Good Neighbors?

We recently moved to a new house, it’s an older home, but new to us. Moving is always such great fun. Except for when it’s not, and the exception seems to be the rule.

The New Neighborhood

The new neighborhood is phenomenal. I love the mature landscaping, the big oak trees, the well-manicured lawns, and the general sense that the place is populated by people who care.

The New Neighbors

On The Right

We’ve not actually met them. But as we have gone out or as they have come in, we have received a hearty, “Hello new neighbor, we want to meet you, sorry, but we have to run, welcome to the neighborhood.” They seem friendly and affable. We look forward to getting better acquainted.

Across The Street

I was rolling the trash bins out to the curb, when a barking dog launched himself in my direction. Clearly unleashed, he closed the distance before I could widen it. But not to worry, I lowered my hand, he sniffed it, then sniffed again, and decided to be my new best friend. The smiling owner walked over with her sweet little daughter and introduced herself. Then her husband came over and my wife came out and we visited and got well acquainted. They are an adorable young family, even the dog.

On The Left

She stopped to say hello and was very welcoming. She mentioned her husband was retired and enjoyed talking and that he was looking forward to meeting me, he did. They happen to be Jewish and we happen to be Gentile. Which became more relevant when he discovered I was a Church of Christ minister. We moved to a discussion of Old Testament history. It was fine till he realized I’d been to Israel more than him, that I’d traveled the Holy Land more, and possessed a greater knowledge of the Law of Moses and the Prophets. I wasn’t showing off, I promise. We’re going to be good friends.

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Not Me: I have more hair and don’t usually wear straw hats

Hit Or Miss

Our old neighbors weren’t particularly neighborly. Our new neighbors are outgoing and helpful. Sometimes neighbors are nice and sometimes they aren’t.

backyard-fence-neighbour-talking-gossiping-marketing-old-days
Not Our New Neighbors, But Close

Here’s The Thing

What kind of neighbor am I?

Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourselves. Huh. Am I friendly, outgoing, and neighborly? Am I more like Jesus or am I more like the grouchy curmudgeon that yells at the neighbor kids to get off my grass?

To Close

I wouldn’t want Jesus to be my neighbor. There would be too many cars, strange people, and noisy nights. Plus, he would want to talk over the back fence, drop by uninvited, and be gloriously positive, all the time. And he would want me to be like him.

I don’t mind being the light of world as long as I don’t have to shine, be a beacon, or assist anyone.

Well, on that upbeat note, I ‘ll just close by saying: Happy neighboring everybody!

Shalom

One Of Those Moments

There are moments in life that are difficult, hard, and overwhelming.

Then there’s the other kind, the sweet and wonderful moments, the kind you wish would never end. Yesterday was one of those.

Yesterday my church blessed me beyond what I could have imagined.

SoutheastSM

The Blessing

I’m referring to a book-signing event that was held in our church. I’ve recently had a book published and the church’s leaders publicly endorsed it and encouraged attendance for the book signing. 

Book

A First Timer

A first time author doesn’t know if the book will be good. Sometimes a book isn’t very good but people like the author so they buy a copy anyway. And if they can get the author’s signature, then even better.

I signed a lot of books yesterday.

The Point

It’s wonderful having  great friends. Its even better when they are fellow-church members. My church is brimming over with kind and supportive people, kind and support friends. 

I was abundantly blessed.

I guess all of us like hearing certain things now and then. To hear people say, “Congratulations Rick, we are so proud of you,” was, well, pretty wonderful.

It was a very emotional day.

So Good Morning Holy Spirit

As I rise to start a new day and a new week. I greet the Holy Spirit asking him to bless my friends who are going back to school today. To bless the moms and dads who are dropping off a child for the first time. I ask the Holy Spirit to bless my church, for they stood in line to bless me.

Let’s Close This Out

I am button-popping proud of my Southeast family. They have a sweet and gentle spirit, and they absolutely know how to love and care for their preacher.

I ask the Holy Spirit to bless those that set everything up, and staffed the table, and made the refreshments, and did everything to make the day special.

Yesterday was one of those moments, the kind you wish would never end.

Thank you church.

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Fixing What’s Broken

Brokenness: Some see it as an avenue for making forward progress. For others it’s a debilitating experience immersed in defeat and depression.

What makes it good for one and not for the other?

