Tag Archives: hospitality

Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:22-35

I was looking around at other women, looking to see what they were doing–and it put me at odds with my life. They were at women’s retreats and Bible studies and community groups and part of service opportunities. I was at home–a substantial commute away from church that would require my husband to take on my responsibilities after he came home from (crazy long hours of) work, two young kids at home, and (at the time) I was homeschooling one of them. There didn’t seem to be a fit for someone like me. I struggled with wanting what I had and wanting what other women had. I struggled with feeling like I was less a part of God’s plan because my calendar was not filled with church things.

***

In Numbers, God tells Moses how the Levites will assist Aaron, these Levites like first-born sons.

11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstborn sons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, 13 for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the Lord.” Numbers 3:11-13 NLT.

I made a list of this tribe, and their duties. They had a role to play, and the roles didn’t cross over but were specific to the Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarite clans.

***

The other day, I sat across from a mom at her kitchen table and we talked about gifting, purpose and service. I understood that in those early years as a mom of littles, I was still able to serve God and that it didn’t have to look like what everyone else was doing. I found community and Bible study here, online through 66 Books. I was able to assist a church hospitality ministry by handling scheduling and emailing from my home at my convenience. And my service opportunities looked more like play dates and coffee dates, cultivating friendships with other moms where we supported and encouraged each other.

My kids are growing. My responsibilities look different today than they did six years ago. We even moved. Those years of hosting and hospitality were the training ground for other opportunities, preparing the way for what I’d encounter today:

One woman let her guard down and asked for prayer for a serious health problem. Another one doesn’t know her purpose. And still one admits to a lifetime at church, but now, late in life, isn’t sure she ever really believed. I saw the vulnerability of their hearts when I stopped looking at what other women were doing, and started looking at what God was doing. This happened over play dates, dinners, and doing the things God wired me to do.

24 “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. 25 Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” Mark 3:24-25 NLT

I imagine how relationships would be strengthened and blossom under the encouragement of other women, cheering the other on–instead of secretly coveting or criticizing another’s life and opportunity. (A good listen about comparison with Andy Stanley over here.) It tears relationships apart. Note to self: don’t do this.

34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:34-35 NLT.

Lord, thank you for putting a desire to serve you in my heart, and for calling me to look to you for opportunities to grow close to you and serve others. Thank you for so many examples in the family of faith whom you’ve equipped and prepared to run amazing races for you–and for telling me that you’ve got a plan just for me. Thank you for loving me, and making me part of your family.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year

2 Chronicles 5-6:11; 1 John 4; Nahum 3; Luke 19

015A friend laughs when she thinks of me and a time she had come over to my house during the Christmas season. This friend has decorations for every holiday imaginable–and I mean boxes full of them. She even swaps out her picture frames to match the occasion. We were sitting on my couch, and I mentioned to her that I couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over because I was so overwhelmed by the decorations in my home. I felt like it was closing in on me. She looked around my house–I had a Christmas tree and a wreath.

That was a few years ago. Now in a different home, I have a few more wreaths I put up at Christmas time, a tree, an ornament banner, and a string of lights across the mantel. Our style is pretty minimalist. I appreciate the effort others make when decorating their homes. Some people are wired with creative talent for making things beautiful. For the rest of us, there’s Pinterest. And I’m ok with that.

I’m impressed today with the readings about preparing room for the Lord.

  • Solomon finishes a beautifully built and adorned temple for the Lord to dwell. God’s presence fills the space as a thick fog, and there is great celebration.
  • Ninevah was a prosperous and bustling town that was filled with riches and success, but a warning predicts a disgraceful fall, this enemy of the Lord.
  • Jesus tells Zacchaeus he’s coming to his house for dinner.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. Luke 19:5-6 NLT.

But it’s in 1 John 4 where it gets driven home, right to my very heart.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

Lord, your Spirit in me is stronger than this spirit in the world–let me be aware of that above all. I want to carry this reminder of making room for you, and loving others–my brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you for your great love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 10,11,12; Luke 19:1-27

Whenever I thought of this little man up in a tree, I focused on hospitality; on Jesus knowing his name; Jesus saying he would be a guest at Zacchaeus’s house; and Zacchaeus hurrying off with great excitement and joy to make preparations. This is a beautiful picture to me. I think it’s because I connect to joy and excitement at serving guests at my house.

