Tag Archives: purpose

Faith is the evidence of things not seen

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I woke up this morning with a “Summer Head Cold”.  (It is still Summer here in Costa Rica, even though my Minnesota friends have recently had another foot of snow dumped on them in a rare “Spring storm”.) I automatically wondered, “Where did this cold come from?”  I spent a few minutes reviewing the events of my week, searching for a particularly germy location where I could have picked up a bug.  It was a toss up between being at school with 150 children or spending hours in the Immigration office, which was air-conditioned.  Costa Ricans firmly believe that a rapid change in temperature can make you sick (or kill you).  Apparently they were proven right today.  It’s no more ridiculous than American mothers ordering their children to put on hats to prevent a cold.

Anyhow, once I had settled on a possible source of my cold, I actually felt more at ease.  Silly, I know.  I am one of those people who feel better with more information.  When things are left vague, I am uneasy.  I am hard-wired to sift through the grains of life searching for nuggets of information to guide my decision-making.  When I can’t find those nuggets or the sifter is torn from my hands, I feel like life is out of control.  I am programmed to search for purpose and meaning in life.

For me, faith is going forward with insufficient information.  I do not consider it faith when I witness a miracle, or when I pray in another language, or when I observe the physical effects of contact with the spirit world.  No, for me those things are logical manifestations of the supremacy of our God.  We should by fact have a physical reaction when a Superior Being gets close to us- that’s normal, in my mind.  That requires no faith, for me.

Where I am stretched is when I am required to take a step without being totally secure of my data-base, when I don’t see a purpose.  If I know the WHY, I can proceed without fear.  If I know the final destination of these steps, the WHERE, then I can walk forward without concern.  If I can see an obvious HOW, then I have no reason to draw on my faith.  But when those questions are left ambiguous, or worse when they are completely unaddressed, then I frantically cast about for something else to hold on to like a drowning person searches for a life preserver.  The thing I seize upon is where my faith is anchored:  the personality of God.  God is the rope that I cling to.

What I believe God to be is the core of faith.  I cannot see Him.  But I can see the EVIDENCE of what he is, of who he is.  Just like I can’t see wind, for example, but I can see the evidence that wind exists- so it is with God.  Having faith is like being a forensic investigator.  We have to look for clues, finger prints, that God was here.  We build up our knowledge of him, our data-base, which gives us a larger and stronger rope to grab on to when the trail has taken an unexpected turn or the lead has gone cold.  In those times, when I am left without a WHY or a HOW or a WHERE I hold onto the rope, which is my faith in who God is.

I say to myself, “I don’t know why I am going through this, but I know that God has already approved this trial because he is all knowing.  He is in control and nothing surprises him.  He has promised that he only has good plans for me.  He will not harm me.”  When I can’t make sense of my reality, I hold onto my faith in the Goodness of Almighty God.  God is always good… even when I have a cold.

Happiness within the Call

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From the time my sister was in college until just a few years ago she has worked at various positions with Senior Citizens.  She loves old people.  (We always joke that I get the kids and she gets the old people.)  She can hug someone over 100-years old (very gently) any time she wants!

But there was a time when the company she was working for was under lousy management and working there become stressful.  Fortunately another position opened within the Christian university that we both attended.  It paid more and offered a fresh environment with a challenge.  She worked there for about 5 years, and though she enjoyed her job, she missed her old people.  Always missed them.

We talked about it.  After all these years, I think she finally realized that working with Seniors is what she was MADE  to do.  It was her Calling.  She would only feel fulfilled in her work if she was working with old people.  So when all the doors suddenly opened up for her to return to her old company as PART OF the management- to really do some good and affect some changes- she jumped at the opportunity.  We all encouraged her to follow her calling.

This last week my sister wrote this on her Facebook page:

Two moving moments today at work:
1) Having a grey-haired, 60-something adult child tear-up while I was counseling him about getting though his parents’ move.

