The kitchen is open and so is the conversation

Here’s why I love the Wednesday night kitchen at Garnett.

We gather informally around 5:30-7:00 pm and eat. Tonight Roy Victory barbecued bologna, hot links, chicken . . .

Like Elvis, I love that BBQ bologna but more than that I love the conversations, the banter in the food line with the guys (and its mostly guys and one or two women who cook) about who came up with the spelling of the word, B-O-L-O-G-N-A, my Balderdash-sounding yet true explanation that Bologna is a town in Italy and the “gn” combination is truly an Italian word formation and sound, like lasagna.

The beauty of the table time is that we sit with others in addition to your own family, and talk. We sat down next to Denise, whose daughter and son-in-law are both in the military . . . in different places. Her son-in-law, she just told us at the table, lost a good friend–a roadside bomb. The man sitting across from Denise said he’d supported the war but as the years drag on, his mind is changing, he said.

There was that tension in the air when people talk politics, war, and peace, and that particular kind in religious circles that assumes a Republican bias, but Denise broke it when she said, “I don’t think Christians have to be Republican . . . I’m a Democrat . . .”

Last Sunday I had wrestled with how to say something publicly at Garnett about the military men and women we list weekly in the bulletin–one of the troops had come home, and someone wanted me to announce it and everytime we do, a standing ovation using follows. So I asked that instead of sentimentality, that we do something practical and said, “Our calling, regardless of our politics or opinion about the war, is to pray . . . and not to act sentimentally–affect and no action–but to do something like Denise does: she and several other ladies pack boxes for dozens of military personnel . . . every Wednesday night.”

Back at the table Wednesday night, Denise admits that packing those boxes has nothing to do with her support of the war. It’s for those young men and women we’ve sent over there. She said her daughter’s tenor of “you don’t know what good we’re doing” is changing to “we need to stay out of the world’s business.” Denise had said this before but it means more coming from a soldier, her own daughter who was seeing first-hand what’s going on.

The conversation moved to Islam and Elaine (name changed) says, “My husband is from Baghdad . . .” Like Denise who actually does something for military regardless of her politics, so too Elaine has more credibility by her close association to those in harm’s way: “My in-laws still live in Baghdad,” she says. “My husband started practicing Islam after we got married . . . ” We talked about Islam, how humans corrupt religion, how even Christians can be radicals and start wars and violence. Does Elaine want the violence to stop? For us to pray for peace. Absolutely.

Two days earlier I sat across another table from a Marine and said, “I respect and appreciate what you’ve done for our country. I don’t know how to express my admiration.” Then he told me his thirty-year journey of coming to grips with war, with Vietnam, with current conflicts, and one conclusion he’s come to is this: as Kingdom people we are called to peace, to pray and work toward it, not just posture and talk a good game, and that’s the very thing I wanted to say but could not with the same credibility of a Marine, or Denise, a mother who sends care boxes not only to her two loved ones but hundreds of others, or Elaine, a woman who’s husband is a Muslim from Iraq but is trying to live her Christian faith.

The kitchen is open and so is the conversation open during the table fellowship at Garnett on Wednesday nights.