Waiter Rant

The down side. You’ll never be able to naively enjoy a meal and and upscale restaurant again. The upside. The Truth will set you free. Everyone eats at restaurants.  It’s good to take a look under the hood at the back side.  If laughter is the best medicine, consider yourself healed.

The following is the description from Amazon:

According to The Waiter, 80 percent of customers are nice people just looking for something to eat. The remaining 20 percent, however, are socially maladjusted psychopaths.

Eye-opening, outrageous, and unabashed—replete with tales of customer stupidity, arrogant misbehavior, and unseen tidbits of human grace in the most unlikely places—Waiter Rant presents the server’s unique point of view, revealing surefire secrets to getting good service, proper tipping etiquette, and ways to ensure that your waiter won’t spit on your food.

Death by Perpetual Accessibility

We live in an era of unprecedented accessibility; and I would like to suggest that it’s killing us.

But first, a few cell-phone faux pas:

I’ve butt-dialed Darryl Evans.

While trying to play downloaded games on my smart-phone, my 3-year-old daughter has called both a mega church pastor and the president of a Fortune 500 company directly on their cell phones.

And finally, I called a friend last week and it went straight to voice mail; not 15 seconds later, I received a text back from him:  “…in exercise class.  Need anything?”

Reading his text, I felt a surge of emotion. First, anger: not at him, but at “something” that I couldn’t quite put into words. Beneath my anger was profound sadness and a good bit of desperation.

Something felt “wrong” about the compulsion my buddy felt when he pulled away from his class in order to respond to me. His class afforded the rare opportunity to unplug from his world and be refreshed. Some sad combination of technology, timing and human decision catapulted him out of a moment of refreshment that I am guessing he desperately needed??  And I was angry. Really angry.

I recently found a quote from Eugene Peterson that helped me understand my reaction. Peterson fleshes out the orthodox meaning of the “world” and its effect on our life with God:

“An old tradition sorts the difficulties we face in the life of faith into the categories of world, flesh and devil…. The world, is protean: each generation has the world to deal with in new form.  World is an atmosphere, a mood. It is nearly as hard for a sinner to recognize the world’s temptations as it is for a fish to discover impurities of water.  There is a sense, a feeling that things aren’t right, that the environment is not whole, but just what it is eludes analysis.  We know that the spiritual atmosphere in which we live erodes our faith, dissipates hope and corrupts love, but it is hard to put a finger on what is wrong.”

I think I am onto one thing that is wrong: the unprecedented accessibility that marks our generation. We can pretty much be reached anytime, anywhere and by anyone; and as I said in the beginning, I think it’s killing us.

By killing us, I mean it’s threatening our solitude and communion with the Father and opening us to all kinds of opportunities to walk without Him. This is happening in two particular ways that are very relevant for this decade of the thirties.

Perpetual accessibility is causing us to sin against others and others to sin against us.  Keep in mind Paul’s thought that “whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

The bar is so low and communication is so easy, that our accessibility to interact and interject into the lives of others has exceeded our maturity to do it well.

With little thought, pause or spiritual discernment, we can react, respond and communicate. Too often it is not the Spirit of God who moves us into these interactions, but rather a whole army of other motives.

Secondly, circumstances used to aid our lack of accessibility and therefore guard our solitude.  In ages past, it simply took much more energy to communicate. I recall stories of life on our great grandparent’s farms; Sunday was a “visiting” day.  Friends from neighboring farms would come by and life would be shared. Sunday was the visiting day because the other days simply were not available, not accessible.  Phones were rare; horses took a heck of a lot of time and work to get us from point A to point B. The bar was higher. Circumstances inhibited our accessibility to others. People communicated because it was important, not because it was easy. Our age is a different one.  In this age of perpetual accessibility, circumstances are often our enemy.  We must fight against the current in order to protect the richer, contemplative life deep within.

In today’s world we must discern, with fierce intentionality, our accessibility.

When are YOU inaccessible, really? When can no one get to you, really?  (Pause and honestly answer this question.)

