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Primum Non Nocere…or…The Hippocratic Christian

April 29, 2011 1 comment

My friend, Chris, is a pastor in town.  His church has a building with a gym in it.  It’s medium sized, but very useful and they use it.  On Tuesdays about 30 guys from the community show up.  3-4 of them go to his church, 3-4 others go to other churches, but the rest have no connection to the body of Christ…except of course that they gather every week in the church building for fun and fellowship: pretty close.

Chris is one of my heroes.  He showed up in town about the same time I did and started serving a church that has been around exactly 100 years.  This church has tons of tradition, and they are just down the road from an alternative school…a school with no gymnasium.  You see where this is going, right?

Church reaches out to school of troubled kids, basketball team has a place to play, troubled kids do better in school, school starts to trust church, kids start to look up to pastor who shows up frequently to mentor kids, kids tell their friends about the gym, friends…older and a little rougher…show up on a weekly basis, pastor communicates to congregation what God is up to with their building, people start praying, pastor asks the question: “What am I supposed to do with these guys?”

Primum Non Nocere.  That’s the latin for “First, do no harm.”  These kids now have, perhaps, their first connection to a church, and are really skeptical.  The whole thing is tenuous at best, and my friend, Chris is wondering how far do I go with the whole “Don’t look now, fellas, but you’re in a church building” activities.  I say first do no harm. 

There are a lot of well-meaning Christians who feel the need to immediately present the gospel message to anyone and everyone.  I understand this impulse.  There is a certain immediacy to responding to Christ.  But.  But what if God’s not in a hurry? What if your neighbor or your brother-in-law or your friend at work needs to experience Jesus and the coming Kingdom of God in you and your life before they are anywhere near able to hear the message?  What if your immediate words are lost on someone who is skeptical, and your anxiety-laden pleadings will make things more difficult for them?

Why not get Doris and Philbert to pray for these basketball-loving twenty-somethings?  Why not invite some more church guys to come and just play…just play.  Why not get Sara to bake those award-winning pies and surprise the guys with goodies – no strings attached – just pies because it would be nice?  Why not be there when there’s an inevitable crisis?  The pastor who is there every week and plays ball shows up in the emergency room to be present and offer a prayer.  The lady who baked a pie brings by a meal while someone heals up from surgery.  Doris and Philbert drop a card in the mail saying that they are praying for a quick healing.

Let things happen.  Let life happen and let Jesus show up in His own timing.  Do no harm.  Be a Hippocratic Christian.

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Double

April 24, 2011 4 comments

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

That’s how it started this morning.  We had two services today (Easter Sunday), and they were both pretty packed.  If I were pushed to give you numbers I would say there were 80 people in each service.  Here are the types of people we had:

Most all of our normal regular Embody types.  Then we had grandparents, siblings, and visiting cousins – these are the ones we won’t see again until they come to visit again in 3-6 months.  Which is cool.  But we also had the people who got our mailer and decided this was the week.  We had a single mom and her daughter who entered the front door and made it pretty clear that she was out of her comfort zone (she and her daughter had a great time).  We had a mom and grandma who lost a husband two days ago and didn’t want to be around her normal church friends because it was all so tender, and a little anonymity is helpful right now for her.  We had a good number of Chicago folks who make their summer weekend homes in a little community just down the street (think Dirty Dancing without the “dirty”).

God knows why they all came, and if they’ll come back.  Some of them left their info, and know I’ll contact them.  A few checked the box that reads “I want to be left alone”, and I will. 

We also had a choir.  Funny – for rehearsal we had about 7, but somehow when we stood up there this morning there were about 15 of us.  I don’t know.  Worked out.  There were also donuts the size of watermelons, an easter egg hunt that did two things: gave great photo ops and gave adults an easy way to talk and enjoy relaxing company together.  There was me, looking at the clock when everything was over and realizing I’d miscalculated how long things would go (better short than too long).  There was also a large-sh offering, a new “front” with a new platform so a short guy can be seen while preaching.  Oh, and there was Kathy who drew some really great artwork during each service (both were snatched up for some undisclosed donation after the service.)

Mostly, we heard the story – the love story with creation, broken relationships, God’s plan to fix it, a hero who arises, His death and resurrection, and our part in being the hands and feet of Christ to continue reconciling the world to God – oh, and the most important part…hope.

It was a win.  I feel good right now.  Tired, but really good.  Thanks to those of you who may have prayed for us.  Winner of a day.  Now, if you’re the type who likes to pray, you can pray that some of those people return to become part of our family of faith – and faith seekers.