2) Having an 80-something resident make ME tear-up. He lived at Augustana back when I worked there before and was one of my favs. He said to me, “Back in 2003, you did one of the kindest things that anyone has ever done for me. When we took a trip to Lakewood Cemetery, you offered to visit my wife’s grave with me. I’ve never forgotten that and it will be the last thing I think of before I close my eyes for the last time.” UGH! Tears!

I have thought many, many times about my purpose in life.  Personally, I feel most fulfilled being a missionary.  I feel that this was what I was MADE to be.  My sister feels that working with Seniors is what she was MADE to do.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing when you find the purpose and meaning for your life?  I think there are a lot of people out there still working in jobs they don’t love and wondering if they missed their occupational calling in life.  That’s sad.

Even though no one calls her a “Minister”, what my sister does IS ministry.  She ministers to old people and to their families who are struggling with the transition that their loved ones are going through.  She treats her job as sacred and sees it as a chance to share the love of God with people.  And THAT is how you handle a Calling.  When you KNOW that this is what God wants you to do with your life, you treat it as sacred.

Refiner’s Fire

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Christians have a different perspective on suffering because we look for meaning in the process.  We feel God close to us in times of trials.  How else could Paul and Silas sing songs of praise to the Lord while chained up in a prison cell?  How else do you explain the servant of God who is arrested in a Muslim country yet begs his friends NOT to push for his release, just let God have His way?  How else do you account for the Chinese pastor who spends the rest of his life talking about the “golden days” of his captivity when Jesus was so sweet and close?  “Suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” so says Romans 5:3-4.

But I like how The Message version says it:

“We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.  In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged.  Quite the contrary- we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”  (Romans 5:3-5 The Message)

There’s an old song sung by Vineyard from back when I was a kid.  It talks about the Refining Fire of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of a Jesus Follower.  It requires fire to purify silver and gold… very hot fire.  And it is the same way with us.  In our troubles, we are made more useful and beautiful and pure for our work here on this Earth.  God always has a plan where suffering is concerned.  It is not random. I hum this tune to myself quite often as I meditate on the lyrics:

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within

Refiner’s fire

My heart’s one desire

Is to be holy

Set apart for You, Lord

I choose to be holy

Set apart for You, my Master

Ready to do Your will

Sick Day

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Well, I don’t have a blog written for today.  We have been battling Strep throat here in our household since Friday.  So I haven’t had the time or energy to write anything new.  My husband suggested that I repost one of my favorites from earlier in the year, and I think I will do just that.  So without further ado:  here’s “Pea Green Envy”.  (Originally posted Jan. 22, 2012)

So today I was having one of my “what the heck am I doing with my life?” moments.  I was capsized by jealousy and envy.  The “praise of men” was looking very tempting to me.  I have many friends who are very successful by the world’s standards, and so often I feel like I’m just lucky that everyone in my family is wearing clean underwear today!  I’m a mom.  I’m a wife.  Yeah, I’m a missionary too, but all those things just feel so insignificant compared to what my friends have already accomplished.  This jealousy was really eroding my self esteem- big time!  I was pea green with envy.

I decided to go for a walk with my ipod and try to talk with God about this.  This jealousy and envy made it hard to think clearly.  So I asked God to affirm me, to encourage me, to lift me up. But I felt God tell me to lift HIM up instead.  So I scrolled through my ipod menu to a favorite playlist and I started to worship God as I walked along.  Suddenly I started to see things from a new perspective.  The green haze of envy began to clear and I saw things as God wanted me to see them.

It doesn’t matter what others are doing with their lives- I am lifting Jesus up.  I’m being obedient to what God has called me to do right here and right now- I’m lifting Jesus up.  The focus really shouldn’t be on my accomplishments anyways, I’m just here to glorify God.  My obedience glorifies Him.  My worship lifts Him up.  That is my purpose in life- to lift Him up.  So I guess I AM fulfilling my purpose, I am doing what I was made to do. It’s not about building a name for myself, it’s about building up the name of Jesus.  That’s how God measures my success- by how much I lift Him up.

