Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why I Worship at McDonald's

Some of you know that I spend a lot of time at McDonald's (or Wendy's or Burger King or the local coffee shop). I spend about one day each week at such places. I meet a lot of people at McDonald's- like the salesman whose mother-in-law died, or the woman from California who lost her children. My McDonald's time is not haphazard or indiscriminate, however. I have several reasons for doing such a thing (some much better than others). What follows are my Top Ten Reasons to worship God at McDonald's.

10. There are no interruptions. There is no phone to answer at McDonald's. No television. No drop-ins. For the most part, I get left alone.

9. There are free drink refills at McDonald's. I can sit there all day for just over a dollar, and never get thirsty. (I also get to use the restroom a lot.)

8. I get a great opportunity to be a witness. Sure, it's a silent witness, but dozens of people see me in a public place reading my Bible, journaling, praying. I have my devotional time, which I would have anyway, in a place where people can see that I take my faith seriously.

7. Greasy food. I love fast food. It's close. It's cheap.

6. There are a lot of opportunities for ministry. At Wendy's I have gotten to know some of the employees. I am able to show concern for their lives and interests. I also get many opportunities to share with my fellow customers at all my favorite places.

5. I get to build relationships with people that I would not get to know in any other way. At some of the places I go, they know me by name. At others, I know them. In many cases I am getting to know the regular customers as well.

4. There is a spacious work environment. When I go to McDonald's I take my briefcase. It has my Bible, my journal, other books and several work projects in it. One booth has plenty of room for me and all my stuff.

3. Going fast food serves as a cultural reminder. Most of the people that I spend time with on a daily basis are church people. They are people who attend my church, or a previous church, or pastors of a different church. Church people are a minority in the general population. It is good for me to get out and mingle with "real people" once in awhile.

2. There is just enough noise and distraction to keep me from getting bored.

And the number one reason why I worship God at McDonald's...

1. I love watching people. (The playground at McDonald's is one of my very favorite places to read the Bible.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Ethics

I was recently faced with an ethical dilemma. This one was unlike any I had heretofore encountered. Let me tell you the story.

I had to drive my daughter to an activity on a hot day. There is no air-conditioning in my car, so it was particularly unbearable. The sun was hot and breathing could cause you to break a sweat. I did what any normal person would do: I got something cold to drink. I went through the drive through window at McDonald's and got a large drink for a dollar. What a deal! The problem was that it went too fast. It took me 10 minutes to get my daughter to her appointment and then I was on my way back home. By the time I got back to McDonald's I was hot again and my drink was gone.

The problem is this: If I was inside McDonald's I would have re-filled my drink cup several times, for free. I would have still been in the restaurant after the 20 minutes that my trip took. So, would it be stealing if I took my cup into the same restaurant that I purchased it from and fill it up? Is it wrong to take advantage of the privileges that come with the purchase?

What about if it was a different McDonald's location? The money is the same. It is going to the same general place. Is that wrong?

And one related ethical quandary is this- When I fill my fountain pop cup at my local gas station and then take a drink before topping it off and putting the lid on, is that wrong? Is it a sin to steal a sip? Is it even sinning?

I am looking forward to your opinions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Family Lists: Widows, Widowers and Singles

Church people are idiots! You do not have to agree with me, but I believe this with all my heart. There are too many ways in which we (and I include myself here) mess up over and over again. We are hypocritical, self-righteous, judgmental and “holier-than-thou.” It is no wonder that Christians have such a bad name in the world at large. After all, who wants to associate with people like us?

One of the ways that we offend and alienate the most people is in the area of our teachings on family issues. I believe that we are not intentional in excluding people, but we seem to forget those who are single or widowed. However, there is a lot that the Scripture has to teach about those who are not in a “traditional” family group.

First of all, let’s be clear that there is not a traditional, biblical model for families. The patriarchs were polygamists. The greatest king in Israel’s history, David, had multiple wives and mistresses and was a lousy father to his children. Jesus was never a part of a “traditional” family. The Apostle Paul was either divorced or never married. Our current pre-occupation with a husband, wife and children family unit is more cultural than spiritual.

With that being said, let’s consider biblical instructions for those who are unmarried.

  • Widows (and widowers) are to be a special ministry concern of the church (Acts 6.1). We must not forget to care for those whom God has entrusted to us.
  • Single people are to be faithful to God above all. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 7.32, Paul says that those who are unmarried are blessed and should remain that way. (Jesus praised those who were eunuchs for the Lord. Matthew 19.12)
  • Divorce is a last resort only. People who are married are to stay married. Divorce is a sin (Mark 10.11).
  • We are all a part of the same family of God. There is no Jew nor Greek (Galatians 3.28). No matter what kind of family I have on earth, I am part of God’s eternal family. He is my Father and those of you reading are my brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Forever Friends?

I have a lot of acquaintances. On Facebook I have hundreds of friends. They are all people that I know to one degree or another. I enjoy getting updates on their lives and activities. They are people that I care about, and I like to think that they care about me. However, most of them are not what I would call friends.

I have a great family. My parents are still the greatest influence on my life. I want nothing more in this world than their approval. I love them and know that they love me. I have a good marriage. My wife is with me all the time. We consult one another about every decision and treasure the time we spend together. My daughter is in her own category. There is no one in this world that I love more than her. (I believe that it is also true that no one loves her more than I do.) But these family members are not what I would call friends.

  • Friends are people who are related to you only because of mutual respect, affection and concern.
  • A friend is someone who is genuinely glad as you succeed in life, and is concerned and offers support and assistance in a time of need.
  • Friends offer advice and support.
  • Friends are receptacles of garbage that we vent to them and on them.
  • Friends are faithful through years, even when neglected.
  • Friends do not take up a lot of time, but they have plenty of time to give when it is needed.
  • Friends are not afraid to confront you when you mess up, but they will also help pick up the pieces when you fall apart.
  • Friends never intentionally hurt, disappoint or annoy you. When they do any of those things, they are quick with an apology and appropriate acts of contrition and restitution.
  • Friends are good for laughing with, crying with, playing with and being serious with.
  • Friends help you through difficult times and keep you grounded in the good times.
  • Friends will offer help and assistance, but will not be afraid to complain when they are being taken for granted, or taken advantage of.
  • A friend will actively work for you improvement and do their best to keep you from any self-destructive behaviors or attitudes.
  • A friend will cheer you up when you are depressed and help you keep a level head when things are going well.
  • Friends love you with no expectations or stipulations.
  • Friends are committed to the friendship without regard to convenience or personal gain.
  • Friends are in it for the long term.
  • Friends never quit being friends.
  • Friends are filled with grace, understanding, patience and forgiveness toward one another.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


The great philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said, "It's like deja-vu all over again." But remember, he also said, "It ain't over until it's over." He could coin a phrase, but he was not the brightest bulb in the marquee.

I am an opponent of the concept of coincidence. I do not believe that it exists. I know that there is a long history and anecdotal stories about it, but I am not a believer. Coincidence, kismet, fate, deja-vu, they have all been invented by people to comfort us when things seem "weird."

Before you get too worked up, you should know that I am not a fatalist. I do not believe that things just are. Things do not just happen to me. I have some input in my reality. I am able to direct things. I can make decisions. I have free will. I reject the notions of predestination, election and reprobation. I do not believe that I am just a helpless pawn in the world.

But on the other hand, I do not accept the idea of happy accidents. When someone thinks that things have just worked out, I do not believe it. So what is it? What do I believe? (Get ready. I am going to get religious.)

I believe that God is in charge of everything that happens. There are no accidents or coincidences. God does things. Often those things seem coincidental, but they are not. God has done it. I can see this on an almost daily basis. Today was a perfect example. It is no accident that I was home this evening. God knows what he is doing.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hand Washing or Wringing?

Lately I have noticed that public restrooms almost always have a notice that employees must wash their hands when they finish their "potty break." The notice is often pre-printed on some sort of sticker that adheres to the exit door. Sometimes it is handwritten and taped to the mirror above the sink. There are some notices that are in English and Spanish. There is a seemingly endless variety of these signs in restrooms all across the country.

But I wonder about those notices. How effective are they? How necessary are they? Does anyone pay attention to them at all?

To begin with, if your employees need to be reminded to wash their hands after using the toilet, maybe you should re-think your hiring and training practices. Get people who are clean, conscientious and tidy. Teach people to do the right thing from the very beginning.

But beyond that, if they don't wash their hands as a general rule, why should we think that a little sign in the bathroom will make a difference? When no one is watching, no one will know. I operate under the assumption that people will get away with all that they can. No notice, no matter how impressive, threatening or attractive will cause someone who does not want to wash, to wash.

A couple more thoughts that may not be for the squeamish:
  1. There are some places that the hand washing sign is completely superfluous. Employees in a race track stable, hog farm or landfill have bigger sanitary issues than just their hands. Likewise, those who work in a car wash may find that their hands are constantly being washed while on the job.
  2. It is completely possible for some men to use the restroom without ever touching any surface that would require hand washing. (Of course, this would mean that an automatic or foot flush is needed.) Why should I wash if I touched nothing in the restroom and nothing on my body?
I will admit that today I wash my hands more often than I ever have before. I have bought into the current paranoia about viruses and germs. But let's not get carried away. Recognize that the sign in the restroom is no protection from hepatitis.