The Potluck Life

Sunday felt like a potluck. 
- Worshiping in church with a focus on Jesus’ grand entry to Jerusalem.
- Watching a man transform from a conman to a community-builder in The Music Man.
- Wishing another “happy” at a birthday party.

The foodless potluck of a day’s main events served a variety of casseroles that, when brought to the same table, provided a hearty meal.  A meal of joy. 

- We tasted joy as we recalled the 2000-year-old story of the Messiah’s Hosanna-filled ride.
-We sang (softly or in our heads) along with Seventy-Six Trombones and Marian the Librarian.
- We ate pizza (actual food) and voiced with gusto blessings on the one who aged once again.

The truth of Jesus’s story, the fiction of Meredith Willson’s musical, and the reality of a friend's gift of another birthday mixed well.  We ate well.

Other potlucks take a different turn.  Unidentified fruit-infused Jell-O sits next to meatloaf, which rests at room temperature next to green marshmallow salad.  Life’s less fortunate items gather together. 
- Headaches join runny noses and sneezes. 
- A higher-than-expected electric bill sits on a desk which holds the laptop upon which one reads a dissatisfied review or an angry rant.
- “You didn’t make the team” and “No, I will not let you retake that exam” are heard on the same day.    

Life tastes great sometimes; other times it is nearly impossible to swallow.  How, then, are we to live it with any semblance of consistency?  Scripture holds the answer.

Hear Jesus.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

Hear Paul.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)
Taste the words of Psalms.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. 
Psalm 34:8 (NIV)

The Right Answer and Question

I recently finished reading Kate Bowler’s book Everything Happens For a Reason. In this thought-provoking, autobiographical work Bowler addresses, through humor and personal reflection, the age-old question of suffering. One of my favorite sections of the book holds a description of a conversation that Kate's husband had with a well-wisher at their front door. A casserole-bearing friend, in pursuit of comforting the husband whose wife had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, said something like, “Just remember everything happens for a reason.” To which Kate’s husband wittily replied “I’d love to hear it.” At this, the conversation ceased as the casserole exchanged hands.

So often when we face difficult times, we search for answers - especially those of us who understand that our world was created and is sustained by a sovereign God. Most of the time our answers fall well short of the right ones. I learned long ago, through trial and error and from wise counsel, that often the best answer to a person’s plea for the proverbial “why” is “I don’t know.
“I don’t know” is not a cop-out but rather an admission of one’s limited understanding of the way things work.

Not long ago, another pastor and I went to one of our local hospitals to visit a teenager who is dealing with ongoing health issues. We visited with him; we also visited with his mother. She taught me something that day. She taught me a better question to ask someone who is experiencing difficulty, sickness, or grief. She explained how much she appreciated the addition of one simple word to an often-asked question. Most of us, when trying to be kind with our words to those in a difficult situation ask, "How are you doing?” She advised that she, and I assume most of us, would much rather hear the question stated as such, “How are you doing today?
Today” acknowledges that yesterday and tomorrow are unique, as are our emotions each day. Our physical, spiritual, and emotional temperature fluctuates at a rate keeping in time with a hummingbird’s wings. Therefore, we do well to recognize that fact and ask accordingly. The next time I visited her, we brought her a hot cup of coffee with a side of sweetener and a word – Today.

“I don’t know” and “today” have helped me in my ministry. In fact, they have helped me in my life. Not only do I have a better answer and question for others, but also for myself.  When I go through difficulties, I remind myself that I don’t have to have the “right” answer nor do I have to feel the same everyday.  Those are refreshing truths. 



Two days ago, we (excluding our wise friends in AZ, HI, Samoa, and Puerto Rico) “lost” an hour.  In an attempt to lengthen the day, governments (No, it actually was not Ben Franklin) decided to adjust our schedules.  If you planned ahead, you intentionally fooled yourself on the 10th by setting your clocks to make the impact on the 11th less severe. That is a good trick you can use next year if you didn’t already know it.

Whether you are a fan of changing clocks twice a year or not, I am sure you understand the desire to lengthen our days. Unless you are in times of deep despair you, like most, long to extend not only a day but the number of your years. There is something about the four numbers that follow the dash on a headstone that concerns us.

You and I want to live longer so we can enjoy time with friends and family, contribute to society, and simply have time for memorable experiences. These are not faulty desires.  They can, however, be hindrances to a life well lived. For, by focusing on the number of our days rather than the value of each day, we in many ways miss the point of living. 

Living well does not necessarily mean living long.

What, then, is the appropriate measure of a life’s worth?

The Apostle Paul wrote: 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21 (NIV)
“To live is Christ” – Now that’s succinct.  It must be the correct answer – how can any answer be wrong when it is “Christ” after all? But, what does it mean?

 At Rabbit Creek Church, we define our purpose as “equipping people to live their everyday lives for Christ”.  When we consider Paul’s words from Philippians as well as his words from Romans (from which we as a church derived our purpose statement), we realize that to live for Christ is an everyday activity. It is also an everyday decision. This proves true for each 24-hour period as well as each week, each year, each decade, each lifetime.

Anyone who desires to live for Christ commits to living with His words and the example He set, as He lived on this earth, before him or her at all times.

We do well to consider our days - to consider them as time periods which are to be dedicated to Christ. Christ is glorified each time one makes the decision to live for Him. Whether it is time to “spring forward’ or “fall back”. Whether it is a day full of sunshine or a night filled with shadows.

No matter what our clocks say, our Lord says that we are to take every moment and use it to His glory.


Library Days

Years ago, a friend of mine told me about a habit of his involving his schedule. At periodic, and nevertheless intentional times, he calendars what he calls “Library Days.”  Soon after he told me about this, I adopted the practice as well as the name.

What is a Library Day?

It is a day set aside for reflection. I surround myself with various forms of literature, my laptop, white legal pads, and a few snacks(Please do not tell the librarian, for I am usually sitting in a “no food allowed” section of the library.)  As a Christian, such periods of reflection involve prayer and reading the Scriptures. I always have my 0.5 mm Pentel P205 at the ready.

I read. I write. I pray.
I fall asleep.
I wake up.
I read. I write. I plan.
I read. I snack.  (Again, please do not tell the librarian.)
I write. I prepare.

Somewhere along the way, the morning’s chai tea and the snack-accompanying drinks of water, require that I arise from my spot of study.  As I make my way through the halls and rows of books, I see others reading, writing, falling asleep, and even snacking.  (Returning the favor, I do not report them to the librarian.)  As I walk, I also wonder. What are my fellow readers reading?

I see some patrons looking as if their presence is accomplishing their goal of killing time. I see others appearing to discover places of employment that best suit their abilities.

I also see children.  And I am reminded of other Library Days of a different variety.

As a father of three, over the years, I have spent much time in the buildings which bear books, mostly on Mondays. Upon the carpet squares and Art Deco beanbags, I read about Mr. Brown and Mrs. Brown going out of town and of Frog encouraging Toad to be brave. I read of bears snoring on and gray days when nothing moved and circus seal days. I laughed (“Shh!  People are reading.”) through the pages where the pig talks to a spider and a swan plays the trumpet. As my children grew, as they continue to do, the books grew longer and the pictures fewer.  (I must admit that I still enjoy the pictures!)

Oh, how I loved those alphabet-carpet-square Library Days!

What is it about libraries? How can it be that professionals looking for professions and time-killers executing time enjoy the same space?  How can it be that a pastor looking for a restroom and a preschooler utilizing his diaper instead, can somehow relate to the same building?

What is it about that literary space?

Go see for yourself. Enjoy a Library Day.