Thursday, May 05, 2011

If You're Gonna Pray, Treat That Waitress right

Many years ago, a college classmate who had worked in restaurants for many years told how how consistently rude the Church People were, especially on Sundays at lunchtime. First, they'd make it obvious they are Christians by praying, not inconspicuously, before beginning to eat. Then once the meal ensued, they'd be very picky, sending food back for various reasons. They'd be mean to the waiter, leave a lousy tip, and then would do the worst thing they could possibly do in that situation: they'd hand the waiter a tract. Often, the tracts collected on Sunday afternoons would be collected by the waitstaff and burned in the kitchen while everyone watched and laughed.

A few years ago, my friend Tim, who loved people more than anyone I have ever known, demonstrated to me the right way to go out to eat. When the waiter/waitress would arrive at the table, before my friend even got a drink order, he asked their name. He introduced himself, usually by shaking hands. He asked them a little about themselves. Then he mentioned that in a few minutes, he is going to pray over dinner and would like to know if there is anything he can pray for for that waitperson. You'd be amazed at how much that was appreciated.

Once, we had a waitress named Abby. I mentioned to him, after she went away to go get drinks, that my daughter Abby is really named Abigail, which means "Father's Joy".  When the waitress came back, my friend told her what he had just learned about her name. She had no idea what her name meant, and we had a great conversation about her dad and the distance between them.

When he asked for a prayer request, she mentioned a very tough personal situation she was in. His response was equally personal and caring. She was moved to tears. A week later, he had a bible and nice gift package sent to that restaurant to give to Abby, our waitress.

Sadly, my friend died last year, at age 55 way too young, from cancer. Though he died in September, the last time I could have a coherent conversation with him was a year ago, at a May wedding. So I feel like it's been a year since I (temporarily) lost him. But his life was an inspiration to me, and is a reminder to me of how I can best live out his legacy by treating folks in the service industry as Jesus would treat them.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Book Review: How To Write A Book Proposal

I received a free copy of Michael Larsen's book, "How To Write a Book Review" from Thomas Nelson Publishing as part of their Booksneeze program for bloggers.  I don't know if I will ever write a book, but I can dream, can't I?  Having never written one, I can't say for sure that this book will be effective, but it sure is an interesting read. It appears to have all the bases covered. This book is divided into many very small, easy to digest chapters, and I look forward to applying it, once I figure out what to write about. Sadly, that is the one bit of information this book doesn't offer. But I cannot hold that against it. 

"How to Write a Book Proposal" not only contains directions and advice for crafting a book proposal, but also guidance on the writing of the book, writing an outline, hiring a publicist, finding a niche, promoting your book, and several other items, plus four sample proposals. The Appendix, with links to dozens of helpful books, websites, and other resources, is probably worth ten times the cost of the book.

After reading this book, I am inspired to go and create something worth reading.

Monday, May 02, 2011

I should be celebrating....Right?

As I write this, it's been exactly 24 hours since I first heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by our military. Within a few minutes of the announcement, I went from feeling relieved to feeling sad. The sadness was a result of the chest-thumping I was seeing all across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other forms of instant communication.

As this went on, all I could think was: Once again, we missed it. We had a chance to be humble, to pray, to acknowledge God's sovereignty, and we blew it. And it's not the first time. About 9 1/2 years ago, right after the attacks of September 11, our nation went from Point A --shocked by a sucker-punch-- to Point B--chest-thumping,  in very short order.

We should have been humbled as a nation. We should have taken the hint God was giving us, and laid down before Him, repenting, acknowledging that He is in control, and we blew it.

We puffed out our collective chest and announced to the world that we're too good to be brought down. That, in the words of Toby Keith, we'll put a boot in your ass. It's the American Way.  We are still Number One, and we're going to show the world who's boss. Sadly, we still think the boss is us. We had the perfect chance to learn who the Boss really is, and we missed it.

To be clear, I am not saying God caused 9/11 to happen. It was a demonic act, planned and perpetuated by a couple of dozen evil men. But God has a way of using these opportunities. He certainly used the evil Chaldeans to not only make the Israelites into captives, but to even reduce Jerusalem to rubble in the process. Their problem was idolatry, so God brought them to the place where idolatry started, in the form of the Tower of Babel. Think the United States has a problem with idolatry today?

In the fall of 2001, we missed our chance to hear what God was saying. National pride has its place, but this kind of pride does not. Our post-9/11 reaction was prideful. Now, a decade later, the bad guy has been put to death, and we're still as prideful as ever. We've gone from appreciating that the serpent's head was bitten off (an acceptable response) to gloating. To flexing our national biceps. To holding up our index finger yelling "We're Number One!" as if our favorite college team just won a championship.

In short, we took the focus off of Him, and put ourselves back onto Center Stage. 

How can we, as a nation, put God back where He belongs? How can we honor Him with our response?

Psalm 51:15 "O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise."

This is not the time for fist-pumping. It's a time for prayer. It's a time for owning up to our idolatry. It's a time for recognizing that we are not our own god, and we are certainly not as in control of our fate as we think we are. Let's don't miss it this time. If we do, the God who can bring a nation to its knees might decide to get our attention some other way. That's not a prophecy. It's not a prediction. I hope I'm wrong. I fear I'm not.