The Kitchen

Erik and Bekah Polzin and their kids moved to Walnut Creek less than a year ago.  I've watched them integrate into the Open Door family at a healthy pace and in a humble posture...we have a lot to learn from them.  After an incredible evening shared in their kitchen and around their table, I asked them if they'd be up for hosting a Super Bowl neighborhood party.  They said "Yes!" and proceeded to host space where new relationships could be forged.  Take a read as Bekah reflects on the residual transformation of that evening: Kitchen

Have you ever noticed, no matter how big or small or glamorous or simple a house is, people congregate in the kitchen? You can set the h’ordevers 2 rooms away or form a candle lit path a different direction, but somehow everyone migrates to the kitchen.

Our kitchen was crowded on Super Bowl Sunday and it was beautiful.

Earlier this month we were asked to host one of the Super Bowl parties. Being that we’re new(er) to Open Door, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that was hesitant. Is it true for you, as it is for me, that sometimes I go to the negative before I see the positive? I’d have to clean the house, figure out what to serve, make sure my kids were “on their best behavior”...but we said YES!

We had little idea what to anticipate, being that we’d never experienced an Open Door “party” before. Would there be 30 people or 3? Does anyone even know who we are? Would we know them? Does it matter?

In addition to opening up the party for Open Door people, we ended up inviting our neighbors, who like us, have 4 kids are and are newer to the area. As one big group of individuals and families we enjoyed the evening together. We came from different parts of the Bay Area, different back grounds, different jobs and had different interests.  None of it mattered as we watched 13 kids playing with one another, no qualms with what the other liked or disliked. They effortlessly created a space of common interest and left their differences at the door.

By the end of the night, they were all friends and were asking their parents when they could see each other again. It was a beautiful thing.

I don’t consider myself a hostess or entertainer. I don’t own a second set of dishes that I pull out to entertain with. I rarely light a candle or turn on music to enhance the ambiance of the house. I seldom look up new recipes to try. But I’m learning the beauty of entertaining and that these aren’t the details that matter.

Every Sunday night a group of adults and our 4 kids gather in our kitchen. It’s one of my favorite times of the week. For an evening we all come together from different backgrounds, different occupations, different ages, different beliefs and different views. Some nights we share meaningless small talk and other nights we find ourselves in heated conversations struggling to relay our perspective as perfectly as possible. We challenge each other and learn from one another. We push each other, apologize to one another and forgive each other.  We push the boundary of surface friendships while respecting the importance of acceptance.

Our worlds collide in the kitchen and at the table.

I’m learning to say YES to the Lord and what he puts in front of me, and becoming a “hostess” is something I’m beginning to choose. Why? Because I’ve seen the Lord show up at the table and around the kitchen in a way that makes me want to open my home more to friends, to guests and to Jesus. The kitchen is a powerful space where judgment and variance dissipate.  I’m discovering how much I can learn from someone who isn’t just like me. It’s where we all gather with a common need of nourishment and an even deeper desire for acceptance.

Jesus will show up in your kitchen. But we first have to say yes to the invitation.

Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gathered in my name, there I am among them.”

Ephesians 4:15-16 “Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Guest Blogger :: Brooke Arnett on Prioritizing the Flourishing of Others

In the post below, Brooke offers us another look at the remarkable evening that was "The Light in the Grove" at the National AIDS Memorial Grove.  Pay special attention to her reflections on how the cost of causing the flourishing of others is trumped the experience of actually getting to participate in the adventure of human flourishing. As my fellow Open Door peers and I arrived at the AIDS Memorial Grove on Saturday night, we entered into an evening together as servants to the HIV/AIDS impacted community in San Francisco. The setting was stunning and elaborate, with no detail overlooked. I could describe all the particulars and preparation from the huge tent the event was in, the lighting set-ups, catering, floral arrangements, and so forth, but it would never convey what the night was really like.

As guests arrived at this peaceful and sacred space inside of Golden Gate Park, I witnessed a unique and loving community come together for the sake of humanity. My role that night was to serve appetizers, and as I walked around offering delicious finger foods, I watched people leave their differences at the door, and gather together to support one another and to remember loved ones that have been lost to HIV/AIDS. The night was filled with passion, it echoed their pain, but most of all, it was fueled by hope.

