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?”

Response

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.”
Rick

A Smokin’ Deal

One contractor created a sauna near the back alley of his home, generating interest from neighbours.  The interested turned this “hot spot” into a connecting place for neighbbours (believe it or not).  There is nothing here for you or I to duplicate.  Neighbouring is much like google; you develop the ‘platform’ and see where it takes you.  Of course, it takes an open mind and an open heart and an imagination that leads to vulnerability, trust and love of neighbour without condition.  The sauna is a surprise to some, but the concept is unique to its unique neighbourhood.

This led the young builder to the next step.  A few of those who gathered in this neighbourhood liked the idea of a neutral space for some of the families to hang out.  It started with the neighbourhood men and a pool table.  One of the men said he wouldn’t mind paying $50 a month to help the cause.  This turned into momentum for this builder’s dream, and so he literally took the growing contributions to the bank.  The bank responded favourably and construction began.  A home for the pool table and a serious ventilation system that would help suck out the smoke from the new cigar club that formed in this same neighbourhood.

Oddly enough, one unwritten rule came into play.  In order for the neighbourhood to grow, family members are encouraged to show up independently as to enhance connecting among neighbours.

Intentional

A simple gathering of neighbourhood leaders from all over Alberta took place this weekend.  The word ‘retreat’ was fitting since our time was gently structured with questions and statements that would make a person think, at the same time allowed us to spend quality time listening to each others stories.  Therefore, the participants also became the presenters and there was no threshold between the front and the back. There was no main stage or speaker and the music was a growing collection of musicians from the families who represented the various neighbourhoods.  Our gathering took place around tables where we would meet each other at random and enter in a discussion about how to love our neighbours.  It seemed that hanging out with people who are intentional about loving their neighbours shed light on how this can be so different from loving without being intentional.

Earlier in the week I went to four different venues in which I presented material on how healthy and vibrant neighbourhoods come to be.  Time well spent!  But this was nothing compared to the intentional delivery of a small coat my wife sewed for the new born in our neighbourhood.  And then, how our retired parks and recreation neighbour felt the need to stop us on our walk to show us his new dog.  Many neighbours had to drive around him, which only created opportunities to acknowledge each other.  And on the way back we decided to knock on a neighbours door to re-invite him and his wife to see our coffee roasting shop (since he has consistently shown great interest in this), and he answered the door mid shave, but with great joy!  The pure motives to love our neighbours can only be surpassed by our intentional efforts.  So often the fear and busyness of life can actually keep us from experiencing life.

Good Neighbour CoffeeHouse

Historically, third spaces were intentionally set up for people to have informal opportunity to ‘bump into each other’ as a way to enhance  community development.  These spaces were referred to as a “PUB” which literally stood for PUBlic place.  Other third spaces have been noted as parks and roads which are specified as public property.  Not all of these spaces are conducive to public interaction.  Therefore, there is a growing need for intentional third spaces.

Soon we will be issuing a press release for such a space in Lacombe, Alberta.  The name:

Good Neighbour CoffeeHouse!

It will feature a coffee roasting area and our Good Neighbour Coffee which has featured the true stories of what’s been happening in our neighbourhoods.  Our board of directors have been meeting weekly, the last being with our interior designer.  And of course the design and space will lend itself to the intentional efforts that has been the heartbeat of Neighbourhood Life.  Opening May 2017!

More at https://twitter.com/GNCoffeeHouse

Stay tuned!

 

When we have no impressive buildings and no swollen budgets to sustain our work, often only then do we only realize that the best we have to offer this post-Christendom world is the quality of our relationships, the power of our trustworthiness, and the wonder of our generosity.

-Michael Frost

Technically Speaking

On one occasion when I found a neighbour needing knee surgery, it was clear to me that this was an opportunity to bring a meal.  When I approached this issue, I recalled an instance when people wanted to help, but unknowingly made the scenario more burdensome.  For example, when my mother died, people came by to ask if they could bring a meal to our family as we prepared for the funeral.  Well-intentioned, to be sure, but it was a relief when one person called to say they were bringing a meal – would we like it Wednesday or Thursday?  So when I approached my neighbour who just had knee surgery, I told her that my wife makes a mean lasagna and if it would be better to bring it over on Monday or Tuesday?  This approach indicates that I will bring the lasagna, it’s just a matter of when I will bring it.  The difference is that I am actively on mission and taking responsibility for the action, as opposed to adding more responsibility to the the one whom I am serving.

It seems odd that the Scriptures are clear about sending us, yet we  trade our “going” into an invitation that makes others do the “going.”  Therefore, loving our neighbour is not inviting them to a place or program, but it is us going to love them.  When we are asked to “go” as disciples, we need to meet those neighbours in their own space, rather than expecting them to come to our space.

So when you go to bless a person, bless them where they are.

