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Sense Of Purpose


rivanna
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Do you feel that God has a purpose or plan for each of us? If so, how specific is it? This question has been an ongoing struggle for me, wondering whether Im doing what God wants. There is no doubt in my mind that putting family first is the right thing. But beyond that, discerning the work God desires meaning vocation rather than occupationis hard, often conflicted, confused.

 

The idea of purpose is connected for me with the parable of the talents. I was once in a long discussion about what the word talent represents some said its simply the inherent abilities and skills we have to share, others said its the portion of Christs love were entrusted with, and that we are to use whatever amount we have so as to acquire more. Im never sure if my writing does anything like that…my background was long on education but short on nurture.

 

I have not read Rick Warrens Purpose Driven Life. But I did read a book on a similar theme, Julia Camerons Faith and Will (2009). She quotes Carl Jungs explore the will of God daily. Maybe for some people, we are exactly where God wants us at each moment, we have only to accept it; while people like me are always trying to figure out the direction to pursue, the next step of the journey. Id be interested to hear your thoughts.

Edited by rivanna
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Hi Karen,

 

This is a good question. I once thought I had a definite vocation, but it didn't turn out to be doable. Perhaps it is important first to accept where we are so we can go on from there.

 

I feel that we are all called to be true to our inmost, authentic reality. What we do must be in accord with truth and love (and love is born of this truth). So we must be true to the source, you might say. James Finley says that God holds in this moment our beginning and end. We come from God and return to him.

 

Whatever the specifics of my situation might be, I suppose I must live according to what moves me, makes me feel most connected to God. And that can change over time no doubt. But generally I feel that the purpose of life is to live into that reality and fulfill our inner truth. I think in order to become mindful of our purpose, we must be in contact with the renewing Presence of that which has no purpose, has no meaning, but is the Source of purposes and is meaning itself. Then we can be true to our purpose - by being grounded in and in the end returning to our Source, which is the end that our purpose serves. It reminds me of your quote from Borg about not dying into nothingness but dying into God. Our purpose is to live, and die (and whatever may come after that), into God.

 

All this is probably of little use, but as of yet I'm not particularly good with particulars, so I like talking in metaphysical generalizations. I'm pragmatically challenged.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Do you feel that God has a purpose or plan for each of us? If so, how specific is it? This question has been an ongoing struggle for me, wondering whether I'm doing what God wants. There is no doubt in my mind that putting family first is the right thing. But beyond that, discerning the work God desires – meaning vocation rather than occupation—is hard, often conflicted, confused.

(snip)

 

It seems to me, You are fulfilling your purpose at this very moment whether you are aware of it or not. You are a wondrous part of the dance of creation whose end purpose is much as Mike has indicated which in my view is to discover yourself in reality. As you do, everything falls into place, so to speak. There is nothing to doubt or worry about as the One who has started this work in you is surely able to finish it in the fulness of times.

 

Just one mans view to consider,

Joseph

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Thank you for the replies, they were both helpful. Accepting where one is in the present moment - yes. Being true to our inmost, authentic reality -- I agree, though this is hard for me as I've had a lot of inner conflict all my life. It almost seems to define me. Doing what makes you feel connected to God-- sometimes thats easy to know; other times there is so much uncertainty, ambiguity. I saw a quote yesterday from Abraham Lincoln, There are few things wholly evil or wholly good. Almost everything is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded. It takes a lot of trust in ourselves to feel confident about choices, and in God to believe grace makes up for mistakes and failures, wrong turns.

 

Seems like there isnt much focus on personal purpose in PC books; the few books that do tend to be more evangelical. James Finley was new to me; his work looks interesting-- I see he was connected to Merton. The author I read writes for creative artistic types, which appealed to me, though its more like self-help than theology. One thing Cameron said that struck me -- My job, a day at a time, was not to sabotage the good that God was unfolding for me. All I needed to do was cooperate. It is often not easy to refrain from that. She says the way to discern Gods will is to begin with prayers of gratitude, and be open to blessings. Thats been a learning process for me.

