Hear the Good News, You’ve Been Invited

September 4, 2012 | 42 comments

There was nothing magical about it, but everything about it was magical.

I looked out across her yard to behold the simple beauty of one long table decked out in creamy plates and silver forks and crayons and mismatched chairs. There was a place for everyone, and everyone had a place — right there on a patch of Iowa grass.

Trish had invited us to put our feet under that one long table beside the evergreen trees, to break bread and sip from glass jars under the dome of a September sky.

She’d arranged it a mere 24 hours before the event: “Okay, so here’s something random,” she emailed us. “If you don’t have any Labor Day plans Monday evening, you now have an invite–albeit a late one and one not well thought out–though sincere. ”

She called it “an exercise in spontaneity.”

I call it an invitation to be loved, and to love. It was a trumpeting call to hungry beggars, because sometimes we forget what communion tastes like. We forget the sweetness of the lingering, uncomplicated love song of fellowship. 

And so we came. At the curb, we parked our dirty pickup trucks and mini-vans, with their accumulations of shriveled up French fries and soccer cleats.

We brought ripe watermelon cut into triangles and casseroles in soupy Pyrex beds and garden-fresh cucumbers, swimming in milky dressing.

We brought our whole selves — our hang-ups and our habits, our hearts and our hopefulness — finding that we could drop it here, at this table. And at a table among friends with whom you’ve alternately celebrated and grieved, there is a place for all of it.

And this is what it means, I think, to be invited to the table — and also, this is what it means to actually show up.  When we linger a while over plates, hands laced up under our chins, we remember how much we need each other.

All of us came hungry, for something enduring that fills. We find it in the listening eyes on the other side of the table.

“Here,” Trish says, holding a cup of crayons. “Write your name on your own place, right above your plate on the cardboard paper.”

I wrote my name in purple. I had a place at the table, and the place knew my name.

The men removed their hats, and the children clasped hands, as Trish prayed a single prayer out of a 60-year-old book.

And in that one holy half-a-minute, we thanked the good Lord for what he’d given us — a magical moment as the sun slid down the western sky.


It wasn’t perfect. There were bugs, and howling children, and spilled lemonade, and overfilled plates where everything ran together.

But it was magical, I tell you. It’s the kind of thing that gives you a glimpse of heaven before you get there, where all the feet are gathered under the table, and you remember that a friend invited you there, and that there’s no one unworthy, no one unloved. No, not one.

It was, indeed, a God-incidence. This I know: not every God-incidence comes with thunder or megaphones or miraculous cures. Some of them do, yes, but not all of them. Often, God-incidences are unfolding right under our feet, right where you are, underneath open skies in the simplest, quietest ways next to an evergreen tree.

I pushed back my chair from the table, to take it all in through the lens of my camera. I clicked:

And in one utterly magical moment, I looked out across an open yard, and realized what a gift it is to know that you’re wanted at a table.


He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

~ Song of Solomon 2:4
A song for you, the invited guest: Table of Grace




 We write in community every Wednesday about the God-Things that make you go, “Hmmm…”

Some call them coincidences. We call them God-incidences. And those goosebumps you get sometimes when you know the Holy Spirit is at work? Yep. They’re God-Bumps.

Want to join the chorus of words for our God? Pick either button above, attach it to your post, tell your story. Then, link up with the weekly post right here on the blog.



by | September 4, 2012 | 42 comments


  1. ro.ellott

    I love this…this inspires me…simple acts of reaching out and loving…to say I see you…and you matter…yes and maybe give others a little bit of heaven. blessings~

    • dukeslee


      I know, right? It would be so easy to make a last-minute plan, invite a few friends, and give people the gift of a place at the table. We don’t have to be perfect — just available.

  2. Diana Trautwein

    Oh, my – this is beautiful. You have told this sweet and simple story just right. Thank you, Jennifer. LOVE that long, long table.

    • dukeslee


      Thank you. It means so much that you’re here to gather around this table awhile. Remember those long tables at Laity? How could we forget, right? I had the same feeling there, a little foretaste of what’s to come.

  3. Nacole

    Ah, yes, a place at the table. So much my Father has promised me. Simply beautiful, Jennifer. So sorry to have been silent so long. I’ve been re-aligning life and recuperating. I’m glad to reconnect again–and wanted to give you my heartfelt *thank you* for encouraging me along the way, for every time you have left a kind word. Blessings to you.

    • dukeslee

      Moments like these point to a great banquet table, don’t they? I feel that same longing at weddings, too. … Good to have you back Nacole. You always have a place at this table, even if you’re feeling quiet. 🙂 Love you.

  4. Hazel Moon

    Thank God He extends the invitation to all, even me. Your gathering sounds and looks blessed and so much fun!

    • dukeslee

      It was a blast. All the children had a ball, too. The event organizer is a schoolteacher, so she had organized a number of activities for us as well. Even the adults got in on the fun. Thank you, Hazel, for being here.

  5. Christina

    Makes me long even more for the Great Party to come!

    • dukeslee

      Exactly, Christina! Me, too.

  6. Aislinn

    Lovely! You beautifully captured that feeling of belonging.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Aislinn! It was such a beautiful, impromptu evening. Just a little glimpse of Heaven.

  7. Kris

    What a beautiful story, gathering giving grace, I love your images in this post and the way your words wrap this story up so beautifully. I felt as if I had a seat at that table.

