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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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

A Sunday to Remember!

I don’t often blog on Saturday mornings but today is different. It’s about what’s happening tomorrow morning. It’s Sunday and it will be especially good. 

BABY BLESSING

 Like many churches, we value new life and love blessing new babies. In 2nd service tomorrow will be a Baby Blessing. The family will come on stage, be surrounded by our elders, and then I’ll share words of love, meaning and a scripture with the parents. Then one of the elders will say a prayer of blessing. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Not me or the baby blessing of tomorrow morning, but its celebrating New Life at SE!

SPEAKING OF NEW BIRTH

Also in 2nd service will be the baptism of a young man who has realized that his infant baptism was something others decided for him and not through his faith but the faith of others. So, tomorrow morning he will born again. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Celebrating New Life With Those Who Are Born Again

SPONSORSHIP DRIVE

For 12 years our church has been heavily invested in Haiti. We parter with a faith based non-profit called Hope For Haiti’s Children, a ministry doing Christian Education, Orphan Care, Health Care and other services in Haiti for 25 years. Families and individuals in our congregation sponsor some 240 children in the Cite Soleil school in Port-au-Prince. Tomorrow morning we aim to sponsor seventy more. It’s a beautiful thing. 

NEW LEADERSHIP

We are in the process of appointing additional leaders for Southeast. Tomorrow morning, in both services, will be a video of the candidates. We will see and hear the husbands and wives speak of their experience at SE and share what it means to be an Elder. It’s a beautiful thing.

TOMORROW MORNING

  • A NEW BIRTH
  • A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
  • NEW SPONSORED HAITIAN CHILDREN
  • NEW ELDER CANDIDATES

It’s going to be a wonderful day at Southeast, you don’t want to miss it and may God be praised for his providential blessings. Thank you Lord!

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Home of the Southeast Church. It’s Going To Be a Great Day Tomorrow!

Best Part of All: The People

I was at an awesome party last night. The food was delicious and there was plenty to go around. Everyone was excited and ready for a fun filled evening. Some really sweet kids were there too, kids I’ve watched grow up over the past eleven years. Yep, I was with friends. 

There was also a game on TV, the last one of the season, and the biggest. 

SOME OBSERVATIONS

  1. The women filled their plates and went to the dining room.
  2. The men filled their plates and went to the TV.
  3. The kids filled their plates and went to an undisclosed location.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE GAME

  1. It was a defensive battle, that’s code for low scoring and dull.
  2. Many of the commercials were well crafted but beyond my comprehension.  
  3. Twice I went to the dining room to ask them to please lower their voices.
  4. Twice those in the dining room laughed heartily and shooed me away. 
  5. Nobody cared that much about the Rams, only that the Patriots wouldn’t win.
  6. The jalapeño poppers were excellent. 

THE BEST PART

The food was excellent, the house was lovely, spacious and comfortable and the game was the largest event of the football season. But for me, the people were the best part!

I didn’t see the first half because I was in the kitchen engaged in conversations with others who, like me, were from our church. It was so enriching to connect and catch up. They were the best part of the game. But I did get to watch the second half and it was almost exciting there at the end.

TO CLOSE

I don’t know if the Lord was rooting for a team, I mean, the Cowboys weren’t even playing. Nevertheless, I congratulate the World Champion New England Patriots, again.

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World Champions, Again 

And I’m grateful for sweet people who are dear friends. I would have watched the game regardless of who was playing. But the fellowship, the sense of belonging, and the expressions of love and care were what was really super about the Super Bowl.

Thank you Super Bowl 53, until next year!

“The Ubiquitous Backpack”

When did backpacks become necessary?

I’m not a backpack guy but clearly they are essential to thousands of hikers and to millions of children.

They seem an indispensable element within the culture of children’s academia. A kid without a backpack is like a milk shake without a straw.

Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. Some have solid colors and some have stripes, patterns, and prints. There are packs with superheroes, sports stars and movie themes. Some are designed for girls or boys.

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My Favorite?

I don’t use them so I don’t have a favorite, but the ones that make me smile are those on the backs of younger kids, the packs that are as big as the child and so heavy that a soft breeze could blow them over. 

kids with big packs 2

 

Modernization?

I’m not sure how sophisticated a backpack can get. It’s basically a bag with shoulder straps, but somehow the smart people at the pack places manage to find a way.

schoolbag for black kid

 

The Old Days

In the old days when kids walked to school, took the buss, or rode their bikes, they did so without a backpack. We didn’t have book bags, lockers, or even a plastic grocery sack. We didn’t carry anything. Perhaps it explains why none of us grew up to be the hope of our generation.

My Church

We do an annual back pack drive to help families in need. We buy the packs, fill them with supplies, and then bring them to, “Back Pack Sunday.” By the end of 2nd service the stage is covered in packs. We have a blessing for them and for the kids. Its pretty cool. 

In Closing

Across America children have started school, or are about to. According to the National Center For Public Education there will be 50 million kids in public schools and 6 million in private schools. 

