I am arriving, and I am becoming. Yet, as we step into 2014, I feel like so much of what I’ve been doing is gelling for me and enabling me to have the fullness of life that God would want me to have. Here are the things I’ve discovered work.
Spend time each day in Bible study and prayer. I read one day that, if a person spends an hour every day reading about her interest, then she will be among the world’s experts in that topic in three years. People think I know the Bible because I went to Div school. No, I know the Bible because I read and study it. I don’t read it for what I want to get out of it; I read it to learn what God wants to teach me. (And I’m far from an “expert.”)
Prayer is another way to learn what God wants to say to us. Don’t just talk to God; good conversation goes two ways. Listen to God speak. Be quiet for a while and hush the background noise. Step outside of your narrow world and pray for others – that neighbor who’s sick, the friend who’s looking for a job, the child who just needs to get through today.
Eat well. Eat balanced. Drink lots of water. Enjoy whole grains. Embrace green leafy vegetables. Experiment with different foods. Try new recipes. Don’t deny yourself sweets, but don’t overindulge in them.
Hang out with positive people. I have some amazing friends, both male and female. When I’m around them, we can talk about different things. We’re all pretty intelligent and well-read, but we all have different interests and passions about which we’re knowledgeable, so our conversations are vibrant and lively. I have a couple of older female friends, and half an hour talking with them is like drinking an espresso. Find people like this. Enjoy their company. Learn from them. Energize each other.
Grudges? Who needs them? Let go of grudges. If you aren’t currently carrying any grudges, don’t start. It’s called “holding a grudge” for a reason. Imagine someone handing you a huge, heavy box of junk for you to carry for 6 months or 5 years or 20 years. It’s their junk, but you think that they’ll feel the hurt in their arms and back if you carry it. Are you going to choose to hold onto this burden, or simply leave it behind? If you do hold this heavy burden, how much hurt will they experience from it? None, of course. Choose to let that stuff go. It’s only weighing YOU down. Your grudge only hurts you.
Forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t say to someone, “It’s OK that you did that.” Forgiveness is for yourself, not for the other person. Forgiveness says, “This is your issue, not mine, and I’m letting this go for my own emotional and psychological health.” Forgiveness is liberating!
Honor the Sabbath. Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.” While this is one of the Ten Commandments and worthy of attention, we need to realize that today’s working climate sometimes requires people to work on Sundays. A Sabbath day is meant to be a day of rest. Take this, whichever day of the week this falls on. Unplug, check out, spend time with your family or friends or a good book. Rest and relax so you’ll be refreshed and recharged for the next 6 days.
Don’t hate. Simple as that. Grissom, former head of the crime lab on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation once said, “Hate isn’t the opposite of love. Apathy is.” Truth of the matter is, hating someone requires a great deal of emotional investment. Think about loving someone. Your every moment is filled with that person. What are they doing? When will you get to speak to them again? Is he/she having a good day? Are they well? You see what I’m saying. Hating someone is the same way. Your hate consumes you, occupies your time, drives you, governs your feelings and attitudes and behaviors. In other words, just as when you love someone, hating someone also infiltrates every aspect of your life. If you’re not going to love, then be apathetic. Simply stop caring. Why invest emotions where there’s no positive return?
Love one another. Love wildly. Radically. Freely. Liberally. Enthusiastically. Out loud. In the quiet moments. During the storms and while running towards each other in some figurative flower-strewn meadow. Love unconditionally. Love the unlovable. Love those who hate you. Love regardless of religion, sex, creed, color, and sexual orientation. Jesus never put conditions on his command to love. Why should we make loving harder and more restrictive than even the God of Love created it to be?
Exercise good stewardship over what you have. Those Joneses who you’re trying to impress? You know, those neighbors or people from church or folks at work? They really don’t care what you have. Don’t run up debt trying to impress people you really don’t like. Don’t run up debt, period. Live within your means. Get rid of clutter. Your material blessings are from God, and we are called to be faithful stewards of those blessings.
People in your life are also blessings. (One of my friends says that “People are either blessin’s or lessons,” so even the lessons can come with blessings.) Treat your spouse, children, friends and parents with care. Look out for them. Respect them. Guard their hearts above all else. As those of us reading this can attest, there will be more than enough people in their worlds who’ll break their hearts.
Realize the truth of God’s word. There are no short cuts. There are no easy answers. The Bible says that God wants us to have abundant life. God has great plans for our life. God loves us. Nowhere does it says that following Jesus guarantees health. Sin is in the world. Bad stuff happens. People get sick and die too soon. This includes Bible-readin’, Jesus-followin’ prayer warriors. The word of God also doesn’t promise wealth. In fact, Jesus tells the rich man to sell everything he has and give it to the poor before following him. Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Nor are we promised prosperity. The man who built a bigger barn to store his excess grain died that night. Those of us who faithfully follow Jesus choose to follow an itinerant, radical rabbi whose ways and teachings upset people so much they killed him. Short summary: The health, wealth and prosperity gospel is a HERESY! (Can we do the St. Nicholas punch on those who preach that?)
Ask for help when you need it. Often in Paul’s letters, we see allusions to racing, and often researchers and interpreters envision those as marathons, for the race for the crown truly is a long race requiring stamina. I see the Christian life as a relay race, though, because we need people to help us win that race. The writer of Hebrews says to encourage each other daily, as long as it’s TODAY. Don’t worry about who you’ll encourage tomorrow; encourage those around you today. One of my favorite lines from hymnody is “Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too” (“The Servant Song”). When we don’t ask for help, then we deny others the opportunity to live out their faith in serving us. There’s a reason we’re in community – Koinonia – together.
What would you add? What helps you live a more full life? (Comments and suggestions from those of all faiths – or no faith – are welcome. I just ask that you keep them respectful.)