Pass the Chow Mein Please

Here is a story for you.

The Neighbor

Our Preschool Minister, who has been busy serving in relief efforts, was approached by her neighbor asking for help for her parents. Their house was damaged in the storm and had a leaky roof.

Her Response

She told her neighbor, “Sure, we can help.” She gathered a work crew and asked them to do what they could to help her neighbor’s parents leaky roof. And so, they did.

What Happened?

As they were getting started, a work crew from a different church showed up. Evidently, the other group had volunteered and the older couple forgot to tell their daughter.

The second group offered to get up on the roof and take care of it. Our group said, “Sure, thanks.” And so, they did.

And Then?

The older couple, feeling a little awkward that our group had come but wasn’t needed, offered to take them to lunch! And so, they did.

They took them to a Chinese Restaurant.

See The Picture

Gathered for lunch were the Vietnamese couple who didn’t speak English, the work crew who didn’t speak Vietnamese, sitting together in a Chinese Restaurant with menus written in Spanish, which neither the Vietnamese couple or work crew could read.

“Dinner Is Served”

Houston’s Population

  • Vietnamese-100,000
  • Chinese-90,000
  • Hispanic-1.7 million
  • The work crew not speaking Vietnamese, Chinese, or Spanish-4
  • Making it all possible: Our Preschool Minister-1 
around-the-world-in-houston-thailand-696x407
Count The Different Cultures In This Picture of a Houston Store

To Close

What in the world did they have in common?

  • A desire to help others in need.
  • The need to show appreciation.
  • A willingness to reach across barriers.
  • The humility that brings people together.
  • The fact that everyone likes Chinese food.

Shalom

The Secret to Success

It’s hard to see and get the things we set out to see and get.

Spotting Game

A friend says she saw scores of elk on the side of the road, at night. I was in the car behind them and saw no elk at all. I think she saw scores of rural mailboxes.

A friend I had been staying with, warned me that the deer were active and that he had  recently hit two of them. I said, “Yes, I’ve come around curves and seen them standing in the road.” He said, Yes, but I’m talking about deer who step out in front of you at the last second and before you can hit the brakes, you’ve hit the deer. Be careful going down the mountain.” 

So, I carefully drove, in the dark, ten miles an hour, certain I would hit a deer. I spotted some, but they turned out to be bushes or small trees, which I didn’t hit. I saw no deer.

Catching Fish

I fly fish the Conejos River, catching brown and rainbow trout. I practice catch and release, but before I can release, I have to catch, and I don’t catch many. Seems everyone else catches by the dozen, but not me.

My Point

The things we seek in life can be elusive. Like the deer, elk, or trout, or whatever it is we seek. You can fish all day and catch nothing, or go hunting and never see even one.

Is life like that? Do we seek things that are elusive and hard to get?

  1. Bigger
  2. Better
  3. More
  4. Unnecessary
  5. Unhealthy

Do we set our hearts on things beyond our reach? Beyond what is good for us?

If I focus on what God has promised: grace, divine connection, my basic daily needs, then I’m never disappointed.

When I fix my heart on what’s not been promised, well, that’s when I get frustrated and irritated.

To Close

I’ll keep fishing, but I’ll keep in mind that God hasn’t promised a lot of fish.

Shalom

Is This The End?

At long last, the end has come!

What Has?

Well, the end of my Harvey bloggs. Since the storm left Houston I’ve blogged 24 times about Harvey.

This is the 25th and final time.

Some Observations

  1. I’ve never seen this level of devastation.
  2. Houstonians weren’t hit by a hurricane, but by a tropical storm.
  3. If it had passed quickly, we would have been okay.
  4. I’ve never seen people helping like they have.
  5. The heroic efforts of the rescuers were amazing.

Some Memories

  1. The trucks, boats, and helicopters.
  2. People on their roof tops.
  3. Walking the neighborhood between the rain bands.
  4. The five-day junk food fest.
  5. Praying for it to stop.

Grateful

I’m grateful to friends who stayed in constant contact. On one stressful night, the worse night of all, I texted with friends till 4:30 AM. We couldn’t sleep due to the lightening, thunder, and tornados.

Not Total Devastation

About 140,000 residences were damaged or destroyed. But many came through Harvey unscathed. In fact, millions in the greater Houston area had no flooding at all, and a majority of those never saw the water get even curb high.

