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Barriers to Providing Hospitality, and How to Overcome Them

August 2, 2013

In the first session on hospitality, we noted that hospitality is an outward expression of Christian love that we demonstrate not just to people we know well, but also to strangers in our midst.  We also saw that all Christians are called to show hospitality – not just leaders in the church, or those who feel particularly gifted as hosts and hostesses.

Knowing that hospitality is a command that applies to all believers might be discouraging for some of us because we can think of all sorts of reasons why we are not well equipped to show hospitality.  This post will address some of those issues, and it is my hope that anyone reading this will come away with some practical strategies to overcome these hurdles so that they can pursue future hospitality opportunities with enthusiasm.  I know that I have found several of these ideas very helpful myself.

Problem Solution
Lack of experience -practice – it’s like anything else…you’re not going to do something really well without practice (eg – I remember when we were first married – I could barely cook, I didn’t know how to properly judge how much food was enough, and even after what I thought was a pretty well planned out evening, I would still be up until 2 a.m. cleaning up because I hadn’t settled into a rhythm…I hadn’t learned the art of doing things as I went along, and I hadn’t learned how to accept help when it was offered)-don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make the perfect meal or replicate a stay at a fancy hotel-talk to someone with more experience and take notes

-keep a hospitality notebook:  keep recipes that work well for a crowd, records of people’s food sensitivities, quick meal ideas, checklists of tasks that need to be done every time you host people, etc…

-read – there are so many great articles, books, and recipes available

Lack of time -plan, plan, plan;  if you schedule it in, you can make it happen-talk to people who are busy and are able to practice hospitality regularly – ask for tips about how they fit it all in-keep quick meals on hand (have brownie and cake mixes in the pantry for a quick dessert; have meat that you can grill, and frozen veggies in the freezer) (eg – I’ve had it happen to me more than once where someone was coming and I realized I didn’t have anything to offer – but I did have a brownie mix/cake mix, and within 30-40 minutes, I had something to serve
Lack of money -budget, be creative-join forces with a friend so you can share the cost-pot providential style meals -don’t be afraid to say yes to people who ask if they can bring something

-dollar store for decorations, plates, etc..

-shop the flyers (cake mixes and icing often go on sale for $1 each…so in one hour you can have an iced layer cake that cost you $2 instead of $15 or $20)

-buy the expensive items when they’re on sale and store them for future use (eg. meat, large frozen entrees)

-talk to others about how they budget for hospitality (in our church we have some women who are very talented at putting on a great party with a very low budget)

-seek out recipes that use cheap ingredients that can be stretched to feed many (pasta, rice) – it doesn’t have to be steak to be good

Lack of support from family members -study what the Bible has to say about hospitality and pray together that the Lord would help you as a family to see the importance of showing hospitality
Lack of space -if you can’t fit everyone around the table, have them find a seat or some floor space and have them use their laps-use outdoor space when possible-if you live in a condo, investigate the possibility of using the building’s party room

-invite just a few people at a time

-for overnight guests, don’t feel bound by number of bedrooms – you don’t need to have a guest room to have overnight guests  (eg –  we started thinking differently about how to use our house when we went to our friends’ home and they gave us their master bedroom…when we carried that practice into our own home, it became very easy to host a whole family comfortably by giving up the top floor for them and using the basement for ourselves)

 

Lack of material resources (dishes, furniture, etc…) -borrow from others-do disposable-folding chairs

-buffet style lap meal (vs. sit-down)

Lack of skill with food planning, preparation, home management -get a basic understanding of what it means to achieve nutritional adequacy in a meal-have protein, veg, and an optional starchy carb at every meal-match meals to food and time budget (remember to allow time for shopping, cleaning, food prep, cooking, table setting, serving…)

- learn how to delegate (get the kids to set the table, clean the bathroom, etc..)

-find recipes that are easy and fast, and keep it simple (super easy summer meal = meat on the grill, salad, veggies cooked from frozen…if you have a bit more time and want it to be a bit more fancy – do kabobs)

-have a back-up meal in the freezer, just in case (eg – frozen lasagna)

-use your people resources – ask what people do for a crowd, what are their go-to recipes?

-do a little cleaning each day so that you don’t leave it all for the day your guests are coming

 

Lack of skill in responding to unexpected events -expect the unexpected!- have extra food on hand just in case- don’t forget that it is far better to be willing to serve others in your messy house than to not serve at all; the one who welcomes people despite a disorganized home and sub-par cooking is fulfilling the command to show hospitality far better than the person who is turning away opportunities because she hasn’t got her house in order and feels like she can’t cook

-buy an inflatable mattress and an extra set of sheets to store in your closet so that you could host an overnight guest, OR, know who you could borrow from

Physical limitations (fatigue, pain, decreased mobility, etc) -ask for help- do something that is less demanding of your time and energy (lunch instead of dinner, tea instead of a meal, dinner out instead of in, give a gift card …)
Unfamiliarity with special diets -don’t let someone else’s dietary restrictions scare you off-read up on easy vegetarian and gluten-free recipes,  and remember that you can serve salad to almost anyone on any diet-plan ahead – always ask your guests ahead of time if they have any food aversions or restrictions

-talk to people with similar dietary restrictions to find out what they do – they can often tell you what’s quick and easy and tasty

A narrow definition of hospitality -remember it’s not just having people in your home…you can take a meal to them, or just call them to encourage them, or make a grocery run for them, or send them a gift card for a take-out meal, or offer to babysit, or pet sit, or whatever…think outside the box!

 

You may be able to think of some more challenges that haven’t been mentioned here, and I would encourage you to use the comments section below to describe the challenges and some possible solutions.  The more discussion we have, the better equipped we will all become.  And it goes without saying (but I will say it!) that an overarching means of successfully addressing any of these problems is prayer to our ever-faithful God.

