Thursday, April 29, 2010

Understanding the meaning and purpose of life

Understanding the meaning of life … a purpose driven life … is like trying to nail down air. The task is hard, but not impossible – it just depends on what form the air takes. The choices which confronts us is that we can either think that we are defeated before we even try or we can believe that, even though the problem seems impossible, there just might be a solution out there somewhere – all we need to do is continue to look and try.

There are numerous authors who have written volumes of literary works with their suggestions as to what can give definition to ones life. Some of you probably have accessed those works in an attempt to discover a purpose, meaning, reason for daily existence. Dr. Peale, Dr. Schuller, The Rev. Rick Warren, and the study, “Experiencing God,” are but a few which grace the shelves of my library.

There have been times that I have felt like the Dunkin Donut man. Remember the commercial with the tagline “It’s time to make the donuts”? My favorite was when he reached his front door and opened it up there he was meeting himself coming in. We get so caught up in our daily routines that any meaning simply escapes us in our attempt to understand and embrace the full scope of purpose and meaning ... and making it through another 24-hours.

It doesn’t help when the only thing we bring to the “table” is a naïve understanding of the impact our words and actions have on others. Or even worse, a deep seated belief that everyone will simply accept our understanding of a situation and the solution(s) which are required … or appear to be required to bring about a satisfactory conclusion.

Here are a few quotes from individuals who have struggled with discovering a purpose in living. These quotes were included in an article written in Morning Glory, May 29, 1993: H.G. Wells, famous historian and philosopher, said at age 61: "I have no peace. All life is at the end of the tether." The poet Byron said, "My days are in yellow leaf, the flowers and fruits of life are gone, the worm and the canker, and the grief are mine alone." The literary genius Thoreau said, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." Ralph Barton, one of the top cartoonists of the nations, left this note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: "I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day."

Maybe Jesus had it right when he shared, “As you have done it unto the least of these …” As individuals and married couples have turned to me for guidance it has always been my practice to refer them to helping agencies in the community with the tagline: “Go give yourself away and in so doing you just might find yourself.” The rewards are not found in getting, but in giving.

Quote for today: From Richard Foster’s excellent book, Celebration of Discipline: Self-righteous service comes through human effort. True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside … Self-righteous service is impressed with the "big deal." True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service … Self-righteous service requires external rewards. True service rests contented in hiddenness … Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results. True service is free of the need to calculate results ... Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve. True service is indiscriminate in its ministry ... Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need ... Self-righteous service is temporary. True service is a life-style ... Self-righteous service is without sensitivity. It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive. True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it ... Self-righteous service fractures community. True service, on the other hand, builds community.

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