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Category: Purpose

Why God Doesn’t Care About Your Career

Why God Doesn’t Care About Your Career

It’s back to school time, which means we’re all pumping the children in our life for information about “what they want to do when they grow up.” High schoolers get the worst of this treatment. By junior year, the pressure is on them to know what college they want to attend. To know that, they need to know what they plan to major in. And to know that, they need to know the shape of their entire career path.

It’s a great deal of pressure to place on someone whose frontal lobe isn’t even fully formed yet.

It’s not  even enough that our young people have career plans. Their career plans must also be part of a bigger scheme to “live with purpose,” “make a difference,” or “follow God’s call.”

We mean well, we really do. But somewhere we’ve confused the whole idea of having a job with having a purpose. These are not the same, nor should they be.

I’ve spent a great deal of energy pondering my purpose in life. On any given day, I am likely to be having doubts about what I do and whether it makes a difference. And I spend enough time talking to others to know that I’m not alone in this. We are a restless generation, always feeling like there must be something more.

The spiritually minded among us feel this pressure as through the lens of faith. We are ever-searching for God’s vision in our lives. “Should I take this job? Or does God want me to take that one? And how are we supposed to know?”

It is the knowing that seems to be hardest. We all have visions of disappointing a demanding trail-guide. “I clearly marked the path for you but you ventured off on your own. Your punishment is self-inflicted. You will never find your calling; no matter what you do, you will find yourself yearning for the road not taken.”

This is not God’s way. Story after story attests to this. The God of the Bible is constantly calling God’s people back to the path—even when they’ve strayed horribly, far more horribly than taking the wrong job at the wrong time. Or turning down a service opportunity. Or saying “no” to a church ministry team.

In fact, I’m beginning to think that God is less concerned about any of this than we might think. Not because God doesn’t care about how we do good in the world, but because God cares too much to let it be determined by something as arbitrary as a career choice.

Many years ago, Fredrick Buechner’s now-famous formula for determining the purpose of life crossed my path. “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

This was a balm to my soul. All I have to do is find my passion, plug in the world’s need, and voila. And for a while, it was that easy. Then I realized that the framework breaks down at a certain point. Our passions are going to intersect with the world’s needs in far too many places. We’ll never be able to address them all.

The solution is perhaps surprising. In a world that is ever asking us to narrow down our expertise, I think the answer is to remember that when it comes to purpose, God is a generalist. What do I mean by this? Simply that God cares less about any particular Big Deal Choice than we might think.

God doesn’t deal in grand life plans but in the day-to-day choices of our lives. The question isn’t “how will I live out God’s call tomorrow?” but “how will I live out God’s call today?” Will we treat others in a spirit of grace and love in this moment? Or will we become too preoccupied by grand designs to live as God’s people here and now?

I grow more convinced that our life’s purpose isn’t laid out on a trail from point A to point B, where every big decision brings with it the possibility of venturing off-track. Instead, it is more likely a national park of interweaving paths, all of them leading to great beauty and discovery. Whether we achieve our purpose has less to do with what trail we take and more to do with how we walk it.

Why We Need Encouragers

Why We Need Encouragers

Beyond Walls
That was me on Saturday. No humblebrag here, I was honest-to-God ready to curl into a ball and cry. The nerves and self-doubt hit so quickly, I had no idea what to do with the energy. Lucky for me, I have among my Facebook friends some amazing encouragers. In less than two minutes, I had a self-confidence boost and had regained my excitement.

Many years ago, while leading an adult class on gifts of the spirit, a wiser woman than me spoke up. “I think my gift is encouraging people.” I nodded and smiled, as did most of the class. Inwardly, though, I was puzzled.


Encouraging people? Anyone can encourage people. I felt as though I’d let this sweet lady down, leading her on a path where her “gift” wasn’t very special at all. (I know, this is horrible. Don’t judge, I was younger and full on in the throes of change-the-world-itis. I was pretty convinced that all world-changing had to happen on the grand stage of world events rather than the smaller platform of individual lives.)

