It Was A Wake-Up Call!

“Stop! In the Name of Love”

What Is That?

It’s a lyric, and title, from a song the Supremes released on February 8, 1965. It quickly reached the top, going #1 on the Billboard Pop Singles, nearly 52 years ago.

Here’s Why It Matters

Yesterday, while driving home, I ran a red light.

The road I use has a crosswalk that isn’t at an intersection, it’s in-between intersections, in the middle of a long block, with a blinking yellow light.

When someone wants to cross, they push the button and the light blinks red, and then it turns red. The cars stop, the people cross, and it goes back to blinking yellow.

I didn’t notice the light had changed from yellow to red. By the time I saw the cars  stopped in the other lanes, it was too late to even brake, with no one in front of me, I drove right through it. As I did, I noticed someone with a bike was getting ready to cross. It was a young girl.

And Then?

I was scared, rattled, and sick to my stomach. I could have severely injured her, or worse. All I could think about was how close I came to destroying her life. I thought about her family. I was shaking when I pulled into my driveway. I’m shaking now. 

Now Jesus, Matthew 5:14-15

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone.”

Those verses have much meaning and application. But included must be the reminder of our responsibility to God, to our families, and to our community. Our world!

Just So You Know, I wasn’t…

  1. Playing with my phone.
  2. Talking on my phone.
  3. Distracted by music in the car.

But I was distracted. I was deep in thought, concerned about something, and was going over it in my head. Frankly, I wasn’t paying attention, was driving on autopilot. And a little girl very nearly paid for it.

kids in crosswalk

To Close

It’s a sharp reminder, a call to stop deluding myself. I tend to act like whatever is going on with me is more important than anything, or anyone. For the well-being of others and for the light of Christ to better shine, I need to listen to the call. And what’s the call?

Stop! In the Name of Love

Trouble After The Storm?

“Not everyone bounces back, some just keep bouncing.”

What?

It’s a quote, regarding the emotional impact of experiencing a major storm like Harvey or Irma. While most people can pick up the pieces and get back to normal, others  struggle, sometimes for months.

Struggling?

  1. General anxiety
  2. Post-traumatic stress
  3. Inability to sleep
  4. Gnawing sense of fear
  5. Depression

Studies reveal that 25% of people experiencing a severe hurricane can still be struggling six months later, or longer. It’s especially true for those affected by the worst aspects of storms: flash floods, loss of home and property, witnessing injuries, drowning’s, and storm related deaths.

 An Example

I read about a woman who was trapped on a roof with her three children. They huddled together as she shielded them from the rain and prayed to be rescued.

During the eight hours they waited, she witnessed four people die. She watched a woman and child trapped in a car as the water rose over and swept them away. She saw a woman clinging to a tree who lost her grip and quickly drowned. She watched as a man was being rescusitated, but died in the attempt.

Those images emerge whenever she closes her eyes. It’s why she’s hardly slept since she and her children moved into a downtown Houston shelter.

people waiting to be rescued

Other Challenges

People traumatized can feel overwhelmed to restart their lives. There’s frustration with contractors, insurance companies, and government agencies, and with basic needs like medical support and food and water.

Storm victims often lose their jobs due to devastation of businesses. They face financial trouble and then the shame of finding help from government agencies or the community. They know the feeling of standing in lines for help instead of being the one helping. 

Here’s some gently offered advice:

  1. Find a good church, faith and spiritual family will help.
  2. Join a support group, sharing your story could be beneficial.
  3. Resist the urge to feel like you’ve failed, you haven’t.
  4. Pursue positive short term goals, moving forward is healthy.
  5. Find a good counselor or mental health professional. You may need it.

To Close

“Not everyone bounces back, some just keep bouncing.” So, please try to remember these words from Jesus in John 16:33,

“In this world, you will have much trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Shalom

Believe It or Not!

Some things don’t make sense. Or, they don’t make sense to me.

