Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Easter

We'll be taking some time off this week in preparation for and celebration of Easter.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends!


Christ is risen! Hallelujah!

Gladness fills the world today;

From the tomb that could not hold Him,

See, the stone is rolled away!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Sharing the Gospel through Your Hospitality

By: Jennifer Claire

One of the ways I have been richly blessed, challenged, and grown as a Christian and an individual has been through the means of dinning with others. Generally, when growing up, this took place around my parents' large dinning room table, which was usually over flowing both with guests and good food! There is something that tends towards camaraderie with one's fellows when you are all partaking in a meal together. Some of the best conversations I have enjoyed have occurred over dinner and before desert. My parents were very active in practicing hospitality through our Church and often we would have Christians and non-Christians a like dinning together. This gave amply opportunity for personal growth, instructive conversation, and on occasion the blessing of being able to see men, women, whole families come to a better understanding of who God is and the truth of His word.

I was talking to my husband about this the other day and he reminded me of the Gospel account in which Jesus called Levi/Matthew to be His disciple, where upon Matthew left his tax booth hosted a feast and invited his tax gathering friends to come and hear Jesus talk.

"As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew siting at the tax booth,
and He said to him, "Follow Me." And, he rose and followed Him.
And as [Jesus] reclined at table in [Matthew's] house,
many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and His disciples,
for there were many who followed Him. And the scribes of the Pharisees,
when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples,
"Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?" And when Jesus heart it, He said to them.
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
I come not to call the righteous, but sinners."

See Matthew 9:9-13 & Mark 2:13-17

This really is a beautiful picture. Not only are the physical needs of this group being met through the Hospitality of Matthew in providing a meal, but most importantly their spiritual hunger is being provided for with the bread of life, the words of Jesus, via the same venue, hospitality. When we practice hospitality our goal should not be just to provide a good meal, or nice entertainment, or ensuring that our guests have a good time...Hospitality can be those things, but it is also so much more. It is seeking, and sometimes creating, an opportunity to share the Love of God with our fellow they family, Church family, friends, strangers, Christians, or un-Believers. (By they way, mixing the former groups up can prove to be a huge blessing to both you and those around your table.)

Given the pattern from the Gospel accounts and what I saw played out before me growing up, I am striving to find ways to open my home and my heart to more then just my friends and family (though they will always have a special place in my heart and in my home) but to reach out to those to need to hear the words of life. To Practice Hospitality in such a way that people not only see Christ in me, my family, and our home, but to be able to hear Christ in our conversations as well. That our words might truly be..."Word[s] fitly spoken [are] like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hospitality Challenge, Week 3

by Carrie

Hopefully by now you are kind of getting into the swing of thinking more about how you might be best equipped and called to offer hospitality to others. As a reminder, the goal of these weekly hospitality challenges is simply to get you in the habit of extending fellowship and care to others. It's just like changing your food habits. You have to try something new, and leave something old behind on a weekly basis until you've radically changed the way that you eat! If you want to purpose to offer hospitality to others - you've got to practice it! You have to set aside your old feelings about it and purpose to pursue it for the glory of God and the blessing of others. These Friday challenges are designed to help you flex what are, perhaps, poorly used hospitality muscles.

Today it's about giving someone else your TIME. In America, one way we typically fellowship with other people is over a cup of coffee. Perhaps you prefer a glass of lemonade, tea or even a nice cold can of Coke? It's all good!

This week our challenge to you is to invite a friend over to your home for a beverage and some good conversation. Or, if you desire, meet up at Starbucks or a restaurant that offers free refills on drinks! There are all sorts of options.

The only decision you have to make is to decide to overcome any obstacles in doing this.

* Have kids and no sitter? Ask your friend to come over during nap time. (THAT would be a huge sacrifice for me because I use nap time to catch up on housework or sleep!)

* Too much to do this week and no time for friends? Make some time, even if it's just 45 minutes at Starbucks. Chances are - you'll both walk away encouraged by your time together - even if it's brief.

* No friend to do this with? Well, aren't you lucky! You have the ability and opportunity to make a new friend by taking an acquaintance out for tea or coffee!

That's it for this week. Just one thing. Connect with someone to share fellowship and encouragement and if it's possible and within your budget - treat them to the drink.

Make it fun!

