Hospitality in the Midst of Exhaustion

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gently and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Often, pieces of a writer’s life subtly ooze into his/her writing. Sometimes it is not so subtle. This post is a not-so-subtle way of saying that I am exhausted, and that when exhaustion kicks in, it is hard for me to be hospitable. Here is how I am overcoming it, and here is how you can bounce back, even when you are exhausted.

Practice Self-Care

I am sure you have heard the metaphor about the cup of water. In order to give, it is important to be filled up. If a cup is always being poured out and never filled, then eventually it will run out of water. No matter how slowly it is being emptied of its resources, it will eventually be empty if there is no water coming in. Even if the water is stagnant (which I pray it never is), the water will eventually evaporate. Likewise, if we are not being poured into, then we will be running on empty before too long. Being empty would mean that we have no more to give, and without being able to give, we cannot practice being hospitable.

In order to prevent being empty, in this way, we must take care of ourselves; we must practice self-care. Self-care is one of my favorite things to talk about, but I stink at actually putting my words into practice. However, in the midst of exhaustion, when I feel depleted of energy, I must take time to get that energy back though self-care. My friend once said, “When life gives you lemons, sometimes you need to put the lemons down and take a nap.” Those are words that I, as a lover of naps, am a fan of. With that said, sometimes, naps are a necessary means of self-care. It is my favorite form of self-care.

Some other forms of self-care are:

  • Leisurely reading a book
  • Knitting a scarf (Ok, this may not be realistic for everyone, but it is really easy to learn!)
  • Taking a walk
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Dancing (Another one of my personal favorites)
  • Meeting a friend for coffee
  • Playing a sport
  • Going on a personal retreat
  • Soaking up the sunshine (Ok, I’ll stop here. I think you get the point.)

Whatever it is that makes you full again, do that, and do it regularly.

Slow Down and Prioritize

I have said multiple times in previous blogs; you can’t do everything, and that’s okay. In those times when you are feeling like you are doing everything, step back. Write down everything that is taking up your time, and write out how much time each thing takes up. Then, when you have this list, prioritize. Number each item on the list from most important to least important, and then re-write your list, from the most important to least important. From that list, pick 1 or 2 things that you can step away from for a time or for forever.

If you are unable to step away from any of the items on your list, look at how much time you are spending on each item. Are there things you spend more time on than you would like or things you would like to spend more time doing? If so, plan to spend more or less time on one things, and plan time to spend resting.

Spend Time With Jesus

In the verse mentioned at the beginning of this blog, Jesus says he will give us the rest that we need. This kind of rest is a rest that reaches deeper than physical rest; it is spiritual rest. It is rest for our souls. It is the kind of rest that energizes you even when your body is physically tired. Have you ever felt that? I have, and a lot of the time, I feel this energy after I go on a retreat with a group of people or after working at a summer camp all summer. It is an amazing, intense energy that comes from simply spending time with Christ. I find it most when I am in worship with other people, through journaling, or through serving others. How cool is it that I, and you, can find this kind of energy while serving, while being hospitable?

Other ways of spending time with Christ include:

  • Reading and studying Scripture
  • Prayer
  • Confession
  • Fasting

If you, like me, are in a season of exhaustion, I pray you are able to find some rest and are able to practice hospitality in the midst of your tiredness.

From an open table,

Courtney

Hospitality and Evangelism: A Power Couple

Recently, one of my favorite books of the Bible has been Acts. Acts is a rich book, and I love the layers of it. Every time I read through it, I discover something new that I had not seen before, even though I took a class dedicated to closely reading the book. In reading it through the lens of hospitality, I have found that hospitality is a vital part of making disciples. In this post, we will look at the events in the book of Acts to see how evangelism and hospitality are in a beautiful and effective marriage.

