It’s The Family Holiday Fusion!

Thanksgiving is over, Christmas has begun.

It’s Okay

Actually, Christmas has already started, it was visible before Thanksgiving. In fact, Christmas now starts well before Halloween, back in the summer with decorations for sale.

We have morphed into a Holiday Season, starting with Halloween (which isn’t a true holiday) then Thanksgiving, then the blitz to Christmas, the Christmas Eve service, and finally, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. But it’s okay.

It’s the holiday season.

For Me?

I love it.

I enjoy the Holidays primarily for one reason: our kids come home. You might snigger at that, since our son, daughter, and son-in-law live in Houston, as we do.

But still, to have them spend the night on Christmas Eve, waking up to a warm fire, with brightly wrapped gifts under the tree, with glowing candles and carols playing, well, it doesn’t get any better. I’m a fully confessed holiday romantic.

christmas tree at home

A Reflection

As I think about it, all of my holiday joys, memories, and happiness revolve around family. It doesn’t’ matter that our kids are no longer children. It only matters that they enjoy making new memories, and want to make them with us.

To Close

In this season of celebrating the birth of Christ, let’s note that Jesus and his family had “Holiday” traditions of their own: Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, Yom Kippur, to mention a few. “Going up to Jerusalem” for the feasts were national events, and not to be missed.

Jewish caravan going to Jerusalem

      They contributed to the family’s unity, faith and values. Sounds good to me.

So, from my home to yours, welcome to the Holidays.

Shalom

Forty-Five Million Turkeys, Pt. 2

Not everybody likes turkey.

Really?

Yep. Some find it bland, uninspired, and over-hyped. Others say it tastes like chicken and if they wanted chicken for Thanksgiving they would cook one, or get take-out.

Maybe that explains the gallons of delicious brown gravy, a beloved food group.

51ulg5ffoxl
Not our turkey or our turkey platter, but close, really very close.

It’s Iconic

Millions of Americans will have a traditional turkey dinner. Some because they love it and some because it’s traditional, for the turkey is the icon of Thanksgiving. Is that a good reason to have it, because its traditional?

Family Thanksgiving
A nice looking family and a really big bird. Probably not chicken.

3.5 Millennium

About 3500 years ago, a million slaves walked out of Ramses. The final straw for their freedom? It was the death of Egypt’s first-born sons, a terrible night of grief. But it was a very different night for the slaves. They had painted lamb’s blood on their doors, and so death passed over.

That evening the slaves ate a special meal, the Passover meal. It was special because of what it meant, and because it was their final meal in captivity. There are some interesting similarities between the Hebrews and the Pilgrims.

The Hebrew Slaves                                  

  • Ate roasted lamb                                  
  • Shared with family and neighbors                             
  • It was a meal symbolizing their freedom             
  • The meal was about leaving for the Promised Land   

The Pilgrims

  • Ate roasted turkey
  • Shared with family and friends
  • It was a meal symbolizing their freedom 
  • The meal was about coming to the New World

Their Gift

If not for our Pilgrim forefathers, our world may have turned out differently. Would the United States have even happened? Would we know and enjoy the religious, political, and social freedoms that we cherish? Do we owe them our gratitude?

Our Response

Each November, we gather around our tables to give thanks. We practice the grace of gratitude by remembering those who sacrificed so much to bless so many. 

We say thank you God!

thanksgiving

To Close

Whether you adore or abhor the turkey, let’s resolve that 45-million of them will not die in vain. Along with the food, the football, and the naps, let’s take a moment to say thank you on Thanksgiving Day.

For we are free, prosperous, and alive to enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving

Forty-Five Million Turkeys, Pt. 1

So many turkeys to be roasted, fried, or smoked.

How Many?

About forty-five million. Seems like a big number, but we’re a nation of big people, and Thanksgiving is one of our biggest holidays.

turkeys
45,000,000 of them, their days are numbered

The National Bird?

Benjamin Franklin argued for the wild turkey to be our national bird, but he lost the argument to the Bald Eagle. For 364 days, the eagle soars majestic and free. But on Thanksgiving, the humble turkey is king, in our hearts if not on our plates.

Alexander Hamilton said, “No citizen of the United States shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” Well said, for we were never going to eat roasted eagle.

But it was President Lincoln, in 1863, who made a proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving. And here we are, 154 years later, serving up forty-five million turkeys.

A Social Bird

Thanksgiving is shared with family and friends. The Pilgrims shared with the Wampanoag Indians. Edward Winslow recorded that there were fifty Pilgrims and ninety Native Americans at their feast. Must have been a big table!

So, we will gather around our tables, or in front of our big screens, and enjoy the turkey, cranberries, dressing, homemade rolls, and lime-jello. For desert: pumpkin pie,  pecan pie, and berry cobbler. Yum, dinner is served. 

