Tuesday, September 23, 2008

IOW: Graciousness in the Ordinary

"“Hospitality is becoming an almost forgotten Christian virtue in our style of life today… In the New Testament, however, hospitality was a distinctive mark of Christians and Christian communities.”

~Alexander Strauch
from The Hospitality Commands~

Growing up in a military family and marrying a USAF member, I got to experience hospitality all around the country and in Okinawa, Japan. Interestingly, most of the hospitality I've received centers around food.

A true Southern hostess will offer her guest a glass of iced tea practically before she gets all the way through the door. In New England, it's a cup of coffee or tea offered.

One of the most comforting things I discovered about my husband's family early in our marriage was that no guest ever goes hungry. When she was able, Granny (my husband's maternal grandmother) always had a pot of soup simmering on the stove. Even though her mind drifts on occasion, at 92 years old she still invites us to her house with this: "Come on up. We'll fix something good to eat."

I'm not the true Southern hostess you would expect from a woman born in Biloxi, Mississippi and raised by a mother from Spartanburg, South Carolina. If I get unannounced guests, I'm more likely to grimace in panic than smile in welcome. The panic comes from never quite feeling the house is fit for company. I try to keep sweet tea in the fridge (according to my chef daughter and grill cook son, the best ever!). I haven't quite mastered the art of keeping a meal at the ready.

I've worked on this failing for years. Today my problem isn't so much laziness as a home under constant remodeling. My washer and dryer are located in the dining room (visible to the front door). This will probably be remedied this week, if I finish a promised chore to prepare the new laundry area so my husband and son can move them for me.

I have a wonderful book I bought in 1994 called, "A Christian Woman's Guide to Hospitality" by Quin Sherrer and Laura Watson. It is the best I've read on the subject and I pull it out frequently. It has the most wonderful reminders of our home's real purpose and tips for fulfilling that purpose.

"Your home is
God's provision for you.

Whether you are married or single,
it can be a source of blessing to others,
whether you live alone or with others,
your house can be a tool for ministry
to other single adults, married couples, and families."

~A Christian Woman's Guide to Hospitality

From scripture we can see God's stance on hospitality. It is a condition of leadership fitness according to the apostle Paul.

"An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable,hospitable,
able to teach." ~1 Timothy 3:2

Peter tells us that hospitality is a gift from God, not just to the person receiving the hospitality, but to the one giving it.

"Be hospitable to one another
without complaint.
As each has received a special gift, employ it in
serving one another
as good stewards of the manifold
grace of God."
~1 Peter 4:9-10

If our hearts are full of hospitality, we have the opportunity of doing the most amazing service for the Kingdom. And evidently our hospitality is to extend to everyone we encounter.

"Do not neglect to
show hospitality to strangers,
for by this some have
entertained angels
without knowing it."

~Hebrews 13:2

We have the opportunity every day of "practicing hospitality" (Romans 12:13b). God has placed us in our families for a wonderful purpose. If we are parents, we can glorify Him by teaching our children His grace and mercy. If we are children still living under our parents' authority, we can glorify Him by obeying and serving our parents.

One thing I like to do is to use the "good china" on days other than holidays or just for company. I've seen eyes light up at sitting to a table well set with candles and cloth napkins, even when the main dish is a casserole or meat loaf. Out of consideration for my husband and son (they tend to worry about breaking something), I don't use the china every day, but I try to make special meals weekly.

This kind of service to those closest to us prepares the way to be gracious to others. Even when we are far away from our extended family, God expects us to serve and love those outside our house. I love what He told us through the prophet Jeremiah. It was a source of comfort all those years we traveled because of the USAF. So often a military family just marks time until the next move. Here the Lord lets us know that we are placed deliberately wherever we are and we are to live as His children in every circumstance.

"Build houses and live in them;
and plant gardens and eat their produce...
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you

into exile, and
pray to the Lord on its behalf;
for in its welfare you will have welfare...'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"
~Jeremiah 29:5, 7, 11

For the past six years we have lived in my husband's childhood home. I am working hard to develop the level of hospitality in this settled lifestyle that I was learning when we were always packing up and moving to new places. Opportunities to serve are different, more routine but nonetheless important. Proverbs 3:33b reminds us that the Lord "blesses the home of the righteous."

My prayer today is this:

Father, thank you for the home you have given to me. Please guide me to make it a haven of rest to those who live in it and those who come to visit. Remind me daily of the calling you have given me to be the one who makes this house into a home. Help me overcome my stubbornness with the tedious tasks so that even cooking and cleaning give You glory. Help me have a heart free of prejudice and bias so that I can serve whomever you send to me. Lead me to be one who welcomes "angels unaware" with dignity and graciousness. Amen

Chelsey is hosting In Other Words at her site Joyfully Living for His Glory. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Chelsey's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.


Esthermay Bentley-Goossen said...

Interestingly. . ."around food." So true. While New Testament hospitality is certainly our goal and has little to do with food - we do live in 2008 not First Century Rome. Your post challenges me. We will be eating on the good china this evening!
Kindest Thoughts,

jamie in rose cottage said...

Great post. Love your prayer at the end, and loved the quote from that book, especially the bit about "your house can be
a tool for ministry."

Anonymous said...

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have
entertained angels without knowing it." ~Hebrews 13:2~

I have always loved this quote. It seems so amazing to think God could send us angels to entertain, but we see it happen in the Bible more than once. It could happen today too! That verse should serve to remind us that we should strive to serve others as the angels serve God, or as if everyone were a potential angel :) Thanks for sharing!

Joyfull said...

Great post! Thank you for sharing the book and quote from it. Thank you also for sharing how you do special things for the family. Love the thought of our homes for ministry.

Karen said...

I love the quotes you added from that other book, they really had a lot to say. Its all in our attitude and what we want to set forth. Just a little bit of hospitality can go a long ways, we don't have to stretch the soup!

MiPa said...

Wonderful post. We have always believed that the house we live in was a gift to share with others. Maybe for a Bible Study, maybe just for a cup of coffee, but to be shared. Thank you for quotes that put flesh on that belief.