…to my new adventure in writing… (I’m just horsin’ around, really).
Sooooooo…if you’ve stumbled upon this post today by some divine fortuity, and lavished even one precious minute of your life (that you’ll never get back) upon reading my stuff, I hope and pray you leave with something eternally useful in your heart.
GIFT OF HOSPITALITY – HO HUM
The Lord has been patiently prodding this stubborn old mule/me for years to fan into flame the gift – if you want to call it that. But my obedience to obey ebbs and flows as the ocean tides. One season will bring a warm current of inspiration, and as it runs through will have me twirling and tossing about in swirling eddies of eagerness. I’m coaxed from my inhibitions, like a feral cat out from under a rickety porch, to crack open my front door, peek with squinted eyes outside to see who might be there, and even muster the courage to inv… to inv… to invite you inside. Encouraged by your warm response I might feel eager to throw an even bigger shindig next time.
But just as surely as the autumn leaves fall off the trees, a cool wind will blow in my heart (life gets busy, or sad, or new interests vie for my attention; a dish will go awry, friends will cancel last-minute, or the heartwarming comedy I so carefully constructed somehow ends in tragedy – ugh, drama). The disappointment loosens my grasp on that high place where I had climbed to. I lower my sails, dump my plans overboard, pull up the anchor (or actually it’s the welcome mat), switch off the porch light, turn the deadbolt on my decorative, etched glass door…and retreat into the depths of my quiet abode with just my loved ones and my thoughts.
The funny thing about a comfort zone however, is that it is only serene and nice for a while, and then it becomes dreary, and boring, and lifeless. Ho-hum! In my lackluster funk I make up my mind that I am sick to death of all the same old dishes, and begin to only half-heartedly piddle in the kitchen. All my meals end up as “blackened” (something) – the smoke alarm becomes our new dinner bell. The answer to what’s for dinner is met with, “Are you talking to me?” in my Jersey Mike’s Godfather voice …or “TAKE OUT!” I give up wanting to cook even more, because I have no (nix, nada) desire to clean up the mess afterward. Ho-Ho-Ho-humbug!
The longer this season lasts, the more lowly I feel until desperate for friendship I’ll dust off my Bible and invite Jesus for coffee. God bless Him, He is always faithful to bring a sermon, steer me to a new recipe, drag me to some new person, or march me by a holiday, and before I know it His warm El Niño will drift back into my heart again. His latter rains will fall on my parched and sun-baked soul, and what-do-you-know I’m floating in the great flood plain again.
God’s word, the company of Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit never fail to re-persuade me that LIFE IS ALL ABOUT THE TABLE – and our calling to it is irresistible.
This blog is my homely confession but handsome voyage. Could it also be yours?
COFFEE WITH DAD
Many years ago, one summer Sunday morning, I was a young mom with young children, and a brand new Christian. Husband was gone to work and I was ready to leave for church, but my car wouldn’t start. I called my dad to ask him what could be the matter with it, hoping it might be something simple that I could fix, and then be on my way. He said he’d be right over, and the generous, helpful man that he predictably was, in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, was there. We popped the hood and he worked his magic, as dads always do. He made the old jalopy live again. But by this time it was a half hour past the start of church and I decided I didn’t want to walk in late. So I made a pot of coffee, put the kids in their play clothes, and Dad and I sat for a visit.
My dad and I have had our share of “philosophical” conversations over the years, and a few about religion. I’ve never seen my dad read the Good Book, or grace the pews of God’s house, except for the time when he and Mom came to my baptism, but that isn’t to say he is devoid of religion. I may never have sought to be baptized (saved) if not for my dad, who made it clear he hoped his girls would all do that for him some day. His mother (my grandmother) was certainly a Spirit-filled, God-fearing woman as well, and had to have had at least as much influence on him as she did on me – his daughter.
This particular day, as the flowers prayed and the birds sang, Dad and I had church at my table. We sipped our brew and explored the back roads of many religious topics until our little heart-to-heart finally found a bench to rest on. Out of a quiet moment he asked me if I thought Jesus was the sort of man who would sit down and have a cup of coffee with you. Being a very new Christian at the time I didn’t know very much of my Bible, but the Holy Spirit dropped a scripture in my thoughts just then, and with assurance I spoke, “Oh yes, I think Jesus is exactly that kind of man. It says in Revelation, ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me’” (Revelation 3:20).
I think both our hearts burned within us just then. Dad sat, quietly, thinking, and then he gathered up his hat, sipped the last drop from his cup, and said, as he went to the door, “There have been a few times in my life when I felt close to God, but this might be the closest.” And with that he placed his cap and was on his way.
