2016 Hospitality Challenge: May

Invite some church friends for a BBQ (and an April Recap)

Hospitality Challenge

April is always a challenging month for our family (due to being in the landscaping business) and so when I sat down to plan for a pizza night with old friends–the challenge for April–I wasn’t quite sure what to do. And then I looked at the calendar and realized we already had dinner scheduled with old friends. They are dear friends of ours that we haven’t been with for quite some time. We had already planned to get together unrelated to this challenge.

We planned a date for April 22 and looked forward to reconnecting. However, on that morning we received a phone call that our daughter’s water had broken and they were on the way to the hospital! Needless to say, that weekend passed in a wonderful blur but without our anticipated reunion with our friends.

So, I did not participate in the April challenge, after all. Did anyone participate?

I am starting to feel like I am writing these posts about hospitality to the air. When I started the challenge at the beginning of this year, I had so many people express interest in joining the challenge. But it appears that only a couple of you are actually participating. If you are participating, you could really encourage me by just a short comment below (or by hitting “like” if you are reading it on Facebook).

Have a great day!

MAY CHALLENGE

The weather is finally warming up! Invite some church friends for a BBQ. Make it a very casual and easy affair. Ask your guests to bring along a side dish or dessert to make the evening even easier.

 

Socialism and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

chitty_film

It has come to my attention recently that there is a country that has been adopting socialism over the last number of years. At first, things looked brighter. But, eventually, in spite of the great promises this system makes to its people, it became very evident that this was not going to turn the country into utopia. In fact, the opposite is true. The people there are in dire straits. Socialism is tearing into shreds the quality of life the citizens of this country once knew. People die because they cannot get the medicine they need. People cannot meet their basic needs because the store shelves are empty. EMPTY. Even the food supply is scarce! Can you even imagine? I am not making this up. This is their reality.

And the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang just keeps coming to my mind. Have you ever seen it? When I was a young girl, this was my very favorite movie. I loved the crazy inventer, Caractacus Potts (played by Dick Van Dyke) and the Candy Factory owner’s daughter, Truly Scrumptious (played by Sally Ann Howes). I loved Grandpa and Jeremy and Jemima. I loved the car that could fly! And I loved the soundtrack and can still sing most of the songs by heart. And then there is the super scary part where the family lands in Vulgaria–where the Queen hates children and has locked every last one of them up in the castle dungeon.

Does anyone remember what happens next? I do recognize that I may be the only person on the planet who loves this movie! Anyway...

The “Childcatcher” comes looking for Jeremy and Jemima. He can smell them. He creeps around looking for the hidden children. But he doesn’t find them. So he tries a different tactic.

He decorates his jail wagon with brightly colored panels so that it looks like a candy store. He changes into a colorful outfit and walks around the village, shouting–

Gum Drops and Ice Cream! Lollipops! All Free Today!

Jeremy and Jemima hear him and come running. He promises them free candy if they come into his “store”. Smiling from ear to ear at the prospect of free candy they enter the wagon. In a wink, the door locks behind them, the sides fall away, and we see the children riding away clinging to the metal bars and screaming for help. They have been deceived. They were gullible and fell for his evil trick.

Doesn’t this remind you so much of the Socialistic agenda? Outlandish, wonderful promises are made and, yet, if you look at this system realistically and historically, there is no possible way for the promises to actually be kept. In fact, if we take the time to truly think about it (rather than to let our greed for free stuff take over), we can see that it will destroy the country we love–and that it is just one short step to Communism from there.

I do not generally write about politics, but this scene from this old movie just keeps playing itself over and over again in my mind. How do we get people to see that their desire for free stuff is like Jeremy and Jemima’s desire for free candy? And that if we should ever take that step into the wagon of Socialism, it won’t be to receive free stuff but instead to be imprisoned in a horrible system from which there is no escape?

We have trained our young people to desire socialism. We have done this in a million ways–from training them to be self-absorbed and entitled to never training them to work hard and to think of others. Now let me assure you that I believe there are still many, many good families–both Christians and non-Christians– who have taught and are still teaching their children good morals and how to work hard. They are teaching them to think of others and to serve their fellow man.

