Stuff or Beaten Clay?

“Love makes the world go round.”

Who Said That?

It was William Gilbert, 1836-1911, an English dramatist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen operas produced in collaboration with composer Arthur Sullivan. He is credited for coining the phrase.

Thanks William

And Others?

Many have used it: “Love Makes the World Go Round.”

  1. A song written in 1896 by Clyde Fitch and William Furst
  2. A song from the 1961 musical, “Carnival”
  3. Was Recorded By:
  • Perry Como-1958
  • Jane Morgan-1961
  • Paul Anka-1963
  • Deon Jackson-1966
  • Madonna-1986
  • Powerpuff Girls-1999
  • Tina Harris-2003
  • Ashlee Simpson-2004

However

As romantic as it may be, I have found the oft quoted phrase to be fundamentally flawed. Love doesn’t make the world go around, its stuff.

Stuff turns our world.

The Storm

Due to Harvey, our church building flooded. Of the six bookcases in my office, three were destroyed, as well as the carpet and the sheet rock. My desk credenza and printer stand were ruined, and various other items.

Everything else had to be wrapped, stacked, and racked. 

koreana-library
Not my office, but close, really very close. I think I have too much stuff.

What Was Stacked & Racked?

The books, files, collectibles, artwork, lamps, awards, sculptures, a stereo system, and so forth. Wow, I have stuff, tons of it. Even with all that was destroyed, I have more than I need.

My desk drawer had office supplies, and junk, I didn’t know I had. There were books I hadn’t read in years, and books still waiting to be read.

Stuff rules my world, makes it go around, and around.

On The Mend

Soon, the office will be repaired and the inner sanctum will once more vibrate with activity, maybe even productivity. However, there will be fewer shelves, less furniture, and a determined culling of the heard. In short, there will be less stuff.

But don’t worry, give me five years and it will all be back. Why is that?

To Close

I’m not a hoarder. In fact, my office stays neat, orderly, and even has a few empty drawers. And yet, I feel overwhelmed by the stuff. Isn’t there something more important?

I’ll leave you with this:

“Life is worked on a wheel. Sloppy, slippery, formless base clay. Rising coaxed, caressed, coerced and beaten into shape. Tested in passion’s consuming fire until worthy to catch and hold a bit of the liquid grace pouring unceasingly over us.”

Shalom

Its Cool to Care!

What’s the quote? “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

What?

It’s the notion that people without enough to do will find something to do, and it’s often unsavory, negative and unproductive. A negative and unproductive mind can lead to negative and unproductive behavior.  

The Storm

In a crisis, people stop, take notice, and mobilize to help. The help comes from a heartfelt desire to serve those in need, its positive and productive.

Such was the case with Harvey and Irma. People responded by

  • donating money
  • volunteering
  • opening their homes to strangers
  • sending work crews and being on a work crew
  • doing whatever they could
people waiting to be rescued
It wasn’t about social agendas or politics or about who was right. It was about people.

The Golden Silence

Have you noticed how the noise went silent after the storms? Gone were the clanging cymbals of political fighting, social unrest, and divisive bickering. There was golden silence across the land.

Why Was That?

Was it because the nation found something better to do, something better to focus on? We got busy helping our neighbor and our neighbor’s neighbor. We helped strangers and were helped by strangers. Gone were the rancor of politics and the screaming voices of  division. They came to a screeching halt.

Now Jesus:

“Love one another as I have loved you.”

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

“The greatest among you will be your servant.”

Now Paul”

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

This blog isn’t political, or social, its spiritual, and I’m not suggesting our national concerns are unimportant. But peace isn’t obtained by violence. Unity isn’t achieved by fighting. Harmony isn’t the result of gamesmanship.

To Close

Its good to help when there’s a crisis. But frankly, there are people needing compassionate service every day of the year.

I know, its cool to care when it’s most needed and I’m glad we do. But what our nation  needs is for us to keep offering heartfelt assistance all year long. It’s a righteous thing. 

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

Shalom

We Lost, Was God Unhappy?

Here’s a thing. In Jr High, if we lost, I believed God was punishing me.

Why Is That?