Whether we feel hindered in our ability to practice hospitality or not, we would all do well to remember this:  Hospitality isn’t measured by the quality of the food, the trendiness of the décor, or the brilliance of the conversation.  Hospitality is about a heart for Christ that is trying to show the love of Christ to others by coming alongside of them to meet their needs.  If we understand it in this way, we will start to realize how very numerous the opportunities for hospitality really are, and we will find joy in serving others.

_______________

References:

The previous blog post

Ennis & Tatlock, Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God, 2003 (they identified many of the barriers mentioned in this post)

Showing Love to Strangers and Guests: The Hospitality Mandate

August 2, 2013

In the session summarized in the last post, we talked about kindness.  We looked at some of the barriers we experience in expressing kindness, and we concluded by considering how we can best exercise kindness within our family contexts once those barriers are addressed.

This post will summarize the session we spent talking about how we can show kindness beyond the family context by practicing hospitality.  Our discussion was built around the questions below, but first I’ll give you the three passages of Scripture that we referred to in our time together:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

(Romans 12:9-13)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

(1 Peter 4:8,9)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

(Hebrews 13:1,2)

What is hospitality?

If you Google the definition of hospitality, this is what you get:  “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”  In the New Testament, the Greek word philoxenia is the word used for hospitality, and it is made up of the word philos, which means, “loving”, and the word xenos, which means, “a stranger or a guest”.    So the biblical definition of hospitality is showing love to strangers and guests.  Note that all three of our passages mention hospitality in the context of loving one another.  Biblical hospitality is concerned with more than a beautifully presented meal and engaging after-dinner entertainment.  It is concerned with seeking to love others by serving them.

Why should we show hospitality?

The short answer?  We should show hospitality because all Christians (not just women) are commanded to do so in the Scriptures.  It is one of our means of showing Christian love to believers and unbelievers alike.

A more in-depth answer?  We should show hospitality because we have been shown the ultimate act of hospitality by God.  While we were yet sinners – strangers to His holiness, alienated from Him because of our sin – He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who died so that we might be invited into His family.  God opened His home to us and we did not deserve it!  It is only fitting that we, in turn, reflect this grace as we interact with others and exemplify the love of Christ to them. (For a good article on this, go to the Girltalk blog here.)

To whom should we show hospitality?

If we look at the three passages above, we can see that we are to be hospitable to one another as saints, but as has already been indicated, it does not say that we are to be hospitable only to people we know.  In these busy times, we often find it hard to show hospitality even to our closest friends and relatives, but we are called as Christians to do more than that – we are called to show hospitality to strangers – people we don’t know very well, if at all.  Does this bind us to extend a dinner invitation to every person we encounter in the course of our day?  Of course not.  That would not be possible, practical, wise, or necessary.  But it does mean that we should be open and intentional about being hospitable to the people we meet.  It means being willing to invite people over when they need a meal or a conversation, even if it’s not the most convenient time.  It means being ready to invite a visitor who is new to the church home for lunch with you.  It means thinking creatively about how you might be able to meet even a small need in someone else’s life in a way that is meaningful to them.  In the Bible, we see many examples of hospitality shown to fellow believers, unbelievers, widows, orphans, the poor and needy, missionaries, foreigners, and travelers.  We may not be presented with opportunities to show hospitality to people in every one of these categories, but we should be thinking about who we can serve.  Hospitality offers us a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to a broken world.

How should we practice hospitality?

Without grumbling (see 1 Pet 4:9).  This may be the hardest part!  How often do we find ourselves struggling to serve others cheerfully?  The command to be hospitable is unconditional.  It does not say, “Show hospitality if you have time….or, if it is convenient….or, if you have a big enough house…or, if you have a complete set of matching dishes.”  We are called to be hospitable no matter who we are and no matter what our circumstances are, AND we are to do it without complaining.

Alexander Strauch speaks to this:

The opposite of complaining is gladness – the willingness to cheerfully accept the inconvenience, labor, and cost of hospitality.  Hospitality is a form of giving, and “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB).  So let us ask God to give us a cheerful spirit as we practice hospitality.

Certainly the ministry (and corresponding inconveniences) of hospitality can easily rattle our grumbling bones.  Hospitality demands old-fashioned work.  It may be costly and is often inconvenient.  It is time-consuming.  It places strain on the family.  Sometimes guests abuse their Christian brothers’ and sisters’ hospitality.  And during times of persecution, hospitality can even be dangerous.

Hospitality, therefore, is a concrete, down-to-earth test of our fervent love for God and His people.  Love can be an abstract, indistinct idea; hospitality is specific and tangible.  We seldom complain about loving others too much, but we do complain about the inconveniences of hospitality.  Hospitality is love in action.  Hospitality is the flesh and muscle on the bones of love.  Through caring acts of hospitality, the reality of our love is tested. (Strauch, p. 37-38)

In what ways can we show hospitality?

  • Preparing food (Gen 24:15-21; 1 Kings 17:9; Mat 14:15-21; Acts  2:46; 20:11)
  • Providing housing/lodging (2 Kings 4:8-17)
  • Giving physical protection or safety (Josh 2:1-15)
  • Sharing material possessions (Acts 2:44; Rom 12:13-20; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17)
  • Offering a place to rest (Gen 18:1-22; Mark 14:3-8; Luke 7:36-47; John 12:1-8)
  • Extending love and encouragement (Rom 12:10-13; 1 Thess 4:9-10)
  • Sharing the Gospel (Acts 10:24; 20:20; 3 John 7,8)
  • Giving spiritual teaching or encouragement (Rom 16:5; Col 4:15)

(Ennis & Tatlock, p.211)

I hope you are coming away from this post feeling convicted and encouraged to seek out more opportunities for hospitality in your own life.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed instead, fear not!  The next post will address some of the common difficulties that tend to prevent us from practicing hospitality, and some practical tips for overcoming those difficulties.

