Hospitality: Ideas For those Who are Hospi-phobic and Those Who are Fearless Too

It’s One Word Friday!

Like I wrote recently, part of “Choose Life” means choosing to exercise our gifts.

And you’ve got ’em!  You’re talented and capable and you’re gamers.

Hospitality seems to be one of mine, (although it’s easy to see how others are doing it so much better).  Some of you may have this gift too.  I hope you’ll add your ideas in the comments.

For others the thought of guests ringing your doorbell makes you want to hide under your bed.

Whether hospitality is one of your gifts or not, it’s a reflection of God’s welcoming heart that we’re all called to live out.  I hope this post will give you some resources and encouragement!

4 Suggestions if you’re new to opening your home:

1.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Potlucks take the pressure off and this is about community not performance.  Everyone has a recipe they’d like to try or time to pick up a bottle of wine.  Before or during the evening, people feel good when they’re asked to help.

2.  If you have an extra fridge/freezer, or a little extra room, keep some some basics there so you can pull them out in a pinch.  (Twice this year I’ve had people who said they’d bring a dessert forget, so out came the homemade brownies I had in the freezer) And pick up a bag of ice every time  you get gas.  You ALWAYS need ice.photo 2-4

3.  Do everything you can ahead of time.  I will set our dining room table even a day or two ahead (I know this may not work if you have tinies at home, but…).  This also gives me the freedom and space to be a little more creative with a theme if I want.

4.  Keep it in perspective.  I do this by making of point of stopping to pray for the people who will be coming to my home.  This is about THEM – making them feel welcome and valued.  I also matted and framed this great free printable I got from Myquillyn at the Nesting Placephoto-166

Hospi-phobics are you feeling a little better?  Deep breaths.  

Veterans, want some more ideas?

In the summer we do a lot more entertaining because our backyard becomes a huge additional “room”.  One of the best investments we made years ago, was to buy a “carport” tent on sale at Home Depot (I think) for about $90 and some 6 ft tables from Costco (also on sale).  We use them constantly in the summer.  Investing in some matching tablecloths also pays off over the years.

** Caveat!  If what you have is a 500 square foot apartment, USE IT! Fill it up with people and good conversation and laughter.  Reflecting the welcoming heart of God isn’t about size.  For us using our yard and investing in some reusable pieces has just been helpful.

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I often do a Tex-mex theme.  I bought some red bandanas super cheap (I think they come in packs at Walmart) to use as napkins.  If you want a cheaper alternative to tablecloths, get some of the stuff they wrap trees with to use as burlap table runners.  Mason jars are fun for glasses.  If you are smart, you can find pie tins at garage sales to use for plates (but I’m not that smart. Or committed)

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We went to dinner at some friends’ house abut a month ago and she gave me this great idea.  She got these marinated meats to grill from Trader Joes, and put out all the fixings for Tacos or whatever.  This is great for a potluck too cuz everyone can bring a different topping.

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And then there’s this new salad recipe I’ve been making over and over this summer.photo-135

  • 1 can black beans (14 ounces), rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels (I USED FRESH CORN OFF THE COB)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (half a palmful)
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco (eyeball it) (I OMITTED)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil (eyeball it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • I HAD SOME CHERRY TOMATOES SO I HALVED THEM AND ADDED

The original recipe had this option (but I really like fresh corn): Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes for the corn to fully defrost and the flavors to combine, then toss and serve. The corn will also place a quick-chill on this easy side-salad as it defrosts – no need to refrigerate!  Serves 4

We have a great family recipe for homemade guacamole, but an easier alternative is to buy some at the store and “doctor it” with some fresh cilantro and avocados.

And lastly… an ice cream dessert.  Think about it… You don’t want to waste food!  There won’t be any left, but if there is, an ice cream dessert won’t spoil.  Just put it back in the freezer!
Oreo Sundae Dessert
Crust: 1 pkg (35) oreos, crushed.
1/2 stick butter melted.
Mix and pat in greased 9×13 pan  (can reserve 1 cup crumbs for topping if you want)
Filling: 1/2 gallon ice cream (i used java chip)
Topping: 
melt 3 squares unsweetened chocolate
3/4 c. butter
2 t. vanilla
4 well-beaten egg yolks
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
Beat 4 egg whites beaten stiff.  Fold into chocolate mixture and pour over ice cream. Freeze 🙂

Now it’s your turn!  If you’re a veteran at hospitality, what works for you?  If not, what overwhelms you?