It’s All About Attitude

I believe it’s all about attitude. If a person views it as a way of making their life better, then that’s what will happen. But if they choose to see it as bitter and painful, as something debilitating, then that’s what it will be.

One person is lifted up and another is swallowed up.

Some Examples:

  1. King David had a one-night affair with Bathsheba, who got pregnant; David had her husband killed and then married her. Their baby died a week after his birth. He mourned and grieved, but got up and continued as best he could.
  1. Mary was broken by her sinful life. When the opportunity came to see Jesus, she humbled herself by washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. Her brokenness pushed her to Christ.
  1. King Saul was upstaged by a young shepherd boy named David. When David was able to advance himself, he did so by dispatching the Philistines and their champion, Goliath. David was catapulted into the national spotlight. Saul became jealous, angry, and broken. He vowed to kill David. His brokenness defined him and he failed in every way possible.
  1. Peter was fully devoted to Jesus, but at times his devotion derived more from emotion than conviction. After denying Jesus, he went out and wept bitterly. But rather than be defeated by his own glaring weakness, he moved on with his life and became the primary proclaimer in Jerusalem.
  1. On the other hand, Judas allowed his brokenness to take him down a dark path to self-destruction. Overwrought with grief and shame, he chose to end his life rather than to seek mercy, forgiveness, and a new beginning.

The Presentation

Brokenness comes packaged in different wrappings. It looks a little different each time it comes and can often be a different experience for each of us.

Causing Brokenness

  • Heart wrenching grief
  • Professional termination
  • Shame and guilt of sin
  • Public humiliation
  • The devastation of divorce
  • Others? 

A Look At Jesus

Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame. Did you catch that? He scorned its shame. Scorn means: “to feel contempt for.” The Roman cross was the most painful, the most humiliating, and the most shameful of all their public executions. But Jesus chose contempt for the cross; he scorned it, rather than being defined by it.

Man-at-cross

To Close

We are broken by our sins and mistakes and we are broken by the sins and mistakes of others. Sometimes life breaks us, it just forces itself upon us.

What we choose to do with our brokenness is up to each of us. We use it to become better, stronger. Or we allow it do hurt and diminish us.

Which will you choose?

Shalom

For The Least Of His Brothers

I was thinking about the time my family and I moved in with friends for eight weeks.

How Come?

We moved in because we were homeless. Actually, we had sold our house, we were uncertain of our future, and didn’t want to commit to a lease. And I was unemployed.

So some friends from church took us in while we sorted out our future.They just set out the welcome mat.

How We Felt

At first, we were overwhelmed by their loving hospitality. And secondly, it was humbling. Our kids struggled with not having their own home and bedrooms. We struggled as parents. I struggled with pride. My life was dedicated to helping others, and suddenly I was the one in need. It was hard.

Turned Out Well

But it all turned out fine. In time I found my calling, and we soon returned to that place of plenty. But for eight weeks, we didn’t have a home and didn’t know when we would get one. Thank God for loving friends.

Yesterday At Church

Yesterday morning, our congregation highlighted a ministry called, “Family Promise.” It’s a national program for helping homeless families. Basically, thirteen participating churches host up to four homeless families in their building for a week, four times a year. Classrooms are set up as temporary bedrooms. The average family stays in the program for about three months, working to get a place of their own. For more details on this wonderful program, visit their site: www.ccfamilypromise.org

homeless kids

It’s A Good Thing

I can imagine that it’s humbling for any family to find themselves without a home, for whatever the reason. I can imagine its tough moving from church to church each week, while working to save the money to get a home.

I can also imagine how grateful, and relieved, a family would be to have a place that is safe and dependable. The kids go to bed with full stomachs and their homework is done.

It may not be what they want, but it’s exactly what they need.

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In Closing

I can’t imagine Jesus being anything but proud when his people help the homeless, especially families with children.

I’ll always be grateful for those who cared for my family by taking us in. God bless them.

We all need a little help from our friends now and then, don’t you think?

Shalom

Fogged Up Glasses

I stopped this morning to fill up the car.

The warning light had come on, so I figured it was time a good time.

gas guage

Here’s What Happened

When I opened the car my glasses fogged over. It’s Houston, it’s warm and humid and when the warm damp air hit my air-conditioned glasses, then BAM!

I couldn’t see very well, but pressed the button to release the gas tank door and stepped out of the car, but the little door wasn’t open. So I pressed it again, and again. I banged on it a few times and concluded it was broken. If I couldn’t open it, then I couldn’t fill the tank.

gas door

Then I noticed the trunk was open.

