Note from Carrie B. - I had asked my friend and contact at Crossway Books if one of the authors of Practicing Hospitality might be available for a blog interview. Ms. Ennis graciously offered to answer a few questions and I'm happy to share her answers with you below. Enjoy!
Thank you for inviting me to participate in the blog interview for Offering Hospitality. I am blessed that you chose our book Practicing Hospitality, the Joy of Serving Others for your study and pray that my responses will enhance your enjoyment of the book. May your home always be a prepared place for those you love and a place of refuge to friends and strangers!
1. What initially drew you to hospitality as a profession?
By profession I am a Home Economist/Family and Consumer Scientist. I am the establishing chair and professor of Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences at The Master’s College, located in Santa Clarita, California (Visit the Home Economics – Family & Consumer Sciences web page at http://www.masters.edu/hefcs or my blog at http://www.masters.edu/Blogs/
However, long before I was a professional Home Economist/Family and Consumer Scientist, I was taught hospitality skills by my godly mother. Consistently the gracious Southern hostess, though we resided in Southern California, she always made our home open to guests. I learned gracious hospitality skills from my mother and the academic principles to support the skills as a college student majoring in Home Economics.
2. In my hunt for books on hospitality, I've only managed to find a few. What drew you and Tatlock to the idea of writing a book on the subject of hospitality and how did you come to partner together in writing your book(s)?
Practicing Hospitality, the Joy of Serving Others is the third book Lisa and I partnered together to write. The first two, Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God and Designing a Lifestyle that Pleases God, are a snapshot of the Home Economics major at The Master’s College. When we completed Designing a Lifestyle that Pleases God we had to cut some of the hospitality content because we had reached our word count. The content that we deleted provided the foundation for Practicing Hospitality.
My relationship with Lisa spans almost 30 years. Originally her dad and mom were the teacher/sponsors of my Singles’ Sunday School Class. Lisa was a teenager and my interface with her motivated her to attend Christian Heritage College where I had started my first college character-based Home Economics Department. She graduated and I relocated to The Master’s College. The year she completed her master’s degree I needed another faculty member; she was interviewed and hired. We ministered together until her family grew to 5 children (2 biological and 3 international adoptions).
Lisa and I possess very different life experiences related to practicing hospitality, but we share a common commitment to biblical truth. As we blended our experiences, Practicing Hospitality emerged as a resource to challenge its readers to uniquely and creatively practice hospitality regardless of their season of life or marital status.
3. In reading Practicing Hospitality, I noted that you are a "mature single professional" (is, I think, how you termed it.) I've been talking to other single female friends that I know and asking them how difficult they find it to be to both extend and receive hospitality. They note it as a particular challenge, one expressing how awkward people feel around her single state in a room full of married couples and families. What advice would you give to the single, in particular, that might help to alleviate the awkwardness? You talked a bit about this subject in your book in Chapter 6, but I'm wondering if you'd have any additional or pointed advice to offer.
I am a “mature single professional” and as I shared in chapter 6, had I waited until I was married to practice hospitality, I would have missed hundreds of opportunities to minister to others. I truly understand the awkwardness at being a single individual in a room full of married couples and families. While my advice is not necessarily going to work for everyone, I can communicate what my gracious heavenly Father taught me that changed my entire outlook toward extending hospitality.
Early in my college teaching I was whining to Him about feeling like a misfit among married couples and families. He lovingly reminded me that as His adopted child I am complete in Him (Colossians 2:10) regardless of my marital status. My failure to acknowledge my position as His daughter caused me to be discontent and was creating within me a stand-offish, aloof attitude. I was much like a porcupine on a cold winter night—I desperately needed to be with others but my prickly attitude caused others to shun me. As I allowed my heavenly Father to soften my heart I found that my lack of a spouse was not the challenge in my interpersonal relations—it was my attitude. The truth of Proverbs 18:24 and Philippians 4:11-12 was once again reinforced in my heart—to have friends I must be friendly and I am to be content as a single woman. This is to be my attitude toward others regardless of whether or not they respond positively.
My experience with singles is that many are isolated because they choose to be. Rather than reaching out to others, they wait for others to include them. It is important for singles to “stretch out their hands” to families, couples, and others who are alone and in need of companionship. This action is a character quality resident in the godly woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31. The principle is applicable to all believers, not just women.
