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.

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                          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!

A Child’s Five Questions

FIVE QUESTIONS

At this year’s Orange Conference in Atlanta I heard Kristen Ivey talk about the five questions a child needs an adult to answer in order to trust them.

  1. Do you know my name?
  2. Do you know where I live?
  3. Do you know what matters to me?
  4. Do you what I have done?
  5. Do you know what I can do?

It makes sense doesn’t it? Before extending trust to an adult a child needs to know the adult understands who they are, that the adult has a sense of what matters to them.

Children's Blessing 1

When I think about it, the five questions work pretty well for me too.

  1. I’m flattered when someone takes the trouble to learn my name.
  2. Not my home address, but aware of something that’s going on in my life.
  3. I instantly like a person who understands what’s important to me.
  4. The person who has some sense of my history will sooner earn my trust.
  5. The person aware of my abilities and achievements gets my attention.

These questions make it personal for the one who is asking and for the one who is answering. If a child asks and I know the answers, then the child will more readily view me as a friend. It isn’t easy because it’s a lot to know, and will take effort and intentional interest.

I like seeing Jesus reaching out to people. Take Zacchaeus for example, it’s Jesus making an effort with intentional interest. It’s Jesus getting personal.

DO YOU KNOW MY NAME? Jesus looked up and called him by name.

DO YOU KNOW WHERE I LIVE? He wanted to go to Zach’s house for the day.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT MATTERS TO ME? Jesus knew money was important to him.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HAVE DONE? Jesus knew he collected taxes for Rome.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I CAN DO? Jesus knew Zach would trade extraordinary greed with extraordinary generosity.

AND US TODAY?

How does Jesus get personal with us? Does he know who we are, does he know our name and what’s happening in our lives, a sense of “where we live” or “Where we are at?”

In my next blog I’ll write about some ways that God gets personal with us.

TO CLOSE

Jesus spent most of his time with huge crowds. But he often reached out to individuals and did something to change their lives. It’s how Jesus made it personal.

On his way to the cross to save everyone he often stopped to save someone.   

A Very Cool Thing

There are things that warm my heart and fill my soul. Here are a few of them:

  • playful puppies
  • the love of a young child
  • an unexpected gift at an unexpected time
  • the hugs after baptisms

 FIRST: SOME JESUS CONTEXT

One day a wealthy man asked what he needed for salvation. He was told that because his wealth controlled him he needed to give it to the poor and make Jesus his one true master. He wouldn’t, and he left sad.

A woman was caught having sex with a man not her husband. The religious police brought her to Jesus trying to discredit him before the people, they failed and left defeated. Jesus didn’t condemn, but forgave, and encouraged her to live for God.

One night, an influential man approached Jesus saying that he must be a teacher from God due to his miraculous signs. Rather than discuss his credentials, Jesus taught him to be born again, that to enter the coming kingdom he would need to be born of the Spirit.

Three Key Thoughts:

  1. Make Jesus the Lord and master of your life.
  2. Look to Jesus for forgiveness and righteousness.
  3. Regardless of race or heritage, we all need to be born of the Spirit

Those three thoughts come together when a person confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior and is immersed into his name, and raised a new creation, fully cleansed, filled with the Spirit, and dedicated to holiness. Some call it baptism.

I saw a pic on Facebook of a Pastor, who is a dear friend, who was about to baptize some people, probably in the Conejos River, water temperature at snow melt levels!

A week ago I baptized a woman who happened to be deaf. Thankfully, our church has a member who interprets for the deaf and was a huge help. Being deaf had nothing to do with being baptized; it wasn’t about her hearing, but about her believing.

Below is a 20 second video clip of a dad baptizing his teenage son in a river very likely warmer than the Conejos. Watch the hug, its one of the things that warms my heart and fills my soul!

The 92

Kids go to camp. Many go to more than one.

Yesterday at church I called for all the kids who were going to Camp Bandina to come on stage. There were 92 of them. I offered a prayer of blessing and then moms and dads got their kids and their stuff on two huge, beautiful busses and off to camp they went.

I saw a few parents with a few tears and a few parents running to their cars in freedom.

With 350 total campers and 80 adults to serve them there will be an outpouring of love and faith; an amazing experience of friendship and fellowship.

Here are nine thoughts about the “9” in “92”

  • nine are first time campers
  • nine will miss home and want to call mom or dad
  • nine will develop a crush on someone
  • nine will make friends with kids from other places
  • nine will deepen friendships within our group of 92
  • nine will have life-affecting conversations with their counselor
  • nine will come home thinking about their futures for the first time
  • nine will make some kind a decision about who they are with God
  • nine will return a bit sad because it’s their last year at Camp Bandina

We have excellent people at the camp this week. People who will guide the campers well, who will model Christ for them, share their lives with them and be available at all hours of the day and night.

Camp is for having fun and the campers will have a blast. But camp is also for disconnecting from their tech, from gaming systems, cell phones and tablets. It’s a week of discovery about themselves, others and God. It’s a week of personal connection. A time when their hearts and minds will be open, available and receptive to healthy influence.

