Posts Tagged ‘devotional’

Weak, Tired, and Strong

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Laity Lodge Family Camp

Weak, Tired, and Strong
by Shawna Ervin

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

This week my two-year-old daughter gave up her naps. Now, instead of a dedicated two hours each afternoon when I could sleep, write, read or talk to friends, I am up running. My daughter does not do still. Even in her down time we are busy – we play with playdough, read, watch a cartoon, read again, color, look out the window at people walking their dogs, listen to music, go on a walk around the block, play with play dough again, color again.

I am tired.

My husband is working two jobs, and I’m taking an intensive writing class. The laundry threatens to take over the small hallway between the two bedrooms in my house, the dishes are piling up, and I’ve resorted to fast food three nights in a row because I’ve been exhausted.

I’m weak.

When I’m tired and weak, I find myself short-tempered with my kids, and irritable with my husband and friends. My exhaustion erupts in anger during the weakest parts of my days. I have nothing left to give, when my kids or husband need me the most.

But 2 Corinthians 12:9 means now, today. In the midst of the mundane and tasks that never seem to end Jesus’ grace is sufficient for me, for you, for us. Do I believe that, that his grace is enough, always – even in my weakest moments?

I am learning to reach out to Jesus in those weak moments. When I feel exhaustion ready to explode over my family, I stop and fall to my knees. I pull my kids close, hold them on my lap and tell them I’m tired, and I need Jesus’ strength. We pray together, ask Jesus to help us get through today. Until bed time. The next 5 minutes.

In Jesus, I am strong.

Personal Reflection:
When are you at your weakest? Where do you find Jesus in your weaknesses?

Family Discussion:
Share some moments when you felt weak, tired or insecure and you saw Jesus meet you in that weakness and make you strong.

The Light of the World

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Laity Lodge Family Camp

The Light of the World
by Bernie Pfeiffenberger

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bowl, but on a lamp stand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

And God said, “Let there be light; and there was light.” And God saw the light was good, suitable, and pleasant. He approved it; and God separated the light from the darkness.

Did you know light has three great rays? It is three-fold, like God. In Scripture, three means Divine perfection. It is solid, complete, and truth.

Red, the heat ray which is felt, not seen, testifies of the Father.
 No man has seen the glory of the Father at any time and lived. His glory is as a brilliant, flaming fire or radiant heat. He is the source from whom all Divine splendor and perfection proceed and to whom they belong.

Yellow, the light ray which is seen, not felt, testifies of Jesus.
Like the light of the sun, Jesus is the visible light that is seen. He is the sole expression of the glory of God, the radiance of the Divine. For whoever sees Jesus, sees the Father. He is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He is the visible representation of the invisible.

Blue, chemical ray which is neither seen nor felt, testifies of the Holy Spirit. 
Whose presence is revealed by its effects in a chemical action, as in photography or in photosynthesis. Changes within us take place from the source of light from the glory of the Father through Christ. The Holy Spirit produces change. Just as the wind blows where it will, no one knows where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Awake, O sleeper! Arise from the death of sin to union with the living Lord and Christ shall shine! There is no darkness in him at all.

We were once children of darkness, but he called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness. By living and walking in the light of Christ, we have true unbroken fellowship with one another. The effect of the light consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth proving what is acceptable to the Lord. Live purposefully, worthily, and accurately, so your joy may be full and complete.

Invite the widower down the street to a warm meal with your family. Buy a sack of groceries for a single parent struggling to make ends meet. Take a fatherless boy to a baseball game.

Family Discussion:
When others see you in your home, your neighborhood, or the workplace, do they experience the radiance of Christ? Are they drawn to the light from within you?
If not, start taking time to fill your lamp.

Study the Bible daily, and humbly pray giving praise and thanks to God the Father in Christ Jesus for his mercy and grace upon your life. Ask him to teach you through the Holy Spirit how to go out to be the city on a hill whose lamp stand is not covered under a bowl, but shines in the lives of those around you.

*Number in Scripture, E.W. Bullinger

An Outstreched Hand

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Eyelids grew heavy, but bodies continued to wiggle and turn. One arm flopped over toward another body, and Big Sister instinctively stretched out and covered the tiny hand with her own. Almost instantly, both girls settled – at peace, holding hands, knowing that this reach out into darkness returned with the reassurance that they were not alone.

This simple act, shared between sisters, melted my mama heart. But in the throes of Holy Week, it also brought forth remembrance of another hand stretched out.

