By extraterrestrial giving, I don’t mean giving to aliens. Extra is latin for outside-of, and teres means circular or round. In honor of the twelve days of Christmas, it seemed a good idea to commit to giving twelve gifts outside my usual sphere, to do twelve acts that would make God smile. If you show love to those who love you, what good is that? Jesus asked His disciples. And I think, while it feels good and fuzzy to love on my family and friends at Christmas, I’m convinced by posts like this one, that I should extend my love extraterrestrially. God loves without return, without partiality, without justification. If I am to be like Jesus, I will love strangers. How do I make room in my heart and schedule for strangers? I begin by making declarations like this one, and praying for follow-through.
Christmas is an excellent time for me to act out my faith.
What use is… faith… if a brother or a sister is without clothing and in need of daily food? …what use is that? I will show you my faith by my works. James, Jesus’ half-brother, is credited with those sentiments. What good is my faith if it doesn’t work its way to action? The thief on the cross next to Jesus, though it was purely faith that made him utter: Remember me when you come into Your kingdom— didn’t just think his faith. He said it. His words were his work. If you have faith and it isn’t manifested by your actions, your faith is dead. So said Jesus.
These things are hard things for me, some harder than others. Doing them will require discipline and sacrifice, not Biblical sacrifice, but the modern Western cultural idea of sacrifice, which is denying my spoiled-baby flesh what it wants to do and have It-My-Way, every whim and wish granted to me this Christmas, as if Christmas is a lamp I rub and out pour all my desires, granted. It will involve not getting what I want in the merest way. Sacrifice.
Which is why, if I don’t follow through, I’m ridiculous. If I get to Christmas morning and do not do these few things, I’ll kiss a pig. Or perhaps just my dog, but he smells like a pig. And I’ll write a confessional post.
But no. Cup half-full. I will love extraterrestrially this Christmas.
Every extraterrestrial list would look different. My purpose in sharing is to give you some ideas of what occurred to me and also to keep me accountable. Writing and publishing my goals means that, inevitably, friends will run into me and ask, Did you ever do x? And I don’t want to be the spineless loser who has to say, No. I’m all smoke and thunder, sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Thank you, Shakespeare.)
Here are my ideas for extraterrestrial giving:
- Donate blood. My husband gives double-red regularly and says the process brings to mind the sacrifice of Christ. When he watches his blood flow away from his arm, bound for someone else who desperately needs it, he’s reminded that people still need Jesus. And Jesus shed His blood for us. When I give blood, I pray for the spiritual need of the one who will receive it.
- Register for the bone marrow directory at Be The Match. This is a personal journey for me: Treat others as you want to be treated. If I had a child whose life could be saved by a bone marrow transplant, and all that stands in the way of rescue is the willingness of people to be uncomfortable, it would break me to experience that helplessness.
- Give to World Vision– goats, chickens, loans, soccer balls. This one is so easy. Order a catalog. It’s better than creating a wish list. Recently Gabe wrote an essay on what he was thankful for. I was surprised to see water on that list. Because Gabe has an idea of just how destitute destitute can be (thanks in part to World Vision), he understands that clean drinking water is a blessing. So order a World Vision catalog for selfish reasons.
- Write a letter to my neighbors who moved away and tell them plainly about Jesus. My neighbor who practically put out a neon sign inviting me to share the gospel when he commented casually that he didn’t want to die because here [planet earth] he had a sure thing. After that, who knows? I do. I do know with utter certainty. Faith would share it.
- Write a letter to a friend’s father who is in prison. He will be there forever, most likely. He doesn’t know me, but I know his daughter, and I want to tell him that, even if he messed up enough to land where he’s at, he did something great in making her. And he’s not forgotten.
- Write a post about Christmas. Writing about something means thinking deeply about it. What better subject to meditate on than Christmas! I was humble by this Christmas post put out by one of my students (11 years old).
- Operation Christmas Child. Putting together a shoe box of gifts for a child is one of the most rewarding experiences we have at Christmas. This year, Gabe helped me pick the toys. When Gabe chose presents which required batteries, it was an opportunity to talk about just how poor the kids are who’ll be receiving these gifts, that the option to purchase batteries is not an option. The toys must be sustainable. “Oh,” he says, and I wonder what all is going on behind that moment of realization.
Doing each of these items requires me to set aside some selfish pursuit I have in mind for myself. I know I’m not alone in this holiday tug-of-war, the one where I decide to sit and sip Starbucks with my sister rather than walk into a donation center or write that letter that’s feeling like a bad birth experience culminating in an ugly baby. I need help thinking of five more action items, so I’d welcome and be thankful for any suggestions. I’ll post with more when they come to me (please, action items… come to me).
For now, I’ll close with the words of a friend whose blog I adore: Goals– even goals not reached, put us one step closer to the end, and that makes them good. Though they’re not finished, these initial steps at extraterrestrial loving are good. I hope you too will be encouraged to do some extraterrestrial giving this year.