Some Examples

  1. I don’t understand the internet, how so much information comes through a tiny wire into millions of homes and to millions of cell phones.
  2. I don’t understand road construction. Enough said.
  3. I don’t understand airplanes. I get there is less air over the wing and more air under it. Still, the weight of a passenger plane seems too heavy for flight.

Here’s A Thing

I recently went on an ATV trip into the Colorado high country. We got up to 12,000 feet. It was the last day of June, the sun was warm, and used sunscreen to prevent burning.

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It was so hot I nearly took my shirt off. Nobody wanted me too.

Yet, there were large patches of snow, and drifts over my head. I wore a shirt and shorts, and was often too warm. Was tempted to take off my shirt!  

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A huge snowdrift in summer!

Here’s Another Thing

I learned about Bristlecone Pine trees. They only grow at high elevation and rugged conditions. They appear to be rooted in stone. They are known to live for 3,000 years there’s a tree in California believed to be 5,000 years old. It’s the oldest known living tree in the world.

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The Bristlecone Pine, living at 12,000 feet and rooted in rock!

Here’s One More Thing

Jesus walked on water. He cured the sick and healed diseases. He gave hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, and mobility to the lame. He cured the decaying skin of lepers and raised the dead.

I don’t comprehend that kind of power. On the other hand, he was there when his Father created the world. And nothing was made that wasn’t made through him, (John 1:1-2).

Do I believe God’s son created the world then balk at his power to heal? The former makes the latter a reality.  

To Close

Snow in summer, the internet, air travel, and the Bristlecone. Each are a mystery. Jesus our Messiah was raised from the dead, forgave sin, healed people, and then gave us the Holy Spirit.

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I believe. 

 Shalom

A Bone Marrow Transplant

I’m not an expert, so please bear that in mind.

Stem Cell Transplants

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow, where the blood cells are made. One treatment is to have a bone marrow transplant. The first step is to undergo a heavy course of chemotherapy, destroying the cancerous bone marrow, blood cells, and the immune system.

Then, the patient is given a bone marrow transplant with new stem cells. If successful, the new bone marrow will produce healthy blood cells and restore the immune system. Even the patient’s blood type changes.

bone marrow
Basically, something dies so something new can live, its transformation.

It’s a process of transformation. The cancerous bone marrow is destroyed so healthy  bone marrow can live, producing healthy blood cells. It’s almost miraculous.

The Power of Transformation

Paul wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Spiritual transformation is triggered by the renewing of the mind. As if to say, “If you want changed behavior, then first change your mind, if you want to be different, then get a different mind.”

Some Parallels

  1. Leukemia-Sin
  2. Diseased bone marrow-The ravages of sin
  3. Chemo kills the blood cells-The blood of Jesus gives new life
  4. Leukemia destroys the immune system-The Holy Spirit revives us
  5. What destroys must be destroyed-He who died makes new creations

A Renewed Mind?

It’s becoming holy in our thoughts, speech, and behavior. It’s the remodeling of that which was sinful and selfish into that which is holy and divinely beautiful.

The Holy Spirit is the architect of renewal. He will help you every day and in any moment. The Spirit offers renewal, if we allow it, if we seek it.

To Close, Simply

We can be changed, we can be transformed into the very image of Christ.

Shalom

The Ubiquitous Straw

The ubiquitous drinking straw. As a child I thought they were pretty amazing. Clearly it didn’t take much to amaze me. 

The Straw

I see people using straws in different ways. Some drink from them. Some chew on a straw until it’s all chewed up. Others use them as drum sticks, beating the time to whatever song is playing in their heads. Some people twist them into shapes.

Marvin C. Stone

 Do you know Mr. Stone of Washington D.C.? He patented the drinking straw on January 3, 1888. He came upon the idea while enjoying a cool drink on a hot day. His straws were made of paper.

Joseph B. Friedman

Forty years after Mr. Stone’s patented paper straw, Mr. Friedman, of San Francisco, CA, invented the plastic, flexible, bending straw. It revolutionized the industry.

