I learned Hospitality 101 from a Russian woman. During the height of persecution in her country, a man from a free nation came to her door giving her a treasured gift- a Bible- which he had smuggled across the border. The woman overwhelmed with gratitude welcomed him into her home and served him all she had: a cup of water and a spoonful of jam.
As I read this account, I was- to put it in theological terms- busted. I’d be too embarrassed to serve Welch’s Grape Water. Bible or no Bible, better to shove him out the door than serve the sacrificial jam.
I figured our 45 ft. trailer got me off the hospitality hook. I told myself, hoping God was eaves-dropping, “It’s too small, too shabby, too celery-green, and too near the railroad on the wrong side of the tracks”.
Around the same time, I read about a woman in the Old Testament who wanted to show hospitality to an itinerate preacher. Man, what’s with you people. “Live and let live” I always say- as long as the “let live” is not under my roof. Anyway, this woman’s husband agreed (God knows that’s a very important pre-requisite), so she created a B & B in her attic with the following items which, by-the-way, I think would make a great title for a book on hospitality (please don’t steal this idea; I may hire a ghost writer and use this title):
Chair, Lamp, Table, Bed.
Okay, that list seemed short enough, so when a friend called needing a place to stay, he became the perfect guinea pig for our hospitality venture because he was a dorm-living bachelor, whose idea of haute cuisine was hot ramen. Getting John to agree was no problem as his philosophy has always been, “Big heart make big home.” He’s 1/32 Cherokee. In English, that’s, “If you make room in your heart, God will make room in your home.” So with the four above items, we began this thing called “Us Plus…”, meaning, we’ll put up whoever will put up with us.
Since we’re just caretakers of God’s stuff, we decided (and our bank agreed) any upgrades would be His business. Apparently, the Lord got tired of banging His head on the ceiling while taking a shower in the trailer (I know John did), so He got us a bigger place for Him and His peeps to hang out, a bit further away from the railroad tracks. We added a dresser and a new set of sheets to the Fab Four.
That was 38 years ago. Since then, the Lord expanded this whole chair/lamp/table/bed thing a bit, so now we own two houses with a total of 14 bedrooms, only five of which are inhabited by family who share our vision (and the mortgages). The rest of the rooms are filled with a covey of college/crony/crazy/common/co-worker types.
I actually hadn’t thought of this until now, but I guess we live in a commune (minus the Birkenstocks, head bands and peace-signs):
commune 1 |ˈkämˌyoōn|noun 1 a group of people living together and sharing possessions and responsibilities.
Wow…this is great news: I’m a lot hipper than I thought. Well, okay- “hip” as in circa 1970’s.
Is sharing our stuff inconvenient? Yeah, sometimes- our carpets get dirty, our mugs get chipped. But it’s a blessing all the time. We think we’re giving someone in need a place to stay, but it turns out, we are in need of what they bring to us: Banana-gram tournaments and Monopoly marathons; music jam sessions; friendship; life-stories; and/or the fresh energy that comes from getting to know people outside our usual (a.k.a. “same ol’ same old”) ‘hood.
Really, hospitality is simply sharing with others what God has given us. Even if- especially if– what He’s given is a spoonful of jam.
Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.” 2 Kings 4:10