Q & A are The Belonging Project

The pursuit of what the world perceives as the “perfect life” leaves us feeling depleted, disappointed, dissatisfied, and disconnected. If we would be open and honest with those around us, we would discover we are not the only ones tired of being lonely and left out at work, home, church, and online. God created each and every one of us with a hunger for true community, deeper connection with him, and friendships that are greater than “likes” on social media.

As she was touring the nation, speaker and comedian Amberly Neese found this sense of loneliness and disconnect to be present for women across the board—single or married, rich or poor, with or without children. That is the reason she set out to write The Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to ThriveIn this four-week study, Neese provides biblical and practical help for cultivating meaningful relationships that glorify God through an examination of the many “one another” scriptures throughout the New Testament. She groups more than fifty of them into themes in order to lead readers on an exploration of how to love, serve, build up, strengthen and forgive one another.

Part 1 of an Interview with Amberly Neese,
Author of of The Belonging Project
Q: Tell us a little bit about the central theme of your new Bible study, The Belonging Project.

The Belonging Project is the exploration of the New Testament as it pertains to biblical community. God has designed us to live in mutually beneficial relationships and has given us the blueprints to do so in His Word. This four-week study is designed to encourage, empower, and equip participants to thrive in the community to which God has called us.

I started writing The Belonging Project because as I toured the nation speaking and doing comedy, I just kept hearing women say that they were lonely. Single or married, rich or poor, with a zip code of kids or not, women are feeling disconnected and depleted. Technology has provided us a million opportunities to “see” into the lives of others, but it seems we are actually IN one another’s lives so much less.

To address some of those issues, I explored the more than fifty uses of the term “one another” in the New Testament. Phrases such as “love one another,” “pray for one another,” and “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” are incredible puzzle pieces in the full picture of what biblical community is designed to look like.

Q: Why is community often difficult for women to find and maintain?

Women are busy—overextended with activities, responsibilities, and obligations. Community takes intentional prioritization and a desire to grow alongside others. But it is no easy trick—schedules are full, the pull of busyness can be a real struggle, and community takes time and availability.

Availability also means we must bring our authentic selves to relationships, and that is not easy. Many of us have created a facade of “I’m okay,” but such inauthenticity undermines finding a tribe and learning to thrive. If we are not okay, we should have a safe space to share that, but we also should be creating that safe space for others.

I also think we can get caught up in “Pinterest-envy” or the desire to keep up with the Pinterest boards. It may not be that we strive for every aspect of our lives to be picture perfect, but mostly, we are trying to keep up with our perception of the lives of others. That envy can block us from seeing who people truly are and take our eyes off Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Only when we focus on Him and ask Him to use us to bless and serve others will we drop the envy and start living and thriving in authentic relationships.

Q: What are the four categories of “one another” sayings from the New Testament you examine in The Belonging Project?

The phrase “one another” is derived from the Greek word allelon, which means “one another . . . each other; mutual,” or “reciprocally.” Appearing more than one hundred times in the New Testament, this concept forms the basis of all true Christian community and has direct impact on our witness to the world. As we read in John 13:35 (NIV), “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In the Belonging Project, we examine some of these “one anothers,” grouping them into four themes:

  1. Find One Another
  2. Fellowship with One Another
  3. Forgive One Another
  4. Fortify One Another
In each week of the study, we focus on one particular theme and explore relevant “one another” scriptures and related passages to help give us clarity on how we might live a life in a community that is both fulfilling and fun. Together, we will dive into how to handle life when we feel dejected, disconnected, and dissatisfied so that we can find our tribe and learn to thrive.

Q: Typically, in the church when we hear the word “fellowship,” we think the word “meal” should follow. What is true fellowship within our community?

True fellowship is when believers are willing to celebrate together, mourn together, support one another, love one another enough to speak the truth in love, and hold one another accountable. Such living is not easy, but it is rewarding and fosters spiritual growth in all involved.

