Inconvenient Worship, or Being MOM at Church

susanna flowers

 Do you find Sunday mornings difficult?

Admittedly, some weeks, I do.  Waking on time, feeding, packing snacks, dressing and re-feeding so that stomachs are not empty mid-morning.  And all with the hope of arriving on time for the next part of the race – the service.

For many Moms, Sunday mornings are the hope held out that is not delivered.  No sooner is everyone seated than the first bathroom break commences.  This followed by a sibling-squabble, requiring discipline.  And so on.  Sunday’s are supposed to be the best mornings, but sometimes they are the toughest mornings.

So, what do Moms of young children do?  Do we give up and quit attending church until the kids are older?

Or is there hope and a better perspective to be had?

 

 

susanna

This morning, my sister shares her thoughts on what Sunday worship looks like, as a Mom with 4 small children.  This article originally appeared at True Woman, but the topic was pertinent enough, I knew it might encourage some of you.  Here is Susanna, on worshiping in the midst of inconvenience.

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“I don’t want to go to church this morning! There’s no point,” I told my husband despondently. Our eleven-month-old son hates being left in the church nursery, so I end up spending the service time in the nursing room or pacing the halls.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for the nursing room because it’s a sisterhood of nurturers. Yet looking at the rest of the congregation through the one-way window, we see and hear what’s going on, but it’s still not the same.

Why does it seem like so much of motherhood has to be lived away from community?

Most of life as a mother is worshiping when circumstances are inconvenient.

Fortunately, God challenged my wayward thoughts and transformed my mind to think beyond me. He directed my focus toward the witness I have before my other three children in this season, nevermind my own spiritual well-being. What does it say to my children if I stay home from church, not because I have to, but simply because I’m frustrated that I need to spend the service tending to Josiah rather than being where I’d like to be—right in the service? Yes, being in the service is a good desire. But right now I’m called to worship right where I am—in the midst of inconvenience.

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Most of life as a mother is worshiping when circumstances are inconvenient. I read the Bible while my baby is tugging at my feet and my three-year-old is wanting my lap. I pray broken sentences in the car while there is arguing in the back seat, and I want to yell for quiet.

I do get it “right” sometimes and wake up in the calm morning hours before the kids are up. Those mornings offer the ideal quiet times with God where I have the opportunity to really reflect on Scripture. There’s a mug of coffee beside me and the promise of a bright day that began well.

Then there’s reality.

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With small children or nursing babies waking in the night, those mornings are not going to happen on a regular basis. My time with God may have to be broken up throughout the day or delayed until evening. But God desires us as we are, not a flawless performance. Christ has already done that on our behalf. Through His strength, He enables us to pursue holiness. However feeble these earthly bodies may feel, we can find sustenance at His feet for another day . . . and another week.

One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Mathew 11:28–30.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

These words are balm for a mother’s heart.

Because of Christ, God accepts our worship to Him, messy or neat.

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In surrender of my frustration to God, I experienced a newfound joy and sense of community with my brothers and sisters in Christ. My seven-year-old son convinced us to stay for our church’s fellowship lunch that morning, instead of sprinting to the car, and I’m thankful he did.

On the van ride home, spirits high, appetites satisfied, and new acquaintances made, my five-year-old daughter stated exuberantly, “Mom, I love Sundays! I love being together as a family!” Our hearts were full. I’m so grateful that God is giving me the grace to embrace worship in every stage of life—even the most inconvenient.

How are you worshiping God through some of the inconveniences that come with motherhood?


Guest Post – Megan: {When A Casserole Is Enough}

hands holding strawberries

I can recall moving to the South, and immediately noticing that casseroles were a staple here.  But it was not until the birth of our first child that it became apparent how valuable a baked dish of something could be.  The casseroles we were brought following the birth of our first-born were not appreciated only for their dietary provision.  But to a weary first-time Mom, for their communication of love and support.

Megan Hill recently wrote an article on her blog about the value of food delivered in time of need.  Megan is a pastor’s wife, who has had many opportunities to carefully coordinate and prepare meals for others.  I asked Megan if I could borrow her article, as I believe she summarizes beautifully how a community of women can serve one another.

