My church is in the middle of a sermon series called 'Outlive Your Life'. Its a catchy phrase and a good philosophy. Thousands of booklets have been printed up and some pretty high tech presentations have been made. Last Sunday was particularly interesting to me. The idea was presented of the church purchasing or renting houses in certain strategic areas of the world, where families can go and stay for days or even months doing missions work. I think that is a great concept, and will make many people much more likely to explore that as an option for themselves or their families. The brochures are also outlining a guide for giving money to the cause. I'm sure that just seeing the numbers, ranging from $500 over 2 years to a million dollars, will be all the incentive some need to re-evaluate their own spending habits and begin to give sacrificially. It is an exciting concept and challenge, and I am proud that my church is pursuing this as an ongoing philosopy.
However, I find myself thinking about so many individuals I know that are probably feeling a bit (or a lot) overwhelmed by the whole idea of outliving their lives. It seems to be all they can do to face each day with what little sanity or money they have to scrape by on. Sure, for some people, $20 a month for two years is nothing at all. For many, it would be noticed. For some, it is an impossibility. OK, nothing is impossible for God--I get that. But speaking as someone who has not had over $7 left in the checking account in any given pay period for over five years now, giving big money-wise may not be the avenue some can pursue. And while going somewhere else sounds exciting and important, being off work for even a day is not a luxury that all people can enjoy.
For others, they are so bogged down with emotional stresses that going out or giving to other people can also be a stretch. I think about one of my friends that struggle so much with depression and single parenting responsibilities--she is doing good to get herself and her kids dressed and to church every now and then. She is not in a very good place right now, and giving/living extra would be tough. Sunday's message would likely have depressed her even more. Others face an uphill battle if they are the only church attending person in their families. Sometimes gung-ho pursuits of God are not encouraged or welcomed by other family members.
I've thought about this a lot in the past few years--how do you give to God when resources are limited? I have come to realize that this has much to do with how one defines 'resources'. If it only means money or outgoingness (is that a word?) or even time, then it is possible that sure, some people would be extremely limited in 'giving this away'. And in a culture full of pretty, over-extended people with disposable income, this may seem to be the resources that are most valued. But, what if giving and living go beyond that? How can a person give with an abundant heart in a different kind of economy? Here are just a few ways someone may choose to outlive their lives, which is really about doing more than they are now to make a difference in someone else's life:
--Call, text, message, stop by, WRITE A LETTER, send a card--something to let another person know that they are being thought about.
--Got something that is not being used or appreciated (book, CD, clothes, toys, plaque, etc.)? Give it as a 'happy'. People seem much more comfortable taking something and not feeling obligated to reciprocate if they know no money has been specifically spent on them.
--bake bread, cookies, cake--with a note attached.
--Do you have a volunteer (or even paid) teacher or minister that is there every week for you or your kids? ANY show of appreciation will go further than you can even imagine. Darren still has notes and cards of encouragement in a box that came at just the right time, and only cost someone a little time.
--Read the Bible and pray. This one sounds like a typical, throw-away church answer, but if you haven't been doing this or doing it often, then any increase will be living more purposefully.
--Reconnect/renew an old friendship--I find that the older I get, the fewer and fewer heart connections I make. It has been so neat to find old friends through Facebook and use that as a ministry tool. When someone knows and remembers your stuff and your baggage, and likes you anyway, it can open neat opportunities to minister in ways that are difficult with less history bound friends.
--Take every opportunity to provide a meal or two with you get sent that mass email-- To be honest, this is one I always knew was a neat idea, but never acted on because I thought "I'm sure someone else will take care of it". Not anymore. For over 3 months last year, we had a different family bring our family supper EVERY night when I was not able to get around. This was the highlight of the family day, and gave everyone a sense of normalcy in a difficult time. They will not care what you bring. Trust me. For some people, this will be a sacrifice due to cost. How about fasting for that day?
--Begin (or continue) a journey to health--this can be a huge witness, as well as improve your standard of living, making giving more of an option.
--Give something up -- a TV show, a snack, a manicure, a vacation, a habit, a memory, a guilt-trip
--Spend time with __________ --I left this blank because each person will have someone different that could most benefit from the attention. In a culture when we are so connected technologically, we are sadly becoming more and more disconnected from real relationships.
--Share your new insights in a blog (hey, I like that one :) Somebody might just need to read what you have to say.
I guess the bottom line is that God knows where people are. He knows when someone is giving and when someone is holding on tightly. He is more concerned with our heart than our gift. And it is not that He needs anything we have to give Him. He just knows that WE are the ones who need to give.
So, how can you outlive your life today?