HOSPITALITY IS MORE THAN TEA & SCONES
By Amber Lia
Originally posted at The Mob Society
I used to think that showing hospitality meant inviting people over and feeding them BBQ pork sandwiches with all the fixings or hosting an elaborate tea with homemade scones in honour of my friend’s new baby, but sitting under the teaching of my pastor Francis Chan for nine years did something to me.
For the first few years of my marriage, we lived in a tiny apartment with no yard. I was feeling pretty good when I decided to swallow my pride and host my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary in our home where we squeezed in nearly 30 of their lifelong friends for dessert, reminiscing about the days when my parents drove too fast and ran with the wild crowd.
As a new mother, still searching for what it meant for me to be a woman by Biblical standards, I knew that hospitality was part of what God commanded me to display towards others. Except that the idea of showing hospitality didn’t really cost me anything. I love to cook, bake, and plan events. My husband and I are both social butterflies, so having people over energized us. We delighted in opening up our home. And that was all good. But eventually, my definition of hospitality began to get a bit more uncomfortable.
I listened as my pastor talked about the fact that they had up to seven or more house guests in their home at any given time, plus their family of six…in a house that they had purposely downsized into in order to give more money away for those in need. A woman from Guatemala with four kids had recently moved in. Francis had met her at the local homeless shelter and brought her home for six months until she got on her feet. It was radical. And Biblical. And convicting.
My family recently started memorizing Romans 12. Verse 13 of the chapter says: Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
This passage comes on the heels of the early church-at a time when people were selling what they had so no one was in need, when persecution was common, and loving others meant life-altering choices. To think that I was giving myself a pat on the back for hosting brunch made me realise how “American” my mentality had become.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been blessed beyond belief by someone’s invitation for dinner, or by friends who have thrown events for me. I’m not dismissing the incredible blessing that is, or how much it meant to me personally. Heaven forbid we stop doing those kinds of happy and generous things for one another-I know they please God. But Heaven forbid that’s were it ends for me or that my sons grow up to think that is the extent of what a hospitable woman looks like.
I believe we need to stretch ourselves far beyond the point of feel-good hospitality, to nitty-gritty sacrificial hospitality too. Like the time my single friend came over every Thursday for six months after a hard day’s work to wash and fold my laundry when I had my first baby.
How about you? What can you do to go outside your comfort zone?
Here’s a few ideas:
1. Offer your home with a backyard to a friend who lives in an apartment so she has a bigger space to host her child’s birthday party.
2. Loan your extra car to a family who sold their second car to pay bills during unemployment.
3. Cancel sports and dance classes for a semester and decide to serve meals as a family at the local shelter once a week for a semester.
A Biblical woman is a hospitable one, no doubt about it. But perhaps our definition of hospitality has become too narrow. I dream about the day the world hears the word Christian and immediately recognises them as extravagantly loving-those people who adopt orphans, open up their guest rooms to strangers, and pour out but seem to always be filled. And that’s the kind of woman I’m praying for as a wife for my boys. I just pray they recognise her because she first looked a lot like me.
Pray with me?
Dear Father, Open my heart to what it means to be a hospitable woman. Guide us as a family towards those who need to be shown love through our hospitality, and fill us up with Your wisdom and strength so that we can bless others. May my sons see in me first what it means to love others through my generosity and resources, and may they seek to find a woman who displays Biblical hospitality in their future wives. In Jesus Name, Amen!
1. Read more about Francis and Lisa Chan’s hospitable lifestyle here.
2. From my “Books Worth Reading” book list, one of the most life-changing books by Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God.
3. Read more from Romans chapter 12 here….
Amber lives in Southern California with her husband and 3 boisterous sons under the age of 6. She writes about faith and family from the perspective of a work-at-home mom, Hollywood producer and writer. You can follow her God-sized dream journey and their “Testoster-Home” at www.motherofknights.com.
WEET-BIX FOR DINNER AND OTHER TIME AND MONEY SAVERS
This post has been bubbling away in the back of my mind for some time as I’ve reflected on the ways I try to save my own sanity and hip-pocket when it comes to feeding our family. What follows are the three main ways I find work for our family. I hope you’ll find them helpful.
