Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Art of Hospitality

“Hospitality is becoming an almost forgotten Christian virtue in our style of life today… In the New Testament, however, hospitality was a distinctive mark of Christians and Christian communities.”

~Alexander Strauch
from The Hospitality Commands~

In any given week, lots of people pass through my house. My kids bring friends over. Bible study ladies come every Wednesday night. It's not uncommon for people to drop by unannounced (which I love, by the way). Yet, when I read this quote, I felt like a failure.

I don't do a lot of purposeful entertaining. It's not that I mind it. I love cooking. I love the actual evening of conversation. The cleaning...well, that's another story, but I'm willing to do it for the payoff of a wonderful time with friends. I like having people in our home, but finding the time to do it is another thing entirely.

Yet again, Satan strikes. This time with a blow known as busyness.

Or is it?

Maybe he's really hitting us with inadequacy. As I think back over last week, I fed supper to three friends of my daughter's (and she took plates for three more). My younger kids had friends over to play and a couple nights they stayed to eat with us. Bible study brought another 15 people in. It's pretty common to have a few extra kids running around the house after school. So why do I think I fail? Is it because Satan has fooled me into thinking "real" hospitality involves planning, a clean house and food cooked from scratch?

I learned a lot about this subject when we hosted a college study every week. College kids are impressed with ANYTHING. They think midnight nachos are fun and they don't care if all you have to put on them is cheese. They enjoy sudden ice cream runs. They don't notice the furniture is decrepit and even take dibs on who gets it when you can finally replace it. They showed me hospitality has more to do with being available than being Martha Stewart. The biggest compliment they paid was the way they lingered (And BOY, did they linger! We stopped doing this study over a year ago and I STILL have the bags under my eyes to show for it!)

To me the main goal of hospitality is warmth. I want those who enter our home to feel comfortable enough to linger like our college kids and confident they're welcome to come back any time. My mom says a sign of a good host is when guests get into her refrigerator without asking because it shows she's made them feel at home. Hospitality is more about a feeling you provide than the environment you create.

I wish I could say my house is perfectly clean, but it isn't. Gourmet meals are rarely on the menu. The lawn needs to be mowed and my closets are embarrassing. These things aren't a priority for me and I don't think they need to be. These should not be prerequisites for inviting people in. My main goal is to make people feel welcome and comfortable. Some people find it refreshing when they catch my house in a mess (I think I've done my duty now, Linda.). I figure I do them a favor answering the door with smelly work-out clothes and no makeup. You can believe they feel better about themselves in an instant!

And let's not let the Bible intimidate us when it comes to this issue. We don't have to slaughter an animal or bake bread to practice the virtue of hospitality. Microwave popcorn and a listening ear may be all a person needs to feel welcome. Opening our homes requires opening our very selves to the people who grace our doors. THAT is where true hospitality lies.

To read more impressions of this quote, visit Joyfully Living for His Glory.


Chelsey said...

Oh Tami, I think you hit the nail on the head. Awesome, awesome thoughts. It is so easy to get wraped up into the "entertaining" aspect that we forget to just be real. Frozen pizza tastes just as good as Fillet Mignon when served with a heaping side of sweet fellowship!!!

Esthermay Bentley-Goossen said...

I love how you say that college kids are impressed by/with ANYTHING. So true! The college kid is not impressed with our showiness - they are looking for authentic Christianity, authentic fellowship and are most likely searching for the real thing. Just like the world is. . . Searching.

And the "searchers" do have great radar to detect showy hospitality and fakes. Great post!

btw...sounds like "busy" is an understatement in your life!

jamie in rose cottage said...

Thanks for this great post, and I this great reminder: "Hospitality is more about a feeling you provide than the environment you create."

Laurie Ann said...

Awesome awesome awesome post! I'm actually applauding!!!! "They showed me hospitality has more to do with being available than being Martha Stewart." Availability....that's one thing I can be! Rejoicing that hospitality is not as overwhelming as I thought it was and realizing I've been hospitible in the past to friends and family and friends of my bonus daughter when she was growing up...very humbling because I didn't realize it at the time. It just came naturally.

MiPa said...

Amen! This is so true!
They showed me hospitality has more to do with being available than being Martha Stewart. I think what we lose in our busy culture is the ability to be available. Sounds like you have found it...and your kids friends and the college students are blessed becaue of it. Thanks, as always, for sharing.

Anonymous said...

"What He wants is for us to open our hearts and to see to it that the porch light of our heart remains on. The very light that burns brightly within us because of the power source we are hooked into, Jesus Christ."

I love this quote! It is a good visual. It reminds us we are to be an extension of the hospitality we show in our homes and a walking example of hospitality wherever we go. Thanks for sharing :)

e-Mom said...

What great quote... AND a very good post. I'm guilty of wanting to be the "hostess with the mostest." You're right, warmth should be the goal. Blessings!

Karen said...

Good post today. We are deceived by Satan to think of hospitality as requiring the best of the best when it requires just a piece of our heart. Thanks

Susan said...

Hey Tami,

I wish I lived closer, I would come right over!!

Your warmth right here on the blog is always "inviting".

You are so right, it's not what we eat, or what our surroundings look like, it's the spirit behind it all.

People know when they truly feel "welcome" in your home. That is why your door is revoling often.

Blessings to you my sweet friend~

PS Did you say popcorn, nacho's???

Brenda said...

You are right.This is really something I need to work on.

Rachelle said...

I like comin over : )

Betsy Markman said...

Another wonderful post! I'm going to have to force myself to stop reading for today, but I've subscribed.

I wish we were neighbors...