Meant to Live How? p1 [v75]

MAY 2005

HOW WERE WE MEANT TO LIVE?—Last month I sent you the final ‘installment’ of the “Margin” book I read for the “Good To Great” ‘study, and this past month I have been leading a weekly discussion group that sort of ‘picked up’ where we left off last month—it’s called “How God Wired You Up.”

It investigates how every person is ‘endowed’ with gifts, talents, and personality traits that are as unique as finger prints. It also explored how these can ‘affect’ the “great life” of authentic relationships, and the ‘impact’ we can have on those around us—good and bad!

Most of all, it showed how God wants to ‘give’ your life meaning and significance, a purpose ‘larger’ than yourself, and a chance to do something with enormous and lasting value.

So, when I previewed the “How God Wired You Up” materials, it reminded me of a book I had read a few years ago (that so happened to be endorsed by Rick Warren, who developed the “S.H.A.P.E.” concept we used in our workbook).

It is called “Living The Life You Were Meant to Live,” authored by Tom Patterson, an internationally distinguished strategic consultant, and process designer. He took the principles that he had been using to direct the efforts of America’s top executives for more than 20 years, and developed the “LifePlanning” process—to help people discover their foremost traits and talents, and how this can aid in one’s efforts in gaining greater purpose and fulfillment in life.

The book’s ‘overarching’ Principle is: “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].

So, as you read this summary of the book, you will encounter a few terms that you might not have seen before:

“LifePlan”: The specific way God created you—the set of gifts, desires, and the certain ‘bent’ you have so that you might fulfill God’s plan for your life.

“LifePlanning”: The process that primarily helps you discover your uniqueness.

The entire “table of contents” is as follows:

Chapter 1: A New Look at Your Life and Future
Chapter 2: Awakening to Your Giftedness
Chapter 3: Gaining a New Perspective
Chapter 4: Module #1; Life Domains and Life Seasons
Chapter 5: Module #2; Four Helpful Lists
Chapter 6: Module #3; The Turning Points Profile
Chapter 7: Module #3; Drawing Meaning from the Profile
Chapter 8: Module #4; The Talent Search
Chapter 9: Module #5; Drivers and Comfort Zones
Chapter 10: Module #6; The Thinking Wavelength
Chapter 11: Module #7; Transformation Through Surrender
Chapter 12: Module #8; The Gift of Helpful Relationships
Chapter 13: Module #9; Putting Together the Big Picture

[This ‘installment’ consists of chapters 1-7].

I hope you will take this ‘journey’ with me….

[NOTE: If you are interested, I have a “personality assessment” that you can take to more accurately determine your gifts and traits. Contact me if you would like me to send it to you].

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LIVING THE LIFE YOU WERE MEANT TO LIVE
by Tom Paterson, copyright 1998

CHAPTER 1: A New Look At Your Life and Future

Too many people are not living the life they are meant to live. God does not intend for this to happen. We are challenged to reverse this situation, not through using our own strength, but through yielding to God’s desires.

Are you experiencing deep peace of soul today? Do you have a sure understanding about who you are and about God’s plan and purpose for your life? —or do you have nagging, perhaps very deep-seated questions, such as, Where do I go from here? and What does God have for me in the next phase of my life?  Is now the time for a ‘new work’ to begin in and through you?

The Book of Psalms states that God has a plan for your life—and He will show you the path of life to take, and living in His presence you will find the “fullest of joy” [Psalm 16:11].

Many people come to a “LifePlan” because they sense that their life is out of balance in some way—they have a general feeling of uneasiness, inner conflict, or anxiety that something is not right.

Still others come to the “LifePlanning” process because they sense that something could be better or that something needs to be added to their lives in order for them to feel a greater sense of purpose and meaning.

I suspect that the vast majority of people alive today are not even coming close to living God’s promises, purposes, or plans for their lives. Too few grasp the fact that they were born equipped to do great things.

Henry David Thoreau, philosopher and author remarked, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” The greatest tragedy all is for a person to be managed by circumstances and live a ‘half-dead’ life.

In our world today, much effort, energy, and concern are directed toward making a living. I have seen more serenity in a Chinese peasant’s face than I have seen in the faces of many top executives in this and other ‘advanced’ nations.

Why is that so? I believe one reason is that the Chinese peasant doesn’t know what he doesn’t have and will never have. The executive is filled with anxiety over what he has, what he won’t have, and what he has missed. He is ‘consumed’ with making and maintaining a living.

God calls us rather to “make a life.” He is not as concerned about our jobs as much as He is about our character, our relationships, and our witness of faith.

The good news is that the Lord does not desire that you ponder these questions about your existence without giving you answers. He desires that your questions be answered so that you find wholeness and purpose. Indeed, He is the truth of the answer you seek, the answer that is necessary if you are to live the life you were meant to live.

I certainly believe that our understanding will be illuminated in Heaven and that some things will remain mysteries while we are on earth—but I don’t believe our purpose in living is intended to be one of those mysteries!

I believe our Creator expects us to discover His plan for our personal lives and to live it out. God gave us minds capable of reasoning and discerning processes to enable us to do this.

We were not created at random or without meaning. God built into us a very specific meaning and purpose, and then He allowed us to be conceived and given birth to at a very specific time.

You and I are part of a ‘master plan’ that would boggle our imaginations.  The more I contemplate the intricacies of God’s design and the detail with which He has executed that design, the more awesome God becomes to me.

