This past weekend we heard a few puns as we built our neighbourhoods first ‘bee hotel.’  Yes, it was sort of a work bee.  Presence matters, and that played into the word, “be.”  All in all, bees are interesting for all ages, and we were all educated as we beautified our neighbourhood.  We also put up some butterfly homes and added some strategic plants for hummingbirds, along with signage that gave us ‘advice’ from these creatures.  And then the group of us ended with a BBQ meal where we continued to forge relationships.

During the course of the few hours, we had visitors.  Their was a wedding in the yard a few houses down, so we had beautifully dressed people come visit.  One of our elderly men, who lives a couple houses down from where we worked, also came by to visit (and to give advice), but needed to return to rest due to the hot weather.  One grandmother, who had helped earlier, returned with her grandchildren to explore the objectives that our neighbourhood was looking to accomplish.  And among those people we need to acknowledge the generosity of one of the neighbours who did not make it, but donated a great deal of material to  help get the job done (DB Bobcat).

As I reflect back on the day, I am grateful for all of these many parts we experienced.  Personally, I am always pleasantly surprised at what brings value to the neighbouorhood!  Perhaps you may want to imagine you were there, and ask yourself which part may have been most valuable from your perspective?

Spring Rolls

When we talk about healthy neighbourhoods, we understand that food is a staple that brings neighbours together.  But we never thought our favourite spring rolls would play a part in our neighbourhood the way our experience unfolded.  At the time, we had only lived in our neighbourhood for a couple years and had been more intentional about connecting with neighbours.  At that time, my husband Chad and I were looking for a lady I had bought spring rolls from before at a local market.  I decided to post an ad on a Facebook Buy and Sell site, searching for her, and ended up getting a flood of responses from people, telling me who she was and how good her spring rolls were.  I messaged her about it and we started talking about the spring rolls and how I would pick them up.  We discussed it, and she said she could drop off the spring rolls if I didn’t live too far away.  Since I have small children, I thought this would be great, so we discussed where each other live.  I told her I live close to downtown Red Deer to which she responded, “So do I.”  Then I proceeded to tell her I lived in the Fairview neighbourhood, and she responded with “Oh, I live in Fairview too.”  Albeit, this was a surprise to both of us, we continued to tell each other where we lived.  “This will be perfect – I will just walk to your house.”  She asked for my address and then said, “We are neighbours! I live just a few doors down from you.”  So, she came over, and I now have access to an endless supply of our favourite spring rolls.  From this time we met, she was able to tell us a lot of stories about our neighbourhood since she had lived there forever.  We not only learned a lot about the history of where we lived for two years, but we started to discuss the future of our neighbourhood.  We talked about having an ice cream social in the neighbourhood and about the block parties that used to exist.  We learned about her history with spring rolls and abut her plans.  It opened the eyes of a couple of neighbours in terms of our neighbourhood.  As it stands, we were certainly grateful in many ways and have come to appreciate the value of neighbours.  And it all stared because I wanted to get some of our favourite spring roles for my husband’s birthday.

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!

Saving a neighbours life

“I had been having a lot of terrible headaches.  On November 6, 2006, they got so bad that I didn’t go to work.  My neighbour, Josh,  who I had only had very little relationship with (only said “Hi” now and then), became interested in the fact that I had not left for work.  He came along and noticed that my truck was still in the backyard, got concerned and phoned up to Edmonton to see if they had heard from me.  They hadn’t, so Josh and his wife started looking through the windows and thought they saw something.  They called 911, came into my house and found me passed out on the floor.  I was taken to Red Deer hospital, and an hour later, to Foothills in Calgary, which is where I woke up.  I’d had a brain aneurism and it burst.  All I remember is having such bad, bad headaches, and then, ‘bang’, I woke up in Calgary.  My neighbour then became my best friend because he saved my life.  If it weren’t for Josh, I would not be here today.