  1. I prayed to win, so if we lost…?
  2. God would reward my “sinless” behavior.
  3. It was my faith’s DNA.

Misguided Youth

I lacked a mature understanding of God. I imagined him sentencing sinners for their sins. If I avoided sinning, I would be rewarded. A victory was as good a reward as I could think of. I was thirteen.

Now Jesus

Someone told him that Pilate, Governor of Judea, offered sacrifices mixed with the blood of Galileans.

In response, Jesus said:

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no.”

“Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no.” 

Common Themes

  1. God gets the guilty!
  2. Like Job, I must have sinned, badly.
  3. I guess bad things happen to good people.
  4. My lack of success is proportional to my lack of faith.
  5. God likes to keep me humble, broken, and down.

Common Confusion

We know the verses:

  1. “In this world, you will have tribulation.”
  2. “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are experiencing.”
  3. “God disciplines those he loves.”
  4. “Count it all joy, when you have trials of many kinds.”

Or Romans 8:35

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” 

My Challenge

To not think life should be one long boulevard of green lights. I have the sense that life should be easier, simpler, if for no other reason than its more comfortable and convenient.

Green-lights

Life isn’t that. Life is up and down, in and out, and backwards and forwards. It’s winning and losing. It’s living in a broken and fallen world. Accidents happen. Bad things happen. But, so do good things, and they are usually the majority.

Too Close

The goal shouldn’t be to outfox and outdistance the bad stuff. The goal should be to live each day for his glory. Come what may.

I guess the boulevard can have a few red lights.

Shalom

It All Points to Him!

Believing that there was more, I began a spiritual quest to see more.

More of What?

More of God’s power. I began a quest to see his power beyond what I’ve experienced. To be so impacted that we would fall to our knees in praise because it all pointed to him.

Why?

In reading the scripture, I’ve come to see the greater working of God, of how he involves himself in the lives and ministry of his people.

My belief was too small and my faith was anchored in the smallness.

What I Don’t Mean

  1. Not miracles, wonders, and signs.
  2. Not an outpouring of the Spirit through me.
  3. Not a deeper understanding of a text.
  4. Nothing that draws attention to me.

What I Do Mean

  1. Worship that lifts us up like never before.
  2. Losing our self-awareness and ego.
  3. Salvation coming to hundreds instead of dozens.
  4. A revival of humility and holiness.
  5. The Spirit convicting & filling us with righteousness.

I’ve been asking, searching and waiting.

And Then…

Hurricane Harvey showed up. When it left, it left hundreds of thousands without power, homes, and businesses. It left having killed people. For almost a week it held us hostage. It held us in fear, and dread, and in many places, in water over our heads.

And Then…

The power of God was revealed like never before.

  1. Our church flooded but we worshiped any way, and it filled our souls.
  2. Gone were self-awareness and ego.
  3. People came in their shorts and sandals, it’s all they had.
  4. We were humbled and God-dependent.
  5. We were filled with righteous purpose.

And Then…

The miracles happened. God led us to save people on their roof tops. To people without resources, to widows, and retired couples, and to young families in need. He led us everywhere. He leads us still.

We helped each another, we helped strangers, and were helped by strangers. People took time off work to muck houses, to cook and deliver food, to serve. Volunteers showed up from all over the country. Money came when it was needed most. Calls of assistance came from everywhere. He brought about miraculous things, things we were never going to do on our own.

God involved himself in our lives and ministry.

To Close

Revival came. Righteousness and holiness have elevated us. Worship has never been so impactful. Gone are the walls of age, peer levels, and group dynamics. We have become one.

The power of God showed up. It wasn’t how I imagined it, but with God, it never is. And this morning, from my heart to yours, I can say…

It all points to Him!

god lending a hand

Dallas: Big Gates, Large Roads!

I successfully navigated through Dallas, almost. 

What?

Four of us drove to Dallas to attend a Family Ministry Conference. Getting into Dallas, there were many interstates and toll roads to negotiate. And by many, I mean there were two.

But rush hour traffic was heavy and I was unfamiliar with every foot of road. 

Arrive?

O yes, we arrived, and even had time for dinner before finding good seats for the evening program.

