Food blogger Bri McKoy discusses the value of sit-down meals in the family dining room, and of opening your home to guests, in a discussion based on her book, Come & Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table.
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Bri McKoy: If you go into a meal with someone and think this person’s going to leave a meal and love Jesus - can Jesus do that? Yes. But usually it’s over time. And I think the reason it’s over time is because we are not the Savior. Jesus is the Savior. And we are supposed to be responsive to the Holy Spirit. And we are supposed to show up and love like Jesus did, invite people’s stories into our lives like Jesus did and show compassion.
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John Fuller: Bri McKoy is with us today on Focus on the Family and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Let me ask the listener, have you often thought about Jesus sitting at tables while He was on Earth? I mean, so much of His ministry was around a meal. If you think about it, He met with sinners and ate with them and drank with them. And He was criticized for that - even the last supper. There is so much related to God interacting with us as human beings around meal time. And we think it’s important. Here at Focus on the Family, we exist to help strengthen your family. That’s our goal. And I think we have a key for you today because so much of what Jesus did to model this on Earth, we should be doing as well. And a lot of it’s right around eating together.
John: Mmhmm, yeah. And right now we’re sitting at a table, ironically, without food.
Jim: Without food. That’s a good thing, though, John. Hey, can I have - can I have some of your mashed potatoes?
John: We have coffee, yeah. And our guest is Bri McKoy, and she’s the visionary and leader for Compassion International’s blogger program and writes regularly for a couple of different blogs. And she and her husband Jeremy live in Hermosa Beach, California. Bri has written a great book. It’s full of stories and recipes and encouragement for you to do what we’re talking about here. It’s called.
Jim: Bri, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Bri: Thank you so much for having me.
Jim: Hey, let me say right from the beginning, thanks for the contribution, the sacrifice, of you and your husband. He’s in the military, right?
Bri: Yes, thank you.
Jim: And we are grateful for that. Thank you so very much.
Bri: Thank you so much.
Jim: That must, right there, create some difficulty. I mean, that’s an unplanned schedule for him. How do you - how do you work around that, just saying you’re not going to be home for dinner tonight? How do you fight that temptation to be upset after you made such a wonderful meal?
Bri: Well, um, in the beginning, I didn’t fight that temptation. There was yelling. There was frustration. But I think really what helped me is I started to realize the kind of inviter that Jesus is. He’s constantly inviting people into His life when He walked here on Earth. And then He invites us into His family. And I realized I wanted to be that same inviter. When my husband walks in the door, whether it’s late or if he’s not able to come home, I wanted to go to the neighbor, and I wanted to say, “Hey, I’m eating by myself. You want to come over?” And so I feel like God changed my heart to take on an inviter stance and less of a victim stance.
Jim: Well, let me - let me look at that victim stance a bit more because I think so many live there. And I think it’s a great revelation that you’ve come to. So speak to that person. What did that look like for you, that frustration? And what were you missing?
Bri: Well, I think that I felt, you know, my husband needs to be pouring into me. He needs to be protecting me. He needs to be putting me first. And all of those things are wonderful, but at the heart of it, I was not making Jesus my all in all. And so I needed to come to a place where I realized I am fulfilled in Jesus, and He has placed so many amazing people around me. And my life with my husband is not supposed to be just my life with my husband. It’s supposed to be my life with him and with neighbors and with all the people that God has placed around us. And so that’s where I came to a place of I’m going to be an inviter and not a victim.
Jim: You know, and I so appreciate in your book,, where you describe Jesus and His regularity with the table. And how did you pick up on that? Why did that strike you as interesting? You know, we read these Scriptures over and over again. We want to memorize them. But sometimes we don’t see the plainness right in front of us, which is - look what Jesus did around a table. How did that catch your attention?
