Living Life On Purpose

Sometimes I hear people say they are bored and don’t have much to do.  Recently, I caught my husband stating that he was bored, and I couldn’t refrain any a longer.  I blurted it out and said, “Being bored is a bad quality; there is so much life to live.”  (Maybe slightly judgmental, but thankfully he took it well!)  I remember the day when yawns were prevalent and days felt aimless, but those were the days when I lacked purpose.

Years ago I found myself struggling with old wounds from a tough break-up.  I was reading books, soaking up the content like water on a dry plant, as I wrestled through the faith related effects from the confusing loss.  On one particular family vacation, I took a pile of books and spent hours on the beach and late at night reading, learning, and sorting through the meaning of life.  One day, the tide was so high that there was no beach left to sit on.  While the family went into the condo, I remained seated on a rock, with my prayer journal in hand… me, God and the waves.  And my hands began to pen the impression He revealed to my soul in that moment.  He was moving and was opening my eyes to see that I had purpose, rooted in Him.  I did not need to be dependent on my relationships.  I didn’t need to rely on my circumstances or even my abilities.  God had called me as His child for a purpose, and I realized in that moment, there was much work to be done. 

When you discover you are made on purpose for God’s purpose, suddenly life takes on a depth like never before.  There are opportunities designed just for you.  There are people that only you can bless.  There are tasks that would be done better by you than anyone else.  Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ..You are not here by accident.  You are also not in your current situation by accident.  If you open your heart up to God, He will open your eyes to see that there is purpose in both the big and small things that surround you.  There are people, places and things that need your special gifts, talents and touch.

There is a parable that Jesus tells in Matthew 25:14-30 called the Parable of the Talents. To summarize it there is a man who is going on a journey who entrusts three different servants with his property.  Servant A, we’ll call him Freddy, he gives 5 talents.  Servant B, we’ll call him Eugene, he gives 2 talents and Servant C, we’ll call him Max, he gives 1 talent.  The property owner leaves for a long while.  Freddy took his 5 talents and traded them and made five more talents.  Eugene was able to take his talents and also make two more talents.  But Max dug a hole and buried his master’s money. After a long time, the master returns and decides to settle his account with the three fellows.  Each reported what they had done.  The master told Freddy and Eugene how proud he was of their return on their invested talents.  He told them both, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” Matthew 25:23.  But when the master got to Max, he said some pretty harsh words and gave Max’s remaining talent away to someone who would use it wisely and with purpose.

There are talents and gifts that God has given specifically to you.  There are callings and passions, He has written on your heart.  You have a role to play and a purpose to live out.  Live with adventure, risk, put yourself out there, take a chance, dream, pray boldly, say yes in faith, move mountains with a mustard seed, seek God with all your heart and find your purpose in Him.  This is when life gets full and boredom ceases.  Satan will always be quick to add distractions and discouragement.  Failure will seem like a closed door, but persevere.  Move forward and prayerfully rely on God with each trembling step. There is much life to be lived and much work to be done.  Today is the day to live on purpose so that one day you’ll hear “Well done, good and faithful servant”! 

A Review of the Book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

“Can you help this weekend with the youth ministry?”  “Would you mind bringing the main dish for the potluck tomorrow?” “We really need assistance with this business proposal and you seem like just the guy that could help!” “Would you be able to loan me a couple bucks for my lunch, just this one last time…put it on my tab”  Week in and week out, we are bombarded with needs and requests that feel less like a question and more like an obligation.  Quickly, we can feel less like volunteers and more like “volun-told” victims as we begrudgingly say “yes” for the “umpteenth” time.  Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend co-authored, “Boundaries: When to say Yes How to say No to Take Control of Your Life” to address this exhausting path of boundary busting.

In a culture of multi-tasking and bountiful balancing acts, it is hard to know when to draw the line.  Often saying, “no” creates anxiety because much is risked. What if it hurts someone’s feelings?  What if they get angry? What if I miss out on the promotion?  What if my boss thinks I’m not a team player?  What if I scare my kids, disappoint my mom, cause the ministry to fail, miss the sale, lose a friendship… etc.  The “What-if’s” haunt us causing us to allow our fences to breakdown into open gates where people and organizations trample us to the ground.   The book Boundaries addresses many of these areas by first identifying the definition and need for boundaries, and then systematically going through boundary-keeping in specific relationships (i.e. family, spouse, children, God, work, and even social media). 