The Thing

But here’s the thing. As we moved into downtown Dallas, the others had their phones open to provide instructions of where to go and when to do it. Between their phone’s audio instructions and their loud verbal cues, I was locked up with stress and tension.

I got so confused, entirely my fault, that I drove down the middle of an interstate that required going either left or right, which were the east and west options. To have remained in the middle would not have worked out well. So, I made a choice. I chose badly.

Dallas 2

What Happened

We just went to the next exit, which I also missed. Then to the next one, which I made, but was instructed to take an immediate right which I couldn’t due to heavy traffic in the adjoining lane. So, moving on, I made the next right, went around and found the street leading to the onramp for the interstate taking us back to the east/west option that I had originally missed.

It all came together, we got on the correct interstate and in an hour or so, we arrived at our destination which was just a couple miles away.

Gratitude

I would like to thank my travel-mates, and their phones, and their phone’s audio instructions, or their efficient and loudly communicated assistance. It was super.

Now Jesus

“Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus makes a good point. The gate leading to the wrong path is well-marked and easily accessed. It’s popular, everyone is making that choice and going down that path.

Almost everyone. There’s a second path, accessed by a narrow gate that isn’t not well marked or easily accessed. It’s a gate that leads to life. It’s just a path that isn’t popular, few seem to even be looking for it.

The narrow gate isn’t hard to find because its camouflaged or hidden. It’s hard to find because the bright lights of the giant gate and massive road are overwhelmingly attractive and inviting.

To Close

BTW: my travel companions were right. They followed the map. They gave good directions, but I wasn’t listening, and the not listening led to my mistakes. I took the wide gate and went down the wrong road.

Listening makes all the difference for getting where God wants us to be.

Shalom

Time For A New Filter?

“Mr. Fyffe, your AC will work better with a new cabin filter.”

Cabin Filter?

Cars have a “cabin filter” that catches dirt, leaf matter, and insects. It cleans the air coming through the climate control system. He showed me the filter, it was dirty, it was overdue.

dirty filter
Not my car’s cabin filter, but close, really very close.

I Asked

Is it free? “No, it isn’t free, but the installation is.” Free installation? They took it out to begin with. I knew they weren’t free. Just thought I’d ask.

A Dirty Cabin Filter

  1. I don’t want to breathe dirty air.
  2. Even if I can’t see the dirt, its there.
  3. Its wise to keep your car up to date.
  4. It needed replacing.
  5. I’m worth it. 

The Flood: Other Dirty Things 

  1. Moldy, wet carpet had to be pulled up.
  2. Water-saturated Sheetrock had to be removed.
  3. Wet Insulation had to come out.
  4. Spraying the studs to kill the mold was a must.
  5. Contaminated furniture and personal items had to go too.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Sometimes the sheetrock looked fine, but invariably, there was standing water on the inside, with wet insulation, and mold already spreading. The furniture looked fine, but had absorbed the rancid water. Looks can be deceiving

Now Jesus

“Woe to you, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside, are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”

Strong words. But we get it, right?

Hypocrisy isn’t having sin in our lives, it’s pretending we don’t. It’s an act, it’s playing the actor to present ourselves as spiritually beautiful, morally unblemished, and religiously pure. When we know it isn’t true.

To Close

The rancid, filthy things had to be removed. Even if the outsides seemed okay, they weren’t, they were contaminated and would only get worse with time.

Paul said,

“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit….”

Perhaps its time for a new filter?

Shalom

How Are You Doing?

I greet a lot of people and a lot of people greet me.

Still Asking

What is it we ask when we greet one another, often without intentional thought? O yes, “How are you doing?”

What is it we say in response, often without intentional thought? O yes, “I’m fine thanks, and, how are you?”

This morning, here is my answer with intentional thought:

I am:

  • Spiritually sustained
  • Mentally depleted
  • Emotionally thin
  • Physically worn out

How Come?

  • Three weeks after Harvey and still a lot of misery.
  • Our multi-million-dollar church building is stripped to the studs.
  • My dining room ceiling was destroyed, and one of its walls.
  • Decisions, choices, insurance adjustors, repairs, and more.
  • So many friends got flooded and lost everything.
  • And probably some other things too.

trash to the curb

Really?

