All posts by Patty LaRoche

Business Casual by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche. 2023

Ages ago, before computers/Google, Dave and I were invited to a party, and “business casual” was the expected attire.  We disagreed on what that looked like.  Hubby leaned more toward the “casual” side.  You know, shorts suitable for a beach party and a tee-shirt with three dolphins in a mid-air leap on the front pocket.  I leaned toward the “business” side: an ankle-length skirt with a really cool jacket atop a lovely V-necked, linen shirt.  We looked like a blind date gone wrong.

“Dave, this isn’t a barbecue at someone’s pool.  We are going to a party in a hotel.”

“Well, Patty, the Marriott is not the Taj Mahal.  You look like you are heading to a wedding.  Or maybe a funeral.”

We both changed clothes.  This time, Dave apparently was going to a job interview for a Fortune 500 company. He could have doubled as a plastic groom on a wedding cake. He told me that I was confusing a rodeo with a classy affair.  (Hubby had no idea how chic cowgirl boots could be.)  Clearly, neither of us had any idea what “business casual” meant.

And neither did anyone at the party.  Men’s attire ranged from suits and ties to—you guessed it—a shirt with dolphins adorning the breast pocket, while women’s clothing ran the gamut from a glittered, semi-formal dress to short-shorts and a lacy tank top.  There were no two people on the same apparel page.

Blame the host and hostess for using words that remain undefined.       Or blame all of us guests for failing to ask what, exactly, “business casual” meant.  But that’s human nature, isn’t it?  We don’t want to appear ignorant, so we fail to ask…which, of course, magnifies our ignorance.

How many times have I done that?  Too many to count.  Especially when it comes to asking God for advice.  After all, I can do it myself…figure it out…solve the problem.  Why bother Him with my piddly little issues?  Why?  Because He tells me to. In the New Testament, we read that Paul spent the years after his conversion to Christianity, relying on God for help.

We are to continually pray in all kinds of situations (Eph 6:18).  From healing our diseases to being given opportunities to disciple someone, to finding a parking spot, to having the willpower to say no to that chocolate-glazed donut, God wants us to bring our needs and desires to Him.  All of them.

Recently, I read about a little girl named Riley whose dad worked for the Christian organization Focus.  Sometimes he would share his youngster’s creative prayers…like this one: “Dear God.  I am amazed at something.  You are truly God.  Heaven is so big, which means it must be heavy—and yet it can hang so high up in the sky above the clouds.  How do you do that?  OK.  I was just wondering.  Amen.”

I have to think that God loved such a heart-felt prayer and the young girl’s desire to take all of her questions to Him. In Luke 18:17, we read that Jesus wants us to learn from children like Riley: Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.                                                                                                                                                     

Our problem isn’t that we can’t get an answer; our problem is that we don’t ask.

A Sally Kind of Friend by Patty LaRoche

You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  John 15:14

“Sally, my flight has been delayed.  I’m not getting in at 9:00.  I’m getting in at midnight, so I’m going to get a hotel room and you can pick me up in the morning.”  My friend would have none of it.  “I don’t care when you get in.  I’m coming to get you.  That way, we have more time together.”  My arguments for a hotel went nowhere.

Getting in to the KC airport at 9:00 was bad enough, but a few weeks previous, when I asked Sally if she would be able to pick me up, let me spend the night at her house in Kansas City and drive me to Fort Scott the next day, she responded, “I thought you’d never ask.”       That’s what she said.  “I thought you’d never ask.”

Who has friends like that?

I know that Sally drives back and forth between KC and Fort Scott a couple of times a week, but I had no idea if this was one of her scheduled days.  Good friends like her make it one, even if it isn’t. What I didn’t realize was that she and Gary, her husband, were making a trip to KC from Fort Scott just to pick me up.  And now, three hours later than intended.

The fact that she made the trip is one thing.  The fact that she did not make me feel guilty about it is another.  This was sacrificial, and I knew it.