The essence of solitude is to disconnect from the world, your world, so that you can connect with God. What does solitude look like for you in this decade?

A mentor told me he’s adopted a “no electronics” policy for his car and his Sundays.  No phones. No distraction, no noise, no accessibility.  Now, don’t quickly jump to “oh, it’s probably a priest or some spiritual guy.”  Nope, he’s a president of a large company.  He answers to many guys that crap bigger than me.  His courage unnerves me.  I’ve tried his “policy” and am failing miserably.  My truck has become a satellite office; on Sundays, I just ratchet it down, kind of, a little bit. Unless of course, there is a crisis. (Have you noticed how many crises of other people becomes your crisis through perpetual accessibility)? Jesus, forgive me.  Come into this place!

It’s got to stop. Here. Today.

This decade. We must guard our moments and hours of solitude as fiercely as we guard the sanctity of our marriages and the integrity of our character.

We have much to encourage us along the way. Proverbs says that wisdom shouts from the street corner (1:20).  The Holy irony is that we can only hear it if our internal world has been quieted and tuned in.

To be transformed from the inside out, there must be some piece of each day where we are not accessible and therefore have the space to allow our hearts to open and receive our Father. We need the daily and weekly bread of solitude to cultivate the quietness of our internal world and the sensitivity of our heart to His Voice.

Where are these moments of solitude in your life? Where can you resist the pressure of perpetual accessibility in order to nourish you communion with God? What is your piece of inaccessibility for each day?

It’s hard to begin to find that time, pulling away for even 10 minutes may feel “irresponsible.” But it’s worth it. Come, Father, come for all of us…

Longbows in the Far North

Great hunting books are rare. I suppose it is because great hunting mentors are rare. To find a hunter that is passionate about the land, the animals, the chase, who values ethics and joy above all other pursuits in the woods and who is more interested in hunting stories than hanging antlers on a wall, is a holy treasure. Thomas is one of those men.  It’ll do a hunter well to sit at his feet and be mentored in the wilderness and it’s ways.

The following is the description from Amazon:

In this entertaining collection of memoirs, Don Thomas takes readers to places few will ever have a chance to explore. His deep respect for the wildness of nature is ever-present as he recounts the country, people, and animals he encountered during archery expeditions in Alaska and Siberia. Whether pursuing open-country caribou, stalking Russian rams, or quietly observing black bears on the coast of Alaska, Thomas s vivid descriptions of the Arctic wilderness convey the wonder inherent in the hunting experience. 16 stories of bowhunting adventure in the Far North including exciting encounters with bears, moose, wolves, rams, and deer.

What are your questions? Who are you asking?

I received an email from a young man today that heard me teach at a recent Wild at Heart Retreat. His email was simple and yet startlingly refreshing.

“Can you give me a few names of some authors you would recommend as I start out this journey?”

It’s rare for me to hear good men ask honest questions.  It takes humility, courage and genuine honest soul searching.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard John Eldredge teach on the Larger Story – the Gospel as a four-act play.  It was September of 1998.  It revolutionized my heart as a young man.  Next thing I knew I was in his office telling him, “I’m in.  Where do I sign up?  What do you need?”  I couldn’t put it into words at the time, but what I was asking for was discipleship. I was looking for a man to walk me through the masculine journey.

Weeks later I came and said it.  “John, will you disciple me?”  I’ll never for get his response.

“Real discipleship doesn’t happen with programs or formulas.  It is shaped by asking questions.  What are your questions?”

I’ve been asking questions now, of many older wiser men, for 13 years.  It’s transformed my walk with God beyond belief.  I’ve learned in humility another great secret – to ask questions of good men, even when I am sure I already know the answer.

There are great treasures to be gained, but few people are asking questions.

“Answers before questions do harm to the soul.”

In this age of gross overload of content, answers are abundant.  But questions are rare.

