The Table and Why We Gather

My friend Tim is a creative genius who writes, builds, makes good music and other stuff telling the story of God. When he was single, he spent many nights around our dinner table. The table we had at the time was an old traditional looking piece the previous homeowner left for us when we moved in. One night, after some good food and conversation, Tim declared he actually hated our table. The next day, he showed up with a stunning handcrafted table made out of reclaimed wood he had in his garage. It was indeed a labor of love I will never forget.

Several years later, that table wore out and another good friend, another mom of boys who knew we love to have people around our table,  gifted us their table. In the words of my five-year-old, it’s a “ginormous” white farm table that comfortably seats ten.

Some of my favorite moments around tables have been in my home with friends, talking about Jesus. What we think of Him, what He is teaching us in His word and how He is shaping us. For a couple of years, a group of sweet women would show up at my house on Monday mornings and together we studied and wrestled through the Proverbs, the Sermon on the Mount and other places in Scripture that widened our view of God and what we think about Him.

I’m currently going through Beth Moore’s Entrusted, a Bible Study on 2 Timothy. At the end of the first week, her daughter Melissa writes about the value of intellectual community as we study the Bible, discuss theology and “join a collective struggle for truthful speech.”

She quotes Benjamin Myers:

“Theology… is not a private table for one but a rowdy banquet of those who gather, famished and thirsty, around Christ.”

Elsewhere she quotes from author Shauna Niequist:

“We don’t’ come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, ongoing longer and faster, on going without, on power through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.”

We live in a time where we have more access to information and resources than we ever have before. And yet, our literacy of the Bible is dipping and our value of its truth and relevancy is largely debated. Many churches are trying to figure out how to disciple their people, how to remain relevant, and how to draw people in. There are varying opinions about whether or not we should have men’s ministries, women’s ministries, groups, and programs. Many people have given up going to church or come reluctantly. Their walls are up because they have been hurt by their past experiences with leaders and church people.

Think through the above quote. How can this simple, age-old tradition of being together around a table be rekindled in our purposes for gathering in Spiritual settings no matter how we go about them?

People come to a table expecting a feast. Give them Jesus. 

They come prepared for a conversation. Let us create safe spaces where it’s okay to voice doubts, cynicism, and fears along with hopes, dreams, and experiences of the goodness of God.

There is power at our tables to bring nourishment, comfort, stimulating conversation and the ability to build relationships.

In order to revive the beauty of a table, we serve without expectation. Invite people to lean in and feast. Create meals that are unforgettable and cause them to accept subsequent invitations. Leave them with a nourishing and satisfying taste.

Too often people come to the table feeling like they have to leave their masks on. Or they can’t say what they really think because it might be wrong or offensive. Manners, behaviors, and traditional thoughts trump authenticity. What if we who host and lead, created spaces where all those anxieties could be left at the door. Gathering spaces that are not only sacred but also safe and fully welcoming. 

Safe and welcoming enough to receive you the way you are but not leave you there.

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Trusting What’s In You

You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:15-17

Several years ago, a dear woman I look up to was listening to me lament about my fears over my children not loving Jesus. She looked at me with that look that older and wiser women have when they realize you are freaking out over something you have no reason to at the time. Her words have stayed with me since.

“Your son has Jesus in Him and the Spirit of God is going to convict him, lead him and comfort him throughout his life. You can trust that.”

The words have stayed close, but I often forget the truth behind them. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

My kids stories are not my stories. Though they will always feel like a part of me they are apart from me and have their own path to walk. Whether they make the same mistakes I did or not is out of my hands. I can’t orchestrate their love for the Lord and their choice to live the life God has for them or go their own way. I can only live that way myself and guide them and encourage them to do the same.

As my boys get older, the more I realize this is so true. The less I want to control and the more I want to pray (in theory – let’s be honest). I guess a better way to say it is that I’m realizing my prayers and the way I live my own life with them is more powerful than any perceived control I have.

If our children have confessed Christ as Savior, then according the Jesus, His Spirit, the Helper, dwells within them just as He does in us. None of us will ever love Jesus perfectly and keep His commandments perfectly and yet by His grace and incredible mercy, He remains within us forever. His words, not mine.

May we trust the Spirit of God within us and those whom we love.

He is near.

 

Processing Racial Tension and Reconciliation

Do yourself a favor if you haven’t already, and ask an African American person you have a friendship with (or are acquainted with, because this could lead to a meaningful friendship) how they have been experiencing the recent events in our country, particularly the last couple of weeks.

Don’t try to relate, or justify anything or tell them what you think… that all matters of course, but if you just simply ask someone how they feel and what they have experienced, you might be surprised. Don’t get defensive and don’t try to “not see the color” because we all see the color and color is what is beautiful and different colors express the beauty and various facets of our Creator… just listen.

Listen to their passion and the emotion and try to practice empathy. You may think you understand already and maybe you do, but perhaps part of what our problem is that we don’t really take the time to listen and appreciate experiences and perspectives that are not our own. God is bigger and He is near.