Jesus Told Us to Tell (or Love) Our Neighbors

“‘But you will receive power when the Holy spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”

Acts 1:8

 

If you do not know what Jesus is trying to convey through this statement, let me clarify by comparison. Jerusalem was the home of Jesus’s death and resurrection. It was the hub of the birth of Christianity, and if we look at it with our own lens today, it would represent our family and friends with whom we already share a close relationship. Next, Judea, an area that God gave to His people, could be either our church, our hometown, or the school that we attend. Jerusalem was inside Judea, and it contained God’s chosen people. These Judeans are the people that we may not know, but we feel comfortable and safe if we encounter them.

 

The next place, Samaria, was the area even Jesus told the people not to go. Samaritans were strangers; they were the “untouchables.” In today’s world, Samaria would be the people or family that we just clash with, the ones we do not get along with and do not attempt to. Jesus, however, breaks the barrier of dislike and unfamiliarity and tells his disciples that they are not only called to tell those who could easily receive the message of salvation but that they are called to be witnesses to those who may not as easily believe in the power of the resurrection. If you are picking up what I am putting down, you can probably guess that the “ends of the earth” means the ends of the earth, the rest of the world around us.

 

Jesus calls us to be witnesses to those who we like and to those who we do not like, to our neighbors and to strangers. Why would we be witnesses to strangers, though? Wouldn’t being a witness to someone require us to love them enough to tell them about the saving power of Christ over death? Wouldn’t witnessing to others necessitate hospitality in the form of building relationships for the message to be received?

 

Jesus knew what he was saying when he instructed his disciples to go to Samaria and to the ends of the earth; it was not just a meaningless prophecy. It was Jesus speaking, after all! He was telling them that they will go out and make disciples of all the earth, not just their friends, not just their family, but those who were different than them, those who were strangers.

Christians Shared All Things in Common

“Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.”

Acts 4:32-25

This is the story of the earliest Christians. They shared all that they had, and their eyes were opened to the needs of their neighbors. The early Christians knew what hospitality meant. In sharing, they released their love for stuff and valued each other over stuff.

 

Let’s read that again. The early Christians knew what hospitality meant. In sharing, they released their love for stuff and valued each other over stuff.

 

As a Result, the Gospel Spread Like Wildfire

“Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers— multitudes of both men and women.”

Acts 5:14

 

“So the word of God spread, and the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Acts 6:7

 

Being a connectional church, the numbers of believers spread as the Gospel, the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, was shared with those around the followers of Christ. In addition to sharing the story of Christ, they also shared their material possessions. Both of these acts of selflessness were acts of hospitality, as the believers made space for the Holy Spirit to work through them and as they made space for others to enter into their lives.

 

As we see in the verses above, believers kept increasing as the existing believers practiced acts of hospitality. Evangelism, then, is in an intimate dance with hospitality throughout the beginning of the spread of Christianity. What does that mean for us now as we attempt to be the hands and feet of Christ and promote his story?

 

From an open table,

Courtney

Boundaries

As a Host at a church camp retreat center, I have learned a lot. I have learned how to love when it is hard, how to treat others with the respect they do not always show respect back, how to be gracious when I do not feel appreciated, and so many other life lessons. However, if you were to ask me over a Grande Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks the most important lesson learned from my experiences at the retreat center, I would have to say that I clumsily learned how important it is to set boundaries. After my mistakes and through a search of the Scriptures, I am going to share four important lessons about setting boundaries while being hospitable.

  1. Set boundaries right away to avoid building inappropriate and unhealthy relationships.

I know what you’re thinking, and we aren’t talking about Ministry Safe or Safe Sanctuary stuff here. We are talking about your neighbor knocking on your door in the middle of the night because boundaries weren’t set from the beginning. We are talking about the acquaintance that has decided you are their own personal counselor and calls every day to talk about his/her problems in life. Without setting clear boundaries about what is okay, what is within your realistic limits, relationships can quickly become unhealthy.

  1. Boundaries must be set to protect your well-being, your safety.

If you are a young female, like me, then you know that it is not always safe to stop and help someone who is on the side of the road. It is okay to be cautious in some situations; it is also okay to say no when your safety is at risk. This is a tricky point to cover, though, because there may be times where you are called to stop for that man at the intersection who is asking for money or food. Being able to assess your environment is integral, and if you do not feel like it is safe, it is okay to say no and pray for the person in need. Prayer can (and should) be just as powerful and effective as helping.  

