The Turquoise Table

Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard

“The Turquoise Table” (Kristen Schell; Thomas Nelson 2017) is a new book about an old concept that challenges us to gather around the table…with our neighbours…in our front yard!  Pretty simple concept, but perhaps a lost art.  In fact, we may have almost lost our imagination as to how this can be reclaimed.  Many families have gathered around the Thanksgiving table this weekend.  The joy of this picture had once took place everyday…..and sometimes multiple times on one day!  Today, it is a dream for some to be around the table for any given length of time with some of our family.  Imagine the family gathering on a regular basis around the table as they did on Thanksgiving Day throughout the year.  Now imagine your neighbours gathering around the table throughout the year.  These simple acts are transformative for the lives of family members as they are for neighbours and their neighbourhoods!

Whether your table is one colour or another, may we grow in the direction of eating together around the table.  Remember and believe!

 

Open House

Over the past year a number of neighbourhood leaders and business men helped orchestrate a brand new ‘third space’ called the “Good Neighbour CoffeeHouse.”  This business supports initiatives that help neighbours connect and for people to “bloom where they are planted.”  The space features true stories from various neighbourhoods, private tours for neighbouorhoods, and a regular place in which neighbours can bump into each other.  And we would like to invite you to our open house this Saturday, June 17th from 7am – 7pm to celebrate with us.  Ribbon cutting at 1:30pm.  Official book launch for our book, “Neighouring For Life.”  We will be skyping with the farmers who grow our beans in Honduras.  And discounting all  food and drink items for the day.  Thanks for your support!

“Neighbouring for Life”

“Neighbouring for Life” has been a three year project, filled with many stories of deepening community.  We are proud to announce that it is now available to order or download.  We are grateful for the many who have supported this project and contributed stories from being an intentional presence in their neighbourhood.  In a few weeks the book will be available from a variety of websites, but for those want it now and have waited patiently, here it is:

Order here!

After 20 years of ministry in the church, Rick ventured into a full time missionary position that focuses on bringing the “good news” to people right where they live. These pages are filled with stories that follow the transition from the institutional church into the mission of various neighbourhoods.

Local Salt and Light

This recently published article highlights Neighbourhood Life and our up and coming book, “Neighbouring for Life”:

“Love your neighbour” is the second greatest commandment in the New Testament. But what does this look like practically in the physical spaces where we live? Abma is working towards a solution for that question through Neighbourhood Life (NL), a grass-roots initiative in Central Alberta that seeks to enable Christians to actively engage with their neighbours.

Local salt and light

“RUMOURS” BY KAREN TAMMINGA-PATON.

“Love your neighbour” is the second greatest commandment in the New Testament. But what does this look like practically in the physical spaces where we live? What if, in the words of Rick Abma, a missionary in Central Alberta, our traditional efforts to obey this command are carried out at the expense of the person next to us?

Abma is working towards a solution for that question through Neighbourhood Life (NL), a grass-roots initiative in Central Alberta that seeks to enable Christians to actively engage with their neighbours. After 20+ years serving as a CRC pastor in the institutional church, Abma recognized a problem – a shortfall of people coming to the church as an institution. Believing that the answer was not in adding more programs, he resigned from his position and began fundraising to work full time as a missionary in his back yard, building intentional neighbourhoods.

“In the context of church, I’ve observed a tendency for some of us to become so wrapped up in certain elements of the organization and the programs, that we miss the objective of actually engaging with the world we are called to serve,” Abma explained, going on to say that he desires to see less focus on the ecclesiastical aspect of church and more on discipleship.

God will orchestrate
Rick started by beginning to build relationships with people who had been his neighbours for 20 years, emphasizing that the goal is not to try to get people to come to church. Rather, the purpose is to simply live out the commandment, bloom where you are planted and see what God will orchestrate.

And God has orchestrated some pretty remarkable stories, as shared in Abma’s new book, out this month. The pages ofNeighbouring for Life (Lulu Publishing) are filled with surprising and delightful anecdotes of the joy and small miracles that can occur when people simply start taking the time to get to know their neighbours.

It seems so simple, but for many people the hardest part is knowing where and how to start, and overcoming two big obstacles – busyness and fear. Calling himself a catalyst, Abma is currently working in over 10 neighbourhoods, helping people find ways to overcome these challenges and to be disciples in their neighbourhood.

