The First Church of Panera


The feeling washed over me as I sat:  this is why I came.   Looking at those 4 children, sitting around the table at Panera, Bibles open, I was reminded once more “This is why I came.”

It’s well-known among my friends that I like going to “the first church of Panera” now and again to have my Bible study time.  This morning, however, “they” wanted to come too.  And Harley had just shown up as well.  Harley is not my grandson–just a neighborhood friend we love and usually take everywhere we go but was I up for 4 at Panera?  For my Bible study time?  “OK, OK, OK,”  I relented.  “Harley, do you have a Bible?”  “YES I DO,” he nods in expectation.  “Then go get it.”  Soon he’s back and we all pile into the van.  I grab a family devotional book on the way out thinking someone might like that as well.

I park and realize that MY Bible and my study tools are in MY CAR, not in the van!  Ah well, there we were.  No turning back now!  So much for my own Bible reading!   We scurry in and with their $2 budgets the kids make their selections, receiving their own plates.  Such excitement over that!  Nonny takes the longest because SHE gets a bagel toasted 2-3 times but finally we all sit around the table.  Bibles are open.  The two 7 year-olds are early readers; the 5 year-old has the picture Bible.  Still, with reverence, they look through the pages.  After a time I open the family devotional book and choose the story of Ishmael and Hagar.  There’s an angel in it–thought that’d get their attention.  Introductory questions are asked.  Children respond, the story is read and we talk.  One more story (another angel):  Jacob and his dream about the stairway to heaven.  More questions.  Then I ask Laurena to read from Isaiah 43–just the first few verses.  The younger ones are challenged to find the word “God” on their pages.  Harley finds one and hands me his Bible–I read the passage.  Then Laurena wants to sing a song she learned at VBS.  Ryan, not to be upstaged, sings Jesus Loves Me.  Then Harley remembers a song from church camp about being a sheep.  He struggles to remember ALL the words but gets through it and we are delighted.

Can you picture this?  Can you envision how lovely, how beautiful, how precious this sight is? As I sit and observe their eating and their talking  I remember—I reflect—then I rejoice– -in this visual aid before my eyes.  Even with all the unusual circumstances of my coming and  my personal situation even now I am overcome with peace and joy.

Yes, this is why I came.


About Charlotte Bishop

I'm a relatively young grandmother of three, Laurena, 9, Evan, 7 and Ryan 5. I moved to TN from Lowell, MA to help my daughter with her children so she could go back to school full time. My parents are helping as well; there are four generations of us living together right now. It's an unusual thing nowadays but it's a blessed time. The kids and my daughter moved here in 2009 after living with me for 3 years. I followed in 2010. Though I knew without a doubt I was called by God to come here it has been a big adjustment for me. Though I grew up in the South, I'd been away since March 1989. I'd lived away from HOME since l977. That's a long time to be away from the tribal peoples and lands I must say. I am an early childhood special education teacher by profession and that is why I am able to even consider for a MOMENT taking 4 children to Panera at one time. Lastly, the daughter and the children are thriving, thanks to God's provision.

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