We've been slowly pressing towards this point... the point at which I visibly squirm while I'm reading and have little to say because I am realizing my inadequacy more and more. So I will plod along through this post, but I am letting you know that my next post, thankfully, will get much lighter in nature as I tackle topics which are nice and comfortable for me... things like not bothering to vacuum before company is coming, but rather after. I really do love those practical, organizational types of tips. This heart work is hard for me. Hard, but necessary. And after all, we Do Hard Things. (Our family motto.)
Chapter 11 - The Finest House in Town
You really must read it yourself to get the full impression of the parable she weaves with this story. I'll share an excerpt in summary:
We have barricaded our lives from one another... We no longer know how to coexist in the seasons of one another's lives... Consequently, newborn babes often starve if they can't find a spiritual household with an open door and provision of sweet warm milk and protein-rich meat of the Word. Slightly muddled, not sure what we are about, we allow the infant to fend for itself. Our house stands; it is there for all to see. It has been crafted in perfect intent by the Master Builder, but all too often the spirit of those within is feeble. Those who abide in these nearly emptied edifices can scarcely hear the cries of strangers beyond the gates.
...windows are being thrown open, rooms aired, fires lit on the stone hearths, dry fountain plumbed, food stocked in empty kitchens, the front doors flung wide, gardens tended, people welcomed.
Each renovation makes place for the Spirit of Life to build also into human efforts, to tabernacle in this once locked room, in this formerly dusty attic. Christians are growing into an organic temple.
Reading this strengthens my resolve to continue the work we are doing to strengthen our local body of Christians and to keep pouring our hearts and our lives into that work. Evangelism is important, but having a solid structure to which new babes in Christ can be welcomed is vital.
Chapter 12 - Householding
The home of the Christian is a tool for ministry. Ask the Lord how He wants you to use it... If we understand that we are stewards to a divine Master, we must consider why we are in this place at this time in this town. He is not haphazard in His planning.
Ouch. I guess I need to do this. (making notes...)
(Insensitivity to the needs of others) is not just my problem; it is often the major fault of the church. We become ingrown. If we are not what Christ expects us to be, we have nothing to share; and if our household is filled with His presence, we often become so enamored with... this warm brotherhood that we forget to look for those... waiting for an invitation.
Sensitivity will come as we labor in prayer. In fact, if the work of evangelism is not first instigated in prayerful conduct, that's a pretty fair sign it will have only human results.
Do you ever feel lonely? I do. Often. In fact, it is a common complaint of preacher's wives. This next bit really pierced my heart. I need to do better.
I am not lonely, because I refuse to be alone, and I have never met anyone who was offended because I opened my door and invited her (or him) to come in.
See what I mean about the inadequacy? *sigh*
These are Hard Things.
Chapter 13 - Open Hearts
Christ came to all men, but His message of redemption found particular appeal on the part of those disenfranchised, without hope, under the heel of unrighteous oppressors. We dare not neglect those who are abandoned by their fellow humans. For the Christian there is no caste, no race, no sex discrimination. We must minister to all people.
I find this to be a VERY difficult thing to balance. We have multiple calls every week from very needy people. We cannot possibly help them all... and really, many do not want what we do have to give - physical and spiritual food. Most just want cash... right now... and they will tell a very good story to try to get it. I feel inadequate and frustrated by this.
I also tend to be very inwardly focused and I feel like I have more than enough work to do keeping my own home and teaching my own children. I could throw all of my life into saving others, but what would be the cost? Would I lose the souls of my own children? It is difficult. I think I need to pray for wisdom in this area... to feed my own lambs and keep them safe and well, but to be open to ways to stretch my capabilities without sacrificing their well-being.
Chapter 14 - The Hospice
Hospice care steps in when the situation is dire. It is a last resort. In this chapter, Mrs. Mains describes radical steps in hospitality and opening our home to those with dire situations with no other hope. She emphasizes that this kind of ministry is not for everyone. Yet, it would be the sort of thing a man aspiring to be an elder ought to be capable of doing.
Maybe someday I will be in that place, but this next part describes something I can do NOW -
You can be a part of the work of the Kingdom though you may not be on the front lines. Think of yourself as a behind-the-lines supply depot, a resting place away from the heat of the battle. Find ways to use the good things the Lord has given to you to ease the battle-scarred veteran or that fresh young recruit.
Hospitality is an open heart as well as an open home. All of us must develop this attitude whether we feel the Lord would have us invite people into our homes twice a year or two hundred times a year. I am not concerned so much about the quantity of hospitality, but I am concerned about the attitudes from which our practice springs. We must all have hospitable hearts...
And that is how this book has opened my eyes more than anything. I am realizing that I have some more heart work to do and that this is FAR more important than improving my culinary skills, and even more important than being more socially gracious to those who are guests in our home. The problem is not in my abilities, it is in my attitude.
A reminder to myself -
Joining The Common Room for a study of the book, Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains.