FAITHFUL LIVING: Shape your passion for life

I absolutely love springtime in the Pacific Northwest. I have experienced 15 of them, and I not only anticipate their arrivals, but I thrill ever more as each new spring arrives.

This is because springtimes are filled with elements of surprise.

Take those tent caterpillars. The trees around our property are littered with them. I never recall seeing such a show or feeling so “heebie-jeebie” when walking outside. The other morning, as I stood at the edge of my porch, I was sprinkled with caterpillars as they dropped from the eave onto my shoulders. Once I realized what was hitching a ride I spontaneously broke out into a dance and spun around, hurriedly brushing them off. I am sorry you were not there to see my once-in-a-lifetime performance!

Springtimes are also predictable and filled with tradition, especially if you are a high school senior. This is because the start of spring means the prom is just around the corner. While much has changed since I was a senior, the intensity surrounding the hunt for a prom dress remains the same — with a couple of exceptions.

During my senior year there were no computers and my classmates and I were not bombarded with images of fashion. After my high school sweetheart asked me to the prom I drove downtown to connect with my grandmother who worked in the fabric department at the Great Eastern. I poured over pattern books with such names as McCalls and Butterick. And when I found a dress style I liked, my grandmother walked me through the bolts of fabric to choose with care a fabric that would be compatible with the pattern.

These days girls do not sew, for the most part, and I guarantee most have never dreamed of that perfect dress while turning the pages of Simplicity. Instead, they hop onto the Internet and click on Web sites set up by formal dress manufacturers. They choose styles they like and zoom in for closer looks with the mere click of a mouse. How might that dress look in red? Click! What does the back look like? Click! What are the dimensions of a size 5? Click! Where is the closest store to carry that brand? Click!

It’s an amazing world, but some things never change … like the diversity of shapes these senior girls come in. Do you think this would look good on me? I am frequently asked. I reply with all the tact and tenderness I can muster. This is because what we think we should look like and how God has shaped us is not always a comfortable fit at first.

Think this is merely a teenage dilemma? Not on your life. Knowing your shape is, for most of us, a lifelong process, involving continual self-evaluation. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of the best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” uses the acronym SHAPE to explain the unique combination of gifts God gives us to live successful and fulfilling lives that ultimately serve Him. Last week I introduced Warren’s idea that God empowers each one of us with spiritual gifts. This is the “S” in SHAPE.

The “H” stands for heart: that bundle of desires, dreams, hopes, interests and longings that fill your inner being. When you lie awake at 2 a.m., away from the noise, pressures, and influences of your life, what do you dare to think about? Hope for … perhaps even long to do?

Those most private of all your thoughts reflect the condition of your heart and reveal the real you.

According to Warren, God gives each one of us a unique heartbeat that will race when we consider activities and circumstances that intrigue us. This means that when you are fully engaged in something — especially in areas of little or no interest to immediate family and friends — you can bet these stirrings reveal the nature of your heart and are clues as to what you should be doing in your life.

How encouraging it is to know that when God asks you to serve Him with all your heart, He is encouraging you to pay attention to the things you love. He longs for a passionate response from you, for He knows that people rarely excel at tasks they can barely stand. He promises, instead, that if you will seek His will and allow life’s events to be your teacher, He will point the way and fit you into His eternal plans.

Some great questions to ask yourself as you seek to understand your heart might be: Am I forcing myself into opportunities that don’t fit? What would I be doing — and what would my life look like — if I were serving God and others with passion?

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

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