The Loyal Sports Fan

Team loyalty gets me into trouble with the friendly and the not so friendly. I know, already you are asking, “What?” Well, does team loyalty necessitate an acidic hatred of all other players, coaches, teams and cities?

Some say a definitive yes. I dare to say a cautious no. 

Don’t hate me.

 FAN LOYALTY?

  • Root for the local team, hate all others.
  • If two local teams: swear undying loyalty to whoever came first.
  • Only wear the caps, shirts, jackets and underwear of your team.
  • Amp up support for post season events.
  • Face painting strongly recommended, but not absolute.
  • Body painting for men with weight problems acceptable.
  • Tailgate & halftime parties, snacks, and victory celebrations required.
  • Boo, hiss, complain, insult, yell, and throw things at opposing teams
  • (If watching on TV, ignore the thing about throwing stuff)

HERE’S A THING

What happens when your company relocates you to another city? Do you remain loyal to your old team or do you drop them and embrace a new one?

EXAMPLES…

If you get transferred from Boston to Dallas are you required to hate the Patriots and love the Cowboys?

If you get transferred from Houston to New York are you required to hate the Astros and love the Yankees?

I know, the wisdom of Solomon wouldn’t be enough. 

Speaking of loyalty, should you be loyal to your spouse only when you are in town? Can you be unfaithful as long as you are in another city? Shouldn’t spousal loyalty be absolute regardless of where you are? Does geography determine loyalty?

Here’s another: Do you still love America when you are out of the country? Based on Fan Loyalty Guidelines, when I’m in Port-au-Prince, Mexico City,  Beijing or Jerusalem I should be loyal to Haiti, Mexico, China and Israel. It’s just a thought.

AND ME?

Forty years ago I became a Florida Gator fan. It doesn’t matter why. We currently live in Houston, Texas and have for 23 years. It’s been tough as there are several college teams of note in this state. Here is how I’ve steered through these shark-infested waters.

Florida Field
That’s not me there on the left. Close, really very close, but no. 
  • I love the Texas Aggies, Longhorns, Red-Raiders, Cougars, Horned Frogs, Mustangs and Bears and just over 1200 high school teams.
  • I love the: Texans, Cowboys, Astros, Rangers, Rockets and Mavericks

Sure, I have my favorites, but I don’t boo, hiss, say horrible things or chuck stuff at the other players. Can I cheer, root, clap, and support my team without hating and denigrating the other teams and players?

NOW JESUS

His disciples once rebuked a man for trying to do miracles. Jesus told them to leave him alone, that he wasn’t their enemy.

Speaking of enemies, Jesus taught his followers to pray for them, to be kind to those who would persecute them, and to forgive everyone.

I know, it’s tough to discuss sports and fan loyalty when you bring Jesus into it. 

TO CLOSE

This morning I’m giving thanks that even though he loved his fellow Israelites, Jesus still offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for all others too. Like me.

Thank you Jesus for not booing, hissing, yelling or saying horrible things or throwing things at me because I’m not from Jerusalem. You are the best!

Shalom

Just Skating By

Last night we had an All Church Skate Party at Fun-City SK8 & Play. It was a blast. Mind you we didn’t get the whole church; I don’t think 445 families would have fit. But we had a lovely group and it was fun.

Skate Party 1
Not our skaters, close, really very close, but not the same.

SKATING?

I didn’t skate. I can skate. I know how to skate but I didn’t. Mostly, I didn’t want to fall down a lot. There, I said it. It’s possible that I could have gone around without falling but it wouldn’t have been probable. What would have been probable is that I’d fall and couldn’t get up,

“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” 

People would have helped me, at least the kids would have. There is nothing more kind, more sweet, or more reassuring than a pod of five year olds assisting you to your feet. Bless their skating little hearts.

THE QUESTION

Children of various ages asked why I wasn’t skating. Within the following responses is one honest answer. Can you discern which one?

  1. “I accidentally brought my ice skates instead of my roller skates.”
  2. “My skates have metal wheels and those aren’t permitted.”
  3. “My rollerskating skills would have intimidated you kids.”
  4. “I was a professional Roller Derby skater and now I have bad knees.”
  5. “Falling a lot would have been injurious to my ego and other parts.”