1. Weet-Bix or Porridge for Dinner
We seriously do this at least twice a week, more often when life is more hectic than usual. When we first started doing it, our kids were quite little – the eldest around 2 years old. At first, to make it ‘normal’ we used to put some fun music on really loud and dance around the house singing “It’s breakfast for dinner tonight!” but we only had to do that a couple of times and it became a normal part of our family culture. These days the kids don’t bat an eyelid when told it’s a porridge night. Make it special by adding grated apple, a handful of sultanas and a dollop of yoghurt. Home brand quick cooking oats are less than a dollar a packet and I keep large stocks of these in the pantry ready to go.
2. Make Enough for Two Meals
My friend Nicole does this all the time and I often do too. Its cost effective because there are less ingredients used and needed over the course of the week and it saves time only needing to cook every second day. Throw in a porridge night each week and you only need to cook three times.
3. Meat and Three Veg
If you stick to cheaper cuts of meat such as chicken drumsticks, sausages, rissoles and anything that’s on a good special, meat and three veg meals are amongst the easiest and cheapest dinners. My favourite version of this right now is cheap fillets of fish such as Whiting or Basa, tossed in White Wings Crumb in One and panfried in three minutes flat. Just add some microwave steamed veggies and your favourite seasonings such as Tartare Sauce or lemon juice. It tastes terrific and it’s dinner cooked in ten minutes!
What do you do to save time and money when feeding people?
THE HOW OF HOSPITALITY
From The Christian Pundit
A couple days ago a young wife and mother asked me about hospitality. She grew up in a home where there were very few guests, so she never had patterns of hospitality passed along to her. Convicted that Scripture commands this of Christians (Rom. 12:13; I Peter 4:9), she was wondering how to make it work, especially with children in the home. Here are ten tips, mostly from my mother, that I came up with:
First, think about whom to invite. We need to practice hospitality the same way that our pastors preach the gospel – promiscuously. Preachers are taught to think about the different categories in their congregation so that they can preach to all sorts and conditions of men. We need to do the same when we think of who to have into our homes; singles, families, widows, rich, poor, educated, ignorant, every age and every race – everyone should be welcome.
Second, show hospitality regularly. You have to plan for it and book time off. Creating regular times to have people in your home not only helps you plan, but also makes hospitality part of your regular routine. Once something is part of the routine, once something has a time slot, it becomes habit, and the more often you do it, the less time it will take. It is better to do it more often, if you can swing it, than less often. You cannot be “given to hospitality” if you only have someone over every month or so. Hospitality needs to be part of your lifestyle, not an special occasion.
Third, do it at a time that works for your family: make visits suit your schedule. Think about the regular free time your family already has – the times where you go for a walk together or have a bbq, and use some of these times to practice hospitality. They are already set off from work, school and church activities, so the time is already there, all you have to do is add a few extra people and a bigger salad. This does not mean that every time you have an evening off you must invite people over, but it does mean that time off is the perfect opportunity for obeying God’s hospitality command. There are certain seasons of life (pregnancy, moving, sickness, etc.) that can limit hospitality for a time, and that is not neglecting the Lord’s command, it is being wise. But most of the time, we need to make hospitality part of the normal routine.
Fourth, make a list. lists keep you from running around, trying to remember what to do next. Two lists, one of things to do, the other with the menu, keep me on track. You can even make a “master list” for showing hospitality, with all the things you do before people come written up on it, so that it is already there every time you practice hospitality. Five minutes of planning and listing can save a couple hours of scrambled activity.
Fifth, manage your house. If your house is organized, regularly cleaned and tidied, then extending hospitality to people will not take days of scrubbing, and digging lego out from between the couch cushions. A ready home means that showing hospitality will only take a quick run with the vacuum cleaner and a good wipe in the bathroom before people arrive. Things do not have to be perfect; but they do need to be tolerably clean and picked-up. I read on a blog the other day a quote from a woman who said, “If you are coming to see me, come right over. If you are coming to see my house, you’ll need to make an appointment.” Regularly manage your home, and don’t worry about perfection. Your goal is to make your guests comfortable so you can minister to them. Manage your home so that it is a tool, not an obstacle or an idol.
Sixth, plan an easy meal. Spending hours creating an elaborate meal will mean less time with your family before the guests arrive and less time for your guests when they do arrive. Simple meals make hosting people easier and faster. And, unless you enjoy boning a duck, simple meals make it less stressful, too. Pick dishes that you can make the day before and pull out of the fridge an hour before folks show up. Put most of your energy into the visit, not the meal.