The more we understand how God has shaped us and made us who we are, the more we are aware of God’s individualized plan for our service.

Most Christians can recite readily the words of what has been termed “The Lord’s Prayer” (though it is really the disciples’ prayer*), which includes this section: “Your kingdom come. / Your will be done/ On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). That being said, I encourage you to pray, “Your will be done in me. I am part of Your earth, Your clay, for which You, the Master Potter, have a design.”

*[The ‘true’ Lord’s Prayer has been suggested to reside in John 17. It has been called the “holy of holies ” of the New Testament in which Jesus prays unto the Father when His hour had come].

In your giftedness and in your call to specific service, you will encounter “the life you were meant to live!”

CHAPTER 2: Awakening To Your Giftedness

Most people aren’t living the life they were meant to live because they don’t know who they are or what gifts God has given to them.

Perhaps the most important concept for you to understand is that a “LifePlan” is not something that you conceive and develop, but a plan that you ‘discover’ through a series of helpful exercises and processes.

“LifePlanning,” however, is not a human-engineered, strategic-planning process.  God established your “LifePlan” prior to your conception. You are the execution of His “LifePlan”—you are His creation and his instrument, placed it into His timetable, specifically designed and shaped to bring Him glory.

In the “LifePlanning” process of discovery, you will have an opportunity to step back and see your life as a whole. Then you will gain a new perspective on how you have arrived where you are today and, therefore, what the next logical steps for your life may be.

So many of us are accustomed to making plans that the concept of ‘discovering’ a plan is foreign to us. But when you discover God’s intent and fully embrace His plan, you are then able to live the life you were meant to live.

A current fad of ‘feel-goodism’  in our society involves ‘talking’ yourself into success. God’s definition of success, however, is that a person find His plan and live it out. Having the most toys and feeling good about yourself are ultimately irrelevant.

Therefore, my supreme word of advice to is this: fervently try to discover God’s life plan—and then live it out!

To do this, began by discovering who you are—then, out of that understanding, you can discern what you should be doing.

If you come to an understanding that you were created for something special, nothing else will be as exhilarating or as a meaningful to you.

You have been ‘shaped’ in a certain way—psychologically, intellectually, emotionally, physically, environmentally, historically, relationally, and above all spiritually—to fulfill a certain role, do certain work, and produce certain results. As you fulfill what you are to be and do, you will experience personal satisfaction, peace, and joy. When you are frustrated or anxious, or have a nagging feeling that you are out of sync, the likelihood is that you are operating outside God’s plan.

As an example, flowers have no difficulty knowing God’s life plan for them.  They are to grow, bloom, provide nectar, and propagate. They have no self-will.

We human beings, however, seem to struggle mightily with the two profound philosophical questions that are born of our free will: Who am I? and Why am I here?

Who you are is a composite set of God’s gifts into your life. His gifts include not only your talents, traits, and innate abilities, but also the people He has placed in your life, the environment in which He has set you, and the experiences He has brought your way.

Talents are God’s gift to each person. Your talents are your propensities, your ‘bent’. They can take expression in many forms. The varied expression of a talent over a lifetime can add richness and depth to your life. It can also heighten your contribution.

In putting your giftedness to work for God’s purposes, and in moving from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness, you will experience a radiant, totally ‘alive’ life. You will have discovered your spiritual ‘DNA’—and your potential for excellence lies within your uniqueness.

Ideally there comes a point when a person says about a situation or task, “I really enjoy this”—a sense of a perfect ‘fit’ and you can’t get enough of it.

This ‘synergy’ will always exist among these factors: Liking what you do; being gifted at what you do; and succeeding to the point of excellence at what you do.

People who are ‘gifted’ in music generally do not need to be told that they are musically talented. Furthermore, you don’t have to tell them to ‘enjoy’ music—they do so automatically. You also don’t have to ‘browbeat’ them to practice—-they delight in it because they just enjoy music and want to increase their ability to perform more challenging musical pieces. Gifted musicians never feel better of have a greater ‘purpose’ and fulfillment than when they are engaged in the performance of their gift.

This same combination of excellence, enjoyment, and giftedness exists for every type of talent or combination of talents.

Giftedness manifests itself in different ways at various seasons of life, and in various ‘domains’ of life. You may not always be called to fill a specific role or to function in specific ways. Your giftedness, however, remains. It is like a ‘well’ from which water can be drawn and then applied to different purposes.

An interesting aspect of giftedness is that God in His infinite wisdom is not about to have any one family become the ‘elite’ in his kingdom—so, giftedness is NOT passed down from generation to generation as physical traits appear to be.

Some ‘psychological’ traits seems to be passed down from fathers to sons and mothers to daughters. Very often these ‘traits’, however, are learned behaviors. An abused child may become an abusive parent, but this is a ‘learned’ behavior.

One must be clear on this point—God’s gifts to you are ALWAYS positive. They are traits and propensities within you for good—and He places these traits into people without regard to their family status, lineage, culture, or finances. In addition to that, it is my opinion that He ‘distributes’ these gifts randomly.

A parent’s role, then, is not to try to ‘pass along’ gifts to their children, but rather protect, provide, train them in the ways of the Lord, and help them ‘discover’ and develop the gifts God gave them.

