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Archive for June, 2011

I Had No Time

When I was a young girl my mother came across a poem that her grandmother had cut out of a church bulletin board many years ago.  Through most of high school and almost all of college, this poem was tacked up on my bulletin board.  It always caught my attention.  It was something I always wanted to be reminded of.  And though it’s not currently posted, I still come across it now and again.  Like today.  And I thought I’d share.

The day slipped by and time was spent

And all the good things that I meant

To do were left undone because

I had no time to stop and pause,

But rushed about, went here and there,

Did this and that, was everywhere.

I had not time to kneel and pray

For that lost soul across the way;

I had no time to meditate,

On worthwhile things. No time to wait,

Upon the Lord, and here Him say:

“Well done, my child,” at close of day.

And so, I wonder, after all

When life is o’er and I hear the call

To meet my Savior in the sky,

Where saints live on and never die,

If I can find one soul I’ve won

To Christ by some small deed I’ve done

Or will I hang my head and whine,

“Forgive me, Lord, I had no time.”

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The other week in Sunday School my teacher mentioned about how when he gets talking to the youth he works with and they are talking about favorite Bible verses he has a tendency to ask, “Have you read through the whole Bible?”

“No,” is the typical response.

“Then how do you know that one is your favorite?”

I thought that was clever.  After all, most favorite Bible verses come from what we hear or see the most – from pastors or teachers or devotional guides or bands or the hundreds of items found in Christian bookstores.  And let’s face it, we usually stick to the same stories and passages in our readings and sermons and lessons.  But there are gems hidden in those places we often overlook….

Of course, that’s not the only reason to read through your Bible.  The whole way.  More than once.  The more familiar you are with the whole of God’s Word, the less you’ll be totally thrown when you run across a passage that doesn’t seem to make sense at first.

Like this morning.

I was reading 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.  Now, this is one of those familiar passages that is often used.  But a few phrases caught my attention this morning…

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;  just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.

Give no offense? I please all men?  Seriously, Paul?

For a few moments the verse threw me.  Something didn’t seem quite right about it.  I mean, doesn’t the truth offend people in sin?  Isn’t “people pleasing” a bad thing?

But as I began to meditate on the verse, the Spirit was able to remind me of other verses and passages I’ve read before.  After all, many people found Jesus and his teachings offensive (try John 6:60-62 for one example).  And Paul!  He seemed to offend everyone!  He offended the Jews by preaching about Jesus (and that the Gentiles didn’t have to follow the Torah Law to follow Jesus) and he offended the Gentiles by speaking against false gods (you could start with Acts 13:45, 14:19 or  19:26-27 – better yet, read the whole book)!

The NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 10:32 says not to cause anyone “to stumble”, but Paul himself says earlier in his letter that Jesus’ crucifixion is itself a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23)

And people pleasing? Surely you have noticed by now that Paul was no “people pleaser” – at least, not in the way we understand it…. he wasn’t out for awards and pats on the back from “the right” people.  Paul didn’t have his eyes on winning popularity contests and he didn’t overly concern himself with appeasing folks or tickling hears so that they liked him.

So then there must be something more that these verses mean when taken with the whole of Scripture.  The rest of the context of the passage tells us something (he had just come off talking about the believer’s freedom and where it ends – where our fellow Christian’s conscience begins).  The truth of God and the cross of Jesus themselves are often offensive to others, so shouldn’t we give effort not to add to that?

And people pleasing? Being a “people pleaser” is a bad thing.  I didn’t used to understand that.  I thought “pleasing everybody” as Paul says was a good thing.  But I realized this morning that they are two different things.  Being a people pleaser is actually a selfish and prideful thing in the end – because the motive behind “pleasing” people is so that they think well of you, highly of you… so they like you.  In the end, “fear of man” (overly being concerned with what others think of us) is what drives it.

Instead of a “fear of man” a healthy “fear of God” should be at our center.  If we are focused on pleasing God through our faith, with our obedience, in our love towards Him and others… well, then, we will truly be serving others… we will be able to look to others’ interests before our own (note Philippians 2:4)… and we won’t be doing it just so they like us.  “Liking” us has nothing to do with it.  In fact, Paul says that we “please” or “serve” or “put others’ first” so that they may benefit (ie. being saved for those who do not yet believe – or being edified for those who do).  It’s not about us!

