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Saturday was a highlight day for my week. I suppose everyday that I rise and draw breath means that any day is a blessing. My point however, is that this Saturday was a day that I was looking forward to with a great deal of anticipation. This was the day that my first class that I have ever taught at Dallas Seminary were coming into our home for lunch.
We had only one free Saturday before the semester ended. This was that day. When only one day would fit into our schedule then, the conclusion was obvious. My bride and I marked it on our calendar and I announced the date in class.
Naturally, there were conflicts. Two students had Saturday classes and had to miss the gathering. Two more had to work and couldn’t adjust their hours. Several others had ministry obligations and could not come. Nevertheless, we were going to have a ball with those who could make it.
The day before our gathering I had a day off. I worked to get the house ready. Hospitality is fun yet it does require some tidying up around the old homestead. My bride was at work so I had the chores listed for my day-off and it was time to work like a Buc-ee Beaver, a Texas Buc-ee Beaver.
Most of the chores were easy. I washed the dishes and put things away that were occupying the counter space in the kitchen. Next, the Living Room needed to have some attention. Finally, the common areas needed some TLC.
Friday afternoon I drove over to the China Cottage Restaurant. Mary, the owner, was there. She invited me to sit with her while she finished some paperwork. Then, she smile, “What may I do for you?”
I laughed when she asked if I was dining alone. ”No,” I returned her smile, “I am having some very special guests over to our home tomorrow for dinner. What would you suggest I serve?”
“Oh, this will be important to select some wonderful items from our menu,” Mary glowed.
“OK,” I joined in on the anticipation, “Let’s have a variety of beef, chicken, pork and seafood.”
“Very good,” Mary chimed in.
“I was thinking of your delicious chicken chow mein. Then, everyone likes your sweet and sour pork tenderloin. We need some vegetables, so how about an order of your green beans with beef?” my suggestions had come from thoughtful preparations.
“Come back tomorrow at 11.15AM and it will be ready, ” Mary assured me. This was going to be a fantastic gathering.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
The second phenomenon in Texas that transplants notice are the people. That reputation of Southern hospitality is fact not fiction. You find yourself talking, laughing and sharing information before you even know each other’s names.
Third on the noticeable differences by those who are new to the South are the people. Yes, I know that I’m being redundant, but it is true. Invitations to get to know you are free-flowing.
Where did this amazing sense of interaction find its genesis? I am floored. Even when we were staying in a motel during our transition, we were laughing with a family in the elevator like we were long time friends on a road trip together. It was amazing.
So far even the driving in this newly adopted state of ours has been similar. Only two drivers have honked at me in nearly a month. That’s the average number per hour in other states where I have driven.
On a busy freeway when I engage my turn indicator, other drivers actually slow down and give me clearance to merge. I’m so used to allowing a couple of miles to change lanes that I am shocked when room suddenly appears. This courtesy on the road will take some getting used to.
I thought that the hot weather would breed road rage. In my mind I was prepared for the wide open spaces of Texas to multiply wild drivers. There are some as in any big city, but the prevailing number of pleasant drivers was not what I expected. It is a nice surprise.
My bride and I went shopping. She was off to make new discoveries. I asked a saleswoman, “Do you have a chair for tired husbands?”
Then, came a southern surprise that made me chuckle, ”Why bless your heart, Darlin’. Let me fix you right up.” She led me to two chairs around the corner. There I promptly fell asleep.
Since, then waitresses, gas station checkers and receptionists all share a delightful repertoire of greetings: ”Sweetheart” ”Honey” and “Precious” seem to be the favorites. Each time I smile, chuckle and smile. There is something about being in Texas that is just part of the daily fun.
My whole anthropology may be taking a noticeable adjustment. It’s all about the people, Texans. Y’all hear?
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
What can transform a group of nine sweaty, grungy, hungry and tired men into refreshed, satisfied and happy campers? Is there an elixir that can reenergize a group of adventurers to look forward to another day of travel? The world is looking for such a magical potion. I have one to suggest.
God ordained that hospitality is a wonderful gift to offer to weary travelers. The word “hospitality” actually means “love of strangers.” Please note that it does not mean to love those who are strange!
The term comes from a historical episode among early persecuted Christians. When religious persecution drove many believers from the homes, they sought refuge in distant lands with family and friends. Often such a journey required many days of travel.
Such weary pilgrims were to be the object of Christian love. Resident believers were to invite these “strangers” into their homes for a night of food and shelter. Then, they were to send them on their way. This gift of refreshment and encouragement is what hospitality is all about.
I finished our first leg of a long motorcycle journey. The first day is always a bit tough with getting used to the riding, heat and packing. That’s when the wonder of hospitality revived us.
Bush and Sarah invited us into their home. It’s been a year since we enjoyed each others company. They were expecting us. Dinner was on the table. But, even before that their smiles drew us in. Sarah hugged every unshowered sweaty hulk of a man. She was delighted to give us that warm embrace.
The food was wonderful. Sarah has great munchies before dinner. Guy food is plentiful. Beverages chase away the parched throat. Conversation is catching up, laughing over old stories and dreams of days and blessings to come.
My life journey has taken me into many homes. Some you feel the guarded polite welcome. Others you know that it is a place where you will never return. But, then there is that unusual place that makes you hope that you will be able to come back.
That lasting and lingering effect is what real hospitality is all about. It is a gift. People who have it give it away just because it is a part of them. God made them that way and He smiles on them and all of us who are blessed enough to be blessed by them.
