THE TABLE | Who Knew Where It Would Lead?

For those who know me, it’s no big secret that I love to socialize. I love parties and especially enjoy having people over for dinner, since I also love to cook! Practicing hospitality in this way is one thing that brings me a lot of joy, nevermind the extra pounds I also gain finding an excuse to serve a new gourmet recipe. I used to worry about how clean the house was, but have learned over the years that true hospitality is not about being stressed out over such things by expecting everything to be perfect. True hospitality is mostly about sharing life and love, strengthening others and giving them connection and hope. And it’s a two way street, because that’s also what it does for us, sometimes with some surprising results.

When I look back over the years at all the people with whom I have shared a meal at our home, I especially remember the young people who came. My daughter attended an alternative high school here in town, and she often brought home some of her classmates. I always extended an invitation for them to eat with us, knowing that they might not always have an opportunity for a home-cooked meal at their house. I can’t tell you how many times I experienced teens at my table who told me how wonderful it was to actually sit down and talk with others while sharing a meal. And they did talk… and I listened and learned.

As a Christian, I knew what the Bible said about hospitality. Romans 12:13 says we are to be eager to practice hospitality. I love how The Message translates this as we are to be “inventive in hospitality.” My cooking was certainly that – inventive! Romans 15:7 also reminds us to welcome one another as Christ welcomes us, to the glory of God.

One particular evening, my daughter brought her friend A.J. over after school to study, and I invited him to stay for dinner. Besides being a teenage boy with a big appetite, he also came from a family where both parents struggled to work and nourishing meals were not plentiful. He gladly accepted. That night I was preparing my famous fried chicken, a recipe I had been repeating since I learned it from my mother. My recipe, however, didn’t include frying the chicken in bacon fat. My apologies to those who think bacon makes everything better! Anyway, A.J. enjoyed the meal so much that he told me it was the best fried chicken he’d ever tasted. I was flattered, of course, but soon found out that he had an idea that I hadn’t anticipated. He wanted me to give him a cooking lesson, teaching him how to prepare the meal we had just eaten. A.J. wanted to attract the attentions of Victoria with his culinary skills. He would arrange to present her a meal of fried chicken, garlicky mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and homemade blueberry pie. I agree to do it, after we arranged a day and time and he brought over the necessary ingredients.

The food turned out great. And apparently, Victoria was so impressed with the meal that she not only became his girlfriend, but now they are married! When I learned that they were tying the knot, I couldn’t help but think that it must have been the delicious fried chicken that caused her to fall for A.J. I’m so glad that I took the time to get to know him and listen to his heart speaking. Still, who knew it would lead to a marriage that is still happily intact today? I certainly didn’t. But I’m glad to have been a part of his continuing story with his wife of nearly three years. I’m still surprised and amused at all of this.

Well, as a sidebar to this story, my daughter later on got a job working at KFC for two years. I’m not bragging, but she always commented that my fried chicken even beat the Colonel’s. I told her that mine contains a secret ingredient called love. It’s God’s love that welcomes me and you, so that we also can bring others to our table and with the love we show, make a difference in their lives.

Reflect: What surprises have you experienced when you practiced hospitality toward others? How have you had to be more inventive in your hospitality during this time?

 

Maggie Daniel is married (to Rob!) with two grown kids. She’s lived in Fort Collins for 26 years, enjoys music, photography, writing, cooking and socializing.

The Table | CAPTIVATED

This year, I have had the honor of nannying a young girl with Down Syndrome named Emma. Emma is in second grade and is obsessed with Frozen! And I mean obsessed…. But not only is she obsessed with that, she is particularly fond of what I call the “little things.”

Three days a week I would pick Emma up from school, and we would spend at least ten minutes at the playground while Emma conquered the monkey bars. It is the only piece of the playground that you can find her on. And while she is a master at it, she finds so much joy in the repetition and accomplishment of it that she can never quite tear herself away. I often found myself getting irritated after the 5th or 6th time around waiting for her to be done so we could get ahead of the after-school traffic…which we never did.

Other examples of her fascination with the little things include really sharp pencils, or drawing her numbers just perfect, or laughing at whatever thing Tom and Jerry were doing in the latest cartoon even though she had seen the episode at least 26 times.

