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.

 

Not Me But We

fruit

This morning’s She Reads Truth reading directed us to the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:14-20.

The writer told a lovely story of following an impression from the Holy Spirit to tell a stranger standing in line with her at Starbucks about God’s love for him. Her response to the word “Go” was immediate, obedient and didn’t take into account any discipleship programs, how long she should spend meeting with him or what the outcome would be.

We often look at these passages and think they are for people who have more time on their hands, who have been following Christ for years, who have a wider breadth of knowledge than we do…yada, yada, yada. Or we get tripped up by what “discipleship” should look like and think we need to make certain scheduling commitments, ask our pastors for permission and again… yada, yada, yada.

The passage was an account of Jesus’ words to the disciples. All of the disciples together – not just one.

It still speaks to today to all of us as a collective. Not just me, but we.

What if we looked at the passage and decided, this is our calling?

To go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that has been taught to us?  And what if we realized we are not responsible for every part of it but maybe just a piece of it?

What if we recognized this is how we are to live and just did the next right thing?

Even Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that his job has been planting, Apollos watered, but it is God who makes things grow. Paul had a part, Apollos had a part and you and I each have our own part today to fulfill God’s great purpose for our lives here on Earth. To go… and tell someone how He loves, how He saves, how He sees, how He knows.

Not you, but we. Not me, but we.

What is your part today?

I’m Going to Camp!

Annually, 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in America. One of these victims dies every six hours due to that abuse.

Fifteen years ago when we started attending our church, our eyes began to open to the foster care crisis in America.  Much of  this stemmed from families we have met that have taken in kids as their own and also our church’s involvement with Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp which purposes to give abused and neglected kids who are currently in foster care one week of their lives. A week with positive experiences in a Christian environment.

Until a few years ago, I believed that religion that is pure and faultless is to look after orphans in their distress, but my belief was nestled tightly in a box.  The box was the adoption box.  What I falsely believed in the depth of my heart was that if I was going to do it right… it had to be done a certain way. That if I was really going to believe what those words meant, it meant only one thing… that we had to adopt.

What I’ve learned since then is looking after the fatherless and the motherless can look a lot of different ways.  I never thought our family was called to adopt until a couple of years ago when Steve went to this camp.  For the first time, I questioned those thoughts and now my perspective has changed. While we still don’t feel called to adopt, what has changed is our willingness to do so and to become more involved in the solution regardless of the outcome.

Steve came back changed and therefore we changed. He has always been a great dad for our kids, but when Steve came home from camp, he came home zealous for other kids and also for finding ways to help dads be good dads.

Part of this change for our family has been a result of our relationship with one of Steve’s original campers.  As a mentor to this young man, Steve has been able to bring him around our home and in doing so, he has become family.  Not in the living with us kind of way, but in our love and affection for him. When he is with us, he is family.  And when he goes, our hearts bleed for him.  You see this boy, is just like my boys.  He loves adventure, he loves sports, he plays legos and loves to eat.  He is kind, he is loving and you would never know that every day he goes home, he wonders how long he will be there for. He wonders when he will get to live with his mom again and if he will see his dad again.  He wonders where he will go to middle school because the future is uncertain for him.

This year I am going to camp.

From July 7-11, I’m going to be a counselor to two little girls and my goal is to love them and let them have fun for one week. We will celebrate their birthdays no matter when their actual birthday is and we will celebrate any other milestones that come up during the week.

I am desperately hoping for laughter, joy and adventure. Mostly I’m praying they will leave believing they have value, hearing they are more precious than they realize and they have hope for their future.

Many of my good friends have gone before me to camp. They say I will never be the same. They say it is the hardest week of your life, but also the best week of your life.

Now that it’s one week away, my heart is filling with anticipation and fear.

Would you mind partnering with me?  Would you send me with YOUR prayers? Will you start now by praying for my girls {and the other campers too}.  Pray I will love them well. Pray I will be patient.  Pray I will have strength.  And pray I’m not a hot mess of tears all week long.  Lastly, pray for my boys and Steve who will be home. Pray for our boy at camp who graduates this year. This will be his last year at camp and I’m praying it will be his best. Pray the God of the impossible will do more than we can ask or imagine for him and for all the other campers too.

If you’d like to donate to Royal Family Kids Camp through King’s Harbor Church, your donation helps send kids to camp, provides their lodging, food, goes towards all the fun activities and gifts they will be sent home with.  You can make a donation here or send a check made out to King’s Harbor Church to me or to KHC Administrative offices with “Suzie Lind/RFKC” in the memo.

 

On Progress and Outcomes

The first progress report from middle school came home today and there were some, well… less than favorable remarks on the one we received. It really wasn’t that bad but for this particular boy it was out of the ordinary.

A conversation followed with questions such as,

“What do you think led up to this result?” and

“Do you know what you could improve on?”

The answers to these and more were thankfully appropriate and what came out of it is, the grades don’t matter as much as the lessons learned along the way.

As we learn what we are supposed to learn, acquire the understanding and knowledge we are there for, the process is what shapes us rather than the final grade defining us.

Such is the case for so many of the situations we face on a daily basis even when we are no longer students.  The roads that hold the feet we walk upon and the situations in which we live are watered down to something we must “get through” instead of lessons how we are being formed along the way.  Rather than learning to dance and sing in the rain, we remain focused on getting through the storm.

We pray for healing, relief, and solutions…all good things but until God provides that which He will at His appointed time, are we willing to suffer long enough to see what He wants us to see?  Learn what He wants us to learn?

When I think of what defines me, it’s not how good I am at any particular thing, how successful I am at mothering, teaching, writing or any one I am to any person I am with.  Character is shaped by process that includes and is not limited with refinement and sanctification. I am not defined by that characteristic or even what I’ve been through to be molded this way.

Neither are you.

Sinner.

Adulterer.

Tax Collector.

Pharisee.

Alcoholic.

Ex-Convict.

Prostitute.

Failure.

Lazy.

Hopeless.

Those who call on the name of Jesus are defined by grace.  Grace that is never ending, far reaching that  flexes, moves, and reaches out and reaches down where no one wants to go.

I am defined by the Potter, the Creator and the Artist.  I am not the artist, I am the canvas. I am His workmanship, a work in progress and by His grace my outcome is secure but my process and that which I will learn along the way, who I am becoming and what it will look like is ever changing, ever morphing into the image of Another.

What defines you?  Are you looking at an outcome longer than the process in which you find yourself?

Our eyes should be on eternity, but that view is dim yet He is illuminating something for each of us right here, right now and that process is chiseling us into a final product, the outcome of something splendid, designed before the foundations of this earth.

And that outcome belongs to Him.

Let us not miss it.