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We exist for…?

January 9, 2010 1 comment

Have you ever considered why we you were placed on Earth or what exactly your purpose is for being here?

If you haven’t ever taken part in a similar personal exercise, I would encourage you to check your pulse and make sure that you are still breathing.

Sometimes, it is funny how moments of deep reflection come about for me. God seems to reveal himself to me in the strangest ways, but I am most certainly not complaining. I don’t know why God chooses to speak to me like he does, but I am grateful that he chooses to speak to me in any manner whatsoever.

Here is a bit of background on today’s revelation.

It all started Christmas morning at my in-law’s house. We are hanging out watching the kids open their presents (definitely my favorite part of Christmas). In short order, however, the kids had finished their assault on Fort Present at Mount Spoiled, so it was our turn to open our gifts. We opened our gifts which were great. Some new clothes, an indoor badminton set, a microwave smore maker, etc…

My in-laws always save their favorite present for last. It is most definitely always a good one. Last year it was a new grill (awesome!), but this year was a bit different. We were given our final present which came In small nondescript envelope. Immediately my mind goes to cash or something else along those lines. So my brother-in-law and I tear into our envelopes at the same time expecting some dead presidents, but to our pleasant surprise, inside we found tickets to today’s Mizzou game.

Fast forward to today. I woke up at about 8:00 this morning next to my beautiful wife in the hotel suite at the Resident’s Inn that my father-in-law sprung for at the last minute, so we could all spend some quality time together last night and prior to the game this morning. My eyes opened, and, instead of the sleepiness that normally pervades the morning state of my brain, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream that I had.

It is rare for me to remember my dreams, so when I do, I always pay attention. Usually when I do remember, It is because the dream was focused around something significant in my life. This morning’s remembrance was no different.

The details of the dream are unimportant. The significance, instead, revolves around the people who starred in the dream. The bulk of the people were old friends that I have lost contact with over the years. Usually when I lose contact with someone who had previously been important to me, I am quick to make excuses regarding my lack of effort in maintaining my connection and moving on to “bigger and better” things. Kind of like the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that dominates the thought processing ability of narcissistic children.

I understand that people lose touch with one another and that it is ok, but, again, this is not the point.

I can hear what you are thinking…

So what IS the point, Jeremy? You dragged us over here from [insert referring website here] to talk about the point of existence. Well, what’s the point?!?!

And the answer that God gave me this morning in quiet reflection was about you. Yes. You heard me right. It was about you.

“About me?” you say.

And I reply, “Yep. I have been missing it all these years. I am supposed to be all about you.”

To understand the root of this revelation we have to go back to the first moments of human creation and look at God’s motives for our creation. So why were we created? The answer is simple. We were created for relationships. Originally, humanity was created for a relationship with God, but as Eve came along and procreation occurred, the scope of that purpose expanded.

Let me pause and say that the total purpose of our creation was and continues to be the glorification of God, but the scope of our relational responsibilities to one another falls within this overarching purpose. I wanted to clarify that before continuing.

So now the Earth is full of people. The question becomes, “Has our original purpose changed?”

The short answer is that our purpose has not changed, but you all know I am not an advocate of short answers so buckle up. 😀

The answer that God gave me this morning was one that struck me directly in the face. We were created for relationships. Duh. I know this. I have known this for a long time, but the question that our wise Creator posed to me this morning was, “If you know this so well, why don’t you do it?” I had to look really deeply inside myself to attempt to work out this flaw within my personality.

To hang out with me, you would not think that I am shy, and, in relationships that I have fostered and invested time into, I am definitely not. In fact, my beloved friends and family have nicknamed me “center of attention boy”. The problem that I experience is rooted in fostering new relationships. I do not have the gift of gab, so I can’t engage in small talk very easily. Usually I establish my relationships in a group setting and then move into individual friendships as I find some common ground on which to relate. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing on the surface, it can leave some of those people who I interact with out in the cold as far as a potential relationship is concerned.

I am not under the false impression that I will be able to befriend every person with whom I come in contact. But the rub occurs when I try to empathize with new people whom I meet. I think of the new faces that walk into my congregation looking for a connection and leave without ever linking up with someone. The faces that have come and gone that I have just put out of my mind and dismissed haunt me, but I have simply swept these feelings under the rug to this point disregarding the guilt that I feel as a result.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately I cannot go back and change the events that have already occurred, but I can resolve to be different in the future.

So what is the reason for which we exist?

Simple. To establish relationships that glorify God. First and foremost with our loving creator, but the relationships that we have with people are critically important as well. I have been less than stellar at making new connections because it is tough for me, but that is no excuse to ignore the point of my creation.

