Making it Real



We have been making excuses for why we cannot make room for others at our table. Are you ready for a challenge? A challenge to welcome people into your home, to sit with them at your table, to engage and listen to them, no matter who they are or what their story may be….no matter how well you can or cannot cook, when your house is a mess or you are feeling pressured. Will you make room this week for someone at your table?


Remember the excuses I made….well here they are again with a counter response, a practical suggestion for putting the excuses away this week. And making it real….


I thought about having some new friends over on Friday night, but I was so tired by the end of the week I cancelled. Invite a good friend to partner with you, to keep you accountable -a new and an old friend to share an end of the week pizza.

By the time I get back from work and sort out the kids, school notes, lunch boxes, uniform, readers there really isn’t enough time to prepare a meal for company. Make a bulk batch of bolognese sauce on the weekend – defrost it and serve spaghetti bolognese for your family plus one or two more. Ask your guests to bring a green salad or garlic bread. Simple.

We live too far out of town and I am sure people really wouldn’t want to make the drive on a wet Autumn evening. Invite people over for lunch on the weekend instead. A drive in the country followed by lunch and a stroll in the paddocks is hard to beat. Just remember to ask your guests to bring old shoes/boots.

We are on a really tight budget at the moment, we are building a house and every last penny is going towards the new home fund, so no entertaining at the moment. If you have food for your family then you have all you need. Invite a few families over for a pot luck dinner – BYO, perhaps with a theme (pasta, Asian, soup) and share your food and thus relieve the pressure on your budget.

I am single and I couldn’t possibly have a family over – we literally don’t have enough crockery or cutlery…or seats! If you want to be generous and really spend time with people create a DYI take away box and make dinner for  a family in their house. Keep it simple – something like a fast pasta, steak sandwiches, burritos. The family can help and you can chat as you cook. Just don’t forget to clean up.

Since we had baby number three the house has been in such a state and I am really hoping to get on top of it. Maybe next month. Forget the house. Make the focus people. Tell them you want to see them and ask them around for cheese and ham toasties – as you DYI your lunch conversation happens.

I am really not a great cook and the thought of having to coordinate a meal makes me stressed. I just can’t do it. Offer to host – prepare the venue and ask a team of friends to cater for you. Many hands make light work, all you have to do is co-ordinate.

My children are difficult and I am worried they will behave badly. We can’t take them out and we can not have people at home. On a fine day meet friends in the park for afternoon tea. Make sure it is a safe area where you can supervise and with things for the kids to do. BYO cake and thermos of coffee, juice, water and make it a casual picnic.

I have thought about asking the new people from our neighbourhood over for a coffee, but there never seems to be enough time. As genuine as this concern is we always have 5 minutes. Next time you bump into your neighbour ask them in for a coffee – your take up rate might not be high but at least you are trying to connect and this will do amazing things for your outlook and ability to see opportunities where you thought there were none.

So many people have food allergies and intolerances nowadays, how can I possibly cater for them all. Invite people to bring a dish to share. Friends with food intolerances will cater for their own allergies and fussy eaters – it is also an opportunity for you to see what they like to eat!

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Making room


The list of excuses I creatively came up with may have hit a nerve with you, I am not sure. I thought I was imagining excuses you may use not to demonstrate hospitality, but on reflection I have been challenged to see that those excuses are me. And those statements are often replayed in my head even when we do have people over. Why is that? 
We are all able to do things with our head, be led by a good idea to serve and give, but our heart can be a long way from the notion of generosity and grace that comes from an honest adoption of hospitality. Like you, I become disheartened when an invitation is refused, when people always seem to be unable to come. When you host often and never get a return invitation. Or when a guest is critical in some way of their experience in your home.
The bottom line is that making room for people, even nice, ‘respectable’ people whom you and I would love to share time with, is hard work. It will always be hard to make room at the table for the homeless, the addicted and the broken. But I guess I have been forced to see that it can be hard to invite the ‘right’ people too. If our motives for making room in our home for others stems from pride or a need for approval then we will fail.
At the meal table we are exposed for who we are. A fraud, a fake, a hoarder, a gossip, a tyrant, a victim, an addict, a hypocrite. Making room for others forces us to be real with ourselves, if we are to intentionally build relationships over a shared meal and not polish our own egos.
Tim Chester says in his book A Meal with Jesus:
Hospitality involves welcoming, creating space, listening, paying attention, providing. Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force you to be people-oriented instead of task oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way of building relationships, but it is number one on the list.
It’s possible to remain at a distance from someone in public gatherings…..Meals bring you close. You see people in situ, in life, as they are. You connect and communicate. Novelist Barbara Kingsolver describes dinnertime as “the cornerstone of our family’s mental health.” “If I had to quantify it,” she says, “I’d say 75 percent of my crucial parenting effort has taken place during or surrounding the time our family convenes for our evening meal.”1
Generous hospitality leads to reconciliation. It expresses forgiveness. Unresolved conflict can’t be ignored when we gather round the meal table: you can’t eat in silence without realizing there’s an issue to address. Paul uses hospitality as a metaphor for reconciliation when he says to the Corinthians: “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no-one.” (2 Corinthians 7:2) Hospitality can be a kind of sacrament of forgiveness.

In a world where fewer families eat together, we have a real opportunity to offer grace and community to those people we are connected to in some way. There are people of peace, people we share a link to, however tentative. The new mum at the kindergarten, the check out chick who is always super nice to your kids in the supermarket, the guy you buy your take away coffee from before work. These people are people you and I need to make room for at our table.
Some practical ideas for making this happen soon…..

Excuses, excuses…..

You may recall that last week I suggested that maybe hospitality was a “public duty toward strangers”, “honor of the community” and a “sacred duty”. This notion is challenging to the busy modern man and woman. A frenetic lifestyle based around a career or family often doesn’t leave much room for welcoming strangers into our home, let alone our friends and extended family. Could this be you or me? What might our excuses me? Let me know if you have some more to add as I tease out this idea of hospitality further.


I thought about having some new friends over on Friday night, but I was so tired by the end of the week I cancelled.

By the time I get back from work and sort out the kids, school notes, lunch boxes, uniform, readers there really isn’t enough time to prepare a meal for company.

We live too far out of town and I am sure people really wouldn’t want to make the drive on a wet Autumn evening.

We are on a really tight budget at the moment, we are building a house and every last penny is going towards the new home fund, so no entertaining at the moment.

I am single and I couldn’t possibly have a family over – we literally don’t have enough crockery or cutlery…or seats!

Since we had baby number three the house has been in such a state and I am really hoping to get on top of it. Maybe next month.


I am really not a great cook and the thought of having to coordinate a meal makes me stressed. I just can’t do it.


My children are difficult and I am worried they will behave badly. We can’t take them out and we can not have people at home.


I have thought about asking the new people from our neighbourhood over for a coffee, but there never seems to be enough time.


So many people have food allergies and intolerances nowadays, how can I possibly cater for them all.


Bake for a friend

While you are all digesting my last post and call for comments on the notion of hospitality I thought I would encourage you to plan a little baking this weekend. Gather some friends, some little people in your world or even a neighbour’s kid and make these delicious, simple biscuits. It is a recipe from my dear friend Jenny. You may already have a recipe just like it. The ingredients are not luxury items and the process is simple…..and that little bit of cinnamon makes the house smell so good. People will be knocking on your door asking to come in!

Quick Mix Biscuits

80g butter, melted, cooled
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup sultanas
½ cup plain flour
½ cup SR flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp bicarb
Preheat oven to 180C
Combine butter and sugars in a bowl.  Mix in eggs and sultanas.  Sift flours, cinnamon and bicarb over mixture.  Stir until just combined.  Set aside for 10-15 mins or until firm.
Place small spoonfuls of mixture onto baking sheets, allowing room for spreading.  Bake for 12-15 mins or until golden.

Hospitality

I have been thinking and reading about Hospitality for a long time, however over the last few months I think am starting to see things differently. What comes to mind when the word hospitality is mentioned? Food, friends, housework, entertainment, stress, anxiety, gourmet food, wine selection, managing children’s behaviour.  

S. C. Barton ( “Hospitality,” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments [Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997) suggests

“For [most Westerners today,] hospitality is personal and individualistic and has to do with entertaining relatives and friends with the prospect of the hospitality being reciprocated. In the first-century Mediterranean world, however, hospitality was a public duty toward strangers where the honor of the community was at stake and reciprocity was more likely to be communal rather than individual. Further, whereas contemporary Western hospitality has become secularized (so that a common synonym is “entertainment”), hospitality in antiquity was a sacred duty. 



What comes to mind now is “public duty toward strangers”, “honor of the community” and “sacred duty”.


Do you agree? For many of us in a season of busyness, stress, small children or financial hardship we may regard this as all too hard. Similarly, our home may be too small, too untidy or our culinary skills lacking. So how to we reconcile our feelings about our life situation with this notion of hospitality as a duty that might indeed be sacred? Love to have your comments on this one……