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My ecclesial history began with Protestantism; to wit, as a lad I having Jewish friends, Catholic friends, having Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on the door, asked my mom what religion are we?

Her reply? “We’re Protestants.” That apparently was to be the end of the matter, as no further explanation was forthcoming. I had no idea at all (at that age) what a Protestant was, or what were in fact protesting.

I guess we were protesting the whole thing, because the only church we ever darkened the doors of as a family was my grandma’s. And that only when we annually traveled to visit her. That, aside from maybe a VBS (“Vacation Bible School”) or two was the sum total of my church experience growing up.

Quite frankly what piqued my interest in church was the cute girl at the drugstore who invited me. We spent countless hours together talking about life, the universe, and everything. We visited:

Assemblies of God

Charismatic

Vineyard

& Nazarene

Churches

As I had no prior experience, or theological instruction, upon which to draw I had no preconceived notions about what church was. And darn if some of it didn’t stick! I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and promptly went to a party to get drunk.

I didn’t have a fat clue of what a Christian was, or how they comported themselves. I don’t know how much praying I did, but I did carry around a Bible given to me by my grandma; it was a large, white KJV (King James Version) affair. At the time, I didn’t know it was a family Bible, and was meant more for a coffee table than for constant, conspicuous carrying around.

As I awakened to the the message of the Gospel, it seemed the next step was to get baptized. I mean that’s what believers do, right? Get dunked/sprinkled/submersed/wet…

So I did on a warm September evening some four months after “accepting Christ.” I really didn’t grok at the time that it was some kind of big deal to be baptized, as my then-girlfriend’s family indicated that they wished they’d been there.

I didn’t know it was some kind of symbolic affair significant of anything other than basic obedience to one of Jesus’s commands. Afterwards, I didn’t feel anything other than wet.

Somehow, after being baptized at an Assemblies of God church, we ended up attending a Charismatic fellowship. It wasn’t until much later that I knew it was weird. And by weird I mean I had a fun experience being prayed over by a group white shirt wearing, yellow pit stained elders who wanted me to “recieve the initial evidence of the indwelling.”

Translation: they we’re praying for me to receive the gift of tongues, or in more formal parlance, glossolalia. They, being Charismatic, made it a doctrinal certainty that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; in other words, the practice tongues were to make me a living proof text of God’s work in my life…

The result? I mean I was willing, wanting whatever God has for me. So, sure. I was young, naive, and having no religious background thought why not?

When it didn’t happen, as these four grown men, sweaty-faced, their voices rising in ecstatic fervor, lapsing in and out of their Heavenly Languages, as they circled my seated form, finally (and flatly) stated: “Don’t worry, brother; it’ll happen. Just start muttering.”

Just. Start. Muttering.

I’m not sure that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote of the gift of tongues. Although I suppose I have been muttering to God ever since…

Through

Highs and lows

Successes and failures

Jobs lost and found

Health issues

Death, and new life.

And I’m thankful He’s never yet despised the bleating of this wayward sheep.

God has a sense of humor. How do I know? He made this big old stupid world, right? And everyone in it.

Including me. Now, I’ve been a douche a time, or two–or three. If we’re honest, we all have.

That disclaimer out of the way, here are some of my pet peeves:

On the evening of April 1st, my wife and went to visit my father-in-law (who is recovering from surgery). The visit went well, he’s doing well. That was all fine and dandy. Afterwards, we knew we needed to get a few things from the store. Also fine, but first: we were hungry.

So we went to one of our favorite Mexican places (which we hadn’t been to in quite awhile), were seated, asked for water, etc.

We placed our orders. But there was something missing…

Chips! Our waiter hadn’t brought any. Thinking that perhaps this was a sign of the economic times, I asked him. His answer:

“We’re out.”