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:12-15

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Goin' to the chapel and we're hungry!"

by Crista

photo credit Blue Castle Photography

With spring in full swing and summer snapping at her heals, wedding season is most certainly upon us! Today I want to offer to our readers an idea for sharing hospitality with a giddy bride and groom. My mom did this for Dave and I at our wedding and I, in turn, did this for a friend who was recently married.

As many of us know from experience, it is exceptionally hard for a bride and groom to get an adequate bite to eat at their own wedding reception. In addition to this, it is often the case that the happy couple doesn't really get to enjoy the food they've so carefully selected for their guests, because they're busy welcoming and thanking those who came to celebrate their big day. It can happen that a bride and groom will escape in their getaway car, after an evening of frivolity and cheer, only to realize that they're famished, exhausted, and seriously deficient in snacks. What option do they have? Fast food? Hotel mini bar? I don't think so! How about an alternative...a wedding picnic basket!

You can do this two ways: purchase a picnic basket and/or a picnic utensil set as a wedding gift for the happy pair OR loan them a basket of your own. Talk to the caterer before the wedding, if possible, and ask that a few servings of the food items be set aside before the reception* for the bride and groom. Pack the couple a getaway basket with foods and desert from the reception, including a good-sized piece of wedding cake, if possible, and (of course) plastic utensils, napkins, and paper plates. Arrange for the basket to be put in the getaway car so that the new Mr. & Mrs. will have a snack as they go on their way. Are these newlyweds of an outdoorsy persuasion? Their picnic basket could be a cooler and camping utensils! This is a delightful surprise for the Exhausted-but-Happy Two and a huge help, too!

With wedding season upon us, I encourage you to extend hospitality to another new Man & Wife! Anyone have ideas for modifying or extending this idea? Please share in the comments! Have you received a wedding picnic basket? Please tell us your reaction to this little gift! I know Dave and I appreciated it!

*Note: It's nice for the bride and groom if you can get a selection of the treats before all the guests have a chance to finish them off...thus the reason to make prior arrangements with the caterer. Dave and I picked a couple items for our reception buffet of finger foods and enjoyed a tiny portion at the beginning of our reception. We knew my mom was going to arrange for a basket, so we were looking forward to enjoying some of our favorites from the spread during our honeymoon, but were greatly disappointed to find that our basket had been packed at the end of the reception, when all the tastiest treats were already fully consumed. Don't get me wrong, the basket was great and the green-beans were yummy...we just would have enjoyed some more of that delicious hot pepper torta and teriyaki meat balls. Fortunately for Dave, my mom remembered to snag several deviled eggs before they were all enjoyed by the guests. Thanks, Mom!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hospitalty Challenge, week 2

by Carrie

So how did you all do with last week's challenge?

If you remember, last week we challenged you to pray about how God would have you practice offering hospitality to others. We also suggested that one thing you might try doing this past week was to bake some cookies for someone else.

Offering hospitality doesn't have to be about inviting people over for dinner in your home. It can be practiced in many ways.

This week we ask you to consider offering hospitality to someone who you know, or who you think could use a little encouragement. As Crista pointed out, in today's day and age of e-mail and twitter accounts, taking the time to handwrite someone an honest-to-goodness note, (sent snail mail!) is a real treat. Today we're too busy to offer more than 160 characters of a brief update to our friends and family. Therefore this week we'd challenge you to grab a pen and a piece of paper. For $0.44 and around 10 minutes of your time, you have the opportunity of putting an honest-to-goodness smile on someone's face and encourage their heart a little. Try it this week! See what you think.

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11

From our key scripture passage around here (1 Peter 4:8-11), we are given these instructions: "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others . . . If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. . . " Ephesians 5:19 encourages us to, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs..." so that we can be encouraged in our daily walk with God.

It is a gift to be able to speak encouraging words to another and sadly, a habit we aren't in the habit of considering or practicing. So this week, let's letting some choice words of life bless another person.

Ten minutes of your time + $0.44 = someone you know being made to feel special, thought of, and cared for.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Dishes and Me

by Crista

Last Sunday we had a gorgeous afternoon here in the Willamette Valley. The sun was shining and the air temperature was warm enough to invite many in our area to fling open those windows and let breeze have its way. Dave and I had no plans immediately following church services and we had a well-stocked fridge from our shopping trip the day before. What a perfect day to enjoy guests in our home!

