A Collection Of Experiences and Observations


Has the stress of the season worn you down?

Could you use an extra measure of joy right about now?

In Romans 15:32, Paul expressed to the church his desire to “come to you with joy … and be refreshed in your company”. (ESV) I can just picture Paul’s homecoming after long and difficult days of ministry—reclining around the table for hours, enjoying a meal, handing out attaboys and receiving pats on the back.

Paul never lost his deep joy in Jesus, but like Paul, our bodies and minds need rest and renewal. The day in and day out ministry to our families can leave us feeling drained and drowning in a mile-long list of “to-do’s!” Our joy wanes as we crave longed-for rest. We all need time to stop and refuel.

Where better to de-stress and shake off the day’s burdens than the meal table, a place in our homes at which we regularly take in sustenance to fuel our bodies.

Johnson City, Texas Christmas Dinner 2018

There’s something special and inviting about a table, particularly when it’s spread with warm and tasty comfort food. A table is a gathering place where we do life together with family, friends, and neighbors. It’s a place where we can find respite from the world’s chaos and stress, gathering strength to return to it. We lend encouragement to those who are struggling. And we remind each other of our common Hope. Reconciliation, peace, and joy are found at the table.

As we step away from the frenzy of the season, here are a few suggestions to make the table a place for spiritual connection and joy, especially as we prepare our hearts and homes to commemorate the birth of our Lord and Savior:

Music and Worship

  • Playing uplifting and worshipful music during meals can set a positive and joyful tone.
  • Create music playlists with specific themes (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter), allowing each family member to participate in the selection of songs. While recently having coffee at a table in a coffee shop, two of my teen granddaughters and I created a thankfulness playlist for background music during our Thanksgiving festivities.
  • Another idea is to sing a hymn or Christmas carol together and discuss the message of the lyrics or the history of why the composer wrote the song.

Special Dinners

  • Consider a candlelit dinner to create a peaceful atmosphere. Use this time for reflection, sharing, and connecting on a deeper level.

Family Traditions

  • Establish a specific meal on certain days or rituals meaningful to your family.

Acts of Service

  • Encourage each person to reach out to others within the family. This could involve helping each other with the meal-time chores of preparing, serving, or cleaning up, reinforcing the value of selflessness and love.
  • Create a calendar and brainstorm together about acts of service you could do to spread joy in your neighborhood.

Devotionals, Prayer and Gratitude

  • Choose a devotional book (or Advent book during the Christmas season), suitable for all ages, to read after the meal.
  • Read a short passage from the Bible each day and talk about it.
  • Begin every meal with a prayer of thanksgiving. Encourage each family member to express gratitude for something specific.
  • Keep a family gratitude journal on the table and write things you’re thankful for each day. Recognizing and being grateful for God’s graciousness is the bedrock of joy.


  • Invite other friends or families to join you for meals. This not only extends the joy of the Lord but also fosters a sense of community.
  • In her book, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, theologian Christine Pohl has observed, “A shared meal is the activity most closely tied to the reality of God’s kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality”.


  • Use mealtimes to celebrate achievements and special occasions. This creates a positive atmosphere and reinforces the joy of the Lord.

Jesus often joined people from all walks of life at a table. A line in the song, “Come to the Table” by Sidewalk Prophets says it well: “Come meet this motley crew of misfits.” That aptly describes Jesus’ crew, doesn’t it? Aren’t there some at our table who at times feel like fish out of water? Just as Jesus did, we can ask questions, tell stories, and wash feet. Let’s make our table a joyful place of refuge, a place where no one is excluded, and where there is a feeling of connection and welcome. A place where we come along side each other for support and encouragement. A place where we model the joy of Jesus to our children.

So, toss some meat and potatoes (nothing elaborate) in the Instant Pot®, kick off your shoes, and enjoy a time of rest, refreshment, and spiritual renewal with friends and family around the table during this advent season.

Dear Father, we are grateful for your blessing of joy that sustains through all seasons of life. Let us always be a joyful people, making time in this busy season for sharing the joy of Jesus to not only those around our table but to all who You place in our path. Amen.



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