My Table

A group of about 15 ladies recently wrapped up a four week study on hospitality using “Table Life: Savoring the Hospitality of Jesus in Your Home” by Joanne Thompson. This group, of which I was a member, diligently read the book and participated in lengthy weekly discussions surrounding themes Thompson presents. Every week I walked away from our fellowship full of Spirit. If you as a young mom feel spiritually empty, find a woman seasoned with wisdom and sit at her feet. If she is busy the first time you ask for a connection over coffee or seems distracted when you catch her at church, try again. Not only will you benefit from her godly advice once your schedules collide, she will be honored and encouraged knowing her experiences have an eternal, multi-generational purpose. These encounters represent God’s design for female relationships (Titus 2).

Have you ever read a book concerning a Christian discipline, felt the desire to grow in that area, and then intrinsically recognized your perspective on the subject was forever changed? This gem of a book was the catapult of just such an experience for me. As Christians, we are habitually told our life should run counterculture. But did you ever stop to consider that means even your table life at home? As Thompson points out, “the word hospitality literally means ‘to love a stranger.’ ”[1] I don’t know about you, but the strangers I meet out and about rarely receive an invitation to my home. For that matter, the people my family entertains are usually friends, people we can let our hair down with and relax. However, as followers of Christ, we are called to “Get into the practice of inviting guests home for dinner” (Romans 12:13, NLT). Hebrews 13:2 calls Christians to practice hospitality not only with fellow believers but with strangers, and 1 Peter 4:9 says we are to do so without grumbling. Weighty stuff. Why should we do so? To make disciples.

If you have been in church for long, chances are you have noticed not all those who walk an aisle, attend a new member class, or sign a church covenant make it for the long haul. The first ripples of discourse can toss them about and right out the front doors. Thompson encourages women to consider their tables as a source of reconciliation. Can you even imagine extending an invitation to someone in which there is strife and conflict in hopes God restores the relationship?

Our final week focused on the importance of acting on what we have learned, living the gospel. Another author similarly pens: “Discipleship and formation are less about erecting an edifice of Christians knowledge than they are a matter of developing a Christian know-how that intuitively ‘understands’ the world in the light of the fullness of the gospel. And insofar as an understanding is implicit in practice, the practices of Christian worship are crucial…”[2] As God is stoking the missional fire inside of me, the beauty of practicing womanhood as Paul instructed made possible invaluable instruction from a seasoned godly woman. She cautioned young moms to hold steadfast in our diligence of table life with our own families as priority. She then gave godly counsel to all women, encouraging endurance and reminding us all of the need for healthy perimeters to avoid “compassion fatigue.”[3]

The subject of hospitality is so deep in theology and in practicality that I can only skim the surface in a blog, but I leave you with a few nuggets, hoping to entice your inner student and whet your appetite for true biblical hospitality.

“Across the table, hearts made for relationships came alive.”[4]

“Wherever you live, the Lord God has designs for your kitchen table.”[5]

“A meal is not a church service, but the table remains an altar.”[6]

“Your faith community is where taking the risk of loving the stranger begins.”[7]

“The place where your table and the gospel story meet is faith…”[8]

“The age-old afflictions of perfectionism and comparison handcuff our hearts from pursuing hospitality.”[9]

“Hospitality…must flow from gospel authenticity.”[10]

“Table life is no fairy tale; it’s real, practical, and rewarding. It unites the here and now with eternity.”[11]

[1] Joanne Thompson, Table Life : Savoring the Hospitality of Jesus in Your Home (Edina, MN: Beavers Pond Press, 2011), 48.

[2] James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom : Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, Volume 1 of Cultural Liturgies (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009), 68.

[3] Thompson, 107.

[4] Ibid., 15.

[5] Ibid., 16.

[6] Ibid., 25.

[7] Ibid., 49.

[8] Ibid., 60.

[9] Ibid., 76.

[10] Ibid., 107.

[11] Ibid., 140.


Tips for Treasuring the Season: Christmas Food Junkie (4)

Making "Tea"(t) Cakes, 2010 (Elizabeth)

Making “Tea”(t) Cakes, 2010 (Elizabeth)

Making "Tea"(t) Cakes, 2010 (Abigail)

Making “Tea”(t) Cakes, 2010 (Abigail)

Next to Thanksgiving, my guess is grocery food chains profit the most during Christmas! From candies, fudge, and cookies to traditional casseroles, palettes of all pleasures are sure to be satisfied by the tastes of Christmas. My family knows there are certain foods we enjoy only at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we anticipate the seasons to enjoy those foods. If the matriarchs in my family decided to forgo the gumbo for our family Christmas dinner, a mutiny would be inevitable. So while you may see something on Pinterest or on The Food Network that engages your Christmas creativity, you might want to make sure the traditional staples are still on the menu! Why do our Christmas cuisine traditions matter? You might be surprised. In the fascinating book, “Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others,” Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock present several influences of family traditions. Among their list are:  1) traditions foster stability and security by establishing routines and 2) traditions emphasize God’s sovereign work, and I would add multi-generational thread, in our families.[1]

The degree and complexity of Christmas cooking will look different as dictated by seasons of life. For me, knee-deep in the child-raising season, my Christmas hospitality centers on my immediate family, lest I discredit my witness. You read that correctly. Proverbs 31:27 clearly states a wise woman will look well to the ways of her own household. I do not want to be a Christian event planner; I want to embrace biblical principles of hospitality. And if hospitality is defined as extending generosity and kindness to strangers[2], my witness would be discredited if I neglected generosity and kindness to my own family.  How and why we as women manage and provide for our homes should separate us as believers. My husband is crucial in filtering through what I ideally would like our Christmas dinners to look like and what realistically can happen in my season of life. If you read my first tip for Treasuring the Season, you’ll remember that the gap between expectations and reality is usually filled with anger and frustration. Therefore, wisely enlist someone as your sounding board to keep those two in balance.

Ultimately, the goal of spending hours in the kitchen around Christmastime is to encourage your family to gather around the table in fellowship. When all is said and done, life around the table enhances God’s gift of relationship.[3] If you are using the Christmas Countdown resources to help in planning for Christmas this year[4], then next week while you are planning out your holiday meals and possibly even doubling Thanksgiving recipes to freeze for Christmas dinners, I pray God will grant you excitement and anticipation for what the food will bring, fellowship with each other and with Christ! Here’s to Christmas food junkies on mission!

[1] Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock, Practicing Hospitality : The Joy of Serving Others (Wheaton, Ill.: Good News Publishers, 2007), 93.

[2] Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, Proverbs 12:14, Matthew 10:42, Hebrews 6:10.

[3] Joanne Thompson, Table Life : Savoring the Hospitality of Jesus in Your Home (Edina, MN: Beavers Pond Press, 2011), 15.