They say it’s going to be in the 60’s on Thursday out on Bittersweet Farm. Today all the ice and snow melted off the circle drive out front. It been covered up for weeks. The yard is still white and gray with snow and ice. Strong winds this winter have littered the ground with branches. I look out my window and yearn for warm spring evenings when I can pick them all up and build a roaring fire.
This afternoon Lois and I ate at a favorite Mexican eatery where they serve limeade. I fill my cup over and over again and imagine myself eating in the plaza of some little down deep in Mexico along the Eastern Sierra Madres on a warm summer evening… then I remind myself that the trees on Bittersweet won’t fully leaf and the Dogwoods won’t be white for two full months and I snap out of my daydream.
In the mornings I walk slow to my car to listen to the birds. They are getting bold. I welcome them. I guess they welcome me. I’m the newcomer.
When People Bug You
I went to a place of business this week and bumped into a young woman who was very efficient. Trouble was she wasn’t efficient at her job, she was efficient at being brash and rude and disrespectful. She was remarkably good at it. In just a few short sentences and a couple of curt gestures she managed to irritate me. I’m not that easy to irritate. Good-natured as I am, she got under my skin. She was one of those types who is good at being bad.
You have anybody in your life like that? I tried to help her out a little bit with a little “stand-up customer service coaching.” It made things worse. She didn’t appreciate it. I have to admit I steamed about it. She irritated me. As I drove away I had a little talk with myself; I said, “Ken. Wait. She does not know the Lord, You don’t know what she has been through, You don’t know her story… You are a Christian. You are a pastor in this town. This is your parish…. What if somebody invites her to the Easter Service…”
Don’t look at me like that. You have people who bug you, you know you do. Have you had an inner conversation like this when sinners bug you, when they disgust you or worse, they relentlessly persecute you?
Maybe you are listening to my little story and thinking “I wish that was the worst of my problems…”
Let me give you some help on this. It helps to remember who you were or who you would be without Christ. Paul said it this way to Titus:
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3–7, ESV)
Remember. If you are Christian you are the Bride of Christ and the Bride of Christ never has to lower herself to mud-wrestling.
I love the French Laundry in Fenton, Michigan. It is one of the most unique places I have ever been. They have a variety of pastries like an authentic rugelach, hamantashen, and a brownie that has a layer of carmel baked into it. (Buenos Ares Brownies) They serve sandwiches with applewood smoked bacon and Vermont cedar cheese. Their coffee alone is worth the drive.
It is one of my favorite restaurants and it is completely outfitted with furniture salvaged from dumps and garage sales. The furniture is stuff nobody else wanted. Salvaged furniture made useful and beautiful by someone with a plan.
A church should be like that—full of people who were once on the discard pile but they were reclaimed and made useful and beautiful by and through Christ.
Our churches will never be like that if we treat people with contempt. We have to treat them with compassion like Jesus did. (If you watch the message below, you will hear a whole talk on this).