Reflection is a useful tool as we navigate life. Sitting still long enough to remember, to feel, to think and meditate, helps us enter a new season with greater strength. Otherwise, we’re prone to run from moment to moment, year to year, without really engaging in the present. What were your highlights of 2016? What were the low points? Here’s a few of mine:
- Moving across the country from Los Angeles to NYC, which was both a high and a low. Great gain is great loss, my friend.
- Publishing my first Bible Plan with YouVersion. Stay tuned, there’s another one coming soon!
- Getting pregnant with Aber Baby #2!
- Not having to drive in traffic = HIGH. Not having margin alone in my car = LOW.
- These three books: How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin; Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance; The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper.
- The whole election season = LOW. But, it did shed significant light on darkness = HIGH.
- Gave more cash than ever as a couple in 2016 = HIGH. Did not follow our budget = LOW.
- Started pastoring at Liberty Church, Downtown Manhattan, right across from the NY stock exchange.
I miss our beautiful community the most, and I am thankful for those we are growing closer with, here in New York City. You can’t rush friendship, that’s for sure, and until someone has seen you ugly cry, or your house looking a hot mess, or let you get snippy with them and still love you to pieces, well, how can you call it close?
If I have a life verse, it’s the chapter of Isaiah 58. It’s a reminder to me of my religious tendencies, and helps keep my heart focused on love, justice, and sharing my life with others. I was reading this passage today:
10 And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday. 11 And the Lord shall guide you continually and satisfy you in drought and in dry places and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water whose waters fail not. Isaiah 58:10-11 AMPC, emphasis mine
I asked myself, what is that with which I sustain my own life, and how can I give that away? And it led me to think about 10 gifts that I need daily to sustain my own life, and how I want to consistently give them away this year. The first five are basics for survival, and the last five are for my personal daily sustenance. I hope this list helps you, as you reflect, and enter the wide open space of 2017.
FOOD. Basic and vital to survival. We can buy lunch for a friend; learn a homeless person’s name and offer to feed them; sponsor a child in a developing nation; mentor a younger person and feed them while you do; financially support non-profits who are helping feed folks in our communities; donate food to a local Food Bank. We all have to eat to live – let’s give what we have to others.
WATER. Another basic. Donate to an organization providing water in developing nations; learn a homeless person’s name, and offer to buy them a water, or a gatorade (FYI, sometimes our homeless friends don’t like getting water, because it requires them to use a bathroom more often, so ask them!); buy a co-worker their favorite coffee or tea (made with water, right?); carry your elderly neighbor’s gallon of water up to her door.
SHELTER. Another basic. If you know someone sleeping on a couch, offer your spare bedroom and access to the fridge for a week (do this with wisdom if you have littles in your house); donate to shelters in your city, who have transparent financial records, integrity in the community and safe, clean beds; offer to help pay a bill for a single parent to help them stay in their home.
HEALTH. Cook healthy meals as a gift to yourself and your household; offer to go for a walk or a hike with a friend; grocery shop for a neighbor in need; teach a health class for young kids in impoverished neighborhoods (many struggling economic communities do not have access to a grocery store, or bank, and are overrun with fast food chains).
MONEY + RESOURCES. Make a monthly financial commitment to an organization you love (like Treasures); give consistently to your community of faith; use your platform for good; give your time to a local community board (PTA’s, police stations, city councils and neighborhood councils all offer these opportunities); find a need and anonymously meet it.
RELATIONSHIP. Give your best to the people closest to you – stop bringing home your emotional scraps; share your needs, desires, and dreams with a few friends you trust; give your people your presence: put down the phone, pull your heart and mind out of your past and your future, and be right here, right now; let people know you, and have an earnest desire to know them as well; face your demons. Don’t demonize others; cook and eat together (my favorite thing with my mom, and with my husband).
FAITH COMMUNITY. Engage in your faith community through worship and service; meet a new person each week and remember their name; go out for brunch after church to share what you learned and talk about faith, hope, and justice; pursue wholeness – change and grow, so you can offer people your best self. (You are a gift.)
LEARNING. This might feel like a strange one, but this is how I sustain my heart, soul and mind daily. Read books that inspire you, challenge you, and keep you from developing “group think”; listen to music that stirs your soul; download a weekly podcast that doesn’t press you into auto-pilot, but makes you think (my favs: The Practice Podcast, anything with Walter Brueggemann & Dr. Soong Chan Rah), Pass the Mic, and Bishop T.D. Jakes); watch films and television shows that inspire your creativity (or sometimes nothing at all, thank you very much Real Housewives of Atlanta – I love you NeNe.)
HOLY SPIRIT + PRAYER. Pray whenever you want – in the shower, as you travel, at work before you slap your co-worker, just do it consistently; invite the Holy Spirit to teach you; pray that God will help you truly see others, and that He will use you to encourage them and lift their hearts (just don’t be weird, okay – we’ve got a lot of ground to cover after 2016); pray with others (visit a hospital or a jail, call a friend or family member, gather a small group) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you do it. He guides us into all truth, and I would be dead in a ditch without His help. (Thank you Jesus.)
EAT AT THE TABLE. Utilize your table (who cares if it’s a folding table or an ottoman?) to provide meaningful connection, rich conversation, and reprieve for others; invite people who are different than you to the table, or if you don’t like your own people, invite them too, and learn more about yourself and them; gather people together so that friends become family (framily!) and ask them to help cook, or bring wine, or whatever they have, so everyone has the opportunity to contribute; host a Bacon & Donuts brunch – it’s cheap and easy, and fatty and fun. (Sorry to the above gift, titled HEALTH.)
If we give away what sustains us, then our light will rise in the darkness, and our obscurity and gloom will become like the noonday. And even in times of drought and in dry places, the Lord will guys us continually, and make strong our bones. We’ll be like a watered garden, like a spring of water that will never run dry. I’ll have a little more of that, how about you?
We make justice harder than it is, but it’s the simple habits and gifts that bring peace into our lives, and the lives of others, and inspire hope in dark times. The heart of justice is love. And the more we know one another, the more we can love one another, and the more whole we become personally and as a community, so let’s be big gift givers in 2017, and show people the tangible love of God. Do good wherever you go this year.
What gifts would you add to this list? Has anyone told you how amazing you are today? You are, my friend, spectacular indeed.