Invited in

Tea

There’s something about being invited into the home of a person you hardly know for a warm cup of tea (and toast with nutella—yum!) when it’s grey and blustery out that warms the soul in a way few other things can.

That feeling of a mug warming your frost-singed hands is one that says, “You are welcome here. You are loved.”

That is what Port Alsworth has done for me in my first few weeks in Alaska.

Families and friends have welcomed me into their homes for dinner and tea—even though it’s the end of the month and everyone’s groceries are a bit scarce. Hospitality is so important here that no one has batted an eye at welcoming me in and sharing the little they have left. (Guys, these families in this village… they trust Jesus to provide in a way that has warmed my heart while simultaneously melting my brain. Their faith is ah-mazing.)

As I’ve settled in to my new home, I’ve wrestled with feelings of homesickness in the strangest of ways. I’m not homesick for the busy-ness of Denver or for Mexican food yet (although I could really go for Fuzzy’s Tacos, now that I mention it…) No, instead I’ve been homesick for the people whose hearts I call home and the way my friends in Denver filled the Yarrow House as a family would.

My stubbornness, pride, and independence would all like me to tell you that I’m completely fine here on my own– that every day I wake up ready to do the work the Lord has called me to do. While that is mostly true, there is still a hollowness and homesickness in this empty house that will remain until my students come on Monday and fill it.

But when I contrast the emptiness of my house with the way afternoon tea and deep belly-laughter with new friends has warmed my hands and heart, I see so much about the character of our beautiful God and what He is teaching me about Himself in this quiet time.

I have been constantly reminded here that God, like the people of this delightful little village, is a God who welcomes us in.

In Luke 14 Jesus tells a story of a great banquet that illustrates this characteristic of God.

“But He said to them, ‘A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come! For everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to the servant, ‘I have just bought a field and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ Yet another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

So the servant came and reported these things to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you have commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel my people to come in, that my house may be filled.’” (Luke 14:16-23)

This is what God has done for me here in Port Alsworth, but more importantly, this is what God has done for us all. He has invited us into His Kingdom, even though we are poor, crippled, blind, and lame.

He knows that we are imperfect, yet He calls us to Himself as we are.

He knows that I am poor in spirit and blind to His goodness most of the time, crippled by my own crap and sin, and oh so very lame, but He loves me anyway.

He loves you and me, and not just in the endearing, “I will take pity on you and give you the scraps from my feast,” kind of way. No, He loves us so much that He invites us in, out of the cold, grey climate of our hearts and calls us to sit at His table with Him.

Have tea with me. Tell me your heart. Let me love you. Let me heal you. Let me teach you what life is supposed to be like– life with Me. 

This is the call of the Creator of the universe.

Yet, I am so guilty of making up excuses, as the invited guests of the parable did. I have to clean the house. I have to do (insert important ministry task here) to ensure that (insert name here) gets to see Jesus. I have to… I have to… I have to… We all do it. I will never trivialize the importance of the daily tasks that God has called us to, or the life altering work that we have been called to as His followers.

But what if we are missing out on the most beautiful parts of our day? Our lives? All because we get caught up in the hustle of our lives and ourselves.

My hope and prayer is that Monday I would be able to stand undistracted, next to Jesus as my students show up at the front door of our new home, and I would be able to say to their hearts, “Welcome! Come in! There’s room for you here. Sit down, let’s have some warm tea and talk. I long to know you. I long for you to know my sweet Jesus the way I do. Don’t worry, He knows just how screwed up and crazy I am, and how scared you are to be in this new place with me. Yet loves us anyway.”

And as I get to do this in the middle of the Alaskan bush with the Tanalian Leadership Center, I hope that you can hear Jesus right where you are saying, “Come in! There’s room for you here, with Me. Sit down; I long for you to know Me and know the way that I love you. Don’t worry, I already know how screwed up and crazy you may feel, and how scared you are to be here with Me. But relax. I love you anyway.”

Oh, what the world could be like if we all looked to Jesus and held out our arms to the people He has placed in front of us, saying, “Come in! There’s still more room for you here with Jesus…”

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

(1 John 4:10-12)

Holidays and hospitality

“Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit… The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free… not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Having grown up stateside, I’m always astounded by the stories of international hospitality that my friends on the other side of the world share with me– the willingness that people in other countries have to take strangers into their homes and serve them a cup of tea, a warm meal, or simply hear their stories after a long day of travel or work.

In countries all over the globe, this type of hospitality is the norm.

These people, Christians or not, understand Jesus’ commandment– “Love your neighbor as yourself.

They feed the hungry, give tea to the thirsty, and provide company to the lonely (all within the walls of their own home– a place that is likely abounding in comfort and love).

While I mulled over this idea of international hospitality this week, it dawned on me that all of these things are slightly reminiscent of one of Jesus’ other teachings:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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 25:31-40)

Personally, I’ve found that when I allow Christ’s hospitable nature and love to flow through me by inviting others over for a meal or to stay in my house while they are in a period of transition, I learned to love without great or unhealthy expectation of others.

By no means do I have this whole “love thy neighbor” thing down pat; as my roommates and house guests can attest to, at times I am irritable and impatient. My brain starts to spin and smoke when things are not somewhat orderly. I’ve seen my silly attachments to my material possessions rear their ugly idolistic heads. Oh, and as an introvert, I get to see my selfishness magnified when my “me time” or my “Jesus time” is disrupted. All reallllly cute attributes of my self… Hashtag: sarcasm.

These last few months have taught me that hospitality comes at a cost and that cost is different for everyone. It can be something as simple as sacrificing your “me time” to make your home welcoming to others, or something as big as overcoming self-established boundaries of intimacy with strangers or acquaintences. It simply depends on where God has you.

Hospitality can be uncomfortable and it should be because it is sanctifying.

In those moments when we are being called to be hospitable, we are called to put the comfort of others over ours, to listen, to meet needs, and to pray for and with those whom God has entrusted us with, even if it’s just for one meal or one short season of life

What would happen this week and this holiday season if we put aside our anxieties and selfishness and opened our homes to the people around us?

Yeah, I’m talking about the crazy neighbor who lives next door and can be heard screaming at her children until all hours of the night. Mhmm, even the cranky old man who lives alone and complains about your lawn being too long in the summer. And yes, who could forget the co-worker who drives you absolutely bananas with their stories drenched in hyperbole and laced with hidden pain.

What would happen if we invited them over for a Thanksgiving meal, free of expectation but full of Christs’ love? Think of the conversations that could happen and the relationships that could begin if only we lowered our Westernized walls and allowed people to discover themselves as created free and beautiful by a loving God within our homes.

Think of the possibilities.

XYZDinner

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.Hebrews 13:2

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