“My Kind of Happiness”

Good morning Holy Spirit. It’s nearly October and its cool this morning and it promises to be a really great day! 

Something Simple

I’m feeling the need for brevity and simplicity. So, here goes.

Simply Grateful

This morning I’m aware of my blessings and want to say thank you. So thank you Lord. Thank you for so much:

  1. For my Colorado friend having a successful surgery.
  2. For friends who support me in every way.
  3. A wonderful church that blesses me every day.
  4. A loving wife by my side for nearly 40 years.
  5. For two fabulous kids.
  6. That I am healthy and strong.
  7. For being free, prosperous, and alive to enjoy it.
  8. For salvation in Jesus the Messiah.

(As I’m writing, a friend just walked in with donuts, I am so blessed!)

There’s more to be thankful for. But those eight reflect a life of blessing, purpose, and fellowship; with God, his people, and with family and friends. Such is the life of a blessed man and today I’m aware of how blessed I am.

happiness-isnt-about-getting-what-you-want

Not Every Day

It isn’t every day that I feel this good. Some days are a struggle, there are trials and hardships, and there are burdens that weigh me down; but not today.

To Close

Like the man said in the movie, “To tell you the truth, I have failed in life as much as I’ve succeeded, but I love my wife, I love my life, and I wish for you my kind of happiness.”

Take that as you will.

Be thankful if you can. Gratitude and attitude have a lot to do with each other.

Shalom

Officially Done With Summer

I’m officially done with summer. The first day of fall was Thursday, September 22 and I’m finished with the season of high heat and oppressive humidity.

It Isn’t Really That Bad

Although the days can routinely hit triple digit temperatures with humidity in the high 90’s, still, it isn’t really that bad. Just do the following:

6-ways-to-beat-the-heat

  1. Stay indoors.
  2. Set the AC as low as you can afford to pay.
  3. Air condition your garage so your car stays cool.
  4. Stay indoors. 
  5. Think cool thoughts.
  6. Don’t go outside.

See, it that so hard?

My Top Five Summer Issues

  1. Can’t breath in the heavy, damp air.
  2. Sweating the moment I walk outside.
  3. The love affair mosquitoes have with Houston.
  4. The swamp like environment from torrential rain storms.
  5. Did I mention the heat and humidity?
running-in-the-heat-640x379
Not My Street Or My Egg, But Its Close

There Are Some Advantages

  1. If you need a steam bath, just sit on the back porch.
  2. The grass, shrubs, and trees don’t typically need much watering.
  3. You won’t need a jacket.
  4. From April to November you won’t ever shiver.
  5. Did I mention the steam bath?

Give Thanks In All Circumstances

That’s a phrase from the apostle Paul. He wanted believers to understand that regardless of the circumstances, there was always something to be thankful for. He was right, there is, even in the hottest days of summer.

So: “Good Morning Holy Spirit”

“Thank you for indwelling me and for keeping me connected to the Father. Please help me today with your fruit of joy, for there is joy in believing, and there is joy in Jesus our Messiah, Amen.”

Still….

I’m officially done with summer.

Shalom

The Small Injustices of Life

It’s about eight months. That’s how long I’m forced to wait from the end of college football to the opening day of the new season. 

800px-Ben_Hill_Griffin_Stadium

Then It Happens

Opening day finally arrives. For me, it’s like a national holiday. I clear my calendar, finish my meetings, and run my errands. Then its game time. I’m fanatical about watching my favorite team, but really, just about any game will do.

Then It Happened

Opening day was just days away. We had recently moved to a new house, I’d called to have service transferred, and guess what? They went to the old house. Don’t ask. They rescheduled the installation for a week later. I missed the opening game.

Then It Happened Again

The next week, I got the satellite hooked up, but a rain storm hit that Saturday afternoon, and it hit hard, and I missed all of the first half because of weather interference. Uh huh.

Not Again, Right?

It happened again. My game of the week was severely abbreviated by a technical difficulty. Okay, I may have caused the difficulty by accidentally cutting the cable, but it’s a common problem that has probably happened to millions. Or at least to me. Either way, no game.

cordcutting-100535448-large

So after impatiently waiting for eight months, I’ve missed all or most of my favorite team’s first three games. And lots of other games too. Was I being punished for my sins?

I’m Not The Only One

I’m reminded of others who missed out on some things. Zechariah and Elizabeth  prayed for a child until they were too old to have children. Then they had a son,  John the Baptist. Abraham and Sarah waited and waited and pretty much gave up. They tried a different plan through a surrogate mother, but it only resulted in great conflict when Isaac was later born to Sarah.

