Posts Tagged ‘Purpose in Life’

Florida's Turnpike North - Exit 75 - FL808 | formulanone | Flickr

A number of years ago and for the span of a decade, I commuted a half hour each way to and from the school where I taught.

Needless to say I saw all kinds of drivers: the speed demons and poke-alongs, the weavers and squeezers, the distracted and multi-taskers—each one an accident waiting to happen, each one confident that he or she was not.

One day a young man on a motorcycle whizzed by, darting between vehicles left and right in search of the fastest lane. This was not in near standstill traffic; it was on a stretch of Florida Turnpike where the speed limit is seventy.

Oh, Lord, I thought. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. That boy has no idea the danger he’s creating for himself and everyone else in his path.

A few minutes later I reached my exit and gasped aloud. Lying in the grass in the middle of the cloverleaf turn-off was that young motorcyclist, far separated from his twisted bike.

A few people were already hunched over him, perhaps from the nearby tollbooth area. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw his leg move.

Every now and then that scene comes to mind. I imagine that young man as he straddled his cycle that morning, anxious to be on his way for another exhilarating trip of engine revving, speed, and clever maneuvering.

No doubt a trip to the hospital never even crossed his mind.

The young often do live in a fantasy world of invincibility. And those of us with a bit more life-experience shake our heads at their carelessness.

But fast-lane living isn’t the singular domain of speeders and teenage boys on motorcycles.

Even a retired schoolteacher like me can forget: life is fragile.

Not that I drive recklessly or take foolish chances.

But I am very capable of rushing through a to-do list and missing an opportunity to provide joy in someone else’s life. I can breeze right past the blessings-of-the-moment because I’m focused on something down the road.

I can even forget the values I hold dear, including attentiveness to God and loving compassion for others.

It is downright foolish of me to live in a fantasy of invincibility, as if there will always be plenty of tomorrows for attentiveness and compassion, while cruising along in the fast lane of frenzied activity.

Instead, I’d rather cup my hands around each day and:

  • Find the wonder in the common. “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribable, magnificent world in itself” (Henry Miller).
  • Take note of the everyday miracles. “Looking is the beginning of seeing” (Sister Corita Kent).
  • Hug often. “Hugs are one of the reasons God gave us arms. So stretch out your arms to someone today…It will warm the heart of the giver and give light to the soul of the recipient” (Unknown).
  • Laugh easily. “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God” (Karl Barth).

  • Value every person. “The way we treat others is more about who we are, not who they are” (Unknown, emphasis added).
  • Forgive quickly. “Forgiveness isn’t about letting the other person off the hook. It’s about keeping the hooks of bitterness from getting into you” (Gabrielle Bernstein).
  • Avoid negativity. “Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity” (Unknown).
  • Choose joy. “True contentment is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it” (G. K. Chesterton).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, I have so much to be thankful for, including this cloudy, cozy day and the welcome chill in the air. I thank you for this moment, complete with winking candle, hazelnut coffee, and soft music to keep me company as I write.

Thank you also for the designated purpose you ordain for each person.   Because I am still alive, you still have plans to fulfill through me, especially to bless others. And for that I am grateful as well.

Keep me mindful, I pray, that fast lane living is not only foolish, it is dangerous to my soul.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 19:21; Ephesians 2:10)

What will you cup your hands around today?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

(Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (3); http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

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I’ve mentioned this before: Heroes of the faith from times past pique my interest. Many of them endured great hardship, yet remained strong in their faith. From their examples and writings I find encouragement, challenge, and inspiration.

Today’s example: Paul Tournier.

Paul Tournier

Paul Tournier (1898-1986) was a well-known doctor, author, and Christian by the middle of the twentieth century. But it’s doubtful that those who knew him as a youngster would have predicted such an outcome.

His parents died when he was very young. Paul and his older sister were taken in by an aunt and uncle. The boy became withdrawn and shy, struggling with the issues of identity and self-worth.

Perhaps those difficult years of his youth prepared Paul for the lifework God would give him. He held a lifelong concern for those who suffered. When Paul was just twelve years old, he decided he’d become a doctor. That was also the year he became a Christian.

Paul achieved his boyhood dream, and started his medical practice in Geneva, Switzerland, 1928.

Nine years later, Paul was introduced to the Oxford Group, a new Christian movement. Paul was impressed by their life-changing commitment to Jesus, and he, too, was led into deep transforming faith.

As Dr. Tournier’s experience in medicine increased, so did his dissatisfaction with drugs and surgery as his only options to help patients. What about the interplay of mind and body? More importantly, how do spiritual matters impact physical well-being?

Paul sought ways to include psychology and faith into his medical practices, and called it, “the medicine of the whole person.” Surely part of that “medicine” was to contribute to his patients’ identity and self-worth, the same issues that had plagued him as a boy. Perhaps it was in analyzing how people discover purpose in life that brought Dr. Tournier to this conclusion:

“For the fulfillment of his purpose God needs more than priests, bishops, pastors, and missionaries. He needs mechanics and chemists, gardeners and street sweepers, dressmakers and cooks, tradesmen, physicians, philosophers, judges, and shorthand typists.” – from The Adventure of Living

As the focus of Dr. Tournier’s medical practice began to change, so did his routines. Patients were less frequently ushered into examining rooms, and instead, met with the doctor in the living room of his home. There they’d sit by the fire to talk, sometimes joined by Tournier’s wife, Nelly.  His first book, The Healing of Persons (1940), grew out of these experiences.

Part of his genius, perhaps, was in listening. Here’s what he had to say on that topic:

“In order to really understand, we need to listen, not reply. We need to listen long and attentively. In order to help anybody to open his heart we have to give him time, asking only a few questions, as carefully as possible in order to help him better explain his experience.” –from To Understand Each Other

His medical practice grew into a ministry, including speaking engagements around the world, and many more books. The Meaning of Persons, published in 1957, received particular distinction. Christianity Today magazine named it one of the top 50 books to have influenced the Evangelical world. Dr. Tournier was also called the twentieth century’s most famous Christian physician.

On serving God, he had the following to say:

“I do not serve God only in the brief moments during which I am taking part in a religious service, or reading the Bible, or saying my prayers, or talking about him in some book I am writing, or discussing the meaning of life with a patient or friend. I serve him quite as much when I am giving a patient an injection, or lancing an abscess, or writing a prescription, or giving a piece of good advice. I serve him quite as much when reading the newspaper, traveling, laughing at a joke, or soldering a joint in an electric wire. I serve him by taking an interest in everything, because he is interested in everything, because he has created everything and has put me in his creation so that I may participate in it fully.” — from The Adventure of Living

I have to wonder if Dr. Tournier was thinking of Colossians 3:23-24 when he wrote that observation:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Years ago, as a young mother with three children, I wrote in the margin of my Bible next to those verses, “including housework!” I tried to visualize myself dusting and scrubbing and vacuuming for Jesus!

I am NOT fond of housework; Dr. Tournier probably did not enjoy lancing abscesses! But. There is strength and perseverance, purpose and fulfillment in knowing such tasks serve a purpose.

Even a divine purpose.

Countless people have undoubtedly been transformed by that principle and others, taught convincingly by Dr. Paul Tournier.

(Photo of Dr. Tournier from wikipedia.org.)

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