Today I looked a little closer at the details, and I saw new things: Zacchaeus was a tax collector (a loathsome job); he was very rich; and when the crowd following Jesus heard the dialogue, they were displeased and grumbled, “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner.”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. I don’t know who was in the room when Zacchaeus told Jesus he wanted make right his wrongs. Maybe it was a private conversation. When no one else was able to hear this man’s heart, Jesus did. Sweet Jesus knew this man’s name and knew his heart. And this, too, is a beautiful picture (and I’m not sure if it’s in spite of or because of a few ugly smears–not those of profession, status, or the man’s sin, but the rejection, mumbling and judgment of the followers).

At that time the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them. You will be changed into a different person. After these signs take place, do what must be done, for God is with you.  1 Samuel 10:6-7 NLT, emphasis mine.

Lord, I am so very grateful that you look deeply into our hearts. The world can sometimes beat down with labels and condemnation, but your words encourage, lift up and assure that yours is the only opinion that matters. In the quiet or in the crowd, let yours be the voice I hear. Thank you that you know my name and my heart. Thank you that you change me from the inside out.

Courtney (66books365)

 

 

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Filed under 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament

Deuteronomy 14,15,16; Luke 5:1-16

When we moved here the end of last summer, my friend Reggie came over to check out our “new” old house. She walked the property with me, down the back jungle path, through the front garden, into the side yard where the apple and walnut trees are. She saw in this place exactly what my heart had seen, and her words stuck with me, coming back often to remind (and encourage) me when I feel overwhelmed, “Use this place to glorify God.”

This move brought us closer to several family friends. We now spend much more time with them than we ever had. My father’s girlfriend lives a few minutes down the road. Before we moved here, I saw her probably twice a year, and now she joins us weekly on Friday nights for dinner. I think of Fridays as a “Friday night open door” as we’ve enjoyed the company of long-time (or just-getting-to-know) friends and their kids around our table.

Today’s reading in the Old Testament talks about tithing, generosity, festivals.

22 “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. 23 Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (NLT).

When I wanted to be in a community group to read the Bible and connect with others who craved God’s Word, God brought me to 66 Books. When I continued to crave deeper, interpersonal connections around me, God moved our family here–out of a neighborhood and into the woods! We don’t just bump into a neighbor walking by–all of our interactions are intentional, inviting others to be in our lives. God quite regularly causes me to think outside the box–an online community group, a (literal, county-wide) community around me joining me at the table. I had my own ideas of what honoring God might look like, but He has shown me how to do it with my life.

Father, I am always delighted in you. You open my eyes to this world around me and show me life in new ways. Thank you for choosing this place to be our home. My biggest desire is that my life would honor you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Deuteronomy, Old Testament

Joshua 22; Jeremiah 11; Acts 2; Matthew 25

Choices and paths. Preparedness and action. Earlier posts came to mind when I read Matthew 25 this week. I thought about Dave’s reflection last Sunday about Matthew’s book being about choice and what we do with what God has given us when I read about the servants entrusted with the talents when the master went away (Matthew 25:14-30). And Greg’s thoughts yesterday of the servant tending daily responsibilities were the precursor to reading of the ten virgins, the lamp oil and awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13).

Choices and paths. Preparedness and action. These were the words that flavored the text as I read about feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:35-36.

Sometimes reading verses like these take me to a broader, global application–which is good. But when I considered the local, immediate involvement … the daily application of compassion and hospitality … opportunities to look into someone else’s eyes and glimpse Jesus–the sowing becomes the harvest.

A food gift to a new neighbor; a pitcher of ice water to the cable installers on a summer day; inviting a new mom to playgroup and cultivating a friendship; assisting a family struggling in a rough economy; caring for someone afflicted with a chronic illness; looking into the eyes of someone imprisoned who may feel forgotten and unwanted.

What am I doing with the talents God has given me? I could read these passages and feel condemned–or I can read them and see great possibility even in the smallest action.

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40.

I echo Greg’s prayer. Lord, give me the staying power to be obedient to your will moment by moment.  It is my greatest desire to abide in you so that when you come looking for me you find me serving your purposes.  Amen

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew, New Testament