Did I mention this was April 1st? Even so: he wasn’t fooling. Not having those crunchy, delicious bits of fried corny goodness was like a kiss without a squeeze, or (for those that roll that way) apple pie without the cheese. (Who puts cheese on pie? Eww!). <--it's the Canadians, right? Figures!Our meal--incomplete though--had me at burrito! Om-nom-nom!----------------The next day, mainly because I had to, but mostly because I wanted to, I took an extra day off work to spend time--sans kids--with my beautiful bride of 21+ years. It being the day before her birthday, I wanted it to be special. We went out for breakfast; which, thankfully, was uneventful.Then we went shopping. I don't know about you, but shopping always does two things to me:I get tired, and I get hungry. (And maybe just a wee bit cranky, too).Anyway, because we were relatively close (relatively being about fifteen miles), we decided to try out this place we'd seen on T.V. Famous for their pies, they also have a cafe for the road-weary traveler. It's quite historic--having been since the late teens of the last century. It's also, being so old, quite rustic.Ok, it's pretty much a truck stop. <--this we didn't know ahead of time, ok?Anyway, we park, walk into the gift shop--to the left is the saloon, to the right, the "restaurant"--and seat ourselves (there's a sign telling us to).I excuse myself to the restroom; when I get back, my wife tells me:"A girl came over with menus, asked about drinks. When I asked her about the fajitas, you know what she said, 'I'm not your waitress. I just bring drinks.' How was I supposed to know?"How was she indeed? (Hint: she wasn't). If someone comes to your table bearing: menus, cutlery, and asks about drinks, what would you conclude?It gets better.We finally make the acquaintance of our waiter. Or, rather he deigns to grace us with his presence.You know the type: God's gift to waitstaff, and patrons, everywhere. Talk about putting on airs! This guy didn't want to be there.Like the "waitress on graveyard, and the surly night manager" in Randy Stonehill's cheery Yuletide ditty, Christmas at Denny’s, captain douchecanoe was “wishing that all of us losers would leave.”

Or at least just my wife and I. So we did. (Hope he enjoyed his 9% tip).

That was Monday afternoon.

—————–

Because I’m a little slow, and because–I don’t know–it was her actual birthday, I decided to try again, and take my wife out for a quiet birthday dinner.

Did I mention anything about God having a sense of humor? I did? Ok.

While we’re waiting to be seated, I excuse myself to the restroom to freshen up (this is a recurring theme in my life–ask my wife); while I’m gone, she’s seated.

She texts me, I find her.

Guess where?

In a restaurant with an abundance of available tables, where do we two introverts get seated?

In the cheering section, or in other words: next to four drunk guys pounding shot after shot.

We tried–we really did–we tried to abide. But after we counted four, or five, rounds, and some other tables opened up, we asked to be moved.

And we could still hear them!

Apparently we weren’t the only ones who complained. And we will go back at some point. After explaining that it was her birthday, the manager did right by us, and comped our meal.

——————-

Like I said, God has a sense of humor, or sometimes maybe He just likes pushing our buttons a little. I suppose there’s a lesson in all of this about life not always–or ever!–meeting our expectations.

Or maybe He’s telling us not to dine out anymore?

Or maybe it’s a lesson in patience?

I don’t know. It’s definitely one of those three, or four.

How about you? What was your worst experience dining out?

Despite how it may seem at times, life is not meaningless and full of pain. Oh, there are seasons of pain. Plenty of those, but there is joy in the journey.

Of the joys granted to me, the ones that bring me up short with the realization that I did nothing to deserve them, are:

My wife:

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My daughter:

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And my son:

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I did nothing to deserve having these wonderful people in my wife, and in fact have failed them more times than I care to admit.

Yet they love me anyway.

————-

Last night my wife and I were privileged to share a Valentine’s dinner with some close friends, and tonight I have the honor of escorting my little sweetie to a daddy/daughter dinner & dance.

I am a blessed man. A man in awe of a God who could do all this.

How about you? Who are the joys you are privileged to share life with?

Post removed at the urging of Christians wiser than I. It seems I can’t win for losing lately. I suck.

[Upon discussion with those closest to me, I’ve decided that this post represents a huge satire fail. As such, I’ve removed it.]