Unfortunately, we did not invite anyone to our apartment. Why? Because the kitchen was a mess, our couches were covered in cat hair (our darling Annabelle is shedding ridiculous amounts of her winter coat), and our bathroom counter and floor were in desperate need of a scrub. Sadly, my lack of attention to our little home -- due, in part, to a very full schedule as a teacher -- hindered us from offering hospitality to others. After school on Friday evening, I had looked at our apartment's state of disarray and thought to myself, "Gosh, something really needs to be done about this mess! can wait until tomorrow." Then on Saturday we got busy doing "stuff" around the house and grocery shopping, yet failed again to do the necessary cleaning to bring our little nest back into a state of cleanliness. So here comes Sunday...a rare Sunday when Dave and I are not busy after church and can afford to spend some time in fellowship with others, but our apartment is in no fit state to welcome others in. It was a bummer of an afternoon for me.

While I was reflecting on all of this Sunday afternoon, a verse from one of Paul's letters to Timothy popped into my head:

"I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." (2 Timothy 4:1-2, NASB, emphasis mine)

The words "in season and out" are what chirped in my ear all afternoon long. Dave and I were not ready to bless others with hospitality that afternoon because we had not kept our home prepared. If I (we) had been more diligent about our dishes, picking up after ourselves after each meal, instead of waiting until the pile of dishes rivaled Three-Fingered-Jack for altitude, we would have been prepared "in season and out" to welcome others into our home. Instead we kept to ourselves all afternoon and missed out on the joys of fellowship!

I share this with you, dear friends, in hopes that it will encourage you to be more diligent in tackling the obstacles that are keeping you from offering hospitality and blessings to others. Some obstacles are out of our control. I'm not talking about those. Here I'm talking about bad habits that can be my lack of attention to the dishes.

Since last weekend, Dave and I have been working together very hard to make sure we go to bed with a clean kitchen. Our living room, too, we are trying to keep picked up (although the cat hair continues to be the bane of our couches' existence). Never again do I want to be kept from being ready for others because of my own negligence. It's disheartening, to say the least. I want to be ready to preach the gospel, offer grace, and bestow comfort and encouragement whenever possible.

What about you? What's hindering you from being ready "in season and out" to welcome someone into your home or in any other way be hospitable? What will you do to beat this obstacle? It's never easy to face our weaknesses, but it is SUCH a relief to conquer them, isn't it?

Would you be willing to share with others what keeps you from being ready? Maybe someone shares your weakness and would be relieved to know that they're not the only one! Maybe we can even encourage each other! Let us do as the author of Hebrews encourages us: "...let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:24, NIV)

Whatever hinders you from expressing the gifts God has given you for blessing others, I encourage you to take them to Him and seek His guidance and help to grow through them into a more eager and ready vessel of His grace...for you and for others. I believe He is honored when we confess our bad habits to Him and allow Him to change our hearts as we diligently act on repentance with changed attitudes and behaviors.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Take Notes

by Carrie

One of the best ways to learn hospitality is by taking mental notes of how other people practice it. Another way of looking at it is to say that one of the best ways to learn how to offer hospitality is to first receive it. (And if you like receiving it, then you can probably imagine that others do also!)

Unfortunately, I think we're at a bit of a disadvantage in America today because so few people practice genuine hospitality that it's hard for people to learn how to do it themselves. Some lead by example and others follow by example. We each fall into a different camp during different stages of life. However, as we learn more about the best ways in which we can personally offer hospitality, we will likely discover that the way we've learned how to do it is by watching others people try their hands at it.

When I had my first baby (3 1/2 years ago) via c-section, I discovered the joys and blessings of having other people bring my family meals. For the first time in my life, I was unable to care for my husband and myself in this way (and I found this enormously frustrating, let me say!) I had to learn to accept the help and it took me awhile to admit I needed the help. That said, it didn't take me long to learn to appreciate it!

I learned something from each of the meals that were brought. Sometimes I learned what NOT to do in the future when it would be my turn to deliver a meal to someone else. But I also learned a few tips and tricks that I've since used when carrying for others in this way. For example, first and foremost I discovered the GLORIOUS blessing of having meals delivered in containers that people did not want back! Tupperware and recyclable baking pans are no laughing matter! It was scads easier to be able to throw away and recycle the dishes instead of having to take a pile of dishes to church and redistribute them. (Ever since that experience, I've tried always to take people food in containers that I do not need to have returned. It's so much more convenient for everyone!)