In Romans 12:13, we are told to “share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” I am glad that Paul used the word practice when it comes to hospitality, because I am still practicing. There are people in my life who find great joy and fulfillment in opening their homes, hands, and tables to people, no matter the hour. Although I love when people come to visit and break bread with us, I need advance notice—and that is not hospitality in its purest form; it is the desire to impress others.

I used to believe that hospitality was limited to opening one’s home to others, but I have come to realize that, indeed, this is only a fraction of hospitality. Hospitality can be defined as serving others with love and without complaint, taking on the expense and tasks with joy.

Q: What is something about forgiveness and grace that we often misunderstand or get wrong? How does humility fit in?

Forgiveness has the word “give” in it. It is a gift to both the one forgiven and the one forgiving. We are called to forgive one another, knowing that we will eventually hurt one another as imperfect people. It is to make right. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same— it takes one to forgive and two to reconcile. Forgiveness does not require reconciliation; sometimes it is not possible or practical, but forgiveness is always the right thing to do.

Grace is the next step, not just make right, but make better! Grace can be defined as “undeserved favor.” If we continually recognize the grace given to us in Christ Jesus, humility certainly follows, and relationships with others more easily exist. Grace is what Jesus modeled for us and what God extends to us. God does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10). Instead, we are given grace. We sometimes focus on what we deserve because we work hard, go to Bible study, or because we declined a cookie. We rarely focus on the fact we deserved condemnation and instead we were given love. We deserved death, and we were given life.

Q: What are some ways readers can creatively come together to do the study as a group, even if they aren’t able to meet in person?

First of all, Zoom and other technologies like it are a great way to connect. Schedule a time each week to discuss the study at length, covering the questions at the end of each lesson and share them with others in the study. In addition, one could easily watch the videos, complete the study, then discuss the answers over the phone with others in their lives. The hard part is finding a tribe with which to do the study.

Ask God to show you how you can add to your community of friends, even at this time of quarantine. Pray that God would prompt you to think of others who might be hungry for connection and would benefit from such a study. Call at least one person in your church and or neighborhood and ask how you can pray for him/her. Pray with him/her on the phone and ask if they would like to be part of The Belonging Project with you. Make a list of people who might be good additions to your community of friends and to the study. Include people from your church, workplace, and neighborhood or area. Pray for each of them—not only that they might become your friend but also that God would bless their study of his Word.

The Belonging Project – Online Bible Study Facebook Group

For more details and to reserve your spot in one of the small group discussions,
go to https://www.amberlyneese.com/bible-study.

About the author
Amberly Neese is a speaker, humorist, and encourager with a passion for “GRINspiring” others. As a featured speaker for the Aspire Women’s Events and the main host/ comedienne for Marriage Date Night, two popular Christian events that tour nationally, she enjoys touching the hearts and minds and funny bones of people all over the country. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine, and she has found it’s also like glue—helping the truths of God’s Word to “stick.” Neese loves to remind women of the power and hope found in Scripture. Through a flair for storytelling and a love for Jesus, she candidly opens up her story alongside God’s Word to encourage others in their walk with Him. She is also the author of the women’s Bible study, The Belonging Project.

With a master’s degree from Biola University, Neese serves as an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University. She and her husband, Scott, have two teenagers and live in Prescott, Arizona, where they enjoy the great outdoors, the Food Network, and all things Star Wars.

For more information, visit her website www.amberlyneese.com. She is also active on Facebook (@Amberly Neese – Comedian/Speaker), Twitter (@amberlyneese), and Instagram (@amberlyneese).

Review and Giveaway for Healing the Healers

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When mass trauma hits, faith leaders are called upon to guide communities through the aftermath, but who reaches out to heal these healers and their families? This new media resource is designed to support clergy, laity, social workers, first responders, and other spiritual care providers facing community-level trauma.  The five-part film series also offers a discussion guide which includes written reflections from scholars, clergy, and other experts.

In this series, Reverend Matthew Crebbin of Newton Congregational Church holds powerful conversations with faith leaders who have experienced mass trauma, such as Newton or during 9/11, and even those ministering to a community facing chronic violence such as Hartford, CT or St. Louis, MO.

