In Japan, it was considered rude to not follow the nation’s customs and traditions. So I would mindlessly slide off my shoes at the door, bow in the face of my competition, and eat the clueless object laid out in front of me. As I reflect back on last year, it was one of the coolest, most bizarre experiences of my life … but did I just go through the motions?
I have been around on this earth for more than a quarter of a century. I have been blessed to do many things. Currently, I am traveling the world playing the game of basketball and meeting all sorts of unique people along the way.
I was talking to my mom last week when she asked me the question, “What is one thing you want to accomplish in 2016?”
She said if you never stop and reflect, in order to improve, your years begin to run together. One year fades into the next. Your bad habits get more practice, and you never seem to accomplish much.
This question bounced around like a basketball in my head, as words like confidence and patience and maturity came forward. Nothing resonated.
Recently, I was caught in between a heated conversation where words were fired at one another. While one was howling, the other was loading their ammunition into the gun. Towards the end of the conversation, I realized no one even took the time to listen to the other person’s tirade – ahem, I mean side.
10:15 at night: I’m alone in the gym working on my jump shot and it comes to me. I instantly know what I need for 2016.
I want to be engaged.
Yes, that is right. I want to be engaged in 2016.
No, not the kind of engaged you are thinking of that consists of me finding a fiancé! Although my mother probably wouldn’t mind … and I do need someone to cook for me! Haha – I’m happy to be single because that is where God has me.
I am talking about being engaged in daily life. To be present in the presence. Engaged to the people, situations, environments and culture around me – to BE THERE.
I want to put down the smart phone, take out the headphones, and connect with people on a meaningful level.
I want to help the teammate that is struggling. I want to see the neighbor that walks past me up the stairs everyday. I want to engage in significant conversation with the waiter that has memorized my order at the local restaurant. I want to be present.
It is time to connect with their stories and be engulfed in listening. Celebrate in their joy and drown in their troubles.
Give the daydreaming into my iPhone, the “I”pad, the “I”mac a rest. Take a break from all the I…I…I’s, the selfies, the selfishness, and make it “we’s” and “us’s.”
Matthew 20:28 says . . .
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others . . .
Jesus, the greatest man to ever walk the face of earth, came, not for selfish desires, but to be engaged in his surroundings, the culture, and most of all the people. He gave His life serving others.
It is easy to go through selfish absent-mindedness; it’s time to try and be consciously awake to the things around me. Time to meet needs with the love of Jesus.
Famous author, Dale Carnegie, once said . . .
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
We spend hours thinking of a popular Instagram caption, tweet, or SnapChat to have others interested in us. A single “like” on a post becomes what we strive for, yet we overlook the people around us, as they are “like”ly to become friendless.
We will spend ten minutes taking a picture of the food in front of us to show others, but will we ever look up to “see” the person sitting across from us? It’s time to look people in their eyes for an extended period of time without interruption.
C. S. Lewis, in his book the Four Loves discusses the word “philia,” or a friend bond. He explains that …
Friendships and genuine connections excel through battling alongside one another, challenging another’s thoughts and ideals, and working alongside one another to attain a mutual goal or further dive into a passion.
Aimlessly clicking through Facebook to check in on family and friends will never translate into time together, phone calls, or even a prayer for each other.
My basketball coach at Gonzaga always told us that people/teams grow together when you consistently go to war daily with each other.
In 2016, it is time to start “rubbing elbows” with one another. Time to be selfless and truly mindful of the conversations we have. Time to slow down and engage. The most important moment in life was not yesterday and will not be tomorrow, it is what you are doing right now. BE THERE.
But, I cannot help but wonder if there is too much happening in the world to make a difference?
It is not our duty to find every need and try to meet it or celebrate every joy we see in the media or around the world. But we can be mindful of our circle of influence, those people God has placed in our life.
Reading every problem on the news or Facebook doesn’t engage anyone but yourself.
Let’s open our eyes to the tangible things we can do around us.
Let’s make moments. That count.
It is time to connect with all kinds of different people, dive into God’s Word, and explore the world that lies before us. To go against what our comfort bubble allows and experience new thinking, new promises, and new surroundings.
I have been blessed to go many places these past couple of years, which has opened my mind to the unfamiliar. Granted, I lived in Japan all last year and I am living in Czech Republic now. But for 2016, I want to be present in all situations with the spaces and faces that surround me.
I want to be in tune to what God is doing in my life and in the people around me.
It is solely not enough to be engaged in the worldly, exterior matters of life. I must be engaged with the heart. As Matthew West sings . . .
I don’t want to go through the motions, don’t want to go one more day, without God’s all-consuming passion inside of me.
Much like a literal man/woman engagement that is symbolically shown through a ring, let’s be joined to Christ and battle alongside Him day in and day out. Let’s be on mission with Him.
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus explains, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It’s time that we will lay aside our ignorant informalities and begin to engage in treasures that will last forever. Eternal treasures. That we will see a spiritual side in every situation and yearn to feel God’s presence in the daily moments we have. That we wouldn’t just read the Bible but we would grow in it in 2016. That we would flood our enemies with mercy, drench the brokenhearted with love, and downpour the wicked with grace.
Oh that every moment would be captured, not by flash on my iPhone or the recording on my GoPro, but by the heart that seeks to make a heavenly impact with each person that crosses my path.
I was born. I learned to walk and talk. I went to kindergarten, elementary school, high school, and college. I got my driver’s license. I went to some concerts. Cheered on my favorite sports teams. Maybe I did get engaged down the road, then married and had kids. Soon it will be time to retire.
My life is a journey that will end. It’s the same ending for all of us. But it’s how we spend these moments now that matter. In 2016, join me and BE THERE.