Notice The Progression

  • Press the button to open the door
  • See the door’s not open
  • Press the button again
  • See that its still not open
  • Bang on the door a few times
  • Nope
  • Getting concerned
  • Press the button again, harder
  • Realize the trunk is open
  • Close trunk
  • Press the other button, the one next to the trunk button
  • Gas door open

It Took A Minute

In a minute my glasses cleared up, but by then the whole scenario had played out. I was sure I was pressing the right button. If I hadn’t noticed the trunk, which doesn’t rise all the way up when opened, then who knows, I might still be at the gas station, pounding the wrong button.

Some Thoughts

Foggy vision can lead to such mistakes. It didn’t matter that I was sure I was pressing the right button. My certainty didn’t make a wrong thing right.

When Jesus was on trial, the people were calling for the death penalty, they were certain, and they were sure. They were sure he was a blasphemer, a false teacher, and a deceiver of the people. They hated him for claiming God as his Father. So they killed him. The mob loves a good lynching every now and then.

Thumb_TrialofJesus

And After

Later, after his ascension, he sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles and gave the gift to all mankind. The evidence was rock solid. Judea’s leaders had pressed the wrong button. Their minds were clouded, their vision foggy, and they nailed the Son of God to the cross. But they were sure.

In Closing

Perhaps the better thing would have been to clear my glasses. I would have clearly seen the right button to push.

How are your eyes this morning? Clear? Foggy?

If needed, take a moment to clear the foggy, smoggy, cloudiness out of your minds and hearts. Being sure you are right isn’t the same as being right.

Are you pushing the right button?

Shalom

Lift Your Head Up

I’M THINKING

I’m thinking about disappointments both large and small.

How should I respond? What should I do? Are feelings of disappointment a reflection of unbelief, a lack of trust? Are some disappointments harder than others?

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Sometimes Despair Is All You Have 

SOME DISAPPOINTMENTS

  • The shoelace broke on my brand new shoes and I couldn’t wear them.
  • A rainstorm interrupted the satellite feed during my favorite show.
  • The expensive steak I ordered came out overcooked.
  • A traffic snarl on I-45 caused a three-minute delay.
  • I called a company to complain but could only leave a message.

Those are disappointing all right.

SOME MORE DISAPPOINTMENTS

  • Criticism and negativity from people you thought were mature.
  • Friends and family who canceled at the last minute.
  • Discovering how low the bar of excellence is set for some people.
  • Not getting the bid, the offer, or the job your heart desired.
  • Back stabbing betrayal from someone you trusted.
girl crying
Disappointment Is Common and Global

DISAPPOINTMENT?

Was Noah disappointed when no one responded? Was Jeremiah devastated when no one repented? Were Adam and Eve disappointed in their sinful behavior? How did Moses handle the grumbling, complaining, and negativity from people whose lives he had saved, repeatedly? Was he disappointed in them?

Was Jesus disappointed when his disciples lacked faith? When they wanted to burn a Samaritan village to the ground? When they couldn’t stay awake to support him in prayer? When they viewed him as a means for advancement in the coming kingdom?

Did the Father weep at the brutality given to Jesus? Did knowing ahead of time what was going to happen ease the pain of the hatred and violence dished out to his son?

Was God disappointed in humanity?

THIS MORNING

Whatever setbacks and losses I experience in life, there are always others who have suffered more, and worse. Acknowledging the suffering of others won’t dissolve the bitter sting of my own disappointments.

But it does help to acknowledge that I’m not a martyr. I’m not alone; I’m not the only one. Life’s disappointments are common and global.

AND FINALLY

Hang tough. Don’t give in and don’t ever give up. There will be another day. There will be a better one.

So lift your head up.

Trust in God. Believe. Smile, for the world still turns and something joyful may be just around he corner.

Shalom

Getting All Wound UP

A MAJOR OBSERVATION

I’ve made an observation about human development. It turns out there are two kinds of people in the world: 

  1. Those who meticulously wind rope, cords, string, and wires.
  2. Those who don’t. 

I’m a 1. I don’t understand the 2’s. 

