What Is Love Dinner?

“When you learn everything about somebody without actually doing things with them, there’s a name for that – it’s called stalking.  I don’t want to stalk Jesus anymore.”

-Bob Goff, author of NYT Bestseller Love Does.

Every Thursday morning, Bob Goff and a few of his buddies meet for breakfast – they have for years. They eat pancakes, talk about their lives and pray for each other. Before they leave, they pick one scripture from the Bible and commit to doing it all week. The next week, they tell each other what happened.

They don’t call it Bible study. They call it Bible doing. After all, the scriptures say, don’t just be hearers of the word, be doers. In other words, be lovers not stalkers.

Love Dinner is a Bible doing.

ldEvery month, six to eight of us gather around my dining room table. We light candles, eat, sigh, take off our masks and get down to the way things are. Once we’ve prayed all of it right to the feet of Jesus, we take the focus off ourselves and level it on those around us, leaning in to Jesus’ second major command – Love your neighbor as yourself.

Simple.

Papa Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships, knows a thing or two about loving God and loving others. He told a story yesterday, from his recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, that’s a perfect example.

He was in Kinshasa for a national prayer breakfast with a number of important heads of state. The day before he was speaking at a seminar about what bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor looks like for Mercy Ships.

As Don spoke about the facial tumors our surgeons remove, freeing people from terrible deformity, rejection and sometimes death, (you can watch a 60 Minutes segment about that here) someone in the crowd raised their hand.

That person mentioned a local police officer in Kinshasa who suffers with one of those tumors. The man is known around town as “the honest policeman.” From the podium, Don asked the attendees, mostly local, to raise their hands if they knew this man. Many did.

Don said he could feel the Holy Spirit reminding him how Jesus healed people – one by one, picking them out of crowds. The problem is, the ship is on the other side of the African continent now, in Madagascar. Don explained this and asked the crowd. What can we do?

Photo Credit: Justine Forrest

Photo Credit: Justine Forrest

People reached into their pockets and together pooled $1100 to fly the honest policeman to the Africa Mercy, so our volunteer plastic surgeons can remove his tumor. This wasn’t a seminar in Dallas mind you. This was in Kinshasa, capital city of the nation which, on the Human Development index, ranks second to last on earth.

Don called it a miracle.

People love stories like this because they are conceivable – we can imagine ourselves living them.

Most of us want to live a better story, one wherein we gain the deep satisfaction that comes only through loving other people more. It’s an amazing thing to link arms with strangers to perform some small kindness that sends shock waves through a family in Kinshasa, and ripples through eternity.

And that’s exactly what Love Dinner is for. It’s a platform from which we can dive headlong into the radical lives Jesus died for us to live. And it’s fine if our initial steps are small.

Starting Love Dinner was a small step I took 100% out of trust and obedience, because I felt like God was saying: Answer the question “what is there to do?” and “How do I do it.”

Don Stephens has been doing this for decades, he’s a pro. That’s why I know, someday, I’m going to hear a story from the Africa Mercy about a policeman from Kinshasa – a man who knows in his bones that God sees him and loves him.

And when it happens, I promise to tell you all about it.


Want to do Love Dinner with us? Comment below.

How to Love Your Spouse Better.

Sam

Sam

Sam Kirk took the gold medal in the Perfect Man Olympics Saturday night.

This little known sporting event originated the summer Sam and I lived in France. One afternoon, he not only fixed our single neighbor lady’s lawn mower, but then he mowed her lawn.

“In my life, I never think I have a reeel Amereekan cowboy mowing my lawn,” she said as we stood by watching. “He reeely is ze perfect maan.”

Upon hearing that story, which I’ve repeated with the French accent at least 500 times, my family began calling Sam the Perfect Man. But a title that bold really begs for some objective measure, so you know, let the games begin.

Anyway, on Saturday night, the girls were over for our 11th Love Dinner. There were cupcakes, pink ribbons and benedictions because Shelby just got up from 12 weeks of bed rest, still pregnant, with a healthy baby girl in her belly. This is an absolute triumph that we were celebrating even before she produced a tube of KY and a mini ultrasound from her purse, so we could listen to Sophie Kay’s heart.

Somewhere in the midst of the estrogen fog, Sam slipped in the patio door with an armload of wood and lighter fluid. Within minutes, the fire I planned to build but hadn’t gotten around to, was blazing in the fireplace. Not only that, a second fire was blazing in the pit outside, under the full moon. To a giggling chorus of “Hi Sam!” he gave a quick wave and slipped back out to watch football in the man cave.

