FAITHFUL LIVING: God gives us purpose

I had a couple of minutes to burn this week while waiting for my son’s baseball practice to conclude, so I grabbed my Reader’s Digest magazine out of a stack of mail I had just pulled out of my mailbox. I looked forward to some sensible reading and was particularly drawn to an article that promised I could become stress free in 10 minutes. It was the snappy headline that caught my eye: “7 Ways to Chill Out and Recharge.”

Thinking that chillin’ and rechargin’ sounded like a plan, I looked forward to gleaning some helpful strategies that might prepare me for tasks yet to be accomplished that very evening. It had been a full day and not all was checked off my “To Do” list. I knew I would need to keep my tired Little Leaguer on task until his homework was finished. There would be dinner to prepare, laundry to fold, phone calls to return and e-mail to answer. Most of all, I wanted to keep on task and keep my good humor intact.

A Reader’s Digest answer to battling my stress looked promising. According to writer Peter Jaret, 10 stress-free minutes a day — routinely planned and carried out — will help me to hit the trail with greater comfort. I learned that I could chill and recharge by:

1. Doing nothing. Spend 5 or 10 minutes a day sitting quietly, focusing on environmental sounds, my emotions, or the tension in my neck. Hummm.

2. Laughing out loud. Carry around a collection of funnies or think about my favorite sitcom to prompt that old giggle.

3. Tuning in. When I face a daunting task, I should play soothing music that might include classical, country, or jazz selections.

4. Thinking happy thoughts. Focus on someone or something that brings me happiness for as brief as 15 seconds or as long as 5 minutes.

5. Hitting the road. Get up and move. Take a 10-minute walk.

6. Breathing easy. For 5 minutes, slow down my breathing to a rate of six deep-belly breaths a minute.

7. Rising relaxed. Right before bed and after my morning alarm goes off, I should focus on taking 5 minutes to relax.

Do I believe the claims? Can I incorporate such activities into my life? I can and I do, just like my friends, family members, and co-workers. I am the catnap queen and can easily take a quick break when waiting for the riding lesson or Boy Scouts to wrap up. I listen to Christian praise music on a daily basis, walk at 5:25 most mornings, and pray as I fall asleep — then again before putting on my walking shoes. I even light candles and drink herbal tea late at night because it is relaxing. Oh, I’m there. But because stress can still be a bear that occasionally attacks me as I hike down the trails of life, I respond to these seven strategies the same way I react to the notion that if the bear continues to attack I am best served by telling him a joke, tuning him out with a pair of headsets, or ignoring him altogether.

I want that bear off my back and I know I must grab a trailhead map and make some significant, foundational changes in direction if I want to enjoy this long hike we call modern life.

Pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of the mega-best-seller “The Purpose Driven Life,” writes that knowing God’s purpose for creating you will reduce your stress, focus your energy, and simplify your decisions.

If you are willing to take a good look at your calendar, in addition to the multitude of activities that never get recorded, how many motivating factors might you be able to identify? How many of your commitments are driven by guilt? Anger? A desire for increased wealth so life will be easier? The need for approval?

According to Warren, if we learn how to live a purpose-driven life — one that is directed and guided by God, gone will be the stress caused by those nagging, private worries that what we are doing is ultimately trivial, boring, pointless and annoying. In fact, a purpose-driven life produces five main benefits and counteracts modern-day stress:

First, we will gain deep meaning in our lives. Second, our lives will be simplified. Third, we will be able to avoid aimless distractions. Fourth, we will discover new motivations, passion, and energy. And finally, we will learn how to build an eternal legacy.

This week, take a few quiet moments and ask God to make clear the amazing concept that understanding His purpose for your life will not only pull that bear called stress right off your back, but place your feet on the right path.

Next week, we’ll investigate how this process can begin.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is jbklope@hotmailcom

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