 

On a more general level, tcpc points 7 & 8 affirm social activism as our purpose; and the NT epistles tell us as Christians we’ve been given the mission of reconciliation. I sometimes ask myself how, or if my life and/or work fits into this.

Edited by rivanna
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Hi Karen,

 

Just a couple of my personal comments concerning your response...

 

On a more general level, tcpc points 7 & 8 affirm social activism as our purpose; and the NT epistles tell us as Christians we’ve been given the mission of reconciliation. I sometimes ask myself how, or if my life and/or work fits into this.

 

reconciliation - the reestablishing of peaceful relations. Your comment seems to me to be a common and natural concern we as Christians go through. To me this always starts with oneself and then naturally as an innate function extends to others.

 

Being true to our inmost, authentic reality -- I agree, though this is hard for me as I've had a lot of inner conflict all my life. It almost seems to define me.

 

There is a time where all the things we have experienced, past emotions and conditioning seem to define us. Yet upon further introspection we find that none of those things define us because they are temporal happenings rather than the reality of who we are eternally in Christ.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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Rivanna,

 

You didn't miss much in the Purpose Driven Life. I could only stomach about 12 of the 40 days when I read it. Much of what was useful to me were his ideas about the usefulness of church.

 

I think it is great you are asking these questions. I struggle with knowing which of the very many opportunities out there are "God's will" for me to follow. I'm one of those who is always seeking the next step.

 

I also believe we are each called to "love God and love our neighbor" in our own personal ways. A focus on social justice is definitely supported in the teachings of Jesus, and I have felt I am truly following Jesus when I focus on those things. However, I still have kids at home, and sometimes my hubby feels like my concern for the needy is over the top. Life balance is a trick.

 

Lately, I have tried to take the opportunities to help that seem to fit with some of my innate (God-given) talents. If there is something completely out of my realm, I tell the person that I will need to pray about it, and I actually spend quite a bit of time meditating on whether acquiring the necessary skills will produce needed growth or just be a waste of time.

 

I read a GREAT book about finding our purpose, and it was related to the story of Moses, but I gave it to a friend who is incommunicado right now, and I can't remember the title!! I'll keep thinking...

 

One of the books in the TCPC store, "So You Think You're Not Religious", is a good one for pointing out the role of religion in finding one's purpose.

 

Great topic!

Janet

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Joseph,

 

You said that inner conflict doesn’t define us in God’s eyes. Thanks for that reminder, wisely put. I also see the truth in saying that one must first be reconciled within oneself, before one can reconcile others. Yet I also think that often we can’t have peace of mind within unless we are doing something for others – even just a small gesture. Maybe that only shows my lack of trust in the divine, I don’t know. This winter, with a lot of isolated snowed-in days, has taught me I’m definitely not fit to be a monk or anchorite -!

 

Janet, thanks for your response. I can imagine how difficult it is to combine family responsibilities with your outreach work for the needy. More power to you. If you remember the name of the book you mentioned, I’d be interested.

 

When I felt called to Christianity in my twenties, it seemed clear that poetry was my way to walk in it. Maybe that was true but I went too far, became driven to the point of neglecting my family. And my long-standing dream of getting my book accepted turned out to be a crushing nightmare when it happened. I’m middle aged now, happily married, glad to have part time jobs, and not ambitious in the sense of wanting more publication. I do wish for more art inspiration, it’s the way I relate to my community.

 

A bit more from Julia Cameron – “When we rest in God, it becomes less about our striving and more about our receiving: too often we are too busy and self driven to be able to receive.” That’s been the story of my life, in some ways my purpose spiritually has been to get past the Stoic mindset.

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Joseph,

 

You said that inner conflict doesn't define us in God's eyes. Thanks for that reminder, wisely put. I also see the truth in saying that one must first be reconciled within oneself, before one can reconcile others. Yet I also think that often we can't have peace of mind within unless we are doing something for others – even just a small gesture. Maybe that only shows my lack of trust in the divine, I don't know. This winter, with a lot of isolated snowed-in days, has taught me I'm definitely not fit to be a monk or anchorite -!

