Death made headlines again.
Immediately after the news of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash spread, the posts on social media were begging us to hug the people we love, to forgive the ones who hurt us, and to tell people what they mean to us.
That’s a great goal. May I be so bold as to borrow a motivational phrase, though, and remind you that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.”
So, today I want you to consider . . . what’s your action plan to love?
Whether it’s the people in your home, the people from your church, or the members of your community, each person you meet is someone God put in your life. Your interactions are opportunities to let the Holy Spirit work in you to bless others.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking. (And when you decide what to do, let me know. I’d love to hear your action plan!)
Say thank you once a day. A long time ago I made a New Year’s resolution to write a thank-you note every day for a whole year. Because that was a tall task, I adapted it to be writing a letter, sending an email, or simply saying thank you face-to-face.
Express gratitude. On the fifth of every month, tell someone why you’re grateful for them. (The fifth is just a random date I chose while writing this, so it has absolutely no actual rhyme or reason.) Put a reminder in your phone or daily planner and send a note or give someone a call. If you find that difficult or awkward, start with the simple phrase, “I appreciate you.”
Telling someone the reasons why you appreciate him or her is important too. When we were moving from California to Wisconsin, I was about to tell one person why I was grateful. He tried to stop me by saying, “I know.” I said, “No. I promised myself I would say it.” And I did.
Speak a blessing over your children. My husband has a habit of blessing the kids before he goes to bed. He’ll stand over their beds or outside their doors or just say it as he hugs them goodnight because sometimes they’re up later than we are now. Even though we have one kiddo who attends college in a different state, he just faces south when he says it for her. He might change it slightly, but for the most part he uses the words from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Start a home group. A great way to get closer to people and to learn more about Jesus is to meet regularly. Whether you choose once a month or once a week, open your home or meet at a coffee shop or brewery to read a little bit of the Bible and talk about it. Pastor Mike had a great message about the importance of groups.
Plan an event. Make it your personal goal to get people together at a time when most people are feeling lonely and isolated. A friend of mine helps coordinate a women’s retreat weekend, another hosts essential oil classes and a wine night, and one just coordinated a night out for over 20 of us to attend a comedy show. I know; that’s all girl stuff. Guys can arrange these too. Call each other to go fishing or ax throwing or golfing or whatever it is that you and your buddies like to do.
Speak up about mistakes, failings, and sin—and then forgive. (This is more for me personally, but maybe it will help you too.) Healthy relationships also require hard conversations. If you’re struggling with someone close to you, let him know. If you see a fellow believer in Jesus making life choices that aren’t compatible with his will, put the friend above the friendship and talk to her. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1,2).
Share Jesus. Your plan to love people includes telling them about Jesus, who for his whole life didn’t make a single mistake—and he gives us the credit for that. It includes telling them about Jesus, who for a horrible day got punished for all the mistakes we make. Because of Jesus there is a place where God “will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Until that day, death will keep making the news. But because of Jesus, death doesn’t get the last word.
(Shameless plug alert: If you are at a loss as to how to share God’s love with people, Time of Grace has plenty of resources to help you get started.)
Linda Buxa is a writer, Bible study leader, and retreat speaker. Her first thank-you letter was to Mrs. Laura Bush, who was First Lady at the time. Mrs. Bush wrote a letter back and personally signed it—verified because the signature smudged when she swiped it.