There is a tremendous gravitational pull from both our broken culture and our broken souls, to hide behind answers.  The thirties is a decade of excavation. Excavation of the masculine soul begins by digging deep and letting the honest questions buried within us come to the surface.  Often hidden behind the questions that first surface within us are even the deeper questions – the golden questions – the secrets to our restoration.

Have you noticed how often Jesus leads with asking a question?  He must be after something…

In the last week I’ve asked older, wiser men questions about:
Prayer
Sex
Mortgages
Terrestrial biology
Solitude
Motives
Jesus
Social media
Witchcraft
Healing
Marriage
Finances
Health

Survival is 101 version of the Abundant Life. No one knows survival better than the Navy Seals.  One of their mottos in their missions, as communicated by Cade Courtley in Seal Survival Guide,

“Never hesitate to ask a question that could save your life.”

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.  And the teacher needs the student as much as the student needs the teacher…

What are your questions?

Who are you asking?

A Sand County Almanac

One of the founding fathers of the conservation movement, Leopold offers stunning hands-on miles and eloquent words to bringing home the idea of conservation as extending ethics to include land and animals.  In some deep ways he begins to capture Genesis 2 and Romans 8 in it’s mandate for us to steward ALL of creation – God’s people, God’s land, and God’s animals. And that restoration, of Kingdom come, includes all of creation applauding as the sons and daughters of God take their place leading, offering, and stewarding creation according to God’s heart, pleasure and purpose.  It would do us well to step out of the modern western evangelistic worldview and recover some other golden pieces of the Gospel that have been lost.

The following is the description from Amazon:

“We can place this book on the shelf that holds the writings of Thoreau and John Muir.” San Francisco Chronicle

These astonishing portraits of the natural world explore the breathtaking diversity of the unspoiled American landscape — the mountains and the prairies, the deserts and the coastlines. A stunning tribute to our land and a bold challenge to protect the world we love.

The Christmas Box

It is so easy in our modern holiday season to give way to cynicism.  Or even easier to simply get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent and the inordinate expectations and cultural BS of the holidays.  What can we do to recover the Truth, Goodness and Beauty of it all?

Years ago I was praying in anticipation of Christmas and asking God how to live true in the midst of so many temptations and roadside bombs. He said, simply, “Bring the Magic.”  A reference to C.S. Lewis’ beautiful take on the Deep Magic, I made it my mission for each Christmas.

God seems to use some stories to resuscitate my heart each December and remind me of the Magic so I can fight to bring that Deep Magic of the Kingdom and Immanuel – God with us, to my family.

Richard Paul Evans says it brilliantly.  So often we end up trading “diamonds for stones.”  In some effort to get validation outside of God, we take our question to our work, gathering stones, all the while trading the precious diamonds of the “years of our youth” with our wife and our kids.

This story is a quick and heartfelt read to help you recover the Deep Magic of Christmas.  I think you’ll enjoy…

The following is the description from Amazon:

Since The Christmas Box was first published, more than eight million people around the world have been touched by its magic. It is a holiday classic that is as beloved in our time as A Christmas Carolwas in Dickens’s.

This special 20th Anniversary Edition contains a new Introduction by the author, explaining how this personal tribute to his children, intended for just a few family members and friends, became a worldwide phenomenon that brings inspiration and healing to everyone who reads it. As he reiterates his intention to remind families of the preciousness of their love for each other, Evans explains howThe Christmas Box has also helped children who have no families find love and hope. The miracle ofThe Christmas Box springs from its timeless message that knows no season.

***

This was the meaning of the Christmas Box, that someday I would turn around and my little girl would be gone . . .

How quickly the time has passed. Today those two little girls for whom I wrote The Christmas Box are adults. What hasn’t changed is the relevance of my little story. Now, just as it was a thousand years ago and will be a thousand years from now, parents still look at their children and feel their hearts breaking a little, knowing that the only promise of childhood is that someday it will be gone. It is my deepest hope that, for centuries to come, the message of The Christmas Box will endure as a reminder of the sanctity and holiness of a parent’s love. God Bless and Merry Christmas.