I believe we're each created with gifts to bring to this world.
Each of us has a passion, a part of our heart that when ignited, burns to bring light to both ourselves and those around us.
Just this morning I read the following words in Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV):
But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
Jeremiah's passion was to proclaim God's word. Even if people didn't respond (and they didn't) he still proclaimed because that's who he was, what he was born to do. His passion burned so strong that it was as if he almost couldn't keep himself from doing that which he was born to.
What's your passion? What lights the flame of your life?
I've been thinking about this, trying to ascertain what's my passion. I guess one way to do it would be to look for themes in our lives. Where has my heart consistently led me?
For me it's the hurting. Whenever someone is hurting I almost can't contain myself from reaching out to them.
That's why I ended up working in the mental health field. A large portion of my work has been with the mentally ill. No one seems to care about them and most people find them offensive.
I remember an encounter I had when I was running this one facility. The facility had never made money; the company who owned it kept it simply because it was locked into a lease agreement with a group of other facilities that did make money. When I became the administrator one of my goals was to find a way for the facility to make money. The company didn't really expect that, no one else had and I was a brand new administrator, my first facility. But I believe that to be a leader means to do what you believe is right. So I prayed and prayed and looked and looked. During this process God brought a company that did drug research across my path and I met to discuss the possibility of them purchasing a few beds from our facility. (God blessed and it took me over a year to get the program up and going. But, although I'm no longer at that facility, the facility does now make money due to the revenue from that program.) The president of that company met with me one time in the beginning and toured our facility. Afterward he totally surprised me by saying that he did want to do business and that it was because of me. My surprise must have shown on my face because he went on to explain how he really liked the way I knew all the patients names and interacted with them as we toured the facility. Initially I found myself thinking, don't other administrators of psych facilities do that too? Then I realized that his statement wasn't really about me at all, it was about him. He wasn't comfortable around psych patients. His company was by no means limited to psych med research and he was not a fan of the mentally ill. I remember that incident because it underscores my observation that people really don't like the mentally ill and would rather their lives did not include them.
That's part of what draws me to the mentally ill. They're hurting and, by and large, no one wants to help.
My passion extends beyond just the mentally ill but that's where many opportunities have opened for me in the past. It'll be interesting to see what doors God opens in the future.
What about you, where have your passions led you? Where do you see yourself going?
In the old movie, A Man for All Seasons, about the life of Sir Thomas Moore, there's a great line that I'm thinking about today.
It's when Sir Thomas Moore is faced with execution and is asked by the king and his court to recant his views of the king's divorce and remarriage. His family arrives and asks him to change his views. Sir Thomas Moore says:
"When a man takes an oath...he's holding his own self in his hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers, then he needn't hope to find himself again."
Moore makes such a profound point. To believe in something, to be filled with faith and passion, and then turn your back on it - is to lose yourself.
Today we read so much about finding yourself and being true to yourself.
Perhaps we are never more true to ourselves than when we take the time to find out what we believe, find our life passions, and then remain true to them whatever the cost.
I live in a culture where it's been said "you can never be too thin". Being very thin is considered beautiful in America and being beautiful is something that all women have been taught from the time they are born, both directly and indirectly, is of the utmost importance.
From personal experience, and interactions with numerous over weight women, many overweight women have low self esteem and struggle with feelings of worthlessness.
But I've been meditating lately on the basis for my self worth.
The truth is, if my self worth is obtained by comparing myself to others around me, I will never measure up. I will never be pretty enough, thin enough or young enough. There will always be someone prettier, smaller, taller, smarter, younger or whatever else.
I'm reminded of the scripture from Galations 6:4-5; I love the way it reads in the Message version:
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
The reason God clearly says not to compare myself with others is because it doesn't lead to anything good. He's made me who I am (yes, of course I let the person He made get fat; but like other defects of character I'm learning to cooperate with His work and change in this area too!) and has a purpose for my specific life. I'd do best if I set about seeing what He has set before me, and how I can join in His work here in my daily life. It's the old "grow where you're planted" philosophy.
But for those who feel worthless, unlovable and unacceptable, it's almost impossible to get on with life.
Only when I learned that my self-worth is based on who I am in Christ, could I learn to be joyful no matter what. God never changes. He doesn't change His mind about how he feels about me.
In this world I believe that it is what God thinks that really matters.
When I think about the fact that God really knows me, I'm reminded of Psalm 139:1-3 (NLT):
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.
I overwhelmed by the fact that God really loves me (even though He really knows me!). There are SO MANY scriptures that tell me how much God loves me. One of my favorites is found in Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV):
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
I think what really gets me in this scripture is that He not only loves me but actually takes delight in me.
I need to read these scriptures and think on these truths on a regular basis. This is the kind of food I need to feed my soul. Then I can rest in the truth that right now where I am, despite my weight or how I feel . . . God loves me. He finds me acceptable. Accepting this truth is whatgives me self worth.
Goals are helpful to me because I can have something I'm aiming toward instead of just wandering aimlessly.
I spent some time in prayer and came up with some goals for this year that I want to take some time a few times during 2008 to evaluate my progress on. Here's my goals:
1. Find a meaningful activity I can do on a regular basis that really helps others.
2. Read these books:
*"Lost: Discovering Ways to Connect with the People Jesus Misses Most " by Jim Henderson *"Lord, Teach Me to Pray" by Kay Arthur *"Becoming a Woman of Influence" by Pam Farrell *"Weightless Flying Free" by Joni Jones *"Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading" by Eugene Peterson *"Love & Respect" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
3. Increase the frequency of holding my tongue with my husband when I'm upset and choosing to act respectfully no matter how I'm feeling at that moment.
4. Lose 40 lbs.
5. Develop at least one close friendship in this new town.
6. Find something fun I can do with my 2 sons who're still at home. This may be different activities with each son since they're very different from one another.
I'm just grateful to God for His goodness to me and want to live my life following after Him. I've been blessed with 3 awesome sons and in July of 2005 I remarried. My husband truly knows me and still loves me - how much more blessed could I be!
"Hope Beyond Hell The Righteous Purpose of God's Judgment " by D. Scott Reichard & Gerry Beauchemin
"Invitation to Solitue and Silence" by Ruth Haley Barton
"Nehemiah; a heart that can break" by Kelly Minter
"Prayers that avail much for leaders" compiled by Germaine Copeland and Lane Holland
"Raising Hell" by Julie Ferwerda
I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst.
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Perceptive words spread knowledge; fools are hollow—there's nothing to them. GOD can't stand pious poses, but he delights in genuine prayers. A life frittered away disgusts GOD; he loves those who run straight for the finish line.
You'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.