The PEARL: Part 2 – Eating Together
Eating is possibly one of the greatest American pastimes. We have cooking shows, cooking blogs, and cooking websites. Our towns are filled with restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream parlors. There are health food stores, international food stores, and bulk food stores. If you want to eat, you can order in, eat out or have your meals sent to you in a box with directions for preparing them. We love to eat.
We eat not just for sustenance but because it brings us together. Think about your family dinner table. Eating is not the only thing that happens there. The table is where community develops. If you’re eating together with your family, you’ve found something many American families long for: community. So why not share your community with your neighbors? Is it possible to find a way to expand your table to include the people on your street?
Jesus expanded his table. He chose not to sit exclusively with family. He ate with sinners and tax collectors. He shared a sack lunch with five hundred people on a hillside. He ate with friends in an upper room. He ate fresh fish over a beach fire with people he had called to follow him. He ate with those he called neighbor.
Last Thursday we began a discussion about reaching beyond our homeschool walls to develop meaningful relationships with our neighbors. I shared my pastor’s acronym, PEARL. Eating together is part two of this acronym.
Before we go any further, here’s the acronym and what each letter stands for:
P = Pray for your neighbors
E = Eat with your neighbors
A = Ask your neighbors to tell you their story
R = Reveal your story
L = Love tangibly
Part one of the PEARL was to pray for our neighbors. I told the story of a difficult neighborhood we lived in and how prayer and the ideas of the PEARL eventually resulted in neighbors coming to know Jesus and lives being transformed.
Eating together was part of the journey with our neighbors. For them it was clearly all about the backyard barbecues and neighborhood potlucks. A Sunday meal around the table would have been weird for them. However, they loved coming to our driveway every Friday night during the summer for a movie projected onto our garage door. We served popcorn and bottled waters and freeze pops and enjoyed many summer nights together.
These Friday night events opened the door for deeper relationship. Before long we were invited to baby showers, birthday parties, and even a wedding shower. There were many times, we had to choose to stay in relationship when coarse language or excessive alcohol seemed to flow. We tried our best to use wisdom for each situation.
What about your neighbors? Is it possible that you rarely see them except for that awkward moment when you both drive out of your garages and wave through closed car windows? Or perhaps you’ve had a few exchanges while your kids were playing together. But their kids are, you know, worldly. Their kids use bad language and watch movies you’d never let your kids watch. Their kids wear pictures of pop culture on their t-shirts and listen to that kind of music. I know how you feel. It’s awkward and you have to figure out how to navigate stuff. Jesus navigated a bunch of stuff that was awkward. He spoke to Samaritans and let a prostitute wash his feet with perfume while others looked on. That was awkward. But why did Jesus do it? Love. He loves people. He loves your neighbors. Do you love them? I mean, really love them? If not, start with the P in Pearl and pray for God to plant a sincere love and compassion in your heart for your hurting neighbors.
Then think about food.
#1. What kind of food do your neighbors seem to like? This is important. You may be gluten free, vegan, or have special dietary restrictions, but when it comes to neighbors, think outside your walls and into theirs. Then cook for them not for you. Are they meat eaters? Then make something you can tolerate but they will love. Do they seem to love bread? Find a way to include some great bread into your meal. If an entire meal is out of the question, start with the movie night idea and provide a snack everyone will love.
#2. Where can you eat together for maximum community impact? Eating outdoors is always a hit, as it is less intimidating. One of my friends brought a taco truck to the neighborhood. Everyone bought their own food and then sat around talking and laughing. Before long a Wiffle Ball game ensued and the feeling of community grew. Think about it. Pray about it. Ask God to give you an idea, and then pursue community with all your heart.
#3. What can you talk about while you eat? We will discuss this in depth next week, but for now just ask good questions. What do your kids like to do? How long have you lived in the neighborhood? What are your favorite places to eat in town?
Eating together will build trust and help you to discover what your neighbors are truly like. Who knows, you may find that you really like each other.
Joleen Steel is the curriculum specialist for Camping Stick Kids. She has a B.A. in elementary education. She taught public school for ten years before deciding to open her own music studio and homeschool her boys. Joleen is a pastor’s wife and grew up as a pastor’s kid. Her love for the good news of Jesus Christ flows out of her and into the camping stick kids curriculum. Her easy style and creative approach to teaching will encourage your student to learn the Gospel story and be able to share the good news with their friends and family. Joleen would love to have you visit the camping stick kids website and blog. Come say hi at www.campingstickkids.com