376. Precision Dawdling

The Nation met this morning and inspired me as usual to chronicle this meaningless meeting of human mediocrity. Let me first say that tomorrow is my 60th birthday and the fellas knew it. Steve and Doug were waiting with a chocolate chip muffin on a napkin. Adorning the muffin were two wiggle candles, one yellow and the other green, that resembled DNA strands without the connecting rungs… or bug antenna set on fire. Pick the one you feel is more appropriate. A plastic conifer tree stood at attention in the center, guarded by a plastic clown head that somehow resembled Donald Trump. I was touched as I snuffed out the two snakey candles and peeled the wax paper cup liner off the base of the muffin. MMMMm, not a bad way to start Coffee Nation.

No sooner had I begun eating my muffin than Joel arrived in a spiffy gray pinstriped suit with a black bow tie. Sharp as a diamond studded platinum tack in Al Sharpton’s silky lapel. Steve compared him to Harrison Ford in his fashionable tableau. I just called him Hair Ass, Son, with an Asian accent, and left it at that. Joel noted that his deceased father-in-law celebrated the same birthday as I. “He lived to be 99… and was a miserably smart, horse’s ass who disdained me from the get go.” Harsh words from the usually mild mannered Joel, but I was beginning to see things that only a father-in-law can perceive. Well, that eruption struck me as a methane burp from old decomposing feelings.  Therefore, I decided to share my evaporating weird dream from last night so as to steer a new course for Joel’s psychic dingy, away from the wicked shoals of cranky coral.

I was getting dressed , somewhere in my dream, for the birthday dinner party my wife had set up at the Gourmet Goat in Hagerstown. She had invited 15 folks to join us. We were waiting in a familiar glass house having a glass of wine with vague anticipation, or was it dread? Oddly, Donald Trump was a guest and behaving unpredictably civil. I asked him, “Donald, would you like a drink?” He declined without a bit of attitude, insisting that he did not drink alcohol and loved Mormons, Muslims, Morons, Mandalas, Mandelas, Mandolins, and that was just the M’s. Though it did look like he was passing a kidney stone.

The house began to fill with cousins whose names I did not even know.  They looked familiar and were dressed up for the dinner party.  I counted heads like my border collie does with folks in my house. He likes to keep inventory. He was abandoned by an accountant who moved to Oklahoma with the petrochemical surge in 2010. Fracking idiot!  I was keenly aware that we had way too many Indians for our reservation. As I looked around in my dreamscape I saw my sister-in-law and her kids; my wife’s cousins and their kids; and a deceased aunt who told me, ” I knew you wouldn’t invite me so I invited myself.” She looked good for a dead woman; wore a nice white satin dress; hair perfectly coiffed. Things were getting weird, though, and as  usual my bladder nerve was the director of this movie, so visuals started pulsing faster and faster. My dream self searched frantically for a bathroom or a bush.

That’s when Steve from Coffee Nation pulled into the driveway in a red car. He was early as usual, but had to go buy a helium party balloon at the grocery store. He was in a hurry and no one was in the empty Giant store. Creepy. Being an engineering genius, he went to the helium tank and inhaled two lungs full of the gas… and began to float like a Macy’s Thanksgiving blimp. He grabbed onto a shopping cart for ballast and sort of bounced out of the store, hovering six feet above the ground, resembling a gymnast on a runaway jet ski, only it was all in whoa slowa motion.

Meanwhile back at the house everyone else took off in various vehicles for the restaurant, leaving me behind to select a sports coat. As I exited the newly acquired second story, I realized that I was in Mexico, far south of the restaurant. Just then a Jeep with four Mexican soldiers showed up and arrested me in Spanish. I tried to explain to them that I had reservations for 15 at a restaurant north of the border, but they just looked at me like I was speaking English. I made a run for it up a flight of stairs that simply ended above a walled garden. Two little girls ran around me, teasing me with toilet paper and the key to the locked bathroom door that stood across the courtyard.  I heard the heavy footsteps of the Mexican gendarmes pounding up the stairs behind me. I closed my eyes and took a leap of faith.

