Kairos—καιρός There are two words for time in Greek; chronos and kairos. The first identifies chronological time while the latter emphasizes an opportune moment in which to seize. God provides the moment and we are charged with responding to the opportunity.
The Power of Transparency
“Spirit of poverty and greed are not words of every day conversation.”
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
Humility is one of the finer qualities that we can exhibit with our neighbors. We see it so clearly exhibited in the life of our Savior. We Christians at times can come off like we have it all together with those in our neighborhoods. However, one day we might find ourselves in a place where it becomes clear to us that we, in fact, fall quite short of having it all together. Nothing is more humbling than to realize that there is something that we said or did that requires open and honest confession with one of our neighbors. There is power in this kind of open confession and you will see it displayed in Annette’s story.
Annette Grable’s Neighborhood
There is nothing like the power of transparency to redeem.
Many years ago, I began babysitting my neighbors’ children. They were preschoolers when I started and I have forever loved these girls I call my Monday through Friday, 9-5 daughters. I took them everywhere with my kids and they were family.
Except for one thing. I was living with a years old spirit of poverty. Even though I was no longer poor, a life of lack still had a significant grip on me. Fortunately, it had little impact when the girls were young and unaware of what my experience brought to our relationship. This mentality manifested itself like this: my neighbor very generously brought food over each day, enough for her kids and mine, while I made food for my kids only. I greedily thought of my neighbor’s contribution to meals as part of my pay. With a bitter heart, I didn’t share our food. No matter. The girls really had no clue and my kids didn’t see the issue. I didn’t discuss it with them or anyone because I thought I was simply being rational.
Fast forward to when the girls started noticing that there was the food they brought and shared, and the food I never shared. I can’t remember my responses when they’d asked why. Probably, it was the way I covered myself with the cloud that poverty from my past left over me.
Around the same time, we had made new family friends from our then new church. I can still hear the wife, a best friend to me still, saying, “Have anything you want,” about food in her house. I asked myself why I couldn’t be like that too.
These feelings brewed and stewed in me a long time, so long, my neighbors’ girls were now young adults. Maybe it’s just how long God needed to let it bother me to the point of conviction.
It never strained our relationship as neighbors and I often felt such warmth toward them that the girls’ mom was like a sister to me. We’d been through lots together, we supported each other, attended the same get-togethers, did Girl Scout events together, shared patio furniture for parties, had yard sales together, and had regular girls’ nights out with our daughters and us ladies.
But still, for me there was that nagging conviction and I knew God wanted me to make it right. Being a good neighbor wasn’t enough. It also wasn’t enough to just share food to make up for the past. So, as it weighed on me, I prayed about what would be a redeeming blessing.
These neighbors are wonderful friends. The mom started a Girl Scout troop when the girls and my daughter were little, and it led to a circle of friends that includes us and that continues today. These neighbors are a galvanizing force. I don’t think this circle of friends would exist if it weren’t for them and their hospitality.
Hospitality. That was the answer. I knew they could use a new BBQ with all the entertaining they did. I waited for a really good sale that my wallet could handle and bought them a grill. It wasn’t the fanciest or the best money could buy, but it was what I could do. I hoped it would last a while and provide many good meals.
When I bought the grill, I came to their door and she answered. I said I had something heavy I needed help with in the back of my car, a gift for them, and that they couldn’t say no. She looked puzzled as she listened to my story.
I really had to work hard to hold back the waterworks and explain in terms that made sense. Spirit of poverty and greed are not words of every day conversation. I explained that it had been years that God had been working on my spirit, to change my heart to one of generosity, and to redeem my behavior from so many years ago. I asked that they would forgive me and accept this small token of redemption. She was very surprised and by the end of my explanation, we were both teary-eyed as I thanked her for listening.
Now, years later, the grill sits in a prominent corner of their yard surrounded by plants. It’s no longer useful as a grill because the bottom burned out. But still, it’s there and hasn’t been replaced. I don’t know why.
But what I do know is it that every time I see it, it’s my marker for an overdue moment of transparency, my reminder of redemption, the testimony of a broken spirit of poverty, replaced by a spirit of generosity.
