Different But Not

A DEAR FRIEND

A friend of mine was at church yesterday. It’s a friendship that was born through Hope For Haiti’s Children (HFHC), a faith based non-profit serving the needs of Haitian children. My friend, who is now Vice President of HFHC, was in Houston over the weekend and came to visit.

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Not me as I am today, but close, really very close.

Between the two services she gave a presentation about HFHC and shared some stories that really touched me. She spoke of a chance meeting with a little girl from Cite Soleil, a horribly impoverished slum of Port-au-Prince. As her story unfolded she shared how she was, of course, wearing shoes but the little girl wasn’t. Holding hands, they walked along  when suddenly the little girl hurt her foot. It was cut by broken glass.  

THE IMPACTFUL PART

She had assumed that since the girl lived in poverty that her little feet would be tough, hardened and immune. They weren’t. She ended her story with this confession. 

“I would never have walked barefoot there, but for her, what did it matter?”

Then it hit her: she actually had a lot in common with the girl. In fact, they were very much the same. We all have a lot in common with one another. We all hurt, grieve and struggle. We know loneliness and fear. We know heartache and heartbreak. Poverty doesn’t toughen the heart or callous the soul. The poor aren’t immune. 

It was a tough lesson to learn but a beautiful lesson to embrace.

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IN CLOSING

Of the many characteristics of Christ the one I respect the most was his ability to see everyone the same: young or old, healthy or sick, rich or poor. It didn’t matter. He saw everyone and sought everyone, for everyone needed him, and we still do. 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Tonya, thanks for helping us look past the differences to see the similarities.

We are all different, but not!

Shalom 

Mental Snapshots

Yesterday was Easter and we, like most churches, do a little extra for Easter Sunday. Here are a few memories I’d like to share, I call them mental snapshots.

PASSOVER MEAL: The Wednesday before Easter we held an authentic Passover Meal, complete with roasted lamb. It was open to everyone, for members and guests, and was a beautiful experience. I especially liked seeing the young families with their kids. 

NEW CLOTHES: In both services I saw bunches of children in new clothes. It’s tradition for kids to get new outfits for Easter. Often the moms and dads get new clothes too. It was funny that so many girls came up to show me their new outfits. They were so happy and adorable. They were super-cute. Predictably, not one boy came up to show me his new clothes. Yep. 

HEIGHTENED ENTHUSIASM: Special Sundays elevate the energy of the church. The singing gets louder, the worship is sweeter, and the special readings and presentations add a depth of meaning that blesses the experience. Yesterday’s worship was wonderful.

GOOD TO SEE YOU: I’m not sure why but Easter brings people to church like no other Sunday. Maybe Christmas rivals Easter when it falls on a Sunday. But on Easter I know I’ll see people who I haven’t seen in months, and it’s always good to see them!

IT’S NOT UNUSUAL: I’m one of millions who celebrates the resurrection daily, who rejoices in the empty tomb and bases their faith on his rising from the dead. It isn’t unusual that I do. In fact, I would say that most believers require no special Sundays to acknowledge his resurrection.  

Just the same, I love Easter Sunday. 

TO CONCLUDE

Maybe I’m sentimental. Maybe. But I love seeing the kids in their new clothes. I like the big crowds. I’m lifted up by the heightened energy and the greater enthusiasm. And I’m richly blessed by the rejoicing on Easter Sunday. 

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He is risen, he is risen indeed!

The Hands of Jesus

 Below are a few thoughts about the hands of Christ.

Seeing The Hands

Mary gave birth to a son, her firstborn, who was quickly absorbed by her love and warmth. She couldn’t stop gazing at his hands, those tiny hands, that curled sweetly around her fingers. She marveled that the hands of her son were also the hands of God’s Messiah. “How could that be,” she wondered? She knew his hands would one day help his father with the wood and stone; becoming rough and calloused. She knew his hands would one day help his Father in his Temple and Kingdom; becoming kind and caring. 

Those hands would cradle infants, bless children and touch lepers. They would comfort the grieving and soothe the broken. They were shepherd’s hands that gathered the lost  of Israel. They were healer’s hands that gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and strength to the lame. They were strong hands that lifted Peter from the stormy waves. They were righteous hands that shredded the money-changer’s tables. They were gentle hands that wiped the tears of Mary and Martha, and then his own.

His gentle hands lightly pushed the branches aside as he walked among the olive trees. In Gethsemane, were his hands raised in joyous praise or lowered to ease his body to the ground? He three times prayed, “Not my will but yours be done.” On a dark, cold night his sweat dripped like blood, were his hands red from wiping his brow? Did he reach out to the angel who came on his behalf? 

Then his hands helped him to his feet to face all that was next.

Perhaps he waved the disciples closer as the soldiers grew nearer. Perhaps he offered Judas a hand when he kissed his rabbi’s cheek? Perhaps he grasped the sword Peter used to attack the enemy?

