“When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down and welcomed him gladly.” Luke 19:5

Fellowship is being gladly welcomed into a place of nurturing refuge where a celebration takes place for who you are! Jesus recognized in Zacchaeus a man who needed validation, and in turn, Zacchaeus “welcomed Him gladly.” Their fellowship in his home was transformational. Zacchaeus left nourished and inspired, confirmed and invigorated.

That’s exactly what I want from our family gathering at Thanksgiving. My heart’s desire is for this seasonal spread of hospitality to be a festival of validation for each person present. I miss my mom exponentially at this time of year. Nobody revelled in family more than she did. As an only child, she longed for raucous siblings, cousins galore, and boisterous family gatherings.

I fondly remember preparing Thanksgiving dinner with my three sisters. We chopped, stirred, whisked, sliced, kneaded, and talked over and to each other. In addition to this commotion, my brother’s voice could be heard ricocheting in the background as he corraled all the cousins.  

My mom sat perched like a queen on a kitchen chair soaking up all the chatter. She was legally blind in her later years so her only contribution to meal preparation was as the expert taste tester! Amidst the chaos of the steamy Thanksgiving kitchen, we would feed her choice morsels from our fingers straight into her mouth. Momentarily closing her eyes, she would sigh or frown, depending on her expert verdict. Even though she couldn’t see, all her other senses were on hyper-alert and she never lost her joy in meal preparation and hospitality. “Julia” was secure in her matriarchal role and affirmed for all her contributions.

This type of fellowship takes place in a safe zone. It is un-orchestrated, yet the setting and background prep is at the ready. Such fellowship is egalitarian; stories, laughter, tears, dreams, silliness, and angst are all shared. I leave fellowship energized yet rested, buoyed to face the next hour, next day, or the next week, grateful to have been invited.

 

 

For whom have you created a safe zone lately?

This has been a golden day

of sweet sadness

That my heart will cherish

long after

The happier hours are forgotten

and time has stilled our laughter.

Helen Steiner Rice