Put Out the Welcome Mat

by Sally Matheny
Put Out the Welcome Mat
One arm of our sofa is flat and dingy-looking because it’s our kids’ favorite spot to dangle. While the laminate hardwood floors don’t show spots like the former carpet did, we have yet to see it shine as it did in the store display. In addition, a mysterious stain still clings to the ceiling.

     I think about these things when there is a possibility of guests. I would love to put out the welcome mat; it’s just that it’s clabbered with dog hair.

     Aside from the home appearance factor, showing hospitality takes time and effort. Sometimes, we determine the work is worthy because it’s for the family and friends we love. But what about strangers?  In this day and age, is it necessary to welcome strangers into our home? 

     According to God’s Holy Word, the answer is yes. 

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” 
1 Peter 4:7-11 (NIV)

     To “love one another deeply” is a sacrificial love. It will cost us something. And we are to host with grace, not grumbles.

     We need not install a revolving door in our homes or post a blinking neon sign out front stating our home is open 24/7. The Bible says to be alert and sober-minded so that we can pray.

     Seeking God’s will and trusting Him to provide must be our first priority. What will God provide?

“Whatever gift you have received to serve others”
     We recently met an innkeeper who uses his forte to attend to others. Whitestone Inn is a AAA, four-diamond resort. Innkeeper, Paul Cowell and his wife enjoy providing a luxurious stay for their customers—especially those who are full-time pastors and missionaries, who receive fifty-percent off the normal rate. They also run promotions for cancer patients and those serving in the military. Cowell demonstrates his love for Christ in other ways. He asks all his guests to join him as he prays over each evening meal. Wholesome books line the shelves of the inn’s library. Marriage enrichment guides and a special hiking trail are provided for couples who wish to participate.
     The Cowells are using the gifts they have received to serve others.  

Whitestone Inn in Kingston, Tennessee

“God’s grace in various forms”
     Janet Albury’s husband and teenage daughter died in an airplane crash. In the process of grieving, she met a missionary family whose daughter also died in the same accident. God’s grace sustained these families and it gave Janet a vision for service. She built a house for missionaries and pastors, to get away with their families, for rest and rejuvenation.
     In addition to staying in this beautiful place (C. Grace at Work), free of charge, the guests are also welcomed on the first night’s stay with a delicious, home cooked meal. 
     Janet Albury exemplifies God’s grace.

“Strength for the task”
     Physical limitations and fear are some of the greatest obstacles to opening our homes. This is where prayer and faith play out.
     A family in South Africa took in a man recently paroled from prison. Despite his years of incarceration on a murder charge, this family has made their home a welcoming haven for him. This demonstration of God’s love made a huge impact on him and broke ground for a new life.
     God gave this family courage and strength for the task.

“In all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ”
     You may not be an innkeeper or have the ability to build a special place of retreat. God may not be calling you to host former inmates in your home. However, be careful of disregarding your call to hospitality.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” 
Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

     I’d rather the angels not see the stains in my home, but somehow I don’t think they’d even notice. Besides, hospitality is not really about the location as much as it is the act of kindness.
     There are as many different ways to show hospitality as there are dust bunnies in my house.

There are many ways to show hospitality.
     Want some ideas? Check out a blog post by Aleisha Caldwell that features 40+ ideas for practicing hospitality at Feathers In Our Nest.
     Also, your family may want to consider hosting Christian travelers for one night. For more information go to http://acandleinthewindow.com/.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13 (NIV)

     Hospitality presents us with opportunities to show God’s love. Give your best. Be intentional. Be creative. Look past the stains in your home, the stains of your past sins, and the stains in other people’s lives. Pray, and be ready to put out the welcome mat—pet hair and all.

     Share with us! Tell a time when someone's hospitality made a difference in your life.


