November 2, 2012

The Art of Hospitality

In regards to hospitality, we have decided to stop with the excuses and assumptions and simply ask, initiate, invite. We have decided, too, that gospel-centered hospitality has little to do with recipes, place-settings, home size, or centerpieces. Hospitality doesn't require creativity per se, nor is it limited by space or resources, but it is an art. Hearts are the canvas, the gospel is the picture we paint, the intangibles of warmth, belonging, welcoming in, celebrating, blessing, and love are the palette.

As the artists working with intangible mediums such as these, how can we create hospitality?
It cannot be said enough that we must start with a blank canvas, the worldly idea of hospitality wiped thoroughly away. Love is not built between people through beautiful decor or ornate meals. Love is built when we turn our eyes off of ourselves and are compelled outward.

With a clean canvas, brush in hand, our thoughts then turn toward others: How can we bless? How can we serve? How can we welcome them in?

This is where the canvas expands, where our idea of hospitality grows. The possibilities suddenly appear endless: hospitality can happen at church, at the mailbox with a neighbor, at the playground, at the grocery store checkout, at work, and even within our own families. How can we bless our neighbor in our conversation with them? How can we celebrate our children? How can we serve those we interact with at church with our words and actions?

We paint belonging when we talk to new guests and, even more, think of who we can connect them with relationally.

We paint blessing when we remember what a friend expressed concern over and we ask about it later or send a note of encouragement.

We paint celebration when we thank and honor those who serve in unseen ways.

We paint love when we ask really good questions and listen to the answers, when we pray and care for needs. Sometimes the questions are probing and a little bit awkward, and sometimes they require that we share our own struggles and failures in order for the answers to come.

This paints a picture of Christ, and this is hospitality.

It is not a checklist, a try-harder kind of thing. It is a matter of the heart, a posture toward others that can make art anywhere.

This is the third in a series of posts on hospitality. You can read the first here and the second here. At the end of the series, on November 7th, I will host a link-up to share hospitality tips and ideas. If you would like to participate, begin planning your blog post now. Tell us what you are learning about hospitality. How do you practice hospitality? What recipes could you share with us? How do you get over your insecurities in this area? How have you built friendships through unbelievers through hospitality? I can't wait to see and read all your wonderful ideas!