A bowl of red soup, a cup of laughter

I belong to a group strangely named – P.I.P. – which stands for Pastors In Prayer. We gather a couple of times each month with no agenda other than to spend a couple of hours talking to each other and to the Lord. Most meetings are relatively small, just 4 to 8 middle-aged white male types who share a similar life experience and calling to pastoral ministry. Just like church, some meetings are better than others. Sometimes we just get together, pray rather perfunctory prayers, and go home. Sometimes are like yesterday’s meeting. We had a hard time ‘getting spiritual.’ I don’t know why, but we were in high spirits, making fun of each other’s foibles, laughing at the ‘stuff’ that each of us is dealing with in our lives. Harry called us to prayer and read us some Scripture. As I knelt, I felt God, the Spirit, come near. When Chris prayed for each of us, by name, it was sweet to be lifted up. Later, we decamped to Enzo’s for lunch. The company of friends and the cup of laughter made my bowl of red soup more satisfying than a full course meal.

Here’s a curious thing. Every other Thursday, right around 11 am, things come up which make me think, “Maybe I should skip the PIP meeting today and take care of that situation.” I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I am convinced that the Enemy of my soul tempts me to neglect this important gathering because he knows the strength and encouragement that I find in the company of other Pastors when we seek the Lord’s face together!

All Believers need other Believers in their lives who understand and accept them, who can poke holes in their pretensions, and pray for them with true empathy. We need to be able to laugh and retreat from the work that piles up around us, not just in solitary pursuits, but in the company of our brothers. There is something godly and worshipful about sharing life at that level and then taking our cares to the One who sits on Heaven’s Throne! That is why we read in the Word- “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT)

Something has gone wrong with a kind of Christianity that thinks that a nicely ordered, and often rather impersonal, worship service is it! Yes, the corporate worship experience is a valuable time to learn the Word, to sing and pray together. But, we need a little group where we don’t have to be polite and/or explain ourselves, where both our tears and our laughter are welcomed, where we are encouraged to stay in the race. Many of us are so committed to function and purpose, we fail to appreciate just how valuable it is to take time regularly to sit down and just be a brother or sister to somebody. The greater pressures in your life, the more stress you are dealing with, the more you need this kind of camaraderie. It doesn’t just happen, either. Fellowship (a much over used word) requires that we make getting together a priority. It means we endure some meetings where the “it” factor is missing, where nothing seems to happen. It means that we work at building trust, that we set aside our images and get transparent.

Believer, I am convinced that in addition to all the programs of church; genuine Christianity involves time for sharing a bowl of soup and a cup of laughter. May God draw us together in the love of Jesus.

Making your way in the world today
takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your worries,

sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go where
everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,

our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where

everybody knows your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where

everybody knows your name.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name
– Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

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