An excerpt from the book Come To The Family Table by Ted and Amy Cunningham with an introduction by Brad Bloom, Publisher, Faith & Fitness Magazine [NOTE: This is a multi-page article. Be sure to read all 4 pages.]
Some content taken from COME TO THE FAMILY TABLE, by Ted and Amy Cunningham. Copyright © 2016. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
(Vigerous) Exercise + (Good and Proper) Nutrition = Physical Fitness. Many people wonder why all their workouts and diets never really have the results they desire. It’s because they don’t apply the simple formula above. They don’t realize that all the exercise in the world is pointless if your food habits are bad. The same goes with faith in God. The depth of your journey with God is limited if you have low-functioning family and friends relationships.
This is one reason why Faith & Fitness Magazine has both a Family Fitness department and a Nutrition department. If you want to grow strong physically and spiritually then you need to learn how to come to the family table. Don’t make it a chore. Make it a celebration. It can’t be the rare occasion. It has to be the norm that you eagerly desire. I think people try to make God way too mysterious and aloof. He gives us meal times so we can meet our most basic needs through a continually growing dedication to each other and to Him. Chic-fil-A founder Truett Cathy understood this when he said, “Food is essential to life, therefore make it good.”
If we are to truly embrace the spirit of this family value and more importantly discover the incredible life God has for us, we have to become connoisseurs of collaborative meals and knowledgeable in cooking spiritual gourmets. God wants you to eat well with those closest to you. You don’t have to be a nutritionist or celebrity chef, you just have to be hungry for a better life in Christ.
Continue reading for a passionate perspective by Ted and Amy Cunningham. Their book Come to the family table helps you to slow down, enjoy food, each other and Jesus. I’ve selected the following excerpts from their book because I believe they will inspire you to catch the vision and challenge you to do more, go further and be the life of Christ to others.
(Proceed to the next page for BOOK EXCERPTS and to discover how the tool for fellowship is the table.)
THE TOOL IS THE TABLE
Ted: For years, Amy wanted a ginormous farm table a minimum of ten feet long to entertain fourteen to twenty people at a time. And what my baby wants, my baby gets. So I researched, studied. . .and realized that these tables are super pricey. So I came up with a solution.
“Babe, I’m going to make you a farm table,” I said enthusiastically.
“Hmmm,” she responded.
“You don’t need to say a thing. You’re welcome,” I said.
The schematics were in my head. About a week before Thanksgiving, I went to Lowe’s and purchased four ten-foot-long one-inch by twelve-inch boards and a couple four-foot-long one by fours. No saw cuts necessary. All it took were a few screws and a drill and shazam—Amy had a twelve-foot farm table to set on top of our existing table. It’s one huge table leaf. Deep down, Amy was impressed. She had her farm table for ninety dollars. All she needed were two overlapping tablecloths to hide the roughness and no one would know the difference.
One reason I was excited to make the farm table, other than the fact that I served my wife, was that it eliminates the kids’ table. Now everyone is around the same table. We can minister to our guests without splitting everyone up. The table is a place where community happens.
(Proceed to the next page to learn how hospitality is an open door.)
HOSPITALITY IS AN OPEN DOOR
Ted: Do you remember a time where you were invited to someone’s home and felt welcomed? Paul and Beth Etheridge, members of our church, hosted our elders’ Christmas party a few years ago.
It was one of the most memorable evenings of our married life. They requested that we show up and bring nothing. They prepared a multi-course meal and served us through every course. Gourmet doesn’t come close to describing this beautiful, relaxing, high-end experience. We started with the first course at 6:00 p.m. Dinner lasted over four hours, and it felt like thirty minutes. Good hospitality makes time fly and leaves you wanting more.
But have you ever been in someone’s home and felt like they really didn’t want you there? Awkward, right? Gracious hosts project warmth in everything they say and do.
Here are a few statements you don’t want to hear when you are a guest in someone’s home:
“Tonight almost didn’t happen because it has been a crazy week.”
“My husband tried talking me out of tonight because he knows how crazy I get preparing for parties.”
“I hope you enjoyed the salmon. It was on sale.”
“I just threw something together.”
“I really don’t enjoy cooking, but for you I thought I’d fire up the grill.”
“Just throw your coats on the bed.”
Open-door hospitality sets you at ease and helps the conversation flow. Your invitation to dinner should be more than “I enjoy your company and I would like to get to know you better.” You really want them to hear, “You are highly valuable and more than worth the effort.”