Bri: Well, I - for a long time growing up, I would go on mission trips with my church. I did a YWAM discipleship training program. And I just thought I am going to, you know, sell all my stuff and I am going to go be a missionary. And God called me to marry a military man and to just go live in different neighborhoods around the country. And what I really realized is that I can bring the love of Jesus to my everyday table with the people He has in my life. And I started reading the Bible and realizing this is not a revelation. Jesus already did this. He already was - in all the Gospels, you see Him. He’s either on His way to a meal, or He’s at a meal, or He’s coming back from a meal, He’s inviting people to a meal. And He was, in His everyday life, just bringing people to His table. And so I realized, “Okay, I don’t need to be a missionary in a foreign land to show the love of Jesus to the people around me. I can make my dining room table a mission field.”
Jim: I love that. In fact, you have a quote in the book, “The fork is the most widely used and unrecognized microphone.” I love that. That is so good. How’d you come up with that?
Bri: Well, I think I came up with that because I realized for a long time I stayed in our neighborhoods thinking, “I’m the new person here.” I’m always the new person. Being a military spouse, you will find that you are always the new person. And I would wait for people to come to me. And I would wait for people to invite me into their home. And a lot of time - we’re just in a culture right now where, you know, high fences, closed doors. And so I started bringing people to my table and realized, “Oh, my gosh, if I just give this person a bowl of mashed potatoes, if I just give them, you know, some cheese, a fork, a spoon, they’re going to open their life to me?”
Jim: Yeah. And in fact, you had an example, a story, about a Bible study that you and your husband were trying to get going. What took place? And how did that reinforce what you’re saying?
Bri: Well, when we first moved to Columbia, South Carolina, one thing that we always do when we move is try to get into a church. We want to dig deep and dig fast because we’re only going to be there for two to four years. And so we - we started going to this church. And so the leader said, you know, “We’re going to have 15 people in our Bible study.” And I was so excited about it. The first night, I laid out all this food. We transformed our upstairs loft to a sitting area. And about four people showed up. And actually, as time - after a few weeks, it dropped from four people down to two people. And so that...
John: It feels like it was really awkward, maybe.
Bri: It was really awkward. It was really awkward. It actually ended up just being Jeremy and me, the leader, who was a male, and then another male. And so I especially felt like, “What am I doing here?” Conversation was really strained. We would just meet in that little loft area. I stopped putting out any snacks. It was basically just water. And...
Jim: POW Bible study.
Bri: Yes! It really was. And really, after a few months, we probably knew each other’s favorite weather and each other’s allergies and that was it. And I just thought - Jeremy and I came together and we decided no, there’s got to be depth here and there’s got to be an actual desire to walk with each other through the journey Jesus has each of us on. And so I just emailed the leader and said, “I’d love to feed you all. Don’t have to bring anything. Just come to the house. Let’s do study at the table.” And that first night around dinner, everything - I mean, stories just opened up. We were praying together. We were crying together. And we had been meeting for three months. And so it was really, again, that - what Jesus modeled for us. Bring people to the table and you can share life with them.
Jim: Yeah. Now, some of this is coming so naturally for you. You mentioned you’re an extrovert. You’re a people person. So you’re trying to figure out how to connect. How do I - I mean, it’s probably always bouncing around in your head: “What do I got to do here?” What about the person that struggles with that? More introverted, you know, they may not be as comfortable inviting people over, entertaining people. It takes a lot of energy for them to do that. What advice do you have for them? Should they not do these things?
Bri: That’s a great question. And actually, my husband has taught me a lot about what it looks like to be hospitable as someone who’s more introverted or someone who, you know, it takes a lot of energy to be around people. Something that he shared with me is “I - God has given me unique gifts and talents. They don’t look like yours. I’m not going to be the one that’s laughing at the table and sharing the funny stories and asking other people questions. But I’m an incredible listener. And I do desire to love the people God has placed in my life. And so allow me to operate at the table with those unique gifts.” So you might only want to bring people to your table maybe once a week. Maybe you just want to bring one person to your table, whereas maybe I want to bring ten people to my table. But honor what God has created you as and the gifts He’s given you. And as long as you have a desire to love those people the way Jesus loves them, I think that God will show up for you.
Jim: Yeah. I like that. I really do. You had a story, too, in the book about your dog, which actually, got used to bring an introduction, at least, for a neighbor. What - what happened?
