Monday, October 27, 2008

Words to Live By

I really struggled with whether to post this entry. Not because it mentions the word “God”, but because I’ve always tried to keep my religious views out of my writings. Kind of silly, huh? I guess I worry too much about what other people think and I don’t want to offend anyone. I promise I’m not trying to convert anyone here, I just feel compelled to share something that a friend of mine emailed me today. It is an interview with Rick Warren, the author of “Purpose Driven Life”. The interview follows a year in which Rick’s wife was diagnosed with cancer and in which he experienced great wealth from his book sales. Regardless of your religious views (or lack thereof), I believe the message that we all have a purpose in life, that we need to find that purpose, that our purpose should not be driven by self-centeredness, guilt, bitterness, materialism or the like, and that we should focus on our purpose and not our problems – is certainly a message relevant to all.

The words in this interview really hit home with me because lately I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed with trying to balance the responsibilities of work, family and those “extra-curricular” activities that I believe lead me to fulfill my purpose in life (The Willow Tree Foundation, the “Dear Future Physician” project, writing a book). I’m not too many birthdays away from the half-century mark and I feel like it’s time to re-evaluate what I want to do with my life and where I want to focus my time and energies. I just need to figure out a way to fulfill my purpose and support my family at the same time (because right now, the two aren’t compatible). I’m hopeful that with time, patience and by keeping an open mind and heart, I’ll eventually figure out what changes I need to make to live out my life with purpose.

Without further ado (or rambling), here are words to live by:


Rick Warren Interview:

People ask me, What is the purpose of life?

And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.

One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.

The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.

No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems: If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain. But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her- It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life. Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before.

I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease. So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit. We made no major purchases.

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity? Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better.

God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do. That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.

Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.

Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.

Painful moments, TRUST GOD.

Every moment, THANK GOD.


Speaking of life's purpose - here is Part II of Christian and Stephanie's Story published in Monday's paper (another tear-jerker).


julie w said...

Thought provoking words Ann. I used to think that you had bad times and good times in your life, now I realise that you can have both - we have wonderful things going on in our life and a lot to be thankful for, but there is also the bad stuff, which at time overwhelms.
Thanks for the update on Christian and Stephanie - that makes me realise that my problems aren't that bad. xxx

Rachel Marini said...

Thank you so much for posting this... I think I needed to hear it today. As always, know that I find you amazing and that you and Jack are always in my thoughts and prayers.
Much love,

Patricia said...


As you know I too don't like to express my religious thoughts too much either, but I agree that we often have to thank God for what we have. Ours may not be the traditional blessings that most think of as positive forces, in fact, to some we may seem cursed with the burdens we bare – but we are blessed by the special children we care for who have taught us lessons we may never have had without them. We learn to appreciate the little things that we might not have ever seen had Max and Jack not pointed them out to us!


Anne said...

Well, I wouldn't worry about offending anyone because it is YOUR blog!!

Melisande said...

Nice post, Ann!