A time for reflection:
This beautiful story of Annette’s portrays something that none of us like to do. Who wants to go to a neighbor and expose something that has been hidden in our hearts that needs to be made right with a neighbor (or whomever)? However, confession is good for the soul and has the power to transform a life as it did with Annette. Is the Lord speaking to you through Annette’s story? Is there someone who you need to make things right with? Humbling yourself is not an easy thing to do and in some cases, takes time. Is the time now to make things right?
What’s in a Name?
“Jesus values neighbors, and thus I’ve learned the importance of loving mine.”
No longer will you be called Abram[a]; your name will be Abraham… Genesis 17:5b
The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel. Genesis 32:28
Names are very important to God. He changed the names of certain people in the Bible to describe such things as destiny and character. He changed Abram’s name meaning “high father” to Abraham meaning “father of a multitude.” He changed Jacob’s name meaning “trickster” or “usurper” to Israel, which means “he fights or persists with God.” When Jesus looked at Simon, He said: “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:42) “Cephas” is a common noun meaning “stone,” or “rock. Names are also very important to your neighbors. One of the first things you will want to learn is your neighbors’ names. When you ask for a neighbor’s name, you are communicating that they have significance. When you remember their name and call them by name you are on the doorstep of establishing a new relationship. Bruce beautifully portrays this very thing.
Bruce and Karen Zachary’s Neighborhood (A Condo)
Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet and fall in love in Shakespeare’s lyrical tale of “star-crossed” lovers. They are doomed from the start as members of two warring families. Here, Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and that she loves the person who is called “Montague”, not the Montague name and not the Montague family.
Yet, names are significant. They convey meaning and imply relationship. Consider Jesus… His name tells us His mission that Jehovah is Salvation. He is called Immanuel meaning God with us. He is: The Bread of Life, The Light of The World, The Door, the Good Shepherd, The Resurrection and Life, The Way the Truth and the Life, and the True Vine.
Consider: Phyllis, Don and Tena, Jim and Marylee, Dave and Donna, Art and Rose, Jeff and Sheri, Jim and Betty, Ted and Diana. Names that I would have been hard-pressed to recall but a few years ago, and today flow to my memory with fragrance more delightful than the most splendid of flowers. They are names of my neighbors, people who live in close proximity to me, and people who are my friends. People who I’m blessed to say that I love.
Phyllis lives next door to Karen and I. We just celebrated her 92nd birthday, along with our Neighborhood Group (small group Bible study). She lives independently, has good health, and her mind remains remarkably sharp. Phyllis loves Jesus, and says profound things that inspire the rest of the group. Last night, she reminded us that we might think that she is lonely, but she isn’t because she knows that Jesus is with her. Karen has recently been sick, and Phyllis encouraged us that if we need anything just to ask her. Precious words from a woman we love and who loves us, and we’ve been blessed to declare that truth together frequently.
Don and Tena, live on the other side of us. Don is a retired dentist, and Tena has retired from interior design. They both love Jesus, and are very active in their service at a local church in our community. Don had a recent heart incident and was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night. The next day, I went to the hospital. As a pastor, hospital visits are part of the rhythm of my calling, however, this was the first time that I was motivated to do so for a neighbor as opposed to a congregant. I love that Don and Tena and Karen and I pray together, I love Don and Tena, and know that I’m loved by them.
Jim and Marylee are a delight. They are fun and great to converse with and share a neighborhood with. They are hospitable, thoughtful, and caring. The kind of neighbors you’d ask to care for your pets while you’re out of town, and they would gladly do so. They worship at the nearby Catholic parish church, and although we have significant doctrinal differences, I truly believe that they love Jesus. And we genuinely love and care for one another.
Dave and Donna live kitty corner to us. Dave is the head of our homeowner’s association [HOA]. He had a recent back surgery with some complications. He’s a stoic guy, and has declined any offers of help. We let Donna know that if she needs any help to let us know. Dave serves our HOA faithfully and I’m grateful for him. We’ve had lunch together and I got to hear some of his story. Dave told me recently. “Bruce you’re a really good neighbor.” They were some of the most encouraging words that I’ve heard.
Art and Rose live directly across from us. They are very involved in a local church where they provide lay counseling assistance. Karen says that Rose has the complexion of a nineteen-year old. She is a property manager and they have several properties. Art’s first wife passed from consequences of dementia. Art has the wonderful gift of an irreverent humor (that is not inappropriate), and great compassion. A rare blend. I love them.
