Pastor Darian's Musings

Pastor Darian's Musings


Dad Theology: The Church At Waffle House

This week's blog post was written by my dad, Bill Duckworth. He is an expert on all things Waffle House. He also knows a bit about churches. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“I don’t want to go to church today. Let’s go to Waffle House.”

My wife, Brenda, smiled widely and replied, “Yeah!”

It was an unusual decision for us to forsake Christian fellowship on the designated day for corporate worship. After all, attending church is as routine for us as turning on our air conditioner this time of year. The concept of honoring God by consuming diner food while listening to Hank Williams belt out "I Saw the Light" via a digital jukebox just didn’t seem appropriate for Sunday morning. However, it was revealing.

The Waffle House parking lot was full. The lots of the six churches we passed driving there were not. Waffle House had a line of people waiting for seats. As for those churches, use your imagination. Waffle House was full of hungry energetic people: some drinking coffee in the waiting area, children dancing to Hank’s salvation song, and servers shouting out “Hello! Welcome to Waffle House.” As for the excitement at those six houses of worship, even my imagination can’t go there.

But the real eye openers were the servers and food. The staff transferred customer orders verbally to the master grill operator. (Yes – Waffle House has a hierarchy)

Bacon Crisp (burn it hard)
Double Cheeseburger - Hold the Garden (no lettuce or tomato)
Triple Up (egg yolks staring one in the face like a 3-eyed monster)
My personal favorite-- Hashbrowns Steamed (potatoes cooked in ice over a hot grill).

This place was all about loud music, hungry people, hot food, and anticipation over the sun rising for a new day. As for the activities going on at those six churches… Hmmmm.

I have a real concern for the local churches. As he walked the earth, I see Jesus was similar to Waffle House. He was available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Like a magnet he attracted all kinds of unsavory characters. His food preparation caused people to hunger and follow him throughout the land. As a master grill operator of God’s Word, He provided a place where the common met the holy. Lives were served forgiveness, mercy and redemption. Tainted dishes laced with condemnation, guilt, or shame were not allowed in his house. He made it clear – “I am the Bread of Life” and our local bodies are called to bring his word of life to the hungry and broken hearted. So where do we start? Scratch that. Where do I start?

I must reexamine my place of hierarchy as a processor of God’s Word and ask, “Am I preparing the Word properly? Do I present it with beauty? Will it be an encouraging blessing or a damaging wound to the heart of a searching soul?” As a Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church for the past 10 years, I’m sure my messages presented a mixture of it all rather than providing a filtered purity of Christianity. But thankfully on this day I skipped church and found Jesus working outside its walls without my help.

As I finished my meal, full of cholesterol and saturated fat, I felt good reflecting upon Brother Hank’s third verse:

I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the lord I saw the light.

All of a sudden, a server shouted out, “Recall!”

In Waffle House language, which I speak fluently, that means, “I misspoke the customer’s request. let’s start over.”

She then said calmly, “Porterhouse, Well Done.”

May we all be willing to recognize the wrong orders of our lives, shout our recall to God, and do it righteously the next time. Then we will hear our master grill operator’s response, “Well Done my child, Well Done.”

An Apprentice at God’s House,

Bill Duckworth


Bicycle Theology: The Farewell

In June of 2009 I took a risk: I rode a bicycle for the first time since the era of braces & bangs (a.k.a. junior high).

At first I was wobbly and had to re-learn the gears. With careful patience, I was soon cruising up and down hills along the Mississippi River. By the time I climbed off of the borrowed bicycle, I was making plans to purchase my own two wheels.

Later that year, I found a mountain bike that was affordable and versatile. A bike ride left me with the same feeling as a yoga class. Because I had to focus on what was right in front of me, I could easily forget what had weighed on my mind. Worries seemed to blow away with the wind against my back. I would return home with ideas for “Bicycle Theology”—musings that I wrote for this blog about encountering God in the pedaling.

Along came the year 2012. I moved from Natchez’s gravel roads to the delta’s flat soil. The bicycle made the trek north, too, but something had changed. The mountain bike was no longer comfortable. I thought about trading it in for a road bike. I thought about getting different tires. I tried to ride early each morning, but I dreaded the exercise that I once anticipated.

The truth was: I no longer wanted to ride the bike.

I wanted to walk on two feet at a neighborhood trail instead of riding two wheels around town. I put the bicycle in the storage room and laced up my sneakers.

Then my dog, Isaac, appeared. I had to learn to walk him, and he had to learn to walk me. I told myself that one day I would train him to run alongside the bike. But the more I walked with Isaac, the more clearly I could hear God speak. The wind of the Spirit that had whispered to me on the bicycle was now speaking to me at the pace of a puppy.

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19a, New Revised Standard Version)

Change is difficult because it includes an ending and a beginning. As Isaiah wrote, clinging to the old prevents us from embracing the new. God is constantly presenting us with changes so that we can be more honest with ourselves. How often do we avoid risk-taking in favor of what’s comfortable, familiar, and easy?

We tend to think of change as sudden and drastic. Sometimes, change is much more gradual. God gently eases us into the new in areas as simple as our hobbies. Perhaps in these simple changes God wishes to teach us great truths.

I’m grateful that I took the risk of that bicycle ride five years ago. I’m also grateful that this summer I took another risk and said “farewell” to the bicycle that had brought me much joy and “theology.” My old bike has a new owner. What "old" part of your life might God want to use for someone else's new beginning?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

P.S. Before I bought my bicycle, I borrowed one from the friend of a friend who had a baby. The bike had an baby seat on the back, and another friend dared me to ride around Natchez with a doll in the baby seat. So, I did.