Even through casseroles.

megan

 

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I have made some casseroles for people. I’ve assembled dozens of lasagnas. I’ve made chicken spaghetti and chicken enchiladas and chicken with broccoli, baking them in countless disposable pans. I’ve simmered pots and pots of chili, too, and purchased enough salad-in-a-bag to feed several colonies of rabbits. Oh, I have made some casseroles.

And then I’ve driven them to the homes of church people in need, walked my dishes to their kitchen counters, chatted for a few minutes, and left. Sometimes I’ve cried all the way home.

The casseroles for new moms are great. Everyone is happy, lasagna is just what they need, and I get to hold a newborn for a minute or two. But it’s the other homes that afterwards leave me shaking over my steering wheel with grief and inadequacy.

Chicken Taco Casserole

A casserole, baked until bubbly, seems like such a small offering in a home where someone is lying in the bedroom, fighting that last enemy, death. Cheese and noodles in a foil pan—so flimsy in a place where a child is chronically ill, where a family has been deserted by a sin-craving father, or where cancer is every moment growing under a woman’s skin.

Waving chicken-and-rice in the face of death seems pointless.

But—as my husband so kindly reminds me—it’s not.

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For one thing, people need to eat. And, if some of them have no appetite, it’s a sure bet there are cousins or neighbors or friends—people a few steps removed from the struggle—who will wander into the kitchen wanting a meal at some point. My nine-by-thirteen may not meet all the needs in the home, but it meets one.

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Food is also fellowship. The breaking of bread together (both sacramental and ordinary) was one of the marks of the first century church, and it is still important for the Body today. Even if I have to leave my dish at the door, I have (as I tell my children) “baked the love in it.” My recipe, my time, my hands mixing and seasoning and assembling, are a bit of fellowship with me, delivered. And as I head home, often to eat the second batch with my own family, we share fellowship. Two families, tasting the same food at the same time: thinking of, praying for, and growing in love together as we eat.

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And, perhaps most importantly, the inadequacy of a casserole reminds me of the adequacy of my Lord. Even if I could do more than bring a casserole to seriously suffering people—if I could move in, do all the laundry, mop all the floors, play with children, and organize the medications, even if I could meet every human need in these homes—it wouldn’t even begin to solve the problem.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Only Christ, drawing near by His Spirit, can mend broken hearts and broken bodies. Only Christ can bring eternal hope to the downcast and eternal life to the dying.

It is perhaps God’s kindness to me that the most I can do is something that fits in a pan.

That way, I’m not tempted to think for one minute that my efforts are enough. Instead, the meager mouthfuls I create point to Him who is the Bread of Life. And the one who tastes of Him will never be hungry.  A casserole is not enough. He always is.

So, I set my oven—yet again—to 350.

And while it warms, I pray.

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All recipes in this post are courtesy of Six Sisters, a group of {yes, 6!} sisters who compile affordable and simple meals.  Please hover on any of the recipes and add them to your own Pin boards.  And visit Six Sisters at their site, here.  Or if you prefer, you can find them on Pinterest. 

By way of reminder, all images on this blog {minus those of our children} are now Pin-accessible.  By clicking on an image, you are able to Pin any article to your own Pin boards.

Finally, here is a link to 25 Easy Casserole Recipes – inspiration for the next time your kitchen is needed.

Enjoy serving others, in love!

 

 


Giveaway Winner & Two Questions for You to Answer

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Good Monday morning, all.  I hope your weekends were restful and full of the goodness of family.

The winner {via random number generator} of the Giveaway of Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full is:

{Lindsey Sieders}!

Lindsey, congratulations!  Please email me at: foryourtomorrowblog@gmail.com with your mailing information, and I will send out your book.  And thank you all for entering.  If you would like your own copy of Gloria’s book, you can find it here. 

{I have already lined up the Giveaway for May- in honor of Mother’s Day- so be sure and check back in the coming weeks for details}.

I am pausing from writing content this morning, in order to check in a little with you.

Thank You

First of all, thank you for being here.  I know that the web is limitless in options, so thank you for making this spot one you return to.  I appreciate not only your presence, but the community you foster through your comments, emails and feedback on the Facebook page.

