This Is Love Dinner – Want to Come?

Love Dinner“When did we quit living the Bible and just start studying it?”  – Jen Hatmaker author of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

I hope she forgives me if I misquoted her, but I read 96% of Hatmaker’s book 7 while traveling around Zambia, then I left it on the plane.

She’s right, we do spend a lot of energy studying the Bible, which is a good idea, but how much time do we spend actually doing what it says?

Stuff like this:

Do not be quick in spirit to be angry or vexed, for anger and vexation lodge in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9

The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives. Proverbs 18:7

For if you forgive people their trespasses (their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment), your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14

There are a million little pearls like that, but I picked those for a reason.

At one time, my mind was like a smouldering fire barrel. Every day I stoked up my grievances and burnt heaps of mental garbage. Not surprisingly, some of that toxic smoke billowed out of my mouth and into my environment, where other people wound up charred and sooty.

Now I’m sure that’s just me, you…would…never…

Then I started reading the Bible, and all its talk about renewing my mind, shutting my mouth, forgiving people, not being arrogant and judgmental started to sting, and I realized I could put the fire out if I wanted to. I just had to figure out how.

Luckily Jesus boiled it down to two things: Love and Love.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40 NLT

I’ve spent the last three years studying the Bible and changing my mind, and today my life is different. But as Hatmaker suggests, is it even about me? Or is that just phase one in a grand design?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

candles

(Photo credit: rogerglenn)

So what if I quit making excuses and got down to loving God and loving others like I mean it – every day in practical, biblical ways? Would my own lingering broken parts heal up as a result?

And what if, rather than going it alone, I teamed up with seven girlfriends (and a few hundred online friends) once a month, over red wine and dinner? What if there were taper candles and chocolate dessert, good coffee and long communal prayers?

What if we picked one scripture that fulfills Jesus’ mandate and spent the next month just doing that? Forgiving? Submitting? Loving the unlovely? What would that look like, especially over time?

To me it looks like Love Dinner and it’s starting at my house next month.

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Two Lessons from a Mud Hut

The girls' hut.

These women are dangerous.

See this little hut with the grass roof and mud walls? I can hardly believe it myself, but for seven days, eight women called it home.

It amazes me now, solitary as I am, that I didn’t throttle anybody or succumb to panic in the suffocatingly close quarters. In fact, I thrived there. The midnight prayers that rose from that hut were so precious, I keep admiring them like a handful of emeralds.

Pray, then balance sandwiches on your head.

Pray, then balance sandwiches on your head.

Here are two things I learned in that hut.

1. We are stronger in tribes – even independent Americans.

While I prefer to sequester myself from other humans and their intolerable messes, it makes me weak. In Africa, I allowed older, wiser women into some deeply shaded parts of my life, allowing their years of wisdom and experience wash over me, and I finally understood what it is to rest for a moment in someone else’s faith.

See, when we go deep with people, into their triumphs and messes, when we witness their failures and are not scared or offended, we grow in community. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told us to stay in church, so we can deal with the inevitable conflict of being human and learn what grace really means.

The reward for the effort is deep affection for one another, and the experience of God’s grace. I love these women now in ways I can’t fully describe.

2. Prayer with a group of woman all kneeling at the feet of Jesus, works.

One night in that hut, we gathered under sleeping bags and headlamps and prayed for things some of us have never spoken out loud. I saw icebergs calve, skyscrapers of hidden guilt and fear, shearing off those women and crashing into the water below, melting in the light of God’s grace and mercy. Jesus told us to do this because He knew it would make us lighter, more nimble, and dangerous to the enemy, but I had to go to Africa to take it seriously.

After all, what scares you doesn’t scare me, so in the name of Jesus, I can walk into your dark corners and kick some ass for you. Then you can do it for me.

And something changes between us forever.

Hubbard Glacier - "Calving"

Hubbard Glacier (Photo credit: roger4336)

I wonder if our independent streak is sometimes a cover for laziness and fear. Of course it’s easier to mind our business and small talk each other to death, but who will slay your dragons when you’re too far down to do it yourself? Who will call that thing you believe about yourself the bald-faced lie it is? Who will say, “You’re drowning in Scotch but I love you and I’m here?”

So if I must choose between a lovely stone manse, with silent wings and empty grounds, and a tiny, mud hut with your socks on my bed and your burdens in my heart, I’m taking the hut. Because I need you, and you need me. So let’s do this thing together.

Do you have a small group you rely on? How did you meet them?