Clanging Cymbal

November 2, 2009 | 25 comments

Love thy neighbor, Jesus says. And I think that I do.

But in this racing world, have I slowed enough to really love my neighbor?

Each day, I watch real-life neighbors zip down the highway in a blur of steel beyond the alfalfa field. I wave to them, and consider my effortless gesture an act of love.

In this place where a dusty country lane meets blacktop, our paths intersect, but our lives don’t — not really anyhow. For I am too hurried to love my neighbors as Christ taught.

I glance across cornfields, and see a woman sitting on her back step alone.

Love her? Too busy.

For years, I watched another neighbor shuffle by every day, kicking gravel down the shoulder, head down, eyes to the ditches. Alone.

Love him? Too risky.

(He died earlier this year, so I never found out what the investment would have returned.)

Instead of loving my neighbor, I retreat behind walls, and find ways to give only risk-free love — the kind I can give on my terms, on my own time with little chance of rejection.

Easy love, this love. It’s the kind of love I can send in a sealed envelope or over the information superhighway. I can put a stamp on it, hit “send,” then walk away. And somehow I think I’ve loved thy neighbor as thyself.

“Get well soon! We’re praying!” and we sign our names “with love.” That’s a cinch.

I write a check for a hungry child in Brazil, and stick a stamp in the corner of the envelope, and send it in the name of Jesus Christ. Easy love, this love. We’ve budgeted for this. Where’s the sacrifice?

I tap words on a keyboard, speak the language of God-love here in a little corner of the Web with minimal face-to-face accountability. But if I don’t give love away in my own neighborhood, I’m no better than a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal, am I? I’d just be a woman tapping out words of hope along a superhighway — but living like a noisy gong along the Iowa asphalt of my everyday.

“So, no matter what I say,
what I believe,
and what I do,
I’m bankrupt without love.”
— From 1 Corinthians (The Message)

And then, every once in a while, love goes marching by our living-room window. And we have a chance to put this grace we preach into action.


That’s how it happened this fall for our family friend, Bob. High-risk love showed up on the sidewalk of his middle-class, middle-America, middle-aged world in white-bread Iowa. And it wasn’t packaged neatly in the way — or place — that Bob had expected. He had a choice to make.

It started with a mission trip to Mexico, where Bob heard God’s call to minister to a Latino family when he returned to Iowa.

“I came home, and I was praying and looking for that family,” said Bob, a pastor in a nearby town. “I talked to a Hispanic pastor looking for that family. I would go the trailer park, looking for that family.”

Meanwhile, a man named Juan had begun strolling past Bob’s house. “I’d wonder what he was doing out there in my neighborhood.”

And then one day, God’s nudge became a shove: “You need to meet that guy.”

And so Bob did. He stopped, talked a while. They exchanged phone numbers. Turns out, Juan didn’t live in the trailer park; he lived just down the street.

Hispanic Juan and corn-fed Iowan Bob are neighbors in a middle-class neighborhood in America.

“I’d been looking in the trailer park for a Hispanic family, and God had been parading Juan right past my house,” Bob said. “This has been a spiritual marker for me. I mean, here I thought that Juan probably lives in the trailer park; that was my posture.* … If I think that Hispanics can’t live in my neighborhood, do I really love them? Do I really want their feet under my table?”

As it turns out, Bob really does want brown-skinned feet and Spanish accents coloring his kitchen. He and his wife are investing real love — sacrificial love — into people who can’t be checked off a list with a Hallmark card.

They invited Juan’s family over for Sunday dinner.


And, this morning, I consider love.

I look down the driveway, and God has sent another sunrise over the cornfield-carpeted crust of the Earth. In the quiet, across the field, I hear a screen door open then shut against a wooden frame. The neighbors are awake.

I spin dizzy on the axis of another day. Will I love easy today? Or will I love with ferocious, risky love expecting nothing in return?

Today, I will love with Kingdom Love.

On this day, I will step off the well-worn path back to my walled retreat. I will step into gusty love that demands more of me.

Who knows what might happen if — on this day — I love my neighbor as myself?

I might just find that my companions on the journey Home are pilgrims whom God has been parading right under my nose every single day.


Posture: The term comes from a chapter in a book that our friend Bob has been reading: The Tangible Kingdom. The book challenges the Body of Christ to live missionally in the kingdom. The authors suggest that we often don’t develop our muscles of mission, but focus on growth in head knowledge and theological doctrines. The authors challenge us to think missionally, to truly follow Christ — right here in our own communities. In this video from the authors, “a normal God-searching man finds hope as he sees a glimpse of the Kingdom in a community of friends, around a table, and everywhere he goes.” Source: The Tangible Kingdom.

Street image from stock.xchng. Sunrise image from my front yard this morning.

by | November 2, 2009 | 25 comments


  1. Kristine

    Thank you for the excellent reminder that love needs to have action behind it.

  2. Doug Spurling

    Thank you.This echoes what I've been hearing from Jesus lately

    For God so loved…He gave. For us to so love we too must give. And this love is spelled, t-i-m-e.

  3. christy rose

    Excellent reminder for us all! It is only as we receive this kind of love from our heavenly Father that we will be full enough and overflow it into other people's lives without hesitation.

  4. A Simple Country Girl

    Everything I read yesterday spoke of this very topic. And to find it here this morning… God must be tapping me on the shoulder.

    Even in this place of newness and disarray, I am commanded to love.

  5. Cherie

    Missed opportunities to love on people are some of my life's greatest regrets. But that's the great thing about God, He just keeps giving us more chances and more people to love. Sometimes I think I don't want to offer "risky" love because I wonder if I can possibly do it right. Last night we were reminded in church that Christ isn't looking for people to risk it all and take up what He's put on our hearts to do perfectly. He already did the perfect part. I love that thought.

    I love this quote from Bob (of course I love most Bob quotes 🙂 "I'd been looking in the trailer park for a Hispanic family, and God had been parading Juan right past my house,"

    Thanks for the challenge. It was reaffirming what I heard God saying last night. I'm going to risk it today too!!

  6. Chuck Allen

    Wow. Great post. I love the phrase "risk-free love." I am so guilty of that and plan to start using that phrase as a challenge.

  7. Jackie

    Thank you for sharing this post.

    What spoke to my heart were your thoughts on "risk free" and "easy love".

    Oh how easy it is to fall into those confining places of holding everyone at bay and only releasing "love" with no strings attached……easy and risk free!

    The Holy Spirit is confirming through your ponderings what He's been speaking to my heart – We are always to be instruments of His abundant Grace, Mercy and Love! That's what He's so miraculously given to me and "that's" what I am to be to others! Thanks for the reminder.

    Sweet Blessings!

  8. Deborah Ann

    You have just encouraged me to do a few acts of kindness today. Something I've been putting off for a while.

    Thank you!

  9. Joye @ The Joyeful Journey

    Why do we think love should be so easy? This was such a beautifully written wake-up call to love as Jesus loved! Oh how I need less of me and more of Him!

  10. Fridaydreamer

    Such an important reminder Jennifer! All the love we spread is important, even the easy kind, but the easy kind is never enough. You're right, we need to FOLLOW Jesus where HE goes!

  11. steph

    Boy, I feel convicted now. Not that I hadn't already been feeling convicted. Been feeling like I need to do something more with my neighbors but I am afraid to take that step of faith. I stay within my walls feeling safe and secure.

    Thanks for giving me the nudge and reminding me this is something I need to do. If you don't how will they know of the love God has to give? Stephanie

  12. Bina @ Bina's Pad

    …arrow meet target. Target, here is your arrow.

    Wow is all I can say today as I stagger a bit in my own thoughts…

    Something special for you at my blog today…I am sure a ton have been thrown your way, but I give it with a sincerely huge THANK YOU and a warm California hug.

    🙂 Bina

  13. Billy Coffey

    This was a tough post for me to read, Jennifer. It dug down deep into me with conviction. I needed this, I truly did.

  14. bluecottonmemory

    Don and Katie Fortune have a great book, "Discover Your Spiritual Gifts." It discusses how our gifts affect our works. Some send letters, some gifts, some might come clean,some are communicators, some show empathy, and so much more. You make a good point, that regardless of our gifts, we need to shower those gifts on other people in a real alive way! What a wonderful post of accountability!

    I have an award for you over at my blog. The award is meant to encoruage your honest values and ideas and how you implement, live those ideas out in your life!

  15. Amber

    Praise God for this!!! It makes me remember a time when I was a very un-lovely neighbor. 🙁

  16. katdish

    I read the Tangible Kingdom last year. I agree with you. Some are called to parts far away, but most of us need not look any further than our neighborhood, or even our own households. Thanks, Jennifer. Great, as always.

  17. ~*Michelle*~

    This was so beautiful….what a great reminder to us all to "walk the Walk, rather than talk the talk"

  18. Pfeiffer Photos

    You made me cry again. Thank you.

  19. Traci Michele

    A beautiful . . . we need to seek Him first, and then we will catch a glimpse of my perfect Savior's compassion for those around me.

    Oh how very selfish I can be!

    Thanks for sharing!


    Come check out my gratitude list when you have a chance 🙂

  20. Laura


    Convicted. When I read this:

    It's the kind of love I can send in a sealed envelope or over the information superhighway. I can put a stamp on it, hit "send," then walk away.

    I thought, I always put smileys on mine 🙂

    Thanks for challenging me to show real love today, Jennifer. Now I'm just waiting to see where it finds me.

  21. Runner Mom

    What a great post, sweet friend! Kingdom love that requires no stamp or enter button. Love this!!


  22. Shirley

    Wow! A lot to take in! A lot to think about! A lot that I know needs my attention in my life! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Aimee

    love your encouraging and inspiring blog…i get chillbumps reading your posts and am so glad to have found you!

  24. KEE

    Once again you have hit the nail on the head so to speak.

    I love that you are honest and straight forward in your posts.

    I'm convicted after reading this post. I have walls up and let few people in. My close friends are those I have had for over ten years.
    I've closed my heart to so many who needs love and friendship.

    I heard someone say the other day that a true friend is walking in when everyone else is walking out on you.

    I'm going to take down the walls, with Gods help, and start loving people as God loves me.

  25. Elizabeth

    Well…I'm never quite sure what to think after I've had to implement a spiritual challenge. Thanks, I guess? Your post gave a friend (you know which one) and I the extra boost we needed to get our butts in gear and carry out the things we've been convicted of the past several days. Hope you're doing the same and seeing Him work in mighty ways!


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