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Finding Your Purpose

IMG_2855YIKES! Finding purpose is not so easy. I am 63 years young and still trying to learn what exactly it is I’m supposed to be doing. One week I believe it should be writing this blog, the next week I switch gears and believe it’s donating my time to a worthy cause, and then, I end the week with a big hallelujah that will help prosper community spirit.

I am all over the board and then some. It’s how I operate and the chances of that changing are unlikely. My heart is forever drawn in so many different directions with great intentions, but focusing on one particular purpose seems impossible.

Is that you?

If you have more than three servings on your life platter, there is a good chance I’m talking to you. Maybe you are a sport’s mom or dad who works full time. At this time in life, your purpose might be to feed the kids dinner, get them to practice or games, help with homework and get them in bed at a reasonable time.

Perhaps, you’re a student. Your purpose is to finish college, find a career that yields a worthy income, get married, have kids and eventually buy a house. Or, you could be a senior who has lost your purpose after retirement. The kids are gone, the house is paid off, grandkids no longer visit and health issues keep you from doing many of the things you once loved.

You are not alone

Life is transitional which means we are continually making adjustments to find our purpose on earth. When single, our purpose is to eventually find a spouse; once married with kids, there is a new purpose. The cost of college education for our kids ushers in a purpose of finding affordable tuition that doesn’t rob our retirement.

The pursuit of purpose is never ending and always changing when viewed from an earthly point of view. It can be exhausting, especially if we compare our life to those around us.

Eternal Purpose

We need to count it a blessing that our eternal purpose is salvation through Christ Jesus; it never changes. It is the mingling of God with humanity, through us, that cultivates our ultimate purpose. When we grasp hold of that eternal purpose, it is life-changing.

God uses every circumstance in our life to make us more like Jesus. Every success, failure, joy, and disappointment is designed to bring eternal purpose to our life and make us more like Jesus.

“Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29)

As you forge a path of purpose in life, don’t fail to see the eternal picture. In our lifetime, we will pursue many ambitions, reach for goals and aspire to find new venues of purpose. However, it is the eternal purpose that matters most.

“But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things [purpose] will be given to you also.”
Matthew 6:33

 

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2018: A Pay It Forward Christmas

1ab1d1e0550be0eb56556f6449aba62bAs the Christmas holiday season approaches, I am contemplating ways to make it a minimalist holiday season. Those on my buying list have no genuine needs. They might have wants, but that’s not the same as needs.

My grandkids are in their teens or soon to be in that age group. They lack nothing and have  a closet filled with clothes, comforts of a good home, food on the table and electronic devices up the wazoo. What they believe to be lacking in their life are expensive items like owning their own vehicle free and clear (you know, that new Jeep parked at the local dealership), prepaid car insurance until they finish college & university degrees (paid for, of course, by someone other than themselves).

It’s the wave of the current generation; the one we helped to create by giving them (our kids and grandkids) everything they desire with little regard to words like: earn, work, deserve, merit or most importantly, saying no.

This year, I have determined that the gifts on my shopping list will be genuinely gifted from the heart.

What does that mean?

I like to think of it as ‘pay it forward’ gifts. It’s not about what you receive, but what you gift to someone else. It could be buying a cup of hot cocoa for the volunteer person who rings the bell for Salvation Army donations. Maybe it’s baking cookies or a Bundt cake for local firefighters or police officers, or dropping quarters in the a laundromat washing machine to pay for someone’s next load.

The agenda

I have posted my agenda, should you want to consider a minimalist Christmas this year. Yes, I am starting early, but the initial planning takes some pre-planning because the thought process involves thinking of others before us.

My grandkids won’t receive any Christmas gifts from Neenee & Poppy unless they fulfill the (15) required ‘Pay It Forward’ items on the list below. Some items can be done jointly; others must be done solo. The agenda will start November 24 and must be completed by December 22.