Staycations in the Countryside- What’s On Your Radar?

by Sally Matheny
Staycations in the countryside
      Whether you’re short on time or low on money, don’t abandon a family getaway just yet. Instead of a vacation, consider a staycation or two.  Staycations can be fun activities, such as a luau, planned for your own backyard.  However, staycations also include day trips.  Even if you live out in the countryside, you may be surprised by a slew of possibilities within a two-hour drive from home sweet home.
     Besides the obvious parks, museums and municipal pools, here’s a few ideas to consider when checking what’s on your staycation radar.
     Perhaps some family members would enjoy creating their own Visitor’s Guide for the area. Include photos, drawings, and descriptions of interesting areas.


Beating the Odds & Staying Married (but Happily?)

by Sally Matheny

     by Sally Matheny

Beating the Odds & Staying Married
 He was the annoying little brother of one of my high school friends. The first time I went home with my friend, he hid, then pelted us with multi-colored marshmallows.
     I’ll never forget his first three words to me. Pressing his palm to his forehead, he flexed his little arm and said, “Feel that muscle!” He acted like your typical ten-year-old, except he was thirteen at the time.
     That took place back in 1979. By 1989, we were vowing to love one another for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness, and in health—and only death could separate us.


     Wow. That’s a heavy promise. Most people can’t really imagine what the worse, poor, or sick days will be like when they’re standing there in the blissful moments of their wedding day.

     Yet, the divorce statistics are staggering, even among evangelical Christians. Studies report the chances of divorce increase with every year of marriage. So, what’s the secret of those who are beating the odds and staying married? Moreover, are they happily married?
     A plethora of sources offer marriage advice, but one must choose wisely. Our primary source must be of the highest standard.    

     So, what does the Bible say about marriage? A great article in Christianity Today answers this. After the scripture is discussed, the article concludes with a quote by author of Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas:  

"What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"     

     Hmm…there’s a thought. Quite often, we enter marriage with high expectations of what our spouse will provide towards our happiness. Sometimes our focus on God blurs. We seek fulfillment and affirmation solely from our spouse. Because we are all imperfect humans, this strategy ultimately will fall short.

     How often do you hear people say they are not happy in their marriage? They don’t love one another anymore. Things aren’t working out as they had planned. One feels they’re carrying the whole load. Each blames the other. It’s too much work.

     Promising to love each other through the stretches of illness, the not-so-wealthy days, and the all-inclusive “worse” days, guarantees not every day is headed for wedded bliss.

     Success for a long-lasting marriage boils down to how you define love. If you base it on the world’s standards, your marriage will most likely be an exhausting struggle in which everyone loses.

An example of the purest love.
     If we vow to love one another, in the presence of God, shouldn’t we strive for His standard?  If we want an example of the purest love, we need not look any further than that of Jesus Christ.      

     Everyone has flaws. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to follow Christ’s example. 
     Daily we pour our hearts out before the Lord. Then ask Him to fill them back up with 
His power to help us love our spouses the way He does.  This is not just praying for God to give us a feeling. It takes work.     

     Yes, work. Our sinful nature has a tendency to look towards our own selfish desires first. It takes a conscientious effort to put our spouse’s needs before our own. It’s easy to love them when they act lovable. Learning how to treat a spouse with love, despite how he/she behaves towards us—that’s not easy to do at all.

     We must learn from the Master, who shows love to us when we are so unworthy. A successful marriage, one that has a continual undercurrent of joy, is based on a couple’s resolve to choose to love each other in thoughts, words, and deeds regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

     My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary this summer. Is he still annoying like he was the day I met him? Sometimes.  Have I ever aggravated him? Absolutely.

     The times we struggled the most in our marriage were the times we focused less on God and more on ourselves. Our marriage grew deeper (and sweeter!) once we stopped roller-coasting on an emotion and began intentionally cultivating our relationship. 

     Regular times of reading the Bible and praying together took our relationship to a much deeper level. Christ’s love is what binds us, what encourages us, and keeps us going when times get tough.  