 

Harvey
Hurricane Harvey struck south Texas. Then Tropical Storm Harvey headed for Houston. 

To Close

The storm gave its worst and the people gave their best. They gave themselves to assist and to save. It was our finest hour and it still is.

In the storm, in the darkness and devastation, there has been a divine presence, a leading of the Spirit, a sense that the highest power of all was getting our attention. Did he? Does he still?

May God be with you.

Odd Responses to Being Helped

There are some odd responses to receiving help.

people waiting to be rescued

  1. Minimizing the Assistance

Minimizing is common, especially for those who see others in worse condition.

“Don’t help me, there are so many who need it more than I do.”

It’s true that often there are others requiring greater assistance. The person with a roof leak isn’t first in line, that goes to the person with a flooded house and no place to go.

 Often, the “lightly affected” feel guilty for asking, or receiving, assistance.

Someone with a broken leg shouldn’t refuse help because someone else has a gushing head wound. Severe injuries need attention, but at some point, so does the broken leg.

  1. Rejecting the Assistance

Some reject assistance due to stubborn pride. They would rather go down with the ship then accept a hand out, or admit they need help.

“I can take care of myself, go help somebody else.”

After Harvey, I met people with this level of pride. It offended them that I thought they needed help, so, they refused it.

The prideful person with a broken leg knows there are others needing help, others without their resilience and strength. Although their broken leg is  painful, and prohibits them from getting up or walking, they still feel good about their pride being intact.

  1. Indulging the Assistance

Some respond to trauma by indulging every want and desire. They take advantage, demanding they get everything. Workers come to fix their damaged roof, but then are expected to repair everything in the house.

It’s the person in the hospital with a broken leg and insisting on a face lift, a tummy-tuck, and a little liposuction. Then they want a daily massage and maybe a few elective surgeries, all provided by someone else.

“I need a lot of help, while you’re fixing my leg, go ahead and fix everything.”

Some respond to trauma by demanding a level of care beyond what’s reasonable. It comes from the fear and anxiety they can’t seem to shake. So, they indulge in the help of others as a means of coping.

Me?

During Harvey, our roof leaked, and our dining room ceiling was destroyed, our kitchen ceiling was damaged, and a wall had to be stripped to the studs.

I didn’t tell anyone, that was me in the 1st group. Then I refused help, that was me in the 2nd group. Then I wanted someone to come and take care of everything, that was me in the 3rd group.

I understand.

To Close

People laugh at trauma. They deny anxiety and fear. They push it into a jar, screw the lid on tight, and set it in the pantry. Not a healthy response.

We all need a little help. We need a hand and need to extend one. The best response to trauma is to deal with it intelligently, which may mean talking to someone, or getting help in some other way, or maybe offering it.

Today: Be safe, make good choices, and rely fully on God.

 

Fast or Far: You Decide

Here are a few thoughts on togetherness.

Going Fast

In High School, I was a sprinter. I ran the 100 and the 220. Sprinters run on nervous energy and adrenalin and rely only on themselves. They are quick, but they don’t go very far.

Going Far

The cross-country team ran a 2.3 mile course. They trained together and competed as a team. For distance running, they did better as a group.

When I worked with Hope For Haiti’s Children I made many trips to Haiti. Sometimes I went alone and sometimes with a large group. When I went alone I could visit all the schools in a day or two. But the large groups did something I couldn’t, they put on medical clinics and served hundreds of kids. Going alone was faster, but the group got much more accomplished. Working together was the key.

Now Jesus

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead…” Luke 9:51-52

Only Jesus could die on the cross. It’s why he came. He could have gone to Jerusalem alone, but he didn’t, his disciples went with him. They went together.

Now Paul

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Paul elevated the value of connection, of the fellowship of believers. Caring for each other is how a church is sustained and grows, by doing it together.

In Closing

Here is an old proverb:

“If you want to fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.

The body of Christ is a sacred community and the community exists in service to one another.

god lending a hand
We all need a hand once in a while. 

Spiritually, we go farther by going together. If you doubt it, just ask the people whose homes were destroyed by Harvey.

It’s just a few thoughts on togetherness. 

Shalom 

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