Making Room – book quotes

“People view hospitality as quaint and tame partly because they do not understand the power of recognition… Hospitality can begin a journey toward visibility and respect.”

-Christine D. Pohl in Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, p. 62

The year 2020 will be long remembered. It will be known as the year of the pandemic, contentious politics and race relations, as well as the year of deepening isolation for many. Yet as believers in a God who is unconditionally faithful and perpetually active, we are confident He is using even the chaos of the year’s events toward his own good. This isn’t to say he caused the pandemic, or the social unrest, but nothing is hopeless while under his gaze. And be assured, he sees all. And cares.

I have used this year to curate carefully what I have been reading. More than any other time in my life, I am choosing books that will encourage personal growth, while allowing me to appreciate the good, true and beautiful. My most recent read is Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (1999) by Christine D. Pohl.

“Strangers without resources need more than the minimal food, clothing, and shelter that might come through institutional provision. They need friendships and opportunities to contribute their gifts to a community.” p. 92

My deep prayer is that, as followers of Jesus, we will tire of a mindset of fear and exclusion and remember Christ’s constant warm welcome to others. My prayer is that I will begin leaving marginal space for those politically different, linguistically strange, culturally other, and instead, see each person both individually unique and collectively as a Christ-before-me. What a vastly different year 2021 could be if we put others’ needs before our own! What could we create in our communities if we were grateful for the commonality of our humanness?

“Overcoming strangeness is necessary when our responses are personal and when strangers are welcomed into personal, valued places.” p. 93

Here I offer just a couple more quotes pulled from this book. I am not taking the time right now to write a review. Honestly, I don’t quite feel up to it yet. However, I do highly recommend the book for encouragement in thinking more broadly and generously particularly toward the poor, the disabled, the immigrant and refugee.

Making Room swiftly corrects the definition of hospitality taking us back to its original embodiment – a love and care for the stranger and the other. Christine Pohl, a professor of social ethics at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, has carefully researched and interviewed Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical contemporary charities involved directly in long-term hospitality efforts. These groups are specifically working with immigrants, refugees, the homeless, and the disabled.

“…the experience of having been a stranger, or of being a vulnerable person on the margins of society, is often connected with offering hospitality. When hospitality involves more than entertaining family and friends…we often find hosts who see themselves in some way as marginal to the larger society.” pp. 104-105

Pohl gives definition to the long-cherished Christian tradition of hospitality, as well as challenges the reader to see oneself as servant, partner, co-laborer, and not merely charitable worker or minister.

“We offer hospitality within the context of knowing Jesus as both our greater host and our potential guest. The grace we experience in receiving Jesus’ welcome energizes our hospitality, while it undermines our pride and self-righteousness. The possibility of welcoming Christ as our guest strengthens our kindness and fortitude in responding to strangers.” pp. 105-106

Below is a short reading list on loving our neighbors , broadening our understanding of hospitality, snd serving others. The following books range from light, inspirational reads, to practical, community challenges, to more academic approaches on the topic.

What books might you add to the list? What is your definition of hospitality? Could intentionally practicing hospitality soften our isolated, twenty-first century hearts?

Safe, comfortable and, here, chop this onion

Recently, I read an article revealing the top three things visitors notice about your home. It supposedly served as a warning against less than spotless bathrooms and the lingering odors of last night’s breaded chicken dinner. Another title, which popped up on a suggested post on Facebook promised to help me give a wide berth to last year’s outdated home trends and decor. If we are not careful, we may actually start to believe some of this stuff.

I am grateful for my home. We live in a pleasant area and our house is roomy enough that we can invite friends over. But my bathroom is not spotless; I have piles of unopened mail, and books and the children’s things stuck in corners. My closets are disorganized. Oh, please don’t look in the garage. It’s kind of gross. I suspect my decor is not on trend, but then again, I am blissfully ignorant of what is popular at any given moment.

I’m not sure I am there yet, but I would love to be the person who is not so concerned about what people think when they enter my home, but how they feel. When I think back to friends whose homes I loved visiting, they were not always the ones with the matching furniture. Not always. Sometimes hospitality and ambience go hand in hand, but not always. My goal is for my guests to feel safe, comfortable, valued and honored. When I can achieve that I will have fulfilled Romans 12:12-13.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

and

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I John 3:18

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Now I only embrace this theoretically, but I hope to one day have a home where it doesn’t matter if my floor is clean, because you are welcomed regardless with open arms. Here is a home creed in which to aspire:

Let’s make our homes safe. It’s ok to talk about difficult topics, to voice opinions of dissonance. It is ok to admit failure, hardship and trouble. You will not be undermined. You will be loved and are secure.

Let’s make our homes comfortable.  The furniture here is secondary. There may be a lump in the couch, but the blankets are handy and you know where the silverware is. Let’s make our homes a retreat for our family from the outside world, but also welcome the world to come in from time to time and put their feet up on the ottoman. God holds me accountable for I have often been sheltered by some of the most hospitable of people.

Let’s make our homes the venues in which we can value and honor others. It  is an honor to have you enter our doors. You have blessed us with your presence, and now we want to show how greatly you are valued. We listen, we reserve judgement, we cater to your specific needs. We speak words of honesty, love and gentleness.

As I reflect again on the pointless articles mentioned above, they have not emphasized what we truly care about. Being in someone’s home is about being, and feeling, included; it’s about a sense of belonging.

You may only get water to drink at our house, but, here, you can chop this onion.

If the Golden Rule is treating others as we would want to be treated, then the Golden Rule of hospitality has nothing to do with the scent of hand soap in the guest bathroom. It is how do I feel when I am included in the host’s inner circle. Am I safe, welcome, comfortable, valued? I am far from living this creed out well, but it is a goal to strive toward. You are worth it.

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