Practice Hospitality

I took one of those spiritual gift inventories in college.  Hospitality was at the bottom of my list, right above mercy (sorry, kids).  There are those who can just sit down at the piano and play because it makes sense to them.  In the same way, there are those who can just do hospitality because they are truly gifted in it.

For the rest of us, we have to be very intentional about hospitality because it doesn’t just flow out of who we are.  Check out Romans 12:13

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”  (NIV version)

I love that this verse says we need to practice hospitality.  Anything that has the word “practice” in front of it doesn’t come easy to most people.  This means I can improve my hospitality skills if they’re lacking. How encouraging!

Generosity breeds hospitality.  I’m not naturally generous, which may be why I’m not a natural at hospitality.  If I’m stingy, any event I host will end up looking a bit like a play date between two year olds, with my guests feigning enjoyment and me shouting, “Mine! Mine!”

Thankfully, because of the outstanding example of gifted teammates and friends, stinginess no longer taints my efforts of hospitality. From my observations of hospitable people, I’ve noticed that they are ridiculously generous.  The stuff I would’ve saved to eat while hiding from my children on a rainy day and the import item I never would’ve bought in the first place are happily shared with their guests.  And they don’t use measuring spoons to make sure everyone only takes their share!  Scandalous!

If generosity breeds hospitality, hospitality breeds community.  That’s why it’s key that we put aside excuses and do it. Start serving.  Start hosting. Start living relationally.  It’s easy for me to get stuck in the rut of my daily life and entirely let hospitality go by the wayside.  I’ll do it next week, next month, next year.  Sure enough, before I know it, next week, next month or next year is upon me and I haven’t deepened my relationship with anyone because I’m just not paying that much attention.

Here are some of the excuses I’ve used to get out of hospitality and my personal rebuttal to those excuses, because if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably used at least one of them.

Excuse #1: I have kids.  Find a way to involve the kids.  Have them hand out appetizers.  Chinese college students we hosted wouldn’t take food from a tray that was simply set on the coffee table American-style for them to help themselves.  So, we began having the kids pass around the tray.  I think a child handing out food is endearing in any culture.

Excuse #2: My home is inadequate. You don’t have to have a house that looks like it came out of the pages of a magazine to have a dinner party.  Just have some people over.  Who cares about that clutter in the corner.  One of my most memorable dinners at a friends’ house was eaten on a fold-out table in the bedroom.

Excuse #3: I can’t cook.  If you can’t pull it off yourself, call in some favors.  A friend often invited me over for dinner, but she was rarely the one cooking. One time, it was her father-in-law.  Another, her neighbor.  If you’re not a wiz in the kitchen, don’t let it stop you from entertaining.  Learn to make one dish well and let that be your go-to thing.  Or, host a pot-luck or a movie night or a game night.

Excuse #4: I can’t afford it.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to practice hospitality.  A teammate who fed us split pea soup and salad blew me away with her generosity.  Even though the meal didn’t cost much, her time was valuable, and she had a large family of her own to feed.  A little creativity and willingness to share goes a long way.

Excuse #5: I want to be alone.  I understand that sometimes, especially during transition, it’s difficult to have people in your home and in the midst of your craziness (or quietness).  There are times when it’s okay to take a break.  However, putting in the effort to live relationally will bless you as you bless others.  It’s worth it!

Excuse #6: I’m not gifted in it.  I’m a living testimony that you really can learn the art of hospitality.  “Burnt toast” headlined as my kitchen specialty when I began this journey.

Excuse #7: I don’t want to clean up the mess.  If you don’t feel like cleaning up after a bunch of people (because that’s what you do all day), simplify by ordering pizza instead of cooking or hosting an event that’s not during a meal so you don’t have to do the dishes.

Are you a natural at hospitality?  If so, can you give the rest of us some tips?  If not, can you relate to my excuses by sharing one of your own? 

Photo Credit: WanderingtheWorld (www.ChrisFord.com) via Compfight cc

15 Comments

  1. Sarah June 16, 2014

    “Generousity breeds hospitality, hospitality breeds community” I love this!