Family Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks

They lost half their people that first year, a disheartening start for those who sacrificed so much to get so little. But the colonists soldiered on, possessing a profound faith they believed that God had led them there to live in freedom and prosperity.

For Us?

Our Thanksgivings don’t usually follow bitter winters of sickness and death. It’s more about being together with family, with plenty of good food, and football, and pie.

But maybe it’s more. The Pilgrims made a perilous voyage across a violent sea to seek a new life in the new world. Did God truly lead them here? Was their faith well founded? Is our own house of faith, freedom, and prosperity built on their foundation?                                                                                                                                       

To Close

This Thanksgiving, don’t let the turkeys die in vain. For they will make the last full measure of sacrifice, and for what reason? Just so I can over-indulge and fall asleep during the game? Is that how I say thank you?

51ulg5ffoxl

Part 2-Wednesday morning.

Harvey’s Unintended Blessings

Its Saturday night and its cool and breezy, and I’m outside, and thankful.

Why?

Because its cool and breezy. Because the temperature and humidity have fallen and it feels like the outer edges of winter are edging ever closer. 

I’m sitting outside with my laptop thinking about tommorow. Its Sunday and it’s a work day. I know, delivering sermons isn’t work. Nevertheless, I’ll be at church delivering my lesson. Actually, I’ll deliver it twice.

Twice?

Yep, after three and a half months of one service, we are returning to our normal schedule of two services: 8:30 and 10:45.

My work load has doubled!

One Service?

It’s about Harvey. Our church building flooded, so to make things simpler, and to better support one another, we’ve been crowding into one service. But tomorrow it changes back to two.

The Blessings!

Thursday is Thanksgiving and I’ve been thinking about thankfulness. Frankly, I’ve a struggled with it. Tropical Storm Harvey was hard on our city. And it’s been hard for me, at least I’ve allowed it to be. It’s been more than just a struggle.

However, I realize that I’ve emerged from the storm with something surprising: a sense of being blessed. Harvey’s devestation allowed me to experience three things:

  1. The amazing motivation of ordinary people.
  2. The amazing sacrifice of others.
  3. The inspiration of God’s amazing providence.

people waiting to be rescued

My sermon will be about those blessings. If you want to hear it, come see us or join us online at: www.southeastonline.org

 It’s the week of Thanksgiving and I’m thankful for my family, my home, and my country. But I’m also grateful for my church, the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood, Texas.

In the moment of crisis and need, they embraced profound purpose, they sacrificed themselves, and gave all they had to give. 

Its Saturday night and its cool and breezy, and I’m outside, and I’m thankful.

Shalom

It’s Not Really About The Carpet

It will take over 2,000 squares.

Of What?

Of carpet. We’ve had a bare floor in our Worship Center since the flood.

Here’s The Thing

The new carpet wasn’t delivered in giant rolls, but in boxes of carpet squares, each one measuring 2 feet by 2 feet. If my math is right, and that’s unlikely, it will take 2,250 squares to cover the 9,000 square ft floor. Is that right? Did I get it wrong?

Either way, its buckets of squares. 

carpet squares
Not our floor, or our carpet squares, but close, really very close.

Why Squares?

Well, it’s become common to install carpet squares in large applications. Some advantages:

  1. If one gets stained, pull it up, clean it, and put it back. 
  2. If one gets damaged, pull it up and put another one in its place. 
  3. If a big area gets damaged, like in a flood, replace it with new squares.

Some Thoughts

  1. No, the seams aren’t obvious. 
  2. No, it isn’t cheap carpet.
  3. No, it didn’t take weeks, just a few days to install.

It’s true, good things come in small packages. 

Now Jesus

Two lessons about the mustard seed:

1. “Is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:19

2. “He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.'” Luke 17:6

Those were metaphorical, right? Faith can’t be measured by its mass, volume, or weight. Its hyperbole: exaggeration for effect. God doesn’t care about our replanting trees and birds will perch on the branches, but not all the birds. 

His poignant illustrations taught this idea: Don’t say you can’t do something, or that you won’t try, because your faith is too small or weak.

Even the smallest faith can move mountains!

For Us

Sometimes I ask God to increase my faith because his teaching is hard and I don’t want to obey. So, I make it his problem. I put my lack of obedience on his shoulders.

“Increase my faith Lord, make it easier for me, and I’ll gladly do it.

To Close

Great faith isn’t delivered in giant rolls. It comes in small pieces, one piece at a time. So, keep obeying, keep doing what is right, and watch your faith grow.

Eventually, you’ll have a full floor of faith, a great foundation for your life.

Shalom

 

Jesus Struggling, Really?

He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.

Who Was?