  1. Without boundaries, you will feel like you are never enough.

In having a heart for hospitality, it can feel like you need to host everyone, that every stranger and every person in need must be helped. However, this way of thinking is exhausting, and it will eventually cause burnout.

  1. Jesus set boundaries.

This is the most important point, and I need to say it again. Jesus set boundaries. Jesus, who was fully divine yet fully human, had to set boundaries. Luke 5:15-16 cites that “the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sickness. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.” Jesus did not help everyone at one time when he was healing others. He could not physically heal everyone. Like Jesus, we are also called to withdraw and spend time with God and to rest.

In Mark 1, Jesus was praying by himself, and Simon came up to him. The people in the town were looking for Jesus, and Simon wanted Jesus to go back into the town. However, Jesus responded, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come” (Mark 1:38). Jesus knew when it was time to move on to the next thing. He knew that he could not linger in one town too long, even though his own disciples expected him to stay longer to minister to them.

We cannot do everything, and we cannot help everyone. We can, though, be present in every moment. We can love without inhibitions. We can pray without ceasing. We can be aware so that we can be open to opportunities for breaking down the boundaries that need to be broken down while holding onto boundaries that must be kept.

From an open table,

Courtney

On the Lawn that You Mow

Attempting Hospitality in High School

Picture this. I was a senior in high school, and I was on my way home from a dance class on a late Thursday night. As I was about to pull into the gate of the subdivision that I lived in, I saw what looked like a large trash bag in the ditch on the side of the road. Moving closer to the gate, I quickly realized that it was not a trash bag but a man laying in the ditch. I was terrified, scared, and upset. Why was this guy laying in the ditch, and why hasn’t anyone checked on him?  

Immediately, I stopped at the guard shack, and I told the security guard that there was a man laying in the ditch about fifteen feet from the guard shack. The guard told me that he could not check on him nor could he ask someone else to check on him because it was outside the gate. What?! I was furious! This man was laying in the ditch, in the grass that our subdivision pays someone to mow!

Being a seventeen-year-old girl, I knew I couldn’t go back to the man and ask him if he was okay. But. I had to do something. I called my parents as I drove to my house and told them to be outside when I got home because they needed to check on this man. They agreed, and I rushed home. I switched to the backseat as my dad quickly drove back to the entrance of our subdivision. When we got there, the man, who was actually a teenage boy had gotten up and was walking away from the gate. Because he had been laying in the ditch, my parents went to check on him. It turns out he had run away from home and was about to head back to his house. He was just tired from walking and decided to rest. After he had refused a ride from us, my dad soon became angry as well. It was a kid on the side of the road, and the guard had refused to check on him! My dad stopped by the guard shack and asked why the guard would not even check on him; he was literally on the grass that they mow. The guard had said that since the boy was outside the gate, the boy was not his problem. Even after realizing that it was a kid, the guard had no guilt because he was simply doing his job.

Needless to say, we drove home upset, upset because of the guard’s unwillingness to help, even after realizing who it was, and upset because we were not able to help the young boy.

Looking back on this incident in light of hospitality, I realized four things:

  1. Boundaries are important, and you can’t always be the superhero.

If this boy would have been a man, I could have been in trouble had I stopped on my own. Knowing when you do not have the capacity to help those in need is important. You can’t do everything. However, you can do something. If you see someone in need and cannot help but know someone who could, that is doing something, and that is enough. I used to think I could be the one to save the world. Then I realized that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Ok, so maybe this is taken a little out of context, but you and I cannot save the world even if we attempted to do everything, and it is not our job to do it. We are not called to literally be Jesus, but we are called to be members of the body of Christ. Hence, as I live out my unique and specific call, when I see a need, I need to be mindful of the limitations of my gifts and aware of others better suited to meet the need.