When I deplaned at midnight, Sally was waiting for me by baggage claim, arms extended and thanking me for letting her come and get me.  Say WHAT?  And the next day, when she and Gary drove me to Fort Scott, she asked that every time I fly into the KC airport, I give her first chance to pick me up.  No matter what time.

Someone once said, “Tell me with whom you hang, and I will tell you who you are.” I am blessed with wonderful friends I don’t deserve. They know me well but like me anyway. We are transparent with each other.  We laugh and cry together…sometimes at the same time. We empathize with each other’s disappointments and celebrate successes.

Sally makes me realize how important it is to be there for my friends when they need me (or even when they don’t). As I am writing this article, I am reminded that I need to be a Sally kind of friend to Jesus…one who spends more time “hanging” with him, one who always makes him a priority, one whom I greet with arms extended, one who is ready to do his bidding day or night, sacrificially, without grumbling or making excuses.

Look at the scripture at the top of this article: You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. My words are cheap without obedience to Jesus.  If I am nudged to pray for someone in the middle of the night, I immediately should jump out of bed and get on my knees and be grateful for the opportunity; Jesus should know that I am trustworthy and will do as he asks.  If I have a chance to share him with others, I cannot hesitate or decide the timing isn’t quite right or hope someone else steps in to give his/her testimony.  I should never remind my Savior of what I have done for him or brag about those actions to other people.

Sally might think that the only thing she has done for me is provide transportation and a room.  In reality, she unknowingly has demonstrated how much I need to learn about being a great friend, a sacrificial friend…to others, but especially to Jesus.

The Truth of Truth by Patty LaRoche

I love a healthy debate.  One in which facts prevail with no ad hominem attacks.

As a former high school debate coach, there are few competitions that I remember like one in which Ryan and Ben, juniors, were in the quarter-finals in hopes of winning state.  I sat in on that debate and don’t remember much of what the opponents said except they were “not legalizing marijuana.” So, when it was our team’s turn to speak and Ben spent his entire eight minutes arguing against the legalization of marijuana, I was stunned.  Had our team not heard the affirmative team say that this was not part of their plan?

When it was time for the affirmative to question (cross-ex) Ben, the first thing she said was this: “Did you not hear us say we are not legalizing marijuana?”  Ben said that he did.  “But you spent your entire speech addressing the evils of doing so, correct?”  “Correct,” Ben answered.

I was dumbfounded.  What had just happened?  The debate progressed with much confusion…until it was Ryan’s turn to speak.

“In today’s debate, our opponents have laid out a plan to solve a problem.  They have used one site, one book,  repeatedly to defend their position.  The fact is, I have read that book and its author’s recommendations, but what the affirmative failed to tell you is that their author himself wrote his final chapter on how the only way his plan could work is if marijuana is legalized.”

At that point, Ryan pulled from his stash of evidence that exact quote. He concluded: “The affirmative can’t have it both ways.  If they are to advocate for what this author said, they cannot pick and choose what they tell you is truth.”

I wanted to stand and cheer.

I’m sure Ryan and Ben were glad I didn’t.

There was nothing left for the affirmative to say.  Our team won that debate and went on to win state.  Their strategy was brilliant.  They had truth on their side.  They had done their homework.                                                                                                              I

I’ve often mentally revisited that debate, especially when I run into people who opt to argue a position for which they have studied only one side.  Take the Bible, for example.  I know people who pick and choose what part of scripture they believe.  They argue that the Bible is full of errors.  Others say that there is no hell.  Some believe that being a good person is enough to go to Heaven; after all, a loving God surely can’t banish someone to eternity without Him.  Some claim that Jesus was a good person, but there is no truth of his resurrection.  And then there’s the predictable argument: Why would a good God allow evil?

Make no mistake.  I don’t claim to be smarter than those who deny the truth of scripture.  What I do know is there was a day when I had denied God’s love for me, when my religion wasn’t enough to carry me through a very sad time in my life, but God never gave up on me.  In 1977, He got my attention.  What happened that day is nothing short of miraculous.  I went from wanting nothing to do with Him to knowing He loved me, saved me, as He opened my eyes to seek Him in ways I never imagined.

