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Gather Around the Table

For those with young children, I imagine you want to see your children grow and flourish in all that God has for them. For those who have some type of leadership role where you work or worship, I’m sure you want to see your company or church thrive.

So how do you get there?

I’m all for the fundamentals of education, leadership training, strategic planning, and the like. We need discipline, character, mentoring and coaching. Tutoring, extracurricular activities, and career planning are all helpful practices.

But what about eating?

Sociologist Cody C. Delistraty researched recent scientific literature on childrearing and discovered that the single most crucial element in raising kids to be drug-free, healthy, intelligent, respectful and kind is frequent family dinners.

His research demonstrates that “the most important predictor of success for elementary-aged children is frequent family dinners. The primary factor in shaping vocabulary for younger children is frequent family dinners. The key variable most associated with a lower incidence of depressive and suicidal thoughts among eleven- to eighteen-year-olds is frequent family dinners” (Smith, The Hospitable Leader, 52-53).

Sharing meals at a table is a gift of grace. It creates an environment for listening, laughing, and learning, which are all acts of grace. Anytime we gather around a table to share with one another, an environment of home is created. We participate in a sacrament of breaking bread (Acts 2:42).

A sacrament is where the physical embodies the spiritual. Unseeing eyes only look upon bread and wine to nourish the body. Eyes that see (Mark 8:18) look upon food as a way also to nourish the soul. As we share in the sacrament of the table, we share in the gift of fellowship. Children learn from parents, and parents listen to children. We serve one another. We participate in the joy of conversation.

What happens around the family table can happen around any table where friends, co-workers and fellow travelers gather. Better workplaces and churches begin at the same place as better homes—around the table.

If the most important predictor of success for elementary-aged children is frequent family dinners, maybe businesses and churches should instill a higher value for joining around the table, and not just to watch a PowerPoint presentation or even just to share in communion.

As N. T. Wright once wrote, “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal” (Jones, Dwell, 180).

Not bad advice for us all. The next time you want to pass something along to a family member, co-worker or friend, why not do it over a meal?

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

The Future Can Wait While You Focus on the Moment

Laura was telling me the other day that she was going to clean out her email inbox, which had grown to . . . let’s say an astronomical level.  She sat down at our laptop, opened up her email, and the first email she saw was a Kohl’s ad indicating that if she just clicked on the link, she could get an additional 15% off her next purchase. 

So, she clicked.

That led to a thirty-minute online shopping experience, which then reminded her that she needed to take some returns to Kohl’s.  She drove to Kohl’s only to remember that she also should stop at the grocery store to pick up a few items.  While she was there, she remembered she had to run by the pharmacy.  She was close to Jiffy Lube, which reminded her that she needed an oil change.  After the oil change, she remembered she was originally going to Kohl’s, but then checked the time and remembered that she was supposed to stop by a friend’s house to pick up her daughter.

Later that evening, I asked, “How did it go cleaning out your inbox?”  I won’t tell you what she said.

It’s easy for us to lose focus on a task at hand.  I probably shouldn’t tell you this, in case we have a conversation soon, but this happens to me all the time when I’m talking with people.  I try to stay focused, but what someone says often triggers something in my mind, and by the time I “rejoin” the conversation, I realize I missed half of what was said.  And that’s not a good thing.

In his book, Essentialism, author Greg McKeown says it is possible to multi-task but not to multi-focus.  You can do two things at once: wash the dishes and listen to your favorite tunes, text while watching TV, eat lunch while having a conversation, and so on.

“What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time.  When I talk about being present, I’m not talking about doing only one thing at a time.  I’m talking about being focused on one thing at a time.  Multi-tasking itself is not the enemy . . . multi-focus is” (220).

To be fully present requires your full attention.  This can be challenging when you’re faced with multiple tasks and obligations, and they are all screaming for immediate action.  The first step to focus on the now is to stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what is most important in that very moment—not tomorrow or even an hour from now.  Determine what needs your present focus, and then get the future out of your head. The future can wait while you focus on the moment. 

Of course, this requires you to determine your priorities, and it should open the door to your reliance on the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Are your priorities God’s priorities?  If they are, then you know where to place your focus.  If they aren’t, then you have an opportunity to readjust and realign. 

Some personalities lend themselves better to setting priorities and staying focused.  Regardless of how “scattered” you may feel you are, being fully present can help you slow down, lower stress, and enjoy the gift of time.

“He appointed Twelve that they might be with Him” (Mark 3:14). 

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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