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.

Why We’re Better Together

Welcome NiceLaughter bubbling out of a room full of women is my favorite sound. Especially when, two hours before, they didn’t know each other.

At Love Dinner #10 last night, one woman made a comment about God opening doors for us. But lately, she said, hers feel like a trap door to a slide. Everyone died laughing. Each of those gorgeous women sitting in my living room, sipping coffee, or cross-legged on the floor poaching blackberries from the fruit salad, know that feeling. Articulating it makes us allies.

Everybody brought something hard to the table last night and then we prayed. We’ve learned that fueling up together readies us to get back out in the world and do what Jesus said: Love God and love each other. We’ve also learned that the second command doesn’t work right without the first.

Luckily, once you get to know Jesus, it’s easy to love Him.

When Jesus is in your midst, it’s like listening to the best piece of music you’ve ever heard, while drinking a glass of wine and watching the sunset turn the mountains pink.

All that goodness, all that grandeur is at once overwhelming and still somehow incomplete. That’s why we jump up and run into the house looking for someone to share it with. Then when we stand shoulder to shoulder on the deck, in a moment of unscripted silence, just gazing at it, absorbing it together, that’s when it’s finally perfect.

That’s the magic of Jesus + us, and the purpose of Love Dinner. To be so overcome by the dazzling presence of Jesus, that we run brimming and sparkling, back out into our broken, sad world saying “Come quick. You have to see this.”


Choose Love Over Lonely.

Love DinnerThroughout my first year living in East Texas, I prayed every time I went to the grocery store.

“Lord, please let me run into somebody I know, and let us discuss the price of lemons, or dish washing liquid or the crushing loneliness that moving twice in four years brings, and if they could invite us over for dinner that would be nice too. Thanks. Amen.”

It never happened. Not one time.

That spring I was in California, sitting by my friend Karen’s pool, drinking wine with three of the world’s smartest women, when I said, “Yah, I’m basically a hermit now and I don’t even care.” Speechless and mortified, they threatened an intervention if I didn’t come back to California and myself.

But thirsty country has a purpose and I know now what it was for me. I also know heartsick and lonely like my own face, but running to California isn’t the answer (ok sometimes it is). Admitting this feels vulnerable and losery, but maybe if we said such things to one another and quit faking it, we’d get out of the desert faster.

So it was no small thing this morning, when I found my kitchen happily strewn with wine bottles, spent candles, flowers and stray forks after not one, but two Love Dinners. One was scheduled, the other was a charming surprise.

Photo Credit: wili_hybrid

Photo Credit: wili_hybrid

Staring at the chaos with sheer gratitude, I thought “this is what building life with Jesus and his people looks like.” It looks like messy tables and open invitations for people to poke around your broom closets and say, “uh hey, what’s this?”

We don’t do this enough because we care too much what people think. We hide, exhausting ourselves with frivolity and small talk, when what we want is to be known and loved in spite of it.

This may be the best part of following Jesus. He knows me and loves me anyway. So I can relax around people and say “yep that’s a jacked up mess and I don’t know what to do about it.” On Friday night, it was fragile and a little heavy, so my friends turned it carefully in their hands and said, “Nope, we don’t either, let’s take it to Jesus.”

And something precious grew between us that someday Jesus will use for his own purposes.

Sure it’s easier to stay home and watch tv; it’s chancy to invite someone into your broom closet. It’s even chancier to invite nine somebodies, but it’s worth it because sometimes one will show up, hand everybody a tiny gift and say, “I know I can do hard things because I have all of you.”

I’m a million miles from the grocery store parking lot, and you can be too. If you’re struggling with loneliness here are a few tips:

1. You are enough for God, in all your beautiful damage. He can and will steady your heart, if you ask.

2. Then he’ll move all your furniture around and invite new people over to sit in it, and that can be scary and hard.

3. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, just keep walking toward it.

So make the call. Light the candles. Look each other in the face and get down to the way things are.

This isn’t frivolity. It’s legacy.