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So God bless you kids. Have a great year. Study hard, learn much, and prepare well. We are counting on you. And with a brand new back pack filled with every needed item you are all set. Wear them proudly. And just in case you don’t like your pack, don’t worry, you’ll get a new one next year.

Shalom

A Joy To My Eyes

If you knew what to look for you could see a lot.

What Did I See?

Spark: Camp Spark is our camp for younger kids. We had 60 children who were led by teens from our Youth Group serving as the counselors. Saturday some of our elders cooked breakfast, it was so cool. I saw the teens caring for the little children and doing a fantastic job. Camp Spark was amazing! Thank you Janel.

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Camp Spark, 2018

Next Camp: Next week about a hundred of our older kids, teens and adults will be at Camp Bandina where nearly 400 campers will have an amazing experience. It will be fun, challenging, and Spirit filled. All who go will come home closer to God and to each other. Camp Bandina will be fantastic. Thank you Melissa.

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Not Melissa, but close, really very close. Her dad and husband. 

Youth Worship : Sunday nights our Youth Group gathers in the gym for basketball, games, food, and worship. It’s a great event and packed with fun and fellowship. Last night one of our teens was born again, joining the body of Christ, such a sweet moment. Thank you Parker.

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Support: Our staff does whatever they can to serve everyone they can. Yesterday morning I observed one of our team serving a family experiencing some challenges. She was kind, supportive and serving in the spirit of Christ. Thank you Debbie. 

Down To The River: I visited with a couple who shared that while on vacation she decided to be immersed into Christ, and that he did the immersing, in a river. They are so happy and so filled with God’s love. It was wonderful. Thank you Jim.

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Not the river where he baptized her. This is where John baptized Jesus. 

Some Encouragement: One of our members told me that I am her favorite minister. She said she can remember what I preach and that my sermons are down at her level. I assured her that what she hears is the only level I have! Thank you Bernice.

Bibles: One of my members works on an off shore oil platform and is on four weeks and off four weeks. Recently, he asked if we could ship some bibles out to the platform. They have services on Sundays and needed some bibles. They arrived and he was saying how much they appreciate having them. Thank you Brooks.

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Bibles are best when Bibles are used! 

To Close

There are more stories. There are always more stories. But maybe these are enough to give you a sense that for believers the Kingdom of God is everywhere and the Kingdom of God is with everyone.

 It was a good week end, a great Sunday, and as always, so encouraging. 

A Joy To My Eyes

Shalom

Land of the Free

There are places I want to see, not exactly bucket list stuff, but still. 

Like Where?

  • Africa
  • Austria
  • the Swiss Alps
  • Banff National Park
  • Just to name a few

Why?

I like to travel. Actually, I like arriving but the journey can also be exciting. Traveling opens the mind, awakens the senses, and often offers valuable insights. Yep, lots of places around the world I would like to see. But there is plenty to see right here at home. 

grand canyon

The Rocky Mountains aren’t to be missed. New England’s leaves are a treasure. The Grand Canyon doesn’t disappoint. Have you seen California’s red woods? Yosemite? Yellowstone? I marvel at the fluttering leaves of Colorado’s aspen trees transforming into their annual crimson and gold. 

Forest panorama in autumn

The joy is immense because we get to live in an amazing country.

The joy is all the more grand knowing we can get in our car, board a train, or take a plane and go anywhere we choose at any time of our choosing.

Why?

Because we are free. We live in a country that fought and struggled to give birth to a nation born into freedom. 

So, Happy 4th of July!

Be blessed for you are free, prosperous, and alive to enjoy it. 

May God continue to bless this great nation of ours.

A Tale of Two Cookies

Question: What’s better than a really good home made cookie? 

The Answer

It’s obvious: two really good home made cookies, exactly like those I was given yesterday in 2nd service. They were fresh, they were delicious, and given by a friend. 

Our church has a children’s offering and any child is welcome to give. But typically the kids range from preschool to 3rd grade. On average we have 25 children in 1st service and 75 in 2nd. The offering supports Haitian kids through Hope For Haiti’s Children.

The offering is the most exciting part, so much more than the preaching!

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The children’s offering, it never gets old or ordinary.

The kids are:

  • innocent
  • fun
  • excited
  • energized
  • generous
  • sweet
  • and captivated to see themselves up on the screens

In 2nd Service

I hold one of the baskets for the children to give their money, it’s a selfish pleasure. Yesterday one of my friends, a five year old girl, handed me a bag with two cookies and then dropped her dollar in the basket. She looked at me with her beautiful eyes, she smiled her gorgeous smile, and was excited to give her dollar and happy to give her cookies. 

I was happy too. 

And Later

After the service, I was in the lobby and available to sign my newest book that was on display. My friend, along with her mom and grandmother, stopped by to pick up a few copies, which afforded the opportunity to talk with the adorable cookie giver. It’s impossible to guess what a five year old will say. It was so much fun.

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Not my little friend, but close, really, very, very close!

 

To Close

We went home for lunch and after cleaning the kitchen we each got to enjoy a really good cookie. Made with skill, given with joy and received by happy hands and a melted heart. 

It was a tale of two cookies.

I love Sundays