Ted and Diana are new to our neighborhood. They have an adult daughter with dystonia, and that requires an abundance of their energy and care. I admire their love and attention for her. I ask if there is anything Karen and I, or our other neighbors, can do to support them. I confess, I’m so inadequate to offer any help with their daughter’s condition, but if bringing a meal or going to the store could help, I’d be glad to. I’m praying for their salvation, strength, and His grace to be upon them. Ted grew up in a Jewish home, as did I, and if nothing else he finds it amusing that his neighbor is a pastor with a mezuzah on the door.
Jeff and Sher moved in less than a year ago and live across from us. Jeff is a pilot and Sheri is an author. They both are really sharp, which I admire. I rarely see them outside because they probably are pretty busy with life. I hope to get to know them better this year. It was fun having them in our place for a recent HOA meeting and getting to talk with them and other neighbors.
Thus, there is so much in a name. Relationship, familiarity, and identity are connected to names. To Jesus’ name is connected salvation, relationship and familiarity with God, and new identity. Jesus values neighbors, and thus I’ve learned the importance of loving mine. And in the process, my life is better, I’m more content, and I’m confident the love that I share with my neighbors honors God.
A time for reflection:
Bruce conveys three very important things in his story. First, the significance of the names of his neighbors. Second, in getting to know your neighbors you will probably come across those who attend different congregations in a neighborhood and how to best relate to them in spite differences. Lastly, the depth of love that he has for his neighbors and their respect for him. How do your neighbors view you? Do you know their names? How do you view your neighbors? If you were to move tomorrow would you be missed?
(Bruce Zachary was raised in a Jewish home, and came to faith in Christ as Messiah 25+ years ago. He has been teaching the Bible for almost 25 years. He and Karen, his lovely bride, have been married since 1991, and are blessed by their sons Joshua and Jonathan. Bruce taught at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s School of the Bible, and is a graduate of CCCM’s School of Ministry. He has been an ordained pastor for nearly 25 years, and was an attorney for 25 years. In 1996 he planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, California., where he continues to serve as lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books, and also serves as the director of the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN] a global church planting initiative.)
Small Acts of Love Yield Great Return
“I prayed: Ok Lord what’s next?”
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Acts 9:36-42
When I read Susan’s story, for some reason, I was reminded of this story of Tabitha. I guess it has to do with Susan’s faithfulness in loving her neighbors in a way that most might think is not very significant by the world’s standards. Tabitha’s gifts to the poor widows was like an opening act for the miraculous move of God when He raised her from the dead. In Hebrew, the name Tabitha means beauty and grace and that’s Susan…she is full of beauty and grace. I was most impressed with her story…I am sure you will be too.
Susan Hanson’s Neighborhood (Mobile Home Park)
After living in my condo for 24 years, I was moving to a senior Mobile Home Park. A new season of my life was about to begin.
While living at the condo, the Lord and I became close friends. He pursued me and I pursued Him. I meditated on His word. I learned to listen to the Holy Spirit speak to me through His Word and to hear His still small voice in prayer. I learned to watch and to listen for direction from Him and to obey. Looking back, I can see that His purpose was to mature me and to prepare me to serve Him.
Prior to my move, I felt certain that the Park was going to be a mission field – a place for me to spread the love of God to my neighbors. I gladly accepted the “assignment,” as I like to call it. I had no idea how I was to accomplish the assignment but I knew that God in His timing would show me.
Shortly after moving, I received a confirmation of the assignment. The Lord prompted me to turn on the radio at just the right time to hear Lynn Cory as he was being interviewed about his book “Neighborhood Initiative.” I bought his book and even had a short telephone conversation with him. But I still wasn’t clear as to what the Lord specifically wanted me to do to show His love. I talked with a couple of other Christians in the Park. No one was interested in ministering with me. Hummm… The Lord was not opening doors; He wasn’t giving me direction. I kept praying and seeking the Lord.
About four months later, in early November, I was given the idea of baking mini pumpkin bread muffins for my neighbors. In a little bag, I put a Happy Thanksgiving greeting and a muffin. I hand delivered one to each of the 20 neighbors on my street while introducing myself as their new neighbor. I was well received.
