Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Romans 12:13
My dear friend,
When God created us, He put within us desires, but also needs, necessities. We have longings within us for connection to others. When I have something specific on my mind, I generally search the Scriptures for “right thinking” on the matter. For this article I did the same. Hospitality is woven throughout the Scriptures; the standard has been set with examples throughout.
Remember the widow that wanted to create a little chamber in 2nd Kings. Then, I recall “Miss Wisdom” crying and inviting from from the gates. This picture is painted in Proverbs, chapter 8. What a great lady is Wisdom. Our Creator practiced hospitality. He served fish to His disciples and in another place is remembered in sweet communion during a time of shared hospitality. Let us not forget the hospitality that we are promised in Heaven. Hospitality is important to God. What pictures of hospitality do you think of? Hospitality is a joyous thing and by extending ours, we have a little taste of the sweetness that is Heaven.
Just as locations of hospitality vary in Scriptures, from a palace to a meal outside of a tent, food and drink are shared. Hospitality meets needs. We share food. We share ourselves, all this in Jesus’ name and for His sake. It is service for the sake of others, yet we benefit too.
As with anything that is good, we may feel trepidation, fear. For a moment, please consider things in your life that you feel you are supposed to be doing. We feel afraid to share our story of faith with someone. Teaching a Sunday School class can be scary, yet we are called to disciple. The choir. The nursery. In each of these instances, the more we do it, our proficiency increases.. It becomes less scary. Such is hospitality.
I do not remember when I first enjoyed practicing hospitality. My mother was a wonderful example and I learned much from her, but through the years I developed my own style, which allows me to be more relaxed. One of my mother’s last minute checks before guests arrived was double-checking faucets to make sure there were no water drops remaining on the spigot. One day, in a tender moment, she told me something to the effect that I had exceeded her skills; she was wrong, but I did not know how to say it then. Essentially, we each had a way that worked for us because of how we were created and yet we admired each other’s skills. I learned so much from her. She gave me my start.
When guests did arrive, there would be no sign of the work that went into the preparation. Pans were either washed or set in the utility room until guests left. What did I learn from that? Everyone enjoyed themselves in our home, good food and laughter remain a memory today. Why did my mother stash dirty pans? It was not for shame, at least mostly. A clean and relatively tidy home is more relaxing for guests. Mommy did not want guests to feel that they should jump in and help with the dishes.
Today I want to give a couple tips, then embellish each with thoughts of why I think it is important or worthy of consideration. So! You have invited someone to share time with you, whether in your home, at a restaurant, or on a park bench! What next?
Give this event thought and prayer. This is how to prepare, whether big or small. Thinking is rule one for hospitality. Why do you desire this communion with this person or group? Celebrating a holiday or simply to share a cup of tea or coffee? This is what I call a “visit,” an opportunity to practice your hospitality skills and to develop your own style of serving others.
What would make this time together precious and memorable for everyone, including yourself? Hospitality is sharing yourself. We are all different, so being who we are comfortable being will set the best mood. Hospitality can be an art form; to me it might fall into that category. I love it and I strive to learn more.
The Bible tells us to make a joyful noise, but you will not find me leading a song service, yet I sing. You may not be comfortable to serve 20 people formally, but the Bible tells us to be hospitable. Offering a glass of water to someone working on your property is hospitality. God will use it, especially if you serve in Jesus name, for His sake, that He be glorified.
I pray as I prepare. Pray before guests arrive and praise afterward. Don’t forget to ask grace for yourself, to be able to ensure a blessed gathering. Oh, that my guests would sense the Spirit of God in my home the moment they walk in the door. Any preparations I have done will be an additional memory of the evening. Above all, without reservation, I want guests to have the feeling that God is present in my home, partially reflected by the peace I feel.
How can I be peaceful when I am nervous about everything having to do with hospitality? Prayer is essential, and if you listen expectantly for an answer, you may hear that preparation is important.
I believe that God wants us to be ready for the things we are called to do. Scripture supports that idea. Readiness requires preparation. I will tell you things that I do in order to make hospitality less stressful and more special. I preface this by reminding you that my practices will likely not be yours, but the point is to think about developing and preparing ways of doing things that will make your hospitality appear effortless and reflect the woman you are.
