The lintel low enough to keep out pomp and pride;
The threshold high enough to turn deceit aside;
The doorband strong enough from robbers to defend;
This door will open at a touch to welcome every friend.
~Henry Jackson van Dyke
One of my favorite books about relationships is Face to Face by Steve Wilkins, discussing friendship and hospitality. It’s been about two years since I have read it, though, so it’s about time to start again. 🙂 Click here for a decent review of it. I once shared excerpts and quotes from it here, too (anyone remember that?).
The funny thing is that we are almost always eager to pursue friendship. But are we as eager to pursue hospitality?
The two things are frequently related, but not always. Interesting.
I don’t know that I want to get into a deep discussion about hospitality right now.
I just wanted to say that I personally have been getting back at it.
During times of heavy grief, I am not always able to open my doors to invite in lots of guests for pretty tables and delicious food. But times of heavy grief come and go (sometimes predictably, but more often less so), and the days come again when I am equipped by God’s grace to show hospitality.
In recent weeks, I have made an effort to have someone over for dinner once a week. We’ve done it for the last four weeks, and are about to take a break for a few weeks. But then maybe I will try it once again.
It is delightful to have people over to share a meal (simple or fancy, as the case may be), pop open a bottle of wine (or a couple of beers, or a pitcher of freshly squeezed lemonade), and chase the evening away with pleasant conversation and fellowship (and maybe even a board game or two).
I pray that as I age, I will grow into my desires of hospitality. I would love to share my home, my table, my meals, and my family with others. Especially those in the bonds of Christ (Galatians 6:10). It is mutually beautiful and encouraging! But I would, someday, like to grow out of my comfort zone. I would love to invite nonChristians into my home (with discretion and hubby’s leading) someday, so that we can share the Gospel more tangibly, with table & food & conversation. I have always felt more called to discipleship than evangelism (God gives different gifts to different people), but I think I must at least dip toes into both realms. And one way I would love to grow my evangelistic thread is by sharing food (not that that is the only way to show hospitality, for it certainly is not. It is just one of my main ways of showing hospitality, as God has gifted me in that area). I have a few thoughts on how this may develop and evolve through the coming years… but this isn’t the time or place for that just yet. 🙂
I have been trying out new recipes on my hubby very frequently of late, and have even tried new recipes on our guests (which can be risky business). For our first recent set of guests, we had fajitas (our favorite tried & true, easy & quick, go-to meal) and salad and chips & salsa; with sweet tea to drink and chocolate bundt cake (new recipe!) for dessert. The second set of guests helped us share a meal of salmon & tilapia (basted with garlic, Meyer lemon, herb butter), quinoa (new recipe!), salad, and bread; again with sweet tea to drink and peach cobbler for dessert. The third set came on a day I had a blood infusion, so I tried planning ahead with a crockpot meal of Beef Burgundy (a twist on the theme, at least – I didn’t actually use burgundy, I used port! and this was also a new recipe!), salad, bread (new recipe again!); with a Spanish wine to drink and blackberry buckle (another new recipe!) for dessert (the pictures below are of this meal). Then on St. Patrick’s day we shared a meal again (this time with my brother’s family!), so it was our traditional March 17th fare of corned beef (with a fabulous brine in the crockpot), cabbage, onions and carrots, Irish soda bread (new recipe!), sour cream mashed potatoes; with Guinness to drink and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
Besides the food, the home and table and atmosphere should also be welcoming and lovely. It should seep with hospitality. While I don’t necessarily think you have to have your house completely spic & span to have company (for what of those unannounced guests that occasionally pop by? Do invite them inside, even if there is dog hair all over the couch and toys strewn all across the floor!); if the company is expected, your home should look like it was expecting company. This will look different for different homes and different families. So do what you need to do to prepare your home (as well as yourself and your meal) to be hospitable.
For me, this involves bringing out the vacuum to clean the carpets and get the dog hair off the couch, etc. Vacuuming almost always involves first decluttering the house and putting away [most of] the toys. It also involves wiping down the bathroom; if it needs a good, deep clean then by all means scrub away… but if it just needs a little freshening up, grab a Lysol wipe (or spray a cloth with some good all-purpose disinfecting cleaner), and wipe down the countertop & sink, and then lastly wipe down the commode (no guest wants to use a disgusting toilet – I promise). Don’t worry much about the shower/tub unless the guests are staying overnight. Just close the door/curtain, and call it good. A quick Windexing of the mirror would be nice, and maybe putting in a Glade Plug-In or lighting a candle out-of-the-reach-of-children on the counter would add a nice scent and ambience.
And the table… yes, the table! Basically the altar upon which you offer your delicious meal as a sacrifice of your time, energies, and means! Make it lovely. This can be very simple or very complex, depending on the day. I like to have a candle or two (or four…), a vase (or jar or champagne flute) with a flower/bouquet, sometimes a tablecloth (especially if your actual table is less than lovely), etc.
Remember to relax. If something gets spilled on the tablecloth or floor, just smile and quickly wipe it up – and deal with stain-removal once the guests have left. Shrug it off. If you are relaxed and comfortable, your guests will be too.
Share the Gospel – with your food, your home, your words & your actions. Interact with your family as well as theirs. Don’t ignore anyone, including the littlest guests! Keep the conversation going (which is sometimes easier than others). Bring out toys for children (or Tupperware and wooden spoons and cookie cutters if you don’t have any), turn on some music, and enjoy sharing of yourself and your resources.
Also remember that hospitality isn’t just shown by inviting a whole family over for dinner.
(Mrs. Wilson has an archive about various issues involving hospitality right here!)
Hospitality is shown by delivering dinner to someone else’s home; by dropping off half a dozen (or a dozen!) cookies on a random day of the week to encourage someone’s day; by giving a can or two to the local canned food drive; by offering a bedroom to a traveling minister who needs a place to rest his head; by inviting someone over for brunch or tea; by sharing your garden produce with neighbors or brethren at church…
Hospitality looks different for different people, and different at different times. But it is always lovely.
Share of yourself. Bless God. And encourage hospitality in yourself, your home, and your family.
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing constant in prayer;
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.