May God bless them all.

I loved camp.

The Future Looks Bright!

FAMILY CAMP

Camp United is our annual retreat for young families. Young means parents with children of all ages. We use the Trinity Pines Christian Conference Center just a few miles outside of Trinity, Texas. It’s camp! But it’s a fun camp.

There’s paddle boating, fishing, swimming, kid’s games, a ropes course, a fabulous playground, hiking trails and so much more. We have a massively chaotic color war and a hilarious finger rocket battle. We worship and praise and we learn and we grow. We become a little better equipped as parents.

IMG_9486
Cups of colored corn starch, 140 people, you can do the math. That’s not me at this year’s Camp United, but it’s close, really very close. 

THINGS I NOTICED THIS YEAR

Parents holding hands with their kids while they walked around the camp. With one family the kids were fourteen and twelve.

Watching single moms with their children. Single moms are all in because they have to be. Everything is up to them. Some of the sweetest and most impressive kids at camp were one parent kids.

I watched young mothers caring for their babies and toddlers. They were loving, patient and nurturing. I got to hold a few of them. They still wiggle and squirm and want down!

I saw young fathers spending time with their young children. They played games and walked along the lake and hung out together. Nothing touches my heart like watching a young father be a good dad.

The campfire Saturday night was special. We were sitting in circles around the campfire, kids, teens, parents and adults, worshiping and singing praises. Then, it was Smores. It was so on.

At the pool I laughed and laughed watching some dads compete to make the biggest splash off the diving board. It was comedy gold.

In our Sunday worship we took time for each family to find some space on the floor or to circle their chairs. They were to share the Lord’s Supper as a family. They huddled close to read scripture, to talk and to learn about the bread and the cup. Parents were teaching their children. Fathers were leading their families. It was a beautiful thing.

IN CLOSING

Saturday was my birthday. I spent my birthday at camp; at my age you don’t really care where you celebrate your birthday. But being there, and turning sixty-three, reminded me that there are far more days behind than there are ahead. I will be long gone when those parents reach my age.

So, I have to tell you, I like how the future looks.

Different But Not

A DEAR FRIEND

A friend of mine was at church yesterday. It’s a friendship that was born through Hope For Haiti’s Children (HFHC), a faith based non-profit serving the needs of Haitian children. My friend, who is now Vice President of HFHC, was in Houston over the weekend and came to visit.

IMG_0204
Not me as I am today, but close, really very close.

Between the two services she gave a presentation about HFHC and shared some stories that really touched me. She spoke of a chance meeting with a little girl from Cite Soleil, a horribly impoverished slum of Port-au-Prince. As her story unfolded she shared how she was, of course, wearing shoes but the little girl wasn’t. Holding hands, they walked along  when suddenly the little girl hurt her foot. It was cut by broken glass.  

THE IMPACTFUL PART

She had assumed that since the girl lived in poverty that her little feet would be tough, hardened and immune. They weren’t. She ended her story with this confession. 

“I would never have walked barefoot there, but for her, what did it matter?”

Then it hit her: she actually had a lot in common with the girl. In fact, they were very much the same. We all have a lot in common with one another. We all hurt, grieve and struggle. We know loneliness and fear. We know heartache and heartbreak. Poverty doesn’t toughen the heart or callous the soul. The poor aren’t immune. 

It was a tough lesson to learn but a beautiful lesson to embrace.

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IN CLOSING

Of the many characteristics of Christ the one I respect the most was his ability to see everyone the same: young or old, healthy or sick, rich or poor. It didn’t matter. He saw everyone and sought everyone, for everyone needed him, and we still do. 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Tonya, thanks for helping us look past the differences to see the similarities.

We are all different, but not!

Shalom 

Mental Snapshots

Yesterday was Easter and we, like most churches, do a little extra for Easter Sunday. Here are a few memories I’d like to share, I call them mental snapshots.

PASSOVER MEAL: The Wednesday before Easter we held an authentic Passover Meal, complete with roasted lamb. It was open to everyone, for members and guests, and was a beautiful experience. I especially liked seeing the young families with their kids. 

NEW CLOTHES: In both services I saw bunches of children in new clothes. It’s tradition for kids to get new outfits for Easter. Often the moms and dads get new clothes too. It was funny that so many girls came up to show me their new outfits. They were so happy and adorable. They were super-cute. Predictably, not one boy came up to show me his new clothes. Yep. 

HEIGHTENED ENTHUSIASM: Special Sundays elevate the energy of the church. The singing gets louder, the worship is sweeter, and the special readings and presentations add a depth of meaning that blesses the experience. Yesterday’s worship was wonderful.

GOOD TO SEE YOU: I’m not sure why but Easter brings people to church like no other Sunday. Maybe Christmas rivals Easter when it falls on a Sunday. But on Easter I know I’ll see people who I haven’t seen in months, and it’s always good to see them!

IT’S NOT UNUSUAL: I’m one of millions who celebrates the resurrection daily, who rejoices in the empty tomb and bases their faith on his rising from the dead. It isn’t unusual that I do. In fact, I would say that most believers require no special Sundays to acknowledge his resurrection.  

