Hospitality

I think the American church has lost the skill or gift of showing hospitality. It seems years ago, we were all visiting neighbors, and providing meals and inviting new attenders of the church to come over for a get-acquainted meal.

Now, it hardly ever happens. I don’t know why, because there’s really nothing very difficult about showing hospitality.

Go ahead. Put your tech stuff away. (You won’t die!) Turn off the TV. (You can always record your favorite show.)

Hospitality can be as easy as this:

“Hey, you’re new. Wanna come on over for lunch? Naw, you don’t have to bring anything. We’re just cooking brats on the barbecue. You can? Great! Here’s our address.”

Or

“Hey, I’m so glad you moved onto our block. Wanna come on over for tea sometime? You’re free? Great! How about tomorrow?”

When your guest(s) arrives, here are some great conversation starters:

  • How did you two meet?
  • What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
  • Where all have you lived?
  • Where were you born?
  • What kind of work do you do?

I’m sure you can think of your own questions. People love to talk about themselves. And they’ll remember you for expressing an interest in them. (Just make sure that when you ask your questions you’re prepared to listen!) Who knows? You may have just begun a wonderful and rewarding friendship.

I think a lot of Christians think that ministry and serving is all about doing some great and glorious preaching, or going to Haiti, or giving humongous amounts of money, or running a soup kitchen.

But one of the grandest things we can do for God’s Kingdom is simply show an interest in others. You probably wouldn’t know it when you see people pass by. But most—maybe all of them—yearn for someone to take an interest in them.

I know. At times—such as7-20-11 010 when we move and start going to a new church— I’ve been one of those people.

“Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13 NIV Bible)

 

Deadly Snake

About ten years ago my fifteen year old daughter and I went for a hike in the hills above Boulder. It was mid-April and we couldn’t wait to get out and stretch our legs and breathe deeply after a long winter of being cooped up inside.

We parked just off Hwy 36, at the trailhead. We’d brought our two medium-sized dogs, Dudley and Sprite, so we felt pretty safe.

The trail was a there-and-back kind of hike.

At the mid-point—about two miles into our hike—we passed through a wooded section, and paid particular attention because of the possibility of a lurking mountain lion. We made lots of noise, laughing and talking and swinging and hitting our walking sticks against tree trunks.

Then we heard it. The unmistakable and bone-chilling sound of an intimidated rattle snake.

We looked up to the rocks above us. A big rattler was sitting on a flat rock, about eight feet above us, flicking his tongue and rattling his warning.

We hurried to get away from the area. And we thanked God that the snake had not been closer to the trail. We made it to the turn around.

On our way back, Kiri and I kept reminding each other about the wooded section and to keep looking for the snake on the rock. Kiri was ahead of me, walking Sprite. Dudley was pulling me along as if he, too, was anxious to get past this spooky section of the trail.

I kept my eyes peeled to the right, scanning the rocks for the snake.

Just then out of the corner of my left eye, I saw the lightning-like movement. A snake on the trail…let me repeat….on the trail, had struck at Kiri, missing her calf by just inches. She hadn’t even seen it until I screamed a warning and she jumped clear.

Kiri picked up pebbles from the trail and began to pelt the snake. I yelled at her to stop it because the rocks were only making the snake bunch up into a tighter coil. We’d never get past him if he didn’t slither away from the trail. Even the dogs refused to budge.

The rattler wouldn’t move, so we had to climb up through some rocks and high grasses to get past that part of the trail, all the time fearing that we might encounter another snake.

After we got clear, we ran the two miles back to our car. And all the time, we kept thanking God for protecting us. Especially since we hadn’t brought a cell phone.

I’ve thought about that experience many times. Here are the lessons we’ve learned:

  1. Recognize that danger exists.
  2. Be alert…always. Predators strike when you think you’re safe.
  3. Be prepared. Know how you will meet a threat.
  4. Have a plan of defense or escape.
  5. Stay close to others.

Recognize danger, be alert, be prepared, have a plan, stay close.

Physical attacks can be terrible and traumatic. But, in the spiritual realm, attacks are no less devastating.

In the book of Ephesians, we are told to put on the full armor of God to defend against evil and evil forces. The author, Paul, was fully aware of spiritual danger and of the attacks of the devil.

  1. We need faith in God and His work on the cross,
  2. we need to practice doing right, so that we recognize wrong-doing,
  3. we need to know God’s Word well and be able to rightly handle it against worldly “wisdom,”
  4. we need to pray in alignment with the Holy Spirit.
  5. Stay close to others.

Faith in God, Do right, Know the Word, Pray, Fellowship.

This is the best way to avoidIMG_2467 a deadly snake.

“…take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” ( Eph. 6:16 NIV Bible)

 

The Real St. Patrick

When I was just a little kid in elementary school, the only thing I knew about St. Patrick was that there was a day when we had to wear green or we’d get pinched by our classmates. I always thought that was a bit unfair since my small wardrobe contained no green shades and I’m not Irish, anyway.

But in 7th grade European History class, I chose to write a paper on the real St. Patrick. Here’s what I found:

He’s not a saint with a capital S. The Roman Catholic church never canonized him.