I use what I have. I use my best. Who is worthy to drink from your wedding china? Well, just everyone, including yourself. What good is a beautiful set of dishes if they are only to look at? Not to be a “downer” here, but it is all going to burn one day anyway. While I was a single woman, I discovered a set of fine, bone china that I loved and by the time I married I had quite a bit of it. I used it almost daily and with my girls when they were very little. I am so glad, because it did literally burn in a house fire. We used it that evening. I am glad I didn’t save it for a more special occasion. Use your special things; think of it as rejoicing in the day the Lord made for you! A note about breakage: Accidents do happen. If someone breaks a piece of your favorite china, make them feel at ease. They are more valuable than a piece of china, which can be replaced for the same price as a few fancy coffees.
I use cloth napkins everyday; what a simple way to elevate mealtime. When we treat our families as if they are special, they will never have the feeling that we only pull out the good stuff for guests. Nor will they say it to the company. Right?!
Use candles! I generally do not use candles if it is daylight. Remember though! I said, generally! If you know the basic rules, you will develop an innate confidence about when you might break them, just because you want to. This thought process refers to artistic endeavors and not to more important matters. Think Scripture. (Smile.) In recent years, I’ve begun using unscented candles. Having a son-in-law in the honey business, I’ve also developed a great appreciation for beeswax candles. Use the special things available to you. These are short thoughts. You might want to do a little more research or practice with any idea that seem to be worth incorporating into your lifestyle. One evening shortly after guests left, my friend called. She said her teenage son loved the candles and asked his mother to use them sometimes. We were equally delighted and touched. A teenage boy noticing this? it takes so little to make an ordinary occasion seem special.
You notice that I have not mentioned food? We want to be able to offer something, but grandiose is not essential. Do what you can. Do your best, but perfection in today’s world is overrated. I’ve served dishes that I overcooked, undercooked or not seasoned quite right. Sometimes guests know; sometimes they don’t. Were you to serve a perfectly prepared meal, there is always the likelihood that someone at the table would grab the salt shaker or think the meat or vegetables were not quite right. As my husband often said, “People are people.” And then he would smile. A gracious guest will rarely say a word; it is best if you do not either. Hospitality is not so much about what you serve but who you serve. Recently, I spent hours preparing a special Indian dish. It is a richly and beautifully garnished rice dish. When it is done, you garnish it with crisp, fried onions, raisins, cashews and cilantro. The onions are laborious to prepare, but I made time for it. I served the dish, then hours later – after it was eaten – I realized that I forgot the onions, which add beauty but also greatly flavor the dish, and I wasted an hour doing them! What can you do? You can laugh about it and enjoy the onions later with something else. Mistakes happen to everyone! C’est la vie or “that is life!”
When it is time for your guests to arrive, skip a final shine to the faucet and ask a prayer for the anticipated gathering, for Grace and Goodness to reign. That’s God.
I do not think of hospitality as opening my home anymore than I think of it as opening my heart or nurturing a friendship. Hospitality, whether given or received is a blessing to our lives and I think it is one that we do not want to miss out on. I have been on both ends and I cannot tell you which I enjoy more!
When I am a guest, I love seeing how another host or hostess communicates their hospitality. Their way of hospitality may be nothing like mine. Because I am going for the bond of friendship, the surroundings or table settings are not foremost in my thoughts. I know I am not alone in this thinking. Many of my lady friends have watched period movies, of teatime and formal banquets where eyes roll if someone uses the wrong piece of flatware or sips from the wrong side of the soupspoon. It may be funny in the movie but it is not in real life.
What are your obstacles to sharing hospitality? One of mine is “busy-ness.” I see that my daughters are at least as busy as me, but they practice hospitality too, despite their other personal constraints, of which we all have some.
My testimony or my story is that God has richly honored my efforts to bring people into my haven. I think of home in this way, a refuge from the outside world. How could I not want to share this to others?
The supreme rule for being a great host or hostess is to make your guests feel comfortable and relaxed. If you see your guests enjoying themselves, then you can sit back and enjoy your own hospitality too, with a silent prayer of praise. “Thank you Father.”
Finally, a sense of humor is a great asset when entertaining. Ralph Waldo Emerson had something to say about this subject, and I concur:
“We dare not trust our wit for making our house pleasant to our friend, so we buy ice cream.”
Serve it in your finest crystal!