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’
as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.” – Acts 17:26-28

Maybe the weight of all this darkness we’ve all been feeling has a greater and more divine purpose of causing us to feel our way towards him, as though we are groping in the dark to find something…some shred of hope…some sense of progress, but ultimately, we are feeling our way towards him and we WILL find him because he has promised us so.

I have always considered myself someone who “doesn’t see color,” but as of late my vernacular is going to change. I’m lying to myself if I don’t see color. It didn’t hit me until last week when my son walked out the door at 9:30pm with his best friend in the world who is black. They went to a movie and my heart sank. It was then I realized, the conversations my friends who are raising African-American sons are having are different than the ones we have at home. They have to learn behavior for different reasons than mine do. To say I don’t see the color is a disservice to myself and those around me.

Things may be getting worse. They may be getting better. They may actually not be much different but because of social media we are more aware. Whatever the case it doesn’t matter. God has determined this time and space where you and I live for a reason much bigger than ourselves. The whole point of everything is for us to feel our way toward him. These too are the trials James 1 talks about that produce a steadfastness of faith. As our faith gets stronger, our works will be more meaningful and the way we love will be more pure and Christ like.

It’s a simple and loving thing we can all do to be part of the solution in a very broken world that is groaning for salvation.

Just ask, “how has your experience been?” and listen.

He is near.

Lately I’ve Been Learning to Say Yes Daily

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Eighteen years ago today on a cliff overlooking the San Francisco Bay, a seemingly cool, calm and collected Steve Lind invited me into ever after.

I’m glad I said yes.

What I didn’t realize then that I am learning now is marriage isn’t as much about the initial “Yes!” or “I do,” but more about a daily yes. The purpose of marriage is oneness and every single day is a choice to say yes to that oneness or to something else that has the potential to divide.

Every day I get to choose to say yes to Steve, yes to our marriage and yes to our ever after which helps determine just how “happily” it will be.

Unfortunately, sometimes I say yes to other things. 

I say yes to my iPhone.

I say yes to my boys when they should see my first yes belongs to their dad.

I say yes to work.

I say yes to the tyranny of the urgent.

I say yes to the fear of the future instead of the gift of today.

I say yes to my friends who make it easier when I share my heart with them at times.

Lately, I’ve been learning there is nothing sweeter than oneness when the yes is said emphatically over and over again even when that yes is hard.

Yes, we should go from our community because together we are being called to something new.

Yes to new dreams and vision.

Yes, we should take that job that will require us to walk in faith.

Yes, we will choose to slow down and rest so our family can thrive.

Yes, we will step into the unknown and trust that our very first yes, our yes to God, will help us see abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.

Yes, we will sacrifice and be brave even when it doesn’t make sense.

And even yes to everything mundane. Yes to dishes and cleared kitchen sink. Yes to preferring the other person over self. Yes to the laundry being folded and put away and yes to the grace when it isn’t {most of the time}. Yes to creative meal plans and yes to a few moments of quiet together when the boys are finally in bed or the early hours when they are still sleeping. Yes, to the Adirondacks on the back porch and yes to one more episode of Netflix.

Yes because yes together is way better where ever it may take us than when we are apart.

What have you learned about saying yes in marriage?

 

Proverbs 2: Praying for our Sons {Day 12}

“So you will walk in the way of the good
    and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will inhabit the land,
    and those with integrity will remain in it,
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
    and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.”

{Proverbs 2:20-22}

Our prayers through Proverbs 2 conclude today with the last stanza providing a summery of our prayers. Verse 20 paints a picture of the road we want our kids to journey on. A path where a good God has gone before them, walks with them and gently holds them from behind.  A path that will lead them to righteousness found only in a life with Christ and leads not to a road’s end but to the eternal.

This path not only looks to the possibility of a long and prosperous life on earth but to an inheritance.

Our young men are the beloved of the Most High and He has set a whole entire life before them in which His goal is to always lead them to Himself.

Where I often get stuck is that it is indeed a path and as my son reminded me recently on a hike, there will always be forks in the road. There are temptations all along the way to take a different route that may seem good initially, but in the end it leads to destruction {Proverbs 16:25}. Our sons are humans like us, and as such there will always be the tendency to follow their own immediate understanding {Proverbs 3:5} and to trust the wisdom of their own eyes and not the wisdom of the Lord {Proverbs 3:7}.

Our responsibility as parents is to remain steadfast and trust the God who has authored their journey. The One who holds it in His sovereign and loving hands, and is able to lead them with His promise of working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose {Romans 8:28}. Today let’s pray:

  • For the Author Himself and the path to be clearer and clearer each day to our young men.
  • That God would make this road to righteousness more beautiful and alluring than any other.

“You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
 {Proverbs 16:11, NASB}

  • That they would be drawn to the mystery and adventure of trusting God with their lives.
  • For a Holy fear of the Lord to be the beginning of every step of their lives, desiring to love and please God.
  • For us to remain steadfast, hopeful and prayerful in trusting God so we can relinquish control of that which has always belonged to Him.

Because of Jesus, Amen.