We sit down at our kitchen table, Brenda and I. I've just hugged goodbye to the last three friends to leave for home from the cell group that meets in our house every Tuesday evening.
I love Tuesday evenings--they are wonderful--a gift to us--to our grandchildren--to our friends.
I get home from work at around 5.00 and as I open the door and enter the large centre hallway of our house, the welcoming aroma of something delicious cooking greets me. I have mastered the art of the automatic oven--a wonderful invention.
As I quickly check for new email, the door to the downstairs apartment opens. Around it peers Victoria, my weekly helper, ready to do her Omie's bidding with swift feet and small eager hands.
Soon she is setting a table for eight as I fill the coffee pot with water and measure out decaffeinated coffee, then put on a large pot of potatoes to boil and other pots of vegetables. People start arriving at around 6.00, and we are ready, the fragrance of fresh coffee weaving in and around that of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and vegetables.
Charliene and Bonnie arrive--Charliene with bread, and cookies she always brings for the girls--she has such a kind heart. Then come Ron and Jorie--and Marilyn. Tiffany-Amber comes upstairs with Brenda and soon Susan and Ann arrive. The table for eight overflows into a second table in the kitchen. There is laughter and people bumping into one another as we get the meal to the table. Grace is announced by Paul and we freeze in place momentarily, heads bowed as he blesses the food--then without skipping a beat, go back to our laughing and conversation.
Over the course of an hour the meal is eaten and orders for dessert are taken. Some have moved into the comfort of arm chairs and some are quickly washing pots and pans and loading the dishwasher.
The girls disappear into the long, light olive green room that is a playroom for our grandchildren. I think that these evenings, strung through their young lives like precious beads on a necklace are shaping the fibre of their beings as my grandmother's table did mine in my childhood. I often think that my gift of hospitality--my compulsion to gather people around my table--is because of the happy memories I have of hers.
The grown ups are now settled in the large room, some have left after dinner, it's great that they were able to come for the meal and but they need to get home and to bed. The Bible is opened. Tonight it's Acts chapter 12 that Brenda reads out loud, putting life into the words so that we imagine we can see Peter being led out of prison by the angel, all the while thinking that he's just dreaming. We laugh at his arrival at the house of John Mark, where there is a prayer meeting on his behalf, but where the door is left shut in his face as the servant girl, Rhoda, runs back to the praying people to tell them that Peter is at the door. And we laugh more at the irony of the prayer group who insist that she must be out of her mind.
The conversation jumps to our own experiences and ways that we feel God is speaking to us as individuals now. There is a common thread--a sense of anticipation. We all agree that God wants us to be light in a world becoming increasingly dark. We see from the events in the Middle East--God's time piece--and the environmental changes in the earth--that we may well be approaching the climax of history--and that Jesus could return at any time. The tone becomes serious as we consider, "How then should we live?" Surely much of what we concern ourselves with is so unimportant. We all want to be more engaged with God.
We pray...for one another--for others in need of prayer. It is so good to be together.
And now, in the suddenly quiet house, I sit at the kitchen table with my daughter. She is sharing her vision for what God is telling her to do right now. Her heart is so full of passion to follow his leading. "Good girl," I say, laughing. Those words, I know, hit the spot. Our pastor, for whom she works as church secretary a couple of mornings a week, sometimes says them when she's done something he appreciates and she loves it.
"When I get to heaven," she says, "Never mind, "Well done, good and faithful servant," all I want him to say is "Good girl,"--and I'll be set for eternity!"