  1. Lincoln: he lost children, was hated, shot at, and assassinated.
  2. Luther: was excommunicated and pronounced an outlaw.
  3. Copernicus: rejected as a heretic for his heliocentric solar system.
  4. Paul: scourged, jailed, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked.

All true, but no, it wasn’t one of them. Some other clues:

He was…

Like one from whom men hide their faces.

Stricken and afflicted by God.

Crushed for our iniquities.

Oppressed, judged, and cut off.

Poured out and pierced.

It was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

And The Cross?

Yes, Jesus died on the cross. However, he wasn’t the only one to experience crucifixion. Hundreds of thousands died on Roman crosses. Some for their crimes, for their race, or for their beliefs. Many were crucified as entertainment for wicked Emperors.  

The Bible

No, it wasn’t the thorns, spikes, or spear that gave the cruelest pain, it was other things:

taking the sins of the world

accepting our guilt and punishment

scorning the shame of the cross

being forsaken by his Father

Now Hebrews 5:7-8

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

Jesus suffered and wept. He wept for others and he wept for himself. He prayed with loud cries and petitions. One time he prayed so intensely, that on a cold night, his sweat fell like drops of blood. Notice, he was heard but the answer was still no. 

There are some things in life we just have to go through.

To Close

Are you hurting? Are you struggling? Are you feeling abandoned, oppressed, and discouraged? Then guess what? Jesus understands. He experienced all those and more, just as we have. He probably suffered more, and more deeply, and more intensely. 

But he knows. He lived them. 

Shalom

A Good Question

“With people needing help, why are we collecting funds for paint?”

A Fair Question

This morning, our church is taking up a special collection, not for crisis relief, but to help get our church building repaired. We suffered over a million dollars of damage and loss, and this morning are asking for $140,000 to help put everything back together.

Some have asked:

“Why are we collecting money for paint and carpet with so many still in need?”

The answer: Our flood insurance, as well as emergency funds, will cover all but $140,000 of the needs, hence the contribution.

Those Funds Will Go To:

  1. Repairs for roof damages.
  2. Regrading the property for better drainage and water control.
  3. Repairing all exterior and interior walls damaged by the flood.
  4. Insulation, electrical, and other needs.
  5. Cribs, changing tables, and supplies for the nursery.
  6. Cabinets, tables/chairs, and supplies for Children’s Wing.
  7. Cabinets and needed supplies for The Vine Preschool.
  8. Cabinets, tables/chairs for adult classrooms.
  9. Desks, chairs, bookshelves, and furnishings for Admin Wing.
  10. Flooring: carpet, tile, and the gym floor.

Some ask,

“Is all that is necessary? Couldn’t some be redirected to crisis relief?”

The answer comes from the needs and requests of our members:

  1. “When will the gym be finished so we can resume children’s/adult activities?”
  2. “When will the nursery be open, it’s been three months without one?”
  3. “How soon can we resume feeding the homeless?”
  4. “When can we start housing the homeless families that stay in our building?
  5. “When will children’s bible school begin, my kids miss it?”
  6. “When can the lady’s bible class start up again?”
  7. “How long until we can have baby showers and wedding showers?”
  8. “When will the Youth Ministry rooms be fixed and ready?”
  9. “When can we begin our Wednesday night small group ministry?”

And more questions like those. Everyone is past ready to get back to normal. With over 1100 members, there are many ministries, programs, services, groups, classes, fellowships, and events anxiously waiting to start up again.

That’s what the $140,000 will be used to do.

Crisis Relief?

The Southeast church has helped, or is helping, 92 families with small repairs or whole house renovation. About two-thirds are SE members, the balance are people in the community.    

When finished, the SE church will have spent more than $350,000 on crisis relief.

Some suggest we not repair the building but use the money to assist others. Some suggest we use the funds for crisis relief to get the building ready faster. Everyone has an opinion.

SoutheastSM

To Close

 

“No one can do everything for anyone, but everyone can do something for someone.”

Keep helping, stay serving, do what you can.

Our building will get finished then we will recommit ourselves to our ministries that help those in need. As much as we can, as soon as we can.

Shalom

A Self-Indulgent Coffee

I don’t’ complain, I’m not a complainer.

Here’s My Complaint

Yesterday morning I awakened to cooler temperatures. It was wonderful. Okay, that’s not the complaint.

I headed to the office and decided to listen to Christmas music. I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving. I didn’t care. It was a lovely fall morning and I was in a Christmas mood. 

I thought, “Hey it’s the holidays, what I need is a nice Holiday Coffee.” So, I stopped at a well-known coffee house, used their drive thru, and ordered a medium sized Holiday Spiced Latte. Yep. Then drove up to the window to pay for it. Now here is the complaint.

