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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Spiritual Outlook: Hospitality: The present of your presence

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“Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” -Hebrews 13:2 (AMP)

Do what you can with what you got. Should you wait until everything is perfect? Probably not.

This quote sparked a memory. I remember when I got my first place. My plan was to take my time to furnish. It would be filled with pieces that I loved and that connected to my spirit and energy. My living room consisted of a rectangular banquet table and folding chairs … like the ones from the church fellowship hall. (Now that I think about it, I probably got it from the church — smile). My living room stayed like that for quite a while. But that’s not what I remembered.

My memories were of how it felt to have my own space. I loved creating spaces and places where people feel welcome and at peace. That banquet table and chairs hosted birthday dinner parties, spa days, movie nights, one-on-one sessions and more. I am glad that I didn’t wait to open up my space. I already had what I needed.

It reminded me that hospitality isn’t about having the perfect space with everything in perfect place. It’s about opening up your space to make someone feel at home. It is giving someone the gift of presence and intentional space to be.

When I reflect on the gatherings, I don’t remember the table and folding chairs; I remember the joy, the laughter, the tears, conversations spoken and unspoken that happened in that space. It reminded me to do what I can with what I got. Should I have waited until it was perfect? Probably not.

When I reflect on hospitality, it takes me all over the world. It takes me to sacred experiences and places where I truly learned what the heart of hospitality is. It is opening up your heart so that people feel at home. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It is the hospitality during my journeys to the Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our hosts took the time to offer a pitcher and bowl, and poured water over our hands and dried them. This gesture was repeated at every meal in each home. It got to the point where I would be weeping before the meal was served. My Congolese family reminded me that they wanted to cover and bless me while I was in their space … it was our space and we were home together.

It was dinner in the home of Maria Elena in Cuba. In her tiny apartment, the four of us dined on a quarter of chicken and some pieces of bread. She served us and as we ate, she would periodically get up and worship. She praised God for giving her the honor of allowing her home to be a blessing and that she could serve and feed God’s children. We were at home. I cried through that meal because I was worshiping that I was being loved in that space.

Think about the time when you really needed to talk to someone and they invited you to their space. They may have begun with, “My house is a mess, but come on over …” If you really needed someone to talk to, I guarantee that you didn’t focus on the unwashed clothes or dishes or dust. You focused on the fact that you were heard, seen and loved. That person may have had no idea how much you needed that space and place. Hospitality is when someone feels at home in your presence.

Hospitality can happen in a fully furnished and spotless home. It can happen with a full-course meal. It can happen with Peanut butter and crackers with a folding chair and table. It can happen on the floor with a pizza or leftovers. It doesn’t matter.

Hospitality isn’t about waiting until you have everything perfectly arranged in your spot.

Does that matter to someone who just needs your presence and time? Probably not.

As we enter into the holiday season, think of creative ways to give others the present of your presence. These past few years have taught us how to connect creatively in person and virtually. We need each other … Hospitality is just opening up your home the same way you open up your heart.

Even with a rectangular table and folding chairs. (Smile.)

Blessed to be a blessing to you,

Rev Sheila P Spencer

Rev. Sheila P. Spencer is an author, poet, teacher and preacher. You can contact her at CustomMadeInspiration@gmail.com and her website is www.sheilapspencer.com.

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