A Rhythm of Welcome: No Solo Instruments

I love this gorgeous cover of Leslie Verner‘s new book! It looks inviting, and I know that her message of welcome and hospitality is sorely needed in our world today.

I’m thrilled to host Leslie on my blog, plus she’s offered to give away a copy of her book, Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness (Herald Press, 2019). I’m eager for you to read what she has to say below, then leave a comment or subscribe to my blog for a chance to win a free copy. The contest closes a week today on August 19, 9am Pacific.

No Solo Instruments

by Leslie Verner

Last fall at the park with my kids, we heard instruments rumble in the distance. The hum reverberated in my toes, the arches of my feet, through my calf muscles, and swirled up around my knees.

“What’s that noise?” my five-year-old son, Elijah, yelled from across the neighborhood playground.

“Sounds like high school band practice. Let’s go find it!” I said, kicking crunchy golden leaves as I walked towards the edge of the playground to load the two smallest children into the double stroller. I urged Elijah ahead of me on his bike as we chased the cadence of sound through the alleys and streets of the neighborhood, the bass drums coaxing us closer and closer.

The noise crescendoed as we rounded a bend and spotted over a hundred teenagers huddled in groups in a grassy field behind a chain link fence at the old high school. Sunlight glinted off shiny metal as the teens tilted tubas, saxophones, French horns, baritones, and trombones in the air to tune them. Percussion, brass and woodwinds were all divided into homogeneous groups in clusters of ten to twenty.

The instruments went silent as I unbuckled the littles from their stroller so they could press their noses to the cold metal fence. One section of flutes began—their playful song punctuating the crisp fall air. Suddenly, every instrument joined in unison, the sound a fantastic collaboration of overwhelming cohesion and celebration, pulsating and hitting every note with perfect precision. I closed my eyes. Over a hundred instruments rang, sang, and then whispered together, a majestic marriage of harmony and melody, the sound sailing over the city as the sun set her chin down slowly on the horizon.

“Why are you crying, Mommy?” my daughter Adeline asked as the instruments sang across the city. I wiped the tears coursing down my face. I hadn’t planned to cry at a high school band practice. “Is it a happy cry?”

Laughing through my tears, I said, “Yes, it’s a happy cry,” and hugged her tiny shoulders.

I thought of heaven and the symphony of soul sounds we’ll experience there. And I thought of the kingdom here and now and our longing to be a part of something greater than ourselves. Lately I had been feeling guilty about not doing “enough” to invite others into my home and life. For a wannabe world changer, lack of drama felt like lack of faith. But I wondered how our small kindnesses, courageous invitations, and slight pauses to notice one another form one part of a whole when the church embraces an ethic of welcome in the world.

Perhaps we can’t sign up to be a foster parent, but can we support other foster families in our churches by bringing them meals or donating clothing or toys? Maybe our kids are little, and we are practically hallucinating with exhaustion—inviting a new family home after church feels impossible. But can we smile at new visitors at church and maybe walk them to the nursery instead of just pointing the way?

Can we meet at a park or ice cream shop instead of in our home? Can we sit in our lawn chairs in our driveways and welcome neighborhood children to draw stick figures with sidewalk chalk? Will we accept help and invitations when they are offered to us? As we play to our strengths instead of beating ourselves up over our weaknesses, we enter the symphony of souls working in tandem to radiate a rhythm of welcome to the lonely world.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: In a series of questions in her last two paragraphs above, Leslie lists some low-key ways  to practice hospitality. What can you add to her list?

Leslie Verner is the author of Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness (Herald Press). She traveled widely and spent five years in China before returning to the U.S. to marry an actor in Chicago. A former middle school teacher with a masters in intercultural studies, she now writes before dawn and reads too many books at once. She, her husband, and their three small children live in northern Colorado. Leslie writes about faith, justice, and cross-cultural issues at www.scrapingraisins.com, in her monthly newsletter, and elsewhere on the web.

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20 thoughts on “A Rhythm of Welcome: No Solo Instruments

  1. Hospitality is a much-needed ministry. I would appreciate encouragement and inspiration to serve others more effectively..

  2. Our congregation has chosen growing in hospitality as one of our goals for the next year. I wonder if reading and studying this book could be a helpful way to work at this! I will be suggesting it to our pastors for our Christian Education hour.

  3. April, thanks for the shout out you’ve given Leslie and her new book. I’m anxious to read and bring it to the attention of our Mothers of Preschoolers group as well as our church librarian. Leslie, as a busy wife and mom, thanks for the time you’ve put into making this book available to us.

  4. I enjoy welcoming people into my home, but sometimes find it challenging. It takes energy that I don’t always have to cook, clean and prepare for guests. I appreciate Leslie’s reminder that hospitality can take other forms as well. Encouraging words for those of us who aren’t Martha Stewart.

    1. Absolutely, Donna – I’m definitely no Martha Stewart! I appreciate what Rev. Jack King once called “scruffy hospitality” (although his blog is no longer available): “Hospitality is not a house inspection, it’s friendship.”

  5. This is a very important topic! I’ve found the missing to get onto the elevator to get to a meal, or just stopping, greeting a person, not acting as though I need to move on I feel are helpful “hospitality ways”—plus appreciated!

  6. A happy cry surprised me as I read Leslie’s story! Her poetic prose touches me deeply. And, yes, I want to be a part of the symphony of welcome that God calls us all to play.
    The Rev. Jack King’s “scruffy hospitality” encourages me: “Hospitality is not a house inspection, it’s friendship.” Thanks April, for sharing it.

  7. Hi April,
    I appreciate your review of the Hospitality book. It reminds me that there are other ways to be hospitable than to wear myself out about cooking a meal when that’s not my strength. I do have gifts that I can use to make others feel welcome and included.
    Thanks again for an encouraging column.

    1. You’re so welcome, Beverly. In genuine hospitality and friendship, there is a sense of give and take that Leslie expresses in her question: “Will we accept help and invitations when they are offered to us?” So hospitality isn’t only about my inviting and welcoming others–it’s also about how I accept help and invitations from others. That’s another dimension of hospitality that Leslie opens up for me.

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