I braced myself for a hard landing, but when I opened my eyes I found I was standing on Steve’s back, just like I was surfing without water beneath me. Wordlessly I communicated to him that he needed to vent some gas so that we could get moving laterally as the gendarmes lowered their rifles and aimed at me/us. He complied and we took off in a zip. In dream time it was a matter of seconds before we arrived above the restaurant 2,000 miles away. I know because Steve was singing Margaritaville and only had time for two lines…

“I stepped on a pop tart,

let out a big fart…”

The next thing I knew I was droning above the multitude as one of my cousins ordered a shark steak off the menu. Suddenly a 14 foot bull shark crashed onto the table and devoured him. The rest of the party looked away and ordered the chicken in unison.

The fellas interrupted my mad tale so that Doug could present me with a brown tee shirt he had made up for me. It had a nice coffee logo with Coffee Nation written boldly in a circle. On the front chest where pockets usually go was a smaller version with Supreme Leader underneath. I was touched, but wait, there’s more. Doug folded the front of the shirt up like a belly reveal shirt and upside down in white letters it read, “You need to GROWASET”. It was utterly perfect precision dawdling.

 

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287. Accolades from Coffee Nation, inquire within

Provisional Coffee Nation marketing quotes…

The Nation: making useless men uselesser since 2009.

The Summit: Where small men talk big and loud in order to compensate for their inadequacies.

The Supreme Bean Nation: Why settle for efficiency when you can upgrade to deficiency?

Coffee Nation: Where a disturbed nerd can be… well, a disturbed nerd.

Work is the curse; we are the cure– Coffee Nation.

Productivity– it’s not for everyone. Join the Nation.

When jobs are outlawed, only outlaws will have jobs. Why wait? Join the Nation of the Bean.

Our purpose is purposelessness. CSN.

Bold like the beans we roast. CSN.

W-O-R-K, the original four letter word. CSN.

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These slogans are intentionally mediocre since we only have room for six guys at the Summit table, the rectangular Round Table of Perfidy. However, since Gene was kidnapped by his prospective bride in January and is presumably being held in suspended animation until the nuptials are benubious, and because Pastor Kyle is moving to Detroit (Detroit!!), there are two semi-permanent seats open at the coveted coffee table of peerlessness. Should you pass the stringent interview process, here is what to expect.

Growaset! this was Steve’s word for the day. He likes to throw his chest out and seek pain like a peacock in mating season. If you shy away from being tazed or hit by lightning (two lifelong desires of his that could also end his life), Steve barks, “Oh Growaset!” No one takes him all that seriously despite his position of sergeant at arms, legs  and elbows of the Nation table.

“Do you need a pair?”

“A pair of Percoset?”

“Isn’t that a grass fertilizer? Controls crabgrass I think.”

“Grabass? Who said that? Don’t touch me.”

“Stop! In the name of Love, before I break a fart.”

“Doug, this is a No Hand Dancing Zone. Stop it now.”

“Rob, what’s new with you?”

“I started riding my bike.”

“The unicycle, tricycle, your Big Wheel…”

“Uh, bicycle, please. Trying to get into shape. You know bikini season is coming up.”

“Please, the image of you in a bikini on a ten speed is truly disturbing. My gag reflex is going off. Ahhgggh ahhhgggh.”

“Medic! Medic. I need a tankini and a martini at table one. Stat!”

“No, you need a mental image eraser like Men in Black, the thingy jigger mind cleaner.”

“Oh yeah. Without it I would have  to gouge out my eyes.”

“Both of them?”

“Yeah, Rob. You can’t unsee that pale white bikini flasher biker dude skin.”

“Switch. Oh, look who’s here.”

“Well, DJ himself. Farfugnoodle to you.”

“Farfugnoodle to you too.” Handshakes all around except for the Supreme Imam who insists on hand sanitizer.

“So how many Republican candidates does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Apparently a dozen. One to hold the bulb and eleven to kill each other off in the primaries. Did you see Carly Fiorina jumped in?”

“Well H. my P!”

“No abbreviations are permitted at the Summit Nation, thou perfidious knight.”

“How about Trump? Did he toss his toupee into the ring yet?”

“Only to say he’s going to interview vice presidential candidates on the Apprentice, Wednesday nights at 8 eastern.”

“Oh my gosh, what about the other fight. Mayweather and Paquiao?”