When you attend people's parties, do you notice when they work to make their guests more comfortable in some particular way? Do you remark on it to them, thanking them for their efforts? Do you try doing the same thing for your guests when you are hosting?

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
If you like the way someone served and blessed others - try doing the same thing. If you appreciated their care to a particular detail, the chances are that your guests will notice the same thoughtfulness. This could be something as small as making sure there are extra visible rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom (to make sure your guests do not run out and are frantically trying to make amends with this fact!) to serving food buffet style so that those with allergies and particular likes and dislikes are allowed to "build a meal" that best suits them.

So, take notes! Learn from others. Compliment those who you notice practice hospitality very well and then emulate them. Spread the hospitality wealth around!

Have you seen hospitality practiced in a particular way that you really felt blessed by? Let's swap notes! Leave a comment below and let us know of some habit you've formed as a result of watching someone else.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Hospitality Challenge

by Carrie

Ok, so this week we've talked about why it is that we are supposed to practice hospitality. (Because scripture says to.) We talked a little bit about insecurities that people face when they are presented with the opportunity to offer hospitality to others.

Reasons might include:

- Bad mommy day (i.e., too tired and exhausted to think straight!)
- Lack of cleanliness (personal or home -ha ha!)
- Lack of facilities (i.e., home size issues - be creative!)

As Jennifer pointed out, we all have a special and unique gifting which we were created to use. We can practice hospitality with our gifting. We just choose not to more often than not. Maybe it's because we don't know what our gifting is! Maybe we need to do a little prep work before we're ready to start offering hospitality. If so, then start thinking about what you can do to reorganize your life so that you'll be ready and more eager to be hospitable!

We don't know your specific life and personal situation. All that we do know is that you are capable of offering hospitality, just like we are, and we want us to all get to a point where it doesn't feel like a chore to bless others. Rather, it should be a natural inclination!

So with that in mind, every Friday will offer you some sort of challenge to get you headed in the right direction. We will not make any challenge we are not willing to participate in ourselves. In fact, if we aren't doing it - then we shouldn't be suggesting that you do it!

As a reminder, we aren't supposed to offer hospitality so that other people will think well of us. We're supposed to exercise our hospitality muscles to bless others and to glorify God, by using the gifts that He gave us! So it's not about us (clearly) and it's not about anyone's good opinion of you. Their opinion can be BAD and we're still required to seek ways to bless others.

Without further ado - our challenge to you this week is this two-fold:

1. PRAY for opportunity. Are you doing exercising your gift of hospitality already? Pray for more opportunity! Are you not doing it, but want to? Again, pray for opportunity!

2. One idea you might consider this week is to bake a batch of cookies and take it over to your neighbors. Or your co-workers. Or your local fire department. Or someone at church who you know has been going through a rough time and might need some chocolate to help tide them over! It's easy to find people in America who like cookies, folks. Somehow I doubt this particular idea will be much of a challenge! But it's a step and sometimes we just need to flex those muscles! (An ironic thing to say when you are talking about cookies, I know...)

Although we will be posting weekly challenges, this is not a "reporting station." Honestly - we don't what to know what you decided to do!!! There will be no giveaways in accomplishment for X amount of cookies baked. What you decide to do in this area is between you and God. It doesn't need to be reported back to us.

You have seven days until the next Hospitality Challenge. So go - HAVE FUN! I think that you'll find that hunting for people to bless is actually half of the excitement! (Licking the bowl when you are done baking is the other half.)

