hospitalityHave you ever spent hours on planning an evening meal to share with guests and you’ve worked yourself to a silly sweat in the kitchen…set the table with your finest linen, cutlery and crockery and eagerly awaited their arrival? I have. I made our family favourite – my go-to dish: home made lasagne.

The visitors came…and ate. The husband really liked the meal and complimented me. My own husband complimented me. My children complimented me, as per their upbringing. There was something missing. The woman’s absence of any comment made me believe that she didn’t like the meal…or that she didn’t appreciate that I had used our ‘best’.

Now I realise that my lasagne may not be everyone’s idea of delicious but…
From there, I have tried to practice the art of complimenting…on something. I’ve taught (am in the process of teaching) my children to do the same.

If you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.
~Acts 13:15

We’ve had friends who have very different standards to us…when it comes to cleanliness. Now I’m no perfectionist when it comes to cleanliness or tidiness but…I don’t allow animals inside. I would never allow my cats (if I had them) to wander on my kitchen benches to malt their hair all over the bread board and find its way into a sandwich and I certainly never allowed my pets (dogs or cats) to drink or eat out of the same cup/bowl as me. However, I’ve got friends who do this naturally…they wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

These friends also had a generous heart and loved to entertain and be hospitable so they’d often cook and invite us over to share a meal with them. I’ll be honest with ya. I did not find it easy to drink a cup of coffee from the cups, knowing that they might share that cup with their pooch. In fact, my stomach got queasy and it just went against every instinct in my body. But, I forced myself to drink…and to do so with a smile. These guys just didn’t know any different…they didn’t see anything wrong. I firmly believe that if I had said anything or spoken with my body language we could have destroyed a friendship and discouraged them in their faith.

However I found it so hard to be encouraging. I found it hard to say, “Thanks for the cuppa, it was lovely” as it just wasn’t true and I want to be honest and transparent. So, what’s a gal to do? How does one not be rude when there’s little to be complimentary about?

Well, I try to have a policy. Yes, I have lots of personal policies but this one is:

Try to say something true, helpful, inspiring, kind, necessary or nice wherever possible.

Sometimes, most times, it is just plain rude to say nothing. How could I go to their place…drink with them, eat with them, share with them and hear their heart and not say something positive?

Along with my policy above, goes the second part that I try to consider when I do need to open my mouth:

Do I have any responsibility in this area? Do I have any authority in this area? Will my words be ones of encouragement, bringing comfort, peace, grace or will they be ones that cause unnecessary grief and concern and cause hurt? The question of what, when, and how to speak is usually answered as I ask myself these questions.

So, how then do I find something to say? Some people, and I’ve said to my children, that if you can’t say something good, then don’t say anything at all. And this is generally good advice but I think that is many situations you simply have to say something…so I have to find something to say.

Speak when the words build up. Speak if the words bring a smile. Speak where reassurance is needed. Speak what gives hearts courage. Speak how He would. Words that encourage. Words that give life. Words that bless.
If you have those kinds of words on the tip of your tongue, then please speak. Otherwise, maybe it is best not to.

Okay, back to my friend- so the coffee wasn’t nice. The cup was filthy and the kitchen table was covered in dog hair but…this woman had a giving heart. She’d give you her last shirt off her back if you needed it.She would be available 24 hours a day, to help you if needed. She had a servant’s heart and loved to bless people. She grew most of her own vegetables organically and she had a quriky sense of decorating. Oh, she decorated her house in the brightest, most vivid colours that most people would shy away from…but not her.

So, I found myself starting to use words like, “interesting” and fascinating, captivating, enthralling; appealing, attractive; amusing, entertaining, stimulating, thought-provoking, intriguing. (Yes, I used the thesaurus here)

I just couldn’t say the coffee was delicious but I needed to say something, right? I could comment on the new style of quirky curtains she made and put up. I could comment on her serving heart and how much she blesses others by making meals to give to those in need. In other situations I could comment on how the lemon gratings over the steamed broccoli was quite unusual, omitting to say that the potato was raw.

In other words, I don’t need to point out [what I perceive to be] her faults or areas she needs to change or improve in. That’s not my role. It’s glaringly obvious to all (or so I would think) but it’s not my place. No authority or responsibility.

I’ve learned that my preference is not that of anther’s. My lifestyle choices are not that of others…but this doesn’t mean that I’m right and they are wrong. This also doesn’t mean that I can’t fellowship with them. Sometimes we Christians can be so uptight, so self righteous that we appear to others to act as though our own sweat doesn’t stink…that we are holy and they are not. We might relay the message (through body language more so than words) that until they have their act together we can’t fellowship. Oi voi! I’m so glad that God didn’t wait for us to get our act together before He wanted a relationship with us. We shouldn’t use our convictions or beliefs as a weapon or a rod…leave that to God. [generally speaking in context with my post here]

So what are you teaching your children about manners and relationships? Is it acceptable to simply ignore those that don’t fit in with your views, your beliefs? Or should they speak out against every single thing that goes against their beliefs? How then do they speak words of encouragement to others?

And lastly, what on earth does this have to do with blogging, if anything? I really like the page, Biblical Advice for Bloggers, and I think 5 and 6 are quite applicable here, don’t you?

5. Let us therefore make every effort to blog what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Ro 14:19)
And Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the blog of peace (Eph 4:2)
Do we make every effort to maintain peace and unity in the body of Christ? Or do we focus on what divides us? When we disagree, are we humble and gentle?

6. Accept him whose blog is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters…Let us stop blogging judgment on one another… whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. (Ro 14 1-22)
Let us be careful not to condemn ourselves by dividing the body of Christ over disputable matters, or by judging the spiritual state of our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree.

What say you? Does this  ring true in your life…either in real time or online? Or am I so long winded that you gave up reading or I totally lost you? That’s okay, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something encouraging to say. O:-)