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.”

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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.} 

4 thoughts on “What I Learned from a Lawn Chair

  1. Love this and you, sweet Kelley. It was so good to see Eddie recently at Chets Nocatee … we sure do miss our Hastings family from Hodges! I would love to learn more about hosting a table and the Well Fed ministry. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to participate this coming weekend, as we’ll be busy with preparations for Chets Creek at Nocatee’s FIRST anniversary celebration! But, hopefully soon … Maybe we can have lunch, and you (& your sweet MIL?) can fill me in on how to host? With deepest affection, Cecilia

    • First anniversary! Wow, I can hardly believe it! Congrats to Nocatee! Yes, we will have to get together. What a fabulous host you would be!

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