Wednesday, August 23, 2006


i have said for quite some time that i do not have the gift of hospitality. that is truly being put to the test this summer. i have found that our little flat (and boy does it feel little right now!) has become a safe place for loved ones on extended stays.

david at post protestant
this morning started my mind down this path and i remembered a post by bob carlton on hospitality that i had earmarked in my bloglines months ago.

i truly believe that hospitality is mis-defined in most of our churches today. it's become somehow commercialized and slicked up, even in our own homes - so the pressure to be perfect and shine-y is overwhelming to those of us who aren't.

i wrote earlier this month that when i found out that my father and favorite aunt wanted to stay with me for a full two weeks i decided to take that as a compliment instead of allowing it to totally freak me out. yesterday was hard. my father is different - very different. he doesn't have the crutches of his own apartment in our home to run to here and his desire to disengage is far more evident this past week. it makes me feel rejected, inadequate and very sad. because my aunt and i are getting on so very well it is far more obvious that he is choosing this, most likely out of great fear of inadequacy or rejection? i can't imagine either because i love him so much - and just would love to connect with him - but we just can't seem to find that thread to pull us closer together.

re-reading bob's post this morning made me cry - he emphasizes that in the bible it tells us to welcome 'stranger, alien, widow and orphan' into our midst. my father qualifies for each of those. i so long to welcome him. i so long to connect. he is walking into the living room as i type. i'll leave you with bob's words as i try.

According to Henri Nouwen, hospitality is the "creation of a space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy." In his book Reaching Out, Nouwen reminds us that "hospitality" in the Bible reflects the conditions in the biblical world where motels and hotels were not available. In the Bible, God's people are taught to welcome the stranger, the alien, the widow, and the orphan into our midst, because God's people were once themselves strangers in a foreign land (referring especially to the Israelites' enslavement in Egypt). Nouwen says that such hospitality consists of these facets:

1. Free and friendly space - creating physical, emotional, and spiritual space for the newcomer to join us

2. Stranger becomes a guest - in that atmosphere of hospitality, the stranger is treated like a guest and potential friend

3. Guest protected - hospitality requires that we offer protection or "sanctuary" to the guest

4. Host gives gifts - the host welcomes the guest by providing the best gifts possible

5. Guest gives gifts - in that environment of hospitality, the guest often reciprocates and gives gifts to the host, too

6. Poverty of heart and mind - in order for us as hosts to receive the "gifts" that our guests bring, we need an attitude which Nouwen calls "poverty of heart and mind" - in other words, we have to believe that we don 't know it all and have not experienced it all, but we are receptive to learn from newcomers

7. All guests are important, gifted - in the environment of hospitality, we discover that all guests are important and gifts, even those we might least suspect

8. Acceptance, not hostility - Nouwen reminds us that hospitality is based upon acceptance, not hostility, especially the kinds of subtle hostility which makes fun of newcomers or puts the newcomer into embarrassing situations

9. Compassion - hospitality is basically a sense of compassion, a realization that we are more alike than we are different

10. Confrontation, honesty - hospitality is not being a doormat to the guest, it includes confronting one another in honesty, as well as with compassion.

11. God as the ultimate Host - hospitality reminds us that we are all guests of God who is the ultimate Host who welcomes us.

1 comment:

david said...

"commercialized and slicked up"

*** WOW!! ***

that cuts it right to the bone . . . but i sense you are so right . . . this "pre-digested" image of hospitality usually looks something like passing out cream with coffee in a church hallway and smiling politely . . . what you’ve done and attempted with your family is . . . different . . . substantial . . . and involves a ton of difficult execution . . . that’s truly meaningful . . . and as a son who's father is no longer living i can tell you that it is VERY likely this will become one of those retrospective . . . i am really glad we did that . . . (even though it was hard) . . .

"bobbie" i don't know you . . . not even a little bit but as i “read you” i hear you “saying” several things and then “telling” us other things too . . . unspoken things . . . things below the surface . . . may i be so bold?

i hear you telling us . . . that perhaps you are realizing (sadly and perhaps more vividly??) your scope of your father's limitations relationally . . . and the simple hopes of a child's yearning for more can never be satisfied on this side of life because of his under developed/inabilities to deliver (mat 5) . . . you said "we just can't seem to find that thread to pull us closer together" . . . like i said i don't pretend to know you, your situation, or your family but as a mere virtual sounding board can i suggest that perhaps this "calling" is the voice of a whispering God . . . showing you the poverty of your father's soul . . . and perhaps a poverty in your own soul . . . so that you can experience more deeply Christ’s feelings of poverty in association with us . . . I’m not trying to get weird or hyper-spiritual here . . . it just sounds familiar that’s all . . . peace!

blessing to you sister . . . the Peace who is The Christ be with you and all the saints living in your home . . . continue living boldly!!!