Do you have an idea or suggestion that could be included in a future Hospitality Challenge? E-mail us or leave a comment below! Give us some food (har, har) for thought!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Apartment Hospitality

by Crista

In a perfect world, we would all live on a quiet, tree-lined street in houses surrounded by quaint picket fences and flower beds. We would have delightfully situated homes with large backyards for summer BBQ’s and beautifully decorated living and dining rooms for entertaining guests. Each of our homes would have at least one guest bedroom and bathroom, which would always be at the ready to welcome someone in for a stay, decorated – of course – like a room in a stylish bed and breakfast. We would have full-sized kitchens with scads of storage space for all of our seasonal, informal, and formal china, flatware, and stemware. Our refrigerators would be full to bursting with fresh fruits and veggies, choice cuts of meat, and gourmet cheeses. Our pantry would be overflowing with our home-baked breads, stockpiles of crackers and snacks for parties, and our many delicious (and home-baked) desserts. We would have an arsenal of recipes waiting in the wings with which to encourage, comfort, and – let’s be honest – impress our guests at a moment’s notice. Our dinner table would be surrounded every Sunday afternoon with friends and visitors from church, our children would be perfectly behaved and healthy as little horses, and our homes would quite-literally sing with hospitable merriment and joy.

It’s a lovely picture, isn’t it?

(insert sound effect: vinyl record scratching and screeching to a halt)

But it’s just that…a picture. It’s right out of a movie or a book or a magazine and, for most of us, it’s almost complete fiction. Most of us do not live in homes like the one described above. Many of us, in fact, live in less glorious spaces, like 2-bedroom apartments in the middle of the busy section of a city. I am one of these and, while I dream of a home like the one above gracing my husband’s and my future, it’s not our present reality. My husband and I live in an upstairs, two-bedroom, one-bath apartment, crammed to the gills with furniture, computers, and every other piece of flotsam brought together at our marriage 18 months ago. We’re sharing our tight quarters with our cat, our two bikes, and our many kitchen tools. Our dining room barely fits a group of 4 sitting around the table, although we have entertained as many as 6 guests at a time. (This was accomplished by moving our loveseat into our “dining room” and our dining table to the living room where we enjoyed a New Year’s Eve dinner and game night.) Suffice it to say that ours is not a home well suited for entertaining large parties or inviting guests to stay the night…much to my chagrin.

I LOVE entertaining. A beautifully set dinner table is one of my greatest thrills. In fact, when I used to set the dinner table as a little girl, my mom constantly had to remind me that the china was for special occasions and the wine glasses were not water goblets. I’m sure you can imagine my sheer delight at being invited to set the table for such occasions as Christmas or Easter dinner. But I digress…

Let’s be honest: whether it’s a two-bedroom apartment or a one-room loft, some of us live in spaces that are not well designed for hosting parties. It can be quite discouraging, then, to read in 1 Peter 4:9, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint,” because we may feel that we are prohibited from being hospitable because of our circumstances. Friends, let me offer you hope! As we have already said many times in this blog, hospitality comes in many sizes, shapes, and colors! There is no one way to host, just as there is no single way to sing a song, paint a picture, or bake a cake. We have options, my friends! We just need to get creative and think outside the apartment…err…box.

I’ve lived in apartments for many years now and am pleased to offer you the following ideas for being hospitable in your own meager circumstances. Before you read on, however, keep two things in mind:

1) Some of the following ideas of how to practice hospitality in an apartment space are from my days as a roommate during college. A good rule of thumb for this post is: Use what you can . . . ignore what you can't or don't like!

2) Keep your expectations of yourself and your space realistic. We can get so wrapped up in what we think is "proper" hosting that we miss opportunities to bless others with our simple gifts, and to receive the blessing of hosting. As Peter said, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10). Maybe your special gift is a small apartment and humble meal ingredients. Small and humble as they may be, there is no reason you can't use what you have to bless someone's socks off!

That said here are some ideas from my own experiences as an apartment dweller:

#1: Host a small party in your home

Our apartment is small, to be sure, but we certainly have enough room to host 2-4 people comfortably. Your situation may not allow you to invite so many into your home, but I encourage you to invite as many as you can. A small party is much easier to accommodate in small kitchen and living spaces. A good meal and a clean space are all that are really required to make someone feel at home, cared for, and encouraged. Your meal doesn’t have to be elaborate, either. A hearty soup with warm bread is always a winner! Find recipes for one-pot meals so you have fewer dishes taking up space in your kitchen during the cooking process. I’ve found that most people are very gracious…they’re not going to look down their noses at you for offering a simple meal, especially when that meal is offered in genuine love and fellowship.

