You Invited Me In

How often do we jump out of bed in the morning with our feet hitting the ground so fast that we don’t even remember how we got upright? Then we move on, checking things off of our list as we have breakfast (or don’t—as is often the case), get children to school or begin their lessons, drive ourselves to work, complete phone calls/emails with one person after another, pay the bills, get to the store, entertain the unexpected guest who shows up in our office or on our doorstop or along our path . . . wait a minute. Perhaps that guest is an opportunity. Perhaps that guest has been sent to us to remind us to stop and to see what is actually before us.

In Matthew 25:31–46, Jesus describes the parting of those who have embraced Him and lived out His call to love others from those who, well, have done the opposite. Jesus tells His followers that those who care for others care for Him. At the end of verse 35, Jesus says, “You invited me in.” Whenever we open our hearts to people and help them in the little things and the big things, it is an opportunity to invite Jesus in just as much as it is an opportunity to share Jesus with that person. When we invite Jesus in through these divine appointments, we, ourselves, are blessed beyond measure.

It always seems that it is on the busiest of days that we are “interrupted” the most. Divine appointments are knocking on every door, and we begrudgingly meet them. It also seems that it is on those busiest of days that we forget to depend on God; we forget to spend time with Him; we just try to march on with Him in tow.

Instead of looking at the opportunities that God gives us to bless others, which we at least meet superficially as “good Christian women” so that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus while checking this unexpected item off of our list, what if we were to embrace those opportunities as what they are: divine appointments given to us so that we can invite Christ in? Divine appointments that we are given as another blessed opportunity to sit at His feet? Divine appointments to see Jesus in others so that we not only become Jesus to them, but so they also become Jesus to us?

My Door Was Always Open

We have a new Jimmy John’s under construction in my small town. This is welcome news to many! Each Jimmy John’s establishment has a prominently displayed neon sign that declares, “Free Smells.” This is an unapologetic marketing strategy to entice customers to enter its doors. I’ve read online that “Free Smells” is the company’s longest running trademark and slogan; so apparently, it’s effective. Consumers respond positively to the subliminal message to “Come on in!”

An open door and a welcoming stance are ideals we have promoted repeatedly throughout our two-year “Belong” theme. Hospitality. Grace. These we desire to emulate in our day-to-day lives. I was surprised to read in the narrative of Job that he, too, maintained an open-door policy.

In his final defense to his friends, Job cites a laundry list of commendable practices to justify himself, including this: “No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler” (Job 31:32). Job’s friends had no response. The statements may have been true; we don’t know. What stopped the dialogue between Job and his friends? Job’s posture towards himself. We read: “So, these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1).

Job’s comments and underlying attitude essentially shut the door to further dialogue. A door that was open was now shut.

While reflecting on Job’s statement, “My door was always open,” I ran across a Harvard Business Review article titled “The Problem with Saying ‘My Door is Always Open,'” which gave food for thought.

The authors state that most people genuinely want to be approachable, but they often underestimate how risky it can feel for others to enter our space. An open-door policy assumes that other people will meet us on our territory. This is a dynamic we often take for granted. As the inviters, we can easily overlook the obstacles faced by the invited.

I invite you to reflect on the implications of these statements. Here are some questions to consider:

Am I effectively engaging with those around me? Am I approachable? If not, what might need to change?

Am I too busy? Am I driven by personal agendas? Do I feel I am not good enough for others? Too good?

Am I genuinely curious about other perspectives? Do I need to widen the circle of people I listen to?  

What about God? Do I have ears that are wakened to listen (see Isaiah 50:4)?

In Job’s experience, it wasn’t until God revealed Himself in majesty and power (Job 38–41) that Job, described as “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1), turned from his own goodness and repented (Job 42:6). Job emerged from his suffering and experienced both blessing and restoration. Now, Job could more fully live out the commands to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

It is my prayer that we will be known as women who graciously invite others into our own spaces and humbly walk through whatever open doors God provides.

We Cannot Repay You

There is absolutely nothing we can do to repay God for His goodness and love for us, but there is certainly something we must do, and He expects us to.

“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.”