With tax, it was $5.32

When she told me, I nearly wigged out. I felt the pull to keep on driving. But I didn’t, I kept my place at the window, dug out five dollars and change, and paid for it.

Starbucks_Drive_Thru_012408_fs
Not my car or where I stopped, but close, really very close.

Was It Good?

It was extraordinarily good. It was spiced, and foamy, and smooth and rich. And it came in a festive holiday cup! The cup made it special.

It was my first $5.00 coffee. Then I wondered if they sold coffee drinks costing even more than $5.00? Yes? The more expensive ones probably come in an even nicer cup, with elves or something.

Now Jesus-Luke 21:2-4

“He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” 

I didn’t feel guilty for spending $5.00 on a coffee, but it was a little unnecessary, perhaps a bit wasteful. But I still bought it and I really enjoyed it!

To Close

No doubt, Jesus is still watching and noticing the givers. What does he see when he sees me giving? Anyway, I bet that poor widow was holding a spiced latte when she gave her two small copper coins. Maybe? 

 $5.00 for coffee is outrageous, self indulgent, and terrible, but it’s really good!

O well, Happy Holidays to all my rich friends!

 

It Was A Wake-Up Call!

“Stop! In the Name of Love”

What Is That?

It’s a lyric, and title, from a song the Supremes released on February 8, 1965. It quickly reached the top, going #1 on the Billboard Pop Singles, nearly 52 years ago.

Here’s Why It Matters

Yesterday, while driving home, I ran a red light.

The road I use has a crosswalk that isn’t at an intersection, it’s in-between intersections, in the middle of a long block, with a blinking yellow light.

When someone wants to cross, they push the button and the light blinks red, and then it turns red. The cars stop, the people cross, and it goes back to blinking yellow.

I didn’t notice the light had changed from yellow to red. By the time I saw the cars  stopped in the other lanes, it was too late to even brake, with no one in front of me, I drove right through it. As I did, I noticed someone with a bike was getting ready to cross. It was a young girl.

And Then?

I was scared, rattled, and sick to my stomach. I could have severely injured her, or worse. All I could think about was how close I came to destroying her life. I thought about her family. I was shaking when I pulled into my driveway. I’m shaking now. 

Now Jesus, Matthew 5:14-15

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone.”

Those verses have much meaning and application. But included must be the reminder of our responsibility to God, to our families, and to our community. Our world!

Just So You Know, I wasn’t…

  1. Playing with my phone.
  2. Talking on my phone.
  3. Distracted by music in the car.

But I was distracted. I was deep in thought, concerned about something, and was going over it in my head. Frankly, I wasn’t paying attention, was driving on autopilot. And a little girl very nearly paid for it.

kids in crosswalk

To Close

It’s a sharp reminder, a call to stop deluding myself. I tend to act like whatever is going on with me is more important than anything, or anyone. For the well-being of others and for the light of Christ to better shine, I need to listen to the call. And what’s the call?

Stop! In the Name of Love

“I’m An Easy Mark”

I bought six.

Six What?

Little boxes of chocolates. One of my young friends at church was selling them for a school fund raiser. Something about some volleyball nets. 

candy-bars
Not what I bought, but close, really very close.

An Easy Mark

We used to buy from every child that was selling something. But we couldn’t sustain it. At our lowest point, we had to make a tearful appeal to our Church Benevolence Ministry just to eat. (Okay, that’s not true, but its close!)

fund raiser
 I understand philanthropic fundraising campaigns.

Why So Many?

I had $12.00 and they were $2.00 each, so I bought six. Her mother told me,

“You didn’t have to buy so many.”

And I said,

“I didn’t have to buy any, I just wanted to support my friend.”

My health and well-being didn’t need the candy, it wasn’t about the candy.

Risky?

Sure it is. Some of you are members of my church and now you’ll go tell your little fund-raising kids:

“Go see Mr. Rick, he’ll buy anything.”

Sadly, I can’t. The Benevolence Committee has me on a program. Sorry kids.

Now Jesus: Mark 10:13-16

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. 

Why Her?

  • I’ve known her since she was a toddler.
  • She used to sit with us in church.
  • Each Sunday, she still finds me and hugs me.
  • We like talking about school and stuff.
  • I love her. I love her family.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not close to every kid in church, but I wish. We have 150 kids in our Children’s Ministry and 100 teens in our Youth Ministry. It’s likely most of them have little interest in knowing me! 

To Close

Sunday morning, we had a Baby Blessing for a sweet couple with a sweet baby girl, their first child. I encouraged them a little, challenged them a little, and gushed over their baby, a little. Then we prayed for them and blessed them. It was beautiful.

Maybe in a few years I’ll be buying chocolate from her? You never know!

Have a blessed day.