Read the Book.  The Bible. Read the entire thing.  Read a commentary on what the Greek and Hebrew words actually mean. Countless testimonies address how simply reading Scripture changed peoples’ lives.

This is no game.  I gain nothing if I am right and those who deny scripture are wrong.    The only winner here is one who cares not that he/she has the smartest answer but that that individual stops arguing about truth and gives God a chance to reveal it.  He did it for me.  I pray you let Him do it for you.


For The Shame of It by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

If you watch the news, you saw it.

A public relation’s nightmare unfolded in the White House.

Barak Obama, the U.S. President from two terms previous to Joe Biden, was invited to speak to a group of selected Democrats applauding the 10th anniversary of Obama Care, a universal health care program unearthed under Obama’s tutelage.

Following the charismatic Obama’s talk, those in attendance encircled him, fawning over this opportunity to be near their political hero.

The cameras caught a rejection tragedy live, for President Joe Biden looked like a lost soul, struggling to find someone to pay attention to him.  Biden meandered on the outskirts of the celebratory Obama swarm, reminding me of middle schoolers sitting alone at a cafeteria table, desperate to be noticed.

The airways played that tape ad nauseum.

One doesn’t have to be a Biden fan (but everyone should respect the position of President) to imagine what those few moments of feeling like a “nobody” had to be like. I mean, I’ve known rejection, but never in view of the entire world.  Here he was, the president of the most powerful nation in the world, and no one cared.

A week later, someone sent out a musical version of President Biden first trying to get Obama’s attention, only to finally give up, wander aimlessly in the background and ultimately reach for the hand of some woman in the audience. The song “All By Myself” played in the background, and I thought, this scene by itself is tragic enough; adding a musical score truly compounds the humiliation.   

 But then I realized something.  If Jesus—whose humanity was a picture of rejection– wasn’t above such shaming, why should any human, no matter how powerful, be different?  And yes, I know that Jesus had no music accompanying his tortuous death, but he did have celebratory Roman guards competing for his clothing and mocking his pain.  More tragically, on the cross he endured the ultimate rejection. Matthew 27:45 tells us that at the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  God Himself had turned His back on His son, the one representing the sins of the world—us! —for which he willingly gave up his life.                                                                                                                                                     Rejection hurts, so if we felt sorry for President Biden when Obama turned his back on him, I get it.  But maybe it needs only to point us to the rejection we deserved but never endured.


A Site of Delight by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

After giving up EVERYTHING except the clothes on their backs, three Afghanistan families—a total of 19 people– have been relocated to Fort Scott in the past month, and I am so proud of the efforts and generosity lavished on them by our community.

This Thanksgiving, our son and daughter-in-law, Adam and Jenn, invited those families to join us for a day of celebration.

Two other local families extended an invitation as well, knowing that they were adding 19 to their dinner plans!

Love at its finest.

The Afghanis brought delicious culinary dishes to our gathering and spent the day giving thanks for the many blessings they have received since entering our country and our town.

The Dept. of Defense coordinator—who had worked in Afghanistan with these families for 20 years—and his wife and young daughter showed up to celebrate this holiday.

He, more than anyone, knew of the sacrifices these three fathers had made to protect our soldiers from the enemy.

Jenn might not be in the military, but she has been a soldier and a saint in resettling these three families.

From purchasing houses to handling doctor appointments to enrolling eight of the kids in school to scheduling haircuts and eyeglass fittings to giving them rides as they shop for food and school clothes and window treatments, she has been tireless in welcoming these heroes.

Just trying to follow her schedule prompted me to send an email to 40 friends from all parts of the country, asking for prayer. The response was overwhelming.

Clearly, God was working, and as only God can do, in gigantean ways.

Others stepped up to help! A table and chairs purchased from Iron Star. A set of exquisite dishes (which I gladly would have exchanged for mine). Beds and bedding and couches and pictures and a new microwave and a car full of toys. An offer from a former teacher to help with the language barrier. Gift cards and checks and food delivered to their door. Neighbors bringing over boxes of kitchenware, rugs, utensils and meals.