The single person has much more discretionary time and often resources than a married person. 1 Corinthians 7:34-35 reminds us that the single person has the freedom to serve the Lord with fewer hindrances. Failure to use the single status to reach out to others is poor stewardship of one’s unmarried status. Eagerly practicing hospitality, using the suggestions in our book, can “prime the pump” to stimulate singles’ creativity. Thinking “outside of the box” rather than wallowing in self-pity is a step toward fulfilling the biblical instructions to extend hospitality—and remember they are instructions, not suggestions (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2). I know, from personal experience, the joy of having submitted myself to these instructions and have many rich memories because of my choice to obey them.
A final word on this topic—singles practicing hospitality is like learning to ride a bike or roller blades. More than likely while they are learning the skill they can get bruised, scratched, and will sometimes be discouraged. But for the accomplished rider or skater the thrill of the activity is worth every obstacle that occurred to gain proficiency. Though perhaps lonely, a single is safe in isolation—but that’s not what Christians were saved for (Matthew 28:19-20). May I encourage you to take the risk and extend hospitality? I believe you will find joy in doing so!
4. In Chapter 7 Tatlock addressed the issue of "Hospitality and Culture." The chapter focused primarily on differences in world cultures. I read it and considered its application in terms of the culture differences between families (i.e., in finance and spending habits, home school vs. public school, families with a lot of children vs. those with one child, etc.) I think we put up walls between each other that are contrived from our own personal cultures and so I've been thinking about how to broaden your application. Would you agree with my wanting to broaden people's application to this chapter? Would you have any advice to offer on this particular subject?
Lisa’s extensive travel experiences combined with her husband’s passion for reaching the world for Christ provided the foundation for her to share so many rich thoughts and experiences in her chapter entitled “Hospitality and Culture.” These experiences were supplemented by the responses of our graduates from both Christian Heritage College (now San Diego Christian) and The Master’s College. Many live and serve our Lord internationally.
I, however, am a “homebody.” The closest I have come to international travel were three trips to Hawaii. So, while I affirm all that Lisa wrote in her chapter, I would encourage our readers to broaden their application to their own community. Perhaps the following suggestions will stimulate their creativity . . .
- Building upon the response from question 3, demolish the walls of your comfortable social circle. If you are married, include singles in your next gathering; if you are single, invite a family for dessert and game night at your home, apartment, or dorm room. Choose to be countercultural in relation to your guest list.
- Readily accept and extend invitations to those who are different from you. One of the greatest hindrances in our Christian community is that we tend to stratify ourselves. Yet, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that he became all things to all men that he might save some. It may be awkward at first but you will soon learn to adapt—especially when you recall the truth of Philippians 4:13.
- During the 2010 spring semester I taught a new class for our HE-FCS students entitled “Resource Management for the Aging.” The focus of the class was twofold—to stimulate an awareness of the largest population of individuals in America and to challenge the students to become wise stewards of their resources so they are prepared for their senior years should the Lord not return. The results of the class were incredible. The students, through the distribution of a Senior Saint Survey, learned much about senior saints, their needs, and, potential ministry opportunities to them. The need for intergenerational relationships was clearly revealed throughout the various class assignments. There is no better way to initiate these relationships than through the extension of biblical hospitality.
- Begin to eradicate the barriers by embracing the truth of Titus 2:1-8. Be willing to be both a younger and older Christian in the lives of believers. Again, biblical hospitality provides a practical venue for implementing the intergenerational relationships outlined in this passage.
- Clothe yourself with humility (1 Peter 5:5) as you extend biblical hospitality. Walls are built when we think that we have all of the answers or our choices are the best choices for everyone. Learn the difference between biblical mandates and preferences and then expand your borders to include people of differing socio-economic levels, family size, school choice, and even theological persuasions. Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that as believers we should sharpen one another. There is no better way to abolish cultural differences between families than to purpose to dismantle the unbiblical walls we have constructed. Food is always a good lubricant to assist in the demolition process J.
5. What is your greatest hope for the reader of Practicing Hospitality?
It is my prayer that the readers of Practicing Hospitality will prayerfully read the entire book and complete the activities at the conclusion of each chapter. Having assimilated the book, I pray the book will become well-used as it serves as a reference for becoming a doer of the Word rather than simply a hearer (James 1:22).
What is the main message that you would hope a reader of your book would walk away with? Obedience to embracing the biblical instructions to practice hospitality produces great joy and may produce eternal rewards.
I would enjoy hearing from your blog visitors and can be contacted at drennis (at) masters (dot) edu . Thank you again for the opportunity to interface with you electronically.