What Are You Doing With Your Life?

In 1977, a seminary student named Don Stephens was invited to a meeting in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. Given the gravity of the event, Stephens carefully wrote out his questions for her on a note card and placed it in his pocket.

When it came his time to speak, Mother Teresa kindly but directly told him to put the note card down because she had some questions. According to Stephens, what she asked him changed his life.

1. What’s your purpose?

2. What is your greatest pain?

3. What are you going to do about it?

Out of the pain Stephens described to Mother, Mercy Ships* was born. Thirty five years later, it operates the largest, non-governmental hospital ship in the world, and is busy building a second. Working with a $54 million budget, the non-profit organization has visited 578 different ports, providing surgical, ophthalmic, medical and dental care to the world’s poorest people.

One guy. Three questions. Millions of lives.

So, what are you doing with your life?

And I say that carefully, because stories like this used to frustrate me. I too wanted to build something with my life, something significant, but I couldn’t figure out how. My problem, as it turns out, was a simple one:

I had fired my architect.

Because I was mad at the Christians who carry signs and smear gay people on Facebook, I refused to even consider the gospel of Jesus Christ as infrastructure for my life. So, I erected a bunch of buildings on my own. With a few breathtaking exceptions, those structures were up to code and functional; however they were kind of lame and uninspired. I wanted Frank Lloyd Wright and I got mini-storage.

Mercy Ships

What I think Mother Teresa, Don Stephens and thousands of Mercy Shippers understand is this:

It is a tremendous privilege to collaborate on your life with the creator of the universe; to coax something magnificent from the ether and watch it consume thousands of people like fire, conscripting them into the army Jesus had planned all along,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:1-3

Whether you know it or not, God’s hovering over you too, right now, brimming with thoughts and plans for your life, with an imagination too wild for you to grasp. However, your humble assent and obedience are required, and nobody can tell you just how it will go.

If you struggle to believe that, I understand but what do you have to lose by trying? Why not let God define who you are and what you’re doing here? (Right, First City Church?)

So go ahead and bring him the tatters of your faith. Bring him your doubts about creation, religion, gay marriage and abortion. Bring your sad heart and your dirty face and lay all of it at his feet. Then pick up the gospel of John.

I promise he will lay you waste and love you whole at the exact same time.

And that’s when the building begins.

*As I’m sure you know, the views expressed herein are my own and not that of Mercy Ships.
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On Rivers Wide and Deep.

Remember last week when I said I’d given up on coincidence? If there is no God, or he’s unconcerned with me, why am I reading books like Jeff Goins’ Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life and Jen Hatmaker’s Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, days before landing in Africa?

Please.

So here I am, laying over in London enjoying a latte and scone, and Hatmaker says this:

How can I be socially responsible if I’m unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? (You probably do too: Make $35,000 a year? Top 4%. $50,000? Top 1 percent) Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We’re tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can’t manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount? Fifty thousand times that amount? It says we have too much and it’s ruining us.

Ostensibly, short term missions are about spreading the gospel by addressing physical needs in developing nations, but I’m starting to think that’s about half of it. What if it’s God’s way of yelling at sleepy-headed, obese-with-blessing Americans like me, saying:

“Wake up little sister and disperse all that brilliant, amazing crap gathering dust in your brain and house. I put it there for a reason, get busy.”

Upper Yosemite Fall and Merced River on Swingi...

So I predict in about 13 hours an earthquake is going to level my tidy, little house, shifting my ground in ways I can’t predict, making this whole Africa endeavor a lot more about me than I care to admit.

But it’s ok because I tried every other way of making my life matter and I came up short. I’ve laid myself so bare to this experience, I can’t even pray without weeping, and I’m still in London.

What a freak.

See Jesus will wreck your life if you let him, but I know from experience now, that he leaves behind a wide river of living water, running deep and still through the center of our lives. It’s an achingly beautiful place you never want to leave, like the Merced River out of Yosemite, and on the days I choose to follow him, I don’t have to.

And that’s what I want every day.

What do you want? Are you still struggling with the how?

 

Welcome to Nice.

To be a writer, it’s fairly important to write daily. But trapped as I am in a whirlwind romance with the unforgivably sexy South of France, my writing disciplines have slipped off like bikini tops on the beach.

So, why not just run the highlight reel. Thank God a picture is worth a thousand words. Welcome to Nice everybody.

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I know I can’t believe it either and I took the picture.

What’s that? You’d like to putter about on that lovely turquoise water? Pas de probleme… you can rent this little sloop – The Excellence V for 360,000 euro per week. At the current exchange, that’s about a half million dollars, but it sleeps twelve, so you know, you can split it with your friends.

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It is excellent!

Ninety minutes by train up the steep and piney Var Valley, is the fort city of Entrevaux. Nobody wants a history lesson right now, but this town was designed to keep Europe (Rome) from invading Provence. Hence the drawbridges, stone walls and the 17th century citadel perched at about 5,000 feet above sea level.

The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.

The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.

And here’s the Entrevaux cathedral inside. Check Mary out having a little party in the lower left corner. Maybe that’s a sacrilegious thing to say, but Mary is the one who told Jesus to hurry up and make some more wine at Cana, which we all know he did. Although my French is loose and unreliable, I’m told Mary was actually ascending here, not whooping it up like me.

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I just read a New York Times article about the value of taking a short walk after you’ve stuffed yourself with steak tartare, frites, creme brulee, vin rouge and cafe creme. We did just that after dinner tonight at Castel Plage. We ate yet another off-the-hook French meal, while the waves shoved millions of pebbles up the shore and then hustled them back out to sea. That’s why the beach pebbles are smooth here, incessant tumbling.

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See pebbles, not sand.

On the walk home, we admired the city, all lit up and shimmering. At nine or so, everybody finally showed up dressed for dinner – the men in tailored jackets, women in summer dresses and Chanel No. 5. Seriously people, the French get this so right. Let’s get dressed for dinner again, shall we America?

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And once again, this is Villefranche Sur Mer. We’re headed back there in the morning because I literally cannot get enough of it. Bill Gates, Sean Connery and Mick Jaggar have homes here. Can you blame them?

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Sometimes, I feel a little guilty about what a ripping good time I get to have in France, but then I remember something Jesus said and I get over it.

I came so that you might have and enjoy your life, have it in abundance, to the full until it overflows. John 10:10

So I’m doing that because I’d be crazy not to. I spend a lot of time at home, praying and studying and mowing my lawn, but here I’m laughing and drinking wine and letting my life overflow. One is not holier than another, Jesus loves me both ways.

But Jesus also said:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48.

And do you know what? I’m fine with that bargain. Exactly one month after standing on the dock next to the Excellence V, I’m going to Africa to work in a bush orphanage where kids don’t have shoes. Who lives their life like this? Me, because I’ve decided that living a big, exuberant life and helping other people isn’t an either or proposition. I think it can be both and… It’s crazy but it’s interesting and ultimately that’s what I want.

If Jesus is the foundation and the master architect of our lives, I don’t think it matters what we build, just that we do it with gusto and create something beautiful, not just for ourselves but other people too.