Outrageous Hospitality: Make Yourself at Home

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“Make yourself at home.” You know the expression, even said it yourself to guests. It rolls off the tongue in a moment of warmth so generous you believe you actually mean it. We can’t mean it, though, can we? I live in my own home in ways you wouldn’t in yours, and vice-versa. Still, we attempt to be sincere.

Hospitality—outrageous hospitality—remains elusive. If it appears, it strikes us as excessive and unusual, enough that we wonder how to respond.

Four months after 9/11, I took six college students to New York City for a service trip. I had made loose arrangements to stay with a family whose son we knew from the university. Our intention for the urban week was to give, and we planned to give a lot because we presumed to be good at it. What we did not plan was to have our lofty self-assessment humbled so quickly.

The long drive, January snow fall, and traffic made for a late arrival. We scoured the street through foggy van windows until we could guess at the house number. I pulled over. “Wait here. I’ll see if this is the place.” Clambering up the stoop and unable to find a doorbell, I began to knock.

“Come on in. The door’s open,” someone hollered.

“I’m sorry?” I asked through the wood panel.

“Come on in! Just like the sign says.” I looked up to see a weathered piece of paper that read, “Knock and come on in. The door’s open.”

I stepped inside. Nobody in the living room. “Hello?”

“Yes, yes, we’re in the kitchen. Who is it?” Utensils clinked against plates.

“Sam?” I replied, unsure of myself. “I’m a friend of Roosevelt. Is this where he lives?”

“Ohh, yes! Of course, Sam, come in.” Chairs scuffed the floor and a sea of bright faces rushed into view. “Welcome! Bring your group out of the cold and make yourselves at home.”

Who keeps a sign like this on the door, for any and all to enter? (I asked them this very question.) Of the gifts we gave and received that week, none would surpass the outrageous hospitality of this family. Fourteen of us would fill in the cracks of their old home. We’d also fill our bellies and hearts together. They broke the rules. I didn’t know how to respond at first, but they challenged our assumptions, and I cannot repeat “Make yourself at home” without asking if I mean it like they did.

The Outrageous Hospitality Series

In The High Calling series, Outrageous Hospitality, we’re telling stories about God’s welcome stamp on the world. Enjoy these highlights and be inspired to do something excessive this week for another person.

Sunday: Saul Robles of (in)courage offers a practical prayer in the Daily Reflection Hospitality Without Labels:

“Show us the areas where we allow expectations to distract us from being present and focused on your purpose for our times together.“ READ Saul’s post and then subscribe to our Daily Reflections.

Monday: I love surprises and this one is no different. In “Love on a Plane,” Brett Foster writes:

“The steward took the microphone and said, ‘Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, but I have something really important to say. Please give me your attention.’ Despite sitting halfway toward the back of the plane, I could see him clearly, lit up by the rows of glowing lights. I sat up to listen …” READ Love on a Plane.

Tuesday: For me, it was the weathered piece of paper on the door in New York. For Kristin Schell, it was eight words spoken by a summer camp counselor that redefined hospitality:

“On the third night of camp, my counselor scooched over to make room for me at supper. ‘Come sit here, Kristin,’ she said, patting a spot on the bench next to her. ‘There’s plenty of room.’” READ Making Room.

Wednesday: In Dare to Ask, Cheryl Smith gets more than she expected:

“I hated the thought of spending perfectly good money on a hotel…ut the thought of asking caused my throat to go dry. I sent a group message to a dozen women, then promptly went to bed so I could hide with embarrassment. The next morning, I held my breath, reached for my phone, and opened the Facebook app. The offers were rolling in.” READ Dare to Ask.

“A Dog Walks into a Hotel Lobby”

“[She] had just sold her house after 40 years and–like many of our guests at Hyatt House–is in a sort of limbo before moving into her first empty-nester. So my colleague at the front desk was trying to help her maintain her routine.” READ this short story about hospitality at work in A Dog Walks into a Hotel Lobby.


Outrageous Hospitality

Romans 12:13 encourages us to practice hospitality. In the Message version, that verse reads: "be inventive in hospitality." Translated, the word hospitality means showing love to strangers. It's more than opening up our homes to the people we know well. Outrageous hospitality extends even to people who aren't at all like us, and who wouldn't usually show up on our radar screens.

Read and share the stories and articles in this series, Outrageous Hospitality. We hope they'll help you develop a working definition of what it means to practice hospitality in your community, your family, your workplace, and your church. In what ways might you be inventive when it comes to hospitality—reaching beyond your usual sphere of influence?

Featured image by Jerzy Durczak. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.