Sunday grace

Reading my Christ Chronological book, I’m following Jesus through His last weeks on earth, as the Gospels record them. It is my Lenten practice.

I pause at Luke 10, and how many times have I read the story of Martha and her sister Mary?

Verse 38 begins, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”

I’ve often thought Martha was unduly criticized in this story. The very first thing we know about her is that she opened her home to Jesus. For all the women who ever opened their homes to me, your hospitality and grace was a blessing.

In a day when HGTV broadcasts the finished reveal of newly remodeled homes, I can feel undone and old fashioned in my outdated kitchen and rooms that are not an open floor plan with wide views of the whole house.

We have real people living in real homes, resulting in piles of clothes to fold, scattered toys where children play, dirty dishes on the stove and in the sink, and dust bunnies under chairs and tables. Let’s not even talk about Maisie’s dog hairs that gather at out-of-the-way places.

Opening one’s home is no small matter, especially when we think we will be judged because of perceived imperfections. Comparison kills relationships. So can the desire for perfection.

So I applaud Martha for her hospitality to a baker’s dozen of hungry men.

But my focus in this day’s reading is not on Martha. It’s on Mary. Isn’t she the ideal by which we measure ourselves? Mary is the contemplative who ignores the distractions of much preparation to sit at Jesus feet. Again, I never think I measure up to her undivided attention to her Lord

Reading this familiar story, I simply love both of these women for their different personalities, their ways of relating, and how their gifts serve.

Coming to the end of the short narrative, I pause at Jesus’ words in verse 42: “but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better . . . “

Only one thing is needed. I stop to ponder. Only one thing. This is what has been troubling me for weeks. What is my one thing?

While I moved slowly into January and the new year, February pushed more like a steam roller, days full and body aching. Responsibility and ministry required a lot of me. Cares of the world and concern for people weighed heavy. And my heart searched for direction. I felt drained, wondering about my one thing.

Now it is March, with the hope it offers. Birds sing their springy chorus early mornings. The forsythia bush unfolds yellow blooms one at time. Our little woods is greening after a grey winter landscape. Life is pulsing in the earth and narrow green daffodil leaves break through frozen ground. Change is in the wind.

It is fitting that I finally get clarity to ask the right question. In this present season of my life, what is my one thing? The one thing I am designed to do, the very place I am called to served God right now?

I know I’m not to be all over the place, scattered and thin, trying to be all things to all people. Saying yes to God’s best and the place of His calling means saying no to some good things.

The goal is to grow deep, to flourish like the trees in my yard. They give beauty, shade, shelter, and fruit. Trees grow where they were planted, content to do their one thing well.

Scripture records Jesus asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” He gave credence to people’s desires and longings, the one thing they wanted most. Our dreams often point us in the direction of our callings.

After Jesus visited with Martha and Mary, I read further in Luke 11, and hear  Him say, “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.”

My questions don’t go unnoticed. My yearnings can be an arrow pointing me in my direction. My Father wants to be found, wants to show me the way, even if it is just one step at a time.

My one thing may be to open my home like Martha. It might be to sit quietly with Jesus like Mary. As I seek Him, I expect to find Him.

One thing for sure, I will be in His presence, and that will be enough. 

Monday grace

We sat across from each other in the restaurant, cups steaming with our hot beverages. We talked as friends, sharing the details of life, catching up months of intricacies and essentials. It had been too long since we communed like this.

She told me about opening her home to neighbors, friends, people in general, and I listened, wondering how she did this so easily, so lovingly, so Christ-like. I’ve benefited from her gift of hospitality on many occasions, how she does it with ease, an open heart and an open home.

I pulled out of the parking lot with those thoughts lingering, asking myself if I could do that. Could I throw open the doors and invite the needy in?

It’s much easier to welcome friends, companions, those who share common ground. It’s not as threatening when I am familiar with the faces around my table and we chit chat. But what about the stranger, the alien, the widow and orphans, those less like me? What about those who are too troubled for me to offer an easy remedy?

Yet, aren’t they the ones God bids me to love? Isn’t that the way He loves me?

The call came late in the evening, from one with whom communication is mainly via text and cell phone. She asked if she could come spend the weekend, and the intonation of the words told me there was something more to the phrases she used.

In a vulnerability I don’t often have myself, she said she needed a place to stay for a couple of days, a safe place. After asking more questions and seeking Sweet William’s insight, knowing his perception is often better than mine, I said, “Yes. Come.”

She arrived with her baggage and burdens, her tears and her hurts. We opened the door when she knocked and said, “Welcome.”

That night as I lay in bed, I prayed for the peace that passes understanding to fill this house and fill our hearts, the very Presence of peace who brings comfort in chaos and provides shelter in storms. The Host who embodies the glad welcome and complete acceptance, was abiding with us.

My own heart opened a little bit wider. And it was all grace.

Monday grace.

Opening the door

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}


Hospitality. What sort of images does the word conjure in your mind? Lavish tablescapes, beautifully arranged place settings, a house full of people we hope to impress with our home, our recipes, and our entertaining skills?