So my prayer for the day?  To continue to replace the “fear of man” inside of me with a “fear of God.”  To look to what God has to say about me rather than what others do.  So that I may be free to speak the truth without giving further offense.  So that I may be free to give preference to others, to serve others, to “please” others in such a way that brings them even one step closer to God!

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I dreamed a dream…

… and in this dream  I found myself in a somewhat artsy semi-urban area of a nameless town.  It wasn’t exactly a big city, but neither was it a small town.  The street and its shops and business were bustling with life.   Not crowded or busy like New York or Chicago or LA, but vibrant and alive with fairly steady traffic and spots of people here and there.

Across the street was a business.  It was a tearoom.  Outside it seemed quaint, inviting.  Inside it was spacious and relaxing.  The walls were stone or brick with wood beams showing.  This building had lived another life at one time.  Tables for two, three or four lined the outside rim of the space and some dotted the center space.  It wasn’t quite Victorian.  It wasn’t quite urban.  It was an eclectic mix of the two.  Tables had different lengths of table cloths in different materials and some went without completely.  Tea sets and service items were mis-matched and ranged from modern white with metal handles to exquisite china.  Teas and tea wares for sale dotted shelves and racks along with unique hand-made goods from across the world.

The tea shop was open Tuesday through Saturday, serving breakfast, lunch and tea.  The foods served were sometimes unique, always made with the best whole grain and fresh ingredients, low in sugar and yet delicious.  Nothing was advertised as “healthy” or “low carb” or anything like that, it was the quality that drew return customers and those who knew appreciated it.  Those with special dietary needs who wanted to come for tea always knew they would be cared for… but no big fuss was made… that’s just how the place worked.

The place featured the work of local artists – with photos, paintings and prints on the walls (and sometimes for sale) and even sculpture pieces made their way into the shop from time to time.  Special tea events were often accompanied with live music by local musicians and every now and again an artist would hold a small concert or showing and tea reception there.

So in addition to regular hours and menus there were sometimes special events.  Some tea related such as Mother’s Day teas and Daddy-date teas and mystery teas.  But as often as not they had nothing to do with tea.  Such as evenings for artist showings, live music and even an occasional poetry reading.  A few times they even maneuvered enough space for some physical theatre and drama.  There were two different small groups that used the shop on different evenings to hold their artists’ group Bible study meetings.  I even noticed a sign that would be put out on Sunday mornings that said, “Closed for business, open for worship.”  I did not inquire about this.

There was a young woman in the shop.  She was either an owner or a manager, but based on the sparkle in her eyes you could tell that the overall vision for this place had been hers.  She was in her mid to late thirties, or maybe her mid-forties, it was difficult to tell.  In some ways she stayed as a background character in her own shop, there were others, more outgoing others, who did much of the serving and conversing.  But she loved to serve as well and make sure that folks were being treated well and she would even seek out people from time to time and strike up interesting conversations… or was it that they sought her?  Perhaps they had picked up something from her in a previous conversation and so came to her when they had various questions…

There were others there, of course.  Others who served.  Perhaps even a co-owner or close associate who shared in the dream and the business.  Couldn’t quite make out whether that person was male or female or the exact relationship between the two.  But this friend, this partner, was a good counter-balance to the young woman. Similar vision and goals for the shop, yet they rounded out each other’s skill set well.

It wasn’t a Fortune 500 company by any means.  Nor wildly successful as some would define it.  They had their struggles, and getting to this point was something they had sometimes wondered about, but overall things were well.  Most importantly, people were served well and the community was invested in.  The shop had become an important part of the fabric of that community.

Close to the shop was an empty lot.  Or at least it used to be an empty lot.  If a building had been there at one time, it had been abandoned or run down or condemned and torn down… and the lot had sat as an eyesore.  Whether it was purchased when the shop was or at a later time, it was now owned by the same hands.  And now the once trashed ground held a vibrant community garden.  The community participated and the community benefited.  In fact, the tea shop itself featured a portion of its fresh bounty.  Though the idea for the garden had been a part of the vision of the young woman, it was the greener thumb of the other which brought it to fruition.  And it truly blossomed.

And then I awoke.

And it was a good dream.

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