References:

ESV Bible

Ennis & Tatlock, Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God, 2003

Alexander Strauch, The Hospitality Commands, 1993, 37-38

Be Kind

August 2, 2013

Kindness. It seems so…basic.  It should go without saying that we ought to be kind to one another.  And yet there it is – right there on the list of things for which young women will require training from older women.  As we have discussed before, Paul would not have had to specifically outline areas requiring training if these things came naturally to the young women of the church.   Kindness does not come naturally to us as fallen human beings – selfishness does!  Selfishness might be the friend of manipulative kindness, but it sucks the lifeblood right out of godly kindness.  Kindness, as defined by Jerry Bridges, “is a sincere desire for the happiness of others, and goodness is the activity calculated to advance that happiness.” (quoted in Feminine Appeal, p.105).

During this first session that we did on kindness, we looked at how to exercise kindness within our family context.  The sessions that followed dealt with how to exercise kindness beyond the family context – specifically in the practice of hospitality (those posts are coming soon).

————————

Carolyn Mahaney, in her book Feminine Appeal provides a helpful framework for looking at kindness in our family relationships, but she reminds her readers at the outset that we cannot do anything in our own strength.  Kindness is listed in the fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5:22, which means that godly kindness is a product of the Spirit working within us.  We cannot manufacture this kindness on our own.  As Mahaney says, “Our vigorous effort is still required, but it is only effective in cooperation with the Holy Spirit” (p.106).

Common Hindrances to Kindness

Jesus says in Matthew 15:18 that what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.  Our words, and our thoughts and actions, are an outworking of what resides in our hearts.  If our speech, thoughts and deeds are not characterized by kindness, then there is something other than kindness in our hearts.  What might be there instead?

1. ANGER  What causes you to lash out with anger instead of kindness?  James 4:1 responds, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”  Galatians 5 describes the war that is constantly going on within us:  the desires of our flesh rage against the desires of the Spirit and cause us to do the things we don’t want to do.  When we lash out in anger, our flesh is going after something it wants but it doesn’t have (James 4:2).  Maybe you long for peace and quiet but your kids won’t leave you alone.  Maybe you crave appreciation and attention but you are taken for granted.  Whatever the case may be, “we need to recognize that ‘wanting my way’ is really the driving force that propels our anger.” (p. 106)

THE REMEDY:   When you are tempted to become angry, ask yourself the question, “What do I want more than I want to please God?”, and then…

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded….Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

(James 4:7-8, 10 ESV)

2. BITTERNESS  It is easy to become bitter towards our family members because they share our time and space, and are thus more likely to become entangled in our flesh/spirit battles (as are we more likely to become entangled in theirs).  Bitterness sets in when we start to harbour resentment towards another person.  Bitterness has taken root when we dwell on their offense, wallow in self-pity, and possibly even punish the other person for their wrongdoing by giving them the cold shoulder.  They hurt us, and now we want to hurt them back.  Bitterness is a huge barrier to forgiveness and kindness.

THE REMEDY:  Mahaney says it well:  “We deal with bitterness by cherishing the experience of being forgiven by God and by forgiving the wrongs committed against us.” (p.108)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)

3.       JUDGING:  Author Ken Sande defines judging simply as “looking for the worst in others” (as quoted by Mahaney, p.110).  How easy it is to do this to our own flesh and blood.  The better we know a person, the better we know their sinful tendencies.  And the better we know their sinful tendencies, the more likely we are to assume that their motives are sinful, even when they aren’t.

THE REMEDY:   Jesus said, Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24 ESV).  Things may not be as they appear, and we must be inclined to think the best of people in the absence of evidence that tells otherwise. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV)  If we do find ourselves in a situation where our loved one has sinned, we must approach them with humility, gentleness and kindness.

Now that we know some of the hindrances to kindness, we can work towards putting them off, and “putting on” kindness instead.  But as I’m sure we are all aware, we are likely to encounter failure somewhere along the way, and the temptation will be to feel overwhelmed by guilt, and to wonder about how permanent the scars are that we have left on our relationships.  But as Mahaney points out, “no situation created by our sin is so horrible that God can’t redeem it for good – both for us and for our families.” (p.111)   “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 ESV)

As we work towards putting our anger, bitterness and judgment aside, our hearts will have more and more room for the fruit of the Spirit.  As kindness fills in the spaces left behind by the desires of our flesh, we can put it to work for us.

What does godly kindness look like practically in everyday life?  How can we manifest kindness in our thoughts, words, and deeds?

1. In thought – Quite simply, we can pray.  If we are concerned about those we love and we desire their happiness, then we should be praying for them.  The closer the relationship, the more likely it is that we are aware of the other person’s greatest struggles and temptations.  This grants us the ability to pray specifically for that person in a way that few others can.  Beyond prayer, we must use our thoughts to think more highly of others than we do of ourselves, and to think creatively about how we can serve others in a way that honours God.

2. In word – Our words are powerful.  They can be used for good, or they can be utterly destructive.  The Scriptures instruct us to encourage one another and build each other up, and our words will go a long way in helping us to do just that.  Our tone and attitude come into play here as well, and we must strive to speak with the gentleness of Proverbs 15:1.  This applies not just to how we talk to our loved ones (and others), but also to how we talk about them when they are not around.

3. In deed – To show kindness in deed, we need to be making deliberate attempts to bring happiness and care to another person.  This can manifest itself in countless ways – it may be as simple as greeting someone when they come in the door, or just listening attentively (with the iPhone turned off!) while a family member tells us about their day.  It may be expressed in the giving of our time and talents, or in our ability to quickly forgive and forget when someone has wronged us.  Whatever our unique circumstances are, we can plan for kindness by thinking about how we can serve in ways that will specifically speak to that special person (eg. cooking a favourite meal, helping with a project, writing an encouraging note, etc…).  We can also express kindness by working on avoiding any known triggers for anger (eg. if you know you struggle most to be kind when you’re in a rush to get out the door in the morning, plan to get up a few minutes earlier, or do more of your preparation the night before so that it isn’t such a scramble).