Josh and his wife were just my neighbours – I didn’t really know them.  But after they helped me out, we became good friends.  He went through a divorce and got custody of his son, who called me Grandpa.  I used to babysit Jacob quite a bit when I got out of the hospital.  There is much to be thankful for when neighbours take an interest in each others lives.

Before the aneurism, we only knew each other as people living next to each other, that’s it.  But after my aneurism, Josh visited me in the hospital.  He also did lots of other things with me:  took me out for dinners, went to Westerner Days in Red Deer, the Ponoka Stampede, rafting on the Red Deer River, BBQs at his house, went to church with him, to Smitty’s Buffet, etc.  Josh bought guest passes for the Collicutt Centre, which is also when I taught his son how to swim when he was about 8 or 9.  It has been refreshing to see how our relationship has grown.

It took a brain aneurism on my part for my neighbour to invest, literally, in my life.  We are now the best of friends; in fact his son, now 13, says I’m his best friend – his dad just gets to come along!

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

A friend once shared his weird insight.  He said, “You don’t know, what you don’t know.”  The obvious statement seemed to go a little deeper when he said it.  I suppose that is why we have ‘aha’ moments, or why we try to get others to, “See what I mean?”
We are approaching the heart of block party month.  We would like to make resources available to help make it easy for anyone to start a block party.  But perhaps we need to be reminded that the relationships in which we look to engage in our neighbourhoods is of greater value than the block party itself.  We can be overly concerned about numbers and getting the ‘party’ just right at the expense of “loving our neighbours.”  And it is in the loving of neighbours that we most likely have those ‘aha’ moments.  As a result, some have seen neighbours in different light, some have finally gotten to know them in the first place, and still others have been surprised at how neighbours actually want to engage.  But when neighbours eat and share together, it is not uncommon to hear that “their eyes were opened.”

No More Counting

I had a dream; a dream of some people picketing a block party with signs and slogans that said, “No More Counting!” and “Never mind the Numbers!”  Perhaps I dreamed this dream due to the plethora of people who can preach a great message on how numbers do not matter, but find it hard to apply when it comes to their own evaluations.  Our culture loves to communicate success and measure movement by the numbers.  So when it comes to block parties, for example, we spend a great deal of time on getting the numbers up.  We work hard to make all things presentable.  We treat it much like a function that needs to be successful only to find out at the end of the day we never really engaged in any of that ‘loving your neighbour’ stuff.  But those decorations were GREAT and we didn’t run out of food.  Yet we still needed to ask ourselves the question, “Do you think everyone enjoyed themselves?”

The truth is that a block party is more successful when it focuses on the relationship journey of neighbours.  And if you were wondering about how well you hosted, you may want to consider a ‘third space’ to place a block party next time.  A ‘third space’ is a park, road or any area that is neutral to you and to your neighbours, which means it’s not anyone’s turf.  Therefore, you are free to come and go as you please because its not your party, but instead is owned by all the neighbours.

Let’s make sure that we are not setting ourselves up with expectations that don’t actually count (pun intended).  Instead, set yourself up in a way that provides the greatest opportunity for building relationships.


Saying Grace

Our neighbours longed for their grown children to gather for a brief reunion.  Under normal circumstances this is understandable, but our neighbours revealed they have not talked for a few years.  At this point they were glad just to be able to come together and eat dinner.  It was at the dinner table that the surprise came:  “When we sat down at the dinner table we began by saying that we would say grace.  This created a reaction from one of our children, who obviously wanted the privilege to say grace before the meal. We were astonished to say the least.  But having not talked for so many years as a family, we were not only delighted to be at the table together, but that one of our children was so willing to take the lead at a time like this.”

The beauty was in the story itself, but as neighbours, we were so blessed by their excitement to share this story with us.



What is so valuable about the newly built front porch and an Easter egg hunt?