  1. However, boundaries can and, frankly, should be broken (in certain circumstances).

Could that guard have easily taken ten steps away from his shack for one minute to see if the boy needed help? Absolutely. Would a boundary have been crossed and a rule broken? Probably. However, if it were someone in distress, the guard would have had the necessary resources to get the person in the ditch some help.

Sometimes, it is okay to break the rules to help your neighbor, but this is a point that I do not have time to cover right now. We will go back to this topic later.

  1. Neighbors may be on the lawn that you mow.

There are neighbors all around us, literally and metaphorically. They come in the form of literal next door neighbors, classmates, co-workers, and, more often than not, people on the side of the road. They are easy to spot if you are looking for them, but they are too easy to miss if you are not aware of your surroundings or not open to seeing the needs of others.

  1. Hospitality is messy.

The results are not always going to be exactly what you had hoped. I thought we were going to be saving someone’s life that night, and I thought that the guard would have stepped in to help. However, neither of those things happened, and that is okay. In doing hospitality, you may never see the results of your openness to love your neighbor, of the tangible work that you did to help someone. When we step out in love, though, we allow for the Holy Spirit to work through us to start a work in someone else. We allow love to overflow from our hearts to the hearts of strangers, turning strangers into neighbors.

From an open table,

Courtney

Introduction Part Two

Hi, friend. Take a seat. You are welcome at this table. (Ok, so maybe this isn’t really a table, and maybe you prefer sitting on the couch. Either way, you are welcome here.) Get comfortable. Find a spot in your house where you can just sit. We are about to do an online spiritual practice, a new way of doing Lectio Divina. Are you ready?

Read the following verse, and while you are reading it, let the words soak in. Read it aloud if you need to do so.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. -1 Peter 8-10

I don’t know about you, but if this isn’t a call to hospitality, I do not know what is.

Above all, love each other deeply.

This chapter in 1 Peter is about right living, how we are supposed to rid ourselves of crazy ways of living, no longer being like pagans who are consistently pressuring us to be like them, to conform to their sinful ways. The author is telling us to stop living in sin, but he does not stop there.

Above all, love each other deeply.

Over everything that the author tells us to do, he tells us to love each other because love covers over a multitude of sins. Love is evangelism. Love beckons the sinner to sin no more. What does it mean, though, to love each other deeply? The next two sentences outline that, and this is where we can lean into our calling.

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Why would this sentence follow the charge to love each other deeply if not to define what it means to love one another?

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

So… what does this mean, then? How do we offer hospitality? It seems that if we are going in the direction as the previous sentence, then the next sentence may give us a glimpse of how we should go about doing this.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Have you ever taken a spiritual gifts test? Ya know, the one where it tells you that you have the gift of prophecy, exhortation, speaking in tongues, etc.? If you have, then you have an idea of what this is telling us to do. We are all given specific and unique spiritual gifts, and through using these gifts we can offer hospitality to one another.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Like I said in the first blog post, when I think about hospitality, I think of home cooking. However, I am not good at cooking simply because I do not have much experience in it. I cannot offer hospitality in that way, so if my view of hospitality were limited to this view, I would be lost. What if we thought of hospitality in a way that may include the “spiritual gift” of cooking for my grandma but includes my gifting of exhortation and your giftings of teaching or preaching?

What if hospitality means that you spend a few more seconds in the grocery store because you feel compelled to ask a woman how she is doing as she is searching for a fresh bunch of bananas, or what if it means that you invite a friend over for dinner one night just because you were thinking about that person? What if hospitality means making space for others and creating space for the Holy Spirit to work through you? What if hospitality simply means living out the command to:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

How will you love this week?

From an open table,

Courtney

 

Why Sacred Hospitality?

“Courtney, why are you dedicating an entire website to hospitality?”

I am glad you asked, friend, because there are so many reasons why I want to write about it.

