My Formal Dinner Party
Hosting a formal dinner party at the ripe young age of 19 should be easy, right?
I returned home after my freshman year of college to spend the summer with family, friends, and a job. My parents loved weekend camping and told me in advance when they’d be gone. So on a weekend when I knew I’d be “Home Alone,” I decided to throw a formal dinner party.
Menu? Beef Wellington sounded perfect. I hadn’t exactly fixed it before, but it’s easy, right? Just a little meat and puff pastry!
On party day, I pulled out the linens, china, candlesticks, goblets, and silver. Bummer! The silver pieces were tarnished and I didn’t have time to clean them. Cooking like Julia Child was taking way too much time. So I called my lifetime friend next door, and she agreed to clean the silver—at her house. I had a “no peeking” rule in place.
Venue? The downstairs ping pong table and ten mismatched chairs would be perfect! I found two large tablecloths that remotely matched, and they almost covered the behemoth table. The china, silver, goblets, and napkins looked beautiful as I properly arranged them at each setting. Emily Post would be proud! I nearly dropped the black candlesticks as I stumbled to reach across the Goliath-size table to place them.
Serving my friends was a pleasure, and they insisted on doing the clean-up. The formal dinner was an accomplishment, and doing it all without my mom’s knowledge was a wonderful feeling (that “Home Alone” thing again).
Or so I thought.
I was at work when my parents returned. I received a terse phone call from my mom—I thought I’d be grounded for life! I didn’t realize that the china, pans, and utensils weren’t properly washed and were put in the wrong places. I didn’t know the china was their wedding china, the linens and silver were fragile family heirlooms, the goblets were crystal, and the candlesticks were black onyx.
My hope for a milestone gift to my friends and a learning experience on how to throw a formal dinner party ended in disappointment and rebuke. Reflecting on the experience now, I contemplate two things.
Esther endured twelve months of beauty treatments with oil of myrrh and cosmetics (Esther 2:12) before meeting her future husband, King Xerxes. That’s preparation! At the time, I believed I adequately prepared for the party. Her twelve months compared to my seven days? Not even close. My party missed the mark.
Do we miss the mark with Jesus? Acts 2:42 says,
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NIV)
This scripture describes more than merely adequate preparation to enter God’s presence. Are we devoted to walking with Jesus? Do we practice spiritual disciplines? Will God rebuke us if we’re not prepared?
I didn’t recognize that the items I used at the dinner party were precious family heirlooms. I just saw linens, dishes, glasses, flatware, and candlesticks.
Do we recognize Jesus? Do we treat Him as ordinary, or as the precious treasure above all treasures? Is His presence richer than the finest china and crystal, more precious than onyx, shinier than polished silver, and more beautiful than heirloom linens?
Jesus is “a chosen and precious cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:6 NIV)
Paul wrote that his goal was that the people would know “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3 NIV)
Do we daily invite God to feast with us? Do we see Jesus as the One in whom the treasures of wisdom and knowledge reside? Do we prepare the feast table on our knees—memorize scripture, meditate, and desire quality time with the One who always loves and never fails?
I want to crave my Jesus—the treasure above all treasures—for all the days of eternity with Him.
The Blessing of Boundaries
OCTOBER 6, 2020
“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27 (NIV)
I understand. It’s all so very hard.Have you ever found yourself having an out-of-control reaction in response to someone else’s out-of-control actions?
When I share biblical discernment with someone I love, but then they go away and do the opposite, it’s maddening. My bottled-up wisdom in the midst of their chaos produces extreme anxiety. My resulting reaction is not me being dramatic or overly emotional … I’m simply trying to save us both from the impending train wreck I can see so obviously headed our way!
A perfect example would be the two gallon-sized baggies stuffed full of ripped-up papers currently sitting on my dresser. Why do I have baggies of ripped papers? So glad you asked.
Some important documents came in the mail one day. In my defense, my name was included on the envelope. But the minute I opened the envelope and started reading through the contents, my blood pressure skyrocketed. One of my people was moving forward with something I deeply disagreed with. I had absolutely vocalized my many reasons to shut down this idea. I couldn’t believe they weren’t listening to me.
In hindsight, I should have simply reminded my family member of my boundary to not bail them out financially if this decision was as detrimental as I thought it would be.
Instead, I just stood there in my kitchen and slowly tore those papers into as many tiny pieces as I could. And when every last paper was torn, I decided that wasn’t good enough. I also tore the folders they were in and the mailing envelopes as well. I quietly stuffed all the mess into the baggies and sat them on the counter with a note that read, “This is all I have to say about this situation.”