Disney Recap

March 8, 2011 2 comments

We had a WONDERFUL time at Disney.  The kids were super excited to go, and the second surprise was as good as the first: their good friends from Pella, IA were in the adjoining room to ours!  What a great week.  Four adults and four kids, reservations for 8 at some seriously dangerous Fat Tuesday kind of eating establisments, rides to turn your stomach, shows to stop your heart, friends to share the memories, and everyone in all the parks calling your daughter “princess” all week.  We loved it.

At one point the kids got grabbed to join along in one of the shows “The Lion King” (totally worth the trip, by the way).  Here’s a link to some footage of the song and dance.

Then, the kids went through some jedi training and took on Darth Vader one by one.  Madalyn was the smallest one out there and was the joyous butt of many jokes (the actors never made her feel stupid, though).  Alex was intent on defeating the evil Sith lord, and took it seriously.  It was a blast.

The best part of the whole trip was watching the kids get to do something they dreamed of, and enjoying the kinds of things we just don’t do on a regular basis (flying, riding rides, spending more money than we have to).  I know my mom did the best she could, and I’m forever grateful for that, but it was really a tremendous blessing to get to offer something to my family that I never even dreamed of as a kid.  I can start to imagine what God must feel like when he reveals to his children so much more than they ever asked or imagined.

The bird, not the Catholic

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Surprise!

Our house is covered in snow.  Coincidentally, by nature of being nearby, so is our backyard.  We’ve got, I don’t know, 20 inches or so – enough that our dog doesn’t want to go out and enough that my kids do want do go out.  At lunch today I had a sudden inhalation of breath as I looked out the kitchen window.

Along the fenceline between my house and Roy Gibson’s house is a line of bush/trees.  Not sure what they are, but I trimmed them last spring from 15 ft. to 7 ft. with the help of a friend.  They looked extravagantly ugly at the beginning, but later in the summer they ended up looking great – vindication for a risky springtime pruning.

Anyway, the bush/trees are thinned out and have only a remnant of dead leaves hanging on…brown branches with brown leaves – you can see the stark white of snow through them.  And then the thing that made me take a breath out of nowhere.  The unexpected pop of color, a cardinal (the bird, not the Catholic – that would also have made me catch my breath, but in a freakier way).  In the middle of the branches one, wait two…Dana come and look at this…now I see three cardinals in the bush/tree back there.

We just stared out the window while my soup bubbled on the stove and her bagel thawed in the microwave.  It had the ability to stop us dead in our tracks and put everything else out of mind for a moment.  A laser beam of focus on the bright color in the middle dappled brown and white.

What must it have been like for shepherds in the field who saw, then heard, angels?

Moo

November 12, 2010 1 comment

Alex enjoys reading.  And apparently Pizza Hut is not above bribing children to read.  If they read a certain amount within the month of October they get a free personal pan pizza.  Then you have to take them there and pay for your own food.  Not bad marketing…plus it looks like you care if kids read.  So…Alex had a coupon for a free personal pan pizza.

Add to that the fact that school got out at 11:30 today for conferences.  Lots of parents taking lots of kids for their free pizza.

Add to that the brilliant minds at Pizza Hut corporate headquarters who make this a celebration month for their 110th anniversary: Mon-Fri lunch buffets are $3.99.

So…it’s 11:45 and all that addition equals a zoo of a Hut.  There are kids with coupons, parents with kids, people getting out for lunch with co-workers, some guy sneezing all over the sneeze gaurd over the salad and me with my family (before we go to see MegaMind in 3D).  It’s loud, it’s crowded, the waitresses are doing their best to keep a smile on their faces and not accidentally spill drinks on people as they weave through the tightly packed crowd.

“I’m trying really hard not to freak out and let anxiety get ahold of me here, Dana.  I just have to take a deep breath every minute or so.”  I say.  She responds, “This is just community.  Isn’t this what you’re always preaching about?”  She has a wry smile.  “This isn’t community.  This is a cattle yard feed lot,” is my response.

Then I start to take closer notice of all the people around me.  There’s a huge group with 5 tables pushed together – an extended family.  There’s every booth filled with 4-5 at each table.  We’re sitting at 2 tables pushed together.  Right behind me is a really loud lady.  Behind Bis is a mom with her two kids at a booth.