The first reason is that I took a class called “Ethics of Hospitality” in Fall 2016. The class rocked my world and literally changed the course of my life. In this class, I learned that we are all, every one of us, called to be hospitable. In learning of that call, I was convicted. I was convicted because I could pinpoint specific times where I could have shown hospitality and failed to do so. I was convicted because I spent a lot of my life avoiding hospitality, for many reasons, ranging from fear of failure, fear of being vulnerable, and fear for my own physical safety. Finally, I was convicted because I had missed the point, and it’s a big point, friend. It’s foundational to being a faithful follower of Christ.

In addition to the class, things were happening in my life that would have never happened had I not learned about hospitality. I landed my first real nanny job as a nanny for a Muslim family. Coming from a conservative family who had just heard about the terrorist attack in Paris, my parents did not want me to take the job, but because of the class, I took the job and prayed that it would be a fruitful and safe experience. And guess what? It was! I learned so much about the Islamic culture, Egyptian food, and how to be a guest in a home. I quickly became a part of their family and was sad to leave the job to go home for the summer.

In addition, I became friends with a woman who dedicated her entire lifestyle to being hospitable. She lived in a poverty-stricken area of Lexington, KY, and she opened her home to her neighbors and friends every Saturday for a pancake breakfast. She showed me what it means to embody hospitality, how to be hospitality in the flesh.

When I moved back to Texas after being in Kentucky for a year and a half, I volunteered with Jobs for Life, a program that helps people find meaningful and sustainable jobs. Having taken what I learned about hospitality, I learned how to have be open to strangers, how to make room in my life to make those strangers friends. (Even though the program is over now, I am still friends with some of the people I mentored.)

Most recently, though, I accepted a position at a church camp’s retreat center, and my job title is “Host.” Seriously, though, how awesome is that? Now I am learning what it really means to host others, how to be intentionally hospitable from the moment they walk into the retreat center to the moment they walk out the door. Talk about full circle, huh?

In short, hospitality has been following me. Ever since the class, I have been given multiple opportunities for learning how to host and how to be hosted. And guess what? I have failed a few times, but it was okay; looking back on the times when I have opened myself up to make space for others, I have seen how much I have grown and how much my life has been enriched by both the people I have hosted and the people who have hosted me.

 

So, I invite you now. Allow me to host you. Open your heart into learning about the transformational power of Sacred Hospitality. Be my guest.

From an open table,

Courtney

Introduction Part 1

What is sacred hospitality anyway?

When you hear of “hospitality,” what words come to mind? From experience, I imagine southern hospitality, which entail the dinner parties, the pretty floral arrangements, the matching plates and place mats, and the southern comfort food. Perhaps you think of the front desk of a hotel or the hospitality team at your church. Maybe you think of hospitality as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests,” as Merriam Webster defines it, and for you, it’s a broad, intangible umbrella of things.

However, what if there was a different, new, and exciting way of thinking of sacred hospitality, a  view that comes straight from the Big Man Himself, from the heart and character of God. This blog is here to offer a new perspective on hospitality, as well as look at people and groups that have caught on to the Biblical notion of hospitality.

Hospitality is a motif that, once you start looking for it, you can find in every corner of the Bible. 

However, for introduction purposes, we will start with a Deuteronomistic text, which states that “[God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

This text gives us a clear lens through which the Israelites, God’s chosen people, viewed hospitality. They understood God’s command because the idea of being a foreigner was something that was real to them; they were once in the shoes of the exiled. As strangers, they had to seek refuge in places unfamiliar to them, accepting help from people who were much different from them. When they were no longer strangers, God called them to love the foreigners just as they were loved.

Another important aspect of this text is recognizing that God’s nature is hospitable, and His love is action. We are shown that God loves the foreigner. The participial phrase that follows defines what love, in this context, means: to give the foreigner food and clothing. It was through doing that God showed his love. He continually made a way for the foreigners throughout the Old Testament through tangible actions. The Israelites, then, are to love the foreigners by the definition given to them. They are to love by doing, by physically providing for the needs of the strangers, for God once physically provided for them.

Being hospitable, then, involves remembering our past, loving, and acting out of that love. How does this play out in the New Testament? Find out in Part 2!

From an open table,

Courtney