Posts Tagged ‘purpose’

Reblog: You Were Meant For This (a reflection for parents)

Originally posted 7 years ago and written sometime before that…still a good reminder, to myself.  Although my children are much older now, I still need to be reminded of this greater reality…


File under:  Things you were not told about parenting.  Children and privacy.  I never thought and was never told that children would completely change notions of privacy.  Essentially it becomes non-existent, especially during waking hours.  It is not an unusual occurrence to have our whole family, including the cat, in our tiny bathroom.  I suppose I should be encouraged that my children want to be in my presence, but everywhere, all the time?  No one told me…there actually are quite a few things that I was not prepared for when it comes to being a parent  (e.g. infants and toddlers do not observe daylight savings time; they wake up regardless of what the clock says).   Of course nothing prepares you for being a parent like being a parent.  Experience is a strong and unrelenting teacher.

All of this can be overwhelming, but I think it leads to a larger question.  Are our difficulties with our children rooted in a misunderstanding of who is for whom?  That is, are we meant for our children, or are our children meant for us.  Often times our behavior and our attitude would point to us thinking that children are really meant for us.  This may take several forms of course:  children may exist to fill an emotional need, to entertain us, to allow us a second chance at life or sports or school or whatever we lacked or failed at, or even just to stay quiet and out of the way.  Even in Hollywood, babies seem to be the new celebrity status symbol.  It is not wrong to want children, it is wrong to want them for the wrong reasons.  And it is wrong to treat them as objects or possessions when they are present.

Read the words of Walter Wangerin, Jr. in the introduction of his book Little Lamb who made thee? : A book about Children and Parents on this point:

Children do not exist to please us.  They are not for us at all.  Rather, we exist for them – to protect them now and to prepare them for the future.  Who is given unto whom?  Are we a gift to their elders?  No – not till children are grown and their elders are older indeed.  Then they are a gift of the fourth commandment, honoring hoary head which have begun to feel past honor.  But until then, it is we who are given, by God’s parental mercy, to the children!  And it is we who must give to the children – by lovely laughter, by laughter utterly free, and by the sheer joy from which such laughter springs – the lasting memory:  You are, you are, you are, my child, a marvelous work of God!

I am both surprised at times at the depth of my love for my children, but at other times I am surprised at the depth of desire for my own comfort.  I really shouldn’t be surprised at either I suppose, as one reflects the Father’s work in my life and the other that remaining sin and idolatry within my own heart.  At times I have my priorities straight, at others I have them reversed.  The prayer then has to be, that the Lord would help us to understand those times when we act as if our children should be doing something for us or even when may resent their presence and that He would change our hearts to reflect Wangerin’s statement above.

It seems to me that the blessing of being a grandparent is the ability to know without reservation, who is for who?  Most grandparents know, intrinsically, that they exist for their grandchildren and therefore delight in the opportunities to observe, include, be barged in on, etc…by their grandchildren.  The negative of this may lie in the tendency of grandparents to spoil their children – this goes to far to another other extreme.  That said, you have to love the unabashed love that most grandparents are willing show towards their grandchildren.

Another thing that changes when you become a parent is the way that you react to the sufferings of children, especially those who are of the same age as our children.  Our heartstrings can really be pulled when we see an infant or toddler suffering from ill health or from sins perpetrated upon them.  A newspaper article from the Raleigh based News & Observer does this to me with an article on May 9th, 2004 (“Mom grows with Grant”, written by Vicki Cheng).  Jamie Howard was living the life she always wanted to live, but that changed with the birth of her second child.  A few months into Grant’s life, it became clear that something wasn’t right.  It was later discovered that Grant suffered a stroke in utero, which has had a profound affect on his mental and physical development.  What struck me the most in the article, more than hardship of little Grant, were the words of his parents, maybe because I relate to their position as parents.  Matt Howard said:  “The purpose of his life could be to change us.  God chose us to be his parents.”  And Jamie wrote in a letter to Grant:  “You remind me to live for the day, and stop worrying about the future.  I wish that my love could heal you…There has never been a moment in your short life when I doubted your were meant to be my son.  Thank you for being patient with me, as I learn to be your mother.”   Those words bring tears to my eyes every time I read them.  I pray for you and for me that it would not take a tragedy or health difficulty for us to get our priorities straight – for us to recognize that we were meant for our children.

