A Table that Reaches Across the Miles

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The text came just a week and a half after we drove the winding four hours to leave our eldest to his first year of college.

Will you mail my flip-flops?

I was laying the place settings for dinner, still painfully aware of his empty chair, heart tender from all that elbowroom around the table. I finished placing the silverware on the napkins—forks on the left and knives on the right—and then I sat down with my phone. In his chair.

Sure, I typed. I’ll send them out tomorrow.

Thanks, mom, he replied. And then, silence. A silence heavy with all those miles between us, his empty chair at the table, the closed door to his bedroom upstairs.

The chicken was crisping in the oven and I imagined his feet, languishing in leather sneakers as the last hot days of summer lingered.

Why didn’t we pack his flip-flops?

I’m over at Grace Table today, sharing a story about the hospitality of parenthood. And it includes my pepperoni roll recipe! Will you join me over there? Thanks a million!

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This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. Only a couple days left to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a cool giveaway!

Almost Empty

Playdates with God: Notes from Jubilee

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It is indeed the paradox of hospitality that poverty makes a good host. Poverty is the inner disposition that allows us to take away our defenses and convert our enemies into friends. We can only perceive the stranger as an enemy as long as we have something to defend. But when we say, ‘Please enter—my house is your house, my joy is your joy, my sadness is your sadness, and my life is your life,’ we have nothing to defend, since we have nothing to lose but all to give.”~Henri Nouwen, Show Me the Way: Readings for Each Day of Lent

We never run out of things to talk about, my High Calling friends and I, and being together is a large part of why I drive four hours through the snow every year to attend the Jubilee conference. I never knew one could grow to love a people through the mysterious airspace of the online world but it’s happened to me, so when we have a chance to be together in the flesh it makes me happy. I’m not one who talks easy with others, never having learned that fine art, and being in large groups of people can make me uneasy, tired. But I have attended Jubilee long enough to have a sense of familiarity and adopt an air of deep affection for the usual suspects involved. Though I still tend to hang back and observe, each year I have felt more comfortable extending my hand to others, so in about ten years I should feel completely at home.

This year at Jubilee the theme was “this changes EVERYTHING.” The speakers talked about how the Gospel changes our lives, this world, even how it can change the church. There was an emphasis on cross-cultural issues, racial justice, and reconciliation that felt right and good. After one of the worship sets, I commented to Deidra on the diversity of the people leading us in song and we wondered aloud why the arts tend to be more integrated than other areas of life. Music. It is a language of love. When people are united in a common love, a common passion, it’s easier to open the heart and celebrate differences as gifts, I suppose. I wonder how, as Christians, we can let our shared love for Jesus do that in a better way out in the world. And the more we keep wondering together and talking about these things and letting love be our guide the more our talk will lead to wise action and the more hearts will become one. I want to be part of that conversation.

One thing we try to do at The High Calling during our retreats at Laity Lodge is extend outrageous hospitality to all present. This year, as I watched snow fall outside from the warmth of my hotel room, I realized this is a big part of Jubilee too. From Byron Borger (AKA “Double B”) taking a second to say hello to me in the midst of the busy setting up his bookstore to CCO President Dan Dupee taking a selfie with me as they waited for him to come up on stage at Jubilee Professional (I didn’t know), these folks live out the message they preach: Everything in this beautiful, broken world belongs to God and we are here to steward it well. There is only this very thin layer of skin separating us from touching, from claiming all that is holy. The Gospel does, indeed, change everything.

I am beginning to see that all this mingling, this reaching out to others—it is all an act of hospitality. When I make myself poor, abandon that fear of losing what I defend, I am easier in reaching out in freedom. And I see that, just as in scripture, the stranger brings to me so many precious gifts.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

 

Playdates with God: Hospitality

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Yesterday, the sun came out for the first time this week and I drove to church alone with sunglasses on, blinking in the light. It was the second Sunday of Advent and the preacher preached about the power of God and then he called me up to administer communion. It’s my favorite thing, to stand at that table and look out at faces I love; to hold up the bread and wine and give the invitation. All the talk about God’s power reminded me how gracious a host our Creator is. How he gave up all that power for a time to set this table for us.

I stood there at that table thinking of Christmas parties and Christmas dinner and family and all the people I work with—how we create a space for each other every day—and I felt a pulling in my heart. This Christmas season is often about hospitality, but isn’t every day about hospitality too? I’ve been thinking about how my hospitality is a response to God.

God, the most gracious of all hosts, who spread all of creation before us. God, who shed his spirit-self and took on man-skin to be with us. God, who emptied himself fully, giving his very life. Even now God is giving in ways both seen and unseen.

In her book Soul Feast, Marjorie Thompson says, “Hospitality in biblical times was understood as a way of meeting and receiving holy presence.”

Isn’t this still true today?