     We’re beating the odds because we're not gambling with worldly "wisdom." We’ve placed our lives, and our marriage, on the winning team of Jesus Christ.  
      Are we happily married? Yes! Most days.

     On the worse days, we choose to dig deep, and stand on a firm foundation of true love.    


Family Mission Trips- How to Prepare Your Children

by Sally Matheny
Take Your Family on a Mission Trip!
     In making your summer plans, have you considered a family mission trip?  
     A trip planned for serving others, rather than ourselves, puts our faith into action.  When we practice sacrificial giving and serving, our faith grows. Flexibility and working as a team strengthens the family. Leaning to trust God with the details, and most of all, the results of our efforts, trains us for further service.

     If you choose to adventure on a mission trip, here are a few helpful tips on how to prepare your children.

     Essential for a successful trip, with all its details and decisions, is earnest prayer. Through prayer and discussion, focus on the purpose of the trip. Remind one another of the Great Commission and everyone’s need for Christ. Pray continually for the people your family will serve. Every detail—the victories and the snags—are entrusted to God.

Bible Study
Share scriptures on serving
     During family devotion times, include scriptures on serving others.    
     Regularly share with one another how God is working in your life and it will become easier to conduct these same conversations with those outside of your home. Give older children opportunities to practice sharing their faith in a comfortable environment before stretching beyond their comfort zones.
     Remind the family of how God works through our weaknesses. Recall Moses, Paul, and people of today who have reached others through the power of God. God enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

     Whether it is within or outside the United States, research the culture of the area you will serve. Host a special family night. Serve foods commonly served there. Watch a movie or read a book about the area.
     Show your children the destination on a map. If possible, let them highlight your travel route and allow them to take this map on the trip.
     Discuss how this is not a vacation. It’s not all about our comfort and pleasure. While there will be fun moments, the focus is on the mission.

     Allow children to help with some of the packing. If there is a required packing list, let children help check off items. Give them choices, when possible—even if it’s between two colors of shirts. This will be another opportunity for children (and parents!) to practice flexibility and sacrifice.
     Will you be taking items to the people you will be serving? This may be Bibles, VBS materials, candy, or other supplies. Enlist the help of your children in collecting and packing the items.

     Pack a backpack of items to keep your child entertained during travel. Consider small toys, card games, art supplies and snacks. Pull out that map with the highlighted travel route. Allow children to trace over the line as the trip progresses, circling areas of interest.
     Help them collect mementos at each stop. Collect items such as tree leaves, area information from free brochures, and camera shots. When you return home, these can be transferred to a scrapbook or lap book.
     Encourage children to share these with family and friends as a way of testifying to God’s goodness on the trip.
Befriending another child is ministry.

     If possible, plan service opportunities that include each member of your family. Running errands, assisting with laundry or just befriending another child are areas of ministry. Stress how God uses all things (big and little) for His glory.
Serve with a humble spirit.
     Remind your children they are there to serve others and how to do that in a way pleasing to God. Perhaps role-play appropriate and inappropriate ways (ex. with humbleness and with haughtiness).
     Also, remember to include Jesus. Repairing a roof for someone benefits him now, but sharing Jesus Christ with him offers eternal rewards. Be intentional and pray for opportunities to witness about Christ’s love.

Spiritual Warfare
     If your children are old enough to understand good and evil, then they will understand that obstacles and difficulties will arise. Discuss the importance of prayer, staying in the Word, and not giving in when difficulties arise. Before the trip, talk about possible trials and temptations and how the family can help each other.
Testing comes when the unexpected
     Testing comes when the unexpected occurs. Understand that the spiritually maturity levels vary in each family. Teach by example by showing the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
     Although no one wants difficulties, they produce a wonderful time to grow in our faith.


Never lacking in zeal.
     Let your love and enthusiasm for the Lord overflow to your children.

    “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:10-12 (NIV)
     Excited about planning your next family trip? Below are a few links to get you started!

    Has your family ventured on a mission trip together? Share with us your helpful tips!