What I Learned from a Lawn Chair

{This post was written by Kelley Hastings to introduce you to Chets Women:TABLE and the importance of inviting the women in your life to pull up a chair.}

I was invited to a party last month but this was no ordinary party.  Not only was it out of state but I was a virtual stranger to my hosts. And it wasn’t just me who was unknown but all 350 of us.  This party wasn’t even at some hotel ballroom or park…it was at the hosts’ house.  You would think inviting that many people to your home would be cause for massive decorating and expense, but this was not the case. We were greeted warmly by the hosts upon arrival and we were given a party favor but they were laid out simply, on a white folding table.  Food trucks dotted the perimeter where you served yourself.  Picnic tables were stationed near the trucks but no centerpieces could be found on them.  The party was in the expansive lawn but you pulled up your own folding lawn chair from a stack near the front porch.  Locals were even asked to bring their own chairs. The only decoration to be found were the white twinkly lights and lanterns hanging from the trees but even they served a purpose – to provide sight as the sun began to set.  And I must say it was one of the most inviting parties I have ever been to.

The pulling up of your own lawn chair and the picking up of your own food made you feel you were a part of the party rather than an attender.  You were on equal footing with the hosts and not someone to be entertained or impressed.  It was a lovely and welcome feeling. I left that party thinking, “I could and should host more parties!” rather than, “Wow, I could never pull this off.

There’s a line in Crowder’s popular song “Come As You Are” that sums up hospitality so beautifully.  Couched between other profound lyrics he beckons, “Come sit at the table, come taste the grace.” I am certainly no hospitality expert (that’s the other Mrs. Hastings) but God has been stretching my understanding on this topic over the past two years.

I thought of hospitality as a welcoming spirit.  And for whatever reason, I pictured a warm and inviting woman having her friends into her home frequently.  An extroverted woman who loves people and parties, cooking and entertaining, came to mind. Surprise pop-ins are actually delightful experiences for them.  (Can you even imagine?!)

This picture was only partly accurate, for while sitting in a Life U course last semester my ears perked up as I heard biblical hospitality being defined as “a love for the stranger.” The stranger? I thought it was primarily your friends! This goes way beyond welcoming your friends and enjoying parties.

The Life U course was based on Tony Merida’s book Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down. In his chapter on kingdom hospitality he distinguishes hospitality from entertaining and fellowship.  He writes, “Entertaining is about impressing others while hospitality is about serving others. Entertaining can easily make much of the host (look what I can do!) while hospitality makes much of the guests.  Entertaining can come off shallow and superficial while hospitality brings depth and authenticity.” (Emphases added by me.) Merida then explains that fellowship is what happens among believers living in community.  Not strangers. Fellowship is definitely essential and biblically commanded but it is not to be confused with hospitality.

The making of our homes into a refuge is really idolatry, for God alone is our refuge.  Our culture has told us that our homes are our havens – beautiful spaces for our own comfort and pleasure.  Perhaps even a source of pride. (I cannot help but think of the current refugee crisis and how desperately biblical hospitality is needed.) Yes, our homes are to be our sanctuaries but they are also to be used for His purposes.  For some of us that means releasing the desire to have that dream home only found on our Pinterest boards, and allowing someone into our real lives. Wouldn’t you feel more relaxed and at home in a real space anyway?

Jesus’ very ministry depended on kingdom hospitality.  Luke in particular took note of nine different accounts where Jesus was invited into homes and how His ministry of spreading the Gospel depended on it.

Not only was He invited in but He was invited to the table.  These were meal scenes.  And Jesus was actually having table fellowship with “sinners” like tax collectors.  Jen Hatmaker explains in her book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity, “To eat with someone in that culture indicated a large step beyond mere acquaintance; it indicated intimacy.”


What’s so special about a table? I asked my Chets Women Connect team this question and we came up with various possibilities.

  • At a table we are all equal. We eat off the same dishes, we look each other in the face and we eat the same food.
  • At a table we serve one another. We pass the food around and we share. The host typically sits down and joins us and does not wait on us.
  • At a table we give each other the gift of our time. We can relax in each other’s presence and let our true selves come out over the course of the meal.
  • Eating (which usually takes place at a table) is essential to life and so perhaps God is trying to equate that daily necessity with hospitality, fellowship and community

Thankfully I see a shift in our culture – a desire for true authentic relationships and a return to the simple and pure.  I am sure you have noticed that lace accents, suede, burlap, repurposed wood, mason jars, chalk handwriting on blackboards, farm to table restaurants, and even Native American prints with feathers and arrows are all the rage now. Perhaps we are longing for a simpler time where pretenses are tossed aside as we seek out the natural and humble.

Chets Women: TABLES are one such place you can practice biblical community and kingdom hospitality at the same time. The concept is simple and based on a description of the early church in Acts 2:46

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Just remember 2 – 4 – 6 : 2 hours, 4 questions, 6 women.

Invite your tribe but also pray for God to open your eyes as to who He wants at your TABLE.  It could be a stranger or casual acquaintance.  Or include that woman you have been wanting to get to know better but never find the time. Invite 5 of these women into your home, your “real life”, and watch how the conversation automatically deepens.  Or invite 5 women to a quiet coffee shop or restaurant.  I ask that you do it any time over the weekend of October 2nd – 4th.  I recognize our taxed schedules and availability so I wanted to give plenty of options.  Please see what works for your people.  Maybe it is a potluck dinner on Friday night, an early morning coffee on Saturday, or a lunch after church on Sunday.  There is something special knowing we are all having the same God-centered conversations over the same weekend.

I will be at the Chets Women Info stand in the atrium again this Sunday, September 27th with a sign-up sheet and the 4 questions. Simply cut out the questions and lay them on the table.  Invite women to pick up a card, read it and allow time for each woman to answer the question. It really is that simple. The topic is Godly friendships.  You can also contact me directly at kellhastings@gmail.com to sign up as a host OR if you would like to attend a TABLE.  I will find a seat for you!

For real relationships to form, we must invite someone in to our lives. TABLE is a first step toward building a new friendship, walking out our faith together, or perhaps discovering a deeper faith. Merida explains, “Something as simple as a meal, when shared, can open the door to something extraordinary.”  God will use your boldness when you invite someone to your TABLE! Women in particular are starved for deeper connections. Loneliness and isolation are on the rise as we fill our days with “virtual friendships”.  We may have a lot of those but they are typically shallow and general in nature.  We need the few, face to face, to truly share what we may be wrestling with.  Take that step and host a TABLE. You never know who needs your time.

Come sit at the table, come taste the grace.  There’s a lawn chair waiting for you!

P.S.  Go ahead and save the date March 11-12 for our annual IF: Gathering.  I got a preview of the topic and it is not to be missed! This in-home retreat is a perfect way to share kingdom hospitality. More info to come!

Kelley Hastings

{This post was written by Kelley Hastings. Kelley is a writer-in-training and member of the Author Launch Community. She has been married to Eddie, her Seminary sweetheart, for almost 20 years and they have two charming and rowdy boys. Kelley leads the Chets Women’s Connect Team and helps her husband lead an adult LifeGroup. She loves encouraging women to apply the truth of God’s Word and make deep connections. Her heart beats fast for infertility issues, adoption, families affected by cancer, and, of course, dark chocolate.} 

Extreme Healing

This post was written by Liza Akley.  She is a member of the Chets Women Unleash team and they would like to invite you to join them for Impact Jax, a church wide day of service on Saturday, September 26th. The unleash team will be serving at Kidz Extreme by teaching the love of Christ to disadvantaged children through songs, activities, and other creative ways.
Register by Sunday, September 20th: http://hodges.chetscreek.com/impact-jax.
Contact Michelle Arguello for more information.

I spent more than a year trying to figure out where I should serve. I never felt adequate or “spiritual” enough to serve in any capacity. At the beginning of the year, I decided to fight through my feelings of inadequacy, roll-up my sleeves, and get involved. Most people who know me, including my three kids, would agree that I was not the best candidate to work with children. But I decided to volunteer with Kidz Extreme in Northwest Jacksonville. I figured it would give me something to do until I gained more “Bible knowledge” and then I could switch to a ministry better suited for my skills.