 

Is God Always the Hard Choice?

It’s One Word Friday!

Ok, so I’m not sure how I got there, but after becoming a Christian in my teens, I fell into a default mode that always assumed that God’s will must be the hardest, and most painful choice I was faced with.

Broccoli or brownie?  Broccoli must be more holy.

Cat or dog?  God surely hates cats so He must want to refine my character by inflicting a cat on me (if this is true, I’m not committed enough to be a disciple) Continue reading

To All Those Who Didn’t Show

I wrote yesterday about the waiting on the Fool’s Bench at Easter.

As it turned out, I didn’t sit.  I stood near the door to church in the Great Room, craning my neck, looking over the shoulder of anyone I was talking to, hoping to see the shaved bald head of my next-door-neighbor and his blond wife walk in.

I prayed and prayed.  I saved seats at two (count ’em, two!) services, which did NOT endear me to those who did come and were tackling others for a spot, practically paying hard cash money so they could sit inside the sanctuary instead of in the overflow rooms.

It didn’t happen.  Yes, the other friend did show at an earlier service and I pray that she felt totally hogswaggled by the enormity of God’s love for her, but it’s hard not to focus on the ones who didn’t come.  photo-109

I’ve been thinking about them…All the friends and neighbors and co-workers and prodigal family members you invited to church this Sunday.  Or last.  Or any one of a bazillion times. Continue reading

How Do You Picture Choosing Life?

As I’ve been traveling I’ve not been able to post very consistently and I’ve really dropped the ball on our One Word Fridays.  Sorry about that.

Like I wrote the other day, it’s been a week of living back into real life.  And part of that has been letting my heart and mind catch up with the rest of me.  Doing a kind of  Examen.  Celebrating places of Life, and mourning places of Death.

The main thing that drives me to write this blog is the conviction that we don’t just drift into becoming more like Jesus.  We have to pay attention.  When we do, maybe we end up saying with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

So…today I’m paying attention to the “patches of God-light” or instances from the past two months that shouted, “This is what it looks like to choose LIFE!”.  Here are 6 of them:

1.  Hospitality  We had the delightful privilege of staying at the guest cottage belonging to some friends in Charlotte NC while we met with some mentors.  We had dinner with our friends and some different topics of interest came up in our conversation.  The next morning (one when rain was predicted), here’s what our hostess left outside our door.  The books are about the topics we had discussed the night before.

Choosing life = paying attention to the way I can serve others.

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2. Relationships  A week in one of my favorite cities, reconnecting with friends in ministry at National Community Church and spending time with daughter Katy!

Choosing life = learning from everyone everywhere.

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3. Travel in Israel/Palestine, Telos Conversations and at the International Justice Mission Global Prayer Gathering

Choosing life = partnering with God in His work of bringing justice around the world.

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4. Creation Life emerging from death, even in Minnesota!

Choosing life = noticing the smallest gifts.

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 5. Words

Choosing life = choosing to share life-giving words that build up rather than tear down.

Bob Goff (@bobgoff)
God doesn’t look for typos in our lives; He’s a creator, not an editor. We’re all rough drafts of who we’re becoming.

6. Random Acts of Kindness Twice in the past two months – once here and once in Florida, people have surprised us, paying for our dinner!

Choosing Life = looking for opportunities to delight others.

photo-102What are some places you’ve experienced Life over the past two months?

 

How Do You Picture Choosing Life?

As I’ve been traveling I’ve not been able to post very consistently and I’ve really dropped the ball on our One Word Fridays.  Sorry about that.

Like I wrote the other day, it’s been a week of living back into real life.  And part of that has been letting my heart and mind catch up with the rest of me.  Doing a kind of  Examen.  Celebrating places of Life, and mourning places of Death.