“I heard it was a sleeper. Glad I didn’t spend $100 to watch it.”

“Scamacious if you ask me.”

“And deflategate may cost Brady a game suspension. Maybe the Steelers will win that opening day game.”

“Isn’t that ironic, the first game for Brady after the Super Bowl and he’s suspended? Talk about integrity.”

“Yeah, next time he should snort coke and leave the footballs alone. Protect the integrity of the game.”

“He needs to grow a set!”

“Steve, enough.”

“Sir Lancelate has been recognized at the rectangular round table.”

“Yes, thank you. As you already know, I am a template of fine haberdashery and…”

“Shut up and get to your point!”

“You ever notice how a lot of inventions are the result of warfare? Airplanes, canned food, radar, nuclear power. Leonardo Da Vinci had these elaborate drawings of submarines and flying machines.”

“Yeah. Did you know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was originally a cannon barrel?”

“No way!”

“Oh yeah, only the turret had not been invented yet so it could only shell the same neighborhood in Lombardy.”

“That’s ridiculous blasphemy and very funny.” (Kyle)

“I know. Only later was it opened for tourists after a spiral staircase was inserted. You should think about that in Detroit, Kyle. You know, tow an old barge onto your church grounds and charge admission to the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s a sure money maker.”

“That’s a bit tawdry.”

“Oh, now you’re gonna have standards.”

“Okay, change of topic– child actor burnouts for 50, Alex.”

“Macauley Culkin. Hall of Fame. Definitely.”

“The Olsen twins.”

“Doogie Howser.”

“That’s not his real name. It’s Neil Patrick Harris.”

Image result for doogie howser pictures

“He seems to have turned out well. He’s selling Heineken and not riding his ten speed in a Speedo.”

“Unfair!! That category was explored and discarded, Alex. Unless it’s the Daily Double we’re going to have to move on.”

“Good bye Jodi Foster, Opey, Leonardo De Caprio.”

“They aren’t burnouts.”

“Picky, picky.”

“Growaset!!”

“Steve, three Growasets and you are out, okay? It’s a rule on Jeopardy.”

“What are you gonna do if I say it again? Taze me?”

“No, you’d like that. I’ll call Alexandra Steele and tell her you are married.”

“You wouldn’t!!!”

Lance, “Gentlemen, please. A bit of poetry to soothe your torrid bestial minds.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”

All, “Well done. Do you do funerals and grocery store openings?”

Steve, “I have one…

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

“That was just thoooper with all the thee’s and thou’s.  Thoooper.”

Rob?  “Okay, Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I’m a schizophrenic,
And so am I.”

“Nice modern twist to that, Rob. Super.”

Doug?

“Ahem, One fine day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight,
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other,

One was blind and the other couldn’t, see
So they chose a dummy for a referee.
A blind man went to see fair play,
A dumb man went to shout “hooray!”

A paralysed donkey passing by,
Kicked the blind man in the eye,
Knocked him through a nine inch wall,
Into a dry ditch and drowned them all,

A deaf policeman heard the noise,
And came to arrest the two dead boys,
If you don’t believe this story’s true,
Ask the blind man he saw it too! Amen.”

“And you, Coffee Sultan. Have you a rhyme for us?”

“Certainly:  Here’s to you and here’s to me.

May we never disagree

If we do,

Here’s to me.”

“Lovely, lovely. We will serve no yogurt before it’s time.”

“Culture… my people, culture.”

“That’s bacteria, man.”

Image result for bacteria pictures No, that’s coffee nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

275. The expansion of love

Empty Chair/Empty Net /John 21

 

Do you have room at your earthly table for those in need? I have observed over and over that many churched folks like to keep their dinner table just the way it is—Mom, Dad, Grandma, Uncle Bill, Aunt Sarah, the kids. If the table seats 8, then 8 is the magic number and homeostasis sets in, which means there is an internal balance to keep things just as they are. Equilibrium was the title of my last post… it seems like a positive that is achieved by negatives cancelling one another out for a sum of zero. That is control not love.

Now it is wonderful to have close family ties, to huddle up in a comfortable and secure manner every Sunday afternoon or evening. Many families do this, and God bless them.

