Monday, January 31, 2011

Someday is a Liar and a Thief

Guest post by Rebekah at bekahcubed


You’ve heard it. You’ve probably said it. “Someday when I have a larger house...” “Someday when I don’t have to work...” “Someday when my house gets clean...” Maybe “Someday when I learn how to cook...”

For me, it was “Someday when I’m a housewife and the ministry of home can be my full-time job...”

That was the someday I eagerly anticipated all through my high school years.

It’s a someday that still hasn’t arrived.

Yet by God’s grace, He revealed to me a little secret:

“Someday” is a liar and a thief.

“Someday” says that if the circumstances are somehow just right, I will be the woman of hospitality that I want to be.

“Someday” lies.

“Someday” urges us to sit back, to do nothing, to wait for that elusive day to arrive.

“Someday” steals.

I learned about “someday” as I read I Corinthians 7 where Paul talks about single women being unconcerned with the things of this world. “You’re acting like a married woman,” I realized.

Here I was, in a time of life that Paul says should make me free to pursue the things of God (including hospitality), yet I was acting as though I did not have that freedom. I was busy waiting for “someday”.

I’m thankful God redeemed me from “someday”—otherwise I’d have missed dozens of wonderful opportunities to offer hospitality.

I’d have missed the joy of a half-dozen middle-school girls discussing The Fellowship of the Ring in my dorm room. I’d have missed the handful of women of all ages who spent their Sunday afternoons quilting in my living room. I’d have missed the after-youth-group “hang outs” at my house (I was a youth sponsor during several of my college years). I’d have missed the tea parties held with my Grandmother’s china, the Passover Seders celebrated at my table. I’d have missed more than ten years (and counting) of opportunity to offer hospitality.

But “someday” wouldn’t have just stolen all the opportunities of yesterday. “Someday” even steals from the future.

Say “someday” arrives. I’m a full-time homemaker with all that much-longed-for opportunity to offer hospitality. I’ve spent the last ten years waiting for “someday”—and now that it’s here, I don’t have any idea what to do. I’m out of practice. I’ve developed the habit of not offering hospitality—and that’s a hard habit to break.

“Someday” is a liar and a thief—don’t let it rob from you.

So tell me, what are some of your “somedays”—and what are some strategies you can think to overcome your “somedays”?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Solitary Retreats - One Reader's Experience

After *carrie* from with all that I've been given left a comment on my (Stephanie) post about Solitary Hospitality I asked her to share some of her experience with us. I hope this gives you ideas to use for your own solitary retreat.

Carrie, please share with us what first inspired you begin have a solitary retreat?

I am a reflective person by nature, and I've learned that journaling and time spent being quiet are imperative to me for processing emotions, experiences, what God is teaching me, etc. After my first child was born 4 years ago, I realized that I needed to be more intentional about taking this time. I think it was actually my husband who suggested I get away for a few hours--not to run errands or talk with a friend, though those are of course important activities--but to spend time in silence and reflection. My time was so refreshing that I committed to once a month "retreats," as I call them.

Are your retreats always the same? Same place, time, activities, or do they change every time?

I like a balance of consistency and variety. I always bring my Bible, pen, and journal (I'm partial to a regular old sprial notebook), and sometimes I bring another book dealing with Christian living. But I usually save the book for last because I want to make sure I have plenty of time to do the main objectives of writing, reflecting, praying, and being in the Word. During the first year of my retreats, I read a chapter each month from a book called Invitation to Solitude and Silence, by Ruth Haley Barton.

As for time and place, those depend on our schedule, the weather, etc. I have gone outside (to a soccer field and even to our local cemetery), cozied up on the couches of friends who were out of town (with prior permission, of course), and I've also just shut myself in our bedroom with the fan turned on to minimize distraction! I've found that two hours is often enough for me, but I'm sure everyone's experience is different. I have on a couple of occasions taken extended retreats that have lasted several hours.

How often do you do a solitary retreat and how long have you been doing then?