My Commitment

I have worked hard at writing for the last few years.  Not only learning how to write-to-be-read, but learning how to push through writer’s block and the fatigue that is nearly-constant with mothering.  And I have done this because I believe in you.

I believe in the value of women living for the glory of God, as they minister to their families and invest in their homes.  I see our culture’s lethargic attitude toward what you do, and I want to stand with you.  What you are doing matters more than any  societal endorsement.  And my prayer is that this space would be one small part of encouraging you in running your race.

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My Family

There will be times when you can sense that the site has waning energy.  Those are likely the seasons when my family’s needs are eating up any extra stores of emotion.  From a high-energy toddler to the complexity of a pre-teen, we have it all under one roof .

By God’s grace, writing will continue to form my days.  And with God’s wisdom, I will strive to balance writing with family life.

Questions for You

I have two questions for you, and I would love you to answer either one by commenting below, or by emailing me at foryourtomorrowblog@gmail.com.

1.  Which single topic do you feel needs addressing most on a women’s blog?

2.  What is one thing you would like to see more of on this blog?

{home ideas, recipes, health and wellness, parenting, time management, etc}

Thank you all.  Enjoy your Monday.  {I plan to grocery shop and clean up my neglected house today :)}.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hebrews Speaks: {Train Yourself} to be Godly

I love to run.

I love the feeling of waking first thing in the morning, and filling my lungs with cool morning air.

I love the way my body feels when I have finished running, and I am invigorated.

And I love my Nike Free shoes.

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According to Nike, the idea behind the lightweight Nike Free is straightforward: Let your body perform as it wants to perform to develop significant performance benefits. A simple idea translating into maximum fitness.

Scripture references athletics, often.

The New Testament believers were steeped in an atmosphere in which athletic games and contests were commonplace.  Sports were extremely important to both Greek and Roman cultures, shaping the way leisure time was spent.

Athletes were accustomed to conditioning themselves for performing optimally.  So it is no surprise that Paul uses athletic terminology to appeal to the New Testament believers, as he urges them to pursue spiritual growth.

 

Conditioning

Did you know that in order to run well, it is also necessary to strength-train?

In preparation for running a half-marathon, my sisters (they have both completed half’s!) lifted weights, performed hundreds of crunches and spent months training their bodies in preparation.  It is not possible to leave the house and simply run a half-marathon – work needs to be done beforehand.

Paul alludes to the need for spiritual conditioning:

I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others,

I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

In order to run the Christian race, strict conditioning must be accomplished.  All parts of the body must be poised to cross the finish line.

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Running

We have all read inspiring accounts of women who have strictly dieted and then performed what was before impossible – completing a road race.  In order to gain the finish line however, they first had to lose – weight.

Paul urges the church at Corinth to have a similar approach to growth in the Lord:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles and let us RUN the race marked out for us.

Identifying sin.  Confronting sin.  Confessing sin.  And throwing off sin.

In order to gain the next step in spiritual growth, we need to leave behind what is slowing us down.

Finishing Well

My family showed up to watch my sister run her Chattanooga half-marathon.  We wanted to cheer and yell her name whenever we saw her round a corner.  And did she run!,  placing in her age category.  But what differentiated Grace from some of the other runners, was her approach: Grace wanted to win.  All around were runners who had slowed down, and were chatting with one another and simply enjoying the beauty of the day at a casual pace.  Not Grace.  She had Finish Line written all over her face.

Contests of any sort streamline those who win, from those who do not.

Paul references this truth in 1 Corinthians 9:24:

Did you know that in any contest, only one person receives the prize. 

Run in such a way as to win the prize!

The Christian race is encapsulated in the idea of running, always with the win in mind.  We cannot give up along the way to chit-chat or nurse a spiritual cramp.  The finish line is ahead, and it will only be crossed with hard training and strict focus.

So run your race today, with your eye on the prize.


5 Qualities I Appreciate in a “Best Friend”

friends always

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

So Jim Rohn would say.

If you could stand back and take a quick analysis of your life, you are very much like the people whose voices most resonate in your ears, and whose thoughts most regularly traverse your mind.