 

(snip)

 

 

Karen,

 

Thanks for the topic and opportunity to respond. It seems to me that inner peace does not rely on circumstances. It was my experience to be 'doing' most of my life and peace seemed fleeting when i was alone. When the time was ripe, i was placed in circumstances of being alone with my self and it was used as an opportunity to discover that peace really had nothing to do with what i was doing or not doing. The lack of peace when alone and 'not doing' was merely a self generated attachment to 'doing' for me. I am once again 'doing' and it 'feels' good but no longer attached. Circumstances continue to change for me and i find that only those things that can be shaken in me are shaken so that only those things that cannot be shaken remain. In this, to me, the 'rest of God' presents itself as peace under any circumstance.

 

Just some personal words to share,

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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Karen,

I agree with you that I have greater peace of mind when I am involved in helping someone else.

 

The book is: Overcoming Life's Disappointments by Harold Kushner!! I guess the long term memory wasn't affected :P

 

That is so cool about poetry being your way to connect. Mine is music. Thanks for more of Julia Cameron's words... I needed to hear them!

 

Janet

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Thanks for the thoughtful replies. Saw a review of Kushner’s book – like the emphasis on humility.

Going back to Mike’s post – be true to our most authentic self, live according to what makes you feel most connected to God....seems like you can’t go wrong with those principles. “Living into the reality that we come from God and will return to God” – a good phrase to keep in mind. Maybe as a framework it can’t provide guidance on specific choices, but it can affirm a direction either toward inner peace, or toward effectively helping others.

Edited by rivanna
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That is so sweet of you - my book was a very low budget production, not distributed nationally. It was accepted by a tiny college press in North Carolina. There are a few of my poems here

 

http://www.vqronline.org/author/2337/karen-whitehill/

 

and a review here

http://www.marlbororeview.com/i12bradley.html

 

 

I’d rather not post my poems on this board but will put a couple at the end of my website – they were written a long time ago!

 

http://klwcollages.com

 

Is there a place to see/hear your music on line?

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I'm more confident saying that Ibelieve there seems to be a divine purpose for all human beings thandeclaring that on a personal level. I think human beings are meantto grow into their humanity. That means they are meant to mature,identify with the species, and become integrated into whatever placethey dwell in this universe in a healthy, life-giving way. Ofcourse, this applies to every individual in their context.

 

On the more personal level, I hesitateto say that “God specifically wants me to do this thing.” I'mnot sure whether I believe that, yet I tend to lean toward a “yes”(though I also suggest that our participation with the Divine is“negotiable”). The danger of such a heavy-handed view of divinegovernance over one's personal life seems to be that it can eitherlead to exaggerated self-importance or can close doors to wondrous,new possibilities. Therefore, when I say “I feel called to...”the emphasis is really on “feel” for me. (This is not todiscount a calling, for feelings are part of our greater Reality, andan important part of how we related to our greater Reality.)

 

 

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Xian wrote “I hesitate to say that God specifically wants me to do this thing.” I agree completely, it assumes an implausible degree of divine involvement with the details of our lives. Also agree with your saying that we’re “meant to mature, and become integrated into whatever place we dwell in a healthy, life-giving way.” Well put.

 

The author of this book Faith and Will (a former Catholic) apparently thinks God is very hands-on with shaping our lives. She says, “The life that I have now is not a life of my own choosing. It is the life that God put together for me almost behind my back…” This seems like a stretch. However I agree with her saying it is God’s will for us to feel fulfilled, and that a good way to align ourselves with this is to work with prayers of gratitude, and be open to accept blessings-- which often means getting out of our own way. That has been my problem, in many cases.

 

Also liked this idea -- “When God is what we want more of, and not some other lesser thing, we stand a chance of having our appetite sated.”

