When God Designs the Seating Chart

Mariner’s Church, Irvine, California. April, 2011.

Table for Eight

Friday night I watched God arrange a dinner party. As one might expect of the perfect Host, the company was excellent–and everyone at the table had something to offer to or learn from another guest.

Rich and I arrived at the Orange County Christian Writers Fellowship‘s annual conference dinner and faculty panel discussion and chose seats at a table occupied by two women. Daniella, a newlywed, writes for children. So does Kathleen, who spent forty years as a missionary in Brazil. Both ladies were first-time attendees at the conference. When they discovered that I’d attended last year, they asked questions about the conference process and I helped them orient themselves.

The next two people to sit down were best-selling and prolific children’s author Nancy Sanders and her husband, Jeff. While Nancy, Daniella, and Kathy discussed writing and publishing children’s books, Jeff chatted with Rich and I. He graciously illuminated his supportive role in his wife’s writing career, helpful information for us.

Next to arrive was Lois, a published author from Los Angeles who had mistakenly bypassed a toll booth on her way to dinner. Jeff explained how she could contact the toll road operators to rectify the error and Rich gave her directions to return to her hotel without ending up on the toll road.

One seat remained vacant as we rose to queue up for dinner. As we stood in line I saw our friend Jeff Norbert, whom I’d met through the writing ministry when I attended Saddleback Church. Jeff appeared to be alone; Rich and I pointed out our table as we returned with our food. “I think we still may have a seat if you’d like to join us,” I said.

As the seven of us enjoyed our food I marveled at how beautifully everyone’s interests and needs dovetailed in our little group. A minute later, a woman claimed the last vacant seat at our table. Jeff had been noncommittal about his intention to join us, and my mouth was full, so I said nothing.

About thirty seconds later Jeff approached with his plate. We offered to pull up a ninth chair, but Jeff declined and made his way to another table.

Our new dinner partner proved to be Jenni Burke. As an agent, her contributions to the conversation were especially welcome.

But I felt a pang of guilt for Jeff.  I’d invited him to join us, then I’d failed to save his spot.

I scanned the room and found Jeff–sitting with a table full of like-minded speculative fiction writers. He’d found just the right dinner partners for his interests.

God is much better at table arrangements than I am. He gathered us together at that table, perfectly arranged to share the gifts He’s given us with one another.

4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Romans 12:4-8 (NASB)


  1. Amen! His arrangements are always astounding and better than we could ever create ourselves

  2. Yes! Which makes me wonder why I so often persist in my way, rather than His way….

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