Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Art Of Hospitality

This weekend begins the first incarnation of the Art Of Hospitality class at Faith. And I'm crazy nervous about leading it, but so fired up that I can hardly wait. I can't wait to share all that God has put on my heart with an amazing group of lovely women, all who bring joy to my heart in one way or another.

I first learned of the Art Of Hospitality class when a friend of mine taught it at my old church. She asked me to guest-teach one of the cooking sessions, and a few months later I was leading the class with her, and eventually took it over from her when he schedule got so busy she couldn't do it again. She had developed a curriculum that touched on the subject, but never really got in depth about it spiritually.

Since that time my understanding of the true nature of hospitality has grown exponentially. This isn't the same old lesson plan I taught years ago, about setting a nice table, and preparing a nice meal, and having some nice people over, with a few scripture references thrown in for good measure. Hospitality, I've learned in the time since, is a dirty deed, but somebody's gotta do it. And that somebody is the Bride of Christ.

You see, our culture, both secular and contemporary Christian, tries to tell us that hospitality is the same thing as entertaining, and that they are for all intents and purposes interchangable. This paints a picture of lacy tablecloths, and folded napkins, having your friends over for dinner and making sure the guest room has fresh sheets. Which maybe on some level hospitality includes. But when I say that hospitality is a dirty deed, it's because what it truly means is making ourselves vulnerable as we minister to, and care for, the physical needs of others. Others who may be on the fringes of society, undervalued, marginal, and lost. And yet, isn't that what we all have been spiritually, at one time? Sinners, fallen and forsaken, lost and alone. Yet taken in, and accepted into God's heavenly family.

For nine years now, I've been alone in a strange city - say what you want, coming from the warmth of a Latin-infused culture, the frigidity of the midwestern/Swedish experience can be really be intimidating at times. I've learned through both personal experience during that time, and through research as my passion on this subject grew, that true hospitality is the opening, not just of our homes, but of our lives, to others, and in an encompassing, nonjudgemental and generous way. This includes not just having them over for dinner, but having them become part of our lives, baggage and all.

As I've lived here, without family of my own, I've made friends, all of which I'm grateful for. But one couple in particular stands out in my heart and in my life, as being truly accepting, generous of heart, spirit and home, and have embodied the true spiritual nature of hospitality to me. They have truly become family to me - The J's. They've taken me in when I've had nowhere to stay. They've put up with the fact that I leave books and shoes and clothes everywhere, I come in late and I sleep in later. Yet they've given me a warm bed to sleep in, a hot meal, and a long hug, at the times I've needed it most. Some of the most meaningful, loving, and comforting moments of my past few years have been sitting with PJ, in her breakfast nook, just chatting about what God is doing over a cup of her delicious coffee. She and her husband have welcomed me, like my Father has welcomed me, into their family, and into their lives and have shared with me what they have. And in that, they have painted a warm, candlelight-glow-picture of spiritual hospitality and of my Father's heart. They've brought to life a concept that goes beyond entertaining, and includes so, so much more. That includes love.

As I get ready to teach this class again, I want to impart this message to the people who would honor me by showing up on a Saturday morning: That hospitality isn't about making the best or fanciest dishes. It isn't about knowing which fork is the salad fork, and where to put it when setting a table. It's not about just opening up your home on a Sunday afternoon. It's about opening up our lives to those who need their dignity and worth recognized, and who could use reassurance, love, respect and some physical, creature comforts. If there is anything I hope God graces me with being able to share, it's that.

And if we happen to make some killer Beer Cheese soup, or a phenomenal example of Beef Wellington in the meantime, all that much more fun. But this aspect of hospitality, making delicious food or making things pretty, I believe ministers to us. Sharing those dishes with others and experiences with others, is what we are truly called to and is what ministers to a lost, and hurting world in need. So, though it may not be much, this is my small gift, and I hope that when faced with someone who too is alone, lonely, hungry, cold or hurting, I can answer with a prompt and heartfelt "Here am I, send me". And then I want to send them home with some homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. Cuz true hospitality, the kind that the J's showed me, that our heavenly Father has shown us every day, is like Martha Stewart says "a good thing".

1 comment:

Andrea Krekel said...

Hey there,

Oh my word you've hit the nail on its head. I've been calling it community, but I think hospitality is a way better word for what it all encompasses.

I am that new girl in town and seeing one person take me in makes me want to pass on that gift!

Awesome post and I would love to be there when you present this. Sadly Milwaukee is not as near to Minneapolis and I once thought! :)

Thanks friend for sharing,
Andrea Krekel :)