  1. Deliver indoor plant to someone in a nursing home (jointly)
  2. Buy a cup of hot cocoa for the Salvation Army person ringing the bell (solo)
  3. Bake something for firefighters or police officers (jointly)
  4. Put a quarter in a gumball machine and walk away (solo)
  5. Put enough quarters in a laundromat washing machine for someone to do a load (solo)
  6. Print up some inspiring signs and post around town (jointly)
  7. Leave a card on someone’s door step that tells them you prayed for them today (anonymously). Pray over the card before leaving on doorstep. (solo)
  8. Post a sheet of random ‘Pay It Forward’ tear-off compliment’s at neighboring stores/businesses
  9. Drop off a meal to a widow. (jointly)
  10. Leave a box of goodies in your mailbox for your mail carrier. (jointly)
  11. Spend some time with the elderly. There are many people in retirement homes that have no one who visits them. Ask the local facility staff if there’s someone whose day you could brighten. (either jointly or solo)
  12. Send a handwritten card to someone you know, unexpectedly. (solo)
  13. Put post-it notes with positive sayings on random lockers at school. (solo)
  14. Write a 200 word letter to your parents about why you love them. (solo)
  15. Donate a much loved toy or item of clothing to someone in need within the community. (solo)

I look forward to sharing photos and comments of our Pay It Forward Christmas season.

 

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When God Lifts the Fog

fog

As the fog lifts from the lake this morning, I am reminded of how God lifts the fog from our life when we seek Him with all our heart.

What does ‘all our heart’ imply?

I believe it is a quest of the soul to discover the depth and breadth of God’s desire to lead us into a personal relationship with Him. It’s that simple. When we allow God to get intimate with our soul, He lifts the fog that hinders us from seeing the fullness of His redemptive powers.

What are His redemptive powers and how does that relate to our life?

In more ways than you might think or have considered.

Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross ransomed us from sin. It opened the floodgates of Heaven so we can stand reconciled before the throne of God. It means God is attentive to every aspect of our life because our soul has been given “sky priority” status and stamped with His seal of grace.

The heart (meaning soul) of mankind is inherently evil due to sin. Sin is our disobedience to God’s plan for us.  All the good deeds in the world will never make amends for that broken relationship. Thankfully, God’s love for us is beyond our comprehension. He gifted us redemption through the death of his Son Jesus on the cross.

It is through the blood Christ shed and His resurrection that we are given access to redemptive powers in our life. They are freely given to all mankind and the only requirement is to genuinely ask Jesus to become the ruler of our heart (soul).

What does that mean?

It means God’s truth must dwell within our heart and we give Jesus full rights to call our heart His home. If you want the fog lift, you must empty your heart of ‘you’ and pursue Jesus. Only then will the redemptive powers of God be operational in your life.

To love God with all our soul requires us to relinquish all ownership of self. It’s a process of realigning our understanding to God’s understanding. That’s not easy and it requires us to die to ‘self’ daily.

How do we die to self?

Prayer and ingesting God’s Word (the Bible) are the tools needed to lift the fog that surrounds our life. It sounds easy, yet harder than you think. The opposing force of darkness (Satan) seeks to engulf us in a mist of fog that prevents us from seeing the keeper of the lighthouse.

Our soul must be replenished and realigned from our understanding to God’s understanding. To lift our spiritual fog is an incremental process and one I struggle with daily. It requires effort, desire and time on my part, but when God lifts the fog, there are no regrets.

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Don’t Miss the Moments

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I watched my middle-aged neighbors as they cuddled together in a water tube in front of their lake house.  I couldn’t hear their conversation, but it was apparent they were enjoying each other’s company as the cooling waves splashed around them on a hot summer day.

It was a moment.

I couldn’t help but notice the man who clutched a bible in his hand as he raised his arms in praise during the church service today. He seemed overcome with a tenacious desire to give glory and thanks to the redeemer of his soul. Or, the young married couple, radically covered in tattoos, whose arms were lifted up to worship the God who had rescued them from their addictions.

It was a moment.

A good friend today, along with so many others, asked Jesus to be the Shepherd of his life and was baptized in the lake waters. It was so unplanned and genuinely sincere that it brought tears to my eyes.

It was a moment.