I prayed: Ok Lord what’s next?
I was directed to purchase Christmas cards for the 160 homes in the Park (I found them at a dollar store). At the Lord’s direction, inside on a 3×5 index card was a note that said “Hello. I am a new neighbor. I have some good news!” Then I wrote out John 3:16. I hand delivered one to each of the homes. I was uneasy and fearful. But, I went ahead in obedience to the Lord’s leading and direction. The Lord wanted them to know who I am as their new neighbor. I never received any comments.
That was three years ago. It turns out that my assignment from the Lord is to give each of the residents a handmade birthday card. In addition, for each of the homes in the park I give a handmade Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and 4th of July card. The task seems overwhelming! But God…. In the past He had proved Himself faithful and He gave me everything that I needed to accomplish what He asked me to do.
This time it was no different. He has been faithful to give me the ideas, the resources and the time to accomplish His work. What is really fun and interesting is to see how the Lord has “gifted” me for the assignment. I am not a craft person nor an artist. Nor am I one to come up with new and different ideas for the cards. I depend on Him to give me an idea of what the card is to look like and what He wants the message to be. He also directs me where to buy the supplies. On the blank side of a 3×5 index card, I do some artwork that is “whimsical” as a friend has described it. On the lined side, I write a message that the Lord gives me. I pray and wait for His direction.
Here is how one birthday card came about: At the beginning of December, I prayed “Lord I need a birthday card idea, please. The new year is going to be here soon.” A few days later, at about 5:00 a.m. one morning, I heard the word “cheerleader.” Oh, thank you Lord! Later that morning I asked Google for an easy drawing of a cheerleader. There she was–a cheerleader jumping up in the air. I drew a prototype and made a stencil. An added flare is that I made her pom poms out of colored tissue paper that coordinate with the colors in her outfit. I wrote “HIP-HIP HOORAY! It’s _________ birthday!” On the back of the birthday cards is a handwritten blessing “May the Lord bless and keep you; May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you; May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.” (Numbers 6: 24-26). This is the message that I always write out on the back of the birthday cards.
I go through a similar process with the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine, Easter, and 4th of July cards. Most of the time I am uncomfortable passing along “the message” that the Lord gives me for each of the holiday cards. I have to keep reassuring myself that the message is His (not something I made up), and that it is His ministry and His message. He knows what He wants to say to them. He knows what they need to hear. I don’t want to get in His way. I want to be obedient. I find peace in these truths.
The Park residents look forward to receiving the cards. Many have told me that they keep them all. Some of their comments are they “feel love,” my cards “brighten their day,” “puts a smile on their face,” “makes me look to God,” I am “making the world a better place with my kindness,” and “the cards seem to come on a day when I really need encouragement.” One person said that while they were going through a family crisis, they would look at the cards. The cards helped them to get through the crisis. Another person said “thank you for the thoughtful things you do. I don’t have the same belief but I appreciate yours.”
Another person asked with a bit of frustration in their voice, “Why can’t you just go to the store and buy cards?” In other words, “Why do you have to hand make the cards?” I gently shook my head back and forth and said, “They wouldn’t mean as much to them.” Making them by hand speaks volumes. They see that I sacrifice my time, energy, and resources to show them kindness and love, God’s love.
I can’t believe I’m in my fourth year of the assignment! Only possible with God’s help–His leading, direction, and provision. I am so blessed and humbled that He chose me for this assignment. What if I had not pursued an intimate relationship with Him? What if He hadn’t invested time maturing me, making me a vessel He could use. What if I hadn’t been willing to accept the assignment of making cards that show the love of God to my neighbors? Only God knows what eternal impact my card ministry is having. If any of my neighbors want to know more about the God I love and serve, I am ready to talk to them. If they ask for help, I will be there.
A time for reflection:
What I love about the neighboring movement is that it doesn’t matter what age you are. Susan, a senior, is having an incredible impact with her neighbors. She points out something rather profound in her story, her mobile home park is her mission field. Generally, the perspective Christians have when they move into a new home is quite different from the perspective missionaries have when they move to their new country of ministry. When we look for a place to live, we generally look for a place that best suits us. Susan has a completely different perspective. Because most of us moved into our homes without a ministry mind-set, we need to re-inhabit them as missionaries do, as Susan did, with some of the following questions:
- Why does the Lord want me to live in this place?
