O Come, O Come, To Manuels.

 

Manuels sign2 - Copy

Sadie and Wayne Palmer (my in-laws), with my wife Jan.

 

Taste and see that the Lord is good -Psalm 34:8a

Blasphemy warning:  I’m about to compare the Christ Child to a burrito.

But oh, what a burrito.  I’d pay triple the price for one. Actually they just call it “a tortilla”.  The one I had for breakfast a week ago was stuffed with mushrooms, cheese, eggs, beans, and onions.  And topped with a special hot sauce.  Here’s what it looked like.

Tortilla 1 manuels

The thing is significantly bigger than your head.  And the taste makes you want to shout “Rejoice! Rejoice!”

You’ll have to drive down to Port Isabel, TX, to eat one of these marvels.  And you’d better bring cash.  And no attitude.  And an open mind. Because Manuel’s is pretty much a hole in the wall.

Here’s what it looks like inside.

sadiewaynemanuels

The floors are rough and uneven.  The walls are covered in posters for old 70’s movies, like “The Godfather” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, along with pictures of Manuel’s family, especially grandkids who are athletes or cheerleaders.  From the ceiling hangs pennants of college and NFL football teams. It has a strange man-cave charm to it.

But let’s come back to the tortillas, or as I call them, “the Reason for the Seasoning”? 

Tortilla 2 manuels

Beyond delicious.  I’ve been coming down to this place (adjacent to S. Padre Island) for maybe 15 years or so.  Things change down on the South Texas coast, but Manuels stays the same, like a dear friend waiting with open arms.

If I’m describing this Hole In The Wall as if it were a Holy Place, there’s a reason.  Somehow, despite the rundown conditions, Manuels just feels special.  I’m not the only one sharing that sentiment.  I know because of the walls.  Any place not touched by a poster or a picture bears the signature of someone who’s been there.

 

inside 2 manuels

If you look real close, you can see the writing on the walls.

Hundreds of signatures fill up the walls, with folks from across the country (and beyond, I’m sure), making their mark.  My signature is there, somewhere, from years ago.  I don’t remember where, but I know I’ve gone on record as a fellow pilgrim to Manuels.

 

Now, if your mouth is watering, and you feel the need to road trip down to South Texas for breakfast this week, let me know and maybe I’ll join you.  But I hope that, as this Advent season begins, you are feeling an even more powerful pull towards the manger.

The accommodations that night in Bethlehem were lousy.  The décor? Non existent.  It was, perhaps, a hole in the wall.  But something Truly Holy draws us in to that cattle stall.  It is an encounter with Someone that makes it worth this journey.

We are called to be counted amongst the millions who pay homage to the Child.  To write our name on the walls of the stable.  To tell the world that we were there.  To proclaim that God is here.

And so, in spite of my love for Manuel (he’s a great guy), it cannot compare to my love for Emmanuel. And as much as I want you all to get a taste of that amazing food, it is eclipsed by my desire that you experience the All Powerful Love of Jesus.

Christ is, indeed, more than a burrito, and even more to be savored.  Taste and see that the Lord is good. He will nourish you long after December 25th…

with zero chance of indigestion.

Have a great week,

Mitch

jesus tortilla 2

 

 

 

 

Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It

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Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. –Exodus 20:8

It was one year ago today that the World Council of Churches met and made an audacious proposal to the rest of the world:

They suggested that we add an eighth day to the week.

Since it was their idea,  they decided to call the day “Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It”.

The scientists said “Sure, time is a human construction, and we can make it whatever we want.” So they eliminated January and February from the calendar, and did a few more tweaks here and there, and got us back to 365 days a year.

Non-churchgoers loved the idea of an extra long weekend every week. Business owners found that their productivity stayed strong as worker morale improved.  And as for  Christians, celebrating their “Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It”?

Attendance went down.

That’s right. Attendance figures just came out for the past year, and worship in American churches has dropped another tenth of a percent.

It would appear that with more time on the weekend people just did more stuff. More visiting with the grandkids. More time for yardwork. More camping trips or sleeping in.

A tired-looking president of the World Council of Churches issued a statement just moments ago:

“Well, fellow Christians, we tried. We cleared a whole extra day for you to keep the Sabbath, but you just keep doing other things! As of today I am resigning my position. I’m looking forward to a nice long break, and this weekend I plan to go visit my grandkids.”

Rumors of a proposed ninth day of the week movement has met with much criticism. As one Christian said, “Honestly? I think they could add five more Sabbaths every week and it still wouldn’t make a difference. Worship and rest is still a priority for people, but it’s just not the only priority, and not always on Sunday. I love to go to church, but I’ve got other things I want to do, too. So I do my best to balance it out.”

And so, the Eight Days A Week movement, as it has been called, was a success for everybody except the people who proposed it in the first place. Lately, there’s been talk about moving back to the old system. People miss Martin Luther King Jr Day and Valentine’s Day in particular.

As for my humble take on things, I think the church is going to be okay, and I think Christians are going to be okay, but not without some tough times along the way.  Our society has definitely steered away from notions of Holy rest and worship, things God says we clearly need.

I predict people will still gather for worship on the Sabbath, but maybe we need to focus our efforts towards teaching people how to be Holy…

on the other six days.

Or seven.

Whichever calendar you’re using.

Have a good week,

Mitch

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Fill’r Up.

Gas-Sation-Tips_Web-960x640Remember full service?

Gas stations, I mean.

It was so easy. You’d just pull in, roll down the window, and say “Fill’r up!”

