I have a lot to get done before school starts in a week.
Aargh! Is it really only a week?
And there I go. I've had this lovely vacation of discovery and rest and now I'm headed back to the craziness that is my life.
And I don't want to do that.
I resolve to live less like a tourist, rushing to see this and that.
Instead, I want to slow down and spend time getting to know the people in my life, even getting to know new people.
I resolve to sit and sip coffee, less mindful of the time than of my surroundings.
I resolve to explore new things, dream new dreams, venture forth into the unknown.
I resolve to get off the expressway and engage with life and with people and with God.
And yet . . .
Now that I'm back, with only a week before school starts, I have stuff to do.
How do I slow down when I feel like I need to speed up?
I need a plan, some guidelines to help me to live deliberately.
In his book Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Era of Disengagement, Australian and theologian Michael Frost challenged his church with the acronym BELLS. This is a plan for engaging with community, becoming part of the community and inviting the community to join something bigger.
I thought about bells as Duane and I visited numerous churches in Paris, Southwest England, Wales, and London.
Honestly, it seems like there's a church in every neighborhood. Huge churches with amazing artwork. And bell towers reaching into the sky.
And yet, we rarely ever heard the bells. I'm not really sure why. The bells are old, so maybe they're broken.
At Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, Paris, the multi-ton bell in the tower fell silent last summer, and now the church is raising money to fix it so they can once again ring the bells, calling the community to prayer.
That's what church bells do.
They reach out into the community and speak of God's glory and God's love. They remind the community to worship God on a moment by moment basis. Conversely, at the same time, they invite the community into the church. Come. Come join us. Come worship God with us.
We who are followers of Jesus Christ need to do the same.
We need to go out into the community and live and speak and sing God's truths, and we need to invite people to join us and welcome them openly when they do.
I thought about Frost's challenge as I wandered through the churches, and I see it as a plan for the year. This (with some modifications) is my plan to keep me on track, engaging, connecting, getting off the expressway.
This year I will:
Bless at least one member of my spiritual community and at least one person from the other parts of my life every week. These blessings might take the form of a letter, a word of encouragement, or an act of service. This doesn't seem like much, but sometimes I get so focused on my own projects that I forget to bless people. Sometimes I bless people inadvertently, but I want my blessings to be deliberate and intentional, fueled by love.
I "[c]ommit myself to the weekly rhythm of performing acts of kindness and generosity."
Eat with at least one member of my spiritual community and at least one person from the other parts of my life every week. Frost explains, "Sharing a table is the great equalizer in human relationships. Eating together breaks down barriers and promotes a healthy sense of solidarity. It models hospitality and fulfils the model presented in Luke 10 of sharing table fellowship with others."
I love cooking for people. Eating with people. Sharing laughter and good food. I've been so busy that I've crowded this out of my life. I want to make room for this again.
I commit to sharing meals with people in my life, to opening my home on a regular basis.
Listen - I will commit to listen to the prompting of God in my life. For me, this means reading Scripture and books and articles from Christ followers from various spiritual communities. It means journaling. Praying. Walking. Exercising. Meditating. Slowing down.
This is hard sometimes. But I need this. I need this in order to clear my head. In order to hear God's voice.
Learn - I will read from the Gospels each week. Of course I will keep reading from other parts of the Bible, but how can I be a follower of Jesus Christ unless I keep my eyes on Him? And how can I keep my eyes on Him unless I read his acts, unless I hear his voice?
Send - I will see my daily life as an expression of sent-ness by God into the world. Too often Christians see that "life outside the church is irrelevant to the expression of God's kingdom," but my daily life can be an expression of God's love to the world if I see myself as an agent of God's mission on the planet. This might include "acts of hospitality and the just stewardship of our stewardship as well as working for justice and striving for global peace" (212).
When I see myself as "sent," my words and my responses and my actions become become deliberate and focused rather than random. I am on a mission. I am Christ's representative.
A plan for getting off the expressway, slowing down, and engaging with my world.
A plan for deliberate living.
A plan for not letting the craziness take over.