Monday, April 26, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 1

by Carrie

As I mentioned, I'm used to writing book reviews for a book in its entirety. However, once I got into Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others I realized I would want to move slowly through this book, picking out the finer points (as I would want to apply to my own life) and so I'm going to take this chapter-by-chapter.

There is much to share from this book and if I could encourage you to pick up your own copy, I would! (So there, see?, I just did.) It's worth it as there is so much to glean from.

Without further ado, I will offer proof that this book is fantastic by sharing my (painfully incriminating) notes from Chapter 1. Every week that I do this will look a little different, but hopefully this will get the conversation going.

NOTE #1 -

* The garment of hospitality is humility (1 Peter 5:5)

"The evidence of my application of this quality is demonstrated when I choose to step out of my comfort zone and invite into my home individuals with whom I may not be totally at ease, or those who may have unrealistic expectations about the event because, after all, I am a professional home economist. I am comforted, however, when I look into my "spiritual closet" and find the perfect garment for this occasion, the garment of humility. When I don this garment I am reminded that I am not too good to serve - and this is pleasing to my Heavenly Father." (Chapter 1, page 21)
Let me tell you all - there is nothing like starting a blog on offering hospitality to make one feel instantly self conscious about everything that they do. Talk about feeling like you are under the microscope! Yowee!!

Suddenly people I sent cards to before know that there's this blog and these challenges and while I'm not doing anything I haven't done before or naturally, it's still weird for me. I have to make myself keep doing what I do in some ways. I've worried myself up into a tither at times just thinking about how real life plays out next to this blog! When Crista and I get together (which we do with some frequency) then offering hospitality to one another becomes a much more consciousness affair. It's admittedly ridiculous and thankfully, most of the time, we're able to laugh it off. But there's a pause that wasn't there before.

Remembering that we are to wear a 'garment of humility', little caring how others view the extent of our hospitality, is a good thing to remember. It still comes down to doing what God asks me and requires of me to do and not what I do should be based on human expectations.

That said, I suddenly feel like my choices have been hoisted up into the spotlight!

NOTE #2 -

* Practicing hospitality helps us to overcome and avoid sin.

Exactly what do I mean by that?

As described by Pat Ennis' friend, Donna Morley, who shares this with the readers:

"I remember once meeting a Christian woman who said point blank, "I would love to get to know you by talking on the telephone from time to time, but don't expect our families to get together. No offense - it's just that we don't entertain and we like to keep to ourselves." After this woman's remark, I started to think how much this is becoming the norm in the Christian community. Why? Because we are living in a society that craves privacy and lack of involvement." (page 24)
I'm reminded of the following verses, specifically:

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the day approaching Hebrews 10:25
When we pull ourselves away from other believers, we remove ourselves from the ability to learn and to grow more like Christ. He made us to be people who craved fellowship and it is unnatural for us to hide ourselves away, refusing to speak to and/or fellowship with others. Now, I do think that you need to feel safe with the people that you are inviting in to provide this particular type of fellowship (i.e., the type that encourages you and builds you up in your faith). I'm not saying that we're to 'swing wide' open the doors to our homes and let all manner of potentially bad fellowship in. But I also think that we sin more because we do not allow for others to have access into our lives - to see us in our fine and worst moments.

When we are alone, we seek only to please ourselves. We do not worry about what others might think, do or say because they are not around for us to be consciously aware of. In our solitude we find out who we really are. In our solitude we let our hair down and live out what is the best and the worst of us. If we STAY alone, without others being able to rub up against us and point out our flaws, we're destined to either remain stale in our Christian walk (because it will never be adequately challenged and tried if it is never put to any tests - and other people DO put faith to the test!!!) or, worse, to spiral down into sinful patterns that will not benefit us short term or long term. We NEED other people to know us so that they can encourage us and build our faith (hopefully in a loving and trustworthy manner!)

To dismiss others from your life is to give your spiritual life a death sentence.