As stated earlier, I started taking personal retreats four years ago. That first year I was very committed to taking them once a month. When our second child was born the following spring, they tapered off to every other month. I do want to get back in the habit of taking them more often, and appreciated Stephanie's post to remind me of that!

Please share with us a lesson you learned from experiencing solitary retreats.

Being silent can be really difficult for many of us, but it is a vital practice. I love the compelling truth of Isaiah 30:15 where the LORD says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."

What tips do you have for those of us just starting this practice?

Other than the things I've already mentioned, I suggest that, if you tend to be busy-minded like me, you bring a notepad where you can jot down names of people you need to call, tasks for your to-do list, items you need from the store,etc. That may sound inappropriate for a "spiritual retreat," but I've found it very freeing to have a place to write those things down as they come to mind, and then move forward in my quiet time, instead of spending energy trying not to forget whatever it was I thought of in the first place!

I'm certainly not an expert when it comes to retreats, and as I've indicated, my own track record has veered from my goal of every month. On a recent Sunday, our pastor was installing someone new to the office of elder, and the person was asked to respond to each installation question by stating, "I will, and I ask God to help me." May that be true of me as well.

Thank you, Carrie, for sharing your experience and tips with us! I love the idea of using a friend's home for a retreat. As well as having a piece of paper to jot down those random thoughts!

Please leave a comment thanking Carrie for sharing with us. Be sure to include any tips or ideas you have that weren't mentioned. Also, today is Carrie's birthday, join me in wishing her a happy birthday!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tools of the Trade - Large Party Gatherings

Carrie here with a different kind of post.

Now, likely you are reading this blog because you a.) are wanting to learn how to offer hospitality in new and better ways (or perhaps with a better attitude) or b.) because you need some motivation to even get started! Either which way, you are welcome.

The more I talk to other people, the more I realize how different we are in the ways in which we are equipped to offer hospitality to others. For example, some people do really well hosting large groups of people into their homes. Others feel more satisfied by meeting friends for coffee. Some families prefer meeting other families at parks, while others build parks in their backyard and host neighborhood gatherings. Everyone is different and it's all part of the fun discovering the special ways in which God has equipped each one of us to minister to others through hospitality.

Regardless of your special means of offering hospitality, I think it's safe to assume that there is always something new to learn and new tricks to stuff up the ol' sleeve and pull out when the time is right.

I, for one, am a large party person. If I had to choose between hosting 2 people or 20, I'd choose the 20 every time. I just love the conversation that a large group of people spark and how much variety there is within the gathering. I do recognize that sometimes it's the two people that you have over that can be a far greater influence on your life than the twenty but it's still fun.

Of course, hosting large gatherings can be very tricky. What food to serve (and at what cost?) How to keep warm food warm, cold food cold and drinks at the proper temperature? Here are two specific tools that I have either invested in or have on my radar to help me in this purpose:

The 3-Station Mini Buffet Server is priced at $29.00 on Amazon and is an absolute lifesaver! (I've seen similar styles for $24 at various department stores.) This is the best thing EVER if you want to serve a variety of appetizers that you want to keep on the warm side. I've served any number of food items with this server, from warm veggies to mini quiches. I. adore. this. thing. It keeps your food contained to one area as well, without forcing you to take up valuable space on the buffet table with multiple serving bowls and dishes. It is fantastic and I have used mine over and over and over again!

Another item which I do not own but would definitely like to add to my kitchen service collection is the following:

Some friends of ours pulled out their Stainless-Steel Warming Tray to use at Thanksgiving and I thought it was nothing short of miraculous. (It is more pricey, but worth it when you consider the amount of time you are saving for face-to-face interactions with your guests over face-to-bolwl interactions with your food.) When you are serving a lot of dishes that you want to keep warm, but need to bake and serve separately, this tray fits the bill! There was plenty of space for them to lay out a large platter of turkey carvings and a platter of ham side-by-side. (Our friends actually had two such warming trays. The other was covered with trays of stuffing. Yum!) This useful tool has most definitely been added to my wish list!