But the fact remains that there are many who are not. And to these young people free equals good. They haven’t been taught to think through the consequences of their choices. Let’s face it, many aren’t even being taught to think at all.

But I guess many of us fall for a similar trick when we fall for sin. We see pleasure and easy money and fun and believe Satan’s lie that it won’t cost anything. But when we step through that door, the candy-coated walls fall away and we see the prison bars of addiction, debt, and obesity. Just to name a few.

Yes, we are all guilty of this to some extent. So it would be best not to be too terribly hard on our friends who think that Socialism is the answer to our country’s problems. It does look pretty good to anyone who hasn’t thought through how the system ends, looking at it both realistically and historically.

It’s important we think anything out to its inevitable end–whether it is a system of government or a choice to sit down at the gambling table.

Everything costs. We’d best remember that.

 

*If you are interested in reading further, here are two posts on two different countries and there Socialism nightmare: One article is here and another one is here.

2016 Hospitality Challenge: April

Host a Pizza Night with Old Friends (and a March Recap)

Hospitality Challenge

March is past and we are now into April. Although around here, the weather isn’t cooperating very well and today feels more like a March day, while March, with its very warm, sunny days felt like spring had already arrived. Alas, March offered false hope and now cold, dreary weather has returned to stay for awhile. Which has absolutely nothing to do with why I am writing today! I am actually writing to see how your March Challenge went and to provide a new challenge for April!

Last month’s challenge went really well for me once I was able to work up the courage to invite someone. It’s funny, but that is, by far, the hardest part for me–extending an invitation to someone who is not in my normal circle of friends. But, so far, I have found that those that I have invited are not only gracious, but also seem to actually appreciate being invited.

For the March Challenge, I encouraged you to invite a single person (single, divorced, widowed) for coffee or a meal. I chose to invite an acquaintance who is separated from her husband. I had had a few casual conversations with her in passing and always enjoyed them, so I decided to reach out to her for the challenge. This past Monday we met for lunch at a local restaurant and enjoyed getting to know each other just a bit better. We had wonderful conversation about our families, our life situations, and the Lord. We both have some things going on in our lives and promised to pray for each other as we parted.

It was a great experience and I just wish I could convince more of you to join the challenge. I just know you would be so blessed by this. A few of you have shared your stories with me from the past three months (either here on the blog in the comment section or to me personally) and I am pretty sure that you would agree with me–this challenge has been a blessing! It does take some of us out of our comfort zones but it is so worth it! I hope that you will consider joining for April, if you aren’t already taking part.

Does anyone have an experience to share from April? I would love to hear your stories!

Now onto our next challenge! Ready to go?

APRIL CHALLENGE

I want you to invite a family you do not know to go along on your summer vacation! Pick a fun spot like the Caribbean or Europe and enjoy getting to know one another as you navigate unknown areas while in a culture that speaks a different language!

 

Okay, that’s not the challenge. But I couldn’t resist. It’s April 1 and I just couldn’t resist. April Fool’s!

Here’s the real challenge for April:

Invite a family or two from your past for a pizza night. It may be someone you just haven’t made time to see in a while or it may be an old high school buddy or a college friend. It may be someone you used to hang around with when you were dating or when the kids were little but time took over and you haven’t seen them for ages. Whatever the case, call them up or email them or Facebook them and invite them over for pizza! Pizza is easy and cheap and you can make it or you can buy it. If you feel stressed about having someone in your home at this time, then meet them at a local pizza shop. I hope you have fun with this challenge!

 

 

2016 Hospitality Challenge: March

Invite a couple of acquaintances for coffee (and a February recap)

Hospitality Challenge

March has arrived! I am one day late in posting this because, honestly, this time of year is very, very crazy for me. We have a landscape company and my really busy months are January through April, as we work to get new contracts into the hands of our customers and update and change any systems that didn’t work well last season. With that in mind, I have a confession to make:

I didn’t officially do the G4L Game Night Challenge. I planned to. But before I could get it all in place, we were actually invited to an old friend’s house for a…game night! At that point, life was a bit crazy and our weekends were filling up. And so I made the decision that this would just have to have to suffice for the February challenge.