Nothing which is at all times and in every way agreeable to us can have objective reality. It is of the very nature of the real that it should have sharp corners and rough edges, that it should be resistant, should be itself. Dream-furniture is the only kind on which you never stub your toes or bang your knee. - C.S. Lewis

Speaking of trustworthiness....

NOTE #3 -

* Elizabeth was a trustworthy hostess to Mary (Luke 1:39-56) when Mary showed up pregnant on the pregnant Elizabeth's doorstep.

Let me say that word again - the PREGNANT Elizabeth was a welcoming and trustworthy hostess. (I don't know about you, but when I was pregnant, the last thing I felt like being was hospitable when temperatures hit 100 degrees and we had no air conditioning! Oh. And Jennifer. I'm not talking to you on purpose! It was a main point in the first chapter!!! ;D haha!) And Mary stayed for three months! That's a loooong term house guest, folks! Yi! Yi! Yi! (For curious readers, I am not going to test Jennifer's faith and love for me by visiting her for three months.)

Here is the list of qualities that Ennis attributes to Elizabeth as a hostess in Chapter 1 of Practicing Hospitality:

1. Elizabeth was eager to open up her home to an unplanned guest for an extended visit.
2. Elizabeth made her home a place of refuge for Mary.
3. Elizabeth maintained a confidence when shocking news was shared with her.
4. Elizabeth crossed intergenerational lives to extend biblical hospitality.
5. Elizabeth was patient for her guest to open the contents of her heart.
6. Elizabeth was more concerned about finding out what her guest wanted to discuss, rather than with what she might have wished to communicate.
7. Elizabeth was a clean vessel that the Holy Spirit could use to affirm the Lord's work in the life of another.

That's a pretty impressive list and I must say that I've never viewed Elizabeth quite in that light before! I think it's safe to assume that my respect and admiration for Elizabeth has grown by leaps and bounds since considering her as a model as to how one can offer hospitality. That's a long list of character traits to work on! And the hard thing is - I need other people in my life in order to practice and work on those traits! (And I need other people to make fun of my regular use of exclamation points to that I'll stop using them so much!)

This chapter, like all of the others, concludes with some recipe ideas as well as some notes for you to consider how you can turn around and apply the truths of this chapter to your own life.

A remarkable first chapter for a remarkably impacting book! It would be easy to grow weary thinking about how much there is to work on, as individuals, to show the love of Christ to others in the way that we treat them and bless them (in part through hospitality.) Baby steps. Chapter by chapter. Prayer. That's the only way to do it.

It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort. It's not the sort of comfort they supply there. - C.S. Lewis


  1. We tend to be homebodies, but when my husband does not have school work (like for the next five weeks) we try to take advantage by inviting friends over. Thanks for the reminder to not keep to ourselves and take advantage of this time.

    Also, my second baby was due on my daughter's second birthday. That day (Saturday) we went to a friend's house to watch a football game. The following day (still pregnant) my husband's parents and grandparents came (from 5 hours away) for a little birthday party. (We are low was not a big deal...but still surprised people that I was willing to.) It wasn't about me, but about allowing our family to celebrate our daughter's second birthday.

    My son arrived a full week late, just as we suspected he might, based on our daughter's one week late arrival.

  2. Great post, thanks! I am glad to have found your site...May God bless you with great ideas to share to glorify HIM! Looking forward to reading more!

  3. So happy to have found your site. You are really making me want to get a copy of this book. I love having people over but I tend to get so stressed out about it. I'm looking forward to browsing your site and hopefully getting some help. Thanks.

  4. PERFECT timing! Just found out the in laws are coming not for 1-2 weeks like I assumed, but 1-2 MONTHS! The Lord is definitely working in me and my attitudes!

  5. I'm really looking forward to reading this book! I stepped out of my comfort zone at church on Sunday by inviting a new family at church to come over for lunch next week! Thank you, Carrie, for the encouragement!

  6. I just received this book in the mail, so I'll be catching up soon.

  7. There are some great points in this chapter, but I couldn't help but be distracted by the acrostics. I think forcing the good points on to a format like that takes away from the Biblical truths she was presenting.