The most likely scenario is that of Jesus, outstretched on the cross. Yet the one that came to mind was just a little while earlier, on the Mount of Olives (taken from Luke 22:50-51):

It’s the darkness of night, and for months you’ve overheard your Master, a high priest, complaining all about this heretic Jesus, culminating now in the plan to finally bring him to justice. The crowd is restless, high on their own lust for vengeance, ready to serve the punishment Jesus deserves for challenging your values and your way of life. You, too, are convinced that this is the right thing to do.

Then you feel the searing pain and a silent roar in your head. Oh, the pain! What happened?

Through the throbbing you hear Jesus declare, “Enough!” And you see a hand reaching out toward you, extending healing. Peace. Love? In an instant, you are whole again, although you sense you will never be the same . . .

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be this servant?

In the midst of his own betrayal – first from friends who could not stay awake to keep watch, and then the ultimate betrayal unto death – Jesus stretches out his hand and reassures an unnamed servant that He sees . . . and he cares what happens to him. And his silly little ear – paramount to the servant, but inconsequential compared to everything else going on in that moment – is worth healing. Because that’s why he came.

To heal.

To restore.

To redeem.

A simple act: an outstretched hand.

Yet it changed the whole world.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Guest Post: Renewal

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Springtime and Lent seem to be an appropriate time of year to reflect on renewal. High Calling Blogger Jeanne Damoff spent some time thinking about the topic and has graciously agreed to share her thoughts here.

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This is the year of rest. Or so I named it and am seeking to live it. But to do that I first have to discover where real rest is found.

Until recently, words like “rest” and “renewal” tended to conjure images of long, lazy hours in a hammock on the beach or a cozy chair by the fire — both scenarios completed with a great book and tasty beverage, of course. But now I’m not so sure. God’s ways are, after all, higher than mine.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

If Romans 12 stopped there, we might be tempted to despair. How to present our bodies? How to avoid conformation to this world? How to be transformed by renewal of the mind?

Ah, but it doesn’t stop there.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Wow. As Inigo Montoya would say, “Ees too much. Let me sum up.”

We find renewal in humility, in using our gifts for the common good, in loving and honoring others, in hope, patience, prayer, and generosity. We are transformed when we enter another’s joys and sorrows, when we live in harmony and peace (as far as it depends on us), when we leave vengeance to God and in the meantime minister to the needs of our enemies. When we overcome evil with good.

Sounds like rest takes a lot of work.

The Bible is full of mystery and paradox. Obedience the way to freedom. Service the way to greatness. Weakness the way to strength. Death the way to life. The sayings of Jesus are hard, yet accessible to the childlike and simple. Oh, how proudly we come, as though we had something to offer the One who created us for His own pleasure and glory! Oh, how patiently He waits for us to come as dead men that He might resurrect us to new life.

“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Come in community (bodies, plural; sacrifice, singular), selfish ambition set aside. Come empty, ready to be filled that we might be emptied again for Him.

Apparently a lazy afternoon on the beach isn’t the secret to renewal. Now I suppose the question I need to honestly answer is, do I really want it?

Do you?

Photo credit: Jeanne Damoff

The Joy of Repentance

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

As we enter into this season of Lent, and as we ponder the topic of renewal this month, I thought it would be fitting to think about repentance on this Ash Wednesday.  I wrote this post around this time last year, and yet the conviction to remember the character of my King hit me again as I re-read it. I hope you find encouragement here as well.

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I spent the first part of the song forcing back the tears that were bubbling up inside me.

Everyone needs compassion,
Love that’s never failing;
Let mercy fall on me.

Everyone needs forgiveness,
The kindness of a Savior;
The Hope of nations.

But when we began singing the chorus, I couldn’t stop them. I began to weep.

Savior, He can move the mountains,
My God is Mighty to save,
He is Mighty to save.

Forever, Author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave.

At first, I wasn’t even sure why I was crying – the pregnancy hormones, the lack of protein for dinner, the fatigue, the weight of all that had been going on in our lives . . . but when we sang the words “My God is mighty to save” what I felt was conviction, and my soul sobbed. I couldn’t even put into words the depth of that pain, couldn’t pray to the Father for forgiveness. All I could do was let the tears fall. My God is mighty. I had been rejecting that as truth. He’s mighty to save. Period. And yet I had limited his power by accepting he was mighty to save only some and not others.