    • dukeslee

      Someday, Kris. Someday. And I would like to sit by you awhile.

  8. Amber

    This really touched me today. I needed to hear this, right now. Thank you!

  9. Kim

    I loved the word pictures and the real pictures. I know I should do more inviting to the table and practice this kind of hospitality.

  10. SimplyDarlene

    Miss JDL –

    This is the epitome of being a great hostess… when one cares more about the hearts of the invited than the vacuumed floors.


  11. Courtney

    What a wonderful way to end the summer! And, a great reminder to be brave and hospitable. I need to exercise my spontaneity muscles – and spread some love.

  12. Lynn Morrissey

    OH Jennifer, sweet Jennifer! So beautifully told! I canNOT believe the serendipity of this, b/c I am in the throes of contemplating the Lord’s many invitations, and want to design a journaling class around them. What beautiful words: You are invited! Thank you for capturing the beauty here, both of a spontaneous, generous invitation extended, and of the grace that takes the time to say yes and to come. I so appreciate being invited regularly to your blog banquet. I feel like a guest of honor every time, and I love the words and truths which you so generously and giftedly serve! Love, Lynn

  13. Alicia

    Love how you share life and relationship. You know how to take something ordinary and shine it with your prose into an extraordinary truth. You are gifted, my friend. And I’m blessed each time I pick up your jewels and let God shine His light through them. Blessings

  14. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh I think I see a Mary Engelbreit picture on friendship here. She’s right here in St. Louis, and I love her work.

    And that song you shared is so exquisite and meaningful. Thank you.

  15. Laurie Collett

    Praise God for His unexpected blessings! thanks for the great posts & photos & for hosting the linkup, & God bless!

  16. Danise Jurado

    Sounds like a wonderful time… last minute unplanned gatherings with ones we love and care about make some of the best memories. 🙂

  17. Joanne Norton

    It’s been so long since I’ve heard that “Banner over me is Love”… but so loved it and all the motions that went with it. So glad you had a blessed and heart-flooded-with-friends time. Not much is better than that!

  18. Denise

    “all came hungry”….I bet no one left that way!

  19. Linda

    This brings back memories of the time we lived in a little farming community and attended the little white church with the steeple. It was the very center of our lives. We spent many wonderful hours around a table. You’re right. There’s nothing like knowing you’re welcome to come to the table.

  20. Susan

    Gorgeous, Jennifer. I enjoy stepping back and basking in the glow of a big happy gathering, most recently at a college football tailgate. It may seem silly, but it makes me long for the wedding supper of the Lamb.

    Thank you for those beautiful images.

  21. kendal

    i want to go to there….

  22. HisFireFly

    How I love your heart Jennifer – echoing with mine, with His…

    a place at the table, what we all long for and His invitation stands

  23. Shelly Miller

    You know what stuck out the most about this story? The way so many people gathered together at a moments notice. They obviously didn’t have Labor Day plans. I’m reading a lot about the loneliness of people and lack of community and this story just reveals the hunger people have for it, will drop everything for it. You painted a lovely picture of filling the lonely place.

  24. Dolly@Soulstops

    what a gift: a spontaneous invitation and all the people who accepted…thanks for giving us a peek …blessings, Jennifer 🙂

  25. Elizabeth Stewart

    What a lovely day. Is there anything better than good fellowship?
    Thank you so much for your kindness in regards to my post, “A Journey to Forgiveness”. I plan to post the continuing story on Wednesdays. It ends with the biggest God-incidence of my whole life. 🙂

  26. Robert Moon

    Your party sounds great and unique! Friends are knit over food and good fellowship.
    My continued story can be accessed at:
    http://musingsbyrobert.blogspot.com/ as my entry will only take you to one chapter. There are two more chapters (at least to follow)

  27. Arabah

    I’m new here, so thought I’d pop in to say hello. Plus it’s Thursday, not Wednesday but I wanted to share my link anyway~ smile. God is so great and loves intimately, I had to share!

  28. Michelle Eichner

    Jennifer, your writing just sings. I love your thought that we actually have to show up to enjoy the communion of fellowship. Just show up, not clean up. Not get everything looking perfect. Sounds like you had a fabulous Labor Day! Happy Fall. Give yourself a hug.

  29. Cindy

    Celebrating life with friends! What joy….and yes, I can just see all of us at the lavish banqueting table, meeting and greeting one another for all eternity.

  30. Kathie

    Thank you. Thank you for sharing this with us. It was SO what I needed to read today.! Thank you. A place at the table! YES! A place at HIS table for me!! A sweet, sweet reminder for me. Blessings to you +++

  31. Melanie

    I love when you say it wasn’t perfect, but it was magical. Good reminder to me that God is indeed working amidst the spilled lemonade and crying children. Yes, something beautiful is created when we come together at the table.

  32. Alecia

    Isn’t that we all want..to meet together in sweet fellowship and just enjoy being with each other. I’m glad you have friends like that!!

  33. laura

    What a special, special lady your Trish must be. And what a gift to share such a lush table. Set with love.

  34. Pam

    Love the way you wrote this with a bit of children book cadence here and there… and a beautiful analogy of our heavenly supper. Magical in your telling too. 🙂

  35. kris

    jennifer…felt as if i were there and then felt i wanted to go out and duplicate it! the spontaneity..the invitation…the community… like you said–imperfect but magical. 🙂 love that you shared this–and so beautifully.



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