Real Life Hosting: When Hospitality Meets Reality

I have a friend who has spent much time in our home.  We would invite him over quite often before he was married.  He always complimented us on the meal and the company.  One day he said to us that he wanted to be invited over sometime for leftovers and without the house being cleaned.  He loves us, and we love him, but he knew the difference between our real life and our acts of planned hospitality.

It was his desire to be “just part of the family”, and that meant the family with all of its messes and “refrigerator leftover buffet”.

It has been hard for Joanne and I to invite people into our home unless we have had the opportunity to make everything ship-shape.  Over the years we have loosened a bit on this, but we struggle with this still.

I recently had someone send my a blog post by Jack King an Anglican Priest from Knoxville, Tennessee.  In this post King quotes one of his earlier sermons on the topic of “Scruffy Hospitality”.  In this message he says:

“Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.”  Jack King-

In the blog post, King goes on to unpack “Scruffy Hospitality” in a more in-depth manner.  I encourage you to click here to go and read his post on the topic.  It is well worth the read.

Above is a video interview with Jeff Vanderstelt.  This is part of a promotional package for a book called A Field Guide for Everyday Mission: 30 Days and 101 Ways to Demonstrate the Gospel.  I am currently reading this book and I will begin a series of posts based on this book in the next few days.  I feel the straight forward approach to living on mission presented in this book will make for great conversation and thought.

For now please enjoy and be challenged by the interview with Jeff.

Discipleship at The Kitchen Sink–The Art of Regular Hospitality

Time to wash up

I have said for a long time that “discipleship happens at the kitchen sink.”  I believe this to be true for our children and for those God has arranged to cross our path on a regular basis.  It is in the rhythm of ordinary everyday life that God brings about extraordinary changes in the lives of those we walk life with.  While we wash dishes and do yard work God provides the opportunity for us to share the fabric of our faith with others.

I learned many years ago as a young youth pastor that it was hard to sit across from a young person and get them to open up to you, but if you were active in some pursuit with them they would open up to you.  This pursuit could have been throwing a football, shooting hoops, washing dishes, setting up for an event, raking leaves for a senior or anything other of a million things we could do together.

I remember when I realized that was true with friends as well as my youth group.  It was while cleaning the kitchen with a friend that I was able to enter easily into a spiritual conversation.  In the flow of an everyday activity I was able to intertwine a discussion on this persons view about God and his involvement, or seemingly lack of  involvement,  in their present situation.  This simple conversation was a springboard for a season of heart to heart discussions that would make us both grow in our understanding of God and his place in our lives.

I know that this information may not be revolutionary to some who read this, but for others, this kind of ordinary life conversation is something yet to be experienced.  For those on either end of the spectrum I think that there is one thing that we need to master to make sure that we don’t miss out on a single opportunity to deepen the spiritual richness of our relationships, and that is the art of hospitality.

I believe that hospitality, while a natural gift for some, needs to become something that we all work towards.  I believe this is a lost art that needs to be restored to and through the Body of Christ.  I feel that Joanne and I have or at least have been able to develop the gift of hospitality.  We love to have people in our home and yet there has been a dry season of entertaining and sharing life with others in our home.  What has caused this season?  Simply being to busy.

I recently read an article by Jeff Vanderstelt an old friend from my youth ministry days.  In the article Jeff addresses the lost art of Gospel Hospitality.  He gives this very unique and interesting definition of Gospel Hospitality:

In light of the Gospel, we might define hospitality as the creation of a space that allows people to BE themselvesto BECOME renewed, and to DO the works God has saved them for. When we properly exercise hospitality, we welcome people to be themselves in the warmth of the light of Christ, to become renewed by being changed by the work of Christ, and to do works we have been created for in Christ.

This definition and the article as a whole has given me much to think about.  I will write more later, but I encourage you to click  here to read the complete article by Jeff on the Gospel Centered Discipleship website.



