Sonora Smart Dodd and What She Did

THE DAY AFTER

It’s the day after Father’s Day and all the working dads are back on the job. We got the day to celebrate and we are grateful, but it didn’t include Monday off so, back to work.

It’s okay, I had such a good time with my kids I’ll gladly start the new week back at work! Yesterday, we were about to give thanks at the dinner table when my son, who is thirty-five, asked, “Dad, do you have any wisdom?” He was being a bit snarky, but really he was  encouraging me to talk about being a father.

So I did. 

I told my son and daughter that being a father has been the greatest honor and joy of my life. That I love them more than ever and am thankful for them every day. I said how proud of them I am and how blessed I feel to be a Father. That’s what I said.

 I like Father’s Day, but I’m one of the lucky ones who has the sense that Father’s Day happens all through the year.

IMG_2003
One of my Father’s Day cards. Not a card thats close to the one I got, but the actual card

FATHER’S DAY? 

Did you know that Father’s Day started in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910, by a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd? And why? Because she felt her dad deserved to be honored.

Her father was William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and a man who had fathered six children, one of whom was, of course, his daughter Sonora.

GANG BUSTERS?

Father’s Day didn’t catch on. Sonora did what she could but life got busy and she let the banner drop. But in the 1930’s she renewed her zeal and restored her efforts and brought Father’s Day to a national awareness. She solicited help from the trade groups who benefited from Father’s Day, groups like the men’s tie manufactures and the tobacconists with their pipes and such. She succeeded in getting the New York Associated Men’s-Wear Retailers to commercialize Father’s Day. It took some time, but it worked.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers. In 1972, it became  a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. 

So, Happy Father’s Day and thanks to everyone who helped us get here!

And a special thanks to Sonora for her loving efforts. 

BUT ACTUALLY

The person deserving recognition is Mr. Smart. We honor him for his service, and for being such a good dad to his six kids. And by the way, Mr. Smart wasn’t just a conscientious father, he was also a single parent. Yep, he raised his family of six children on his own.

So we honor him for being the kind of father who inspired his daughter to grow up and invent Father’s Day.

And it’s been another great Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

A Day For Firsts

A  recent box office hit that I enjoyed was “First Man” the story of Neal Armstrong, the first man on the moon. It was a good story and I’m a sap for all things NASA. If I had been twenty IQ points smarter, a bunch of pounds lighter, and a whole lot more gifted, I would have been an astronaut. I would have been a kickin’ astronaut.

Anyway, last evening I was watching the movie (again) when suddenly there was a loud roar overhead. Not in the house, but up in the sky. I new what it was, it was an Air Force jet of some kind. I hear and see them all the time because we live close to Ellington Air Force Base which has a long and proud history with NASA here in Houston. I see all kinds of aircraft. Huge jets, fighter planes, trainers, and helicopters of all shapes and sizes. I think its cool.

There I was, watching a movie about the first man on the moon when I hear a massive jet roaring over my house. A jet I know will be landing at Ellington. I’m not certain, but I may be living in Neal Armstrong’s house when he was in the space program, probably not, but maybe.

Anyway, it got me thinking about firsts:

Yesterday at church, a little boy came up to talk to me for the first time, I think he was three. I’m not sure what he said, but I felt great that he said it.

In the opening of my lesson I compared a lion to a cat, it set up the message of how God  transforms us to something greater. To illustrate it, I had a picture of a cat on the screen. I’ve been preaching for forty years and a cat picture is a first.

At the close of 2nd service I had all the teens and adults who were about to go on their annual mission trip come up on stage. There were about 60 of them and I was proud to pray a prayer of blessing over them. Mostly, I was captivated by all the 7th graders going. It’s their first mission trip. The first of many I hope.

61623539_10157428454481204_6734778736131964928_o
So joyful to see so many going to help people in need. Yes, that’s me on the right, close to the edge, really very close.

