I’m glad that my ‘fellowship’ blog struck a note with some folks, including emails from a couple of people I hadn’t heard from in a while. Thank you for your feedback. It encourages me to know if what I’ve said is good food for thought; if it helps to connect even two people, I’m blessed. As our Lord has said, if there are two or more of you gathered in My name, there am I among you. In this crazy age where many of us have to rely on the computer for authentic conversation and fellowship, I believe He must be spending a lot of time holding our hands via cyberspace.
I want to say a few things now about another topic on my heart that I believe goes hand and hand with fellowship - hospitality. Like driving a team of horses, this has largely become a lost art as a result of changing times and culture. We’ve all heard the New Testament teachings about hospitality, such as Romans 12:13 telling us to share with others and practice hospitality. I’ve always gotten the impression that ‘practice’ is a very serious word in Biblical terms - it’s a lifestyle stemming from the heart. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see this as a way of life anywhere in my day-to-day.
Reading through the book of Acts, we see these people regularly gathered in each other’s homes, eating, drinking, praying, and enjoying one another’s company. They even shared their possessions and had everything in common, giving to each as had need! Having grown up in the modern western "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" culture, I can only imagine. I’ve actually had people get mad at me for offering to pay for their meal or for bringing them a gift on their birthday. In our society, many seem to have been brainwashed into thinking EVERYTHING is on a consumer basis - you only get what you pay for. No sharing allowed!
I’ve had some other frustrating experiences trying to ‘practice hospitality.’ Would you like to hear about the time we ate hot dogs and hamburgers for a week because of no-shows? Or the time our charcoal burned down to dust as we waited on our hour-late guests, who finally called to cancel? (We stuck a dozen raw burger patties in the fridge and went to Taco Bell). I’ve had my kids in tears because of careless last-minute play date cancellations and no-shows.
Some other times though, I’ve felt like I’ve really blessed someone in my home. I remember one friend from years ago who never wanted to leave. She’d kick back on my couch and say, "oh, it’s so relaxing here! I don’t want to leave!" And I didn’t want her to leave any more than she wanted to leave. Other guests have stayed to talk until the mosquitoes nearly ate us alive out in the back yard (the only place on our property that is large enough to accommodate playing children and conversing adults). The only times I really got into a lengthy and meaningful conversation with some of these people was when they came to my home to visit. If they don’t seem to want to leave, I feel like they’ve been blessed by their visit.
Good hospitality can produce such warm feelings of excitement, happiness and contentment. For instance, I still remember going to the home of my mother’s best friend each Christmas as a child. Her house was very modest, but beautifully and warmly decorated. Cinnamon-infused cider and sugar cookie smells wafted through the air as we were warmly greeted. As a shy child, her warm smile and hug meant the world to me. Then, I’d sip hot cider and eat the most delicious chili con queso and home-baked cheddar wafers as I poked around looking at her cheery living room Christmas decorations and answered her friendly inquiries as to what I’d been up to. She had the art of making me feel like the most special, cute, funny, clever person in the world. I’m sure she had a gift for making each guest who came into their home burst with good feelings about themselves.
Since becoming an adult, I’ve found such hospitality pretty hard to come by. My husband and I began a bi-annual tradition of going away together for a weekend to a bed and breakfast when our boys were old enough to stay with grandparents for a couple of days. There are two in particular that have blessed us. Good bed and breakfast owners feel like Grandmas and Grandpas. I revert from being a decades-old adult to a little kid going to Grandma’s for the weekend. Homemade cookies, warm hugs, a comfy room with a big quilt and bubble bath, a delicious breakfast, someone with a sweet smile fussing over me, and warm and caring conversation with our hosts fills the weekend. More than once as we’ve returned home, I’ve made this remark to my husband: "Wouldn’t it be nice if God someday brings us to a place in our lives when such edifying times with caring people aren’t something we usually have to pay for?"
Now, our hosts are lovely people and staying with them is worth every penny and then some. But, I daresay that there are others like us out there, who flock to the bed and breakfasts to grasp a little piece of a dream, of a time and place that is unhurried and rest for the soul. A setting where hospitality is a way of life.
The town we love to go to is a popular tourist spot. We walk the streets, admiring the beautiful antebellum homes, some large and some small. All have beautiful lawns, gorgeous flower gardens, gazebos, little ponds, tea gardens… and my favorite of all, front porches. I have the most intense feelings of nostalgia sometimes while walking there, feelings that I was just born about a hundred years too late.
I’m going to end here for now, but there will be more to come soon. Please stay tuned…
Blessings to all,