Extending hospitality has both natural and learned qualities to it. That’s why I’m sharing with you some of the experiences I’ve had over a lifetime of opening my heart and my home to thousands of people.
I am a firm believer in an almost mystical transmission of values between the generations. Human beings are more than environment and genes. We are spirit, and, when sensitively nurtured, the inclination of that spirit is heightened to receive the good heritage of the spiritual world, past and present. I am persuaded that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Time and finitude, those human dimensions, have nothing to do with the spiritual world where past, present and future—“the yesterday and today and for ever”—are all the same. In meditative prayer, in ministry, in hospitality, I have a sense of the weight of those others, the communion of that saintly fellowship.
At grandpa’s funeral I stood in the cold March wind which whipped the loam-field smell across the tiny cemetery of my ancestors. I knew intuitively that they were the source of this inherent need to be hospitable. “Meals were always a sacred time for us,” reminisced my great-aunt Cordelia, the last survivor of the Burton clan now that my grandfather, William Mack Burton, lay beneath the rich Iowa soil. So mealtime has instinctively been for me, a sacred time. We share more than food around our table. We share life and being. It is more than a common incident in the momentum of days. It is a communion which transcends the common.
Years ago my great-grandmother Cornelia came down from the Kentucky hills at the age of 16. She married a much older widower whom she addressed as “Mr. Burton” all her life. Bearing him 11 children, she buried five in their childhood years. Devoutly religious, she was deathly ashamed of the clay pipe she smoked, hiding it when visitors came to call. Her daughters called her “Mama,” a gentle address for a gentlewoman.
Great-grandfather Green Barry Burton owned one of the last stagecoach lines through Kentucky. A coach, its burnished redwood highly varnished, is still stored in an obscure garage of some shirttail relation in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yellowed photographs inadequately picture this patriarch and matriarch in their later years as handsome white-haired people.
With the advent of the railroad, stagecoaching soon became extinct, and the family migrated en masse from the hill country to Illinois prairie, to Oklahoma red clay, and to Iowa corn loam. Surrealistic visions of these caravans haunt me—reminding me of Abraham wandering from Ur of the Chaldees with his nomad servants, flocks and possessions dwindling in the distance behind him. Great-grandmother Cornelia eventually became a tenant farmer’s wife; but her ramrod carriage, aquiline nose, and waves of prematurely snowy hair wrapped in a high bun, bespeak simple innate aristocracy
Understanding your ancestors can help you understand the heritage that has formed your life today. How did your ancestors view hospitality? How has it affected your view of hospitality in your own daily life? By sharing my own life experiences, I’m hoping to give you some insight into the importance of devoting yourself to serving Christ and His Kingdom by opening your heart and your home to those in need. I appreciate your diligence in staying with me on this journey. Please come back to this blog and read more.
Karen Mains has long had an interest in Christian hospitality and is the author of the best-selling book, Open Heart, Open Home.
An award-winning author of several other books, Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
For decades, Karen Mains and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. The are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and churches at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
In addition, pastors will find special resources to help them create effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.