The Apostles were impatient for a kingdom that they believed would exalt them to the top.

Was Elijah impatient, waiting by the brook, and then stayed for three years in the upstairs room of the widow’s house? Did he wonder if God would ever use him?

Even Jesus

Even Jesus got frustrated by his disciple’s arguing, their lack of faith and their impatience with the constant demands of the huge crowds. 

To close

Sometimes the smallest things can cause our biggest frustrations. But I’m sure there are bigger issues, greater injustices, and more important challenges than my missing a few football games.

super bowl

So I’ll close with:

“Good Morning Holy Spirit. Please forgive me if I have been preoccupied with petty issues. Please help me today with self-control, patience, and faithfulness in serving the Father. Help me to honor the King of the Kingdom of Light. Amen.

Shalom

Calling Mr. Fiffy

I have an odd last name. Or at least it’s spelled oddly. I don’t know when“Fyffe” came to be or who decided to spell it like that.

Here’s What Happened

Yesterday morning I went to an area hospital to have a scheduled procedure. The procedure went fine, I’m fine, it was an outpatient thing, and I home by 9:30 AM.

The issue was in how they pronounced my name. Think of, “iffy” and then place an F in front of it. Yep, all morning I was Mr. Richard Fiffy. My last name is pronounced, “Fife.” It’s spelled with a y and a couple of f’s in the middle, but it’s pronounced Fife, not Fiffy, not iffy with an F. 

When they called me back and to get ready they said, “Richard Fiffy, Mr. Richard Fiffy.” People snickered, I’m sure of it. Then it was the nurses, a Doctor, a lab tech, and so on. I  corrected them at first and then just gave up.

telligence-overview-460x175.jpg
Mr. Richard Fiffy: Not Me Or My Nurse, But Close

Oh well.

What About Jesus?

I was thinking about Jesus and some of his names:

Jesus or Yeshua

Messiah or Christ

Emanuel

Jesus of Nazareth

Son of David

Son of Joseph

Rabbi

Teacher

Lord

Master

Shepherd

Son of God

Savior

And others….

At home, in Nazareth, he would be known as, “Yeshua Ben Yoseph,” or Jesus, Son of Joseph.

Names With Function

Many of his names were expressions of function, or service.

  • Rabbi: teacher, a name with high honor
  • Shepherd: serving and caring for the flock of Israel
  • Son of David: from the tribe of Judah and from David’s line
  • Savior: to save from sin, to save from the world
  • Emanuel: God had come close, God was among the people

What’s In A Name?

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter that they got my name wrong; but Jesus, that’s different. It’s different because of functionality, service, and core identity. I was just a patient, but he is the Son of God. 

To Close Out

We want to get his name right. We should. He is the Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He came to serve, to seek, and to save. He was crucified, high and lifted up so all could see the shame of the cross, the shame he despised.

Other than common courtesy, it doesn’t matter if you get my name wrong. But for Yeshua Ben Yoseph, well, that matters and it mattes a lot. He is our Lord, King, and Rabbi. He is our Savior, Shepherd, and our Salvation. Yes, let’s get that one right!

Finally

Calling Mr. Fiffy, Mr. Richard Fiffy?

Oh Well.

Some Assembly Required

Good morning Holy Spirit. Greeting the Spirit has become a pleasant practice. Each day, and all day, I require his help to produce good fruit. Some of those fruits are patience and self-control. The Spirit helps me, guides me, influences me, but he doesn’t force.

Here’s What Happened

I had a project last night. A piece of furniture was delivered and printed on the box was, “Some Assembly Required.” Uh Huh.

“Some Assembly Required,” was code for blocking out 3.5 hours, reading the directions dozens of times, and for sticking my patience to that sticking place, for I would be sorely tested.

b2e40163c2f63a1b6de6d19b97066490
Not Me Or My Project, But Close

First Of All

The directions were in French and I don’t read French. Okay, they weren’t in French but they might as well have been. The assembly involved multiple thousands of screws, dowels, cams, cam screws, reinforcement brackets, shelf pins, shelves and all the stuff that holds the shelves. From 5:30-9:00 I was invested: heart, mind, and soul.

Did I Finish?

Yes, I did. It was a fun project and I enjoyed doing it and it gave me a real sense of achievement. Just kidding. Actually, it was frustrating and I nearly lost my religion over it. And I missed Monday night football. Okay, it was a game I didn’t care about but it was on TV!

Some Perspective: What Would Jesus Do?

Jesus was a builder, a carpenter, and he could have assembled it in 30 minutes or less, and not be grumpy, and still watched the game. But I’m not Jesus.