THE ADULTS

So, instead of skating I did what most of the adults did. I socialized while watching the kids, and some of their parents, go around and around and they did great. Hardly anyone fell. Well, one dad repeatedly fell and we tried not to laugh but we did.

CONVERSATIONS

Here are but a few of the conversations I enjoyed:

  1. Talked with a new family that’s been coming to church for a few weeks.
  2. Talked with a school teacher about her class and how it’s going.
  3. Chatted with a grandfather who was there to take pictures of his grandkids.
  4. Had some discussion with a couple of Dads who are in men’s group with me.
  5. Had conversation with some of our ministers who were there.

LEAVING

I left a little early. Went home to watch the Sunday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. Cowboys lost 12-10.

I should have stayed at the party.

IN CLOSING

It was fun and I’ll go again. Probably won’t skate, again. Probably will stand and socialize with parents and interact with the skaters, the kids going around and around and stopping to tease me for not skating.

It was a sweet time with some of my brothers and sisters and some very fun moments with those to whom Jesus has pledged his kingdom.

Maybe I need to invest in a new pair of skates.

Maybe not.  

Skate Party 2

Five Year Old Kids

KINDERGARTEN ASSISTANT

A woman in our Life Group asked if someone could help with her Sunday morning Kindergarten Class. Her usual assistant was dropping off a kid at college.

So I responded, “Sure, I’ll help.”

WHAT HAPPENED?

My duties were basically crowd control. You know, help them stay seated, keep them from getting crazy with their neighbors and make sure nobody got hurt.

The teacher, who is a professional school teacher, was phenomenal. Her teaching skills were impressive. Her ability to engage each child with respect and dignity was effective. She could do a lot with just the sound and tone of her voice.

If I had been the teacher I would have been outwitted, outplayed and outlasted by a bunch of sweet little five year old kids. I was barely getting by with crowd control.

kids
                          Not our Kindergarten class, not even close, our kids were cuter and smarter.  Maybe I’m just biased. Maybe?

SOME OBSERVATIONS

While making the first letter of their names with Play-Doh one kid asked another:

“Where does Play-Doh come from?” The kid shrugged and said, “I think it’s magic.” 

When asked what they knew about God and his Son:

“I think God and Jesus are basically the same person.” 

“Jesus went to the cross and there were fireworks.” 

When asked, “Can you name something God made that we can see.”

“TV” 

“Kids riding bikes. I saw a picture of it on the wall.” 

The Play-doh kid said, “Play-Doh.”

MY TAKE AWAY’S

They were adorable and smart. One child knew the days of creation, of what happened each day. One named four or five things she learned in school that week. One child wanted to talk and say all kinds of things. Some raised their hands when they wanted to speak or answer a question. I went away blessed to have been there.

I laughed, marveled and thanked God for such precious people. They were obviously from loving families who are talking about God in their homes. It was so sweet.

I think I’ll go back next week!

How Adorable Can You Get?

ON SUNDAY

Our church has a Family Ministry. It’s an 18 year curriculum for parents that’s organized by the milestones of a child’s life. The goal is for the church to partner with each family to support and equip them in their quest to raise Godly children.

One of the early milestones is a child transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. It’s a big deal for the child and can be a really big deal for moms and dads. This year, we have thirteen children entering Kindergarten.

Children's Blessing 1

On Sunday we recognized this milestone with our Family Ministry Team meeting with the parents to encourage them and pray over them. It was a beautiful thing. Then in our 2nd service we brought the kids on stage to give them a special blessing. It was sweet.

MORE THAN SWEET

But referring to it as sweet doesn’t capture all that it meant. It’s always precious to see young children in the spotlight but it’s so much more when we consider the significance those kids have and the special future God has planned.

