First things first ... I just think it's worth noting the weather situation for the day. After being led to believe it would rain for much of the morning, I noticed that it was absolutely beautiful outside when I finally woke up (far later than normal thanks to a week of sleep deprivation issues). Anyways, somewhere around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, it started pouring. Fearing the worst, I thought this was going to be a bad day if the rain had just hit Houston later in the day. I just hate those days where it seems I accomplish nothing. I went ahead and got ready as usual, hit the shower, and sure enough ... by 5pm, not a drop falling from the sky. Not a whole lot to that, I suppose. But I still thought it was pretty cool that the clouds would quiet for just long enough for me to get to church without need of an umbrella and/or golashes (of which, I own neither).
Another good class with Tracy doing the teaching. The subject was the second part of "Know Your Purpose," which is sortofan abbreviated look at Rick Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life." Tracy's best quality is one that I just happen to admire more than most - her fearlessness to share, to personalize the message with her own experiences, and the comfort of knowing there's nothing to lose in doing so. As much as I may strive for that, Tracy sets the standard for this.
I'm not sure what the intended structure of the class itself was meant to be, but the degree to which it lent itself to personal reflection made it one of the more interesting classes in a long time. The essence of the personalization was to show how our life experiences shape us for the purpose God gives us. The fourth purpose that Warren references, in fact, is "You Were Shaped For Serving God." To that end, one of the chapters referenced in the lesson was "Day 31: Understanding Your Shape." Coincidentally enough, this section was one that first drew me into Warren's book some time ago (yet, I've only recently begun to read through it in full).
The Scripture references given for the lesson were as follows:
Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
To the extent I can dare begin to personalize the lesson, it's that this is an area of my own walk that's under significant review. I've gone through periods of my life where my purpose was rather clearly defined: go to school, graduate college, prove myself as a manager, learn a new skill well enough to be a professional. But occassionally, we get some jolt that moves us from those goals. In more common language, it's frequently described as "burning out" on something. Ten-plus years in retail, for me, was enough. But I wasn't fully prepared to think about life beyond retail when I realized the burn-out itself was at a tipping point. It's sorta like reviewing real estate options in Nebraska right in the middle of a California earthquake. Reviewing your purpose and getting it in line with what God has shaped you for is something that's far easier done while the situation is more stable. But sometimes that's not the way life unfolds.
I wish I had some genius advice for how to get back on track quicker than I did back when this figurative earthquake hit me. But I don't ... at least nothing more than the suggestion that you set aside some time regularly to think through your purpose.
For now, like I said, it's an area that I'm right smack dab in the middle of. Professionally, I've been afforded a wonderful opportunity to work on my own. It's offered me some great opportunities ... some of which have even been financially enjoyable. But it also opens me up to greater risk and greater uncertainty. Personally, the view I have of my social environment has gone full circle and then some. There are friendships that have moved on and there are friendships that have solidified far more than I thought they might. Where I once believed I'd surely live the rest of my life in relative solitude, I've at least opened my mind up to the possibility that God has more in store for me than I might have ever realized. Whatever the case may be, I'm not going to be the one to limit myself in either category, however. God's plan for me has always been evident to me in brief glimpses that I've noticed long before the word "purpose" was mentioned with a fad-like frequency. Right about now, I feel like I've got this jigsaw puzzle in front of me that I've been working on my entire life. But recently, I've also had the feeling that I finally have the outer frame of the puzzle completed. Many of the gifts I've been blessed with are starting to come together more clearly. But it's still a work in progress.
By way of follow-up, the Koinonia discussion was more closely tied to the Compass Class lesson. Lacking a quick notice of any of the MVPs I normally sat with, I opted for the totally random table this time. It was a surprisingly pleasant discovery. But a couple of questions that came up just dovetail with the lesson.
One had to do with noting what gifts we had that we've been able to share with others. The first thing to pop into my mind was whatever skill I've got for communicating, somewhat noted by the presence of this very blog. Now, I'm always leery of being too boastful about that due to several bad habits of mine when it comes to writing. I hate to proofread myself and I've been known to let a typo go even after noticing it in something I've re-read. So there are certainly imperfections in whatever talent I might have for communication. But it's one of those things that I definitely have a passion for.
Once upon a time, I had lunch with a local bigwig. I'd lucked into the meeting by virtue of someone wanting to give him a little publicity by virtue of what I might write about him. But his first question for me and my other blogger friend was "So how much time do you guys spend blogging?" Let me tell you, with all the reading, thinking, and writing that goes into all the blogs I write for, there's no amount of time I think I'd dare admit to. Let's just say "a lot" and be done with it. But it's not something that really eats away at me because writing is fun. It gets the batteries charged, so to speak. The way a runner might feel about a small 5 mile run in the morning, I feel after checking in on 5 or 6 newspapers, playing a sermon on the MP3 player, reflecting on a certain chapter or book of the Bible. In either case, that may seem like a good deal to someone else. But for me, it's just the start of a good day.
Oddly enough, another question asked was what we might do if we felt compelled to go into fulltime ministry. I somehow went a full 180 on this one, and thought about my current quest: shopping for a new guitar and putting a band together. I'd tried my hand at learning guitar back in my teenage years. Haven't picked up one in well over a decade. My only degree of success back in the day was to achieve complete mediocrity. But music is one of the few things that brings out a sense of passion in me. Yeah, I suppose I'd get a huge kick out of writing a book, too. And there's a good market for folks to write books about their faith. So there's no telling how this one'll play out. I'll let ya know whenever I pick up that new guitar.