- What is the Lord doing in this neighborhood?
- How does He want me to join Him?
- How can I best serve my neighbors?
- What are the needs of the people who live around me?
- What are my neighbors going through emotionally and how can I be of help?
SIX COUPLES MEETING HOUSE TO HOUSE
“Many are of different backgrounds, with only two couples attending the same church.”
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42, 46b, 47
The photo shows five couples, but actually there are six neighborhood couples, who meet monthly from house to house for Sunday dinner and to pray for their neighbors. There are around 34 neighbors in their immediate community. Shawn and Carla Caldwell are in the center. Wouldn’t it be great if this was going on in every neighborhood around our country? Shawn and Carla’s story is reminiscent of the 1st-century Church; brothers and sisters of different backgrounds, gathering together in love in order that they might pray for neighbors who have yet to start their journey with Jesus. Let’s see how it all got started and began to play out.
Shawn and Carla Caldwell’s Neighborhood
We began our neighborhood ministry by praying for all the neighbors we knew by name. My son, Kyle, and I (and sometimes Carla, my wife) would walk our street, praying as we went along. We would pray down one side of the street, turn around, and then pray the other side. After a month or two, we reached out to a few of our neighbors who we knew to be Christians, and asked if they would be interested in meeting at our house to pray for the neighborhood. The response was very enthusiastic.
At our first gathering, we enjoyed a very simple meal (hamburgers and hot dogs), followed by a discussion that covered a wide gamut of prayer needs for our neighborhood. Everyone prayed after the meal, and it was then decided that we should try to do this on a monthly basis.
Over the course of the first year, we ran into some difficulty finding a mutually agreed upon time when all felt it convenient to meet, and at times the monthly meeting stretched out to five or six weeks. That became too irregular, so now we gather every third Sunday. Of those who attend regularly, many are of different backgrounds, with only two couples attending the same church.
I can say without hesitation that it has been both a blessing and a blast getting to know our neighbors. We all really look forward to getting together and praying for each other, and for the neighborhood. I do think the meal and fellowship has greatly contributed to the appeal and consistency of our gatherings.
Because we are all of different backgrounds and churches, we don’t all agree on everything, but we are definitely united in our belief that praying for our neighborhood is a good thing, and getting to know our neighbors is just icing on the cake.
After little more than a year of our praying together, we decided to invite our un-churched neighbors to one of our monthly meetings. As one would imagine, we didn’t observe our regular time of prayer together. Even giving thanks for the meal was a bit out of the ordinary for some. Yet God is growing us together into a very close group.
The fact is, I didn’t even know most of these people before I started down this path, but now I look forward to seeing them each month. We all enjoy a true sense of neighborhood and community . . . people whose paths might never have crossed.
We continue to pray, waiting expectantly for the Lord to move. After all, this isn’t just about making friends . . . it’s about leading people toward the Kingdom of God.
A time for reflection:
Shawn and Carla’s story is just one way that Christians are coming together in neighborhoods today. I have found what the Lord initiates with Christians in neighborhoods varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. He is extremely creative and will lead you in what He has in mind with your neighbors. Once the Spirit gives you a conviction about loving other believers in your neighborhood and a desire to love those in your neighborhood, ask the Lord to show you what He would like to do through you. You may choose to begin to pray like Shawn, Kyle, and Carla did. Remember, it is not about trying to make something happen, but praying, waiting, watching, and joining your Father when He opens doors for you in your own neighborhood.
NEIGHBORS FROM TWO DIFFERENT CONGREGATIONS
“Neighboring from Casual to Intentional.”
“A new command I (Jesus) give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34, 35
If we begin to love our actual neighbors, then we will probably encounter people from other congregations who just happen to live in our neighborhoods. Are we going to avoid them or are we going to invite them to join us in loving our neighbors as ourselves? If we are obedient, we will submit to Jesus’ new commandment to “Love one another.” Philip Yancey points out in Vanishing Grace, “When I ask, ‘Tell me the first word that comes to your mind when I say Christian,’ not one time has someone suggested the word love. Yet without question that is the proper biblical answer. ‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another,’ Jesus commanded His disciples at the Last Supper. He said the world will know we are Christians – and, moreover, will know who He is – when His followers are united in love.” There is no better place for the world to see this kind of love lived out than in the very neighborhoods where we Christians live. Jim and Doris and Cal and Alice had the opportunity to experience this kind of love as neighbors. Both couples attend different churches, but experienced the beauty of loving one another and their neighbors have been the beneficiaries this kind of love. Observe how their relationship grew through the years and what the Lord is now doing through them with their neighbors.