    Isn’t community and connection what we are after anyway? I think it’s important to distinguish the practice of hospitality from the expectations of entertaining. Hospitality invites others in, it says this is a safe place, make yourself at home, we can know one another’s heart’s here. Entertainment can get the focus on the colour coordinated napkins, the clutter swept away where no one can see it, and masks firmly in place before crying, ‘look at me, look what I can do! aren’t I so (worthy, accomplished, perfect, incredible)?’

    I love a well planned party with cute and beautiful decorations as much as the next girl, but there’s no need for all of that before we are willing to reach out to someone and say ‘kettle’s on, come on over’.

    I have learned so much about hospitality from those who seemingly have so much less to offer than I do – because hospitality is born out of generousity and not a desire to impress, it simply says what’s mine is yours.  I wouldn’t say I’m a natural but I have been learning. I think my biggest excuse is number 5 but every time I make the effort to reach out it has rewarded me immensely and I try to remember that when I’m hesitating to invite someone in.

    Looking forward to the discussion this week!

    1. M'Lynn June 18, 2014

      Sarah, I love that you’ve distinguished between hospitality and entertainment.  Entertainment can really stress me out! Like you said, I do love a good party, but if that has to happen any time I want to have people over, well, people would never come over!  I’m glad you brought up coordinated napkins. When we moved from one Northeastern Chinese city to another where Western goods were more available, I had reverse culture shock because my American friends used cute, coordinated napkins at dinner when they invited us over. The hostess was just sharing what she had, but where I came from, we only used those on Christmas if someone happened to get them in a care package. Then, we’d sit around staring at the cute little snowmen on the napkins because it was a sight rarely seen. Napkins equaled a roll of toilet paper in the middle of the table any other meal!

  2. Tracy June 16, 2014

    You don’t have to have a meal to be hospitable either. If you make yourself available people will come. I was not naturally hospitable, but in my prayer time I started asking God every morning to send someone to me who needed Him that day. Almost daily I would recognize the appointment God set up for me, whether it was in the home or out. That was the beginning and hospitality grew in me. Now I love having my house filled with friends and teens who need someone to care.

    1. M'Lynn June 18, 2014

      Tracy, that’s a brave prayer! How fun to see God daily answer it. Hospitality sometimes seems so inconvenient when I’m not staying in the mindset of looking for opportunities to practice it. I’ve recently been on the flip side of it, being willing to drop my agenda for an hour when invited into my neighbor’s house. Living relationally can be a challenge, but when we’re intentional about it, it’s such a blessing.

  3. Melissa June 16, 2014

    Love this topic!  It helps me to distinguish between hospitality and entertaining.  Entertaining, such as throwing the perfect dinner party with white tablecloth, china dishes and silver candlesticks, is something I’m not good at, I get overwhelmed by, and I realize isn’t actually commanded in the Bible.  But as this post pointed out, the generosity of just opening your home and sharing what you have is Biblical hospitality.  It’s easier because you don’t have to be perfect first, but it’s harder because it’s so vulnerable – you’re sharing who you are, instead of just putting on a show to impress others.

    A struggle I have – what do you do when you love hospitality but your spouse doesn’t?  So many times through our married life I have suggested “We should get to know them better. Wouldn’t it be nice to have them over sometime?”  “Let’s have so and so over this week.”  “We should do something.  Do you want to call so and so and see if they’re busy tonight?”  Most of the time my request or suggestion gets a no, either immediately or eventually.  It’s not that he doesn’t like people, or that he hates hospitality, but when it comes right down to it, he’s just an introvert who would almost always rather have a quiet evening by himself.  I, on the other hand, love people, struggle constantly with loneliness, love to cook, and want to have people over .  Any ideas? 🙂

    1. Valerie June 16, 2014

      Melissa,

      Maybe consider inviting people at different times of the day?  I tend to be a bit of introvert too and by the time evening comes I’ve had my fill of people for the day – even if it’s just the people already in my house!  I find I am able to enjoy coffee or lunch with friends early in the day much more than evenings together when I’m already tired and out of words.   Maybe that would help your hubby enjoy it more too.  🙂

      Valerie

      1. Melissa June 17, 2014

        Great suggestion!  We’re not bound to the same 8-5 work-week that we would be in the States, so we do have this flexibility, but we don’t often use it!  Thanks for the idea.

