The Exchange

A Simple Question

Yesterday, we went to the home of one of our neighbors for a birthday party. Their sweet first-born was turning 7 and we were honored to celebrate with them. There was cake and ice cream and birthday salutations; Sesame Street and toys in the background. The children played and the adults chatted about politics, weather, and occupations. 

Then, from what seemed out of the blue, one of my neighbors asked me what our son’s full name was. This isn’t a common question but I naturally articulated each syllable: Dominic Truth Parker. I smiled believing my job to be done. Then the follow up questions came: “Why Truth? What does that stand for?” I have lost count over the number of times I have proudly offered this unsolicited information to others explaining how and why we had named our child in such an untraditional fashion. It’s rather well-rehearsed at this point.

This was the first time, however, I had been asked to explain his middle name in “mixed faith” company. I stood in a room with a handful of adults with whom I was very unsure of their beliefs or what they even thought about Jesus. In an instant, my heart was racing. I took a deep breath and began, “We always want Dominic to know the truth. We live in a society where truth is so vague…” My words were familiar but felt so tentative! One gentleman piped in with a chuckle, “Do you want him to become a judge or something?” I stuttered and hem-hawed through my next few words and then, “We chose John 14:6 for Dominic’s life verse. It says, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No..” And then the woman who began the conversations kindly said, “Yeah, yeah. I know what you're talking about,” as if she was aware of where this conversation might lead. 

As quickly as it had begun, the conversation had shifted onto other things and I wasn’t sure what was heard or not. Or if it had made any kind of difference. On the outside at least. On the inside of me, surrounded by balloons and cookies and cake and paper cups, and festive smiles, something shifted inside of me. “This is it,” I thought. “This is where my faith that I say is so important to me on the inside becomes more outwardly evident.” 

A PAckage of Raw Cookie Dough

My husband and I moved into our neighborhood 10 months ago. During this time we have made friends, hosted a few events, and even did our best to encourage a community of thankfulness in November by putting up a Thankful Tree in our yard. It has been very important to us to get to know our neighbors, but there has to be more. These events are gateways to conversations. Those conversations are pathways to relationships. Those relationships can forge deep friendships. Friendships weather life. And death. And plumbing issues. And go to birthday parties. And say yes to candy cane hunts on Christmas eve although your schedule is already so full but, because you know it will make a much desired connection, you say “yes”. And...I hope with all my heart, these friendships are a constant pointing to the very reason for the hope we have: Jesus Christ. 

But make sure that in your hearts you honor Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect.
— 1 Peter 3:15 NIRV

Another one of our neighbor’s shared with us at the birthday party that her dad had passed away at the beginning of December. We were aware that he wasn’t doing well but, somewhere in all the holidays, we failed to knock on her door even once to check on her or see how her dad was doing. When she told me of his passing, my heart sunk as I realized we weren’t there for our neighbor when she needed love and support and perhaps, the joy of our three children, to brighten her weary holiday season. LIFE got in the way. Ironically, we had planned to knock on her door in December and bring her cookies. Instead, I nibbled the raw cookie dough square by square until it was gone. I can’t fix the past, but I can change my today. We will buy fresh cookie dough and we will bake cookies, and draw pictures, and write notes and will deliver them with our deepest sympathy. We will grow our friendship with this precious woman whose grief is still so fresh. 

The Exchange

Change is good. Especially when my current state of living is primed for stagnation. Change causes me to leave behind the romantic notions of my son’s middle name and own the powerful Spirit-led prayers that inspired and compelled us to give our son such a name in the first place. Change, the life-altering transformation that comes through relationship with Jesus Christ, is what I want. I want to be a light that shines brightly in church atriums and in small living rooms amidst paper cups and frosting. Change means cookies delivered and not just good intentions. It means a Bible opened more frequently than Sunday morning. It means the constant struggle with scripture and life and trusting that the Holy Spirit will reconcile the parts that our minds struggle to balance. It means loving my neighbor enough to reflect Christ whether the response back is: “Tell me more.” or “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.”

Father,

May this be the year. The one where we exchange our heartfelt words for heartfelt actions. Open our eyes to see the many ways we can demonstrate your love to those with whom we daily come in contact. This is the year we will slow our pace and strain our eyes and ears to see the ways right in front of us that we can mirror your love to others.

Amen

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
— Isaiah 61:1-3