Last Christmas, a good friend gave me two books on the topic of hospitality. I eagerly dove into the first one (which shall remain nameless), expecting to love it. I hated it. Then I hesitantly dove into the second one, expecting to hate it, but ended up loving it.
Turns out you really cannot judge a book by its cover.
The book I ended up loving is called Making Room: Recovering Hospitality As A Christian Tradition by Christine D. Pohl (1999). I began reading this book in February, back when life was still normal and I had lots of energy and resolve to power through things that were arduous. The beginning of the book is a bit dry at times, laying out the historical context for hospitality. History is not my jam, and so reading historical accounts is just a really excellent way to fall asleep quickly (which I didn’t mind). I kept reading, determined to finish the book. But then, unexpectedly, our world exploded in March with the pandemic.
Months later, when I was finally able to pick up a book and process written words, I dove back into Making Room, mostly as a sure-fire sleep aid whilst managing end-of-the-world anxiety. All I can say is, this book went from sleep aid to one of the best pieces of writing I have ever consumed on the topic of hospitality.
Today I want to give you the highlights of this book, and hopefully convince you to grab a copy and read along with me.
Making Room is divided into three sections.
The first section is titled “Remembering Our Heritage,” and in it the author gives the history of hospitality from ancient and biblical texts. The first section has many truth nuggets that pierced my heart deeply and prompted me to begin underlining. Themes of learning by doing, of hospitality being the best and hardest thing we can do, the idea of hospitality almost always including eating meals together, and the hospitality of the Gospel where Jesus “welcomes the undeserving, provides the lonely with a home, and set a banquet table for the hungry” were my personal favorites. I enjoyed the first section.
The second section is titled “Reconsidering The Tradition,” and in full disclosure, I probably did not do myself any favors by reading this before bed. It requires full attention, which at bed time, is understandably waning. The themes in this section are dignity, the power of recognition, serving strangers in our midst, and exercising hospitality from the margins. At this point in the reading, I was beginning to doubt whether or not I would finish the book, and now that I know how wonderfully it ends, I need to go back and give this section more attention.
The third section, and where my heart connected most deeply with this book, is titled “Recovering The Practice.” If it weren’t obnoxious (and illegal) to do so, I would quote the entire section for you here and insist that you read every word. In lieu of being annoying, I will simply say, this entire section is stunning.
I underlined scores of sentences, starring entire paragraphs, which makes it obviously impossible for me to accurately sum up this section. Let me try.
Chapter 7, “Limits, Boundaries, Temptations,” could not be more spot on and aligned with what I have learned about this topic from my own experience.
Chapter 8, “Making A Place For Hospitality,” makes the argument that for the believer, hospitality is not confined to one area of our life. Instead, it must permeate every area and that “every aspect of our lives can be touched by its practice.”
And, in Chapter 9, “The Spiritual Rhythms of Hospitality,” the author really hits it out of the park with her assertion that hospitality is “the best and hardest thing.” Topics such as “Cultivating A Grateful Spirit,” “Nurturing A Lifelong Habit,” “Communicating Welcome,” and “Making Provision for Rest and Renewal” made this section my new best friend.
If you enjoy the topic of hospitality, specifically through the biblical world view, Making Room is a winner. Even flipping back through this book as I write this report made me want to pick it up and read it cover to cover again. In fact, I am curious.
Would you be interested in reading it with me? If so, would you want to talk about it too? If this sounds interesting to you, I will organize a book club around this book and initiate weekly conversations (via Zoom) where we can talk through the content. Just send me an email with your contact info ASAP, and I will be in touch!