“I’m operating from the assumption that most Christians want to obey the command to be salt and light in their community; to be disciples of Jesus,” Abma states, describing how he once used a map of his town to mark off all the areas where Christians lived, based on information from the pastors of each of the various churches. “Imagine the impact we could have if every Christian would do a little something in their neighbourhood!”

Believing that loving your neighbour should be no different than loving your children, Abma says that there are so many things you can do. “People will tell me ‘I’m not an extrovert. I can’t talk to other people as easily as you can!’ or ‘I don’t even have time for my family; how can I make time for my neighbours?’ but it doesn’t have to be big or complicated. The key is to go out with the mindset of searching for where God is already at work. Observe your neighbourhood; discern the beauty and the brokenness.”

Opening the door
The Neighbourhood Life website outlines “Steps to Start” – things like finding a willing neighbour to partner with you, praying for your neighbours and giving of your time, talents or treasures. Abma shared an example of one couple who loved to bake and decided to make five platters of cookies to bring to their neighbours. They didn’t get further than the first house, where they encountered a lonely older gentleman who was longing for company. They stayed and visited, and a relationship grew. Another family asked their neighbours to look after their house while they were on vacation. They returned to a big “welcome home” banner made by the children and two meals in their freezer!

Neighbourhood Life helps neighbours start by offering the free use of their “tool kit” – a number of items that can facilitate large crowd gatherings, such as a commercial size travelling barbeque grill and a meeting tent, which Rick and his partners will set up and clean up free of charge.

They also offer freshly roasted coffee in the form of a free, live event. What began as a fundraiser to bring in initial income for the ministry has turned into a full circle business whose profits now fund 20 percent of Neighbourhood Life’s expenses. The high-end raw coffee beans are purchased by a group of four people from Canada that support 55 farmers in Honduras including the Carpenteros group from Ontario, that Rick met when he lived there a few years back. The roasted coffee (goodneighbourcoffee.ca) is sold throughout Alberta in packages that contain stories of transformed lives in neighbourhoods across the region. As he demonstrates the roasting process at live events, it becomes somewhat of a “mini-pulpit” for him to share more of the stories of what is happening through NL and in Honduras.

“Wherever we go, and whatever we do, people ask us ‘Why are you doing this?’ and it opens the door for me to tell them about this big command that Jesus gives us in the Bible to love our neighbours . . . and it just takes off from there!”

Abma’s BBQ grill comes with wheels, fuel and two coolers.

New benchmarks
Rick receives some support through Christian Reformed Home Missions as well as from local churches and businesses. The biggest challenge in finding support, he says, is that it’s hard to measure success, since NL isn’t set up as an organized ministry model with stated visions and goals. The stories themselves, however, shout the success of lives transformed, and as NL continues to grow it is starting to attract attention from outside of the denomination. Rick has had numerous opportunities to teach and lead workshops in churches and with local city leaders. Currently, the cities of Red Deer, Lacombe and Sylvan Lake are actively promoting the work of NL.

Rick is excited to see where his so-called “grand experiment” will go next. “Everyone is dying to know what will happen. I am too!” he says with a laugh. At the end of his book, he encourages the reader to dream of what his or her neighbourhoods could become, to “Be creative! Be genuine! And think more of your neighbours than yourself.”

‘Rumours’ artist and inspiration (page 1)
Karen Tamminga-Paton is a painter, storyteller, teacher and community member. She lives in the mountains of the beautiful Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, where she and her husband, Dale, raised three daughter and wander the wilderness every chance they can (tammingapaton.com).
This piece graces the cover of Abma’s new book. “We carry stories,” Karen says, “we carry secrets. All the while, we live side-by-side in our neighbourhoods. It is very possible to live our lives hidden. And yet, everyone holds echoes of something greater […] How well do we recognize that in one another? […] Imagine the rumours of glory that angels whisper over these same individuals – including you – because they know what God sees. How differently we would see one another!”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Local salt and light

MONICA KRONEMEYER DEREGT, FEATURES EDITOR

Monica Kronemeyer deRegt joined the Christian Courier editorial team in January 2015. She recently moved from Ontario to Abbotsford, B.C., with her husband and three children. From a very young age, Monica has been drawn to the written word, both as a form of expression but also as a conduit for ministry. She believes that everyone has a story to tell, and that God’s story is shared through our stories. Monica grew up in northern B.C. and graduated from The King’s University College in Edmonton, Alberta. In addition to writing and editing, Monica loves reading (especially out loud to her children every night!), cooking, learning, singing, and exploring new places with her family, although she is known to be left behind reading every single plaque and trail marker and information poster along the way! Monica invites readers to contact her with ideas for the Features pages, and looks forward to exploring together with the Christian Courier community what it means to follow Christ in every part of the story of our lives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Monica deRegt is the features editor for Christian Courier. Neighbouring for Life by Rick Abma tells the stories of lives transformed through a grass-roots movement of loving your neighbour. The book will be released November 2016. For more stories and ideas that spur us on to thriving neighbourhoods, follow along at rickabma.com.