In the afternoon we stopped by to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.  I know that every year is the first of its kind. Just the same, acknowledging someone who has been married for 50 years is a good. It was a major first for them.

IN CLOSING

Jesus was the first of his kind. He was the first savior, the first God to come near. He was the first divine being to sacrifice himself. He is the first King of Kings and Lord of Lords and he will be the first to come and take us home for eternity. He is the first of all firsts.

Have a good week and may the God of firsts bring something amazing to your life.

 

 

 

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.

Listen To Our Hearts

A HARD DAY

Someone said there would be days like this. Someone was right. We all know tough times and discouraging days, certainly I do. But not like today.

Today, there is a funeral at my church. Actually, it’s a Celebration of Life Service. That’s what we call them now, a Celebration of Life. Mostly it means there won’t be a long-winded preacher preaching something nobody wants to hear.

basement_series_sadness-500x332
We hurt and grieve and wonder if God is listening.

The celebration allows for laughter, joyful memories and sweet stories. It’s not to prevent tears but to embrace other emotions and expressions. It’s surrounding those we care about to help them celebrate the life of the one they’ve lost. Sometimes, the one they’ve lost is a child.

Today’s service is for a little boy who died a few days ago.

LEVELS?

There are levels of grief. One is when a distant relative, whom we barely know, passes away in their sleep at the age of 89. Another level is when a young child tragically succumbs to illness or is struck down by a senseless accident.

All the deaths of children are tragic and senseless.

Arguably, the only grief that is harder than losing a child is losing more than one. Today, many will gather to support a family who has lost four children in just a few years. It is beyond words, beyond explanation, beyond answers.

The things we say at times like this can seem trite or useless. Sometimes, all we can do is hug the grieving, weep with the hurting, and hope they can hear our hearts because our words have stuck in our throats.

YET, WE PRAY

We pray to Him who seemingly turned a deaf ear to the calling, ignored the praying and abandoned the grieving. We pray because prayer is what we have, along with our faith.

Gut-wrenching grief can leave the shattered with a deep-seated anger at God. We know, we try to understand, but we lack the words, the theology, or the wisdom to comfort them. And yet, we pray. We pray, for our faith reminds us that the God who sacrificed his own son knows something of loss.

TO CLOSE

So, please pray today. If words fail then trust the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf. Please forward this to others and allow this day to be a day that God our Father listens to  our hearts.

Thank you.

Civility Is Alive & Well

GETTING MY COFFEE

This morning I saw a teenager exhibit some lovely behavior. She was at least 16 because we pulled into the Starbucks parking lot at the same time. I parked, gathered my things, and was headed for the door when I saw her standing there and smiling at me. She was holding the door open. I asked her,

 “Are you holding the door open for me?” She said, “Yes Sir I am.”

I thanked her, put my bag on a table and went to order my coffee. By then, another person had come in and the young lady invited us both to go ahead of her in line. I tried to resist, suggesting that she had already been courteous by holding the door for me. But, she politely insisted! I got my coffee, sat down, and then noticed her again. 

When she got her drink she saw another coffee that hadn’t been picked up. So, in a loud but sweet voice she asked, “Is this somebody’s coffee?” A hand went up and she walked it over to him. Then she looked to see if anyone else needed anything, flashed her pretty smile, and left. Wow.

Some Thoughts I Had:

1. She’s had fabulous parenting.

2. She was actively practicing her manners.

3. She was a naturally helpful person.

4. She was part of a group committed to demonstrating kindness.

5. She was filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Could be that it was all the above, who knows? But she made a lasting impression on me. In fact, she became the topic of this blog. My other thing got bumped.

In a fast paced world where most of us are focused on our going and getting, she stood out like a shining star.

Kindness and goodness are fruit of the Spirit. Loving our neighbor means treating them at least as well as we would treat ourselves. And didn’t Jesus command his disciples to love each other as he loved them?

TO CLOSE 

Young lady, whoever you are, you are a beautiful beacon of Christ-like courtesy and kindness. Thank you for blessing my life.