The main thing that drives me to write this blog is the conviction that we don’t just drift into becoming more like Jesus.  We have to pay attention.  When we do, maybe we end up saying with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

So…today I’m paying attention to the “patches of God-light” or instances from the past two months that shouted, “This is what it looks like to choose LIFE!”.  Here are 6 of them:

1.  Hospitality  We had the delightful privilege of staying at the guest cottage belonging to some friends in Charlotte NC while we met with some mentors.  We had dinner with our friends and some different topics of interest came up in our conversation.  The next morning (one when rain was predicted), here’s what our hostess left outside our door.  The books are about the topics we had discussed the night before.

Choosing life = paying attention to the way I can serve others.

photo-98

2. Relationships  A week in one of my favorite cities, reconnecting with friends in ministry at National Community Church and spending time with daughter Katy!

Choosing life = learning from everyone everywhere.

photo-95

 

photo-101

3. Travel in Israel/Palestine, Telos Conversations and at the International Justice Mission Global Prayer Gathering

Choosing life = partnering with God in His work of bringing justice around the world.

IMG_6301

photo-100

photo-99

4. Creation Life emerging from death, even in Minnesota!

Choosing life = noticing the smallest gifts.

photo-96

 5. Words

Choosing life = choosing to share life-giving words that build up rather than tear down.

Bob Goff (@bobgoff)
God doesn’t look for typos in our lives; He’s a creator, not an editor. We’re all rough drafts of who we’re becoming.

6. Random Acts of Kindness Twice in the past two months – once here and once in Florida, people have surprised us, paying for our dinner!

Choosing Life = looking for opportunities to delight others.

photo-102What are some places you’ve experienced Life over the past two months?

 

Easter and a Lunch in Jerusalem

It’s Easter week and I do NOT have the gift of evangelism.  Easter delights me.  Evangelism…well, not so much.

Can you relate?

I was part of a Christian organization in college that taught us to “share our faith” (read: tell people how messed up they are and scare the Hell out of them.  Literally).  We had to go out and practice “sharing” the 4 Spiritual Laws with people (read: random, confused strangers).

It may have scarred me for life – not the tract, the way of “sharing”.

Or maybe I’m just using that as an excuse.  I have nothing against the 4 Spiritual Laws as a resource.  Ironically it is how I came to faith in Jesus.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was sitting around a table in Jerusalem eating lunch with a very diverse group of people.

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There were other Jesus-followers like me (you know, kind, sensitive, careful to not offend).

And there was our host, who pastors a church of mostly Messianic Jews.  He is passionate about bringing Jews into a relationship with Jesus – accepting Him as their Messiah.

Lastly there was a Jewish couple at the table who do not buy the Jesus as Messiah line.

I sat in the middle of the table with the “Burdened pastor guy” at one end, and the Jewish couple at the other.

What if the Jewish couple felt offended, uncomfortable, or judged?

What if the pastor “preached” at them (or served pork?).

What if my friend Matt Moberg asked a question that stepped on someone’s toes somewhere at the table and they slammed down their fork and stormed out?

I know that the Gospel can be offensive even if we don’t make it offensive with our delivery. (1 Cor. 1:23, Romans 9:33)

But it didn’t happen.  What also didn’t happen was an honest conversation where real questions were asked respectfully from both ends of the table.

The pastor shared his prayer – that the Jews would come to know Jesus as their savior.

The Jews at the table did not fall to their knees and “pray the prayer of salvation”.  Everyone was respectful and no blood was shed.

Afterwards it prompted several conversations in our group about our posture towards non-believers in Jesus, or explorers, or people of other faiths.

Augustine said “Preach the gospel everywhere. If necessary use words.”  Most of us, I think, have decided that words are really never necessary.

Are we actually denying our faith by our uber-sensitive silence?

