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Contagious JoyJoyful Devotions to Lift Your Spirits
By Patsy Clairmont Mary Graham Barbara Johnson Nicole Johnson Marilyn Meberg Luci Swindoll Sheila Walsh Thelma Wells
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Patsy Clairmont
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePutting Out the Welcome Mat Mary Graham
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Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9 NKJV)
When I was a child growing up in a large family and a small home, we always had company. The picture is still fresh in my mind.
My parents had families who either lived nearby or came to our house for vacations, holidays, and weekends. We lived in a small, neighborly community in Oklahoma, and my mother had a close circle of lifelong friends who often came to visit over a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea.
Most summer evenings, ten, twenty, or more neighbors and relatives ended up at our house on the front porch. When they did, there was talking, laughing, storytelling (mostly storytelling), and joy. Immoderate joy, really, that welcomed everyone to come in and make themselves at home. And it happened all the time. Even when the Avon lady came, she stayed all day. Pity her other customers.
It didn't seem odd to me at the time that no one ever invited us to their homes. I now know we were way too many to entertain. Having us to your home would be like inviting a small country to dinner.
When my sisters and brothers grew up, they imitated my parents. Their doors were always open and welcoming to friends and strangers. They had larger homes and nicer places to practice hospitality, but their hearts were like my parents', and they imitated what they'd learned. Those homes were places of shared joy and a most welcoming place to be.
When I was in college, I had the habit of bringing people home with me. It didn't matter if I was going to my parents' home or one of my sisters', I brought people along. There was never a question about whether or not someone would be in my tow when I came home. The question was how many and how long would we stay.
Having spent all of my adult life in ministry, that hospitality trend has continued. Because of my parents, it's always seemed natural to bring people home with me. I've brought them home when they needed someplace to stay, or when they were sick, or hurting, or hungry, or for no other reason than that I enjoyed the pleasure of their company.
In 2005, one by one, and through a variety of circumstances, the core speaker team of Women of Faith transplanted themselves near Dallas. Thelma Wells already lived here, Nicole Johnson has had a semipermanent residence in a Dallas suburb for a couple of years, and after ten years of traveling together, Luci Swindoll, Sheila Walsh, Marilyn Meberg, and Patsy Clairmont bought houses here and moved in lock, stock, and barrel (maybe just to keep from having to change planes every weekend in Dallas).
Since our little community has been established, I've noticed this team is an extremely hospitable bunch. For example, last night we were invited to Luci's for dinner. She had a houseguest, and the two of them shopped and cooked all day in preparation. Luci set a gorgeous table so that the rest of us did little but ooh and aah all night. After dinner we played a fun, verbal, interactive game, hooting, hollering, and laughing our heads off. We felt refreshed and nourished, not just because we'd eaten a scrumptious homemade dinner, but we'd fed our souls in the sweet and satisfying fellowship of the evening.
And that's when it hit me: hospitality is underrated! It's not just an old-fashioned idea that people used to have time to enjoy because life was duller and less complicated. Hospitality is God's idea. It's a joyful, welcoming idea.
First Peter 4:9 says, "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (NKJV). That's in the context of the verse before that which says to love one another fervently, and the following verse, which says minister to each other. Practicing hospitality is important to God and us. Jesus loved to be with his friends and followers, and we often find him in their homes.
As I look back through the years, I'm encouraged by the relationships that have been built simply through opening my home. In the 1980s, I worked in a ministry with a team of people who, for the most part, were couples with small children. One year I had a party on Easter after church for those families. For almost ten years after that, I did it every Easter. We had as many as seventy people, playing games appropriate for people of all ages, hunting eggs, doing talent shows, telling stories, eating, playing, laughing, and singing. The parties lasted from noon to night.
Those events became huge affairs, and every year I wondered if we could keep doing them. They were time-consuming to plan, a bit expensive to host, and quite challenging to entertain as many as fifty children of all ages. The parties were just too enjoyable not to have, and they became a highlight of our year. It wasn't unusual for people to call and ask if a friend of a friend could please get on the invitation list or if they could bring out-of-town relatives. And why? Because we had so much fun.
Finally the crowds outgrew my home. The mission organization of which I was a member started doing the parties on the lawn of our headquarters and sold tickets to anyone who wanted to come. Maybe they still do.
As wonderful as those events were, it's the sweet memory that has outlasted everything else and become the best part. The sweetest thing of all is that now those children are grown. Many of them are in full-time ministry, and I hear from them regularly. I keep up with them and now their children. From time to time they mention how much they loved those parties and even how they've established similar traditions.
I realize those parties were one of the main reasons I ever had a relationship with those (then) little boys and girls. I would have known their parents, but I wouldn't have known them if I hadn't done what they could enjoy. Getting on their level enabled me to open a little door into their worlds and step gently inside. Even though I was (and am still) single and childless, practicing hospitality was the key to knowing many children personally who have now grown up to be leaders in their generation. That's one of the rewards of hospitality.
I had a very dear friend who, through a very traumatic event in her life several years ago, quite suddenly remembered having suffered serious sexual abuse as a child. She went almost overnight from being a strong, mature, capable leader in her world to being like a small, frightened, insecure, almost inept little girl. I had no idea what to do. She was getting professional help, but she really couldn't function day to day. I was at a loss to help. So I did what my mother would do-I took her home with me. She was there a few weeks and, trust me, it was hard on everyone. Finally, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where she began a slow, painful healing. For a few years, during the darkest days, she stayed with me.
Today, my friend is a renowned Christian therapist and one of the leading experts on sexual abuse in the country. She has a unique niche in ministry-although a victim, she does her best work with those who victimize others. She works with abusers and perpetrators, because she understands that people don't become predators in a vacuum but through some horrific circumstances of their own. Frankly, I'm amazed at her genius and giftedness. It's my great reward that God put it on my heart to practice hospitality at a time she needed it most.
My friend and four other women from that era in my life twenty years ago are now spread from Portland to Paris. We still gather at my house once a year for an intensive weekend of catching up and praying for one another. We have so much history that the weekends are spent just talking. Having invested so much in one another's lives all these years, we understand the value of being together even though now we can only manage it annually. "Same time next year" has taken on new meaning for us.
I have many friends and family members who have, at a point in time, all but wrapped me in a blanket of love and taken me home with them when I've needed it most. They've put me to bed, brought me meals, prayed for me, and nursed me back to health and strength either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They've been the Good Samaritans in my life, and it has been my joy to be welcomed by them when I've needed it most.
Hospitality is not the idea of a few random folks. It's God's idea-and a great one at that. It is kingdom work. Be welcoming. There's no greater joy.
And Lord, we know that you welcome us into your home when this life is over. We anticipate with joy the day that we sit down to the heavenly meal we will share in your presence. And we pray that we'll bring a few friends along with us when we come. In Jesus's name, amen.
Excerpted from Contagious Joy by Patsy Clairmont Mary Graham Barbara Johnson Nicole Johnson Marilyn Meberg Luci Swindoll Sheila Walsh Thelma Wells Copyright © 2007 by Patsy Clairmont. Excerpted by permission.
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