Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wishing You A Mary Christmas

The New York Restaurant Critics’ 1982 calendar featured Barbetta Restaurant on its front cover - a coveted honor.  Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor made a habit of dining at Barbetta (in New York’s Theatre District) after taking in a show.

On a visit to New York in ’82, Alyse, I, and a good friend made an “out-of-our-league” pilgrimage to Barbetta.  This friend “had a friend” who formerly managed Barbetta.  She told us to present ourselves at Barbetta as her guests and we’d receive the star treatment.  She was right!

The current manager anticipated our arrival and seated us at a prime table.  Appetizers were on the house.  For entrées, I probably got chicken parmesan or something pedestrian.  I don’t remember what our friend ordered, but I’ll never forget what Alyse ordered – or better – HOW she ordered.

She studied the impressive menu like it was a college textbook.  When our waiter came to take our order, Alyse folded her menu, laid it on the table, looked directly at the waiter and said unequivocally, “Tell the chef to cook for me whatever he would like me to have.”

The waiter, my friend, and I responded with stunned silence.  She made her request with such certainty that the waiter dared not even double check her instructions.  It was a spectacular moment.  Back to the table after a word from our Sponsor:
While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  (Luke 11:27-28)
There is a strong inclination to revere the mother of Jesus, reasonably so.  Some people go so far as to call her “the Mother of God”.  I’m not going to admonish others on what to say, but I’ll point out that Jesus did admonish the woman.  When a “woman in the crowd” tried to elevate Mary, Jesus quashed the thought immediately.  “ON THE CONTRARY!”  Jesus wasn’t having any idol-worship even if it was for His own mother.  But let’s note who He did say was blessed, “those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  But hold on here, I happen to remember another word from our Sponsor:
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
My wife’s middle name is Alyse.  Her first name is Mary.  What my Mary did in Barbetta in 1982 is exactly what Jesus’ Mary did 2000 years ago.  They both trusted the one who was in control of the outcome.  I’m a picky eater (or so EVERYONE ELSE says).  I imagine that chefs get a little annoyed at guests who “hold this” and “add that”.  They’ve put together the menu with thoughtfulness and pride.  Who am I to call a change up?  Well, I’m the customer, amn’t I?  After all, I’m paying for this meal.  I’m going to stuff it in my mouth.  “The customer is always right.”  Well, sure, if you’re talking about a brick and mortar restaurant serving food for the body.  But there is no spiritual parallel.

God knows what is best for us (see Isaiah 55:8-9).  I want to caution “cafeteria Christians” - picking and choosing what part of God’s wisdom to ingest.  “I’ll have a plate of No Killing, but hold the No Lying.  For dessert, I’ll have some Gossip with a dollop of Lust, but I’m watching my hate so I’ll stay away from the Anger cobbler.”

Mary, both of them, agreed with the one in control BEFORE they knew what the outcome would be.  That is FAITH.  “Blind” faith?  Give me a break.  My Mary trusted that Barbetta didn’t build a legendary reputation by stiffing tourists with a string of spaghetti doused in ketchup.  Jesus’ Mary trusted God.  She didn’t have to know the outcome to know that God would not give her more than she could handle.  Her faith was in God, not the outcome.

When you know the character of the one you trust, you don’t have to worry about the outcome. 

I’ve got to tell you the end of the story.  First off, no, I can’t for the life of me remember what Alyse ate.  Neither can she.  The experience totally eclipsed the dish.  But I can assure you, it was spectacular.

Secondly, this was our first trip to NYC and we didn’t understand the patterns and rhythms of the place.  We kind of stumbled our way around town without understanding how things work.  As we finished our meals, the manager – a cross between a Cuban refugee and Rodney Dangerfield – came to our table and said, “When you’re ready to leave, you let me know.”  At the right time, we signaled our departure.  The manager motioned to a busboy, whispered something, sent him out the door, and asked us to wait just a moment.

Here’s what we figured out during our wait - cabs don’t routinely travel on cross-streets looking for passengers, they stick to the north-south arteries.  Barbetta is on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.  Our busboy sprinted 200 yards west to 9th Ave, hailed a cab, and rode it clockwise back to us – east on 47th, back down 8th, and west to Barbetta’s front door.  The busboy hopped out of the cab and held the door open for us!  What incredible service.

Friends, followers of Jesus agree in advance to the direction of God’s leading.  FAITH AGREES WITH GOD IN ADVANCE.  If you truly trust God to have only your best interests at heart, stop being so picky!  Close the menu and thank God in advance for He has planned for you.  You will NOT be disappointed!

And by the way, Mary Christmas!

Clark H Smith

Did you know that Barbetta was a BBQ joint.  Well, ok, not exactly, but if you find the history of words interesting, I think you’ll enjoy this post at another site of mine.

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