stinky garbage. They eventually wormed their way out, but they won’t soon be back. They ran like scalded dogs. Or worse. 

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They Ran Like Scalded Dogs

Well, after the Raccoon Rumble, Unky and Chunky were all stressed out. They folded their paint-tarp picnic blanket, tossed their picnic bag on the landfill and headed back.

In their euphoric bliss at getting home they forgot to unhook the bungee form the Frog’s Mouth Mail Box. The door came slamming back on Uncle Unky and smacked him right in the back of his front. He couldn’t do much for a few days, you know, with being confined to his inflatable donut. (Home Shopping Network)

TO CLOSE: ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

It was a good day to get some fresh air and share a fun adventure! 

Until next time…..

Getting All Wound UP

A MAJOR OBSERVATION

I’ve made an observation about human development. It turns out there are two kinds of people in the world: 

  1. Those who meticulously wind rope, cords, string, and wires.
  2. Those who don’t. 

I’m a 1. I don’t understand the 2’s. 

IT’S ONLY COMMON SENSE

Anyone who can see through a ladder can see the importance of proper cord storage. It’s just common decency; it’s fundamentally human, and essential to sustaining a free society and guarding our just republic. 

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Any insensitive person can cram a string of Christmas lights in a box, or make a mess of a good extension cord, or ruin a useful length of rope. It’s easy. Just wad it up, toss it somewhere, and forget about it. In doing so, they have probably invalidated it’s usefulness for the rest of it’s natural life.

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Sure. Way to go. Nice job. 

THE 2’s 

The two’s are people who:

  1. Just wad up the Christmas gift paper and stuff it in a trash bag.
  2. Intermingle their shirts, pants, and suits in their closet.
  3. Allow the various foods on their plates to touch.
  4. Open a box, dump out the parts, and start assembling.
  5. Refuse to review a map, ask directions, or have a plan for traveling.

Seriously? It’s probably a lifesaver that the one’s exist on the planet. Without the one’s, the two’s would surely destroy themselves with giant balls of tangled string.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

In the interest of leading by example, here are the simple steps for proper cord management. Let’s use something small, something simple, I wouldn’t want you two’s to be overwhelmed by something more complex.

A Phone Charging Cable

  1. Hold the cable by its ends with one end in each hand.
  2. Apply a small amount of tension by pulling the ends, be careful not to damage it by pulling too hard.
  3. After applying tension, relax your arms and hands, and slowly wind the cable around either your left or your right.
  4. After gently winding it, making sure not to overlap the cable, remove it by sliding it off your hand, being careful to not to allow any slack in the loops.
  5. Tie the freshly wound cable with a twisty-tie, or wrap it with a piece of tape, making sure to get three turns of the twisty-tie and at least two wraps of the tape.
  6. Place the wound charging cable in a special charging cable box. Be sure to label the outside of the box with the appropriate information related to the charging cable.
  7. Set the charging cable box in the special charging cable cabinet.

An A+ for a good strategy   proper and impoper cord storage

Now, repeat the above steps with your extension cords, cables, ropes, twine and string. Of course, you will need to properly label the boxes and cabinets for each one.

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This Is Truly Marvelous: Bravo!

See, was that so hard?

You’ve not only taken your first step to better organization but have made a giant step  towards a happier life and being a truly happy person. 

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A Truly Happy Person

So, from a “one” to those about to become a “one” let me offer a hearty congratulations! You will so enjoy the upgrade!

In fact, I often notice people pointing and saying, in almost reverent and whispering tones, “Look, there’s one now.”

Uh Huh

 

Upside Memory Loss

 

IV’E NEVER FELT BETTER

I ‘d like to say that I’ve never felt better, never enjoyed a higher quality of life, and never had more energy than I do right now!

I’d like to but I can’t.

I don’t feel sickly. As far as I know it’s not the end. It’s just my memory. From the moment I turned 60 my memory has been slowing like a toboggan in the desert.    

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HERE’S THE THING

This is the thing: I’m forgetting the short-term stuff.