He’s not Irish. He was born in Scotland to a middle class family. Both his father and grandfather were prominent in the Christian faith. But not Patrick.

At the age of about 16, he was taken captive by Irish pirates and sold to an Irish king.

The king sent him out as a slave to herd sheep. This was a lonely, often dangerous job with no shelter or food. Patrick had to fend for himself. To deal with his loneliness and fear, he remembered the Christian God that his father worshiped.

Patrick eventually converted to Christianity. In his early twenties, a message from God encouraged him to flee his master and Ireland and try to get back to his family.

Patrick escaped back to Britain. He studied the Christian faith in a monastery. Thirty years later, he felt a call to go back to Ireland and spread the gospel.

The Irish people of that time were pagan, war-like, and hostile. Patrick faced death many times.

Patrick was pretty savvy about evangelism. He targeted royalty and the rich, figuring that when they converted it would be easier to lead the lower classes to faith in Jesus.

There was an earlier evangelist named Palladius, but he wasn’t quite as successful as Patrick. Patrick eventually became the bishop of Armugh.

Patrick used the formerly pagan symbol—the shamrock—to teach the concept of the trinity.

There are many stories about Patrick and it’s difficult, almost sixteen hundred years later to sort out myth from reality. But the Irish have good reason to celebrate the life of this bold and passionate evangelist, Patrick.

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.'” (Mark 16:15 NIV Bible)

Panic Attacks

Years ago I suffered a bout of panic attacks.

I was under great stress and several very hard things had happened to me within a few months.

The attacks came on suddenly. One day, I thought I was handling all my stresses with godly strength. The next day, wham!

Of course, being a musician, the first attack had to happen when I was playing in church for about 500 people. I felt like someone had sneaked up behind me as I played and bludgeoned me with a sledgehammer of impending death.

Many Christians try to spiritualize panic and anxiety. And I suppose there is in any illness an aspect of spiritual illness. After all, we humans have all inherited Sin.

But, like the flu, or cancer, or diabetes, etc. our brains are just as susceptible to illness as our bodies.

The treatment for me during those challenging months of panic was threefold:

  1. Cling to Jesus like I’d never clung before.
  2. See a counselor
  3. Over-expose myself to the things that trigger a panic attack.

I started by stepping outside the house. Then walking down the street. Then getting in the car and driving somewhere…anywhere. Finally, stepping inside my church. Seems so simple. But for the sufferer of panic, it’s not.

After many months of talk therapy, prayer, and forcing myself to stand in front of an audience, the fear became manageable.

When I had my first panic attack, I thought, “What the Sam Hill is this?!!

Later, I had conversations with many women (far more women than men suffer with this condition) and discovered how common anxiety and panic attacks are.

After I recovered, the Lord began to put a thought in my head: why not write about your experience, using a fictionalized character and set her in a wilderness adventure?

Show how the character’s faith in the Lord helped her. How she used a particular kind of organized and supervised therapy in the wilderness to help her face her fear. Then, throw in a very frightening situation—being stalked by a dangerous and delusional man—and show how her therapy and her faith helps her conquer even that kind of fear.

I finished writing the novel. It semi-finaled in a national writer’s contest. A wonderful agent picked it up. It’s close to being published.

Now I wonder, how many women readers IMG_1687who’ve struggled with any kind of fear will be interested in this kind of suspense novel? Would you be interested?

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree, planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought, and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jer. 17:8 NIV Bible)

Look Back

I found a couple of my old prayer journals while I was reorganizing. They were dated from the mid-eighties. I was about to toss them in the trash, but then stopped at the last second.

I opened one of the journals and read some of my entries. Names of people I hadn’t thought of for years filled the journal’s lines. Amy, Nicole, Myra, Jess, etc. Some of the prayer requests were about health struggles. Some financial challenges. Some concerned problems in their marriages.

Also in this section of the journal was the name of my husband, and my children—tiny tots at this time. And last, my own personal requests.

I turned some more pages and found my favorite category: “Letters to God.”

Some of these entries expressed my yearning for a greater maturity in my faith. Some were about challenges with people where I worked and how I needed to grow in love for each of these co-workers. Some letters simply expressed my praise and thankfulness.

I remember feeling, way back then, that many of these prayer requests seemed to never be answered. Especially the ones for my loved ones. Why does God take such a long time to answer those prayer requests that are most near and dear?

But, sitting on my bed, reading through the journal, through the perspective of thirty years, I saw that almost every one of my prayers had been met. These specific requests usually required an attitude adjustment in me. About my friends, goals, my husband, my children.

Attitude adjustments take time. The Lord rarely zaps us with instant emotional healing. He uses hardship, coupled with time to teach us to submit to His wonderful ways, to lead us to greater dependence on His strength, to produce wisdom and patience.

But He does answer prayers.

If you’re like me and you tend to forget the Lord’s faithfulness to answer prayers, keep a prayer journal. You’ll be amazed as you read older journal entries IMG_2383when you see His footprints all over your life.

It’s great to look forward, to press onward toward your goals.

But every once in a while, it’s also good to look back and see how far the Lord has brought you.

“Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77: 10-12 NIV Bible)

 

 

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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