So, who are the people you are allowing most to impact your world? 

Who are you being shaped by?

My best friendships are characterized by the following 5 qualities:

Integrity

{I Will Speak Truth to You}

In the Gospel accounts alone, there are over 70 instances of Jesus stating: I tell you the truth.

Truthfulness is intrinsic to Christ’s nature.   In fact Hebrews 6 states that truth is such an integral part of Christ’s character that it is impossible for God to lie.  We should find ourselves wanting to model this type of integrity.  And we should draw comfort from those who assess with honesty, while buffered by a filter of grace.  Friends willing to speak the truth will walk with you all the way.  They will not abandon you on the side of the road of conflict.  They know that honesty promotes clarity.  And clarity draws a friendship deeper and closer.

Grace

{I Will Give the Benefit of the Doubt to You}

A forum of writers I am part of, was recently discussing what it looks like to “give grace” to one another.  A simple definition of grace is unmerited favor.  When considered through the lens of the Gospel, we have been given more grace than we deserve, and more mercy than we can measure.

Christ has proclaimed us debt-free at the Cross.

Friends who dispense grace in the easy rhythm of give-and-take and do not collect relational debt, are the women I joyfully link arms with.  Grace makes a friendship safe.

friend loves

 

Belief

{I Will Be Your Cheer-Leader}

One of my best friends has the uncanny ability to call on the worst of days and say: I am proud of you.  Scripture applauds the practice of joyful belief in one another.  Hebrews urges us to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Similarly, Susan Hunt in her book Spiritual Mothering,  has wisely noted that encouraging speech is often the means by which we are propelled into good deeds.

Simply put, encouragement motivates.  It makes us step up in confidence and attempt things we would not otherwise, because somebody believed we could.

Loyalty

{I Will Stick By You}

Conflict is inevitable.  Friendship is a choice to either stick in it, or to walk away when the going gets tough.  Best friends become “best” because they respond to conflict with understanding and forbearance.  They pull back from dispensing justice for an offense, and instead err on the side of mercy.  Best friendships are forged through the motion of always coming back.  They make it a practice to let love cover over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). 

Laughter

{I Will Laugh At, and With You}

Ecclesiastes 3:4 makes it clear that just as there is time to weep, there is also time to laugh.  Adult life is a serious business.  Best friends realize and respect the soberness of a disciplined life, but also have an ability to pull out of that place into an atmosphere of fun.  Laughter is good medicine, and best friends know when the time is ripe to feed a sense of humor.  Solid friendships are borne when there is an agreement on style of humor, and an ability to laugh at one another’s mishaps.

The Mayo Clinic actually lists lowered tension, boosted immunity and even relief from pain, as some of the benefits of breaking down and laughing.

laughter friends

Our friends are often-times the ones who buffer and insulate us from life’s difficulties.  So, we need to choose them well.  And  if we speak honestly and laugh openly together, we will likely even find ourselves with an overall higher life satisfaction.  

Win-win!

Who are the greatest influencers in your life?

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For more on friendship, I wrote about God’s faithfulness when friends move away, here.

 

 


Hospitality : Welcoming the Homeless for Dinner

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This morning wraps up Hospitality Week. And with Day 5, comes an introduction to my sister Susanna.  Susanna is my middle sister, and is in a word, open.  Susanna loves being with and around others, and greatly appreciates a well-used home.  I admire much about Susanna, but most of all, I appreciate her spirit of welcome.  It is this spirit of willingness to welcome that provided a unique opportunity for Susanna’s family a few years ago, as they found themselves drawn into friendship with a homeless man, Hector.  Her story is both beautiful and convicting.