We got together with two couples, not at my house but at my friend’s house.We hadn’t seen the other two couples–at least to chat about life and enjoy each others’ company– for quite some time. It was actually quite awhile before we even broke out a game, as we sat around talking and catching up.

After awhile, they broke out Twisted Farkle. We had never played any variation of Farkle before so this was all new to us, but we had fun! It made me wonder why we don’t do this type of thing more often. We had a great night re-connecting with old friends.

A few weeks later, our Sunday School class had a special Valentine get-together and we played Bunco, another dice game. This one is especially suited to larger groups. We had a great time as we switched tables and got to know each other in a more relaxed atmosphere. Games have a way of doing that–far more than movies do. They are great for family and friends alike, as we spend a few relaxed hours together.

Did anyone else host (or attend wink) a game night? I would love to hear your stories.

MARCH CHALLENGE

This month, let’s invite a couple of acquaintances from our church or workplace for coffee (or tea). You can meet at a local coffee house or in your own home. Focus on women (or men if you are a man) who may be single, widowed, or divorced–the ones that rarely get invited anywhere because they aren’t a “couple”.

 

2016 Hospitality Challenge: February

Host a game night (and a January recap)

Hospitality Challenge

January is over already! Isn’t that hard to believe? I always think January will drag on forever but it never does. The month was already half way over before I realized that I had never even made plans for the January Challenge. Yes, I am talking about the challenge that I created…

So at that point I realized that I needed to get some plans in place. Here is how it all turned out for me–

First–preparing my home. Well, I started out with great aspirations to get a little more organized. But, alas, it didn’t really happen. Thankfully, my home, with a little tidying, is generally company ready, since I host a Bible Study in my home each week. It’s amazing how much a weekly meeting at your house changes how you keep things cleaned up and organized–at least on the surface! So, while I can’t say I made great strides in this area, I can say that our home is ready for guests.

Second–meeting a couple for dinner. I went out on a limb and called a couple from our church that we don’t know very well. The wife and I had enjoyed talking together at a church camping trip a year or two ago, but other than the tidbits of conversation we would hold in the church foyer occasionally, we had not really talked since then. Her husband owns a business, too, so I knew the men would have plenty to talk about.

I hesitantly picked up the phone and dialed their number. I felt a little bit funny, quite honestly, calling out of the blue like that. I explained the Growing 4 Life Hospitality challenge and then asked her if she and her husband would like to meet us for dinner. She said they would like that and we put set aside Friday night, January 29–only two days before the month’s end. Nothing like cutting it close!

And so this past Friday night found us meeting this couple at our local Ruby Tuesday’s. I know I shouldn’t expect this every time, but the delightful thing about this particular evening was that all four of us hit it off immediately. There were no awkward moments or uncomfortable pauses. We have very different backgrounds and lives, and yet we had so much in common that I think we were all pleasantly surprised. I can definitely say that we left the restaurant that evening with new friends. It was a really rewarding experience for us–and one we would never have had without the Hospitality Challenge pushing me to make that call.

Now it’s your turn. I’d sure love to hear your stories. Do you have any stories about preparing your home for company? Or meeting with a family you desired to know better? Would you share your experiences in the comment section below? Don’t feel that you can only share the good things, but feel free to share your frustrations and challenges, too.

By the way, if you are reading about the challenge for the first time today, you can still join. This is not like the Bible Reading Challenge of last year, where you are hopelessly behind if you start late. The 2016 Growing 4 Life Hospitality Challenge can be joined at any time during the year. Click here for more information.

So are you ready for the next challenge? Here we go…

FEBRUARY CHALLENGE

Now that you have your home ready to go, it’s time to open up your home and practice hospitality. This month the challenge is to invite two or more singles (don’t forget the singles, they are often overlooked!), couples, or families into your home for a game night. Winter is a great time to play games, so this seems to be a great place to start in our desire to become more hospitable.

You can make this as simple or elaborate as you want to. Just remember to keep the focus off of yourself and your home and keep it on your guests and making them feel welcome. Personally, I will probably just serve a few munchies and iced tea and keep it very casual. But you may want to serve dinner or buy some pizza. It’s totally up to you!

