Is This The End?

At long last, the end has come!

What Has?

Well, the end of my Harvey bloggs. Since the storm left Houston I’ve blogged 24 times about Harvey.

This is the 25th and final time.

Some Observations

  1. I’ve never seen this level of devastation.
  2. Houstonians weren’t hit by a hurricane, but by a tropical storm.
  3. If it had passed quickly, we would have been okay.
  4. I’ve never seen people helping like they have.
  5. The heroic efforts of the rescuers were amazing.

Some Memories

  1. The trucks, boats, and helicopters.
  2. People on their roof tops.
  3. Walking the neighborhood between the rain bands.
  4. The five-day junk food fest.
  5. Praying for it to stop.

Grateful

I’m grateful to friends who stayed in constant contact. On one stressful night, the worse night of all, I texted with friends till 4:30 AM. We couldn’t sleep due to the lightening, thunder, and tornados.

Not Total Devastation

About 140,000 residences were damaged or destroyed. But many came through Harvey unscathed. In fact, millions in the greater Houston area had no flooding at all, and a majority of those never saw the water get even curb high.

 

Harvey
Hurricane Harvey struck south Texas. Then Tropical Storm Harvey headed for Houston. 

To Close

The storm gave its worst and the people gave their best. They gave themselves to assist and to save. It was our finest hour and it still is.

In the storm, in the darkness and devastation, there has been a divine presence, a leading of the Spirit, a sense that the highest power of all was getting our attention. Did he? Does he still?

May God be with you.

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 

Stuff or Beaten Clay?

“Love makes the world go round.”

Who Said That?

It was William Gilbert, 1836-1911, an English dramatist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen operas produced in collaboration with composer Arthur Sullivan. He is credited for coining the phrase.

Thanks William

And Others?

Many have used it: “Love Makes the World Go Round.”

  1. A song written in 1896 by Clyde Fitch and William Furst
  2. A song from the 1961 musical, “Carnival”
  3. Was Recorded By:
  • Perry Como-1958
  • Jane Morgan-1961
  • Paul Anka-1963
  • Deon Jackson-1966
  • Madonna-1986
  • Powerpuff Girls-1999
  • Tina Harris-2003
  • Ashlee Simpson-2004

However

As romantic as it may be, I have found the oft quoted phrase to be fundamentally flawed. Love doesn’t make the world go around, its stuff.

Stuff turns our world.

The Storm

Due to Harvey, our church building flooded. Of the six bookcases in my office, three were destroyed, as well as the carpet and the sheet rock. My desk credenza and printer stand were ruined, and various other items.

Everything else had to be wrapped, stacked, and racked. 

koreana-library
Not my office, but close, really very close. I think I have too much stuff.

What Was Stacked & Racked?

The books, files, collectibles, artwork, lamps, awards, sculptures, a stereo system, and so forth. Wow, I have stuff, tons of it. Even with all that was destroyed, I have more than I need.

My desk drawer had office supplies, and junk, I didn’t know I had. There were books I hadn’t read in years, and books still waiting to be read.

Stuff rules my world, makes it go around, and around.

On The Mend

Soon, the office will be repaired and the inner sanctum will once more vibrate with activity, maybe even productivity. However, there will be fewer shelves, less furniture, and a determined culling of the heard. In short, there will be less stuff.

But don’t worry, give me five years and it will all be back. Why is that?

To Close

I’m not a hoarder. In fact, my office stays neat, orderly, and even has a few empty drawers. And yet, I feel overwhelmed by the stuff. Isn’t there something more important?

I’ll leave you with this:

“Life is worked on a wheel. Sloppy, slippery, formless base clay. Rising coaxed, caressed, coerced and beaten into shape. Tested in passion’s consuming fire until worthy to catch and hold a bit of the liquid grace pouring unceasingly over us.”

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

Time For A New Filter?

“Mr. Fyffe, your AC will work better with a new cabin filter.”

Cabin Filter?

Cars have a “cabin filter” that catches dirt, leaf matter, and insects. It cleans the air coming through the climate control system. He showed me the filter, it was dirty, it was overdue.

dirty filter
Not my car’s cabin filter, but close, really very close.

I Asked

Is it free? “No, it isn’t free, but the installation is.” Free installation? They took it out to begin with. I knew they weren’t free. Just thought I’d ask.

A Dirty Cabin Filter

  1. I don’t want to breathe dirty air.
  2. Even if I can’t see the dirt, its there.
  3. Its wise to keep your car up to date.
  4. It needed replacing.
  5. I’m worth it. 

The Flood: Other Dirty Things 

  1. Moldy, wet carpet had to be pulled up.
  2. Water-saturated Sheetrock had to be removed.
  3. Wet Insulation had to come out.
  4. Spraying the studs to kill the mold was a must.
  5. Contaminated furniture and personal items had to go too.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Sometimes the sheetrock looked fine, but invariably, there was standing water on the inside, with wet insulation, and mold already spreading. The furniture looked fine, but had absorbed the rancid water. Looks can be deceiving

Now Jesus

“Woe to you, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside, are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”

Strong words. But we get it, right?

