Archive for December, 2014

Dec
21

You Never Know

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My wife and I recently went to a local diner for dinner. It was just a normal evening without any particular agenda or demands. Honestly, neither of us felt like cooking. As I casually glanced through the menu I became aware of some tension in the booth behind my wife, who was sitting across from me. I could only see the back of the woman’s head but I could hear her demeaning, cruel words to the server. “This is NOT what I ordered. It didn’t come out right. The menu said it would have this item and it doesn’t.” Her dinner partner, who I assumed was her husband, spoke in hushed tones, trying to de-escalate his wife. The server said, “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I’ll take this back to the kitchen and we’ll fix it.” “It’s too late,” the woman snapped. “My dinner is ruined. I don’t know how you stay in business.” The server quickly turned and left, visibly devastated by the harsh words of the patron.

I continued to listen to the conversation between the couple. The woman began to describe how difficult her year had been, especially following her father’s suicide. She added that the recent change her doctor had made in her medication for her bi-polar disorder had made it even more difficult. Her husband continued to speak in soft, assuring tones, trying to compassionately understand her struggle.

A few moments later, the server returned with the corrected order and apologized profusely. She told the couple that the manager had agreed to make the meal complimentary and offered a gift card for yet another meal so they would give the diner another chance. The woman simply looked away while her husband thanked the server profusely. The server turned and walked away, never knowing what was really going on.

I considered going to the server privately and explaining the situation, but I didn’t. I thought to myself that the insights I had overheard would take a bit of the sting out of the verbal assault that blindsided her. I regret not speaking up. As I reflected on that event, I came to the realization that we all encounter people from time to time who, on the surface appear cruel, insensitive and rude concerning what many would consider minor mistakes. Like the server, our first response may be to take it personally, as though we are actually that inept. But I’d like to offer that sometimes people treat us as less than human because of some hidden difficulty going on it their life. It has nothing to do with us or our simple mistakes. While it may sting or leave us frustrated, most of the time the old saying is true: “Hurting people hurt people.” And those of us who are strong enough can see those moments as opportunities to serve.

Categories : Relationships
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The latest Barna report is out and lists ten facts about the churchless in America. You can find the report HERE.

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Dec
06

To Those Unnoticed

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The Sunday prior to Thanksgiving I selected an obscure yet helpful text for my sermon. The Book of Romans is often referred to as “the gospel according to Paul,” and it is true that his epic work has been among the most influential sections of the New Testament. All the way through the end of chapter 15.

Chapter 16, however, is unfortunately overlooked. It is the New Testament equivalent to the “fly over states” of the upper midwest. In the first 16 verses Paul names 27 anonymous people who are mostly Gentiles and slaves. Ten of the 27 people are women. Only Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul mentions them individually and concisely, with each statement reading like an epitaph on a tombstone.

I could have gone into the detail about the meaning of each name and offered some speculation regarding how these names fit into the puzzle of Paul’s missionary journeys, but I didn’t. I chose to simply point out the obvious and remind our congregation to remember that whatever we have or have achieved in life has come with the help of others, many of whom go unnoticed to the world. Perhaps a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a friend, or a relative have spoken into your life at a critical point which helped to shape you into who you are today.

Each of us stands on the strong shoulders of someone else. Don’t forget to thank God for them. And if they’re still alive, be sure to thank them for the meaningful contributions they have made to you. But don’t stop there. Consider the possibility that you could pass it on to the next generation.

Categories : Thanksgiving
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