Sep 25, 2014

As The Ruin Falls

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love --a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.
                                                          -C.S. Lewis

Sep 18, 2014

Eating Humble Pie

I was with Cathy at an Ethiopian wedding reception waiting for the bride and groom to arrive so that all of the guests could eat. The room was alive with excitement as the smell of food filled the air.  
At one point, I even got up to look at the feast that was being set out on the banquet tables. My mouth and my eyes were becoming moist with anticipation; which in laymen’s terms meant we were going to eat some really, really great Ethiopian food!
A few hours earlier in St. Paul, Minnesota, I had officiated the wedding ceremony for this couple who had both been born in Ethiopia and had moved to the United States of America at some point in their past.
The church had been packed with around three hundred or so family and friends who had come from all over the United States, Canada, and from Ethiopia for this joyful day.
The ceremony went off without a hitch and after it was over, the guests, along with Cathy and I, had driven to another church in Minneapolis to attend the reception while the wedding party took photographs.
And now, we sat at tables in the banquet hall, along with five hundred or so guests, waiting for the bride and groom to arrive so that all of the guests could eat. They had even set out a couple of forks and spoons for Cathy and me who were the only Caucasian people in the room; assuming that we might prefer to eat using the utensils instead of our hands!
We enjoyed our time waiting as we were brought up to speed on the history of Ethiopia by the four pastors who were sitting at our table (as much as you could get up to speed in an hour or so).
And then the joyous couple, along with the wedding party, arrived, which signaled that we could begin the pilgrimage to get our food as soon as the prayers were said for the meal.
I look up and saw that a man was walking towards me with a microphone saying something in Oromo. At the table, one of the pastors said that it was time for me to go up and bless the food; which is pretty common for me to do at wedding receptions.
I said something to the effect of perhaps one of them should pray in Oromo; at which point they asked for me to stand up because the man with the microphone was coming closer; and so I stood up and made my way towards him with the confidence of a track star awaiting the hand off of the baton. This was another opportunity for me to speak to the masses and get some more exposure! 
Just as I was about to take the microphone, another person (who was between myself and the man with the microphone) stood up and took the microphone and proceeded to pray in Oromo. He was an Orthodox Priest and had been asked by the mother of the bride to ask the blessing.
And now, there were only two people standing up; and only one of whom was supposed to be standing. And the other was me! I would like to say that I gracefully turned and sat down, but instead I knelt down by the nearest table and starting talking to a complete stranger asking her what was the priest speaking in Oromo was saying, hoping that she didn’t put two and two together.
I ended eating some ‘humble pie’; not one of the foods I had been looking forward to! I stood up and returned to my table; somewhat embarrassed.
The pastors at my table apologized to me realizing that they had helped put me in this predicament, saying once again that they had indeed thought that I was supposed to ask the blessing. But actually, it was I who had thought higher of myself than I ought to. It was my own pride and wrong self evaluation that had allowed me to be in that place.
Romans 12:3 (NKJV) says; “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
We are all looking (at times) to get ahead and to get noticed; to arrive at who we are supposed to be. And, at times, we can do things for the wrong reason or motivation. But that isn’t what we are supposed to do; we are called to be humble. Perhaps it will save us from eating humble pie.
1 Peter 5:6 (MSG) says; “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; He’ll promote you at the right time.”
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6