Just this morning, as I was beginning this post, I looked up to see Tyler Florence on NBC’s Today Show, discussing his new cookbook, Family Meal: Bringing People Together Never Tasted Better. Tyler made the statement,
“Family meals are all about taking care of who is really special in your life.”
Family meals are important to our family, too. My husband and I really believe there is something sacred about sharing a meal with our family and friends. Valuing these times with our children has afforded us the opportunity to share with them about the significance of the common meal, as noted in the early church in Acts 2.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Apart from the spiritual significance of sharing a common meal are many physical and emotional benefits of sharing a meal together. Taking the time to enjoy the food, but enjoy the opportunity to spend time together.
A Times news article stated,
“Kids who dine with the folks are healthier, happier, and better students…”
Several years ago, while living in Denver, we rarely had a meal together as a family. My husband’s job required him to work several evenings a week. I worked the nights he didn’t, teaching voice and piano lessons. Although our kids were very young, we felt the tension and missed the connection. We realized something had to change. Not to mention, we were living out “good versus best,” as Oswald Chambers states in My Utmost for His Highest. We were doing many good things, but missing out on one of the BEST opportunities we had been given…
…spending time with and investing in our own family.
We were able to be creative in our scheduling and began to share at least one family meal each day. Sometimes, it was breakfast. Other times lunch or dinner. Almost immediately, we saw a change in our family dynamics. There is something to be said for slowing down and sitting down, in order to share a meal, to connect with family and to make memories. Our family continues to value this ritual and tradition. The rhythm of our lives craves this time together.
So, how did The Teaching Table come to be? Well….
Trust me, this didn’t happen as a planned event. Quiet the contrary. In the beginning, I realized I had lovely china and crystal, and desired to use them, more than once or twice a year. Who better to enjoy them than my family? As well, my husband and I enjoy going out to a fancy restaurant on occasion, and enjoy having our kids tag along. Together, this is how the Teaching Table began in the Swanson home.
For those of us with young children, it seems that every minute of the day is a teachable moment. However, on this night, we purpose to make our meal a learning opportunity in all aspects of the event. We set the table with fancy dishes (fine china), play soft music (usually, classical or jazz) and use what we have come to call “restaurant manners.” On this night, I usually make a new recipe, but make sure to have a few items that are kid-tested and approved, too. (I don’t want an all-out revolt! That’d defeat the whole purpose! 🙂 )
The menu items stretch their food pallets. The musical selections stretch their interests, and provides quiet a few conversation starters. (Have you had a conversation with a five-year old about the origins of jazz music?) The use of fine china and crystal causes Mom to learn to take it easy and go with the flow. Or, as my son said, “Mom, you need to remember, it all belongs to God anyway. We are just borrowing it!” (Yes, he said that to me, just the other night.) And the use of “restaurant manners” affords us all the opportunity to enjoy our meal, realizing the meal is the event. Food is just a small part.
Remember the meal Christ shared with his closest friends right before he gave us the greatest gift?
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
At our Teaching Table, we have had the opportunity to share devotions and spiritual truths with our children, as well as to share Communion with them. Not only have we been able to share something spiritually significant with our kids, but they have an opportunity to ask tons of questions. Some of which we have the answers. Others we respond, “Can I get back to you on that one?”
As well, we try to give everyone an opportunity to share the highs and lows of their days. We celebrate and sing, share and asks questions. Not to mention the few too many corny jokes that make their way into our conversations. After all, we are making memories. And memory-making involves a wealth of emotions, situations and settings! Ours run the gamut for sure!
Lastly, at our Teaching Table, we try to instill to our kids the need to share with others. Often, you will find someone else at our table–people from church, a neighborhood child, family friends, or our own extended family. Practicing hospitality is a very important value in our home.
A May 2005 USA Today survey produced the following answers to the question,
“How often do we entertain guests for dinner?”
- Once a week—6 percent.
- Once a month—21 percent.
- More than once a month—12 percent.
- Few times a year—37 percent.
- Rarely or never—24 percent.
“Snapshots,” USA Today, (June 6, 06)
My husband and I have a strong desire to share with our kids the value of a developing a spirit of hospitality. It does not matter how much you have, or don’t have. How big your home is, or is not. Or what you serve. It boils down to using all that you are given to serve others and show the love of Christ to all who come into your home.
Although the Teaching Table started out somewhat accidentally, it has become quiet significant in our home and to our family. We don’t have it all together. It doesn’t always go as planned, but we try. We have a goal. We aim for the purpose of creating a setting to share a meal, celebrate life and events and to understand the spiritual significance of why we are here, who we are to be and what we are to be doing in the ordinary, everyday journey of our lives.