From the vantage point of my living room prayer chair, I’m amazed to see that the maple trees in our front yard are suddenly fully dressed! When did that happen? Have I been so immersed in the busy-ness of life that I wasn’t watching when these trees went from sadly winter-naked, to putting their spring “bloomers” on, to now, every limb bedecked in summer green?! Wow, how fast things can change right in front of your eyes and how easy it is to miss the moment!
God likes to turn the page on us. Sometimes I think He does it in creation so we can remember that He’ll do the same thing in our lives.
Almost 30 months ago God turned the page to an amazing new chapter in my life called “Cancer”. The subtitle of that chapter was “Gold in the Road” as I found God in ways I’d not known Him before and faced unbearable challenges with a grace that was truly golden. Then He turned the page again and a new chapter I’d call “Worth More Broken” began to unfold. Another page-turner for sure as God began to take what He taught me in the previous chapter and use it to develop in me a whole new understanding about how our abject brokeness has great value when held in the hands of the Master. That’s the chapter Philip and I have been living in most recently as we’ve learned more about suffering with Christ and about His sovereignty in all the circumstances of our life.
THE NEW CHAPTER
And now, God’s turning the page again. I think I’ve been living in a new chapter for some weeks now, but like those changing maple trees outside my window, I was too immersed in doing life to notice. This new chapter might be titled “Rising with Purpose”. Like before, it builds on the previous chapters and wouldn’t be possible had they not come before.
My first awareness that God had turned the page was when I was listening to a colleague speak his heart and mind about mission — that all of us who are called “Christians” are called to lives fully dedicated to mission. And the way he was speaking made it clear he wasn’t saying that mission is just something we DO for God, but instead, it’s who we ARE in God. As Christ-followers, we are destined to take Him into every arena of our lives and to let Him touch through us the lives of others. My colleague’s articulation was clear, cogent and compelling. It sort of echoed in my soul because it’s something I already knew but hadn’t been fully incarnated in my life and thinking. That’s when God turned the page.
ARTICULATION TO INCARNATION
And so the new chapter has begun — his articulation has become my incarnation of this truth: Mission is our purpose, our reason for being on this earth. We are born to live out lives of purpose — a purpose which God pre-ordained for us. Ephesians 2:10 says it this way, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” That doesn’t just mean doing a good work here and there. It doesn’t mean doing acts of service like punching a factory job time clock. It doesn’t mean living out life pursuing our own happiness. Instead it means living out the life God has given us pursuing His ultimate reason He placed us here to begin with. It means seeking Him and seeking who it is I was meant to be IN Him and what I was meant to do FOR Him. It means MISSION.
Prince Philip has often asked me over the years, “What’s our purpose?” I would usually sigh and say something like, “My gosh, Philip, what kind of a question is that?! We couldn’t be much busier doing God-stuff, could we?” But the answer never satisfied him. Oh, there were very cool moments of ministry together, but he’d still have to leave every morning for his “real” job where he spends the majority of his waking hours with the question “What’s our purpose?” floating around in his head.
But then God turned the page. And in this new understanding, we are both beginning to see all of life differently! Each day dawns with new possibilities of how God will use us in mission that day. We “rise with purpose” because we’ve accepted as truth that no matter how old or sick or sad or weak or busy or distracted we are, God will still use us in mission to advance His Kingdom. Each day there is a new plan for God to unfold His purpose in us and through us.
WHAT MISSION MOMENTS LOOKED LIKE YESTERDAY
So after serving at three worship services and being up more than 10 hours already, Philip and I found ourselves at Hoag Hospital for a room visit. We really just wanted to get some lunch and a nap, but we remembered that God had turned the page and mission was waiting. We parked our car and walked into the hospital.
- As we walked toward the elevator, we saw a woman standing next to her husband and crying her heart out. I looked at her and she looked at me and she fell into my arms. Her mother, who knew the Lord, was dying just down the hallway. We four stood and prayed for this dear woman that her Kind Shepherd would come and gently take her from this life to her heavenly home. A mission moment.
- As we left them, we saw a young couple huddled against the wall, praying quietly together. They said “amen” as we got into the elevator together. “Who were you praying for out there?” I asked. “We were praying for you as you prayed for that lady,” they responded. Wow, how cool was that! They didn’t get off at the 5th floor, their stop, but instead rode with us to the 9th floor, our stop. We prayed together, the four of us — for the weeping lady, her dying mother, and their grandmother who was on the 5th floor. We blessed them and they blessed us. A mission moment.
- It was only then that we went on to visit the man we originally came to see and to pray for him with his wife and son and his son’s wife in the room watching, observing what mission looks like and how Jesus comes to the suffering to bring His love and His promise of hope and life, even after the flesh has failed. A mission moment.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
WHAT ABOUT TODAY?
So what will mission look like for me today? Not sure, but I know God turns on the faucet of His blessing and purpose each day and I’m ready to live under that flow! What about you — what will mission look like for you today? If you are a Christian, God placed you on this earth to live out every day fulfilling His purpose for you. What are you passionate about? Find a need and fill it — for God’s sake! Who do you notice that is hurting? Find a hand and hold it. What jewels of opportunity to share God’s love are hidden in your day and just waiting for you to discover them? Find those opportunities and make the most of each one!
God’s turned another page in my life and I’m living the chapter “Rising with Purpose”. How about you?
Love and blessings,
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.