IT’S ONLY COMMON SENSE

Anyone who can see through a ladder can see the importance of proper cord storage. It’s just common decency; it’s fundamentally human, and essential to sustaining a free society and guarding our just republic. 

wound and stored extenstion cord.jpg   orgnaized basket of cables

Any insensitive person can cram a string of Christmas lights in a box, or make a mess of a good extension cord, or ruin a useful length of rope. It’s easy. Just wad it up, toss it somewhere, and forget about it. In doing so, they have probably invalidated it’s usefulness for the rest of it’s natural life.

mess-cables.jpg   ropes-close-up-white-thin-jetty-34159023

Sure. Way to go. Nice job. 

THE 2’s 

The two’s are people who:

  1. Just wad up the Christmas gift paper and stuff it in a trash bag.
  2. Intermingle their shirts, pants, and suits in their closet.
  3. Allow the various foods on their plates to touch.
  4. Open a box, dump out the parts, and start assembling.
  5. Refuse to review a map, ask directions, or have a plan for traveling.

Seriously? It’s probably a lifesaver that the one’s exist on the planet. Without the one’s, the two’s would surely destroy themselves with giant balls of tangled string.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

In the interest of leading by example, here are the simple steps for proper cord management. Let’s use something small, something simple, I wouldn’t want you two’s to be overwhelmed by something more complex.

A Phone Charging Cable

  1. Hold the cable by its ends with one end in each hand.
  2. Apply a small amount of tension by pulling the ends, be careful not to damage it by pulling too hard.
  3. After applying tension, relax your arms and hands, and slowly wind the cable around either your left or your right.
  4. After gently winding it, making sure not to overlap the cable, remove it by sliding it off your hand, being careful to not to allow any slack in the loops.
  5. Tie the freshly wound cable with a twisty-tie, or wrap it with a piece of tape, making sure to get three turns of the twisty-tie and at least two wraps of the tape.
  6. Place the wound charging cable in a special charging cable box. Be sure to label the outside of the box with the appropriate information related to the charging cable.
  7. Set the charging cable box in the special charging cable cabinet.

An A+ for a good strategy   proper and impoper cord storage

Now, repeat the above steps with your extension cords, cables, ropes, twine and string. Of course, you will need to properly label the boxes and cabinets for each one.

cord organization
This Is Truly Marvelous: Bravo!

See, was that so hard?

You’ve not only taken your first step to better organization but have made a giant step  towards a happier life and being a truly happy person. 

really happy man
A Truly Happy Person

So, from a “one” to those about to become a “one” let me offer a hearty congratulations! You will so enjoy the upgrade!

In fact, I often notice people pointing and saying, in almost reverent and whispering tones, “Look, there’s one now.”

Uh Huh

 

New Life From Old Friends

OLD FRIENDS

I was speaking last night for the Northside Church of Christ in San Antonio, something I get to do every summer. Their first invitation came in July of 1999. They’ve been asking me back for 17 years.

It’s a sweet relationship, with strong connections, and an opportunity to see old friends.

LATE NIGHT COFFEE

After the service I was visiting with members and talking with some of their staff. Their Preaching Minister and Associate Minister have been there forever, are excellent at what they do, and are just really good guys.

But the highlight of the evening was going out for coffee with a dear friend that used to be in my congregation. They moved to West Texas four years ago but make the effort to be at Northside when I speak.

THE JOY OF FRIENDSHIP

My friend was glad to see me, as far as I can tell, but not nearly as glad as I was. There is something special about getting caught up with old freinds over good coffee. It was great.

Here are some thoughts about catching up with old friends:

  1. Seeing they are getting older too.
  2. Hearing about their kids and family.
  3. Learning how they have grown, changed, and developed.
  4. Reminiscing about shared memories and experiences.
  5. Renewing the bonds of friendship.

On reflection, those five things ring a little left-brain to me. They are good, but lack a certain something.

Here is another list:

  1. Asking my questions I was overjoyed at the answers.
  2. I rejoiced in the blessings God has blessed them with.
  3. Was deeply grateful to have such a good friend.
  4. Was reminded once again about the value of connection.
  5. I left feeling a strong sense of pride in my friend.
friends having coffee
Not me or my friend, but close!

THE SOCIAL ISLAND

At times it’s appealing to live on a social island, being cut off from people. The social island is a lonely place to be, a lonely way to exist.

It does offer a sense of protection, a kind of barrier between you and others. Sometimes we seek the island when we are in crisis, pain, and grief. It can be comforting, and even healthy, to be someplace where we can reserve our energy; and take some time to take care of us.

