[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]
What a welcome we received as we came in last night! The Institute has really gone out of its way to make us feel welcome!
Not only did they have everything we could possibly imagine that we'd need (from water bottles and coffee mugs with our names on them to whole bottles of shampoo) but they also had everything that we might've forgotten. "If you need something, just take it" they said. "That's how we do community around here." And if by chance there was something that we needed that didn't fall in one of those categories, well, they'd go get it for us. "Please, please, please tell us if you need something. We'd be heartbroken if we'd learned that there was something we could've done to make your stay nicer than it was".
They even made us root-beer floats for dessert.
They took the time to think of everything that might make us feel like valued guests.
As I think about Hospitality, I think this must be it. How badly we often "do" hospitality in the church and in our lives as Christians. We talk about welcoming others, but we do it out of our own comfort, not out of a desire to make someone else feel comfortable. We sacrifice little, we place no value in being truly hospitable-- and we wonder why people don't come back. What an extraordinary thing it is to be made welcome in such a way.
"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.