Button-Popping Proud

There’s some people that I’m button-popping proud of. 

Who Are They?

They just returned from a mission trip after a week of serving people in need. They served by rolling up theirs sleeves to do anything needed and everything asked. 

They are High School teens from our Youth Group. 

Where Did They Go?

They went to a place that cares for at risk kids. A place that takes in single mothers and their children when no one else can, or will. To a place that always has too much of not enough. To a place most of us will never volunteer to serve.

What Did They Do

They broke up and removed concrete, they tore out walls and repaired walls. They painted things in need of painting and spruced up what needed sprucing. They cleaned and helped and they did this and that. Most of it in the brutal Texas sun. 

Then, after working and sweating all day they spent their evenings playing with the kids. They played basketball and whatever else could be played. They sat and talked and listened, and made new friends. They found depths of care and compassion they may not have known they had.

They spent a week being Jesus to others in need.

I didn’t have mission trips when I was in High School. I didn’t go anywhere to help anyone. Mostly I focused on making money, working out for Fall football and hanging with my friends. All good summer stuff, but not quite the same. 

“But these times they are a changing.” 

At a time when the news is captivated with stories of kids killing kids there comes a story about kids helping kids. In fact, this summer Youth Groups from all over the country will travel near and far to serve others. 

I wish those stories could headline the news for a few weeks.

To Close

Thank you Parker for leading them. Thank you parents for going and helping.  

Thanks Southeast teens for being the heart of Jesus, for demonstrating the splendor of his love, and for reflecting the radiance of his light, for you are the light of this world.

And I am button-popping proud of you.

cross_jesus_wood_236183

Feeling Blessed

I’m blessed every day in so many ways.

But this morning I’m appreciating my blessings a little more than usual.

On Retreat

I’m writing this blog from my room at Camp Allen, a Christian Retreat and Conference Center about an hour outside of Houston. It’s beautiful and the accommodations are fine. The bed was a little stiff in the way that a concrete slab is a little stiff. But I slept well, woke early, and rose to write.

I’m here with our church’s elders, ministers, and spouses. We arrived Friday for dinner then had an evening of sharing our lives and getting better connected, what a blessing.

My Daughter

My daughter and son-in-law live in the down town Houston area. They are young, urban professionals and think that coming to our house in the suburbs is a two day drive with a hotel stay. She texted me this week to say that she thinks about her Mom and Dad everyday and that she loves us, what a blessing. 

My Friends

I have great friends, not many, but they are enough. They are enough in the way that warm maple syrup covers the whole pancake. The way that a cool, sunny, Houston morning in February is an absolute pleasure. They provide a wonderful sense of belonging and connection, what a blessing.

 To Close

I could go on, but won’t. I’ll close with this. Garfield the cat once said:

“Ah, Christmas, it isn’t the giving, it isn’t the getting, it’s the people.” 

The Christmas season has passed, but I like the sentiment. My friends and family are more than what I get or give. It isn’t about that, it’s about the people, the bonds of caring and mutual acceptance.

god lending a hand

The true joy of life is the people.

Shalom

It’s A Snow Day In Houston!

The 4:00 AM fireplace check list.

  1. Clean fireplace of ashes.
  2. Stack kindling wood.
  3. Use a piece of newspaper or turn on the gas.
  4. Have larger logs ready to go.
  5. Check the flue is open.

Wow, it’s a beautiful fire! And just in time because it’s a cold Houston morning with sleet and snow in the forecast. The schools are closed and if we get the sleet and snow, it’ll bring the city to its knees.

snow
Ah, palm trees in the snow! Not my street, but close, really very close.

I love it!

Apparently, Not Everyone

Lately, I’ve heard complaining about the cold weather. Houston has had more subfreezing days than normal. And more days in the 30’s and 40’s than normal. It’s almost like winter!

But people are getting tired of it, and I understand, but I’m not one of them and can’t share in the cold negativity.

For Seven Months

For most of the year Houston is a sauna. If Arizona has a dry heat then Houston has a wet one. Temperatures soar into the 90’s and triple digits are common. The humidity hovers like a wet blanket. It’s inescapable and void of value for human life.