Romans 8:26-27 says, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” In a way I’ve not experienced before, I understood how the Holy Spirit is our intercessor. Through words of a song I could not sing and tears I could not stop, I confessed my sin before the Lord. In fact, I didn’t really fully understand my sin until today as I began processing that moment again. But I know that in that moment, I received his forgiveness anyway.

Oh that we all may know the working of the Holy Spirit and the joy of repentance! He is mighty to save. He has the power to forgive and redeem.  And he loves me so intimately, so tenderly, that I can come to him without words, and he knows my heart.

Loving Others

Monday, February 28th, 2011

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as he loved himself. -1 Samuel 18:1

David and Jonathan. What a beautiful, yet complicated relationship!

Here we see in 1 Samuel, that from the outset their relationship was built upon one main principle: he loved him as he loved himself. This principle calls us deeper than the Golden Rule of doing to others as you would have them do to you.

It’s not about what you want people to do to you or for you; it’s about relationship. It’s about knowing another and being known.

We see this played out in the very next verses. Jonathan and David make a covenant (“because he loves him as he loves himself”), and then as a demonstration of that love, sealing the covenant, Jonathan gives David his robe, his clothes, his sword, his bow and his belt. Jonathan sees the bigger picture: David is a man of God, and God has placed a special calling on his life to lead his people. Jonathan knows David, and he honors God’s calling on David’s life, even to the detriment of his own “happy ending.” He symbolically hands over the throne – his inheritance – when he dresses and equips David.

He loves David as he loves himself.

Jonathan grabs a hold of the reality that all of our stories are part of a greater story. A story that God is writing about himself. And when we let go of trying to control the plot of our individual stories, we see that we all reach the same ending. So whether certain parts happen in my story or yours, it’s okay. We’re all working toward the same goal. We can set aside ourselves in order to love others as ourselves.

Taking it home: This concept is easy to write about, but much harder to live out. In what way are you clinging to your own story and not reaching for the greater story? What can you do to better know someone today, so that you can honor God’s calling on his or her life?

Guest Post: How to {Make} Love

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Guest Post (and photos) by Ann Voskamp

I‘m sitting there on the side of a windblown road, waiting for the Farmer to bring me a jug of gas.

We’ve knocked on a door. Asked if we could patch through a call to home. Yes, Levi says, when he picks up the phone. Yes, I think Dad’s out in the barn. I’ll go get him. I’ll send him with gas.

But I know there’s no gas in the jug in the shop, nothing in the shed.

I know there’s nothing at home to fill us up.

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We huddle in the cold of the van. Hope does next week’s piano theory. She rubs her fingers hard. I don’t even know if the Farmer’s home, if Levi can find him. February howls bitter right through us, moaning for something more. I pray he’s coming for us. Think of that first time he took my face in his hands and kissed me too long in the dark and what he said.

His eyes had caught the light, and he said it slow and I was too young and I’ve gone back to that moment, the way it flashed, a thousand times.

“One thing you can count on is the way I’ll love you.”

He was twenty one when he took my trembling hand and slipped on the band and forever and under the veil, I was still a girl. Girl who hid behind long hair and fear and a prescribed calm that she swallowed down with the water.

The Farmer, he knows how to grow things.

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The kind of man that when his wife wavers, he’s held. Girded her with prayer. When she’s cleared out a bedroom closet to fill it with books, held down her side of the room with words, and on his side he reads the farm paper and the book of Proverbs and in the middle, he’s met her, and he’s drawn it all close, and smiled when she’s created and nodded for her to go and said no to any performing and yes to just being and, crazy man, whispered too often about beautiful and asked, please, to believe him and he always, always, always said that everything, always was good. Everything, always…

He has always come. He has always filled up. And when his wife’s canned stories instead of pears and doubted what it is to be a woman and calmed when rocking babies and stitched lines instead of threads, clicked shutters and keys and opened life up to glory, he has always come and and said it is good. Said yes, live.

The way he has loved has made his wife a woman. This is what a man can do to a woman.

The way he loves her has made her live.

I don’t care  how cold the wind blows. He has always come and in air that’s only smiled, he’s strengthened the stalk of me, opened the petals of who I am and I have fit my skin.

It’s near dark when he turns the corner in his truck, when he hauls out a gas jug from the back of the pick-up. I knew he would. I watch him in the rearview mirror. I can’t feel my toes.

After he’s emptied the last of the jug, he opens my door a crack. The wind whips.

“Thank you.” I whisper. He smiles into everything blustery. “But where did you find any gas at home?”

“Town.” He winks.

“You had to leave all you were doing in the the barn, drive all the way into town, get gas, and then drive all the way over here?” Oh. my. I feel …. ill. Frozen and ill. “I am so sorry.”

I look him in the eye. Wondering why? Why he would?

“I love you.” He says it simply. Says it sure into the wind.

And this is why.

Love is not passion. It is the pulse of sacrifice.

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When we get home, I make hot chocolate.

Wrap my numb fingers around heat.

Write a love note to him in my half of the Mr. & Mrs. Love Love Letters Journal

Marital love is a demanding and dying thing compared to the stuff of movies and mirages.

The love of imagination is a different beast entirely than love made in the image of a Saviour with nails in His hands.

I need to write down my thanks.

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The Farmer writes little with pens. He’s a man who prefers to write his love letters with his life.

After the kids are in bed, we sit with our mugs and our vows.

I rub his back and ask him about the barn and his work and the things he’s thinking about and some tanks can run dry and it takes time to fill them and there are no standing lovers: the only way to love is to lay down.

Lay down plans. Lay down agendas. Lay down self.

Love is always the laying down down.

This is how to make love: Love lays down it’s own wants to lift up the will of another.

Love let’s go of it’s plans — to hold on to a person.

In the dark, we set down our mugs and turn out the lights and the wind moans on and I hear it but I know what still comes.

In our room, we lay down beside each other and sleep under quilts, filled and warm and close.

Guest Post: Skin On

Monday, January 31st, 2011

This month we’ve been discussing what it looks like to live in community with others – both for us as individuals and as families. Michelle Hurst, a High Calling Blogger, wrote the following post about getting out there and engaging with others. Virtual communities are great, but as even Marcus commented on in last week’s devotional, we can’t ignore our physical communities either.

Skin On by Michelle Hurst

Sometimes you need a little more than facebook love.
Or even double digit comments.
Sometimes you need real live friends.
The kind with skin that you can touch.

So today I did a brave thing.
This morning I walked downstairs and asked someone to go get coffee with me.
Yep.
That was my very brave thing.

And here is why.
Because me and the girl aren’t really friends yet.
We have worked together for awhile.
But it is a big building and I could go weeks without seeing her.
And we are facebook friends and occasionally comment to the other.
But I really don’t think that counts.
But she reads my blog.
And likes it.
And comments.
And because I can tell we like some of the same things ( like Jen Lancaster and Jesus)…I thought maybe we should try and be real life friends instead of just virtual ones.
Seeing how we work in the same building and all.

But somehow it was way easier on the playground to make friends.
In elementary school friends were just there.
In the desk next to you or right next door.
In high school there was a little more choice involved…but it was pretty easy to bond over a cute boy that you both liked.
And in college.
Still pretty easy.
Friends filled the dorms and classes.
And somehow I thought that making friends would keep being that easy.
But it has only gotten harder.
I mean I may be a little more secure than I was back in the sixth grade.
But I think we all still worry and wonder if people will like us.

And this isn’t some sad lonely I don’t have any friends post.
I do. I have great ones.
And I could always use a new one.
Because I love learning people’s stories.
Because each friend – real or virtual – adds a little bit to mine.

And this virtual bloggy world is pretty amazing.
I mean sometimes it is even easier.
A stranger who reads my blog could possibly know me better than friends I see all the time.
And sometimes I think I might just be better on paper.
All edited and polished and picked and chosen.
Without interruptions or small talk.
And it is a little easier to go a little deeper on here.
Because I don’t have to look you in the eye or hear you if you laugh at me.
But you can’t go get coffee with me.
Or share fondue.
Or chips and salsa.
Or pretty much anything else that has to do with food and laughing a lot.

So sometimes we need to stop reading or blogging or updating our status.
And occasionally even stop calling the usual girls…..
And walk down the hall…or the street…or across the playground…or pick up the phone.
Be brave.
And ask her to go get some coffee. Or ice cream. Or chick-fil-a.
Or pretty much anything that has to do with food and laughing a lot.

Taking it home: Consider who you might need to invite to coffee or have over for Sunday lunch. Is it an old friend you haven’t seen in a while? Is it a new person to whom you want to reach out? Ask your kids if they can think of someone that they want to get to know better, and help them come up with ways to do so. While this post specifically encourages us as individuals, we can also apply this to our families too.

