"An invitation is a slight opening in the window of relationship." Leslie Verner

Vibrant Hospitality: Opening the Window of Relationship

When we moved to Mid-Coast Maine, we set ourselves a goal of inviting someone new  to dinner every month. We gathered around crock pot roasts, mashed potatoes, home-canned green beans, and usually a pie for dessert. The elderly couple we invited for August was a delight:  we talked books, they filled us in on local culture, and they were good sports about eating my blueberry pie that “didn’t quite set,” landing in a soupy pile on all our plates. I realized the extent of their graciousness, when I learned later, quite by accident, that she was one of the judges for the Union Fair blueberry pie contest.

The visit was not a contest, and my pie was not being judged on that stuffy August evening–and, thankfully, neither was I. We had invited those sweet people into our home and into our lives and hearts and a warm friendship took root. In Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness, Leslie Verner describes an invitation as an “opening in the window of relationship, granting intimacy permission to drift in like a breeze into a stuffy room.” (174)

Verner describes herself as a “goer learning how to stay,” and so the practice of hospitality for her was learned, initially, as a guest in cultures where she was the stranger and the recipient of a warm welcome and a place around the table.   Now, called to “do the hard work of staying,” (335) she writes about her own learning curve around the discipline of deepening relationships through a life time of invitations offered from one zip code.

Invited to Fight Loneliness

Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and this has been fed by our cultural tendency toward privacy and independence. Our addiction to and dependence upon technology has only increased our isolation, to the point where even those who attend church regularly admit to feelings of loneliness. An intentional practice of hospitality fights the default.

Verner argues that our churches “don’t need more programs or plans for living missionally in the world; we just need to invite others to walk with us in our right-now life.”

Invited to Build Community

Jesus modeled an open-hearted practice of welcome, and his unruly disciple Peter must have been taking notes:  “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling,” he urged. Whether within our four walls or simply in the way we land in a pew on Sunday morning, it’s clear that the believer is called to a life of community building and our “neighbor” could be just about anyone. Verner has supplied an extensive list of ideas for uncomplicated hospitality in neighborhood, church, and community contexts along with some good general tips for anyone needing additional reassurance.

The practice of missional hospitality means that we begin living like “invited ones” ourselves, for God showed his heart toward us in the early pages of Genesis, inviting Adam out of the bushes and back into relationship. And he never stops inviting, holding out frosty glasses of Life to “whoever desires” and whoever will “take the water of life freely.” The power of hospitality in an age of loneliness is sturdy evidence of God at work in his people. Our invitation is an open window to Truth.

Many thanks to Herald Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness, simply click on the title within the text of my review, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a very small commission at no extra cost to you.

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63 thoughts on “Vibrant Hospitality: Opening the Window of Relationship”

  1. Thank you for this post.
    Loneliness really is a killer. It is so good to hear that you opened your home up and invited those people in. That is rare these days where we are far more interested in what happens online than what happens around us. We have found that it is only in relationship where we truly begin to grow and flourish as humans. The technology has the effect of isolating us and destroying our ability to connect, both to others and to God. I am glad you and Verner are bringing attention to this key area of life.

    I wish we could be more hospitable in inviting people in but when you live in a small motel room with 4 people, a bird, and a dog it gets a bit crowded. 🙂 At least we can interact with the guests that come by and share with them. We get to meet people we wouldn’t meet otherwise, including drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless. They are really very lonely, hurting people and we are so thankful God has placed us here to reach out with His love.

    May we all volunteer to eradicate the scourge of loneliness from this planet!

    Blessings,
    Homer Les
    http://www.uncompromisingfaith.ca

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In addition to being hospitable, people actually have to be interested in connecting with others. I’m afraid that interest has waned because people are not so nice these days, especially those of us who profess Christianity. We make a lot of excuses for our poor behavior by lathering on words like grace and forgiveness when what we really need to do is ask God to change us and make us more like him. When this happens, that interest and desire to be around others will increase. No one, well let me speak for myself, wants to be around horrible people.

    This line stood out to me: “Whether within our four walls or simply in the way we land in a pew on Sunday morning,” I make it my business to greet the person sitting next to me. To my right yesterday was Laverne, whose husband is in the hospital again and to my left was a woman visiting for the first time. Please say a prayer for Laverne and her husband. He’s been in and out of the hospital and the doctors can’t seem to figure out why. Yesterday we encircled her with prayer as she wept.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great review and topic! I think hospitality and having others into our homes is something that has been dying away in recent years. We can all get busy and schedules fill up and then we can be plagued by worrying about getting the house ready for company and making a menu we think will please. Before you know it, it sounds like it’s too much to add to the calendar. BUT it is the very best way to connect with others – enjoying food around your own table. I confess that I have loved it and done a lot more of it until the last few years before retirement. I was running out of steam between the demands of work, visits on weekends to children and grandchildren out of state. I am doing a bit more since retirement than I had been. I especially enjoy those who are so easy to be with that I can feel relaxed finishing up the meal with them sitting in my kitchen as I do so.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, “kitchen friends” are like gold!
      And I’m wondering if the sheer increase in numbers we experience as our families grow impacts on our ability to welcome in the strangers as we may have done in the past. We’re up to 10 now when the whole crew gathers (which I know is very small compared to others with more grandies!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great insight, Michele. I think that does make a difference. We have 12 on the rare times we manage to connect between OH, TN, MD and beyond as our oldest grandson has started medical school in Tampa, FL. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful. True hospitality is coming to light more and more – far beyond perfectly laden tables and magazine-worthy homes, it’s about relationship-building. It’s about loving people and welcoming them into our lives. Once again, my friend, you’ve added to my to-read list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heavens, yes! If I had waited until our home was “presentable,” I’d have never dared to open the door. We so need the vulnerability of opening our homes and our hearts to one another.