As you ‘awaken’ to your giftedness, recognize that no gift is better than another. Physical strength is not universally better than mental strength, nor is mental strength universally the greater gift. Each gift is of equal value in and of itself. The ‘application’ of a gift to a particular circumstance, need, or problem gives it value.

Each of us was created for a specific role in ‘relationship’ to others—and there have been many examples of such ‘teams’ throughout history.

Have you ever pondered the awesome ‘mind’ of God who orchestrates talents so that all tasks—al things essential to life and progress—get done? Someone writes the music, engineers the buildings, keeps the books, nurses the ill, protects the neighborhood, cares for the forest, and grows the food. All jobs get done.

Each of us is shaped or ‘wired’ for a specific role. There is no job that doesn’t get done, to some degree and in some fashion.

All of this is by ‘design’. I believe it is one of the surest ‘proofs’ of God’s existence, and of God’s nature as a Master Planner and Master Designer. It is no accident that all jobs get done.

So then, fulfilling your unique role is the ‘key’ to achieving personal satisfaction. God is the ‘Master Tailor’, the One who has designed the role that is perfectly ‘suited’ to the person He has created. That is the picture we have when Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light [Matthew 11:30].

A ‘yoke’ that is perfectly crafted for a specific animal—one carved to fit with precision and comfort the neck of an ox or horse—does not rub their neck raw. It is easy to ‘wear’—just as the things that we are gifted with—they are a joy and a delight to use.

I believe that as you discover who you are, and how you might grow in your gifts and into a greater ‘likeness’ of Christ, you will come into the greatest joy and fulfillment you can ever know!

Anytime someone acts primarily to fulfill the expectations of another person—rather than to fulfill the precise and unique purpose of God—that person is going to be miserable, unfulfilled, and less than whole. Anger, resentment, bitterness, and hate are very likely to manifest themselves—some of which may be expressed outwardly, but all of which will ‘burrow’ deep within and destroy the person from the inside out.

Conversely, someone who follows God’s “LifePlan” experiences deep personal fulfillment. Peace and joy are always evident.

People who are ‘moving’ within their gifts and developing their gifts rarely feel as if they are working. The effort seems more like ‘recreation’ or play. It then becomes so ‘exhilarating’ to find out that God really wants your life to ‘count’.

But all of this is not a matter of ‘predestined engineering’—far from it. In creating you, God gave you free will—and He gives you the freedom to choose the ‘way’ you will fulfill His “LifePlan” for you (or allow you to make your own plan). However, if you choose His ‘plan’, you are given the freedom how you will ‘express’ yourself in fulfilling His “LifePlan”—and hundreds of millions of details are left to your ‘creative’ choices!

Just remember, your talents are a ‘sacred’ trust—once you catch hold of this concept and truly internalize it and make it a part of your thinking, you will begin to have the ‘passion’ of a zealot—and begin to realize that your ONLY concern will be what pleases God.

Your gifts are at the ‘essence’ of who you are. They are major contributors to your personality, but are NOT the sum of it. The whole is always more than the sum of the parts.

When you ‘surrender’ to Christ, you surrender self-will—but you retain tour ‘persona’—just as many of the apostles have differing personalities, they were used ‘mightily’ to transform their world. In like manner, so can you.

Now, primarily God’s desire is that you ‘wrap’ your talents in love as you use them to benefit others—it is in giving that our potential is released.

However, talents might exist, be recognized, be developed, and even be employed, yet still not bring an abiding sense of personal value and worthiness if they are employed ‘void of love’. Doing what you are good at doing brings some satisfaction—but doing it with the intent of expressing love to another person, well that brings the ultimate feeling of ‘self-fulfillment’!

So, when ‘asking’ God to help us identify and develop our gifts, we also must ask Him to help us grow in our love for others so that our gifts might be rightly and fully used.

You are not only a ‘functional’ creation, but God has made you to execute your function with a ‘flair’ and style all your own—sometimes our gifts are not so much for our use but for our (and His) pleasure.

When you discover and use your gifts for the good of those you love and have chosen to serve, your life take on a special ‘beauty’. It ‘inspires’ others—and it ‘points’ toward the Creator—bringing Him glory.

Perhaps when all has been said, the highest purpose for your giftedness is just that: to portray the beauty of His holiness. If so, what a compelling reason to ‘awaken’ to your gifts, to value and appreciate them, and to develop them!

CHAPTER 3: Gaining A New Perspective

No person can make a good estimate of distant lands from the floor of a valley. A person must get to a vantage point, a viewpoint from which one can see the full breadth of the valley and gain a view of the valleys that lie beyond it.

You can achieve such a perspective anytime you are willing to step back and take a diligent, thoughtful, and spiritually sensitive  ‘look’ at the full scope of your past, present, and future.

God has given us the ability to ‘sense’ and find the truth before it ‘finds’ us. When the truth finds us first, the results can be most unpleasant. Most of the time the ‘signals’ are there to be discerned.

Gaining perspective is, in many ways, a form of diagnosis. The great physicians are those who are good diagnosticians. Without an accurate diagnosis, treatment can never be fully effective. The same is true in the discovery of your “LifePlan”. Unless you gain a full perspective on you life, you can miss your purpose for being!

This process is only valid, however, if you face your life truthfully. Because unless a person is truly willing to face both past and present, any plans aimed at the future will be ‘hollow’ and without firm foundation.

