Everything was ready for our family Christmas dinner. The dining room table was set, the roast in the oven and the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the living room. Everyone was to arrive in a few minutes. Then my cell phone chimed — a new text. The message was from my crazy uncle who was on his way. He wasn’t invited, because he always caused problems. What should I do? Set another place?
Oops! I am not supposed to have that attitude. I write about opening my home and sharing the love of Christ with whoever walks in. How did I get to be so nasty? How did I let this attitude subtly slip into my thinking, especially when God has called me to the ministry of hospitality — not entertaining?
So when my “Crazy Uncle” came to dinner we set another place at the table, prayed like crazy, and loved on him. That Christmas dinner went amazingly well. We set boundaries and God took over.
When we get overstressed and put too much on our plate, we often forget what hospitality is. In her book Still Living by Faith, Annie May Lewis shares:
“Entertaining says, ‘I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating and my gourmet cooking.’ Hospitality says, ‘This is not mine. It is a gift from God, and I’ll use it as He desires.’”
We can quickly forget what biblical hospitality really is. It places others above our selfish desires, and we are able to focus on them first. Preparing our heart for the event gets lost in the busyness of life.
So, how do you and I react when things don’t go the way we planned? How do we respond when someone doesn’t R.S.V.P. and just shows up? Or when a guest brings a friend who wasn’t invited? How do we treat the “difficult” members of our family who need to be with us on holidays?
First, I have to realize, above all, God is in control. He brings those neighbors and friends He desires to our home. I want to be a conduit to others and a blessing. It’s pretty simple … I need to be me, be authentic.
Those “difficult” people God brings into our homes need love and encouragement. We may be the only Bible they ever read, so love them … but set boundaries.
How can we keep our hearts right and share our homes with Christian hospitality and avoid the trap of entertaining?
Here are some tips I find very useful:
• Pray, Pray, Pray. Ask God to help us be there for Him; to be His hands and feet to neighbors and family. To share with those who are strangers to us.
• Plan, Plan, Plan. Get an early start and do a little every day. Make a list of everything that needs to be done … recipes, dishes to use, linens to wash and iron, food to buy, etc.
• Make a list of guests to invite after prayer.
• Keep it Simple. Make recipes used in the past and can be made ahead. Collect recipes that are simple and inexpensive, perhaps on Pinterest. Buy premade items and serve them on a pretty plate. Use prepackaged mixes.
• Keep family meal times easy and quick before your gathering to have enough time to plan and prepare.
• Plan for unexpected interruptions … and treat them as divine interventions.
• Allow others to help. When someone asks to bring food, let them.
• Focus on your guests, not on your house. Let God’s idea of hospitality free us from having a perfect and clean house.
By serving others in our home, we serve Christ and help spread the gospel of God’s truth. We can make heaven more crowded!
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” Matthew 25:40 (NIV).
This is a simple meal my friend Sue, who was very influential in our decision to follow Christ, served to my husband and me many years ago.
It’s a quick and easy meal with a packaged green salad and hot garlic toast. And my favorite part is, with this on the menu, you have more time for planning and preparation.
3 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded (Costco rotisserie chicken is great)
½ large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
16 ounces spaghetti, broken into thirds
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Rotel Diced tomatoes and green chili
1 small can sliced mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp rosemary
1 tsp basil
2 cups cheddar cheese or 18 ounces Velveeta Cheese, cut into cubes
Sauté onion, garlic and green pepper in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Cook spaghetti until al dente and drain. Mix together the sautéed vegetables, chicken and remainder of ingredients. Stir until the cheese is melted, then add the cooked Spaghetti. Enjoy! Serves 6 to 8.