Straight from a Hospitable Heart
By Lisa Elliott

I was raised in a house with a revolving door. By that I mean it was hard to keep track of all the comings and goings from day to day. There was rarely a day that went by when I wouldn’t come home from school to find a friend, neighbour, or virtual stranger sitting at our kitchen table—often pouring out their heart while my mom poured out another cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea into their mug.

When I was growing up, one of the houses we moved into came with a couple of senior ladies as borders. When they passed on, we took in a couple of teenage girls from Newfoundland. And another time a young man from Mexico. At one point we took in a foster child. Eventually we became a host family for guardians of spinal patients traveling from around the world. In the meantime, my mom also did home daycare—caring for fifteen children at a time.

We opened our home up for family gatherings, Bible studies, birthday parties and community events. Our home even provided a unique school trip opportunity for the classes of my brother, sister and me during our public school years. Upwards to twenty-five children per class would make the trek from the public school to our home down the street to take turns on our player piano. My mom would welcome the entourage with cookies and Kool-Aid as each student took his/her turn.

I guess it was inevitable that when I became a pastor’s wife, with my own household to care for, its first installment was a virtual revolving door like the one I grew up with.

Through the years we’ve hosted many of the same kind of people, events, and gatherings as the home I grew up in. One home we lived in was located in a newly built neighbourhood. Rather than waiting to happen upon my new neighbours, I gathered the bus-stop moms together in my home for a Tupperware Party. In another move we made I became involved with my kids’ school and befriended some of the teachers and staff. I invited them for a Party Lite party, praying that the Light of the world would make His presence known as we enjoyed each other’s company. People have given their hearts to the Lord right in my living room!

And speaking of revolving doors, our churches also have them. Unfortunately, if we’re not careful, people can get lost in the rotation. As the perpetual “newbie”, having made five ministry moves, I know what it’s like to be the newcomer, the outsider, the wall flower. Waiting for someone—anyone—to come by and simply say “hello” or extend a hand of welcome or give an invitation or take initiative. For this reason, my husband and I have a heightened awareness of the newcomer. As a result, in every church we’ve pastored, we’ve initiated a Newcomers group. A small group (no larger than 12 at a time) of people who are all new to the church. Often we’ve hosted these groups in our home to give it a more personal touch. It’s always so encouraging to see this group of strangers become friends over a few weeks of meeting together.

Hospitality is biblical. Look up the stories of Abraham, Elijah, Elisha, Joshua, Ruth and many more. The early church met in homes and broke bread together. So why don’t we do more of it? I believe one reason is because we put too much pressure on ourselves to have our homes all together before we can entertain the thought of entertaining others. And that’s part of our problem. We confuse entertainment with hospitality. Entertainment requires thought and planning—Hospitality can be impromptu. Entertainment’s focus is on presentation—Hospitality is focused on people. I’ve personally taken on the motto, “If you’re coming to see my house, come again another time. If you’re coming to see me, come on in!”

Perhaps that’s what Martha should have kept in mind when she invited Jesus into her home (Luke 10:38-42). Instead, she was so busy and bothered with all the distractions that she missed out on the one thing that was important—her guest—Jesus! Somehow in all the muss and fuss, she’d forgotten that Jesus had come to see her and not her house! He just wanted to spend time with a few good friends. He had no other expectation other than wanting a place of personal refreshment, rest, encouragement, and good company.

In this day and age where people drive into their garage and hide behind closed doors, those are the same things anyone really wants. But hospitality is a lost art. It’s no wonder there are so many lonely people gathering together in coffee shops. I’ve seen the impact the simple gesture of opening my door to welcome people into my home can make. But don’t get me wrong, hospitality isn’t just opening the door to your home it’s also opening the door to your heart. It’s as much about making someone feel at home in your presence as it is in your home. And who knows how Jesus will make His appearance as you do.

Here are a few tips that might give you the courage to open the doors of your heart and home:

  • When the phone rings or someone appears on your doorstep, do your best to set aside any expectations of “important” tasks you may have set out to accomplish. And accept that God had other plans for your time.
  • Create a welcoming & calm atmosphere: light a few candles or have soft music playing in the background.
  • Greet your guests with a hug. It will extend the life of both of you!
  • Quickly clear the clutter (even as your guests are arriving) so you can enjoy their company without distraction.
  • If you have time, bake a fresh batch of cookies. Bake them with your company!
  • Or if you’re not a baker, light a scented candle and have a few simple snacks ready to pull out when someone shows up on your doorstep (expected or unexpected)
  • Most importantly, relax and enjoy your guests.

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

About this Contributor:

Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple and Dancing in the Rain. Additionally, she has written articles for Just Between Us Magazine and devotionals for theStory. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (3 on earth, 1 in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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