Change and discovery are ‘threatening’ to many people. I encourage you to approach the “LifePlan” process with courage and boldness. Delight in what you discover! God has a desire for you to know what He will ‘reveal’ to you in this process (only if you’re open to it). God intends this new awareness to be a ‘blessing’ to you!

So, in the search for perspective—in discovery of an emerging truth—the “LifePlan” process ‘calls’ for you to deal with facts in these two ways:

– Breakthrough thinking
– Spiritual discernment

Breakthrough thinking is largely a rational, mental process, while spiritual discernment is largely an emotional, spiritual process—but both are required for understanding and for life to take on meaning.

Breakthroughs in thinking occur when you carry thinking to the highest conceptual ‘level’—this is true ‘mountaintop’ thinking.

The Nobel Prize-winner Gerald Edelman, one of the most knowledgeable brain researchers of our century, stated that the brain is capable of processing bits of data to at least 10 to the 800th power! (We don’t even use 1% of this capacity). God has ‘built’ into you the capacity to know yourself and to ‘see’ the patterns of your life.

I find that breakthrough thinking occurs most often as people deal with vocations or careers—but life is NOT about making a living, but ABOUT living. Work should be seen as a ‘ministry’—about showing others the glory of God.

As you work to gain a new perspective on your life, you must ‘force’ yourself to a higher level of breakthrough thinking. Continually ask yourself as you do the various ‘modules’ in the book:

– What’s the bigger picture here?
– How might god see this?
– What would Jesus desire to be done?

When you have a genuine breakthrough, you also experience a breaking away from the ‘imprisonment’ of old patterns. Certain things from the past will no longer seem important and desirable. There is a ‘sloughing’ away of the trivial. The old way of living is outmoded.

Breakthrough thinking is a process or reason—spiritual discernment is a process involving the emotions and spirit. It yields spiritual meaning.

If you are so emotional that you give no place to reason, you are not capable of making ‘sound’ decisions. If you are stifled in your emotions and make all of your decisions solely on the basis of calculated reason, your decisions will be without passion or drive. The two are intended to be in BALANCE.

For many people, discernment is something of a ‘stepping into the light’ experience. The ‘key’ to recognizing life patterns, trends, and themes is discernment—the acuteness in judgment and understanding, sometimes considered ‘crystal-clear’ thinking.

Discernment results in new information—and new information inevitably compels a certain degree of change.

The English word “discern” comes from the Latin “discernere,” which means “to separate by sifting.” God’s plan very often unfolds for you as you ‘sift’ through the various factors that make up your personality, your giftedness, and your personal history—all the while inviting God’s Holy Spirit to reveal ‘truth’ to you.

To ‘know’ Christ is the most practical advice I can ever give a person who is seeking direction in life. If you know Him, you have ‘access’ through Him to God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and eternal unconditional love—then you are ‘plugged’ into all that you will ever need in order to discover what you are meant to be and do. Not only in broad generalized terms, but also in very specific and detailed terms.

A life fully ‘surrendered’ to God’s purposes, and to living as Jesus lived in relationship to His heavenly Father, IS the life God means for each person to live!

F. B. Meyer once wrote about this topic: “Do not be afraid to trust God utterly. As you go down the long corridor you may find that He has preceded you, and locked many doors which you would fain have entered; but be sure that beyond these there is one which He has left unlocked. Open it and enter, and you will find yourself face to face with a bend of the river of opportunity, broader and deeper than anything you had dared to imagine in your sunniest dreams. Launch forth on it; it conducts to the open sea.”

All this to say that accurate spiritual discernment must always be based on the foundation of the Word. Indeed, much of the life God desires for you to lead is clearly spelled out in the Scriptures.

The Old Testament presents a very clear ‘picture’ of who God is as Creator, and what he requires of us, His creatures. We have a distinct about where sin leads and where living in accordance with God’s laws leads. The final words of the O.T. are: “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” [Malachi 4:6].

In this one verse, we have a summation of God’s desire, God’s justice, and God’s provision.

The New Testament then presents a vivid ‘picture’ of how God intends for us to live a life pleasing to Him. He shows us through Jesus, both how to live that life and the provision He has made for us to receive forgiveness and ‘enter’ into righteousness. The final words of the N.T. speak of God’s ongoing provision for us through Christ: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” [Revelation 22:21].

When we take God’s Word into our lives as a whole, it gives us ‘buoyancy’. It brings us up in our spirits to the point that we can ‘float’ above our circumstances, needs, and problems.

The life god means for you to live as a Christian is ‘radically’ different from that of the world at large.

The world ‘sells’ the self-centered life. The prevailing message of the world is a one-word ‘loop’: “me, me, me.” To that end, you are encouraged to do, do, do—and buy, buy, buy. Success as the world defines it requires intense, self-focused personal effort, and this effort requires discipline, commitment, and self-focused goals. The end result is striving, striving, striving, and a very ‘imbalanced’ life. Vocational life ‘overwhelms’ all other life dimensions. There is minimal family life and probably no personal life (needs a bit of “margin” eh?). This is NOT the life God intends for you, or me, to live!

The life presented in the N.T. stands in sharp ‘contrast’ to what you see and hear advocated by today’s self-help specialists. Consider what the apostle Paul wrote to the early church:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” [Philippians 4:6-9].

Paul emphasized a quality of ‘being’ that flows from having a relationship with Christ. If you were to ask me to describe, in a nutshell, the life that every Christian is meant to live, I would ‘point’ you to this passage in Philippians—so let’s take a closer look at the ‘hallmarks’ of living in this passage.

