Archive for August, 2013

How to Deal With Bad Company

Your life.

Your life.

How do we maintain a pollution-free life? Are we willing to honestly assess the influence others have on us? How high do we set the bar for our personal relationships?

A recent series taught by our pastor, Nicolas Celovsky, has me thinking about this subject.

Following are some thoughts taken from the series material, along with my comments:

Be an overcomer. Okay, that may sound like a religious buzz-phrase. Too bad. It’s still true. The gospel does not promote wimpiness, weakness, or indecision. Especially when it comes to identifying adverse influences and removing them from our lives.

Put a premium on purity. Particularly in regard to sexuality and the media. When it’s filth, have the courage to call it what it is. Don’t tolerate it. You may, as our pastor pointed out, need to do a spiritual detox with the Word and prayer. Again, have the courage.

Solomon said, very succinctly: Bad company corrupts good character.

Realistically assess the people in you life. Family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers. Here are some guidelines identifying 3 types of toxic people:

  • Users. One-sided relationships. These folks use others to validate themselves. They are jealous, which is why they celebrate your failures and covet your successes. What to do? Minimize contact or end the relationship.
  • Abusers. They live toxic lives and don’t care how it affects you. Seeking to sabotage your Christian lifestyle. Actively hostile to your faith. It is shocking how many believers maintain contact with these kinds of people. Have some self-respect and end these relationships.
  • Losers.  Broke, self-destructive, lazy. They are specialists at trying to provoke pity. Their company is guaranteed to exhaust you, which, perversely, causes them to feel better about themselves. Let them go.BeBold

The Bible, always blindingly realistic, provides numerous examples of bad company. It also insists that the follower of Christ be wise, discerning, and bold in maintaining a pollution-free life. For instance, seek out safe relationships with people who:

  • Challenge you. As in encourage, warn, admonish. You need someone in your life with the freedom to say, “Stop being dumb.”
  • Have similar goals. Who share your faith, are children of light. That term, by the way, is biblical. Develop deep and lasting relationships with people headed in the same direction.
  • Encourage your faith. Does this person build you up spiritually? Is your walk stronger after you’ve been with them?

Relationships with good company often have to be intentionally pursued.

So intentionally pursue. You are building a strong, healthy, and productive life for God’s kingdom when you do.

And that’s rather the point, isn’t it? 

In your own life, do you recognize any of the toxic people identified here? If so,what are you willing to do about it?

Food While Traveling, Venice

On the Rialto.

On the Rialto.

Traveling while hungry is my idea of not having a good time.

The sneaky little headache. We migraine sufferers are aware. Very aware. Hunger can be a trigger. Which is bad.

At one point, having eaten the last Sweet and Salty Nut Bar and in the middle of a if-anything-can-go-wrong-it-will trip from Milan to Belgrade, I walked into a duty-free shop in the Malpense Airport and bought a great big bag of peanut M & Ms.                                       

 My little helpers.

My little helpers.

A couple of those cheery little guys and I feel hopeful again.

So, lunchtime our first day in Venice. Our kind hotel host, Fausto, recommends a place called Pizzeria alla Strega, which means, roughly, Pizzeria of the Hag.Their logo is a witch on a broom flying over a creepy house.

 Photo is truncated, but the witch is there, believe me.

Photo is truncated, but the witch is there, believe me.

Instead of looking for something slightly less weird, we sit down in a charming patio with a stone floor and grapevines overhead. My husband, a soupaholic, finds a vegetable/bean soup on the menu. Done.

Lunchtime mafioso.

Lunchtime mafioso.

I order a meat/cheese/pepper pizza and a mixed salad. The staff seems mildly irritated that we are there.The mixed salad is fresh and tasty. Then a flat, colorless round thing arrives. I get through a tasteless piece while wondering if we are in the wrong country.

What does it mean?

Of course, any restaurant that offers this on the menu might not be the one you want to visit:

                                                                   HorseMeat2

The next day, a surprise.

We are on a water taxi on the Grand Canal. I’m trying to marvel at the parade of history on either side in the smothering heat with lunchtime approaching. Must have food. We disembark at the Rialto Bridge. There, right there, is another of the 1,031 restaurants on this island. Typical tables under a typical awning. But it’s pretty full and we’re hungry and they have a picture of a hamburger on their signboard.

We sit down.

I order the hamburger with fries. When it arrives I am mildly suspicious. There sits a beautiful burger. Fresh lettuce and two slices of tomato peek out from a toasty bun. The meat is gently draped in thin-sliced mozzarella. The fries look crispy.

See?

See?

First bite. Oh, my. The crunch of the toasty bun. The fresh veggies, meat nicely seasoned and cooked to perfection. The fries rivaling McDonald’s, which my friend, Carolyn, says are the gold standard.

Delicious.

Sitting by the Grand Canal in Venice in a nondescript eatery on a hot, hot day with throngs of tourists passing by, I have one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever eaten.

Which just goes to show, you just never know.

Thoughts in a Coliseum

VeronaJesus and Verona? Why, yes.

 First, let’s ask:

  • At what point in history would there be relative calm in Palestine?
  • Who would inflict the cruelest possible death?
  • How would the Gospel be spread quickly and efficiently?

Answer? The Romans.

And here we are in Verona with remnants of the Empire everywhere. Massive walls, bridges, and gates.  Everything beautifully engineered.

Sam, Jan, and Katarina on the Roman bridge over the River Adige.

Jan, Sam, and Katarina on the Roman bridge over the River Adige.

We are visiting Sam’s cousin, Jan. He moved to Italy over 20 years ago with his wife, Katarina, and their young daughter, Sabrina. They settled in a little town south of Verona called Isola della Scala.  Wine grapes, corn, sunflowers and, of all things, tobacco are grown in this region of Veneto.

And a bonus: the third largest coliseum in Italy smack in the center of Verona.

 Interior ring under the arena seats.

Interior ring under the arena seats.

The coliseum is almost intact. Finished in 30 a.d., Jesus’ ministry had just begun. He was walking Judean roads as festivals began to be held here. He was ministering in Galilee as gladiators initiated this arena.

He was healing and teaching while the massive, brilliant, cruel empire ascended around Him.

I think about this as we sit high up in the coliseum on the beautiful pink-tinged stone quarried from that region. I think about how the purposes of God transcend completely the most grandiose plans of men.

 Theater seats of Verona stone.

These theater seats don’t recline.

  • Jesus was born at a time when Rome kept Palestine on a tight rein to ensure calm in that fractious area. He traveled about quite freely in His 3½ years of ministry. And people came from long distances to hear Him.
  • The Romans devised methods of torturous death with their usual calculated precision. Hence, crucifixion. Jesus held back nothing with His sacrifice.
  • But here is the final irony: Jesus came when the vast network of Roman roads could speed the Gospel to every corner of the known world. And they did.

Theater and opera now draw crowds where men fought and died for sport. The floor of the arena is being prepared for the night’s performance of Verdi’s Aida. Fake facades are being nailed in place. Large sphinxes are rolled in near tall fake pillars.

 Set prep for Aida. Instead of blood sport.

Set prep for Aida. Instead of blood sport.

While the bones of the once great Roman Empire are now tourist attractions, the blood of the Christ they crucified still saves. For me, sightseeing here is a special pleasure. Reminds me that the Gospel will always survive the hubris of man.

Bellisimo!

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