Rick Gregory, Writer

Translating Messages From Heads To Hearts

Neighboring

 I got to thinking about Deuteronomy 10:18-19, which was part of my daily reading program today. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the stranger by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

 

Yesterday, Sherry and I were sitting on the front porch, after we had finished our walk, and chatting about our neighbors. We have now been prayer-walking our neighborhood for well over 3 years — nearly every evening after dinner, praying for as many of our neighbors by name as we know. We’re asking for God to send His Spirit to each of their homes, and to show Himself to them in ways they don’t expect — but can recognize as uniquely from Him. Seeing a couple of them walk by with their dogs, as we waved and they waved back, Sherry commented that “we’re so buttoned up in this neighborhood.” And it’s true. Most people will wave when we see them, but it’s rare to have a wave and a smile move to a conversation that goes beyond niceties, weather, dogs, etc.

What might it look like to have open communication with them? What would it take to have them open up to talk about things beyond the niceties of polite conversations? What would it take to allow our house to become the “safe house” in the neighborhood? As we discussed this, it became readily apparent that our course of action needs to include becoming more vulnerable and available than we’ve been so far. We need to be the first to become “unbuttoned up!” It means we need to stop protecting our rhythms so carefully that we don’t allow time or access for others. Maybe it means that we don’t put the shades down on our windows till after 9pm instead of at 7:30 pm like we’ve often done recently.

Maybe it means that we commit to inviting at least one of our neighbor families to dinner once a week moving forward. One of the things I really like about the Waha/DBS study method is that it builds “one-anothering” into life’s patterns. One of the questions asked is, “what are the needs of your community (your oikos), and how might we help meet those needs?” In a wealthy community like ours, people are often hesitant to ask anyone’s help because they can afford to hire the help — or they simply don’t want to look like they have any needs. Our society and culture are highly individualized and generally leave no room for outside “interference.”

So here’s the real question; how then do we find ways to get past the surface with our wealthy and generally very busy neighbors? We’ve already mentioned having them in for a meal, but what about other ideas? Could we be bold enough to simply ask them what we might pray for them? And then mention that we’ll start some kind of neighborhood potluck or “simple supper,” where everyone is invited, and at which we (either Sherry or I) will tell a Bible story — or use the Waha app and invite discussion? I’m curious about experiences any of you have had in working with wealthy communities? Do you think they’d respond to interaction spurred by a simple phone or iPad app? Or would they more likely respond to the same story told live by someone who’s learned it to the point they can correctly tell it without looking at the Bible? Perhaps like Simply The Story?

Comment if you have any thoughts on this!

2 thoughts on “Neighboring”

  1. Very difficult for me to answer because I don’t live in a wealthy community…. Just kidding. Every community is a wealthy community in Southern California in comparison to the rest of the world. And yes, I agree that we are highly individualized in our current society becoming less interactive with those around us. We have lost (or are losing) our sense of community. It’s a “ME” world out there and the world keeps telling us to be that way in order to achieve OUR happiness…. OUR identity …. OUR way…. So as your question begs, what’s the answer to turning this around? Well I guess we could build a 5 cent advice stand like Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon. People today seem to be ok with paying for advice to fix their problems as opposed to a kind neighbor offering them free advice or even praying for their problems…. Go figure! In addition, I find it funny that most people want God in their life as long as it doesn’t interfere with their happiness and the things “they” want out of life…. Again, go figure. I think the answer lies in the scripture of the persistent widow that we recently discussed. I don’t think there is a “magic formula” to fix this problem. I believe it’s just the day to day of being light and salt in the world.

    For you though, I will use the typical youth group answer every kid used to every question I asked them…. Jesus! He is the only answer to this problem. I always found the things “I” tried to do for Him generally ended up in failure. Maybe, there is NO human answer to fixing this spiritual problem in our world. Maybe we just need to continue being the hands and feet of Jesus even if it takes 3 more years…. Perhaps not the quick fix answer you may be seeking but it may be the only answer….
    Keep doing what you are doing… stay the course… keep your eye on the prize…. You are an inspiration to me to want to do and be more deliberate in being more like Jesus to my neighbors…. Thank you!

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