Sometimes, life gets in the way...it comes at us with a wind of force, and the unexpected change of winds require that we change course and tack into the headwind to push through. That reality for me last fall, required that I step away from writing this blog or a while. As we begin a new season of the Purposed 365 Podcast, it is also the right time to resume the blogging as well. Thank you for coming back...join me as I resume this series I intended to write throughout last fall. For a fresh start, I am reposting the initial installment so that we can begin from the beginning. Please read on...
In the summer of 2000, my family and I embarked on a cross-country trip from middle Tennessee to the west coast and southern California. This was truly one of the most epic trips we have taken as a family over the years. We had so much fun...my wife, our daughter, and my mom and stepfather.
We packed up our 1995 Ford Aerostar van and set out across the wild, wild west. It was amazing to view the broad variety of terrain and foliage along the way. We passed through Arkansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, on our 2000-mile, 29-hour trek. We reveled in the beauty as I cranked up "Nothing to Say" by Andrew Peterson and cruised down I-40, closely following the path of old Route 66. Because our destination was a conference in Anaheim, we planned to make the trip out to the coast, a hard drive, stopping at night to sleep and getting on the road bright and early the next morning...three days travel. Our first stop was in Amarillo, TX. Our second, was Albuquerque, NM. All was going well...until...we came upon the Rocky Mountains. Somewhere between Winslow and Flagstaff, we began to experience an unusual loss of power with our van. It was as if it was struggling to pull the incline and there was no apparent cause. We stopped to check out the engine and transmission. All appeared to be normal.
Erwin Wullschleger, Jr. (Mr. W, I'll call him). You probably don't know him, but hearing the name, it sort of sticks with you. Speaking of sticking with you, Mr. W continues to stick in my mind even though the last time I saw him was in 1973.
It was a sunny school day in junior high school. I remember vividly being called out of class that afternoon and asked to take a walk with my English teacher, Mr. W. I wasn't sure what this was all about, but it was okay with me, because I trusted this teacher. He proceeded, as we strolled the school grounds, to express his concern that my grades had dropped recently and I didn't seem to be putting forth my usual effort or engagement in class. All of the teachers had noticed it. As he shared and asked for my feedback about what I thought was at the heart of the problem, I felt safe and knew that I could be open and honest with Mr. W. I began to open up and tell him that things were tough at home. My parents had not been getting along very well and I was upset about how things were going. I found it hard to concentrate on my homework and classwork because of the sadness and fear that was constantly on my mind. I wasn't neglected at home and I was provided a safe and supportive environment. Family members knew what was going on and provided support and comfort in ways that they could. However, the emotional impact of what was happening felt overwhelming. That day, walking with my junior high English teacher made a difference. It helped me to know that he and other teachers would be supportive and take measures to help support my functioning at school. It didn't change what was happening in my life, but it added one more aspect of support to better equip me to cope and keep moving forward. It is important to note, however, that his gesture was not the beginning of Mr. W's impact upon my life, it was the culmination. There was a reason that he could have that important conversation with me that day.
Rewind almost two years to the beginning of 7th grade. Mr. W was a new teacher at our school. He came to our small southern town from Cleveland, Ohio. Being from the north, his accent and mannerisms were a little different from that to which I was accustomed. He was firm with classroom control, but, as I recall, he was creative and liked to provide unique learning opportunities. Other teachers did this too. But there was something different about Mr. W. He was also very open about his interest in impacting kids outside the walls of King Springs School.
It wasn't long into that 7th grade year that Mr. W took notice of me. He seemed to believe that I had promise beyond the average junior higher. I'm not sure what he saw in me...and he did not limit this to me...but the way he engaged with me, and the things he told me, sent the message that I had great potential and could achieve significant things in my life. I won't take the time to detail all of the ways he invested in me, but they were significant and many. Just let me summarize...he encouraged me to participate in an oratorical competition and coached me two years in a row. I won district 2nd place and 1st place respectively in that contest. He asked me to join an effort to create a community service organization we called Group Action Project (GAP) in which we secured an empty house in a poor neighborhood and hosted fun activities, provided snacks and offered tutoring to children of the area each Saturday morning. He took me to a local youth camp to introduce me to the facility and dream about how it may be used to further the work with the underprivileged youth. He invited me and a girl from our class to come to his home and have dinner with him and his wife...to help us develop social skills in a more formal setting. You see, that stroll on the school grounds in 1973 wasn't the first time that Mr. W and I had a serious conversation. He had spent time intentionally investing in me over months, that had earned him the right to speak into a tough situation.