A Journey Worth Taking: Fall (Part 1 of 2)

You can read more about what I am doing and see a schedule for reading/posting here.  First post is here.  Second post is here.  Third is here.

In A Journey Worth Taking, Charles Drew is using a “theology map” to look at the topic of calling and purpose.  Drew moves from Creation to Fall in chapters 8-11  and these are the chapters we’ll consider the next two weeks.

Regardless of whether someone accepts the biblical teaching on the Creation and the fall of man, we all know that something is not right with us and with our world.  It is virtually undeniable.  Drew writes in chapter eight:

The doctrine of creation fills us with enthusiasm and hope as we set out to find our place in the scheme of things.  And then we bump into ‘real life.’…What’s wrong?  We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world.”

Drew goes on to describe some of the ways that we experience the fall in our lives, particularly with regard to our calling:  this includes nature, relationships with people and institutions, and our own fallen nature (“Nature sabotages calling, we sabotage each other’s callings, and we sabotage our own callings”).  In short, we find ourselves frustrated in our calling and our labors because of the reality of our falleness.

In chapter nine, Drew delves more deeply into the crux of our own sabotage:  idolatry.  I think he makes a particularly germaine point here about the way we allow our secondary calling or self-discovery to “eclipse” our primary calling to love God.  As a result, both aspects of calling are misplaced – not to even mention the call to service.  Again, I think this something most of us can understand and see, both in ourselves and in others.  Particularly convicting for me, was the section on how this can be just as true for those in full-time vocational ministry – nope, we’re not immune to this either.

Any thoughts or questions from those reading along?

A Journey Worth Taking: Creation (part 2 of 2)

You can read more about what I am doing and see a schedule for reading/posting here.  First post is here.  Second post is here.

I love how Drew is directing us in chapter six to make God the priority of our lives – that that will be the most meaningful way for us to “find ourselves”.  This, again, is counter to the current notion of self-discovery that pushes us out to the edges instead of to the center of all life.  Or the notion that I (and I alone) am the definitive voice for all notions, whether they be about who I am or what I will do.  In discussion Psalm 34:3 (“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exult his name together.” – KJV), I loved the following statement:

How strange this language is when you think about it.  Isn’t God already big – isn’t he already infinite?  Indeed he is.  The problem lies with us.  For multiple reasons we have difficulty seeing his greatness and therefore must train our vision.  We also have difficulty giving God center stage and therefore must train our hearts.”

This then leads to Drew coming back to the notion of all work being sacred and therefore we can “worship while we work…Our pursuit of calling unfolds in God’s world, not ours.”  And finally there is this thought:

Our calling…is ‘missional’ – not in the narrow sense of going into foreign missions (though it might include this), but in the much broader sense of finding and promoting him in everything we do.”

How rare I imagine that this is in our lives and how often we miss the opportunities to see God, let alone promote God in everything we do.

This article (an interview really) on byfaithonline fits nicely with the topic of this book.

(I will probably post separately on the topic of chapter seven, “Finding Ourselves in Community”)

A Journey Worth Taking: Creation (part 1 of 2)

You can read more about what I am doing and see a schedule for reading/posting here.  First post is here.

In A Journey Worth Taking, Charles Drew is using a reformed framework for looking at the story of Scripture with a big lens:  Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation.  Drew calles this a “theology map” to take us the right way when appliedEach is a reality that we know or will know and each becomes a helpful means for thinking through the big picture of our lives before the Living God.  Naturally, we start with Creation and from this place I think Drew offers some very encouraging thoughts to engage us as we think about our purpose in this world (that is the subtitle after all).  We’ll consider this section in two parts, starting with chapters three through five (six and seven next Wednesday).