Now, older and wiser, I can say with all certainty that the ministry of encouragement is no joke. It requires a generosity of spirit that is increasingly uncommon in today’s competitive, insecure world. Our news is filled with stories of hateful speech and ugly rhetoric. Our models in business and politics are self-absorbed and cutthroat. Our advertisements convince us that we’re not good enough unless we own x, y, and z products. We are a people convinced that we must win and win at all costs. Helping one another has no place in this picture.

Here’s where someone with the gift of encouragement can actually, literally, truly change the world. Being willing to light someone else’s flame is a counter-cultural move. It’s not the role of a weakling. An encourager isn’t someone who doesn’t have their own candle to hold. An encourager is someone whose candle shines bright enough that they can use it to light someone else’s.

My mistake was that I thought that encouragers were like cheerleaders. They’re very cool but not really necessary to the game itself. In reality, encouragers are more like coaches. They’re the pivotal role in every successful team. We need encouragers, period. In the words of Carol Brorsen over at Jamie Coats’s winged boots blog, encouragers “lift us from the hum-drum that blinds us to the truth of who we ARE”

Encouragers see our best selves. More than that, they are courageous enough to reflect that back to us. This is the vital difference between an encourager and a discourager. Both see the potential of others. Both recognize the possibility for goodness, even greatness, in others. Discouragers see that as a threat. Where an encourager sees opportunity and abundance, discouragers see only scarcity and fear. They have bought into the notion that life is a zero-sum game. If one person has more, the other person must have less. When we believe this, we become selfish, closed off, constantly worried that someone else might have more. We lose the deepest kind of generosity–the generosity of love.

So, here’s a challenge for the week. How about if we thanked the encouragers in our lives? Because it turns out that even encouragers need encouragement. And we need them more than ever.

Linking up this week with the wonderful #wholemamas as we think about generosity.

The Realm of God is a Hug Over Apple Pie

The Realm of God is a Hug Over Apple Pie

We were standing around a rather cheap folding table, the kind stored in closets and pulled out for Bunko nights and church potlucks.  This event was one of the latter.  The legs on the table looked suspiciously thin; I worried that the slightest nudge would cause the table to crumple and the apple pies sitting there would fall onto the white linoleum floor.  The old story was that this was a pie baking contest but everyone knew that the judges would proclaim each one “the best” and we’d all happily agree that it was a 20-way tie.  Once the illusion of judgement was blown, we’d eat homemade apple pie with store bought vanilla ice cream and waddle home for Sunday afternoon naps.

“What brings you to town?”  The woman in front of me struck up conversation with the man in front of her, a visitor to the church.

There was a slight hesitation as he fumbled with a serving spoon before looking up to gauge her reaction.  “I’m actually on my way to an alcohol treatment program.  I check in tomorrow.”

“Oh,” now the slight pause was on her end.  Then, “Good for you.”

She said this with real sincerity and warmth, not at all the sanctimonious “good for you,” that sometimes comes out of the mouths of people who mean well but have never encountered struggle.

Pie with Ice Cream

I do not know what was said next, only that that there was a brief conversation and then the woman was reaching for a napkin to wipe her crying eyes.  In the same moment, this stranger wrapped his arms around her in a hug that was at first awkward but then gained confidence.

“What was his name?”  I heard him ask.  Her answer was muffled by the pain of addiction and the grief of a hard death.  “I’m sure he was a wonderful person.  I’m so sorry.”  The man replied.

Then, even though no one was complaining that they were holding up the line, the two gathered up their plates and the man dished a generous serving of apple crumb pie and melty vanilla ice cream for both of them as she scanned the room for a place to sit.

This is everything I know about the gospel.  The wounded will become the healers and the healers will have their chance to hurt.  Jesus says as much, “the last will be first and the first will be last.”

This is not a threat, although we sometimes hear it that way.  This inversion of power is simply a promise; it is a promise that no one has to carry the burden alone.  If you’re downtrodden by life and dependent on others, this isn’t the measure of your worth.  And if you’re shouldering responsibility after responsibility and carrying a heavy load, your help will come from the most unexpected place.

While I don’t understand all this, and sometimes don’t even want it to be true (because I’m usually fine when I’m coming in first), it is a promise we can trust in.  Someday, sometime, all things will be made fair in a big, cosmic way.  Until then, we’ll take our glimpses of God’s kingdom alongside our slices of apple pie–bits of grace, fleeting but ever so sweet.

