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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Be hospitable

It was the last week in March, 2004, and Tori and I were making plans for our return to the DFW area from Puget Sound (Seattle area of Washington State in the beautiful Pacific Northwest). Our house was already sold and we had until the end of April (one month!) to move out and clear the way for the new homeowners. I was to start at Bell Helicopter immediately, and I needed to secure some living arrangements in Texas as we finalized the sale of our home and Tori finished up her duties with her company. We planned for Tori to stay back in Seattle through the end of April, and then I would come back to WA and together we would make the final move with all of our furniture, animals, and belongings to be back in TX.

"When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, ..." (Mat 25:38)

We shared our prayer requests to our Bible study small group we were members of in WA: "We were going to be apart!", "Were we doing and trusting God’s will to move back to Texas?", "would we find someplace for me to stay in the interim?". It just so happens that our small group leader, Bryan Woodruff, and someone else in our group was in correspondence with professor Bob Deffinbaugh from Dallas Theological Seminary, (Bob also pastors a church in Richardson), discussing the Romans material of Bob's that we were using in our small group study. Unbeknownst to me, my fellow Bible study members mentioned my prayer request to Bob, and within a day or so, I had email confirmation from Bob that if needed be, I had a place to stay with him and his family in Richardson, TX. Wow. Thank you God!

The overseer then must be …, … hospitable, (1Tim 3:2)

Now, I did not even know Bob Deffinbaugh. I knew quite a bit about his work at DTS, and was familiar with his name, but that is literally about it. And, Bob certainly did not know me. We had never talked or emailed, and it is likely the only thing he ever knew about me before he extended the invitation was that I was in a Bible study group in WA (a clear 2200 plus miles North West of DFW!). I am sure I got a character recommendation of sorts from the guys in my Bible study small group, but, Bob didn't know me from Adam (actually, as a Bible scholar, I am sure Bob knows quite a bit about Adam!), :O), but he certainly did not know me. Anyways, as you can imagine, I was blown away by such a quick and ready response of hospitality, generosity, and kindness.

Well, it worked out that I ended up staying with our friends Denny and Sherry, and didn't stay with Bob and his family. Me and Bob never met, and never corresponded with each other. However, the impact of his willingness to extend such a generous invitation, and open up something as precious as his private home to me – a literal stranger - still lingers in our hearts. In fact, it was that experience that has caused me to recently take another of the many steps God has planned for me as I grow in my faith.

“Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb 13:2)

We now have an opportunity to do exactly the same thing for someone else. And though we didn't come to the decision immediately, we are now very excited to open our home to a grad student from the University of Colorado while they do their clinical internship at Riata Physical Therapy Specialists, where Tori is office manager.

I would love to tell you that we responded quickly and eagerly. We didn't. It took weeks to come to a decision. At first, we were not so keen on the idea. So we started to pray, and along with our prayer and discussions we pondered the ways our lives have been shaped by the generosity from countless many and from God Himself. And we considered His Word. I already knew the verses I mention above. I already knew that in Hebrews we are told that we may entertain angels in our home. So yes, in a very literal way, we knew that we should do it. But we were holding back, and in all honesty it took a while before we were resolved we could do it.

There were a lot of excuses. I work 50 plus hours a week and taking nine credit hours in school this semester. My wife works lots, too. We both have long days. We are selfish for our quiet home, and like all people, we have our unique and quirky habits. We are just shy of being clean freaks. We have irregular eating habits and patterns. We whistle a lot… all kinds of stuff, ya know.

“be hospitable, devoted to what is good, … .” (Tit 1:8)

But thankfully, God's will came through (if you aren't sure what God's will is, please refer to the above passages), and He has given us a deeper trust and a more generous spirit. I am not sure why we were stubborn and hesitant to decide. Maybe we were afraid to test our marriage. Maybe we were afraid of exposing character flaws. Maybe it is just pure selfishness. Who knows? But we now look forward to sharing our home. We look forward to meeting someone who is on their own quest in life and learn from them as well.

Though we can’t yet fully understand all that God will show us as we practice hospitality, we do know that God opened our hearts a little more and has given us a better understanding of how amazingly generous He has been to us, and will always be.

Practice hospitality.

4 Comments:

At 21 August, 2008 06:10, Anonymous Jim C said...

Last paragraph. Now there's perspective, in Him!

 
At 21 August, 2008 07:32, Blogger Carlotta said...

Great post Mark. And I am excited to hear how God will bless all of you during this time.
Very cool. God asks that we all "step up" and you guys truly are. That's awesome!
Have fun with it.

 
At 25 August, 2008 23:03, Blogger Dustin said...

Ah, you're back!

God just opened a door for my wife and I to house a couple of whom the wife has cancer. They are from the ATL and had to get down to Houston to go to MDAnderson ASAP. We have been more blessed than they have.

I would encourage all to look at the book "Hospitality Commands" by Alexnder Strauch. It's a small book and great for small group discussion or just to read on your own.

I'm thankful for your post and hope that it encourages others to serve people in need.

Kingdom,
Dustin

 
At 27 August, 2008 05:10, Blogger Mark said...

'sup D!?

So gald to hear from ya.

I love how you said, "God just opened a door". He always gives us opportunities to be Christ, and it is usually really small things, like how many times we say, "God, Lord, and Spirit" compared to how often we refer to "me" or "I".

Thanks for the book tip!

Keep up the good work.

 

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