Monica and I became responsible for the Hetzner cottage sometime around 1993.  My father was called home in January of 1991, and we worked with my mother at keeping it open the next couple years (with the help of a particular up-north neighbor).  The year we became its stewards we started keeping a “cottage journal” of its annual usage.  The first line, dated June 3, 1993, reads, “Mark pulls in at about 2:00 a.m. with the charge of opening the cottage by himself.”  At the age of 40 I certainly had more energy than I do now (leaving home at 11:30 p.m. for a 2½ -hour drive after what likely had been a very long day of work), but the wisdom I have since gained (or, at least, that I think I have gained) far outweighs the energy lost.
Part of that wisdom is a greater appreciation/understanding of the purpose of life – and mine in particular.  One of the initial challenges of retirement is to realize that my life still has purpose, and to recognize what that purpose is.  In some ways our life-purpose changes multiple times during a lifetime, yet in other ways it is a constant.  And, as redeemed children of God in Christ Jesus, one thing is a given: we live every second of our lives with God-given purpose … whether we recognize it or not!
I was in a conversation yesterday morning in which we discussed the prevalence in our world today of agnosticism, atheism, and narcissism … and the issues this brings to light.  Definitions (and an Oxford dictionary) are always helpful.  An agnostic is “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God.”  An atheist is “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.”  And nihilism is “the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.”  To this list I would add paganism, “a religion other than one of the main world religions, specifically non-Christian or pre-Christian religion.”  What we are left with is a world where many/most people are either fighting to be the “winner” … with the prized commodities being fame, fortune, and power … or live by the simple creed of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
Or, in other words, the underlying purpose of life is often seen through one of two narcissistic lenses: either we are caught up in the struggle to win (which, by the way, automatically makes others to be “losers”) or the struggle to have as much fun as a loser as possible.  A third option, of course, is to decide life has no purpose and to simply give up.  None of these options, if you ask me, is conducive to a healthy society … or healthy/happy individuals living in any society.
The first hymn penned by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty provides the alternative by which I, by God’s grace in Christ Jesus, live:  “In Christ alone my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my song; This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.  What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when striving cease!  My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand. … No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me; From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.  No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand: Till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”  My life has purpose (though in retirement it is certainly altered) … and SO DOES YOURS!
I am in the process of transcribing our cottage journal – taking what is written by various authors in spiral notebooks and putting it into files saved in “the cloud.”  Yesterday I started typing in the events of 2005.  This means that through this project I have just re-lived over a decade of my life.  And, surprisingly, transcribing our cottage journal has added some interesting clarity to my understanding of life and its purpose.
Allow me to preface this by listing four things that are ours as baptized believers in Christ.  In and through Jesus we have 1) eternal life, 2) full forgiveness of all our sins, 3) earthly purpose, and 4) the assurance that our times are in his hand.  Promises number 1, 2, and 4 free us to focus fully upon number 3 … since eternal salvation is God’s gift to us (#1) … and all of our mistakes (past, present and future) are covered (#2) … and God holds the entirety of our earthly life (from beginning to end) in his almighty, gracious hands (#4) … we are given the pure pleasure-filled purpose (#3) of enhancing the life and eternity of those around us.
As I am transcribing the cottage journal, I am recalling many different people (of varied ages) God has brought into our lives over the years.  Then, last night, we had dinner with one of our Goddaughters.  She related a story that expanded this realization.  At a recent wedding reception, in Ohio, she met someone who knew us through STL – from about 20 years ago!  Between work and family, neighborhoods and all the events in between, the number of people God has had crossing our path is beyond recognition … all with the same pleasure-filled purpose of enhancing life and eternity!
In retirement, I have the time to be a little more hands-on with the ever-changing needs of my immediate family.  Also, while no longer shepherding the people of STL, different relationships (some new, some old) are being experienced in renewed ways.  Yet, amidst all this change, the four items listed above remain constant.
In other words, the promise God spoke to Jeremiah long ago he continues to speak to you and me throughout the entirety of our earthly journeys.  “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” (Jeremiah 29.11-12) As you, like I, live in this wonderous promise, you are given (no matter what your age or situation) the pure pleasure-filled purpose of enhancing the life and eternity of those around you … so, let’s go out there and continue to enjoy life together.