How Big is Your Tank

When I was in my grade 12 year I was given an amazing opportunity.  I had played water polo for three years at my high school, yes there are high school water polo teams in the states, and yes it is a real and difficult sport. 

 In the spring, after our water polo season was over, our coach Andy called and asked if I was interested in playing a non-league game with his team from Portland State University.  I was excited that Andy had enough confidence in my ability to ask me to play with his university team. 

 I gladly accepted and showed up at the rec-centre where the game was to be played on the allotted day and time.  Right away I realized something was different.  Our high School pool was 25 yards long by about 12 and half yards wide.  The maximum depth was 10 feet and the shallow end was 3.5 feet.  This meant that during the 40 minutes of exhausting play sprinting back and forth we could hold on to the sides or stand on the bottom of the shallow end when a play was stopped for a foul.  This gave the tired players and their tired legs a break.

 The University tank was a regulation water polo tank.  It was 30 yards long by 20 yards wide and was delineated by ropes as it was set up in the deep section of the Olympic size swimming pool.  That meant there were no sides to hold on to and that due to the platform diving tower, the whole tank was 20 feet deep. 

 This all seemed good until mid way through the second half; my legs began to cramp due to the fact that I was unable to rest them during the dead ball moments of the game.  Now I was, if I may say so, an excellent swimmer and always thought I could swim through a leg cramp.  Let me assure you that no matter how good a swimmer you may be it is nearly impossible to swim with both legs cramping.

 I was unable to swim quickly to the side or stand in the shallow section to help rest my legs.  I began to sink like a lead balloon.  I struggled to the top flailing and screaming in pain.  I just got high enough to gasp for air and started to sink again.  I made my way back up one more time, gasped for air one more time and then on the third time went down believing that I was about to meet my maker. 

 Just as I had resigned myself to the fact that my life might be done, I felt someone grab me by the wrist and quickly pull me to the surface.  It was Andy.  He looked at me with this goofy grin through his walrus-like mustache and said “how you doin buddy?”  He quickly swam me over to the rope and to the side of the pool in true lifeguard style and told me to take a rest.  That day I decided my water polo career was over.

 Now are you ready for it?  Here comes the cheesy Christian segue.  Our spiritual journey is sometimes like this.  As a church it is our desire to see people grow in their love for God and their love for one another and their neighbour.  The love for God is our vertical relationship, or a relationship that is defined by depth.   The connections with one another and our neighbours are our horizontal relationships defined by the expansion out from our comfort zone into the lives of others. 

 I have noticed that in my life, and in the lives of many I walk the spiritual journey with, it is easier to desire a very narrow and shallow pool.  We feel overwhelmed by trying to go deep in our relationship with God and/or we feel very uncomfortable widening our relational field to include more people.  So we tend to stay in the safe shallow end of a personal relationship with God, keeping it to what is known and comfortable.  Likewise, we can tend to stay close to the wall of the pool rather than expanding our world to include the people that God has placed in the natural path of our everyday lives. 

 As your pastor it is always a struggle to know how to lead our community to grow in both areas, to grow deeper with God while at the same time growing relationally with those around us.  The challenge I have for all of us as we go into this New Year is to examine the size of our tank.  Is it too shallow or too narrow or both?  As Elders, staff and ministry leaders we will strive to give strong leadership in providing guidance to our community to grow deeper in a relationship with God and wider in a love for those God has called us to. 

 Be Blessed,

Pastor Dennis


What Does God’s Covenant With Abraham Mean for Me?

I said in the last post that I would follow up with a post on what the idea of covenant means to you an me today.  Well, while we may not be a culture that sees covenants in the same way as Abraham did, we enter into them all of the time.  Contracts are covenants.  If you have a cell phone, then you have entered into a covenant with your carrier.  If you own a home then you have most likely entered into a covenant with a your mortgage holder.  We covenant, or enter into a relationship in a formal nature all of the time.

In the cases mentioned above the covenants are not always seen as equal.  They usually exist because we want something that the other person has or can get us.  We sign our lives away to enter into these relationships so we can get something that we want.

