Archive for the ‘Love Your Neighbor’ Category

What is the secret to being hospitable?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Opening your home up to others is a form of putting them above yourself, your food, your possessions. Nothing is more important than making that person or persons feel welcomed and loved.
~Greet them at the door with a hand shake or hug.
~Make your home theirs for the time they are over.
~Love people enough to want to hear “their story” and listen to them.

As Christians we have a wonderful opportunity to show God’s love through hospitality. Loving people gives us the chance to serve and make a connection with them. As Christians there are so many people that will see God’s love through us in our homes. All we need to do is invite them in.

As some of you are reading this blog I can imagine that opening up your home can cause great stress. Is it clean enough? What will I cook? Do they have kids? Or so and so is better at it then I am, it’s really not my gift. The sad thing about this thinking is you will miss a great blessing. May I suggest some options of hospitality that are a little “out of the box” : take the pressure off hosting in your home. Try going out at a local restaurant, or maybe an ice cream parlor or your favorite coffee house. The beauty of hospitality is it doesn’t just have to happen inside your home. My belief is the fact that hospitality is more about the relationship then the location. Our desire should be to “love” on others; this is hospitality in action. Taking time to invest in others and putting others above yourself is an example of our Saviour. Using hospitality to encourage or bring others into the faith is the greatest reward this side of heaven.

Let me end with Webster’s Definition: HOSPITALITY is the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers; the quality or
disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly,and
generous way.

Join this adventure of having relationships with people. Let’s open our lives and hearts to welcome others in, with the hope that if they don’t know Jesus they will see him in us. You can do it!

We want you to join the conversation and leave ideas about ways you have learned to be hospitable with your neighbors down the street and all around you.  Perhaps you can leave tips about entertaining young families, or organizing a game night for couples, or a success story of when you invited people over…we would love to hear it so leave a comment.

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Good listeners make good neighbors!  Listening is Friendship:101 and something we can all improve on.  Wanting to show some love towards your neighbor as Christ commanded us?  Here are a few listening skills to polish up on:

~Good listeners genuinely want to listen and understand what the other person is saying.  Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” No one wants to play the fool!  Work on engaging with what your neighbor is talking about (even if you don’t particularly care for rose disease discussions) and interact graciously with their opinions (even if you don’t hold remotely similar ones) before airing your own.

~Good listeners look for the feelings behind thoughts and opinions.  When you begin to connect with your neighbor on an emotional level it builds goodwill and depth in the relationship.

~Good listeners know body language matters.  Eye contact, nodding, and other physical responses show your neighbor that you care.

~Good listeners remember what was talked about and follow-up later.  Did the neighbors cat run away?  Follow up to see if it came home.  Was her mother diagnosed with cancer?  Ask how things are going on occasion and remember to pray.

Have you ever received good listening advice, either from Scripture or from a friend or your mom?  Please feel free to share with the rest of us in the comments section.

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Sometimes we fool ourselves in to believing that the best (or only) way to love our neighbors is to avoid them completely.  Unfortunately, this is neither realistic or Christ-like.  Part of being a good neighbor is being available.

Do you remember the parable Jesus told about the Good Samaritan?  (Luke 10:27-37 is written out at end of this post.)  The Good Samaritan, the one that loved his neighbor and showed himself to be the neighbor Christ had in mind, was also the one who was available.  In this parable, the Good Samaritan had places to go and people to meet, but when he saw the man in need he put aside his to-do list and made himself available to serve his neighbor.  Jesus told this story immediately after telling us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Ouch!  Does that hit anyone else in the heart?  Ok, so practically speaking, how can we do better at being available to our neighbors?

~Introduce ourselves.  Sure it is a no-brainer…but have you done it yet?  There are still people in my neighborhood I have yet to meet.  We have a much better chance of being available to love our neighbor if we know their name and they know ours.  Even if we are bad with names we at least will have exchanged the common courtesy of introduction and that paves the way for more interaction later.

~Don’t avoid our neighbors.  It is really hard to be available if every time we see a neighbor we drive by in a rush or duck back in the house.  My husband stopped the car to talk to a group of neighbors one day as we headed out somewhere.  I hate to say it, my first reaction was annoyance but in the end I was glad he had taken the time to connect.  These days we have to take advantage of what limited time we see our neighbors out on the street.

~Seek out our neighbors.  A willingness to reach out and invite them to a picnic or to a bonfire can make it easier for them to reach back out to us.

So let’s do this together!  Let’s commit to being available to our neighbors and then watch in awe as God brings opportunities our way to love them.

He [the expert in the law] answered [Jesus’ question], “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”   You have answered correctly.” Jesus replied.  “Do this and you will live.”  But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  In reply, Jesus said:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper.  ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was neighbor to the man who fell in to the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

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“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)  How can we live at peace with our neighborhood?