His hands were bound by the hands of criminals. Could there have been a bigger farce than to bind the hands that built the world? Could the soldiers have known that ropes, shackles and chains were useless? Sure, go ahead, clap him in irons, lock the chains and use all the rope you can get. But, it won’t matter. Could atomic sized power ever be contained by a plastic bag?

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How could he surrender to those men? Those lesser men impassioned by hate, immune to truth and lacking humility. But surrender he did, for it served their mission well, their mission of murder. Why did he do it? Because he knew who he was and why he was there and what he came to do. And what he came to do requried their violence. 

So, see the hands. Rough and calloused from the wood and stone. Scarred and gnarled from the hammered steel and splintered with shards from the old rugged cross.

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See the hands that removed the cloth and rolled away the stone. See the hands of Jesus, and be absorbed by his love and warmth.

empty tomb blog

Happy Easter

The Town Garbage Dump?

I don’t know why but boys between the ages of six and eleven love a good pile of junk. It’s the stuff people set out to be collected or the free treasures found in a town’s garbage heap. I would joyfully take junk home to our garage. Dad understood but not for long.

“Ricky, what are you going to do with all that junk,” Dad would ask? “I don’t know, maybe tear it apart and build something?” ” Throw it away by Friday,”  he would say.

Throw it away? I just got it from someone who threw it away. 

OUTSIDE OF TOWN

All kinds of things can be found on the edge of towns, outside city limits. There are small town trash heaps, unwanted stuff at the dump, and all manner of dilapidated sheds and crumbling barns filled with rusted but interesting stuff. 

You know what else you could find outside of town? Well, if you were in Jerusalem around 33 AD you could find Jesus on a cross. It was Passover and the important people who deeply resented and passionately hated Jesus were busy getting the Romans to kill him. They succeeded.  

“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city to make his people holy through his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the city, bearing the disgrace he bore.” Hebrews 13:12-13

He was crucified outside the city so as not to contaminate the Jews with dead bodies and Roman rituals. They wanted to remain undefiled in order to participate in their most holy feast: Passover. 

Here is a favorite of mine by George Macleod:

“I simply argue that the cross be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a Cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves; on a town’s garbage heap.

At a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write his name in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek; at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died. And that is what he died for. And that is what he died about.”

FROM SCRIPTURE

If you read your Old Testament you’ll discover that the Kidron Valley, between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, was Jerusalem’s garbage dump for idols and all things related to idol worship. It’s where idols were crushed, broken, and burned. It’s where unwanted things were thrown away. 

ARCHAEOLOGY

In 2013 and 2014 archaeologists from the Israeli Department of Antiquities did some excavation in the Kidron Valley and discovered a massive rubbish site dating back to the Roman occupation of Israel. The Kidron Valley was Jerusalem’s garbage dump.  

The Bible

IN CLOSING

Jesus died outside the city and it was possibly in or near the Kidron Valley. It would make sense because his enemies thought him a false teacher, false messiah and a blasphemer.

To them, Jesus was a piece of unwanted trash to be thrown out with the garbage. 

Was he?

Shalom

A Text Message

Here is the text I received from my daughter.

“Congratulate us Dad, we own a house!”

They do indeed. My daughter and Son-in-Law have been looking for some time. As it often happens, they fell in love with the first house they found but waited too long to make an offer. They lost it. Lesson learned.

Then they couldn’t find another house that measured up to the first one. I think they got discouraged. She texted me:

“We will never find another house we like as much as the first house.”

But they did.

In fact, they liked it better. They moved forward quickly, their agent made an offer and it was accepted. She texted me:

“Dad, I’m so excited but starting to feel a lot of anxiety, is that normal?”

She asked if we could have lunch. “Of course we can,” I replied. They live in Houston, as we do, at least we have a Houston address. They live in an area known as the Heights and their new home is in the Heights. She had questions about house inspectors, closing procedures, and so forth. I like it that my daughter still looks to her dad for such things.

They’ve been married for a few years and I got to officiate their wedding. They are happy but in no hurry to start a family. It’s surprising that she isn’t at all receptive to my comments regarding their child bearing rate of speed.

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That was a good day. It was an emotional day. You are never finished being a parent to your kids.

She is a therapist with a successful practice and he is in commercial construction management. Their house is newer and nicer than our house and costs twice as much. She has already declared that this year’s Christmas will be at their house. I texted her:

Maybe we will sell our house and move in with you.

I haven’t heard back.

IN CLOSING

Like all good fathers I love my kids beyond human communication. To see the depth of my love you would need to listen to my heart. I’m am so proud of my kids.

Today, I congratulate my daughter for reaching this milestone. Way to go kid, nice job.

“Congratulate us Dad, we own a house!”