Giving yourself for the benefit of someone else is not natural. Most of us are wired to give in order to get. But, that’s is NOT the way God wants His own to live.
In fact the word “hospitality” has the interesting meaning of “love of strangers.” This etymology comes from the historic flight of Christians fleeing persecution due to their faith. Homeless and on a long journey to distant parts, they needed a respite along the way.
This blog is built around this very concept. You are on a spiritual journey. My words are hopefully a respite for you along the road, like a refreshing cup of water with a comfortable chair to rest along with some fellowship.
Now, I am the beneficiary of this amazing ministry of hospitality to me. The Wilsons are my hosts. Gil, Ron and Roxanne are treating me like family.
They picked me up at the airport. Our week’s activities called for some stops in town before arriving at home. They whisked me around but with the obvious disposition of having a great time themselves, never even letting off a hint that they were put out.
Food was a highlight. Breakfast was light years ahead of a European Continental abbreviation for food. It was, burritos, Bulgarian feta choice blended with prime cuts enhanced with ranch potatoes.
Lunch was custom wraps. Smoked turkey, lettuce, spreads, mustard with the necessary condiments or home-made pizza that would make you vow never to call out for a pie again. Snacks forever were laid out on the counter for grazing that men do on a guys week out.
Dinner would qualify for any 4 star YELP review. Everything was tasty, well presented and balanced. They did something to average things like cole slaw, beans and bread that deserved a “Wow!” after the first and last bites.”
Entertainment through the week was stunning. You felt like you were on a cruise with the crew waiting on us hand and foot. But, mostly it was their attitude.
The Wilsons love to serve others for the sheer pleasure of bringing joy into the live of others. That’s hospitality godly style. Thank you amazing Wilson family!
photo credit: google image
Hospitality means love of strangers. Note, the meaning of the term is NOT love of people who are strange. When we want to deepen our friendship or start new ones, hospitality is a great way to make it happen.
Tonight we would put this fun ministry into action. Fourteen of us would converge on our house. Food, fellowship and faith building would happen in the walls of our home.
Yvonne and I stopped for lunch after church. With a simple meal we went over our plans to entertain some good friends in our home. We went over the food planning, the logistics, the time-table and the essential details.
We had to make one stop at the grocery store. Our list was simple. We would pick a variety of beverages. We had five flavors of soda. Now, we needed to add some fruit drinks.
Then, as a staple for the shared meal we needed some white rice. That was all that we had on our list. But, while we were surrounded by groceries, we saw some delicious oranges. So we grabbed a bag.
Then, there was the few cans of this. That was followed by a box of this and that. Finally, our carrying basket was full and very heavy.
“Oh, dear!” exclaimed my wife, “That must be heavy. I’m so sorry. I got carried away. Let’s head to the check-out just as soon as I check on the dessert possibilities for tonight.”
Once we got to the check-out line it took both arms to lift our basket to the conveyor belt for unloading. Quickly, I glanced around to make sure that we didn’t accidentally line up in the 15-items-or-less-express-check-out line. We didn’t qualify.
When the clock struck 6PM our guests began to arrive. Cheer filled our home. Laughter and great conversation heightened with each arrival.
We all gathered in our kitchen. The fragrance of the food was amazing. Everyone was filled with delight.
Now it was time to pause our words. Together we bowed our heads. Some of us held hands.
We went before our Heavenly Father and thanked Him for the food and fellowship that we were about to enjoy. It was a sincere prayer of thanks and one that turned prophetic. The fellowship was fantastic!
What was on the menu faded into what was most important. We were friends growing deeper in our friendships with each other. My smile emerged from deep within, hospitality is a hoot!
photo credit: google image
Paul’s life was filled with schedules like anyone else. People and their well-being were a priority. Plans for the year and his travels dominated his thoughts.
In his letter to Titus, the Apostle is concerned about the pastor. He intends to send encouragement through a fellow servant. Paul will choose to send either Artemas or Tychicus. He knows them by name. There is a relationship among these three that Paul knows what they will do and be willing to do. Either one would be willing to travel and render aid to Titus.
Paul also spoke on behalf of others. He urged Titus to extend as much hospitality as possible for two friends. One is Zenas. He is a lawyer. For all of the attorney jokes that Paul never heard, he knew the importance of this civil skill as he served the fledgling church of Jesus Christ.
Apollos is another friend. He is a leader who served with Paul. This colleague had a substantial impact on the lives of others. He seemed to have been gifted with a kind of charisma that attracted people to build loyal relationships with him. Paul trusted them to the extent that he affirmed that every expression of hospitality was welcome and would be a very wise investment.
Opportunity is a chance to make remarkable advancements. The people under the care of these shepherds could benefit from helping the servants of God. If they responded and did good then, they could grow in a vital part of spiritual maturity: devotion.
When lives practice regularly the expression of hospitality then when there were urgent needs, these same people will be able to respond with immediacy. Their daily routine will be conditioning to help and not be caught unprepared. Productivity will fill up their lives.
Paul finishes his letter to Titus by passing on greetings from those with him. Then, he asks Titus to do the something similar, pass on his greetings to those with Titus who love him in the faith.
At the heart of this tender interchange is Paul’s desire for those with Titus. It is never about information, strategies or plans in and of themselves. Rather all rests on the grace of God. That was most important.