And since I started working with her in October, I had always found myself trying to speed her up and get through the repetition and fascination she had with things in order to move on to the next activity… until this month.

Because of the season that every human is required to trudge through right now, we have all felt our worlds drastically slow down. And if you’re anything like me, you might be starting to feel restless, hopeless, or like the days are starting to blur together.

This week I have been reflecting on something I learned way back in elementary school called a doldrum. A doldrum is a spot in the sea close to the equator where there is no wind or current and where ships have historically found themselves caught in and would ultimately perish. That stagnation, that inactivity, led to the death of these ships and their crew. For the past couple weeks, I have felt like I was in a doldrum – a stagnation, a desert, with no hope for a gust of wind or current of motivation in sight.

However, yesterday I went back to babysit Emma since all of this started and I gleaned new perspective.

Emma is seemingly un-phased by this season. In fact, she is even a little bit grateful for it.

In seasons like this, she is finding that she can sharpen her pencil for as many times as she pleases. She can erase and rewrite her numbers as many times over as she likes because there is no rush to her day. No one is asking her to “hurry up” or “get a move on” and she only continues to be CAPTIVATED by these seemingly insignificant things.

These little things throughout her day whether that be a sharpened pencil, a little bug, or the temperature outside make these days her absolute best. She has been given the time and space in this season to process the world with exactly the right amount of wonder, time, and space that she needs to give herself.

I’ve decided that – especially now – I want to be like Emma.

I have been so preoccupied lately with the bombardment of news, the threat of “the surge,” no timeline on when this is supposed to end that I have completely blinded myself to the captivation of little things and little joys going on around me.

Emma has a posture of heart of inherent humility. She doesn’t let herself, her image, or the news get in the way of seeing the world and all the beauty that is holds. I have decided that I need to humble myself and free myself of the distractions and threat of this world in order to see the wonder around me. The incredible spring sunsets, the FaceTimes with my people, the helpers volunteering their time, the sharpened pencils, the puppy kisses. I have no control of the world going on around me, but I do have control over the posture of my heart.

The paradox of Emma’s captivation with the little things around her is she is free.

Free of the worries of the world.

Free of the idea that the world views her as different because of Down Syndrome.

Free from the fact that the world is currently debating whether a person with Down Syndrome even deserves a ventilator if they find themselves sick with the virus in a hospital with inadequate resources.

Its paradoxical because within the word of captivation is the word “captive.” Which society would lead us to belief is the antithesis of free. However, I believe that Jesus is teaching us something different. When someone is captivated by something, they are directing their attention to something that is irresistible. When someone is captivated by something, be it a passionate career, a lover, or a spectacle, they belong to something else. They belong to something greater than themselves.

In the Gospel of John, Mary, Jesus’ mother is described as PRESENT at the foot of the cross. Mary was there captivated by the tragedy and the gravity of the situation unfolding before her. There, witnessing the death of the baby she carried and raised. There, holding tight to the strange and yet palpable hope of God’s plan. Mary knows that she and her son, Jesus, BELONG to something greater than themselves.

So as our own well of non-sustainable strength and love are starting to run dry in these times, let us remind ourselves that we belong to a God who has an abundant well of all of these mercies. Here we are in the middle of a world tragedy and we are choosing to be PRESENT. Not to numb ourselves but rather stand here steadfast and trusting as we witness God’s strange plan unfolding before us.

And while it may be hard to see that hope and plan some days, I am going to seek it in the captivation of the little things. Like Emma, I am going to choose the paradox of captivation and freedom in order to invite the same thing for my people around me.

I no longer can sit in the stagnation of what culture wants me to believe as the world is stopping. Rather, I invite all of us to choose a posture of heart of freedom and captivation. As author Glennon Doyle wrote in her most recent book, “Freeing of oneself invites those around you to be free as well.”

Tonight I want to invite you to reflect on whether you have felt yourself captivated by the little things lately? And if not, how are you going to invite that into your own world this week?

Whitney Buckendorf is a first-year student at Denver University, engaging her passion for others and the world through International Studies and Social Work.

The Table is a worship experiment of Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that meets on Tuesday evenings from 6-7:30 p.m. at the FoCo Cafe–when we’re not under stay-at-home orders. For now, we’re meeting virtually. Go to our website for more.