And then you’d watch as other folks did it all for you:

Oil? Checked.

Tire Pressure?  Checked.

Windshield?  Washed.

Wow.  That seems like a long time ago.

You can still find a full service station every once in a while, but over the past few decades things have swung dramatically into the realm of “self serve”.

You get out.

You pump your own gas.

Maybe you wipe off the windshield.

The oil and the tires?  Eh, they’re probably fine.

We certainly have a different experience at the pump today than folks did 30+ years ago.

Interestingly, some of the changes in our gas stations have happened in our churches, too.

It used to be the pastor and the choir would do most of the work filling people up with The Spirit.

Sermon? Check

Anthem? Check

Prayer? Prayed

Just to be present in the congregation would fill people up.

And that still works for many.

But more and more, today, people like to pump their own Living Water, so to speak.

Seeking on their own or in small groups, active and engaged, both in the church and out in the world.

I wonder.  Which do you prefer?

Are you more the Full Serve or Self Serve type?

Well, if I was working at the station on the corner (and by the way, I am) I’d work hard to find a way to offer BOTH options.

Full Service and Self Service spirituality options,

multiple methods to “fill’r up”,

so that everybody can be powered by the Holy Spirit,

operating at the highest possible Ministry Per Gallon.

Have a great week, Mitch 01c513f0d3dbca8db1e36955f1820cfa

What Lies Beneath?

Got my shovel. Got a wheelbarrow. Got one of those hard hats with a light on it.

I’m going on an excavation!

I’m marching into the sanctuary, right down near the front, and I’m digging in.

Here’s why:

I just returned from the Holy Land. It was a great trip. I saw the sights and walked where Jesus walked…

And went in a bunch of churches.

The place where the angel visited Mary? They built a church on top of it.

The place where Jesus ascended to heaven? They built a church on top of it.

The places where he was born, crucified, rose again? Church, Church, Church.

I’ve visited more churches in the past 2 weeks than most Christians visit in a lifetime!

I know why the churches were built. Ancient Christians wanted to preserve these various holy sites. They wanted to glorify God. In many cases, the current churches were built on top of much older churches. It ‘s like a Christian layer cake!

Now I’m back home and I’m wondering: What lies beneath my church?

What gives a church its purpose, its mission, its reason for being?

There’s got to be more to it than relics and ruins. After all, Jesus didn’t really cover that much territory. Chances are (unless you’re Mormon) Jesus never performed a miracle in your hometown, or mine.

No, I think a church is meant to be more than that. More than just a museum for old holy places.

What lies beneath my church is ground. The same ground that Jesus walked on, halfway around the world.

Holy Ground.

What makes it holy is the ever present grace of God.

There is grace in a park. In a courthouse. In a McDonalds.

There is Holy Ground wherever God is acknowledged, wherever Christ’s love is spread.

I’ll never forget my trip to Israel, but I didn’t have to travel that far to be in contact with something so special.

And if you haven’t found it yet…

Keep digging.

Have a great Thanksgiving,

Mitch

Emptied Himself

                                  Let each of you look

                               not to your own interests,

                            but to the interests of others. 

                            Let the same mind be in you

                           that was in Christ Jesus, who,

though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality

with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, 

taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And

                            being found in human form, 

                            he humbled himself and

                            became obedient to the point

                            of death—even death on a

                           cross.  Philippians 2: 4-8

Hey Dustball!

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. –Genesis 2:7

Hey Dustball!

Yeah, I’m talking to you.  According to Genesis, you and I are living, breathing balls of dust.  How does that make you feel?

Maybe you would have preferred God add a little sugar and spice?   Some moonbeams and stars?  Nope.   God just reached down, piled together some dust, and here we are.   That’s what we’re made of.

Funny thing, though.  Have you noticed how hard we work to stay clean?  We wash our hands so we don’t spread germs.  We wash our hair so it won’t get greasy.   We wash our clothes so they don’t smell.  We sweep and mop and Swiffer so there’s not a speck of dust on our floors.

Some of us even own dust busters.

Heck, there’s a robotic vacuum cleaner called the “Dust Ball”!   Isn’t that a little bit ironic?  Supposedly we’re made from dust, and yet we seem to be down right terrified of it.   It makes me wonder — do we live our lives running from our very nature?   Is it possible  God created us to be a little grungy to begin with?

I’m reminded of Pigpen from the Peanut’s comic strips.   Remember him? Now there’s a guy who is comfortable in his own dust.   Even on the rare occasions when he’d clean himself up, it’s like the dust would find him.   It was his natural state.

And it’s ours, too, after all.   Even if you don’t read the creation story literally, our modern-day fascination with cleanliness is only a few hundred years old.   Certainly, we’ve learned about germs and sanitation, and that’s propelled our need to bleach out any stains, but maybe it’s more than that.

Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves that the very earth we come from is somehow separate from ourselves.   With every lather, rinse, and repeat we may be trying to distance ourselves from the very dust we’ve sprung up from.  And if indeed that’s what we’re doing, might that create distance between ourselves and the God who created us?

Gardeners know it.  Farmers know it.  There’s something Holy about being connected with the Earth.  A little dust might do you and I some good.

So let’s go barefoot — just like Adam and Eve!  Skip an occasional shower, even.  Let’s plant some flowers.  Get some soil under our fingernails and be happy about it.

After all, Dustball, being connected to the Earth God created…

Is nothing to sneeze at.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch