Hospitable to Strangers

Hebrews 13:2 “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it.” NLT
Reading is one of the joys of life for a man who attends a day program at an agency that supports people with developmental disabilities. He expresses his joy of reading and love for books by reading stories to children at a nearby child care center. As I asked about his experiences he shared with me that he started reading to school children several years ago. He said that he has always been welcomed with open arms and has felt his efforts have been greatly appreciated. He doesn’t do this for the applause or the pats on the back he may receive. He does it for the smiles on the children’s faces. He does it with a servant’s heart and certainly enjoys being welcomed into their world. He does it in such a wonderful way that he is missed on the rare occasions he is unable to make it. Many parts of his story touched my heart but his comment on how welcomed he feels upon arriving was particularly inspiring. The excitement of the children as they greet his arrival, how each pair of eyes and ears are focused on the story being read encourages him. The enthusiasm of the children and staff as they welcome him as their guest motivates his heart. How my friend feels when soaking this all in is called hospitality.

Encarta dictionary defines hospitality as, ‘kindness to visitors; being friendly and welcoming; generous treatment offered to guests or strangers.’ This describes exactly what my friend feels each time he visits. That should describe how we respond when we come into contact with people in need whether they be guests or strangers. If done properly, with the right heart attitude you will provide for another’s need and you will certainly be blessed. Don’t do it for the applause or the pats on the back you might receive. Do it as unto the Lord, with joy in your hearts. Who knows, you may find that you have entertained an angel or at least turned a stranger into a friend.

Contributed by Larry Havlen, Spiritual Life Coordinator, Heritage Christian Services, Inc.

Lent Then and Now

I grew up in a faith tradition that observed the season of Lent. On Ash Wednesday our family went to mass and received ashes smudged onto our foreheads, on Fridays we had macaroni and cheese, we were expected to make extra visits to the confessional and, as we got older, we were asked to give something up for Jesus because he gave up his life for us. I liked Lent. It gave me something to do and I believed I needed to do something for him to get his attention so he could see what a good little girl I was. I gave up reading time for more prayer time. I gave up my favorite foods to experience sacrifice. I wore something blue everyday of Lent because I had heard somewhere that it was the Mother Mary’s favorite color and I thought that Jesus would notice me if I wore his mother’s favorite color. For me Lent was all about working to get God’s attention.

Somewhere in my teenaged years someone told me about grace. They shared that I did not have to do anything to get God’s attention, I already had it because he made me and he loves me. My head momentarily shut off so that my heart could listen. I was loved! I was wanted by God just as I was, no perfect behavior or extreme sacrifice on my part was needed! Unfortunately I threw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, and stopped honoring the Lent season. I did not see the richness that this tradition could bring into my life when observed from a viewpoint of love and acceptance instead of works and falling short of perfection. Fast forward a few decades in my life to a point where I was reintroduced to the beauty of a Lent season bathed in grace.

My adult Lent disciplines may mirror my childhood ones, but the motivation is completely different. The childish me sought to be good enough for God to get God’s attention. The adult me practices the discipline to get my attention on God.

My prayer for you this Lent season is that you will know the freedom of being unconditionally love and accepted just as you are.

Contributed by Lida Merrill, Spiritual Life Director, Heritage Christian Services, Inc.