 

 

Central Rocky Mountain Region Anti-Racism Training Communion Invitation

HipstamaticPhoto-594866786.601259.JPG
One of our takeaways from today’s anti-racism training is that racism makes invisible the humanity of those who have been marginalized by systems created to dismiss the validity of their existence.
 
As human beings in relationship with one another we, for the most part, first long to be seen.
 
What does it mean to be seen and what does this table have to do or say about what it means to be seen?
While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
 
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
 
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Mark 14:3-9
Structural and systemic racism attempts to make invisible anyone in society whose skin color is black, brown, or in other words, something other than white.
 
As the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we make the statement each time we offer communion that everyone is welcome. When we make that statement, the deeper message we are expressing is that we/I see you.
 
Do we really mean what we say?
 
Throughout scripture, our Savior presents himself as someone who saw everyone regardless of their station in society or cultural and ethnic backgrounds. This table then is a humble celebration of the fact that Jesus saw and continues to see each and every one of us.
This invitation to the table was written by the Rev. Darryl Searuggs, an ordained Disciples of Christ pastor, and leader of the Central Rocky Mountain Region’s Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation Team. 

Offering Invitation | 7.14.19

I base what I do off a single philosophy: don’t hurt anyone else. It was born out of my nihilism phase. “Nothing matters. We’re all going to die anyway.” While it may seem riddled with a lack of compassion and a reason to shirk all responsibilities and bonds, it became a mantra for me. The belief that nothing existed gave me the ability to loosen my grip on my depression, anxiety, and bonds to the things that weren’t healthy or didn’t matter.

Before long, it became to take shape as to what that actually meant to me. I began to realize that by nothing, I meant the rules we give ourselves, the unneeded stress that forces us, as a part of society, to compromise and shrink part of ourselves because the fear of stepping out of bounds outweighs the excitement of new experiences that may be an inch, a foot, a mile outside of who we believe we are. The reminder that death is inevitable helped me focus on where I was and who I was with without fear of the future.

My nihilistic mantra pointed out what I already knew: that people are what mattered. From there, it was a short leap to decide that if nothing matters, if we are to return to dust, what matters is what we do on Earth. The people we impact and the things that we do, as small as cooking a meal for a family shelter, planting wildflowers thanks to prepackaged seeds courtesy of Heart of the Rockies, or smiling when making eye contact with a newborn, leave an impact on the world. If I am to leave an impact, I intend to make someone’s life better, because people are what matter.

Nothing was able to show that to me better than the love and support that I have received here. You all have impacted my life in one way or another, and for that I am forever grateful. From providing my sister and I small mints, or picking up my shoes when I left them under a chair, or giving me hugs for years on end, every little action you take has made me stronger and has prepared me for the life I intend to live. Maybe it took nihilism to reinforce that actions had bigger impacts than I anticipated, but you taught it to me in the first place.

Our moments are fleeting, and in reflecting on my upbringing and short life, I’ve come to treasure each small memory. I am secure in who I want to be. I want to give of myself because you have given to me for my entire life. I smile when I see a group of kids playing Groundies, hike and seek, and black widow, because you once smiled at me when I did so. I encourage passion and kindness because you instilled those qualities in me. I learned because I watched; the reason I am who I stand before you as today is because of the generosity I experienced from each of you.

So, thank you for your gifts and smiles and support. Thank you for being such a big part of my life, and for helping me reach for and recognize the beauty and perfection in the world. You will always be a part of me.

Please give as you feel called, as you have given to me all these years.

Kyra Adamson is a long-time, beloved member at Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This fall, she begins her freshman year at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT, where she hopes to find a community of faith that will continue to nurture and support her.

Communion Invitation | 6.30.19

I love sleep. It’s one of my favorite activities.

But the past few months my sleeping schedule has been all out of sorts because I started a night shift job. And the issue is not staying up all night at work (thank goodness!) but adjusting my schedule on my days off, so I don’t miss out on some of my other favorite things like being in community with others.

And when I do make it to the important things, even if my body is tired my heart is refreshed and full of life.

We come to this table to be in community with one another and to experience new life that Jesus gave for us.

