3-Course Meal

I recently had a wonderful get-a-way weekend with my wife right here in Kansas City (well really wonderful after running 13.1 miles, but that’s a different story). We went to the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts to see the ballet of the Wizard of Oz—which was fantastic! We also enjoyed a gourmet 3-course meal while there—this is the type dining experience where the chef smears sauces on your dish on purpose for an artistic touch. This too was a fantastic experience except perhaps when I asked the waitress if I was to pay at the table or up front—my tactful wife had to remind me we were not at Denny’s. I was a bit out of my element with this gourmet 3-course meal; my normal would be a deviled egg, a braut or burger off the grill (with BBQ sauce spilled on my plate), and a brownie.

Eating of course is a necessity of life and it can be an enjoyable experience. How we approach our daily diets is important, but it is temporary to our lives. Go with me to look at a better than gourmet meal God has offered to each of us.

We must start as all good meals should be started with a drink. Jesus offers us the best drink ever in John 4:14, “But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The first decision each of us must make, and it does require an act of humbleness, is to accept the truth that we need a Savior and the only Savior is Jesus Christ.

After the necessity of water, a meal grows, but sometimes we have not taken seriously the next steps and have not prepared ourselves for more substance—we might be ready for soup, but not steak. Hebrews 5:12-14 tells us, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” We can see that when we mature in our faith…we get the steak!

What is better than a gourmet 3-course meal? What about a banquet? What about a lavish banquet that lasts for eternity? See what the prophet Isaiah wrote in 25:6, “The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.” You see this banquet is open to everyone; however, reservations are required and the only maître d’ is Jesus Christ.

Do you have your reservation?

Suicide is Not Painless

Most of us easily recognize the instrumental theme song to the television show M*A*S*H*. It is iconic. But many do not realize there are lyrics that accompany the song. The chorus reads “Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please”. In context, this song was written by Johnny Mandel as an ode to the horrors of war, the fears and suffering that are faced and that the thought of taking one’s own life might seem to be the least painless at times. Wars are not only fought on declared battlefields, they are fought in our daily lives, they are fought when and where we least expect them.

This week our family was touched by the tragedy of suicide. This was a second cousin of mine, who I do not think I ever met, but nonetheless my heart aches for him and those closest to him. I am certain there are emotions of confusion, anger, guilt, and most certainly grief rippling through the people in his circle of influence. As a pastor/counselor I have interacted with close survivors of this tragedy unfortunately too often. The simple truth is, there is no easy answer. People who take their own life are not weak and they are not selfish—they are lost and they are desperate. In full disclosure I have stood at the edge of the valley of darkness a couple times and contemplated if just ending it was the answer. By God’s grace I did not, but also by God’s mercy I have learned not to judge those who do and have learned to have empathy and love for them and their situations.

It is critical to remember there is no easy answer to understanding why someone makes this decision. I think the prognosis of “mental illness” perhaps gets abused, but I also know it is very real. Obviously, the degree and results are different, but I have found two commonalities that help people through the darkest of times: faith and community.

As a follower of Jesus Christ my faith comes first, I try (and fail way to often) to honor and glorify Him in all things I do. As a follower of Jesus Christ I try (and fail way to often) to honor and show compassion within my community; community meaning my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, my town, my state, my nation, our world—all those I come into contact.

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Sometimes there are no rational answers to the tragedies and hardships we experience and yes, that stinks! We do not like it! We seek someone to blame! The idea here is that we need God first, but we were created to need each other. We must encourage one another, stand by one another, lift one another, cry with one another, pray with one another, praise God with one another.