Posts Tagged ‘mission’

purposeI will never forget my mother saying to me one morning, not long after reaching her 90th birthday, I just don’t know what I should do with the rest of my life. At the time, she felt hardy and hopeful and she was ready to take on something new. This idea of seeking purpose and planning toward it, has been with us all for a long time. Self-help books abound, whether secular or faith-based, “What is your purpose? What is the point? What is God’s will for my life?”

For the past few months, I have been participating in a series of classes under the umbrella of the Hillsong Ministry School at Restore Church. The entire first semester was like a walk through the Bible, broad swaths of understanding and patterns. But this semester is turning inward. Who am I in relationship with God, with Christ, with the Church?

rich-young-rulerTwo weeks ago, after class, I actually went home deeply depressed. I was feeling overwhelmed with I was not. I had a sharp and somewhat uncomfortable epiphany in which I understood the plight of the “rich young ruler” [Mark 10:17-23]. Not because I am a woman of wealth, per se, but there are experiences I still want to have and things I want to do that are not wrapped inside the cocoon of the church. And so, like him, I hung my head a bit and walked away. I want to be an expression of God in every day life, there is no doubt about that. And my faith in God is steady and even deep, but I am feeling a push back within. (In a recent sermon, Jess talked about the way he had been limiting his exercise: “I’ll do anything, just don’t ask me to do cardio.” — so it is with me, I guess.)

But I am off the homework questions of what God’s purpose is for my life? The correct answer is that everyone’s love-the-lordpurpose is pretty much the same: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength, and your neighbor as yourself; AND, go into all the world and preach the gospel. . . ”  That has manifested as serving in the local church, adopting children, performing and speaking for about the things of God, and blogging my heart devotionally. Can I say that I have been called by God to these things? Not with confidence.

Some years ago, I spent a long time working through a study to help me articulate a personal mission. I still use it on my site: My personal mission is to inspire meaningful change, build faith in God, and connect people with resources that will make a difference in their lives. This sentence grounded me in my work at the library as well as my work in the church and my work in the arts.

I believe God has blessed my writing and indulges my desire to write both devotional and secular material. But I would also like to use my 30 plus years of marriage and faith to counsel others; is it too late to go in that direction? I don’t know. I want to simplify my life.

passionMy strengths are my passion for God, my enthusiasm for the things that resonate within me, my ability to speak in a group with confidence, my humor, my writing. My weaknesses are my losses – words don’t come as quickly as they di did before, I forget names and faces, my memories are no longer crystal clear. I am a bit adrift since Mike’s death and although I soldier on, I am a bit unhinged for he grounded me. I scatter my energy across an array of interests. For those who know the Enneagram, I am a true seven.

I am pretty capable with technology, although I am losing ground as “virtual reality” becomes more pervasive and I never really did much gaming. It’s not that I didn’t really like it, I was afraid of becoming addicted to it for I do have an addictive personality (which I learned the hard way back in the day before my faith in Christ cut me loose — I don’t test God in this anymore).

I’m not as good of a listener as I should be. I tend to be a “fixer.”

Don’t want to ask others what they think my strengths are etc. I know what they will say. I’ve been around this bend too often. They see what I let them see. I don’t have many friends, but the few who are close are far. I am not perceived as needing any.

prayerMy spiritual goal is to become a more consistent woman of prayer, working toward achieving a 5% tithe of my waking time spent in direct conversation, contemplation, and reflection within 6 months from today. Some of the strategies I will use will be to plan for prayer each day and week. 5% of 16 hours is approximately 45-50 minutes a day. I will record my time and what I learn in whatever time I spend, whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, but I will see an increase over the weeks. And out of that time in prayer, I expect to return to familiarity and intimacy. And from there, this idea of purpose will be grow more authentically.

victorian-writerMy life goal is still to write a book, no not just write it, but finish it (after all the re-writes) and get it published. And then another. And another. And quite honestly, to have success in this arena, I must give, at minimum, the same amount of time. Funny. I have a gut feeling that these two efforts were always joined at the hip. So be it.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lordtrust in him and he will do this . . . [Psalm 37:3-5, NIV]


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wildernessThen Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted . . . [Matthew 4:1a]

He went willingly into the wilderness. Me? Not so much, more like kicking and screaming. It’s not like I haven’t been there before. I have stumbled through a number of dry seasons and harsh conditions. I have walked blindly and without water, but not because I chose to do so. The supplies got left behind.

Jesus fasted as a norm to the moment before him. He just knew that this challenge would require all of himself. If He could not survive this, then the rest of the mission would fail. 40 days and 40 nights and an evil companion dropping in and out, taunting along the way, was only a small portion of what He would face in the end.