When I open the door for my holiday guests this season, I’m going to try to see our time together as worship.

What ways are you practicing hospitality this season?hospitality pin

 

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

Week Twelve: Home

The mornings are dark when I slip outside now, reminding me that the days are folding in on themselves and my world is starting to lean her tilt away from the sun—turning her cheek demurely from its warmth. But one would never know this by what the thermometer tells; the mercury climbs high as I step into darkness. The air is dense and etches the windows with heavy spoors, clings to my hair in weighty drops.

I ghost through this mist, past the water reservoir where the nitid fog gathers in the low and the geese are silhouettes gliding on shimmer. I imagine the long-legged heron is Ezra on his high wooden platform and we have gathered by the Water Gate to hear. The geese are restless and their honking echoes across the water. The heron rises out of the pool when I draw near and trails his ballerina legs behind him as he flies away. Was Ezra ever so beautiful in his priestly garments?

These geese have no respect. They honk until daybreak and seem like Eutychus to me. No wonder Ezra was skittish. But I’m no better. I trudge on by, up the hill and ascend out of the white mist. But I am thinking about hospitality and the Festival of Booths and saying goodbye.

It is week twelve. When I began this journey I had no idea where it would take me. I am well-traveled now, though feeling sorrowed to say goodbye to the book. It has been a good friend.

Ah, but Nehemiah says, this day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.

So I shall not. I shall celebrate instead.

But hospitality demands I think of home and what it means and in the end it’s something totally different than it seems.

What is the nature of home? Partly it’s a place where we feel we have something in common with people—in other words where we experience communion. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).

Our home was rent in two. Into three, really, because home was at mom’s sometimes. At dad’s others. But mostly home was wherever we were when my siblings and I were back together again.

Yet this place did not have a sense of place.

In the tall crawlspace under mom’s decrepit house in town. Up the Indian Road at dad’s. Walking the streets of the city at night. On the log of a fat fallen tree in the woods.

Wherever we were together, it felt like home. At least until we were hardly ever together. And then, with a mother and father who were emotionally unavailable, and a herd of kids who were trying to take care of themselves…then we were homeless.

So I let my mind settle as the stars give way to the dawn spilling over the horizon. And I remember the simple one level home we had, with the in-floor furnace in the hall between the boys’ bedroom and ours (how many times did we all get branded with grill marks in failed attempts to jump that metal grate?) and I remember the apple tree in the field and the garter snakes we used to catch and keep in shoeboxes and the amazing buried marble treasure we found when we dug in the dirt up by the chicken coop (where did those things come from? We found enough to fill a Quaker Oatmeal cylinder…shooters and all) and riding our neighbor’s ponies on hot summer days and…

and I know that was home.

Any sense of hospitality I have is rooted in my memory of how it felt to be held and loved in those few short years before we fell into disarray. The place where every part of me belonged—the good and the not-so-good.

I like how the ancient biblical festivals build a communion-based hospitality into their structures—especially the trilogy of harvest festivals, which invite everything to the table: suffering, triumph, sorrow, joy, struggle, comfort, ugliness, beauty, emptiness, plenty, separation, community, death, and life. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).

See, these are the things I bring to the table. And God says, bring it all. And He invites me in to this divine relationship He has with Himself and He says, hey, I want to stay here with you, ok?

And this is home.

Wherever He is—this is home.

And I understand why this deliberate approach to spending time noticing Him–an hour a day for a year, in His Creation—in this world He made for us—would drive the point of His gracious hospitality home.

All this for me, Lord? For us?

And it models for us how we should be with each other.

When I started feeling more like God’s Beloved throughout my year of daily solitude, existence seemed to become a kind of festival, welcoming all manner of emotions, the light and the heavy. Strange things started to happen. I found myself feeling more connected to people…I began to want to know strangers’ names—I bought a silver bracelet one day and had to know that Tonya had sold it to me; it was important that Jose was my driver to the airport. I had the urge to embrace people and forgive things. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).

True hospitality means inviting people into our lives.

The sun is creeping and I’m nearing the end and part of me doesn’t want to stop. So I think of Ezra. I remember how the people celebrated that first Sukkot in Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity.

…From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was great. (Neh. 8:17b)

They knew where Home was.

And their joy was great.

May it be so for you as well.

This was written in response to Week 12 of L.L. Barkat’s book God in the Yard: spiritual practice for the rest of us. Read my journey in its entirety in the following posts. Thank you for joining me. How about taking your own pilgrimage?

Related: Dream Girl
Week One: Finding God…In the Yard?
Week Two: Parachute
Week Three: On Contemplation
Week Four: Celebration
Week Five: Sky Stories
Week Six: Lament
Week Seven: Hide
Week Eight: Sabbath Joy
Week Nine: Silence
Week Ten: The Bridge
Week Eleven: Chameleon