Purpose

The Sharp Knife of an Unexamined Life

Blog_SunriseAtLakePiru

The world was riveted this week by the story of a young actress whose life was cut short by a tragic drowning accident. What was expected to be a beautiful day swimming with her young son on a scenic lake in California sadly turned out to be her last day on earth. And she has become yet another somber reminder of how very fragile life is.

I’m not sure exactly what drew me to follow this story. I had not heard of this actress prior to reading the news headlines, but something about her four-year-old son found alone in the pontoon boat cut to the heart. Beyond that, I’m sobered by the thought of how suddenly life can come to an end—even for those that seem to have all the beauty, fame, talent and riches the world so desires.

One of her final tweets, dated days before the accident, read: “No matter the year, circumstance, or strifes [every day] you’re alive is a blessing. Make the most of today and every day you are given. Tomorrow is not promised.”

Years prior, she sang a song titled “If I Die Young.” The lyrics speak of “the sharp knife of a short life.” How prophetic these words have become.

Yet I would venture to say that there’s a knife which cuts sharper than that of a short life.

The philosopher Socrates was quoted to say, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I would call this, “the sharp knife of an unexamined life.”

A life gone too soon is most certainly tragic. But a short life lived fully, with purpose and eternity in mind, is not as tragic as a long life lived without meaning or thought.

We are created for a purpose. We’re here to accomplish something only we can accomplish, for the benefit of our generation and generations to come. And God has offered the hope of eternity though the death and resurrection of his son Jesus to all who would accept this invitation.

To live without knowledge of our creator’s wonderful plan for our lives—and to live without eternity in view, is both futile and foolish.

I know nothing of the life and legacy of the actress who so suddenly lost her life. But I do know many Hollywood icons tend to live their lives for what is fleeting: the accolades of men, the transience of beauty, the lure of material gain. And most give their souls to preaching false gospels so they can earn these momentary rewards that will only fade with time.

Examining my own life, I know I don’t want to live chasing the wind. I don’t want my legacy to be something only of temporal, earthly value. I want it to last beyond eternity.

There is a life that is truly life, which can only be found in relationship with the author of our lives. He has shown us that following his design for life leads to abundant life. And he’s created us to leave a legacy that will outlast our lives on earth. And more important, for those who believe, for those who would receive his gift, he has promised an eternity where there is “no more death, mourning, crying or pain.”

Our life and its outcome is well worth the investment of examining ourselves, of searching to see if we are truly living “a life worth living.”

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

 

Photo Credit: Sunrise at Lake Piru by Jeff Turner, labeled free to use or share on flickr.com

What We Don’t Always See

Blog_WeavingLoomMy seven-year-old son has a strong sense of justice, at least when he’s not the one whose actions are in question. He’s quick to report any offense of which he sees himself victim. And often he’s compassionate enough to stand up when his friends face potential mistreatment.

The other day, he decided to call me to the bench while he stood judge and jury. Why, he wondered, did Daddy and I have two fans in our room when he didn’t have any? On this unseasonably warm spring day, it seemed a fair question. Maybe, just maybe, we were withholding from him. And maybe we loved ourselves a little bit more.

Except the aspiring lawyer overlooked one key piece of evidence: the air conditioner in his own room that was clearly not present in ours.

Yes, what he did not see was that Mommy and Daddy decided he should enjoy the cool comfort afforded by that air conditioner while we took the room without. We chose to love him enough to give him the blessing of a restful night of sweat-free sleep while we often bake in the rising heat, even with two fans. When he finally understood, his accusations came to a swift halt.

Now I know that for most of the world, air conditioning itself is a luxury of dreams. So to say we’ve sacrificed for our son is a little extreme. In the overall scheme of things, this is just one small way we’ve put our children before ourselves.

But the situation did remind me a little of myself. How often I come to God with accusation in my heart, questioning his love because things did not go as I expected. How often I ignore the sacrifices he’s already made for me, all because I’m so focused on what I want and don’t have.

Oh, the things we don’t always see.

Not only has God given us life and breath. Not only has he given us a hope and a future. But he gave his only son that “whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” We’ll never fully know the extremes he went to that we would know his love and receive his life.

And beyond that, he’s always and ever “working everything for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose”. He never sleeps. Every detail of our lives, woven into a perfect tapestry because of his infinite love.

What we don’t always see is the other side of the tapestry. We’re so focused on the loose strands so evident from this side of eternity, we miss the work of the master artist that will show itself beautiful in its perfect time. Abba, father…open our eyes. Help us to see. And forgive our ingratitude.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)

 

Photo Credit: weaving hands | on a loom in the iron age | Hans Splinter | Flickr

Greater Outcomes

Blog_CaveWaterfallWhen Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, it must have seemed impossible to believe any good could come from it. When he was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, the thought of God redeeming his circumstances surely seemed a distant dream. And when his only two friends forgot him in that jail cell, Joseph could easily have given up all hope.

But at some point in his endlessly nightmarish story, Joseph learned something that sustained him to the turning-point.

God is a God of greater outcomes.

Joseph emerged from nearly fourteen years of bondage with a faith stronger and more certain than he started out with. Beyond his confinement, he found not only the fulfillment of his dreams but the enduring faithfulness of God to redeem any circumstance for measureless good.

When his guilty brothers came to him in time of famine, Joseph could easily have poured out the full measure of vengeance. Instead, he spoke these words: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20).

This hour in which we live is one of inexplicable darkness. We live in a world where the ravages of sin plague every corner of existence. Violence, sickness and calamity strive to rule our days. And in the thick of the chaos, we cry out for some glimpse of good, some sign of God’s intervention.