I’m linking up this week with the #wholemama women who are writing on “question.”  It might be a stretch since I don’t directly even mention the word but at the end of the day, I can’t separate the mystery of unexpected grace from the central questions of faith.  So I’m trusting you all to see the connection, to think about your own apple-pie moments and to embrace the mystery of who God is.  And then check out the other bloggers over at Erika’s place who have written more succinctly on the topic.  Erika wrote the post I planned to write but couldn’t get on the page, Sarah is talking about asking a better question, and Gayle is reminding us of the importance of curiosity and wonder as ways to break down barriers.  Enjoy them and the others!

If You’re Parenting a Perfectionist

If You’re Parenting a Perfectionist

I’m raising a perfectionist.  Not on purpose, just because sometimes kids are born with certain personality traits and parents are left to embrace, change or otherwise deal with them.

Perfectionism, like busy-ness, is one of those idealized traits in our world.  We confuse them both with other, more worthwhile, ways of measuring our value.  Until well into adulthood, I honestly thought that being a perfectionist was a good thing.  “I’m a perfectionist,” was just another way of saying, “I like to do well.”

Let’s get that straight first: perfectionism isn’t about whether you want to do well.  Having passion for one’s work is not the same is perfectionism.  Perfectionism is the gnawing sense that your worth depends on your work.  Passion is being engaged in the world and looking for ways to use your gifts. 


For the perfectionist, failure is a hard, hard business.  Now obviously, no one enjoys failing.  It’s really about what happens afterwards.  For parents, raising a kid who can recover from failure should be a top priority: 

  • Kids who can cope with failure are more likely to try new things.
  • Trying new things is a crucial part of learning.
  • Distinguishing between “who I am” and “what I can do” is the only way to happiness.
  • Trusting that others will love us, even when we mess up, is a journey of faith.

Last week, in a burst of new year self-improvement, I sat my family down at the kitchen table and asked them to fill out goal sheets for the new year.  Then we passed our sheets around, letting each person fill in some goals for everyone else.  For my daughter, I wrote, “Fail on a test.”

“WHAT!?” She looked incredulous as she read it.  “WHY WOULD I WANT TO DO THAT?”  Seriously.  The look of scorn and disbelief could only be rivaled by a 13 year old.

“Because you’re really good at a lot of things.  And you work really hard on a lot of other things until you get better.  But messing up on something makes you feel like a bad person.  So I think you should mess up on something, on purpose, just to see what happens.”  My husband chimed in with zenlike co-parenting skills. “You know, that’s the hardest thing for me to teach people at work.  I work hard to teach grown-ups how to fail.  It would be great to master it when you’re young.”

I know.  This plan is not perfect:

1) She won’t really do it.    

2) It’s not technically a real failure if you actively try to fail.  That’s actually a success. 

Still, it introduced a topic of conversation that was deeper than the cursory “I love you even if you mess up” talk.  It allowed us to point out that failure could be part of what you love about somebody, not just something you tolerate in them. 

We all talk a lot about loving people “even when” they fail.  But what if more of us talked about loving people “because” they failed?  It would, after all, be another way of saying, “I love you because you’re human and because you’re God’s.”  It would be a step along the path to real, genuine unconditional love. 

Of course, this is all pretty easy when things are low stakes.  I have very little invested in my daughter’s second grade test scores.  I couldn’t care less about one measly score.  But I wonder about taking things to the next logical step.  Could I really, truly, love someone because they failed?  Could I look at the people who have let me down in their human, fallible way and love them because they’d even tried?  Or love them simply because they’d even let me into their life enough so that their failures were noticeable?

I don’t know.  That’s a tall order.  But I’m going to add that to my list of goals for the year.  “Learn to love people because they fail.”  Sounds like we all have a year of big lessons.

