On a Friday, before the sky fades into a milky shade of gray, the neighborhood kids play tackle football in the side yard while the Man builds a bonfire in the backyard. The girls line the driveway, the grooves of the path marking the lines for their cheering squad, and cheer like it’s their job.

Dust flies as the kids hit the ground. The girls cheer louder and louder and the boys get closer and closer to the flowerbeds. I wince with each tackle.

“Not the flowers, y’all!” I yell. “Seriously, anywhere but the flowers.”

They pause long enough to roll like tumbleweeds onto a patch of clover and I sigh as I look at the trampled bed. Another purple aster has been plucked from the ground and tossed aside like a weed.

I watch them from the porch and snap pictures in my mind and I think the whole filthy lot of them is glorious.

“You guys all staying for hot dogs and marshmallows later?” I call to them. “Thad is building a fire and there will be plenty if you want to stay for dinner.”

They all answer from their places in the yard and I take a mental head count as smoke billows up from behind the fence in the backyard.
And as I rise to prepare the food, I find myself grinning at how wonderful this life really is.

worn soccer ball

I need to let you in on a little secret.

I’ve not always thought this life on Avent street was wonderful. Poverty sucks the life out of the living in my neighborhood. Racism runs deep and wide. Crime is an everyday occurrence. Children are neglected and homes are abandoned.

The kids that now play in my yard once vandalized my house, my car, and my heart. They have urinated on my porch, painted my mailbox, shot pellets at my car, and cussed me out more times than I can count. Because I am spirit living in flesh, there is a constant war within my being: Do I rise up and call out or do I make strides to love my neighbors as myself?

I am learning that hospitality is simply an overflow of a heart fully surrendered to the commandment of Jesus to love your neighbors as yourself.

My neighbors, the kids who trample my grass and throw litter in my yard, are hard to love. They come heavy laden with baggage no one their age should have to carry. They come dirty and tired and angry and hurt. They come hungry for love, for acceptance, and for bread to fill their tummies.

But they come and Jesus is teaching me to seize the moment in their coming.

Some days, loving my neighbor looks an awful lot like kool-aid and oatmeal cream pies on the porch swing. Other days it looks like popcorn and movies on the floor in the family room. A few nights ago, it looked like forty hotdogs, and four bags of marshmallows around the fire pit. Tomorrow, it may look like a warm mug of coffee at the farm table and a long talk with a lonely neighbor from down the street.

Each day looks different than the day before. The people change and the stories shift and needs are magnified, but the heart of Jesus for my neighbors remains the same.

And His commandment stands: Love your neighbors as yourself.
In his book Tattoos on the Heart, Gregory Boyle says this:

I suppose Jesus walks into a room and loves what he finds there. Delights in it, in fact. Maybe, He makes a beeline to the outcasts and chooses, in them, to go where love has not yet arrived. His ways aren’t our ways, but they sure could be.

I think he’s on to something, the bit about Jesus delighting in the presence of the outcasts.

And today, I choose the ways of Jesus and I anticipate my neighbors coming.

And I seize the moment to go where love has not yet arrived.

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Lori Harris / Posts / Blog
Lori Harris is a Southern born, Texas-missing girl, who is rearing her six kids in a neighborhood some would call the ‘hood. She and her bi-vocational husband have planted Fellowship Bible Church Rocky Mount on the wrong side of the railroad tracks where poverty runs deep and racism even deeper. She coordinates a city-wide MOPS group, passes out PBJs to the neighborhood kids, and brews coffee just to make the house smell like Jesus. She writes at loriharris.me.
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    Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org/

    Once again, your post challenges me, Lori. My day-to-day is so far from yours, yet I know in my heart that it should be more like yours. Today, I pray that my heart seeks out those who might otherwise be overlooked. bless you!

    January 19th, 2015 12:19
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      Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      I’m so grateful this snippet of my everyday met you today. Praying with you as you see your own world with new eyes!

      January 19th, 2015 16:59
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    Traci Rhoades
    http://www.tracesoffaith.com/

    Lori, God actively works in your life and your neighborhood. I read this in every word you write. The Gregory Boyle quote will have me thinking for some time. Thanks! PS The soccer ball picture is awesome!

    January 19th, 2015 13:42
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      Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      Traci~ I love Father Boyle. Have you read Tattoos on the Heart? It’s one I continually return to. And I agree about the soccer ball picture- I think Kris is responsible for that little piece of beauty.

      January 19th, 2015 17:02
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        Traci Rhoades
        http://www.tracesoffaith.com/

        I have not come across Father Boyle. Looking him up now. Thank you!

        January 19th, 2015 19:04
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    Shelly Miller
    http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

    Love all your stories from you neighborhood Lori. You have me thinking about the differences in engaging hospitality in places where the needs are great and the ways you can invest obvious versus places where people are averse to share their needs with vulnerability. Thanks for sharing your heart about the ways you invest lavishly. I know it isn’t easy but your journey touches more than just the people living in the houses on Avent.

    January 19th, 2015 15:06
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      Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      You’re a faithful encouragement to me, Shelly. Thank you~

      January 19th, 2015 17:00
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    Bri McKoy

    This post was so beautiful, Lori. And inspiring. This line, “Some days, loving my neighbor looks an awful lot like kool-aid and oatmeal cream pies on the porch swing.” It just had me. Thank you for your words and your heart!

    January 19th, 2015 20:30
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      Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      Thanks Bri- grateful you’ve joined our community! I so look forward to getting to know you!

      January 20th, 2015 2:33
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    Karrilee Aggett

    I love you so! I fall in love with you and your heart and those kids and that street everytime I read your words… and then I am challenged to go out and find my own street and pour out hospitality however I can!

    January 19th, 2015 22:13
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      Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      You’re the most hospitable person I know online, Karrilee. All of our streets look different, friend and on your street, you pour out hospitality lavishly! <3

      January 20th, 2015 2:30
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    Lisha Epperson

    So I read this and I think..reciprocity. I believe Avent St has something for you Lori. Something you couldn’t get anywhere else. In this sense your neighbors bring gifts with each exchange. The sweet bonfire ones and the you pee’d on my porch ones. As I continue to read your posts I know you get that. And that makes my heart glad. Love watching the story unfold.

    January 20th, 2015 13:33
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      Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      I’m grateful you see my heart Lisha! Sometimes I wonder if it comes through in these little snippets. I do so love living here. Thank you for giving me the word: reciprocity. That’s exactly it.

      January 22nd, 2015 12:48
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    Kris Camealy
    http://kriscamealy.com/

    Lori, I keep coming back to this post, I have Tattoos On The Heart on my shelf, and frankly, I’ve been afraid to read it–I know it’s going to jostle some things loose in me, and so I have held on to it….but I think now, I am ready to read it–I WANT to love and live like Jesus. You are such a beautiful, real reflection of what that looks like. I am grateful that you are willing to show us how beautiful-painful it can be, and how Christ is bigger than all of our failed attempts to model grace as He does.

    I love you, friend. Thanks for sitting here at this table, for sharing your stories, and loving us well.

    January 20th, 2015 14:11
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      Lori Harris
      http://loriharris.me/

      Read it, Kris. It will be the most difficult book you read all year. And it will be difficult because you cannot read it and not be moved to live differently.
      Can’t wait to see what Jesus jostles loose this year.
      Thank you for making this space the perfect place for stories like mine.
      xo

      January 22nd, 2015 12:50
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