4: hospitality and personal space

This is part of a (very drawn-out) mini-series on hospitality. Click on the ‘Hospitality’ tab at the top of the page to read the other posts. If you’re encouraged or challenged by it, please consider sharing it with someone you think would appreciate it too. Thank you!

By a long way, the chief obstacle to giving hospitality in our Western culture seems to be the notion of personal space. Whether it’s a defence of why hospitality isn’t being offered, or a response to someone else’s generous hospitality, the essence is that a) we have personal space, b) we like personal space, and c) we don’t want to trade it in. We enjoy having our things to ourselves. We like being able to follow our own agenda. We like being able to watch our programmes, eat our food, play our music at the volume we like. We’re happy to give out when we’re outside the home – but home is our time for recharging, relaxing, indulging.

We have personal space. And, therefore, we think it’s a right. Not many generations ago most families would have been living in one or two rooms. Now we not only have separate spaces for cooking, living and sleeping, but many of us have a spare room or study or playroom or additional ‘luxury’ space – and so we’ve become complacent, accepting this as the norm, whereas, by the world’s standards, it’s an anomaly. Jesus didn’t have a home – and therefore no permanent ‘personal space’. Interestingly, the times of personal space we read about in Jesus’ life were times he spent alone with His father – praying, often fasting, seeking God’s will to become clear, and pouring out his heart in return.

We like personal space. Now that we have the luxury of a space to call ours, a space to be alone, a space to drop pretences and be ourselves, we want to keep it. We want to hoard it to ourselves because we’re worried that, if we don’t, we will lack the energy or drive needed to function outside the home – whether in paid employment, church ministry, or relationships with friends. Jesus’ model was to recharge with God.

We don’t want to trade in our personal space. We don’t want to offer hospitality, or certainly not very much of it, because we perceive that we need personal space. We also like it. We’re concerned about getting grumpy with those who come into our homes. We’re concerned that we won’t be able to entertain, to perform, to show our guests a good time.

There are things I want to say, things I need to hear. I have offered some grumpy, self-centred, self-interested and half-hearted hospitality over the last few months. On one day I write these blog posts on hospitality – and on the following day I grumble about the people coming into our home, the time they’ve popped in, the expectations they’ve come with, or the jobs I was going to do before my evening was so rudely interrupted. The first thing I need to hear (and maybe you do too, if you can relate to any of this) is that hospitality is always worth giving. Regardless of how I’m feeling. I mean, ideally we would be wonderfully generous and serving all the time – and, in God’s strength, hopefully we’re becoming more Christ-like in our hospitality. But hospitality is not about putting on a show. It’s about letting down defences, allowing those around us to see Christian living in all its glory, pain, hilarity, grump, perfection, mess, 100daysofhappiness and 10,000daysofhumdrumness. It’s about grace. It’s OK to be normal when people are in our home – in fact, it’s crucial.

I’m sitting here writing a blog whilst keeping an occasional eye on the England-Italy World Cup match. Six of us are grouped round our telly, three who don’t live here. And I’m blogging. But it’s normal. No one’s asking why I’m not in the conversation, or missing the near-goal which just happened. It’s my home, I’m just being normal. But so is everyone else. They can sprawl themselves on our sofa and help themselves to drinks because they know this space is theirs too. There’s no entertaining. Everyone’s just being normal.

The second thing I need to hear is that my source of energy needs to be God. If I’m recharging by watching TV, baking a cake, sewing a cushion, playing endless games of Settlers of Catan – then I have to question whether I’m being fully charged, and whether I’m being charged appropriately for the good works God has for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). I don’t use my phone charger to charge my toothbrush, or my laptop charger for my camera. I need to trust that the One who made me knows best how I need to be strengthened, rested and re-energised. And I need to trust that, if I’m seeking His will above all else, He will provide the times of rest.

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And now, friends, I’ve had my moment of personal space so, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to the football…

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frivolity and depth

Hello.

It’s been a while, friends, and for that I apologise. Before you accuse me of idleness (because you know you’re about to do just that), let me fill you in on how time has been spent.

We are doing awesome things with our garden. I’m allowed to boast, because for the last five years our garden has borne an uncanny resemblance to a piece of community wasteland. I swear it’s only the assortment of random, second-hand kids’ play equipment, strewn across what passes for a lawn, that has kept the re-developers away. If you don’t believe me, then this:

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So now, in that space, we have a playhouse and play garden which is all kinds of cool:

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(I’m not entirely sure that this wasn’t built purely for selfish reasons – but then again, much of parenting is just about reliving childhood, so why feel guilt? And, in case you were asking [which you probably weren’t], the playhouse was preloved, the stones for the path were from a stash we already had in our garage, the tree stumps were free, and the table was upcycled from a piece of scrap MDF and a broken kiddies’ bass drum. Enough said. Oh, and I bought the fence new. Sorry.)

Then our friend got trigger-happy with a chainsaw, and now our overbearing rosehip is no more:

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I realise the second picture looks even worse than the first – not your archetypal before/after pics – I can confirm that the bits of tree have now been carted away, but it’s currently pushing midnight and if I take a pic then all you’ll get is black, and you don’t want that now do you?

We’ve discovered the wonder that is Boj. Pure joy, from the catchy Jason Donovan theme tune (just what is the third line?) right through to the bizarre food combinations and eco undertones. As part of Mister’s ongoing musical education, I will soon be showing him on repeat as many Jason videos as YouTube can throw at us.

I visited a church-run community cafe in a local suburb, and thought about how we might make that idea work in our community.

Missy potty-trained:

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She will now no longer be able to take photos of me changing her nappy:

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Although New Year was approximately five minutes ago, it is now June – which can only mean one thing: elderflower! The sweet scent lines our every path at the moment – and we’re looking forward to making cordial pretty soon. If you’ve never made it, you must! Right now! Here’s the recipe which works for us. It’s so delicious, you’ll never return to the bought stuff ever again. This year might even be the year where we branch out and make sorbet too. Go crazy.

We helped out at our local community garden for the first time, one warm, sunny Saturday morning. The kids picked litter, watered plants, played in mud, and amused themselves jumping off a large soil pile for ages. We learnt about the amazing potential of free fruit and veg for the community.

I’ve started to volunteer for The Besom. Entering people’s homes, enjoying their accidental hospitality, has made me ask questions about need, and the cycle of poverty, and shifting cultures, and benefits, and how so many families can’t support their own kids through an education which might raise their aspirations because they’re worrying about how to give them dinner that night. And there can be no greater worry for a parent than whether you’re going to be able to feed your kids.

I thought about blogging, and whether to stop. I concluded that I would keep going, but work more on my writing style. I never started this blog because I believed I was a writer, but now I’ve become one – and, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. I feel responsible for making my blog fun and interesting to read, and sometimes, let’s face it, it’s been dross. Sorry. Will amend. Let me know if you notice any difference.

I made salad soup. Honestly. I had salad that was going to turn bad before being eaten, and I hate to throw food away. Turns out it’s one of the nicest soups in the world and I can’t believe I didn’t Google this earlier.

Craft production has gone a bit insane. I made oven gloves for my mum:

2014-04-20 21.53.33followed by a heck of a lot of (blank) greetings cards for her birthday (one per year of her life, i.e. a lot), my first ever three-tiered cake for a friend’s 21st:

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cushion covers for our lounge:

2014-06-05 22.33.02 and a present-that-shall-not-be-named-for-she-has-yet-to-receive-it for my friend. I still haven’t finished the quilt, updated Missy’s scrapbook or baked a cake for our housemate’s birthday on Saturday. I am trying to learn that it’s OK to buy things rather than spend insane hours of the night sewing, sticking or icing. Pray for me.

Al and I got chatting to CAP about how we might partner with them in our community. I realised the urgency of saving lives, marriages, families and kids’ futures being wrecked by debt – and we both felt a strong urge to set up a Debt Centre as.soon.as.

This call to the poor, if that’s what it is, has been simmering away for two or three years, bubbling up gradually until setting point, 2014, the year when Besom, CAP, community gardens and cafes all enter the mix. God knows the outcome. Dare I pray for revival amongst the poor in my lifetime?

The frivolous and the deep. That’s how life goes. But who’s to tell which is which?

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What frivolous and/or deep things have you been up to recently?