A Broken Smeller

The podcast at the bottom of this article is called–“Judas!”
I’ve thought about the coffee boutique in Laon, France occasionally for a couple of years now. The coffee there is extra delicious and since I was in town Saturday for a wedding I made it a point to go by and purchase some real coffee there—not this shoe dust stuff you buy at the grocery store.

It would be great if you could go there with me just once. Saturday was just like old times. Laon is an ancient city with a huge medieval church crowning the small mountain that rises from the center of the city and divides it into lower and upper parts.

The shop is located on a narrow little one-way street that’s made of bricks. Even a blind man would know when he arrived because the smell has been known to come out looking for you. You can be walking idly by in front and suddenly this delicious-strong-warm-50% caffeine by volume-aroma floats out the door, invades your nose and goes all the way to the bottom of your adenoids.

You’re eyeballs light up.

“Whoa, what is that?” you think as your feet change directions all by themselves and you float into this enchanting little place filled with coffee beans from exotic places and enough different kinds of tea to make even an Englishman’s head turn.

The semi-friendly lady has been there since I started frequenting the place, some years ago. White-haired and full figured (I’m polite) she seems pleased to hear that I’m a former satisfied customer come back for some more goodies.

All the while we’re speaking, that rich glorious scent dances through the room. “Do you still smell that?” I asked her. She allowed that she didn’t. “It would probably give me a headache it I noticed it all the time,” she reflected.

A florist once told me the same thing. He didn’t pay any attention to the heavy flower scent in his shop either.

I think I know why. Someone said that there is a part at the back of the brain that screens incoming information and decides what is important. Our senses are constantly working bringing in data. We regularly receive thousands of facts with constant updates.

For instance, there is a lot going on around me right now—the weak sunlight from a cold July sky lighting my office, the tiny background whisper of my computer running, the ringing in my right ear, cream-colored wallpaper, my heart beating, the radio to my left with the Bible just in front of it, the clutter that I should organize and a hundred other things. I’d have a terrible time concentrating if all that attacked my consciousness at once.

So, according to this person, this part of the brain screens out all but the most important things at any given instant. I don’t know if this individual knew what he was talking about or not but I’m using it because it sounds good.

How could that lady have missed the coffee smell? It was powerful. How could that florist ignore that incessant, sweet smell? I guess the little dilly at the back of their brains deemed it unimportant.

And Me?

And me? How can I miss the power of what the Lord has done in my life? Oh, I know it’s wonderful because I sing about the Lord Jesus and I say praise words when I pray.

But why do I feel sometimes like I’m on automatic pilot? When I have a fresh answer to prayer I’m jumping up and down with excitement and bubbling over with thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, today’s thanksgiving has a tendency to become tomorrow’s “Ho-hum, that’s good…wonder what’s on tv tonight?” Seems almost like there’s a filter in our spirit somewhere that only notices new input, whether good or bad, and has a tendency to undervalue events that have already happened. Kind of like an overzealous spam catcher.

We need to remember to be really thankful. Here’s a fellow who hasn’t forgotten what the Lord has done for him—and for others. See if you can identify:

“Oh, thank GOD—he’s so good! His love never runs out.
All of you set free by GOD, tell the world!
Tell how he freed you from oppression…

“…in your desperate condition, you called out to GOD.
He got you out in the nick of time;
He put your feet on a wonderful road
that took you straight to a good place to live.
So thank GOD for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
He poured great draughts of water down parched throats;
the starved and hungry got plenty to eat…

“He led you out of your dark, dark cell,
broke open the jail and led you out…
He shattered the heavy jailhouse doors,
he snapped the prison bars like matchsticks!…
“ He spoke the word that healed you,
that pulled you back from the brink of death.
So thank GOD for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves;
Offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
tell the world what he’s done—sing it out!”
(From Psalms 107, The Message)

Some of us need to stop, not to smell the roses or the coffee, but to take a good long whiff of all the Lord has done for us past, present—and future! That’s an air-freshener guaranteed to chase away the putrid odor of self pity and preoccupation with our problems.

Breath deeply…

Weirdly special

If someone from France says to you, “You are very special,” don’t smile. He’s probably not complimenting you.

“Special” is one of those French/English words which look the same but don’t necessarily have the same meaning. If I tell my wife in English that she’s special (and she is), I mean that she’s got a place that no other has in my life.

But if I said to her in French, “Tu es très spéciale,” (“You are very special.”) she might bop me. The primary meaning in French, when you speak of people, is someone that’s apart, different, maybe a little strange. A special case.

This idea gets expressed differently in different cultures. “He’s about two fries short of a Happy Meal,” we might say of a very “spéciale” person. A German friend says, “The light is on but there’s nobody at home.” Another way to say it is, “His elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.”

The French might say, “He had a baby-buggy accident,” or (and this is my personal favorite), “His mama rocked him too close to the wall.” (You know, “Rock, bump, rock, bump, rock, bump. Makes strange kids).

All these expressions try to describe someone who is just a little off center in his personality. Now, hang on to that thought for just a minute and we’ll come back to it.

I used to wonder about God’s command for us to worship Him.
Is He a narcissist, absorbed with Himself?? I mean if I say to my wife and kids, “Worship me!” I’m probably a little “spéciale,” (I’ll leave it to you to guess in which sense of the word).

God seeks worshippers. So what’s up? Fact is, there’s nothing self-centered about it. Worshipping God brings order into our universe.

Prideful man craves worship to inflate his value, but that throws things out of order. Behind this desire is Satan, hankering for what belongs to another. Lucifer tried to seize that esteemed Place and that incomparable Name (Phil 2:9) which belong to Jesus. They are the Lord’s by nature (Phil 2:6) and also because He won them at the Cross. (Phil. 2:9).

“For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise…Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.” (Ps. 96:4, 8, NIV)

A. W. Tozer says, “It is a truism to say that order in nature depends upon right relationships; to achieve harmony each thing must be in its proper position relative to each other thing.” (The Pursuit of God).

When we’re worshipping Him, the universe is in place.
We rest in His strength, so it doesn’t matter if we’re not strong enough in ourselves. Faith flows. We rest in His glory (which He accords us—Rom. 8:30), so it doesn’t matter if Satan tries to make us feel worthless.

We derive our worth from Him. When we do that, things are as they should be, when frail men demand the worship that belongs only to God, things are out of order—très spéciale!

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4:11, NIV)

Praise grates on man’s self-image. We don’t want to acknowledge Someone higher than us, or that we need Someone else.

The truth is, we need to praise God more than God needs our praise. Do you think Someone as powerful, perfect, glorious, wise, good, loving, and compassionate as He is needs my squeaking words of praise to feel important? If you believe that, your mama probably rocked you too close to the wall.

But I desperately need to praise Him!

C.S. Lewis said, “In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” (The Joyful Christian)

So praise helps us put things in perspective. We realize He’s in the center of the universe, not us. We see that every good gift comes from above, from the Father of Lights and we begin to thank Him for all His goodness to us.

“While we take to ourselves the place that is His, the whole course of our lives is out of joint. Nothing will or can restore order till our hearts make the great decision: God shall be exalted above.” (Tozer)
And when we do that, the light goes on and there is someone at home; mama scoots her rocker away from the wall; and the little girl at McDonalds throws in a bunch of extra fries for good measure.

Praise puts everything in place.