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      If one stops to think about it, hospitality is synonymous with one’s ‘heart for God.’ In some instances, hospitality may come in the form of a warm welcome for family we have not seen for months or years. We prepare a lovely table setting, with our best china, stemware, silverware, napkins, tablecloth and add a vase of colorful flowers to the table ~ to express our joy at their arrival. In many ways, it reflects the stories of the women in the Bible who prepared food and lodging for family, friends and strangers who traveled many miles from their homes. These women killed, skinned and prepared the animal for consumption: theirs was not an easy task. Today, our task is easier but the message is the same:  Welcome! In other ways hospitality speaks to what Jesus has taught us:  The first and most poignant one I am thinking of is: “You shall love the Lord, thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind”…this is the first and greatest commandment. Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Matthew 22: 37.  And the second is similar: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Leviticus 19: 18 and Matthew 22: 39.
      An example of this love is that of the good Samaritan giving a cup of cold water to a stranger:  And Jesus said to him, “If you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me.”…i.e., dressing wounds, comforting with words, listening to a friend’s grief, sharing joy in celebration.  The crowd did not understand. Jesus explained that our love, indeed, our expressions of love toward others is as if we are expressing our love to Him. In view of the previous verses, it would appear that hospitality is not limited to the home.  So, if hospitality does not refer only to welcoming people to our homes, what does it refer to? I like to define hospitality as something that we as Christians bring with us wherever we go. It is our unconditional acceptance of people, our willingness to listen, our welcoming embrace, our invitation to spend time together, our concern upon someone’s loss, our joy upon someone’s celebration ~ our concern and love. Let me suggest that our home is probably the first place where our graciousness is seen, i.e., in the way we make someone feel welcome and at home which is an unfamiliar setting to them or the way our non-judgmental attitude speaks kindness. Our home could be considered an in-reach or an in-our-home reach. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we are conveying hospitality in the finest and most intimate sense. In other words, we bring hospitality or a sense of welcome, to the person ~where he is. We meet people along the way, each day: unaware of their particular circumstance, we greet them. One may need an encouraging word from the Lord, through us. One may need a warm embrace that says we care, that says that Jesus cares about him/her. A child may need an understanding heart to calm his fears.  
      Mother Teresa considered every adult and child that she met, to be, in essence, Jesus.  In other words, each person took the form of Jesus. She dressed the wounds of the sick and poor, as though she were ministering to someone who was equally as important as Jesus.  She gave a cup of cold water as though she were giving it to Jesus. Hers is an amazing story: she brought her love for Jesus to the people on the streets of Calcutta.  Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Mudderidge is the story of a journalist’s interview with Mother Teresa.  At the age of 80, this journalist, who was an atheist, became a convert (to Catholicism) as a result of his observation of Mother Teresa’s example of Christ by her gift of self to the homeless of Calcutta.  If our goal, as Evangelical Christians is to reach the lost for Christ, perhaps, then, hospitality is synonymous with our out-reach or our (out-in-the-world-reach), as well as our in-reach or our(in-our-home) reach or gathering of people.  As Christians we often show that we have a heart for missions, the down-trodden in other countries, the poor without food and water, warm clothes, or medical resources. We are hospitable to these strangers, Good Samaritans to people abroad and in the United States. The Lord blesses our offerings.  
      In our little corner of the world, though, around the corner, next door, up the street, we can show the same heart for missions, heart for God, or hospitality. The mission field or our hospitality track may be right in our own backyard. In this regard, this is still our outreach but we are bringing people in our surrounding area in to our homes (in-home) reach, which kind of gives a warm and cozy, comfortable feel to our mission. Ultimately, the in-home reach becomes an extension of our outreach to people in our corner of the world.
 ©  June, 2014 Carol Castagna
      MAY THE LOVE OF MY JESUS SURROUND YOU
      An Original Song for You
      May the love of Jesus surround you
      His love encompass, enthrall ~ yes, abide with you
      Open your heart and receive Him, today!
      His arms are opened ~ He’ll show you the way
      May the joy of Jesus be your joy
      His joy, unceasing, far-reaching be your joy.
      Reach out, He’s calling, He loves you, today!
      He’ll give love, joy, love
      You’ll bring Him praise!
 
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Music to all original songs will become available on Carol’s C.D., A Kiss from God in November 2014
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