Life ChallengesSomeone asked me recently what my blog was all about. I directed him to the “About” page on the blog and then gave him the short answer “How people shape their lives and how their lives are shaped by external influence.” Here is a longer answer:

I am interested in everything that makes up what we call life. I begin with the reality of Creator God, who gives life to all that is. That fact alone characterizes human life as a blessing. Your theology may not include Creator God as the agency of your existence. Regardless of how your theology unpacks the existence of human life, you are. The answer for me is a faith answer. The first words of Hebrew Scripture constitute a faith statement: “In the beginning God…” It is through faith that I believe God was—before all things and through him all things were created. For me, therefore, the fact that I am is an expression of God.

However, that is only a beginning. My blog considers the fact that in the economy of his creation, human life is not placed in a vacuum or a hothouse, and left to develop free of external influence. Nor is it like a clock that is wound up and set on a shelf to run by itself. We are not without self-determination. Rather our lives were created to be dynamic, alive and responsive to our environment. We have the ability to craft and mold our lives according to our will to do so. Therefore, our lives are given to us, they are shaped by forces external to ourselves, and we craft them by our personal will.

External Influences on Our Life’s Design

Our life’s designs are influenced by many things: the prevailing weather where we live; the political climate—dictatorial, autocratic, democratic; economic doctrines—laissez-faire, state capitalism, or socialism; religio-political structures—state religion, separation Life Is An Advneturebetween religion and state, or even no distinction between religion and state; religious/theological structures and faith tradition; social systems including schools—public, private, parochial, and some that blur the lines; urban planning, or lack thereof, and community organizations; culture; visual and performing arts; degree of openness to people different from ourselves, closed to diversity, or embracing it; and the family into which one is born—family life and values, inherited traits, personhood development, financial resources, societal interactions. The design of our lives bears an imprint from these structures, which inform our living.

In light of current winds blowing through our lives, I have additional comments about external influences on how our life’s designs are shaped: We live in a time in which there are people throughout the world with interests in fabricating the structure of our individual life’s design. There are political forces and religious forces that claim to have a pure form of ideology for society and desire to obliterate any opposing forms. They take extreme measures from fabricating truth—something we used to call lying and is now called alternate reality and fake news—to forcing conformity by police force or military might. In the past some societies have sought control through educational initiatives, printed media, and broadcast media. Today, the instrument of choice is electronic media including and maybe primarily social media. These influences are being used in one place or another and one form or another somewhere in the world to affect the design of individual lives. It requires vigilance on our part to keep from being manipulated until we get caught in a bubble unable to make free choices of our own will.

Making Choices

But we’re not like puppets, which cannot control their own actions—unless you’re Pinocchio—therefore, we can affect our life’s design through the choices we make or our intentional acceptance of external forces. Rather than allow he forces around them—family, society, religion, culture, politics—to dictate the design of their lives, some Coffee Shoppeople determine the direction of their own lives and map the course they will take with intentionality. They determine who they want to be in the years ahead. Such planning might even determine where they will live. They consider priorities in their lives and answer questions like, Is family more important than career advancement, adventure in new places, etc.? If being physically near family is important, then they find work near their ancestral home and stay around relatives adapting their future to local opportunities. However, valuing personal growth and maximizing potential, seeking cultural and educational advantages, and exploring life vocations unavailable in their family hometown or city  may include moving to new environs as part of their life’s design.

One of the choices we have in designing our lives is a faith one. We can choose to believe in and appropriate the reality of a faith object. For me that is Jesus the Christ. I am a follower of him. That faith relationship has added dimensions of extraordinary proportions to the design of my life. Not only does it guide the choices I make both in designing my life and allowing external influences to make their imprint on the design, but following the Christ influences the whole of it.

So, what is my blog about? All of the above. Often these various pieces find genesis deep in our spirits when we observe nature or the perfection in a newborn baby or the antics Social Scienceof a puppy or the sensuousness of loving expressions in newlyweds or a couple observing sixty years together. Life is a mosaic with many colorful pieces of various sizes and shapes. Some of the pieces are put in place for us, but many of the mosaic tiles we select, thus the design of our lives is born. This design is living and dynamic, constantly changing, both as we make choices and by external forces.

Life’s designs can be beautiful. Embrace your life, design it in a way that is fulfilling for you and honors our Creator God.


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