From the Garden of Eden we can see that God is the author of healthy boundaries.  These health boundaries provide security protection, and ultimately freedom so that we can live the life God has called us to live.  “Boundaries define us.  They define what is me and what is not me.  A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.  Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” (page 31, Boundaries).   When we conform to fear, guilt, unhealthy obligations, people pleasing, or addictions, we abdicate the right to govern our lives within the freedom and safety of God’s will for us.  The book Boundaries reminds us that it is ok to say, “no” and even necessary at times.  This right has been given to us by God especially if the motives behind our “yes” and breaking of our boundaries is harmful to our minds, bodies, and soul.  Destructive thinking and harmful habits can ruin our bodies, weakening our defenses against Satan and heartache.  The book Boundaries sorts through the damaging patterns and empowers the reader to exercise autonomy, limits, and forgiveness.

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend walk us through how appropriate boundaries are established and nurtured in childhood.  Many times, though, people suffer trauma and tragedy during childhood that impedes normal development, often causing a breakdown in healthy boundaries later on in life.  The counselors walk us through many true-life scenarios with practical tips on how to recover from these wounds so that future havoc is prevented.  The main take-away from this book is that you are in charge of you and others are in charge of themselves.  Only you can control your emotions, your response, your feelings, and reaction.  You cannot control another’s actions.  If you set up a boundary that another family, friend, coworker…etc. does not like, they may feel angry or hurt.  They may try to take their frustration out on you, but as a beloved child of God, you have permission to remove yourself from carrying their outbursts and seek shelter within your God-given boundaries.

The book offers much insight into identifying areas of broken boundaries so that the reader can identify and prayerfully confront their internal struggles.  Filled with logical steps in how to establish, develop, strengthen, and mature self-boundaries, the authors remind us that, “Life without boundaries is no life at all…Part of this process of healing is regaining our boundaries.  As we become like [God], he is redeeming our boundaries and our limits” (page 269 & 270, Boundaries)

If you long to have more control over your life and emotions, this book will illuminate truths of God to bring the freedom God intends.  It sheds light on the difference between “turning the other cheek” and being a “slave to Christ, not man.”  As the ever growing “to-do” list lengthens and life feels more out of your hands, permit yourself some time to read Boundaries so that you can find new freedom in Christ and more victory in your life. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor 3:17

Wisdom

Every year, I joyfully oblige in the silly birthday candle tradition secretly hoping, as the old wives tale goes, that if I don’t share my wish with anybody, it will come true.  But, even though I don’t spill the beans on my cake-candle-tradition, my dreams often don’t come true.  However, I still try making a wish again the next year.  Who doesn’t want their wishes to come true?

What if God came to you during one of your birthday parties and said, “Whatever you wish for, I’ll give to you?”  What would you wish for?  I would probably wish for something along the lines of good health or protection—something that secured my loved ones or my own safety.  Others may wish for a new car, a million dollars, to finally get married or have a baby.  But rarely, will you hear a person ask for “wisdom” as the one request.

“That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’  Solomon answered God, ‘You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?’”  2 Chronicles 1:7-10

Photo by Natasha Fernandez on Pexels.com

This request by King Solomon honored the Lord.  He gave King Solomon not only wisdom but worldly wealth and blessing as well.  Solomon knew that wisdom was a gift from God.  He recognized it was necessary and valuable in order to be successful leader.  He craved it more than wealth and desired it more than power.  And God was pleased.  So pleased, he blessed Solomon above and beyond. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” James 1:5.

Wisdom is the one birthday wish you can count on.  According to James, if you invite God into your circumstances and ask Him to provide you with wisdom, He is faithful to grant it generously.  The more you read about wisdom in scripture, the more it appears that this is a very important thing to God.  He is pleased, honored, and revered when we seek wisdom.  Why is this?  Because seeking wisdom is seeking more of God, Himself.  Proverbs 8:22-23 personifies wisdom in such a way that some may argue that Jesus, Himself, is the Wisdom of God.

