October 2, 2014

Neighboring and Community

We have been in our home now almost 2 weeks and are starting to feel somewhat settled in (although we still have a ways to go!).  One of the things we want to do is really connect with our neighborhood and our community here.  We want to try to find ways to be intentional about getting to know our neighbors and getting involved in what's around us. 

In fact, when we started house hunting we also started reading a book/Bible Study together called The Art of Neighboring:Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door.  I really liked this book--I felt like it was practical and also gave some good theoretical information.  I've read a lot of books this year (like 74) and I am planning on reviewing some of them at the end of this year when I post my list, but I wanted to go ahead and share some of my favorite things from this book today as we enter into this season of getting to know our neighbors.

The book is written by two pastors about their experiences with getting to know their neighbors and encouraging their congregations to do the same.  One of the opening chapters talks about how 20 local pastors met to dream and pray about their city and how their churches could join together to serve the community.  They invited the mayor to join them and asked him how the church can best work together to serve the city.  His answer was somewhere in the ballpark of the idea that most issues in the community could be worked on if they became a community of great neighbors--when people identify problems the best solution is to build relationships with neighbors and care for one another and that "fixes" more problems than government programs can.  The author then goes on to talk about how basically the mayor was asking them to follow the Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.  

And then they go on to give practical ways to do that (and they have some resources listed on their website too!).  Such as creating a block map--writing out the neighbors you know and what information you know about them and then making a goal to meet new acquaintances and take acquaintances one step further and learn more about them.  Or finding people in your neighborhood who have different strengths and partnering with them for outreach.  Or allowing your neighbors to share in your burdens by asking them for help with things instead of just seeing them as "projects" or people who need to know Jesus.  They talk a lot about block parties and dinners and ways to know people.  Which sadly is something that is missing in a lot of our neighborhoods today--we really don't know our neighbors.  And after living in apartments for the last 10 years, I want to make my first experience in a home different

Some of my favorite quotes from the book...

"It's vital to take a step back and ask ourselves if we live at a pace that allows us to be available to those who live around us."

"But I have discovered the value of putting my agenda to the side and allowing others to enter my daily life.  My natural instinct is to do what I want, when I want to, and how I want to.  But I have learned how to create some space in my life to be able to notice others when they are in need."

"When you love God and love other people, deep spiritual things transpire.  You don't need to worry about what will happen when you attempt to become a good neighbor.  You don't need to be anxious about the structure or strategy of what happens.  You just need to be faithful and flexible."
{Uh the flexible part is the one I need lots of work on}

"Real relationships are almost always messy.  But if we're to love people the way Jesus commanded, we need to be willing to push through when things get complicated.  Being a good neighbor isn't something that we can just check off the list.  It has to become a way of life for us, and it is a primary way that God can use us."

"My job was simply to lead the small group, and I didn't feel like loving these other people, at least not now.  As I looked around the room full of strangers, I found that I needed to make a conscious effort to adjust my thinking to accommodate my neighbors.  I needed to stop being selfish and be open to whatever was happening in that moment in my apartment."

That last one hits home for me, because I am really selfish.  And when it comes down to it, I say I want to meet my neighbors, but so much of me would be content to just hole up in my house with my husband and my puppy and just live life how I want to--invite friends over and share with people I want to, but not reach beyond that.  In fact we've had the opportunity recently to minister to a friend going through a rough time and I have had a really hard time lately with letting go of my free nights and my time at home to let others in.  I was just telling my friend Amy yesterday how hard this has been for me, how much I'm having to pray for the Lord to change my heart, and how exhausting it is--but how living life with people is messy.  So that's why I wanted to share this today.  To share what I've been learning and how far I have to go.  

I was also reminded through a blog I read today.  The Nester has started her 31 days of blogging series again where she invites people to pick a topic and blog about it for 31 days throughout October.  And yesterday I was trying to think of something to start a series and I just couldn't, so I decided not to for now.  But one of the blogs I read (Blue Eyed Bride) regularly began her series on 31 days of Breaking Bread and her post today about why she chose this topic (of hospitality and community) was a good reminder for me as she refers to imperfect hospitality and the need for inviting people in, being vulnerable, and living life in community.  I'm looking forward to following along with her!  And I'm looking forward to continuing to settle in to our new neighborhood and seeing what God has in store for us if I'm willing to open my hands to Him.

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