Of course, where would we all be without the Crock-pot!? I don't think you can have large quantities of people into your home for a meal without utilizing some crock-pots! I have two: a larger and a smaller sized pot. This allows me to serve meatballs alongside a pasta dish. It also allows for me to serve two different kinds of soups if the occasion calls for it.

I really don't know where I would be without some of these items. Before I had the buffet service, I found entertaining large groups a bit more stressful as I was trying to manage food on a stove, attempting to keep it warm without burning it. The buffet server allows me to walk away from the food, knowing it will be kept at the proper temperature without my having to sacrifice fellowship time to stand in the kitchen stirring food! I absolutely love being able to prepare my food before the company arrives and then be free to interact with my guests while they are in my home. (After all, having them over is about the fellowship!) Love, love, LOVE this tool!

What about you? Are there any specific tools that you like to use when hosting large gatherings that has saved your bacon (literally or figuratively) that you'd like to share? Definitely curious to know about them!

(Next up, I'll share some of my favorite small group hosting tools.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Offering Hospitality to Strangers - Follow Up

Post by regular contributor, Crystal, who can be found blogging over at The Prices.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2
When I wrote my challenge to offer hospitality to strangers for everyone back in October I had no idea how God was preparing me for serving Him through that. I had been praying that God would show me how I could help others even though I don't have a lot to give materially; there had to be a way I could serve.

On a cold Wednesday night back in December we noticed a homeless man get off the city bus and set up for the night on the church's property next door. My husband and I were discussing what should be done about that. He was trespassing, but obviously had no where to stay. Do we report him? Or do we ignore him?

Next thing we know he's knocking at our door, asking for some water. I was just heading out with the kids to Awanas, so hubby invited him in, gave him the requested water and some gingerbread cookies I had just made. Hubby found out his story and discussed the gospel with him. When I returned, we offered to drive him anywhere he wanted to go stay for the night, like the local mission. He explained that he was trying to get into the rehabilitation center down the road and that he couldn't stay at the mission because of conflicts with other people there. So, he was going to sleep under the awning at the church. We offered to let him set up his little camp on our partially enclosed porch for the night, gave him an extension cord so he could have electricity for his laptop & phone and the next morning we would help him get to where ever he needed. The next day he packed up his stuff and was on his way.

I have to say I really struggled with this one. I really wanted to open my home to all who would enter, but also have the responsibility of protecting my children. My first instinct was to send him packing, but is that what I'm called to do as a Christian? What would you have done? Or what do you think we are called to do?

Were you able to participate in the challenge over the holiday season? Please share with us!

Since I'm wanting to grow and know more about this area of hospitality I have picked up Entertaining Angels: Stories and Ideas for Opening Your Heart and Home. Watch for the review in the upcoming months!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Take the First Step: Discipleship

guest post by Amy H.

Discipleship is important! As a Christian disciple, a follower of Christ who spreads the gospel of Jesus, I know that God has called me into discipleship relationships. Colossians 1:28-29 are key verses for me: "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." My priorities include proclaiming Christ and discipleship--working to see others (and myself) grow toward maturity in Christ, becoming more and more Christ-like. I understand that this will be "labor" and will involve "struggle", yet rely on His power at work in me!

Today we'll explore the unique discipleship relationships between women. The practical applications of discipleship are endless, yet let's explore just a few ideas. These ideas are meant to open doors, steps in developing a relationship. As the relationship grows, so will teaching opportunities!

