My parents set an extra plate at our long family table so often that it became almost as common as eating by ourselves.
‘Ourselves’ included ten children seated around a massive table with dad and mom at the end. Feeding an extra person or two made no difference because the pans of food were so large that there were always leftovers, anyway.
Only years later did I realize what a gift my parents were to others. Back then, I didn’t understand why large pots of homemade soup was considered kings food. We were plain and simple—but we had what all humans long for–family, belonging, and a space for one more (or five more).
In later years as a married woman with a large house, I loved hosting. Cleaning, decorating, and cooking delicious food for large crowds was my favorite thing to do—and as a single mom, I’m still passionate about hospitality. But, I’ve had to find creative ways to love others because my schedule is crowded and time/energy is less.
Life looks different at different times, but love always looks the same.
I’d love to inspire all of us toward a hosting life-style with these six do-able options.
1. Every morning, ask God to bring people across your path.
The most ordinary days can be charged with extra-ordinary influence when you’re not only willing to be used by God—you’re begging God to send you. Keep your eyes and heart peeled.
Ask God for creative ideas. Some carry a “God pocket” of cash in their wallets and see grateful tears as someone’s prayer was answered by their God-appointed gift. The Spirit of God wants to lead, speak, and walk us toward people everywhere. Stay tuned to your waitress, cashier, or co-worker. What does God want to do for someone, today, through you, that would not be done otherwise, without you?
2. Use your phone.
I know we all talk about phone addictions, but what about phone community? Next time someone pops into your mind over and over, stop your day for a few minutes to send a text. If time allows, make a call. Do you know how many people in this world need to know someone’s checking in?
Texting someone takes about thirty seconds and can change the course of their entire day. You don’t even need to write a hand written note like the one I keep in my Bible. 🙃
3. Use your couch.
Your couch is for more than TV. Mostly, your couch is for spending time with those you love. Not just immediate family, but friends and people you meet.
I remember meeting a family on the beach and inviting them into my home. Ten years later, they are still some of my very best friends. Through the years, we’ve done holidays, walks on the beach, talks in our homes, meals and coffee together. If I had given in to the thought of “It’s too weird to invite people into my home that I’ve just met”, I would have missed out on a LOT.
4. Join a church that has inner-city or homeless ministries going on.
A church body is for more than sitting in tidy rows singing and listening to theology. Your building is not the church—YOU are the church!!
Go downtown and have Bible studies with kids in low income housing, chat with the moms, join in on homeless ministries. When you do join in, do more than ladle food onto plates; actually sit and talk, relaxed and comfortable, with fellow humans who need to be treated with dignity and respect. Remember to love, speak, and join rather than distance yourself and preach. Preaching is good in it’s time and place, but always be mindful that those in need are consciously aware of their need, and want to feel like you are sitting with them more than preaching at them. In that space, God will fill you with words, prayers, and tangible love.
Our homeless ministry taught me a lot. As a woman, I thought I’d feel uneasy around homeless men but each Friday night I am so full of peace and I genuinely enjoy interacting with people I would otherwise pass by at stoplights on a busy work day.
Remember that every man or woman on the streets is some mother’s son or daughter. And when a mother can’t help her grown child, perhaps Jesus wants you to help him.
There are few prayers so deep as that of a mother asking God to rescue her child from the streets. The beds we make, food we serve, and talks we share over dinner have little to do with chicken and blankets, but everything to do with love, community, and sowing seeds of hope.
I can sow hope into the man who wants to help me carry out trash when I’m struggling not to drop an over sized load. I can walk with him, talk with him, and let him feel like a genuine help, because he was. I want him to remember what it feels like to help and feel good about himself. This is done by one simple act of accepting his help and treating him as I would any other man.
We are not saviors—we are servants pointing a better way toward a Savior.
5. Invite people into your home.
It’s okay if the bathrooms didn’t get cleaned and the food is simple. Live with an open door policy where neighbors feel comfortable knocking on your door for that one ingredient they don’t have and don’t want to run to the grocery store for. Start by asking your neighbor for something when you need it so she knows she can do the same.
Invite your friend over for a walk in your neighborhood or a talk on your porch. Purposefully create spaces for hospitality, and purposefully invite people into those spaces.
6. Stop at Church.
It’s easy to say “I don’t like small talk”, and quickly run out the door after church. How about changing that by scanning the room and noticing a new, uncomfortable person who needs to feel welcome?
People often choose to return to churches based on how welcome and included they feel. One of my very best friends is one whom I reached out to when I noticed she was new. She told me later, “I came back partly because of you.” To this day, even though we now live on opposite coasts, we feel like blood sisters and love each other deeply. For years, she has been one of the best gifts of my life.
Jesus stopped to speak to the woman at the well, and it led to an entire town hearing the gospel. (John 4:1-42)
Paul and his helpers stopped to speak to the women at the river, and it led to Lydia’s entire household being saved. Later, she begged them to enter her home if they thought her worthy. Lydia knew that hosting was an honor. (Acts 16:13-15)
Paul tells Timothy to treat the younger women as sisters and the older women as mothers. He didn’t say ignore them or by-pass them. Timothy was to be a brother to girls his age and a son to mothers in the church.
Jesus loves people. He is passionate to reach those He created in His image, and He wants to use you and I to do His work. What does He have lined up for someone that may not happen unless we open our eyes?
For the cause of love,