      Like

  5. This is something we vowed we would do more when we moved into our current home 12 years ago. Needless to say, we have not kept that vow for numerous reasons, most of which are selfish in retrospect. However, we have always enjoyed those times of fellowship when we have opened our doors. Thanks for this reminder of the importance and benefits of intentional open doors. We must do better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, this gives me all the feelings.

    First, I can picture that blueberry pie situation, and it makes me smile because I would be serving soupy pie too!

    Second, I couldn’t agree with Verner more. This is so true: our churches “don’t need more programs or plans for living missionally in the world; we just need to invite others to walk with us in our right-now life.”

    We are doing the IF:table model with our women’s ministry and loving the way it helps us invite people in to our real lives.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What a wonderful way to fight loneliness. We moved to where we are now 2 years ago. My first year I was very lonely then my housemate started playing darts, I went along to watch. If it wasn’t for the very lovely lady that spoke to me on that first time I would still be alone. apart from my dogs and housemate. We are now friends, we play Bingo on Mondays, Tuesday and Wednesday we volunteer at a local church opportunity shop. We meet for coffee, lunch, go shopping together and if we don’t see each other for a day, we ring and message each other. I now play darts on Tuesday nights also. Loved this post …visiting from #SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loneliness is such a big issue here too. I love that you’re being intentional in inviting new people round. This is a great reminder that hospitality is not about everything being perfect but about opening ourselves up to connection with others.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This sounds lovely Michele. I have seen so much lately on hospitality. Clearly, God is working on me to be a lot more like Martha and a little bit less like Mary. Your pie and green beans sound delicious. I need to put this book on my growing list.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this especially: “Our churches ‘don’t need more programs or plans for living missionally in the world; we just need to invite others to walk with us in our right-now life.'” We visited one church where the only time anyone said anything to us was the official greeting time. It was so odd–no one looked at us or even spoke to us until the call to shake hands with your neighbor, and then everyone was smiling and chatty. And when that was over–back to “normal.”

    Something I wrestle with frequently is having an open, hospitable heart in everyday life. Often when I am out, I’m in my own little thought-bubble instead of engaging with others. And when someone unexpectedly rings the doorbell at home, I often feel irritated instead of welcoming (sad to say). But God is working on me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, we both shop in the “thought-bubble!” That’s such a huge growth point for me, because I tend to live inside my head instead of out in the world where all the potential relationships are.
      Yes… grateful that we are both works in progress!

      Like

  11. I love the idea of inviting new potential friends for dinner each month. Our blogging community has been a blessing to me, but there is no replacement for real, live conversation while looking into another’s eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for this great review you shared! Hospitality has never been my strong suit but it is something I am taking an interest in more these days. I think I always felt like I wasn’t “good” at it so I avoided it. But as I learn more about it I really do love it. Shared your post! Thank you for linking up @worthbeyondrubies

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is such a great goal: to invite someone new to dinner each month. You’re so right that we as a society really tend to isolate ourselves. I often encourage people on my blog to make plans with friends. It’s such a simple thing, but we tend to put if off and it’s so important to stay connected.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Aw, how sweet! I bet you made lots of great friends inviting them into your home. I just love cooking for others and sharing stories and food. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I think it is easy to overlook our literal neighbors because we know that our “neighbors” are basically everyone in the world. The author is correct that we need to invite others to walk with us in our lives right now.
    In inviting them into our homes we also need to invite them into our hearts. We sometimes visit others or have them in our home but we don’t feel like we really connected. It starts by welcoming them into our physical space, but we must also put the effort into truly connecting with their hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a great distinction!
      What comes to my mind is a kind of Spirit-guided listening to their words so that we can respond to them in a way that makes an impact.
      Thanks for thinking along with me on this!

      Like

  16. Another great book! The theme of invitation and hospitality never fails to draw me in. It’s an area I believe I need to learn more and get better at. What I am learning is that I will never know all I need to know. I just need to start inviting others to sit at my table.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true! Making the invitation and following through on it is the best way to affirm the practice of hospitality in our everyday life.
      Always so good to hear from you, Mary.

      Like

  17. Hospitality isn’t something that I see much of these days. I see it in my small town, but it is still limited. When I was living in “the big city”, it was pretty much non existent. The internet has done nothing to encourage us to connect with people face to face. Thank you for linking up this important topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hospitality is in the air – or at least the discussion of it is. How funny that I wrote about it as well this week as part of a discussion at Five Minute Friday! I need to grow in this area a lot. I’m not exactly sure how, given my schedule and my location, but I know it is something God wants. I loved that line, “we just need to invite others to walk with us in our right-now life,” and I’m thinking we can do that even by making more time for folks, even if it is just standing in the parking lot at Wal-Mart visiting with someone.

    Like

  19. This sounds like such a lovely idea! It’s so important to build relationships and take time to forge friendships with others in our local communities #thatfridaylinky

    Like

  20. Just this past weekend we had some friends over to our home and I was reminded of how important it is to serve and open our hearts to others. I think in the end we were all blessed and promised to meet again soon.
    I loved this post, Michele and I am committing to open my home and my heart more than ever.
    Blessings to you!
    Marva | SunSparkleShine

    Like

  21. Sometimes we try to make hospitality so hard, when often all it takes is a friendly smile to make someone feel welcome. May God help us all to learn simple hospitality which will have far reaching ripples. Blessings to you, Michele! That blueberry pie sound delicious!

    Like

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