Monday, May 10, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 3

by Carrie
If you are just checking in with us here, I'm going through the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others chapter by chapter and sharing what I'm learning as I go along.

See my thoughts on Chapter 1.

See my thoughts on Chapter 2.

Although I do recommend this book as a whole, if you own a copy and want to just read along with where we are at, that's doable with this book. Each chapter is divided by subject and so it's easy to just hop around randomly if you like.

When it came to Chapter 3, I found so much meat inside of it that I wanted to discuss that I asked my friend Melissa from Breath of Life to contribute to the discussion. She'll be posting her thoughts on this particular chapter in the next couple of days so stay tuned for that. In the meantime - here were my notes from Chapter 3 which is entitled "Hospitality and Family."

Note #1 - Family First!

Now, I want to be careful with this chapter because I think that it's very tempting, especially as a harried mom of younger kids, to use one's family as an excuse not to practice hospitality. "Family first!" we are tempted to say, with exhaustion written all over our faces. I'm certainly not downplaying the strength and energy it requires "just" to tend to our families. Most certainly they are - and should remain - our top priority. Just don't read this post like it's an excuse to you, handed over on a silver platter, excusing you from serving others. Because if you are reading this chapter in that light, then you are reading it incorrectly.

The flip side is, of course, that we can neglect our families while trying to "serve" (or perhaps impress?) the community. We have to delicately manage our schedule to serve our family effectively so that we can serve our community effectively in turn. Here's a quote from the book which I appreciated:

". . . [G]enerosity and kindness extended to others become an extension of our family hospitality. We see this modeled in the example of the Proverbs 31 woman. She fed, clothed, and managed her household before extending her hand to the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:10-31). The needs of her own family were met before she journeyed out into her community." (Chapter 3, page74)
For me personally, it's easy to think in terms of what I "need" to do for my church or what I "need" to do for a friend who I feel needs my help. My temptation in the past has even been to serve my relatives ahead of and above my family. My desire in those moments is to drop my home responsibilities to tend to people who I feel need more from me than my family does.

Certainly there are times when we should ask our (immediate) family to allow for our momentary absence so that we can tend to needs that God has called us to care for. But at the first opportunity we should want to RACE back home and raise our little ones and care for our husband and our marriage. When we married, we covenanted to become one with our spouse and that means putting their needs above all others. I appreciate that Ennis and Tatlock point this out in their book as I found it to be both admonishing and encouraging. Finding this balance is undeniably hard, and painful in a variety of moments - but we are to tend to our own households first and make sure that they are in order before we expose ourselves and our family to taking on/taking care of the needs of others.

Note #2 - Involve the Kids!

Again, it's easy for me to want to look outside the four walls of my home to see where I can consider myself useful. (Note how I carefully worded that!) When I'm bored with three year old activities, I can find myself peeking over the proverbial fence, trying to find a new way of feeling fulfilled. But instead of that, maybe I should be asking myself how I can 'shake things up' in my own home to inspire creativity, imagination and love of serving others within my own kids.

"I can become frustrated with my children because I begin to view them as interruptions keeping me from accomplishing my list of tasks rather than seeing them as the priority for my time and energy. As I mentioned earlier, neglecting to include my children in the process of hospitality can plant seeds of bitterness in their hearts - they will not be excited about reaching out to meet the needs of others." (Chapter 3, page 79)
After reading Monica's post about Hospitality With Littles, I've been inspired to find ways to include my kids in accomplishing tasks, instead of trying to find ways to occupy and distract them so that I can accomplish my Almighty To Do list all by myself. Yes, it takes a whole lot longer to get ANYthing done. But! The end result is satisfactory. Everyone is happy because everyone has played a part in creating some really fun memories. Score!

Note #3 - Use Discretion!

Admittedly, this one isn't so much a struggle for me but I mention it because I know that there are women out there with far more sympathetic hearts than myself. (Not that I'm cold and calculating but still.... I worked in a District Attorney's office for awhile and so my sympathy levels are much lower than others tend to be.) I DO think it's very important to exercise discretion over who you invite to have influence in your home (even if it's just for a short while). Little moments can create lasting impressions on little ones:

"Use discretion. Practicing hospitality with family requires wise decisions for their safety and well-being. Discretion implies that we are careful and exercise wise caution. Compassionate women are vulnerable in a sinful world. "The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps" (Prov. 14:15). We should be careful to exercise discernment with strangers and attempt to make wise decisions that allow us to be involved with meeting the needs of others while also considering the welfare of our family." (Chapter 3, page 83)
In other words, choose wisely who you will expose your family to. Not every guest is a "healthy" one and it's good to know who you are allowing to walk through your front door.

Certainly fear should not rule the day, causing your doors to not only remain closed, but dead bolted from the inside. At the same time, nor should we fling the doors open indiscriminately.

This chapter closes with a quote from Edith Schaeffer which I think paints an accurate picture of how the doors to our homes should work when it comes to offering hospitality.

"A family is a door that has hinges and a lock. The hinges should be well-oiled to swing the door open during certain times, but the lock should be firm enough to let people know that the family needs to be alone part of the time, just to be a family. If a family is to be really shared, then there needs to be something to share." - Edith Schaeffer
Honestly, I could write a whole lot more on this particular chapter alone but I'll stop there and let Melissa fill in with some of her thoughts in a bit.

Naturally, we'd love to hear your thoughts as well! Leave a comment below and let us know what you are thinking about all of this! This site is meant to be interactive, for the encouragement and benefit of others so we hope you'll 'speak your mind' a bit around here. Looking forward to sharing more myself, so stay tuned!


  1. I like that quote from Edith S.

    I can definitely relate to what you said about being bored with toddler activities and seeking fulfillment in other ways or tasks.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts from this book, Carrie!

  2. This book seems like an interesting read and I will definitely check it out. Your review was very well written as well and I really enjoyed reading it. You gave me a great idea as to what it is about :D Can't wait to read it myself.