Like a Good Neighbor

When I finally sat down last night to read and write a little, I was overcome with nostalgia. Our Mother’s Day celebration caused some of it but most of it came from our time at the church. The church was filled with others honoring the man’s life.

We knew him as Mr. Jimmy. We lived next door to him and his wife for thirteen years in another small town not far from the one we live in now.

We drove past the old place on our way to the church and the sweet memories filled my mind. The summer gardens. The country roads. The fields and the tractors and the cows.

And Mr. Jimmy.

The visitation line moved slowly. When it was my turn to offer my condolences, I shared a few treasured memories, told his wife and daughters what he meant to us, and explained that our son would be there but he lives far away now.

Our kids spent a lot of time in Mr. Jimmy’s fields; climbing the hay bales, fishing the ponds, digging up bones and old glass bottles. They spent plenty of time in Mr. Jimmy’s barn too. Playing in empty stalls, cuddling kittens and chasing puppies. We didn’t know it until yesterday but on the wall of Mr. Jimmy’s barn is the name of each child that has ever passed through it, including our three. His wife told us Mr. Jimmy wrote their names in black permanent marker.

Anyone could tell Mr. Jimmy loved his place by the way he took care of it. He kept the barn clean and knew where everything was. A dust covered radio played old country or southern gospel music all the time. He enjoyed time on his tractor and ate onions right out of the ground. He chewed on peppermint from his herb garden to ease an upset stomach. He loved to tell a good story, especially the ones about how he used to be but wasn’t anymore. He loved Jesus and gave him all the credit for anything good in his life. He’d come to the house for a short visit and sit on the same side of the love seat every time. What we all remember most about Mr. Jimmy was his kindness, generosity and a willingness to go above and beyond.

Usually a verse I’ve read is rolling around in my head and I share it for Monday School. But today, it wasn’t a verse I was thinking about. I was thinking about Mr. Jimmy and what he meant to so many people.

Mr. Jimmy was a good neighbor. The kind Jesus talked about in the Gospels. The kind James wrote about in his epistle. And everyone was Mr. Jimmy’s neighbor.

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.    James 2:8

Are We Missing It?

I’m barely getting this Monday School posted today but this has been rolling around in my head since day 4 of my Advent devotional and I wanted to share my thoughts. For more information on Monday School go here.

The Bible reading for day 4 was Matthew 25:31-46. I never thought of the passage as one for Advent, but the devotional did what was intended. It caused me to think over and over again about what Jesus said when telling of his next coming.

“….the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Then to the others he says “Away with you…..for I was hungry and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink……”

The didn’ts go on and on. You didn’t invite me. You didn’t clothe me. You didn’t visit me. Then the ones that didn’t……..ask the Lord, “When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?”

Don’t miss this! The ones that were feeding and caring and helping did not realize they were doing it for the King, and the others…the ones that were not feeding or caring or helping, wondered when they had ever seen him hungry or naked or sick and not helped him.

Are we missing it too? Do we see the hungry and thirsty ones? Are we like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, on our way to serve God, yet ignoring the needy ones near us? Do we rush to our scheduled times of serving and miss the least of these living in our own neighborhoods? Are we so tired from our structured self-righteousness that we miss the opportunity to care for a co-worker? Are our calendars crammed so full of religious responsibilities we can’t give our full attention to the people God gave us in our families?

Jesus made it clear that those who do a lot of good things in His name do not necessarily know Him.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you……”
        Matthew 7:21-23  

Father, forgive us for missing it. Forgive us for choosing the checklist of religious activities over seeking You wholeheartedly. Help us see Father, then help us love.

 

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

 

Help

We’ve been at this “Live Like it Matters Challenge” for several weeks now. I hope you’re more aware of those around you and realize how the smallest choices we make toward others can make the biggest impact.

My wish is that the challenges I issue become the way we relate and interact with those around us on a daily basis. Are you saying hello to strangers? Thanking those you appreciate? Have you stopped the negativity?  Keep practicing. It takes time to make new habits.

Today, my challenge is more broad than the others. The challenge is to be helpful. Wherever you are, to whoever needs help.

Take the grocery cart back to the cart corral for someone who just finished unloading their groceries. Help a mom with the baby stroller. Hold the door open for the person behind you.

There are a million different ways to help. Just look around. Is your neighbor’s trash container still at the road three days after the trash has been picked up? Put it back where it goes for him. Is your co-worker still struggling to finish a project for the boss? Ask if you can do anything for her.

In the rural area where I live, help may look like wrangling a loosed cow. In the city, you may share a taxi or even give your taxi up for someone that’s in more of hurry than you are. Help can be as simple as being extra kind to the teenager who’s in-training at the register. The customers ahead of you have huffed at her slow pace but she’s doing her best. Your patience and kindness toward her can change the attitude of the customers behind you.

My girls helped their grandparents put up Christmas decorations.
My girls helped their grandparents put up Christmas decorations.

Offer to pick up the dry cleaning for your dad. Sit by someone who’s sitting alone. Pick up the trash on the floor that everyone else has walked over.

This week, look for ways you can help and then do it. The simple act of helping can make a profound difference for someone.

Live like it matters.

Remember to do good and help each other. Gifts like this please God.  Hebrews 13:16  NLV

 

In response to the Daily Post’s Prompt Help.

Neighbors 

Even though it was beautiful outside, I had planned to work on our taxes when I got home. I’d rather do anything else but the deadline is nearing.

I’d decided to do leftovers for dinner. There was plenty of shrimp étouffée left for all of us. I would heat it, add a simple salad and dinner would be served.

Then taxes.

I changed into some comfy clothes as soon as I got home.  Before I got to the kitchen my son asked if we could grill out with the neighbors. They’d asked if we wanted to join them while he was outside earlier.

All kinds of excuses not to join them popped into my head.  Anything we had to grill was frozen. A grocery run would take too long.  I was tired and really didn’t feel neighborly. And the taxes. The taxes need to be done.

My son was persistent. He offered to go to the grocery store and his sisters were just as eager to be with the neighbors for dinner.

I gave in.

The neighbors grilled the meat.  I fixed enough salad for everyone.  Another neighbor brought potato wedges and we all sat on their deck and ate together.  We shared stories, reminisced and laughed as the little ones played.

I’m glad I gave in.  I didn’t know it but this spontaneous dinner with the neighbors turned out to be just what I needed.

The taxes will get done another day.

In response to the Daily Post’s prompt Neighbors.