When It’s Time to Let Go of Old Dreams

When It’s Time to Let Go of Old Dreams

On Sunday I set my family down and made them to fill out cute little new year’s resolution worksheets.  They love it when I do this kind of stuff to with them.  Setting new year’s resolutions is a bittersweet business.  There is nothing like the start of a new year to remind us of what we didn’t accomplish in the old year.  Being faced with putting plans into writing forced me to confront the ugly truth that there are things on my “wish list” that have been on their for years.  (I’ve lost track of how many years “learn Spanish” has been on there.)  I wrote them down and then stared at them.

We all know the statistics.  The vast majority New Year’s resolutions fail.  And of course there are a ton of goal setting tips to help you beat the odds.  Certainly goal setting is part of the issue.  But I think that part of what happens to us is that we get stuck dreaming old dreams.  If you, like me, have been setting the same resolution for several years, then it’s time to ask yourself a question: does this goal fit who I am now?

Sometimes, we stick with a goal because we believe in the good old adage about perseverance.  And sometimes that’s good.  Failure is a necessary part of achievement, after all.  But sometimes, if our hopes keep falling apart over and over again, it’s a sign that a new dream is waiting to be dreamt.  As the uncommonly wise Fred Rogers once said, “When we can resign ourselves to the wishes that will never come true, there can be enormous energies available within us for whatever we can do.”

Resignation of old dreams is perhaps half the battle in creating new ones.  This isn’t a light-hearted prospect.  Rogers goes on to tell the story of a woman who dreamt for years of having children and, upon reaching the heartbreaking conclusion that this wasn’t part of her future, poured her energy and passion into supporting parents.  Sometimes, the dreams that we have to let go of are expensive ones, indeed.

However, there is an equally tragic danger in holding on to dreams whose time has passed: we miss out on the opportunities that are just waiting for us to wake up and notice them.  We pursue a career that no longer suits our passions, or a dream-spouse who was never really the one for us anyway.  Or perhaps the carrot we’re chasing is some hobby that once sounded fun but now feels like pressure.  So this year, as we all envision who we want to be in 360 days, maybe it’s wise to ask not just what we want but what we might need to get rid of.  What dreams, no matter how precious and wonderful they are, need to be set free to make room for new plans?

Many years ago, when my daughter was a newborn and I was exhausted and overwhelmed (as opposed to now, when she’s older and I’m still overwhelmed and often exhausted) I remember an extended time period where I woke up every day with the goal to clean the bathroom.  Every night, I would go to bed with the bathroom uncleaned and feel depressed because I could not accomplish this one, simple goal.  Eventually, one morning I woke up and decided, “Today I am NOT cleaning the bathroom.”  And I didn’t.  I did, however, tackle some other chores.  It seems that taking this one onerous chore off my list suddenly freed up a wealth of emotional energy to do other things.

Obviously not all of our goals are as straightforward as bathroom cleaning.  Some of them will be genuinely heartbreaking to give up.  Like the favorite jeans we hate to get rid off, some of our goals hang around because we’re not sure we’re done with them.  “I might need it/want it/return to it someday,” we think.  “It just needs a little more perseverance,” we tell ourselves.  “This is the year I buckle down!”

This is the tricky bit.  When faced with our own un-realized dreams,  sometimes it’s not at all clear whether we need more discipline or need to let go.  There are two possible ways to go when you’re stuck in that decision-making place.

  1. Set it aside for a year. Decide that in 2016, you’re not writing a book, starting a business, adopting a child, going back to school, or whatever worthwhile goal you’re wrestling with. Determine to talk 2016 to just see what it feels like NOT to do that—on purpose. See if this frees up energy for other areas.
  2. Give yourself a deadline. A month is usually more than reasonable. If, by Feb 1, you haven’t made clear progress on your goal, give it up. Let things lie for a bit and see what passion emerges for new things.

Letting go of old dreams is never easy.  But it is often necessary.  Released from the cumbersome sense of obligation to our past selves, we might find ourselves free to step into amazing new things.  We might just find that there is more in store for us than we dreamed, and we only needed to be open to accepting it.

I’m excited to be linking up with the #wholemamas again this week.  It’s been a while!  Hop on over to Erika’s blog to check out Esther Emery’s post for this week’s word: envision.

When Fear Takes Hold

When Fear Takes Hold

Don’t be afraid.