Seventh, spread the preparation out over a couple days. Do things when you have a spare ten minutes, then check it off your list. Eat the proverbial elephant one bite at a time. Be creative, and enlist the whole family. If you have more than one bathroom, tidy the one the guests will use in the morning after your shower, and declare it off limits to your family from then on. I try to set the dining room table for dinner while my kids eat breakfast in the kitchen. Get your kids to dust in the afternoon, or ask your husband sweep the kitchen while you change your clothes just before people get there. Those of you with older kids can maximize your manpower to whip things into shape.
Eight, be creative. There are many creative ways to practice hospitality – it does not always have to be another family over for dinner. You can prepare a meal for a shut-in or widow, bring it over to their home, share it with them, and do all the clean up. This allows you to fellowship with them and minister to them in their home in a special way. You can co-host a large gathering with another family in the church. That way, you can host a large number of people while sharing the food preparation. You can host people outside of your home. We sometimes take “guests” with little kids to the zoo. We bring snacks and juice boxes for everyone, and the kids can run around without being in danger. There are all sorts of ways to practice hospitality. Just make sure that your home and heart are open to whoever needs them.
Ninth, find a woman in your local congregation that is a good hostess and ask her how she does it. Watch her in action. Take mental notes on how she organized food, how she keeps up conversation, how she cares for each guests’ needs. Ask her if there are any resources, either on cooking, organizing, or conversation, etc., that she learned from. Talk about how a recent hosting experience went for you so she can help you evaluate what happened and why – good and bad. Older women are amazing sources for those of us who are figuring out how to obey in this area.
Tenth, just do it. Practicing hospitality is the best way to learn how to do it well. As you discover what works best for your family, how your routine changes to fit food prep, etc., you will get better and better at it. The apostle tells us to “practice hospitality” because that’s what all of us need – practice. Nobody is born a perfect hostess. We all have to learn. Consistent obedience is the best way to become skilled in opening your home and ministering to others.
PRAYING FOR GOD’S HELP TO BE MORE LIKE THIS
Inconvenienced by Inconvenience By Tim Challies
It is Labor Day today, and we anticipate spending the day with friends. We will be spending the day with these particular friends because a few weeks ago they emailed and said, “We want to do something on Labor Day. With you. At your house.” They just went ahead and invited themselves over and invited some mutual friends to come with them. I love it.
Many years ago I wrote about this subject of inviting yourself over and was rather surprised to hear how many Christians find this an objectionable practice. I found myself thinking about inviting yourself into another person’s home while reading Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. She writes about the open door policy in their home and it reminded me of my younger days in my parents’ home: “Anything worth doing will take time and cost you something. We notice, as our attention focused more on families and children, that many people in our community protect themselves from inconvenience as though inconvenience is deadly. We decided that we are not inconvenienced by inconvenience. We are sure that the Good Samaritan had other plans that fateful day.”
Let me offer a few reasons that you ought to be willing, eager even, for people to invite themselves into your home.
Your house is not your own. We all know this in theory, but we have difficulty putting it into practice. Everything you have, everything you own, is a gift of God that is meant to be used for his purposes. This applies not only to money (that’s too easy!) but also to possessions. Your car is God’s car, your house is God’s house. Just as you are expected to be a faithful, generous steward of your finances, you are to be a faithful, generous steward of your house. I would suggest that people cannot feel welcome in your house until they are convinced that they can invite themselves into it. And I would suggest that you have not fully reconciled yourself to the fact that it is not your house until you are willing to have others invite themselves in. Do people feel welcome in your house? Do they feel that they can invite themselves to your house for counsel, fellowship or to “borrow” a couple of eggs they need to finish a birthday cake?
One of the highest purposes of Christians is to extend hospitality and friendship to others. In a culture where individuals are becoming ever more individualistic and families are ever-more retreating into their own lives, Christians can be known as people who graciously and cheerfully extend hospitality to others, who refuse to be inconvenienced by inconvenience. Christian houses will be known as the ones with open doors, where invitations are extended and expected. This is the type of house I grew up in. It is the type of house I have grown to love.