When you go to serve a person, serve them where they are.

And when you go to be Christ to a person, do not explain, study or make commentaries on how this all works, just love them unconditionally.

 

Coffee Story #21

On the backs of Good Neighbour Coffee packages are a variety of true stories from the neighbourhoods found in our cities and towns.  It is a beautiful thing to find the simplistic stories of one persons love for their neighbour turn into a profound influence in their journey…such as with this recently submitted story:

“As kids, Thomas and Lisa lived next door to Rich.  Despite moving away, the three never ceased the rewarding journey of growing up together.  Endless summer days in swimsuits as kids turned into college roommates which now has become that trusted voice on the other end of the line when life goes sideways.  The connection has grown so deep that Thomas saved a spot for Rich to sit alongside him on his mother’s deathbed.”

Each true story is met with questions by strangers who demonstrate a thirst for such experiences in their lives.  But for the one who shared such an experience with a neighbour, it is something he or she treasures in their heart.

Conversations

A few years ago I was introduced to some interesting observations:  That it is hard to find someone with celiac disease in Italy due to the way they make their bread and grow their grain.  Then there was the absence of ‘attention deficit disorder’ in many countries outside of the western world.  Is this true?

This leads to a conversation I had this past weekend regarding Ethiopia and how the welcoming and hospitable culture give reason for why you would be hard pressed to find a depressed person in that country.  In fact, the conversation gave way to how people are not even prone to using words like ‘introverted’ or ‘extroverted’ to describe another or themselves.  This was followed by a debriefing on how the culture of individuality in North America seemed odd to those who grew up in countries like Ethiopia.

For the majority of the past 80 – 100 years, western culture has been driven to create individuality and independence in a world created by God to be in community. Perhaps that is why Jesus was so big on loving neighbours.  Maybe he did have our best interests in mind while we were so busy keeping ourselves distanced (walking on the other side of the road) from our neighbour and creating our own Kingdom so not to be dependent on those who live around us.

So it was no surprise to hear the conversation gently suggest that our challenge to live in community, such as loving those on our road or block, may be a major contributing factor to some of our social illness.  The Bible does say that love covers a lot of ground.  If we spend a great deal of our time keeping our distance when we were created to be in community, something has to give.  Stats do show that those with valuable relationships in the place that they live, lending itself to a sense of deepening community, live an average 5 years longer than those who cannot say the same.  It is no secret that healthy relationships have always been key to healthy lives, whether a family unit or a neighbourhood.

And now that I am writing this, I do remember people from other countries finding it kind of odd that neighbourhoods in North America are filled with people who do not know each other’s names, attributes, let alone matters of their neighbour’s heart.

Rick

Three Friends

Once there were three friends who grew up together. From childhood
their lives were intertwined in play, at school, on the street, and in
their dreaming. Their relationship made them inseparable. They had
different personalities and even their approaches to life were quite
divergent, but they were bound together like the Hobbits in Lord of
the Rings.

As with many relationships of youth, when they grew older, they
gradually moved apart. Following college, each married and found jobs
in different cities; their times together became more sporadic and
episodic. They would still connect by phone and internet; it was easy
for them to become Facebook friends, but the long conversations became
rare events.”

Then one day, quite unexpectedly, two of the friends received emails
from the third. The email came as a wonderful surprise. The third
friend invited them to spend a weekend at his home on the West Coast,
offering a few long evenings of food, wine, and conversations like the
ones they remembered. It sounded perfect.”

When they arrived at their friend’s home, their host welcomed them
eagerly. The evening began with catching up about families and jobs.
They joked about weight and age and they talked about old times. The
food was great and obviously the host had learned a lot about the
vintages and pairing of wine.

But sometime during the evening the atmosphere changed. It was
hard to pinpoint the moment, but the two invited friends began to
sense something was wrong. They couldn’t put their finger on what it
was at first, but each sensed an unease and disquiet entering the
conversation.

The host began doing the talking and it was all about himself. Each
time the friends spoke, the host cut them off and turned the
conversation back to his life, his questions, and his needs. He asked
lots of questions to elicit information that would further focus on
his own interests and plans. He mined them for information that could
make him look better. He seemed preoccupied with how to become more
successful.

For him the evening was a wonderful, enjoyable, successful time.
He felt great! The other two felt like objects being used to meet
someone else’s needs.

As soon as they could, the two invited guests said they needed to get back to their hotel.  They thanked their old friend and departed, perplexed and sad.  What had happened?  How could their friend become so self-absorbed?”

….and who are these three friends?

The three friends are Scripture, culture and church.  For some 1500 years they grew up together, deeply intertwined.  At times one was more dominant than the others, but they remained connected to one another.  Today, they have grown so far apart they hardly recognize each other anymore.

– excerpts from “Missional” by Alan J. Roxburgh, published by Baker Books, 2011