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
    before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”  John 1:1-3

If Jesus is the Word of God, He must then also be the Wisdom of God because God’s wisdom is revealed through the Word.  At the dawn of Creation, the chaos that formed into order was crafted in the divine wisdom of God Himself.  When we (as both Solomon and James exemplified) ask for wisdom, we are asking for the very nature of God to be revealed in our plight.  Whether we are seeking guidance on a decision, help in handling a situation, words for a challenging discussion, clarity for a future game changer or hope in a mucky ordeal, God is ready and waiting for us to ask Him for wisdom.  He has provided His Word to guide with knowledge and wisdom.

God is such a gentleman.  He will not impose His wisdom.  He will not force it on us or give it without request.  Instead He stands, patiently waiting for the righteous to call out for more of Him.  “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” 2 Chronicles 16:9.  God is ready to benevolently share His wisdom to those who ask.

Next time you take that big breath to put out the birthday candle flame, remember there is a wish you can make that will come true.  As you seek the wisdom of God, you seek more of who He is.  Invite Him in, seek His guidance, and dance in His generosity.  The best part is, you don’t need to wait for the birthday cake; it is a dream that can come true every day.

Productivity

I have this little planner that I affectionately refer to as “My-Brain-On-Paper”.  Where I go, it goes.  I write everything in there.  My dates with friends, reminders for work, my daily to-do list, and the daunting “long-list” that keeps lengthening with low priority items that simply can’t be forgotten.  Every now and again, I gasp thinking I lost or misplaced my precious planner.  For the few mini-seconds I get that panicked fluttered feeling (like that feeling when you lock your keys in your car) as I frantically search for it.  What would I do if I lost My-Brain-On-Paper?  And then… I find it.  My sanity is restored. 

I love this planner because it keeps me on track and helps me find a way to manage my spinning head and all-to-frequent forgetfulness.  My ink, tattooed all over its pages, unashamedly trespass margins, revealing evidence of not only the busyness in my head, but the busyness of my days.  The hope, though, is that this planner doesn’t aid in my busyness but that it generates productivity.  Productivity is often equated with busyness, but that is a façade.  It is very easy to become quite busy in life, often with things that are “good” but it is even easier to miss that these things are not always what matter the most.  Day after day, we can rush from one thing to the next all the while missing prosperous moments of productivity because distractions and unnecessary commitments have already called dibs.

Many of us have felt God’s call on our life to do more, charge forward, make a difference…etc. the list goes on.  God has a beautiful way of placing callings on the soul that are tailored fit to match the specific, unique, one-of-a-kind “you.”  Quickly we can become so busy with life that we fail to be productive in the main call He has asked of us.  The power of productivity is found in organization, intentionality, and prayer.

God is a God of order, not chaos.  Although, He continually works through chaos, He is a master designer.  Things have a purpose, place and direction towards peace.  “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).  We too were designed to mimic and desire this type of order.  When we can get some sense of order to our physical realm, whether that be our work space, our home, our grocery list, our laundry—we begin to feel a sense of peace.  It mentally resets our mind and opens up mental capacity to be fully present for what is at hand.  After God had created the earth, He rested on the seventh day.  After all the things that were once “formless and void” (Gen 1:2) had a proper place, space, and purpose, God rested and then continued on.  One of the best things we can do to be productive is take sometime to organize ourselves.  Take time to organize your thoughts.  Take mental inventory.  What’s done?  What needs done?  What can wait?  Organize your thoughts on a list.  Write it out.  Talk it out.  Put it on a calendar.  Whatever it takes for you to mentally organize, do it.  Then move on to physical organization.  What can you quickly put away?  What clutter can you reduce or move to its proper place?  What little task could you do that would clean up your work space or improve aesthetics? Do those things. When your mind is clear and your physical space is clear, you have prepared for more fruitful productive outcomes. 