–Psalm 116:12–14 (NLT)

Growing up in a poor country and raised in a middle-class pastor’s family, money was always a topic of conversation. I remember many occasions where my parents prayed for God to provide something, not only for us, but for others. There was always a friend, a neighbor, or a brother or sister in Christ who was in great need.

Our church, though poor, was full of loving and faithful people. The church building was under construction for most of my childhood and teen years. It seemed that our needs were always much greater than the resources in hand, but this taught me a great deal. It taught me about God’s providence, love, and generosity.

Our dinner table always had extra space for people who arrived at our home just before dinner time to discuss “important matters” with my father. On more than one occasion, it was my father who invited a new friend that he just met to eat with us. We never expected to be repaid.

There is a saying in Mexico for when there is not a lot of food and an unexpected guest arrives: “Hechale mas agua al caldo de frijoles,” which translates to: “Add more water to the bean soup.”  I am so grateful that our home was an open place for many to come, not just for food and good conversation, but also to hear about Jesus, His love, and His salvation. If you ask me why I love hosting now, I would tell you it’s simply because I grew up in a house that didn’t have a door—metaphorically speaking.

Looking back to where everything started, I’m overwhelmed when I see how God always met our needs. Our prayers were answered, many in an even greater way than we expected. We experienced the truth of Philippians 4:19, which says,“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

My heart is filled with joy! There is no way we can repay God for all His goodness to us, but we can do what the psalmist declares in the verses cited above. Today, I invite you to fill your cup with Jesus’ blessings and to vow, along with me, to be a living testimony of thanksgiving and gratitude for who God is and what He has done for us!

A Hospitable Heart

Fall season has arrived, and I have decorated my house with touches of autumn colors. The house is filled with the sweet smell of pumpkin spice. To celebrate the start of the season, I have invited friends for dinner, and I want to make sure they feel welcomed and loved. The house is spotless, and the food is going to be delicious. I am looking forward to the conversations and the laughter that I’m pretty sure many of them will cause.

Opening the doors of our homes to others can bring so much joy into our lives. We get to open our hearts and show the love of Christ by serving others. But as much as we might love and treasure these moments, I can’t help but wonder how many times we may have missed extending the invitation to our homes to a stranger. Now, a stranger doesn’t necessarily have to be someone we do not know. That stranger could be someone who we may not have a close relationship with such as a coworker, a neighbor, or even someone from our own church. Those people are not usually the ones found on our guests lists. The reality is, we might become exclusive instead of inclusive and may not necessarily put into practice loving on those who might need it the most. By doing this, we limit ourselves from showing others what it truly means to have a heart like Jesus. He loves the stranger. We must embrace what has been commanded in Leviticus 19:18, which is that we must “Love [our] neighbor and the stranger as [ourselves].” But the reality is that many times we are not necessarily willing to do so.

Welcoming a stranger into our homes could take many forms—making a genuine effort to lend an ear to someone who needs prayer and/or words of encouragement, making them feel loved and accepted is a good example. A few months ago, I had the privilege of ministering at a retreat to a group of about 40 women in Guadalajara, Mexico. They were all strangers to me as well as I was to them. Standing in front of them and sharing the hope found in Jesus was a beautiful experience. I could’ve easily retreated to my room after each session, but I could sense that a few of them wanted to have some one-on-one time with me. I know of many instances in which I have purposedly come up with excuses to avoid these encounters with people I do not know. I thank the Holy Spirit for not letting me pull these women away from me. Instead, He allowed me to open my heart and invite these ladies in. The opportunity to share a spiritual meal with them filled both their hearts and mine. 

We have been created and designed to love and to leave footprints in the lives of those we encounter at one point or another in our lives. This calls for a willingness to welcome those who may be different than us or who we don’t have a close relationship with into our circle. It means opening the doors of our hearts to allow others in. In Matthew 25:35, Jesus puts Himself at the level of those who we might consider strangers. His desire is for us not to limit that for what we’ve been called to do within a certain demographic, but rather, to get out of our comfort zone, follow His example of love and acceptance of those who we think are strangers to us. If we take that to heart, it will become second nature to show kindness and God’s love when welcoming not only our own, but those who we will encounter in our path.  

The more I ponder on this, the more I am convinced that a hospitable heart is about making room in my heart for unexpected guests.  The connections and opportunities to be witnesses of God’s grace could be endless.