This is a prayer written by Emily Barnes. “Father God, create in me a heart that wants to open my home to others. Remind me not to grumble when I think about having family, friends, or even strangers in my home for rest and food. Let my family have joy in their hearts as we share what You have so abundantly given us. Amen.”
When first read this my mind immediate jumped to a time in the future where I will welcome grown up children visiting. My own mother offers me hospitality when I go back home. But then the Holy Spirit prompted me to start applying it to my life NOW. So often we can hear something from God and apply it to others but God wants us to apply it to our lives now.
A side note: Let me insert here that I’m revisiting this old post from 2005 when my kids were between the ages of 7 and 13 – though the heart of this is still true and a challenge for me today – many years later!
So how does this apply to my life? Let my family have joy in their hearts as we share what You have so abundantly given us. Offer hospitality to one another- not to grumble when family is in my home. These phrases quickly repeated themselves in my mind. These phrases apply to me and my children, living in my home NOW.
Hospitality – is to give a friendly and generous reception of guests or strangers
Hospitable – is giving, or being disposed to give
Host/hostess – is one who lodges or entertains another
The dictionary focuses the meaning of these words around guests. As I have taught my children the verse 1 Peter 4:9 Be hospitable to one another I have explained that being hospitable is to make people feel special, to be generous with your possessions with sharing, to having people around in our home. I have even told them that this attitude of generosity needs to be shown among each other as they practice being generous to others. Not until I read the above prayer did I think to take it on myself.
Am I generous to my children? Do I make my children feel special? Do I give to my children? Do I entertain my children? Do I receive my children? Am I friendly towards my children?
(Just on the side here – these same standards need to be applied to my attitude towards my husband too. Am I generous to him, do I make him feel special, do I give to him, do I entertain him, do I receive him, am I friendly towards him, do I want to bless him?)
I don’t think I am! I think I need to set some new goals here.
Lets look at the normal way I would bless a guest in my home – either a guest for a meal or an overnighter.
Clean the house
Do I ever go that extra mile for my children to live in a fresh, beautiful environment? Or am I so intent of keeping on top of the day to day chores, keeping on top of training them in their chores and responsibilities I forget to be hospitable to my children.
Do I ever cut flowers for a vase just for the joy of enjoying it? Do I take the time to smell the roses – without teaching one of my daughters the importance of balance in a floral arrangement? An overnight guest would always have a flower arrangement in their room -if I had the flowers in my garden – have I ever cut a bunch of flowers just for my daughters to enjoy? For that matter would the boys enjoy something fresh in their room?
Set the table ‘properly’ and with the good china
Do my children think of a tablecloth and serviettes as a sign that visitors are coming? We should enjoy these things together. As Emily Barnes prayer said [God] has supplied these things so abundantly; we should enjoy them and acknowledge them and their source.
Having a table centerpiece is another signal that visitors are coming. I should have a joy that my children are around me, that I can stimulate the senses by a simple arrangement. There are many options here – it doesn’t have to be floral, it could be their Lego masterpiece, their modelling effort, a bowl of fruit, a family photo, or candles.
Getting dressed for dinner
Do I take the time to refresh myself before dinner when it is just family? This is such a mark of respect when I have visitors. My family deserves that mark of respect too. My family is important to me – I should treat them as such. If I had taken the time to refresh my body in preparation for this meal I can guarantee that my mind would have also been refreshed and the benefits of that to my family would be untold!
When we have guests we chat over the dinner table – all sorts of topics get discussed – regardless of the rule of dinner conversation of no religion & no sport! So often our family dinner table is ‘quick eat up your dinner’ – ‘Shhhh, stop talking and eat up’ – ‘Every one quiet! And eat!’ Yes, training does have to happen, yes we do have other things to get to in the evening but what opportunities am I missing? What is the point of eating together as a family if we don’t talk as a family? We may as well be in front of the TV! Family dinnertime is supposed to be a relational time – not just eating time. But I have to make room (both on the schedule and in my heart) for this to happen.
Greeting at the door
When a visitor arrives we are so open armed, big smile, welcome on our lips. How do I greet my children when they wake up? Is there an excited greeting or do I mumble and hope they leave me alone? Sometimes our body language and attitude can say so much – they can even override words that are said.
A beautiful meal served graciously
When I have visitors I enjoy cooking for them. I enjoy garnishing food. I enjoy going that extra little bit. My children are served canned Spaghetti on toast! It’s not that I think I should be serving a three-course meal to my children but it comes to my attitude. If I were serving spaghetti on toast to visitors I would go that extra bit – cheese on toast, a twirl of cheese on the top, a sprig of parsley, or topped with bacon. These types of things don’t take a lot of effort but they do show that you want to bless the person eating this plate of spaghetti. I am sure that my children actually feel rushed when they eat spaghetti!
Be gracious when a visitor breaks something or makes a faux pas
My desire is to make visitors feel comfortable all the time in my home. If they were to break something I would go out of my way to make sure they didn’t feel too bad about it. I certainly wouldn’t rant and rave about their foolishness! If a visitor makes a social mistake, or says something out of turn, once again I try my best, as the hostess, to make them feel comfortable. I put their feelings first. There is an obvious comparison that doesn’t even need to be said! Can I be gracious towards my children?
Cleaning up after visitors
This is an expected part of having folk around. I clean up before they come and I clean up after they go. No matter how long they stay, no matter how they try to help in the cleaning up chores there is always more to do when they leave. I do this with a loving and hospitable heart. I don’t mind doing this – it is a part of blessing them. This is certainly not my attitude with my children! I am grumpy if I have to clean up after them!
But – but – but…
How quickly my mind can come up with excuses after a truth has been pointed out to me. My mother heard a preacher say once that ‘First reaction to hearing truth is negative’. Boy! Did she react! ‘NO! That’s not true!’ Then she heard herself. Her reaction to this true statement was negative! What a chuckle she had at herself. So often our first reaction to truth is negative.
The objections that come to my mind are:
- The exhaustion living this way day in and day out
- What about training my children in their chores
- The expectations that my children could get if I started doing everything for them
- There would be nothing special left to do for others if I lived like that every day
- How could we celebrate special days or love languages if that was normal
In setting these new standards of hospitality in my home I am not discarding the truths of training my children or the reality of being tired and needing to serve a quick meal. What I am doing is an attitude check.
- Is my attitude one of welcoming my children in my home
- Do I enjoy having them around
- Do I enjoy doing things for them
- Do I go the extra mile to make them feel special
- Do I have an attitude to bless them or do I just do it for them
- Do I show my children that they are special and loved in this home?
My next response to this prayer is: in being hospitable to my children now, when they are young, I am really setting the scene for a welcoming safe haven for my children when they are older. If I have never given them a haven to enjoy when they are young, will they feel their family home is a haven of peace, rest and security when they are older?
So yes, this verse and prayer is for me today. But not only is this an investment in my family’s future – I can see that if I was to start acting this way towards my children today, it would change the atmosphere in our home, it would change our family life!
Offer hospitality to one another. 1 Peter 4:9
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