Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Hospitable Family

My home in its forest setting at Eight Acres of Eden is my haven, it's a place of incredible natural beauty where I find joy, peace, rest and contentment but I'm very much aware that God did not intend it to be our private paradise; He wanted us to share it with others, to welcome people into our home and offer hospitality.
I have always believed that homes, family and hospitality are intertwined. As parents we do not send the children to bed and then relax and prepare to 'entertain' our guests. It is usually the case that our visitors will be greeted by six smiling children and a friendly dog! We will share a meal and talk and the children will join in the conversation and after the main course, they will clear the table and bring out the dessert. If it is an evening meal and younger children are tired they will say goodnight and go to bed but the older ones will stay around to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen and refuse offers of help from the visitors. (Sometimes they are persuaded to accept and we teach them that if someone really wants to help that's fine) Learning to serve others is what hospitality is all about but it's not just about knowing how to set the table, I don't want hospitality to be a checklist or a process, I want them to know that people are more important than the preparations and this is what we do as a family... look after people.

From the very start of our marriage we welcomed people into our home, young people, retired folk, couples, small families and big families. Relatives, friends and strangers. When you are new to town or attending a new church or joining an organization, the best way to make friends is to be a friend to others; we never waited for an invitation, we simply began inviting people home. We also extended that welcome to neighbours, work colleagues and people visiting from overseas. Sometimes we cooked lavish meals, other times we shared a simple plate of sandwiches and a cup of tea or coffee. There were times when we offered up our home as a place of refuge, a place to stay for as long as was needed and we were able to offer practical help, sometimes counsel and always refreshment.

For me, hospitality that cares does involve preparing the home, it usually involves food and taking care of the details but not allowing the details to become a distraction (remember Martha!) This is why I have taught myself to organize and plan ahead and always to be prepared for the unexpected - I have so many stories of unexpected guests and spontaneous hospitality but I will share those in a future post.

Hospitality is part of our Family Vision

This is where I must add, that there are seasons in the life of a family. In our early years of marriage we had spare bedrooms and people could come and stay with us for longer periods. That doesn't happen so often these days and because we live in the country, people are less likely to drop in but we are always ready to welcome guests and I have children who remind me that we haven't had someone to dinner for a while. We really are in the summer of our lives, life is busy and productive and we have lots of helpers to offer 'planned hospitality', especially for birthday celebrations. On special occasions such as 40th birthdays we go all out and invite everyone we know. It is a lot of hard work but so much fun and sweet fellowship.
My children love their birthday parties and I encourage them to plan their own celebration, this includes the menu, games and activities and the special 'favours' or take home gifts. No plastic lolly bags at this house! This is more than a party it is a hospitality training camp.

I am so encouraged as a mother to see my children's heart for hospitality, they are more than prepared to give up their bedrooms and camp in the backyard should the need arise. A few years ago our hospitality action plan went into full operation. We had family visit from Scotland and the day after they departed, an aunt and uncle from New Zealand arrived. As a family we shared in the preparations, cooking, cleaning and transforming the girls' bedroom into a guest suite with all the appropriate finishing touches. Our guests enjoyed their stay tremendously and the children loved all the extra trips to a local swimming hole for family picnics.
I think though, my heart was most touched by a spontaneous act of hospitality that my children bestowed upon a cyclist who was passing by, pushing his bike as he had a flat tyre. The dog alerted one of the children who went to see who or what the dog was barking at. The cyclist asked if we had a bike pump he could borrow. My eldest son invited him to come up to the house and went to look for a pump. He couldn't find a pump so he hauled out his dad's compressor and pumped up his tyre in an instant. I talked to the man and found out he lived further up the road, we were both in agreement that we lived in one of the most beautiful parts of Australia. My daughter disappeared inside and came back out with a glass of cool water. 'Is that for me?' I think he was quite amazed that a group of children would treat someone, a total stranger, with such care and consideration. It really was the most simplest of gestures, a helping hand and a glass of water but it is something I will never forget. The Bible says that 'He who refreshes others, he himself will be refreshed' and as a family we can testify that this is true. Our lives have been enriched by the people God has brought through our doorway.

Faith the hospitable dog wondering whether offering hospitality extends to cats.
This abandoned kitten turned up on our doorstep, we called her Charity.

Over the years, especially at the beginning of our married life when we had a constant stream of guests, some people would say to me 'Oh we'd love to invite people back to our place but......'
'At the moment our finances don't really allow us to' or
'Our dining table can only sit 4 people so we can't invite families'
'I'm not a very good cook' and 'This rented house is too cramped'

In response to these excuses I decided to write a poem to remind Christians that to 'offer hospitality' wasn't a suggestion, an optional extra or a mandate for the gifted cooks in the church! And even if you do not attend church or profess to be a Christian I hope that you will discover the joy of sharing your home and your life with others. I first penned this poem in 1998 and I have shared it with different churches and home groups. I used the names of real people in some of the verses, so I've changed those to Smith and Jones. It has always been well received. If you would like to share it with your church please get in touch. This is it.....