This would not be a wilderness that would kill him. That much He knew. But the his test results could put a major crimp in the plan, in the method, in the progress. This was phase one.

I always mess this up. I look at the wilderness and almost always cry “Uncle.” I project into the wilderness more than is there. It’s like being hungry before I’ve started to fast. It’s rolling over after the alarm sounds because I’m just “too tired” to face the morning. It’s letting my memories of former excursions into the tough times set the tone.

So I know that. Right now. I see it, I know it. So, let’s do it differently this time.

I’m going in.

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On Easter morning, we need to consider this detail: women played a key role as messengers of truth. In fact, from the visits to Bethany through Jesus’s Paschal journey and on into the days and weeks after the resurrection, women were players: devoted, faithful and strong. They still are.

Romans 16:1-2, 6, 12-13, 15 and more
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church . . . Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus . . . Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. . . . Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. . . . Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman . . . Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

At first blush, Romans 16 appears as boring as Matthew’s genealogy used to be for me. But a closer examination reveals the same mystery: the powerful women! There are lots and lots of women mentioned here and in most cases, they are clearly cherished by Paul.

The genealogy in Matthew 1:1-16 was such a sleeper for me until I experienced an epiphany and saw the reason behind mentioning the women in those verses (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary). They had a message for me: if God could use them, he could use me. And out of that revelation, I created a one-woman show that I toured for several years called Pente.

Now, in this chapter, I see another group of women with very little story to illuminate their place in the timeline, and yet, they are there: Phoebe, Priscilla, another Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus’s mother, and countless unnamed ones since households were listed by the head of house alone. But women were there, serving, loving, praying, and working in tandem with their families to illustrate the message of Jesus.

Scholars assume Phoebe actually carried the letter of Paul to the Romans. Was she allowed to read it? Did she travel from church to church (there were many house churches) in that great city? Did she carry additional personal messages from Paul? She was from a coastal city of Corinth, at least 600 miles from Rome. That was no gentle expedition. I’m not saying she was the Pony Express, but it’s amazing for that time period for a woman to travel with this type of a mission.

I know, there are other places where Paul seems to give women the back seat. I struggle with these sections too. But as I study those areas along my New Testament trek, I want to remember this Paul, who sent Phoebe with a critical letter to the gentile believers in Rome.

All of the women to whom Paul is sending greetings are commended for their “work.” I doubt he means “woman’s work” either. He is talking about the same work that all of us are called to do: being a witness in word and action: fulfilling the call of Christ in our lives, equally distributed by grace.

Oh yes, this is a day to remember and celebrate that Jesus’s work on the cross included a great emancipation for women of faith. Amen.

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Why can’t I remember to ask this question before I hurdle into action after my own great idea or solution? Answer: Because I don’t want to hear another answer…. or worse, I can’t really hear God’s answer. So, I cover uncertainty with bravado and a battle cry, “This way! Follow me.”

Acts 22:10
And I [Paul] asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the Lord answered me, “Get up and go into Damascus, and there it will be told you all that it is destined and appointed for you to do.” [Amplified]

Paul was knocked off his horse by a bright light and a voice who identified himself as Jesus of Nazareth, the very person Paul had hated and whose followers he was persecuting, jailing and condemning to death. And yet, Paul had the guts to ask, “What I shall I do?” (I think there was an unspoken “now” at the end of that question). Paul probably expected he would be killed for his massacre of Jesus’s followers. Blinded by the light, Paul arrived in Damascus and did not eat or drink for three days. [Acts 9:9] He was at the Lord’s mercy.

But God did the opposite of what anyone would have expected. Paul was anointed instead, to be a witness to the reality of Jesus as the Messiah and eventually that witness was predominately directed to the gentiles, the most despised people group by the Jews.

Paul didn’t really know he’d end up with the gentiles. When he started telling his story, he taught among his own people. He went to the synagogues and Jewish prayer places. But when his witness was rejected there, he turned to the other people who embraced his message. His ministry evolved and he allowed it to evolve.

God is full of grace and mercy. He doesn’t drag us along kicking and screaming.

Jeff, my old friend, and I used to always joke that we would “never” go to Africa or anywhere else where poverty and hardships were the norm. No way. We liked our creature comforts far too much. In fact, whenever people started talking about their fabulous experiences in various third world countries or impoverished areas, we would look at each other, pretend to wave a flag, and hum the “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

But, what happened? Jeff ended up in the ghetto of London ministering to the homeless and prostitutes for over a year and my family ended up working with two orphanages in Namibia and Zambia in Africa. And all was done with a joyful heart. It all happened at the right time and the right place.

This is the message for me today: my job is to ask. God honors the asking. God is a good communicator. If I honestly want to hear … if I am willing to hear… then God’s “voice” is clear.

