Monday, May 28, 2012

Hospitality and Sardines!

In the previous post I laid the foundation of the Biblical emphasis of hospitality and it's incredible value in the Kingdom of God. In this post and a few future posts, I will give you some examples from my own life, and from the lives of those around me, as they use the power of hospitality to bring people into relationship.

Have you ever considered that playing games together can cause people to feel welcomed into your life and family?

 On what was my first of many visits to the home of Tony and Felicity Dale, I had hardly arrived before I was told we were playing the game "Sardines" with some of their family members who had come over for the evening.  Okay, I thought, I was up for games, but I didn't know at the time what kind of game Sardines was. A nice quite board game, or perhaps cards?  Not quite. An adult version of hide and seek - Dale style!

Tony and Felicity live in a very large, rambling old Texas home that was once a brothel.  It has rooms inside of rooms and all sorts of small closets, hidden passages, and wonderful crawl spaces.  It's a child's dream house of exploration and adventures!  This home also becomes very dark once the lights are all turned off.  In the game of Sardines, all of the lights are turned off, and everyone scrambles to find a hiding place.  The "finder" then makes their way through the house trying to find each person who is hiding - all in the dark.  The last person found wins the game.  Now, you may be thinking - that's not so hard! Remember,  I had never been in their home before, and within an hour of arriving, expected to find a place to hide in the dark - in this massive sprawling home!  Let me tell you, that was a bit intimidating! However, it also sounded like a challenge, and I like challenges. To my surprise I began to feel the excitement building to play this childhood game, in a new adult style! Game on!
 I wandered along in the dark, feeling my way into what I thought was a closet, hunkered down under some blankets, and waited.  I had no idea where I was in the house, but I figured they wouldn't lose me!  I eventually was found (next to the last by-the-way), and joined the others waiting for the winner to be found (who had crawled into a bookcase!)   I had a blast! It was the most fun I'd had in years, and through it, I felt like the door had been opened wide for me to be welcomed into this family as we played like children together.  It was a powerful demonstration that playing with one another, as we did when we were young, was incredibly inclusive and relationship building.  It was also a way to say, no area of my home is off limits to you as my welcomed guest! Super hospitality!

Scattergories is a board game that our family loves to play, and if your around our home for any amount of time you'll be invited to play along with us. Plenty of other board games, card games and such outdoor stuff like Volleyball, Badminton, water balloon fights, camping trips, spontaneous picnics, are all ways that we have shown those invited over to our home our hospitality, and the message of inclusion into our lives.  We want to play with you!

When I had a number of speakers come to a conference I hosted here a couple years ago called Living The Mission, I had rented a couple squash courts to use at a local fitness center where we had fun playing each other in the game.  It didn't matter that most of us sucked at the game, it was part of the fun laughing at each other trying to return a serve! Afterwards, we all came back to my home for barbecue and relaxation before the evening meetings at the conference began. 

There is a special bonding that happens when you play together.  When you have fun, laugh, tease, win and lose together.  It communicates some of the aspects of being a family.  It serves someone by opening the door to more "exclusive" family activities, and communicates their belonging in powerful ways.  It's hospitality.

We have invited neighbors, and those we are sharing Christ with, to the Driver Family Cabin which Tom's parents own about an hour from Minneapolis for a weekend of relaxation, boating, fishing, and swimming.  We serve them with all they need for a nice weekend, and we have seen the power of this hospitality open their hearts towards us and the realities of Jesus. 

Jesus himself shows us the value of playing together when He did His first miracle by turning the water into wine at the wedding of a friend.  He became the "host of the host", as he served the event with great wine so they could continue in their fun and celebration!  One of my favorite "Jesus movies" is the one done word for word, through the book of Matthew called, "The Visual Bible: Matthew (1993)".  In this version, Jesus laughs, wrestles, teases and plays with those around Him. It is powerful and great reminder of the joyful and fun Jesus, who enjoys life and sharing it with people!

So I challenge you to find your own version of Sardines, or whatever is your own way of playing together, and invite some of your neighbors, co-workers, and those the Lord is prompting you to build relationship with, over to do it with you!  You may find that in sharing your home and playing together, that it will open their heart to you in ways you never fathomed.

Do you have any stories of playing together in hospitality that you can share? 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Importance of Hospitality in Simple Church - Part 1

I can't emphasize enough the importance of hospitality as an element of simple church life.  If you have come from traditional church paradigms, your used to thinking of "the gift of hospitality" as referring to those women who laid out the coffee and donuts after a service, or put together a meal after a funeral.  Possibly, your experience might have included "home groups" that met for fellowship and possibly a Bible study where the host/hostess provided some snacks and drinks using her "gift of hospitality" on you.  That is NOT what I'm talking about!  That's a western, and completely water-downed version of what Biblical hospitality really is.  The Scriptures are clear that hospitality is far more than what we usually think it is, and it's not just the gift of a few women.  In fact, it has as much to do with men as with women - but that's another blog post for the future......