Now it’s time to be intentional.  Prioritize what it is that is truly important.  Usually these things that matter most pertain to health, safety, family, work, and most importantly faith.  This is where it is essential to make the “main things, the main thing.”  Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  As you seek God first, He will give you direction.  Ask God, what is the call that He has placed on your heart?  What is the thing you feel an urgency to be productive in?  What is something you know needs done before all other things?  God will help you figure out your priorities.  Be intentional about the use of your time so that your priorities get accomplished.  Time is precious; don’t squander it with meaningless distractions.  Paul speaks to the Corinthians about Christian liberties when he says in 1 Cor. 10:23, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’–but not everything is constructive”  but this verse can also apply to intentionality.  We need God’s help to discern the difference between things that add more busyness and things that lead to productive fruit with the things to which He has given us stewardship.

Be in prayer about your productivity.  God cares about it all—big and small.  Commit your plans to the Lord.  Consecrate each day to Him.  “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” Proverbs 16:1.  That is exactly where we need to walk, in the steps guided by the Lord.  Just like the miracle of the Jesus feeding 5000 people with a scarcity of fish and loaves of bread, so can Jesus multiply our time and enhance our productivity when we commit first to Him our plans.

If you need help being productive, start first on your knees.  Ask God for His guidance.  Then get up, pick up your pen, pick up your house, pick up the disorganized pieces and put order to the chaos.  Be intentional with your time and limit distractions so that you can run the race God has set out before you.  “ Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).  There is much work for you to do and role that only you can play.  Don’t waste time spinning your wheels in busyness.  Pursue productivity and feel His smile.

The Balancing Act

“When we stop getting down on ourselves for the failure to meet the superhuman expectations we place on ourselves and start allowing our superhuman God to fill our spirit, the beneficial results can be exponential.” (RAW, pg. 33)

The hectic-ness of busy-ness can distract us and keep us from God, family and even ourselves. What does it look like to not miss out on life yet step off the frenetic hamster wheel? Cassie Brown, from On Purpose Ministry, and I sat down to talk this out: watch video

“Jesus says, ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33). If we do not seek first God’s heart, His kingdom, His presence, His righteousness, we will work backwards. We will do everything else in order to find His kingdom, His presence, His righteousness. We must first seek Him. We must first sit in His presence, at His feet, to know what He truly is calling us to sign up for, to volunteer with, and where to invest our time. We cannot know this if we do not sit with Him first…What is God telling you to cut out of your life? What God-ordained priorities are you missing because of busyness in society-ordained activities?” (The Prayer Crossing Personal Devotional, pg 9)

Where is God When Life Gets Tough?

I’m not sure if any of us are immune to the age old question of why does God allows bad things happen to good people? Is He still good? Can He still be trusted?

These are the hard questions to wrestle through in life and often a simple answer is hard to find. “Sometimes grief just overtakes you and your hollow bleeding heart despairingly agonizes, ‘Oh world, I cannot bear your torment!’ How can an all-seeing Father allow His children to walk into the pits of hell? How can A God who is considered good withhold His intervention at the time you needed Him the most? How? Why? Does anybody care?” (RAW, 157).

Last fall, I spoke with Cassie Brown, whose husband Nic Brown was in the ICU at Cleveland Clinic due to COVID, making national news for his miraculous recovery. We spent some time wrestling through this and what it looks like to trust God in as you walk through the fire. Click here to watch the video.

“I don’t always know why God allows such horrendous events to transpire, but I am learning that He is trustworthy. People commonly say, ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ but I would like to disagree. Instead, I think ‘God brings a reason from everything that happens.’ He is a God of redemption and restoration.” (RAW, 171)

If you would like to read more on this topic check out RAW Inner Workings of a Reawakened Soul and RAW Reawakened Soul Study Guide.

Would the real church please stand up?

Last fall I had the privilege of speaking with Cassie Brown from On Purpose Ministries. We dove into some interesting topics like why and how the church is still relevant. Maybe you’ve had a bad taste in your mouth from some church experience or people who claim to be Christians. Unfortunately, you are not alone. As you watch this video, be a part of the discussion with others wondering the same thing:

https://vimeo.com/466005077/86c4c23dd0

“Maybe the church has traded in the power that raised Christ from the dead for misperceived security and subtle complacency. Maybe fear of death, fear of persecution, fear of decreasing “numbers,” fear of losing money, fear of being rejected by society, fear of looking too conservative or too liberal,
fear of offending others, fear of having their plans thwarted, fear of
not being able to build the bigger and better building, fear of getting
stained by the sinners, fear of getting their good name smudged
by inner-city problems, fear of losing a member to another church,
fear of people backsliding, fear of not being able to control how the
congregation conducts themselves, fear of the cookie-cutter Christian
life looking like a misshapen pile of dough…fear, fear, fear….yes,
maybe, I’m afraid that fear has caused many American Churches to
begin to lose their way.”
RAW Inner Workings of a Reawakened Soul, page 81

