Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Loss of Purpose

There is no way I can begin to comprehend the pain that fills the Paterno home today. If I were to imagine the pain, I imagine a series of "what ifs." What if we could do the last decade all over again? What if Dad would have never been fired? What if the cancer would have been found earlier? I can imagine that the pain is palpable - that it can be cut like a knife.

As I think about his death, a series of questions come to mind. How much did football allow Joe to put his disease on the back burner? How much did his love of the game allow him to get through significant pain? How much did his purpose push him forward? And what role did his loss of purpose play in the fight ending so soon?

What is your purpose? Some of us know exactly what our purpose is. We rise and shine, eager to greet the day because we love what we do. We know we are not only winning friends but influencing people. We are convinced that we are making a difference. We work not to live but we live to work. We have a purpose.

But what happens when this purpose goes away?

I have regularly been in contact with people who have recently retired and are struggling to find meaning in life. I have been told often of the adjustment that comes when one can no longer drive and do the things they once loved to do. Several people have shared with me how retirement is a gift but one that requires a constant searching of the soul.

Something significant happens when we have purpose. And something significant happens when we lose this purpose.

As people of faith, our task is to constantly be discerning God's call. God's call is not only for people who are set apart for professional ministry - for those with "reverend" in front of their name. God's call comes to everyone - at all seasons of life. God's call comes to us in the classroom when we first discover some of what we are good at doing. God's call comes to us on report cards when our areas of interest are sometimes affirmed based upon our performance. God's call comes to us in our workplace where we discover what we love and what we loathe. God's call is a powerful thing.

Too often we are led to believe that vocational discernment happens only when one is a young adult. I think we are cutting God and the people God loves short when we believe this way, however. A larger task awaits us. How do we help people discover their purpose - their call - their vocation at all stages of life - in their 20s, their 40s, their 60s, their 80s and even when they are 100?

David writes in Psalm 139, "O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, you are acquainted with all my ways."

What are we doing to allow people to hear God's searching and knowing? How are we kindling and rekindling purpose at all stages of life?

I buried one of the most amazing 96-year-old women I knew in December. Ruth's professional years ended decades ago but she still had a vocation. Her vocation was to be a cheerleader for younger people seeking to find their way in the world. She found joy and delight in her relationships with others. Cultivating these relationships was Ruth's purpose.

I shared time after worship today with a member of my church who goes above and beyond to keep one of our Sunday school classes going. This woman has an incredible capacity to get just about anyone to teach - especially people who are new to our church. The leadership of this class is part of her purpose.

Joe's true love was taken away from him. He was no longer able to teach players about life and coach players into becoming better on the field. He still had a purpose - to be a father, a grandfather, a neighbor, a friend, and a child of God.

How is it that we continue to cultivate this last purpose within all people at all times?

You have a purpose. I have a purpose. Thanks be to God.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Faith of Tim Tebow

I made a comment a couple of weeks ago on Facebook about how Tim Tebow makes prayer look so easy. I stated how I wished prayer were as simple as it appears to be in the life of Tim Tebow. It seems as though each time Tebow prayed, the Broncos won.

Despite what some might say, I don't believe God is a Broncos fan. And, while I am now reluctant to admit it, I found Tebow's public faith a little unsettling.

Sundays are not normally reserved for football in our home. But I was not home yesterday. Rather, I was sitting on a couch in Denver with my sister on one side of me and my sixteen-year-old niece on the other side. My sister had proudly worn her Bronco orange Crocs to school on Friday and was wearing a Broncos sweatshirt for the game. My niece had carefully placed black markings beneath her eyes for Sunday's playoff game. When I looked her in the eye, I saw "Phil. 4:13" staring back at me. There was no way I was going to miss yesterday's game. Watching the Broncos play the Steelers was not a choice in my sister's house.

And I cannot seem to get enough of Tim Tebow today. I loved watching him play in yesterday's game but I especially loved hearing him speak in the locker room following the game.

Tim Tebow gave praise to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ before thanking his coaches. He then began to speak about the platform God has given to him before sharing how he was excited to spend time with a child after the game who had been through more than 70 surgeries. His discipleship was tangible. It poured from his lips onto center stage for all the world to see.

I believe that St. Francis had it right when he said we should preach the Gospel at all times but use words only when necessary. Our actions speak louder than our words. But Tebow's words got to me last night. They have soaked through my mind and my heart.

What is the platform God has given to you?

I doubt that no one reading this post is a professional athlete who can point to the sky following a victory, letting all the world know who is in control. But I bet my life that everyone reading this post has a platform - we all have a place where we can allow our light to shine.

Too often we are led to believe that our faith is reserved for Sundays. Following Jesus is something we do inside the walls of a church. God forbid Jesus come along with us to work. But what if your work - your vocation - your job is the very place God is eager to burst through?

What is the platform God has given to you?

I just dropped some clothes off at the dry cleaner. Sunny, one of the owners, knows me by name. She always asks about my job. She seems to get excited each time I drop off my clergy robe. The love of God shines through Sunny. The dry cleaner is her platform.

We went out to dinner on Friday night in Denver. The waiter took particular care of my niece when we shared we were celebrating her birthday. He made her the center of attention. His words and actions allowed her to feel intricately woven together - special. Maggiano's is his platform.

The man who answers the phone at the gym always makes my day. I can tell by the sound of his voice how much he loves life. He radiates joy through the phone. He greets each member by name. The gym is his platform.

What is the platform God has given to you?

We do not regularly give our Lord and Savior praise with our lips during the workday but we can praise him with our lives. We can allow our light to shine.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God. Matthew 5:14-16

What is the platform God has given to you?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A Commitment for 2012

In 2012, I will...

slow down
choose carefully
trust God
simplify my life

So that I might...

see clearly
listen carefully
think deeply
enjoy life fully
serve God effectively

These words came from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. They have been hanging on my desk since I received them at the church's annual Leadership Institute in September. I'm claiming them for 2012 and going to do whatever it takes to make them a reality.

Here's to making my life what God intends it to be!