Civility isn’t dead, it’s alive and well and offered by a teenage girl at a Starbucks .

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!

It Was Super-Cute!

I’ve got to tell you about last night. 

WHAT?

It was our preschool’s annual Spring Sing and Fund Raiser. Melissa McAdams, Director of “The Vine Preschool,” and our Preschool Minister, did her usual amazing job of producing a great event. 

The silent auction was so much fun, the bidding intense and the competition fierce. I saw my name on several bid sheets which I thought was odd since I didn’t put my name on them. Someone was having some fun I think!

There was cake, pie, cupcakes and ice coffee and it was all so delicious. The gym walls were covered up with art work from each class of children. It was beautiful. 

THE PROGRAM

The kids gave a fabulous presentation in the worship center! Their songs were full of God’s love. The students who said prayers, quoted verses and helped lead the songs were well prepared. I wondered how long they had rehearsed. 

The worship center had hundreds of parents, grandparents, and friends in support of their favorite little one. Seeing 60 or 70 two, three and four year olds on stage filled my heart with hope.

THE BIG AUCTION

For the third year I was asked to be the auctioneer. There are two kinds:

  1. Those who have completed professional auctioneering training programs
  2. Those who haven’t

I’m in the, “Haven’t” group but I do the best I can and it ends up being fun and funny and profitable. Actually, it’s an honor to help. 

IN CLOSING 

As I watched the super cute “Year in Review” video, which took about a year to finish, I felt a few tears forming. As Senior Minister it gives me such joy knowing we are investing in the spiritual future of young minds and hearts.

What’s the value of filling a young child’s heart with Jesus? 

It was a great night and I salute Melissa and her fabulous staff for another successful year and a highly entertaining program.

Good job everybody and thank you!

Big Things, Small Packages

Let me begin by saying that big things do indeed come in small packages. 

WHO

I meet with a group of men every week. There are seven of them and they are high functioning, bright and motivated men. They are also strong believers. The goal of the group is encourage, instruct, and mentor them. I hold a strong belief that each will go on to serve our church with distinction. They already do. I’m just trying to encourage more. 

Funny how often they end up encouraging and mentoring me. 

WHAT

Several years ago I was in Jerusalem, on a Holy Land tour, and our group stopped to shop at a store that sold hand-carved olive wood figures of Bible characters and motifs. 

I saw one that I fell in love with, it was Jesus with an outreached arm grasping the hand of Simon Peter to lift him out of the water. He was in the water because he had taken his eyes off of Jesus and began sinking in the churching waves of the Sea of Galilee. 

It resonated deeply because in many ways I am Simon Peter.

 

peter-walking-on-water
Not exactly the way it was that night, but close, really very close.

WHY

Because I, like Simon Peter, yearn to walk on the water with Christ. I start off with faith and good intentions but often falter through self-determination and self-dependency. What happens? I sink, every time. 

The olive wood figure spoke to my soul, not only because I identify with Peter’s sinking, but because like Peter, Jesus always lifts me up, every time. 

WHEN

I didn’t buy the figure because it was way out of my price range, but I never forgot about it, and have spoken of it often. I’ve even “drooled’ over it on subsequent Holy Land trips, but again, its price was always over my head. (no pun intended) 

Then yesterday a small package came to the church office. Inside was the very figure. Actually, I had held it again three weeks ago in the store in Jerusalem. Some friends who were with me on the tour gathered around to say that my men’s group had arranged for its purchase and delivery to Houston. They had even recorded a video message that I saw in the store on a cell phone.

I wept with tears of joy and overwhelming gratitude.  

TO CLOSE

I’ll conclude with the beginning. Big things do come in small packages. You know what else comes in small packages? The bits and pieces of time, trust and fellowship that form great friendships with great friends. 

Shalom

 

 

A Perfect Day?

A quote that I’ll use out of context:

“We aren’t here to make things perfect.

The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect.