Creation matters.  My creation matters – that is, Who made me and how I was made goes down to the core of who I am.  We don’t often think like this, but Drew directs us to Psalm 139 to be reminded of this beautiful truth:  “If I matter simply because I am God’s creature (and I do) how much more significant must I be because I am made in God’s image.” And at the end of chapter three, Drew pronounces this:  “We matter, in other words, even when we are completely clueless as to what we have been placed to do on this earth to do.”

In chapter four, Drew introduces the concept of lifework:  “By lifework I mean the entire business of living out my existence in the presence of God.” For many, this will include our employment, but more so “it inludes the whole man’s engagement with the fullness of the life that God had set before him – large things and small things, social things and intellectual things, noted things and ignored things.” This, to me, is a decidedly different way to look at life and work – bringing them together, presenting a much bigger and whole picture of our lives.  This then, allows Drew to challenge the traditional notions of what is a “good work” or even a “good job”.  This does not lead to devaluing legitimate work, but actually enlarges the idea of work and that our work (whatever it might be, paid or unpaid, fulfilling or frustrating) matters.  In this way, we model the Creator God who made us in His image.

Drew then, in chapter five, challenges the sacred/secular divide that we have become comfortable with in the church.  From Drew’s perspective, “all work is sacred…God shows up everywhere”, stemming from the doctrine of creation that is the content of this part of the book.   Admittedly, this can make people (both Christian and non-Christian) uncomfortable.  Both might prefer God to stick to the “known” arenas of life (like at church on Sunday) and not spill into other areas (like vocation or music or lifework).

What encouraged or perplexed you?  What ideas are new to you?

A Journey Worth Taking: Staging Points

This is the start of the next “blogging the book” using Charles Drew’s book  A Journey Worth Taking:  Finding Your Purpose in This World.  You can read more about what I am doing and see a schedule for reading/posting here.

The preparation for a journey can be just as important as the journey itself.  In the first section of this book, “Staging Points”, Drew appropriately takes a moment to deal with some vitally important details before delving more deeply into the idea of calling and purpose in this world.  Before the discussion about those precedes, Drew directs us to a few key thoughts in Introduction.  This stood out to me:

We enjoy unbridled freedom and seemingly unlimited options, but they exist in a social milieu that has no coherent ‘story’…In the absence of a story that connects us to what is going on around us (and to other people), life grows lonely and its purpose often shrinks down to the hollow and even frantic pursuit of whatever pays the biggest dividends (emotionally, spiritually, or materially).”

I think this is true to what we see happening in the world around us.  For believer and non-believer alike, we are facing a loss of meaning and satisfaction with the status quo.  This morning, I read a similar thought in an article by Andy Stanley:  “…it’s human nature to gravitate toward the familiar.  And left to themselves, virtually every person and organization is in a subconscious pursuit of the status quo.  Eventually they will find it.  And they will work very, very hard to stay there.”  So, Drew is challenging in this book what he calls “business as usual” (or the status quo).

Having said that then, there is another big picture question to address:  “what sort of universe do we live in?”  If we are going to talk about calling, then we are necessarily talking about a Caller.  Chapter one largely centers around Drew’s discussion of the existence of this Caller versus the prevailing worldview of the larger world.  The thoughts here presented reminded me very much of Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God.  They are both rational and consistent with the teaching of the Bible.

In chapter two, “What Is Calling?”, Drew provides a framework for calling at three levels.  I had not thought about calling on these levels, but found they make sense to my life and of those around me.  Calling, then as defined by Drew “carries through every season and circumstance of my life, and has more to do with who I am and with how I do what I do than with what I happen to be doing.”  And three levels, which can operate simultaneously, further open up the meaning of calling:

  • Primary Calling:  God first calls us to himself and to people
  • Secondary Calling: God calls us to self-discovery
  • Tertiary Calling:  God calls us to service.