BUT GOD. He had a totally different plan as to how He would use this ministry in my life. God knew that the little girl inside of me was still broken from childhood abuse. Even though I had forgiven my abuser years ago and earnestly prayed to God for His salvation, the restoration process in this area of my life had not yet been attained. The first Saturday that I volunteered with Kidz Extreme, I helped organize chairs, setup tables, sweep the floor, and pack over 150 lunches to give to the children. These tasks were definitely in my comfort zone but it falsely gave me the impression there would be nothing else required of me. I brought my 11-year-old daughter to serve with me the following week. As Eddie Hatcher led our volunteer prayer time that morning, he told us that we must see every child in the image of God. That our purpose was to love, encourage, and SEE them. I was filled with fear and negative thoughts. There was no way I could do this. I struggled most of my life to show my own children love and encouragement. I was now in an inward battle of emotions and confusion. To make matters worse, Eddie then asked if my daughter and I would minister to the 2 to 4 year olds.

Over 20 children participated in our group that day. As I took a deep breath to hold my tears back, I asked God to help me endure those 50 minutes. The majority of the children were poorly groomed and dirty. Some had an overwhelming odor of urine on their clothes. Some were so heartbreakingly hungry they wouldn’t stop begging for a snack during the story time. The kids fought for our attention, all wanted to sit on our laps, and sought for verbal recognition for the work on their crafts. We sang, danced, jumped, and acted silly. As I shared that Jesus loved them, the dirt on their faces vanished, the smell went away, and I saw these precious children as God created them. My heart was filled with joy and compassion.

Kidz Extreme

Liza’s daughter Ilana sharing God’s love with the children at Kidz Extreme

As my daughter and I have joined God on mission, I’ve seen her develop a boldness to pray with and for her friends. She has had the opportunity to lead friends to Christ and provides encouragement to other students. After seven months of serving through Kidz Extreme, now I look forward to seeing the kids on Saturdays. As I have shown God’s love to these children, He has in turn changed, restored, and revived my heart.

{This post was written by Liza Akley. She has been a member of Chets for 3 years and currently serves on the Unleash Team, Hosea’s Love and Kidz Extreme. Liza has been married for almost 13 years to her husband Nick and they serve as a mentor couple for the Third Option marriage class. Liza has 3 amazing children (Anthony, 24, Jasmine, 21, and Ilana, 11). She enjoys running, catering lunches and volunteering with Seniors on a Mission and Heartland Hospice. She loves her Chets family and is seeking to grow in spiritual knowledge to work for the Lord full time.}

We are One Body

This time last year our little family of three was just entering our first fall here in Jacksonville after moving from Chicago in April.  We were moved into our home, our daughter had just started school, we had found a home church that we were excited to grow and serve with, and now it was time to start to get connected with our new community.  I happen to have a slight addiction 😉 to Christian women’s blogs, and sometimes it honestly just feels like information overload because there are a LOT of them out there!  Thankfully, however, I happened to see Jen Hatmaker posting toward the end of last August about an upcoming event called IF:Pray.  It caught my attention, and I started watching the promo videos. I needed to figure out where the closest one to me was being held, and I needed to be there.  I discovered that Chets Creek Church was a host site, so I sent an email saying that I would so love to participate in this event, but asking sheepishly if it would be okay if I came despite the fact that my family’s home church is down the road at Church of Eleven22.   I received a reply rather quickly, and of course, they were MORE than happy that I was coming in spite my not being a member of Chets!  It is funny what the enemy tries to do, isn’t it?  I mean, we are one body in Christ, right?  

So, there I was one weekday evening last September, walking into a room full of women that I did not know who welcomed me with open arms and many smiles.  You see, we had just spent 7 1/2 years in Chicago which I now have so many beautiful memories of, but in the beginning half of those years there were times when we felt so incredibly alone in our faith.  We felt like strangers in the land.  We felt isolated, wondering, does anyone else out there know Him?  Does anyone else out there think like us?  Where are you?  Well, there are, of COURSE, many, many people who thought like us and shared our faith.  It just did not always feel like it in those beginning years.  We had to get out of our comfort zone and go seek them out.  We learned so very much though in those years about contentment in Christ.  We learned that it doesn’t matter where you live or what your circumstances are, He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He is ALL. We. Need.  

Also, in the years we lived in Chicago, there were many “culture wars” that went on, and those definitely just added to that “stranger in the land” feeling.  There was something else God taught us though while we were there in those uncomfortable situations.  A dear friend I had made through our then home church who I considered a wise, mentor type woman said something one day that always stuck with me.  She said she always asks herself in those situations, “By me proving my point to this person and being “right”, is that going to bring them closer to finding a relationship with Christ?”  That started me on a journey where God showed me how important it is that we, as a Church, start to be known for what we stand FOR instead of what we are AGAINST.  God started showing me that PRAYER is our most valuable weapon in an upside down world!  Getting together with other like minded women from all over the nation and even the world and falling down on our knees TOGETHER and crying out to our Savior on behalf of a fallen world that needs a Savior?  That goes SO much further at showing people on the outside, if you will, who Jesus really is than proving my point ever did.  

So, I found myself in a huddle with 3 other ladies in a room at Chets Creek Church last fall pouring out prayers for the world to know that Jesus is real and came to this earth to pull them out of their pit and bring them from death to life.  I went in that room knowing not a single lady. My only connection was the lady I emailed to ask if I could come who is now a dear, dear friend! I left knowing people and making lifelong friends with several of those sisters in Christ that I met that night.  There have been coffee/prayer dates, encouraging texts, etc. that never would have happened had I not reached out of my comfort zone and gone into a room at a church I did not attend with women in it that I did not know.  Praise God I just put one foot in front of the other and made it in there!  

IF:Pray takes place on September 14th, and you can arrive at Chets as early as 7:30. The live stream of the event will take place at 8:00 pm where we will join women all around the world for a sweet, precious time in prayer.  As John Piper said, prayer is our wartime walkie talkie, and we are in a war all the time in this world.  We need to join together with other sisters and cry out together.  I hope you will join in no matter where you go to church – we are one body in Christ!  For more info and to RSVP: click here.

{This post was written by Sheri Daily. Sheri has been married to her high school sweetheart/railroader husband, Jason, for 17 years, and they have an 8 year old daughter that they adore. Sheri leads a disciple group with her husband at the Church of Eleven22 and loves offering a smile, kind word and a glimpse of “Hope” while serving at Hope’s Closet Thrift. She loves Jesus, loves to read and is quite serious about her coffee.}  

IF:Pray – An invitation to come

A year ago, I just happened to show up at a Chet’s prayer gathering. It was one of the first evenings I ventured out after having my second child. I could have easily missed this, but somehow God got me there. I had no idea what to expect and I only knew two faces in the room, but that didn’t matter.

I took my seat. We worshiped. We all prayed together. Then we broke into small groups to pray for specific “calls to prayer.” Some prayed aloud, while others prayed silently. The presence of God was heavy in the room.

We started praying for the unreached people of the world – people who had never heard the name of Jesus. My heart ached for these people. I started praying, but then something amazing happened –  something I hadn’t experienced in a long time – the Holy Spirit prayed through me. I’m not talking about anything strange; but the passion and the words, they weren’t my own. It was almost like I felt the Lord’s heart for His people.

I’m telling you this because I know Jesus is going to show up again this year.

And I don’t want you to miss it.

It’s not even about the anointing that He may pour out – that’s an added blessing.

It’s about aligning our hearts with His.

Maybe it has been awhile since you’ve felt the presence of God? Or maybe you are burdened by all that is going on in our world today? If so, I urge you to come. Get rid of excuses. Don’t be intimidated. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t know anyone going. I promise you will leave feeling connected. Nothing is more powerful than joining together with women for one simple reason: To pray.

Join us as we pray for God’s people, His church, and our world.

Come and see God move. Come and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  

IF:Pray — A Prayer Gathering of Women across the World                                                                                                           Monday, September 14th, 8:00 – 10:00 PM                                                                                                                           Chets Creek Church, Hodges Campus, Student Worship Room/3rd Floor

Doors open at 7:30pm for coffee and homemade desserts. Livestream begins at 8:00pm. For more information contact Jill Darkatsh at ejdark@comcast.net. RSVP to this free event on the IF:Pray Facebook Invite