Welcoming the Stranger

Spiritual Relationships

I have met weekly with a friend in a spiritual companionship/accountability relationship for over a decade. It has been a lifeline for both of us. We share everything about our lives, our children, our jobs. We know things about each other that no one else knows as we have practiced the discipline of confession with each other on numerous occasions. We have rafted the Grand Canyon together, cried over and celebrated our children, and have done spiritual formation book studies together.

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Welcoming the Darkness

Welcoming the stranger. I hear that and instantly think of inviting people over, opening the door to angels. Those are good and important things to do. However, as we come through Lent into Easter, a seven week season of rejoicing in Christ’s defeat of the most dreaded stranger ever, death, I have learned that I am a stranger to myself in so many ways.

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The Hospitality of Strangers

I don’t particularly promote myself as having the gift of hospitality. Although I am aware, that as believers in Jesus Christ I am expected to live hospitably. I am growing to see that hospitality and the experience of the stranger can arise in any place. My daughter and I had a rare opportunity to visit a lakeside retreat facility as the guest of a friend. It is one of those that offer in-suite kitchens so that you can prepare your meals should you choose. We decided to head to the nearest food store one of those big box kinds.

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Welcoming the Familiar Stranger
By |   April 12, 2012 |   in Blog, Welcoming the Stranger

One of my best friends is Charlie.  He came into my life about 12 years ago. We had crossed paths on numerous occasions at the local YMCA, but we had never spoken. He walked with extreme difficulty, using a forearm cane. His face was grim, as though locked in a perpetual frown. He seemed like a miserable person. He usually showed up as I was leaving, and it was easy to pass him in the lobby or hallway without exchanging glances much less words. He was, you could say, a familiar stranger.  While I saw him almost every day, I had no interest in getting to know him.

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Welcoming Jesus

There’s a compelling story that Adele Ahlberg Calhoun tells in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook about an entire French village that risked their lives during World War II extending hospitality by welcoming and sheltering Jews. When a local pastor was asked why the village responded in this way, he replied, “I could not bear to be separated from Jesus.” Indeed, that is the essence of hospitality, a virtue that reflects the belief that when we welcome others we welcome Jesus.  

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The Presence of a Very Good Person
By |   April 13, 2012 |   in Blog, Welcoming the Stranger

I believe spiritual disciplines (including welcoming the stranger) are as much caught as taught. Spiritual practices can sort of rub off others onto us. Hence, the presence of a very good person in our lives has an enormous result. I saw this a while ago.

As I sat comfortably nestled under a bunch of telephone kiosks in Chicago O’Hare Airport, I worked hard on notes for a class I was going to teach on contemplative spirituality. The only electrical outlet I could find for my laptop was located in this cubbyhole and I was relishing how hidden I was from others.

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Journaling to Discover the Stranger
By |   April 16, 2012 |   in Blog, Welcoming the Stranger

There is a wise saying by Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer that goes: “Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not find time for prayer.” A few years ago, I found myself in a place that was painfully true of Fr. Ottensmeyer’s warning. I was stressed on several fronts—work life, family life, social life, and dealing with a complicated set of health issues. I was so busy and distracted that my prayer life had completely dried up.

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Small Acts of Kindness

For almost a year now, my husband and I have worked for a Christian organization whose main purpose, though maybe not so explicitly, is welcoming the stranger.  We were placed in a specific apartment complex in Atlanta, Ga with the mission of making this ordinary building and group of people a community.  One of several of our responsibilities is when new residents move in, go and visit them, make sure everything went well with their move, introduce them to the area; welcome them.  We make ourselves available to them as resource people, as the first person they may have met in this new city, as friends.

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Time for The Talk

As I think of my life in terms of welcoming the stranger as a lifestyle, rather than an antidotal event, I am forced to go back many years, even decades. Back in the day, my wife and I routinely welcomed strangers into our home for a night or even a few days, sharing food and clothes with them as they might have need. We also had a regular stream of individuals who stopped by our door desiring a bite to eat, and my wife was always more than happy to serve them soup, burritos, sandwiches, whatever we had on hand.  I remember our two oldest children begging their mom to carry out the food to those who came to our door. We had wonderful, delightful times, even once when we think we actually ‘entertained an angel unaware’.

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Dusty Road

Amid reality of death and rumors of resurrection, Jesus’s friends walked a dusty road to Emmaus. And “Jesus Himself drew near.” Preoccupied as they were, it took miles and the breaking of bread for the travelers to recognize Jesus as more than a stranger, though He was with them all along as a friend.

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