Friday, July 07, 2006

Today is a special day for us in the office of the Marble Falls church. Today is our sweet Ms. Ann's birthday. A little birdie told me that 39 years ago today :) she was born.

I love Ms. Ann for her commitment to Jesus. For the genuine way she cares for Allan, Jimmy and me. For her kind disposition to members and guests alike. And for her tireless work ethic.

Happy Birthday. Ms. Ann. Where do you want to go for lunch today?


Last night was a wonderful night for me. Trae was at Six Flags Fiesta Texas with the Stanglins so I watched two baseball games on Dish (Pirates vs. Mets then Giants vs. Dodgers), read Darryl Tippens' book Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life and played with Tori in between reading and baseball watching.

Tippens' book is about discipleship and the role of the spiritual disciplines and is packed with probing insights and illustrations.

The chapter on the discipline of "Welcoming" or "Hospitality" really struck a chord with me. Here are some excerpts from that chapter for you to chew on this morning.

"Sympathy and identity with the stranger in one's own community was a recurring theme in the Old Testament, and it proved to be a central theme of Jesus' teaching and practice... Jesus consistently acted out of a concern for those on the margins in tangible ways and to such a degree that it made him a scandal to those most concerned with ritual purity.

According to the way of Jesus, hospitality does not concern fine linens, elegant crystal, or gourmet cooking. Rather, it consists of a generous heart and a welcoming spirit that leads to tangible expressions of care for others. Very importantly, it entails an active concern for those different from ourselves.

The notion of hospitality as a personal and collective discipline in the life of the believer and the church must be renewed in our time. If we do not personally feel the urgent call to love the stranger, if our own hands do not touch the sick, the poor, the dying, can we really say that we are walking with Abraham or Jesus?

Long-distance care is necessary, but insufficient. The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help. Institutional hospitality, in other words, is no substitute for the individual's personal obligation.

In practicing the discipline of welcome, we do not reduce Christianity either to a naive moralism or a burdensome system of salvation by works. Extending hospitality
is the sacred privilege of those who have already been redeemed. Precisely because we have already received unimagineable grace, unmerited grace, we imitate our Savior by opening our homes, our lives, our checkbooks, and our hearts to others."