Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pro Life

I awoke in the middle of the night thinking of this title and what it personally means to me right now.  I'm using a play on words when I say I'm pro life.  Don't get me wrong, I am totally pro-life in the true sense of the word.  But today I'm using the words to depict the urgency in living a life with purpose.  I listened as my daughter read to me from the book, "Pollyanna". And although I dozed off a couple of times, she did get my full attention when she read the exchange of words between Pollyanna and her aunt Ms. Polly, “Oh, of course I'd be BREATHING all the time I was doing those things, Aunt Polly, but I wouldn't be living. You breathe all the time you're asleep, but you aren't living. I mean living—doing the things” “Just breathing isn't living!” ― Eleanor H. PorterPollyanna

The words resonated with me, especially since it was on the day that I got the news about the passing of the hospice care client I was volunteering for.  I was feeling like I had let him down because, although I planned on visiting with him and developing a relationship, our time ran out way faster than I had hoped.  He had brain cancer and was given up to six months to live.  So I was counting on those six months, which turned into a month and a half!  So I was sort of grieving.  Grieving that he passed without any relatives to truly mourn for him.  And grieving that I had an opportunity to be there for him but wasn't proactive enough with it.  My time ran out.  Wish I had known!  

And I became reflective.  About life.  About purpose.  About living with purpose.  And I made some phone calls, wrote down some words, sent out some messages, all to contact and encourage several people I know could use it.  I thought of those I know are really struggling right now.  And I thought of those  who are counting on me.  I also thought of those who would appreciate to hear from me, since it's been awhile since we've talked.  And I got to work.  Because simply breathing isn't living.  Because time has not entirely run out for me.  I'm still alive and able to make a difference.  I prepared a bag with clothes for the kid in need I had heard about at the soup kitchen.  I made the call to the doctor's office on behalf of the elderly lady who was getting nowhere on the phone with doctors. I got my son's favorites at the supermarket.  I played the wii with my daughter after school.  I prepared an exquisite 3 course meal for the family.  And it felt good to be proactive.  To not wait, because tomorrow is not always the better day.  Because today is quickly a part of yesterday.  And because God has given me this gift called life, and I must cherish it by living with purpose.

And what is the purpose of man according to the Bible, but to glorify God with our lives?  He has created us for His purposes and glory.  So that we may take that which He has given us and give it right back by sharing it with others.  So we share our lives' moments and experiences, we share our abilities, our strengths, our skills, our individual attributes to service others and as gratitude toward the one who gifted us with this thing called life.

It isn't enough to build ourselves homes and passions here on earth for our own well-being.  Ecclesiastes 1:14 reminds us that all of our personal toils here on earth are but a "chasing of the wind".  Will we ever catch it?  No.  It all seems to dissipate and slip right through our hands.  But there are some things, certain things, that last forever.  There are things that we can take into eternity.  And those things are intangible.  Those are the things to live for.  Those are the things that make life worth living for.  And when we've figured out what they are and how they look in our own personal lives, then we can begin to live out our purpose in life.  

For a long time, I had the presumption that  my purpose was to become an author.  And that if I could meet that goal, I would have accomplished my life's purpose.  And so when I could no longer put words on paper. When I ran out of inspiration, I felt depleted and discouraged.  And I believed that I had failed.  For a while now, God has been using different things and events in my life to tell me that my life's purpose is to bring Him glory by encouraging others.  Me, an encourager?  It just didn't sound as profound or elite as "an author".  It sounded too slight or simple.  Until I started to put my words on paper with the sole purpose of bringing encouragement to others.  That's when it started to all make sense.  And I began to have peace with not having the best seller to share with friends and family.  I felt at ease and even experienced joy to know that a notecard with my words in it would help someone come out of a rut.  And so I know that by bringing encouragement to someone, I am bringing glory to God and in return I am blessed. 

I am Pro Life because just breathing isn't living.  And I choose to live out my life's purpose today because tomorrow isn't promised.

Monday, March 7, 2016

What Does Your Letter Read?

