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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Where Deep Wells Are Found

Greenville

You will often hear me say there is something amazing that happens when women get together.

I haven’t always believed this to be true.  My journey into the community of women has been an accidental one laden with skepticism, bits of criticism and some rejection.  Regretfully, these things have likely come from me as much as I’ve seen them around me.

Over the last several years, I’ve been converted to one who not only enjoys being surrounded by women, but also needs it.  There are deep wells among women that draw up grace, hope, joy and love.

Women understand each other. We are labeled as complex but it’s our complexity that makes our relationships so rich.  We get the need to sit in a quiet corner and download the thoughts spiraling in our heads. We understand the feeling of being too much and not enough. There is nothing more priceless than a friend who gets you, especially when you’re not even talking.

Last week, I was at the Allume Conference with 450 women gathered around three things in common: Jesus, community and writing. We came to learn something about our craft but are going home with a greater vision of a Craftsman. We are being returned reminded we are not what we create, but are among those who are loved wholly and completely by the Creator.  We enter back having been spurred on to love well, pierce the darkness and be generous. And if doing so causes us to wash people’s feet with our words, then glory to the One who is the giver of words.

There is something brilliant that happens when women get together.

We live with so many things vying for our attention, desiring to satisfy our God given hunger for things He wants to fill. We hunger for the supernatural.  We ache to be known and long for the holy presence of God in all things.  I came home realizing our need for a bigger view of God. I don’t want to serve a God I can wrap my mind around and explain away.

We need to know the God we serve is greater than we can imagine and more spectacular than we can comprehend. 

I am more convinced than ever, those of us who are somewhat aware, are to turn the gazes of others to the lifter of heads so their eyes can be shifted up.

When women get together and our eyes are lifted above the fray we meet one another with grace.  Instead of looking past each another we welcome one another and create safe spaces to share secrets within hours of “nice to meet you.”  Instead of belittling each other we add value to each other and encourage one another to ask God to take our little bit and make it much. 

This little bit of time made much in my heart and for that I am truly grateful.

Wholistic Care for Women and God’s Psychology

One of the best things to come out of 2011 in terms of my ministry involvement is the beginnings of the Women’s Care Team at King’s Harbor Church.

Every leader has areas of weakness in which they must compensate with by bringing people on the team who have the gifts they don’t have.  For me, my weakness is in the area of counseling.  I can counsel someone to a degree, but to stay in the long haul and help them get unstuck and moved on to the next place in their growth can be really hard for me and well… not my best contribution.  That being understood, I invited 9 women from our church who either counsel people professionally or have spent years in the trenches with women through the local church.  These women have blessed me so much with their wisdom, enthusiasm and genuine love to see women walk in the ways in which God has called them.  Out of their prayers and team work will come a new and better way to care for women in our church in a more whole way… heart, soul, mind and strength in 2012.

One woman in particular who has become a good friend has just published her first book.  I love hearing Terry’s perspective of psychology and how God has created our minds to work, heal and seek after Him.  She is a licensed therapist with a PhD and has a profound understand of God’s Truth and a desire for women to walk in that truth.  Whatever your bias is towards psychology, I would recommend her insights to you.

I’ve personally benefited from cognitive therapy a few times in my life.  With the help of Christian professionals I’ve been able to clear the clutter that’s been in mind and heart and make way for the God to do a work of sanctification and transformation in my life.

What about you?  Have you benefited from therapy/counseling before?