“Peace of God”: It’s a life that ‘rests’—with the deepest inner peace imaginable—in complete ‘union’ with God.

“Constant communication and trust”: A life of unending prayer.

“Whatever is true”: A life of absolute truth requires vulnerability and accountability, and most people don’t want the painful scrutiny that both involve.

“Whatever is noble”: A life of ‘nobility’ requires a willingness to sacrifice the praise of people and suffer personal ‘loss’.

“Whatever is right”: ‘Justice’ requires a commitment to living in accordance with God’s commandments and statutes, and an acceptance of God’s ‘plan’ for salvation.

“Whatever is pure”: To live a pure life is to say no to evil at every turn, to deny every temptation to sin.

“Whatever is lovely”: This requires ‘turning’ away from much of the world’s entertainment programming.

“Whatever is admirable”: One must be willing to live in ‘obscurity’ or face persecution aimed at defaming your reputation.

The Christ-centered life is in direct opposition to the enemy of your soul—and it’s no ‘walk in the park’. It is a life that is continually on ‘guard’ against the many manifestations of evil.

You may be thinking, “But this is the ‘ideal’ life.” Exactly—but because it is ideal does not mean that it cannot also be real! God ‘intends’ for His ‘people’ to have this type of life. However, first we must ‘desire’ such a life!

If you truly desire to know God’s “LifePlan” and live it, then God will meet you at the ‘point’ of your desire. His quick and complete response is for you to discern His “LifePlan” for you and to grow in it. He ‘sends’ His Holy Spirit both to give you wisdom to know His will, and to enable you to ‘walk’ in His will.

To hear clearly the ‘voice’ of the Holy Spirit, you MUST carve out a ‘space’ and some time for stillness. God ‘speaks’ in stillness to hearts that are still.

Your discernment will involve your ‘hearing’ first in you heart—your spiritual core—the ‘voice’ of God revealing His desires for you. His voice very likely will not be an audible one, but will be a quiet inner ‘knowing’ with no less clear a message.

With discernment about what you are to be and to do also comes an understanding about what you must do next to grow into your ‘identity’ and purpose. Priorities become very clear once you experience discernment.

With discernment, comes a ‘choice’ whether to accept or to reject God’s “LifePlan.” Jesus ‘promised’ His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to them to reveal God’s insight throughout your life—to teach them all of the truth of God they needed truly to be God’s people, and to comfort, guide, and direct them into all of the paths that God intended for them to walk.

This ‘promise’ was not only for the disciples back then—it is ‘available’ to you, today!

You may not come instantly to every insight necessary for you to live fully the “LifePlan” God has ‘established’ for you—it’s usually a process that occurs over time. We grow ‘into’ an understanding of who we are, and what He wants from us.

The purpose of the “LifePlanning” discovery process is to ‘prepare’ you to make future decisions with greater boldness, clarity, conviction, purpose, and assurance.

So, don’t RUSH to judgment about yourself. Give yourself time to assess the meaning of each “exercise” that will follow. Always strive for ‘breakthrough’ thinking—and always be open to the Holy Spirit’s ‘presence’ and actively engage in spiritual discernment. ‘Flow’ with His process, in His timing.

[NOTE: In the following few chapters, I have put in some ‘charts’ and ‘lines’, with the underscore key, that are for your ‘answers’. So that they print out properly for you, they were originally formatted in Word with 1.25″ left and right margins and 12 pt Times font].

CHAPTER 4: Module #1 – Life Domains and Life Seasons

The “Life Domains” are intended to function in balance. Balance is the key to wholeness.

It is important that you ask yourself at the outset of your “LifePlan” process the following things:

– What do I need?
– Why is Mark ‘forcing’ me to read this?
– What do I hope to gain from revisiting my life?
– Why do I feel the need for a new perspective?

So, I invite you to write down a “Statement of Expectation,” or what do you hope to ‘gain’ from doing a “LifePlan”?:

________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
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This statement is solely for your purpose so be as ‘brutally’ honest with yourself as you can.

What one ‘hopes’ to gain from something is very often what one ‘will’ gain. So, to get the most out of this ‘exercise’, you need to recognize your ‘mind-set’.

The following are a few statements people have made that might help you develop your own:

– I want to know why I still feel unhappy even though I am doing the job that I always thought I wanted to do.
– I want to know how I can get a better balance in my life between work and family.
– I want to feel lees stress.
– I want to know why I seem to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
– I want to discover God’s plan for me in my retirement years.

In identifying what you want, you establish a foundation upon which to receive. Ask for what you want with belief, supplication, and thanksgiving.

The broader question you can ask is what you want out of your life?—and how do you want it to be different than is has been? What are you hopes and dreams—many of which may be ‘secret’, long buried, or never explored?

What you receive in life is largely a result of how much you ardently want to receive what you pursue. I could point to any number of people who may not have a great deal of talent, but they have worked at the talent they do have and continued to push and push, with intensity, toward a goal, and they have succeeded in reaching far greater ‘heights that an equal number of people who are highly talented and not at all motivated to pursue a goal or develop their talents.

So, do you REALLY want what you have said you want? How much do you want this change?

So often people give lip service to change. They say they want to lead a ‘new’ life or to follow a new path—but in reality, they find it much more comfortable to stay in their old ‘rut’.

