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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Oh Hey There Friday Favorites!

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Oh hey, Friday! I am so happy Friday is here because it means a little less driving and little slowing down for the next couple of days. Here’s where grace and thanksgiving was found this week from the frivolous to the very much non-frivolous.

First for the very frivolous. I found a new favorite t-shirt.

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I have not mastered the art of the self-timer on my iphone so forgive the selfie (and the mess behind me). This is a Tresics brand t-shirt I found at Marshalls. I orignially got it in grey for 9.99 and like it so much I went back and bought it in another shade of grey and this blue. It’s soft, flowy and super comfortable and cute while hiding everything it needs to hide.

My new favorite Twitter account to follow is @manwhohasitall. It’s a parody of all the things that are said to women who spend their lives “juggling” motherhood, families and career. If you want to go the extra mile you can get a good laugh with this video from Buzzfeed featuring presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

All a great segue to the not so frivolous Jen Wilkin who has an tendency to say everything I wish I would have said only better. She has a brilliant mind and is a great leader and teacher of the Word. In her post this week she comments on an open letter written by Jared Mauldin, a senior in mechanical engineering at Eastern Washington University. He talks about the importance of men speaking up for women in ministry. In my own personal experience, few things have been more encouraging than when a man has spoken up for women in leadership. Everyone calm down…we’re not trying to take over, we just want to do our God given part.

We’re getting increasingly less frivolous here friends. My friend Dan Parkins has gone through more trials than many people experience in a lifetime. He has the best way of writing grace and when I read his posts it literally feels like my soul is being watered. Read this post and be moved by his ability to find grace in the daily and go hunt for your own.

Jen Hatmaker wrote this post on the freedom Christ has set us free for, and here I am, finding myself outside of a gate, wondering how I got here and what kept me inside for so long. Things like my ability to really trust God and my view of His greatness compared to my own fears and worries about life come to mind.

Finally, my favorite quote this week is from Ann Voskamp‘s 1000 Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces.

“Life is so urgent in necessitates living slow.”

Let’s go into the weekend remembering weekends were originally designed for selah between weeks of laboring. This time, let us not be trapped by the over workings of our own minds but walk in the freedom already unleashed for us at Calvary and find our rest in the slow savoring of Jesus and those he has around us. I’m praying this as much for me as I am for you. Amen.

What were some of your favorite things this week?

Oh Hey Friday! | Friday Favorites

Loved & Called {Lifeway Women’s Blog}

The Lifeway Women’s Blog is a great resource for women, particularly those who serve in leadership. I’m over there today talking about a passage that has spoken loudly to me over the last few years. One that I am still wrestling with in these days as I pray and ponder what might be next for me.

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The Apostle Paul opens his letter to the Romans resolved in what his calling is (Romans 1:1-6) and greets his readers with a powerful statement those of us in leadership can easily let slip by:

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Loved by God. Called to be saints.

You see, the truth you are loved comes before the fact you are called.

You can read more by going here.

Collaboration is My Love Language

The Spring 2014 issue of Leadership Journal magazine is subtitled “Redeeming Failure.” There are all kinds of really interesting articles about lessons learned through failure and how failure is preparation for the next great thing God has in store for us.  One article lists the statistics of the “hard calling” of pastoral leadership. Here are just a few of the encouraging…{cough}… I mean cold hard facts*:

80% of pastors are discouraged in their role as pastors

40% of pastors seriously considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months

For every 20 pastors who go into ministry, only one retires from the ministry

70% of pastors say they do not have a single close friend, and the same percentage say they have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.

Denominational health insurance agencies report that medical costs for clergy are higher than the average professional group

I’m sure if they surveyed leaders in other areas of the church as well, both vocational and volunteer, the stats would also be staggering. I’m a believer that lead pastors experience life, work and all the pressures that come in a completely unique way than any other person in the local church. However many people who lead also share experiences that are euphoric as well as devastating to their spiritual, emotional and mental well-being. I’m sure it’s safe to say that many people who have “left the church” have done so because either they or someone close to them has had a negative experience with or in leadership.

As an only child who never played organized sports, effective collaboration is something I’ve had to learn over time. It’s helpful that one of my strengths is “connectedness” so I’m constantly looking for the big picture and consistently sure it’s always bigger than me. In my years in ministry, I have found collaborating and finding community with other like minded leaders to be an important part of how God sustains me, encourages me and sharpens me for the work and people I’m called to.

That’s why I was super excited to join this community of women on Pinterest dedicated to encouraging and sharing ideas with women’s ministry leaders.  We are just getting started so I’m sure there is more great stuff to come.  In the meantime, I’m grateful because this group is encouraging me to take more time to post on this blog about the many things I’m learning along the way as part of a collective group of people aiming to love and lead others well.

If you are a leader of women in any capacity, I think you’ll find this board helpful and would encourage you to check it out!

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*statistics provided by J.R. Briggs from Fail: Finding Hope and Failure in the Midst of Ministry Failure (IVP, 2014)

What Are You Really Afraid Of?

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I’ve been thinking so much about the verse from Hebrews, “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  {Hebrews 10:31}

I never quite understood the magnitude of the simple fact that God is on the throne and no one is exempt from His reign on this earth.  In these United States, in Syria, Israel, the Gaza strip, Iran, Australia, Spain or anywhere else there is life and breath… no one can outrun or side track the scope of His purposes.

The thing about it being “fearful” is that if you KNOW this to be true, this kind of fear naturally or supernaturally (depending on how you look at it) will draw you closer to Jesus and His mind, His ways and His heart than the other.  This kind of fear brings comfort because it brings you into the presence of God. It’s what compels you to be led besides still waters for your soul to be refreshed while you’re walking in the darkest valley of your life.  It raises questions in your head like:

“God where are You in this?”  Because he promises to be found by those who seek him.

“Where are You leading us?” Because he promises to lead those who trust him through straight paths.

The other kind of fear… the fear of man, fear of what people think, fear of whatever situation or mess you find yourself in.  This kind of fear adds chaos and confusion.  It leads you this way, that way… every way but his way.  It sounds more like this:

“What’s going to happen to us?”

“What will they say about us now?”

“Will things ever be normal again?”

The questions in themselves aren’t inherently bad, but where they can take you if you get stuck in them is troubling.  The first set of questions raises our eyes to God while the second set lowers them to ourselves and what’s in front of us.

There is nothing normal about God.  He is extraordinary and is more than you could ask or imagine.

He does not change but he promises you will.

God is so gracious, so loving, so kind and so powerful which is why He is God and no one else is worthy of that position.

If He is worthy of praise, then he needs to be put in his rightful place which is the place that proclaims His ways are not our ways, His plans are not our plans and they are good and hopeful.

It’s a fearful thing to fall in the hands of the living God. So if we believe that we place our whole lives in those hands: our relationships, our marriages, our ministries, our careers, our hopes, our dream and our fears… when that hand brings correction, moves us in and out of where we need to be and towards his purposes for us and this Kingdom we are a small part of… it’s exactly where we need to be.

No matter how painful, how tragic, how hopeful, how good, how exciting and how stretching.

There is no place I would rather be.