Overwhelming! Today, after hearing that the Afghanistan’s wanted to celebrate Christmas, there were more blessings when one local couple and one Stillwell, Kansas, family delivered Christmas trees and containers of decorations to the families.

My husband and I were there to see the immeasurable joy shared as the young children wedged every single adornment they unpacked into the pine needles. Not exactly a site of beauty. But certainly a site of delight. (Children’s giggles do that, you know.)

What I couldn’t help but notice, however, was that inside their front doors hung the American flag.

Sometimes our blessing as Americans is to share our blessings.

I don’t think there’s a better way to celebrate what author Meg Bucher called the “holiday associated with Pilgrims and Native Americans which symbolizes intercultural peace, American’s opportunity for newcomers, and the sanctity of home and family.”

I’m pretty sure the Afghanistan families would agree.

Mental Illness by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

My friends, Sue and Jessica, are finding their faith stretched. Sue’s mother, Edith, shows signs of mental illness. So does Jessica’s son, a victim of drug-induced schizophrenia. The emotional roller-coaster ride upon which my dear friends ride is grievous. One day, the mentally ill individuals are kind and trusting; the next, they are paranoid and accusatory. My friends constantly are looking for verbal weapons to combat the struggle.

A few minutes ago, I hung up from a phone call with Sue. Her elderly mother last month was told that she has only a few months to live, so my friend and her husband, John, traveled to her home in Texas to help clean up the mess created by her hoarding and inability to handle her finances.

After years of not being allowed in her mother’s house, time was up. Things were worse than expected. Unpaid bills and stock reports piled in heaps amidst hundreds of magazines and newspapers.

It was obvious that John needed to acquire a power-of-attorney to protect his mother-in-law. Edith signed the documents. Which lasted about two weeks. Sue’s mother then began accusing her only daughter and husband of taking advantage, stealing her gold coins and documents from her safety deposit box. The details aren’t necessary.

Sue wept as she shared the latest allegations, all unfounded. No amount of reason could change her mother’s decision…until, that is, her mind flipped into a loving, understanding, accepting perspective. Once again, John could have the power of attorney…until, that is, Edith trumped up more reasons to negate her judgment.

Jessica’s son, filled with guilt over past regressions, remains hopeless and unable to see how God wants to turn his badness into goodness. (God’s good at that, you know.) I shared with Jessica of pastors who had turned from their evil ways to lead growing, dynamic churches, after repenting and admitting their failures, and I asked that she share that with her son.

Mind and Soul Foundation documents that 25% of Christians suffer from a form of mental illness, yet most are ashamed to admit their issues. Both of my friends understand the complexities of dealing with dysfunctional loved ones and are continuing to love and support their mentally-ill relatives.

Still, loving the unlovely might be the most difficult challenge we all are asked to do.

God is our example of how to pull it off since He never gives up on us.

As Christians, we are to be mindful of damaging things we say to those who suffer from mental illness. “Surrender your infirmity to God.” “You can will this away.” “God is testing your faith.” “Jesus is calling you to repent of your sins.”

Psychologists question why we would ask such things, citing how we wouldn’t say that to a cancer victim. (Sadly, I have heard those “helpful” messages expressed to people with physical illnesses.)

Sometimes, no words are the best words. Merely practicing the ministry of presence might be the most powerful weapon on which we can rely.

Guess Who Is Coming to Dinner? by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Joan’s neighbor invited Greg and Joan and another couple over for dinner. They live in an affluent suburb of Kansas City, and ever since the neighbors moved in, Greg and Joan have attempted to make small talk but found the new residents rather odd. Perhaps this was a break-through, a chance to see that their first impressions were wrong. Greg asked what they could bring for dinner but was told it would be catered, so they were to bring nothing.

