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Be Missional, Hospitable . . . and Inspired!

be inspiredThis june, be inspired by some amazing women. Women of faith who are thinking deeply, living abundantly, loving fully. This week, I’m excited to repost an interview I did with Helen Lee back in 2011. Helen is the author of  The Missional Mom and here she shares her thoughts about missional living and hospitality.

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helenlee-07b-1024x682-150x150Helen, so glad to introduce you to my “friends.” Can you tell them a bit about yourself?

Kelli, I’m honored to be interviewed on your blog! As for an introduction, I am a homeschooling mom of three boys 9 years old and under; wife to classical pianist Brian Lee, and co-founder  Best Christian Workplaces Institute. Not all at the same time, of course. =)

You’ve written a book called The Missional Mom. Where did the idea for this book begin for you?

To understand my motivation for writing the book, we have to go back nine years, back to when I was a new mom with the first of my three boys. When I became a mother, as much as I loved and treasured my new baby boy, I have to confess that I found the transition to motherhood very challenging. It wasn’t just the physical changes that you go through as a mother, but it was also an internal struggle for me. I found myself wrestling with so many questions about what my life was supposed to be like now that I was a mom. Such as:

• Was motherhood supposed to be my only calling in life?

• What was I supposed to do with my experiences and education that God had given me before I was a mom?

• Why did the idea that I was supposed to completely immerse myself in motherhood and nothing else feel uncomfortable to me?

And the very process of asking these questions brought feelings of guilt, that I was a bad mother to be even asking these questions! So it was a very confusing time. As a writer I knew that to work through these questions, I’d need to write about it.

How would you define the term “missional”? What does it mean to live with a missional mind-set?

There has been so much written about this word that it’s daunting to try to encapsulate it into a few sentences! But for me, being missional means to embrace your calling as God’s missionary in whatever context he has placed you, and embracing his mission for you as your primary calling in life. For the Christian mother, who often mistakenly assumes that once she becomes a mom that motherhood is supposed to be her primary calling in life, I feel as though the missional perspective offers a great corrective.

Once you become a mom, your mission does not change! You are still primarily called to be God’s witness (locally and globally) and disciple-maker, and of course your home is a big context in which that happens. But by no means is it intended to be the only one. Embracing a missional perspective as a mother means that you understand your primary calling as God’s ambassador in this world, and you integrate motherhood into that calling.

And, as Scot McKnight explains so succinctly in the book, being missional is about asking a simple question: “How can I help you?” Mothers have so many opportunities to ask that question in their daily walks of life. In their neighborhoods, in their children’s school, in their workplaces–asking the question means you are taking a proactive posture and initiating in people’s lives rather than retreating into one’s own home life and ignoring the needs around you. Being a missional mom means the opposite of only focusing on one’s family; it means embracing God’s call to have an impact on the world around us, and helping our families to also be a vehicle God uses to help, serve, and love others.

Who’s somebody (or more than one person) who’s a “hero” to you when it comes to missional living? How or why does this person’s example inspire you?

My book is a collection of the stories of so many “heroes” who inspire me towards missional living. Women such as Arloa Sutter, founder and executive director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, who started the ministry out of a desire to be obedient to God’s call to love those who are poor, and whose obedience God used to build a ministry that now touches thousands of people in Chicago. The thing is, Arloa did not know when she first began that her initial steps of reaching out to others would result in a ministry the size and scope that Breakthrough is today. But she embraced the calling that God had given her, step by step, day by day, and now she can look back and see how God has used her offerings of time, talent, and treasure in tremendous ways.

I’m not just inspired by women like Arloa who have built a tangible ministry, however; any time I hear about a mom in particular who demonstrates an obedience to the call of God to be His witness and disciplemaker, I feel a sense of awe and wonder.

In your own experience, how does missional living relate to hospitality?

Hospitality is clearly a missional value, in my mind. However, by “hospitality” I don’t just mean that we have pristine, guest-ready houses offering gourmet meals. Hospitality in the missional sense means that you are taking initiative in other people’s lives, that you are willingly embracing discomfort to build relationships with those who are different from you, that you are recognizing that all our possessions are not ours in the end, but the Lord’s to be used for the purpose of connecting with others. Hospitality ultimately means welcoming the stranger, and even bringing them into your family, such as in adoption. I think it is very difficult to live missional lives without reflecting hospitality in some way in and through our families.

 How can a woman, whether or not she’s a mom, begin to see each day differently — through a “missional” lens?