It has been a long time since I last saw Mr. W as I lost track of him and he has since passed away. However, because of his intentional investment in a naïve, simple junior high student, his impact and legacy have been lasting. I'm quite sure he probably had similar influence in many lives over the years. I can tell you, however, his investment in me yielded good returns. Since then, others have made investments as well...an aunt and uncle, Rosella and Oscar Huffman, Pastor Tommy Maines, Theater Professor Joe Jones, Education Professor Dr. Ken Riggs, Music Professor Vernon Whaley and entrepreneur John Saddington. Each of these, and others whom space does not allow me to mention, have made investments in my life that have reaped great returns. For their investments, I am deeply indebted. Perhaps that is why I have taken seriously the opportunities that God has given me to invest in the lives of others. No matter how I have lived out my purpose of making a difference in the lives of others, through sharing the good news of Jesus, it has been most effective when I am engaging in an incarnational ministry relationship with another person. This may have been with a student, working with a youth or college-aged person through student/campus ministry, counseling in the local church or agency, life coaching, accountability relationships, or doing therapy with foster kids. It all involves investment.
Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
2 Timothy 2:1-2
Why Personal Investment in People is a Profitable Strategy
We hear much in the media and marketing about investing for our future...for retirement. There are many options available for anyone to grow their financial wealth in preparation for those later years. Whether we consider individual stocks, mutual funds, 401k, Roth IRA, employer retirement plans, or even cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, it can all be rather confusing and sometimes risky. Perhaps risk is always something to consider...some investment instruments offer more risk than others, as we are always concerned about the Return on Investment (ROI).
When it comes to investment in people, considering a few important benefits makes it clear that the returns are worth any risk that may be involved.
There is also a return for the one who is investing. Jesus has told us that we can live in such a way that we are making heavenly investments. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21). Where we invest ourselves will determine where our hearts lie. When we invest in the eternal welfare of another, we are making deposits in our heavenly retirement account. The good thing is, it's not the FDIC that guarantees that investment, it is God Himself!
What is the Next Step?
If you agree that investing in people is not only biblical, but urgently needed in our world, what will you do about it? What is your purpose? Generally, as a Christ follower, it is to glorify Him and to point others to Him as you love Him supremely and love others as yourself. Specifically, however, your purpose...the unique context in which you carry out that general purpose...that is where you can focus to determine what investing in others looks like for your. Is it your children at home because you're in that season of life, or that coworker or supervision report that needs you to take them under your wing? Maybe it is that youth of a single parent at church, or a college student you know. Ask God to show you who may need your investment...praying for awareness and guidance often opens our eyes to the people who are right there before us and we may not have noticed before. A willing heart is the first step.
Erwin Wullschleger, Jr. may never know what an impact he had on a junior high student in whom he took the time to invest. I've often wished I had looked him up and shared my appreciation for what he did for me. Nevertheless, I think he has some idea now, as he has laid up treasures in heaven.
Who has made significant investments in your life? Share a story of how they impacted you, in the comments below. Share this post to spread the love!
Have you noticed how basic home design has transformed in the last 10-20 years? Front porches have gotten smaller and patios and fenced-in back yards have grown larger. It is possible to come home from a day out in the world, remotely open your garage door, pull in, and close the door behind you...all without interacting with your neighbors next door, or across the street. It is a growing trend...notably, more significant among Millennials in their 30s. A survey by the Ownerly Team revealed some interesting results:
What is the significance? People have a decreasing sense of community in our culture. At the writing of this post, we are emerging (hopefully) from a worldwide pandemic that has kept people in lockdown for months...isolating us from neighbors, friends and family. This survey was done just prior to the beginning of the pandemic...I wonder what the numbers would look like after a year of isolation and social distancing?
There was a day when the sense of community was woven into the fabric of our lives. Neighbors would sit together on their porches and share stories of the day. Kids would play in the street or gather in a neighbor's yard for a friendly game of baseball or hide-n-seek. It was not unusual for a family to leave their doors unlocked when they left home for a few hours, because they trusted one another and everyone looked out for their neighbors. Any parent in the neighborhood could parent, correct and guide any child in their yard or home...everyone felt they were a part of a community.
God has created us for community. Think about His nature and character, as reflected in who He is and how he has worked to accomplish His plan.
