I have been on both sides of hospitality – as the giver and as the receiver.
When I hear someone is coming by to visit for a cup of coffee, a meal, or an overnight (or two) it is an exciting addition to my life! I truly enjoy the preparation and the anticipation of the opportunity to have a chance to sit down, chat, and catch up on life. It makes my day! It is also a great excuse to clean a little deeper than normal — I love a fun excuse to tidy up the house.
When we are traveling, we often get the opportunity to meet up with or even spend the night with friends and family. This part of hospitality is also exciting for me – It is fun to explore different areas of the country but I love to have that time where it is just 2-4 people who can connect on a deeper level about how life is really going. These days it seems to be about health issues, aging parents, grandchildren, and the hectic pace of life but faith and what God is doing in our lives always seems to come to the forefront.
But, digging a little deeper in hospitality – it isn’t always about hosting those we know. Hospitality is also the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of strangers.
Can you recall a time when you were not greeted with a generous reception? When it was made clear you did not belong? I don’t want to dredge up old, yucky feelings but remembering how that felt will (hopefully) encourage you to do what you can to generously welcome others who land in your space. You may not be called to open up your home, but you might have the opportunity to engage in a friendly conversation or provide resources for connecting or a cup of water, an ear for listening or even more for someone traveling through your life.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. [Hebrews 13:1-3, NIV]
May we treat those around us to feel as though “God brought them” because He surely did bring them into our lives!
When I am asked to serve someone I care deeply for, it is a joy. When I am asked to serve a stranger, I might also do it with joy. But, as human nature would have it, if I am asked to serve someone I know and I do not like, I need to ask God to change my heart and perspective and focus on Who I am doing it for. When my heart and mind are right with God, the “serve” is all from Him, regardless of the situation.
If I find myself stuck and unable to freely give, it is important to pray and ask God to reveal what is behind it. I know I won’t do everything perfectly. Sometimes situations are in my life for my benefit. Serving others could be simply a byproduct of God working on my heart and perspective. Someone may receive from me but the greater outcome is what God is doing with my heart.
I don’t believe I am meant to fulfill every need that is out there. But creating space in my day can allow me to be available to serve when the opportunity presents itself. The task might be a meal delivered to a grieving family or participating in a Habitat for Humanity home build. Sometimes the opportunity for serving is in my zone of “easy” and other times it takes more time, effort, and money. There is no one way serving looks except that it comes from a heart that overflows.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. [Colossians 3:23-24 NIV]
Blessings to you as you ponder your capacity for serving others!
I have a confession to make. I love talking with people but I get very anxious when I am in a position where I need to begin a conversation with a total stranger.
Those of you who know me personally might find this revelation hysterical. I can talk a mile a minute and I love conversation and I love getting to know people. But sometimes I completely freeze up just trying to initiate conversation.
If I am selling things at a Hungarian festival, I don’t have a problem initiating a discussion because someone is coming up to me and is likely interested in what I am selling. But have me seated next to a stranger in a social situation and I really struggle to find my “opening line”. I am sure I overthink it.
But meeting new people and engaging in conversation is so much fun. I am rewarded every time I do it because I learn so much and the conversation is always interesting. And yet I still overthink my opening line so much that I am inhibited to start. I think I am overly concerned I will offend people or appear intrusive. I want to fix that!
There is so much to learn from the people around us. Taking time to have conversation is important. It is easy to become isolated because there is so much tension. There is definitely an art to conversation these days, but there is also a ministry in conversation. With so many people pulled in so many directions it is easy for those who might need a little extra time or encouragement to talk be bowled-over by those who are impatient and in a rush.
Do I take the time to connect with the people God has placed around me?
The life stories I have heard range from heartbreaking to encouraging. Each situation has some nugget of wisdom for me to learn. While there is an art to listening I think the ministry opportunity is in the conversation. Most people will talk for the interaction, not just to hear themselves ramble on… and both parties can gain tremendous insights about one another as well as themselves when there is a dialogue.
This week, try to look at conversation as ministry and consider how the exchange of experiences and insights benefits both participants in conversation. Remember: being hospitable isn’t something you have to be at home to do! You can be a welcoming and friendly face in a place you have never been before.