For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


I tapped my MasterCard lightly on the table. It was my first dinner in a French restaurant. The atmosphere was charming and the food was exceptional. Our waiter seemed to anticipate our every need. It had been a perfect evening, but now I was fuming. Our after-dinner coffee was long finished and I wanted to leave, but I did not have the bill. I had seen the waiter glance at our table several times, but he never approached. I resorted to taking out my credit card and tapping on the table. Still nothing. Finally I caught him as he walked by and asked for the bill. He quickly brought it and we were on our way, but my impression of the restaurant had been ruined.

It was only later that I learned that when you eat out in France you are expected to linger and enjoy the evening out. It would be the height of rudeness for them to bring the bill to the table without being asked. It would imply that they want you to leave. What I thought was poor service was just the opposite...in France.


Often the turmoil that we encounter, both internal and external, is the result of unmet expectations. We expect people to behave in a certain way and when they don't we make assumptions about why. Our culture teaches us that there are "right" and "polite" ways of doing things. When people fail to follow these "rules" we are prone to be hurt, confused, or angry. We label people as rude, selfish, or worse. Or we assume that we somehow deserve the mistreatment and spiral into depression. Things can get ugly quickly.

It isn't just living in another country that expectations play a role. They are fertile ground for problems on the job, in marriage, in friendships and in churches. Unmet expectations can affect marriages, friendships, and careers. They can cause problems in churches.

Dealing with expectations begins with humility. Paul wrote, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3 ESV). Humility is a key aspect of the Christian life. Because we are sinners saved by grace, we can have room for other people and their ways of doing things. We become less demanding that others bend to our will and meet our expectations. Having been pardoned for falling short of God's standard, we extend forgiveness to others.

Be a learner. A humble person is willing to learn from others. The fact that there are different ways of approaching problems than we are accustomed to can be annoying. If we are humble, we may discover that a different way is better than our way.
Give the benefit of the doubt. Misunderstandings are much more common than ill-intentions.
Be gracious. We have all had bad days. Days when Murphy's Law (if it can go wrong, it will go wrong) is in full operation. It could be that the person you are dealing with is having one of those days. They probably weren't intentionally cutting you off in traffic, they just realised that they were in the wrong lane and panicked. A little compassion goes a long way.
Clarify. Problems can often be avoided if we take time to clarify expectations at the beginning. This is doubly true when dealing with cultural differences, but it is often helpful to clarify what we are anticipating so that simple misunderstandings can be avoided. For example, a lot of time is spent during premarital counselling talking about what each person anticipates married life to be like. The goal is to have an clear and reasonable expectation of life together.

A Final Observation

I recently returned to the United States on vacation and had the opportunity to go out to eat. After three years of asking for the bill here in France, I was startled when the waiter gave it to me after I had taken a few bites of my meal. I caught myself thinking, "How rude! Do they want me to leave?" Then I remembered I was back in the States and laughed.

Then I indulged in something you shouldn't expect in France: free refills.

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