I cherish this and all the good memories, for Dad is now a prisoner in the dark world of dementia, a mere whisper of the man he once was. He is fragile, and old, and many miles away from me now. As I write this he’s in a nursing home recuperating from a fall in which he broke his hip. I called Mom this last Veteran’s Day and asked her to pass on my “Happy Veteran’s Day” wishes to Dad. I was surprised when she said, “You can tell him yourself, he has been very lucid today. In fact he just asked about you.” “He did?” I replied in astonishment. “Yes, he said, where’s my Colleen? I seem to have lost track of her.” It reduced me to tears instantly! …And again now as I write about it.
Dad didn’t talk long, but we got to hear each other’s voices, and for a brief moment God filled my heart another time with affection for him, on this meandering, uncertain road of life we journey. I hope God used our chat that summer day. I hope my dad trusted Jesus in his heart and found his peace with God. Jesus certainly used my dad to speak to me that day too. For it was after that I began to realize, and piece together in my heart, a portrait of our Father’s kingdom, and His ministry at the supper table.
If you read His word and follow the bread crumb trail, the sum of the Bible points us to a meal with Jesus. The first scraps to fall from the Master’s table are in Genesis, where God gave Adam and Eve a garden for their table and communed with them there (Genesis 2:8-9; 3:8). It follows them out of the garden, leads into an ark (Genesis 7:1, 16), and back off again (Genesis 8:20). “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs…behold I establish my covenant with you and with your descendents after you” (Genesis 9:3, 9). The bread crumbs lead Abraham to the land of promise (Genesis 12:7, 8) and into a tent by some terebinth trees (Genesis 13:18) where he had a meal with God. “Then Melchizedek, king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.” (Genesis 14:18) He blessed Abraham, and Abraham gave him a tithe. And God made a covenant (a name change and circumcision was established) with Abraham there (Genesis 15).
The Lord and two others visited Abraham’s tent later and received Abraham’s hospitality, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by…” (Genesis 18:3-5). And when Abraham sought a wife for his son Isaac, his servant encountered the plentiful hospitality of Laban, Rebekah’s brother (Genesis 24:31-33, 54-55). And thus God taught all of us, His children, about hospitality.
God staked his tent in the Wilderness with us here on earth, broke bread (or manna) and passed the offering plate through Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy; teaching us to share the bounty of our crops and herds (our tithes and offerings) to help the needy (Levite, stranger, fatherless, widow). From one great deliverance (Passover) to the next (Purim) God teaches His people to celebrate with feasts. Hot dishes have been passed from one judge’s table to another, one king’s table to another, and one prophet’s table to another, until they found their place at the Last Supper – a rehearsal of Passover but also a glimpse of the future Wedding Feast of the Lamb. For it was at this supper that Jesus instituted the Holy Communion and said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). He told of this Heavenly Feast in Matthew 22 and Revelation 19:9, giving us glimpses of heaven, and something to look forward to.
Jesus, in his earthly ministry, said to the wee little man, Zacchaeus, “Come down from there, for I’m coming to your house,” And to the church of the Laodiceans in Revelation He announced, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). God has been our host and asks to be our guest. He teaches us to be both good hosts and good guests. His Spirit flows into and then out of each of us. I have found God’s WORD to be a magnificent tapestry of the art of breaking bread. He is the Father of it and His word begs us to learn to practice with Him, and to look forward to a fulfillment in heaven. This is the spirit and inspiration behind this blog, although it is comical, almost scandalous that God would have me (honestly me?) put together a blog about hospitality.
Surely He jests.
EATING & DRINKING – GOD’S DESIGN?
My sister is a Baptist and you know what they say about Baptists don’t you? Well, they love to eat! Her church has about as many food fellowships as worship services. I’ve been included to participate in many of them, and although some may call it excess, I think they are wise indeed. “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children” (Matthew 11:19). Every feast established by God in scripture is a shadow of things to come – a rehearsal of a future event. “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” Colossians 2:17.
When tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus, to hear Him, the Pharisees and scribes of that day also complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them’ (Luke 15). So Jesus spoke parables to them. He told one story of the prodigal son (the wayward son who squandered half the family wealth – as we do also when we spend God’s gifting on ourselves and our own pleasures). When he returned home (as we do when we accept Christ as Savior), his father (like our Father in heaven) ran to him (even though his sins were great) when he saw him returning home and coming down the road. With tears in his eyes he hugged his neck, kissed him, and blessed God that he had returned. The son asked forgiveness, but the father never mentioned his transgressions. Instead, he called for the best robe, a ring, and sandals for his feet. And after that, he threw a grand feast with music and dancing, because his son had been lost and now he was found. I believe that is the picture God wants us to see of heaven. It’s exactly what I believe is going to happen. That is how thrilled I believe our Lord will be to see us and welcome us to heaven, and to His table.