At the end of our pastor’s message today, my husband took my hand in his, gently squeezed it, and softly kissed my lips. I felt loved.

It was a moment.

A friend shared how much my devotional inspired them; a community member appreciated the donated gift, a client thanked me for a job well done.

It was a moment.

A family member called just to talk, a man waited to hold the door for me; the struggling, single mom who is a cashier at the corner store never fails to smile and ask how I am doing.

It was a moment.

One of the lines in the song Dream Small by Josh Wilson is…

…dream small. Don’t buy the lie “you’ve gotta do it all.”
Just let Jesus use you where you are one day
[one moment] at a time.

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Prayer for today:

It is the sum totals of simple moments that make up our life. Ordinary moments can change the world if we allow you to empower them with your greatness.  Make our moments count. It may be with a smile, a kiss or kind word. It could be opening a door for someone, visiting the elderly, conversing with family at the dinner table. Help me see that every moment is part of a bigger dream when seen through the eyes of God.

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The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.

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Living Within the Lines

Live Within the LinesWhen I was a kid, a box of crayons and coloring book could occupy me for hours on a rainy day. It was a free for all with crayons erratically scribbling outside any designated boundary. To stay inside the lines wasn’t a consideration; I was a budding artist.

When finished, the colored page was given to mom who praised me for a job well done and displayed it on the refrigerator door until she found a polite excuse to remove it.

In adulthood the only time I color is with my kids or grandkids and when I do, it’s rare to find a clean page to color. The kids have scrawled over every page in the book with total disregard for the printed lines or direction they move their crayons. When I do find a blank page, I am quick to exercise my proprietary rights and ban squatter privileges to anyone under the age of ten.

For me, a blank color page exemplifies a new start in life; a new beginning in my walk with Christ. It’s like a form of therapy in times of stress and uncertainty.  Every circular motion of the crayon is a reminder to stay within God’s boundary lines for the best outcome. I grow and flourish in my strengths, find comfort, serenity and healing when I choose to be obedient to God’s will.

There is a spiritual awakening that occurs when we discover God’s lines don’t confine or hinder us, but rather provide healing to do the impossible within us. His boundary lines are defined by grace, balance and love. To give Him control of our crayon box is to give Him control of our life.

Are you frustrated and confused about your circumstances and question God’s purpose for your life? Is your life going in every direction and cluttered with scribbles that extend outside the lines of grace?

I encourage you to ask God to help you color inside the lines of HIS will. Our Heavenly Father can color inside the lines of our life better than anyone else.

“Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you. Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you.” Jude 21

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Finally…

finallyI tend to live my life in ‘finally’ mode where moments and events are crossed off a mental checklist. It’s like running a marathon to an unknown finish line. There are pit stops along the way, but instead of savoring the moment, I can’t wait until I can finally be on my way again so I can finally arrive at a future moment and finally reach the unattainable finish line.

It’s a destination to destination lifestyle that never takes pleasure in getting there.

The well-known idiom ‘getting there is half the fun’ doesn’t apply to me. I prefer being emailed or beamed to my destination; to heck with stops along the way. I’ll enjoy the trip when I finally get there which translates: OK, we’re finally here, let’s get a move on.

To operate in finally mode robs us of any opportunities to interface with life’s daily moments. There are no exclamation points between each finally, only a trail of dots. Jesus spent his earthly life journeying from one destination to another and a myriad of exclamation points followed Him because He never lost sight of His purpose.

So what is God’s purpose for me and you?

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

We can opt to chase the dots to our next destination, but if the journey isn’t divinely appointed, it’ meaningless.

God purpose for us is to have an intimate relationship with Him based on faith, worship and a heart that desires spiritual growth and a Christ-like character. Short and sweet, God wants to be the blueprint for our temporary residence on earth.

When I find my direction in life disoriented by the finally mode, I know it’s time to slow down and partner myself to the One who guides my steps according to His purpose. Our daily moment’s become anointed as we allow God’s purpose to navigate our life.

When life is finally over, I want God to say WELL DONE (followed by a multitude of exclamation points).