    2. Lori June 16, 2014

      My husband and I are both introverts so we could happily go a long time without practicing hospitality. At the same time, we are in leadership so we know we need to nurture relationships with those we work with as well as local friends.  It can be overwhelming sometimes.

      One thing that has helped is to schedule one night a week or three per month as hospitality nights- we invite someone to join us for dinner that evening and it’s on the schedule well enough in advance for us to mentally prepare for it.  If no one on our mental list of who to invite can come over on a scheduled hospitality night then we just don’t have anyone come over that night.

      We still have spontaneous invitations and often, we have to  remind ourselves that “food is not the focus.”  This helps me keep a balanced perspective.  Hospitality is about caring for my guests rather than impressing them.

       

      1. Melissa June 17, 2014

        Thank you, Lori.  We have found with so many things that putting it on the schedule is the best way to get it done.  Otherwise even when we want to do it, it just doesn’t fit in!  We recently finally put family time into our schedule to make sure that is happening regularly enough . . . maybe now we can add hospitality too.  Thanks for the idea!

        “Hospitality is about caring for my guests rather than impressing them.”  YES!

    3. Jennifer June 18, 2014

      I am definitely in the Introvert category and I have found that one of two things does work well for me. One is inviting just one or two people, so I am not overwhelmed by lots of people, and can actually really talk. The other is inviting a group of people who don’t all know each other and not doing much more than facilitating them making connections with each other and doing most of the talking.  I do best when I do things that mean I accept that I am an introvert, while at the same time want to build some connections, or help other people build connections. It can sometimes also help if you are actually doing something other than just focusing on “talking”. So talking can be the secondary activity to something else, that puts less pressure on the Introverts among us.  It is also important to recognize that lots of the people that we invite will also be introverts, and they will probably enjoy similar things to those of us who are introverts. One of the greatest gifts I have ever had have been times when I have simply been able “to be with” some friends as they did normal day to day things. Not big hospitality, or special events, just being with.

      1. M'Lynn June 18, 2014

        Jennifer, thanks for more perspective on the introvert side of things!

    4. M'Lynn June 18, 2014

      ” you’re sharing who you are, instead of just putting on a show to impress others.” Yes! And that’s the part of it where community is built. Thank you for sharing about your conflict with being hospitable and honoring your spouse’s introverted wishes. I’m so in that boat with you! I like Lori’s suggestion about scheduling it, rather than being spontaneous. I’d love to start that next semester by making every Wednesday night (or whichever night the hubby would prefer) “invite a guest to dinner” night.

  4. Beth June 17, 2014

    “If generosity breeds hospitality, hospitality breeds community.” I too love this quote. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Cecily Willard June 17, 2014

    Last September I went on a little holiday, and the Lord sent someone to sit next to me on the train who helped me immensely when I arrived at my destination.  After my holiday was over, she met me on my way home and gave me a little tour of her city and treated me to lunch and Starbucks.  I returned home and didn’t hear from her again until last Friday at 9;30pm.  She wanted to come the next day and spend two days with me.  I gasped!  My apartment was a disaster (I’m in the process of painting, and my guest room was far from ready for any guest.)  But, I said yes.  And, though I had time to thoroughly clean the bathroom and prepare the guestroom, the rest of the apartment just remained as it was.  I had never entertained an overnight guest under such conditions, but now I have, and we both survived!  And the Lord taught me so much.  All I am and have is His, including my time and my dwelling, and when He has need of something, who am I to refuse?

    1. M'Lynn June 18, 2014

      Cecily, I think that sometimes friendship grows best under those less than optimal conditions because we’ve officially let our guard down and let someone in. God certainly knows exactly what we need and also what our guests need.  Perhaps, seeing your apartment in the midst of the chaos was exactly what your friend needed that day. I’m excited to see a theme of being available to God’s divine appointments running through these comments. Isn’t it great when He shows up here?!

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