Welcome to the online home of Audra Jennings, a book publicist and crafter. Here I share about both. I hope you'll find books you'll want to read and crafts you will want to order. I live a rather boring, single life. At times I would like to think I am humorous. In the past, blogging about current seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette were a big part of the blog. I'm giving that up though. I just can't handle it anymore.
Belonging Project, speaker and comedian Amberly Neese combines Bible study
with delightful humor to create a refreshing and engaging experience that will
encourage and equip women to pursue deeper relationships and true belonging by
loving and serving one another. She describes The Belonging Project as
an 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. The study is designed to encourage,
empower, and equip participants to thrive in the community to which God has
called them,” she shares.
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:
Find One Another
Fellowship with One Another
Forgive One Another
Fortify One Another
in our lives to help us grow in our capacity to love, serve, and forgive is
always important, regardless of what is going on in our lives and our world
around us. However, now, more than ever, we’ve become keenly aware of the need
to pursue and build an authentic tribe. She shares more about that in the
Q: We’ve been in the midst of social
distancing for what seems like forever now. How has this period of time made
meaningful relationships all the more important?
distancing has made us painfully aware of the pangs of loneliness and
disconnection. Zoom parties and drive-by encouragement are wonderful, but they
are no substitution for sitting knee-to-knee with a friend, sharing our hearts.
In addition, for some, having a house full of family in quarantine can be fun (and
loud), but it may not be a conducive place to be truly seen and heard.
away from others has helped us see the need for others in our life. Biblical
community is more important than ever as we rebuild from the quarantine. One of
my closest friends lost a child during this season and the inability to hug her
family, have a service for her sweet daughter, mourn collectively, and support
her clan in this tragedy have been salt in her wounds for sure.
The Belonging Project highlights some ways to love and
serve others from the comfort of one’s living room as well as the sweet
discomfort of sitting with a friend in her pain. Social distancing may put a
damper on connection, but there are ways to encourage others without breaking
quarantine. I am a hugger—more like a tackler—so this time has been hard for
me, but it has allowed me the opportunity to explore new ways to comfort,
encourage, and connect with others.
Q: Sometimes social media is the
only way we keep up with our friends. How can social media be both a help and
hindrance to our friendships?
can serve as a wonderful way to stay in touch, but it can also serve as a
source of discouragement. It is easy to get caught up in the “compare snare”—the
heartache of being left out and/or comparing oneself to the feed of others. It
is easy to believe that someone else’s feed, their social media gallery, is an
accurate picture of their lives. I rarely see dirty dishes, marital discourse,
unemployment, bad hair days, or depression on Facebook or Instagram. We only
share good stuff and only after it has gone through a filter to remove our
wrinkles and uneven skin tone.
avoid comparing our real life to the “reel” life of others because it begins to
give us a false sense of reality, and we can suffer from envy, disappointment,
and dissatisfaction—mindsets that erode a biblical community.
found out on social media that many of my cronies (an old school word for
friends) had started a Bible study. Without me. To try and keep the numbers
reasonable, they had made a list, and I wasn’t on it. It crushed me. The ironic
thing was I had already started writing the
Belonging Project, my attempt to encourage women to seek community with
others in Jesus’ name, and I was not invited. It took me a little while to
recover, but my husband and I have also since started a Bible study with an
amazing group of folks who were hungry for community as well.
Q: What can we learn from the life
of Jesus about living in community? How was this so different from the
political, social and religious culture of the day?
Jesus was counter-cultural as he set an example of
including others that others cast aside. He loved those who were hurting,
broken, and vulnerable. He chose to invite twelve others to do life alongside
him and paved the way for us to do likewise.
his time on earth, Jesus said things that seemed revolutionary (and downright
crazy) to his contemporaries. He broke through cultural, political, and social
barriers during his thirty years of life and three years of public ministry.
His followers (including the apostle Paul, who penned many of the letters in
the New Testament) followed suit. Their behaviors, practices, and words often
flew in the face of the culture and helped shape history.
designed us for community. In fact, Jesus was so passionate about community
that He not only chose disciples—twelve guys of varying backgrounds,
personalities, and gifts, to walk with him in his journey. He also instructed
them to do likewise with others. He invited a myriad of others, including many
women, to partner with him in ministry along his path. Through his teachings
and the teachings of His followers, we have a blueprint for the community that
he has designed for us. This blueprint can be found in the phrases in the New
Testament that include the words one
another, such as love one another, encourage one another, serve one
another, forgive one another, and many more. Some of these concepts were
certainly counter-cultural in the time of Jesus and are today as well. Jesus
spoke these words in times of political, social, and religious tumult and they
are so applicable in our current context as well.
Q: What are some tips on finding
your tribe? As we search, what are some things we also need to find within
we see in movies and magazines, where personal strength and winning are
celebrated, we are created for community. We are meant to encourage one
another, walk ahead of and behind one another, and create connections with one
another. Yet even as part of a church, we often fall prey to societal patterns
of comparison and competition and miss out on true community.
To find one’s tribe, we should first pray about it and
ask God specifically for people alongside whom we can grow, serve others, and
be willing to step outside of our comfort zone.
We need to make sure, however, that we also are willing
to be vulnerable, humble, and a safe place for people. Biblical community is
not for sissies. We are a broken people, and even when made holy by the blood
of Jesus, we sometimes make broken choices. We speak unkindly, we act unfairly,
we give grace unequally. Community with other believers can be challenging and
can take a lot of faith, but it is a gift and it is worth the hard work of
extending and embracing forgiveness.
Q: The last week in the study
focuses on fortifying one another. What does that look like in a practical,
It can take all shapes and forms, but first, one should
commit to spending time to find a body in which you can grow in your knowledge
of God’s word, stretch your faith muscles, and be built up by other believers.
If we are
going to find our tribe and learn to thrive, we need to be committed to
encourage others. Not the “Oh my, what a cute dress!” encouragement (although
that is always fun, not the wearing a dress part, but the compliment part), but
the encouragement of others in their walk with Jesus. Ask yourself: How can I
encourage someone in his or her spiritual walk today?
We live in a
discouraging world. The political climate, the tragedies all over the nation,
the starvation of children all over the world, the disregard of the value of
human life, the threat of war, the rise in stress and anxiety—it is
overwhelming. How do we keep our perspective? By focusing on Jesus and
encouraging one another daily. Do one small thing today to encourage another
believer. One could also consider encouraging someone you know who has left the
church with a text, call, email, or letter.
can easily develop a habit of gratitude through daily practice—perhaps by
writing down all the things one is thankful for each day. Find a friend with
which to share that list. It becomes a blessing to both parties!
Q: How is The Belonging Project designed to be used? What are the components
of each week’s study?
thing about this study is its versatility. It can be done with a few friends or
with hundreds of ladies. The format is designed to be easy and enjoyable—five
days of lessons each week for four weeks.
There is a
daily lesson, memory verses, calls to action, and questions to grapple with for
each week’s teaching. The lessons are designed to be completed in about 20
minutes. Each day starts with a “One Another” verse, which sets the tone for
the day, includes a scripture focus and questions for reflection, and ends with
a Call to Action.
of the days in the study covers another “one another” from the New Testament,
if those doing the study have extra time, they can also read through the
entirety of the chapter from which the verse comes to get a more full picture
of the context in which it was written.
Then once a
week, you’ll gather with your group to watch a video, discuss what you’re
learning, and pray together. The session outlines, which provide options for
both a 60-minute and a 90-minute session, include discussion questions,
activities, prayer prompts, and notes for the video segment (available
separately). You’ll find the outline for each session at the end of the
personal lessons for that week.