My concern is that when your family is huddled up, is there room for another? Or is the newcomer, the stranger, the foreigner only shown your backs?  Do you practice hospitality by opening your self and your home to others?

I believe that many folks hold a mistaken and sometimes pathological belief about love—that it is a finite thing. In other words, love is diminished if given to too many others. To control and conserve the love, it is parceled out to immediate family only. In-laws are treated with a watered down love that depends on the immediate family spouse. In a similar way I’ve known a few parents who chose not to have a second child because they could not conceive of sharing their parental love with another being, as if loving a second child would dilute their love for the first child. And then I knew a man who said he had all the friends he needed for life—3, and unless one died, he did not need another. In this view, love is a fixed amount like a law of physics. No expansion is permissible.

There is a difference between being content with who is in your life and barring the door against anyone else, as if someone late to the party is an intruder.

And what if you have no room at your table? Is it okay to add a leaf and grow the table?

Can you extend your table or add another table to your intimate gatherings? A good hearted brother told me once that his wife was uncomfortable with sharing their home, their table. Consequently they were not hospitable outside their family boundary line. I responded that I didn’t think Jesus called us to comfort. I know He promised to comfort us in our pain and mourning. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. The brother told me that I was stepping on his toes. I agreed that maybe his toes needed to be stepped on.  God does not call us to comfort and happiness. He calls us to serve Him, to be holy, and to worship Him. Happiness and comfort may come later, but if you seek those first, you miss the point of it all.

I explain it like this. When we wanted to see dolphins in Tampa Bay, the boat captain explained that in order to see dolphins, he needed to bring the boat up to a certain speed that attracted the dolphins. Once we achieved that speed, lo and behold dolphins appeared next to our boat, jumping and winking at us. It was a magical moment I’ll never forget. My take away lesson was this:  if you go directly at dolphins or happiness, i.e., take the shortcut, you’ll ram them and ruin the mission. If, on the other hand, you go forward in faith and pursue holiness, dolphins and happiness will show up. It’s not magic but miracle.

I met my buddy Dave in Honduras 12 years ago. We clicked and just enjoyed each other’s company. Once back in town, we continued to develop our friendship by meeting each other’s families and spending time together. Over the past years we have vacationed with Dave and his wife’s family on several occasions. They have room at the table and I have been blessed by their hospitality. It’s this way with most of our church family: we spend time in one another’s homes for prayer, fellowship, comfort, and material help.

Are there empty chairs at your table?  Maybe you are a widower who is alone, recalling your deceased husband’s presence. Maybe you are a single guy who craves the presence of a soul mate across the table. Or you are a childless couple who desperately want a child to care for. The empty chair can be filled with grief over a divorced spouse or a broken family relationship.  Whatever or whoever you believe should be in the empty chair, consider this:  invite Jesus to your table. Make Him the first guest, your primary relationship. And knowing that His spirit resides in all believers, invite someone new to your table, someone in need of comfort or companionship or joy.

Once you make room for Jesus, you will find that people show up and fill that precious place.

Now let’s pause and go to John 21.

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathaneel from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.”  So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord!” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.  When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

The disciples ate breakfast with Jesus, finally recognizing Him. Then Jesus reinstated Peter, telling Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

The disciples had fished all night in futility. Not one fish did they catch. But once Jesus appeared, they brought a bounty to shore, 153 fish in all.

What do these two themes have to do with one another? Well, empty chairs and empty nets share emptiness, a void, an unmet need. In John 21 Jesus feeds his disciples and commands that they feed others. At your dinner tables you can also cast your nets in a different direction if you hear Jesus telling you to do so.  If you put Jesus in that empty chair, He will bring His blessing to you. It may not be a spouse, but it could be a friend. It may not be a child, but it could be an opportunity to minister to someone else’s child.

When you invite Jesus to your table, you are inviting the source of love, the multiplier of fish and loaves. He did not conserve or control love and limit the distribution of love. Instead, He gave all He had, bled out, so that we might love as He did. Though you are tired and despondent, cast your nets once more. Though you have a void at your dinner table or you feel smugly self-sufficient, invite Jesus to your table so that He may feed you too. Finally, listen to your Lord and be reinstated as Peter was, to feed the precious flock of Jesus.Image result for shepherd with sheep flock pictures