Local salt and light

“Love your neighbour” is the second greatest commandment in the New Testament. But what does this look like practically in the physical spaces where we live? Abma is working towards a solution for that question through Neighbourhood Life (NL), a grass-roots initiative in Central Alberta that seeks to enable Christians to actively engage with their neighbours.

http://www.christiancourier.ca/news/entry/local-salt-and-light

Appearance: Local Salt and Light
Outlet: Christian Courier
Location: Canada
Format: Newspaper

"Neighbouring for Life" by Rick Abma, available soon as eBook and traditional.

Margins

There is something we can learn about how we live our lives by the books we pick up to read.  Having just published a book, I have learned many interesting guidelines for making the book a success.  Among many lessons from the publisher, the one that stood out was about margins;  the empty space around the text.  That margin is most important!  Perhaps we do not know how important they are until we pick up that book in which there is very little room around the text.  We react strongly to the layout for various reasons and remark on the books with generous margins, saying how they are much easier on the eyes.

So this helps us by understanding that without margins, we are incapable of relational spontaneity in our neighbourhood.  Without margins, we are uninterested in opportunities to serve our neighbours.  Without margins, we are unable to even think about planning time to spend with others.  Margins create buffers.   They give us room to breathe, freedom to act, and time to adapt.  Only then will we be able to truly nourish our relationships.  Only then will we be available and interruptible for the purposes of God.

Rick

 

 

Coming Soon – Book Release!

The past 3 years have led to the writing of this, soon-to-be-released, book.  Filled with experiences and stories from various practitioners, this ‘recipe book’ increases the imagination of the person who desires to invest in their local neighbourhood as a response to God’s command to love our neighbours.  Various neighbourhoods have collaborated to add seasoning and flavour as we are challenged to be salt and light as participants in the Kingdom of God.  Darkness will be chased away by the light!

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Jesus never gave us the keys to His church.  He handed over keys to the Kingdom.  This isn’t something to set aside as another symbolic reference.  This was Jesus instruction: place your affections on My Kingdom and I will build My Church.  Bind your heart to things of eternal value, keep your mind on a vision bigger than you and ensure all your efforts match those affections.  Jesus will take care of the rest.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker (United States: Navpress and Tyndale House Publishers, 2014), p. 186

Rude Note in My Mailbox

rude letter

We came home from China last week to this little note in our mail.  I’m convinced that the stamp cost more money than the sliver of paper the anonymous someone printed this note on to send us.

At first I was kinda rattled.  Because um….”Move your picnic table” and “Clean up yard” and “IT COULD BE VERY PRETTY.”

I guess there was a storm while we were gone, so there were some big sticks and branches in the yard.  Maybe I should have made my kids pull out the “fort” that they made from poking sticks directly into the ground before we left.  And I’ll be honest and say that the bush my giant dog has peed on and killed has probably bothered me for a bit too.  So I’ll give you those few things.  Our yard isn’t exactly perfect.Front Yard Mess

BUT STILL!

Who does that?  Who types a note on a tiny sliver of paper and MAILS it and doesn’t even sign it?

For the love people!!!  Sweet Fancy Moses, can I please get an amen on this?! Who does that?

And therein lies the entire reason that I have a turquoise picnic table in my front yard.

 God created people to be relational.  We have minds and voices and capacity to communicate, and somewhere along the way, we have forfeited real relationship for a sliver of paper with an opinion in 140 characters or less.

I basically just got mailed a mean tweet.

Maybe you’ve had one on Facebook, or Instagram, or twitter yourself?  Perhaps someone has split you open anonymously or unconnected to you in just a few words tossed out without relationship.

Listen, I’ve got NO problem if my yard is a disaster and a neighbor comes by and says, “Hey, what’s been going on in your life, seems like maybe you’re feeling a little overwhelmed.  Can I help you pick up the sticks in your yard this afternoon?”