We used to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” We had all kinds of WWJD paraphernalia. The fad passed but the question remains. I don’t know if he assembled cabinets or not but here’s a few things he did:

  1. Lived a perfect life in obedience to the Law of Moses.
  2. Honored his father and mother.
  3. Grew up in stature, favor, and wisdom with God and man.
  4. Was immersed in dedication, preparation, and holiness.
  5. Received the Holy Spirit.
  6. Went into the Judean desert and triumphed over evil.
  7. Trained disciples to disciple the world.
  8. Healed thousands and fed tens of thousands.
  9. Sacrificed his life for all mankind.
  10. Rose from the dead.
  11. Ascended to the Father.
  12. Sent the Holy Spirit.

By Comparison

I guess by comparison my little project seems pretty small. I guess compared to Jesus, all our projects are pretty small. He’s pretty impressive.

Ask Jesus how he prepared men to take the gospel to the world. Ask him to explain living a sinless life. Ask him about the cross, eternity, and the providence of God.

Crossing The Finish Line

Aren’t we glad he did all of that for all of us? Aren’t we glad he paid it all, finished the race, and completed the Father’s will? Of course we are.

house tools

Some assembly required, good morning Holy Spirit!

Have a nice day.

Thank You Lord For Friends

Friends are the best. But what does that mean? Are friends the best because the alternative is the worst? What are they the best at?

12f12people-464321

Friends Are the Best

Friends are the best because they put up with our weaknesses, foibles, and idiosyncrasies. They are the best because they are willing to stay connected with us. They show up when needed, help us when we’re helpless, and provide significant social bonds. We would be sorely diminished without them.

Top Ten Things Friends Have Done Lately

  1. Fixed meals for us when we moved in to our new house.
  2. Invited us over when we were in the extended stay hotel.
  3. Disconnected the old kitchen sink so the new one could be installed.
  4. Volunteered to help move us and meant it.
  5. Bought my book even when they didn’t really want it.
  6. Gave us a house warming gift that was really cool.
  7. Sent a care basket of things we needed while getting settled.
  8. Continued to ask if there was anything they could do.
  9. Called to check on me.
  10. Listened to me while I whined and complained about stuff.

As I review the list, I’m aware of how dotty and feeble I seem to be. Hmmm, good thing I have friends. 

Friendship

The greatest part of that list is what’s behind it. My friends are sensitive, caring, thoughtful people. They think about how to help. They anticipate what’s needed. They go out of their way. They are just the best.

x19404471

Friends I Want To Thank

I want to give a big shout of thanks to Louie and Mary, to Nick and Suzie, and to Adam, and to Zack and Matilda; and especially to Frieda and Farley. (Not their real names, but they know who they are.)

Even Jesus

I like to think of Jesus as a rugged individualist who lived without the need of friends, support, or fellowship. He was the Emanuel, God with us, and so what need of friends did the Messiah have? 

Yet he was a frequent guest in Martha’s home, with her sister Mary and brother Lazarus. Jesus wept with the sisters when Lazarus died. He was often in Simon Peter’s home. His closest disciples were sometimes frustrating, yet I get the sense that he loved them dearly and kept them close to his heart. He once told them no one had greater love than the one who laid his life down for his friends. Jesus laid his life down for them. 

Wrapping Up

So I say, “Good morning Holy Spirit.” I ask that you watch over my friends, to bless them, guide them, and to help them this day. I ask that you protect and deliver them from evil.

And I pause to say, “Thank you Father for the gift of friendship, and for the friends you have given me.”

Shalom

book

http://www.rickfyffe.com

And Who Is My Neighbor?

Yesterday’s blog was about being neighborly. This morning I’m thinking about the Jewish expert who asked Rabbi Jesus a question. Actually, he asked two questions and the second one was about neighbors.

The First Question

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked a question in return, which was the Rabbinical style. When someone asked the teacher a question, he answered with a question. The student discovered the answer to his question through the process of answering the Rabbi’s question. It was brilliant. Jesus asked him, “How do you understand the Law of Moses?”

The man answered by saying to God completely and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus affirmed his answer and was ready to move on. But the man wanted to justify himself, for Jesus had responded with such wise simplicity that the man was a little embarrassed. So he asked a second question.

The Second Question

“And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus told him a parable about neighbors. A traveler was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two men walked by but didn’t help, one a priest and the other a Levite. All priests were Levite’s but not all Levites were priests. Both would have wrestled with purity laws, about remaining undefiled by doing nothing to make them unclean; like touching a dead body or having contact with blood. It wasn’t a lack of compassion, but how they kept the law of Moses, staying undefiled was higher than helping someone who was dying.