The summer is when I join the complainers, when I’m suffering the smothering dampness of virtual asthma. 

Wait, Forgot Something

I had just begun blogging when I noticed the smell of smoke. A minute later, I noticed an uneven layer hovering above me. Uh huh, Check List Item #5:

Open the flue.

Oops. I would have bet the farm that it was open, but it wasn’t. Maybe that’s what I get for betting the farm. I don’t actually have a farm, I lost it years ago on a silly bet.

Do you agree with this, “Everybody complains about something?” Or maybe this, “If it isn’t one thing it’s another?” Or, “I wish they would give me the key to the thermostat box at church so I could set it where it belongs.”

There isn’t a key. There isn’t a thermostat that can be changed. It’s all software driven, a computer runs the entire system. But people still ask.

To Close

So, cheer up good friends. Hot or cold, windy or calm, dry or wet, life goes on so we might as well go with it. I’ll finish with:

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a depraved generation…”  Philippians 2:14-15

Shalom

Forty-Five Million Turkeys, Pt. 2

Not everybody likes turkey.

Really?

Yep. Some find it bland, uninspired, and over-hyped. Others say it tastes like chicken and if they wanted chicken for Thanksgiving they would cook one, or get take-out.

Maybe that explains the gallons of delicious brown gravy, a beloved food group.

51ulg5ffoxl
Not our turkey or our turkey platter, but close, really very close.

It’s Iconic

Millions of Americans will have a traditional turkey dinner. Some because they love it and some because it’s traditional, for the turkey is the icon of Thanksgiving. Is that a good reason to have it, because its traditional?

Family Thanksgiving
A nice looking family and a really big bird. Probably not chicken.

3.5 Millennium

About 3500 years ago, a million slaves walked out of Ramses. The final straw for their freedom? It was the death of Egypt’s first-born sons, a terrible night of grief. But it was a very different night for the slaves. They had painted lamb’s blood on their doors, and so death passed over.

That evening the slaves ate a special meal, the Passover meal. It was special because of what it meant, and because it was their final meal in captivity. There are some interesting similarities between the Hebrews and the Pilgrims.

The Hebrew Slaves                                  

  • Ate roasted lamb                                  
  • Shared with family and neighbors                             
  • It was a meal symbolizing their freedom             
  • The meal was about leaving for the Promised Land   

The Pilgrims

  • Ate roasted turkey
  • Shared with family and friends
  • It was a meal symbolizing their freedom 
  • The meal was about coming to the New World

Their Gift

If not for our Pilgrim forefathers, our world may have turned out differently. Would the United States have even happened? Would we know and enjoy the religious, political, and social freedoms that we cherish? Do we owe them our gratitude?

Our Response

Each November, we gather around our tables to give thanks. We practice the grace of gratitude by remembering those who sacrificed so much to bless so many. 

We say thank you God!

thanksgiving

To Close

Whether you adore or abhor the turkey, let’s resolve that 45-million of them will not die in vain. Along with the food, the football, and the naps, let’s take a moment to say thank you on Thanksgiving Day.

For we are free, prosperous, and alive to enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving

Forty-Five Million Turkeys, Pt. 1

So many turkeys to be roasted, fried, or smoked.

How Many?

About forty-five million. Seems like a big number, but we’re a nation of big people, and Thanksgiving is one of our biggest holidays.

turkeys
45,000,000 of them, their days are numbered

The National Bird?

Benjamin Franklin argued for the wild turkey to be our national bird, but he lost the argument to the Bald Eagle. For 364 days, the eagle soars majestic and free. But on Thanksgiving, the humble turkey is king, in our hearts if not on our plates.

Alexander Hamilton said, “No citizen of the United States shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” Well said, for we were never going to eat roasted eagle.

But it was President Lincoln, in 1863, who made a proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving. And here we are, 154 years later, serving up forty-five million turkeys.

A Social Bird

Thanksgiving is shared with family and friends. The Pilgrims shared with the Wampanoag Indians. Edward Winslow recorded that there were fifty Pilgrims and ninety Native Americans at their feast. Must have been a big table!

So, we will gather around our tables, or in front of our big screens, and enjoy the turkey, cranberries, dressing, homemade rolls, and lime-jello. For desert: pumpkin pie,  pecan pie, and berry cobbler. Yum, dinner is served. 