I’m telling you that to tell you this:

If you ever want to know how to love your spouse better there’s a book you should read.

The Five Love Languages published nearly 20 years ago, is a Christian classic and perennial New York Times Bestseller. If you’ve never read it, the premise is, there are generally five ways people express love for one another: Words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, quality time and gifts.

The trouble is, a lot of us love our spouses the way we want them to love us. Then we can’t understand why they feel unloved. Author Dr. Gary Chapman maintains, the more successful approach is to find out which expression means the most to your spouse and do that.

 Photo Credit: Stephanie Wallace

Photo Credit: Stephanie Wallace

Want to guess what mine is?

Yep, acts of service. That’s why when Sam built a fire for me and my girlfriends, I felt utterly loved by him in a much more powerful way than if he’d walked in with a $200 gift card from DSW.

Now don’t get me wrong, gift cards are awesome, so are words of affirmation. In fact, when people ask what my love language is I often say, “All of them!” But honestly, if you know me, fire trumps shoes every time.

Want to know what Sam’s is? (OMG He loves it when I blog about him. I’m probably going to get a talking to.)

For a long time, I thought it was physical touch, but it’s not. He’s just a man and is naturally inclined that direction. Sam’s love language is quality time, which explains why he goes a little bonkers when I travel to Africa for a month at a time. I cannot believe how long it took me to figure that out.

I still travel to Africa for a month at a time, so this is a tricky spot for us but at least I understand it better. Knowledge is power.

So, if you ever feel like your spouse just doesn’t get how much you love him, it may be he just needs you to love him differently. This book provides some easy framework for doing that.


Have you read the book? What’s your love language?

On Sex, Jesus and Telling the Truth.

Recently, I listened to a teacher speak about God’s intent for sex. He’s a good guy, a mature Christian, who told some very nice stories about hand holding with a girl he liked in junior high. He talked about God’s hand in his marriage at age 18 and how happy he is abstinence education is taught at his kids’ school.

Some of you were unaware such people still exist. They do. Actually, there are lots of them and he was making a solid point.

However, the week before, I stood at the same podium and told the same audience that 1 in 3 American girls and 1 in 6 American boys will be sexually abused/raped before age 18. That means, statistically, six people listening had a sexual history vastly more complex than hand holding in junior high. Not to mention the people like me who, for years, thought when it came to sex and everything else, that free and unrestrained meant the same thing. (They don’t but more on that later.)

I struggle with this disparity all the time.

Working just from statistics, we know hand holding in junior high is hardly a majority experience. To ignore that fact will make lots of people smile, nod and vow to never ever bring up at church what their 20′s actually looked like – or their 10′s.  When we pull on masks to fit in, we meet the literal definition of the Greek word hypokritḗs – a stage actor wearing a mask. The tragedy of it is, by hiding the conflicting or confusing parts of ourselves, we bury the exact things Jesus died to redeem.

There absolutely is a high biblical standard for sexuality – read it.  We’re just so far from it, to some it sounds like crazy talk. But that’s the way culture works, and frankly, this post isn’t about defending a biblical worldview OR judging how people live. It’s about being honest with who you are, how you got there and how to let Jesus into that in a platitude-free way.

Because, standing in the temple 700 years after Isaiah predicted it, Jesus said:

“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED…” Luke 4:18

Read it again: “To set free those who are oppressed”  …. For whatever reason.

I know people, Christians and non, who are struggling with dirty, black secrets; ones they are sure would prompt their immediate rejection should they surface. Shame is heck of a thing, its chief and most insidious lie being: “I’m the only one.”

That’s the lie that keeps people bound up and smiling at church, but cruising the self-help section at the bookstore, wondering how much Oxcontin it would take to make the pain go away.

That exercise, my friends, is sponsored by the enemy because he knows, as long as you stay strong, with the lid on tight, he can use your shame to control you.

But are you ready for the world’s best news?

In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5 NIV.

As dark and nasty as the secret is, it vanishes when the light comes on. It may light up a lot of residual dirt and garbage, but at least you can see it clearly and make a plan to clean it up. Jesus called himself, “The Light of the World,” but it only works if you switch it on.

This is such a present tense value of following Jesus, and to me the highest and best calling of the church: To be people who chose to trust him, who chose to let his light shine in every dark room – even ones we kind of prefer dark.

So, if you’re dying of secret shame, look for those people – the ones who are fine with their old cracks and bullet-holes because the light shines through them in interesting ways. Often, these people are the ones who will jump into the breach with you and keep his light shining, until you can both see the way out.


*as ever friends, my views are my own and not that of my employer.