We, if we call ourselves followers of Christ, are in another form of covenant, the New Covenant.  This covenant is made available to us through the blood of Christ shed on our behalf on the cross.  This covenant is one that restores us to our intended relationship and communion with God our Father.

In this case we are offered a chance to covenant with the one person that holds the key to the one thing that we really need, not just something that we want or desire.  This covenant brings the eternal life that we lost through our rebellion of sin.

There is another difference with this covenant is that it is not made by one stronger to hold us the weaker in a state of ownership, but rather it is as the covenants of Abraham’s day when a covenant made in between a stronger party and a weaker party made the two equal.  Yes, when God made the covenant with Abraham, He made Abraham equal to a child of His, with the right to all of the resources of the Father.

With this agreement came the right to speak differently to each other.  Abraham could now argue with God and beg Him for things, Abraham had a right to ask for the full resources of God the Father, as a dearly beloved son.

We too, as part of the New Covenant, have the right to the full resources of God.  The goal of this should not be for our own gratification or wealth, but to have the heart of Christ in the garden when He prayed to the Father:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

Seeking the will of the Father should be the driving force of how we ask for and utilize the resources of the Father.

When is the last time you begged the Father for resources to make His will on this earth a reality? Maybe it is time to start.



Freedom To Love People, Not Win People

For many years as a follower of Jesus, as well as many years as a pastor, I was afraid of loving people.  No, that is not correct, I wasn’t afraid, I was simply not called to love people, or so I thought.  The calling I had received from the churches that I was a part of was to WIN people, not to LOVE them.  Every aspect of relational involvement with people was geared at winning them over to the side of Christ.  I was taught an adversarial and competitive stance that lead me to see people as the enemy, or at best those to be conquered.  It was after many years of ministry  that I came to understand the joy of truly just loving people.

One of the freedoms that we need to experience is to be free to love people not see them as opponents to be challenged and conquered.  Now that is much easier to say than to do, because many say that they are going to  change their behaviour, but they don’t change it correctly.  Change is not always correct, sometimes it is just change.

Often people think they are loving when all they have done is changed their perspective on people.  They view them no longer as opponents or competitors and begin to view them as projects.

I always give the example of my daughters as my understanding of the difference between people as projects verses truly loving people.  I never see my 5 daughters as a project, or as people I am trying to “turn into Christians”.  I simply love my girls and as a reflection of that love I desire the best for them, and the best I could hope for them is that they will come to know and to walk intimately with Christ.

It is that kind of love I have had to learn to develop for my neighbours and friends.  To do this means to walk in true community with people, and to walk life with them.  We need to be planted among the people and we need to allow our roots to go deep.  We need to take up residence among the people that God has planted us.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry
and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your
daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.
Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”   Jeremiah 29:4-8

The Joy Of Life Together–The Spiritual Act of Community

I have been reminded over these last few months of the joy of doing life together.  I often struggle to make time for community.  I struggle for two primary reasons.  The first is due to the fact that life is very busy and it is just difficult to find time to be with others or to have people in our home.  The second reason is that I am introverted by nature.

Through the years it has been my introversion that has kept me from enjoying community, but over time I have learned to appreciate the need for others in my life.   A few days ago we enjoyed the fun of having our Community Group meeting in our home and sharing a meal together.  We were spread across the house eating, but over time all of the adults ended up around the table in the dinning room.  We simply all wanted to be in the same room together.  What a joy this was.

It is easy to over strive to make time together spiritual and miss the idea that just being together in community and sharing life together is in itself a spiritual act.  Trust me, being together is not enough.  We need to pray for one another and encourage each other in the Word.  We need to pull each other along toward Christ, but we must not miss the fact that the Lord has created community not as a structure but a spiritual act.

Now I do not fight my introversion as much as I fight the busyness of life to make sure that I do not miss out on the privilege of experiencing the spiritual gift of community.