Bri: Yeah. So we moved to California, and we were meeting all of our neighbors. But the neighbors immediately to the left of us, we - we did not meet for about two months. And they were always gone, or we were always gone. And one day we were eating a meal out on our front porch, which is a great way to meet neighbors, is to just take your food outside. And our dog started barking, and it was because the neighbors next to us had come out. And so we quickly took our dog back inside. He had made a little bit of a tussle. And I started calling out to the neighbors because I thought, “This is it. This is our only chance. They’re like - it’s a rare sighting.” And so I started calling out, “Neighbors, neighbors.” And they looked up at us. Mind you, we had never met. So they were like...
Jim: You are extroverted.
Bri: ...My husband was looking at me the whole time like, “What is happening?”
Jim: Yeah, right. The dog, my wife.
Bri: Yes, everything’s going crazy. And so they looked up. And I said, “We’re your neighbors, and we would love to have you over for a meal. And we really like you.” And then they said, “Yes, we’re here for the rest of the summer.” So they went on their way. I sat down. And my husband was like, “Only you would scream out to someone you like them and you want to eat with them.” And then a few days...
Jim: I think it’s wonderful.
Bri: ...It was - it’s just me acting out on my personality. But a few days later, Jeremy invited them over. But he did in his way. He wrote on a sticky note come to dinner, and put it on their door, and then came back home.
Jim: Rang the doorbell and ran.
Bri: Well, I know - exactly. And they showed up. And Jeremy was like, “That’s how I invite people. It’s a little quieter.”
Jim: And how’d it turn out?
Bri: It was amazing. We actually ended up eating a meal for about four hours. And we’ve remained really great friends, even though they have moved away now.
Jim: Yeah. What about that fear? Because some people - that’s a big step in today’s world. You don’t know who your neighbor is sometimes. So how does a person really trust the Lord that this is a good thing to do and not be - you know, just overwhelmed with fear? But what if they’re axe-murderers? What if, you know, I’m just, you know, pretending, but...
John: Good to get that out, you know, ahead of time.
Jim: ...Yeah, I had to take it - but, you know what I’m saying. You can come up with a lot of excuses why we don’t have time to do this.
Bri: Yes. I think something that has really helped me is I’ve always approached mealtime with neighbors or new guests and thought they’re going to leave and be my next best friend. I just think it’s going to be a really wonderful night filled with laughter. And they’re going to love my food. And we’re going to have all the same likes and dislikes. And that’s just not the case. In fact, that’s probably 1 to 5 percent of the time, is that actually happening. And so what I had to realize was this is a time I’m opening up for the Lord to use. And we have had our share of people coming to our table and the crickets and the, “Oh, you can’t eat that? Okay.” And them leaving and us thinking, “Okay, we have nothing in common.” But as long as you’re surrendering that time to God, I believe that He is using it. And so to just - for me, it was to change my mindset. Maybe it’s going to be a night of celebration, but maybe it’s going to be a night of listening or just quietness.
Jim: Yeah. And Bri, what’s so awesome about this is you’re putting yourself at risk. And I think today, the church in America, particularly, I’m not sure in Canada, but here in the States, we really are withdrawn. I mean, to put yourself out like that, to be comfortable with the uncomfortableness of it all, we typically don’t want to do that. We are all about comfort. And it’s very uncomfortable to invite people over that you don’t know and don’t share common things with. And so how do you and your husband - how did you - I want to know more about how you fought through that. Was he coming from a different perspective? You were like, “Okay, we’re learning things; let’s just keep doing it because I love people.” And was he thinking, you know, “I’m tired of this?”
Bri: Well, first of all, we did have a very huge learning curve in bringing people into our home because I wanted to start out, you know, Pinterest was really big. And I wanted to have everything perfect. I wanted the perfect roast. I wanted guests to arrive and the roast is coming out at the same time, and the house is immaculate and, you know, I’m well put-together. And that was my mentality of hospitality for a few years once we started bringing people to our table. And there was even one time where Jeremy came into the kitchen right before guests arrived and he said, “Oh, you know, Babe, how can I help you?” And I yelled at him. And I said, “You need to take the trash out and you need to open the blinds and we haven’t cleaned off the table yet!” And he stood back a little bit shocked. And he just said, “I thought you loved bringing people into our home.” And...
Jim: Not when it’s stressful!
John: That was good.
Jim: Yeah, you like that?
Bri: Yes. That was basically...
Jim: It’s not that I’ve ever encountered that at all.
Bri: ...Exactly. And so I took a step back, we both had to take a step back and realize wait, why are we doing this? Because if I’m bringing people into my home so that they will love my food, that they will praise my home, that they will admire my marriage, then I have got it so upside down and that is not why Jesus ate with people.
Jim: Well, that’s interesting because that’s more about you. You know, “Let’s make this about me.”
Bri: Exactly. And so once I was able to switch that mentality of, you know, I’m not bringing people into my home so that I can be praised - we’re bringing people into our home so that we can love the people God has placed around us, it made it more of a goal for us to bring people to our home. It was that common goal. We are bringing people to our home because we want to love them the way Jesus loves us.
Jim: And that probably helps you relax that - because it’s not about you, you don’t have to be Pinterest perfect.
John: Oh, Pinterest perfect.
Jim: You like that?
John: Sois the book we’re talking about. Bri McKoy is our guest. And you can get a copy of the book and a download or CD of this broadcast at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 800-232-6459. And earlier I mentioned that this book has a lot of great encouragement for you to really practice what we’re talking about here and some recipes. Bri, if I’m not mistaken, in the book it felt like there was a common thread of recipes that included takeout?
So give our listeners...
Jim: This is our kind of recipe book.
John: ...Give our listeners a little bit a sense of how you got to feel comfortable doing that.
Bri: Yes. Okay. So that was also a shift for me of thinking I - if I’m inviting people into my home for a meal, I have to make the meal. And there was one time where this really broke through for me. We had those neighbors over again for a meal. And as soon as they came over, I was just starting to prepare my meal. And the wife started talking to me, and then we started talking. And then the husband came in, and my husband started talking with them. And two hours later, we’re still talking. And I made a conscious decision in that moment, you know, the first 30 minutes I’m looking at the clock, I got to - I got to get dinner started, I got to start making things. And then I realized it is so much more important for me to be listening to this woman right in front of me. And it’s so much more important for me to show her that I am engaged. And so I just completely forgot about the meal. And two hours later, we all said we’re hungry. And I said Jesus created takeout.
And we ordered pizza. And I have had - many times I’ve burnt the meal before, and I’m picking up the phone and I’m doing takeout. And there was one time I locked myself out of the house. So the guests arrived, right?
John: And you’re locked out.
Jim: And you’re stuck outside on the porch.
Bri: I’m outside on the porch. So we got takeout and ate on the porch. And I think that for me, what’s really important and what the message ofis, is that the food is just a backdrop. It is not the purpose. It is just there to help move conversation along, to bring fellowship. But it is not the star of the show. And once we realized that we’re fine with doing takeout, we’re fine if we burn the meal at the last minute, we’re fine if we’ve locked ourselves out because we just want to show up for the person in front of us.
Jim: Yeah, which is so good. In many ways, what I’m hearing you say is be Mary not Martha.
Bri: Yes. Yes. That’s it.
Jim: And that - that’s coming through loud and clear. Relax; follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. And if you burn a meal, get a pizza. I love that.
Jim: Bri, you had an opportunity to go to Thailand. It’s, I think, a passion for you. You worked with Compassion - still do. And so you’ve seen a lot of the world. What valuable lesson did you learn sitting with sinners and the people that you were trying to reach?
Bri: Well, I think something that I really realized when I was in Thailand is that there is a lot of darkness in the world and there is a lot of brokenness and people who have been broken by the darkness in the world. And I was able to - with the ministry I worked with, I was able to go and sit with prostitutes at the bar and hear their story. And then eventually, actually, the ministry would take them out for the night. So that would give them a night off. And the whole goal was to eventually move them out of prostitution.