The words came as a still, small voice in my head as I reeled from the Paris attacks.  Don’t be afraid.  I recognized these words, of course I did.  They appear in the Bible a gazillion times.  (365, actually, but not always in context.)  They did nothing for me.  The fear was weighing me down like plate mail armor and the biblical command ricocheted off without making the smallest dent.

I spent two days like this, wrestling with the terror and looking for comfort.  While others were praying for Paris, I sat mute in the horror.  I was sad, angry and afraid but the desperation wasn’t turning me toward God.  It was turning me inward, making me look for a way to shut out the dangers.  I honestly spent some time wondering if it was possible to just check out of this world altogether.  Could we buy a bit of land in some undiscovered corner of the world where no one could find us?  Could we stay where we are but never leave our home?  Was there any hope, when violence lurks in schools and movie theaters, on street corners and concert halls?  “Don’t be afraid,” seemed a mockery, a PollyAnna optimism that has no place in the aftermath of tragedy.  

I never found any comfort.  There are no words of reassurance for this situation, no promises that all will be well, that everything is under control.  What I found instead was the Gospel.  Not the cheap-grace “look at the bright side” version but the real, true, “What are you willing to sacrifice for another” version.  Oddly enough, It came to me via Twitter. It came as people rose up against the news that politicians were calling for a “pause” to accepting Syrian refugees.  (A “pause,” being a lovely, safe way of saying, “We’re going to let them die while we debate this.”)  

“I would rather die at the hands of a terrorist than be the kind of human who turns away from suffering,” someone tweeted.  I don’t know this person, I don’t even know why I saw this tweet but I do know that it hit me with all the force of an altar call at an 18th century revival meeting.  This is the Gospel.

Somewhere along the way, I had confused “don’t be afraid,” with “there’s nothing to fear.”  Those are two different things and only one of them is the way of Christ.  

Look, politicians will be trying to provide comfort.  They are looking to keep us safe.  They will be talking about risks, vetting processes and financial resources.  They do this because they, too, are scared and also because they want to look like they have the easy answer for a complicated problem.  But at the end of the day, we simply cannot let these discussions sidetrack us.  

The way of Christ was never, ever a way of safety.  

Believe me, that comes as hard news to me as I sit in my cozy house, typing away on my laptop as evening settles in.  So you all are going to have to help me out here.  We’re going to have to press forward together, not because we think we’re safe but because we believe that the way of love is worth the sacrifice.

The one bright spot I see in this whole mess is that we have companions on the journey.  I have been proud of Christianity, proud of the larger Church itself, in its response to the refugee crisis and the concerns of terrorism.  I have seen you all posting on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram demanding that refugees continue to be accepted.  I watched the statements from leaders across denominations roll in on Monday and I cried tears of pride and hope.  While the voice of fear is still clamoring, I’m hearing the voice of Christians raising above the din demand that we let compassion win out over fear.   

So let’s keep going.  Let’s walk the walk as well as we’ve talked the talk.  Let’s not let our passion get cold with the news cycle, or our comfortable commitments get in the way of real love.  Instead, let’s keep lobbying our government leaders, looking for ways to volunteer  and flooding relief agencies with donations.  Let’s drop the plate mail of fear and go into the world vulnerable and unprotected, clothed only in the clothes of Christ.  Let’s remember that while it is human to long for safety and comfort, it is Christ-like to long for peace and sacrifice.


Reaching Across the Edges (at The Mudroom)

Reaching Across the Edges (at The Mudroom)

It was the heartbreak I was after when I called a local hospice on a crisp winter day and asked if they needed volunteers…

There is sometimes a sense of unease that finds it’s way into our hearts. It’s a vague unsettling, a feeling that something is missing. This is puzzling when a quick life inventory reveals that things are really pretty awesome. I know I’m not alone in this. I hear so many men and women looking for something more. Not more money, more status, or more possessions but more danger, more risk, more giving, more love. Today I’m thrilled to be over at The Mudroom blog talking about this. Come by and say hi, I’d love to see some familiar faces!

