On March 7, 2007, ABC News reported that “The Purpose-Driven Life” by Rick Warren, was translated into 56 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide since 2002, making it the bestselling nonfiction hardcover book in history. And yet, I don’t know anybody – myself included, that took the time to write down their answers to Life’s Five Great Questions, crafting a Life Purpose Statement as suggested on Day Forty – the culminating chapter of the book.
I invited you last week to join me in the Lenten fast our church is doing – that is, for each of us to give up something (in typical Lent fashion) in order to give back to someone – our local communities, our families, our friends, our church community. This new twist – to give up to give out – carries the hope and possibility of transforming relationships within your family, your neighborhood, your community, your church, and making a difference to those in need. Ideally, whatever you sacrifice during these 40 days of Lent, you want to turn into a blessing for someone else. That takes some thinking, some intentionality, even some creativity. So I’m thinking that maybe as a practice run for writing a Life Purpose Statement, it may be a good idea to start small and write a Lent Purpose Statement – you know, to answer those five great questions about my purpose for the Lenten fast.
What will be the center of my life during Lent? (Question of Worship) Okay, that one is easy – definitely God.
What will be the character of my life during Lent? (Question of discipleship) I want to have a Christlike character during the Lenten season – loving, giving, compassionate.
What will be the contribution of my life during Lent? (Question of service) If I were answering this question about my life, I would give long and serious thought to some of what Rick Warren calls your SHAPE – spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences. After all, a life purpose should be something grand, shouldn’t it? … something that really points to a ministry in the Body of Christ, the best custom-made role for serving in the family of God? But I only have to decide who to serve and how for the next 33 days – I’m not locked in for a lifetime. And as Rick Warren points out “even Jesus didn’t meet the needs of everyone while on earth. You have to choose whom you can best help, based on your shape.” Well, I’m going with GIVING TIME – reconnecting with family and friends (often the most overlooked group of people in my life), and making new connections with neighbors and co-workers. Max Lucado in “Out Live Your Life” says we can each make a significant difference, even by doing something small – like practicing hospitality.
Especially now, hospitality is the untapped resource of the church. Think about how isolated we are: because of garage doors and cars and cubicles and earphones, we can succeed in having no human contact. The result is severe loneliness throughout our communities. … people are hungry for hospitality, excited to be invited over. And there’s something wonderfully “New Testament” (Acts 2) about that.
I want to be a New Testament girl! I want to be intentional about inviting neighbors in to my house, hosting game nights or movie nights or karaoke. I want to know my co-workers outside of the office, extend some work relationships beyond 5 o’clock and develop personal relationships with those I spend more time with than anybody these days.
So, how am I gonna do that? What’s the plan for being available, having time, to connect and reconnect? Remember, the litmus test for the fast is that it must involve sacrifice on my part, giving something up in order to turn that around and give it out. Here’s my commitment: After dinner and on Saturdays, I will not be spending time in my living room unless someone is there with me … since I live alone, that means no one will be in the living room unless I invite someone over, throw a party, usher a neighbor in impromptu style. The living room has all the trappings Max Lucado referred to for avoiding human contact … I can veg out in front of the TV, catch up on that stack of Sports Illustrated and Us Weeky magazines, read one of the six books I’ve started, or just sit and daydream in front of the fire …. ah, there’s no place like home! And the close proximity to the kitchen makes it so easy to grab a snack while I’m doing any of those things. I’ll be spending my evenings and Saturdays – when I don’t have plans to connect in-house or out, upstairs with a focus on reconnecting with family and friends … by telephone, with a handwritten note, yes – even email and Facebook for some. So, I’m giving up time in the living room to give time to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
There are so many needs and causes to help with these days, especially now as we witness so many in Japan reeling from the effects of the horrific earthquake and tsunami late last week. So I do want to help someone in a tangible way in my community, and I’ve decided to GIVE FOOD during the Lenten fast to our local food bank The Center for Food Action.
What will be the communication of my life during Lent? (Question of mission) The most important thing I want to communicate to people during Lent is that they matter, they are cared for and valued … I want to communicate the love, truth, and compassion of Jesus Christ. As I give up time I’m spending on meaningless activities like TV to create new relationships and deepen existing relationships, I want to communicate to each person that they are important to me, they matter, they are worth my time, and I want to be connected to them, to know what they’re struggling with, what they’re celebrating, to understand what brings them joy, what trips them up in life. I don’t ever want anyone to say what I’ve heard a million times, “I know you’re busy, but …” No, I don’t want anyone thinking my life is too busy for them. I want to be wholly and totally available, approachable, and interested in them.
I want my food donations to The Center for Food Action to communicate that same kind of caring and love and worth. Several years ago I took a group of middle school kids to CFA to drop off canned goods we had collected on Souper Bowl Sunday. One of the boys looked around at what was stocked on the shelves and said something like “Oh man, look at all this generic stuff and all the cheap food – we would never eat that stuff at our house.” I’ve never forgotten that, and isn’t that so true that our food donations usually come from what’s leftover from our own kitchen shelves or the soup that’s on sale, the generic brand canned vegetables, or the proverbial inexpensive meal in a box – macaroni & cheese? What does that communicate to those served by the food bank? When they unpack their bag of these items, I’m sure they feel lucky, grateful, but do they feel worthy? Do they feel valued? Do they feel loved? I’ve made a commitment to reduce my grocery budget by $20 weekly and to use that money to buy fresh fruit and vegetables for The Center for Food Action. I also decided that instead of the two trips I usually make to the grocery store each week (sometimes more – you know there’s always those 2 or 3 items you just need to pick up and you end up walking out of the store with 2 or 3 bags), I am going to do my shopping on one trip, and the second trip each week will be solely to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables for CFA. I will not allow myself to pick up even one thing for my personal kitchen on the CFA grocery store run – I want to be focused on and thinking about – maybe even praying for – the people of the community being served while I shop.
What will be the community of my life during Lent? (Question of fellowship) No question here – The Plant … where we live out community meeting in member homes during the week to engage in relationships with one another, learn God’s truth in the Scriptures, find a place of belonging, and together serve the community locally and in Uganda.
The MISSION of my PURPOSE DRIVEN LENT is to transform the quality of my giving to others in a way that communicates the love, truth, & compassion of Jesus Christ.
What will you give up this Lenten season? What will you give out?
Can you answer the FIVE GREATEST QUESTIONS about your purpose during Lent?