The real practice of hospitality makes people feel they belong. It makes people feel special, important, and and warmly welcomed into your life - not just your home!
 It's receiving strangers like they are family, and communicating through your words and actions that they are well worth your time and effort.

One time, on one of my trips to Brazil,  we stopped at a house to inquire if anyone wanted prayer in that home.  The residents were unfamiliar to us, but warmly welcomed us inside and quickly found us some chairs from a back room to sit upon. I gazed around at the simple surroundings.  This household was poor, and they had little beyond the very basics of life.  I expected them to tell us what we could pray and minister to them in, but that didn't seem to be their priority.  Instead, they were going to minister to us! Soon we had drinks in our hand, and we were informed that we were to stay for a meal. Meal?  Well, okay.   I thought the meal would be some leftovers that would be warmed up and served to us within a short time.  In fact, the host sent his older children to go a purchase some food and more drinks, and then proceeded to entertain us while his wife cooked us a full meal from scratch!  We spent an entire afternoon in the home, being treated like passing royalty, probably consuming the family's food budget for the month, with the meal they provided for us! 

I experienced the Biblical practice of hospitality that day, and it was more powerful than any sermon or teaching I'd had in years!  I felt loved, honored, valued, welcomed, and a part of their family.  Wow!  If we could get this practice operating and maturing in the Body of Christ - we would be powerful in communicating Christ to each other and the world.

In our western culture we have lost most of the centrality of hospitality to normal life. We have minimized it into cookies and coffee. In the Middle East, and certainly during the times of the Old and New Testament, hospitality was a central cultural norm of behavior and it was frequently illustrated and exhorted. For something to be talked about as much as it is in the Bible, it must be very important, powerful and a practice that we should be paying attention to.

 Let's look at a few Scriptural examples where love and hospitality are placed together:

  • "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,  contributing to the needs of the saints,  practicing hospitality. Romans 12: 10-13 (NASB)

  • " Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Peter 4:8-10 (NASB)
  • "Let brotherly love continue. Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it."  Hebrews 13:1-2 (NASB)

  Paul cites exercising hospitality as an important quality and practice for an elder in the church -

  • "an overseer/elder must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to much wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable...." 1 Titus 1:7-8 (NASB)

  In the Old Testament God firmly establishes the importance of hospitality with many examples, here are just a couple:
  • Abraham welcoming the visiting strangers with a wonderful dinner
  • The Shunamite woman giving Elisha his own room and provided for him out of her poverty
  •  Lot offering hospitality to the visiting angels sent to Sodom 
  • Jethro towards Moses 
Hospitality was regarded by most nations of the ancient world as one of the chief virtues. The relationship between host and guest was sacred. (BTW -This is still true today in most Middle Eastern, South American, Native American and Asian cultures.) Our western emphasis on individuality and independence has drastically diminished our understanding and practice of this great and powerful aspect of life together.

When Jesus will demonstrate His hospitality in heaven one day, we will get the royal treatment and a full realization of the importance and powerful blessing of hospitality.  A 'welcome home' banquet hosted by The Son and The Father Themselves, giving us their hospitality in the true way it was designed  Why?  Simply because He loves us.  He wants to show us our value and worth to Him on that day.  Can you imagine it?  We will actually be served by the King Himself - our Host!  I don't know about you, but that simply blows my mind! 

In the meantime, maybe we should be exercising and finding opportunities to grow in this wonderful expression of powerful communication.

In the next blog post, I'll give some ideas and examples of hospitality practiced within the Body of Christ, and with those who don't know Jesus yet just to spur you on "towards love and good deeds"!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Missional vs Tradtional

Recently, Tom and I were walking through a community that we had visited many times early in our marriage. We even lived in this community for a summer over 24 years ago.  I had not been back since 1990, and Tom neither, but for a few days last January.  I was surprised at those things which remained the same over the years, and yet seeing that these years had also brought about many changes. One of which was that there were no more outhouses behind each house!  Plumbing and sewers had finally eliminated their necessity.

 The wind was blowing the dust of the street into our faces and the clouds were threatening rain. It was cold for May, even this far north. We had the endless series of dogs guarding their section of the street, running up to our heels sniffing to determine if we were friend or foe, and also the occasional "Hey Tom" or "Katie!" from some window or doorway, causing us to wave back and take a few minutes for a visit as we'd make our way over to their home.  We walked into many homes during our long weekend there.