A Plea for Hospitality

Invite someone home for lunch
She heard the Pastor say

She whispered in her husband's ear
'Oh surely not today!'

We can't invite the Smiths,
What would they really think

When they see our breakfast dishes
Stacked up in the sink

For we stayed in bed till 9 0clock
And I had so much to do

I've left the beds to come to church
And I didn't clean the loo!

Beside's the fridge is empty
And the cupboard's looking bare

After church on Sunday
There's no time to prepare

Our house is not that suitable
It's simply far too small

We couldn't have the Jones
Where would I seat them all?

When we have a nicer house
And a bigger dining suite

Perhaps we'd be in a better position
Those kinds of needs to meet

And it's not my gifting
I'm simply not a host

If people came to lunch today
They'd be having cheese on toast!

Hospitality is not an option
It's a job you can't resign

For we're all commanded to be involved
In 1 Peter 4 verse nine

It may be inconvenient
But you're not supposed to moan

We should be absolutely delighted
To open up our home

Open up the Bible
See what it has to say

Hospitality should be a way of life
It was in Jesus' day

There were no motels or motorcamps
McDonalds or KFC

Open homes played a vital role
In Jesus' ministry

He often went to Mary's house
She had an open door

Read on in the gospels
If you want to know some more

I'm sure Zaccheus had no idea
When he climbed into the tree

That Jesus would invite himself
To his house for tea

For Jesus had no dwelling place
Nowhere to lie his head

He couldn't invite people to his home
But look what He did instead

He fed more than five thousand people
The greatest picnic of all time

And at a wedding feast in Cana
He turned water into wine

Do you remember Elijah
And the widow of Zaraphath?

With just a little flour and oil
A man of God she fed

And God released his blessing
In her time of strife

Elijah prayed and she saw
Her son come back to life

God wants to release his blessing
On your family too

Have you thought of asking
What He might have you do?

But if your motivation's wrong
And you're hoping to impress

Don't invite those with children
For they might make a mess

You don't need fancy china
Or the latest trendy wine

Just simply give your best
When God's people come to dine

You may make awesome muffins
So make a batch, or three

And take them to your neighbours
For their morning tea

Will you make your favourite meal
For those whom Jesus sends?

They may be total strangers
And not your type of friends

So who are the people
Whom God would have us reach?

On hospitality
What did Jesus teach?

'Go out on the streets' he said
'And all the needy seek'

Don't invite the ones you know
Will have you back next week

It's easy to invite your friends
Or those you've met before

Those strangers might be angels
Like the ones at Abraham's door

Your life will be enriched
By the people that you meet

Perhaps the strangers that you know
Live just across the street

And what about the people
The visitors you see

No one has spoken to them yet
As they sip their cup of tea

Go and introduce yourself
Now here comes the crunch

Invite them back today
Yes to your home for lunch!

Oh friends we need a passion for hospitality
It's absolutely vital to our church's ministry
Will you give your home to God
For Him to use today?

Will you warmly welcome those
He's going to send your way?

And show the love of God that others need to see
From your heart, within your home
True hospitality!

With love and joy,

Posted by Picasa


A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

It is so very true.
Sometimes it is'nt about everything being perfect but about being welcoming and inviting.
I must say Our home is a revolving door of visitors and always was even in the city.
More so now as we live somewhere were people just want to visit,
But I am getting annoyed and disillusioned as I am always having visitors,And being new to the area,Yes,I have met many people but again they all come to me.
I take it as a compliment and Often ask God for the energy ,stamina and funds to keep having guests...
But true at the heart of it all...
I love it and so do the kids

Ann at eightacresofeden said...

You must take it as a compliment! People must enjoy being around you but it is also important that you are not taken for granted. I have friends who were in similar predicaments, so many visitors they couldn't get on with their day. One friend had to leave a note on her front door to say 'Please visit after 1pm .. homeschooling in progress. When I had lots of visitors and couldn't drop everything to sit and chat I would say things like 'Do you mind if we talk while I peg out my washing?' They usually end up helping too if they want to stay! I've had to learn patience especially when parents with unruly children came by and ran riot and it was hard but sometimes I had to be firm and say I'm sorry but you are not allowed to climb over the sofa. I think the mothers enjoyed coming to a peaceful home. As my children are older now, it's a lot easier now to offer hospitality, my eldest daughter is wonderful with other people's children, she can keep hoardes of boisterous boys in order and entertained. She is better than me at this! I couldn't do it without her!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin