Friday, October 29, 2010

Lessons From A Cup Of Shrimp Bisque

Kay and I have just returned from a vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. That always includes a visit to our favorite restaurant in the area, the Grovewood CafĂ©. I was delighted to see that their soup of the day was one of my favorites: shrimp bisque. When it came, the aroma was tantalizing, and the taste of the rich broth didn’t disappoint. Kay dipped in her spoon and agreed with me. It was excellent.

I had taken several spoonfuls before I put my spoon into the bottom and stirred. I encountered shrimp—lots of them. Plump, flavorful, making the soup even more of a treat. “Look at that,” I said to Kay. “When I dug down, there was even more to it.”

We shared a look, and I said, “I know. There’s a sermon there somewhere.” Well, I don’t preach  anymore (another story for another day), but I do write. This one may end up published as a meditation, but for now let me just share it with those of you who read my blog.

Sometimes, life is like that bowl of shrimp bisque. Take our church membership. Some of us (and I’ve done this myself) simply go, take, and leave. We skim the top, enjoy the experience, and go about our business. Others dig down deep. We get involved in a smaller fellowship of believers, call it what you will—Sunday school, home fellowship, small group, whatever. We serve through participation in the choir, in teaching, as ushers and greeters, in outreach and service projects. And when we do, we get closer to the bottom of the bowl, and are rewarded with the good stuff.

Forrest Gump had an oft-quoted line: “Life is like a box of chocolates.” May I suggest that often times, life is like a cup of shrimp bisque. Dig deep. You’ll be glad you did.


Rosslyn Elliott said...

Richard, at the same time that I understand what you mean about getting involved, there's another side to the issue as well.

Unfortunately, sometimes the bisque tastes good at first, but when you dig deep and get down to the shrimp, they are rotten. Involvement brings great rewards in a healthy church. It can bring a lot of pain in a disfunctional one. When people treat church like an exclusive club, a place to control others, or a high school popularity contest, things get toxic very rapidly. Some people pull back and become less involved because of the rotten shrimp that left them groaning in agony from food poisoning for several years. :-) I know a number of fsmilies whose lack of deeper involvement is directly related to painful experiences in the past. Sometimes it seems so common I wonder if that is actually the chief reason for lack of involvement.

Still, the flavor of a good shrimp bisque is always a delight, just like a good church. The bad ones don't change the basic recipe.

I think this is a great thought-provoking post and I may have to link back to it over the next couple of weeks, if I get brave enough or foolhardy enough to address another aspect of this situation that is particular to women and the way we need to treat one another in churches. :-)

Richard Mabry said...

Rosslyn, Thanks for digging deeper yourself. You're right, of course. I've experienced what my former pastor, the late Bruce McIver, called "cafeteria church." We help yourselves to what we want and let someone else do the work. But sometimes when we get back into the kitchen ourselves, we see some things that put us off what's being served.
I'm fortunate to be in a great church right now, and it's good, even in the kitchen. I hope you'll explore this more on your blog--maybe even get our mutual friend, Jen AlLee (of "The Pastor's Wife" blog) involved.
Thanks so much for a thoughtful post.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Hmm... shrimp at the bottom. There's more in that analogy for me because half of our family is violently allergic to shellfish. Finding shrimp at the bottom of what looked on the surface to be a tasty meal, could pose quite a problem. Of course it wouldn't happen, because we're careful about what we order and ask questions about ingredients if there is any doubt. :)

One can carry an analogy only so far... but I do understand what you're saying, and in that respect it's a good comparison.

Looking at Rosslyn's comment I'd have to say that the population of every community, including the Christian church, is made up of ordinary flawed people. From within it we work together, trying to create and serve up the kind of nourishing meals that will improve the health of the whole organization. In some places the 'bisque' is tastier than in others, but education, prayer and gentle persuasion can go a long way towards upgrading the recipe.

Oh, these analogies! Make mine chicken soup. I've heard it's good for the soul. LOL.

Keith Brister said...

You doctor, you write and preach too. What a guy. I enjoyed my bowl of soup with you today. thanks for sharing it.