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"... They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (NIV)
"Y'all come." Cline Paden said those were the sweetest words a young boy could hear. Those words meant the Paden family had an invitation to dinner after Sunday morning worship.
During the Great Depression, food was often scarce so an invitation to dine at a neighbor's house signaled a plentiful week. A growing boy knew the host's table would most likely be laden with mouthwatering fried chicken and homegrown vegetables. Boys with cavernous stomachs could eat their fill.
Sadly, "Y'all come" is spoken less and less in my busy life. Most ancestors' food production was labor-intensive from seed and stall to table. My great grandmothers grew their own vegetables, milked cows, churned butter, baked bread, made jam, wrung chicken necks and fried their own chickens.
These chores were part of rearing large families. Yet, women still made time to invite neighbors to "sit a spell." They also set aside time to prepare a pot roast and have the visiting preacher over to eat Sunday dinner. Today, far too many neighbors are strangers to me. Sometimes the color of a neighbor's car and house is all that's known about those who live near me.
Desiring to be more hospitable, I planned a luncheon for a few people I wanted to get to know better. I invited the moms and children to meet me for an early blueberry picking at a nearby farm. Afterward, we'd eat a light lunch at my home. Luncheon day arrived, and the phone began to ring with cancellations. A sick child. A Saturn slipped a transmission. Hard candy broke a tooth. Need to go to the dentist. Pet cat broke a toenail.
As I walked out the door at 9:00 a.m. to go pick blueberries, my daughter phoned from her workplace to see how preparations were going. I explained my dilemma of too much food and no diners, and she suggested bringing the secretaries in her office over for lunch. The "working girls" were delighted by the impromptu invitation to eat homemade chicken salad and munch on fresh blueberry muffins.
Strangers began eating at my table that day, but when the final iced tea was sipped, new friendships had begun. One girl eventually began a Bible study with us and later became a Christian.
encourages me to "practice hospitality." The words hospice, hospital, and host embody the idea of treating strangers as guests. Hospitality isn't limited to meals, but the simplest form of entertaining usually does include a meal.
Although modern food conveniences and microwaves have decreased my kitchen workload, I still find issuing meal invitations a challenge. I've yet to serve popcorn as a main course, but I've discovered meal ingredients need not be fancy. In a pinch, I've served takeout food to my kitchen diners, and even when the house was a bit mussed, guests truly didn't seem to mind folding the laundry while I diced potatoes for the soup.
My goal is to host more strangers, to practice hospitality, to phone more neighbors and say, "Y'all come."
Father, thank you for preserving in scripture the intimate dining scenes of Jesus and his disciples that express exact images of your care. In the name of the seashore Jesus, who kept food warm over burning coals and waited for his friends. Amen.
Excerpt from The Stained Glass Pickup: Glimpses of God's Uncommon Wisdom. Used by permission of Leafwood Publishers. www.LeafwoodPublishers.com.
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