#2: Host a picnic

When the weather is warm and inviting, invite your guests to join you at the courtyard picnic table at your apartment complex or in a nearby park. This can be an especially effective way of getting to know your neighbors! It’s common space, so your guests are less likely to feel like they are “invading” a stranger’s home. Also, it can be a great way to incorporate activities like tossing a Frisbee, playing Bocce Ball, or staging a quick softball or volleyball game. I’ve even seen some people bring their croquette sets to the park! For those “Fancy Nancies” among us, your picnic doesn’t have to be blankets on the ground using paper plates. It can be very rewarding to carefully pack some of your fine dining items out to the picnic table and set up a beautiful display right there in the sunshine! I encourage you to look for opportunities to host this way as the weather in your area allows.

#3: Offer to take a meal to share in someone else’s home

My husband and I have often gone to dinner at someone else’s home and brought the meal with us! This is especially nice for new moms or anyone who is not in a position to leave their home. It’s an even more special gift when you offer to clean up the dishes before you leave! I don’t know about you all, but I really detest dishes. I’m blessed by my husband’s willingness to help on that front. I love to create beautiful and delicious meals, but I hate the clean-up. It can be a real treat for someone like me to have my kitchen cleaned up for me as a gift of service from a friend!

#4: Get on your church’s hospitality chain

One lady from our church emails or calls us when someone in the church is in need of meals. I may not be able to host large parties, but I can certainly cook up an extra meal or two, bake some bread, and whip up some cookies in my small kitchen and then bless another family with the fruits of my labor. Another idea is to make a double meal. This can also save money! For example, if I’m making a pot of Spicy Black Bean Soup for my husband and I for dinner, I can easily make a double batch for someone in need of a meal. By making a double batch, I’m using the ingredients I already needed to buy for my own batch, which saves money during those lean times when purchasing the ingredients to a different meal may be too much of a stretch for our budget.

#5: Offer to take someone out for dinner, dessert, or coffee

Maybe you live in a dorm room and literally have no space for hosting. Well, then, go out! It can be a real treat to enjoy a meal with a friend and have it covered. It’s an especially fun treat when you surprise them! For example, when going out to coffee, order your drink and then turn to your guest and ask, “For you?”

#6: Write a friendly note or two

My above ideas mostly center on meals and food because, well, I love food. However, food is not the only way to be hospitable. Sometimes a well-timed card or letter is just what a friend, neighbor, or stranger needs to be encouraged. Stores like the Dollar Tree have adorable note cards for very low prices. It doesn’t take a lot of words or even elegant prose to make someone feel cared about and thought-of. E-cards are another way to go. There are many websites that allow you to send a free e-card. These can be funny, congratulatory, or sympathetic and they come in many styles and colors.

#7: Pick up the phone and call someone

Sometimes it just takes a “Hey…how are you doing?” phone call to make someone’s day. Let’s not forget, in this internet age, the delight we can bring to another person’s day with a little conversation.

* * *

If you have ideas for how to be a hostess in meager circumstances, be they spacial or financial, please offer them here in a comment below or email them to me! We’d love to hear what you have to share and we know others will appreciate your ideas, too!

Thank you for taking the time to read my ideas. It’s been a joy to share them with you! My husband and I are in the process of purchasing our first home and I’m really looking forward to the space we will now have for hosting. It will be a long time, however, before we’ll have that dream picture I painted above, but I’m looking forward to working with my new surroundings to continue to bless others.

My next goal: host strangers and visitors!

Happy Hosting!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

1 Peter 4:8-10 Be Hospitable Without Complaint

by Jennifer Claire

Hospitality. What does this mean? How does one define it? And, how are we to apply it? Depending on where you live, where you are from, and how you were raised probably plays a big part in how you would answer those questions. Hospitality can certainly take on many different forms, several of which we hope to explore with you as we progress in our studies and application of hospitality. But, today we are starting with the basics. Namely, what does the Bible mean when it talks about Hospitality? How does God's word define Hospitality? And, how does the Bible tell us to apply it? My goal is to began to lay a foundation for which all future study, conversation, and application can be based upon...the clear teaching of Scripture.

Today, I want to focus primarily on one passage of Scripture, the theme verses of Offering Hospitality, 1 Peter 4:8-11 which says:

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

And, I want to pay particular attention to verses 8-10.