In my mind, living missionally is all about having an outward orientation in our lives, as opposed to continually being focused on our own lives, homes and families. As Rick Warren so famously says in The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” And how right he is. But we so easily get caught up in the fallacy that it is about us, or our kids, or our spouses. Christians, however, are a called people, called to God and to his mission in the world. Living a missional life is all about claiming–or reclaiming–the basic essence of who God has made us to be.

Thanks, Helen! You can learn more about Helen at her site www.themissionalmom.com and you can join in the conversation at the Missional Mom facebook page.

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Stay tuned, readers, for more in the be inspired series!

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15-Minute Formation: A Dangerous Prayer

How can you practice hospitality this month?

I could, of course, suggest that you make an amazing dinner and invite friends over.

Or I could suggest that you ready the guest room with pillow-top mints, fresh flowers, and hotel-like atmosphere.

But I’d rather suggest something much more simple . . . and dangerous.

My dangerous suggestion: pray.

Dare to invite God to give you an opportunity, today, to show hospitality. In an article in MOMSense, Jane Jarrell wrote: “Hospitality provides a shelter for the soul, a healing for the spirit. Ultimately this is what we offer when we open our home in the true spirit of love or when we offer our time, gifts or talents outside of our home to reach others.”

So your opportunity to show hospitality might mean you’re sharing hospitable words or a listening ear. It might be through a shared latte, an arm around a shoulder, a welcoming smile. It might be through a simple act of minsitry that’s far from your home — or it may in fact mean inviting someone over for a meal.

I recently read an interview with a woman who prayed this way, each day, for 40-days. Everyday she discovered a God-given opportunity to be hospitable. These opportunities stretched her, grew her, and drew her ever closer to God. What an amazing journey!

Ask God to open your eyes to the opportunity, big or small. Pray each day this week . . . your life will be changed!

 

Hospitality Should Scare Us

Yes, that’s right. It should scare us. And not because a surprise guest might see the pile of socks on the steps, the finger-paint handprints all over the bathroom doorknob, or might take a crunchy step upon the tiny line of marching ants that have suddenly made their home on the kitchen floor.

Hospitality should frighten us because, when we look more deeply into what it means in Scripture, we realize how much it demands of us.

And those demands have nothing to do with housekeeping.

As I explore in The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival, “Philoxenia is the New Testament term for “hospitality” and it’s meaning is simple: demonstrating brother-love (phileo) to strangers (xenia).”

In this sense, perhaps the two most powerful passages in Scripture about hospitality have very little (if anything) to do with one’s home. Consider Jesus’ challenging words in Matthew 25:42-25:“I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me’” (ESV).

Or just as striking, the Parable of the Good Samaritan (in Luke 10:25-37) in which a man who was ethnically and culturally considered an “enemy” of the Jews chose to show radical, generous, brotherly love to a beaten and needy stranger.

These teachings challenge us with convicting questions:

Who is my neighbor? Who is it that I am to love as a brother or sister?

Who ought I to treat as if they were Christ himself?

Which “strangers” in my life may God be calling me to love much, much more deeply? What practical means do I have at my disposal in order to demonstrate that love?

In our anonymous culture, most of the people we see each day are strangers to us. Strangers can be frightening, dangerous, scary!

Does hospitality demand that we cast aside wisdom when it comes to our own (or our family’s safety)? Probably, most of the time, I’d say it does not. Yet it does challenge us to move far out of our comfort zones.

Though a fun dinner at home with friends can be hospitable, if we limit our understanding of hospitality to a Martha-Stewart-esque dinner party, we’re missing the point entirely.

“[O]ffering hospitality is a moral imperative,” writes Ana Maria Pineda. “This expectation is not based on any special immunity to the dangers unknown people might represent — far from it. Rather, it emerges from knowing the hospitality God has shown us.”

What do you think? What makes biblical hospitality scary to you?

Lauren Winner on Hospitality

My friends — this month our focus is on the discipline of hospitality. I have much to say on this topic and I’m so looking forward to conversing with you as we together tease out what it means to be truly hospitable people.

But unfortunately I will not be saying “much” about it today in this first posting of the month. It has been a hectic week for our family, including child illness, a speaking engagement, the death of a neighbor and friend, attending the funeral, and a wonderful and busy visit from out of town guests.

So I appreciate your grace as I begin our conversation with someone else’s words rather than my own. Lauren Winner is the author of Girl Meets God, a wonderful spiritual memoir that I highly recommend. She’s written an excellent article about hospitality that can begin our conversation: you can find her article by clicking here. One idea I like most in her article is that hospitality means inviting people into the messy reality of our lives. For a somewhat sloppy person like me who certainly does not “have it all together,” this is a refreshing message!

More soon…