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Love thy airplane neighbor

Love thy airplane neighbor

Since long before TSA sucked all the fun out of air travel, airplanes have been my favorite form of commute.  My favorite thing about flying? Naps. There’s no TV, no dirty dishes, nothing to distract you or demand your attention.

Unless you get seated next to a talker. Nothing ruins a good nap like a talker. I’ve even had someone try to sell me insurance on a flight!

On my last trip, I had a very frustrating day of travel. One flight left late, the connecting flight left early, and I was stuck in the airport waiting for the next available flight. I was hot, tired, frustrated, and hungry. The last thing I wanted was a “cattle car” experience to finish the trip. So I forked out the nominal fee and sprung for a First Class upgrade, hoping it would increase my odds of being seated alone or with someone who didn’t feel the need to share their life story.

The plane boarded and at first it looked like my hopes would be realized. My neighbor sat down with earbuds in and didn’t even make eye contact. I settled in with my book and prepared for a quiet trip home.

Then it was time to “turn off all electrical devices.” Out the earbuds came, and he dove into a two-hour long monologue about his childhood, marriage, career… As I listened to him talk, I couldn’t help think that I was being cheated out of my highly anticipated quiet time.

Commence guilt.

I recently finished a Bible study which included a brief discussion on the author’s view that airplane neighbors are divine appointments, God-ordained opportunities to share the Gospel to a captive audience. I appreciated her perspective, but decided that wasn’t for me. Plane time is my nap time.

Throughout the flight, that idea rolled around in my head, refusing to leave. Still, I said nothing. Partly that was because I didn’t know if I could get a word in edgewise. But also, I am shamefully out of practice when it comes to telling a complete stranger the Good News.

Finally we arrived at our destination and began to deplane. He started to leave and I said, “I really enjoyed talking to you. Every night, I like to pray for people I meet, is there something I could pray for you about today?”

And sure enough, after telling me all the wonderful things about his life, suddenly he confessed that there was an area that wasn’t as good as he originally presented it, and asked for prayer. We said goodbye and left.

It wasn’t the Roman Road, but I did pray for him that night, for his situation and the hope that someone taking an interest in him and offering to pray for him planted a seed that others would water.

Maybe next time I’ll be a little slower to curl up for my nap.

Building Relationships

Building Relationships

Cold call evangelism is valuable, and every Christian should know how to do it, but most of us don’t practice it very often. Why? Maybe it’s because we are super-spiritual and deeply concerned about leaving spiritual babies in our wake with no one to care for and nurture them.

Maybe. Probably not.

The truth is more likely that it just makes us uncomfortable. We don’t love to open the front door to white shirts, dark neckties, and bicycle helmets, so we try not to portray that image to other people.

We know deep down, even as we waste time staring into backlit screens, that life is about real relationships, namely our relationship with God and our relationships with others.  We know from experience that the Gospel is easier to believe and take hold of when introduced by a trusted friend.   So, how do we move past initial, superficial connections and build relationships that will bear the weight of God’s Truth when it comes time to share it? Here are some suggestions for you and your family.

1.     Choose your stomping grounds.  Become faithful patrons of one grocery store, one hair salon, one bank, one gym, one coffee shop, one department store, one restaurant, etc.  Get to know the people there.  Find those who seem receptive to your friendship and frequent their check-out line, their barber chair, their booth, their table, etc.

2.     Build margin into your schedule. As often as possible, arrive early to your destination and plan to stay later than you must so that you can engage more people in potentially meaningful conversation and build relationships.

3.     Invest intentionally. Look for ways to be of help. When you discover a need, do your best to meet that need. Give of your time, your energy, and your resources.

4.     Pray. Pray for your new friends and tell them that you pray for them.  Few will object, and most will begin to bring prayer requests to you, opening the door for spiritual conversation.  Offer to pray with them when they seem receptive.

In short, live out the gospel you profess by taking the time and making the effort to show love to the people around you.  Then, when Jesus knocks at the door of their hearts, they will be more likely to invite Him in.