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!

 

Our Most Exciting House

The house we were most excited about.

Which One?

The View? In our first ministry, a couple from church offered us their home at no cost to us. The house was in an upscale neighborhood in the hills above Los Angeles, with a pool, and an amazing back yard with an amazing view. We didn’t own it, but we loved living there.

beacon-hill-griffith-park-view
We loved living there, it had a gorgeous view.

The Acre? Years later, we got a house on an acre, about a mile from the church. It had oak floors and lots of charm. It was like living in a huge garden. Each time I pulled into the driveway I felt so happy.  We loved living there.

The Atrium? Currently, we live in a beautiful neighborhood of custom homes with mature trees and landscaping. It’s gorgeous here. It also has a pool, a charming atrium with a water-feature and fire pit. For us, it’s a cool house. We love living here.

Which was our favorite, the one we are were the most excited about? None of them.

Our favorite house was only 1450 square feet. It wasn’t fancy or upscale. It didn’t have hardwood floors, a pool, or a great view. It was a starter house, but it was our house. It’s where we brought our son when he was born. We were so excited to live there..

Now Jesus: John 2:17

“His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus was in his Father’s house just after his birth. He was there at age twelve. He was there during Passover, the week of his death. He was in God’s house many times.

To Close

There are things Jesus did that I can’t do. I can’t walk on water or turn water into wine. I can’t feed the multitudes with a few a few fish and loaves. I can’t heal the sick or give sight, hearing and mobility to those without them. I can’t live a perfect life.

But there is one thing I can do.

I can be consumed with zeal for his house.

Not a house with architecture and a parking lot, not a building, but the house of God that is the sacred community of Christ.

This morning, I’ll be speaking on the theme of, “Zeal For God’s House.” Come join us at 10:00, or watch the livestream from our site: www.southeastonline.org                 

God’s house is the house I’m most excited about!

“Hey, Your Blinker Is On”

You know you are getting older when…

  1. You forget to take the things you wanted to take.
  2. You leave things around the house that you can’t find.
  3. You miss turns and streets on your way home.
  4. You forget what day it is.
  5. You change lanes and leave your blinker blinking, forever.

I have no experience with the above list, they just came to me while writing this blog. Sometimes I do some of them. Some more than others. Maybe one or two of them a lot. Maybe.

Yesterday

Driving back to the office from lunch, a car came alongside and the driver was waving to get my attention. It was odd, but he persisted. So, I rolled my window down and here is what he said,

“Your blinker is on.”

I guess he had been behind me for a while and was irritated that my signal was on but I wasn’t turning, ever. Some call that, “An Eventual Right.”

right turn blinker
Not my car or my right turn signal, but close, really very close.

The driver was young, polite, and was smiling. Or was he laughing? I got the feeling that his telling me about the blinker was his way of serving society and making Houston a better place to live. He seemed pleased and proud. Uh Huh.

What I Said

I said to him, “Okay, thanks,” and rolled up the window. I was a little bit annoyed. His rather manic waving suggested I might have been dragging my bumper or something. But no, it was the blinker.

Now Jesus: Matthew 7:3

“’Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”                                                                

 Jesus spoke of our being judgmental about the minor weaknesses of others while ignoring the major failings in our lives. He would call it, “Hypocritical.”

Was his pointing out my forever blinker a speck or a plank in his eye? Or neither? Was my annoyance with him a speck or a plank in mine?

To Close

We can all be a little more tolerant, offering a little more grace to others. Yes, there are those who are annoying. But let’s practice the peace that passes all understanding, and not forgetting to check our mirrors for planks.

By the way, the young man was right, my blinker was on. I sheepishly turned it off.

Shalom

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

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 

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