Judy Russell Challenges us to Spend More Time AROUND THE TABLE (With Help from Leonard Sweet’s book: From Tablet to Table–Where Community is Found and Identity is Formed)

Greetings!  It’s my pleasure to introduce you to a dear friend and mentor of mine, Judy Russell.  Many of you are blessed to  know her and have been equally blessed to know and hear her husband, Bob, preach.

Last week we talked about the upcoming Summer Bible study on Bob’s most recent book, Acts of God—Why Does God Allow So Much Pain.  I promised you’d get to hear from Judy and Bob here on the blog, so this week Judy is issuing quite a challenge for us and our families. 

I predict you’ll want to read the book she discusses as well as take her up on her challenge to gather around a table!!! 

Please join me in welcoming Judy Russell, a precious gal who can do more than all of us put together, with gracious hospitality, all the while smiling away…..


“Gathering Around the Table CHALLENGE”

by Judy Russell

“My Grandmother makes the best brownies and chocolate chip cookies in the world!”  This was the rather declarative sentence quipped by my eight-year-old grandson to his buddies recently… He was telling how some of his friends had been saying their grandmother’s cookies were the best.  Of course, I jumped on that opportunity and hugged him tightly!

Although I seldom cook anymore, I still enjoy hosting family and friends. Thank goodness for carry out and caterers, and don’t forget chocolate chip cookies, warm from the oven!

I remember as a child, listening intently about work in foreign countries and churches in other towns, as the minister and his family would gather at our kitchen table.  We listened, laughed, cried and prayed.

My mother cooked the best roast beef ever!  A bounty of fresh vegetables filled huge bowls, and nearly always a homemade devil’s food chocolate cake graced the table.  Our table wasn’t fancy with china, crystal goblets or real silver.  But it was laden with the bounty God had provided. Bob’s parents entertained many people at their table as well. Naturally it was easy for our family to follow suit.

There is something uniquely special that happens around the table. We have had a variety of guests put their feet under our table:  family, friends, students, professors, authors, missionaries, preachers, political figures, coaches, sports figures, staff, college interns, Bible study groups, neighbors, etc.

When I think of all those people that have graced our home at meals and the moments of laughter, tears and prayers, I am reminded of how blessed we are to spend time with them—sharing our lives, telling stories, and talking about all kinds of things.

Pictured here in Bob and Judy’s dining room, are our friends, a/k/a The Butter Babes.  Fay’s  at the head of the table.  To her left is Bonnie, Nancy, Judy and Elizabeth.)

Pictured here in Bob and Judy’s dining room, are our friends, a/k/a The Butter Babes. Fay’s at the head of the table. To her left is Bonnie, Nancy, Judy and Elizabeth.)

There are seventy-six references in Scripture about eating together at a table. Think about this for a moment:  Our Lord, at birth, was laid in a feeding trough – a table for animals.  And he broke bread with his disciples at his last meal, at a table!

 The Table is an important fixture in our lives.  Jesus invites us to meet with Him at His Table every Lord’s Day. 

Leonard Sweet’s book, From Tablet to Table: Where Community Is Found and Identity Is Formed, spurred my thinking. He writes, “… one thing that would dramatically change the world we live in and help return us to our rootedness in Christ is this:  Bring back the Table!

If only we would make the table the most sacred object of furniture in every home…”The table is the place where identity is born. It is the place where the story of our lives is retold, re-minded and relived.”

He warns, “The average parent spends only 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.  We are losing the Table.”

From Tablet to Table

Here are some staggering statistics:

Sixty years ago, the average dinnertime was ninety minutes. Today, it’s less than twelve minutes.”  www.thescramble.com/family-dinner-challenge/

The average Dad spends less than seven minutes a day in meaningful conversation with his kids.  Jeff Hay says – “INSIST on Family Meal Times – buck the drive-thru trend!”   http://www.thedadvibe.com/parents-spend-less-than-7-minutes-a-day-talking-to-kids/

Registered dietician and author, Becky Hand, lists eight reasons for eating together:

“(1) Improving Communication,

(2) Modeling Manners,

(3) Expanding children’s understanding of the world – one food at a time,

(4) Nourishing, Healthy foods,

(5) Teaching Self-Sufficiency,

(6) Preventing Destructive Behaviors,

(7) Improving Grades and

(8) Saving Money.”


Time magazine recently featured an article, “The Magic of the Family Meal”, reprinted from, Eating Smart.  It said, “There is something special about a shared meal, not some holiday blowout once in a while, but regularly, reliably eating together that anchors a familyeven on nights when the food is fast and the talk is cheap and everyone has someplace they’d rather be.”

According to Time, “Studies show the more often families eat together the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders or to consider suicide. The more likely they are to do well in school and delay having sex. Kids who eat most often with their parents are 40% more likely to get A’s and B’s in school.  The older the kids are, the more they need this protected time together, but the less likely they are to get it”.