As a pastor, I have had to think about calling and even stand before presbyteries and explain my sense of calling to ministry.  Furthermore, in these circles, we talk about the necessity of internal (do I feel called to ministry) and external (are others calling) calling.  But here, Drew has presented  a much fuller concept and one that transcends the concept of calling that has often remained stuck within vocational “Christianity.” Beyond that, the order or priority of calling that Drew has identified is often reversed in our culture.  We start with what we should do and we might get around to who we should be.

One other thought that really jumped out at me and would love to think more about in relation to the church is this:

…the most effective way to pursue self-discovery (secondary calling) is to serve (tertiary calling).  In other words, if I set out to discover myself, my search will be frustrating.  If on the other hand, I set out to serve, I will begin to discover things about myself along the way.”

That’s quite a different thought than “I’ve got to go find myself…”.

Please share your thoughts/questions in the comment section.

New Blogging the Book: A Journey Worth Taking

As we wrap up our reading of Running Scared next week, I wanted to throw out the reading schedule for the next blogging the book.  This quarter, I will be reading through Charles Drew’s book A Journey Worth Taking:  Finding Your Purpose in This World.  Drew is pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan and at Calvary we used his book An Ancient Love Song: Finding Christ in the Old Testament in Sunday School a few years ago.    Table of contents for this book can be found here (pdf file).  Feel free to join me, whether you read along or not.

Here is the reading/blogging schedule:Blog posting schedule for book (Wednesdays) & Sections covered; chapters in parentheses:
October 1st – Part 1:  Staging Points (Chapters 1-2)
October 9th  – Part 2:  Creation:  A Quest with a Built-in Purpose (3-5)
October 15th – Part 2 continued (6-7)
October 22nd – Part 3: The Fall:  Something Wrong with Every Step (8-9)

dont judge a book by its cover

don't judge a book by it's cover

October 29th – Part 3 continued (10-11)
November 5th  – Part 4:  Redemption: Help along the Way (12-13)
November 12th  – Part 4 continued (14)
November 19th – Part 5:  Consummation:  The View from the Top (15-17)
December 3rd – Part 5 continued (18-20)
December 10th – Part 5 continued (21 & Appendix)

Here is a book review written by one of the ruling elders at Calvary:

Jesus said:  “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). God has called us to purposeful and “abundant” lives. In our quest for purpose and meaning in life, we so often look for the extraordinary. In this book, Charles Drew leads us through an exploration of our “calling” to help us discover something of the wonder and awe of this abundance, but in unexpected places – the mundane matters of everyday life.  He weaves his exploration of calling around “four great ideas:
•    Human life comes with built-in purpose.
•    Something goes wrong with how we express our purpose.
•    What gets ugly and destructive can be remade beautiful and right.
•    What we do matters, because we are going somewhere.”
Drew spotlights the good news of Jesus and how it saturates our everyday lives (however mundane much of life seems to us) with purpose and meaning. Especially intriguing is the final section of the book.  It focuses on the fourth of the above ideas, showing us with how the prospect of heaven bears on our earthly journey.  Encouraging us to patient yet expectant looking for the consummation, he writes: The prospect of a perfect and endless eternity with nothing but harp lessons and clouds had no appeal.”  But he goes on to describe his change of mind about heaven through the teachings of C. S. Lewis and others, concluding, “How could the God who gave us sex, Michael Jordan, Rembrandt and the Grand Canyon–all in our present fallen world–give us something less interesting in the next?!”  Drew then adds, “With that vision of greater fullness came a peace of mind about the limitations of my experience and the limitations in my own present makeup.” Ever ponder the richness of heavenly life?

Drew infuses his unpacking of calling with helpful real life stories and anecdotes and adds challenging questions at the end of each chapter for personal consideration or group discussion. A refreshing read!