Next door, but far, far away

imagesThis last weekend, my wife, Marti, attended the baby shower for our daughter-in-law, Elizabeth; we are about to become grandparents for the first time. For one of her gifts, Marti wrote a fairy tale, The Pigeon with the Ruby Collar, in honor of the baby to be born, Jocelyn Anne. When talking about what I might use for the Catch this weekend, we thought of sharing the story with you. So the daily Catches this week will be related to the story, but will not require you to know the story to understand them.


The Pigeon with the Ruby Collar is the story of a young princess, named after our awaited granddaughter, Princess Jocelyn Anne, and her childhood friend, a young prince, who lived in a neighboring castle, home to another kingdom. The story begins with their precocious play as children in Jocelyn Anne’s castle where they “played together every day chasing through the formal gardens and making mud pies behind the graceful fountains, and every night we played hide and seek among the endless passages and columns and curtains and tapestries.”

“When it was time for the court to disperse, Princess Jocelyn Anne went to her room in the Castle’s tower, and I went home to mine, which was next door but far, far away.”

When I asked Marti how it was possible that the prince’s home could be “next door but far, far away,” she explained that that’s the way is was in those times when castles were kingdoms. There might not be anything but miles and miles of woods and countryside between castles which would make them “next door neighbors,” though far, far away.

It immediately occurred to me how our lives today can be “next door, but far, far away.” We live in close proximity to scores of people whom we pass everyday as we live and work, and yet, in many ways, we might as well be far, far away. It’s the nature of our times and our communities. Our houses are built close together but in such a way as to isolate us from each other. We don’t share much. Each of us has to have everything. When was the last time you borrowed something from your neighbor? Or when was the last time you had a conversation over the backyard fence? How much do you know about your neighbor, or even co-worker? Do you know about their fears and insecurities? Do they know about yours? If you’re anything like me, these relationships are only on the surface — barely skin deep.

The effectiveness of the presence of God in our lives will go only as deep as our relationships. No one is going to see Christ in our lives by waving from the car. The Bible says that Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). That’s not just our hope; that’s everyone’s hope. Peter says our opportunity to introduce people to Christ will come as they observe and wonder about the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15). How will anyone see or acknowledge the hope that lies within if we don’t get inside each other somehow. You’ve got to see far enough in to see the hope.

In Marti’s story, the princess and her princely friend will carry on their long distance relationship via carrier pigeon. Let’s face it: We have long distance relationships with our neighbors. What will we use to go deeper?

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6 Responses to Next door, but far, far away

  1. Lisa in Sunland says:

    Oh man, you got me again. Yes, I’m guilty of not knowing my neighbors. I think about block parties, but never take action. I guess it’s time to get acquainted with Jerusalem! Thanks, as always.

  2. David Morgereth says:

    Billy Crockett’s “41 Lawn-Mowers” describes it well…

    Find a good old neighborhood
    A square block of the USA
    Stake your claim
    Claim your space
    Sink your roots and live your days

    Build a fence, close it in
    raise a lawn and grow some kids
    Make a name. Name your friends
    And that’s the American way to live

    41 houses, only 1 street
    41 yards, 82 trees
    41 mowers all sitting in sheds
    41 families in over their heads
    and everybody’s got their own everything

    from the Bronx to Hollywood
    Montreal to Mexico
    The fever grows
    Go for gold
    Gain the world and lose your soul

    Push and shove
    don’t look back
    Absolute success attack
    Insulate
    Cul-de-sac
    Prove the universe of fact

    41 houses, only 1 street
    41 yards, 82 trees
    41 mowers all sitting in sheds
    41 families in over their heads
    41 tables for 41 meals
    41 hundred automobiles
    and everybody’s got their own…

  3. Bridget Clay says:

    What a beautiful story!! Your grandchild is already such a blessed soul with grandparents like you. As I was reading, conviction hit again and I thought about the 6 foot fence that surrounds my backyard but not my front yard. Looks like I need to get a stepstool for the back and go out front and meet my neighbors even if I have to knock on the door and “borrow some sugar” :).

  4. John, i just got your direct mail today 8-15-16
    and likewise always held this sentiment. The collective children of any neighborhood behoove us to connect (the adults) imagine living in a highrise….”The power is people”

    -Mr. B

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