More than a hot cup of coffee

Sitting in a coffee shop, about to refill my cup for the second time (which I shouldn’t because that’ll make three cups today!) and I’m still wracking my brain for today’s blog.  I have my little “idea page” on my notes app, and the one that kept drawing me in was one I titled, “Hospitality is more than a hot cup of coffee.”  So, here we go!

What is true hospitality?  The dictionary definition states: “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers; the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.”

I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to any of you, but how many times do we miss the “strangers” part.  I will admit that an older woman was sitting in a booth across from me for quite some time.  Just sitting and staring at me.  It was really freaking me out.  She was talking to herself and then I realized she was trying to get my attention.  I finally turned and she asked me to buy her some food.  I told her I didn’t have any cash, so she boldly said, “Well, then you can just use your credit card.”  I’ll be honest, that irritated me.  I don’t like to admit that I have a hard time figuring out how to handle situations like this. I don’t like to admit either that I found it bothersome to me that I was being questioned for food inside a restaurant than I would have been had she been outside the restaurant.  I’m sure that for many of you, it wouldn’t have bothered you at all and you may have gotten up and ordered a meal for her.  As I was sitting here and thinking about all of this, I watched as she exited the booth and went up to a cashier and asked for a certain manager.  Turns out that she comes in almost everyday and asks for food.  But she only gets it if this particular manager is working.  Just now, I see that she is being served a fresh meal and hot cup of coffee. {I had decided on the title before this whole interaction began.}

She was gifted “more than a hot cup of coffee.”

Was it better coming from the restaurant; or would it have been better had it come from me?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that she is enjoying her meal tonight…appreciative I’m sure that her manager-friend is working tonight.

This is somewhat of an extreme case that we don’t encounter every day.  What about the person at our child’s school that is somewhat of a stranger, but not totally since we see them in car line just about everyday.  So when we see that mom or dad at the Parent Association meeting, or at Back to School night, or a sports event, how do we interact?  Do we walk boldly toward them and welcome them to the event, or do we skirt around the area where they are standing so we can escape what we only can assume will be awkward conversational small talk?

Or how about the new person at church? At our workplace? In our neighborhood?  Bottom line is that everyone wants to be seen and noticed.  There is a part of our heart that blooms with joy when we make eye contact with someone across the room, as they wave us over to where they are standing and invite us into conversation…into connection…into community.

I can’t remember where I heard this, but there was a statement made by someone who’d just come from a pastor’s conference.  They couldn’t believe that every single pastor’s wife said that their spiritual gift was hospitality.  They were actually irritated by it.  Really?  Do you want to have a pastor’s wife who doesn’t have the gift of hospitality?  Who doesn’t care about the congregation or what is going on?  Who doesn’t have a heart of service?  I bet not!

It doesn’t mean that they are Betty Crocker in the kitchen, walking around with an apron on, passing out fresh chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk.  And it doesn’t mean that it’s the only spiritual gifting that they have.  You can have more than one you know!  I have a few good friends who are wives of pastors, and they still have their own identity.  Yes, their husband chose to follow a calling to become a pastor; the wife didn’t necessarily choose the calling to be a “pastor’s wife.” However, knowing how God works, the Lord knew who those men would be choosing as their wife, and He made sure that that woman would have the companionable gifts to serve alongside her husband in their vocation.

To varying degrees, I would venture to say that most of us have the gift of hospitality.  Some can design a home, or at least a meal, that is worthy of “Martha Stewart” or “pinterest” (can I just say…..super glad that pinterest wasn’t around when my kids were little…..seriously….that website can bring on a lot of stress!) but if you can’t ~ so what!  And come on….Miss Martha pays a staff to help her out…give yourself some grace here!

Your words and your attitude DO speak louder than the actions themselves.  I’ve made plenty of meals, squished more people into our house than could fit, hosted birthday parties and holiday’s, written thank you cards, and decorated countless birthday cakes for my daughter’s ~ and although appreciated, what is remembered is how I made all of those people feel.  How did my home environment make them feel?  Did they feel rushed or hurried or like they were a burden?  Or did they feel comfortable and content?

One thing I’ve learned in my almost 26 years of marriage, my idea of hospitality looks a little different than my darling husband’s idea. That’s not a bad thing because I’m sure he’s more toned down approach has saved us a lot of money over the years!  But at the same time, he’s come to see the value in having a couple of small vases of flowers scattered around the house, the candles lit everywhere (and yes…even the bathroom!), the sink nice and sparkly clean, and all the rugs in the house freshly vacuumed.  It’s not that those things would truly make a HUGE difference to the guests we have in our home, but he knows it makes a HUGE difference to me in how I feel as the hostess.  I do not take for granted when someone thanks me for an evening “very much enjoyed.”  Hospitality isn’t about me providing a great evening ~ it’s about making our guests feel cherished, seen,and loved.

I also don’t take for granted the fact that our daughter’s love to have their friends over to our home.  That is a big “mom-compliment” let me tell you!  When one of said daughter’s asks us to house the mother of one of her current mentors to stay in our home, then I know that I’ve done something right!  And even with fresh flowers and candles lit, I will honestly say, that the pleasure truly was all mine.  This woman is an amazing woman who spoke such beautiful truth into my life, simply by sharing some of her life stories with me.  She’s lived a lot longer as a “mother to a missionary” than I have, and I cherished her words of wisdom and prayers for our family.  Missionary Mom…well, that’s a story for another time!

Let me encourage with the following passages I found on hospitality in the Bible:

Romans 12:12-14, Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

I Timothy 5:9-10, No widow should be placed on the official support list unless she is at least 60 years old, has been the wife of one husband, and is well known for good works—that is, if she has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work.”

Hebrews 13:1-2, Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.”

I Peter 4:7-11, Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”

These are just a few verses that actually use a version of the word “hospitality” but there are so many scriptures that we can read about where the Lord directs us to have grace, kindness, perseverance, and joy in all that we do.  Whether it is in our workplace, in our home, volunteering in various environments, and yes….even driving down the freeway in Southern California ~ we are called be Christ-like in all that we do.  Romans 12 is so encouraging to me because we are “to pursue hospitality” ~ we don’t have to arrive and get it all perfect.  It is something to work toward, in all areas of our life. However, especially in the verses in I Peter above, our strength to serve with gracious humbleness does not come from our own self…it comes from the Lord as He provides it.  So that God is glorified in all we do.

Christ didn’t expect His disciples to serve Him while He sat ordering everyone around.  He was a servant of servants!  He cooked fish on an open fire on the beach for them!  He turned water into wine at a wedding and He fed the 5000! Talk about the gift of hospitality!

And if coffee had been “a thing” back in the early days of Jerusalem when Jesus walked the earth, I have no doubt that He would have invited people in, for MORE than a hot cup coffee!

Blessings,

Rene’

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