+ + +

An invitation to the Lord’s Supper given by Beth Harding on Sunday, June 30. The sermon text was Acts 20:7-12, in which Eutychus falls asleep and out the window during Paul’s long-winded preaching. Paul, upon realizing what has happened, goes down and proclaims life in him. Then, after breaking bread together, “they left—Paul going one way, the congregation another, leading the boy off alive, and full of life themselves” (Acts 17:20, The Message).

The love in this room

I have big news this week.

My boyfriend, Paul, and I adopted a dog on Monday. Sammie is a 6 month-old chocolate lab, and so far she is a very good girl. It only took us one trip to the Humane Society and one meet-and-greet with her to know that she was the one for us. She is definitely still settling into our house, but she is happy and seems to know how much we love her and loves us in return.

For many, the first day of church or your first day at a new church is a bit intimidating. I remember when I first came to Heart of the Rockies…

Yes, I spoke English and was familiar with the Disciples of Christ, but I didn’t know the people and traditions of Heart of the Rockies. It takes courage when you first walk in to a new place and meet a new group of people.

I can tell you that on my first day in this congregation, I knew the Holy Spirit was doing great things here. I could feel the love in this room. 

The Pentecost Offering received today goes towards helping develop new faith communities. These groups will be different from us, but you can bet that the Holy Spirit will be moving there as well.

IMG_2087
A very good girl.

Written by Kate Cooley for worship on Pentecost Sunday | June 9, 2019

Pass It On

In a former life, I was obsessed with Amish Friendship Bread.

If you’re smiling right now, you’re familiar with the process of making Amish Friendship Bread. If you’re rolling your eyes and groaning, you’re really familiar with it.

For those of you less familiar, here’s how it goes: It starts with a “starter bag”: a soupy mix of ingredients in a gallon Ziploc bag. You receive it from a “friend,” and you tend it for the next ten days, occasionally squishing it around to mix the ingredients and keep the rising agents alive, and at one point in the process, adding several more ingredients into the bag, and then taking out of the bag enough of the soupy mixture to make four NEW starter bags, which you then give to other “friends,” and possibly keep for yourself for future use. Meanwhile, your bag goes on to become a loaf or two of sugary sweet bread so good that my department mates at my last school referred to it as “crack bread” and first adored me and eventually cursed me for its regular appearance on the breakroom table, in all its cinnamony, diabetic-coma-inducing glory.

But those four starter bags…every ten days. This process was as high-maintenance as it was pound-packing. And nobody has enough friends to hand off four starter bags every ten days. Friends who at first accepted them with delight eventually would change direction when they saw me coming, avoiding eye contact lest I foist upon them another Ziploc bag full of soupy, yeasty bread goop. And can you imagine how it multiplies with rabbit-like proliferation? Each of those four starter bags produces four more within a week and a half. And each of those produces four more. And so on! There aren’t enough friends in a city for that level of fecundity!

It ruled our lives. I swear, at one point, my best friend and I were crossing town to bag-sit during each other’s out-of-town trips, to squish each other’s bread-goop bags on the days bag-agitation was called for, just to keep the madness going.

I think maybe Amish Friendship Bread ultimately did more damage to my friendships than anything else, and eventually I had to give it up. Each cycle, the extracted new starter-bag goop got ladled down the sink, and for a while, I limped the process along just making the one new starter bag for myself as the current concoction went on to make the addictive final product, and mostly ate it myself, in my classroom or alone in my house, like a miser.

But that’s not how it was meant to be. It wasn’t half as decadent, not remotely rewarding to just make it for myself. It didn’t even taste good anymore, really. (Plus, within a few months, nothing in my closet fit besides). It was meant to be shared.

The Amish had the right idea, even if the bread was more fuss and abundance than anyone wanted. It was the passing on that was good. What if it had been mere kindness instead of bread-starters one had to pass on to four people every ten days?

If the thing you were passing on was more treat than burden, if it were spare change, loving words, the deep-into-one’s-eyes gaze that says, “I see you…”

If we gave those out every day…and the people to whom we gave them gave them again…that would catch on.

Let’s try it.

Written by Christine Engelen, rockstar high school English teacher and recovering Amish Friendship Bread-making fanatic, as an invitation to offering in August 2018.