We can point to various roles or functions that we fill in life to determine the ‘facets’, or “Life Domains” of our lives: Personal; Family; Faith; Vocation; and Community. If you do not live a ‘balanced’, focused life in each of these domains, you cannot fully succeed in carrying out God’s “LifePlan” for you. And every one of these are ‘interconnected’ at all levels of existence—conscious; subconscious; emotional; and physical.

The domains are not necessarily ‘equal’, but none of them can be totally neglected for a person to be whole. The domains are also not ‘rigid’—in some s, one or more of the domains may be combined (i.e. many pastors have difficulty separating faith and vocation). The key is to have these areas of your life in BALANCE—with every person having a slightly different balance ‘point’.

A lack of balance creates an inner ‘tension’, which you may perceive as a nagging stress, a feeling of frustration, or a sensation that something important is missing or lacking.

A ‘center of gravity’ or core is necessary if one is to keep all the five “Life Domains” in balance—and let me suggest that ‘living’ core should be Jesus—He can be that unifying and integrating  ‘element’.

So, graphically it should look like the side view of a wheel of a car, with the ‘hub’ representing Jesus, and the ‘spokes’ representing each of the domains.

Of all of these domains, the “personal” is the MOST important. If this is not ‘grounded’ in Christ, all of the other domains will be on shaky ground.

To determine if this is true for you, ask yourself these questions:

– Are you truly ‘centered’ on Christ—His commandments and teachings?
– Do you believe in yourself? Are you secure in your ‘worth’ as a unique human being?
– Are you placing relationships before tasks—specifically, family before vocation?
– Have you accepted your giftedness, and are you serving God out of it?
– Are you striving for a balance in all of the Life Domains, and trusting God’s grace to help you find and maintain balance?
– Do you ‘see’ yourself in a state of continually becoming more Christ-like?
– Are you holding yourself ‘accountable’ to Christ?

So, what aren’t you giving yourself? Maybe just the ‘permission’ to be who you are!

You are a mixture of desires, longings, hopes, and dreams. The doing of things that give you happiness, pleasure, and exhilaration is vital to your being a whole person. When you deny the personal domain, you deny God ‘access’ to a major area of your being—you close off a part of yourself that He desires to redeem, develop, and use.

When a person sees themselves a beloved ‘child’ of God, a forgiven son, a minister of God’s grace to others, they will see every person they encounter as someone special that God also loves unconditionally.

Until you love yourself, you will not be able to love others as Christ loves them—that ‘heartfelt’ love.

So, after you have identified your overall objective in pursuing a “LifePlan,” specify specific sub-goals or sub-objectives for each of the five “Life Domains”:

General Objective Statement:
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Personal Objective:
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Family Objective:
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Faith Objective:
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Vocational Objective:
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Community Objective:
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Now, take a look at your six objective statements. Do you have a strong sense of what you ‘need’ in your life at this present time? Understanding your needs is an important first ‘step’ in gaining perspective on your life.

Just as life has several domains, it also has ‘seasons’. Your roles and functions in each “Life Domain” change with the seasons:Winter (early youth); Spring (education years); Summer (work years); and Autumn (later years).

Part of ‘facing’ your future lies in recognizing the season of life you are currently living. What you ‘do’ may change considerably season to season.

At this point, you may want to note a few insights that you may be starting to have about your life.

– Is your life in balance? If not, what areas may need to be brought into balance?
– Is Christ truly at the ‘core’ of your life?
-Are your current objectives in line with your season of life?
– In what ways are you gaining a new perspective on yourself?

CHAPTER 5: Module #2 – Four Helpful Lists

No one has ever criticized a person to success and all of us are masters of self-criticism. We need no ‘help’ in that department!

The four helpful lists are derived from four questions that I believe are at the ‘heart’ of helping you gain perspective about where you are in your life right now.

1) What is right about your life?
2) What is wrong about your life?
3) What is confused in your life?
4) What is missing from your life?

Now, build a ‘matrix’ (that looks like a checkerboard), and place each one of these questions across the top ‘axis’ horizontally, and the “Life Domains” down the left side vertically [something like the ‘crude’ example below].

Right          Wrong        Confused        Missing

PERSONAL

FAMILY

FAITH

VOCATION

COMMUNITY

To help you in filling in the ‘cell’ (the intersection of the horizontal and vertical items), start by identifying what is “right” in your life—-this gives you perspective on what you might ‘optimize’ in the future. Go ahead and ‘brag’ on yourself—this is the place to do it!

To ‘help’ out, some of the great human qualities, manifested in every person are: the need to grow; trusting and being trusted; creativity; wanting to do good work; managing ourselves; wanting to learn more; challenging ourselves; taking risks; and needing to belong.

Most people are very aware of what they believe to be wrong with their lives, but they have never stated it ‘aloud’ to themselves. Keep in mind that this is a question intended to produce a list of what might be ‘changed’. Very few wrongs are permanent in nature. God’s work is one or redemption, forgiveness, and renewal.

Most people have an area of their lives that is in a state of confusion, or that they believe needs to be prioritized, organized, refocused, or discerned more clearly. The answer to this question gives you a chance to ‘clarify’.

Finally, what are the voids? This answer ‘points’ toward what might be ‘added’ to your life.

To get a true ‘picture’ that reflects potential for growth or change, you must have some understanding of the ‘controllability’ that you have over the answers or issues raised.

