Welcome–By Dayle Dickens

dayleThis summer has been nothing less than an adventure for me. I have spent the last three months, far from home in Little Rock, Arkansas for a business internship. I have learned two major things in the South this summer: 1) How to say “y’all” naturally in conversation, and 2) Southern Hospitality really does exist.

Not only is it a bit warmer in the South, but also the people have seemed to be a little ‘extra’ warm. Usually I am that random person in line at the grocery store, starting up conversations with strangers, but in Arkansas the strangers have been the ones starting up a conversation. I have felt nothing but loved by the people here…by the strangers here, and the love I have received has reminded me of how I am called to love.

Strangers can be a scary word. I actually like the word “neighbors” better. Most of us are probably overly familiar with the verse (Matthew 19:19) where God is calling us to love our neighbors. God is calling us to love everyone in our life…our family, friends, our enemies, and even the random person you pass on your way to class, or the random girl you sit next to in a lecture hall…Literally, everyone. Sometimes I have to slow down and do a ‘gut check’ on this one. For a verse I know so well, it can be so easy to forget.

I think at times my pride gets in the way…or my comfort. It is easy to be around the people in my circle, my best friends. My circle is full of people in my life who know me, understand me, encourage me, challenge me, and this is so wonderful. I am so blessed with the amazing people God has put in my life. When I think of the community I have at Mizzou, I feel nothing short of loved when I am at the Newman Center. I know many others feel the same way about our wonderful community, but I would not go so far to say that everyone feels this way. Having a strong circle of friends is wonderful, but at times it can be comfortable.

Well friends, we were not made to live comfortably. God is calling us to step outside of our circle, or maybe even to expand our circle. It is important to have a close group of friends, I believe this one hundred and ten percent, but when our circles become so tight, it becomes hard to be open to letting others in. When we are not open to inviting others in, we are closing ourselves off from God and His will for our life, and we are quite possibly missing out on being all God is calling us to be.

This year I want to challenge us all as we kick off Welcome Week. As you reunite with your friends and prepare for all that is to come this year at Mizzou and Newman, I challenge you to leave room. Leave room for God to use you as an instrument to build His kingdom. One invitation, one simple smile or hello could bring someone home to our Heavenly Father. Let God use you in incredible ways this year. Yes, it may be uncomfortable; it might even be a little awkward. Trust me, invitations are not always graceful (contact me if you want to hear about some really awkward invites), but when they are grace filled, we can only trust that God is present and He is working in us for the greater good of His Kingdom.

So y’all, I challenge you to be bold, practice some Southern Hospitality, and let God take the lead. Our hearts are His home, and there is plenty of room for more people in His home. There is plenty of room for ALL people. I encourage you to join me in preparing our hearts for a year full of loving the people God puts in our lives. Happy Welcome Week!

“Lord, enter my heart. You are welcome here.”

Dayle attends Mizzou and welcomes running, hiking, yoga, and cooking into her life. Her biggest love is kale, her biggest fear is animals, and her biggest (only) blog is nutzforhealth at www.dayledickens.wordpress.com