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So did you know you can banish pet hair from your clothes or furniture with the swipe of a dryer sheet? Just read this in print in Readers Digest and online in Southern Living. Next to the Bible there are no more trusted sources in the South.

I get a kick out of finding easy, inexpensive ways to manage time or activities more efficiently. These strategies or techniques are called hacks but they’ve been around forever. (Want to clean out your gutters without climbing a ladder? Attach PVC pipes to your leaf blower. Need to thread a needle? Spritz it with hairspray to stiffen it.)

My friend KariAnne is a genius at decorating hacks: super cute low-cost décor for her home. It was fun to read her new ideas (like using drop clothes for casual curtains) when I dropped into Thistlewood Farms .

As I mentioned last week, I recently did a Spiritual Gifts Inventory and found it helpful to see the list of the many gifts I don’t have. It takes the pressure off! Our pastor reminded us we’re also accountable to use the specific gifts we have been given. Hospitality continues to be one of my passions, and I welcome little things I can do to make guests feel welcome without straining our retirement budget.

Here’s a diminutive chalkboard sign I found at a local crafts store – it was only $4 using a 50% coupon. It’s small enough to display on a corner of the bureau in our guestroom, but large enough to personalize a welcome using a chalk marker. (It’s reusable and wipes right off with water.)

I also had a little “Happy Together” photo block gifted to me, and enjoy using it to display a color photo or two of arriving guests. We’ve started saving Christmas card photos the last few years for that exact purpose. You can also print friends’ photos off Facebook using your color printer.

Meal planning can be the most puzzling part of hosting guests, but you can take the guesswork out of the process by developing a few tried-and-true menus. I like creating meals around what’s in season at our local Farmer’s Market, but during the winter months I rely on pulled pork in the crock pot, homemade chicken pie from the freezer or my sister-in-law Lori’s spaghetti pie, which serves a crowd. We served this to friends with kids who stopped overnight this past weekend on their spring break trip to Florida. Add a hearty green salad and garlic toast and you have an easy-to-prep meal.

My go-to dessert to welcome guests to Peace Ridge is a simple chocolate cake with Ghirardelli chocolate chips made special by baking it in a Pine Forest bundt pan. Sift  powdered sugar ‘snow’ on the peaks, then serve with plenty of whipped cream and hot fudge sauce. Maybe raspberries too in season.

Biblical hospitality, though, goes beyond clean sheets and welcome mats. It’s a topic I’ve often addressed online because I believe in it so strongly. As author Karen Mains wrote decades ago in her classic book on the subject, it’s about having an open heart as well as an open home.

Hospitality is welcoming the stranger and the refugee. It’s about issuing an invitation to the quiet older man who can never invite you back as well as to friends likely to reciprocate. It includes welcoming new folks to your church home, your community and your country.

And a relatively new thought for me? Hospitality is a matter of the head as well as the heart. It’s about entertaining new ideas and thoughtfully considering other points of view.

     Listening rather than lecturing.

          Being slow to speak and even slower to take offense.

You might not invite those new ideas or alternate views to take up permanent residence. But you’re not afraid of them either. Personally I learn so little when I speak, but I learn so much when I listen.

Do you have favorite hospitality hacks? Please leave a note in the Comments section so we can learn from you too.

New ideas are always welcome!

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