Behind Dana is an older woman.  She’s probably 80 and enjoying the buffet deal.  This kind of atmosphere makes me want to scarf food and get out of there.  But not this lady.  She’s quietly sitting alone.  The noise doesn’t seem to bother her, and she just quietly eats.  And I wondered about her.  I wondered about her community, and if she has one, and  if this is her only chance to be around people, and if she relishes the opportunity.  I could be wrong about her.  I hope I am.  But I suppose for some who have no community – real community – the cattleyard is as good as it gets.  People in the same vacinity who don’t know each other and just consume in each other’s midst. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

None Of My Business

October 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I make my office in about 5 places: Way Cup Cafe, Western Theological Seminary’s library, Panera Bread, Barnes and Noble, and home.  I’ve always been that way, can’t quite settle into one place for too long.  I can study and sit still for about 2 hours at a time then I get distracted.  That’s not too bad.  It gives me a chance to observe a variety of places and people.  I get to have a lot of conversations with a lot of people, and I have all the resources I could need in those varied places.

As I was entering Panera Bread the other morning I noticed two other guys coming toward the door at about the same time.  Now, I have this selfish side to me.  I know, this comes as a surprise to you, but it’s true.  Through my head went this thought, “Can I make it to the door in the appropriate amount of time where it won’t obligate me to open the door for them?  Because if I have to open the door for them, then they’re getting in line before me, and I’m kind of hungry.”  Sorry, if you thought I was a saint…I’m not.

Fortunately, one of the guys took a strange interest in the worn paint of the outside lighting fixture.  I know, didn’t see that coming, did you?  Neither did I.  I made it to the door, and felt a little bad, but…enjoyed my pastry nonetheless.  The two guys were dressed in dress slacks, shirts and ties.  Their laptops in carry bags and their shirt sleeves rolled up.  Normal business guys meeting for a coffee and to finalize plans for their takeover of the world.

As I sat reading the Bible (see, back to saint, huh?), I noticed one of the guys take an inordinate interest in the interior decoration of the place.  He got up really close to the wall and inspected the chair rail – that was obviously coming off and discolored.  He was hard at work at something, so…I interrupted him.

“Excuse, me…I couldn’t help but notice you were checking out the lighting outside and now this woodworking.  Do you have an invested interest in this place?”  I realize now, writing this to you, that I am so nosey, and that it’s none of my business.  I was just curious because I wondered if this was some undercover boss type of thing.

Turns out the guy was the VP of something snooty for the Panera mother company and checking out the place.  He hadn’t been there in 3 years and was seeing how the investment was going.  We had a nice chat about my experience in his restaruant and if I had any comments about it.  I gave a glowing report.  He was happy.  Later, as I was leaving, he looked up from his computer and we gave our polite goodbyes.  Nice guy.

When the vineyard owner comes to check out how we’ve done growing fruit, how will he find us?  How will he find me?  How intentional am I about the chair rails and paint on the lighting fixture of my heart and of my light to the world?  Let’s not pretend that he’s not involved each and every day with each breath we take – helping us to produce his desired fruit.  See him there, invested.  Work for him and live intentionally for the purpose to which he’s called you.

Donutville

August 31, 2010 2 comments

Mmmmmmm

This morning I went to Donutville.  I go there every week at 6:30am to meet with a couple leaders at Embody to talk about church and to pray.  I usually get there a little early, so I sat listening to NPR and waited.  At 6:30 there are a lot of people running in and out for a few donuts or a few boxes of donuts…for work, probably.  It’s commonly enjoyable to watch people getting donuts.  I like to make up stories for them: this one is getting donuts for the office, this one is getting three donuts for himself and sitting in his car to eat them in peace where his wife won’t notice, this one is not sure what he’s doing and so he buys way too many and has to open the trunk of his car to put in 7 boxes…so on and so forth.

But this morning the story was easy.  I sat listening to the radio and watched a 50-ish year old man get out of the car, literally run to the door of Donutville and go in.  Then, not 10 seconds later, run back to the car empty-handed.  Then, a little out of breath, he ran back into the bakery.  20 seconds later he emerged again, but with nothing in his hand.  He ran to the car then walked back into the store and came out a minute later with a small bag…not big enough to hold 2 cookies.

“Focus,” I wanted to say.  “Mr., you need to focus on one thing.  You’re all over the place and can’t keep your head in the game.”  That would have been ruder than I am used to being, so I remained silent.  It seemed plausible, though.  He probably did what I do sometimes: I go into a room and then have to think, “why did I come in here?”.  Then I go back into the other room and walk around wondering what could have prompted me to go in the first place.  I need to focus, too.  I need to be intentional about what I’m doing.

There’s a super-old story about an ancient rabbi who was walking a path so early in the morning that the sun had not yet risen.  As he passed a Roman sentry point the sentry called out, “Who are you and what are you doing?”  The rabbi paused and responded, “I will pay you twice your wages to stand outside my door and ask me that every day.”

The point: Let’s focus on what it is we are to be about.  Let’s not run around like Mr. Forget-The-Donut-Money.  Let’s be intentional about how we spend our time and energy, our alloted breath upon the earth.

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