The Beauty of Community

Monday, January 24th, 2011

After a full day of funnel cakes and Ferris wheels, we loaded into the car to head home. I turned my phone on again to see if anything important had happened while our family had wandered the fairgrounds at the State Fair of Texas.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Several text message began to queue up in my inbox.

“Hey, are you coming to Mom’s group?”

“Everything okay?”

“Where are you?”

The battery indicator read one bar, which provoked that internal debate of whether it had just hit one bar and I might have a little time or if it was on the brink of blinking empty at me. Making every moment count, I tapped out a reply to my mom’s group leader and another friend: “All’s fine. No battery. At fair and forgot. Not making it. Sorry!”

To which I got a quick reply: “Who is this?”

Understandably confused, I identified myself and called the sender crazy.

Then my battery died.

I felt sad. In three and a half years, I was missing my Mom’s group for the very first time. Every moment our group has spent together, encouraging one another, sharing advice, offering sympathy, journeying through life and parenthood together, has been invaluable to me. The fact we meet only once a month makes the time even more precious.

These ladies brought me food when I had each of my children.

They prayed for me when I struggled with a difficult family situation.

They offered insight into my parenting questions and affirmed I was not alone in my struggles.

They challenged me to think and to grow deeper in my walk.

And they called me when I didn’t show up to Mom’s group for the first time ever. (And they were bold enough to ask the identity of the person who had kidnapped me, locked me in the trunk, and was now using my cell phone and answering my text messages! Did I mention they are also very creative?).

As the poet John Donne observes: No man is an island. We are designed to live in community. We are not intended to navigate this life alone. As parents, it’s important that we find ways to plug ourselves and our families into communities that will challenge and encourage us, whether it’s mom’s groups, Bible studies, churches, supper clubs, or sports teams. With the rise of social media, we can even find online communities (like The High Calling) that provide the support and accountability we so deeply desire. The beauty of community is that you gain a group of people who love you enough to celebrate with you when things go well and who will hold your hand when life gets messy. It requires a risk on our part to be our true selves and to commit wholeheartedly to others. But when community functions as it should, it paints a beautiful picture of who God is

Taking it home: Are you involved in some type of community? If not, what keeps you from joining one? Consider whether your current communities are an encouragement to you, spurring you on in your relationship with Christ. If not, be willing to find or even create that type of community; I know you’ll discover it’s worth the effort.

Sunday Lunch

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I don’t recall what the sermon was about that day, but what I do remember is the gentle nudge that came while the pastor spoke.

Open your home for lunch. And not just any lunch. A traditional, home-cooked, family meal. Practice hospitality. Invite the Body.

I shared the idea with my husband, and he agreed we should implement it right away. The first Sunday of each month, we would host lunch after church for both friends and people we wanted to get to know. Our first “Sunday Lunch” included two families and roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green beans . . . in September. The following month we indulged in a slow cooked pot roast with twice as many people.

Now, over a year later, we average around 15-20 people, and our menu has ranged from smoked brisket to chicken masala. A core group who has caught our vision attends regularly and helps us identify new people to invite.

In their essay “A Way of Loving”, Stephen and Karen Baldwin write the following:

When we offer food thoughtfully and with respect, caring for and honoring those present at our table, it creates an atmosphere where sharing, laughing, and relating happens naturally. Offering our hospitality is a medium of grace that opens hearts to deeper things. It is a simple way of loving.

Our family believes this. We’ve seen it with our own eyes. We’ve developed some new, amazing friendships while serving homemade lasagna made with freshly rolled pasta. Other families have connected and forged new relationships over a bowl of jambalaya in our home. There’s something about sharing food that truly does pave the way to real conversation and authentic relationships.

For a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon, we see the Body of Christ in action. This hospitality, this way of loving, feels like worship, and we leave that time with hearts (and stomachs!) full.

Taking it home: The key to hospitality is making someone feel welcome. You can do that through a gourmet meal or store-bought cookies you eat out of the box. For some, you may need to start practicing hospitality with your own family. At your next family meal, prepare something simple so you don’t stress over the preparations. Set aside your electronic gadgets for a few minutes while you sit down together and eat. Use something like Conversation Starters to engage with each other, and see where things go. There’s no perfect outcome you’re looking for, other than being intentional about spending time together. If this is a standard event in your home, try inviting another family or friend to join you.

This post was written in conjunction with a book club discussion going on at The High Calling. Join in the discussion or read what others have to say.