A temporary ban on refugees being admitted to the U.S. has put the spotlight on their plight. Few of us know what it is to lose our homes, our friends, our land, our belongings, and any sense of security. To lose identity, and dignity. Let us pray for the refugees—men and women, boys and girls—wandering the earth…
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Gracious Lord in heaven,
When we consider the misery and suffering of so many millions of people in the world today, we are overwhelmed
May we not turn away.
Help us to see these realities. Open our ears to the cries of the multitudes. Give us the courage to know the pain of others.
And so we pray, though with a great sense of our limitations.
We pray for the poor. May the battle against extreme poverty go on without pause.
We pray for the oppressed. Help them to survive the corruptions of governments and the evil of criminals who prey on them.
We pray for the enslaved. Bring them rescuers who will break them out of their bondage. Give them the hope for spiritual freedom.
We pray for those who suffer the indignity of discrimination in any form. Help them find justice, and protect their hearts from bitterness.
We pray for the courageous people who are bringing release and relief to the poor and downtrodden in our world. We pray they would have resources to do the job and that they would sense your wisdom to know what may be done.
We are overwhelmed by the needs of a suffering world, dear God. Protect us from paralysis. Help us to proclaim the liberating gospel of the Lord Jesus, and to live out that gospel.
“If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.” (Leviticus 25:35-38)
The Bible places great emphasis on assisting the poor and helpless, especially orphans, widows, and the handicapped. In Israelite society, no paid work was available to women; thus, a widow and her children had no livelihood. Neither was work available for the seriously handicapped in this nation of farmers and shepherds. The poor were to be helped without charging any interest. God said that neglecting the poor was a sin. Permanent poverty was not allowed in Israel. Financially secure families were responsible to help and house those in need.
Many times we do nothing, not because we lack compassion, but because the size of the problem overwhelms us and we don’t know where to begin. God doesn’t expect you to eliminate poverty, nor does he expect you to neglect your family while providing for others. He does, however, expect that when you see an individual in need, you will reach out with whatever help you can offer, including hospitality.
Ask God to open your eyes to the desperate needs of people in your world. Consider what you can do to help alleviate those needs, to show compassion in Christ’s name. Then pray for the courage and wisdom to respond to the needs you see.
Recently, I received an invitation to a wedding and it got me to thinking about other invitations that didn’t seem as targeted or sincere. It came from a woman I met in a faith group on social media several years ago. We’ve only interacted during group outings.
What impressed me about this particular invitation? It wasn’t offhand, flippant, dismissive or indirect. It was specific, targeted and only for me – it felt sincerely personal. Indeed, my name was printed on the RSVP card, which to me signified forethought and a preference for my presence. Even if I was one of a hundred people invited to her wedding and even though she and I have no independent personal history, the invitation made me feel as if she wanted me present on her special day.
The not-quite-warm-and-fuzzy kind
Last year, a relative emailed me on Facebook to tell me he was getting married this year and asked if I would attend. I enthusiastically replied “yes”. In the same email chain he told me to “friend” his fiancée. I told him that me friending her was not an appropriate way to introduce his future bride to me or vice versa.
Also last year, a longtime social acquaintance got engaged to a man whom I’ve always thought was a good match for her. At the beginning of this year, when she emailed to share her wedding date and location with me, she wrote, “The wedding is out-of-state[…] if you are able to roll I would love to have you there if you can.”
A few years ago, I received and accepted a much grander invitation that has never settled comfortably with me. It was a request to be a godmother to a former co-worker’s baby. It became uncomfortable because the mother never attempted to set up time with me, her and her daughter together. Babygirl was occasionally placed in daycare in my office building (mom worked at another location) and I would receive a call or email simply stating “your godchild is in your building today.” She was running late or didn’t have time to visit or had already gotten to her office, but I should feel free to meet/visit my goddaughter during the work day. I went down that first day with a great deal of excitement, but the following visits became so awkward that I stopped visiting. The only time I saw that child in the presence of one of her parents was on her last day in the daycare before the family moved to another state. The father arrived to pick her up as I was finishing my final visit. I remember he looked at me with the most judgmental eyes as he said, “Oh, you finally had time for your godchild!”
I responded, “It’s nice to see you with your daughter. Let me get a picture of you two before I leave.”
Earlier this year, a couple I’ve been rooting for years got married. They sent me an invitation to their wedding two weeks before the ceremony – they never sent an invitation, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it. I had heard about their upcoming nuptials earlier that year – we had brunched together after church for a couple of years and even though I attend another church now, word still travels. I had what I thought was a comfortable rapport with each of them separately, together and in larger groups. I would have preferred not to receive an invitation at all than to receive one that made me feel like an afterthought or space-filler.
I am not trying to imply that people need to take me into consideration when they go about planning their lives. But when they do consider me with the intent of inviting me to participate in their lives – as a witness or a guide – I would hope that their invitation is weighted with a sincere desire to see me in that role.
Though I did not respond to the wedding invitation from my former brunch buddies, I did attend the service. They both fussed at me in the receiving line and I apologized for my non-responsiveness.
I ended up friending my relative’s fiancé three months before the wedding because he was not helpful in providing details needed to plan travel to his destination wedding. Despite my efforts and requests to both of them directly to share a meal before the ceremony with the intention of meeting the bride, I did not meet her until after the ceremony when I was called up to take family photos with the bride and groom at the altar. At which point I said an awkward, “Hi, nice to meet you.” Mind you, this was a small destination wedding with less than fifteen guests and I was the only family member on the groom’s side to attend. Needless to say, I didn’t feel welcome by either of them. It was the most awkward wedding experience I’ve ever had.
My experience at my relative’s wedding contributed strongly to my decision to not travel to the wedding of my social acquaintance later in the year. Also, when it came down to the motivation to make the effort, I thought about how the invitation was issued: if you’re able to come, it would be great to have you, if you want that is….
What I’m really trying to say is…
I issue invitations because I want to share an experience with someone. I hope they accept my invitation because they want to share the experience with me in return. An invitation should not be issued based on the availability of the recipient, it should be issued from the issuer’s desire to share their hospitality.
Many invitations I’ve issued throughout my lifetime have been ignored. Having your hospitality ignored is a much harsher feeling than having it declined. But that hasn’t stopped me from issuing invitations – I’ve just become more selective on who I invite into my life and for what purpose.
For example, I purchased my first home last year after living in a studio apartment for six and a half years. While living in a studio, I couldn’t have the dinner parties or Bible study meetings I wanted to have in my home, although I did try a couple of times. Unfortunately my space did not adequately accommodate more than one other person. When I moved into my current apartment I was eager to purchase a dining table that could seat a number of people and set-up a living space that could accommodate overflowing conversation. The best compliments I’ve received about my home have been about how warm and inviting it is.
Every time I think of opening my door to someone, I think about the energy they bring me. Is theirs an energy I want to nurture in my space? That I want to embrace within my hospitality? Is our relationship one that I want to continue to pursue or carry-over into the next chapter of my life? More often than not, the answers have been “no” and I’ve been content to let things be and keep trotting along alone.
There is no honor in inviting someone into a space that is sacred to you when you do not want them there. And anyone who wishes to honor themselves do not want to be present where they are not wanted.
Basically, I didn’t feel as if the social acquaintance had a desire for me to be at her wedding but she felt a social obligation to issue the invitation. Neither did I feel the other two couples desired my presence at their weddings. And that’s fine. I don’t need to be a witness for everyone I know. What is not fine with me is issuing an insincere invitation, because then the onus is on me (the receiver) to figure out what to do – graciously decline or awkwardly appear.