Many of the guests that were there have been largely affected by HIV/AIDS and have suffered more loss than some of us will ever face. Over the years, the HIV/AIDS community has been ostracized, overlooked, misunderstood and disregarded. It's hard to contemplate that a few short decades ago this pandemic wasn't even a reality in America. Since then, their community has turned a story of tragedy into a reason to hope for a better tomorrow.

I didn't say yes to volunteering that night because I thought serving small bites to strangers sounded fun. I didn't say yes so I could get a free meal, or because I had no other plans that night. Quite the opposite in fact: I turned down plans that day and even had to buy a new outfit and pair of shoes for the occasion. Not to mention that new and unknown situations give me a lot of anxiety. Does any of that matter? Certainly not.

I said yes because I want to be a the kind of person who is part of making wrong things right. I said yes because I have hope that those who have been broken will one day feel whole again. I said yes because I desire for people who have been marginalized to feel acceptance. I believe that love and kindness heal, and this world doesn't have enough of it. Being a servant is not a role I have lived into my entire life or even do very well today. But I know that every time I say yes to an opportunity to put the needs of someone else before mine, I find Jesus there.

God has been working in a big way to teach me how to count others more significant than myself as Philippians 2:3 calls us to do. Serving at the Grove was a reminder that this life is not about me. I am learning that I am equipped with everything I need because I know Jesus and that my role in life is not about serving appetizers, but His love.

Maybe saying 'yes' that night cost me financially, cut into my free time, and forced me to face some anxieties, but there is no price you can put on prioritizing the flourishing of others. When you say yes to serving others, you're allowing an opportunity for God to work in ways beyond what we can fathom.

Guest Blogger :: Steve Arnett on Saying "Yes!"

The day before World AIDS Day, The Open Door Community's tradition is to join the National AIDS Memorial Grove team in hosting 'The Light in the Grove.'  Our friendship with the AIDS Grove has been cultivating for five years as, monthly, we head back into the Grove to serve, side-by-side, with the local HIV/AIDS impacted community.  As time has gone by, we have discovered that "we" are becoming "us" and that hope, along with some of the most beautiful vegetation on the West Coast, is growing in the Grove.  In this post, Steve Arnett reflects on his experience of serving at "The Light in the Grove" and asks us what it might look like we became a community known for saying "Yes!"

Saturday afternoon a group from Open Door loaded up in vehicles and headed for Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. After a few wrong turns, we arrived at a little slice of heaven. Walking down the hill, we began to take in more of the scene. Caterers and event staff scurrying about, cargo vans and trucks unloading gear, LED lights, dancers and a stunning transparent tent. This would be our workplace for the next few hours.

We received our directions and were set into motion. I was a busser. It was my job to collect used dishes. Is bussing a glorious position? Does it require any special gifting? Absolutely not, but I gave it my everything. Did I get my hands dirty? Did I worry all night about dropping a full platter of dirty dishes? Did I love every minute of it? You betchya.

For me, saying yes to service opportunities has often been fueled by my desire for justice. Light in the Grove was no different. The AIDS community is/has been one that is misunderstood, avoided, and often looked down upon. What we forget is the family, friends, children, significant others who were left behind as someone’s LIFE was taken from them by a global pandemic. And we, as a group of people who are trying to love others as Jesus loved us, just had the opportunity to get our hands dirty and serve these people... HOW COOL IS THAT?!

After getting home, Brooke and I were processing our evening and she asked how the experience was for me. My response was, “It was no big deal.” She looked at me puzzled. I explained to her that I saw a need, said yes, and gave it my everything. It has become my normalcy to position myself in a role of service. I don't want or require recognition. I just want to love on folks like Jesus would have. God, over a long period of time, has turned my heart into one that loves to serve. Without Him, I'm certain my life would look very different.

What if we were a community of yes­sayers... humans who set aside our political/religious/personal preferences and filled the needs of others? What if serving was no big deal? What if it became our normalcy?