Ministers and most (okay, many) church folk already know how important welcome is for guests and members. We know that welcome begins – or doesn’t – long before we get through the front or back doors. Everything from our parking lot to our signs and yard accoutrement tell folks – or should – what can be expected inside. They speak welcome. They set the tone for what we can experience once we step through the doors. They help move us from the realities outside those doors into the hope-filled possibilities we will hopefully take back out with us.

Great Hospitality includes Great Ushers Who Ush!

Now let’s bring all that on home. Maybe you’ve heard the stories or have a story or two of your own about coming home late at night or too early in the morning because “church-business” kept you away once again. You come home to a lonely house, even if there’s family or friends sleeping inside. Or maybe a loved one or two or three are waiting for you, but you haven’t fully transitioned from where you have been to where you are about to be. And the loneliness of ministry once again sets in as you realize you can’t or really shouldn’t share what you’ve just been through.

Several years ago I found that something as simple as hanging a wreath on the back door we use as our main entrance can help me with the transition from minister to spouse and parent. It’s one of the reasons you can find a variety of flamingos strategically placed in the yard around our house during the Summer, no matter how tacky some folks think they may be (just a couple of weeks ago we had guests ask us if we’d been “flocked” by a local youth group – smile). It’s one of the reasons we have fun flags hanging at both the front and back entrances to our house. It’s one of the reasons there’s always a wreath or something similar hanging on the front and back doors.

I’d like to tell you that they’re there to welcome our guests or to catch the attention of our neighbors. Surely, that would be far more selfless. But the truth is, sometimes I need to leave selflessness at the door, and those accoutrement in large part have been strategically placed for me. They’re there to catch my attention. They say, “Welcome Home.” They can remind me that I am no longer at work – or shouldn’t be. And when I let them they impress on me the importance of transitioning from where I’ve been to where I’m about to be.

I write this in the midst of a three-day hiatus from “work,” taken in part to replace our Spring décor with the Fall flowers and pumpkins I unbox every year in a way that brings home the rhythms and reasons of the seasons. I’m already anticipating the smiles when I take the time to look at the Whimsey Tree in the dining room (yes, currently full of Fall flair). I don’t enjoy “decorating” so much, but I do know I’m already enjoying the ceramic pumpkin one of our daughters made seventeen years ago when we lived in Kansas and the clay gargoyle-looking-thing our son made who-knows-where-or-when. They remind me I’m home. They remind me to turn off the personae and just “be.” They remind me there are more important things than ministry and that ministry is what I do, not who I am.

You may be thinking, “Oh that’s nice, but I’m not a decorator. Neither am I – really. But my father modeled the importance of your house being your home and the difference hanging a wreath or sticking some cattails and plastic leaves into a vase can make. For one of my friends that difference comes from a living room lamp he keeps on regardless of the time of day or night. I can’t help but think of Tom Bodett whenever I see that lamp and those words he used to speak on behalf of Motel 6: “We’ll keep the light on for you.” And then I hear the lamp say, “Welcome Home!”

Question: What accoutrements welcome you home? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibilities. – Mary Anne Radmacher-Hershey, 1995