These are just a few ideas, and I encourage you to continue thinking of what kindness will look like in your own family context.  May the Lord help us to sincerely desire the happiness of others, and grant us the goodness required to advance their happiness.  May He be glorified.

_________________________________

References:

ESV Bible

Carolyn Mahaney, Feminine Appeal, 2003

Let Us Not Grow Weary

July 13, 2013

This is the summary of our first session in the year 2013 (sorry it’s so late!!):

It is a new year, an appropriate time to take a few moments to look back on where we have been, consider where we are now, and look ahead to where we are going.  Over the course of the last two and half years, we have only just begun to plumb the depths of what God’s word says about godly womanhood.  We have looked at the gospel basis for relationships, biblical peacemaking, purity of the heart and body, modesty, biblical courtship, the gift of singleness, our relationships with our parents, how to love our husbands and children, how to be self-controlled, and how to manage our homes wisely and efficiently.  We have covered a lot of ground, praise be to God!

It is a blessing to find out more about how God wants us to live, but it also results in us bearing more responsibility to live it out, since we are accountable for what we know.  When we truly seek out God’s will and we desire in our hearts to glorify Him, He enables us by the Holy Spirit to do the good works which He “prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)  But sometimes, instead of feeling empowered and full of zeal, we feel flat and weary.  We feel like we have nothing left to give.

Thankfully, we can always turn to God’s word for encouragement, and today we will look at some passages that should help us not to “grow weary of doing good.”:

Read Galatians 6:9-10 and consider the nature and timeline of sowing and reaping.  A farmer does not sow one day, and reap the next.   He sows, and then he labours to tend his fields while he waits patiently for the harvest.  So must we.  Note the promise in the passage:  in due season, we will reap if we don’t give up.  If a farmer decided to abandon his farming career because his crops didn’t yield anything the week after sowing, he would never realize what a splendid harvest might have awaited him if he had laboured on.  In this world of instant gratification, we have become so accustomed to getting immediate results that we’ve all but lost our ability to wait patiently.  We send an e-mail or a text and we expect an instant reply.  We pay for a download and watch a movie the next minute.  We get upset if our fast food order takes longer than four minutes to process.  Those same expectations can creep into our Christian thinking as well:  I invited Jessica to church but she didn’t come – I guess she’s not interested, so I just won’t pursue her anymore.  I’ve prayed and prayed for my family member to be saved, but there has been no change in his/her life – my prayers are ineffectual.  I’ve been reading the Scriptures daily with my kids but they don’t seem to be paying any attention or bearing any fruit – what’s the point of continuing?  I’ve been doing acts of kindness for our unbelieving  neighbours for a few weeks now but they still don’t seem very receptive to having a relationship with our family – why am I troubling myself to reach out when it probably won’t do anything but use up time that I could spend in (seemingly) more fruitful ways?

We can easily be tempted to assume that our witness and testimony to others is having absolutely no effect and therefore is not worth the effort, but we must not give up.  In preparation for this session I read an account of a man named Luke Short who was converted at the age of 103 when he recalled a sermon that he had heard preached by John Flavel eighty-five years earlier!  We must never assume that our good works and evangelistic efforts are futile. The Lord is at work in us and through us.

Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 and 12:9 and recognize the relationship between human weakness and God’s strength.  God used hardship to bring Paul to the end of himself so that he would rely whole-heartedly on God’s strength.  We might see our weaknesses and despair as barriers to our “effectiveness” as Christians, but these are merely tools in our Master’s hands.  May we rely whole-heartedly on God, and pray that the power of Christ will rest upon us.

Read John 15:5,7,8 and remember it well.  We can do nothing to bear fruit if we are not abiding in the vine, Jesus Christ.  But if we do abide in Him, we will be exceedingly fruitful and effective in the advancement of His Kingdom.

And now, as a logical response to these passages, we ought to read and memorize God’s word, and pray without ceasing.  May the Lord give us the faith, the desire, and the discipline to do so.  May we not grow weary of doing good.

Practical Tips for Getting Your “Homework” Done

July 13, 2013

After our first session on “Working at Home”, we did a follow-up session where we turned our attention to the practical aspects of keeping the home.  This is a summary of that second session:

“The heart of our homes is not in the ability to keep it perfect at all costs; the heart of a home is love. We live in a thing, a non-eternal structure that needs to be maintained.  The thing is worthless without the life we bring to it and through it.”

(Sarah Maye, from “31 Days to Clean:  Having a Martha House the Mary Way”)

Read the account of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Managing house and home is without question a very important undertaking, but if we, like Martha, become so absorbed in the task that it becomes more important to us than submitting to Christ’s teaching, we have missed the mark entirely.  If the price of an immaculate home and an organized life is an empty and resentful heart, then it isn’t worth it.  When clean homes and finely tuned schedules are prioritized above souls, something needs to change.  As we consider these practical matters, we must always be considering them in light of how they best facilitate our ability to live out the Gospel.

A few weeks before this session last fall, I asked my Facebook Friends to share their wisdom with me regarding household management.  The following is a summary of their tips and others that I mined from personal experience or the internet (Facebook comments are in italics):

Spiritual

  1. Seek to glorify God in everything you do, and specifically identify how that should play out in the way you manage your home and family life
  2. Schedule time to be in the Word and in prayer, and facilitate the same for other members of your family
  3. Be a helpful supporter and protector of family worship time
  4. Pray for God’s help, strength and wisdom before sitting down to make a meal plan, schedule or start a cleaning project. Those things are not too small for Him to be interested in, and you have no idea how He could bless you in doing them if you only ask.

