When Pastor Kevin exhorts us to be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have, he also exhorts us to beg for the questions. With a little intentionality, we all have the opportunity to ask people to ask why on earth we live by our strange standards and attitudes, from clean speech in the workplace, to obedient children in public (or at least obedience in training), to a courageous demeanor under fire, to a peace that surpasses understanding in suffering, to a home arranged like a christian. Wait, did that one fit? How can decorating and organizing your home have anything to do with the gospel?
Well, let’s cover first things. The gospel proclamation that Christ’s death and resurrection for our sins bought us both body and soul from the deserved wrath of God, means that, not being our own, everything we do is under the authority and structure of the gospel. But, to the immediate question, “how does what we do with our home aid the spread of the gospel?” we could start with refreshment.
Paul “derived much joy and comfort” from Philemon because the hearts of the saints had been refreshed through him for the sake of Christ. – (Philemon vs 6-7). Paul, the courageous encourager, considered the refreshment of the hearts of the saints a valuable gospel spreading tool. I’ve been titled homemaker, housewife, stay-at-home mom, domestic coordinator (seriously), but when asked what I do, I think I’d like to start replying, “I’m a refresher of the saints.” Now that would beg some questions or at least some funny looks!
Mindful first of the household of God and second providential proximity, I’m nearly maxed out at my family. But as a family we try to practice hospitality to anyone God brings along our busy road. Our home should be a place of work, play, learning, and resting for any neighbor, including the ones that live here. Attitude is a good start, but sours quickly if not put into the tangible. (And by way of qualification, tangible does not equal expensive or extravagant.) I’m always helped by imitation, so here are a few ideas from our home, feel free to share yours:
- A wall chalkboard makes a great place for memory verses. I put a “fighter” verse up for a few weeks and we all usually know it backwards without ever having to drill. Other people have the opportunity to ask what it means or why you’re meditating on that particular verse. Good conversationalists use revealed information to ask questions. So, reveal information that leads to good questions. (Only an intorvert analyzes these things. I know which of you are laughing at me right now).
- The T.V. is not the central focal point of the living room. I try to arrange furniture for quality talking time and reading. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make any judgement calls for your family about T.V., but people ask me how I have time to write, and read books, and do what I do. Honestly, a big part of the answer is I rarely watch T.V. When we were first married we couldn’t afford cable (I seriously thought that was a problem), but once we could, I found that it was not only more appalling than I had remembered, but kind of boring and life sucking. Anyway, back to the point, you may also find you have more refreshing topics to converse about than the latest shows if you are spending your time practicing conversing.
- Books are accessible. I purposefully leave books around the house in natural stopping places that I want the kids to read or look at. They’ve learned about entire cultures, science topics, and economics without ever having covered it during “school” time. Next to, “why do you have so many kids?” and all it’s variant forms, we are asked nearly as often why we home school. Excepting denim jumpers, nothing screams, “home-schoolers” louder than stacks of “You Wouldn’t Want to Be a (fill in your favorite historical oppressed group) during (fill in your favorite time in history)” books lying around.
- Bibles are accessible. And not just the iPad version. Especially for the smaller children, electronics are associated with games, mom and dad’s “work”, weather updates, you name it. The physical Bible helps distinguish the time. It also gets rid of one more roadblock to family worship when, after herding the
catskids, you don’t have to hunt down a Bible as well. P.S. Don’t skip family worship when you have guests! That’s like going out of your way NOT to refresh the saints or proclaim the gospel.
- As the Wilson’s might say, “Make your house a garden of “yes.”” We try remove stumbling blocks to obeying and pleasing us by keeping keepsakes, sharpies, and toilet bowl cleaner out of reach. And clocks. If you tell everyone they have 15 minutes, they need to be able to keep track of what that means. (For another post sometime: “Wisdom lesson 101: Time Management – Feelings Based Time Keeping Is a Root of All Kinds of Evil”).
- Family pictures, albums of vacations, and Christmas past can be helpful reminders of who you are when things are stressed or dull. I’m not talking about nostalgic backtracking, but there are times when winter gets long, and smiling gets hard, and fellowship is fickle that the family pictures of hugging, giggling, kids and parents can remind us that we are a family who loves and enjoys each other. They can also speak the same things to your guests. Our marriages and families illustrate the gospel. We can tell the truth about it or lie about it, but we can’t stop speaking. Ebeneezer stones (1 Sam 7) refresh our memories to tell stories of His faithfulness to ourselves and others.
This post could get (or has gotten) laboriously long. But one last reminder. A few years ago, we had a family over with girls a little younger than ours, thinking we would refresh them by showing that toddlers don’t stay that way forever, they turn into delightfully helpful young ladies. But instead, it went down in our minds in the top 5 Spencer Sin-fests. A few years later, my friend actually brought it back up (it was memorable), as an example in her mind of encouragement to persevere and it was a refreshment to her! The best art does not waste a word or a brush stroke. The Lord won’t waste any of you, He’ll do the refreshing in his way in his time.