Spiritual Practice: Hospitality

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Well, I failed miserably with the fasting practice I chose for the last two weeks; I just completely forgot about it. I guess that happens sometimes, life encroaches and then there was Harry Potter World, and butter bear, and the beach… but, anyway, it’s all about grace, right?

This week I wanted to talk about the spiritual practice of Hospitality. It’s funny, I used to be really into those, “spiritual gift tests,” and when I took them, the gift of hospitality never came up for me. Still, it has always been a value of our family’s, and very much modeled by Jesus, whom we follow. He talked and modeled welcoming children, the marginalized and he told many a parable about the importance of hospitality.

Once I asked my adult children what was the most memorable thing about growing up in our household and how our faith had impacted them. They both talked about the people we invited in: the pregnant teens that lived with us, the international students who came for all the holidays, the exchange students we adopted. These were memories they cherished and values they wanted to continue.

You can see why moving from a 2200 square foot house with a large dining room and two-family rooms, to a 1200 square foot house with no dining room and one small living room led to some mourning on my part. It changed the way we do hospitality. We’ve had to scale down. My daughter now hosts the large gatherings we love and we have smaller groups of friends over. But, hospitality is not all about food and parties.

I’m again struck by the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32. In Nouwen’s book by that title, he talks about the father’s welcome of the son, saying that the father, welcomed without question and blessed without condition. Isn’t that a fantastic definition of hospitality? The son had taken the father’s money and gone off to squander it on wild living. But, when he came home the father didn’t ask one question about any of that. I would have wanted at least an ounce of blood and a tearful confession. The father just welcomed him home and threw a party. He blessed him as a son and gave him the full benefit of that blessing as if nothing had ever happened; it was completely unconditional! I would have been all, “You can come home but you’d better shape up mister! “

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What would the world look like if we went about welcoming people without question and blessing them without conditions? We would be hospitality, not just do hospitality. And the world would be a kinder, gentler place. That’s what I’m going to try for the next two weeks. Hopefully, I’ll do better this time! Want to join me?

For more spiritual practices check out my book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.

Photo Credit: Christ the Redeemer,  

Prodigal Son Blog

Spiritual Practice: Fasting

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To fast is to step away from something you normally do for a span of time, in order to pray, or free up time, or cleanse your body or soul.

I’ve tried many kinds of fasting over the years. I’m not good at it, but I keep trying, which I guess it important. Here are the fasts I’ve tried:

Food:  I can usually fast food for two meals a day. Not sure I’ve ever made it to three. It’s good for me to do this occasionally because I love to eat. So, when I do fast from food, it’s usually when something is very heavy on my heart and I want to be reminded to pray about it. Food fasts remind me to pray every time my stomach growls or every time I want to reach for food.

Sugar: This is a toughie. Like any addiction, fasting from sugar will mess with you. I broke my sugar addiction and now I can taste the sweetness in regular foods, my cholesterol is much better and I’ve lost weight. Fasting from an addiction, like coffee, cigarettes or sugar comes with a period of depression as the body tries to find a new normal. It is important to have good support for this kind of fast.

Technology:  I also have a really hard time fasting from technology, but I think it’s good for my soul. If I can unplug myself from my computer and phone I can settle and let my thoughts wander and generally get clarity. This is a beautiful fast that I try once a month. My fingers twitch to my phone and occasionally I cheat, but when I succeed, it is marvelous.

Talking: The first time I tried to fast from talking I about went stir crazy. I’m an extrovert, you see. But, I’ve learned to appreciate this kind of fasting which I call “silence and solitude,” and I have found it quite enjoyable. When you stop talking you can listen, to your heart and mind, to great books, to nature, to God.

Behavior: I’ve done fasting from behaviors, like gossip and negativity. This can be fun, but it’s hard for me to remember day-to-day. So, some sort of reminder like post-its around the house and in the car can help.

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For a year or so, on every Wednesday, my husband did something he called, “Peace Fast;” he based it on a passage from the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaiah 58: 6-8

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

What would it mean to do THIS kind of a fast? At this time in history, I think this is the kind of fast we need. For the next two weeks, I’m going to read this passage every morning and try and look at the world through this lens. Perhaps I will discover a new kind of fasting that will help make the world a better place or at least make me a better person. Who’s with me?

*For a fun way to learn more spiritual practices check out my new book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.

Photo Credit: plate, chains