Bri: It was very long suffering. You know, I showed up that first night at the bar thinking “Well, I’m just going to rescue you right here right now. We’re gonna take you out for a meal and you’re just gonna leave this lifestyle.” And I realized as I was sitting there that it’s so much more convoluted. Sin is so convoluted. And it can be so sticky and a spider web. And it’s not a one-fix issue. And what I realized as I was at that table and listening to the stories of these women and why they were in this lifestyle and how they got there is it is really uncomfortable to sit at tables where there’s brokenness, but Jesus really needs us to sit at those tables. We are, you know, His light into the world. And so we need to be going to the places where there’s brokenness, whether that means sitting with a family member where there’s a broken relationship or sitting with a friend who’s lost someone they love. It can be uncomfortable. And it can feel discouraging sometimes or depressing. But Jesus needs us there. That’s where we need to be sitting and listening.
Jim: Let me ask you, Bri, when you think of these examples in Scripture where Jesus is with people at a table - maybe the sinners, maybe the Pharisees, maybe the disciples - there’s not a lot of comment there. We hear the parables that He would give. But there had to be interaction, I mean, where Jesus was doing that. He was listening to someone’s story. I mean, that’s kind of an interesting thing to think about. Here, the son of God, full of all knowledge. He understood your story before you even share it. But He’s there listening. And I’m sure that was true with Matthew, as Matthew began to say “Hey, yeah, I’ve really blown it. I’m going to pay people back, four times this, and if I’ve stolen,” you know, and the Lord’s going, “Good. This is good.” But He was letting him come to that conclusion. Describe for us that kind of environment where you are leading a person toward a goal but you’re doing it with such deference.
Bri: Yes. I believe - so first of all, listening is huge. And that - it really is much easier than we think it is, you know, to just sit there, to ask them questions about their story. Tell me about how you grew up or why are you here. And I think over - you also look at it as over time. If you go into a meal with someone and think this person’s going to leave a meal and love Jesus, can Jesus do that? Yes. But usually it’s over time. And I think the reason it’s over time is because we are not the Savior. Jesus is the Savior. And we are supposed to be responsive to the Holy Spirit. And we are supposed to show up and love like Jesus did, invite people’s stories into our lives like Jesus did and show compassion.
John: So drill in just a little bit more on that, Bri. What are some good expectations I should have for neighbors or somebody I just met? I’m having them over. What are some, I mean, some tangible expectations for how that all ends?
Bri: So the first thing I always do before we have people over is I take a moment, maybe 60 seconds, it doesn’t have to be a really long lengthy prayer, and I just commit the time to the Lord and I affirm and let Him know that, “This is Your time, and whatever happens, I am surrendered to that.” And so I think that is huge because it just changes your mentality a little bit.
Bri: And then when I am with the people, I’m constantly checking in with the Holy Spirit. I mean, there are sometimes that people will say something, especially, I feel like, with some hot topic issues in our world, where I want to respond immediately. I want to say my two cents. I want to jump in. And I found - check with the Holy Spirit, check with the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to be quiet. Now is the time to just sit and listen. Now is the time to ask them, can you share a little bit more with me about that? And so...
Jim: I was going to say, Bri, sometimes people can overcomplicate that. I completely get what you’re saying because I’ve been there. If you’d been in a conversation, especially with someone who’s adversarial, you do have two conversations going on. “Okay, Lord, how do you want me to respond? What do you want me to say?” And you wait, and you listen. And you’re listening to the person talking to you. And you’re still engaging them. But you are having this other conversation in your spirit with the Lord. And I think that’s not weird. It’s not flaky. It’s - that’s real. That’s what it means to be a believer in Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Um, you are a military wife. And I wanted to make sure that we get this story in because I think it’s so profound. You have friends, Meg and Garrett, and describe Meg and Garrett, what happened and how the table became a place of safety for Meg.