This series does a remarkable job of touching on both traumatic events as well as addressing what the faith leaders and other responders have to deal with during times of traumatic events as well as the results for communities many years in the future.

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The first episode is titled – Newtown Faith Leaders Unite in Tragedy.  This episode includes self-awareness and self-care, phases of human-caused disaster as well as the impact on the families of faith leaders.  It addresses the ideas of re-traumatization, moving forward and looking ahead.

The Very Rev. Kathleen E. Adams-Shepherd

The second episode is entitled “Looking Ahead and Moving Forward”.  This episode features Reverend Kathleen Adams-Shepherd, who was formerly from Newton and currently lives in St. Louis.  This episode includes the themes of mass tragedy and the Liturgical calendar, self-awareness, self-care, denominational as well as congregational support and more.

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The third episode, “Pastoring in a Community That Faces Continual Trauma” addresses the topic of chronic gun violence.   Rev. Crebbin speaks with Rev. Henry Brown of Mothers Against Violence of Hartford, CT, and Pastor Samuel Saylor, Sr., Senior Pastor of Gardner Memorial AME Zion Church.  Both have personal connections to trauma that they discuss with Rev. Crebbin and discuss how they cope with the chronic stress, both mental and physical, that can result from ministering to a community re-traumatized continually by gun violence.

Father Basil O’Sullivan
The fourth episode, “Heartbreak and Hope 20 Years After Tragedy” includes a conversation with Monsignor Basil O’Sullivan, who is the parish priest of Church of the Holy Family, Dunblane, Scotland.  It addresses the fact that time does not necessarily heal all wounds, confronting depression, questioning God, re-traumatization, and rejoicing in the preciousness of life.  Out of all the episodes, this is among my favorites.  The Monsignor speaks eloquently and with feeling about what his community has gone through since their own experience 20 years ago.
Cantor Michael Shochet

The fifth episode, “Faith Leaders as First and Second Responders examines Cantor Michael Shochet’s journey from poiice officer to Cantor.  He discusses his personal experiences of being at the Pentagon following 9/11 and the trauma of seeing his partner being shot in front of him.  He discusses the similarities between faith leaders and the police in being first responders.

If you have experienced any type of personal trauma, you may want to think twice about watching this series.  Or you may wish to contact a professional prior to watching it.

I loved the variety of people interviewed, especially their backgrounds (Christian and Jewish), a former police officer), and their willingness to share their own experiences.

As a mother of four, I can not begin to fathom what these individuals have been through and continue to live with each day.  Yet this film does a remarkable job of addressing the issues facing communities and those called on to provide healing.  This series contains powerful words and imagery.  It provides an excellent look into what faith leaders may experience personally in their congregations and communities following acts of violence, whether those acts occur on a regular basis or unexpectedly such as the shooting at the school in Newton, CT.

You can see a trailer of the film below.

You can find the film series here.  If you know of someone who could benefit from this resource, please share the link with them.

 

Click here or on the graphic below to enter the giveaway.

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I received free access to these episodes for my fair and honest review.

Review of Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup

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 Have you ever wanted to do something only to second guess yourself? Have you ever wondered what you are capable of doing? Have you ever wondered what prevents you from doing what you truly desire to do? If so this is the book for you. Ruth Soukup does an excellent job of breaking down the archetypes that keep us paralyzed in fear and then gives strategies and suggestions for overcoming those fears.

The first section of the book dives deep into the Seven Archetypes which are: the Procrastinator, The Rule Follower, The People Pleaser, The Outcast, The Self-Doubter, The Excuse Maker, and The Pessimist. She provides both the strengths and weaknesses of each type along with suggested careers for each type.

After helping the reader understand their archetype, she then provides 7 tools and strategies for overcoming your fears and stepping out of your comfort zone. Too many of us get stuck because we are too paralyzed by fear to walk out in faith and challenge the status quo. The second half of this book does an amazing job of helping the reader see how to start moving and face our fears head-on.

She writes in an engaging manner that makes you feel as if you were actually sitting down having a conversation with her. This book will help you go from fear to faith and go for the “Big” dreams and desires of your heart. So if you are looking for a book to inspire, motivate, encourage you and more, check out this book for yourself.