Yet Vestergaard Frandsen

A straw of a different color. In 2006, Mr. Frandsen, and his Swiss based company, conceived, designed and manufactured the LifeStraw, a microbiological filter tube that can take in filthy water and purify it by the time it reaches the user.

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LifeStraw removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 98% of waterborne viruses. People in third world countries can drink from contaminated ponds, rivers, and stagnant pools.

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In Haiti

LifeStraw is saving lives in Haiti. After hurricane Matthew, many are tempted to drink the contaminated flood waters, or from polluted rivers and streams. The LifeStraw makes it possible to stay hydrated and avoid disease. It’s a modern miracle of science. And a donation to Hope For Haiti’s Children will help them get more of these little miracles into Haiti.

http://www.hopeforhaitischildren.org

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Personally

I personally prefer the little plastic stir sticks found in coffee houses and wherever better coffee is served. They aren’t really straws but that doesn’t matter. They are small, compact, and great for chewing. I don’t really chew them but thought it made me sound cool.

To Close

There are many great ideas for helping people in 3rd world countries. But unfortunately, most of them require some kind of infrastructure, a better government, or something to already in place in order work.

The LifeStraw isn’t complicated. It doesn’t require an infrastructure, a better government or anything at all.

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Now, if you will excuse me, my coffee needs stirring. 

Peace 

Healing In Hard Times, Pt. 3

What does it mean to heal? Is it feeling better, moving past the gut-wrenching pain of grief and loss? Is it returning to a place of normalcy?

Levels Of Loss

Loss causes grief and grief causes pain. But it’s been my experience that the pain is somewhat relative to the loss.

Examples of Loss

  1. A Pet
  2. An old Friend
  3. Extended family
  4. Grandparents
  5. Parents
  6. A child
  7. Your spouse

Categorizing Grief?

We shouldn’t categorize grief; it just complicates our pain. Nor should we judge the pain of others. We recognize that some losses are tougher than others, and harder to recover from. The hardest losses are the sudden, unexpected ones, with a phone call. They tear the soul and rip the heart.

Sometimes grief is like being on fire and sometimes it’s sunburn. The former may destroy us while the latter is painful, but not debilitating.

funeral

Healing?

I’ve lost a parent, a brother, a brother-in-law, grandparents, extended family, best friends, and a baby that died in delivery.

How then should we heal? There are stages of grief and I believe they should be acknowledged, understood, and processed. That sounds more academic than personal, just the same.

Some Suggestions About Healing:

  1. Don’t blindly hope that the pain goes away, it doesn’t. Think of it as slowly receding into the background, becoming less dominant, not so overwhelming.
  2. It doesn’t betray the memory of your loved one to move forward with life. You will laugh again and have fun and enjoy people, and you should.
  3. Some days are better. Some days aren’t. It’s normal.
  4. Grief recovery is measured in months, not weeks or days.
  5. A lack of energy, desire, and motivation is normal, but it gets better.
  6. Millions have experienced loss, of all kinds. It doesn’t deaden your pain, but it’s helpful to realize that your’s isn’t an isolated experience.
  7. Like the body needing time to recover from illness or injury, the mind and soul need time to rest. You can’t rush the healing, fix the pain, or alter the experience. But you can believe that a brighter day is coming, because it is.

And Finally

Healing in the hard times?

Healing is resting and recovering. It’s gives you time to accept and adjust to a new normal of happiness. Healing is finding your way back to the person you once were, and wish to be again.

God Bless You

Shalom

Healing In Hard Times, Pt 1

Coping with grief seems an oxymoron. The idea of coping with deep emotional pain seems similar to a house coping with a hurricane.

It’s not so much coping as hoping to survive.

man on bench

The Deepest Pain

The most painful emotions are those associated with loss, as with losing someone you love, but there are other painful losses as well:

  1. Position-Profession
  2. End of a friendship
  3. Spouse by divorce
  4. Your reputation
  5. Your health

But Death

But death eclipses them all. The two most traumatic types of grief are losing a spouse or a child.

Coping?

The closest I’ve come to “hurricane level” grief was a stillborn child. He died in delivery and would have been our first child.