Family Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks

They lost half their people that first year, a disheartening start for those who sacrificed so much to get so little. But the colonists soldiered on, possessing a profound faith they believed that God had led them there to live in freedom and prosperity.

For Us?

Our Thanksgivings don’t usually follow bitter winters of sickness and death. It’s more about being together with family, with plenty of good food, and football, and pie.

But maybe it’s more. The Pilgrims made a perilous voyage across a violent sea to seek a new life in the new world. Did God truly lead them here? Was their faith well founded? Is our own house of faith, freedom, and prosperity built on their foundation?                                                                                                                                       

To Close

This Thanksgiving, don’t let the turkeys die in vain. For they will make the last full measure of sacrifice, and for what reason? Just so I can over-indulge and fall asleep during the game? Is that how I say thank you?

51ulg5ffoxl

Part 2-Wednesday morning.

Harvey’s Unintended Blessings

Its Saturday night and its cool and breezy, and I’m outside, and thankful.

Why?

Because its cool and breezy. Because the temperature and humidity have fallen and it feels like the outer edges of winter are edging ever closer. 

I’m sitting outside with my laptop thinking about tommorow. Its Sunday and it’s a work day. I know, delivering sermons isn’t work. Nevertheless, I’ll be at church delivering my lesson. Actually, I’ll deliver it twice.

Twice?

Yep, after three and a half months of one service, we are returning to our normal schedule of two services: 8:30 and 10:45.

My work load has doubled!

One Service?

It’s about Harvey. Our church building flooded, so to make things simpler, and to better support one another, we’ve been crowding into one service. But tomorrow it changes back to two.

The Blessings!

Thursday is Thanksgiving and I’ve been thinking about thankfulness. Frankly, I’ve a struggled with it. Tropical Storm Harvey was hard on our city. And it’s been hard for me, at least I’ve allowed it to be. It’s been more than just a struggle.

However, I realize that I’ve emerged from the storm with something surprising: a sense of being blessed. Harvey’s devestation allowed me to experience three things:

  1. The amazing motivation of ordinary people.
  2. The amazing sacrifice of others.
  3. The inspiration of God’s amazing providence.

people waiting to be rescued

My sermon will be about those blessings. If you want to hear it, come see us or join us online at: www.southeastonline.org

 It’s the week of Thanksgiving and I’m thankful for my family, my home, and my country. But I’m also grateful for my church, the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood, Texas.

In the moment of crisis and need, they embraced profound purpose, they sacrificed themselves, and gave all they had to give. 

Its Saturday night and its cool and breezy, and I’m outside, and I’m thankful.

Shalom

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

Not A Superstar, Or Even A Star!

I never wanted to be a big-league ball player.

Why Is That?

I was never any good. In fact, I wasn’t any good at several sports.

  • Baseball: couldn’t hit, field, or throw.
  • Golf: lowest score is an 87, clubs in the attic.
  • Tennis: couldn’t find the sweet spot.
  • Hockey: never tried, assuming I wouldn’t have been a star.
  • Swimming: love to swim, but competitive swimming?

Five sports in which I didn’t get trophies, scholarships or professional sponsors.

Didn’t Try Hard Enough?

Optimism is good. Some say if you hold on to your dream, work hard enough and never give up, that you will succeed. Maybe. But at 7’-1” and 260 pounds, Shaquille O’Neal could never have won the Kentucky Derby. No matter how optimistic, he was never going to be a winning jockey.

I was never going to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, or quarterback the Dallas Cowboys, or beat Jack Nicholas’s record of 18 major golf tournaments.

At age 61, the dream is probably over.

houston-astros
Not me out there on the playing field, not even close.

Now Jesus, Matthew 9:36

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Some of us didn’t become super-stars, or even stars. In fact, some of us became lost sheep, suffering life’s harassing hardships, and needing a helping hand.  

To Close

As I watch our Houston Astros in the World Series, I’m glad they were blessed with the gifts, opportunities, and drive to succeed at that  level.

I never wanted to be a big-league ball player. I’m happy being a rescued sheep.

Thank you Jesus.