I have pictures of Christ hanging in my home. My scriptures are always visible to guests. I have religious books and writings and proclamations lying about. But if I had none of these, I hope that the evidence of my Christianity and goodness would still be present and would make anyone feel welcome and loved.
One of the greatest gifts we can bestow upon any person in need is a seat at our table and a safe harbor in which to rest and feel the spirit.
I had the good blessing of being able to share my home with 45 foster children (only a few at a time!), but not the sweet little babies and toddlers most folks get. I was with a program that handled teens from homes that couldn't quite keep up with them.
The world is a troublesome place and those without a spiritual foundation can often be plagued with fears and doubts. Inviting them into our homes can provide them with a respite of peace and love.
How can we make our home a little bit of heaven on earth?
Rear your family in righteousness
Daily prayer and scripture study invites God's spirit into your home; speaking words of love and patience. Hugs, kisses, and personal one-on-one time with each family member will make them feel less deprived when you reach out to others.
The kids I took in would often initially scoff at this practice, but nine times out of 10, they warmed to the idea. Though we couldn't force them to go to church with us, a lot of them did. I spoke with one of them, now in his 40s, and he remembers how kind the people at church were to him.
Rid your home of all ungodliness
Keep computers in common areas to avoid placing your family in temptation's way. Monitor what is listened to and watched. Provide good books and magazines. This was a tough one. For the first time, many of these foster kids were in a place that had no alcohol or drugs, very little television, no lude magazines and lots and lots of books.
Make your home a place free of judgment
Don't sit around the table and criticize others, but rather seek out and speak of the goodness that exists in everyone. Children learn all too quickly to be critical of others. Seek the good and speak of it often. The reaction of these foster kids to being in a place that removed their labels and let them be themselves was nothing short of remarkable. Some of them were able to re-invent themselves.
Pray for your family and for others
Teach your family to pray for continued harmony and unity within your own family and for other families as well. Hearing themselves being prayed for by name had a huge impact on each child in my home. Each knew that I was petitioning the powers of heaven on his or her behalf.
How can we share that little bit of heaven with others not in our home?
Encourage and invite friends and acquaintances
Raise your children in a way that they understand the sanctity of the home and want to share it with others. Encourage them to bring friends over for study and play dates. Welcome everyone with a smile and kind words.
Brainstorm as a family
At dinner, discuss the names of individuals or families that you would like to share your home with. Pray about your decisions and proceed.
Share your holidays and special occasions
Thanksgiving is my holiday and I have always sought out those who had nowhere else to go. I can't bear the thought of someone being alone on that day.
Plan a family night and invite a family to share it
Plan a night of fun, games, refreshments and a short lesson or spiritual thought and invite a troubled family to join you. Don't judge if they have trouble comprehending what you have. Some families experience such hardships that they can't really conceive of a loving home. Don't be disappointed if miraculous changes don't occur.
Remember that your home is not confined to the walls of your house
You can take that spirit of love that you have created and share it no matter where you go. Accept invitations to the homes of others and let them enjoy the sweetness of your family and home within theirs.
Consider foster care, if you have the means and ability
The teenagers I took in included a 14-year-old who had already had her first STD and been shot at, an 11-year-old boy who was so hyperactive in the orphanage he came from that he had been put into a room with nothing and his only human contact was when someone dropped off his meals and who had psychotic breaks as a result, and a 16-year-old whom I literally could not touch or he would get violent. We have it within us to profoundly change the lives of others by sharing our homes with them.
There may be those within your own family who are living without God's spirit. Continue to do what you do and understand that the Lord has his own timetable. Believe in his promises. Live the good life. Keep your home a holy place, and continue to pray, believing that those prayers will be answered one day.