Success and the eternal perspective

I have been trying to jump on the bandwagon with this thing people call, “healthy eating.”  I think it is quite possible Satan has embodied all chocolate cake, brownies, and cookies as I daily struggle to resist every tempting impulse to devour each offer of carby, sweet, deliciousness.  Bagel after muffin after decadent, beautiful piece of cheesecake scoff at me while I attempt to look the other direction.  Some days it’s near painful, but this year has been the year of food conviction and buttery bye-byes.  In February, I found out that significant heart disease runs not only on my mom’s side but also my dad’s, landing him in the Cleveland Clinic with quadruple bypass at age 59.  I began to realize that my days of temporal salivary enjoyment, free grazing, and uncommitted exercise would only increase my likelihood of disease in the years to come, so I began to make changes now, in hopes of a healthier future.

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

The American society is often centered on personal, momentary happiness, indulgence, and getting what you want when you want it.  And I must confess—I kind of like that.  Most things are available at the click of a button and an Amazon prime delivery.  Just trying to find a simple tube of toothpaste can become complex because the options are so plentiful.  I am so thankful for the luxuries afforded to us in this land of milk and honey.  There’s no place I’d rather be, but I know this type of mindset has distracted us from eternal perspective.  It is so easy to live in the moment—plan for the day, week, or maybe even a month–but to plan for eternity…it seems even further than retirement.

Although we’re in a culture that deemphasizes future planning and preparation, the secret to success is found when people evaluate the future effects of their decisions and trust the One who holds their future.  Truly successful people maintain an eternal perspective.  They know that they’re playing a role in the kingdom of God and recognize that although the temptation is to make the here-and-now about themselves, it’s ultimately about glorifying God and planting seeds for eternity.

There’s a curious little story that always catches my attention when I read through Luke 5.  A man who was paralyzed wanted to reach Jesus so bad for healing that his friends cut a hole in the roof to lower him down into a crowded house just so that Jesus would be able to heal him.  You can see the determination of the friends as they try to get their friend the help he so desperately wanted: 

Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.   When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”  (Luke 5:18-20)

Every time I read verse 20, I can’t help but be caught off guard at Jesus’ response.  Clearly, the man wanted to be freed from his mat and no longer confined to the imprisonment of paralysis, but Jesus’ first response has nothing to do with this man’s physical needs.  Instead Jesus offers the man forgiveness of sins.  Huh?  If I were to imagine myself as the paralytic, I’d probably feel jipped at first.  I’d be thinking, “God, this isn’t what I asked for.  I wanted salvation now from my paralysis, not forgiveness.”  But like Jesus always does, He is takes the physical, temporal mindset, and flips it to the eternal because Jesus knows what this life is truly about.  He first dealt with the spiritual before fixing the physical.  Jesus is always trying to help us transcend beyond the physical, the material, the-here-and-now, and think about the purpose behind it all, which is to bring glory to God by sharing the truth of His goodness and forgiveness.

As you chase your dreams and pursue success, it is important to remember the grand cosmic plan that God is accomplishing in and through those who love Him.  It’s easy to get so caught up in personal promotion, fame, platforms, and accomplishments that we forget that there is something bigger, greater, and more purposeful playing out.  Slowly we can become increasingly self-focused, working tirelessly to build our own kingdom instead of God’s.  Psalm 127:1 reminds us that, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”  When God is the chief architect of our lives, dreams, and achievements, then we have found true success. 

God is honored and glorified when we prioritize Him above all else.  He promises to take care of those who put Him first.  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” Matthew 6:33.  Whatever successful outcome you are striving towards, be sure to always seek the Lord’s face first.  Hold your plans with an open hand, surrendering your will as you try your best to control the things you can control.  God will guide, bless, and direct your efforts as you keep an eternal perspective your focus.