Edited by rivanna
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Rivanna, I love this topic. Wow! This has been a huge question for me thru the yrs (as well). I am a very visual person and I love allegories...and have some favorite movies that for me were very meaningful. For one reason, is that it is good to know that there are movie writers that have have depth, and we can find true meaning in their projects...and another is that we can benefit from their insight and visual aids. There is one movie I loved called Lady in the Water. I loved the visual of how a very abstract/uncommon event occurred and how each person involved learned what their gift/talent/calling/place was thru the process of figuring out how to handle the very unusual situation. I think it was a wonderful picture of simply finding out what is in a persons heart and what they find out they are good at and love doing, when it counts. I know that this does not sound very theological or spiritual...and a bit simplistic...but I think That God delights in watching our eyes open to what is in our hearts and capabilities. I also believe that when the bible speaks that "God is Love"...I believe that to be true. Meaning that because God does not do anything apart from love, that when we (the children of God) find that talent/or gift and use it in this world with love as our prime motivation, then I believe that God is overwhelmingly delighted. Our lives then become a form of worship.

 

Xian wrote “I hesitate to say that God specifically wants me to do this thing.” I agree completely, it assumes an implausible degree of divine involvement with the details of our lives. Also agree with your saying that we’re “meant to mature, and become integrated into whatever place we dwell in a healthy, life-giving way.” Well put.

 

The author of this book Faith and Will (a former Catholic) apparently thinks God is very hands-on with shaping our lives. She says, “The life that I have now is not a life of my own choosing. It is the life that God put together for me almost behind my back…” This seems like a stretch. However I agree with her saying it is God’s will for us to feel fulfilled, and that a good way to align ourselves with this is to work with prayers of gratitude, and be open to accept blessings-- which often means getting out of our own way. That has been my problem, in many cases.

 

Also liked this idea -- “When God is what we want more of, and not some other lesser thing, we stand a chance of having our appetite sated.”

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Hi Jenny,

 

Thanks for your thoughts. I havent seen Lady in the Water but will check it out, sounds interesting. Did it help you find a sense of direction? I like what you said about our lives becoming a form of worship, and that God wants to collaborate with us, not insist on one particular task.

One problem is that discerning purpose is often only in retrospect learning what not to do. Isaiah 30 says Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it." It is not always easy to listen to your life.

 

Sometimes when I feel pulled to try to help the world become a better place somehow, I recall this idea (paraphrasing from a book on the parables)-- there is no way that we can force the turning of the wheel of history to bring about the kingdom of God. Neither Christians nor anyone else can build it, nor is it identified with the church. At best, we can align ourselves with the kingdom, lean into it, knowing that only God can bring it; His purposes are greater than our own. Yet on the other hand, the parable of the talents says to serve one another with whatever spiritual gifts we have received, and to be afraid of risk or to refuse to use ones gift signifies failure. Does that seem like a mixed message, or am I misunderstanding?

Edited by rivanna
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That is so sweet of you - my book was a very low budget production, not distributed nationally. It was accepted by a tiny college press in North Carolina. There are a few of my poems here...

 

Is there a place to see/hear your music on line?

 

Karen - I LOVED the poems I read of yours! You obviously have a lot of God-given talent!! I also loved the collages. :D I didn't see any poems on that website, yet. Anyway, thanks for taking time to post the links. My original music is much more of a beginner's effort. I find that I connect with God even by just singing and playing other's more-worthy creations. Still, there is something extra-nice about offering up one's own composition to God... Most of my original songs have never been recorded, but here is a link to one I posted on this website before.

 

http://tcpc.ipbhost.com/index.php?/topic/1373-progressive-christian-music/page__p__14618__hl__music__fromsearch__1entry14618

 

 

Janet

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Sometimes when I feel pulled to try to help the world become a better place somehow, I recall this idea (paraphrasing from a book on the parables)-- “there is no way that we can force the turning of the wheel of history to bring about the kingdom of God. Neither Christians nor anyone else can build it, nor is it identified with the church. At best, we can align ourselves with the kingdom, lean into it, knowing that only God can bring it; His purposes are greater than our own.” Yet on the other hand, the parable of the talents says to serve one another with whatever spiritual gifts we have received, and to be afraid of risk or to refuse to use one’s gift signifies failure. Does that seem like a mixed message, or am I misunderstanding?