While we might seek out rest and quiet, carefully grooming our lives to be as painless as possible, the places of unrest–the edges–are the ones in which we grow. Those painful, heartbreaking places are the ones in which we discover ourselves and, if we’re lucky, discover others. It seems that our connections to each other become stronger when we’re forced to hold on through the uncertainties of life–to make space for quiet in the disquiet, rest in the unrest, relationship in the isolation.

Learning to Leap

Learning to Leap


Julia Foote believed in a dream.  Literally, a dream.  One apparently induced by fever.  Her dream was that God had told her to preach.  In mid-19th century America, this was a pretty outlandish claim.  Women weren’t preachers.  The obvious thing happened.  She woke up from her fevered dream, told her friends, husband and pastor about it and was promptly reminded that it she was delirious.

In a wonderful post over at SheLoves Magazine, Joy Howard tells the story of Julia and her band of sisters, the ones who supported her through and through, believing her crazy story and urging her forward.  They became a “hallelujah chorus,” the people saying “I believe in you.  You can do this.”

Oh, how we need those people around us.  Friends, if you do not have those people in your lives, get them—and fast. 

But there is another thing at work here and it’s some mysterious blend of faith and inner resolve.  In people who succeed at wildly improbable things, there is a common ability to take risk.  They do it not because they believe that they can’t fail but because they don’t see failure as the end. 

In educational theory, it’s called it a “growth mindset.”  People who have a growth mindset believe that they grow and change.  This is harder than it sounds, especially for adults who tend to get stuck believing we’re done being made.  It’s easy for us to see that a child must fall in order to walk.  It’s hard to apply that to our own adult falls, no matter how many quotes about courage we read. 

The other day, a friend of mine described an ache in her gut, the desire to live her life differently.  “It’s just that I realized I’ve been living a pretty safe life,” she said.  This is, of course, the dilemma for almost everyone.  We feel a tug towards something more but we are afraid to fail so we choose safety. 

We don’t just look before we leap, we study the fall.  We focus on the bottom, make sure we have a plan, a back-up plan and a soft landing place.  By the time we’ve done all that, we’ve forgotten why we were making the jump in the first place—suddenly, the other side doesn’t even seem like the goal.  We’ve become convinced that avoiding failure, not achieving success, was the goal all along.  And of course, the easiest way to avoid failure is not to make the leap in the first place.

We have to learn to leap.       

If we make our lives primarily about safety, we will spend all of our time analyzing, strategizing, dreaming and never really doing.  Plans, goals and hopes only take us so far.  At some point, we have to take a risk.

Here is a comfort, though: God is too big to fail.   You might fail.  You might will make a mistake somewhere along the way.  Things will probably be harder and take longer than you thought.  But even then, God will go on, probably even weaving your mistakes into some beautiful new tapestry that was bigger and better than you’d imagined. 

I don’t know what dream is on your heart, what hope is waiting to be born in you.  But I do know that when we act with love, we act with God.  And there is no act of love that is too small (or too big) for God to use. 

So go ahead.  Love deeply.  Live deeply.  Grab hold of a dream and see where it takes you.

Living On Purpose: A Short Guide

Living On Purpose: A Short Guide

living purpose
Last week on my Barefoot Facebook page I shared this lovely illustration:


It caught my attention because I’d done a few posts on discernment, aka “figuring out what the heck we’re supposed to be doing with our lives,” a while back.  Also, because that is hands-down always one of the most popular topics when I’m speaking or teaching.  And mostly because I am constantly trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.
So here’s what I like about this illustration: it takes a couple fuzzy ideas and makes them easy to understand.  It had the full effect of an “a-ha” moment for me, lightbulb over my head and everything.  The difference between vocation and mission?  Passion and career?  Yes!  It’s a framework I’ll hang onto.  
Here’s what I don’t like about this handy-dandy Venn diagram on steroids.  That little star in the middle labeled “purpose.”  Now that little star in the middle has to be labeled something because it is obviously a Big Deal.  Actually, some other versions of the diagram label the center “the sweet spot.”  Which makes more sense because it would be, obviously, a sweet spot.  Getting paid to do what you love and are good at and the world needs?  Hallelujah!  It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it.
And it’s fairly unrealistic.  I know, I am always throwing water on the fire of hope that we can live the perfect life.  