This only scratches the surface, but I think it is clear that God values relationship and community. He is a God of relationship and He has called us to enjoy and thrive in community. We are at our best when we are together...better together. Many of the struggles of our world can be traced to the division that comes through hatred, distrust and fear. The opposite is also true. When the people of God come together and selflessly love one another and those around them, God does some amazing things to heal and redeem his fallen creation. It only stands to reason that God would use community in our lives to help us understand and pursue His purpose for us. That is the reason we have established Purposed 365 as a community of encouragement and inspiration! We are better together! Here are a few reasons why we believe engaging in relational community is valuable in living our purpose.
The Value of Relationship in Living Our Purpose
Maybe tonight, as you drive in from your long day at work, park in the driveway. Get out of the car and walk across the street...introduce yourself to your name, and start working on learning those names. You never know when you may meet a friend that will become your Paul, Barnabas or Timothy. So, go ahead...step into community...into relationships that will enhance and facilitate your pursuit of your God-given purpose. Allow the voice and partnership of others help you fulfill a life that you may never know otherwise. Live purposed in community!
Who is speaking into your life? Where do you find partnerships in pursuing your purpose? How have you benefitted from community? Like, share and start a conversation in the comments...we need one another!
"Please, please, please!" The voices rang out as the kids were begging their parents, "Please let us spend the night!" It was such a common occurrence when the cousins got together. So much so, that I remember my mom giving instructions to my sister and I on one occasion, "Now when we get ready to go, I don't want to hear you all begging to spend the night!"
It was that way with us cousins. We loved being together and my cousins were some of my best friends growing up. On my mom's side, my cousin, Ron, was closest to my age and his sister, Karen, was closest to my sister's age. So, we were a perfect match to play and have fun together. Our adventures were filled with fun and mischief alike. Whether it was paper routes, softball games, Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes or bicycle rides and trail bike adventures, tree houses and camp outs...we loved spending time with our cousins...there may have even been a few adventures involving eggs and a roll of toilet paper (I apologize for our few mischievous escapades). Our cousins on both sides were our friends and we grew up cherishing those times, and still cherish the memories we made as kids together.
Did you have those kinds of experiences with your cousins? Sometimes cousins can be as close as siblings. They play a special role in our lives and have a special place in our hearts.
There is another couple of cousins that I've thought about recently as I've been reading through the Gospel of John. Jesus and John the Baptist were second cousins. Their mothers were cousins: Mary and Elizabeth. They had a unique connection, however. Unlike the closeness I experienced with my cousins, John the Baptist said of Jesus, "I myself did not know him..." (John 1:31). The cousins lived apart from one another growing up, Jesus in Nazareth (northern Israel) and John, in Judea (southern Israel). So, it is not surprising that John didn't grow up knowing Jesus personally. However, John apparently grew up being taught something very important about the relationship between he and his cousin from the north. John had a calling...a purpose for his life. As a matter of fact, an angel appeared to his father, Zechariah the priest, to foretell the miraculous birth of his son and the purpose he would fulfill. The account of this is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. Among other things that the angel Gabriel said to Zechariah, was that his son would prepare the way for Jesus to come onto the scene.
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Fast-forward 30 years and we find John in the wilderness outside of Jerusalem, preaching and baptizing people who came to hear his message. He was fulfilling the purpose for which he had been created as he proclaimed, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” When Jesus showed up, John went on to declare, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:19-42) Then the most interesting thing happened. John's followers left him and started following Jesus! John was successful in fulfilling his purpose and it meant losing all of his followers to someone else! But, then, that was the idea, right!? Exactly!
Consider what we can learn from John's example of fulfilling his purpose
How has God called you to surrender? In what ways have you been tempted to make the focus on yourself? Who are the people that have helped you see your purpose? How does your purpose serve the greater purpose of God's plan of salvation for the world? I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments below.
It was April 26, 2008...a cool Saturday morning with an early light drizzle that had turned to gray skies. As I made my way through the streets of Metro Center office park, the muscles in my legs began to weaken, my body started to feel heavy and my brain was telling me to stop and rest. At that moment, a passenger van slowly passed by with the sliding door open. The people inside asked, "Do you need a ride?"
The day had started for me well before sunrise, but this journey had begun months earlier. I, and two of my friends, had set out from our homes that morning, just outside Clarksville, TN, heading for Nashville. It was a day to follow through on a challenge and commitment we had made to one another the previous September, to do something none of us had ever before attempted. We embarked upon the process of training to run a marathon...that is a 26.1 mile long-distance run. I remember vividly, the first day I ran a mile on my training plan, I was so winded that I could hardly breathe. But, over the intervening months, I slowly advanced in my stamina, strength and distances. The short runs, the Saturday mornings dedicated to the long runs, learning about hydration and nutrition, meeting up with my buddies to encourage and cheer each other along on those increasingly lengthening Saturday runs, all added up over the months to prepare us for this day.