 

 General

  1. “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Sally Berger
  2.  Attitude “let our place be a place of Grace”
  3. Understand why you should strive to have a well-managed and organized home/life:  it fulfills part of God’s design for women (Titus 2:5, Proverbs 31), it serves the family well, it facilitates your efficiency and everyone else’s, it makes you feel more free to show hospitality, it makes you more aware of what you have and what you need, and by making home a nice place to be for your family, you are showing love
  4. Set goals for yourself in all of your areas of responsibility (God, husband, children, home, church, work)
  5. Teach children how to clean, cook and do laundry from a young age (while they still love to be your helper) – this gives them valuable time with you while you do your work (and opportunity for you to learn their strengths and work on their weaknesses) and also prepares them to do these things independently from a young age. We tend to think kids are supposed to just play all day…this is strange, first world thinking! The best time to learn to enjoy the work God has given us to do is when we are young and still excited about everything. What a great way to teach our kids that work is a blessing, NOT a curse! I like these passages for reassurance… Ecc 9:10 “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” 2 Thes 3:10 “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Gen 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”.
  6. Keep a box of loose small change handy for car parking fees and emergency cash. And if you have to double stack books to save space, make a list of their titles so you remember what you have (I still need to do this – or spend lots more on a Kindle device and sell some paper-based books).
  7.  If you have to choose between playing with your kids or doing housework, play with the kids…. plenty of time to catch up on housework when they have left home
  8. Planning is essential:  “15 minutes of planning saves 3 hours of wasted time”
  9. Have less stuff
  10. Buy birthday cards well ahead of time, and have some generic cards on hand at all times (sympathy, birthday, thank you, wedding, baby)
  11. Keep running lists (shopping, to-do)
  12. Do the hardest things first
  13. Try to completely finish one task before moving on to another
  14. Know your strengths, and use them fully.  Know your weaknesses, and either work on them or figure out how to compensate for them!

 

Organization/Time Management

  1. Get up early (makes all the difference in a day I’m in control of versus one that controls me)
  2. Don’t stay up slaving over something if you’re tired. What you could do late at night might be done more efficiently after a good night’s sleep and you’ll be more cheerful to face the day. (People with babies might not have a guarantee anyway, but it’s still a good idea if you can).
  3. Set a time limit for activities that tend to drain unnecessary amounts of time from your day (eg – Facebook, Pinterest, TV watching, video games, web surfing, etc…)
  4. Cozi is a good calendar/schedule keeper…and yes it has an app
  5. Other helpful apps:  Remember the Milk (a to-do list with many bells and whistles), Penultimate for iPad (like having a pencil and paper), HomeRoutines (keeps you on top of your chores, iPad),
  6. White board – I list each child’s name then with their “helping input” we make their to-do list for the morning/afternoon or eve….it’s clear, understood and I don’t have to repeat myself.
  7. If a task will only take 2 minutes, do it now—don’t leave it till later (for instance, this can help with the paper mess: file that thing now, don’t put it in a stack to file later, etc.)
  8. A place for everything and everything in its place
  9. If you have stuff you don’t have a place for, either get rid of it or make a place for it. If you don’t care enough about it to make a place for it, then you can get rid of it. And before buying more stuff, think about whether or not you have a place for it; if you don’t already have a place for it, think about whether or not you have the room/ability to create a place for it or really even want to create a place for it. (And of course, the “everything in its place” part of the proverb pretty much speaks for itself: as much as possible, put stuff away as soon as you’ve used it/read it/walked in the door with it/need to put it down, etc.!)
  10. Don’t put anything down twice. (if it goes somewhere, don’t set it down halfway there).
    And always keep in reach the means to write things down when you think of something. Amazing memory-saver, too often neglected.
  11. I got a great piece of advice recently on the topic of delegating tasks to children: Use the summers to teach your kids how to do specific jobs independently. Then, when you’re in the middle of a busier school schedule, you can do something else when they’re doing their chores.
  12. Chore chart – assign (or collectively agree upon) responsibilities for each family member and set the expectation that everyone will follow through with their assignments (have a list made out for Mom and Dad as well, so smaller children can see that everyone in the family has jobs to do)
  13. Get the paper under control:  have a filing system of some sort so that papers can be readily sorted into their proper place; have a file ready to receive receipts/documents for the next year’s  income tax submission; sort the mail by the recycling box
  14. Use a Kindle (or a Kindle app) – reduces book and paper bulk around the house
  15. Use colour coding to help keep track of various things:  eg – assign the colour orange to Beth to help her to know which cup/toothbrush/towel/backpack is hers
  16. Use Pinterest or Evernote as a virtual way of organizing your thoughts, ideas, recipes, and how-to’s (beware of the time factor)
  17.  Have a seasonal purging session – go through clothes, toys, etc… and decide what to toss/sell/donate/fix

 

Meals

  1. Plan meals for a week or a month at a time; to maximize the food budget, plan your meals according to what’s on sale for the coming week; perhaps make use of a grocery list app for your shopping list (like Grocery IQ or Grocery List Free)
  2. Chopping, dividing and prepping meats and veggies as soon as you get them so they are ready to throw into any meal. Less wasted food and time.
  3. Double the recipe when making a meal and freeze half for another day when you need a quick, easy meal (OR put it in the fridge for later that week OR use for lunches to take to work/school)
  4. If the week ahead is going to be busy, freeze a week’s worth of sandwiches so that school/work lunches take 5 minutes to make.
  5. Here’s a baking tip if you like making your kids home baking so that they don’t get inundated with preservatives: mix your dry ingredients in ziploc baggies in advance… I’ve got a drawer with carrot cake muffin mix, white cake, cookies, banana bread, chocolate cake, and brownies mixes… only takes 10 minutes to whip something up and the kids love cracking the eggs for me. Saves sooooo much time!
  6. Use recipe apps or websites as a quick way to find healthy recipes that use the ingredients you have on hand (eg. Spark, Epicurious, Allrecipes)