Or could it be this: a warm smile, a listening ear, an open heart, and a place of comfort and peace.

Jen Schmidt writes about her experiences in practicing hospitality in Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation.

I loved reading this book. It came to me on the heals of participating in a four-month series where we gathered at the table and learned how Jesus did life at the table in the Scriptures. Jen Schmidt’s book was like a festive dessert after a sumptuous meal.

Jen grew up where inviting people in was common, and she determined to do the same when she had her own home. She tells her varied experiences like the days when they lived small and had little. Money was a consideration when thinking about guests. In the chapter “Elephant in the Room,” she tackles this issue and urges us to open the door anyway, offering suggestions when the budget is tight.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “When we least expect it, comparison sneaks up like a thief and attempts to rob us of all joy, especially when it pertains to things as personal as our home.” (Ch. 2, Trickle Down)
  • “You are the one who can meet the need of another today if you just open the door.” (Ch. 7, The Power of One)
  • “An open home, like an open table, is the overflow of an open heart.” (Ch. 9, The Potluck: Risks and Rewards)
  • We’ve allowed the imperfections of our friendship to strengthen us. A sisterhood of the imperfect.” (Ch. 10, Come as You Are)

Each chapter ends with an appropriate question from a reader and Jen’s answer, plus suggested ideas pertaining to the chapter’s topic.

Just Open the Door is about planned events and spontaneity; big gatherings and intimate tea parties; long-term guests and taking hospitality beyond the walls of home; celebrating everyday moments and deciding who really is my neighbor. It offers optimistic incentive to the novice and those more practiced in opening their doors.

The Bible abounds with examples of hospitality and instructs believers to practice it regularly. Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, will helps us grow and feel more comfortable doing it in our own personal way.

Jen Schmidt is a lifstyle blogger at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. 

See the source image

NOTE:   I received a copy of Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review. The book was free. The words are my very own.





A worship place

Day 15 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Is your heart and your home a place of worship?  Look around.  What are your motives?

Examine your activities.  Evaluate your time.

Last year about this time in the 40-day journey, the daily suggestion was to set up a worship center in the home.  Gather things, or make them, that symbolized the season of spring and the coming of Christ’s passion on the cross.  This was my table in the hallway in 2014.

This year I am thinking a bit differently.  Having just completed a seven-week Bible study at our house, I have come to see this place we call home in a new light.

I didn’t always do hospitality well.  In the early days of marriage, I thought everything had to be perfect.  Decorating flair.  Spotless house.  Gourmet food.  I would work at least two days ahead of the scheduled arrival of guests to put the spit-shine on everything.  I’d even ask my mother to come help me.  I wore myself out with my preparations.  Were my motives to impress?  I’m not sure.  I only know the process exhausted me and I can’t really say I enjoyed my guests.

Through the years I’ve been taught a few things. I’ve learned that people don’t really care if there are dust bunnies under the furniture or tracks on the floor or a spotless kitchen counter.  What makes them want to come is a welcoming heart.

We’ve invited people in when I was in the middle of cleaning day, vacuum cleaner out and the house in disarray.  People have come when the laundry baskets were overflowing in the hallway waiting for the next spin cycle to finish.  We had company when the back bedroom had underlayment showing for over a year after the old carpeting was pulled up.  Circumstances beyond our control kept us from finishing that project.  I’ve offered store-bought muffins or a frozen entree or sub sandwiches from the local shop.  And coffee.  Always coffee (or tea or hot cocoa).

We’ve sat at the kitchen table or on the deck, and we had fellowship no matter the chaos that was close by.

The prayer I prayed so many years ago –  “Lord, let there be peace in this house.” – has been answered.  Friends have even said it.  “It feels so peaceful here.”

Sweet William and I shake our heads in wonder when they say such things, because we know it is grace and grace alone that has accomplished it.

Having a houseful of beautiful chattering women the past seven weeks to study God’s Word together has once again imprinted the truth of hospitality on me.  If I open the doors of my heart and my home, people will come in.  And we will find that God is with us.  It is the crux of His name, Emmanuel.  He issued the invitation long ago and longs to be central to what we are doing.

Jesus came to show us who God is.  The Father who loves us unconditionally.  The life laid down willingly, taking upon Himself my shame and disgrace.  This is the heart of hospitality, the “Come unto Me”.

I still like things to be neat and orderly. It brings me rest.  My decorating scheme would probably fall under the Shabby Chic heading with much of our furnishings old and worn, kind of like us.  I try to cook fresh healthy food though I’m not above a store-bought meal occasionally.

But the principle I have found true is this:  God has given bountifully to me, and I am blessed abundantly when I share what I have with others.

It is what our Bible study emphasized over and over.  This is what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us;  and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

So preparing a worship center in our homes this season will be a tangible reminder of the season.  Making our homes a place of worship, an open door and a welcoming spirit, will give grace to hungry souls, people who need the warmth of God’s presence.  He will love them through us.

This can be the best “Welcome Home” ever.


Friends, I have missed a couple of days of posting along the 40 days journey and thus skipped two numbers.  

Don’t be confused.  We are still traveling together.

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