How could a greater outcome emerge from this current pandemic?

This is the realm in which only the God of the impossible can work his greatest wonders.

In Joseph’s situation, human free-will and the brokenness of nature were allowed to run their course to a near-dismal end. A brother in slavery. A family in crisis. A world in famine. Nothing can shroud the suffering Joseph went through, but nothing can veil the glorious outcome.

And so it is today. Nothing can shroud the lives lost in this horrific time. But that doesn’t negate the truth that good can and will inevitably emerge, in its time.

I recently read that every year, over 4.5 million people die from complications resulting directly from air pollution. Some have estimated that with major cities on quarantine, the decrease in air pollution could save possibly hundreds of thousands more lives than have been lost through the current pandemic.

And what IF. What if someone or multiple someones had been plotting mass shootings or other acts of terrorism in the near future, which are now thwarted with no large crowds to target? We may never know.

And these are only possible physical outcomes. What about families once broken, now drawing together and irreversibly strengthened through hours alone, together? And workaholics on the brink of heart-attack or worse, now forced to slow down and breathe?

But I would say that God is into even greater outcomes than these. Because this imperfect world is not our home, and maybe we’re finally coming to realize that. Maybe this shaking is truly an awakening that will at last open blind eyes to see the things of earth are not our end goal. Salvation and eternal life are found in one who suffered far greater injustices than Joseph, with far greater outcomes.

Maybe multitudes of treasured souls will find enduring hope and everlasting life, which far outweighs anything this world can bring.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 2:7-9)

 

Photo Credit: Waterfall from a Cave @ goodfreephotos.com

Hope’s Victory

Spring_SunriseTreesThe streets were eerily empty as I walked my dog today. Save for the hopeful songs of a few lone, rebel birds, the silence calmed as the sunset shed golden light on the trees, unrelenting in glory despite its lack of audience.  It would almost have felt peaceful, if not for the pandemic behind it all.

My dog pulled me along, grateful to be the beneficiary of extra long walks during this unusual season. And as she did, I caught sight of something that nearly slipped by unnoticed. Tiny buds pushing through branches of the bushes lining our walkway announced the arrival of another season that entered uncelebrated amidst the current plague of unwelcome news.

Spring.

It arrived humbly, almost forgotten though so anticipated after the relentless winter. Shrouded by the pall of a world of uncertainty, spring came with a gentle reminder. Hope lives on after the coldest and bleakest of seasons.

Could it be that there will be such a glory to follow this time of worldwide grief?

While it may seem that nothing could soon out-measure the loss so many are now experiencing, hope is waiting to emerge. Just as winter births the beauty of spring, this hour of difficulty will bring forth something inexplicably beautiful, in its time.

While uncertainty claws at us, fierce and persistent, spring reminds us of a greater certainty behind it all. The sun continues to rise and set, as promised from the beginning. And winter gives way to spring despite the surrounding opposition. Flowers will yet bloom. Brown grass will soon awaken in glorious green splendor. Barren trees will unveil branches adorned with fruit.

Certainly if a season harsh as winter can yield the unhindered allure of spring, God can take the most hopeless ashes of our lives and fashion something of immense beauty.

So be of good courage and look beyond what your eyes see today. Spring has broken through and will continue to make its mark despite the overwhelming decay that seems to have overtaken our world. You will see goodness come from the tribulations of today, and our trials of now will seem light and momentary compared to the glory that “far outweighs them all.”

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

A Simple Prayer

blog_snowywoods“Live simply, love generously, serve faithfully, speak truthfully, pray daily. Leave everything else to God.” I saw this quote while sitting in a café the other day. As I consider the direction of my life, these words speak to me about a simple yet profound calling. So often, we’re looking for the big, the extravagant, the noticeably noble. We want to be significant, and we perceive significance as something evident to the masses.

Yet what if greatness has a humbler definition?

And that’s why this has become my prayer, and my desired life-theme. To truly live simply—not bogged down by temporary things, unnecessary work, trivial concerns, or excessive material endeavors. To love generously: that my love for all would be abundant, honest, and overflowing…not in word alone, but in action and in truth.

Father God, remove every ounce of selfishness from within me: my self-centeredness, self-preservation, self-exaltation. Move in my heart to make me someone who thinks of others more than I think of myself.

Let my service be for the motive of honoring you by helping others. Let it be pure and untiring, all-encompassing—infiltrating all I do and done with all my heart, soul and strength. I confess I’ve grown weary in well-doing. Please renew my strength.

Tame my tongue to be still when I need to be silent and to speak truth boldly and always with love. Strip me of the veil of the fear of man.

I’ve been prayerless, so move me to pray. Prayerlessness is the root of all my trials, or my misunderstanding of your purpose in the midst of trials. Release me from bondage to laziness and unbelief, that my prayers may flow unwavering, unhindered, and unceasingly to you.

Build up my faith to know with confidence that when I’ve done all you ask of me, I can be at peace and leave all else to you. I want to live at ease with you, knowing you alone hold my life and I will stand before you alone at the end to give account for my thoughts, words, and actions.

This is my simple prayer.

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Woods, Forest, Trees, Winter – Free Image on Pixabay …

Through the Fire

There are greater outcomes when we endure the furnace of affliction with grace, allowing God to birth in us a deeper compassion through the fire.

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Maple, Autumn, Leaf, Red, Leaves – Free Image on …

The Most Hopeless Pieces

A skilled artist can transform the most useless items into something of matchless worth. And that’s what our loving God is able to do with the most hopeless pieces of our lives.

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Art, Art Supplies, Artist, Blue – Free Image on …