Something is evolving. I can feel it in my heart but I don’t know what it might be. I can only ask: “Oh God, what shall I do now?”

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Each day has an abundance of bad choices, wrong steps, hurt feelings, and ill temper. If my sins were collected in bottles, I’d have a case of them in no time at all. This is why I am so grateful for a faith that offers an abundance of grace (unmerited favor, spiritual blessing, and mercy [Amplified]).

Acts 20:24b
“…if only I [Paul] may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

The people of Paul’s time were equally downtrodden with the burdens of their day. For the Jews, it was the codified law that had become a heavy weight around their necks. There was no way to follow and meet the standards of that law. For the non-Jews who believed in Yahweh (and thereby, one God), there was this overwhelming sense of being on the “outside” of the whole truth, stepchildren of the faithful. And for those who had walked away from God, there was no hope of redemption at all.

This was the message of grace that Paul offered to everyone he met: accept Jesus as the Messiah and find freedom in his rabbi’s yoke.

Some fear this emphasis on grace and have coined the appropriation of God’s Grace when applied everything and everyone as “cheap grace” particularly when a person calls on grace to cover ongoing and willful sins or bad behaviors. But, if grace belongs to God, then it is God who ultimately sorts out the application of His love to a person’s circumstances or human troubles.

My job, like Paul’s, is to tell the story of God’s Grace in my life. I cannot know how grace will feel or look in the life of another. But I do know, on the day that Grace covered me, I was made new. Where there had been no hope, there was hope. Where there had been disillusionment and fear, there was confidence and peace. Where there had been deep sorrows, there was a possibility for joy.

And so it goes each day, I pour out my bottle of sins and grievances into the hands of Christ and He has me drink instead from the cup of his mercy.

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John 21:2
There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas, called the Twin, and Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, also the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.

Two “other” disciples: who were they? Were these two who had joined the disciples just recently? Were they hanging out because of the witness of Thomas, let’s say? There are few clues. In any case, they are unnamed. Why? There are a few other examples in scripture where followers are numbered in some way but unnamed.

This is where my imagination really kicks in. Somehow there is significance in these two guys, apparently fishermen (since they all go out to fish with Peter), being present at Jesus’s appearance. And although the emphasis in this last chapter of John is on Peter and his mission for Christ, these two unnamed guys were there for a reason.

In the same way that Thomas needed Jesus to solidify his faith in Jesus’s second appearance, I think these guys needed something similar. In fact, I believe God uses time and place so economically that each one of the disciples that day had a particular need to see Jesus face to face. Only Peter’s conversation is recorded, but I’m sure each disciple had a conversation around that campfire and over the meal.

This was a time of confirmation.

We all need confirmation at one time or another. Did I really hear correctly? Is this really what I should be doing? Am I choosing the right way? Is this my time?

Jesus had breakfast with 7 guys to confirm their faith and their missions. Each one was sent forth. Outside of Peter and the sons of Zebedee, these other disciples played fairly small roles in the overall story. And yet, here they are in the third sighting of Jesus after the resurrection.

If Jesus would do this for them, then he’ll do the same for me. And so I ask, confirm the stirrings of my heart this day, Lord. Give me courage and fortitude. Give me confidence and curiosity. Amen.

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John 21:3
“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Here’s what I think: Simon Peter was impatient and uncomfortable with his new role. This mission stuff was foreign on his own. Besides, things were not happening the way they had before with Jesus. And where was Jesus? Why wasn’t He leading them? Why wasn’t He telling them what to do?

Like so many of us, Peter back-peddled. From his perspective, the mission mandate was not working out. So, he went back to what he really knew how to do: fish! In this arena, he was much more confident. This was what he had always done before. This was much more comfortable.

Only one problem: no fish!

When we are given a clear mandate from God and we actually hear it and understand it and head out in that direction … warning: going back doesn’t work.

I had a friend who felt a strong call to go to London (from Atlanta, Georgia) and work with the poor, particularly prostitutes and other street people. He obediently packed up his family and left. And the Lord blessed them. But into the second year, he became discouraged. And after several disappointments and dead ends, he and his family packed up again, returned to Atlanta and went back to the coffee shop business.

Only one problem: no coffee… no customers… etc.

Don’t get me wrong. God is merciful and full of grace. Even if we mess up and go back to fishing, God is there. But be prepared, once we willingly enter the Way of Jesus, He will continue to call us back to the path… one way or another. The old comfort zone will no longer be comfortable. The old way of doing things will no longer work. The old projects will fail. The old pew will be rough sitting.

“…no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.” [Luke 5:37]

Lord, give me courage to stay on the new path today.

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