Easter is simply about new life we receive from the good news of Christ overcoming death.  Unreal.  Unbelievable.  Actually believable!  Since the good news has been so far removed from our culture, it takes intentional action to engage in those who live around us to help become reacquainted with how good the news is.  Our presence among neighbours is valuable to bridge the good news of Scripture with culture.  Much like two best friends from high school, who find they have very little in common at the 25th reunion, need something to help to help them reconnect.  Just when life seems sucked dry, life is breathed back in.

Clothe Your Neighbour

There is a saying in the Bible that says, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and and the one who has food should do the same (John 3:11).”  In today’s western culture we may be hard pressed to find anyone with less than two of anything.  Needless to say, it was our neighbours who have been consistently giving our family their extra clothing.  To be sure, the clothing they give is of great quality.  And it’s not just one piece, it’s four bags full.  This is generosity that came unexpected.  We were simply asked to pass anything on that didn’t fit.  To our surprise, there was a great deal that fit.  The casual men’s shoes, some dressy women’s tops and a few other things fit well.  On that note, I am always learning how there are so many ways that fit how we can love our neighbours.

In all of this, I must say that we can never duplicate what others do, nor should we, but simply keep our neighbours in mind as we live life with love.  We can only do what we are capable of doing and we can only love in ways that we are made to love.  So should we all now develop our own ‘share your clothes with your neighbour’ program?  No, because the way in which one person loves should never dictate your ways of loving, but it should inspire you to take what you are able to do and apply it to loving your neighbours.  This should keep us from saying, “There’s no way I am going to give my clothes to my neighbour….are you nuts?”


This week I responded to an invitation to lead Neigihbourhood Life at a church, and thought it may be a good little piece to share….


“Yes.  Sounds good Marc.

And thanks for the opportunity.  I may not be sure what i just said yes to, but its all good.
It may be helpful to know what is expected in terms of time, place….any strategy, hopes, applications, outcome…..or we can wing it!
The possibilities I have offered have been well used so far.  I must admit, I am grateful for the many opportunities, as I am with yours.
Some other situations that may be good to know about:
Other (local) groups have booked me for a couple of training sessions and a teaching series.
A few others have done the same.  The purpose for this is for follow up – one of the main exercises I do is ‘mapping’ which indicates a persons understanding of ones neighbourhood.  The follow up has been typically a month to 6 months.  At that time the mapping exercise and other training tools reveal the various movements in the participating neighbourhoods,  For example in  my home church group we found that the 12 neighbourhoods participating showed there were 127 pieces of ‘progress’ added to the map after 6 months.  This is a new metric, and indicates some movement in the objective of loving neighbours.  The reason I need to share this is that this approach can be quite different from just listening to me speak about this topic or reading the book.
When it comes to groups who are not local….for example, Terrace is booking me for 10 days in the fall with a follow up in January.  Little different approach but helps us get acquainted with this neighbourhood approach.
Having said all that, I can do anything you may find helpful.  I do lead various sessions which unpack the book.  My hot topic is “motivation” (loving our neighbour out of unconditional love as a discipline), “storytelling” and then there’s the mapping stuff…which is very practical and inter generational.  I have also led cultural exercises which are helpful in various circumstances ( for example why we all feel the need to “do” over and above just being present).  I also have led prayer sessions….and led walks in various neighbourhoods.  I have also introduced our Neigbourhood Life tool kit.  Its gets to be fun after a while.
It’s all pretty normal, although it seems scary for some, so I go at the pace one would like without compromising intentionality.
And for the record, I have uncovered some principles that may be good to note:
– That our neighbourhood is our best classroom.
– That we love our neighbour out of abundance, not just need (many think this is setting them up to be a service provider)
– That this is about seeking out where God is at work and how we can join Him, not where we set the agenda and ask God to join us.
– That this is discipleship training.
– That fear and busyness are our worst enemies, and their is something beautiful when we overcome them.
– That we must not think of this in terms of program (ie: it doesn’t start at 7pm), rather as practices, placement and posture.
– That the process of re-imagining where we live is a long process.
Much more to share…..looking forward Marc.”