Your time is not your own. In the same way God gives us money and expects us to use it faithfully and wisely, he gives us time and expects us to use it in a way that honors him. Yet we all constantly battle against becoming selfish with our time, we battle grumbling against others when they use our precious time. As Butterfield says, we protect ourselves against inconvenience, and one way we do that is by keeping our doors closed. Do people feel that they can presume upon your time? Do they feel that you are available to them if they have questions or concerns or if they need to learn how to use those eggs to bake that birthday cake? Or do they feel that to use your time is to cause you inconvenience and that you are hesitant to make time in your schedule for them?
Your home is not your own. I’ve often differentiated between a house and a home to show what a thrill and what an honor it is that the Holy Spirit makes his home within us. It is an important distinction. A newly constructed neighborhood not far from me advertises “homes beginning in the low 300’s.” But they aren’t really selling homes, are they? They are selling houses. A house only becomes a home when a person lives in it and when it begins to take on the personality of the inhabitants. An empty house is just a shell. It is much like a dead human body, which is a body, but not a person. A home is also a gracious gift of God. The gifts, personalities and talents of the various inhabitants combine to make a home what it is. All of these are given by God and he expects us to be faithful stewards of them.
Is your home open to others? Do you allow people not only past the door of your house but also in your home, into the life of your family? Do you invite people into your living room, the formal room immediately beside the front door, or do you invite them into the kitchen where you can be less formal and extend more intimate hospitality? Do people feel they can come to your home only for formal Bible studies or can they come to your home for a personal chat or simply companionship? Do people feel they can drop by at a moment’s notice or do they wait to receive a formal invitation?
When I’ve discussed this subject in the past, I’ve seen many Christians display an attitude that tacitly suggests that their home is their domain and that others do not have a right to presume upon it. But that is simply not a biblical-informed attitude. Your house, your time and your home are not yours. They belong to God and need to be fully surrendered to him and to his better, higher purposes.
It is my hope that people feel they can invite themselves over to my home. I hope they feel that I am willing and eager to use my gifts and talents and time to bless them in whatever way I can. I hope people see that my house and my home and my life have an open door.
INTERVIEW FOR THE FOUNTAINSIDE
My friend Soph Russell is the author of a great blog called the fountainside which I enjoy reading regularly. Soph interviewed me about the foodthatserves project and you can read some more about how and why it got started. Here’s a link to Soph’s blog if you’re keen to read along.
HOSPITALITY STARTS IN THE HEART
God was teaching me a lesson the other day. It’s one I keep having to learn over and over again: My house is not my own. It’s his.
The day started with a 7.15am breakfast meeting, followed by another meeting, followed by another meeting – all at my house. In the afternoon God interrupted my idolatrous plans for some peace and quiet with a number of out of the blue requests from people needing my help and the dinner – bath – bedtime routine became my sole task as Steve needed to attend to something important. On the macro scale, I don’t mind. I’m committed to ministry and family life being used by God for his purposes. But on the micro scale, I find myself feeling pride and self-righteousness for all my ‘sacrifices’. People who know me well know that I love having my home open to others, but they also know that I’m someone who needs time away from stimulation to re-charge. The problem is, though, I find it so easy to feel entitled to some time and space that’s just mine. In the end, I pursue this goal above the goal of pouring out my life the way Paul talks of in Philippians 2:17. I am forced to admit that my plans for getting a bit of down time, really do come ahead of my plans to show hospitality to others, though I deeply desire to do so.
God is showing me that I don’t need to pursue my own needs being met at all costs. He knows what I need and He is actually more committed to my well-being than I am. When I don’t feel like I’ve got anything left to give, he gives more grace. When I’m feeling like giving up serving because my felt needs are screaming within me, he is asking me to seek him first. On the handful of occasions that I have understood this and given up my idols of comfort and quiet, he has shown me his faithfulness and given me what I need most – grace to serve in his strength. Recently, I’ve been reading Paul Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, and this quote stood out to me:
“When God says in Leviticus 19:18, “I am the LORD”, this reminds us that we have been chosen by him, and our lives are no longer our own. Everything we are and have belongs to him…” p201.
So God owns all the things I call mine: house, kitchen, time, energy, life, children and ministry. I have to keep asking God to help me get rid of my selfish idols so that my life can truly be hospitable for the cause of His gospel, flowing from the strength his grace provides. It turns out, my heart is the place hospitality starts.