Picking up the small green notecard, my friend read her assigned question on the subject of hospitality. “Do you have an intentional banner for your table? For example, do you want it to be a place of laughter? Of compassion? Of rest?”
The women around the table paused a bit to digest the question, then the answers started coming. “I want everyone at my table to feel loved and accepted,” one woman said.
“I want the words, ‘choose joy’ on the wall above my table,” another one said. “Wow,” I thought. This woman is one of the bravest women I know–she stays positive during long seasons of adversity.
A spunky grandma talked of her ideal of adults and children mixing in a happy gaggle around the table, with no favoritism or overt rules. (Let me tell you, her table would be a fun place! Not only does she have an incredible depth of soul, but she also had us in stitches half the time during our Bible study!)
I sat there stupidly, unable to think of any overarching theme for what happens around my table. Sure, there’s plenty of activity and laughter if you factor in five children and the preoccupation with inane stories and breached manners. Still, I couldn’t imagine wanting a banner of Burp Unhindered or Knock-Knock Joke Central flying over my table!
“I can’t really think of anything,” I said. As an afterthought, I added, “but I do love to listen to people.” I didn’t tell them this, but the depression that I have been fighting off for the last month always lifts a bit with quality human interactions.
Later it came to me. Ka-ching! Your word is listen…and this is a multi-dimensional kind of listening. Your job is to listen to people and to God simultaneously.
As I thought over it more, I realized that when I sat at my table (or stood in the aisle in the grocery store, or on someone’s front step) and truly listened to people with my ears open both to them and to God, my heart felt alive. Sometimes God gave me an idea (go pay her utility bill) and sometimes He gave me words to share (Sarah, the way you are being treated makes you feel worthless, but you are a wonderful mama to your children.).
Knowing this makes me want to be more intentional about practicing the gift of listening.
This holiday season, what banner do you want to have over your table? What gift has God given you to share with others? What aspect of hospitality makes your heart feel fully alive?
And now I am going to get this pesky kitten off my head and bake pumpkin pies for the community Thanksgiving dinner! Maybe I will have a chance to listen well to someone who is lonely on Thanksgiving.