Entertaining Hector

My husband and I have enjoyed extending hospitality over the course of our ten years together.  I would say that not only do we love opening up our house, but we thrive on the communal aspect entertaining affords.  We’ve entertained in tiny, one bedroom apartments, middle sized apartments, and now, our first house.   Usually, it has been middle class folk, just like us, entering our premises.  Well educated, well fed, well dressed just like us.  God has shown us that sometimes, He will surprise us by offering us an opportunity to share our home in a way that stretches our expectations.  We often hear the Christian life has to be messy in order to be real but even I was not ready for the messy we walked into four years ago.

nyc houses edit
In 2007, my husband and I decided we wanted an adventure.  Packing up our scant belongings, we moved from Atlanta, along with our (then) one year old son, to Brooklyn, New York.  Though we quickly settled in a safe, family-friendly neighborhood there, we saw a lot of homeless men and women.  A few of these individuals became staples of our existence in Park Slope.  There was an elegant elderly woman in her 80s who had lost hear mind but not her beauty.  I’d regularly pass her as she pushed a cart with boxes and other random items in it, going nowhere in particular.  The sidewalk of 5th avenue was her home.  There was an emaciated man outside the corner grocer on 7th avenue, cup in hand, begging for change.  Like clockwork, he was always there.

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And there was Hector, a man we met outside Key Foods, the grocery store around the corner from our apartment.
Hector would sit on a white, plastic chair asking for money as people passed by.  He had a gregarious nature and readily flashed a warm, nearly toothless smile. “Hey sweetheart!” he’d say as I approached, often offering me a warm hug.  His breath wreaked of alcohol and one of his pockets was always occupied by a small flask of cheap whiskey.  He’d drink all day and then spend the evening hours in a stupor.  He loved our kids and they loved him.  I hesitated to give him money since I didn’t want to support his drinking habit but would offer to get him food instead.  Sometimes we would buy him some fried chicken from a place near the grocery store and sit with him as he ate it.

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On one such evening, as we were talking with Hector while he enjoyed his chicken, I sensed God pressing me to go a step further in our friendship with him.  Instead of only hanging with him on his territory, why not ask him to ours?  So, I asked him over for dinner.  He eagerly accepted the invitation.  The next evening, my husband, three young children and I accompanied Hector to our apartment.  We got many curious looks but that only made me all the more sure what we were doing was important.

nyc apartment edit

I can still see Hector sitting at our table, tears streaming down his face as he told us he wanted to die.  He had diabetes and serious liver damage.  He body was no longer able to empty itself on its own so he had a catheter.  He was alone.  He had lost touch with his only child, a daughter, many years before and had no idea where she was.  We asked him if he had a bible.  He said he did but he couldn’t read so it wasn’t much use to him.  We read him some verses, including one of my favorites, Mathew 11:28-30.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
We explained the gospel to him.  We told him Jesus came to give hope and a reason to live.  He listened intently and we prayed with him.

hector edit

Hector was in and out of our lives until we moved back to Atlanta two years ago, often stopping by our apartment unannounced.  I wanted to act with him as I would with any other friend of acquaintance, to welcome him into our life (within wise boundaries as a mom with young children), and treat him like he was a person worth knowing.  Worth loving.
Now I rejoice when I hear of Christians who welcome homeless people into their homes or churches.  I recently read about one such church in Australia.  Located near a large homeless population, they have made it the mission of their people to show hospitality to the homeless.  Many have become Christians as a result.  Truly, Jesus came to save the low of society just like Hector, the ones who know they do not have it altogether.  Who know they need someone bigger than themselves and their circumstances!

When we are surrendered to his plans, God does and will bring situations our way to deepen our understanding and commitment to hospitality.  Even if the person we have into our house is nothing like us, we will be blessed beyond all worldly understanding when we open the door and say, Welcome.

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I hope you have enjoyed Hospitality Week.  It has been such an encouragement to hear your thoughts, and to share varying angles of hospitality with you.  I know that I have been challenged through exploring this topic myself this week!

If you would like to read through our series, you can find Day 1, here.  Day 2, here.  Day 3, here.  And Day 4, here.

Happy Friday, all!  As always, thank you for reading and for being here.


Hospitality, Day 4: Mentored Through Hospitality

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This morning’s story of hospitality is written by my Mom, without a doubt the most hospitable woman I know. She and my Dad have never really known a stranger. Wherever they go, they make friends and they welcome these friends into their lives. I can remember groaning as I sat in the car after church on Sunday’s, because my parents were always the last to leave, always engaged in conversation with others. They have lived hospitality always before their family. Today, my Mom shares how she was shaped in her definition of hospitality, by the welcoming lives of others.

