Finding our Gifts in Pigeon Forge, TN

When I went to school last May, I was in a very economically depressed section of Eastern Kentucky.   This area of Kentucky sits in the midst of Appalachia and is perhaps the poorest section of our country.  

While I was there nothing was comfortable, so mid way through I decided that I needed a warm shower, a comfortable bed to sleep in, and something more than Walmart for dinner.   I decided to spend one weekend and become a tourist.   I left Kentucky and headed 3 hours south to what I was told was the Redneck Disney World:   Pigeon Forge, Tennessee or Home of Dollywood.   It certainly lived up to its expectations.

Late on Friday, I found my way to a Hilton, and fell asleep in that warm bed.  The next morning I awoke and decided I was going to explore the hundreds of tourist shops that catered to all those who made their trek to this happiest place on earth.  

Walking down the street, it was people watching at its finest…and between visiting the dozens of Nascar or WWF themed shops, I decided to claim a park bench, a slurpee, and just watch.    It was there that I watch a man named Jesse and the incredibly odd talent he possessed.

Here is a video of that rather unique talent (as a matter of fact, it COULD be the same man?!):

At the end of his performance, I was surprised at what happened…

He told all the people that watched:

“That he was actually a believer in Jesus, and not only does he come down there each and every Saturday to raise money for the youth of his church, by playing the nose flute…  He will be more than happy to spend some time talking to folks who may be interested in learning more the youth group or about this Jesus character.”

Obviously I had to give something, so I left a ten dollar bill in the man’s hat, and smiled all the way down the street.

Here’s the best part of that encounter:

On my way back, I saw him sitting on a short wall next to a man I was just standing next to as he played, and as I passed him, I heard;  “That’s the Jesus I believe…”

He was talking about Jesus.  I kept walking, and I kept smiling.    If God could use the silliest of Gifts (such as playing the flute with one’s nose), then surely, without a doubt I had Gifts that I can use too.

We all do.  Sometimes they might be hard to see, but if we are willing to think about them, talk with others, and to ask for help along the way, we will see them eventually.   That is part of God’s promise.  I pray that each of us find the soul who’s called to help us see our own unique ones.

The Lesson in the Omelet

There is an old story/sermon illustration that has a father and daughter sitting at the corner table at a smoke filled diner one morning for breakfast.  Dad was a good dad, and he tried hard, and he was dead set that his children would grow up in faith.   He didn’t have all the answers but he would try to either find them, or help the kids find someone who did.

One of the things that were important to Dad was to offer their blessings before each meal. 

(Truth be told, we all know that saying Grace or offering our thanks is easy in the confines of our own kitchen, but it is much harder when we do it in public, when there are dozens of eyes in front of us.   Maybe some of you remember my story about praying in the Motorcycle Bar, and you will know that it’s sometimes hard for me too.  See this posting.)

Dad was dead set on doing just that no matter where dinner was served.   There in that greasy diner Dad offered Grace and Thanksgiving before they ate their breakfast.

When Grace was said, the two smiled and began to eat their breakfast.   Although it is hard to screw up the girl’s bowl of cereal, Dad quickly discovered that his breakfast was massacred.

  • The egg was runny.
  • The toast was burnt.
  • The bacon was greasy.
  • The meal was just bad.

It didn’t take Dad long to start grumbling and complaining

(After all, it’s usually what Dad’s do best, especially when they haven’t had their coffee and they are at their grouchiest).

After a few minutes of Dad’s Oscar the Grouch routine, the young girl interrupted him.

“Daddy, do you think God heard us when we gave thanks for breakfast?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” Dad replied confidently.

After a few seconds of silence as she contemplated something in her head, she asked another question; “Do you think he heard what you said about the omelet?”

Cautiously…the father replied; “Yes, I guess so, why?”

The girl quickly responded; “Which do you think he believes?”

I love this illustration, as not only can I see myself sitting at that diner, it reminds me of a trap that we all so quickly fall into.   We need to see the parallels between this diner scene and our worship.  First, Worship is nothing if it isn’t a weekly gathering to offer Grace and thanksgiving.

  • We sing about it.
  • We pray about it.
  • I will endlessly sermonize about it.
  • It’s what we are about and what we do.

Yet, too often we seem to forget the thanksgivings before the coffee of fellowship hour is even cold.

We leave our pews, and within a few hours many of us  will appear and act no differently than the people who chose to sleep in(especially if we are not careful).   Sometimes, the sheer hypocrisy of that behavior is ten times more inexcusable.   It’s inexcusable because those who chose to sleep in do pretend for the hour and a half each Sunday.

We need to be people who consider our faith journeys in light of the simple question:   “Which life does God believe matters more to us?”  “Which life is truly the one we live”   Is it the life we live outside these walls, or those that we pretend to live inside?

We begin our worship every week  at Asbury, with the Passing of the Peace, where we extend the hand of fellowship and practice the Gospel message.  In this moment, we recognize the shared Christ at our core.  At the same time, It should also serve as a reminder that we are to be people who live and breathe the Grace and Thanksgiving of God, twenty four seven.   We are not called to be people who talk the talk.   We need to ask, what life does God think matters most to us.

(Could not locate an original authorship of the illustration/story.   The image above is from Tom’s Diner in NYC and should be familiar for all Sienfeld fans.  Stacey and I were photographed there after we took Kenny Kramers Sienfeld Reality Tour through the city.  An Awesome time!)
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