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Guess Who’s Serving Dinner?

By Laura J. Bagby Producer

I should have seen it coming.

I had been asked to help out with an appreciation dinner to honor the childcare and youth teachers and their families at my church on a Sunday night, and I was really hoping to get out of it.

But when I strolled into church on Sunday morning, no sooner had I taken about 20 paces, than my Bible study leader flagged me down and asked me in person (the first time was by e-mail) to help host that evening’s event.

I reluctantly said yes. I knew I had been tagged for the job. There was no way around it.

So I asked the time and where it would be held and what I should wear as calmly as possible. I was really hoping it wouldn’t be some formal event where I had to be prim and follow a bunch of rules.

To my relief, she responded, “Oh, jeans and a T-shirt will be fine.”

I temporarily relaxed.

Yet, still, I was a little on edge about that evening’s responsibilities. Honestly, I am usually intimidated by anything that requires the concept of “serving,” “hostess,” “hospitality,” or “kitchen duty,” although secretly I hope to be good at those skills.

Being the youngest, I never felt comfortable in any of those roles. I didn’t grow up performing those duties, or if I did, I never felt I did them well, and since I don’t have my own family to serve or my own house to offer to others, I haven’t had much practice in that arena as an adult.

My entry into the world of “hostessing” was marked by a rather traumatic two weeks at my hometown Shoney’s Restaurant when I was about 19. I wasn’t strong enough to hold the platters up high on my shoulder like I was supposed to, nor was I gifted enough to set the table correctly – I am a lefty, and I ended up placing the drinking glasses on the “wrong” side of the plate. I sometimes got so flustered with customers that I mixed up some orders or I was slower than I should have been. Needless to say, I got yelled out or at least scowled at more than I would have liked.

One of the last times I had “kitchen duty,” I set off the smoke alarms at the church retreat center when I was in college. I hadn’t learned at that point that pouring oil into a very hot pan would cause a billowing black cloud to hang over the entire kitchen. What pancakes I did end up cooking looked more like doughy turtles than the nicely rounded stack that you see on TV.

Asking me to hostess at the church dinner event brought back those bad memories. Even for someone who considers herself to be a people person, this was certainly asking me to go way outside of my comfort zone.

All day my stomach was in knots and I had to talk myself off the ledge: Laura, it’s going to be fine. It’s just for a couple of hours. It can’t be that hard, right? Try not to think about it. Don’t compare yourself to all those other perfect women who effortlessly do stuff like this all day long. Sigh.

I showed up dutifully at 5:30 p.m. and tentatively entered the church gym where I guessed the event would be held. As I opened the door, I saw construction paper cut-outs of bronco-riding cowboys on the walls, a makeshift wagon sagging in the corner, and red-checkered table-clothed tables dotting the floor. There was even a painted canvas backdrop tacked to the wall showing a scene of an old-fashioned General Store. I had entered the Wild West.

Adults dressed in cowboy hats, fake sheriff’s badges, and bandanas greeted me. These were my fellow table hosts and I was asked to grab a straw hat and kerchief, too.

Fantastic! I thought. I get to have a costume! I always loved drama, so “playing dress-up” as an adult didn’t sound too bad. Plus, each table server was asked to come up with a clever name that would incorporate the Western theme. I chose “Lasso Laura.” Other names were “Mudslinging Maggie,” “Amy Get Your Gun” (instead of Annie Get Your Gun), “Bronco Bill,” and “Tumbleweed Toni,” just to name a few.

Before long, I was walking like a cowgirl and practicing saying things like “Here’s your grub” and “Howdy, Partner!” and lining my pockets with rows of pens like they were ammunition. I even took my hat off and twirled it around above my head like a lasso.

Our role was to serve a three-course meal from a special menu. Each person at the table had to write down five items for each course off of a fake menu written in code. Menu items included: an eight ball (one black olive), crude oil (pat of butter), murky stream (iced tea), a sleeping relative (a napkin), a cowardly limb (chicken wing), jiggling vittles (Jell-O), Irish children (tater tots), bullets (a bunch of peanuts), tumbleweed (a small salad), slaking glacier (water), a boulder (a roll), a handy hatchet (a knife), and several other items.

No one being served at our tables knew what they were getting. You should have seen the surprised looks when several folks only got a packet of salt, a cup of ketchup, a knife, a fork, and a napkin for course number one!

The surprise soon turned to bewilderment as the evening progressed. Mutiny was on the horizon as course three came out. People were clamoring for cowardly limbs and jiggling vittles – they had since figured out what the items were and were in arms about getting the good stuff. I could tell patience was wearing thin.

Finally, I told those at my table, “You really didn’t think this was all you were going to get to eat, did you?” Eyeballs widened as I paused poetically. “Hey, there is real food … and it’s coming!” I couldn’t tell if I saw relief or disbelief. After all, they had been a bit snookered.

But just as I had mentioned, the table at the back was soon graced with fried chicken, baked beans, slaw, potato salad, and apple pie. As the last elements were arranged, the organizers of the event got each table to help themselves buffet style to the “real meal.” That’s when the smiles and laughter broke out. The once frustrated folk were finally relaxing and settling in.

Then it hit me: How often do we expect the worst, when all along God has our best in mind? We look at our paltry circumstances like my fellow eaters looked at their plates of vittles and wonder, Is that it, God? Where’s the abundant life? Where’s the real “meat” of true living? When we don’t get the answer right away, we figure scraps is all the Almighty is going to sling our way. We chew on our own frustration and feelings of self-pity instead of waiting to savor the gifts that await us. If we only knew the banquet of blessing was coming, we would surely act differently. How little our faith can be when we do not trust our loving Savior, when we fail to see our Provider as the One who really does offer us good and perfect gifts.

Lord, thank You for showing me that You are good. You surprise me with unexpected blessings as I choose to progress in my walk with You. It might not all look good from the beginning, but in the end, You turn my initial disappointments and insecurities into a demonstration of Your tangible love for me. Forgive me for accusing you of withholding good things from me. Forgive me for not trusting in Your abundant blessing that awaits me.

In Jesus Christ’s Name,


He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.

—Song of Solomon 2:4, NIV


"Oh, Job, don't you see how God's wooing you from the jaws of danger? How he's drawing you into wide-open places -- inviting you to feast at a table laden with blessings?

—Job 36:16, The Message


You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.

—Psalm 23:4-6, NASB

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