I know this book encouraged me to think about who I am, what I am afraid of and what I want from life. With a husband who is about 3 years away from retirement, I have big dreams for our future that I want to see come to life. This book is encouraging me to step out in faith and start working towards the life I want.

So check this book out for yourself.

Guest Post for Shiny Things

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Today I would like to share a guest post from the authors of the book Shiny Things, which I was privileged to be on the book launch team for.

WHO’S THE BOSS

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I sat contentedly, tucked back into the restaurant booth—the perfect spot for a romantic date with my husband with just enough visibility to people watch (one of my favorite pastimes). Whereas the words between us seem to bounce back-and-forth like a Ping-Pong game, the table across from us was rather quiet. 10 people sat within inches of one another, heads bowed and eyes glued to the devices in front of them. The adults held phones while the children were magnetized to various digital screens. Not a word was spoken. We watched in amazement as the waitress came and did her best to take drink orders. The family didn’t even look up. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and 2 children, one by one, they mumbled their selection as the server walked around the table. Meal ordering was no different. I couldn’t stop staring, so amazed at the lack of conversation. Didn’t they know they were completely missing out on precious time together?! And what about the rudeness in ignoring the waitstaff?

I think we can all agree that sometimes it’s easier to stare at a screen than to wade through awkward conversation. Avoiding confrontation, pushing off uncomfortable social situations, and sidestepping the possibility of a raw subject rearing its ugly head and offending someone.

But beyond actual phone conversations, our cellphones sure seem to boss us around an awful lot, causing us to feel like we are at the beck and call of everything and everyone. Like we have to respond to incoming texts as soon as they pop up on our screens. Obligated to check our social media accounts 50 billion times a day because someone might have commented on our fabulous photo that we posted 15 minutes ago.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have willingly become a slave to my apps, checking my Facebook and Instagram accounts like it’s my job. Which it’s totally not. (Hence the reason I decided to take the Facebook app completely off my phone. Now I only use it on my laptop. Which for me, means I use it a whole lot less. And guess what? I don’t feel like I missing much. Less politics and drama = one happy mama. Less scrolling and more time with my people. Win win. I’m not saying you have to do this, but it’s worked well for me.)

It feels like the world is waiting for us. For us to engage and comment and post and document our day for all the world to see.

So how do we utilize these amazing little rectangular wonders of technology? Is it possible to find ways to communicate and interact with one another in a way that draws us closer to God and His people rather than drawing us away?

This is the quandary we face. We’ve been given a gift of connection. But we’re unsure how to be good stewards of it.

Maybe it’s time we showed our phones who’s boss.

– Setting them aside more often.

– Putting them in another room so we can spend intentional time with our people.

– Establishing a social media sabbath regularly.

– Limiting the amount of times we check email and social media throughout the day.

– Setting a timer for when we’re on social media or doing online searches.

– Turning our ringers off more (unless your best friend going into labor, or the fire alarms at your house are going off and the babysitter is calling).

– Focusing our eyes and our attention on our most important people, because our actions (and our lack of words) speak loudly.

Our people are watching … and waiting for us to get off our devices.

Our callings are waiting … ready for us to unswervingly pursue the passions God has put on our hearts.

The Savior of our soul is waiting … longing for us to wholeheartedly be in relationship with Him. The kind of loving friendship that wants to share quality time all throughout the day. Listening. Learning. Communicating. Because that’s what love looks like.

What matters most is waiting. For us! Not us connected to something else.

Maybe it’s time we showed our phones who’s really in charge.

—///—

For more on this topic of intentional living, check out our brand new book, SHINY THINGS: Mothering on Purpose in a World of Distractions. It launches out into the world in exactly ONE WEEK. Get your preordered copy today. Then pop back over to our book’s landing page and claim your free gift. Time is a tickin’.

 

So definitely check out this book for yourself.  You can purchase the book on Amazon and from the Proverbs 31 Ministries Store

Here are the Links to the authors:
Instagram: @amanda_bacon_ @anne_reneegumley
Facebook: The Masterpiece Mom
Let me know what you think about it.

