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Show hospitality to one another without grumbling I Peter 4:9


This Scriptural command is an easy one to obey.


At least for us Southerners, right?


Doesn't this evoke images of a tastefully decorated home, an exquisite menu, and a beautifully dressed woman with manicured nails?


In a word - NO.


I don't think that's what Scripture means. At all.



When Scripture exhorts us to "practice hospitality" (Romans 12:13) what does it mean? If it doesn't mean knocking yourself out to present a perfect picture, what, then, is it?


Just look at the word - "hospitality". It's closely related to the words "hospital", "hotel", as well as "hostel". What is the connection between these? Simply put, I think it's the idea of receiving strangers/outsiders and caring for them in such a way that they are changed from strangers into friends. The emphasis is relationship.


This is very different from entertaining, where the focus can often be on eliciting compliments for the host.....not on meeting the needs of the strangers.


Hospitality means making others feel like they "belong", like they are no longer an outsider, an alien. It has little to do with the table decorations and instead everything to do with being cared for.


And hospitality doesn't need a showcase of a home to transpire. In fact, it doesn't even need a home at all. It can be at the ball field, where the family of a new kid is hoping they can fit in. It can be in an adult Sunday School class, where a new couple visits and looks for a place to sit. It can be at the crowded Chick-fil-A, where an elderly man sits alone, trying to adjust to his new status as a widower.


Hospitality can be anywhere. In fact, we are not to simply wait for an opportunity to present itself - we are actually to be on the lookout for an outlet for our hospitable spirit! The verse in Romans that tells us to "practice hospitality" literally means "pursue hospitality". We are to seek out people to encourage, to care for, to transform from being a "hostile" into a friend.


No, this isn't an easy command to obey. We tend to prefer socializing with our friends and entertaining those we enjoy (or at least those who can benefit us). If we aren't intentional about hospitality, all those strangers remain outsiders. They miss the blessings of connection and we miss the joy of the transformation. Instead of meeting needs, we are often seeking favor.


God help us. Help us to be hospitable.


Oh, and if He does lead us to create a stunning centerpiece, to prepare a gourmet tray of goodies, and to sport a stunning new haircut, may we especially heed the last part of that verse....."without grumbling."


Ouch.




Criticism

I was blessed to grow up in a home where criticism was not part of our vernacular. We simply did not criticize. Or complain. Not even when it was "merited". How my parents achieved that, I do not know!

I became a quick learner, though, let me assure you. On my own, I managed to master the art, even falling prey to the idea that criticism was "helpful" to others. How would they ever change their ways, I reasoned, unless I told them where they were wrong? This "skill" grows exponentially when practiced even a bit, I soon learned. The more I criticized, the more things I saw that "needed" criticizing. Once put into motion, criticism can quickly become a way of life, a lens through which all persons and activities are filtered.

A lens which turns toxic. Towards those on the receiving end. But also on the viewer. A critical spirit is difficult to live with as well as to house inside one's own soul.

One day I stumbled on a verse. James 4:11. Pretty simple. It says Do not speak against another.

We can try and "adjust" it to say something else but it translates very clearly -- do not criticize. The verse doesn't have parentheses to include exceptions for poor service or irritating people or trampled rights. It just says not to criticize. I decided I needed to change. It's hard going sometimes but by God's grace, I am learning not to criticize. It's hard to balance times of needed parental correction against criticism. I am constantly in need of wisdom.

Sometimes these blog posts are hard to write. I often falter. I don't get it right. A lot. But I want to share my journey with you. In hopes that you will find some grace and encouragement alongside me.

Take, for instance, today.

I received some really awful customer service today. And with my past corporate background, I am tuned in to know that customer service is an important aspect of training and expectations. When I don't get it, I am disappointed. Today, I was disappointed and then some. After all, I had been a loyal customer of this business for many years. I had given this place a bunch of money. And I was treated poorly by an employee that clearly didn't give a rip. I was tempted to post something on FB just to vent. So that other people could take my side, weigh in, maybe even share their own lousy experiences at this place. Then I decided I'd do the more mature thing and complain to the home office. In fact, I concluded, it was the right thing to do. After all, this place had their website posted and invited customers to contact them so they could provide better service. Yep, I would be doing them a favor.

I pulled up their site, clicked on "customer service" and started my email. I would be polite, but firm. Just state the facts. And convey the error of their ways. My words poured out.

Then that verse above came to mind. And one in the next chapter of James - vs. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another.

I chatted with myself for a couple of minutes. Wouldn't it be helpful to let the higher ups know what a terrible experience I had today? I had already realized it wouldn't be right to vent on FB, where readers were neither part of the problem nor part of the solution but couldn't I at least complain to, I mean, share with, the home office? This would be helpful..........I was justified......It's the truth......

Heart check. What did I want as resolution? Did I really want this to help those employees to become better people? Or did I hope, even just a little bit, that somebody would get in hot water for what they did? Did I even hope that I would benefit in some way, a discount or freebie or even just an accolade?

I am not saying there is never a time to report bad service. Or to share an unfortunate experience. I do suggest a heart check first. And a prayer for wisdom. And a longing to err on the side of being TOO UNcritical and UNcomplaining.

I didn't send the email.

And I won't tell you who the company was. :)



Pleasing God



Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:15


Such a simple precept - doing good, sharing what we have. But sometimes we neglect it, don't we? The word for today is to consider what you have in terms of time, skills, material goods, money. Just think about it for a moment. Take inventory, so to speak. Don't let yourself be deceived into thinking you don't have much - if you are reading this, then you obviously have enough time and skill and material goods to share. (You're welcome!) Maybe you have enough time to make a phone call of encouragement. Maybe you have enough skill to bake a cake or sew some window treatments or mow a lawn for someone. Maybe you have enough material goods that you could donate some furniture to The Sparrow's Nest or medicine to Mercy Health Center or money to a mission trip. Maybe you have enough of all three.... Then let's ask God what we can share. How. With whom. Begin with surplus....then move to sacrifice. This please Him.


I'll just say that I think I have enough surplus of material goods that it'll take a while to get to the "sacrifice" level. How about you?