My friend Joan shared with a group of us what happened when they arrived for dinner. The visiting foursome were brought into the kitchen and told to help themselves. On the stove was one covered pot. They were to use the tongs and grab one of the six hotdogs boiling in the pot. Six buns lie on a paper plate, ketchup and mustard were in their squeezable containers, and small bags of potato chips lie nearby. All were given water to drink. That was it: wieners, condiments, buns, chips and water. I’ve been to dinner at Joan’s. She puts her best palate forward when hosting guests. Appetizers are stunning, both in presentation and taste, and meals are feasts. Joan said that she and her husband avoided eye contact with the two couples for fear of bursting into hysterics. They looked for ways to praise the meal but could think of none. I mean, what do you say? “Your caterer really knocked herself out this time.” “Goodness, these must be Nathan’s all-beef wieners. Yum.”

The one-wiener-per-person miserliness was not nearly as objectionable as the conversation which centered around how the hosts had met. When the wife first was introduced to her (now) husband’s mother, the mother commented that she was shocked her son had a girlfriend because she “always thought he was gay.” Joan said the host showed no reaction, assuming this was not the first time he had heard his wife reveal that information. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

Joan and Greg are Christians and know that they are to love the unlovely. They realize that they need to be sharing Jesus with their unpleasant friends because very likely, that’s what God planned when the couple moved in next door. Since that night, however, she and her husband have avoided their neighbors. Our guilt-ridden friend questioned if they should reciprocate the dinner invitation in hopes of enlightening their neighbors to what real hospitality looks like. Still, she admitted, the food was the least of their concerns.

What made that woman divulge such private information about her husband in front of strangers? And how do those strangers then respond to such a comment? None of us had answers except that we Christians all live by the command “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And since this is a literal neighbor, well…ignoring them doesn’t seem to be a viable option. Joan shared that she is praying about the matter, but when we pressed her, she admitted that she is praying that her neighbors move. Although we all know God can’t be pleased with such a petition, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t be doing likewise.


Pray For Our Leaders by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

I recently returned from my annual trip with five sorority sisters. This time, things weren’t quite as funny as they usually are since we ended up in the E.R., concerned that one of the girls had a blood clot. (She did not.)

While waiting for her ultrasound, I noticed a man in the waiting room wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat. I thanked him for his service; several people followed. “John” was there because of the extensive damage done to him by Agent Orange. His explanation of how the veterans of his era were mistreated upon returning home was interrupted by the technician calling his name.

The next time we had a chance to visit was when my girlfriend and I left the hospital. There was John, leaning against a pillar, trying to catch his breath. We walked him to his car, thanked him again and said goodbye.

Three days later, on the day of the U.S.-Afghanistan pull-out, I met an Afghanistan veteran, the nephew of one of my girlfriends, who shared that he wept when he heard the news. “I carried a burn victim from his armored car after driving across an I.E.D. while on patrol, and I had friends who came home without legs or arms. And for what?” he questioned. I had no answers, but I knew that if I were the loved one of a soldier who had sacrificed life or limb or sanity for that cause, and now we weren’t sure we could even rescue those who had helped our military, I would be grieving.

But what if grief is not enough of a response? As I write this, I am watching television to see the madness of hundreds (thousands?) of Afghani civilians scrambling to get to the airport. Carrying only a satchel or small bag, they appear desperate. At a press briefing, an Afghani journalist fights back tears as she asks the Pentagon spokesman what will happen to all of the women who finally can hold a job and not be mistreated by their husbands. She dons her face mask, a flag from her country that she left 20 years ago, the same time our country went to her native land’s aid, and implores our leaders not to abandon what has been accomplished.

My friend emails that his military buddy has spent the night in hiding with three Afghans who worked as interpreters for the U.S. They and their families (a total of 14) have just safely arrived at the airport. Is there any room for them in my friend’s hometown?

I think of myself, sitting in the comfort of my air-conditioned living room, every thirty minutes moving a sprinkler around my yard (Heaven forbid my grass turns brown!) while watching on television as our leaders explain how necessary this ending is. And yes, I get that we should not stay in another country forever. I get that 20 years should be enough time to train a militia. I get that no more lives should be lost.