  • Think about the amazing potential each one has
  • Consider the generations they will bring into the world
  • Imagine the impact they could have in their lifetimes
  • Embrace the endless possibilities that exist within a child’s heart
  • Rejoice that their young lives are being filled with Jesus Christ

children's blessing 2

PERSONALLY

I don’t remember kindergarten, I guess I went, but I don’t really remember. But one thing I know for sure, my church never brought me on stage or spoke words of blessing for a great future. They never prayed with my parents. I’m just grateful for those who have a better idea and are using their gifts and faith to help future generations.

TO CLOSE

They are adorable children, full of enthusiasm, unbridled energy, and souls as pure as new fallen snow. Jesus loves them. He loves all the little children. I think they are his favorite.

Have a great school year kids, you are loved and you are special!

Sonora Smart Dodd and What She Did

THE DAY AFTER

It’s the day after Father’s Day and all the working dads are back on the job. We got the day to celebrate and we are grateful, but it didn’t include Monday off so, back to work.

It’s okay, I had such a good time with my kids I’ll gladly start the new week back at work! Yesterday, we were about to give thanks at the dinner table when my son, who is thirty-five, asked, “Dad, do you have any wisdom?” He was being a bit snarky, but really he was  encouraging me to talk about being a father.

So I did. 

I told my son and daughter that being a father has been the greatest honor and joy of my life. That I love them more than ever and am thankful for them every day. I said how proud of them I am and how blessed I feel to be a Father. That’s what I said.

 I like Father’s Day, but I’m one of the lucky ones who has the sense that Father’s Day happens all through the year.

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One of my Father’s Day cards. Not a card thats close to the one I got, but the actual card

FATHER’S DAY? 

Did you know that Father’s Day started in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910, by a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd? And why? Because she felt her dad deserved to be honored.

Her father was William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and a man who had fathered six children, one of whom was, of course, his daughter Sonora.

GANG BUSTERS?

Father’s Day didn’t catch on. Sonora did what she could but life got busy and she let the banner drop. But in the 1930’s she renewed her zeal and restored her efforts and brought Father’s Day to a national awareness. She solicited help from the trade groups who benefited from Father’s Day, groups like the men’s tie manufactures and the tobacconists with their pipes and such. She succeeded in getting the New York Associated Men’s-Wear Retailers to commercialize Father’s Day. It took some time, but it worked.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers. In 1972, it became  a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. 

So, Happy Father’s Day and thanks to everyone who helped us get here!

And a special thanks to Sonora for her loving efforts. 

BUT ACTUALLY

The person deserving recognition is Mr. Smart. We honor him for his service, and for being such a good dad to his six kids. And by the way, Mr. Smart wasn’t just a conscientious father, he was also a single parent. Yep, he raised his family of six children on his own.

So we honor him for being the kind of father who inspired his daughter to grow up and invent Father’s Day.

And it’s been another great Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

A Day For Firsts

A  recent box office hit that I enjoyed was “First Man” the story of Neal Armstrong, the first man on the moon. It was a good story and I’m a sap for all things NASA. If I had been twenty IQ points smarter, a bunch of pounds lighter, and a whole lot more gifted, I would have been an astronaut. I would have been a kickin’ astronaut.

Anyway, last evening I was watching the movie (again) when suddenly there was a loud roar overhead. Not in the house, but up in the sky. I new what it was, it was an Air Force jet of some kind. I hear and see them all the time because we live close to Ellington Air Force Base which has a long and proud history with NASA here in Houston. I see all kinds of aircraft. Huge jets, fighter planes, trainers, and helicopters of all shapes and sizes. I think its cool.

There I was, watching a movie about the first man on the moon when I hear a massive jet roaring over my house. A jet I know will be landing at Ellington. I’m not certain, but I may be living in Neal Armstrong’s house when he was in the space program, probably not, but maybe.

Anyway, it got me thinking about firsts:

Yesterday at church, a little boy came up to talk to me for the first time, I think he was three. I’m not sure what he said, but I felt great that he said it.

In the opening of my lesson I compared a lion to a cat, it set up the message of how God  transforms us to something greater. To illustrate it, I had a picture of a cat on the screen. I’ve been preaching for forty years and a cat picture is a first.

At the close of 2nd service I had all the teens and adults who were about to go on their annual mission trip come up on stage. There were about 60 of them and I was proud to pray a prayer of blessing over them. Mostly, I was captivated by all the 7th graders going. It’s their first mission trip. The first of many I hope.