Bri: So Meg and Garrett lived in Florida. And that was the first place Jeremy and I moved to after we got married. So the place was completely new ground for us. And we met them at church. And in fact, Garrett came right up to Jeremy and started talking to Jeremy in such a way that after we left, I thought Jeremy and Garrett knew each other. And Jeremy said, “That guy just walked up to me and asked me to join their Bible study group. I’ve never met him.” And that was the kind of person Garrett was. He just made everyone feel like you were his best friend. And they were there for me when Jeremy was deployed. They had me over to their home constantly, just knew that I was lonely. I really learned about bringing people into a messy home from Meg. And we laugh about this all the time. She had a newborn and a 3-year-old, and she would just say, “There’s laundry everywhere, but come on in,” you know, “I haven’t started cooking and you might be actually cooking, but come on in.” She just invited me into every season of her life without any excuse. And so they became very close to us and mentored to us through our first year of marriage. And a year - two years actually into Jeremy and I living in Florida, Garrett was killed during an assignment he was doing. And I was one of the first responders to show up...
Jim: So he was also military.
Bri: ...He was - yes. He was military. He was also in the Air Force. And so I got a call one night - we actually were having people over for dinner. And I’m mashing my mashed potatoes. And Jeremy comes into the kitchen and says, “We have to go right now.” And I was just completely taken back because we have six people sitting at our table. I’m getting ready to feed them. And I said, “Jeremy, we can’t go. What are you talking about?” And he let me know that Garrett had died and that Meg needed us right now. And um, Garrett’s legacy was so amazing. I found myself at so many meals over the next several weeks as we prepared for his funeral and all the preparations that go into the loss of loved ones, we would just sit at the table and share his stories and honor his life and celebrate his legacy. And for me, that was showing up to a table of brokenness and honoring someone’s life and being okay with being uncomfortable or being sad but still showing up.
Jim: Yeah. I mean, that’s probably the greatest test in that environment. And is Meg doing okay?
Bri: Meg is doing amazing. She just got remarried. And um, the man she is remarried to, he actually lost his wife to cancer. And so he has four kids and she had two kids, so now they have six kids. And it’s a really redemptive story.
Jim: Well, that’s where we started. Again, a big thank you to you and your husband for what you do for our country and the sacrifices you make. What a wonderful book,. Bri, you have really given us some great thoughts and ideas on how to make the table a place of spiritual growth and insight and friendship development far beyond the meal you eat. And I just think it’s a great way to see our faith play out. And we’re here for you here at Focus on the Family. It’s one big table. And I hope this has been a meal that you have feasted on. And if that’s the case, contact us. If you need us, we have counselors. We have tools and resources. We have Bri’s book. And we’d want to make that available to you. So please, don’t hesitate. We’re here for you. Consider us at your dinner table. And it would be our privilege to help.
John: It sure would. And you can get in touch and get a copy of Bri’s book,, when you call 800-232-6459 - that’s 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY - or online at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And when you donate today, a gift of any amount to the ministry of Focus, we’ll send a copy ofas our way of saying thank you for supporting the ongoing ministry of Focus on the Family.
Also, this reminder: we’ve refreshed our Broadcast App and it’s a great way to listen at your convenience. You can download programs now and check out the new features when you download the app. It’s available for both iPhone and Android.
Well tomorrow, we’ll hear from Gary Shriver who tells how he made some bad decisions that led to an extramarital affair.
Gary Shriver: I did not wake up one day and say, “Gee, I think I’ll go out and have an affair.” Absolutely not. It was just one baby step after another.
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Bri McKoyView Bio
Bri McKoy is a home cook who blogs about her recipes and stories on her popular food blog, OurSavoryLife.com. She has authored a book titled Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table, which is filled with encouraging, embarrassing, heartbreaking and joyful stories from her own table. It is also an invitation to begin, or continue, her readers' own journey to the table and includes more than 20 weeknight meal recipes, as well as inspirational questions and prayers for the table. Bri formerly worked for Compassion International, and remains a staunch advocate for the ministry's work. She currently resides in Hermosa Beach, Calif., with her husband, Jeremy.