What Doesn’t Help

Caring people will offer their help. But they often make things harder through their unaware and unintended mistakes.

Here are three things that people did that didn’t really help us. These are things not to look for if you are looking for help with your loss and grief.

  1. People Who Wont Listen: they only want to tell you their story, to talk about their loss. They don’t listen, don’t really support you, they just assume that you will feel better by hearing about their pain and misery.
  1. People Who Ask To Help: This one is hard. Many people asked, “What can we do to help?” When someone is coping with loss, they can’t think, they aren’t thinking, and asking the question is just a burden. They don’t know what you can do. The people asking have the best of intentions, but ultimately, it’s a fruitless gesture. If you want to help someone grieving, take over food, go mow their grass, take their kids out for pizza, go do some cleaning if you know them well enough.
  1. The Wrong Messages: People will way things that are difficult to hear. Again, the mean well but often don’t really think about what is being said. Here are a few examples:
  • “God loved your baby so much that he just had to have him for himself.”
  • “Whatever you did to cause your baby to die, I’m sure you won’t do it again.”
  • “Don’t worry, you can always have another one.”
  • “You are young, there’s still time for lots of babies.”
  • “God is testing you, to see if you are worthy.”
  • “It’s time to stop grieving, get on with life”

To Close

Here is some advice about coping with grief.

Identify one good friend, someone who will listen and not weary of listening. Who will pitch in without asking what’s needed. Who refrains from empty words and cheap, hurtful advice. They will hold you when you cry, understand when you are sad, and make you laugh when you need too. They won’t judge you. They will just love you.

To be continued…

A Coat of Paint?

OPENING THOUGHTS

The power of paint is found in its ability to make things look new. It’s what paint does.

man painting ceiing
Not Me Painting, Thankfully

I’ve been painting walls, ceilings, and porch railings for the last few weeks. It’s marvelous how rolling on a coat of paint instantly hides all the imperfections.

SOME PERSPECTIVE

It’s interesting though, that the paint doesn’t really change anything. What’s underneath remains the same, stained and dirty. Even if the new paint is the same color, it’s only hiding the old paint that’s become marred or faded.

That’s what paint does. It makes imperfections imperceptible.

Thinking about the way paint covers a flawed surface makes me appreciate God and what he does for us.

CONSIDER THE TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER OF GOD

God created the world submerged in water. The water wasn’t created later as were the universe, the animals, and humanity.

No, water came into existence with the earth itself. Everything began with water. 

Think about the vitality of water within scripture. The priests washed the animals, and themselves, for the sacrifices. Ceremonial cleansing was required before entering the temple. It was also necessary before joining with others in table fellowship. Hands, arms, and feet were always washed with water before sharing a meal. It removed the dirt and symbolically, the sin and impurity. The idea: not taking sin into another person’s home.

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Immersion in water, to cleanse the soul, is rooted in scripture. New life comes from water and the Spirit. Naaman got cleansed in the river. The blind mind  washed in the Pool of Siloam, and on and on.

God isn’t offering a thin coat of paint, a quick splash of color to freshen our lives. He offers renewal, a new life in Jesus our Messiah, a soul cleansing transformation.  

Paint doesn’t change what it touches. Whatever gets painted remains exactly as it was before it was painted. But the New Birth is a complete and total regeneration of the soul. Change takes place at the deepest level, the New Birth transforms us.  

baptism in ocean

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I make mistakes when I paint. I drip on the floor and on myself, and spill and make messes. But I can put some paint thinner on a rag and clean it right up. Paint isn’t permanent, its temporary. Its temporary  because its paper thin and man made.

baptism in lake

It isn’t so with our Messiah and his Father. When he redeems he reaches deep, all the way down. He washes everything away, transforming  us, completely and forever.

The transforming power of God to create new life; it’s no paint job.

It’s a glorious thing.

Too Much of Nothing

Opening Thought

The primary problem with impoverished countries is that the one thing they have to much of is nothing. When it comes to having nothing, they have an over abundance, especially in Haiti.