I know. I’m the Senior Minister of a fine church. My family is safe. My house received minimal damage compared to many. I’m blessed and healthy.  Why should I be tired, weary, and discouraged? What reason would I have?

Someone who is strong and a true winner in life once said:

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

Sure, Amen! Yes, to that. No doubt about it. That’s what tough people do. I think I’ll get going to Colorado. Call me when it’s over.

fast driver

No, just kidding.

However

There are some things that lift my spirit, fill my heart, and renew my energy:

  1. Work crews arriving from all over the country. They are taking time away from their families and jobs to help us. 
  2. Churches, individuals, and organizations donating money, materials, and labor to dig us out and build us up.
  3. The stories of heroism, from the first responders to everyday people, have encouraged and inspired me.
  4. And lastly, the Lord my God will not let me down. He will have the final word and his word will be good.

To Close

There are reasons to rejoice, to keep trying, to keep going. No, I’m not minimizing anyone’s pain or suffering, or suggesting the hardships and heartaches of Harvey are easily resolved or left behind.

But there are spiritual truths, values, and blessings to help us. As Paul wrote,

“Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.”

“How are you doing Rick?” “Actually, I’m doing better thank you!

 

Trouble After The Storm?

“Not everyone bounces back, some just keep bouncing.”

What?

It’s a quote, regarding the emotional impact of experiencing a major storm like Harvey or Irma. While most people can pick up the pieces and get back to normal, others  struggle, sometimes for months.

Struggling?

  1. General anxiety
  2. Post-traumatic stress
  3. Inability to sleep
  4. Gnawing sense of fear
  5. Depression

Studies reveal that 25% of people experiencing a severe hurricane can still be struggling six months later, or longer. It’s especially true for those affected by the worst aspects of storms: flash floods, loss of home and property, witnessing injuries, drowning’s, and storm related deaths.

 An Example

I read about a woman who was trapped on a roof with her three children. They huddled together as she shielded them from the rain and prayed to be rescued.

During the eight hours they waited, she witnessed four people die. She watched a woman and child trapped in a car as the water rose over and swept them away. She saw a woman clinging to a tree who lost her grip and quickly drowned. She watched as a man was being rescusitated, but died in the attempt.

Those images emerge whenever she closes her eyes. It’s why she’s hardly slept since she and her children moved into a downtown Houston shelter.

people waiting to be rescued

Other Challenges

People traumatized can feel overwhelmed to restart their lives. There’s frustration with contractors, insurance companies, and government agencies, and with basic needs like medical support and food and water.

Storm victims often lose their jobs due to devastation of businesses. They face financial trouble and then the shame of finding help from government agencies or the community. They know the feeling of standing in lines for help instead of being the one helping. 

Here’s some gently offered advice:

  1. Find a good church, faith and spiritual family will help.
  2. Join a support group, sharing your story could be beneficial.
  3. Resist the urge to feel like you’ve failed, you haven’t.
  4. Pursue positive short term goals, moving forward is healthy.
  5. Find a good counselor or mental health professional. You may need it.

To Close

“Not everyone bounces back, some just keep bouncing.” So, please try to remember these words from Jesus in John 16:33,

“In this world, you will have much trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Shalom

Luck or Providence: You Decide

“Give luck a chance,” someone said.

Faith & Hope?

Outside a conscious awareness of God, and his divine presence, there is only chance, luck, and happenstance. A vague randomness that is ultimately meaningless, not of faith and offers no hope.

The Work of God

Is more obvious in times of great crisis and deep need. Do you remember the man born blind? (See:  The Storm of the Centuries ) The belief was that God had punished him due to sin.

But Jesus said no, neither he or his parents sinned that he was blind, but his blindness would provide an opportunity for God’s work to be displayed. Jesus healed the man and magnified God’s glory in doing so. God works to demonstrate his presence.

