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Issue 6-39

The Advent Conspiracy
(Christmas Was Meant to Change the World)

"Power to the People!" I commented under my breath. We were walking to the train station from Millennium Park in Chicago and ran into anti-war demonstrators who were passing out flyers and shouting over a loudspeaker, "End the War in Iraq!"

"Did you say 'Power to the People'?" the person I was walking with inquired. I explained that I'm writing a novel set in Chicago in 1968, and that "Power to the People" was a frequent cry during the Vietnam War protests of that decade. As we continued to hurry toward Ogilvie Station, he asked another question. "Is there anything you believe in enough that you would go to the streets for it?" Hard to answer that question when you're crossing busy city streets.

My problem with protest movements is that they often turn as loud and noisy and hateful and militant as the evils they are protesting. I do not want to become a mirror image of the things I despise.

However, I am not above being party to subversive movements--particularly when their end goal is to make the world the way God intended it to be!

For instance, we just discovered a website that proclaims itself "The Advent Conspiracy" and explains that it is "an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption." Their motto is "Worship More, Spend Less, Give More, Love All." Now that's a conspiracy I can support.

My friend's question "What would you go to the streets for?" might be answered by saying that, although I haven't marched with the protesters, I have given myself to the subversive act of practicing Christian hospitality. At the end of October, our dining room table was set for guests. As one group left, and we washed dishes and cleaned up, we simply put the dishes, the silverware and the stemware back on the table for the next group. I found this saved me all kinds of time. Last night, after one of the many large groups left the house, David and I rolled into bed exhausted. He said quietly, "Karen, maybe you shouldn't invite any more people to our house for a while." Admittedly, my enthusiasm can overwhelm my pragmatism.

I know that a home must have locks on its doors as well as hinges, but I feel as though I'm being pushed to subvert the loneliness and alienation and separation I see all around me by bringing the very Presence of Christ to the table and asking people to gather and share in His tangible love.

You see, I passionately believe that hospitality shows the face of God to the world. Without its practice, the world cannot see what He is like.

This last month we gathered friends who practice scriptural hospitality to brainstorm with us how we can restore this powerful tool to the local church. We heard stories of once-a-month neighborhood open houses. We heard the story of the family who took in a homeless woman and her week-old baby. We heard stories of a coffee house set up in a private residence for the young suburban adults who don't have anywhere to gather.

"Ho-ho!" some of you may be thinking. "Hospitality is not a subversive act." You don't think that the practice of hospitality is really subversive?

When people close doors and build fortress communities,
Christ opens them. When the world excludes foreignness,
Christ welcomes the stranger. When governments erect walls
and close borders, Christ makes ways in the desert.

Christine D. Pohl writes in her excellent book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, "In a number of ancient civilizations, hospitality was viewed as a pillar on which all morality rested; it encompassed 'the good.'" Christ, Himself a displaced person, taught in Luke 14:12-13, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

Do you still think that hospitality is not a subversive act, that the coming of Christ is not a conspiracy to create a world in which no humans harm other humans?

We like to think if Christ came into our world, knocked at our door, sat beside us on an airplane, stopped (a stranger, after all, in many guises) to talk to us on the street, that we would welcome Him, begin to chat, receive Him into our homes, invite Him to stay in our guest room. What fools we mortals be! We don't invite our neighbors, accept the foreign-born with open arms, include that difficult family member, or welcome our own church family into our homes. Do we really think we would welcome the Stranger Christ?

The simple truth is this: If we do not welcome them, we do not welcome Him. We are still saying, after all these long years, "NO ROOM IN MY INN!"

Come join us as Hungry Souls launches a hospitality conspiracy to show the face of God to our world. We need your ideas. We need your prayers. We need your financial support. Our goal is to establish an Internet outreach that challenges and enables Christians to hang a sign on Christian homes all over the country (and the world) that proclaims boldly enough for all to read, "COME BACK INN."

What subversive invitations are you extending this holiday season?

Three-Day Retreat of Silence

St. Mary's Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois; February 11 - 14, 2008.

We have reserved room for twelve women. If you would like to reserve one of those places, $50 will do that. (Make your check out to Hungry Souls and mail it to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60189.) The total fee for 3 nights and meals is $250. We need to have full payment by January 30, 2008.

We can caravan together from various places in the Chicago area. If some of you would like to fly in to Chicago, we will be happy to make airport runs, pick you up and house you in our homes (if you have to stay overnight).

This is a-not-to-be-missed opportunity. We observe three daily offices (services of prayer) with the community that lives here and has given their lives to the work of prayer and praise. Last year's group lobbied for a five-day retreat of silence!

For more information, contact me at .

Stratford Shakespeare Festival

July 7 - 12, 2008

The cost for six plays, 5 nights housing in delightful B&Bs, chats with the actors, picnic along the Avon, lunch with the Mainses, delightful mind-challenging conversations each morning over breakfast is $1100 per person per shared room (it is $300 extra for a single room). A $500 deposit will reserve your place. We must have all reservations by May 2008 and full payments by June 1, 2008.

Respond to David Mains ( ) as soon as you know your plans; that will help us greatly. We have 4 B&Bs reserved and almost filled and will have to reserve another if our count goes higher. Bravo for the Bard!

Writer's Mentoring Program

I am eager to mentor would-be writers (or newish writers) how to be true in themselves and in their creative work.

So, if there are those on the Soulish Food list who really, really want to learn how to write well, I have several HUGE projects I can't put together without help. If you will come alongside me and assist with these projects, my promise is:

• To teach you how to write in the best way possible, by writing.
• To familiarize you with the production process from idea to finished product.
• To walk you through the research end of writing.
• To introduce you to creative team collaboration--how to learn to trust the editors.
• To teach you how to be "true" in your thinking and in your output.
• To help you discover whether you have the abilities to be a project manager.
• To show you the ropes of writing queries, submitting a manuscript, finding an agent (or not), etc., etc.

I will need a commitment of ONE YEAR from January 2008 to January 2009, along with the ability to attend a once-a-month team training meeting. There will be no fee for this, and you will be working for me, assisting me with my projects. However, I promise that if I feel you have potential as a professional writer and you want to walk further in this arduous "80% process," (see Soulish Food 6-38: "See Places That No Longer Exist") I will be happy to mentor as far as I am able. Contact me at . Eight people from all over have already responded. We will work with e-mails and conference calls.

Reminder!

The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted each week on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the weekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.

 
Karen Mains

Karen Mains

"Is there anything you believe in enough that you would go to the streets for it?"

Recommended Reading

Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition

By Christine D. Pohl

Although hospitality was central to Christian identity and practice in earlier centuries, our generation knows little about its life-giving character. Making Room revisits the Christian foundations of welcoming strangers and explores the necessity, difficulty, and blessing of hospitality today. Christine Pohl traces the eclipse of this significant Christian practice, showing the initial centrality of hospitality and the importance of recovering it for contemporary life. Combining rich biblical and historical research with extensive exposure to modern service communities--The Catholic Worker, L'Abri, L'Arche, and others--this book shows how understanding the key features of hospitality can better equip us to faithfully carry out the practical call of the gospel.

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