Practicing Hospitality

Hebrews 13:2  – “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Romans 12:13 – “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.”

For me, one of the key components of hospitality is honour:  Honour is shown in the obvious things such as the way you speak with someone; but it is shown through the subtle things – and because they are subtle, they are probably far more numerous and carry a greater impact on the overall effect on the guest’s perception of your hospitality.

Hospitality is much more than making a guest bed and letting someone in; it’s an attitude that makes someone feel sincerely welcomed into your home and your life; it’s an ease of speaking with a stranger as if they were a friend.  Your home doesn’t have to be perfectly neat and clean – but it does have to be inviting.

 Guest CardHere are a few practical examples of showing honour to an overnight guest (though some of these apply to people invited into our home for dinner or other occasion just as much):

1) Make the guest bed – make it comfortable, and depending on the season I put out an extra blanket in case they need it.

2) Make sure the guest room is clean; I tend toward the “mis en place” principle in my home, and that applies here especially:  It means “everything in its place.”

3) I put a welcome basket* somewhere prominent in the room; in the basket I include sweet and savoury snacks, and a note card (see images – feel free to copy and save, to use yourself!).  Snacks might be something like an apple, a small bag of mixed nuts, a bar of Swiss chocolate, individually wrapped things like amaretto pralines, etc. [*a “basket” can be a plastic box lined with a piece of tissue paper (I have a supply of shredded paper on hand that I fill it with), or a wicker basket, or even an origami basket (patterns can be found online – find one that is large enough for your needs) – Be creative!]  If your guests are missionaries, consider putting a monetary gift in the basket as well.

4) I set out a set of towels either on their bed, or hang them in the guest bathroom, and let them know which are theirs to use.

5) When they arrive, I show them to their room, and then take them on a tour of the house; this gives them orientation, Guest Card 3and lets them know that they are free to go anywhere I’ve taken them.  That tour includes a detailed tour of the kitchen – I show them where the glasses, etc. are so that they can help themselves to a drink whenever they would like to.  I show them how to use the coffee machine.  Then I let them get settled in, and emerge from their room when they’re ready to.

6) Give them space.  We have guests ranging from friends who’ve travelled to Switzerland explicitly to see us and spend time with us, to strangers who are part of a conference team teaching at seminars all day and ready to crash when they come back.  Let them know (communication is key to making someone feel comfortable) that they are free to set the pace – that you don’t expect them to entertain you with their ministry tales until 1 a.m.!  It may sound funny, but I was in a travelling street theatre troupe for a year, and some hosts would keep us up chatting until literally 1 or 2 in the morning, knowing full well we had to be up at 5 a.m. to start the next day… At the same time, when they return I will ask if they would like something to drink, or if they’d like a light snack before heading toward bed.  They might be hungry but too embarrassed to ask, so an invitation lets them know that it’s okay to ask for something.

Part of giving them space is dependent on how long they will be with you; we’ve had guests ranging from 1 night to 7 months.  Obviously, some ground rules needed to be laid for the longer living arrangement; and there are things with which I have to exercise patience and grace with an overnight guest or weekend guest that I would not leave un-addressed with someone staying longer.  Every household runs differently, some more efficiently than others!

I’ve also learned to go into their room while they are away and air it out if they haven’t thought of it, but otherwise the room is theirs for the duration, and I leave it as-is (unless I happen to see something permanently damaging, e.g. a wet towel on my wooden bed frame!  Then it is moved to a better place, and I let them know I simply moved it and why – in a gracious tone, of course!)

7) Pay attention to little details when preparing your home for guests; and I do mean little details:  Is there hair in the sink? Clean it.  Is there enough loo roll (toilet paper) in the bathroom?  Is there cat hair on the chair in the guest room?  Roll it.  Those little details go a long way making the difference between making someone feel like they are an intrusion or they are welcome.

My husband and I have the privilege of exercising the gift of hospitality; even though I’m the one who usually ends up making the beds, cleaning, preparing dinner and making sure everything is ready, it takes both of us to create an inviting atmosphere that makes a guest feel welcomed in our home.  When my husband is able (from his work schedule) to be involved, he is elbow-deep in it!  But it takes both of us to cultivate an atmosphere of peace and rest and refreshment, and that’s what hospitality is all about – that your guests leave more refreshed than when they came!


Reaching for your Dreams (aka, Working for Success)

Are there dreams or visions for your life that you’ve not yet fulfilled, or let slip away in the business of day-to-day life?  Remember that our life goals are made of daily decisions:  If your goal is to walk across a continent, then get out there and start walking a bit more each day… eventually you’ll reach that goal.  If your goal is to write a book, then set yourself reachable daily goals that will help you reach that final destination:  Learning about grammar, plot, structure, character development (even if it’s a non-fiction book, these are all necessary) and how to research.

Recently a woman asked me how I wrote books; what she really wanted to know was how to be published without working for it – she didn’t want to make the effort to learn grammar, sentence structure, plot or anything else – she’d “leave that to the editor”.  I burst her bubble – editors are the writers of today:  If you don’t do it, don’t expect anyone else to do it for you (unless you’re prepared to pay them a shiny penny for their effort)… So get out there, reach for your dreams, roll up your sleeves and be prepared to work; as the saying goes, success is often passed over because it comes dressed in work clothes.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” ~ Chinese Proverb