I think it is important to note that the Apostle Paul begins the paragraph with verse 7 in which he encourages us to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” With any endeavor of life we should begin and end with prayer...likewise, the in-between parts should be filled with prayer to our God and King. So, before taking the bridle in your teeth and plunging head long into practicing hospitality, get on your knees and pray for God to guide you as you seek to honor Him, to give you the wisdom, grace, and opportunity to do His will through the means of Hospitality. Oh, and as a side note for Christians, do not pray about whether or not you should practice hospitality, if you are a Christian you are required to! Because verse 9 of 1 Peter 4 says 'BE Hospitable'. That my dear sisters and brothers in Christ, is a command. So, you don't have the option to pray about being hospitable, only praying that you will do it well and to God's glory!

The next thing Paul tells us is “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” The implications of this verse are far reaching indeed. But, let us start with a question, what is love? To sum it up:

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, endure all things. Love never fails... 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
True love is sacrificial, Christ's love was sacrificial, and we are to be like Christ. We are to be fervent in this love why? Because this love, Christ-like love, covers a multitude of sins. Why would we need that with reference to hospitality? Well, as an example, I am sure most of you have heard this little saying before, “Company and Fish have one thing in common...after three days, they both stink!” Hence, Paul quickly follows up with, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

Now, I would like to delve a little deeper in to verse 9 “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” And, to this end I pulled out my husband's Analytical Greek Lexicon and his Interlinear Bible, because I wanted to verify what the meaning of these words were in the original Greek.

I was a little surprised by what the Greek word, Hospitable, Paul used meant. Quite literally it means: Stranger-Loving; kind to strangers.

Now, being from the South I have always understood hospitality to mean predominately hosting friends and family...with parties, dinners, to stay with you and so on. But, Paul expressly is telling us here to host, love, and be kind to strangers! Now that doesn't mean that you should refrain from being hospitable to your friends and family. But, the Apostle is telling us here expressly that we must love and be kind to strangers. Not in some emotional sense of the word, but with Biblical love, sacrificial Love as found in 1 Corinthians 13. So, what does that mean to us in 21st Century America? Well, it could mean inviting a visitor at Church home to have dinner with you instead of taking that Sunday afternoon nap, or inviting a co-worker or acquaintance over to get to know them better. It might mean hosting missionaries in our homes when they are State side, or it could mean feeding homeless at the Salvation Army. The applications are endless. But, the predominate point Paul is making is to get out of your comfort zone and minister to the needs of a stranger. Perhaps a stranger who is in desperate need of hearing the Gospel. Let your hospitality be a means by which you expand the kingdom of Christ. Here is a fascinating passage to think upon, Hebrews 13:1-3 which says:

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated since you yourselves also are in the body.”
“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” I looked up all of these other words in the Greek too and guess what the word grumbling means in Greek? Grumbling! Fancy that ya'll! (See my southern is coming out!) Seriously, it quite literally means, predominately, an expression of dissatisfaction, grumbling, complaining and it also means skepticism about someone, murmuring, whispering, secret talk.

Now what does this imply? Well, an expression of dissatisfaction could be the sigh(s) of annoyance when your husband tells you his has invited someone over to dinner after Church. It could be complaining about having to clean the house or cook dinner in front of or to your children in preparation for guests. Or it could mean you are skeptical about inviting so and so over because...well, let's face it, they really do not think like you, they aren't quite up to your level, and besides you would never go over to their house! Or it could mean you go around muttering under your breath about having to go serve at the homeless shelter...I mean, after all, isn't your day busy enough already? Or it could be calling up your girlfriend(s), or your mom, or your sister(s) (or all of the above) and talk about how much work you have had to do to get your house ready to host these missionaries and all the groceries you have had to buy, how many hours you've spent in the kitchen and so on (all of which your smiling face would never betray to those to whom you are “showing hospitality” to). Beloved, this is NOT being hospitable without complaint! It is not a Christian attitude! If you go around grumbling about being hospitable you are not demonstrating the sacrificial love of Christ, that love that Peter tells us to Be fervent in.

