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FIRST-PERSON: It’s time to retrieve that old inner tube

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–Several years ago, I read that the average American gained seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This year I could only manage four pounds, but I gave it a shot. After all, it’s a matter of good citizenship, of doing your fair share, much like planting a Victory Garden in World War II. But it’s more than citizenship. It’s a matter of Christian virtue.

The apostle James was called “Camel Knees” for the calluses he gained in persistent prayer. Let me suggest a similarly honorable name, “Old Inner Tube.”

This will take a little explaining, so here goes. My own weight gain can be attributed to the following:

1. Concern for the unchurched. Our church held an outreach banquet of traditional fare, with turkey, dressing, potatoes, pumpkin pie, etc. Imagine the chilling effect on the event if the pastor had merely picked at his food.

2. Concern for parents/family. When you drive from Chicago to Arkansas to see family for Christmas, you’re not traversing the tofu and bean sprout belt. Long, weary hours behind the wheel incline one toward junk food abuse. And once you arrive, you don’t want to slight your loved ones’ cooking.

3. Concern for relationships with fellow pastors. When the association sponsors a banquet for church planters and their families, how can you refuse?

4. Concern for sacrificial service. When you forsake the balmy climes of Dixie for the Snow Belt, you can expect the two feet of snow we saw in December. And as sidewalks filled with snow, fitness walks proved nearly impossible.

5. Concern for stewardship of the body. Ice can make for nasty spills. It’s far more prudent to stay inside on the couch.

6. Concern for Christian study. Oh sure, I could have played in the snow, but I felt compelled to spend those hours at work on sermons and other edifying items, such as you see here.

7. Concern for integrity. Sharon is secretary to an elementary school principal, and the teachers showered her with gifts at Christmas. How could we express honest appreciation for those chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks if we had not tested them?

8. Concern for interfaith understanding. A Jewish friend invited us to a Bat Mitzvah. A feast goes with it. What’s a sensitive Baptist to do but feast?

9. Concern for piety. Who can ignore the culinary bounty of God’s creation? He didn’t give us the wherewithal to fashion candy canes, sugar cookies, and eggnog for nothing.

10. Concern for solidarity with the morally courageous. Cracker Barrel has taken some serious hits for resisting the homosexuality-normalization agenda. By eating there, we stood with them in their time of trial.

So you see, these four extra pounds are the reflection of duty done. I could have stayed leaner, but how could I have faced my family and friends, those who believed in me?

When I was a kid, I loved the character stories they told us in Vacation Bible School — how J.C. Penney was generous with his money; how Olympic pole-vaulter Bob Richards was unapologetic about his faith. Perhaps the VBS workers would like to add the story of “Old Inner Tube” to their resource kit. I offer it free of charge.
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. Other reflections by Coppenger can be seen at www.listten.com and www.comeletusreason.com.

    About the Author

  • Mark Coppenger