The lives of your neighbors are more compelling than any plot in a summer blockbuster.



It’s the season of summer movie blockbusters—big, grand stories of superheroes and villains or follow-ups to beloved franchises. Our hearts thrill to a great story, especially when it’s scored with stirring music and enhanced with CGI effects. But, what if, this summer, we also choose to engage in the stories right around us?

Stories of our neighbors, that co-worker down the hallway or the mom at the park. Stories that are smaller but where we can be active participants rather than mere spectators—be it help with projects, welcoming neighbor kids into our homes or celebrating the joys of those around us and caring for them in the hard things (Romans 12:11-12). Stories where, as Jay Pathak and Dave Runyun put it in The Art of Neighboring, “God uses the small things that we bring to him and multiplies them into a miracle in someone else’s life.”

Yes, summer is busy. We run from event to event, shuttle kids around to classes and camps, work in the yard and try to get to those projects we weren’t able to do in the cold dark of winter.

But can we, in the midst of that busyness, take time to enter into the stories of those around us?

I love big-screen stories and enjoy getting swept away by the music and dramatic endings. But those stories don’t really help when I’m trying to figure out how to connect with my neighbor. However, there are a number of books that have encouraged me to move beyond my busyness and my natural introversion to take small but meaningful steps into the stories of those I encounter in the everyday. If you’re looking for some encouragement this summer in taking those steps and seeing God work small miracles in someone’s life through them, here are a few books to get you started.

For those of you who just want the practicals:

The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. If you haven’t read the The Art of Neighboring yet, it’s a great place to start. Even if you just read one or two chapters and only work on implementing those few things, you’ll notice a difference and might be surprised at what God does.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. If hospitality is your thing or you love the idea of backyard barbecues and people enjoying themselves around a meal, then this book will inspire you with ideas, recipes and stories of needs met and hearts fed around the table.

For those of you who want a good story that illustrates how small miracles can happen when we take the initiative to enter into someone else’s story, try one of these:

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate. Wingate recognizes the power of community and loves to write about its ability to change lives. My favorite is The Prayer Box (the first in the Carolina Heirlooms series), but her Blue Sky Hill and Tending Roses series are written in the same vein.

Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish. A story of a fractured couple who choose to care for an abandoned infant. This act of compassion causes them to face their own brokenness and to open their hearts to community members they had previously kept at arm’s length. The result is healing they could never have found on their own.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. This is the story of a young woman aging out of the foster system and how the support of another person allows her to step into a whole new life. The changes wrought by that support open up a whole new career path, new family and the slow but miraculous transformation of her life. Plus, it has all kinds of Jane Austen references for the literary readers out there.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert. Much like Wingate, Ganshert loves to write about what happens when we are willing to share our struggles with those God puts in our path and how he works miracles through that in unexpected ways. Also consider picking up The Art of Losing Yourself.

As You Wish by Cary Elwes. For anyone who loves the movie The Princess Bride, this is Elwes’ memoir of making the film and the community that was created by the cast and crew. I laughed out loud reading this and loved the backstory to the film, but also appreciated the reminder that community can be created almost anywhere and even by people who will only be together for a short period of time.

When it gets crazy hot out there, head to the movie theater to watch a summer blockbuster. But as you do, invite someone to join you. And trust God as he invites you to take small steps throughout the summer to enter into others’ stories and work his miracles through you.