Hypocrisy isn’t having sin in our lives, it’s pretending we don’t. It’s an act, it’s playing the actor to present ourselves as spiritually beautiful, morally unblemished, and religiously pure. When we know it isn’t true.

To Close

The rancid, filthy things had to be removed. Even if the outsides seemed okay, they weren’t, they were contaminated and would only get worse with time.

Paul said,

“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit….”

Perhaps its time for a new filter?

Shalom

Luck or Providence: You Decide

“Give luck a chance,” someone said.

Faith & Hope?

Outside a conscious awareness of God, and his divine presence, there is only chance, luck, and happenstance. A vague randomness that is ultimately meaningless, not of faith and offers no hope.

The Work of God

Is more obvious in times of great crisis and deep need. Do you remember the man born blind? (See:  The Storm of the Centuries ) The belief was that God had punished him due to sin.

But Jesus said no, neither he or his parents sinned that he was blind, but his blindness would provide an opportunity for God’s work to be displayed. Jesus healed the man and magnified God’s glory in doing so. God works to demonstrate his presence.

Some Harvey Examples

  • One of our members called saying she knew an older couple in Dickinson who was flooded, could anybody help? All our work crews were helping others. But five minutes later, another member called to say, “I’m in Dickinson, is there anyone I can help?” He went to their home, talked and prayed over them, and a family volunteered to go and help.
  • A family from our church recently moved to Dallas. He was praying about how to help in Houston. He came down and offered the use of his house while it was for sale. Shortly after, we got a call from someone bringing workers but needed a place to stay.
  • Our Pre-School Minister was working with a crew, one of whom had a brother on staff with a church in Alabama. She encouraged her to contact him, and she did. He approached his leaders, asking them to help. They sent someone to meet with us, he bought us $1200 of tools to use,  stayed for two days to helping with flooded houses, and then recommended to his elders that they help with a large donation. They gave $70,000.
  • A member called saying she was flooded, and needed a mattress. Ten minutes later another member called saying she had a mattress, did anyone need one?

God’s glory was displayed throughout the storm, over and over, and then after the storm, over and over. The Holy Spirit prompted many to serve, help and give. 

People found themselves:

  • Shoveling mud out of homes
  • Tearing down water soaked walls
  • Listening, praying, and weeping with flood victims
  • Opening their homes to those who no longer had one
  • Offering their homes to workers
  • Serving lunch to work crews, day after day
  • Buying and delivering supplies
  • Helping flood victims with insurance and FEMA.
  • Delivering dinner to victims
  • Watching other people’s kids so they could help
  • Doing laundry for those who no longer could
  • Ripping up soured, water soaked carpet
  • Giving out gift cards
  • Packing boxes
  • Doing grocery shopping for those in need
  • Asking and obtaining donations
  • Fixing plumbing problems
  • Climbing on roofs to fix leaks
  • Sweeping and mopping floors
  • Showing up in each other’s lives
  • Day after day, all day long, getting it done

god lending a hand

To Close

No, not chance, luck, or happenstance. Not fate or coincidence. Just the work of God. It’s the Holy Spirit inspiring and leading us to make a difference.

“Give luck a chance.”

No thanks. I’ll choose the divine providence of God every time.

Time To Say Thanks

I’m taking the time to say thank you.

To My God

  1. For bringing us through the storm.
  2. Because we are still alive.
  3. For my house not flooding.
  4. For your presence when the storm was darkest.
  5. For eleven days of sunshine.

To My Friends

  1. For checking on us every day through the storm
  2. For texting all night, the night the storm was most frightening
  3. For coming over, getting on the roof, and sealing it
  4. For calling, emailing, and texting us after the storm 
  5. For continuously praying for us

To My Church

  1. For going out every day to help others.
  2. For doing the nastiest, smelliest, and dirtiest jobs
  3. For delivering supplies, dehumidifiers, fans, tools, and support
  4. For your faith, compassion, smiles and prayers
  5. For helping every day when you were sore and exhausted

To Other Churches

  1. For offering your building because ours was flooded
  2. For partnering with us in the clean-up process
  3. For encouraging your Youth Groups to partner with ours
  4. For giving the much needed funds
  5. For your prayers, encouragement, and support

To The Rescuers

  1. You placed yourselves at risk for us
  2. The boats & helicopters, lifting us up and off our roofs
  3. For coming from other states to help us
  4. For working day and night and never giving up
  5. For saving so many lives

And Now

god lending a hand
“Father, can you lend them a hand?”

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please help the people of Florida, and the 7,000,000 who are in harm’s way. Please send them all they need: the rescuers, supplies, the funds, the sacred community, and your divine grace to see them through the storm and back on their feet.

Amen

Picking Up The Pieces

“Don’t worry, it’s only things and things can be replaced.”

It’s Being Said

That statement has been said over and over ever since Harvey did his hit and run. His running was more like crawling, and excruciatingly slow.  

There’s been a sentiment suggesting that flooded homes, businesses and their contents were only things, as if things meant nothing.

I Get It

Measured against the loss of life, then yes, things are only things and can be replaced. But the people can’t and Harvey took some people. However, let’s not be quick to judge what else people have lost. 

Jesus Our Messiah

Do you remember when Jesus blessed the loaves and fish and fed the multitudes?

Mark 6:42,

“Then he gave them to be set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.”

two-fish-and-five-loaves

Twelve Basketfuls

  • A sign that he could feed everyone 
  • A message to never doubt him
  • Then there’s John’s account:

“Gather the pieces that are left over, let nothing be wasted.”

Sure, it was only things, just bits of bread and fish. 

They picked up the pieces, so nothing was wasted, the pieces held value.

It’s more than things when:

  • The mechanic loses his tools and can’t work for days or weeks.
  • The business loses its building and there’s no income for months.
  • Photo albums are destroyed, decades of family pictures ruined.
  • Heirlooms passed for generations are gone.
  • Medicines are destroyed, leaving people vulnerable.

If you still aren’t sure, then go spend some time with a family who got six feet of water in their house. Carry to the curb all their mold covered furniture, clothing, keepsakes, appliances, and beds. Then pull up the stinking, rotting carpet, and tear out all the mildew infested sheetrock. Then tell them, “Don’t worry, it’s only things.” 

wet houston

To Close

Jesus made sure the pieces got picked up. Yes, he could turn stone into bread, he could always make more bread, but that wasn’t the point. Those pieces had value.

No, not the value of human life, but value for life.

Things that are lost may just be things, but things with value for life.

Shalom

The Storm of the Centuries

His name was Glen.

Meeting Him

I met Glen while serving in my first ministry, in 1980, in Pomona, California. He and his wife were members there, and he was on staff.

His Skills

He was an accomplished man. He was a great teacher of scripture, an expert furniture maker, and was a fine musician and artist, and an excellent cook.

His Faith

Glen came to faith in his adult years. Until then, the gospel had been unfamiliar. But when he came to Jesus he came full speed, was all in, and he never looked back.

He was effective with young people and I had never been around anyone like him. He was fearless, bold, and seemed a modern apostle Paul. He led scores of young people to Christ, as many as 50 to 75 each year.

He was remarkable in many ways. Perhaps the most remarkable: he was an ex-convict. He became a believer in prison, when released, he became a minister of righteousness. He ministered in California’s Youth Camps, prisons for young men 18-21.

And another remarkable thing: he was blind.

Now Jesus-John 9:1-3

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but his happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Storm of the Centuries

Hurricane Harvey will go down as the most devastating storm in American history. Those who lived through it wondered why it happened, why us, what did we do?

Jesus would say it wasn’t about anything that anyone did. It happened so the work of God might be displayed.

The Work of God?

It’s there if you look, it’s abundantly evident.

  • It’s the volunteers who rescued people day and night.
  • It’s the people who helped even though their homes were destroyed.
  • It’s the spirit of compassion manifested all over the city.
  • It’s the realization of what and who is most important.
  • It’s millions of people praying and seeking God.

helping in Harvey

The atheist says phooey. The skeptic calls it humanitarianism. But the believer sees the work of God displayed in high definition. Through great fear, crushing loss, and unprecedented destruction, the work of God shines like a rainbow after the storm.

To Close

The storm was a result of nature, just like the man born blind. But Harvey created a reason for millions to come together, to focus on something bigger than ourselves, and to be reminded who God is and why he matters.

I know exactly how Glen would have seen it.

Shalom

What Is Your Ark?

Woke up this morning thinking about Noah.

I Wonder Why?

  • Maybe the 24 hour a day rainfall?
  • Or the 2o” of rain in the last couple of days?
  • The people boating their flooded streets?
  • Helicopters rescuing people from roof tops?

Personally

I love the sound of falling rain. But lately, it’s become the sound of anxiety, fear, and loss. With every inch of rain, somewhere there’s another two feet of water, welcomed by the two feet already there. And another neighborhood goes under.

Feels like Judgement Day, but it’s not.

Harvey
Hurricane Harvey: will it ever leave? 

The Promise

God promised Noah the earth would never again be destroyed by water. That’s good news for the earth. But cities, towns, and houses are still vulnerable.

 He once destroyed humanity for their sins. Is that what’s happening to Houston? What about League City, Sugar Land, Beaumont, Lake Charles, New Orleans, and ….?

Sure, Houston has plenty of sin, but plenty of redeemed sinners too. And such is the case all across Harvey’s destructive path.

But Harvey isn’t forever, it just feels like it. Hurricane Harvey will have its final blast of wind, its last drop of rain. Then it will be gone, and it will be over. 

Noah & His Ark

  • He had never seen a flood.
  • He had never built an ark.
  • He had only a few helpers.

But build it he did. It floated, protected his family, and it got the job done.

From Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen in holy fear built an ark to save his family.

The ark was salvation, built by faith, saving a family from a world-wide flood. The ark becomes a metaphor, a symbol, for all that comes by faith.

To Close

Your ark may be the raft, the boat, or the helicopter, or the media alerting you to the tornado in your neighborhood.

Perhaps the car getting you to safety before the roads flooded. Or the shelter that provided food and safe sleep. Your ark may be your family.

rescue boat

Your ark may be your faith.

God be with you all. Keep breathing, keep going, and keep believing.

Shalom