61623539_10157428454481204_6734778736131964928_o
So joyful to see so many going to help people in need. Yes, that’s me on the right, close to the edge, really very close.

In the afternoon we stopped by to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.  I know that every year is the first of its kind. Just the same, acknowledging someone who has been married for 50 years is a good. It was a major first for them.

IN CLOSING

Jesus was the first of his kind. He was the first savior, the first God to come near. He was the first divine being to sacrifice himself. He is the first King of Kings and Lord of Lords and he will be the first to come and take us home for eternity. He is the first of all firsts.

Have a good week and may the God of firsts bring something amazing to your life.

 

 

 

It Was Super-Cute!

I’ve got to tell you about last night. 

WHAT?

It was our preschool’s annual Spring Sing and Fund Raiser. Melissa McAdams, Director of “The Vine Preschool,” and our Preschool Minister, did her usual amazing job of producing a great event. 

The silent auction was so much fun, the bidding intense and the competition fierce. I saw my name on several bid sheets which I thought was odd since I didn’t put my name on them. Someone was having some fun I think!

There was cake, pie, cupcakes and ice coffee and it was all so delicious. The gym walls were covered up with art work from each class of children. It was beautiful. 

THE PROGRAM

The kids gave a fabulous presentation in the worship center! Their songs were full of God’s love. The students who said prayers, quoted verses and helped lead the songs were well prepared. I wondered how long they had rehearsed. 

The worship center had hundreds of parents, grandparents, and friends in support of their favorite little one. Seeing 60 or 70 two, three and four year olds on stage filled my heart with hope.

THE BIG AUCTION

For the third year I was asked to be the auctioneer. There are two kinds:

  1. Those who have completed professional auctioneering training programs
  2. Those who haven’t

I’m in the, “Haven’t” group but I do the best I can and it ends up being fun and funny and profitable. Actually, it’s an honor to help. 

IN CLOSING 

As I watched the super cute “Year in Review” video, which took about a year to finish, I felt a few tears forming. As Senior Minister it gives me such joy knowing we are investing in the spiritual future of young minds and hearts.

What’s the value of filling a young child’s heart with Jesus? 

It was a great night and I salute Melissa and her fabulous staff for another successful year and a highly entertaining program.

Good job everybody and thank you!

Monday Morning Blessings

Good morning and welcome to a new week and a fresh Monday morning. There are things to do, places to go, and kids to get to school. It’s a new week but I’m not sure I’m finished with last week.

Here are some things that were going on:

  1. Chemical storage tanks were on fire in the Houston Ship Channel and air quality warnings were issued for several communities.

“Oil byproducts from a damaged storage facility contaminated the Houston Ship Channel and created a cloud of cancer-causing benzene over the waterway, the latest mutation of one the worst Gulf Coast chemical disasters in more than a decade.”

cd4ef0c2-02c8-4e33-b1e2-7fb40bddbcd9-AP_Petrochemical_Fire_Texas

 

2. Yesterday morning, Sunday, we all came in for church to find that the A/V system was down and was not going to be up. We used a portable sound system and sang from something called a song book. Wow, I’ve seen them in museums. 

3. I got to take a friend to lunch, a precious 10 year old who I’ve known since she was a baby. I have a picture of her sitting in my lap in church when she was a year old. She is one of my favorites. We went to Outback Steak House and shared ribs, fries and a brownie covered in fudge and ice cream. I love kids. 

IMG_1894
Such a sweet girl and such a good friend. 

4. I got to see a movie with one of my kids. He is 34 and we like going to movies together, always have. I’m never happier than when I’m doing something with one or both of my kids.

IMG_0395
He is a visionary. Also the leader of our annual Christmas family nerf war.

TO CLOSE

Last week was scary, dangerous, frustrating, sweet and fun. I’m guessing this week will have its own ups and downs, its own heart beat. There will be people to spend time with and the likelihood of something unforeseen, a surprise that may or may not be welcome.  

However, I love life. I love my family and I love my church family. On this fresh Monday morning of a brand new week I am feeling especially blessed. God be with you!

