Relentless Hospitality

Grandma Ethyl just had that ability to make you feel at home. She and grandpa lived a mile down the road allowing me to go down and visit often growing up. Living in the white frame farm house where she was born and raised, my grandparents existed very simply; freezing and canning fruits and vegetables, butchering, gardening and gathering eggs for the table. Starting “housekeeping” during the depression grandma learned to be very self sufficient and as many people from that era selfless. Part of life was “neighboring”, the art of visiting and caring for friends and neighbors helping whatever the need in tough times and sharing lavishly in good.

Christmas at Grandma’s was a lesson in hospitality and warmth. We always celebrated Christmas on Dad’s side of the family on a Sunday afternoon. We all woke up and dressed for church as we did every Sunday but with one difference – packed in the trunk were presents for the afternoon. Sunday School went by like normal but the church service afterward always seemed to drag. It seemed to be a little game of my grandparents to string things out making the kids antsier if not a bit wild-eyed with anticipation. Grandma had been going to this church since birth and I am not saying she had more pull than anyone else but I am convinced to this day that Pastor Lowell preached longer on the Key family Christmas day.  Whoever chose the music was in on it too, singing the slowest hymns ever written consisting of more verses than I am sure God even wanted to hear.  You know how some of the Psalms have a brief note under the title for the occasion such as “for the choir on the king’s is coronation?” Our hymnal had special songs designated “for the day when the Key family has Christmas”. Don’t even get me started with the length of prayers. Grandma must have something on these people and called all her favors in at once. Grandmas shouldn’t smirk in church.

Finally, dad is done visiting and we are the last to leave church traveling the two minutes to Grandma’s. My aunts and uncles would all arrive with the twelve of us cousins in tow. As the presents built up under the tree the kids played games or dressed to play in the snow while the women put the final touches on dinner as the men visited in the living room around the coal stove, finally, grandma in her flour dusted apron announced “let’s eat!”  Dinner was a masterpiece of home cooking; mashed potatoes, noodles, fried chicken, and raspberry pie. Spread out all over the downstairs with TV trays and tables we enjoyed each other’s company and grandma’s home cooking. Kids hurrying and adults dawdling, dinner was finally over, but grandma always had one more tradition – the kids had to do the dishes while she carefully checked each dish as if they were the crown jewels. Opening the presents was just a cap on a day underpinned with a larger gift, an unselfish gift of simple relentless hospitality.

As I grew up and went to college I would often come back and visit my grandparents. Always welcome they made me feel at home with whatever they had. With grandma wearing a homemade dress and the ever present apron she sat in her overstuffed chair while grandpa clad in bib overalls and a flannel shirt rocked methodically in his old oak rocker. We would watch “The Wonderful World of Disney” before I headed back to college always sent off with the farewell “come back anytime!”

In our spiritual lives we often read and hear what we need to do to follow Christ fully. Not all principles are easily grasped because they often go against our human nature. The best way to learn a task is by watching someone who knows how to do it well. When it comes to the verses in Romans 12 we read, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” My grandma just called this neighboring and I continually had access to the best teacher around – I hope I can live up to her example. Our house may not be fancy but just drop in and if you have been there before “come back anytime!”

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This daily devotion is written by John Key

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