NOW, I know that some of you may have a spouse who does not like to play games. If this is the case, then why not ask them if they will do this for you just once OR, if they won’t budge, then think of a different activity that you can do that evening, such as having couples bring their wedding albums or childhood photos. Think outside the box a little. I’d like to add here that I do not recommend any movies or TV for your activity. This discourages conversation and when your company leaves you won’t know much more about them than when they first arrived.

If you are in need of some game ideas, I have listed a few of our family favorites below (FYI: these are NOT affiliate links and I receive zero compensation if you click on these)–

For smaller groups–

Qwirkle–This is a fun game of colorful tiles that need to be lined up in rows according to color or shape. It’s very easy to learn and lots of fun to play.

Play Nine–We have spent hours playing this as a family. It’s a fun card game that you play for nine rounds. Just make sure you sit beside someone nice for this game, as your neighbor can make or break the game for you ;)

Rummikub–This is a new game to our family, but it’s been around for awhile. It has tiles with colored numbers on them and you lay them out on the table, similar to Qwirkle, but not quite the same. It’s a fun game, if you like this kind of thing.

Rook–My first memory of this game is with my aunts and uncles when I was around twelve. I have such fond memories of everyone sitting around a table, laughing and forgetting the rest of life for just a few moments as we played. The deck of cards says that only six people can play, but I think we can play with more if you buy an extra deck of cards. It’s an easy, inexpensive, and enjoyable card game. This can be played as individuals or in teams.

For larger groups–

What?–I just bought this one at Christmas and we had lots of fun playing it over the holiday season. It is extremely easy to play and actually helps you to get to know one another a bit. I highly recommend this one.

CatchPhrase–This is a wonderful game for big groups and we play it regularly if we have a crowd at our house. The game is actually a small electronic box that you pass, so no table is needed. It’s easy, fun, and is always played with a lot of laughter!

Scattergories–We have enjoyed this game since the kids were little. It’s an old game, but still a good one. As long as you can write, you can play this game.

Balderdash–This is a fun game of creative thinking. Coming up with definitions of unknown words and plots of unheard of movies (plus a few other categories) and then trying to guess which is the right one is what this game is about.

For families with children–

Cranium Family Fun–Oh, we love this game! If you have kids coming to your party, this one is well worth the money. I am not sure how many can play it, but it is really fun for both adults and kids.

Charades–No link is needed for this one. Simply write some things to act out on pieces of paper, throw them in a paper bag, and make your own game up. Everyone can play and have fun with this one, no matter what age.

Do you have any other game suggestions? I always love hearing about new games–especially ones for a larger group, as it is rather hard to find fun and clean games for adults.

 

So are you ready for this new challenge? Ready…Set…

GO!

 

2016 Hospitality Challenge: January

Make plans to meet someone for dinner & prepare your home

Hospitality Challenge

The Growing4Life Hospitality Challenge officially begins today! I will present a new challenge on the first Monday of each month during this coming year. I hope you will read these challenge posts, even if you have decided not to participate, because I do think you will find some helpful ideas and tips.

There are actually two parts to this first challenge.

But, first, let me share a passage of the book *Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch—

I don’t think most Christians today understand how essential hospitality is to fanning the flames of love and strengthening the Christian family. Hospitality fleshes out love in a uniquely personal and sacrificial way. Through the ministry of hospitality, we share our most prized possessions. We share our family, home, finances, food, privacy, and time. Indeed, we share our very lives. So, hospitality is always costly. Through the ministry of hospitality, we provide friendship, acceptance, fellowship, refreshment, comfort, and love in one of the richest and deepest ways possible for humans to understand. Unless we open the doors of our homes to one another, the reality of the local church as a close-knit family of loving brothers and sisters is only a theory.

So, this idea of hospitality isn’t just a nice idea. It is going to cost us something. Are you ready to obey, anyway? I truly believe that our hearts will rejoice as we obey the Lord in this area.

So here we go!

JANUARY CHALLENGE

PART 1

Think of a Christian single person, a couple, or a family at your church that you would like to get to know better. If you are not attending a **church regularly right now then move to your other circles–perhaps work or school. Can you think of someone?