Where is your hospitality? What happened to your love? Your charity? Your kindness? Why are you growing weary? Did I not promise to keep you?Refresh you? Restore you?Are you not certain that you will overcome your current trials? Have you noticed how hardhearted you’ve become? Why did you allow that to happen? Where is your tenderness?Your mercy? Your understanding and appreciation? Why have you given up on Me? Have I not promised to never forsake you? Have I not given you My strength? Have I not assured you of victory in every test? What have you to fear? When you call, do I not answer? When you seek, do you not find Me? When you cry, do I not comfort you? By what right do you withhold My Charity? By what right do you withhold My Hospitality? Who are you to focus only on yourself? Have you gotten up from your surrender? Have you decided to go another way? You are My chosen and I am yours. There is no agreeable time to forget that you are not your own. You are mine. Those who are called by Me, For My purposes Are not free to forget Whom they serve. You are not free to forget That your life is an offering. That your blessings are not solely for your comfort; They are for the benefit of My Kingdom. You are not free to forget Humbleness, graciousness, gratitude… Hospitality. You denied Me when you denied her. Did you realize that? What you do for the least of My people You do unto Me. What you withhold from My people You withhold from Me. Nothing you own is yours. Everything you have belongs to Me. Who are you to deny My hospitality? Speak! Where is your defense?
[Response from my contrite heart.]
Abba. Father, I have no defense for myself.
My only saving grace is You.
I am sincerely sorry for thinking only of myself;
For allowing the seed of selfishness to bloom in me.
I repent of being absorbed in my own
Sadness, melancholy, hurts and fears,
Of seeing only my own disappointments.
I sincerely ask Your forgiveness for causing offense to one of Your children.
I thank You for your light and insight. I thank You for Your rod of correction and the training You provide.
I thank You for the opportunity to right my behavior and change my reaction.
I thank You for the ability to serve You.
I thank You, Father God, for Your hospitality and Your Spirit in me.
I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. ~ Ephesians 1:16-17
This past summer, my thirteen-year-old goddaughter came to visit me in New York City. I’ve kept her for extended periods since she was born, so having her on my own for a four-day weekend was not a concern for me, especially since it was her second time visiting me in New York (the first time she had come with her mother). Over the years, my goddaughter has been one of my road buddies, joining me on a couple of weekend trips to visit family. She has always been a delight and I was truly excited at the thought of her and I exploring the City together.
The person who showed up was not the little girl I knew. She was sullen, silent, monosyllabic when she spoke, passionless, distant and disinterested in her surroundings. Those few days with her were by far the most uncomfortable and painful stretch of time I’ve ever spent with anyone. She was obviously hurting. She was obviously in hiding. But she refused to speak. She refused to act. She wouldn’t tell me what was troubling her, so I could do nothing to assist her. I did express to her that I love her and was willing to help her with whatever was troubling her whenever she was willing to speak and tell me what she needed.
I wrote the below passage for her while still in the airport, just after putting her on the plane back to her mother.
My hopes for my Goddaughter:
I pray that you learn to receive love and hospitality with grace and gratitude – with an open heart that is willing to give back. We get the most when we give of ourselves.
I pray that you learn to live your life fully – without fear that your personality will outshine all those around you. Use your voice – it’s the only way people will truly get to know you.
I pray you come to realize soon that no one owes you anything (I don’t owe you anything), nor do you owe anyone anything. However, we should do our best to treat people how we want to be treated. In this lies the importance of how we give and receive hospitality.
Life is an experience, not a contest of wills. We need to show up fully to experience all that life has in store for us. Everywhere you go should be better served for having shared your presence. This means that you need to be present wherever you are. You can’t just show up, take what’s on offer and not interact or contribute to the experience. If you do, you are sure to receive far less than what was originally on offer. Ingratitude breeds stinginess.
I pray that you learn to express gratitude, give and receive love, and communicate where you are at any given moment so others can meet you where you are or where you will need them.
I pray you learn to appreciate your life and all the people God placed in your path to help you along. Appreciation breeds gratitude.
You are precious and loved. I hope you come to embrace this knowledge and allow it to build you up.