It felt so good in that moment. But the next morning, I woke up and was like, Really, Lysa?! Really?! All my family member said back to me was, “Wow, you’ve made quite a statement.” Now I was the one who needed to apologize and figure out a way to tell the company needing to resend the papers I accidentally, on purpose, in a crazed moment, shredded. And when I did, the lady who worked at that company told me she’d recently read one of my books. Perfect. Wonderful. Ugh.
Controlling ourselves cannot be dependent on our efforts to control others.
I know I have hyperextended my capacity when I shift from calm words to angry tirades. I shift from blessing to cursing. I shift from peace to chaos. I shift from discussing the papers to ripping them to shreds and putting them in baggies. I shift from trusting God to trying to fix it all myself.
What do I need to do in response to situations that feel so out of control that they make me lose my self-control?
Establish boundaries. Boundaries aren’t to push others away. Boundaries are to help hold me together.
The truth is, without good boundaries, other people’s poor choices will bankrupt your spiritual capacity for compassion. Not to mention the fact that at some point, you’ll get so exhausted and worn down that you’ll lose your self-control because they are so out of control.
You’ll sacrifice your peace on the altar of their chaos. Soon you will get swept into a desperate urgency to get them to stop! Right! Now! And we all know acts of desperation hold hands with degradation. I’m preaching to myself because I’ve got the tendency to downgrade who I really am in moments of utter frustration and exhaustion when I don’t keep appropriate boundaries.
It all makes me think of today’s key verse: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered” (Proverbs 17:27).
When we understand that only God can bring about true change in another person’s heart and life, it frees us from all of our panic-induced attempts to control them. We can love them. Pray for them. Try to share godly wisdom with them. But we don’t have to downgrade our gentleness to hastily spoken words of anger and resentment. We don’t have to downgrade our attitude of reconciliation to acts of retaliation. We can use our words with restraint and stay even-tempered because we’re ultimately entrusting them to the Lord.
I know this isn’t easy, sweet friend. But it is wise.
It’s for the sake of our sanity that we draw necessary boundaries. It’s for the sake of stability that we stay consistent with those boundaries. And it’s with a heart of humility that maintaining those boundaries becomes a possibility.
“Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.” – Psalm 38:21-22 NIV
David had made mistakes, and he knew it. He felt the wounds of his “sinful folly” (v. 5). He knew he deserved God’s correction and discipline. He felt his guilt had become “too heavy to bear” (v. 4).
The impact had been intense. He had “no health,” groaning in the anguish of his heart; he felt “feeble and utterly crushed.” (v. 7-8) His heart pounded, and he felt no strength. “There is no soundness in my bones because of my sin” (v. 3). He had trouble seeing and hearing.
Everyone could see this. Even friends avoided him. His adversaries sought to take advantage of his weakened condition. As his enemies increased, his condition continued to deteriorate. “I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me” (v. 17).
He regretted his mistakes and realized, “all my longings lie open before you” (v. 9). Having been chastened and humbled, he cried out to God, “Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior” (v. 22). No longer depending on himself, he waited on God, confident that He would answer.
Many of us have gone through situations in which we feel the impact of our mistakes. The spiritually sensitive realize that God disciplines, corrects, and seeks to purify us.
How should we respond? Admit our sins. Seek forgiveness. Cry out for restoration. Cooperate and learn from God’s correction. Ask Him to take away our burdens and give us His peace.
Streams in the Desert – October 10
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Do not fret when wicked men seem to succeed! Do not envy evildoers! —Ps 37:1 NET
This to me is a Divine command; the same as “Thou shalt not steal.” Now let us get to the definition of fretting. One good definition is, “Made rough on the surface.” “Rubbed, or worn away”; and a peevish, irrational, fault-finding person not only wears himself out, but is very wearing to others. To fret is to be in a state of vexation, and in this Psalm we are not only told not to fret because of evildoers, but to fret not “in anywise.” It is injurious, and God does not want us to hurt ourselves.
A physician will tell you that a fit of anger is more injurious to the system than a fever, and a fretful disposition is not conducive to a healthy body; and you know rules are apt to work both ways, and the next step down from fretting is crossness, and that amounts to anger. Let us settle this matter, and be obedient to the command, “Fret not.”—Margaret Bottome
OVERHEARD IN AN ORCHARD
Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?”
Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”