Still… Should these evacuees come to our area, will I help? Really help, not just talk about it? I’m sure that’s what Jesus would have me do. Please, Readers, let us not put our heads in the sand and fail to be moved with compassion. If ever there was a time to be in prayer for the decisions our country’s leaders make, this is it. It’s the least we can do. Actually, it’s also the most.


RSVP Part 2 by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Several years ago, Nicole Contos was scheduled to be married in a Manhattan church.

She showed up, 250 invited guests showed up, but the groom didn’t. He took off for Tahiti, the intended honeymoon location. So, there she was with a $100,000 reception and no wedding. What did she do?

She did the same thing the king in Matthew 22 did when his son’s reception didn’t turn out as planned. She said, “The food is ready, the drink is ready. We’re gonna have a party. And she did.” Last week, we looked at Jesus’ parable of a wedding ceremony in which a king’s invited guests opted not to come to his son’s marriage feast and killed the servants who came looking for the no-shows. Not a smart plan, since the king had an army at his disposal and sent it to annihilate the killers. (Not exactly a memorable marriage moment.) The parable doesn’t end there, however. The king then sent word for anyone and everyone to come and fill the seats for the banquet, and come they did.

Every down-and-out, every castle cast-off, came running.

But this is where the story turns wacky. The king, checking on his guests, noticed a man “who did not have on a wedding garment.” When asked why, the guest remained mute. “Then the king said to the servants, ’Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14). A little over-kill, perhaps?

Tell me your heart doesn’t ache for the poor man. I mean, perhaps he had no fine clothes. Did his last-minute invitation come with a “formal attire” heads-up? Did everyone else have time to run home, sponge off in the Jordan River and don sequined togas?

I’m guessing not.

So, why is this guy singled out? Commentators write that none of these eleventh-hour invitees would have had appropriate clothing. The king would have supplied the guests’ apparel; all they had to do was to put it on. But this guy wouldn’t even do that much. He decided to come on his own terms instead of submitting to the king’s wishes.

Jesus’ point is well taken. The Jews—listening to Jesus as he spoke– had plenty of opportunities to R.S.V.P. favorably to God’s invitation to follow His commandments. God even sent His son, Jesus, but most of the Jews refused to believe that he was the Messiah. They said they would obey. They didn’t.

We’ve all met them. God has invited our neighbors, friends and relatives to be a part of His kingdom feast, yet they choose to remain spiritually sloppy. Most can’t find the time to participate, and many who come fail to completely submit. But are we just as guilty? Do we daily respond to God’s prodding, to serve Him before ourselves, to maintain the same enthusiasm we had when we first answered His call, to live up to kingdom standards? “Many are called but few are chosen.”

The choice is ours to make.

R.S.V.P. by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Répondez s’il vous plait. Simplified, we use “R.S.V.P.” instead of the French words meaning “Please reply.” The courtesy extended when one sends such a response can make an event go smoothly. The discourtesy extended when one fails to respond or disregards the invitation’s intention can cause chaos.