  

Review and Giveaway for Chonda Pierce’s “Unashamed”

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This Mother’s Day week, May 7 & 9 at 7:00pm., you and your friends can enjoy a night of laughter and truth as the only top-selling female comedian, Chonda Pierce, can deliver.  Chonda will make you laugh and think as she boldly proclaims the truth of the Gospel to a hurting world.  Chonda takes a journey into the hearts of the faithful as she engages some of the boldest believers in America. Mike Huckabee, Danny Gokey, the Benham Brothers, and others tell their stories of speaking truth to our culture…no matter the consequences. Don’t forget to bring your moms, grandmas and every mother in your church for a night to remember!

Only Chonda can communicate deep and meaningful truth and make you laugh at the same time.  Chonda is unchained, unrestrained and UNASHAMED!

MY THOUGHTS (1)

As I started watching this movie, I have to say I was glad I was alone.  Initially, I had thought about having my husband watch with me, but then I decided I wanted this to be something I watched alone.  Interspersed with clips of her comedian routine, she talks with some incredible Christians including Mike Huckabee and then Benham Brothers along with Danny Gokey.

Chonda Pierce definitely has the heart for those who are hurting and it comes through her work.  The other thing that stands out in this movie is that she is unashamedly Christian.  When she visits the Benham Brothers, I learned something I did not know previously, which was their minor league baseball foray.  But I did know they were unapologetically and unashamedly Christian.  I also had to chuckle when Chonda Pierce turned the interviewing tables on Mike Huckabee and even sat in his chair.

In the clips from her comedy routine, she talks directly to the women in the audience.  Although there are some men present she makes it clear that she is talking to women.  With her personal experience of being a widow who is trying to get back out into the dating world, she truly made me laugh and shake my head in agreement at times.

The Christians in this show demonstrate the heart and love of Christ through their words and actions.  I will say I feel this show would best be enjoyed with a bunch of your favorite women and some good snacks to go along with the show.  Truly, this is a movie that will make you laugh and understand that as Christians we need to be unashamed of our faith.

 

Win 8 disc

GIVEAWAY LINK:  https://www.blessedfreebies.com/chondra-pierce-giveaway.html

Giveaway ends May 6 and winner will be selected by May 15th.  Prizes are physical items that will be mailed.

So check this movie out for yourself!  And as I said take some special women in your life with you so you all can get some laughs.

Disclaimer

 

 

Blogging A to Z – “B” is for Boisterous Boys

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter B

This is my second post for Blogging A to Z 2019, which means the letter is “B”. “B” is for boisterous boys.  Growing up, I imagined I would have children.  However, I do not think I was prepared for God’s incredible sense of humor.  He gave my husband and me three sons followed by one daughter.  Our sons are boisterous boys.  They like to be loud, and sometimes they like to be super rambunctious.  Even at 22, 20, and 18, these boys love life and living it to the fullest.

They keep our home filled with laughter, love, and more.  They adore their sister and constantly demonstrate their love for her.  But these boys can be a handful at time.  They definitely believe the sky is the limit.  And what one does not think of doing, one of the others surely will.

So today’s letter is “B”.  What comes to your mind for the letter “B’?

If you would like to read my other posts in this series, click here.

Review of the “Gospel of Matthew” from Alabaster

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As a Christian, I am always on the lookout for Biblical books to read and study.  So when I had the opportunity to review the Gospel of Matthew from Alabaster.com, I was thrilled for the opportunity.  This book begins with the history of the birth of Jesus and finishes with mentioning the Great Commission.
I really wanted to love this book, but unfortunately, I can not say I did.  It utilizes the New Living  Translation, which is not one of my favorite translations.  Also, the font and color of the font made it difficult to read.
The book is of a more expository nature than a Bible study workbook.  I feel like I would have loved it more if the font had been different and different photographs had been selected.  The paper is of wonderful quality.  The idea behind this book is great, but I feel like the execution could have been done better.
So check out this book for yourself.
Win 1 of 5 Copies
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