America…WE HAVE GOT A PROBLEM, and it starts with the fences around our yards.  No you know what…it starts with the fences around our hearts.

Since when have we become so insulated that we can’t picnic in the front yard, or talk to a person if there is an issue?  I remember growing up and no one had a fence.  But then a few years ago we lived in a neighborhood where every single house had a teeny tiny front yard and a fenced-in back yard.  If we had allowed it, we could have lived our whole lives inside that fence in the back.  We could have avoided the neighbors and stayed in our insulated little fenced bubble.

But life is better when we share it with other people.

I remember a few years ago there was a big storm when we lived in our old house.  The neighbor across the street had just had heart surgery and her husband was helping take care of her when she was recovering.  A huge pine tree fell across their driveway and we noticed it before they did.  So my kids grabbed their gloves and my husband grabbed his chainsaw and our family had removed 3/4 of that tree before they even knew we were there.  I have never been thanked more profusely or for such a length of time as from that one act of kindness.  Truly years later, she still has written about that on holiday cards.

Listen, I’m not always that neighbor…and my current ones would tell you that while they for sure have access to my pantry (Kimberly makes use of that access most often), I’m not always outside making friends or picking up sticks elsewhere.  But can’t we all try better to actually care about the PEOPLE who live around us more than we care about 140 characters of mailed criticism to someone who is out of the country at a wedding in China the week they have a book launch?  Can’t we try to get to know one another a bit so perhaps we will cut each other some slack or have a glass of wine on the porch when we know we’re all overwhelmed?  Let’s not just be better neighbors…let’s try to be more graceful people.

So to the mailed tweeter…here’s what I have to say to you:

I’m sorry my yard was somehow offensive to you.  But what I’m even sorrier about is that you haven’t had a glass of lemonade with me at the picnic table I intentionally leave in my front yard and have ZERO plans of moving to the back.  I’m sorry you felt that you couldn’t make friends with us, or maybe you’re afraid of my giant dog and didn’t want to walk up the lawn because you thought he might eat you.  He won’t.  But next time dear neighbor, will you just let me know if there’s a problem in person?  Will you offer to help us if it seems perhaps things look out of hand in our yard?  Will you ease a burden for the overwhelmed instead of creating a new one?  And will you tell me your name?  Will you be a real person for me and remember that I am a real person too?  If we can try this, you know what I think…I think IT COULD BE VERY PRETTY!

So in honor of my neighbor who doesn’t understand me, but who I truly do hope will come have lemonade with me at the Turquoise Table in my front yard, I’m going to give away a turquoise table for one lucky reader! Because by the way, that table in my front yard, it isn’t just my table, it’s part of an entire movement of Turquoise Tables started by my dear friend Kristen Schell who says, ““The Turquoise Table has led to a movement of Front Yard People — a movement of people, just like you and me, who want to create community right where they live.”

The-Turquoise-Table-Romans-Print-

There are Turquoise Tables in over 27 states and 3 countries and Kristin reminds us that “People are longing for a place to belong–a place to be welcome at the table and the turquoise table provides a simple place to love those God has placed right in front of us.”

Let’s be people who build community, instead of send tweets in the mail or online that tear one another down?  FOR CRYING OUT LOUD…lets make lemonade with the lemons…and then sit in a front yard and share it together.

See Logan Wolfram’s new book, “Curious Faith” coming March 1, 2016

Curious Faith

“Surprise the World” by Micahel Frost

Read on!   This is some excellent insight on our role as Christ’s ambassadors in our neighbourhoods by Michael frost:

“Missional is a habit! And the five habits I’m about to unpack will help to reinforce your missional lifestyle, a lifestyle that will evoke questions from unbelievers. The links between our spirituality and our action are far greater than many believe. In fact, Jesus and the New Testament writers saw a much more powerful integration of faith and action, so much so they found it impossible to separate them. In fact, to separate the person from their actions can be very dangerous. The Apostle James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:18). It is far more biblical to see action as a powerful expression of the person who makes that action. Indeed, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” Whereas we often see our faith being exhibited in action, there’s also a strong case to be made for suggesting it can flow in the other direction, too. That is, our actions can shape our faith. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Transfer that idea to faith. Faith, then, is not an act, a single choice, or even just a belief system; it is a habit. (15)”

More at:  Surprise The World

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