Sunday, January 22, 2012

Practicing Hospitality

By Wendy Custer

Several weeks before Christmas, a stray hound dog had eight puppies in the mulch under my parents' bedroom window. In the cold of the night, she was unable to keep all of the puppies warm and, when my parents discovered them the next morning, one of them had already died. Not in a position to take in a single, homeless mother and her seven babies, my parents called animal control, only to be told that they were off for the weekend! Without a collar or tag to identify the dog's owner, Mom and Dad were unsure who else to call; so they called us. We headed to their house to try to assess the situation.

After she gobbled down several bowls of dog food and quenched her thirst with clean water, we were able to get close enough to touch the mother and her babies. She was pitifully thin and her pups were quickly growing cold. Without hesitation, Jerry, the kids, and I decided to take her to our house. We loaded the pups into a carrier and carried the mother to our car for the short trip up the road. I am not sure if she was too weak to resist or if she simply trusted us, but we were able to move her with little effort.

It didn't take long before the kids had named the mama dog "Jessie" and each of the puppies earned a fast title as well. Knowing that the puppies would be with us for the next eight weeks, until they could be weaned and find homes, we settled the little family into our living room.

Jessie is an excellent mother, so caring for the puppies has been no trouble at all. I can't exactly say the same for her though. Jessie is an extremely protective mother, and though she graciously lets us handle her puppies frequently, she will not let our other dogs or cats anywhere near the room. She fiercely guards each entrance to the room and our other pets quietly sneak by the door so as not to receive the wrath of Jessie!

Jessie has obviously never lived in a house before. She eats and drinks whenever she wants, and invariably, her bowls become empty in the middle of the night. Though she doesn't bark, Jessie whines until I respond to her needs, and often that is several times a night. I don't do well with a lack of sleep, and after being woken several times a night for the last couple of weeks, I actually began to resent her being here.

After a couple of nights of grumbling, God reminded me that I was to practice hospitality. After all, Jessie never asked to come to my house, I brought her here! She was incapable of taking care of her own needs, but I had volunteered to serve her. It was with eagerness that I had brought her into my home, but once the newness wore off, I was quickly wearied by her meager needs.

God reminded me that He looks for us to serve Him by serving the needs of those who cannot. In Matthew 25, Jesus talks to us about caring for "the least of these." Though we know that he is certainly talking about people, God has used this little dog to speak to me about hospitality and compassion. We should be willing to open our hearts and our homes to those who are in need, but we must also be willing to continuously minister to them even when it becomes laborious or inconvenient.

Though it is not the original meaning, I believe we have come to view hospitality as entertaining or having a party. We don't mind having people over, but we hope they don't stay too long. We usually prefer to wait until it is convenient to us to invite others in, as opposed to welcoming those who are needy and unable to wait for our busy schedules to clear.

I have received so many blessings from having Jessie and her puppies in my house. They have brought joy to my family and all who visit our home. They have brought us new friends, as people come by to pick out their new puppy. They have given us the incomparable experience of watching a new mom care for her young. But, most importantly, by simply giving me the opportunity to serve someone who is unable to give anything in return, Jessie and her puppies have taught me the value of hospitality and patience in caring for others.

God is so creative in the way He instructs me! I can't wait to see who, or what, he brings into my life next!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:9-10

Share with Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13

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