Friday, April 23, 2010

Book 7 of 15: Open Heart - Open Home by Karen Burton Mains

I'm going to do a bad job blogging this one, which is a pity, because it was much better than I thought it would be.

But the book I'm reading today is putting me in a bad mood (read all about it tomorrow!) and that's making it hard to due justice to Mains' gracious prose.

Though at times it reads like a manifesto for kind and generous extroverts, there's a lot here for any Christian*. Though it is a book about hospitality, instead of listing a bunch of rules (or worse, menus!), Mains invites the reader to prayer and self-examination, encouraging her readers to take seriously Christ's own concern for the lonely and the disenfranchised, suggesting that the best cure for many of the world's problems is hospitality - feeding, clothing, sheltering and loving the people in the world around us by taking them into our homes. It's a very basic, "if you have two cloaks, share with him who has none" mentality.

Again, though her temperament is at times so opposite to mine that I started laughing (her horror at a family spending hours in "chilly silence" almost matches my delight at the thought of a quiet evening at home), I was, in the end, both challenged and put at my ease by this book. Though Mains' own example of radical hospitality could be intimidating, she does such a good job of urging you to consider your own calling rather than urging you to imitate hers that I felt attracted to the idea of being more hospitable rather than discouraged that I would never match up to some floral-curtains-and-freshly-baked-bread ideal. I didn't agree with every little thing (I think her account of her own breakdown from overwork in ministry probably hints that she was, you know, overworking), but overall the tone of this book is much, well, holier than I expected, and not really Stepford-wife-ish, as the title and cover seemed to imply.

More on the 15 books/15 day challenge can be found at GirlDetective.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

p.s. I had no idea I had so many old evangelical books on my TBR pile. It's been sort of an interesting peek into my own family history.

*I'm not saying a non-Christian couldn't read this and get something out of it, just that Christians are her intended audience, and her entire premise is based on an assumption that her readers wish to follow Jesus' example and instructions.


Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Can I borrow this one, too? :)

Jessica said...

Yes, on both counts!

TwoSquareMeals said...

My mother-in-law has known Karen Mains and her husband for years, and she gave me this book a long time ago. I finally got around to reading it a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't a book dictating how to order your life and home so that you are always ready to host guests in a clean, orderly home with homemade tea cakes served on silver platters. (Can you tell I don't like those sorts of Christian books?)

I found it refreshing that she was just encouraging hospitality that lets people into your life, even if it involves throwing a pile of laundry off of the couch to find them a place to sit.

Her book on the Sabbath is also good. I think it's called "Making Sunday Special."

Girl Detective said...

I love the phrase "radical hospitality". And it does sound like a book that non-observant spiritual people could like too, since it sounds more encouraging and less prescriptive--the comments make it sound like people fear it's a Christian Martha Stewart, and instead is more about communing and less about housekeeping.