~Empathy!  Take the time to see things through your neighbor’s eyes.  We don’t do this very often because we are more concerned about our own lives and what is important to us.  But the more we practice empathy, the more we can enjoy peaceful relationships.  How will my neighbor feel if I blow leaves in his yard?  Is it really worth it?

~Go the extra mile!  Even simple things like picking up the fallen sticks from your tree out of their yard can lead to peaceful living with a neighbor.  It is the gesture of good will and neighborly love that counts in the long-term relationships of our neighborhood.

~Communicate!  We had a friend throw a huge outdoor party one time complete with live music and lots of parked cars on the street.  Several days beforehand he took the time to walk over to warn his neighbors in person what the plan was and what time the party would end.  That extra effort to communicate beforehand kept the peace in his neighborhood and allowed him to enjoy his party with no worries and no angry calls from the neighbors.

~Forgive!  When a relationship hits a snag, even if they don’t apoligise, forgive.  It is not easy…I have been there.  I once had a neighbor who levelled some really crazy accusations at me.  It was uncalled for and it made me very angry at the time.  I soon realized I had the choice to either continue thinking ugly thoughts every time I saw her out walking her dog or to forgive her and move on.  I eventually chose forgiveness and I am glad I did.  It is much more peaceful to be able to wave at her and move on down the road than to mentally re-hash the old grievance every time I see her.  Hopefully she feels the same way…at least she waves back at me.

~Boundaries!  We want to be open and accessible, but gracious boundaries are healthy and necessary when loving others.  What is that old saying?  Good fences make good neighbors.  Keep healthy boundaries and live at peace with your neighbors as far as it depends on you.

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Winding gravel roads and rolling hills. Stoic pines and a pristine lake. In the midst of the postcard picture I see one face . . . that of Vonnie. Homes on this country road where I grew up were few and far between. With that in mind, you can only imagine how few neighbors I knew as a young child. Nevertheless, Vonnie was one neighbor I will not soon forget.

Her husband had sold my parents the land they call home to this day. She lived less than a mile from our place, but her distance never kept her from reaching out to our family. From gifts at Christmas to offers to swim in the lake which graced the expansive property she and her husband owned, she was consistent in her attempts to love our family. On one occasion, our family dog, a burly German shepherd, went missing. Despairing and anxious, we sent word out to our neighbors. Vonnie mounted her atv and rode for hours through the woods behind our home in search  of our treasured companion. Unfortunately, a lone hunter had taken our dog’s life and Vonnie would not be the one to find her, but her action spoke volumes about her heart.

Vonnie was that neighbor who was the first to see a need and aim to meet it. She was the first to offer a hand to help . . . the first to look beyond herself and focus on others. Her acts of kindness were far from random, they were intentional and fueled by compassion.

Compassion. This simple, but dynamic, word floods the scriptures. We read often that “the Lord is compassionate and gracious.” It is a theme that permeates both the Old and New Testament. In Nehemiah 9:17, we recall the Israelites and their stubborn rejection of the God who delivered them from Egypt . . . “but you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in faithful love, and You did not abandon them.” And, when we fast forward to the arrival of God’s Son, Jesus, we see the compassion that propelled His ministry. In Matthew 9:36, after visiting towns, villages, and synagogues, a ministry that would cause us utter exhaustion and an ultimate desire to slink away to our homes for solace, Jesus “saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.”

For God, compassion exists in His being, His nature, but for most of us, compassion does not flow freely from us in either word or deed. With this in mind, how does one foster compassion for others? How can we focus on the needs of our neighbors and truly love them as God calls us to do?

First, be observant. This involves our sense of sight. Notice in Matthew that Jesus “saw the crowds.” Begin by waving, greeting, and introducing yourself to those who live on your street or in your neighborhood.

Second, be intentional. Intentional acts of kindness radiate compassion. Send a card if you hear a neighbor is ill, make a double batch of cookies and walk a dozen over to the one who lives across your street, or offer to help with an outdoor chore that might be difficult for your neighbor to tackle.

Lastly, be purposeful. There is a reason God has placed you in the location you currently reside. There are people in your vicinity that only you may have the opportunity to reach. Make your words and actions reflect the compassion and grace of our Savior, so that they will see Him radiating through you.

Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you have placed me in this location for such a time as this. There are people in my neighborhood who need to see You, and I need Your “eyes of compassion” and “arms of love” to reach them. Don’t let me pass them by without a thought. Help me be observant, intentional, and purposeful in my words and actions that they would notice and that I would have an opportunity to share with them the One who loves like no other.

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