Some Harvey Examples

  • One of our members called saying she knew an older couple in Dickinson who was flooded, could anybody help? All our work crews were helping others. But five minutes later, another member called to say, “I’m in Dickinson, is there anyone I can help?” He went to their home, talked and prayed over them, and a family volunteered to go and help.
  • A family from our church recently moved to Dallas. He was praying about how to help in Houston. He came down and offered the use of his house while it was for sale. Shortly after, we got a call from someone bringing workers but needed a place to stay.
  • Our Pre-School Minister was working with a crew, one of whom had a brother on staff with a church in Alabama. She encouraged her to contact him, and she did. He approached his leaders, asking them to help. They sent someone to meet with us, he bought us $1200 of tools to use,  stayed for two days to helping with flooded houses, and then recommended to his elders that they help with a large donation. They gave $70,000.
  • A member called saying she was flooded, and needed a mattress. Ten minutes later another member called saying she had a mattress, did anyone need one?

God’s glory was displayed throughout the storm, over and over, and then after the storm, over and over. The Holy Spirit prompted many to serve, help and give. 

People found themselves:

  • Shoveling mud out of homes
  • Tearing down water soaked walls
  • Listening, praying, and weeping with flood victims
  • Opening their homes to those who no longer had one
  • Offering their homes to workers
  • Serving lunch to work crews, day after day
  • Buying and delivering supplies
  • Helping flood victims with insurance and FEMA.
  • Delivering dinner to victims
  • Watching other people’s kids so they could help
  • Doing laundry for those who no longer could
  • Ripping up soured, water soaked carpet
  • Giving out gift cards
  • Packing boxes
  • Doing grocery shopping for those in need
  • Asking and obtaining donations
  • Fixing plumbing problems
  • Climbing on roofs to fix leaks
  • Sweeping and mopping floors
  • Showing up in each other’s lives
  • Day after day, all day long, getting it done

god lending a hand

To Close

No, not chance, luck, or happenstance. Not fate or coincidence. Just the work of God. It’s the Holy Spirit inspiring and leading us to make a difference.

“Give luck a chance.”

No thanks. I’ll choose the divine providence of God every time.

“Though Poor, Yet Are We Rich”

It was a thoughtful gift, and came from their own money.

What?

It was Father’s Day, and my kids gave me a card and my gift was inside. The card offered the sentiments frequently expressed on such occasions. And the gift?

Seven Lottery Tickets

I Was Touched

It was fun. The tickets had to be scratched off and each had a potential of $1000. I was moved. I was impressed. I was hounded to get scratching.

Lottery Tickets
Not my Father’s Day lottery tickets, but close, really very close. 

As I slowly scratched, they hovered with rapt attention, like baby vultures waiting to be fed. They asked, “Dad, since we bought you the tickets, if you win, can we have some of the money?”

Uh Huh.

Had I won, I would have gladly shared, for I would have an abundance. I don’t know why that story comes to mind. Except for this.

Crisis Relief

Hurricane Harvey flooded our church building and the homes of fifty of our members. Donations have come in from all over the country, even internationally, from individuals and churches. The donations have been generous and will go a long way in helping our members and our community.

Except for one.

The One?

Well, it’s the amount. Every dollar counts but it wasn’t much. It wasn’t $10,000 or $1,000. It wasn’t even $500.

Now Jesus, Mark 12:42-44

But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples, Jesus said, “I tell you, this poor widow has given more than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

The Gift

The gift came from the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, it came from Haiti, from the Delmas Church of Christ in Port-au-Prince. Our church partners with Hope For Haiti’s Children, sponsoring a school in Cite Soleil, a Port-au-Prince slum community.

When they learned about our flooding they took up a special contribution.

With extreme poverty, from people who can barely feed their families, and with Hurricane Irma breathing down their necks, they raised $250 for us. And prayed for us, and pray for us still.

We were moved to tears, to joyful humility, and gave praise to God and gave thanks for our Haitian family, and we still do. They gave all they had to live on. They gave everything.

“Though poor, yet are we rich.” 

To Close

Never underestimate what the love of God will do in the hearts of believers. Never doubt how the Holy Spirit will stir believers into action, everywhere, from all over the world.

“It was a thoughtful gift, and came from their own money.”

Shalom