So, our training was being put to the test. As we approached mile 18, my friend, Eric, and I, began to experience what is called "hitting the wall." It is when the body has expended the fuel is stores and the energy dips, impacting the physical as well as the mental functioning of the runner. It is a point at which the runner has to take steps to push through and not give in to the slump and give up. The passing van that was provided to transport injured or fatigued runners to the finish line, offered an added temptation to give in to the thoughts in our minds to stop and not finish the race. However, there was something that took place in that moment that got us through. We began to talk to each other. We coached one another, we encouraged and told one another, "We can't give up." We were completing 18 of 26.1 miles...we had come too far to stop. We had trained and we had worked hard to prepare for this day. As we pumped one another up, and grabbing energy gels and hydration at the next station, we pushed through that wall. We were not going to be stopped. And, you know what? We made it.
The next 8 miles were not easy, but they were not defeating. We kept going because we could visualize in our minds what it was going to be like to cross that finish line. It didn't matter what our time would be. It only mattered that we were going to finish...we were going to cross that line. And, I will tell you, I couldn't have imagined what it would be like to make that final turn and see the finish line in view. As we did, Eric and I looked at each other with smiles that engulfed our faces. I was thinking, "We are going to do this!"...thinking it, until I was saying it! And, we did...we crossed the finish line that day, completing the challenge and the commitment we had made 7 months earlier. I can't tell you how good that felt! I would go on to run another marathon and 11 half marathons over the coming years. Never fast, but always finishing.
Life is a Race, Purpose Gives Us a Reason to Run
I share this story to illustrate an important concept of living a purposed life. However, let me be quick to say, this isn't original with me. A writer, led by the Holy Spirit, wrote about it a few centuries ago.
Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne.
Run the Race in Community
A "cloud of witnesses" describes those who have gone before us on this journey of faith. The picture that is painted is that those who have finished are cheering on those who are still in the race. Like a marathon runner coming into the stadium on the last leg of the course, the cheers in the bleachers rise. This picture reminds us that we are not meant to run this purposed race alone. Just as Eric and I were encouragers to one another when we hit the wall, we are to be encouragers, cheering one another on, providing support and reminding ourselves of the reason we run...to fulfill our purpose and to bring glory to the One who created us for this race. Sometimes, our engagement in community lifts us when we are weak. Sometimes, it challenges us to lay aside the things that weigh us down or the sins that will trip us up. Always, it points us toward the finish line.
Keep Our Eyes on the Finish Line
Part of the words that Eric and I spoke to one another when we hit the wall, were reminders of what we had set out to accomplish. We talked about the finish and how we would feel when we finally crossed that line. We could visualize that moment and it was an encouragement to keep going through that tough phase. In the same way, we are reminded to keep our eyes upon Jesus in the life marathon. He is the One who gives us our purpose...the "source and perfecter of our faith." In his place at the right hand of the Father, he advocates for us, and he has sent his Spirit to encourage and empower us. When we start to lose focus on why we are running this race, He is the One who reminds us of our purpose. He has already paved the way for us. Following Him, keeps us on the right course. Our encouragement of one another to maintain that focus is actually a part of the purpose we are called to fulfill.
Celebrate Every Mile and the Ultimate Finish
The picture that the writer of the Hebrew letter paints for us is as if the crowd is cheering us across the finish. But, there is also a sense in which their victory is a celebration of our completion of every mile. After Eric and I pushed through that wall at mile 18, I can assure you that we celebrated every tick of those last 7 miles. Each mile marker was a step closer to the goal. God's Spirit encourages us, and so do His people. Every step of the way, we can find support and help from those with whom we are running. When the course gets tough, we find the grace and strength we need from the indwelling Holy Spirit and through the incarnational ministry of Christ through our fellow runners. Then, when we finally reach that last turn and the finish line is in view, we will be able to celebrate that we have lived a life of purpose, not perfection, but one of purpose that has made a difference in this world. I can't think of a better way to finish...finishing strong.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
What can we learn from this about living a life of purpose, 365 days a year? Allow me to summarize:
Who do you look to for encouragement when life gets tough? Who is in your community? Who are you encouraging and supporting to find their purpose and run the race well? What are you doing to keep your eyes on Jesus? What do you have to celebrate today on this journey of purpose? SHARE YOUR TOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
Ahhh...the smell of freshly laundered linens coming from the dryer!. There is something about that feeling of fresh, clean linens on the bed when you crawl in at night for that long winter's nap...it feels so good! Speaking of winter, It makes me think of a fresh covering of new-fallen snow that settles over the ground, especially beautiful at night, when the moonlight reflects a blue glow on the smooth winter blanket. It's still fun, even as an adult, to be the first to make the footprints through the smooth covering and, if I've a mind to, fall back into the soft cushion of marshmallow-like powder and make a snow angel. It's almost like, for a moment, there is a blank canvas in that snowfall that awaits my input to create whatever I want.