So, now go back to your matrix and ‘rate’ each of the comments you put in each ‘cell’, with the following: “F” for full; “P” for partial; and “N” for none. (Note: Situations involving other people are nearly always those in which you have “partial” control; and, of course, situations in which you alone are involved are nearly always “full”).

At this point, you may want to note a few of the insights that you are beginning to have about your life.

Take a look at your four helpful lists are a ‘whole’. Move to a ‘higher level’ of thinking, a broader perspective. Circle one to three areas that you believe may be ‘critical’ for immediate action—and if some of those areas are marked “full,” you have ‘leverage’. Take courage, take charge, and take action!

CHAPTER 6: Module #3 – The Turning Points Profile

The “Turning Points Profile” is the MOST IMPORTANT construct to help people gain perspective—it’s the most careful and thorough introspection most people have ever made of their lives. The end result is a “time line,” of sorts, for your life.

A “turning point” is a point when the direction of your life changes, for better or worse. The previous pattern or trend is not continued. Something intervenes, occurs, or is decided that alters the future course.

A turning point is an ‘inflection’ point on your life journey. You see them as you look back on your history, asking questions such as these:

– What was happening during this period of my life? What set the ‘tone’ for that period? What decision or event led me into that period, and what decision or event marked the ‘end’ of that period?

– What marked the beginning or ending of a ‘stage’ that I went through?

– What change resulted from the ‘tragedy’ or crisis that I experienced?

– What were the major ‘moments’ in which I experienced great joy or fulfillment?

– What were the major events (such as leaving home, graduation, marriage, divorce, career shifts, retirement, or deaths)?

One way to approach turning points is to regard them as significant ‘milestones’ in life. In looking back, you see that you were ‘moving’ in a certain direction, then something happened that altered your course and changed your life in some way.

A turning point is not necessarily an event, although that may be the case, such as a spiritual ‘conversion’, a marriage or divorce, or a death in the family. At times a turning point is the natural transition from one ‘stage’ pf life to the next, such as leaving home or beginning a new career.

Suffice it to say that all turning points are significant, and all changes are turning points. A person that moves to new city or receives a promotion at work—though they may involve stress—don’t necessarily indicate a ‘life change’. Just remember that a turning point IS NOT a continuation of the status quo of your life.

It is typical for a person who is 50 years old to have 15-20 turning points, with marriage, divorce, spiritual conversion, or family death being usual examples.

There are four steps in doing a “Turning Points Profile.” The first is to “identify all true turning points.”

Let your mind ‘wander’ freely over the course of your personal history to pinpoint and list the event that you believe to be the most significant ones in your life. Give yourself sufficient time for this process. (Just remember, God is never in a hurry).

An example of a list of turning points could look like this (author’s list):

1) Baptized
2) Met wife, Ginny
3) Married Ginny/ Started college/ Entered work force
4) Daughter Debbie’s birth
5) Daughter Debbie’s death
6) Spiritual conversion to Christ
7) Began consulting practice
8) Adopted three children
9) Redefined self
10) Son Tom’s death
11) Total “surrender” to God

As you identify each turning point, give it a name or brief description. Limit the ‘label’ to one or two words (like the list above). Then give a brief statement of meaning that may be related to that headline.

As you are evaluating and labeling the turning points, choose to become a ‘thoughtsmith’—capture the essence of that period or event in your life in a few and as provocative words as possible.

Step two in the process is “constructing a matrix.” Place your turning points into a ‘sequence’ on a time line. In the matrix, this time line is labeled “Age and Events” and goes across the top of the matrix (like the example below):

7-10          10-12        13       14     15-17    18-19   20-25 …

PERSONAL

FAMILY

FAITH

VOCATION

COMMUNITY

As you place events on this matrix, feel free to add turning points you may not have considered previously—and be as specific as you want (like having many specific years in a row). Certainly all major events impact the whole of your life, but in most cases, a turning point event or period is concentrated in one or two “Life Domains.” For example, “Age 22-Got Married” will likely impact the personal and family domains.

CHAPTER 7: Drawing Meaning From the Matrix

Step three is “identifying the control path.” To do this, use a colored pencil or highlighter to mark the “Life Domains” that have been impacted during a turning point. The ‘connect’ the shaded areas.

The resulting flow of color across the history of your life is what I term the “control path.” It reveals the focus of your time and energy.

If you see, for example, that nearly all of your energy seems to be focused on vocation, you may very well conclude that you’ve likely neglected the other areas.

You may also see the focus of ‘energy’ during one period change after a turning point.

Now, briefly describe the meaning you see in your control path:
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Step four “identifies your Life Gates.” These might be considered a ‘supra-turning point’. It is a ‘supreme’ event. You are looking for major ‘doors’ that were opened and SLAMMED SHUT.

Life Gates ‘close off’ your old life and opens a ‘gate’ to a new life. ALL things in your life are made ‘new’ in the process.

A ‘genuine’ conversion (i.e. complete surrender) to Christ is an example of a Life Gate experience—all of your Life Domains are affected. An unexpected job loss, and, in some cases, a ‘forced’ move to a different part of the country are also Life Gates.

In all these examples, there is very little or no comparison between the way the person was living prior to the event and the way they are living now. Life Gates impact ‘all’ future decisions, and are usually a point of NO RETURN.

