Mending Fences

Meet my friend, Amy Lively.  Mix her gifts of hospitality and evangelism with a dash of courage and you have her passion and ministry, The Neighborhood Cafe.  Enjoy Amy’s vulnerability as she shares a story of humility from the Cafe.  ALSO, sign up for her generous GIVEAWAY (details below).

Having CoffeeScared but smiling, I knocked on Lisa’s door and invited her over for coffee—her, and 89 other neighbors. We had never met before, but I was finally caving in to a crazy idea to start a neighborhood Bible study. The fact that I didn’t know many of my neighbors didn’t seem to bother God, but it had caused me months of angst!

Our roles were reversed on the day of my Open House as Lisa knocked on my door—coffee mug in one hand and a Bible in the other. I called it the Neighborhood Café, and Lisa and I became friends as neighbors, friends, and women from church continued to gather together every other week in my living room.

Lisa’s quick wit wrapped in a disarming southern drawl cracked us up many a time. She laughed at herself first as she admitted her struggles. “Well, I don’t wanna do that. It’s too hard,” she would candidly reply as we talked about God’s advice for gracious living. As one of the older women in the group, the young moms appreciated been-there-done-that advice from this faithful mother, grandmother and widowed wife. As trust slowly took root, Lisa asked for prayer to help break vices and overcome loneliness. She began taking walks and sharing lunch with our neighbor, Belinda.

One night, I awoke from a deep sleep with the realization that I hadn’t seen Lisa for a few weeks. My thoughts returned to her in the morning as I verified that Lisa had missed the last two Neighborhood Cafés without calling as she usually did. A quick look at the prayer requests helped me remember our last conversation.

My heart sank as the scene replayed itself in slow motion in my mind.

With her endearing humility, Lisa had shared a troubling family situation—smiling at herself in bewilderment, she confessed how she wanted to handle it her way.

And then I, also with a grin, had unleashed a Bible verse to put her in her place.

God’s word is a weapon alright, and I had used it to wound her.

It doesn’t matter that she may have been wrong, and I may have been right. This perfect verse may indeed have spoken to her soul… if I had let the Holy Spirit whisper it in her ear. Instead, I aimed it at her like a missile.

She had been bravely honest, but I had been brutally honest.

It was much harder knocking on her door this time.

She invited me in. We made small talk for a few minutes. She showed me pictures from a recent trip. I steered the conversation around to the family situation that had been so heavy on her heart, took a deep breath and whispered a silent prayer.

“Lisa,” I said, “I’m sorry for the way I responded when you shared this at the Neighborhood Café. I understand how you feel, and how much this situation genuinely concerns you. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

When she didn’t laugh it off—or look me in the eye—I thanked God for revealing to me exactly how I had built this wall between us.

But when she softly said, “It’s okay, Amy,” I thanked him for mending it.

“…[get out there and walk ] with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” Ephesians 4:2-3 The Message

My adventure in loving my neighbors has taught me as much about my neighbors as it has about myself, but it’s taught me even more about God. He is faithful when I am not, He is capable when I am not, He is gracious when I am not. Lisa extended to me the same grace I wish I had extended to her. God once again had come behind me and swept up my mess, clearing the trail of destruction in my wake.

Are there any fences in your neighborhood you need help mending? Are there any walls in your relationships that need to be torn down? “Go and be reconciled to that person,” Jesus said in Matthew 5:24. Don’t worry, He’ll go with you.

Written by Amy Lively

Neighborhood Cafe Feel free to visit Amy at The Neighborhood Cafe.  Today, she is giving away a Neighborhood Cafe Planning Guide and a package of Espresso Mini-Magazines and Leader’s Guide ($24 value).  To register to win, leave a comment below.  OR for those who would rather not comment, you can simply subscribe to Rivera’s blog!  All entries must be in by Wednesday, March 20, at 2 pm EST.  The winners will be announced on Thursday’s post.

11 thoughts on “Mending Fences

  1. Sara Johnson says:

    God’s timing is always perfect. This spoke to me in so many ways. I certainly have some fences to mend with my neighbors. Today, I will gather what I need to bake cakes to take to my neighbors, along with a note a smile and a promise. Thank you !

    1. Amy Lively says:

      I am praying for you, Sara! May God open doors for you as you approach your neighbors in humility. Happy baking!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Amy,
    Your humility, honesty, and authenticity are the ingredients of great leadership. God has molded you into a strong and courageous vessel for delivering His message and for helping others to grow with you in His likeness. When I was very young I can remember my mom telling us to taste our words before we spit them out. As I have gotten much older, I realize she meant not just the actual words, but that I should savor the tone, the texture, the temperature, and the fullness of the flavor of my words before I blessed anyone else with them. I wish I could say that I always do as I know to do, but even now, that is not always so. Today I do try to practice listening rather than hearing; really listening to the whole person without simultaneously preparing a response in my head to the words they are saying. However, for me, both listening and filtering are skills that I must inventory daily and ones that God and I will be honing in me all of my days. Thanks for sharing, for encouraging the rest of us humble ourselves before God and man, to admit our shortcomings, to apologize when we are wrong, and to enjoy the freedom that comes walking humbly with Jesus.

    1. Amy Lively says:

      What a vivid way to remember to think before we speak! I’m going to share your comment on my Facebook page so I can remember your advice. Thank you, Jennifer!

  3. lauriewhin says:

    Thank you for this important reminder: it’s not how much you know, but rather how we use the wisdom He gives to encourage others. Praise The Lord for His grace that allows us to recognize our mistakes and enables us to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness.
    This is a timely post for me as I am just beginning to work with my first small group. Someday I would love to have a neighborhood Bible study, too.

    1. Amy Lively says:

      God has worked in spite of me so many times! I pray the people in your new small group will become deep friends. Please let me know how I can encourage you in your neighborhood!

  4. Mary says:

    Rivera, THANK you for inviting Amy to your blog… Amy, thank YOU for sharing this bittersweet experience. All of us fall short in our walk with Christ, and we are truly blessed that His Holy Spirit is ever present to guide us back to the path He would have us take. Women like you and Rivera, who humble themselves to reveal God’s goodness, grace and compassion – His glory – shine the Light of the Lord into a very dark world. Your willingness to share those things that we’ve been taught (BY the world) to keep hidden inspires courage in the rest of us and gives us an example to follow. I pray that God bless you both, but I already know that He will!!

    1. Amy Lively says:

      Thanks for your encouraging words, Mary. God has indeed blessed me with gracious neighbors like “Lisa” and friends like Rivera.

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