Money

  1. Make a budget and stick to it – include debt reduction and savings in your budget; Mint.com is a really helpful online tool for making and keeping track of your budget
  2. Helpful apps:  BillMinder
  3. Make a debt reduction a priority
  4. Analyze the expenses in your budget that do not have a fixed cost and think of ways to decrease them (eg.  make coffee at home instead of buying out [maybe get a single cup Keurig to make this quick and easy – you will recoup the cost fairly quickly if you drink one or more cups a day], take a lunch to work/school instead of buying out, plan meals around what’s on sale, buy used instead of new, borrow or exchange instead of buy, shop around for better insurance rates, ride a bike if your destination isn’t too far away, always assess purchases as needs vs. wants, DIY)
  5. To decrease the money you spend on gasoline, try to cluster errands in a way that minimizes the number of times you have to go out; plan your route to minimize distance and idling
  6. To decrease the money you spend on kids’ clothes, buy for next year at this year’s end-of-season discount prices (this means you have to predict the size they’ll be in a year)
  7. Make your own laundry soap and other cleaners (having bars of soap, Oxyclean, borax, baking soda, vinegar and water on hand will address most of your needs)
  8. Learn how to cut hair (guys’hair is easy to cut) and save on paying for haircuts
  9. Learn how to do small repairs and projects around the house so you don’t have to hire someone to do them
  10. If you see something you really like (and need), ask yourself if you could make your own version for less – there are tons of easy DIY tutorials on the internet (you’d be surprised at how much you can do yourself if you just take the time to learn how)
  11. As much as possible, reduce electricity use during peak times
  12. Install a programmable thermostat to save on heating and cooling costs
  13. Hang laundry outside to dry

 

Cleaning

  1. Don’t spend too much time cleaning….. it’s dirty again within minutes of everyone waking up. Save your energy for the really important things.
  2. I made up a calendar for daily, weekly, monthly cleaning so that my house stays clean
  3. “My mom had a “Saturday box” that things got put into if they got left out. You couldn’t get the item back until Saturday. I’ve recently seen a variation that had a list of chores on the box. You had to do something on the list to get your item back. It kept mom from getting sidetracked putting things in individual kids’ rooms as she was cleaning house.”
  4.  Kids know that what isn’t cleaned up outside by them is cleaned up by mom and dad and “lost” (for a while).
  5. One that I found helpful when really overwhelmed was to see what I could do in a room in 5 minutes. Set the timer or watch the clock. In the bedroom, you can make the bed & put away laundry in 5 minutes; in the kitchen you can load/unload the dishwasher or put the dishes in soapy water and perhaps wipe the counters in 5 minutes; in the living area you can pick up (at least into a basket) and do a quick vacuum in 5 minutes; etc. The rooms can mostly be done in 30 minutes.
  6. I love our 15 minute blitz cleans where everyone stops what they are doing and cleans for 15 min
  7. Use microfiber cleaning cloths, and have different colours for different jobs (eg – green always used in kitchen, blue always used in bathroom, pink always used outside)
  8. Use a water and vinegar (1:1) solution to do most of your everyday cleaning – it is cheap, non-toxic, and effective (and you can’t smell the vinegar after it’s dry)
  9. If you can’t get to anything else, clean the kitchen sink
  10. Try to unload the dishwasher as soon as possible after the cycle is done.  Dishes pile up in the sink if there isn’t an empty dishwasher to put them in.

Laundry

  1. 1 Load/day or have a set schedule for days to do laundry
  2. Wear your clothes more than once if they’re not dirty after first wear – this reduces laundry volume, not to mention water, detergent and electricity use
  3. Teach children to do their own laundry as soon as they are old enough to safely and responsibly use the machines

Helpful Resources:

31 Days to Clean:  Having a Martha House the Mary Way, by Sarah Mae, 2001

Shopping for Time, by Carolyn Mahaney (I have not read this, but it was recommended to me by a trusted friend)

Becoming a Titus 2 Woman, by Martha Peace, 1997

And many, many more….just ask Google!

“Working at Home”

June 26, 2013

What do the Scriptures say about women and work?  You may run into people who are convinced that it is wrong for a woman to work outside of the home.  You may also run into people who say that a woman must work outside of the home in order to reach her full potential as a human being.  Who is right?  Does either of these “camps” represent what the Bible actually says about this subject?

Over the course of this past fall, our Ladies Discipleship group examined this question.  This post summarizes the main points of our discussion.

Titus 2:5 says that older women are to teach young women to be “working at home”.  What does this mean?  In our day and age, if a woman were to say she was “working at home” it would likely be taken to mean that she was doing her work at home instead of at the office.  But this passage is not referring to operating a home-based business (although it does not exclude that) – it is talking primarily about doing the work that needs to be done to manage a household.

Wait a minute, you might be thinking, how do we know this if Paul hasn’t really elaborated on what he meant by “working at home”?

John MacArthur points out that Paul didn’t have to elaborate, because it would have been well understood by his readers that the wife’s role was to take care of her home, her husband, her children, her guests, and the poor and needy.  She might also work from home selling crafts or produce from her garden.  Or, she might work in the fields or in a trade with her husband, but if she were to work apart from her husband in the marketplace or in a trade, she would be considered a disgrace in the culture of that day (1).

We get a picture of a godly woman at work in Proverbs 31.  When we read Proverbs 31, we must keep in mind that this profile of an “excellent wife” is descriptive of an ideal.  We can see that the text is prefaced with evidence that the Proverbs 31 woman is a rare specimen:  “An excellent wife who can find?”  Rest assured, you can still be a great and godly wife even if you don’t make all of your own clothes and run a soup kitchen in your spare time!  But there are principles that can be drawn from this wonderful chapter and they will help us to gain a better understanding of what Titus 2:5 is referring to when it says, “working at home”.