Jim and Doris Lloyd’s Neighborhood
We’ve lived next-door to Cal and Alice for over 33 years. During the years as we’ve transitioned from one life stage to another, so has our relationship with Cal and Alice. As I consider each stage or chapter, I can see how God was preparing us for His purpose and His will in our neighborhood. It has been an eventful journey with lots of laughs as well as some tears.
When we met Cal and Alice we were in our mid 30’s with four small children ages 6, 4, 2, and an eight-month-old. They were on the downside of careers and looking forward to retirement. Our relationship could be characterized as “Greetings, Feedings, and the Secret Passage.” We would casually greet them and demonstrate friendship toward them. They were friendly and hired our kids to feed their pets when traveling or away from home. It was also a cooperative relationship. Since our boys’ basketball hoop was next to the fence, inevitably the ball would bounce, get thrown or tipped over the fence separating our yards. As young boys are, they’d hop the fence and retrieve the ball. Cal noticed this and placed a ladder on his side of the fence to make it easier for the boys to get back to our yard. This led to discussions and we installed a secret passage between our yards. A hinged 12-inch fence board now connected our yards and made ball retrieval much easier.
The secret passage served as a good metaphor for our relationship, still separated by a fence but open to possibilities, and we were able to catch glimpses of each other and how we lived as neighbors over the years.
This casual relationship continued for the next several years and frankly, our lives were full and overflowing with work, family, church, and all of the kids’ activities. It was during this season that my wife, Doris, and I were challenged to live our faith where we lived. Consequently, we expanded our life group and invited Cal and Alice to join us in the Bill Hybel’s series “Just Walk Across the Room”. What this study did very naturally was to give us a window into the lives, hopes, and dreams of our neighbors. It deepened our relationship and provided us with an opportunity to speak truth into their lives and for them to speak into our lives as well. We got to know their children, who all lived out of town, and connected with them as we lived apart from our parents as well. We also began taking time and looking for ways to encourage and support Cal and Alice.
It was shortly afterwards that we transitioned from Greeting and Outreach to the third stage in our journey… Intentional Neighboring.
Scripture is very clear that we serve a missional God and He sent Jesus to us. Jesus reminds us of this in John 20:21, when He sends us out into our neighborhoods as well. Our children have since left home, married, have homes and children of their own. We still live next-door to Cal and Alice, but now our ministry has moved from the casual and convenient to intentional. I didn’t know what this meant and I certainly was not prepared for what God would do in my life, the life of my family, or the lives of Cal and Alice. Lynn Cory points out in his book, Neighborhood Initiative, that neighboring is easy but not simple, it’s inconvenient and it’s messy, but when you’ve done what God’s calling you to do, there is also great joy, hope, and blessing.
So, when Cal and Alice asked for help with their spa, I became their “pool boy”. Later, I recruited my son-in-law and we built a pool cover. Then Cal’s health began to deteriorate and Alice had back surgery. So we provided meals, drove them to doctor’s appointments, and ultimately visiting them and praying with them during their hospital stays. Alice slowly recovered and returned home, unfortunately Cal continued to decline. After several hospital stays, he was transitioned from home to a temporary care facility and then to permanent care.
Driving home from visiting Cal, Alice was stopped at a light. Her car was rear-ended and pushed into the car ahead of her. Just like that, her car was transformed into an accordion, undrivable and stranded. A young man pushed the car to a nearby gas station. That’s when I got the call. I arrived to find Alice shaken but otherwise unhurt. While waiting for the tow truck, we went to a small café and had a bite to eat. We talked through the accident and I provided assurances and confirmed that we would walk with Alice through this process. You could see the anxiety and fear lift from her shoulders… she was not alone.