 

I resonate much more with the second "hand." :) I think the world (and God) waits for those special moments in time when someone stands up, glorifying God, and changes the world for the better. I know it's usually more than one individual, and that the collective consciousness of a group brings the change, but it is one reason I am in league with other Christians - we are working to bring about the kingdom of God, together. And when I die, there will be others working to bring about the kingdom.

I think the kingdom IS identified with the church, although not exclusively....

 

I see the first "hand" you presented as being for our comfort - knowing that even though we work so hard to glorify God and build God's kingdom, the timing may not be right in our lifetime for the change to be perfected. Sometimes, we can only plant the seed of an idea now, which will blossom later.

 

Just my thoughts... Great topic!

 

Janet

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Janet,

 

Thanks for your responses. I did put poems on my website last week, then took them off there are 3 other ones on now.

 

I heard your song did you write both the music and lyrics? And perform it? Those are wonderful gifts. Theres so much gorgeous music written for church, and as you say, the words often dont fit with progressive Christianity. Your theme of open hearts, open minds reminded me of a passage from a novel I just finished, Marilynne Robinsonss Gilead Christianity is a life, not a doctrine. Im not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it.

 

A friend of mine from Holland says Were here to learn from each other. That probably sums it up a lot, for many of us. Ive certainly appreciated the kind respectful atmosphere on this forum.

Edited by rivanna
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Karen,

I just checked the website link, and I'm still seeing "Page 2" of the collages. I can't seem to get to anything else on klwcollages.com

 

Sorry I was so slow in trying to look at the poems. I had a lot of company here, and I didn't want to be checking email/message boards...

 

Yes, I wrote the lyrics and music, although the lyrics were inspired by the pastor's sermon :) I am lucky to play/sing with a talented group of folks who make all music sound pretty good. I agree that the song was very much in line with that book quote! It sounds like I would get along well with your friend from Holland :)

 

Janet

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Hi Rivanna,

Well, that and other particular movies have confirmed what I had already been thinking...which is kinda cool when it's not really a new concept or idea to me, but one I have already been thinking about. For me, it makes me feel like I must be going in the right direction and somewhat on the ball anyway! Ha! :^D

 

You had mentioned about Is. 30...to me that is saying that whatever path you took, it was the 'right' one. That because we don't know the future (I don't anyway) that God means for us to do things out of faith...and no matter what path we took there will always be an element of questioning and of hindsight...which comes with the territory.

 

I also think there is a definite element of grace too...that being finite beings means we aim at God and then take the next step and then the next. The more I grow into God the simpler (not necessarily easier)it seems to get for me...I take whats before me and am satisfied more with those things instead of always thinking or worrying I should be someplace else. I think the yearning will always be there (which is the natural pull forward of someone with a true heart for God), but also the peace of knowing that God is not so far off that He doesn't take notice and be involved in all the corners of my life...which settles my heart!

 

 

Hi Jenny,

 

Thanks for your thoughts. I haven’t seen “Lady in the Water” but will check it out, sounds interesting. Did it help you find a sense of direction? I like what you said about our lives becoming a form of worship, and that God wants to collaborate with us, not insist on one particular task.

One problem is that discerning purpose is often only in retrospect – learning what not to do. Isaiah 30 says “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it." It is not always easy to “listen to your life.”

 

Sometimes when I feel pulled to try to help the world become a better place somehow, I recall this idea (paraphrasing from a book on the parables)-- “there is no way that we can force the turning of the wheel of history to bring about the kingdom of God. Neither Christians nor anyone else can build it, nor is it identified with the church. At best, we can align ourselves with the kingdom, lean into it, knowing that only God can bring it; His purposes are greater than our own.” Yet on the other hand, the parable of the talents says to serve one another with whatever spiritual gifts we have received, and to be afraid of risk or to refuse to use one’s gift signifies failure. Does that seem like a mixed message, or am I misunderstanding?

