I can't believe it's already the third week in August! I hope all of our readers have been having a wonderful time this summer, with family, friends, kids, coworkers, church family, and neighbors. I know we've been keeping busy and I'm very much ready to get back into my regular schedule as a middle school math teacher. Since school starts for me next week, I'll be a little less involved here at OH, but I have a few closing thoughts from our book, A Life That Says Welcome (by Karen Ehman), before I "sign off for the summer."
First of all, a short recap:
- Christian hospitality is not a suggestion. It's a command. I Peter 4:9 instructs Christians to "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." Romans 12:13 says, "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." God has called each of us to open our hearts and our homes to others, be they strangers, friends, or family, in whatever ways we can using what He's given us. We are to bless others by reaching out to them using our homes, our gifts and talents, and our time. He will use us to minister to the needs of His children and to those who are yet to join His family. We will not all be able to offer hospitality in the same ways, but we are all expected to join in God's ministry of hospitality.
- Real hospitality is more a matter of the heart than anything else. Before we extend a hand of hospitality, be it in our homes or on the road, we should examine our intentions and check them against God's desire for us. Do we extend hospitality with a heart of humility and service, seeking to minister to the needs of those we serve? Or, do we seek to entertain and impress? If we are out to impress, our heart is in the wrong place. If we are out to serve and to minister, then we are in step with God's call and His heart ministry.
- Prayer and spiritual preparation is an essential part of the hospitality equation. As much as we prepare our homes and our kitchens for guests, we must also prepare our hearts, so that we can make the most of opportunities when the Holy Spirit calls on us to serve with a warm cup of cocoa, a fuzzy blanket, or a meal for a family in need. If our heart and spirit are prepared, we are better equipped to meet the real needs, physical and spiritual, of those He brings to our door.
- It is essential that we include our family in our plans for hospitality. If we neglect to make our homes a safe and comfortable environment for our family, then we neglect those to whom we have been called to minister first. Our families should not play second fiddle to our church family, our neighbors, or strangers. In fact, we can practice on our families and we can involve them in the hospitality process.
- Hospitality is not just for our homes. We can practice a welcome heart and life with those in our greater sphere of influence, such as those in the service sector (garbage man, grocery store clerk, postman, etc), our childrens' teachers, our coworkers, the homeless and needy of our community, and our city leaders. There are many ways to extend Christian love outside of our homes and we should all look for ways to do so given the talents with which we have been blessed by our Heavenly Father.
- Finally, Practice Makes Perfect. Most of us are not perfect in our hospitality skills. We can all learn something new and try something new. Choose one skill you'd like to improve in, find someone who can give you some good ideas in that area, and then practice. Practice on your family, your close friends, and whoever else is willing and available. As you practice, be prepared to make mistakes. I have to remind myself of this constantly as a teacher. I will not improve if I don't try, make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes. Remember, though, that God has equipped us to do His will for us and when our heart is in the right place, He will bless those efforts, no matter the mistakes we make in the process.
To get this conversation going, allow me to share the biggest point I'm taking away from this summer series: As a teacher, it is essential that I practice hospitality in my classroom and in the hallways. This includes how I set up my classroom, how I make myself available to answer students' questions, how I speak to students and colleagues, how I present lessons, how I manage behavior, etc. etc. etc. My first responsibility is, of course, keeping a comfortable and safe environment for my husband and (soon) children at home. However, my very next responsibility is hospitality to my students. I may be the only adult Christian influence these middle-school kids interact with all day. I have to ask myself, "Do my students see Christ in me when they are in my classroom? when they see me in the hallway? when they see me outside of school?" I recognize afresh my great obligation to be a living example of Jesus' heart of ministry to the students I see every day, those who are on my rosters and those who I interact with in the hallways.
Now, what have you learned? Please share with us so we can learn from each other and keep the creative juices flowing as we seek to meet the needs of those who come across our path by God's divine plan.
Thank you for following along with me this summer. As we head into fall, I wish you pleasant Autumn, full of the smells and colors of the changing seasons. Here's to new school supplies, falling leaves, and cups of hot cocoa on those cool autumn mornings!
~ Crista <><