Our purpose in our walk was not to check out the new changes, but rather to make ourselves available to people and God for encounters that would hopefully lead to prayer, encouragement, affirmation, healing, counsel, correction and sweet fellowship between old and new friends.  We had wonderful visits!  We saw the Spirit of God among us working to strengthen those who belong to Him, and gently "woo" those who had not yet joined the family of God. We saw Him heal wounds and encourage hearts. We saw Him draw people to Himself. We spent most of our days like this - seeking out opportunities, listening and watching for what God wanted to do.

God is a seeking God - and is always at work (Jesus words), so those of us who follow Him must be doing the same.  That is being missional.  It's not anything else - and trendy as the word may be these days, it is simply getting OUT THERE and letting God use you to touch people with His Presence.

That's missional, simple and organic.

In the home we stayed in, there was another visitor. This man had also been invited up by our hosts as they were exploring what simple, organic and missional life and fellowship looks like, and had invited us up to share on it.  They wanted this man's input about what we were sharing.  He was familiar with the community, having come up previously a number of times to do the classic "outreach meetings".  These are meetings with the usual mission protocol -i.e. billed with a speaker who is known for: healing, teaching, signs and wonders, deliverance, etc. etc.  The message is "come and encounter Jesus at this meeting!" (Now, I'm not saying these mission venues are wrong or bad.  I have done them, and will likely will do these style meetings again at some point if that is what God directs.)  My point is not to trash these venues - but rather challenge the paradigm a bit.  

The paradigm of sitting in one place waiting for people to come to you.

This man sat in the house for 5 days, with the exception of a of couple long fishing trips, mostly talking with the couple who were hosting, their kids, Tom and I, and a couple of people who came by one day for a barbecue.  His paradigm was, "I'm here, come to me".  Few did.
In contrast, Tom and I had the paradigm of, "We're here, and we're coming to you!".

Traditional verses missional.

Now, please hear my heart.  I'm not trying to trash this man, his ministry in serving God for many years, nor any fruit that may have come from it.  But the contrast of his sitting in the house day after day waiting for some opportunity to come to him, and Tom and I walking out of the house many times during a given day to go and SEEK those opportunities is the point of this blog post today.

So much is being said about "missional" these days which is convoluting the real meaning.  Let's get it straight - missional means "get out there!"

See what God is doing and join Him in His mission "to reach those who are lost", bringing the Presence of "Christ who lives in you to will and work according to His good pleasure", and to "strengthen those who are struggling".

That's simple, it's organic and completly missional.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Last Plug on Coaching

Most people have heard of Michael Jordan.  Even if they know nothing about the game of basketball, it is likely that they would know that he was one of the best players to ever play the sport. Was it just his natural ability that propelled him into this position? Did he innately have everything he needed to become one of the world's best athletes, or did he achieve his his potential partly because of something else?

 Basketball experts have said that Michael Jordan, as naturally talented and gifted as he was, didn't reach his potential until he was coached by Phil Jackson.

What was it about coaching that did this? 

  • Coaching helps people focus on what they are uniquely designed to be. 
  • Coaches are helpful change experts who push you to think, act and become what God has already put within you. 
  • Coaching affirms our maturing and discovery process.
  • Coaching affirms failures as great learning moments. 
  • Coaching is listening and asking good questions.                                                   
Can these things happen outside of an "official" coaching relationship?  Absolutely, and it does every day! In bits and pieces throughout our lives, we hopefully have people and experiences that resemble the above list.  This is not some new phenomena, or limited to those of us coaching as a profession and ministry. Some aspects of what I listed happen frequently in many different contexts of fellowship and our relationships.

 The difference is that the coaching I'm talking about is intentional and skilled

It doesn't just happen here and there, at random, or on occasion. It is the purpose of the relationship.  Just like Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson - they were partners with a specific purpose, and that was to see just how good Michael could become at the game of basketball.

A good coach's gifts and abilities are both given AND honed. Coaching is a skill that is developed and improved with use and time.  It's more than the gift of encouragement.  In fact, I think many times that we need challenge more than encouragement.  Change often doesn't feel so good, but necessary for growth. 

My husband is my greatest encourager, who loves and supports me in multiple ways - but he is not so good at asking me questions that provoke my thinking.  Although I'm sure there are things he would like to change about me or challenge me on - he really doesn't. He is awesome, and he is a wonderful encourager - but he is not a coach.

My friend and coach John White, is great at challenging my thinking and drawing things out of me with great questions - but I'm not always "feeling the love"of encouragment in our difficult conversations.

 One is not a coach, but a great encourager.  The other a great coach, but not always encouraging.

I need both.

 I'm grateful for both of these men in my life, using their gifts, skills and abilities to help me grow and mature in Christ.  Encourager and coach.  If you'd like to try coaching with me, you can begin that journey here  After this post, I'm back to writing about all things simple, organic and missional, and maybe a few other interesting topics on this wonderful journey in Christ.

"Build up, build up, remove every obstacle out of the way of my people," Isaiah 57:14