A few years ago, I started compiling a list of hopes for the new year. It started as a personal thing, but others seemed to find some inspiration in them, and now it’s become sort of a tradition to post new hopes for a new year. I hope they’re meaningful to you… and that you’ll hold me accountable to these 16 hopes and dreams for 2016.
- I hope to live fearlessly. Fear holds us hostage, and leads to a lot of violence. Love sets us free, casts out fear, and opens all sorts of new possibilities.
- Spend time with elders. With the recent deaths of friends like Phyllis Tickle and Richard Twiss, I am realizing that our faith-filled elders will not be with us forever. So I plan to spend some time with my grey-haired (or no-haired) friends this year. Oh, and I hope to mentor a few young people too, so that they can learn from my mistakes. I hope if you’re young, you have someone old pouring into you – and if you’re old, apparently like I am now, I hope you have a young person or two you can share your wisdom with. If you’re looking for a good mentorship program, check out: missionyear.org.
- Go to church. While I like the t-shirt, “Don’t GO to church… BE the Church”, I don’t think this is an “either/or” thing. I hear a lot of folks say they want “Jesus without the church” – and that feels a little like saying I want to be in love but don’t want to get hurt. If we don’t have a congregation we participate in regularly, our faith starts to dwindle. So be the church – and go to church. I hope that among the radical things I do in 2016, one of them is go to worship every Sunday I can.
- Go to Jail. From the refugee crisis to Black Lives Matter, we see injustice is all around us. It’s been said, “In an age of injustice, just people end up in jail.” While it is never the end goal, Civil Disobedience has been an instrumental force for exposing injustice and changing the world (I wrote a new section on this in the new edition of Irresistible Revolution). I’m thinking 2016 will probably entail at least one arrest for non-violent civil disobedience, and I hope to have some nuns and pastors next to me.
- Do more circus stuff. Back in the late 1990s I went to circus school, and used to be quite proficient at my juggling, stilt-walking, unicycling and all — but, alas – over the years, I’ve gotten a little rusty. In 2015, I busted out the torches, juggled fire, and did some fire-breathing… I hope to do it again in 2016. The world needs more circus.
- Witness a miracle or two. For the past few years, one of the hopes that makes this list is: “To believe in miracles, and live in a way that requires them.” This year I realized, my problem isn’t believing but sometimes I’m just not bold enough to say: “Pick up the mat and walk.” This year I want to have a holy boldness that refuses to believe anything is impossible with God.
- Learn a new skill – in 2016 that means Beekeeping. I love learning stuff. In recent years, that’s meant learning to make clothes, paint murals, compost with worms, and build houses… and this year we’re hoping to learn Beekeeping. Thanks to my wife’s folks, we now have our first hive. While I’m at it – I’m also learning to slack-line. I’ve always enjoyed the circus, and have a few skills up my sleeve (see #6). But recently I’ve been learning to slack-line, which is sort of like tight-wire only not as deadly (it’s about a foot off the ground). Hoping to get better at it in 2016. I hope you’ll do something fun, and that makes you laugh, regularly in 2016
- I hope to live generously. As the old saying goes: “Live simply so others may simply live.” I hope to continue to live off 10% of our generated income and give as much as we can away. All the profits from the new 10th-anniversary edition of Irresistible Revolution (which comes out this month) will be given away to great local revolutions around the world (listed in the back of the book). Beyond money – I hope to be generous to my critics, and treat them like I want them to treat me. I also hope to confess my sins and say “sorry” when I need to. Rather than looking for the best in me and the worst in others, I want to look for the best in others, and work on the worst inside myself.
- I hope to pray often — and regularly practice the “spiritual disciplines”, the holy habits of the faith. These things like fasting (sacrificing food or other provisions) and solitude are ways we can connect with God and the deepest parts of ourselves. Katie and I kicked off the year by doing the Spiritual Formation Workbook, a new study by Renovare, which we’ll use this year. (renovare.org).
