Above the window in my dining room, there is a small wooden sign painted on old barn wood with the words:
Those are words spoken between Jesus and Peter after the resurrection. Words meant to comfort, encourage and challenge Peter to keep steady in life and purpose. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” and then he directed him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:16)
Years ago in the midst of weekly 246 dinners, I asked a local artisan to paint those words on the barn wood to direct and steady me. I wanted a visual reminder of why I invite people to the table. That I invite people to the table because I love God and want to feed his lambs.
Here’s what I discovered over the years I’ve had people to my table. They don’t care too much about how clean your house is or whether you set a gorgeous table. And honestly, they don’t even seem to mind much if you bungle a new recipe or order out.
What people care about most is if you care about them.
I’m really grateful that Jesus made it so easy to understand how he wants us to love him … by loving others. And I think one of the best places to do that is at the table.
Sharing a meal and talking about God is one of the easiest ways to show people you care about them.
While loving people is not a list of things to do, there are some practical ways I’ve found that help keep me steady and directed when I have people over. Things I focus on so that I ‘feed the sheep’ physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- Ask God for his presence. Before people arrive and when the meal begins, ask God to be present and obvious. No worries about big, long prayers. Humble, heartfelt prayers please God.
- Make a simple meal. Sure it’s fun to create a beautiful meal but don’t get into a big menu that pulls you away from the table. Soup and salad is perfect. Or take-out pizza. Commit to menus that make you feel relaxed.
- Avoid distractions. Put away your cell phone, stop the last minute cleaning and be ready when people come in the door. If you’re still stirring the soup or tossing the salad, invite your friends into the kitchen.
- Overseer the entire conversation. Make sure everyone gets a chance to talk. Look for balance in the flow of conversation. Be gentle but strategic if one person is monopolizing to the detriment of another.
- Stay curious. Ask questions, look for underlying stories and listen to what people are really saying. Allow God to redirect your plans.
- Expect God to show up. “Where two or three are gathered, there I am also.” God is present so you can be confident he is comforting and leading even if you don’t see it.
- Give big hugs. :)
The important part of gathering at the table is not the menu or the table setting or the condition of a house, it’s about the people. It’s about celebrating over a simple meal together. Remembering the small and beautiful ways God shows up in life. That’s the expression of glad and humble hearts at the table.
photos: kate stafford photography