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Jenny,

 

I liked your point about taking one step at a time, and not worrying—as you say,”God means for us to do things out of faith...and no matter what path we took there will always be an element of questioning and hindsight...which comes with the territory.” How true.

 

My confusion is more about sense of direction on line, than in real life --on this board I’ve vacillated a lot it seems. In many ways I’m a feminist first, then a poet/artist, then a Christian. It’s nice that people here are patient with such inconsistencies :rolleyes: The past several years I’ve received so much in the way of moral support and spiritual insights from this group, and others on line, and I’m thankful.

 

For me a big part of my purpose has meant devoting myself to my husband who is the love of my life, which has led me to learn about his family’s Jewish perspective and to see my own background differently. I guess we all serve as “bridges” in one way or another. Another part--after pursuing poetry with “blind ambition” for many years I felt drawn to study Christianity, to find the source of the Protestant culture I grew up saturated in without understanding it at heart.

 

My book on Henri Nouwen has a chapter called What is my purpose? I like his saying that he wanted “to do well the few things that I am called to do and hold on to the joy and peace they bring me. I must resist the temptation to let the forces of darkness pull me into despair…and trust that I will know how to live out my mission to be a sign of hope in this world….When my work is rooted in God’s love and grace it will be neither compelled nor driven nor frantic. I will once again find the balance, with conviction and calm, trusting in God’s purposes and ways.”

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  • 10 months later...

I was reminded of this topic when I saw an indie film from Netflix the other day, “The Answer Man” (2009) about the reclusive author of a bestseller, Me and God. It’s a satire on popular inspirational books - but it does tell a redemption story and has some thought provoking dialogue on religion.

 

The writer Arlen Faber, who is more of a misanthrope than a mystic, is confronted by one of his fans, a deeply troubled young man who asks him a series of existential questions.

Kris Lucas: Do I have a destiny? or is it all free will?

Arlen Faber: You do have free will, and you use it either to advance or avoid your purpose.

 

Kris: Why can't I do the things I want to do? There's so much I know I'm capable of that I never actually do. Why is that?

Arlen: The trick is to realize that you're always doing what you want to do... always. Nobody's making you do anything. Once you get that, you see that you're free and that life is really just a series of choices. Nothing happens to you. You choose.

 

Kris: If God made everything, then why are some things bad? Like the whole pain and suffering thing...

Arlen: Opposites. Without things that suck, you would have no idea what good was, and therefore be directionless.

 

Kris: Why are we here?

Arlen: You are here so God can experience the world through your eyes.

 

It’s not a great movie but made me think and laugh, and wonder if it was aimed at The Purpose Driven Life or Conversations with God or the Da Vinci Code etc. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has seen it.

Edited by rivanna
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  • 4 weeks later...

Good Evening...

 

The other night when returning from a sales meeting/pep talk/rally, I reflected upon the zeal shown by 99% of my coworkers...Standing, cheering at appropriate places during the several speeches made by company VPs, the jabs at competitors, and so on. I sat in the back of the large room observing and taking mental notes. Suddenly I realized something and this has everything to do with a Sense of Purpose. After that night I am absolutely convinced that we are given two choices in our lives: We can sell our souls to this world in return for wealth, lifestyle, careers, etc. or we can restoreth our souls by following a different Journey and Purpose. The tragedy, I've also realized, is that most people will never know that they have these choices.

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Its seems to me we have an inner and outer purpose. It also seems to me that we all share the same inner purpose and it cannot be found on the outer level of the world. In my view, that inner purpose is to awaken to being . Outer purpose is doing and usually changes over time to fulfill your part of the whole. Personally i see no tragedy in choices made , perhaps i may be in error but my perception is that everyone shall awaken in the fullness of times.

 

Joseph

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