I hope we see fewer people die. In 2015, violence has hijacked the headlines. In one week in 2015, we had 3 people get shot within a block of our house (2 died). While it may be idealistic to say I hope 2016 is a year when no one gets shot, I do hope this year that we make some steps away from the plague of gun violence that now claims 30,000 lives a year in the US. I hope to see more good stuff make news in 2016.
I hope Donald Trump does not get elected President. I hesitated a little on this one, because I don’t want to taint my holy-hopes by getting encumbered by the race for 2016. My political philosophy has been to devote myself to Jesus (“devote” shares the same root as “vote”, a theme I explore thoroughly in Jesus for President). And yet, as I listen to the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5) – where he blesses the meek, the merciful, the poor – and then I listen to many of our leading politicians, and Mr. Trump in particular, I am deeply troubled. If one set out to write a political agenda that is the anti-thesis of the Beatitudes of Jesus, you would come up with something that sounds a lot like the platform of Donald Trump. And yet — I know that Jesus heals even the hardest of hearts because I have seen him do it with mine… So I have committed to pray for Donald Trump, and I would gladly meet with him to talk, but I don’t plan on voting for him in 2016.
I hope to see people fall in love with Jesus. I see a lot of folks with deep faith who do not share their faith with others, and that makes me sad. And I also hear lots of loud evangelical voices within Christianity that are not always very beautiful. I hope 2016 is a year where beautiful Christianity flourishes. I’d love to see a Church that looks more like Jesus, and by doing so, moves the world toward him. I want to see new believers fall in love with Jesus, despite all the embarrassing things we Christians have done in his name.
I hope we keep feeding hungry people – and asking why people are hungry to begin with. Jesus said, “When I was hungry, you fed me” (Matthew 25). I like to challenge charity by calling people to think about justice. But sometimes we can get so caught up in fighting the systems that we lose touch with the people we are fighting for. In 2015, in our little neighborhood, we gave out 2000 pounds of food a week to dozens of families we know and love. I hope we keep doing simple things like sharing food and meals with hungry people in 2016, and I hope you’ll support our local work. $10 a month helps feed a family in Philadelphia (4 bags a month, 1 per week). You can donate here: thesimpleway.org/donate. And I ensure you just as we feed folks, we’ll also be doing something about why people are hungry.
I hope we keep making ugly things beautiful, bringing dead stuff back to life – and turning abandoned houses into homes. In Philly, there are over 20,000 abandoned houses, and we’ve been able to acquire them for as little as $1. I can’t tell you how incredible it is to see an abandoned house become a home for a family in Kensington. We have at least 2 houses we’ll be working on in 2016. I hope you will support our work at Simple Homes as we challenge both slum-landlords and profit-driven developers as we create affordable housing for indigenous neighbors: https://www.redletterchristians.org/building-a-better-world-one-home-at-a-time/
I hope to see captives set free (and an end to the death penalty). I am so thankful for all my brothers and sisters in prison and on death row who write me letters. I hope to do better in 2016 at writing you back. I am so grateful I got to visit and speak at several prisons in 2015, and hope to visit every prison I can in 2016– to speak or just to listen. I also hope to do more work around mass incarceration, one of the most urgent issues of our day. For starters, I read about 15 books on prisons, the death penalty, and restorative justice (there are so many great resources, but I recommend Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow if you haven’t read it). Many of the books and stories that have inspired me are in my new book Executing Grace – which comes out in a May.
I hope to make space for holy interruptions. We are good at making schedules and lists (like this one), but not good at being interrupted. And yet, as you read the Gospels, you can’t miss the fact that half the stories and miracles were interruptions. Jesus was on his way somewhere, and someone pulled him aside, or asked him to visit their home, or told him they ran out of wine at their wedding. Jesus lived in the very space we often have no room for amid our predictable routines and carefully orchestrated schedules. So let us make space for our lives to be interrupted by injustice, by suffering, or by a person holding a cardboard sign.
On that note, there’s a knock at the door. Gotta run.
Those are my 16 hopes for 2016.
I hope that it is a year filled with love and holy mischief.