I’m one of those nuts who believe that discipleship means making sacrifices.  

It’s not all living in a dream home, saving the world and getting paid for it.  And more often than not, I really believe that looking for this perfect life–this amazing place where all of our hopes and dreams come together, starred in the middle so we can’t miss it–holds us back from living with purpose.  

Now I’m not just picking on the poor person who adapted this diagram.  (I feel bad that someone’s feelings might be hurt, even on the internet by some lady they don’t even know and/or care about.)  It’s not really about the diagram, it’s about some bigger, human yearning that we’ve somehow tried to mash into a culture of status and consumption.  It’s like we’ve taken the very best of what’s inside of us, this desire for Something More, and tried to wrap and package it for easy use.  
Instant Purpose
Instant Purpose
Case in point: we talk about having a purpose.  Having it.  Like it’s something we own.  And maybe that’s the problem right there.  Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about “purpose” like it’s a commodity.  Maybe, instead, we could think about purpose as something we do, a series of choices that we make.  Maybe a life of purpose is built second-by-second.
Now here’s where it gets a little bit tricky because if a life of purpose is built second-by-second, then every second matters.  And that sounds like a whole lot of pressure.  There’s a downward spiral that starts with “making every second count” and ends with “never taking a break,” or “berating myself for those 5 minutes spend on Facebook.”  Neither of those takes us down the path of fulfillment.  So let’s hold that idea loosely so as not to make ourselves crazy.
What we might realize, though, is that there is power in this idea, too.  We might realize that it frees us up to make a thousand small, purposeful decisions rather than frantically trying to nail down the One True Thing that makes our life worth living.
Now, this does mean that we have to make choices in line with our priorities.  I know, right?  This sounds so obvious.  But it’s one of those principles that bears repeating because we are so bad at it.  (Ok, I am so bad at it and I’m assuming some of you are too.)  If you walked up to me today and asked me to name my goals right now, one of the things I would say is “I want to learn Spanish.”  Now, ask me how I spend my free time.  “I’m on season 4 of Murdoch Mysteries.  Also, I am desperately waiting for the next season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to come out.  Hey, did you know there’s a new trailer for the upcoming series?”  
Now, watching every period mystery series ever made does not make it onto my list of priorities but sometimes I find myself living as though it’s my most important task.  And I do it with big things too.  I will rant and rave about the importance of taking care of the poor and walk right by the homeless person at the intersection.  I can cite chapter and verse about letting the children come and fail to make time for the children living right in my own neighborhood.  Sometimes the problem isn’t that we don’t know our purpose(s), it’s that we aren’t carrying them into daily life.
You know what?  I don’t think that’s just because of laziness.  I think sometimes that’s because we don’t really believe that it matters.  There’s this thing that happens to me when I’m faced with a really dirty house.  It’s called Dirty House Paralysis and it should be diagnosable because it is a real thing.  I look at my dirty house and I know it needs cleaned and I can’t figure out where to start.  I’m not making this up.  It is so totally overwhelming to me that I turn my back on the whole thing.
Sometimes we suffer from Broken World Paralysis.  We look around and we truly believe that we can’t make a difference.  There are so many needs and our hands, wallets and purses are so limited.  So we turn our backs on the whole thing.  


If you’ve battled Dirty House Paralysis, you know that the same solution applies to Broken World Paralysis.  Start anywhere.  I was greatly comforted to have this thought pop up in my email recently:  

It’s important to do something even though we find it difficult to imagine how our small contribution can have any impact at all on this immense and hopelessly complicated problem.  Leave that to God.

Br. David Vryhof, Society of St. John the Evangelist

You know what’s really funny?  I hear people all the time talk about feeling like they don’t make a difference with their lives.  I hear them say that they don’t feel talented or worthwhile enough to do something.  And every time, every single time, I am astonished.  “What!?  You!?”  Because to me, it always looks like those people should be walking around in complete assurance that they matter and they can do amazing things.
So I feel confident saying this to you–the ones I know in person and the ones I don’t–you matter and you can do amazing things.  Start anywhere.
Living with Purpose_ A Short Guide1. Start

linking up this week with #wholemama