Posts tagged neighbors
It’s Really All About Jesus Anyway, Isn’t It?

Have you read the Bible from beginning to end?  I am sorry to say that I have not, despite being a Christian my entire life.  (Nothing like starting off with a huge confession, right?)  I have read parts of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament, but I have not read the entire Bible.  It’s interesting now to reflect on why I haven’t.  

I remember the first time I tried to read the Bible from start to finish.  My parents had given me my first nice leather Bible for Christmas when I was in 4th or 5th grade.  This was way back before there were as many translation options as there are today, and my new Bible was the King James Version.  It probably won’t surprise you to know that I barely made it past Noah and the Ark!  

As an adult, I purchased the NIV translation of a “Read the Bible Through in a Year.”  I remember keeping up with it for a couple of months, but I found that reading several chapters of the Old Testament, then a couple chapters of Psalms and Proverbs, before skipping over to the New Testament each day was cumbersome.  Maybe it was something about me, but I found it difficult to pick up the next day where I had left off in 3 different places!  

Amid my attempts to read the Bible from start to finish, the majority of my group and individual Bible studies were more “topical” in nature and based on the New Testament.  Topical studies were more appealing, I think, because I could choose what I wanted God to speak to me about.  Although I enjoyed Psalms and Proverbs, I came to believe that there really wasn’t anything pertinent I was missing from the Old Testament.  It’s really all about Jesus anyway, right?  But, I’ve also recently learned that there’s a whole lot to learn from the OT and it IS relevant to today!  

Some time towards the end of last year, I felt the desire to begin with Genesis and read through the entire Bible- start to finish.  This time, I chose a modern translation (New Living) that takes the reader through the Bible chronologically, with no skipping around.  And there is a daily summary, as well as a practical application commentary, that has satisfied my need for the topical part of Bible study.  What I have learned is that the insights, encouragements, and lessons from reading the Old Testament are every bit as relevant and applicable to anything that I have learned from the New Testament! 

This is a big transitional year for our family.  My daughter, Emily, will enter middle school next year and for the last several years, my husband and I have been considering moving both of our girls out of public school to a private Christian school, where they can obtain a faith-based education.  To us, it makes sense that if we are going to move to a new school system, the time to do it would be when Emily is moving to a new school anyway. Along with this decision has been another to possibly to move from our current neighborhood to another.  We have had our eye on another neighborhood for years and now that the girls will be changing schools, it seems like a good time to decide whether we should move or not.  Now, I went into this idea of reading the Bible through without really thinking there would be anything God would say to me about these decisions in the Old Testament.  Turns out I was wrong.  

In Genesis 12:1-4, God calls Abram (Abraham) to pick up and leave his native country and to move his family.  Abram was obedient and did what God told him to do, but what’s most interesting about this passage is that Abram didn’t know where God was telling him to move!  Hebrews 11:8 says, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land… He went without knowing where He was going.”  Abraham exhibited true faith and I felt like I was being encouraged to do the same: God was telling me that we just need to keep our eyes on Him and follow where He leads—even if that means staying where we are.  But wait, there’s more!  

God makes a promise to Abraham that his descendants will be many and also that he and Sarah, who were both really old at this point, would have a son of their own.  God repeats His promise many times, but time passes and nothing happens.  So, Sarah and Abraham get impatient and take matters into their own hands.  Abraham and Sarah’s servant, Hagar, conceive a son and this creates a situation that brings much heartbreak.  (Genesis 15-17)  God does eventually fulfill His promise to Abraham and Sarah, but the consequences of their impatience impacted them for years.  

Meanwhile, although there were a few “hiccups” with the private school application process, God continued to lead us forward.  However, the process of looking around at houses became overwhelming.  Initially we were considering just one neighborhood, but then one house/builder lead to another, and we started looking at several other neighborhoods.  With so many possibilities, it was hard to discern if God was leading us to any of them.   Many times along this journey, builders and agents would have loved some money and a signed contract, but so far, we haven’t felt God’s hand on any of the houses/neighborhoods we have seen (nice as they are!).  This passage about how Abraham and Sarah failed to wait upon God came at the exact time that I was feeling the most overwhelmed.  Abraham and Sarah took the control from God and the consequences of this lasted for years.  This passage served as a strong reminder for us to walk with God through this process, and not to run ahead.  

How amazing is it that God knows us and loves us so intimately that He speaks to us about exactly what we are dealing with in life and at the perfect time!  I will admit that I have not read my Bible according to plan every single day, so I’m a little behind.  In spite of this, God brought the right message at the perfect time.  It is it now May and I am still so encouraged!  Now, I will admit that Leviticus is a challenge (smile!), but I continue to believe God is using the Old Testament to speak into my everyday life.    

What about you?  Whatever part of the Bible you are studying, I pray you are hearing God speak to you, too.  And if you haven’t read the Bible all the way through, I hope you are encouraged to pick up whatever translation/plan inspires you, and get started— you don’t even have to wait until January! 

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Sherry Fischer grew up and still lives in Northern Virginia. She obtained her Bachelors Degree (James Madison University) and Masters Degree (Virginia Commonwealth University), both in Social Work. Sherry worked in a hospital setting as a Medical Social Worker/Case Manager for 20 years. Sherry married Karl when she was 38 and is now a full time stay at home mom to Emily (12) and Abby (9). When the girls were preschoolers, Sherry was an active participant and eventually served as a leader for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). Once both girls were in school full time, Sherry joined the Passion4Moms team, where she is currently the Director of Hospitality and enjoys writing periodic blogs. For fun, Sherry enjoys making cherished memories with family and friends at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.