This past weekend Jeff, our oldest son, was married on a mountain top in Colorado. Because of Covid, only 30 people were permitted at the wedding site, but 120 were allowed at the reception. Part of the invitation included other activities that week such as an Olympic-style competition and a golf tournament. R.S.V.P.’s were critical for teams to be organized ahead of time. Colored headbands and wristbands had been ordered to indicate team membership for the eight Olympic events, and foursomes were designed around fair competition for golf. Most invitees took their responses seriously. Others, not so much. “Sorry, Bro, but I can’t make it today” (sent 30 minutes before the games began). “I’ll be an hour late. Hope that’s not a problem.” (Of course it was a problem.) “I’m bringing along a buddy. Please put him in my golf foursome.” “I know I said I couldn’t come, but things changed, so I’ll be there.” These were just a few of the replies that caused inconveniences. Some failed to respond but showed up, and others responded as coming but failed to show up. One team ended up with one person instead of the eight required to compete. Jeff’s brothers had to redesign teams because of last-minute cancellations, causing the entire Olympic events to start an hour later than scheduled. Sooooo unfair to the teammates who were there on time! If you’ve ever been in charge of organizing an activity that depended on people showing up, you know how frustrating it can be when they fail to take their R.S.V.P. seriously. You spend hours and hours getting everything ready. You work hard and are excited about what you’ve got planned. But then eight arrive instead of the 25 you counted on. Jesus had plenty to say about invited guests who fail to show up. In Mt. 22, he compared Heaven to a wedding banquet a king prepared for his son. Invitations had gone out ahead of time, but when the ceremony started, there were no-shows. Twice the king sent out his servants to find the guests, reminding them that the food was ready, but they had other plans. Some “seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.” The enraged king dispatched his army to destroy the murderers and burn their city. Fortunately, nothing so dramatic happened at Jeff’s weekend of activities, but Jesus took this snub very seriously. Let’s pick up in verse eight where his parable points to the Jews who, denying Jesus, were replaced with the Gentiles: Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. And everyone lived happily ever after. Ummm…maybe not. Next week we will look at one man who chose to come, but on his terms. It was an R.S.V.P. with eternal consequences.

Francis Chan by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

After years of watching Francis Chan’s sermons on line and following his transformation from leading a mega-church to evangelizing in China to starting living room churches, I recently had a chance to meet him. Between speaking engagements in the Kansas City area, he, a few missionaries, and their families were at my son Adam’s ranch, enjoying the peace and quiet of Midwest country life. Since my Zoom Bible study for the past 22 weeks had dealt with his book Crazy Love, I couldn’t wait to share how much he impacted our group. Our conversation was light and fun, centering around his wife and children, some details of his ministry and the experience he and his team were having in K.C. Somehow the conversation turned to my trials in raising three sons, and the group of adults seemed amazed that a teenager as challenging as Adam could turn out to be so kind and gracious. (Only by the grace of God.)

That’s when Adam told Francis that I had been in the Bible study based on his book. He questioned who led it. I told him. He brought out his phone and asked how to spell the leader’s name. Strange, I thought, but I spelled “Frank Guidara” and added, “He’s the one who organized the Zoom call.” Francis checked his phone and said that he didn’t have that name in his accounts. “Is there another name the study could have registered under?” I was becoming alarmed. “Dale somebody led it. I don’t know his last name.” Alarm was morphing to panic. “Most are Vietnam vets and their wives,” I added, trying to give some credibility to our little group. Surely he wouldn’t charge a fee to a group of retired, military heroes!

No one in my group had mentioned paying a registration fee to use Crazy Love for a Bible study. I was throwing a whole group of Christians under the bus, the longer I talked. “I’m just kidding. We never had a Bible study,” I said, trying to add some humor to this ridiculously awkward situation. Everyone laughed, but then Francis continued. “That’s just so strange that there doesn’t seem to be any registration for your group.” All eyes were on me, and although I usually appreciate it when that happens, this was different. It was then that Lisa, his wife, turned to her husband. “Since when do people have to register to use your book?”

Francis started cracking up. “I’m just messing with Patty. Of course, no one has to register to do a Bible study!”

He had me. Everyone—even Francis’ close friends—started laughing. And so did I. The evangelist said that if I could raise Adam and find delight in his antics, I must have a good sense of humor. Somehow, he understood me, and I loved it. And I loved his realness. The same man who once confronted his congregation, expressing his fear that the majority of them were lukewarm Christians who would never make it to Heaven, could have turned this time into a stern sermon, or at least could have asked for my take on his thought-provoking book. Instead, he brought levity into the conversation.

I need to learn from Francis. Everything doesn’t have to be a “Heaven or Hell” lecture or have a spiritual message. Sometimes we just need to bring joy into our exchanges so that others will want to hang with us which, in turn, will reveal the reality of who Christ is in us. No doubt, that is a huge part of Francis Chan’s ministerial success.