The Process IS the Purpose

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Taken from Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost for His Highest”.  Emphasis mine.

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success.  We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us.  In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite.  We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not.  The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way.  What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself…  What people call preparation, God calls the goal.
Process is not something that anyone really enjoys, most of the time.  We are very often so focused on the destination, that we forget to stop and smell the roses along the way… or roll in the poison ivy along the way of some routes.  God has a purpose for us along the way.  It involves the death of our own ideas about how things should be done or what the end result will look like.  For me, language school was the first intense dying to myself process that I had ever really experienced.  Before, I could control most of what happened in my life.  But once I was put into a new culture with a new language, I had no handles to steer with.  I had to take my hands off the wheel and let God do the steering.
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Stripping of pride, laying down of conveniences, forgetting my own identity, and adjusting my values were just a small part of the process that happened as I learned to conjugate Spanish verbs.  When I nearly had a panic attack at the thought of ordering pizza over the phone, I hit an all-time low.  What is God doing with THIS kind of process?  Crushing, refining, purifying, kneading and reforming are all words that come to mind.
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Probably many of you have heard this illustration before… but it’s worth sharing again.  
As a butterfly struggles to push out of its cocoon, it squeezes itself through a tiny opening at the bottom of the confining sack.  It pushes and struggles and takes a long time.  Its body bloated with transforming fluids, it presses through the little hole and this forces the fluids into the wings.  The fluids help the wet, crumpled new wings to spread and dry straight and strong.  
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If some compassionate person were to come along and see this great struggle, they might be tempted to free the butterfly from its confinement and thus bypass the work and struggle of emerging from the cocoon.  But if that happens, the wings will never fill and spread.  The fat, bloated body will never fly with purposeful grace.  That act of compassion would be seen as cruelty.  The butterfly MUST go through a process in order to live and thrive.  It can not take short cuts.  Struggle and pain are part of the plan, part of the process.  
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It is this way with us.  God has a plan for us and sometimes it involves suffering for a “moment”.  Think of the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.  They learned through that process that they could trust God to take care of them, to fight for them, to lead them, to heal them, to provide for them, and to speak to them.  What if they had taken the short cut and gone straight to the Promised Land.  They would have never had their terrifying and glorious Red Sea experience.  They would have remained butterflies with crippled, crumpled spiritual wings.  They would have never thrived in Trusting the Lord.
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What process are you pushing through right now?  Embrace the slow and painful growth.  Focus less on the end result and more on the path you are on.  Process is the purpose.

Pea Green Envy

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So today I was having one of my “what the heck am I doing with my life?” moments.  I was capsized by jealousy and envy.  The “praise of men” was looking very tempting to me.  I have many friends who are very successful by the world’s standards, and so often I feel like I’m just lucky that everyone in my family is wearing clean underwear today!  I’m a mom.  I’m a wife.  Yeah, I’m a missionary too, but all those things just feel so insignificant compared to what my friends have already accomplished.  This jealousy was really eroding my self esteem- big time!  I was pea green with envy.

I decided to go for a walk with my ipod and try to talk with God about this.  This jealousy and envy made it hard to think clearly.  So I asked God to affirm me, to encourage me, to lift me up. But I felt God tell me to lift HIM up instead.  So I scrolled through my ipod menu to a favorite playlist and I started to worship God as I walked along.  Suddenly I started to see things from a new perspective.  The green haze of envy began to clear and I saw things as God wanted me to see them.

It doesn’t matter what others are doing with their lives- I am lifting Jesus up.  I’m being obedient to what God has called me to do right here and right now- I’m lifting Jesus up.  The focus really shouldn’t be on my accomplishments anyways, I’m just here to glorify God.  My obedience glorifies Him.  My worship lifts Him up.  That is my purpose in life- to lift Him up.  So I guess I AM fulfilling my purpose, I am doing what I was made to do. It’s not about building a name for myself, it’s about building up the name of Jesus.  That’s how God measures my success- by how much I lift Him up.