For Instance:

  • I’ll get a glass of water, set it down, then walk off and forget it.
  • In the car, I’ll have my wallet, phone, & satchel, but not the keys.
  • I’m sent to get 3 things at the store and forget at least one of them.
  • Writing the items down makes good sense but I forget to make the list.
  • Names are eluding me.
  • I can see faces, I know I know them, but can’t recall their names.
  • It’s the most embarrassing when its family.

Here are some things people have suggested:

  • Take certain vitamins and supplements
  • Take a spoonful of apple cider vinegar twice a day
  • Tie a ribbon on a finger as a reminder
  • Put up post-it-notes in strategic places
  • At bed time, review appointments/schedule for the next day

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All of these are good suggestions and here’s how it’s going so far:

I can’t remember if I took the vitamins and supplements. The vinegar is just too gross for modern man. I look ridiculous with red ribbons on my fingers. The post-it-notes are awesome but I can’t remember where I posted them. Reviewing my calendar for the next day is helpful, but I usually fall asleep before getting to the mid-morning appointments.

IT’S NOT ALL BAD

There’s an upside to my downside memory loss:

  • “Hey, I’m sorry, I’m old and I forget sometimes.”
  • “You know what, that completely slipped my mind.”
  • ‘I was supposed to do what?”
  • “No, I don’t remember saying that.”
  • “Pick up someone at the airport, what are you talking about?”

You get the idea.

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS

Its really not that bad and I’m really not that old. Actually, I feel pretty good and certainly should do whatever I can to take care of myself.

But the all too swift passing of time is upon me. Actually, it’s upon us all. Lately, the swiftly passing time seems to be passing right across my face.

AND FINALLY

There is work to be done, books to write, a church to serve, a ministry to honor, more Holy Land trips to make, more fly fishing in Colorado, and more family events.

I guess my memory for the things that really matter is doing just fine.

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Shalom

Jesus: Stain Remover

FIRST OF ALL

Let me say Happy Father’s Day to all you dads. And if you want, you can read yesterday’s blog about dad’s sitting on their couches.

Today’s blog is about something else.

HERE’S THE THING

Not to be grouchy, but I have some angst about the birds. Not all of them, just the ones that carry on around the house. They sit in the trees, chirping and chattering, which is all well and good, but they also visit our front porch.

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The Birds Love My Porch

As you can see, our front porch has railings, painted white. My angst relates to the birds sitting  on the railings and depositing their little gifts. The gifts stain the paint. 

DILIGENT VIGILENCE

I clean the railings once a week. But the stains are stubborn so I usually dab on a little paint to cover them up. It works okay. The paint must be an inch thick by now.

The birds: Uh Huh

Why would I write about this? Well, it relates to my Sunday morning message.This morning I continue the series on the New Birth and how we are cleansed by living water. 

It’s how the stain of sin is removed: completely and permanently.

A SNEAK PEAK

Ezekiel envisioned a river that turned the desert into an oasis. The river transformed salt water into fresh water so it could provide new life, it was a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist preceded the Messiah. He challenged the people to ready their hearts, to renew their faith, and to cleanse themselves in the Jordan River, a river of new life.

For hundreds of years the Jews practiced, and still practice, immersion in water for ceremonial cleansing. It’s an appeal to God for a clean heart and a new spirit. 

JUST A FEW MORE THOUGHTS

Everyone knows the word, “Baptize.” For some, it has little meaning. For others, it’s merley a religious word. But within the Christian community, it’s a word with a wide range of meaning. It’s a word defined differently throughout the vast network of Christian denominations. What does it mean? Why does it matter?

What did it mean to John?

What did it mean to Jesus?

How does it matter to you?

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BE MY GUEST

Please join us this morning, at 8:30 and 10:45. Come learn about the Living Water of Christ, come experience the power of the New Birth! Perhaps the Holy Spirit will touch your heart today!

Southeast Church of Christ

www.southeastonline.org    

Shalom!