Are you a younger woman desiring an older, more mature woman to disciple you? By all means take the initiative! Pray first, asking the Lord for guidance. Watch for women who are an example to you. Do you have a question for them or an area that you are struggling in that they could help? Then invite them over! Ask them into your home for coffee--nothing fancy, just an open home that will welcome them, and then take time to develop this relationship. Would you like to menu plan and grocery shop on a budget? Then ask someone who has experience if you can tag along as they plan and shop. Are you a mom wondering what the Bible teaches about motherhood or wondering how to practically apply the Bible? Ask! Do you have certain giftings from the Lord and desire to serve within the church, but just aren't sure how? Consider asking another woman to share a responsibility with you so that you can intentionally learn from them. Never provided a meal for a hurting family or thrown a bridal/baby shower? Again, watch and ask! Yes, this may be difficult or even intimidating. Yet, totally worth it to ask! Is there a woman who clearly loves the Lord and follows His Word? Talk with her, ask her questions. Don't wait for her to come to you, go to her!

As an older woman you have the opportunity to develop discipleship relationships! Relying on the Lord, keeping Him first, you have an opportunity to see God at work and watch first hand as God matures His children. Amazingly, He desires to use you! What a privilege! Pray, asking the Lord what He would ask you to do or give. Then watch. Do you see a woman who is "FAT"? I was taught this acronym in college: Faithful, Available, Teachable. These are qualities of a woman ready enter into an intentional relationship! Is there a new wife around that could benefit from your encouragement and teaching in the area of loving their husband? They may benefit from dinner with you and your husband. Maybe you invite them over for a nice meal which will bless them! The next time invite the wife to help cook, or plan the menu and grocery shop together. As you work, talk about life. Let her see, and hear, how you love your husband and even how you submit to him in biblical submission. What about an expectant mom? I was blessed by an older woman who offered to help me with my baby registry. She took me to register and then out to lunch. Over the years she has continued to teach me a lot about motherhood and I so thankful! What about a new believer? Show them God's love first hand! Invite them to attend Bible Study with you and then take time to talk about what you learned. Spend time training them in how to study the Bible or even how to have a personal quiet time with the Lord and why that is important. Model for them, allowing them to share in your personal time. Teach them to pray, by praying together. Do you serve at church? Be on the watch for a younger woman to bring alongside. Take the opportunity to encourage her in serving and to pass on what you've learned. She'll appreciate it!

As you've read, naturally you have probably put yourself in one of the two categories: younger woman or older woman. Yet, do you realize that you're both? Ask God to reveal you you opportunities to take initiative with both younger woman and older woman! Don't wait in asking! Then listen and respond! Certainly this is His plan: Titus 2:3-5, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

Christ is the center, relationship is key, and initiative is essential!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Introduction to tomorrow's post

Tomorrow you will see a post on Discipleship which you might not necessarily equate with the topic of hospitality.

However, as you prepare to read it I would ask you to consider the fact that we all learn how to be hospitable from someone. Very few people are born with the knack and the gift.

Most of us have to exercise our hospitality muscles and that means:

  • Finding resources that will help aid us in our efforts.
  • A faithful reading the Bible to find out what God requires of us. (Remembering Stephanie's challenge to take some time away and alone with God to see what He would have you be involved with!)
  • Putting into practice what we've learned.

In our post tomorrow, guest writer Amy H. talks about the need for older women to disciple the younger women both in hospitality and in other areas. I hope that you'll pay special attention to her post, and not dismiss it off hand. I think discipleship is a good topic to start the year off with because it is a good thing to be accountable to and to encourage one another. I found what she had to say very valuable and am excited to share her thoughts with you . . . tomorrow!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Challenge: Solitary Hospitality

from Stephanie

I crave solitude. Time spent alone refreshing my spirit, my mind, and my body. Just saying the word fills me with a sense of quiet and calm!

Unfortunately solitude is fleeting in my life; maybe that's why I crave it. As the mom of four young children I am always in demand. As a home school mom I am always with my children. So solitude isn't something that "just happens" in my life; it's something I must intentionally schedule.

Meredith blogged about her practice of spending a day in solitude once a month here, here and here. Her goal, was to pray, read scripture, and focus on God in a location away from her normal distractions.

I think this is a wonderful idea!

I'm not saying we only spend time with God once a month. I mean having half a day, a whole day, or even overnight set aside to focus on something specific with God. Think of it as offering hospitality to yourself and God.