Based on Proverbs 31, does the Bible forbid a woman to work outside of the home? 

No.  We can see that this woman is a wise business woman.  She considers a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard.  She senses that her merchandise is profitable. She makes and sells garments.  She is lauded as a godly woman who fears the Lord, and her business activities are considered a positive feature, not a negative one.

What is the main goal of the Proverbs 31 woman’s labours?

You will see without looking very hard that the woman described in this passage is working to serve her household well.  She labours inside and outside of the home so that she can care for the needs of her husband, children, maidens, the poor, and the needy.

What does this passage have to say to today’s successful career woman?  Is it wrong to seek to be successful in a career?

Success in and of itself is certainly not a bad thing.  It is our godly duty to put forth our very best effort in every endeavor (Colossians 3:23), and success will often be close at hand when we abide by the kind of work ethic that comes from that conviction.  Indeed, it is important for women to be successful in the workplace, particularly if they are unmarried and need to be financially independent.  But what is the motivation for being successful?  If we are seeking to be successful for the sake of our reputation, or to become rich, or even to escape the monotony and responsibility of home life, then our success is no longer just a means of supporting ourselves and our household, it is a means of supporting our selfishness and pride.  That is when it becomes wrong to seek success.

What general principles can we apply from this passage to the way(s) in which we work at home and away from home?

There are many great principles that we can apply from Proverbs 31, whether working inside or outside of the home.  But we cannot expect to conform to these principles without God’s help and the working of the Holy Spirit.  We need to pray that the Lord will work in our hearts so that instead of adopting the prevailing worldview that tells women how they cannot possibly be fulfilled if they prioritize their family over their career, we will instead embrace God’s vision and delight in the responsibilities He has purposely given to us as nurturers, helpers and managers.

When we are ready to accept our mission, then we can strive to humbly implement the principles from Proverbs 31 as they apply in our own context.  Some of these principles are :

  1. Having a view to serving our household with our work, and making the care of our household (the people and the place) our priority (vv. 11,12,15,21,27,28)
  2. Being wise with our resources (time, possessions, and abilities) (vv.13-16,18,19,22,24).
  3. Working hard and avoiding idleness; working willingly and diligently (vv.13,15,18,19,27).
  4. Thinking beyond our own walls about how we can serve those in need (vv.15, 20).
  5. Thinking ahead and preparing for the future (being organized!) (vv.21,24,25).
  6. Keeping fit mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically in order to carry out our responsibilities (vv.17,25).
  7. Speaking with wisdom and kindness (v.26).
  8. Having a heart that is more concerned with what God thinks than it is with what people think.  “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (v.30)

Take-Home Message

We can see from the Scriptures that women are not forbidden to work outside of the home or to have successful careers.  But we can also clearly see that a woman’s main priority should always be to serve the needs of her household (Titus 2:5, Proverbs 31). This can be accomplished by the woman who stays home all day AND by the woman who works at an outside job.  Whether or not a woman is fulfilling this aspect of Titus 2 has less to do with where she is in body than it does with where she is in spirit.  A woman could be at home all day but not really have a heart that is looking to the ways of her household.  She may be doing the things that need to be done (laundry, cooking, cleaning, organizing, scheduling, caring for children, shopping, etc..), but be very resentful that she’s not out in the world being appreciated and making a name for herself.  On the other hand, you could have a woman who does work outside of the home, but she does so because it is a necessary way for her to serve her household well, as opposed to just doing it for personal gain.  Wherever her feet may take her, her heart remains at home.

We live in a world with a different take-home message.  Women are encouraged to pursue pleasure, success, fame and fortune, and pay someone else to do the “lowly” work of housekeeping and taking care of the kids.  I pray that women everywhere will reject this negative view of home and family, and instead appreciate that our Creator’s divine design places great value on the important roles women play as keepers of the home.

References

  1. Peace, Martha, Becoming a Titus 2 Woman, 1997; p. 115
  2. ESV Study Bible

To Be Self-Controlled

September 18, 2012

“Older women…are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

(Titus 2:3-5 ESV)

In our last session before the summer break, our Ladies Discipleship group looked at what our Titus 2 passage refers to as being “self-controlled”.

The word that is translated in Titus 2:5 to mean “self-controlled” is a word that is used (in various forms) only in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus.  It is listed in the qualifications for elders (1Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8), and it is included in Paul’s descriptions of proper Christian living  for the older men (Titus 2:2), the younger women (Titus 2:5) and the younger men (Titus 2:6).   Paul opens Titus 2 with his main point to Titus:  “teach what accords with sound doctrine”, and he immediately follows with how this right doctrine would be characterized in the body of Christ.  He calls for self-control from each group addressed, which tells us something of the importance of this attribute.

The meaning of being “self-controlled” in Titus 2:5 may not be what you traditionally think of when you read or hear that word.  It means:  to be wise, sensible, of sound mind and good judgment (which would have been very important in the face of the false teaching that prompted Paul to write this letter).  Self-discipline, which may be more along the lines of what you think of when you consider this attribute, is not the main thrust of the meaning here (as it is in other passages, like Galatians 5:23), but it is a natural outworking of the wisdom and good judgment that are grounded in sound doctrine.

In our previous session, we spoke briefly about the cultural environment surrounding the church in Crete.  In a fashion quite contrary to this Titus 2 definition of self-control, many Roman women were abandoning their marriages and family responsibilities to pursue their own personal pleasures.  Paul would have been well aware of these influences as he wrote his letter and encouraged everyone to stick to their moral sensibilities.