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I was not converted through a ministry of hospitality. I became a Christian pretty much ex-nihilo, very suddenly, in January,1972. But hospitality played a key role in my growing sanctification.

At twenty, I was a new person. But what were the requirements of this new life? What did God expect of me? I didn’t know.

So I read the Bible and just hung around in the homes of older Christians! The lessons I learned were vivid and immediate. I remember the first time I went for Sunday dinner (“What is Sunday dinner?”) at a friend’s home. Mr. Richardson sat at the head of the table. Mrs. Richardson sat at the foot, with children to each side. And they spoke throughout the meal – of the sermon, of Christian life generally. Aha, I thought, Christian family life has a recognizable authority structure. And communication is essential to its well-being. That first meal with a Christian family taught me two principles I have held to unswervingly through forty-two years of marriage. And they have brought great blessing.
This same family allowed me to stay with them whenever I was fearful of life – and I was often fearful in those days. As their house was small I would climb right into their daughter’s double bed and she would pray with me until I could sleep.

What can you say about love like that?

This wonderful family helped anchor me in Christ during those first crucial months when so many newly professing Christians are ‘picked off’ by the enemies of the church – the world, the flesh and the devil. I have an eternal debt to them.

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The next family that influenced me deeply were the Macaulays at English L’Abri. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay was the daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. She certainly exhibited the best of her mother’s deep commitment to hospitality. There were many of us filling their English manor house, to the brim, at any given time!

One day, I was in the midst of breaking a L’Abri rule. No clothing was to be hung in the warming closet. And I was doing just that – hanging my son’s diapers to dry – when Susan caught me in the act. Needless to say, I was mortified. But she just laughed, took me to the outside clothes line, and helped me hang them where they should have been in the first place. I had only been a Christian a couple of years. I was just feeling my way into what ‘grace’ really meant. And this was a living illustration of it. Undeserved favor! All of a sudden, I ‘got it’ at a much deeper level. It was truly a profound moment for me!
These were everyday incidents that God used to transform and deepen my understanding of life. Moments only possible because others let me into their homes.
John and I have tried to open our home through the years of our marriage. And God has, in turn, used the ordinariness of our own Christian lives to transform others. What a beautiful, beautiful trans-generational blessing hospitality is!

Where a generation ago there were two of us committed to serving the Lord, there are now probably forty from within and without our family.  How I love God’s ways!

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Application

Did you catch the end of my Mom’s story?  Two people (she and my Dad) have now become 40 who love and serve the Lord!

Who can you invite into your home and your life? 

Who might you be able to impact with the Gospel, simply by sharing your space?

 


Hospitality: FREE Printable Wednesday

I hope you are enjoying Hospitality Week so far!  Monday and Tuesday’s posts are here and here, if you would like to play catch- up.  Thursday and Friday are both guest posts, written by a couple of my favorite women.  I think you will enjoy their thoughts on both giving and receiving hospitality, so very much.

Today is a wordless Wednesday.  However, in keeping with the theme of hospitality I took a break from writing, and created 2 free printables which I thought you might enjoy.

In order to access the free printable, simply click on the image.  Select copy mode, and save to desktop.  Choose print mode and select and option for print size (whether 5×7 or 8×10).  Print off and enjoy!

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These might be good reminder to place on the fridge, beside a sink full of dirty dishes, or in the laundry room – anywhere you are faced with the clean-up after company!

Enjoy your day today.  I hope you are considering the issue of hospitality with an encouraged spirit.  The reason I am drawn to the topic is because it is one I both wrestle with, and want to become better at.  Our culture is fast moving away from treasuring time in one another’s lives, and replacing face-time with autonomy.  I see myself fighting this tendency. So a biblical consideration of hospitality is helpful for me, and I hope, to you as well.

We will see you back here tomorrow!


Hospitality: Overstaying the Welcome

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Yesterday, I kicked off the series on hospitality with the question: Does Your Life Say Welcome?  And I referenced Karen Ehman’s helpful definition of hospitality as being both in-home and out-home.  For that post, click here.

Today,  I want to discuss the concept of overstaying the welcome.  How do we relate to the friend, neighbor or guest who needs relationship beyond the bounds of time we have allotted for them?  What does it look like to love after the stop-watch has beeped?