Just the same, I love Easter Sunday. 

TO CONCLUDE

Maybe I’m sentimental. Maybe. But I love seeing the kids in their new clothes. I like the big crowds. I’m lifted up by the heightened energy and the greater enthusiasm. And I’m richly blessed by the rejoicing on Easter Sunday. 

empty tomb blog
He is risen, he is risen indeed!

The Hands of Jesus

 Below are a few thoughts about the hands of Christ.

Seeing The Hands

Mary gave birth to a son, her firstborn, who was quickly absorbed by her love and warmth. She couldn’t stop gazing at his hands, those tiny hands, that curled sweetly around her fingers. She marveled that the hands of her son were also the hands of God’s Messiah. “How could that be,” she wondered? She knew his hands would one day help his father with the wood and stone; becoming rough and calloused. She knew his hands would one day help his Father in his Temple and Kingdom; becoming kind and caring. 

Those hands would cradle infants, bless children and touch lepers. They would comfort the grieving and soothe the broken. They were shepherd’s hands that gathered the lost  of Israel. They were healer’s hands that gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and strength to the lame. They were strong hands that lifted Peter from the stormy waves. They were righteous hands that shredded the money-changer’s tables. They were gentle hands that wiped the tears of Mary and Martha, and then his own.

His gentle hands lightly pushed the branches aside as he walked among the olive trees. In Gethsemane, were his hands raised in joyous praise or lowered to ease his body to the ground? He three times prayed, “Not my will but yours be done.” On a dark, cold night his sweat dripped like blood, were his hands red from wiping his brow? Did he reach out to the angel who came on his behalf? 

Then his hands helped him to his feet to face all that was next.

Perhaps he waved the disciples closer as the soldiers grew nearer. Perhaps he offered Judas a hand when he kissed his rabbi’s cheek? Perhaps he grasped the sword Peter used to attack the enemy?

His hands were bound by the hands of criminals. Could there have been a bigger farce than to bind the hands that built the world? Could the soldiers have known that ropes, shackles and chains were useless? Sure, go ahead, clap him in irons, lock the chains and use all the rope you can get. But, it won’t matter. Could atomic sized power ever be contained by a plastic bag?

jesus hands bound -821667-wallpaper

How could he surrender to those men? Those lesser men impassioned by hate, immune to truth and lacking humility. But surrender he did, for it served their mission well, their mission of murder. Why did he do it? Because he knew who he was and why he was there and what he came to do. And what he came to do requried their violence. 

So, see the hands. Rough and calloused from the wood and stone. Scarred and gnarled from the hammered steel and splintered with shards from the old rugged cross.

Jesus hand nailed

See the hands that removed the cloth and rolled away the stone. See the hands of Jesus, and be absorbed by his love and warmth.

empty tomb blog

Happy Easter

The Town Garbage Dump?

I don’t know why but boys between the ages of six and eleven love a good pile of junk. It’s the stuff people set out to be collected or the free treasures found in a town’s garbage heap. I would joyfully take junk home to our garage. Dad understood but not for long.

“Ricky, what are you going to do with all that junk,” Dad would ask? “I don’t know, maybe tear it apart and build something?” ” Throw it away by Friday,”  he would say.

Throw it away? I just got it from someone who threw it away. 

OUTSIDE OF TOWN

All kinds of things can be found on the edge of towns, outside city limits. There are small town trash heaps, unwanted stuff at the dump, and all manner of dilapidated sheds and crumbling barns filled with rusted but interesting stuff. 

You know what else you could find outside of town? Well, if you were in Jerusalem around 33 AD you could find Jesus on a cross. It was Passover and the important people who deeply resented and passionately hated Jesus were busy getting the Romans to kill him. They succeeded.  

“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city to make his people holy through his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the city, bearing the disgrace he bore.” Hebrews 13:12-13

He was crucified outside the city so as not to contaminate the Jews with dead bodies and Roman rituals. They wanted to remain undefiled in order to participate in their most holy feast: Passover. 

Here is a favorite of mine by George Macleod:

“I simply argue that the cross be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a Cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves; on a town’s garbage heap.

At a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write his name in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek; at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died. And that is what he died for. And that is what he died about.”

FROM SCRIPTURE

If you read your Old Testament you’ll discover that the Kidron Valley, between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, was Jerusalem’s garbage dump for idols and all things related to idol worship. It’s where idols were crushed, broken, and burned. It’s where unwanted things were thrown away. 

ARCHAEOLOGY

In 2013 and 2014 archaeologists from the Israeli Department of Antiquities did some excavation in the Kidron Valley and discovered a massive rubbish site dating back to the Roman occupation of Israel. The Kidron Valley was Jerusalem’s garbage dump.  

The Bible

IN CLOSING

Jesus died outside the city and it was possibly in or near the Kidron Valley. It would make sense because his enemies thought him a false teacher, false messiah and a blasphemer.

To them, Jesus was a piece of unwanted trash to be thrown out with the garbage. 

Was he?

Shalom