Love of Strangers

HOSPITALITY, host, love of strangers, guest, friend, innkeeper
(from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

For much of my life I believe I misunderstood the word hospitality. I understood it to mean inviting someone into my home and perhaps sharing a meal and spending an enjoyable time with them. The them however, was always someone I already knew. I didn’t grasp that it was to be a stranger.

Over the years as I have examined hospitality closer, I realize, as an extrovert, I’ve been practicing hospitality most of my life. I’ve always loved being with people, sharing things and sharing my life story. I am usually a cheering section for the underdog. Growing up, I was the underdog. Being second, hopefully, means someone else is first, or someone is being served.

Being an extrovert is not realizing people I haven’t been introduced to are strangers. Extroverts don’t look at many people as strangers. I may view some people as strange, yet rarely as a stranger. Many times I have unwittingly made my husband, who by his own admission is an introvert, cringe, as I strike up random conversations with people I’ve never seen before. I laugh and call it my ‘gift’. So far, my gift hasn’t gotten me into trouble. Most people are willing to share in conversation, even if it’s brief.

If we don’t share our journey, no matter how painful, how can we encourage and enrich others who have had similar experiences. I read of a good example recently from an article, The Place Along the Way, by Marie Loewen. She spoke of hurriedly making dinner, chopping vegetables, and tearing lettuce for salad and throwing the trimmings in the garbage. Her daughter, who was a gardener, reminded her that the trimmings were the stuff of precious compost. How could she grow a good garden if her mother persisted in throwing away just what she needed to enrich the soil? She realized her daughter was absolutely right, saying the parts of our lives that we would hurriedly discard, the pain we would deem garbage, is exactly what can become the compost that enriches the soil of our lives.

Scripture is full of examples of hospitality, to traveling strangers, washing of feet, to the fatherless and widows, at banquets and feasts. Hospitality involves loving and doing for others, strangers and non-strangers.

Rom 12:13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Heb 13:1-2 Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

1 Peter 4:9-11 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  (This is one of my favorites), have you ever considered that we can administer God’s grace in it various forms. I remember the first time that was pointed out to me in bible class. It impacted me greatly.

And finally, John 13:20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

There are many more scriptures on hospitality.

I love this from Rachael Crabb- Don’t make it complicated. Hospitality consists essentially of a relationship, where one person gives to another, that which is alive in his or her heart because of Christ.

Now go out and love a stranger! :)

No Trespassing

No TrespassingWhen my days get hectic I sometimes get a little stressed wondering how I am going to accomplish everything on my “to do” list. To calm myself, I sometimes try and imagine what it would have been like to walk in the garden with God. As hard as I try to stretch my imagination I find it very difficult. I try and imagine the beauty, the trees, (I love trees) the flowers and streams, the fragrances, the sounds of birds singing, the peace and tranquility, then suddenly, when I imagine actually walking with God I am back in reality.

I guess because of my awareness God knows everything about me and because I’ve never walked in the garden with Him as one without sin. I was kicked out of the garden before I could experience walking in the garden. I was issued a NO TRESPASSING SIGN because of sin. Fear overshadows the moment; my shame and my nakedness tell me to hide from Him. Gen 3:1-13

Gen 3:22-24 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

God showed mercy to Adam and Eve by banishing them from the garden. He could have ended their lives.

Consider this commentary…Genesis 3:15 HE WILL CRUSH YOUR HEAD, AND YOU WILL STRIKE HIS HEEL. This verse is the first hope of God’s plan to defeat evil and restore his relationship with people. It predicts the full victory of God over Satan. It is the prophecy of a spiritual conflict between the woman’s offspring (i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ) and Satan’s evil forces. God promised that Christ would be born of a woman (cf. Isa 7:14) and would be “struck” by his unjust death on the cross. Yet, he would rise from the dead to completely “crush” Satan, sin and death in order to save the human race (cf. Isa 53:5; Matt 1:20-23; John 12:31; Acts 26:18; Rom 5:18-19; 16:20; 1 John 3:8; Rev 20:10)
(from Fire Bible)™: Global Study Edition

Through God’s mercy and amazing grace he gave us Jesus, our loving Savior. He gave us hope and salvation from our sins.

I can walk with God and I don’t have to use my imagination to do it!!

Rom 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior! Ps 18:46

 

Milestones

MilestonesI have had many milestones in my life and this week I’ve reached another. I turned 65. I clearly remember as a younger woman thinking that sixty-five was old. Even at the age of fifty I still viewed it as a long way off. Now that I’m 65, it seems 75 and beyond if I’m still around, suddenly seems much too close.

My priorities have definitely changed. I’m much more interested in spiritual possessions rather than material ones. I try and hang on to precious moments with loved ones, trying to store each second in my memory, especially with my ninety year old mother. I thank God each new day he gives us together. I’m grateful each day for my husband and each moment with him. He knows me like no other and loves me with the sweetest of love, flaws and all. I am ever mindful of my children, grandchildren and great-grands. Yes, thank you Father, you have blessed me.  Thank you that I can recall, kind words, all the times I’ve heard “I love you”, the hugs, even the tears.  Special moments with each one, special memories too.

I look back and wonder why too often, we have to have the snowy head to realize what is really important. I write without complaints. I know much of the things I learned to regret have shaped me into the person I am today. I marvel at God’s grace in my life and am often astonished that he didn’t let me depart this life in my sinfulness and rebellion. So…much…grace!!!

I am a shameless sentimentalist. I have boxes of crayon scrawled pictures, boxes of cards sent to me over my lifetime. I have one of the letters I wrote to my grandmother when I was 8. She gave it to my mom and my mom gave it to me. I cherish it because she did. I still take them out, read them, touch them and let them transport me back to special places in my heart. If only, oh, if only I could touch some of those faces one more time, hold those hands, speak those unspoken works.

If I could share one piece of wisdom, it would be to never take loved ones for granted. Never miss the chance to say “I love you”, never miss an opportunity to spend time with your parents or grandparents, because the day will come when you will look back at all the missed opportunities, only to wish you had them back again.

I am thankful to have reached this milestone. I look forward to however many more await me.

I will share one more with you. I have been on a spiritual and physical transformation for the past eighteen months. It has been amazing to say the least. God had opened my eyes to see him in glorious ways.

I have also changed my eating habits and added exercise into my life. As of this morning I have lost 60 pounds. I give all glory and praise to God!!

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7

A Courageous Lion

Courageous LionI wrote this blog in September of 2009 and am reposting it again in honor of “Makoto”. He was indeed a Courageous Lion and fought all of his battles with the strength and courage of a lion. I’m very sad to say he fought his last battle and is now gone home to be with the Lord.
His cancer returned and he died two days ago.
Makoto had friends all over the world and he taught the gospel to many people, some who accepted Christ and have in turn taught, and continue to teach others.

Sunday we had a guest speaker in our bible class. He is a friend of Russell and Jennifer. I first met him when he visited our congregation a few months ago. He is a very courageous man. He shared the sin he has been struggling with for many years. I applaud his courage and his honesty and I would like to see more people in the church sharing the things that can be so difficult to carry alone. This man, I will call him Makoto, which is a Japanese name meaning sincere and honest.

Makoto (now 37) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in Japan on April 6th, 2001. He returned to Oklahoma one week later and within three weeks began chemotherapy. He went into clinical remission after six months of chemotherapy and then had a stem cell transplant. He also went through a rejection phase which affected his heart and his skin as well as caused his muscles to atrophy. He spent nearly four years in physical therapy to build his muscles/strength back up. He celebrated his 7th anniversary from his stem cell transplant on November 19th, 2008. (If my memory is correct he also had heart surgery).

Makoto told us that while never engaging in the homosexual lifestyle, he struggles with being sexually attracted to men. He shared events in his life that he believes caused him to have this struggle; and he also told us the first time he shared this with some of his church family that he was not received well at all and basically was encouraged not to talk about it or discuss it. That made me very sad for him.

Makoto shared a lot of information with us about support groups for men and women who struggle with this as well as several books on the subject, and an organization Exodus International, which is a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian organization. Exodus International promotes “the message of Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”

We should not reject those who need our love and support simply because their sin isn’t the same as ours. It may be out of our comfort zone and we may not have the answers they need, but we can listen, pray with them and love them. This is why we need to be open and honest with each other. For example, I wouldn’t be the best person for someone to come to if they have a problem with pornography. I have never been interested in nor do I have a desire to view or read that kind of material. It is not an area of weakness for me. One the other hand, if someone tells me they are struggling with drugs or alcohol; then I’m your gal. “Been there, done that”! I can absolutely identify with that struggle and I can offer my support and I know exactly how strong the pull is.

Everyone in our congregation knows that I have battled that in my past. I have never kept it a secret and I have been able to encourage others who may have that battle in their life. If we, as brothers and sisters in Christ cannot trust each other with the very sins we struggle with, and if we cannot hope for encouragement and support, then I ask, who do we turn to and where do we go?

Is Makoto’s sin bigger than yours, bigger than mine? If it is, please show me in the bible where God has said one sin is bigger than another. Sin does not come in shapes, sizes and colors.  Makoto is a Christian, he loves God and he knows homosexuality is a sin to God. That is why he has not given in to his desire to partake of that sin.

I was so moved with compassion when Makoto shared his story. He told us that the suicide rate is very high for those who struggle with this, and especially for teens. The peer pressure from the world is “do what you want”. One is almost considered “abnormal” if you aren’t involved in some sort of sexual activity. It can be terribly lonely if you feel you don’t belong or don’t fit in, and rejection is extremely hurtful.

Makoto is not alone in this struggle. What would you do and what would your group do? I hope to hear from many of you and I hope that your church family  is one that would show compassion and love and be willing to teach them what God has to say about this subject and any subject contrary to what God wants for us.