Will you join me in solitary hospitality? Maybe just this month. Maybe as a goal for this year.

Here's what you do:

  • Leave a comment saying you're in for the challenge.

  • Schedule a time on your calendar to leave your house and be alone. Aim for at least 3 hours of solitude.

  • Decide where to go. Remember it should be fairly quiet, so Panera at lunch time is probably not a good idea. Try your public library, a fancy hotel lobby, or Barnes & Noble in the morning. Just check ahead of time if they have activities scheduled on your day.

  • Prepare during the days leading up to your solitude appointment. Think about what you want to take with you: music, Bible, notebook, pen, other books, scripture memory cards. Also think about what you want to focus on during this time.

  • Go.

  • Share your experience with us on your blog or on the follow-up post in a month.

I'm planning a solitary hospitality for Saturday, January 8. My local library has sound proof rooms that will work really well for this purpose. My goal is to really pray through what God desires for and from me in this new year (goals, activities, that kind of stuff).

Do you already practice solitary hospitality? If not, will you join me this month?

“Solitude is such a potential thing. We hear [a voice] in solitude , we never hear in the hurry and turmoil of life; we receive [counsel and comfort], we get under no other condition . . .” - Amelia E. Barr

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Introduction to tomorrow's post

from Carrie

Being that we have frequent contributors as well as guest posters, from time to time I'm going to take a day just to prepare you and introduce the post that is up-and-coming.

Stephanie felt led to offer a New Year's Challenge which will post tomorrow. I think it's a marvelous challenge that will suitably and accurately set our hearts in the right direction - developing our relationship with Christ first and foremost so that we have the fuel we need to extend love and hospitality to others.

I'm really excited about her challenge because this one is truly a challenge for myself. What is it? Well stay tuned.

Let's prepare our hearts to seek after God and what He desires to work in us, through us and out of us in this coming year!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Offering Hospitality - 2011

We really appreciate those who took the time to give us a little input on what they found helpful (or not so much!) during 2010 here at Offering Hospitality.

One main reason that I, Carrie, specifically ask for input is that our time in writing up post is very valuable. It does take a lot of thought and planning to put this together and I really don't want to spend time with "fluff and nonsense" so to speak. If what we're providing here at Offering Hospitality isn't Biblical, helpful, encouraging or truthful, then we shouldn't be writing at all.

With that said, we're going to change up a bit here. Here are a few things you might notice when you look at the tabs up above:

1. We no longer have "staff writers" here. I'll set and schedule posts, but the staff shifts based on life changes and personal responsibilities so instead of regular writers we'll have frequent contributors.

2. We plan to use more guest posts, gleaning from a wider variety of people, hoping to find well thought-out, encouraging posts to help you exercise your hospitality muscles!

3. We will not be posting on any kind of regular schedule. Honestly, it makes us feel a bit pressured to come up with posts every M/W/F. Instead of sticking to specific days or numbers of postings, we'll post when we have something that we feel is worthwhile to share. You will see posts going up, but I don't think they will be as predictable as to schedule. When inspiration hits, you may see more frequent posts than otherwise. Again, the goal here is to provide quality over quantity. We don't want to waste your time either.

4. We have decided not to continue with the Recipe Swaps. They do not seem as helpful as we thought they might be, and we'd rather use our time more wisely.

5. One thing we would LOVE to do is have more Q&A posts. Do you have a question re: a particular area of hospitality? Please leave a comment OR send us an e-mail and we will "poll the contributors" to see how they would answer your question. The Q&A posts that we've done so far have prompted us to think harder about how we approach offering hospitality to others and that has been a good thing! We would love to do more. So come up with some questions and feel free to e-mail them to us at: offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com

There are some wonderful and very helpful posts that we are excited to share with you in the near future so we hope you will stay tuned for those. In the meantime, here's our little "New Year update" and we look forward to learning and growing in the area of hospitality ourselves - and encouraging you along the way!