Shalom

 

Big Things, Small Packages

Let me begin by saying that big things do indeed come in small packages. 

WHO

I meet with a group of men every week. There are seven of them and they are high functioning, bright and motivated men. They are also strong believers. The goal of the group is encourage, instruct, and mentor them. I hold a strong belief that each will go on to serve our church with distinction. They already do. I’m just trying to encourage more. 

Funny how often they end up encouraging and mentoring me. 

WHAT

Several years ago I was in Jerusalem, on a Holy Land tour, and our group stopped to shop at a store that sold hand-carved olive wood figures of Bible characters and motifs. 

I saw one that I fell in love with, it was Jesus with an outreached arm grasping the hand of Simon Peter to lift him out of the water. He was in the water because he had taken his eyes off of Jesus and began sinking in the churching waves of the Sea of Galilee. 

It resonated deeply because in many ways I am Simon Peter.

 

peter-walking-on-water
Not exactly the way it was that night, but close, really very close.

WHY

Because I, like Simon Peter, yearn to walk on the water with Christ. I start off with faith and good intentions but often falter through self-determination and self-dependency. What happens? I sink, every time. 

The olive wood figure spoke to my soul, not only because I identify with Peter’s sinking, but because like Peter, Jesus always lifts me up, every time. 

WHEN

I didn’t buy the figure because it was way out of my price range, but I never forgot about it, and have spoken of it often. I’ve even “drooled’ over it on subsequent Holy Land trips, but again, its price was always over my head. (no pun intended) 

Then yesterday a small package came to the church office. Inside was the very figure. Actually, I had held it again three weeks ago in the store in Jerusalem. Some friends who were with me on the tour gathered around to say that my men’s group had arranged for its purchase and delivery to Houston. They had even recorded a video message that I saw in the store on a cell phone.

I wept with tears of joy and overwhelming gratitude.  

TO CLOSE

I’ll conclude with the beginning. Big things do come in small packages. You know what else comes in small packages? The bits and pieces of time, trust and fellowship that form great friendships with great friends. 

Shalom

 

 

A Perfect Day?

A quote that I’ll use out of context:

“We aren’t here to make things perfect.

The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect.

Not us.”

snowflake
Snowflakes are perfect

That means God is perfect since he designed the perfect stars and snowflakes. I’m not perfect, nobody I know is perfect and there isn’t anyone who to know who would be perfect if I knew them. Perfection isn’t our thing.

But every now and then we get close, we touch the hem of the garment, scratch the surface and catch a glimpse of perfect.

Such was Sunday morning. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

A new birth happened. At the start of 2nd service I baptized a man who was as excited, grateful, and humble as anyone I’ve ever immersed into Jesus. He came up from the water, raised his arms in victory and shouted enthusiastically. It was a great moment for the Kingdom of God and a wonderful start to our service. Wow!

Man-at-cross
There is such victory in Jesus, such hope through calvary.

Later, I had the honor of leading a Baby Blessing for a young family and their newest addition, an infant son.They came with their family and grandparents and our shepherds surrounded them for a prayer of thanksgiving and affirmation. We prayed he would be raised in the love and will of God and that their home would always be a haven of the Holy Spirit. It moved me deeply. 

Then I introduced the Development Director of Hope For Haiti’s Children who was there to support the sponsorship drive. He built us up with words of appreciation for helping the Cite Soleil school over the past 12 years. He was so encouraging!

Then I got to share some of my Haiti experiences and the Holy Spirit stirred the hearts of many. When the day started we were sponsoring 232 kids in the Cite Soleil school and by the close of 2nd service sponsorship swelled to 301, an increase of 69, and many left their names to sponsor children when they are available. There was so much love and compassion and such a desire to serve the least of His flock.

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Such a beautiful thing, watching so many chose to sponsor a Haitian child!

TO CLOSE

I’m still glowing and still so very thankful to the Shepherd of our souls. It was so exciting to be there and richly fulfilling to be part of it. It was a glorious Sunday and an almost perfect day.

Or maybe it was perfect! 

Shalom