Thursday, November 14, 2013

You + Me = Hospitality

Picture with me: you have been invited over to someone's house that you don't really know. When you arrive, your hostess is dressed up, her house is perfectly decorated, the table is set with fine china and table decor, and she puts out a spread fit for a king. However, she's too busy making the meal to talk much, and she's too worried about the table and food looking perfect to sit still for long and talk with you over the food. Uncomfortable,  right? But somehow, in this day and age, that's what we expect from ourselves if we are going to be hospitable. I want to challenge that view. 

Picture with me a group of mugs. They are very different. We have your basic styrofoam, a couple ceramic ones, and even some beautiful fine china. If you were going to pick your favorite to drink a delicious cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea, you'd probably pick one that is beautiful on the outside.  But we need to realize that what's on the outside doesn't matter. What matters is that they all serve the same purpose. They hold the delicious drinks that we want to drink. In the same way, what's inside hospitality is what really matters, not necessarily the way it's presented.

Instead of throwing out hospitality all together, as many do, because it's too Complicated and hard, we need to consider some possibilities about hospitality that will show us that we can all be hospitable.

1. The first possibility is that hospitality can be simple!

When you go over to your best friend's house, does it matter whether she fixed herself and her house up before you arrived? No! Because the reason why you are going over there is to talk and have a meaningful conversation. 

 You don't have to prepare an elaborate dinner, fix up the whole house, or be perfect. The acronym KISS that means Keep It Simple, Stupid can apply here! 
Have a new church member over for coffee,
Invite your neighbor to go on a walk with you,
or have a family that you don't know very well over for dessert and games! 
You probably will have more fun than if you worried and slaved over a clean house, and an elaborate meal. 

2. The second possibility is that hospitality can be inexpensive!

Sometimes people don't have others over because they think they can't afford it. I'm here to tell you that you can! Pizza, coffee, and dessert are cheap options. When my husband was in college and we had no money to spare we had many game nights with others, and sometimes people would bring snacks and we'd all share. These times were cheap, but extremely fun and refreshing! We didn't have to spend $100 on food and decorations, but we made many friends this way. 

We also didn't have extra rooms in our home, but we did have a sofa couch in the living room, and anytime someone needed a place to stay they knew it was available.Was it expensive? No! But it helped those in need and was a comfortable, clean, warm place to stay. 

3. The third possibility is that hospitality can be meaningful!
Actually this point isn't just a possibility but should be the goal of hospitality! Throw out what the world calls hospitality (which is really just entertaining people) and seek to find times where you can have meaningful, friendship-building experiences with others.

We see this in the Bible with Jesus, Martha, and Mary in Luke 10:38-42,

  "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Martha was behaving like the harried woman, whose house we attended earlier. She wanted to do what was right but she missed the whole point! 
Mary saw what was important about being with Jesus. It was developing a relationship.maybe you DO love to go all out when having people over. Just don't let it be a substitute for the real purpose of hospitality, which is to be a blessing to others. 

Open your home and your heart to others, and like Hebrew 13:2 states, "some have entertained angels unawares." might end up applying to you! Isn't that a neat thought?

So, think of hospitality like the cups. Whether they are simple, inexpensive, or even more costly and elaborate, what matters is what it contains. Your hospitality should be full of love, meaningful conversations, and blessings no matter what "cup" it's housed in. That's what you want your hospitality to be all about. I challenge you to try it!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Harmonizing Lives

We all know that one person: She can't get along with anyone. 
If she doesn't like something you said she blasts you for it. 
If you are going through something hard, she blows it off.
If you are happy about something, she has something better. 
She's hard to get along with, and we all begin to avoid her. We definitely don't want to BE her! So, what happens when you meet someone like that, or find you are becoming that person?
We are going to look at Romans 12:14-16 to see what we can do when this happens. 
These verses teach us that we can live in harmony with others by following 3 wise guidelines.

 The first guideline is:     
1. We should Bless others. 
We find it in verse 14, which says, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." There's a couple of things I'd like to point out about this: 
  • Blessing is easy when others bless us. It's natural to want to do and say good to those who do and say good things to us. 
  • Blessing is hard when persecuted, but this verse is specifically talking about blessing those who persecute us! Perhaps the author was thinking of Stephen and Jesus Christ as examples for this. Even when they were being murdered, they forgave! Wow. It is hard to forgive small slights against us,  but murder?!? They gave the ultimate blessing. They forgave. 
So, not only should we bless others, but secondly, 
2. We should feel with others. Read verse 15 with me, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." This has two sides to it. We should...
  • Rejoice with those who are celebrating
    • This means we should Be truly happy , even if they have something you don't. Don't be jealous. Green doesn't look good on anyone! 
    • Don't try to one-up them. Stop thinking for once about what good things you have done, or have happened to you (in essence, think of others instead of yourself) and truly listen and rejoice that they have good things happening to them!
A second way we can feel with others is to
  • Empathize with those who are suffering. People have big hurts, and sometimes hurts that may seem trivial to us. Don't blow off others' hurts. I know someone who, every time someone tells  them about something they are going through says, "that's ok," and starts telling their own story. This not only dismisses the problem, but dismisses the person, and makes the hurt grow bigger. Don't do that. Instead,  Put your arm around them, cry with them, and pray for and with them! 
1 Corinthians 12:26 emphasizes both of these things when it states, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." There is such a wonderful feeling of knowing that I can have friends who will be there for me in my happy and sad times, just like I can be there for them! Isn't that great?

Last, we see that when we bless and feel with others, it will help us reach the third guideline which is to:

3. Be like minded with others. 

Verse 16 states, "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight."
When we live in harmony with others we won't be haughty, which means we won't be lofty or proud.  And we will associate with the lowly. Have you ever been haughty and ignored someone who maybe didn't seem worth your time? Maybe it was the quiet, shy woman sitting by herself in the corner, or the girl who just came in with stringy hair, smelling like she needs a bath.  I know I have, and it shames me to think of it, because we are all equal In God's eyes, and we are not more important than anyone else. 

 Verse 16 also says," never be wise in your own sight ". This means we shouldn't be conceited, or have a too-high opinion of ourselves and all we know. Value others and their opinions. Don't always think of ways you can seem better or you can win an argument. Nobody wins when you do, and it just hurts relationships. Ask God to help you be humble when you find your actions and thoughts are becoming proud and conceited." 

Now, go back with me to that woman I mentioned in the beginning; the one no one wants to hang around. If you find yourself encountering someone like her or becoming her yourself in any way, just remind yourself of these three things. Ask God to help you bless others. Feel with them, and be like-minded with them. This will change you so that you can live in harmony with others.