But don’t stay too long.

PEOPLE ARE MESSY

People can be messy: emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Friendship with genuine connection risks transparency and exposure. It requires vulnerability. And it flows both ways. They get access to our weaknesses, foibles, and flaws, and we to theirs. It can be messy.

AND FINALLY

As the years go by, I’m finding a fresh openness to new friends, to deeper connections, and have a growing appreciation for the friends I have.

To my late-night coffee buddy: Thank you very much!

A Bargain Cave?

AN OPENING THOUGHT

Caves can be metaphors for the origins of man and his base mentality.

REALLY?

Sure, here are a few examples:

  • “We came out of the cave”
  • “You are such a Neanderthal”
  • “That’s cave mentality”
  • “If it hadn’t been for women we’d still be in caves.”
  • “Don’t go all caveman on me”

man in cave entrance

Less popular today but still in common use is the phrase, “Man Cave.” The Man Cave offers everything men want:

  • An amazing home theater system
  • Large, comfortable, but well used overstuffed furniture
  • Pictures that encourage his cave mentality
  • Doors that close and stay closed
  • A place for cave dwellers to devour grilled meats

Yep.

BUT IT CAN ALSO MEAN THIS

IMG_1966.JPG

The Bargain Cave blew me away. There before me was a room, in a store built for hunter/gatherers, to buy stuff I needed, or didn’t need, and for getting it at rock bottom prices.

A man can capture something from the Bargain Cave, then thump his chest and walk out happier, prouder, and with a stiffened spine.

gorillas-fighting_jokuci
Not Saying Men Are Unreasoning Animals

Men are such cave dwellers.

THE DOWNSIDE?

I suppose the downside of the caveman mentality is that it’s stubborn, selfish, and narrow-minded. But I can live with that.

AND FINALLY…

I have a Man Cave. I don’t call it that; I prefer Media Room. But it’s a Cave. It has things on the walls that I like; it has a rumbling, wracking, booming sound system with a very large flat screen TV. There are shelves for movies, books, and more movies. It has large double doors that close me in. It has cool lighting. It’s just cool.

It’s a Man Cave.

It’s also where my wife watches things like Downton Abbey and HGTV.

What’s a Neanderthal to do?

I Love The Middle Ones

LIFE’S LITTE FOIBLES

I’m not saying I don’t have any, I do. Here is one of them. I don’t care for the cinnamon rolls on the outside of the pan. I like the middle ones.

IMG_1967.jpg

There, I‘ve said it. Some say owning up to it is the first step to recovery.

I HAVE OTHERS

Here are some of my other eccentric flaws:

  1. I don’t care for the bits and pieces of chips at the bottom of the bag.
  2. Like the cinnamon rolls, watermelon is best enjoyed at the center.
  3. I put the left sock on first, then the right, and the right side irritates me.
  4. Commercials should be muted, not watched, heard, or acknowledged.
  5. I take the full trash bag out of the container, but I don’t put a new one in.

Those are the most annoying things about me. Or maybe not.

WHAT ARE YOURS?

Everyone has irritating, annoying habits and flaws. We all do. Yes, I have more than most, but you have them too, you know you do.

Some are of an inconsiderate nature. Or they can just be selfish. Others are odd, weird, or even eccentric. But we all have some.

MY FAITH

The teachings of my faith, Christianity, place a high premium on patience, forbearance, gentleness, kindness, and humility. Oddly though, there isn’t much on fairness.

Jesus doesn’t really teach on being fair. I think he knew that most people were not going to be fair, but unfair, self-seeking and self-absorbed. Did his apostles teach about patience and kindness because they knew that without those qualities we wouldn’t survive? That if humility and self-denial weren’t practiced that the world would tear itself apart over a cinnamon roll?

WHICH ARE YOU?

Are you the unfair, unkind, selfish person? Or are you the patient, kind, and humble person? If you are the latter, do you ever give tired of being the mature grown up? And if you are the former, are you ever aware that your immaturity and selfishness cause heartache and grief? Or are you so self-absorbed that it never occurs to you?  

AND FINALLY

Give patience a chance. Just once, just for today, take the corner cinnamon rolls and leave the center ones for someone else.

Give forbearance a chance. Just once, just for today, try to be tolerant of other people’s intolerance, ignorance, and selfishness.

Give yourself a chance, be more of who the Holy Spirit wants you to be.

Shalom