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Lessons Learned in L.A.

I recently enjoyed a weekend in Los Angeles with my three daughters. This momma learned a few things and I thought I’d share them this week:

  1. We never know who may be encouraged when we read our Bible in plain view. I was walking on the beach within an hour of my flight landing. I could feel the tension just sliding off me as soon as my feet touched sand. In the mile or so that I walked in the sand along the ocean surf I saw three different young adults sitting and reading their Bibles. Maybe locals will tell you differently, but this was not what I was expecting to see on the beach in LA! Whenever I read my Bible at a coffee shop, café, or park people say stuff to me like Oh I should do that more, or good for you, or wow, what a reminder. So here I was experiencing that visual: People all over the world love and follow Jesus! I came away encouraged just seeing these folks and resolving to live my faith out in transparent ways. (Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount: Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16)
  2. I am working at practicing more acceptance and less judgment. I’ve realized how often I judge people and situations by first appearance. For instance, I learned that Nicki Minaj is a believer and has a sweet rap in the Tasha Cobbs Leonard gospel song, “I’m Getting Ready.” An employee at my hotel looked tough as nails but then God prompted me to pray for her and He gave me a prophetic word for her. She literally hugged me when we said good bye. I learned that San Francisco has already instated laws and LA is close behind that prohibit anyone not waccinated from entering a restaurant, bar, concert venue, hospital visitation, or event center. At first glance this might seem to carry logic, but I don’t see how this isn’t a new version of you can’t sit at my lunch counter! Kaiser found that over half of African Americans and Latinos are not waccinated and don’t want to be. I know many people who have already had the virus and believe their natural immunity will last. I know several women with health issues that prevent taking the jab but now, in California at least, they are shunned from society. I’m not going to judge anyone if they have it, don’t have it, don’t want it. I know that we each are trying to live our lives in the best way possible that fits for us. (Jesus again has the lowdown: “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2)
  3. We will reap what we sow, especially in the investments we make with family. I was in LA because my daughters wanted to have a mother daughter weekend together. They are successful, grown women who could fly anywhere for a weekend and be with just about anyone, who wanted to spend a weekend moving slow with their mom and each other. I felt so loved and honored. These are my favorite people on the planet! Every night as we got into our matching pjs (thank you Brooke!) laughing, cuddling, and eating chocolate I was reminded of the investments of love, patience, compassion, and listening that graced their childhood. To all you mommas out there—you will reap a precious reward one day! Keep your love on, keep smiling and laughing, keep speaking words of life over your children. (“Whatever a person sows, this he will also reap. Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.” Galatians 6:7-9)
  4. When in doubt about where to go for dinner, always get tacos! This one needs no explanation. If you can think of a good scripture to go with it, please put it in the comments!

I received such a lovely text this week from a woman who recently received my book. She said she devoured half of it on a flight and said it had changed her entire outlook. As she was ordering ten copies for friends I was reminded (because yes, I forget or I doubt) God inspired me to write this book for the times we are in now! If you haven’t already, please get my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion anywhere books are sold. It will encourage you, make you laugh, and give you fresh insights for this crazy life.

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Host or Guest?

I learned a new word this week and have already put it into practice. The word is XENIA. It is an ancient Greek concept of hospitality, translated as guest-friendship. The Greek god Zeus is sometimes called Zeus Xenios in his role as protector of strangers. We are much more familiar with the negative use of this word, as in Xenophobia, which is a fear or dislike of people from other countries or who are different from us in some way. But I prefer the positive use of the word.

Xenia is a big part of many Biblical stories. In fact, many times that we as modern western readers don’t understand a story, it’s because of xenia elements that are foreign to our culture. The story of the Good Samaritan is an example of this. We secretly wonder if we meet Jesus’ definition of a neighbor. Let’s consider several references to anchor the idea of xenia: 

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2) In the first century church, hospitality was included in the job description for leaders. Our western culture does not value this Biblical requirement for church leaders today, but what if it did? What if the church, specifically Christians, were where someone could go when they were a stranger in town or needed help? I don’t know if I’ve entertained any angels but I do know that every time I’ve shown kindness to a stranger, I’ve been blessed in some way.

Jesus said, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; in prison, and you came to Me.” In the story the righteous asked, “When did we do these things for you?” And Jesus answered “To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40) Truly this is one of the most sobering passages spoken by Jesus.

And going back even further in time, to the very beginnings of the Judeo-Christian faith just after the Ten Commandments were given, we read: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) So there it is, the foundation of xenia. We understand what it is like to be a stranger because we each have been a stranger in some context. We understand what it is like to be the new kid at school, starting a job, a stranger in a town. We understand being vulnerable, unsure, lonely, or insecure. We have been a stranger in some Egypt somewhere.

In California we walk right past people—at church, in our neighborhood, standing on the corner, shopping next to us. It would be odd to talk to a stranger. But in Idaho, we have had the privilege of being the new kids in town. The number of people we know in Hailey/Ketchum, Idaho can be counted on one hand. I decided to try out my new word, xenia. At the little 4th of July parade in town, I invited people on the street to come to our home afterward for a BBQ. The hilarious thing is that they came! It turns out many people around us feel like strangers. They are grateful for hospitality. Hopefully we have deepened their definition of Christian to include xenia, a kindness toward strangers. Either way, I’m happy to meet new friends!

Check out Romans 12:13 this week. At first glance it tells us to show hospitality, but if we dig deeper, we find it expresses a command to eagerly pursue hospitality. We are called to be a host, not a guest, in almost any conversation or encounter. Pursue xenia this week and see if you are not blessed!

Next week I’ll post my monthly mashup. Be sure to subscribe to my blog and visit www.MargaretAllen.org for resources. Please share your stories of xenia in the comments. Have a beautiful week, everyone!