Monday, November 16, 2015

Thinking Thoughts about Hospitality

I've noticed that my posts follow certain cycles and patterns throughout the days and years.

Grey days...trying to pull myself up by the bootstraps and find things to be thankful for.

Overwhelmed days...taking the next step, doing what I can. Extending grace, not guilt.

Ministry days...acute sense of my frailty and brokenness. Looking to God to shine His glory through my cracks.

School days. Summer days. 

Holidays....baking, lists, parties, and hospitality.

Hospitality is always a topic on my heart during this time of the year.

Maybe because we almost always crash at a family member's house for a week or so around Thanksgiving. And whatever family member it is, they are always so gracious to open their home to the six of us. Feed us. Give us beds to sleep in. Hot water to shower in. Coffee to drink. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Hospitality is always work. It always involves sacrifice on some level or another.

Hospitality is not the same thing as entertaining. They can be compatible ideas, but they aren't necessarily. Entertaining means to provide amusement or enjoyment. Entertaining often emphasizes the food, the decorations, the setting, the perfect combination of each.

Showing hospitably, opening your home and heart to someone who otherwise might not have someplace to go, requires a good dose of both generosity and graciousness. A lot of character, and selflessness. The focal point of hospitality is your guests and their comfort.

Hospitality is making room. For safety. For nourishment. For conversation. For friendship. For growth.

A great example of hospitality is the Wednesday small group that our family got plugged into this spring when we were in between churches. This group's meetings rotate between three different houses. There is between 8-12 adults and 20-26 kids on any given Wednesday. All fitted into regular size homes.

It is loud, and somewhat chaotic. And often terribly messy, crumbly, and sticky.

And it is the best thing our family has experienced this entire year. (though Spain is a very close second-and for the same reasons. Generous hospitality extended by friends.) It has been a place of friendship, and fellowship, love and acceptance, healing and growth. It has been a conduit of blessing to our family.

That blessing is only possible because these three families graciously open their homes every week. They ignore the messes that we make. They cook and bake. They love. They clean before, and they clean after. It's a commitment, and a sacrifice, and a lot of work.

And we SO appreciate it. I can't say that enough. There is not a Thursday (and several other days each week) that doesn't go by, that we don't thank God for this group.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11)

I read these verses in my devotions on Thursday morning, and I thought of our three hostesses.  

They offer hospitality without grumbling.

They keep on loving.

They use their gifts to serve God's people.

They serve in the strength God provides.

They aim to love people and glorify God.

They use what they have. Both tangible and intangible gifts that God has given them. Their homes. Their food. Their table. Encouragement. Edification. Teaching. Friendship.

In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

(Btw, I in no way have hospitality in the bag-which is probably why it is on my heart so often. It is hard for me to find the balance between making room and making safe places when I have such a perfectionist introverted nature. But, I am determined to follow the wonderful examples I have in my life, and to keep trying.)

That's the bottom line of hospitality.