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You’re Welcome

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I have a friend who is always talking about God’s classroom — the place where we are chiseled and hammered for the purpose of better reflecting His love and character in our own lives.

This year He led me into the classroom of hospitality.

I had plenty of time to prepare for what was ahead. I knew our cross-country move would include a month “gap” between homes — living at the generosity and goodwill of friends as they opened their home to myself and my four children. I knew that as soon as we rejoined with my husband, we’d decided to open our own home to a family of four who was moving to serve at a new church alongside us. I knew that this was gospel-living — the sharing of resources for the benefit of the kingdom. It was ministry. Real life. Shared life. And yet, by the end of October, I was failing. When our friends had finally secured their own apartment and moved out in November, I had exited the classroom of hospitality with a glaring “F.”

During a time when I was supposed to give of myself to a family who needed to be loved during their own transition, I panicked and shutdown.

I went neurotic on house rules and drove myself crazy chasing six children with a wash cloth, yelling something about dirty hands and faces and white walls. I stewed over high electric bills and insane water usage. I analyzed their spending habits and complained to my husband about fiscal responsibility. It was the antithesis of love that festered in my soul and it was in direct contradiction to the classroom of hospitality which God had designed just for me.

Where did I go wrong? Had I defined hospitality all wrong? Was it supposed to be this hard? What does Scripture really say about biblical hospitality and just how often are we supposed to practice this? Acts 2 and 4 speak of the early Church’s willingness to share all they had with each other, but did that include personal space?

Just how much was American individualism dominating my lesson in hospitality?

Looking backwards, there are some important principles I should have pieced together before the chaos of packing our family of six commenced.

Principle #1: Embrace the opportunity to give as tightly as I embrace the gifts I am given.

Dear friends, you are showing faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers, especially when strangers…Therefore, we ought to support such men so that we can be coworkers with the truth.” (3 John 5-8)

My husband is a pastor and I am his partner in ministry. We are the recipients of hospitality and care on a regular basis. When the opportunity arises for us to care for another pastor or kingdom-minded person or family, I should prayerfully consider how I can do this. This may or may not include what someone asks of me, but rather is focused on how God leads. For example, based upon the second principle below, I might have chosen different timing or even a different season to invest in this family whom I believe in so much. The investment in others is a no-brainer. It’s a principle I desire to live by. But I must still approach the opportunity in prayer.

Principle #2: Just because God is leading doesn’t always mean He’s saying “now.” His pace and stride vary from my own. I am inclined to sprint ahead while He’s still writing out directions or vice versa.

There is an occasion for everything.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

This move caught me pregnant with our fifth child, enrolled full-time in school as I finish my senior year in Biblical Studies, and homeschooling three of our children. I had an adopted child who was about to be uprooted from the only home she’s known since joining our family and that transition was going to rock her world and her behavior. It was a season where I needed to pour into my children first, making sure their spirits were secured in the transition. I neglected that need and the physical, and emotional turmoil, exhibited by them would require another article on parenting! Our month of “homelessness” apart from their dad was more than they were anticipating.

Another shock to their system came when, a week after moving into our new home, others moved in. Their lives (and mine) had been upside down for four months in anticipation of moving and there wasn’t an establishment of a “new normal.” Timing was everything. If I could do it again, I would have advocated for their needs and pushed off the blending of families for a couple months so that “normalcy” could be defined once again.

Principle #3: Communication is necessary when welcoming another into one’s home.

If I speak but don’t have love…I am a sounding gong or clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

For whatever reason, the wife of the new associate pastor and I kept up great communication until the month it mattered most. We were both overwhelmed by our husbands’ career changes. She handled her stress by shutting down; I handled mine with overbearing emails. I was worried about my school schedule and homework time. I was nervous about bedtimes and grocery budgets. If it could be worried over, I worried it. If it could be ignored, she stayed silent. What we successfully accomplished was nothing. After they moved in, small talk was easier and made life enjoyable, but the bigger matters such as house rules or children’s schedules created tension in both our families. Clearly communicating prior to their moving-in would have helped.

Principle #4: Generosity is more than action — it’s a heart condition.

Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:8-10)

It’s one thing to make copies of a house key, it’s another to make someone feel welcome. Athletes train and condition through repeated practice and a mindset that stands back up when they fall. Some mornings, my heart was full of joy and peace and my attitude was Spirit-led. Other mornings, when six pairs of little feet hit the stairs and patience waned, my silence spoke loudly of my frustration and impatience. Do I love my friends and partners in ministry? Immensely. But fortunately for me, it is their love that will cover the multitude of sin uncovered in my attitude during their time with us.

So what’s next? I failed in more areas than I succeeded. I made the house key and then struggled to make my house feel like their home. Do I strike the gift of hospitality from my list?

The week our friends moved into their own place was the week before Thanksgiving. I was cleaning fingerprints off windows and urine off toilets when I realized I wanted to do it again. So I called our friends with four kids (instead of two) and asked if they wanted to make a road trip for the holidays. Eight pairs of feet danced a wake-up call each morning at 6 a.m. Streaks of turkey grease decorated the new mirror in the foyer. Popcorn adorned my floors instead of the tree. But I had the best holiday ever. I could tell that His work on me hadn’t totally been lost. Some of that selfish desire for quiet had been chiseled away and I genuinely enjoyed their presence.

For some, hospitality is a natural extension of personality. For others, it is a skill that must be practiced and refined. Yet we are all asked to love each other through the act of “making welcome.” Hospitality is a universal classroom — one that should be sought rather than averted.

The blending of two families into one house is definitely a more challenging assignment in hospitality, so perhaps I wouldn’t start there. Maybe you can start with a community meal or a free night of childcare in your home for a couple who needs a date. Something small, something simple, something loving — the classroom of hospitality can reflect Jesus into the lives of others.

Hospitality. It’s the language of “You Are Welcome” laced with such genuine love as the need be thanked is eradicated from our souls. We welcome, we host, and we open our homes for the glory of God and in gratitude for this beautiful classroom called life.

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Marian Green resides with her husband and four children. She is an adoptive mom, a pastor's wife, and (once again) a student. She is currently working on a non-fiction project for "bad girls" -- helping women who have lived lives of promiscuity to redefine marital intimacy. In between it all she takes a deep breath and realizes, none of this was what she had planned in life ... and she loves it. Marian blogs at Uprooted and Undone.

2 Comments
  • capepamela

    I especially love the lessons of Luke 14, from the parable of the banquet. Who we choose to extend our hospitality to is very telling. Do we only share our homes with those who we are already comfortable around, or do we use hospitality as a way of bridging the gaps of income, profession, race, and social standing? I was reminded of these lessons recently in a sermon, and was convicted to examine my heart and purposefully extend invitations of hospitality to several persons in our community.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience! My husband likes to have friends over a lot as we do things around the house or just to hang out. This is fine with me – but sometimes I find myself totally ignoring the guests in the house to go about my own business and I realize my hospitality can get pretty darn weak. I enjoyed what you wrote about failing miserably and learning in spite of it.

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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You’re Welcome

by Marian Green time to read: 6 min
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