If we read on in Titus 2 to verse 11-14, we find out how we are enabled to exercise this self-control:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

(Titus 2:11-14 ESV)

 

Wonderful!  God gives us grace that trains us to renounce ungodliness and live self-controlled lives.  It should be so easy to do then, right?  If only!  Why isn’t it that simple?  Why do we not just do the things we know are right if we know that the strength to do so is supplied by God Himself?

Galatians 5:16-17 provides us with an answer:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

(Galatians 5:16-17 ESV)

That’s the struggle.  We see that we are commanded to be self-controlled – to act wisely and exercise good judgment in all that we do.  We know that this ability is enabled by God’s grace through Jesus Christ and is informed by His word, yet there is still a war between flesh and Spirit raging within us and we find ourselves succumbing to the desires of the fallen human nature.  How do we deal with this?

Carolyn Mahaney proposes that the first step towards cultivating self-control is admitting this ugly truth:  WE LIKE TO SIN!

“When we hit the snooze button for the third time, it’s because we like to sleep.  When we reply to our husbands with a cruel remark, it’s because we want to inflict hurt.  When we buy that new outfit, it’s because we covet new clothes.”

(p.56,57 Feminine Appeal)

There may be pleasure that drives us to follow through with our sinful behaviours, but as Hebrews 11:25 tells us, these pleasures are fleeting.  All we have left when the pleasure is over are the negative consequences of our sins.  Take the first of those scenarios from Mahaney’s book as an example.  I do this more than I’d care to admit.  The alarm goes off.  I hit the clock and lie there, and instead of immediately getting my Bible out, I fall back asleep until my back-up alarm goes.  The back-up alarm goes off at a time that still allows me to do what I need to do before I get the kids up, but I have to do it at double the speed, and I have to spend less time praying and reading the Scriptures.  So I do what I need to do, but I’m grumpy – grumpy about getting up, grumpy at myself for falling back asleep and forcing myself into rush-mode, and grumpy because I didn’t spend the time I needed to ground myself in God’s word before the day began.  So I finish getting breakfast on the table but it’s maybe a few minutes later than I wanted to start.  I go to get the kids out of bed and I rush them along so that we won’t fall behind on the whole day.  Now they are reaping what I have sown.  They have a grumpy mom whose laziness has translated into an unkind beginning to their day.  And that makes them grumpy.  You can guess how it goes from there.  Was a few extra minutes of sleep worth a day filled with stress and a contagious bad attitude?  No, and yet I am sad to say that such a thing has happened more than once.

So, step one is coming to grips with our sinfulness.  If we can admit that we are sinful, and identify the areas in which our sin is controlling our behaviour, then we can move towards repentance and better self-control in those areas.

Self-control is a necessary virtue for getting our priorities in the right order AND living accordingly.  Most of us know what we should be prioritizing in our lives, but as Mary Kassian says in her book Girls Gone Wise, “looking at what you routinely do reveals what your priorities really are.” (p.79)  Our habits tell the true story.  We might know and say that our relationship with God should be our number one priority, but the dust gathering on our Bibles, the week that has gone by since our last real prayer time, and the empty church pew tell it like it really is.

Ask yourself these questions:  Does what you do line up well with what you know you should do?  What do your habits reveal about your degree of self-control?  Having this Titus 2 self-control really means having an awareness of what God’s Word requires of you and allowing that knowledge to inform and guide every thought, decision and action in your daily life (with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, of course).   Perhaps then, the more pointed questions to ask are these:  To what extent are you aware of what the Scriptures say about how you must think and act, and to what extent does that work itself out in your daily life?  In any and every situation we encounter, we are expected to exercise biblical wisdom, which the Bible says in James 3:17 is, “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”

In the latter half of our meeting together, we tried to flesh out what this would look like in various areas of our lives.  The following is a list of those areas, as well as some key Scripture verses that should inform how we live them out.  I encourage you to look into each one on your own, and seek out even more key verses to hide in your heart.

 

Daily Bible reading (Psalm 1:2; Eph 5:17)

Prayer (Phil 4:6-7, 1 Thess 5:16-18)

Treatment of your body (Titus 1:12,13; 1 Cor 6:19,20)

Interactions with others (Rom 9:12-21; Eph 4:25-32; 5:1,18-21; Gal 6:1,2; James 1:19; 1 Pet 3)

Relationship with your husband (Eph 5:22-24,33; 1Pet 3; Col 3:18; Heb 13:4)

Relationship with your children (Deut 6:6,7; Eph 6:4; Col 3:21)

Relationship with your parents (Ex 20:12)

Church obligations (Heb 10:25)

Work obligations (Titus 2:5; Pr 31:27; Col 3:17,22-24)

School obligations (Col 3:23)

Time management (Eph 5:15; Pr 31:27)

Money management (1 Tim 6:6-10; Pr 31; Heb 13:5; Pr 22:7)

Thought life (Phil 4:8; Rom 12:2)

 

These are all areas in which we need to exercise the sensible self-control referred to in Titus 2:5, and the list is far from exhaustive.  In everything  – in every decision we make – we need to be measuring it up against what the Scriptures teach so that whatever we think or say or do “accords with sound doctrine”.  Why?  So that “the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5)

 

“On my own, I do not have the capacity to put first things first.  But thankfully (and this is the wonder of the Gospel), it doesn’t matter.  The Lord gives me all I need.  He provides the power, love, and self-discipline that I so desperately lack.  Therefore, doing the right thing doesn’t depend on me drumming up enough willpower.  Success is a matter of depending on the Holy Spirit and not on my own capacity”. (Girls Gone Wise, p81)

————-

References:

ESV Study Bible

Fee, Gordon D., New International Biblical Commentary:  1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 1984

Mahaney, Carolyn, Feminine Appeal, 2004

Kassian, Mary,  Girls Gone Wise, 2010

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