Jesus’ words to Martha in Luke 10, are an excellent starting point.  In the story of Mary and Martha, we see the perfect illustration of provision in friendship, and joyful response.  Having invited Jesus over for a meal at their home, Martha was in a frenzy, seeking to make the ambience of Jesus’ visit, perfect.  She was highly stressed and anxious.  She was resentful, because while she was busily tending to the felt needs of her friend Jesus, Mary was sitting down!  Mary was plunked down at the feet of Jesus, listening to him, resting with him and enjoying him.  “Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”.

Mary knew how to open her home and to relax in the company of her guest.  She knew how to provide a slowed-down welcome, and to absorb time with a loved one.  I am confident that Jesus felt both rested in the company of Mary, and honored that she would ease her life-pace for him.  Remember that Jesus saw the agony of the cross always before him.  Mary’s hospitality was likely a great source of renewal and encouragement for him.

As North Americans, we are fiercely autonomous, aren’t we?  Deeply desirous of privacy.  Jealous of our boundaries.  But as Christians, the Gospel should make us different.  We should resemble those who prize people above things, who value time with others more than we value task-accomplishment.  We should be more like Mary.

Last week, my sister and I were discussing hospitality, and she referred me to a song by Sara Groves.  In this song, entitled “Every Minute”, Groves references a friend who loved and tended to her by allowing her to overstay the welcome in her home.  Her words are both touching and poignant, as they relay a deep truth about the enabling power of committed friendship.

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Groves references the void filled by her friend, as she stays long and stays over-time.  But she weaves together an account that can be easily identified in my life, or yours.  So great is her love and need for her friend, that I’ll take every minute that you give me.

Mary gave Jesus her minutes.

When our friends and neighbors and guests linger, it can become tempting to wish our stop-watches to beep so we can move down our lists to the next thing to do.  We always have a next thing to do, don’t we?  But hospitality is loving beyond our boundaries- of space and of time.  When we linger just a few moments longer than we had planned to, we communicate with more than mere words

a life that says welcome.

Application

Is there one person this week that you can slow down for?

Can you answer their phone-call, or meet up in person, or invite them over for coffee and allow them to overstay their welcome?

If you would like to listen to Sara Grove’s beautiful song, Every Minute, here is a link.

 


Community Matters

The news predicted the snow would begin falling before noon.  And it did so in a flutter of gentle, soft flakes.  My Bible study girls watched them through the window while talking excitedly, but mostly ignoring the “danger” the weather stations were broadcasting.  We in the South are used to news outlets crying wolf when it comes to wintry blasts and apocalyptic storms.  We mostly yawn and roll over, un-phased by extreme predictions.

But indeed, this time our world turned white, slowly and quietly.

Buses arrived home early, and the kids spent the afternoon filtering in and out of the house, embracing the experience of cold, but with a purpose.

My phone began to ring and buzz with the news of friends and neighbors stranded, the ice quickly forming underneath roads and on bridges.  My children remained oblivious.

But inwardly my concern for those I love was growing.  And with it, an equal feeling of helplessness about being able to “do” anything physically to assist.  My phone continued its mad eruption of updates from friends and family, and Facebook continued to report nothing but bad news: stores are out of supplies, roads are blocked for miles, pipes are bursting and whole neighborhoods without water, cars have run out of gas and passengers inside are miserably cold.

What to do when all infrastructure gives out?

My phone beeped again, a neighbor gathering men together to push cars out of the ditch on the highway outside our neighborhood.  Pat layered up and set out in the dark, while I stayed up with the kids, wanting to have hot drinks or beds ready if anyone needed.  Pat returned several hours later chilled through, having spent his evening pushing and pulling vehicles to safety, and checking on those inside cars.

And as I lay in the dark, I realized afresh a great truth:

Our greatest infrastructure as humans, is one another.

In a situation where the world shuts down for a time, we are one another’s hands and feet.  We can carry each other, share with each other, and see that through our inter-connectedness, we all arrive safely home.

Community matters.  And sometimes it takes a snowstorm to be reminded of it.