We are all guilty of rushing through mealtime. An average American eats one in five meals in their car!  Technology interrupts mealtime.  Gone are discussions of life, moments of teaching and learning. Gone are times that could be the happiest parts of our day–Gathering Around the Table where traditions are formed and favorite foods are served.

Every Thanksgiving our family passes the “Blessing Pot”.  Each person expresses something they are thankful for and shares why they are thankful.  Prayer is a vital part of every meal. Traditions and story telling fill our hearts with love, comfort, and security that brings laughter and joy to the table.  If we really want to get to know someone’s story, sitting down at the table and breaking bread together is the best way to start.

Bob and I recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.   We had a wonderful time vacationing in the Smokey Mountains with family where we had taken our honeymoon 50 years earlier as well as many family vacations.

From left to right are:  Kimberly, Corrie, Phil, Lisa, Kellie, Chapman, Andy, Johnny, Rusty, Judy, Bob, Tommy, and Charlie.

From left to right are: Kimberly, Corrie, Phil, Lisa, Kellie, Chapman, Andy, Johnny, Rusty, Judy, Bob, Tommy, and Charlie.

Gathering around the table one night, the boys asked, “Tell us again, how you met?  Where was your first date?”  Chances are, those questions would never have been asked had we not gathered around the table!  

I challenge you to regularly start eating with your family at the table. Choose breakfast or lunch or dinner.   But EAT at a table, not at the kitchen counter, SIT at a table so you can look into each other’s eyes! It could even be a picnic or at a restaurant.

Gather at a table!  Just do it – unrushed, uninterrupted and full of stories!  Invite people into your home and ask them questions about their lives, too.  Gathering around the table will bring you more joy than you can imagine.

Don’t delay!  Do this!

“We all need to eat and drink to stay alive. But having a meal is more than eating and drinking. It is celebrating the gifts of life we share. A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events. Around the table we become vulnerable, filling one another’s plates and cups and encouraging one another to eat and drink. Much more happens at a meal than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst. Around the table we become family, friends, community, yes, a body.

That is why it is so important to “set” the table. Flowers, candles, colorful napkins all help us to say to one another, ‘This is a very special time for us, let’s enjoy it!’” – Henri Nouwen


THANK YOU, JUDY!!!  Great  post with challenging ideas as well as scary statistics to keep us on our toes! 

My very favorite story on Judy’s Grandmothering skills took place the year Rusty and Kellie moved to Florida.  (By the way, if you’ve not heard Rusty preach before, dash over to his church’s website and watch: www.newdaychristian.net )

Judy worried her grandchildren would really miss the autumn foliage, living in Florida.  So once the leaves turned here in Kentucky, she literally boxed up and shipped a LOTof fall leaves for her grandchildren to play with in Florida.  Who does that?  Only an over-the-top dedicated and devoted Grandmother!!!  One of the many reasons we all love her so!!!!

Happy 50th to you and Bob, Judy, and thanks for all you do for countless friends and family members, day in and day out, shining the light of Christ.

Thanks to you, we will all be more conscious to sit and eat around the table!!!

‘Til next time!


Filed under Family, Friends, Guest Post, Life Lessons

8 responses to “Judy Russell Challenges us to Spend More Time AROUND THE TABLE (With Help from Leonard Sweet’s book: From Tablet to Table–Where Community is Found and Identity is Formed)

  1. Pingback: A Chat with Bob Russell on his Book, and the Movie, Acts of God—Why Does God Allow So Much Pain, Plus a Few Questions of Interest…(BOOK GIVEAWAY TOO!***) | Worship with Words

  2. Nancy Tinnell

    Such a wonderful post! The table is where community develops, whether at home or in your Bible study groups!

    • Judy Kay Russell

      Nancy, this is so true. Even in Bible Study Groups. The 7 of us at the table
      at your studies have really become a unit/team/friendship/par excellence! Praying for each other so often and having lunch. And the group began with only me knowing all the other 6! How sweet it is to be in love with Jesus!

      • Amen, I LOVE that re: Bible study groups. Nancy, we cannot wait to get back into your teaching along w/ Bob! Awesome!!! What a blessing. Never mind John and I ate at our kitchen bar today, thinking we were not at the table!!!! Yikes!!! Loved all of your post, Judy. Thank you. Hugs xoxox

  3. Shirley Garwood

    What a lovely, beautifully written article by Judy. Every word is so, so true. Thanks, Judy!

    • Hi Shirley! So glad you liked this. Fascinating re: the table, huh? I agree….Good “ammo” for our kiddos. I’ll be writing about Batar with you soon!!! What a blast. Hugs across the river.

  4. I so agree with Judy. Family mealtime was an important, natural part of both of our childhoods that we carried over with our children. I would add – no pad or pod devices at the table! Loved the box of leaves sent to Florida. I can just hear the laughter when they opened the package.