Let me extend an apology to those people with whom I have lost contact and those with whom I failed to connect. Also, I want to thank all of those wonderful people who put up with me and remain my close friends. For you, I am truly grateful.

Here is the challenge that God presented to me, so I reciprocate it to you:

Go out today and reconnect with someone or establish a new relationship. The simple truth is that people are worth investing your life into. Where would we be today if Jesus hadn’t thought that we were worth his sacrifice on the cross?

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Tips for Writing: Entering the Conversation

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

When an author is embarking on a new literary quest, he or she must consider several different factors when planning an effective article. One of the most important factors that the author must take into account is which method of “entering the conversation” will be used in the paper to most effectively introduce his or her opinion. It is vital for the author establish the purpose of his or her discourse before attempting to dissect the subject at hand. After establishing the purpose, the author must consider the general body of work that has been done about the particular subject being written about. Once this has been mapped, the author has several different options when deciding how he or she will add their opinion to the general body of work that has been established regarding the subject of focus for the paper.

One of these options is clearly seen within the article “Fat as a Feminist Issue” by Susie Orbach. Within her article, she is tackling the issue of obesity in women; however, she is approaching the subject from a unique angle. This makes her argument something that “no one is talking about”. Orbach is introducing a completely new idea to the area of female obesity. She states that women eat compulsively and have become fat in order to break forth from the mold that society casts for their gender.

In this article, she is not necessarily responding to a specific argument for or against obesity in women. Instead, she is filling in a gap in the overall body of work for this issue and actually introducing a new idea as to why the percentage of obese women continues to grow in America. This technique is effective, but there are other options for authors that include stating what “they say” explicitly, which is extremely effective when introducing an alternate opinion. This is a strong technique because the author is able to address each argument that the opposition utilizes in a point-by-point writing style that allows he or she to introduce his or her counterpoint to each of these arguments.

This technique is used in the article “Being Fat is OK” by Paul Campos. Within this article, Campos is attacking the overall picture of how America defines obesity based on a system that uses the body mass index as the indicator for obesity and overall healthiness. He is also attacking those who claim that every overweight person would be better if he or she lost weight. The main thrust of his argument is the lack of scientific evidence that exists to support this argument. He explicitly states what the opposition says and then introduces his counterpoint in each example within the article. Another reason that this technique is effective is because it leaves no doubt what the author is attempting to communicate to the reader.

When the author is “entering the conversation” he or she must consider what mode of presentation will be most effective in relaying his or her specific contribution within the subject to the audience. Regardless of what method is ultimately chosen, it is overwhelmingly apparent that this specific aspect of writing can make or break a paper and must be given considerable weight during the planning phase for the article.

Works Cited

Graff, G., Birkenstein, C., & Durst, R. (2009). The Moves That Matter In Academic Writing: They say I say (, pp. 463-481). New York: W.W. Norton & Company .

The Pursuit of Purpose: Reflection on “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Snows of KilimanjaroMan has been pursuing purpose and the meaning of life since the beginning of creation. As society has advanced technologically, this perennial struggle has not changed. Each generation seeks to prove the worth of its great struggles and triumphs hoping to make some great impact on the future of Earth that will somehow stand out among the countless generations that have come before and will come after. This struggle is no different and is often reflected by the individual members of these generations. The desire to be remembered for great accomplishments is seeded deeply within every person who has walked the planet throughout history. In the story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” the desire of the human heart to be remembered by future generations and to be satisfied as one enters the twilight of life is highlighted as Harry, robbed of physical capability by a gangrenous wound, looks deep inside himself and recounts his personal struggle between integrity and decadence, as well as the lingering difference between leaving a lasting, positive legacy and obscurity.

It had begun as a journey to rediscover who he was. This African safari was supposed to remind Harry of everything that he loved and everything that he had been in the glorious days of his past. This was to be a safari teetering between hardship and luxury reminiscent of the distant past, but with many of the comforts of his present situation that his rich wife afforded. Perhaps, he was trying to rediscover his muse, but what had begun as a journey of rediscovery had come to a screeching halt and pulled up to the station of utter tragedy. Why hadn’t he treated this silly little scratch with iodine? How did such a small nick turn into a gangrenous life threatening wound? Why hadn’t he forsaken this blasted safari in the first place? These were the questions that Harry pondered as he lay on his cot feeling the very presence of death stalking him, hunting him. Something had drawn him back to the African continent. Was it death? Was it God? Harry was not sure of what or who had drawn him back to the Dark Continent, but now that he was firmly in its terrible grasp, he pondered the implications of the life he lost−the trade that he had made in order to secure his present situation of fiscal security and comfort. Like the leopard climbing Kilimanjaro forever frozen in place on its noble quest, Harry had set out on a quest of his own to ascend the House of God and find the part of him that he had lost and desperately sought to regain. Now he found himself in utter desolation surrounded by a wife that he didn’t love, an inept guide, and the presence of an oddly familiar hyena. What had led him down this path?

Harry was a writer. He was a good writer. Ironically, though, Harry hardly wrote. In one of life’s most tragic twists, he had surrendered the creativity that was most important to him in the pursuit of the decadent, easy life. “She didn’t drink so much, now, since she had him. But if he lived he would never write about her, he knew that now. Nor about any of them. The rich were dull and they drank too much, or they played too much backgammon. They were dull and repetitious” (2256). As Harry lay on his cot, the implications of his life washed over him like an uncomfortably hot summer wind, causing him to seek within himself the answers that he thought he could find on his ill-fated safari. Why hadn’t he written? Why had he compromised his talent and cheapened the love and aspiration of his life? “What was his talent anyway? It was a talent all right but instead of using it, he had traded on it. It was never what he had done, but always what he could do. And he had chosen to make his living with something else instead of a pen or a pencil” (2248). Compromise is such a terribly wonderful concept when used within the bounds of a relationship. It is the fuel that keeps love’s fire burning brightly and balanced. But when used in relationship to one’s morality or life aspiration, the word compromise has a much more ominous and deadly meaning. When Harry chose to compromise all that he deemed important, which was his God-given talent for writing, he lost himself irrevocably. He had effectively committed mental and spiritual suicide because he had lost not only what was vitally important to his mental well-being, but in actuality he had lost everything that made him who he was.

As he lay on his cot, reveling in the emptiness of his life, he began to recount the stories that he had meant to tell. Wave after wave of regret washed over him as he tried to put the pen to paper one last time as death silently stalked, its weight becoming more and more tangible with each passing moment. He tried to remember. He tried to remember and write as fast and as furiously as possible, but it was not enough. Harry then realized the futility of his effort. His life was wasted. Now they would never know. The world would never know the story of Williamson the bombing officer or the half-wit chore boy because Harry chose to compromise who he was created to be instead of clinging to integrity and the pursuit of his life’s purpose. Death then made its final approach and settled its weight on Harry’s chest stifling any chance at redemption.

This story has grave implications for the reader. There are several themes that run throughout the course of the story, but the most salient theme by far is one that despises the compromise of one’s created purpose to pursue personal indulgence. Each person is created with a purpose. “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (New International Version, Jer. 29:11). Harry had lost his desire to accomplish his purpose. Hemingway uses this story as a parable of sorts to caution the reader to never deny the purpose for which you have been created. This is seen within the story time and time again as Harry reminisces about his past. The regret of not writing his stories comes bubbling through in his final moments of life. Hemingway’s overarching theme is to be true to oneself and live without regret.

Another important theme that can be gleaned from the story has to do with the internal struggle within the heart of mankind to find balance between compromise and notoriety. Every person has a desire to leave a lasting mark on the generations to come. Some will have a greater footprint than others, but the desire to be remembered exists in the heart of every member of the human race. The interesting fact of humanity, however, is that although everyone desires to leave their mark, few actually have the drive to ensure a lasting impression. Harry is the epitome of this condition. He embodied the talent needed to leave his mark on the literary world, but due to needless self-indulgence and the pursuit of easy living, his potential will be forgotten. In the final moments of Harry’s life, he ponders what his legacy will be and how his legacy would have been changed if he would have put his talent as a writer to good use instead of trading it for a lavish life of comfort and debauchery. This is again another caution from Hemingway to the reader to live each day like it is your last with no regret and to use what you have been gifted with to leave a positive impression that makes life better for future generations.

The simple truth of this life is that material possessions pass away with time and the only thing that matters when death begins its slow dance, is the sum of what an individual has done to better the life of those that have been put into his or her path and that he or she has stayed true to the purpose that God has set forth for life. Heed the warning of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” It is better to be forever frozen on a mountaintop as a monument to the pursuit of life’s purpose rather than to stalk the plain in comfort and decadence, fading into obscurity and leaving this life with unfulfilled dreams and very evident regrets.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” The Norton Anthology: American Literature. Shorter 7th Edition. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: Norton Company, 2008. 2243-2259.

Zondervan NIV Bible.  Fully rev. ed.  Kenneth L. Barker, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.  Print.