Within the past few years, I’ve heard numerous sermons defining “neighbor” in the “love your neighbor” commandment.  These recent sermons have taken my close-to-home definition and expanded it to a global level, which is a definition I’d rather not have known.

Not that I was doing a great job of loving my neighbors in the apartments around mine (or now the houses around mine), but the commandment, with its new definition, ignited fear within me.  To be terrified of flying and to think that I now needed to somehow force myself to go to Africa to fulfill this commandment made me feel like a failure.  A role I’m not comfortable with.

I also strapped on to this new “neighbor” definition a requirement, in my mind, that I needed to build houses or somehow meet my neighbors’ physical needs in order to love them well.  Not being even the slightest bit skilled in carpentry or masonry, I again felt like a failure, knowing that there was no way I could build houses for these people out of anything more than Legos (and even that may be stretching it).

So to rid myself of those self-defeating thoughts, I went back to what I know:  I know how to listen well. 

On numerous occasions, I’ve been sought out by people I’ve barely met so that they could share their deepest, darkest secrets with me.  I guess I come across as a “safe” person.  And I’ve tried to use this in my job to help people feel like they’ve been heard.  Like what they say matters, even if in the end it doesn’t change their overall situation.

How many people walk around frustrated because they don’t feel heard?  I think the millions of blogs in cyberspace give us an indication that the number is tremendous.  People want their voice to be heard, even if it’s just a random person stopping by to read what’s on their minds.  

Just as Michelle mentioned, I’ve got to get to know people before I can love them well.  For me, I think listening is the first step.  I need to be willing to pay attention to those who aren’t given the time of day.  I need to be willing to stop what I’m doing and lend an ear, even when no one else wants to.  Especially when no one else wants to.

Maybe this is very elementary, but I think that one way I can love my neighbor is by listening.  Now it’s just a matter of being intentional about it.


Julie threw her overstuffed duffel bag on the bed in her stateroom. So far this vacation was shaping up to be a crummy one. They’d waited in a line for over an hour to get onboard the ship. Halfway through the line, her flip flop fell apart, leaving her to hobble through the line, feeling the eyes of everyone watch her awkward procession, especially the cute guy in the cargo shorts a few spots back. Once on the boat she realized that she’d forgotten to put her motion sickness patch on in advance, and the imperceptible waves beneath her feet were doing a number on her stomach. At this point Julie was ready to write an angry letter to the family therapist that had recommended her newly-blended family take this cruise so they could bond as a family unit. (more…)

Sorry to preface…but this is written as a radio/journalism piece…fictional, of course.

“Hold on, Maria!” Around and around she swings gripping her mother’s hands as tightly as she can. Finally, her mother is as tired as her young daughter and they both fall to the forest floor in a heap looking up at the canopy of trees above them. Maria feels the corners of her mouth beginning to curl into a smile as she lies safely next to her mother. She is happy.

This is the recurring dream of Maria Anna Zapata Cortes. It is a memory of long ago and now it only seems to haunt her. She would almost rather not have these dreams. Being so real and so full of emotion, Maria sees them as a form of trickery. She knows full well that today will be like all the others and the rooftop she calls home will be here to welcome her upon her return. (more…)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1-2

The captain eased the bow into the harbor and finally brought the ship to a rest. A feeling of excitement and restlessness crept into the air as passengers readied themselves to disembark.

In Cabin 404A, a young mom, who was away from her eight month old daughter for the first time, sat on her bed, indecisive. Her best friend had convinced her they needed to come on this cruise for some mandatory rest and relaxation, but so far she had spent the entire time worrying about her family and feeling guilty for being so selfish to come. While she was excited about the idea of exploring this new port, the burden of guilt weighed on her too heavily to go out. She decided to stay on the ship this time, and maybe get off at the next port if she was able to connect with her husband to see how things were going… (more…)

As she relaxed in the swing on her back porch, listening to the sounds of the Texas summer night, Hannah didn’t seem to notice the humidity or the numerous mosquitoes swarming around her exposed skin. Any other night, they would have forced her back inside the house. But tonight, her mind was in a faraway place, re-living each moment that she’d been through during the prior months.

She could hardly believe that almost three months had already passed. It didn’t seem possible. Time prior to that seemed to crawl by, and she hated every minute.

She had found herself in a place she never thought she’d be. A seven-year marriage in which each anniversary seemed to mark off another year of confinement and move her one day closer to her release date. Or so she thought. (more…)

At home she played her part well, but this cruise threw her for a loop. She wasn’t quite sure of her role here. She didn’t have to worry if dinner would please him or if the towels were hung just so, but there were a whole new set of traps. She spent most of her days looking down, so she couldn’t be accused of looking at anther man – even on accident. She wasn’t sure how to dress. Too modest and he would complain and be embarrassed of her, too revealing and he would call her a slut or worse. That is easy enough at home, but on a cruise everyone wears tank tops and bikinis. Most of her wardrobe consisted of things to hide bruises, but there would be no hiding here. (more…)

I was about ten years old when Granny invited me to spend two weeks of the summer with her. My brothers weren’t invited, nor my parents, just me. Given the throng of our cousins and large family that typically gathered at the South Texas ranch, to be there by myself and have Granny’s undivided attention was a real treat.

I’m sure we ate beans and tortillas every meal, I really don’t remember. But I would remember if it had been something different, as that’s the only meal Granny seemed to serve, period. And we all loved it. I especially loved the tortillas… big surprise. (more…)

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