A bowl of fire-roasted goat passed around under an inky Kenyan sky, the unforgettable smell of camel and smoke permeating the air. A ride offered by an acquaintance so the foreign student could join a Bible study at her temporary church. A perfectly made cappuccino and slice of toast waiting every morning, crafted by a woman who didn’t speak a word of English.
The common denominator between a goat, a ride, and daily breakfast? Home. I have been on the receiving end of hospitality all around the world, and no matter what language was spoken (or not spoken) or what we ate, I have felt at home because of other people’s willingness to give a piece of themselves to a stranger.
It’s inspiring to think I have the same opportunity to create a sense of place and belonging for other people, even my own family, by keeping an open heart and home. We should always be on the lookout for ways to offer hospitality, but the holidays are full of opportunities to welcome others into our homes with care and to be a little beacon of peace when we visit others.
The following six books approach hospitality with different nuances and styles but all have been instrumental in shaping my view of hospitality.
The Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch
I started The Hospitality Commands multiple times before reading it in its entirety a couple months ago. Every time I began the book I was left thinking of Strauch’s opening story about a woman who jumped multiple transportation hoops to be at church every week and then whiled away the afternoon hours by herself until the evening service without being offered a meal or respite until her very last week.
Strauch points out that hospitality was a distinctive mark of early Christians and Christian communities but isn’t necessarily the distinguishing feature it once was among believers. Sharing our home is one of the most loving, memorable things we can do to help communicate the message of Christ’s love.
This thin volume is a great primer on biblical hospitality. It explores seven exhortations to practice hospitality found in scripture then gives some very useful tips and includes a study guide.
The Lifegiving Home: Creating A Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson
Mother-daughter duo, Sally and Sarah Clarkson, have crafted an inspiring book about creating a lasting legacy through home. The Clarksons share how they have created a home out of less tangible materials – traditions, habits, rhythms, experiences and values – and how deeply important it is to order our living spaces in a way that embodies the joy and beauty of God’s own Spirit.
After a theologically rich introduction to the idea of home and belonging, Sally and Sarah go through each month of the year sharing thoughts about the rhythms of family life and ways to develop a narrative of celebration in the home.
The Lifegiving Home had me thinking more intentionally about the inner workings of my home and what I model and teach my children by the type of home I create.
Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock
Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock are longtime professors of home economics and it shows in the structure of their book Practicing Hospitality. Each chapter starts with an engaging lecture of sorts interspersed with practical examples and charts/tables to easily communicate information. At the end of each chapter, there are personal study questions and recipes to help you practice what you’ve learned. I was particularly intrigued by the section with recipes for foods similar to what would have been eaten during Bible times.
If you didn’t enjoy college, don’t let the course-like structure deter you from reading this book.
Ennis and Tatlock have created a nice blend of biblical principles and practical application. I resonated with their idea that embracing a biblical definition of hospitality prevents us from becoming “Christian event planners” – a title that misses the mark of true hospitality which is to simply be “love in action.”
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
I could wax warm for paragraphs and paragraphs about how much I love this book. It’s difficult not to be enveloped by Shauna Niequist’s narrative voice; it’s like having coffee with a long lost pal. Conversation runs deep, touching at the most vulnerable parts of your soul without feeling invasive. Reading Shauna’s books is both inspiring and convicting, sacred and authentic.
In Bread and Wine, Shauna writes poignant snapshots of the joys and pains of breaking bread with one another and provides delicious recipes to encourage us to make memories around the tables we share.
Reading this book challenged me to expand my idea of what it means to do life with others and to purposefully pursue community. I was challenged to make hospitality less about perfection and more about being present. And in case you were wondering, the recipes are fantastic. I’ve made eight of them so far and they have all been simple and tasty.
The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith
If Martha Stewart overwhelms you a little (or is the ideal you just can’t ever live up to), Myquillin Smith, a.k.a. The Nester, is your best bud. Her tagline – it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful – will put all your hosting and home decor fears to rest. I had much more confidence that my messes could be part of a welcoming environment that still exuded peace and style.
Her book is an encapsulation of everything on her blog. It’s full of gorgeous photos and perfectly imperfect ideas (not how-tos) to make your house flourish in its lovely limitations. Smith has had 13 homes to practice the art of creating beauty amidst the daily chaos of life and you will find lessons and inspiration from her journey.
Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love by Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan
In Radical Hospitality, the authors explore what monasticism has to teach us about loving others using the Benedictine path of hospitality as a model. Benedict knew there would always be needy people at the monastery door. He viewed this not as a burden but a grace-given to his monks, instructing them to welcome the Divine in the stranger.
This book really does feel like an exploration. It is a deep dive into the cultural and spiritual implications of radical hospitality, written not as a how-to but to incite thought, reflection, and conversation. “No program can replace the messy work of changing ourselves – of redemption and transformation,” writes Pratt. Through stories, shared experiences, and frustrations, Radical Hospitality comes alongside the reader as they process a new way of thinking.
What has shaped your view of hospitality? Do you have another book to recommend?
Emily C. Gardner
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Here at Club31Women, we recognize that not everyone has the same taste or point of view on books or movies, but we offer these short reviews for your consideration. Our hope is that you will find something new and wonderful on this list of recommended reading!
~ Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women
Emily C. Gardner is a Southern California native transplanted to the Northeast with her youth pastor husband and two sweet kiddos. She's a woman of many enthusiasms, which these days include reading, real food, and running. In her fringe hours, Emily channels her creative energy into curating book flights on her blog and sharing photos of her current read. Connect with Emily on Instagram and Pinterest.