I wanted to take a moment to bring out a specific element of that love we are to be fervent in...which is “love does not boast.” We sincerely want to encourage all you to share ideas on this forum. Talking about one's experiences and practices are part of that...but please be sure that as you do these good deeds of hospitality that you are not doing it to receive glory from men. We are not to be hospitable because of what we can get out of it, how good it makes us look, or because it is always going to be easy, though we can be greatly blessed and derive much enjoyment from the practice and with practice hospitality WILL become easier. We practice hospitality to be Christ like and for His glory. Consider Luke 6:30-33 from the Sermon on the Mount:

Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Before concluding I wanted to make to quick observations about verse 10 of 1 Peter 4. When you practice hospitality you are gifting another person(s), whether that person be a stranger as Paul was talking about, or family member(s), or a friend. Hospitality blesses others. And, to be hospitable requires that YOU have the gift of hospitality. And do you know what? I have good news for you! YOU have that gift right now! Paul says BE (command) Hospitable (how?) without complaint as (or in Southern for because) each one has (meaning you have it now it is a done deal) received (Greek: being under one's control, take hold of, grasp) a special gift (Greek: as the result of a gracious act of God) employ it in serving one another, (strangers, the brothern, etc.) as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (which is YOUR reason for practicing hospitality)!

So REJOICE! God has given you the gift of hospitality, He has commanded that you practice hospitality, and told you why you are to do these that the Grace of Almighty God might be manifested THROUGH YOU!!! So hit your knees in prayer and then start making those prayers a reality by faithfully carrying out the charge God has given into your OFFER HOSPITALITY!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Offering Hospitality - Defined

by Carrie

We have appreciated the comments that you all have left on our initial posting, telling us what you perceive hospitality to be. We're thinking through your responses and working on some posts related to your remarks.

As we've mentioned, this site is interactive. It has to be or else it is rather useless. The point of it is to encourage one another and to build each other up to learn how to exercise our individual gifting for the blessing and benefit of others.

I, Carrie, along with my sister-in-law, Jennifer, are hashing out our vision for the site but wanted to launch anyway because feedback and discussion is going to be a main staple around here! So I hope you are choosing to 'follow' and/or track with us with the individual goal of challenging yourselves to work on your own areas of gifting so that you can reach out to others in ways that you might have found to be a stretch before.

Only one thing is certain and settled on and that is the scripture verses we are holding to which express the idea that offering hospitality to others is not an option as a Christian. Rather, it is something we are expressly told to do:

1 Peter 4:9 - Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Romans 12:13 - Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
So, it doesn't seem to be an option but there is variety in the way that individuals can express it:

1 Peter 4:10 - Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms
We're none of us exempt, but we're called in different ways. So this site will exist for the following reasons:

1. To explore the ways which one might be hospitable, according to individual strengths and gifting;

2. To encourage you to understand your gift and use it well for the benefit and blessings of others, and for the glory of God; and

3. To challenge you to follow through with the things you have learned.

Rest assured - we'll be challenging ourselves as well.

We hope to include YOUR feedback, as well as guest posters on the topic. The more you comment and dialogue with us on the topic, the more we will all grow and benefit.

Our ultimate desire is to learn how to be more like Christ through our lives.

We do hope you'll join with us and spread the word. In this case- the more the merrier!

Per your request, we have included a button on our right hand sidebar where you can enter your e-mail address to receive our postings via e-mail. If you'd care to do that, just stick your e-mail address in the box and hit "Subscribe." Walla!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In the most basic of terms....

by Carrie

Definitely not looking for a strict definition here, but just trying to get a basic idea as to what you think of when you think of offering hospitality to another.

If your answer is "other" or you feel the desire or need to elaborate further, please leave a comment below!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hospitality is Not a Bad Word

by Carrie

I was talking to a friend recently and we were discussing how genuinely sad it is that Christians these days are so prone to avoid being 'given to hospitality' instead of drawn to it. We were wondering if it is something that could be taught, or could be learned and the answer is, "I just don't know." I think it grows on you throughout life and most certainly it would appear in 1 Peter, Chapter 4 that as Christians we should be ready and willing to offering it according to our gifts.

So here's another little blog to toss out to the blog-o-sphere and it serves two purposes:

1. To encourage creativity in myself to practice hospitality; and

2. To encourages others to do the same.

I hope to share and swap ideas as we journey together, hopefully learning what it means to offer hospitality. I think it is an area of the Christian life that is made to sound harder than it really is. In essence, we've made a mountain out of a molehill. So, let's see how we can make it easier on ourselves to use the gifts that God has given us as individuals to benefit and serve those around us, eh?

Meanwhile, I'm just tinkering away on this site and letting my thoughts stew on the subject . . . stay tuned!