Generally speaking, most people have very few Life Gates—perhaps two to four. It is also impossible to discern a Life Gate unless all of the relevant turning points have been identified and developed. But know this with certainty—when God closes the ‘door’ on an old life, He WILL OPEN a new one at the point at which you are ready to ‘move through’ it!

Now, a Life Gate experience does not necessarily mean that you have ‘arrived’ fully at your potential or purpose in life. It does allow you ‘see’ the next stage of development. Training, building, and maturing that is required of you, though.

Now refer to your Turning Points Matrix and identify your Life Gates.

This can be emotionally draining, so give yourself a ‘break’ before returning to the final stage of the process—hopefully with renewed energy and fresh insight.

Often, the recognition of Life Gates humbles and brings tears to those who engage in the LifePlanning process. God’s guiding ‘hand’ is often manifested in such a way through this construct, that you come to the following three great realizations about God and your relationship with Him:

– God is always in relationship with me
– God is in command
– God does not demand

Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote of “divine concurrence.” God ‘intervenes’ in human life, most often by using other people as His ‘agents’. There are no ‘coincidences’—just God-arranged encounters.

God ‘calls’ us to aware that He is working through others on our behalf, and also that He is working through us on the behalf of others—it is one of God’s most frequently employed ‘methods’.

Certainly on valuable lesson that comes from spiritual discernment of your turning points and Life Gates is this: God desires change and growth in you.

Many people come away from this construct with a greater appreciation for what God desires to be “put to death” in their lives.

You may gain a new understanding of what God does not want you to do, become involved with, pursue, or hold as an attitude. A turning points and Life Gates analysis can bring sharp conviction when you see your life differing from what you know to be God’s ‘commandments’.

God uses every experience of your life to bring you to a ‘deeper’ understanding of Himself and yourself. No experience is wasted. Every experience has been allowed, if not directly ‘authorized’, by God.

Arthur Cushman McGiffert wrote this about the apostle Paul: “Paul’s pre-Christian experience had been just such as to prepare him for that complete renunciation of personal merit and personal pride.” What might have seemed to Paul to be ‘wasted’ years of rebellion and sinfulness against God’s greater purposes for humankind, were ‘vital’ to his formation for the work God designed for him to do (So don’t be ‘dismayed’ about your past—I can’t believe you are as ‘bad’ as Paul was!).

The God of the Bible is One of hope—He continues to work on our futures, as Romans 8:28 states, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Satan’s purpose, on the other hand, is always to instill fear and to cause a ‘paralysis’ of faith. A Turning Points Profile helps you see that even in times of failure and error, God has provided a ‘means’ for you to continue to live and to grow. This nearly always creates a strong awareness that God’s plan is unfolding and that it is not yet complete in your life—in other words, God’s plan is going to continue to unfold, life is going to move ‘forward’, growth is going to occur, and God’s plan purposes are going to be revealed and fulfilled! In Him there is hope!

Now, as you look back over your turning points and Life Gates, identify patterns, trends, and themes. Focus on meaning—ask yourself:

– What did this mean to me?
– Why does this period or event have value to me?
– What were the critical consequences related to this event?

Patterns are combinations of acts, qualities, and tendencies that form a consistent or characteristic arrangement. It might be likened to a model—something that emerges from a set of actions, traits, and propensities.

Trends are the general direction, the prevailing tendency, the drift. Look for the overall movement and the ‘path’ being indicated across all turning points, and especially as the trend relates to the present moment.

Themes are the dominant, recurring ‘messages’ of life. Recognize the dominant theme in your life. Appreciate the importance of honoring its Source, God. Be true to the gifting, Dominant themes are always closely related to the gifts of God in your life.

Now, it ‘time’ to draw some conclusions about what you see in your life story. Be gentle, forward thinking, and constructive in the conclusions you draw. Choose to ’embrace’ fully what God has done and is doing in your life!

PATTERNS:
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TRENDS:
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THEMES:
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Remember, all of us have 20-20 ‘vision’ in retrospect, saying, “If only…” or “I wish I had…” The greater benefit comes when we can recognize a turning point in the present tense of our lives and say, “I now choose…” or I now will act…” in a positive, self-edifying way.

Are you in a turning point right now? Are you perhaps experiencing a Life Gate?

[Last Half To Come: The Talent Search; Drives and Comfort Zones; the Thinking Wavelength; Transformation Through Surrender; the Gift Of Helpful Relationships; and Putting together The Big Picture].

[Excerpts from: Tom Paterson]

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v75) for MAY 2005
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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“HARD-WIRED” TO GOD?
To understand more about spiritual transformation, many scientists are looking into the brain. The new generation of neurotheologists have found that we may be hard wired to God. Recent research by Andrew Newberg and Nina Azari shows that certain sections of the brain are activated during religious activity such as prayer and meditation. These sections are involved in rationality, reason and high-order thinking.

Dr. Persinger, a professor of neuroscience at Laurentia University in Ontario, observes that people who experienced God and conversion processes have health improvements. He thinks that if we can understand what generates this experience, we may be able to understand how to cure ourselves. To that end, he conducted studies using a so-called “God machine” to electromagnetically stimulate subjects to experience God.
[Integrative Health and Healing]

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DEEP THOUGHT
“Our experience of receiving grace from God is the basis for our ability to extend it to others.”
[Anon.]

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I hope you enjoyed some of these insights. Share them with your friends and colleagues, so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from—and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” especially if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” [Matthew 6:19-21].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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