Some families rarely have a family meal together. They just “graze” all day. They wander from the ‘fridge to the microwave then park it in the living-room to stare at the big electronic “eye”. I must admit partial guilt. (Just as I finished this paragraph Lois came into my study from a shopping trip and dropped a Whopper on the desk near my keyboard). I think we need to talk about this.
I am privileged to do the pastorate along rural lanes and country-side and in quaint villages and small towns. My parish is a beautiful one. This time of the year the gentle hills and glens of Knox county are ribboned with ripening crops and rich with the colors of autumn.
Robert Frost wrote of “being versed in country things…”, that is an ambition of mine. I love the old places in the country best. Bank barns and big family homes back long, tree-lined lanes. Houses with character and a history. Not cookie-cutter track-houses but unique homes with their own personality and atmosphere.
Our good neighbors, the Wheelers, have a home like that. It is nestled in a ravine back a quarter-mile lane in the middle of a one hundred acre farm. On the back porch is a sturdy wrought iron triangular dinner bell.
I can imagine little children, grimy with play, running for the house at the sound of that bell. Their daddy, coming in from the field, hangs his cap on a hook inside the back porch and rolls up his sleeves. He scrubs for dinner then cups his hands to drink the cold water. He takes his place at the head of the table and with all the family holding hands bows his head and says a humble, sincere prayer of thanksgiving. The aroma of good food and coffee is on the air. The home is marked by the bounty of God.
We don’t live at the end of a lane in a spacious farm house. We don’t have a dinner bell. I don’t work in the fields. But there are a couple things about his little scenario that we have been able to duplicate.
Every time we sit down to eat as a family, we join hands around a beautiful solid oak dinning-room table. The big table should be in our family for generations. It was custom-built by an Amish man from Walnut Creek named Sam Mast. We waited months for it to be finished. On August 10, 1990, we all loaded in the van and drove up through Holmes County to get it. It was a big family event.
I think if I tell you the story behind how we got that table and what we plan to do with it you will be strengthened in your resolve to have a godly home.
It is an unusual story involving the Amish and the Japanese, Athens and Tokyo, a lady who calls herself Anne, A niece of Sam and his cousin, the Honda Motor Company, and Disney World.
The table didn’t cost me a penny. Lois doesn’t have a job but she paid for it. One day, looking for an outlet for some home-made craft items, Lois called a friend named Joanna (who calls herself Anne). Anne/Joanna put her in touch with a lady from Athens (Ohio) who had a contract with the Honda Motor Company to supply American-made dolls for a promotion sponsored by Disney World in Tokyo. Lois called the lady from Athens, who told her she would buy all the dolls she could make. There was, however a stipulation. The deadline for the order was less than a week away.
We set a goal to make sixty dolls in three days. The whole family worked together. The oldest children stuffed doll arms and legs and torsos with polyester batting. I stuffed and stitched doll pantaloons. Lois did the rest. I helped with meals. We stayed up all night most of two nights. I carefully maintained my office hours and took care of my calls and study and meetings and administrative duties, but when the deadline came we delivered on our end of the bargain. Thirty days later a check for over six-hundred dollars arrived in the mail.
We went shopping for a table. The retail stores wanted more than we could afford but I could tell the tables were made locally. Not knowing how to locate the Amish man who make the tables, I stopped an Amish lady on the street in Sugarcreek and asked if she knew anyone who built custom furniture. She said; “Oh yes, my cousin, Sam Mast does. He lives near Mount Hope.”
We drove to Mount Hope. At a little country store we stopped again. I asked the girl at the counter if she knew where Sam Mast lived. From the middle aisle of the store a voice said; “Sam Mast is my uncle,” and she told us how to find his house.
We drove to his home and described the table we wanted. Solid Oak. Five legs. Simple but sturdy. Bow-back chairs on the ends and benches on the sides. Light finish. Five leaves so it would open to ten feet. We held our breath as he looked up the price. All together it came to $600.00 dollars!
In a way, the table represents the heart of our home.
-It is large in hopes that God will bless us with enough children to go around it. “Like olive plants all around your table.” (Psalm 128.3).
-It is beautiful to remind us that a truly godly family is a thing of great beauty and powerfully attracts others to the Christian faith. (We want to use it to welcome others to our home and to our Faith).
-It is simple to encourage us to remember that function is primary.
-It is strong to inspire us to bear up under the weight of the pressures that a family must endure.
-It is flexible. The leaves may be added when the family is large or there are many guests. But there will be a day, all too soon when we won’t need all the leaves and we must use these short days to prepare the children to gather their own family around tables of their own. We want to raise them in such a way that they will always long to return and that returning will remind them that faith and family are the most important things in life.
-It is the product of hard work. “the sleep of a laboring man is sweet”
-It is the product of working together. “how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
-It is valuable to remind us that a woman of virtue is a priceless thing. “her price is far above rubies…”