For a year now, we’ve been hosting a weekly gathering for the kiddos in our neighborhood. Sometimes, it’s been Krispie Kreme donuts and orange juice in the morning around a fire in the backyard. Other times it’s been marshmallows and hot chocolate after dinner. It’s always been a rather informal, the backgate-is-always-open neighborly event and it’s always been in the backyard.

Until recently.

Image courtesy of Lori Harris

Image courtesy of Lori Harris

Last fall, I got a wild hair and decided that it would be awesome to buy a couple of picnic tables and put them under the big oak tree in the front yard. I’m a dreamer and as I began to envision picnic tables in the front yard, I also began to envision twinkling lights hanging from the trees and candlelight dinners with our neighbors and Saturday afternoon picnics and Sunday afternoon homemade ice cream parties. I also began to have dreams of a huge pergola and a brick fireplace, but my husband has yet to configure a way to hang some twinkling lights thirty feet above the tables, so the verdict is still out on the other.

But more than all of that, I began to imagine how our neighborhood would change if we began to eat together.

Because I live in an impoverished neighborhood, there is quite a bit of shame associated with food. Food envy is an actual thing here and hunger gnaws at the bellies of both children and adults. Food is eaten alone and often in secret because their simply isn’t enough to go around. There is little joy or happiness associated with the table and truthfully, very few families in my community even have tables at which to eat.

Which brings me back to those picnic tables.

Eating together around a table is where

On a Friday afternoon, after I had convinced my family we needed to move our backyard party to the front yard and serve a full meal, we drove out to the next town over and picked up two eight-foot tables. We placed them under the big oak tree and filled in the area around them with a couple of loads of pea gravel. A few weeks later, we hosted our first neighborhood dinner and just this past Sunday, we shared a meal with forty neighbors.

Can I tell you something? This weekly meal is transforming our community, one meal at a time.

Image courtesy of Lori Harris

Image courtesy of Lori Harris

It’s changing our community because eating together around a table is where we are learning to bear with one another. Walls are coming down and bridges are being built while food is passed. Food is becoming the great equalizer among us, reminding us we’re all needy. The table is where we are beginning to look one another in the face and remind one another of the good we see. It’s the place where we are learning that there is no one greater than another and that here, over plates of BBQ chicken and baked beans, we belong to a family bigger than the one that can fit in our ramshackle of a house.

I think this is why Jesus spent a great deal of time eating and drinking with all sorts of people, particularly sinners in dire need of a place to belong. He came to usher in the dawning of a new kingdom, a new family, where everyone was invited in to wear a robe and a ring and be given a new name.

Image courtesy of Lori Harris

Image courtesy of Lori Harris

Wherever Jesus went, Love walked among the people and everyone was invited to the table called Grace.

And this is the model we’ve been given to follow, friends.

It’s not a six-point strategic method for winning lost souls or a four spiritual laws pamphlet or a seven night revival with eighteen stanzas of Just As I Am.

It’s a table, a meal, and Jesus in us.

That’s it.

A new kingdom is breaking, y’all.

And I see it breaking over bread.

GraceTable

Lori Harris / Posts / Blog
Lori Harris is a Southern born, Texas-missing girl, who is rearing her six kids in a neighborhood some would call the ‘hood. She and her bi-vocational husband have planted Fellowship Bible Church Rocky Mount on the wrong side of the railroad tracks where poverty runs deep and racism even deeper. She coordinates a city-wide MOPS group, passes out PBJs to the neighborhood kids, and brews coffee just to make the house smell like Jesus. She writes at loriharris.me.
  • Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org/

    I love how the Lord gave you the spark of an idea…a picnic table or two. Then, the spark became a flame, and now others are warmed and fed by that flame. As always, you challenge me, Lori.

    June 3rd, 2015 12:24
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      And you know what, Leah? We need an extra picnic table. That makes me smile.

      June 4th, 2015 0:33
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  • Jamie S. Harper
    http://www.jamiesampieriharper.com

    Yes, Lori! This is good! Simple life change and transformation. That is what I love about the table.

    June 3rd, 2015 14:03
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  • Traci Rhoades
    http://www.tracesoffaith.com/

    This post had me smiling. Something about being outdoors is less intimidating too, isn’t it? People who maybe wouldn’t come into your house are made to feel right at home around a picnic table. I’m thankful you’re seeing good work being done in your neighbor-hood.

    June 3rd, 2015 16:22
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      I’m glad it made you smile Traci. Sunday nights are my favorite jam. And you’re absolutely right about the outdoors being less intimidating. Lots of our neighbors would never cross our threshold, but they love the picnic tables.

      June 4th, 2015 0:32
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  • Sue Donaldson
    http://www.welcomeheart.com

    Love this, Lori – Jesus loved often and always richly over food! I think He keeps wanting to do this at our tables – front and back, out and in. It’s a way of life. Super post!

    June 3rd, 2015 17:40
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      Thanks Sue! If we’d all do ministry like Jesus did ministry, I think we’d all be merry and quite bright!

      June 4th, 2015 0:30
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  • Merit Brand Wolff

    Wow. If that isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is. I don’t know your story but I am in awe! This is exactly what I see when I read A Meal With Jesus! And I am ashamed that (truthfully) there are more people in my own current neighborhood that I just don’t want to have to sit across from…it’s not a needy neighborhood…it’s middle class privileged. Yet aren’t those folks just as in need of a Savoir as the next person. Wow. Growing edge. I’m just being honest. You have really given me something to think about.

    June 3rd, 2015 18:07
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      You’re so right. Your neighbors are just as needy as mine. Loving the folks next door can be so dang hard, huh? But it’s worth the trying, I think. {and I love honest, friend. I love it.}

      June 4th, 2015 0:29
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  • Lindsey Smallwood

    Love this Lori, I used to teach in a neighborhood like the one you live in and it is so beautiful to read your story of community coming together. Keep on keeping on!!

    June 4th, 2015 0:24
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      Hey there Lindsey! Thanks for the encouragement. I am learning to absolutely love this funky little place. These people are teaching me so many things about myself.

      June 4th, 2015 0:27
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  • Pam

    Love this post!

    June 4th, 2015 2:25
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      Thanks Pam. Wish you could join us one Sunday night!

      June 4th, 2015 21:42
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  • Kristin_theschellcafe
    http://www.kristinschell.com

    Oh Lori, watching you love your neighbors is about as inspiring as it gets. I wanna come sit at your picnic tables… I’ll bring baked beans and a can of turquoise spray paint! 😉 Love you, girl.

    June 4th, 2015 15:48
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      You bring the paint and the baked beans and I’ll serve pulled pork and slaw. How fun would that be? Love running this race with you!

      June 4th, 2015 21:41
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  • Joy B. Rudolph
    http://joybrudolph.com/

    Yes, this. “A table called Grace” always and forever.

    June 4th, 2015 17:43
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      Yep, Joy. Always and forever.

      June 4th, 2015 21:41
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  • Sue Batton Leonard

    This is my first visit to this site. I found your posting A Kingdom Over Bread very interesting. Will be back!

    June 4th, 2015 19:58
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    • Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      Well let me be the first one to welcome you to Grace Table, Sue! So glad you’ve chosen to join us here.

      June 4th, 2015 21:40
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