I sometimes wonder what people will remember me by when I'm gone.  My first thoughts or hopes are that people would remember my laughter, and the overall sense of a "good feeling" when they were with or around me.  I hope that I would have encouraged more than I critiqued, forgiven more than I condemned, understood more than I argued... and Loved more like Jesus loved.  Yet when I survey my efforts and lifestyle so far, I know that I'm not there yet. I'm way too selfish to love that much.  I'm  too self-absorbed to even notice.  Yeah, the truth is that if I died today, you are welcomed to tell it like it really is and tell about how inconsiderate I can be and how mean-spirited I have been.  You can tell it all.  But be sure to also include the fact that if it had not been for Christ, there would be nothing good to say about me.  Please be sure to include that God did amazing things in spite of my humanly tendencies.  Please share about how graceful and merciful God has been in my life. And how He has shown favor upon me and those dear to me.  Don't forget to tell about how much love God has for me.

When I was a little girl, I learned quickly through harsh discipline and punishment.  And I developed the misconception that God was ultimately an authoritarian who would discipline and punish me whenever I did wrong.  And so for a long time, I lived fearing God much more than loving God.  And trying to please God much more than abiding in God.  Thankfully, in recent years I've come to the realization that God loves me just as I am.  That He loved me always, and loves me now even though I'm still not all that nice.  He loves me although I don't always behave the way He intends for me to behave.  He loves that I am who I am.  He doesn't want me to change for Him.  He wants to change me.  And so as I go through my day to day, I long to please Him.  I really do.  It may not always look that way, but my heart longs to be close to Him, longs for Him, and longs to please Him.

So what does my life's letter read?  I say it comes with all of the ups and downs, ugly and appealing, easy and hard that any one's life can look like.  I'm only human.  My life's letter comes with lies I've spoken, betrayals I've committed, and sins, lots of sins.  I don't know if I ever told you, but I was once swayed into of all things, a fleeting, texting affair, filled with empty words that almost cost me my life as I know it now.  It was really about my need to be flattered and appreciated.  How egotistic and vain!  But my life's letter has been edited.  And all throughout, as you read it, you'll find big and bold red markings covering the many mistakes I've made. You'll read in bold caps, SHE IS LOVED BY ME, GOD.  I know it sounds kind of crazy that for someone who's known God her whole life, she is now finally truly understanding what it means to be loved by God.  But like I said, my life is one with many mistakes.  And the more I learn that I am truly and fully loved... with the good, bad, and ugly, the more I am able to come outside myself and make a difference in the lives of others.  The more I grasp God's mercy, grace and love, the more I am able to extend it to you.  The more I embrace His forgiveness, the more I am free to forgive you.  I guess I'm a work in progress.  But then again, aren't we all?

I've been having these types of conversations lately with my daughter.  This is an awkward and uncomfortable time for her, as she enters into middle-school years.  So much is changing for her.  And it's like an awakening for her; that all of a sudden her peers, actions, relationships, and choices actually matter.  And she's having to find her identity in the midst of lots of "social noise".  So as she shares about some of the interactions taking place and things that she's becoming aware of, I challenge her to be whom God has intended her to be.  Because ultimately, our life's letter should reflect what God is doing and who He is in us.  So I encouraged her to be the "light" that others may need to see.  I told her she doesn't have to do what others are doing just because.  But rather that she can be the one to give others the alternative to do what is right before God.  I pointed out that she's a game changer, and instead of following, she can lead.  There's so much inside of her to offer.  I see joy and light that comes from inside of her, with the specific purpose of touching others who are in need of a bit of that.  And I'm reminded that this is exactly how God sees us.

God sees all the potential there is in us because of what He can do through us.  And so He takes us in and begins to re-write our stories.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that whether we get it right all the time or not, our life's letter should reflect God's doing.  It should speak of His grace and mercy.  It should tell others about what forgiveness looks like and the hope we find in Him.  It should inspire joy and shed light on all that surrounds us.  And mostly, our letters should speaks volumes of God's love for us.

2 Corinthians 3:3, "You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tables of the human hearts."