Fresh...new...blank canvas...create--these are the words that give us such hope at the beginning of a new year. I'm not much on resolutions, but I do believe that when we stand at the threshold of a new year, we have an opportunity that is unique and intentional. When God created time, he designed into the concept, rhythms and cycles that are healthy for us as humans. The 24-hour day, 7-day week, months and the year are all markers of time that help us have a sense of cycle and continuity, with increments that give us context as well as grounding. He knew this would be needed for us to have a sense of the journey we are on, and our unique place in His grander scheme of things. As the wise man, Solomon, wrote,
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven...Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart... (Ecclesiastes 3)
The cycle of the seasons provides us with the opportunity to take assessment and consider where we are and where we want to go. This is a gift from our Creator. Consider what it means for you!
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. (Jeremiah 29:11)
In order to live out our purpose, it's not enough to read a blog or day dream about the future, we have to take the next steps and put our dreams into action...to step out into that new fallen snow and make tracks. So, what does all of this mean for you? What are the next steps you can take to realize your purpose more fully?
Secondly, find those people who are on that Purposed trajectory and learning what it means to live it 24/7/365. Listen to their stories, note their successes and failures, hear what they've learned. These may be friends, colleagues or acquaintances. They will also be the people who are sharing their stories here in our community, particularly on the PURPOSED 365 Podcast. Each episode will reveal insights, inspiration, principles and perspectives that will be invaluable to you, on your own journey of fulfillment and purpose.
New Beginnings Start with First Steps
A new year is the ideal time to start new habits that lead to those first steps of realizing whatever is next for you in fulfilling your purposed life! Start listening, writing and stepping out on this adventure and see what God does!
What will be your next step? Identify one thing you're going to do to take the next step in realizing your purpose this year...share with us in the comments! We are excited to see your thoughts!
As a 10-year-old, I remember sitting on my bed in the darkness and peering out the window of my bedroom at the headlights of the cars on the distant highway. Even at that age, I had a sense that there was a big world out there, as I imagined where those cars were going. I would even picture in my mind, traveling on that highway for as far as I could remember the lay of the road, and then letting my imagination take over to create a journey into new places that were just waiting for me to explore. It was both an escape, and an excitement, to consider the possibilities that I may one day be able to experience. The curiosity and imagination, I think, was somehow linked to wanting to figure out how I fit into that big world that lay beyond my bedroom window.
It is an intrinsic characteristic of the human heart to want to understand one's purpose and place in the world. Someone has said that every person is created with a God-sized hole inside, that only He can fill. However that meshes with theology, the reality rings true. We want to know why we are here. This has sent explorers on adventures for centuries, led thinkers to fill books with volumes of philosophical writings and driven heroes to pay the ultimate sacrifice for what they believe in. You, my friend, are no different...and, the fact that you are reading this may mean that either you are searching too, or you are on this exciting journey and want to expand your horizons even further as you travel that highway into all that God has in store for you.
So...What can you expect from the PURPOSE 365 Blog?
As my 10-year-old self lay back on my bed and I looked up at the stars at night, I thought about how those same stars (or others like them), would be seen by millions of other people around the world...somehow tying us all together on this terrestrial ball on which we live. Somehow it made me feel a connection to something bigger than myself. Now, as a grown man, when I walk out onto my patio at night and look up into that starry sky, I'm reminded of the journey I've traveled since those days of innocent childhood and the amazing things God has done for, in, and through me over these years...all because I set out on a highway to discover meaning in life...His PURPOSE for 365 days a year.
Won't you join us? The conversation in each podcast, the interaction in this community around the blog posts...these are opportunities to connect, share and grow in our pursuit of purpose. It's an exciting adventure and there's never a dull moment. Our amazing Creator makes sure of that!
Continue the Journey...Go the the latest blog post here
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!