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

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!

 

It Felt a Little Gilligan

It was a rough and bumpy ride.

What Was?

Sitting in the back of a boat, in Galveston Bay, when a threatening storm stirred up. We were determined to beat the rain, lightening, and rising waves so our brave captain pushed the motor to the stops. The bow slapped and bounced and the spray flew back and drenched me.

It felt a little Gilligan’s Island. Me? I was Gilligan and feared the Minnow was lost. It was a rough and bumpy ride.

We barely made it. Relieved to escape the storm, we trailered the boat and left for friendlier places.

Now Jesus: Luke 8

One day, Jesus and his disciples got into a boat and headed across the lake. Here’s what happened:

As they sailed, he fell asleep. A storm came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. 

The disciples woke him saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and was calm.

A Week Ago

Last Saturday night we too were in a raging storm with constant lightening, cannon like thunder, and rapidly rising waters. 

wet houston
It Was A Frightening Storm And We Felt Great Danger

We were afraid, and like his disciples, we were in great danger. We wondered if our homes were about to be swamped.

Some Perspective

  1. Jesus was in the boat and he was in our home.
  2. At the darkest moment, they asked him for help.
  3. Do we wait till the moment is darkest before asking?
  4. He calmed the storm, the boat didn’t sink, and they didn’t drown.

I know. In Houston, thousands of homes flooded and over forty people have drowned.

man walking in storm
When Do We Call On The Name of the Lord For Help?

My point is this: the disciples took on water and were in great danger. They experienced the same fear as we do. And they had Jesus in the boat, didn’t we have him in our home? 

two men in raft
Is Jesus Still In The Boat?

People of faith have storms, know danger, and experience fear. Sometimes the water rises even on the strongest beleivers.

After calming the storm Jesus asked, “Where is your faith?” Isn’t that the point of the story? Where is your faith? Faith isn’t about God keeping the hurricanes from forming.

To Close

It was a rough and bumpy ride. I was wet, miserable, and glad to not get struck by lightening. I got home and was thankful.

In the storms of life we learn to say by faith, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Shalom

“Why Live There?”

Why would you live there?

A Question

 “Why live in a place that gets hammered by storms every few years?” I’ve been asked that question by people who live some place else.

It’s true. The Houston area, and the Texas Gulf coast, gets significant storm damage from time to time. Nevertheless, there are good reasons to live here.

  • People are needed here, more so than many big cities.
  • The nation depends on Houston’s energy production.
  • So does the state of Texas.
  • Its has world class hospitals and medical support.
  • Houston typically has a healthy if not a booming economy.
  • And many more reasons.

Houston12

The same could be asked of the cities and towns around the Gulf Coast. It could be asked of Florida’s 20,000,000 people.

Same for the eastern sea board including the 20,000,000 people who populate the New York/Newark metropolitan area. 

And how about Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, and other regions that suffer destructive tornados?

The question could be asked of the 39,000,000 Californians living in an earthquake zone.

Why Live There?

How many people would need to relocate to avoid the earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, and tropical storms? Roughly 90,000,000? More? And  move to where?

Now Jesus

Jesus used an illustration about two houses being built. One was built in a dry river bed and the other on rock.

Two questions could be asked:

  1. “Why did you build your house in the sand?” Answer: “Because I’m a fool.”
  2. “Why did you build your house on the rock?” Answer: “Because I’m wise.”

The fool built in a dry river bed. The wise built on the rock, up out of the river bed. In the rainy season, the dry bed became a roaring flash flood and the fool’s house went, “Splat!” The wise man’s house withstood the storm because he didn’t build in the river.

Houston didn’t build in a dry river bed. Neither did Corpus Christi, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, or New York. Neither did New Orleans.

Foolishness: letting your kids play on a busy road, making bad decisions, choosing foolish things. Living only for self, without faith, and without God.  

Wisdom: being careful, making good choices, making wise decisions, and loving God and others as we love ourselves. 

To Close

Jesus illustrated what it meant to embrace or ignore his teaching. When it pertains to his Word, don’t build your house in the middle of a river. Be wise, be smart, embrace his word and live on a rock-solid foundation, in a house that will stand for eternity. 

Houston is my home, and home for millions of people. It’s a wise choice.

And storms are a part of life, everywhere. 

Shalom

A Mighty Wind Swept In

He lost his family, his health and his home. But he didn’t lose his faith.

A Remarkable Story

We all know him. We’ve read his story, a story of heart-ache and heart-break. It wasn’t his fault, he didn’t do anything wrong. Nor were his forefathers guilty of sins that were being punished down the generations.

He was overwhelmed with death. His wife turned against him. His home, possessions, and wealth were destroyed. He was struck with illness, painful and incurable. He had a few friends, but they were untrue.

From Job 1:18-19

“…your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house, it collapsed on them and they are dead…”

From Job 1:20-22

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” 

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

A Great Wind

Some have lost their home and possessions.

Some have a damaged home and damaged possessions.

Some may have employment challenges or have lost a business.

And the horrific wind of Harvey isn’t finished. There is more for Houston and the people of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and maybe others.

Harvey

Some Good News

In time, Job was restored and blessed beyond imagination. You too will be restored and blessed. You’ve been attacked by the mighty wind and there is heart-ache and heart-break. You will need the patience of Job to get through this. 

Let us resolve to have patience beyond that of Job’s wife.

To Close

The storms are frightening. The lightning and thunder unnerving. The water rises and we  dwell on the worst, it’s hard not to. It isn’t your fault, you’ve done nothing wrong, and you aren’t being punished.

This morning, I want to lift you up to that higher place. That place where faith sustains, strengthens, and assures us.  

Shalom