The Restaurant

restaurant-690975_1280One day, a man dreamed up one-of-a-kind restaurant that was open 24/7 and had every kind of food to enjoy.  It was a “local” place where friends and families could meet for a quick snack, or to celebrate life’s greatest moments. It took some time for the idea to catch on – but eventually it did. This local place became the center of the community. People got so used to seeing their neighbors there that they’d miss them if they didn’t see them. A camaraderie was built – unintentionally without anybody noticing. This place soon turned into not just the place to celebrate, but to mourn. It was also the place you could go if you felt down, or you received bad news, or you just didn’t want to be alone. Besides, why not – the people who frequented the restaurant knew you and cared about you. It was a safe place. The owner loved his restaurant, and he loved these people more. He loved the community that filled his place and he loved that everyone felt welcome and loved here.

But he had not been charging a dime for anything. It was all free. Whatever you wanted was on the house. From the appetizers to desserts, it was on the house! Prime rib and lobster? On the house! Of course, as word got out of this “free” place his business grew….but he was left with a tab that exceeded any debt he’d ever owed anyone. He knew it would be expensive at first, but he didn’t expect it to come to this. And it had to be paid, nothing is never truly free, right?

Sadly, he had to announce to his loyal patrons (these people were not just customers, they were his dear friends) that the restaurant could not continue – what started as a great idea has become a burden that he could simply not afford. Eye after eye welled up with tears. Everyone loved it here. They didn’t want to leave. They loved the owner. They began to whisper among themselves: What can we do? How can we help? We need to keep this wonderful place alive? How can we love the owner after all he’s done for us?

After a few moments a young man spoke up from the kitchen. “I’ll pay it! – I’ll settle up the tab!” Audible gasps and whispers of “who is that?” Then it broke into applause. Someone was somehow willing and able to pay a bill that nobody could pay, even if all the customers pooled their money together.  After a few moments of high fives and hugs, the people began to gather their belongings and leave.  The bill has been paid, the party is over.

“Wait, where are you going?” Asked the young man.  Several customers responded: “We are so grateful for all you’ve done for us, you settled our tab. None of us can truly afford to keep coming here, the food is so delicious and the whole experience is so wonderful…it’s just too good of a place for us. We really don’t belong here.”

The young man began to explain that not only did he settle up the current bill, he went ahead and paid all future expenses for his Father’s restaurant. He, too, loved this place. He loved the people – how they cared for each other, celebrated and mourned together.  He wanted them to know and experience a community like no other – that they could come here anytime, without money to feel loved.  He wanted this community to continue to thrive and so he sacrificed all he had to make it so.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. – John 6:35

Pretty Weeds…..

May is winding down, which means we have spent countless hours in the yard. Trimming shrubs, bagging leaves (we are blessed to do this year round), planting things and spreading mulch. Mostly, after winter, we spend our time pulling weeds. TJ and I both deny the fact we wanted a big yard but we bought this house knowing the yard was a monster so we can’t blame anyone but ourselves.

The first year in our house we pretty much maintained what was there. Some shrubs, a few perennials popped up once in a while, we bagged leaves.  The second year a few unruly vines crept in – we trimmed those.  We also bagged more leaves and discovered we had raspberry bushes – HOORAY! The birds are the most appreciative of the raspberries.  Recently though, our flower beds were screaming for some TLC. Despite the jungle, several Irises popped up, 2 tulips (the deer appreciated them), 2 giant hostas (the deer REALLY appreciated them) but mostly grass mixed with weeds tried to overtake them.  They nearly succeeded – so I (with the help from the kids) set out to pull weeds from our front beds. I wish I could tell you we are done, but there are portions still neglected.

In the digging and pulling I found a few small perennial buds trying to rise above the dandelions.  I showed Ellie the tiny pink petals that were trying to beat the odds – she says, “Oh Mom, let’s put them somewhere safe.” There were actually a few of these same flowers scattered in odd places, so I relocated them together.  A few weeks has gone by and they are doing surprisingly well.

Those scattered plants are us, dear Christian. Fragile petals in a world constantly being swallowed by weeds, vines, dead leaves and sometimes animals. On our own we can’t stand…..we get lost….we get buried…. But together, with others, under the watchful eye of the Gardener we are cared for. How often (and easy) we neglect prayer, reading the Bible, spending time with Christians, attending worship….and the weeds come. Sometimes the weeds appear pretty (just ask Ellie) but their roots grow beneath the surface and multiply, stealing life from fragile petals.  What are the weeds in our lives? What pretty weeds keep you from prayer, attending church, reading the Bible, spending time with other Christians? What pretty weeds have told you to let God go….that he’s not a priority. Don’t be deluded….pretty weeds are still weeds. Don’t let them tear you away from the love, care and goodness of God. Our Gardener.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  – Hebrews 10:23-25