Not us.”

snowflake
Snowflakes are perfect

That means God is perfect since he designed the perfect stars and snowflakes. I’m not perfect, nobody I know is perfect and there isn’t anyone who to know who would be perfect if I knew them. Perfection isn’t our thing.

But every now and then we get close, we touch the hem of the garment, scratch the surface and catch a glimpse of perfect.

Such was Sunday morning. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

A new birth happened. At the start of 2nd service I baptized a man who was as excited, grateful, and humble as anyone I’ve ever immersed into Jesus. He came up from the water, raised his arms in victory and shouted enthusiastically. It was a great moment for the Kingdom of God and a wonderful start to our service. Wow!

Man-at-cross
There is such victory in Jesus, such hope through calvary.

Later, I had the honor of leading a Baby Blessing for a young family and their newest addition, an infant son.They came with their family and grandparents and our shepherds surrounded them for a prayer of thanksgiving and affirmation. We prayed he would be raised in the love and will of God and that their home would always be a haven of the Holy Spirit. It moved me deeply. 

Then I introduced the Development Director of Hope For Haiti’s Children who was there to support the sponsorship drive. He built us up with words of appreciation for helping the Cite Soleil school over the past 12 years. He was so encouraging!

Then I got to share some of my Haiti experiences and the Holy Spirit stirred the hearts of many. When the day started we were sponsoring 232 kids in the Cite Soleil school and by the close of 2nd service sponsorship swelled to 301, an increase of 69, and many left their names to sponsor children when they are available. There was so much love and compassion and such a desire to serve the least of His flock.

33968_10150805512801552_2124624126_n
Such a beautiful thing, watching so many chose to sponsor a Haitian child!

TO CLOSE

I’m still glowing and still so very thankful to the Shepherd of our souls. It was so exciting to be there and richly fulfilling to be part of it. It was a glorious Sunday and an almost perfect day.

Or maybe it was perfect! 

Shalom

A Sunday to Remember!

I don’t often blog on Saturday mornings but today is different. It’s about what’s happening tomorrow morning. It’s Sunday and it will be especially good. 

BABY BLESSING

 Like many churches, we value new life and love blessing new babies. In 2nd service tomorrow will be a Baby Blessing. The family will come on stage, be surrounded by our elders, and then I’ll share words of love, meaning and a scripture with the parents. Then one of the elders will say a prayer of blessing. It’s a beautiful thing.

11279831945_2b611434cd_b-crop-u18557
Not me or the baby blessing of tomorrow morning, but its celebrating New Life at SE!

SPEAKING OF NEW BIRTH

Also in 2nd service will be the baptism of a young man who has realized that his infant baptism was something others decided for him and not through his faith but the faith of others. So, tomorrow morning he will born again. It’s a beautiful thing.

IMG_1399
Celebrating New Life With Those Who Are Born Again

SPONSORSHIP DRIVE

For 12 years our church has been heavily invested in Haiti. We parter with a faith based non-profit called Hope For Haiti’s Children, a ministry doing Christian Education, Orphan Care, Health Care and other services in Haiti for 25 years. Families and individuals in our congregation sponsor some 240 children in the Cite Soleil school in Port-au-Prince. Tomorrow morning we aim to sponsor seventy more. It’s a beautiful thing. 

NEW LEADERSHIP

We are in the process of appointing additional leaders for Southeast. Tomorrow morning, in both services, will be a video of the candidates. We will see and hear the husbands and wives speak of their experience at SE and share what it means to be an Elder. It’s a beautiful thing.

TOMORROW MORNING

  • A NEW BIRTH
  • A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
  • NEW SPONSORED HAITIAN CHILDREN
  • NEW ELDER CANDIDATES

It’s going to be a wonderful day at Southeast, you don’t want to miss it and may God be praised for his providential blessings. Thank you Lord!

rel_secoc7.04-2_2
Home of the Southeast Church. It’s Going To Be a Great Day Tomorrow!