Alice would tell us how much Cal enjoyed listening to the old traditional hymns. So I downloaded several albums on an old iPhone, got him headphones, and he was able to listen to those hymns right from his bed without disturbing his neighbor. When we visited, Cal would sometimes be in his wheelchair and we would explore the care facility. We spent time talking and chatting with nurses, other patients, guests, and pretty much anyone walking the halls or sitting in the recreation room. We took him to lunch in the cafeteria and Alice would try to get him to eat. Cal was pretty picky on what he liked and seriously, I was never hungry when I saw what he was eating. You have to understand, Cal loved to cook and barbecue, he was adventurous in the kitchen and the healthy diet being prescribed was not something he enjoyed. Sometimes we’d bring him grapes… he ate those!
On January 23, a Tuesday, we went to visit Cal, as he was not doing well. The family, Alice and the kids, decided to move him to hospice care. We arrived at the hospice facility about 5:30 PM following Cal’s transfer. His blood pressure was low so Alice decided to spend the night. We left about 6:00 PM, returned home and picked up some things for Alice, and Doris fixed her a sandwich. We had Life Group at our house that evening, but after praying and sharing, we cut it short. By 9:00 PM we arrived back at hospice where we stood around the bed comforting Alice and listening to the hymns softly playing in the background. I was given the opportunity to hold his hand and read the 23rd Psalm, when Cal slipped into eternity. I never imagined that this would be what God was calling us to do when we began our journey into intentional neighboring. Not only was God using us to comfort Alice, but God Himself was comforting us as well… you see, after Jesus told his disciples that “He was sending them” in John 20:21, He gave them the Holy Spirit as the Comforter and Helper on their missional journey as sent ones (John 20:22). He sends and we go. As we go, He provides the resources that we need for our journey.
Cal’s passing moved us into a new relational dynamic with Alice. Both Doris and I lost our parents over the past several years. We were also the “distant children” to our parents just as Alice has “distant children”. As we considered this new normal for Alice, we recognized the unique position and opportunity God had given to us. We could be Alice’s “nearby family”. What a blessing for us! Doris would provide a few meals during the week and call her regularly and I took on the responsibility to take out the trash, change the occasional light bulb and do other helpful things around the house. Alice is a regular at holiday meals and special events. She is part of our Life Group and helps us with various neighborhood ministries. We take pictures of these times and send them to her kids. Our kids and grandkids all recognize Alice as one of the family. On one occasion, our three-year-old grandson was scrolling through pictures on my wife’s phone when he came across one particular picture and loudly exclaimed “Alice”. Yes, it’s official when the grandkids recognize her and give her hugs as greetings… she is, indeed, part of the family.
A time for reflection:
Cal has gone on to his heavenly home while Jim and Doris and Alice continue to carry on the earthly work down here of loving their neighbors. Soon after I received Jim’s story, he sent me the following in a text: “By the way, Alice is coming over this afternoon to help Doris make enchiladas…we do dinner for Neighbors on Tuesdays (mostly young families, both parents working with little kids) …I’m calling it “TN3 (Tuesday Night Neighbor Night). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Christian neighbors from all over the country began to team together in neighborhoods to love their neighbors like these two couples have? Do you know Christian neighbors in your neighborhood? If yes, what would it look like if you began to open your homes to one another and develop meaningful relationships with one another with a vision to love your neighbors? May the Lord bring about a similar story as Jim and Doris’ with your neighbors.
(I was born in Northern California, raised in Southern California, and live in Central California. After graduating from Humboldt State University, I got a teaching position in Fresno, California. I met my wife and raised our family of four children, which has now grown to 19, including spouses and nine grandchildren. I have been an educator for over 40 years. In that time, I have taught junior high and high school, been a district administrator and currently hold a part-time faculty position at Fresno State University. My specific subject area of expertise is History-Social Science and curriculums development. In addition, I also teach an online course for social science teachers at Fresno Pacific University. I was raised in a Christian home, but it was in college that the faith I grew up with became personal. I was discipled through the Navigator ministry and took that training and discipline into the local church. I have continued in ministry both in my church, in my community, and in my neighborhood. I am currently serving as an elder, co-leading a community Love Our Neighbor gathering, and directly ministering in my neighborhood. God sent Jesus and Jesus has sent us… enjoy the journey. — Jim Lloyd.)