My hope this new year is to form deeper relationships, to connect with people more closely, and to make greater, positive contributions to their lives. I’d say this post is one of the first big test cases.
I introduced these “hopes,” which could have been New Year’s resolutions—though I called them “wishes,” because I didn’t feel the word resolution captured their essence— I introduced them a couple Wednesdays ago, and then again in the context of a dream I awoke to on New Year’s day.
Maybe I should have called them “New Year’s prayers,” because that term could work just as well. Indeed, I have been praying for them to come true.
Today, in pursuit of an answer to that prayer, I was browsing through a long list of blogs that I had previously filed as potentially interesting. And I ran across the blog of “My Friend Amy”—that’s what she calls herself—and her weekend post, “Faith’n’Fiction Saturday,” a weekly blog meme. The title itself intrigued me: “faith” and “fiction,” what a très kewl combo! I had to read more.
This Saturday, she asks, “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” In particular, she wants to know, “Do any of your resolutions pertain to your spiritual disciplines or to your reading life?”
My answer (not exactly the kind of answer she had in mind, I’m sure): Yes, and yes, but more directly the former than the latter.
All you need is love, love; love is all you need
So say Lennon and McCartney.
This morning at Synagogue, a thought occurred to me: one of the big, ongoing themes in much of my writing is that of unconditional love, agape love, what I call “love without strings.” Love comes from God, and we are to love God and each other. The scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, are filled with God’s love, because (as John put it), “God is love.”
Every Saturday, we say the v’ahavtah, “and you shall love,” and as it turns out, tomorrow (Sunday) morning in church, I’m leading our rendition of a Lincoln Brewster song based on that same scripture from Deuteronomy: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength.
Jesus preached love; it was one of his major themes. People knew the early church by the love it showed. He has sent us into the world to demonstrate His love, a love written on practically every page of His story, and when we talk about improving our relationship with God, what do we talk about?
- giving more money
- praying more
- reading the Bible more
- attending more church functions
Sometimes, people even talk about being more involved politically as though it somehow improved our relationship with God. But politics doesn’t make our faith better. Politics doesn’t make anything better.
What’s missing from this list? Allow me to add it:
- giving more money in love
- praying more in love
- reading the Bible more in love
- attending more church functions in love
These are what I want my New Year’s resolutions to be. I do want to give more, to give until it hurts. (And with the recession, the hurting part is easier said than done.) But there are ways that I can give without sacrificing the money our family needs to pay the rent or buy groceries. That’s one of the reasons I’m looking for ways of publishing my books as free downloadable e-books. It’s why I put so much of my time into our church’s Christmas program this year. (Turned out wonderful, by the way.) It’s why I’m willing to step in to help out in my church and in my synagogue.
I want to pray more, yes, but not just to pray. I want to go down the list of people who are my Facebook friends, and I want to pray for each one’s wellbeing. Because we all have needs, and we all think our needs are less important than someone else’s. After all, we don’t have some debilitating disease, or whatever. But your needs are not less important to God, just because they appear to be more commonplace than someone else’s. We all need food, all need shelter, all need companionship, all need to make a difference. And I don’t want to limit my prayers only to those people I feel good towards. Because Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. How much more, then, should we pray for friends with whom we’ve had a mere falling out?
I could go through the remaining two items in the list, plus all the others I may have left off the list, but I trust I’ve made my point.
And now that I’ve babbled on…
The other question Amy asked was whether my resolutions applied to my reading life. Yes, indirectly. Because I also want to read more indie authors, new authors, and mid-list authors. I recently realized that my Amazon wish list is full of well-known authors, with only a few relative unknowns. The reason is partially egalitarian and partially selfish: I want to read them, because I want to support them. But I also want to read them, because I think they’re more likely to be able to give me what I’m so desperate to read.
(I haven’t posted yet about what I’m so desperate to read. But if you want a hint, it has some of the same qualities as what I write. Sheila Williams’s first book Dancing on the Edge of the Roof fell into that category, as did Laura Whitcomb’s A Certain Slant of Light. In general, I get the sense that new authors are less afraid to say something that matters, and they may be more likely to have something to say as well. One of my friends today begged me to get around to reading the first Harry Potter book, and I even might— It is J.K. Rowlings’s very first book.)
In any case, head on over to Amy’s blog, and check out the other Faith’n’Fiction Saturday bloggers as well as her other posts.