The Task of Neighboring
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I’m a task driven person. I like ‘to do’ lists. I like checking things of my ‘to do’ lists. I sometimes add things to the lists so I can have the pleasure of literally checking them off. Because tasks are usually straightforward, I find them to be generally easy. You have a task, you work hard, you finish the task and then you get to check it off. The task is done and then you move on to the next one. 

People, however, are much different from tasks. People are complex. They can sometimes be complicated, needy and intricate. They require attention, relationship, and time. So how does a task person like myself prioritize the people around me? I kind of hate to admit it, but sometimes I think of people as tasks. I put them on a list, make a goal of relationship and am slowly checking them off as they turn from people into friends, and alter from tasks into life. This has been something I’ve been pursuing particularly with those who live nearby, my neighbors. 

I live in a very kid concentrated neighborhood where my kid's classmates are my neighbors. As a result of my oldest daughter entering the corner elementary school three years ago, I’ve been launched out into the neighborhood more and more. Walking her to school, greeting parents at pick-up, attending book fairs, volunteering at the school and of course SO MANY birthday parties!! These events can sometimes feel a bit obligatory. Rather than avoid or dread them, I’ve been trying to embrace this stage and use these occasions as opportunities to work on my people list.

Because I prefer lists to paragraphs, here is a little list of ideas I’ve found in my task of loving my neighbor.

  1. The purpose must be obedience. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:39; Galatians 5:14). We’re created and intended to love. If your motivation for loving your neighbor is obedience, there won’t be room for disappointment if your method of love isn’t reciprocated. Your neighbors may not love you back, at first or possibly ever and you have to be ok with that. Whether they wave back, say thank you or return the favor is irrelevant. The command still stands. Love your neighbor because He directs us to, not because you want to be a good person.
  2. Pray for your neighbors. Pray they’ll be healthy, happy and open. Pray that God softens their heart toward you and ultimately toward Him. Pray for God to soften your heart too. Pray for opportunities to help, serve and love them.
  3. Don’t miss an opportunity. Once your eyes and heart are open to trying to love your neighbor, you’ll be surprised at all the ways you can show love. Try to intentionally interact with them. Drop off Valentine treats, host an Easter egg hunt, grill all summer long, fire pit throughout autumn, trick or treat at their house, walk instead of drive when possible. It’s a little crazy to consider during an arctic blast but, get outside! If you’re waiting for them to come to you, you may be waiting forever. Go scrape their windshield, shovel their walkway, or bring up their trash can for them. There is no shortage of ways to show love. Google it. Seriously, “how to show love to your neighbor”, about 8,970,000 results.
  4. Don’t be too busy for them. Make time to love your neighbors. Leave margin in your schedule for the people who live closest to you. This can sometimes be the hardest part. Even harder than walking up to a strangers door to deliver goodies, is creating time in your ever busy life for someone you may barely know. For me, this isn’t about trying to be a people pleaser and always saying yes. It’s out of my obedience to His command that I make myself available to my neighbors as much as I can. There are things and events I say no to, sometimes even church events (Gasp!). This makes it possible for me to say “yes” to my neighbors. Most recently, neighbors have asked….“Can you walk my child home from school?” YES! “Do you have a yard tool I can borrow?” YES! “Do you know of any area preschools” YES! “Would you like to attend my event?” YES! There are many ways to show love. My best way in my current life stage as a stay at home mom of 3, is by saying yes and giving my neighbors a little bit of my time. If they're willing to ask, I’ll say yes as much as I can.

During the winter of 2009 while living in MD, my husband and I experienced a huge snow storm. The kind where it snowed heavy for two straight days, which resulted in us waiting nearly a week before seeing a plow truck. We had lived there maybe a year. He was in the Air Force, and I worked at our church. We loved our church. We had great friends there and it basically was our only social circle. We were so preoccupied with church services, planning meetings, special events, small group gatherings that we had no time for our neighbors. And this was pre-kid life! That snow storm forced us outside to shovel out our cars and our street, with our neighbors. Turns out, the people across the street were also a young married Air Force couple, that we had never met. They moved away just a few months later. Even though I may have felt like we didn’t really “need” more friends at the time, I sometimes wonder if they may have needed us. What a total missed opportunity!!

It’s a new year, which means 365 new days and 365 new chances to reach out to your neighbor. Whether you’re new to your street or have been there for some time, most people, even strangers, are at least somewhat open to their neighbor. Aren’t you? Wouldn’t you love for your neighbor to randomly knock on your door and offer kindness? If you’ve been hurt by a neighbor, pray for God to heal that wound and try again. If you’ve hurt a neighbor, ask for forgiveness and move forward. 

At this point, neighbor encounters have become unavoidable for me. My neighbors are everywhere I go, that’s due mostly to motherhood. As moms, like it or not, we are pushed out the doors of our comfort zones. Embrace the strangers around you. If you’re a mom and they’re a mom, you have an instant connection and immediate commonalities. Start there and see where it takes you. 

My neighbors are no longer tasks, they are my life. And I haven’t checked them off my list, because I’m not finished yet. I’m so humbled that God has placed me at my current address and chosen me to show love to my neighbors.