For Your Consideration

My first trip to Haiti was an eye popping, gut wrenching, heart breaking experience. It was a brutal assault on the senses. The sights, smells, and circumstances were at best, bleak. 

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Global Finance magazine places Haiti 166 out of 185 countries in wealth. 

The World Bank reported, “Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world.” 

The IMF rates Haiti the most impoverished of the top ten poorest countries in the western hemisphere. 

Haiti has mega-tons of not enough. 

The Helpers

One of the organizations making a huge difference is a faith based non-profit called Hope For Haiti’s Children, (HFHC) based in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have been serving the Haitian people for more than twenty years, caring for orphans, offering sponsorship for Christian education, and helping in many relief efforts. They also provide medical clinics, food programs, and other related services. 

medical clinicHFHC operates hand in hand with their Haitian partners who lead and administrate the orphanages, schools, and clinics. They currently have 2500 children enrolled in ten Christian schools in Port-au-Prince and throughout central Haiti. 

I’ve traveled there on numerous mission trips and have seen first hand the amazing work HFHC is doing to serve, help, and bless the Haitian people. It’s an exciting ministry and a first rate organization, worthy of support. 

An Opportunity

This Sunday, April 3, representatives of HFHC will be at the Southeast Church of Christ, in Friendswood, Texas. The SE church partners with HFHC to sponsor 233 children for Christian education and provides substantial support for the school in Cite Soleil, a slum community just outside of Port-au-Prince. 

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Cite Soleil

 On Sunday morning, we will be collecting items for the Cite Soleil children. If you are in the Houston area and would like to learn more about this wonderful program, then please join us at 8:30 or 10:45. 

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The Cite Soleil Christian School

In Closing

There are people all over the world in need of help. Poverty, hunger, and hopelessness can be found just about anywhere, even in the good old US of A. 

But as I like to say, “No one can do everything for anyone, but everyone can do something for someone.” This Sunday, we are doing something for Haiti’s children.

Come join us. Come help us help the children of Haiti.

Hope For Haiti’s Children:      www.hopeforhaitischildren.org

Southeast Church of Christ    www.southeastonline.org 

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Cite Soleil

Jesus, Have Pity On Us!

thanksgivingTen lepers are a group of very sick people. From Luke 17, Jesus was entering a village when the ten called to him. They did so from a distance, for they were unclean, and leprosy could do that to a person. Required to keep their distance, they knew better than to approach him, for the clean could not risk becoming defiled. What did they say? “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”

It’s likely they were separated from family, removed from their villages, and unwelcome at the door of anyone’s home. They couldn’t enter the Synagogue for prayer and Torah reading. They were outcasts and would likely die a lonely, painful death. They were a band of broken brothers, linked by leprosy. “Jesus, have pity on us!” He did. He healed them and his healing was a total fix. He wasn’t just curing illness, but provided a complete restoration of the body. Appendages were brought to life. Noses of rotting flesh were replaced with healthy tissue, their ears and limbs were repaired.  They were as good, or even better, than before they got sick.

I would have quickly found a priest to pronounce me clean, then complete Torah’s requirements, and head for home like a scalded dog. I would rush through the door of my house to hold the children I hadn’t hugged and embrace the wife I hadn’t kissed. All my family and friends would celebrate my good fortune. It would be glorious!

Odd that one of the ten was Samaritan. Only in the company of lepers would a Samaritan be accepted by Jews. Even more odd, is that he went back to tell Jesus thank you, and did so while kneeling at his feet. Before returning home, before his wife and family, he said thank you. “Where are the others,” Jesus asked?

Perhaps they were too busy celebrating to consider such courtesies?

Jesus made me clean. He washed my sins and then he scrubbed the stains. He repaired my soul, restored my life, and brought me back to the Father. I am whole and wholly renewed. But am I thankful? “Jesus, have pity on us.”

It’s fifteen days till Thanksgiving. But please don’t wait to tell Jesus thanks. Any day is a good day to remember our blessings and be grateful, don’t you think?