I’ve been thinking…What if we, as Christians, saw ourselves as hosts at a luncheon, around a table with guests of varying experiences, just like the one I attended in Jerusalem?  Maybe we’d prioritize

  • People over projects.  If you’re getting to know someone, you want to KNOW about them and have them know about you…authentically.  Build on what you have in common, but be honest about where you have different perspectives or experience.
  • Love language over foreign language.  Genuinely care for the other.  Ask yourself  if you’re speaking a “language” they’ll relate to.
  • Conversation over conversion (which means more asking than telling)
  • Appetizers over All-you-can-eat Old Country Buffet. Offer tiny bites (like those mini desserts in shot glasses they have now).  Don’t try to cram a whole meal down someone’s throat.

Like I said, I’m really not good at this, so I’m trying to learn.  Are there experiences or thoughts you can share?

“But in your hears revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect…”  1 Peter 3:15

 

 

7 Ways to Thrive (or at least survive) at a Holiday Party

The other day I wrote about the people we’ve gathered around our table over the years.  I wrote about how we all have fascinating stories that are part of God’s larger story and part of life is getting to know each other’s stories.

“Well,” you might have said to yourself, “Stories shmories.  All fine and dandy for you, but holiday parties are about as fun to me as being chosen as a tribute in the Hunger Games.”

Unknown Ok, this post is going to change all that.  It will be a Christmas miracle and you’ll want to send me all your Christmas cookies as a thank you.

This morning there was a guy and a girl, maybe in their late 20’s sitting near me at Starbucks.  I’m thinking morning coffee date.  Match.com.

I really wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but it’s possible my natural spy skills automatically kicked in when I heard certain words like “single” and “Christian” crop up.

Here’s the thing. The girl talked about herself nonstop!  I kept wanting to stuff a Cranberry Bliss bar in her mouth and say “STOOOOOOP TALKKKKKING!  Give the poor guy a chance!”

Yep, most people love to talk about themselves.  Who could possibly be more interesting than…you?

But also in the same coffee shop is Tom, who comes in every morning and no matter how friendly I am he seems to have a hard time conversing with me.  He just always seems uncomfortable and lonely and I want to give him a big hug and say “It’s gonna be ok.”

All of this has gotten me to thinking about the ways that we connect, especially at holiday parties.  Here are a few ideas: Continue reading

Who’s at Your Table? Really

Last week we gathered some couples in our home for a casual dinner of chicken chili and ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce.  We lit candles, and a fire in the fireplace and it snowed outside.  The house was almost all decorated for Christmas except our tree wasn’t up yet.  It felt cozy and I loved getting to know these folks better, connecting them to each other.

One thing we often do when we have new friends over is to ask each person to write down a little known fact or hobby, or experience, or accomplishment.  We fold the papers, put them in a bowl and draw them out one at a time.  As we read them, we try to guess who wrote each one.

Afterwards, here’s a picture I posted on Instagram.

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Continue reading

What I’ve Learned About God at Halloween

This is a re-post from two years ago.  I hope it’s an encouraging reminder this Halloween.


I think that Halloween is my husband’s favorite day of the year.  Odd, I know for a pastor.  The pc answer should be Easter,right?  But honestly, I think he likes Halloween best because there’s not much that brings him as much joy as handing out candy and oohing and ahhing over every single kid’s costume.  He looks forward all year to parking his chair by the front door and waiting for kids to come.  Even though he’s terrible at figuring out what the costumes are, he greets each kid as if they were THE most amazing, creative, delightful goblin of the night.

Continue reading

5 Things I’m Learning Around my Scarred Table

Tuesday we had a large group of people over for a BBQ in our backyard.  It was truly the perfect Minnesota summer evening.  Dry, 78 degrees, miraculously mosquito-free.  (for a minute I looked around thinking Jesus must be coming back).

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It was a delightful evening of good conversation and laughter, but it’s not like everything was perfect.  John burned most of the brats and 7 (yes 7!) people cancelled within an hour and a half of our start time.

It’s not like everything is always coordinated.  I’ve been known to use a hodgepodge of leftover holiday paper napkins.  Other times we’ve planned for outside but at the last minute rain has blown in or it’s been so hot and muggy we’ve had to frantically un-set and re-set for Plan B, everyone preferring to crowd in our small, but dryer, cooler house.  And I don’t always  usually handle this well.  Often I’m just a stressed out hot mess about change and flexibility.

Continue reading