Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Extravagant Love, Radical Hospitality

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." - Romans 12:12-13

A Challenge to myself and others:
Love Extravagantly
Practice Hospitality
Live life with arms wide open

Although I moved to my little town 2 years ago (almost exactly to the day! wow!) I have hopped from church to church. Tried several, but never felt like I truly found a place to call home. For lots of reasons.
I was always traveling on weekends, visiting friends or family, working... While there were 2 churches that I attended regularly, I never found "home."

I decided recently that the only way to do that is to truly protect certain times. I did that when I was in college. These times on Sundays were morning worship, and Connexion (the college service)....This time on Thursday is when my Bible Study meets....As a result of that commitment, I was connected...and my church was home. While I have protected my Sunday morning time for church, I haven't protected a location. Interesting distinction, I know....but one that I think truly matters.

I also had a hard time feeling like a part of the community different places. No idea how to connect in small groups or Bible Studies....I could literally walk in and out on Sundays and be a ghost if I wanted. While at times that may be appealing, I want more. I want to be surrounded by people who are going to push, challenge, and encourage me. I want to be involved in the life of the church.

Last week, I had a brave moment. I called a church that I had visited a few times to see how I can get involved in small groups and adult classes. (I have tried this off and on various places for a year now and have literally gotten nowhere.) I ended up on the phone with one of their staff members who, after about 15 to 20 minutes of talking, hearing what I was looking for, and where I was at in life just stopped and said, "My small group meets on Friday nights. We would love to have to join us. And hey, you know what? My wife and I love having people over to hang out, just for fellowship. We'd love to have you over for coffee sometime too."

WOW! seriously!?!?! Just like that. An open invitation. This person didn't know me and yet extended and invitation and practiced radical hospitality.

By the time I checked my email later that day, I had an email thanking me (seriously, thanking me....) for stepping out and calling, giving me directions to their house, and just a bit of information about some of the other people in the group so that I would, as he put it, "feel like family when I walked in."

So I took a risk (for me, a fairly quiet, shy, introverted least until you get to know me) and meet a bunch of strangers (who oddly enough, I discovered some connections with once I got there!) And you know was 100% worth it. Everyone was welcoming, loving, and truly interested in my story. Can I just say that this was probably one of the most encouraging moments of definitely the past week, and even the past month.

So why do I challenge myself and others to that? Because it makes a difference to people. I know that I will remember this conversation and this moment for a long time to come.

"But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13 (Msg.)

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