"I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all Lord has done for us -- yes, the many good things he has done." Isaiah 63:7
A few days ago, I finally had a day of free-time to go on one of my delighted mini-road trips. I need to do this from time to time to awaken my soggy brain with visual stimuli after a nasty Winter and gloomy Spring. So I packed up my sister, and we headed out of the Twin Cities south on old Hwy. 61 (Yes, of Bob Dylan fame) and went out to see some of the gorgeous "Bluff Country" of S.E. Minnesota.
If you ever get the chance to do this, keep your eyes peeled for, what appears to be, a little house attached to a mini-golf course on the west side of the highway about 3 miles south of Wabasha. It's called "L.A.R.K. Toys." I'll tell you more about it later, but for now I'll just say that I purchased some of their homemade fudge while I was there. (To resist this fudge is a modern form of blasphemy.)
Since the purchase of said fudge, I've been bringing the box of it to work each night and sharing it with my friends. I just think that the stuff is so good that I can't help but want to share it so that others can taste how awesome it is. When I come across something that I think is pretty cool, I can't help myself. I just want others to experience it too.
So last night at work, as I was attempting to share the goodies, something I heard from Pastor Rob Bell a while back popped into my head. It was all on how generous, giving, gracious and kind God is. So many of the parables that Jesus told were of God, the kingdom, etc. being fun, joyous and celebratory. In particular, the parable of the great banquet stands out as a great example of this.
"...Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time on the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, `Come, for everything is now ready...and there is much righteous fudge to be had.' But they all alike began to make excuses...Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets & alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' `Sir,' replied the servant, `what you ordered has been done, but there is still room and copious amounts of fudge to be had.' Then the master told his servant, ` Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full, because we simply cannot let this awesome mint/chocolate swirl and amaretto fudge go to waste!" Luke 14:15-24...with my editorializing.
What this Bell pointed out, and appears to be spot on, is that Jesus offers no explanation at all for why this "Certain Man" (God) would throw a banquet in the first place. And this happens over & over again in the parables. God just seems to like to have parties & celebrations. Why? Well, maybe because God is just somehow like that.
Back in the early 70s, Phillipe Petit (Little Phil) decided to string a wire across the World Trade Towers and go for a walk. Not exactly something you see everyday. He was up there dancing around for over 40 minutes. When it was all over, he was arrested. The police arrest record records "Man on Wire" as the official charge.
Here's a clip from the documentary that was made about this event. In the last 30 seconds of this clip, Petit explains why he risked his life in this manner. Pay careful attention to what he says.
"There is no WHY."
And so it may very well be with God.
Perhaps it is merely something innate in the deepest parts of YHWH that causes him to be so generous, gracious, fun-loving and joyful...and digs a good feast...with fudge.
Another interesting example is found in the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25. When the master/God talks to each of the faithful servants he says to them, "Come and share in your master's happiness/joy." He doesn't say that he is going to reward them with a 401k or a nice end-of-year bonus. No. God wants to share his happiness & joy with those who will follow him.
Perhaps it is simply that God desires to pursue Joy, and invites people to share in it.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2
One guy at work last night refused the gift of Praline Swirl fudge. (Blasphemy!) He had legitimate reasons, so I don't dis him for it. But it does make you think about the way we reject God's invitations. I'm not a Calvinist. I don't believe that God is particularly pushy. He invites everyone to his banquet. (Although he does appear to be partial to those who would never be invited to a "Proper" feast with "Polite Company & Respectable People.") But not everyone chooses to come when told of the Gospel/Good News of the divine BBQ...or to eat the fudge when freely given. Ultimately, it is their loss, not God's. Sad really, because it's a pretty awesome party.
Anyway, those were just the thoughts that were running around in my head last night.
More on LARK toys:
First off, check out their website. http://www.larktoys.com/about/
I'd driven past this place for a few years before I decided to drop in. From the road, it doesn't look like much of a place to visit. However, once you are inside, be prepared to spend at least an hour. You simply will not be able to resist. (I'm very serious about that.) It's like walking into some sort of time warp of nostalgia. You instantly regress to being about 10 years of age.
The truth is that the store is a maze of 4 different houses mushed together. The first thing that you will see is a hand-made carousel.
Those are actual pictures of the giant wooden hulks that were hand-craved into moose, dragons, fish and ducks that visitors can ride.
The famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester is about an hour away over the hills from this store. I found out that they will often bring bus loads of children from around the world, who are at the hospital for treatment, to LARK to simply play. It's probably better therapy than a booster shot, I would suppose.
There is also a very unique candy selection at LARK. Obviously, you know about the fudge by now. But wait...there's MORE!
Not just any kind of candy. WEIRD candy!
That's right. Those are onion ring, ranch dressing, bacon and corn dog flavored breath mints.
I purchased a tin of "Juvenile Delinquent Breath Mints." ("Wild, depraved youth with minty fresh breath.") Delicious...and it makes you want to T.P. someone's house.
What is so awesome about LARK is that once you get in the toy area, you quickly discover that it is a maze of rooms connected to each other. Each room has a different theme to it. There are rooms with educational toys, retro toys from decades ago, and even a room full of nothing but awesome children's books. (Plus, the original owner has his massive toy collection on display for all to stand in awe of...and I do mean massive.)
The following are some examples of the weighty tomes that appeal to my stellar intellect.
These last two are semi-autobiographical novels based on the childhood of my friend David. His self-esteem is healthy, so he has no problem dealing with the messiness of his infancy. Plus, he is a good sport and doesn't seem to mind my needling of him. (Either that, or he is as starved for attention as I am.)
You can check out his blog on this link. http://lifewalkblog.wordpress.com/ You're welcome, Dave.
ANYWAY, if you ever DO get the chance to head down Hwy. 61 in Minnesota, make sure you seek this place out. It truly is well worth it. Plus the fudge is simply divine, sayeth the Lord.
P.S. What the heck...