(Proceed to the next page for help with intentionally developing hospitality.)
INTENTIONALLY DEVELOPING HOSPITALITY
Amy: In 1 Peter 4:8-9 we read, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” This should be in the heart of every Christian. But there are some who have been given an extra measure of faith in hospitality, and we call that a spiritual gift. Following the spiritual gifts list of Romans 12, we read, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (verse 13). Our church defines the spiritual gift of hospitality as “the divine enablement to care for people by providing fellowship, food, and shelter.” While some may be gifted with a measure of grace to show hospitality, every follower of Jesus is called to hospitality as Christian service.
Seven years ago, we experienced a meal that we desired more of. And after partaking in it several times since, we desire to give a similar experience to others. It was New Year’s Eve, and we were invited to a party at the home of some friends. I have to admit—when they told us who else would be there, I really did not want to go. There were only two couples we kind of knew. My kids were young at the time, and I remember being very picky about our nights away from them. I wanted to be alone with my husband on a date rather than at a party with a few friends and strangers. But somehow, Ted convinced me that it would be good for us. I am so glad he did. It changed us forever.
Dave White greeted us at the door of their new lake home. He and his wife, Jennifer, had recently moved to Branson from Louisiana. Dave always dreamed of having a home in the Ozark Mountains, and this home was something special with its sprawling ceilings, massive stone fireplace, detailed woodwork, and floor-to-ceiling windows. As we entered the home, I immediately lost myself in its warmth.
Dave took us into the kitchen where Jennifer greeted us, poured us a drink, handed us a recipe card, and pointed us to our workstation. I have to admit, I was taken aback. What? I have to cook at your house? It was 7:00, and I was hungry! I was used to eating dinner with my toddlers around 5:30 p.m., and by 7:00pm, we were usually ready for bed. Little did I know that the next two and a half hours would be some of the best fun and fellowship we had ever experienced.
We all chopped and diced, stirred and seared, refreshed drinks, and snacked on hors d’oeuvres. The goal that night was not to have a perfect dinner all set and ready to go. The goal was to enjoy the experience, preparations and all. We sat down to dinner at 9:30 p.m. I was happy to sit, but my soul was already full.
Ted and I talk about that evening often. That kind of hospitality—intentionally designed to foster relationships and to bless those who took part—was new to us. By the end of the night, we had new friends and a desire to do hospitality for the sake of blessing others. David and Jennifer are great examples of hospitality—it’s Jennifer’s spiritual gift, and it pours out of her life.
Not all of us will have the opportunity to make such an impact with our hospitality. You may not be able to serve those in need on a regular basis, but what about inviting someone who doesn’t have family nearby over for a holiday meal?
I know holidays are sacred. I am not a real sentimental person, but when it comes to the holidays I have way too many traditions and expectations. My poor husband used to bring up having people over and I would bite his head off. All I could think about was the cleaning and preparation that I would need to do to get everything perfect and I would be completely overwhelmed and exhausted just considering about it.
Imagine the look on his face when after eighteen years of marriage, I brought up inviting a family or person that does not have a place to go for Thanksgiving. I know he had to restrain himself from acting out on the shock he was feeling. The day after we discussed doing this, a family from our church posted the following question on Facebook: “Where could we get a great Thanksgiving meal in Branson? It will just be the four of us so I don’t want to cook a big meal just for our little family.”
So we invited them, and they accepted! We had a great time preparing as a family. My kids made place cards and set the table. They went through old toys to see what the younger guests would enjoy playing with. I spent hours in the kitchen in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, wondering why I hadn’t done this before. I plan and prepare meals for every holiday. It really doesn’t take any more time just to double recipes.
We all talked around the dinner table for seven hours. Food, wine, family, friends, and the Lord at the center of it all. Our kids got to practice hospitality, placing the younger children’s wants and desires before their own. Carson and Corynn served the children drinks and snacks, colored, jumped on the trampoline, watched a movie, and cleaned up after them. Our kids were wiped out at the end of it all, but the next day they both asked when we could have the family back again. We were overwhelmed with gratitude on this Thanksgiving. We hope that one day our children will want to open their own homes and dinner tables as a tradition of blessing others.
This article appears in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Faith & Fitness Magazine.
Order copies of the book Come To The Family Table for your family and others.