Now, call them up and arrange to get together for dinner. Or if funds are tight, then just arrange a time for dessert and coffee. But get a date on the calendar for the month of January.

PART 2

Before I share part 2, I want to tell you a little story. Years ago, we served under a pastor who would just pop in on people without calling them. One evening, as I sat in my family room surrounded by laundry on every surface, the doorbell rang. My dishes weren’t done. My husband wasn’t home. And things were really crazy. Keep in mind that I was homeschooling our four kids at the time. I was not prepared for company. As I opened the door, I saw my smiling pastor standing there. Now, to his credit, he stepped his way through the laundry, took a seat, and enjoyed a visit with the kids and me and never once did I feel judged. But, I still felt soooo uncomfortable. The whole time. It was awful. I kept furtively glancing at my messy house and just wanted to melt into the floor. My house was not normally in such a terrible state, but, of course, the one evening I had let it go was the evening the pastor chose to call.

All these years later, I realize that I learned a little something from that visit. And now I try to generally have my house in order at all times. Oh, it still gets the best of me sometimes– especially during the holidays (anyone else ready to get back to their routine??) but, as a rule, I try to tidy up first thing in the morning. Of course, this is so much easier now that I only have one child at home. I fully empathize with you moms. Especially if you home school. That felt like a losing battle.

So why am I telling you all this? Because, while I don’t believe a spotless house is necessary to entertain, I do believe that you need to feel like your house is ready to entertain. One of my readers mentioned that she would like to do the challenge, after she completes a few home projects and gets it ready.  I got to thinking about that– perhaps we could all use a month to prepare our homes. Especially if we haven’t entertained in a very long time.

So here is Part 2 of the challenge–

Prepare your home for company.

You have all month to do this. For some of us, our home is already in pretty decent shape. We keep things neat and tidy, for the most part, and this challenge will be easy for us. BUT, for others of us, clutter and busyness have overtaken our lives and we have neglected our homes.

This is the month to change that. Let’s do a basic house cleaning and clutter removal, so that we can entertain guests with confidence. Here are the basic things to do to prepare for guests–

Clear clutter off surfaces
Dust furniture
Wipe down counters
Vacuum
Mop floors
Tidy bathrooms

If you would like to do more or are looking for some resources in this area of cleaning, you may find these helpful–

http://www.flylady.net/d/zones/

I first became acquainted with Flylady when I was homeschooling. She breaks caring for our homes into manageable zones. I think you will find this website very helpful. (disclaimer: I am not sure if she is a believer or what her beliefs are. I did notice that she condones an unbiblical form of meditation, so be very careful if you choose to follow her “spiritual” advice.)

http://christianhomekeeper.org/be-clutter-free/

Here are a few suggestions for ways to keep our homes clutter free. This author had some other good posts, as well, about this area of keeping our homes, so take a little time to look around the blog.

http://www.imperfecthomemaker.com/2013/07/how-to-declutter.html

Another article on de-cluttering. This article gives seven easy steps!

My Home Routines

I am going to try to use this helpful app during this year. It makes caring for our homes more manageable and can even be used in conjunction with Flylady. Here’s a helpful web page to show you how–

http://www.homeroutines.com/resources/choose-a-housework-expert/flylady/using-homeroutines-to-follow-flylady/

Again, let’s remember– our homes don’t need to be perfect. There are no spotchecks and no one cares if you didn’t dust the light fixture or missed that cobweb in the corner of the family room ceiling. But, we can do our best to do a basic de-clutter and clean-up of our homes.

I will touch base at the end of the month to hear how it went! I can’t wait to hear your stories about this first challenge.

Okay, so…are you ready?? Here we go!

 

*To go along with this challenge, I am reading the book The Hospitality Commands: Building Loving Christian Community: Building Bridges to Friends and Neighbors by Alexander Strauch. If you’d like to read along, you can find the book here on Amazon.

**If you are not in a solid, biblical church, then I would like to suggest you find one. It is so very important for both you and your family to be in fellowship with a body of believers (Hebrews 10:25).