Next in the story, a Samaritan stopped and did everything to help. He didn’t make defilement more important than being a good neighbor.

Jesus asked the expert, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Yet another question from a wiser Rabbi. The man had no recourse, so he answered, “The one who had mercy on him?”

jesus-cross-and-sun

The Lesson

We typically miss this. We think the parable is about helping the helpless. It isn’t. Not that Jesus wouldn’t want us to stop and assist, of course he would. The Samaritan chose to make the injured man his neighbor, and so he loved and cared for him, by being a neighbor. 

The parable was Jesus’ answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Look closer at what Jesus asked him, “And which of the three men was the neighbor?” Not which of the three men helped their neighbor, but who was the neighbor? The answer was obviously, the Samaritan, he was the neighbor to the injured man.

The Lesson

Jesus wanted the expert to understand that the Samaritan was the neighbor, and the question of, “And who is my neighbor,” was answered, the Samaritan is your neighbor. 

The turn of words placed the burden of neighborly love right on the expert’s shoulders. A tough lesson, for his was a culture steeped in racism; the Jews hated the Samaritans.

Jesus used his Rabbinical skills to teach a strong truth. We aren’t to busy ourselves deciding who we will love and who we won’t. We shouldn’t debate which people to be neighborly with. We are everyone’s neighbor, especially those we want to hate, despise, and reject. We are to love the Samaritans, not pass them by to keep ourselves clean and undefiled.

Jesus On Trial Banner

To Close

Eternal life goes to those who love God and love their neighbors. The Samaritan is your neighbor, love him.

Some pretty tough love wouldn’t you say? Do you have any “Samaritans” in your life?

What did Jesus tell the religious expert, “Go and do likewise.”

Shalom

Book

Find my book at http://www.rickfyffe.com

 

Good Neighbors?

We recently moved to a new house, it’s an older home, but new to us. Moving is always such great fun. Except for when it’s not, and the exception seems to be the rule.

The New Neighborhood

The new neighborhood is phenomenal. I love the mature landscaping, the big oak trees, the well-manicured lawns, and the general sense that the place is populated by people who care.

The New Neighbors

On The Right

We’ve not actually met them. But as we have gone out or as they have come in, we have received a hearty, “Hello new neighbor, we want to meet you, sorry, but we have to run, welcome to the neighborhood.” They seem friendly and affable. We look forward to getting better acquainted.

Across The Street

I was rolling the trash bins out to the curb, when a barking dog launched himself in my direction. Clearly unleashed, he closed the distance before I could widen it. But not to worry, I lowered my hand, he sniffed it, then sniffed again, and decided to be my new best friend. The smiling owner walked over with her sweet little daughter and introduced herself. Then her husband came over and my wife came out and we visited and got well acquainted. They are an adorable young family, even the dog.

On The Left

She stopped to say hello and was very welcoming. She mentioned her husband was retired and enjoyed talking and that he was looking forward to meeting me, he did. They happen to be Jewish and we happen to be Gentile. Which became more relevant when he discovered I was a Church of Christ minister. We moved to a discussion of Old Testament history. It was fine till he realized I’d been to Israel more than him, that I’d traveled the Holy Land more, and possessed a greater knowledge of the Law of Moses and the Prophets. I wasn’t showing off, I promise. We’re going to be good friends.

12f12people-464321
Not Me: I have more hair and don’t usually wear straw hats

Hit Or Miss

Our old neighbors weren’t particularly neighborly. Our new neighbors are outgoing and helpful. Sometimes neighbors are nice and sometimes they aren’t.

backyard-fence-neighbour-talking-gossiping-marketing-old-days
Not Our New Neighbors, But Close

Here’s The Thing

What kind of neighbor am I?

Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourselves. Huh. Am I friendly, outgoing, and neighborly? Am I more like Jesus or am I more like the grouchy curmudgeon that yells at the neighbor kids to get off my grass?

To Close

I wouldn’t want Jesus to be my neighbor. There would be too many cars, strange people, and noisy nights. Plus, he would want to talk over the back fence, drop by uninvited, and be gloriously positive, all the time. And he would want me to be like him.

I don’t mind being the light of world as long as I don’t have to shine, be a beacon, or assist anyone.

Well, on that upbeat note, I ‘ll just close by saying: Happy neighboring everybody!

Shalom

Healing In Tough Times, Pt 7 (the final piece of this series)

Here’s a big word, anthropopathism. It’s ascribing human characteristics to a deity. Or in other words, thinking of God as having human emotions and feelings.

At 5:00 A.M.

It was early in the morning when the thought popped into my head.

I was in the hospital room with my wife, who was asleep following an emergency C-section in the attempt to save our son. It didn’t.

It was a horrible night, lonely, sleepless, and deeply painful. But as the rays of the new morning began to rise, I thought, “Is this how God felt when he lost his son.”

Does God Weep?

I don’t know. But from Psalm 30:5:

  “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

The Father gave us emotions, and he made us to weep. We are made in his image and that’s not likely a reference to our physicality, but just the same, God made us the way he did. He sent Jesus to be with us, and Jesus wept.

In The Days That Followed

I would struggle for a while with my emotions. I became angry with God for not doing more to comfort us. I struggled with praying and wondered why I didn’t feel comforted by the prayers and encouragement of others.

But in the dawn of that new day, I was immersed in a moment with the Father. For just a moment, we were the same; we had lost a son. And I was comforted by God’s presence.

There’s No Comparison

 I can’t imagine losing an older child or an adult child, and I know we shouldn’t compare our pain to that of others. My son never saw the light of day. After the surgery I hugged him and held his infant hands. He seemed normal, like he was asleep. I kept thinking he would wake up and open his eyes.

Our Good Friend Job

Job lost everything, including his children. He said something in the 3rd chapter that leapt off the page as I was reading him later that day:

“Why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?”

That verse resonated with me on two levels: (1) that infants were stillborn more than 3,000 years ago, that my pain wasn’t unique. (2) that it might have been better to have never lived than to live and suffer such terrible pain.

One Perspective

Did the Father weep? Did he cry when the rough-hewn spikes were hammered? Did tears flow at the scourging? Or when Jesus died? Maybe the Father began weeping when the mob began crying for Jesus to be crucified. Did the Father mourn? 

I have since mourned the loss of a parent, a brother, and of family and friends. There isn’t anything more painful, more devastating, than living when someone we love isn’t living with us.

To Close

Does it help to say, “God knows, he understands?” It does. It may not help in every moment; it may not assuage our pain or diminish our loneliness. But it helps.

I’ll write one more thought to bring this series to a close.

Looking back, If I had a choice, I would choose to go through gut-wrenching grief with the Father at my side than to choose to go through it without him.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust God, trust also in me.”

empty tomb

God Bless You

Shalom

Healing In Hard Times, Pt. 6

During my seasons of grief I have asked this question, “Does life go on, does it go forward, or will it stop to let me catch up?

funeral

Good Question

That’s a good question. It’s the basic question that all people ask when living in seasons of grief.

What the question is really asking:

  1. Will the pain in my stomach ever stop?
  2. Will I ever wake up and not feel the heaviness of a ten-ton weight?
  3. Will I ever get past the loneliness and sorrow?
  4. Why when I think I’m making progress, will something just hit me and take me right back to that sad place?
  5. Why don’t prayer and the encouragement of others comfort me?

When Our Baby Died

As a father, I struggled not so much with my faith, but in finding comfort or peace from God. I was hurting and not finding God very helpful.

As a Minister, I found that my prayers didn’t seem to help. Many were praying for me and that didn’t seem helpful either. There was lots of encouragement, and it was well intentioned and sincere, but seemed shallow.

I was struggling both as a father and as a minister. I didn’t give up on God, didn’t blame him, but I felt like he wasn’t doing very much to help. That’s hard for a minister to admit. It was the not helping me part that brought anger to the surface.

Getting Better

Ultimately, I had to follow the advice I blogged about in Pt. 5. I had to get in touch with my anger and deal with it. I wasn’t really mad at God; he was just convenient for parking my pain.

There would be more seasons of pain and sorrow. And there will be more to come. It may sound glib, but that’s just life. No one is promised paradise on earth.

The Peace

We say that time heals all wounds. It’s just an expression. But wounds do take time to heal and emotional wounds take the longest of all.

I’ve grieved more than some and less than others. Some people I know have faced grief of nightmarish proportions.

But peace can and does return. For me, the trick was to change my definition, my understanding of peace. I thought it was the absence of conflict, freedom from pain and sorrow. It isn’t. Peace isn’t harmony with the world; it’s harmony with God and with our selves.

A Rose Garden?

In 1970, singer Lynn Anderson recorded a song with these famous words, “You never promised me a rose garden.” Well, my heavenly Father didn’t promise one either.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have much tribulation,” meaning that in this world we will have trouble, hardship, grief, and pain.

We have to make peace with it: peace with God and with our selves.

To Close

I pray that all of you who are hurting, grieving and suffering, will find the peace that passes all understanding.

In time we heal; we get stronger, we never forget, but the joy and happiness returns. In the meantime, we lament, we weep, and we sometimes cast our anger onto God and wonder if we will ever feel better again.

We will.

Shalom