THE SUPPER TABLE – A COPY & SHADOW
It is a shame to admit what we in this country have done to the supper table (shoved it off in a special room that nobody goes into, made a shrine of it, or piled it high with unfolded laundry and school books – wait, am I the only one?). God didn’t intend meals to be in front of the TV (not that there’s anything wrong with that on occasion), and surely He intended for meals to not be a necessary evil, but a blessing. God made us to need food. He gave us fruits and vegetables, grains, fishes and meat to be received with thanksgiving for nourishment. But beyond that, He gave us herbs and spices and tongues and taste buds to ENJOY the flavors. Why would He do that? Surely He knew some of us would have no self-control, or that we’d eat all the wrong things and for all the wrong reasons, and make ourselves sick, or develop allergies, or make endless diets to fix endless problems? Stop the merry-go-round for a minute and think…maybe we wouldn’t have all those issues if we went back to eating our meals with gratitude, at the table, with our Unseen Guest.
“And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you” Deuteronomy 12:7
Maybe if mealtime was a retreat and destination rather than a filling station beside the busy highway of life we wouldn’t have to count calories, check our plate size, or worry about the cholesterol count – the Lord would bless that food to our bodies for strength and health. And that satisfying meal would sustain us to the next one. Maybe if we took the time to savor truly delicious food (coupled with rich conversation) we wouldn’t have such an addiction to garbage food (and gossip)? Perhaps if we made the Lord the center of the experience we’d have His blessing upon it, and all the diets and obesity would go obsolete. I don’t know…just sayin’.
Here’s an idea. Would you be willing to give it a try with me? Shall we make the effort to make at least one dinner a month (for now) into a “special occasion?” Shall we gather around the table and eat before the Lord? This doesn’t have to be a huge production; it just has to include reverence and gratitude, and our Master – who has provided it. We don’t have to be limited by my scanty recipe suggestions, or be wrangled into cheffy cuisine – but sometimes a new cookbook inspires my enthusiasm. And if we’re too nervous to cook, there’s always take-out. The main thing is that God, family, and friends are gathered around, that there is love, and a table is at the center of it – and that we learn what God’s heartbeat is about eating with others, with friends and strangers, with family and with Him. For if we learn it, I know (I just know it) we will be blessed in it. We’ll see the big picture.
Are you in this with me? Are you ready to find a blessing? Our kids might even want to invite their friends over to show off their cool mom’s creativity with food and music and decorations. Then again, you might be thinking, “No kids, just hubby!” Send the kids away for the evening and surprise the husband with a gourmet meal and romantic evening. Maybe there are no kids or they are grown and moved away. Maybe there is no husband? What if the next time we ate a meal out all by ourselves, we sought out another who may be in the restaurant all by themselves, and we shared the meal and a grace with them?
Who knows that God placed us here for such a time as this? Do we know our neighbors? Why not have them over and pay them back for all the snow shoveling they did with their groovy little machine over the winter, or thank them for the times they watched the house, took in our mail, watered our garden, watched the dog, and made it look like we were home when we were away. Wouldn’t it be nice to show our appreciation by making an evening unforgettable for them!
Maybe there are some new neighbors (or acquaintances at work…or church)? Shall we introduce ourselves, treat them to a home-cooked meal, and in the process introduce them to … well … God’s Supper Table, and give them a glimpse of heaven?
In the pages of this blog I’ve shared themed meals and recipes from all over the world, for the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind; here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but we are all one in Christ. This gospel shall be preached in all the world, and all the nations will be gathered before the Lord, for He has redeemed us from every tribe and nation, every people and language.
I’ve shared some of the most precious things I’ve learned from scripture. And I’m passing along a hodge-podge of other little things too (crafts, projects, hobbies, etc.) as life has brought them to me, I am sharing with you.
I hope you’ll enjoy my little cul-de-sac on the Web. It is all God’s doing. I hope you’ll join with me also in fanning into flame this gift that God has placed within us. Let us not forsake the gathering of ourselves together, or neglect the spiritual nourishment that our earthly bodies so desperately need.
May our Lord bless and keep you forever! IJN Amen