Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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Accessing the Power of the Spirit

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If you’ve read any of my posts in the past year, you know that I love to mountain bike.  God seems to speak to me as I climb hills, pick my way through rocky spots and roll through shifting soil.  I’ve been riding for quite a few years without any major incidents.  There has been a minor crash or two, but nothing too serious.

Until this past summer, I’d never even gotten a flat tire.  And then, in the span of a few weeks, I got two.   Both times I was out on an early morning ride with a close girlfriend when I realized I’d run over a thorn and was losing air fast.  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’d never learned to change a flat (my only consolation was that she didn’t know either).  Our solution was to leave in the thorn to plug the hole and pump the tire back up.  I’d ride my bike as far as I could until the tire was too flat, then we’d stop and repeat the whole process.  Both times, I made it home with only a minor amount of walking after I’d parted ways with her.    Here’s the worst part, though.  In my “Camelbak” (a small backpack that holds water), I had a patch kit, a new tube and tire irons.  The problem was, I had no idea how to use them.

Years ago my husband lovingly placed all the needed tools to change a flat into my “Camelbak” so that I’d be prepared in an emergency.  The one thing we’d never taken time to do was make sure I knew how to use them.  I’ll admit it– I’m spoiled and let him do about 95% of my bike maintenance  (I pump up the tires and hose it off when it’s muddy, that’s about it).

After my second flat, I called my husband.  “I think it’s time for me to learn how to change a tire.”

That night, he gave me a lesson.  I wasn’t 100% confident in my abilities, however I at least knew the basics.

A few days later my husband and I went for a ride.  We’d been on the trail for about 20 minutes when I noticed my front tire going flat.  It was my third thorn of the summer after going years without a flat.   Very frustrating.

We pulled out our tools and I was actually somewhat helpful as my husband found the leak and repaired it with a patch.    So instead of turning around and limping my way home with a deflating tire that continually needed air, we were able to finish our ride and enjoy a sunny summer afternoon.

I’d had the tools on every ride– the difference was that now I knew how to use them.  Even better, I had someone there to help me.

Riding home I started thinking about the study we just started on Gideon.  In Week One of Priscilla Shirer says:

“Like it or not, spiritual warfare exists.  We may never take up arms with a shield and sword like Gideon, but we are no less in a battle every day.  We know it.  We feel it.  Victory requires constant effort to take ‘every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5).  By God’s Spirit, we can be successful—the same way the judges were”  (p. 31).

She then asks three penetrating questions:

1.  “Does the enemy have to think twice about his schemes against your family because of your watchful presence?”

2.  “Do the enemy’s attempts become quickly thwarted because you are alert and prayerful?”

3.  “Are you on guard and aware of the spiritual nature behind physical events in your life?”

I’ll translate her questions a different way to connect to my story:

Do we have the tools we need but fail to us them?

Or how about this:

Do we have the tools but not know how to use them?

God has given us his Word and the Holy Spirit–two incredibly powerful “tools” in our “Spiritual Camelbaks.”   But, have we taken the time to learn about them and how to use them?

Ephesians 6:10-18 is probably the most well-known passage relating to spiritual warfare:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Take a look at verse 17.  Do you see it?  The sword of the Spirit is the word of God!  Knowing God’s word and relying on the Spirit are our best offensive weapons.


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Priscilla Shirer puts it this way:  “Our goal must be to flesh out the truths of God’s Word, open ourselves to His activity in our daily lives, learn from those who are doing it well, and seek to inspire others through our example”  (p. 35).

Time spent studying the Bible is time well spent.  Time spent studying it consistently with others is even better.  Asking God to fill you to overflowing with His Spirit is the best way to meet spiritual attack.

And just like my husband was there to teach me how to use my tools and to help me out on the trail when I got my flat, the Holy Spirit is always there with us once we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior.  When we’re involved in a Bible Study with others, we have them to help us along the way too.  Pray and invite more of His Presence into your life. Pray that God will open your eyes so that you can see where He is at work.  Then, sit back and enjoy the ride.


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Walking for Water

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Recently a good friend was telling me about how her kitchen faucet was broken. Her husband was out of town, so she’d put a sign on the faucet to remind herself and her kids to get water in the bathroom.   It was a colossal pain for three days until her husband returned and fixed the problem.  I could empathize with her frustration because I lived without a kitchen for five months during a remodel.

During the time of our remodel, I was reading a book called The Hole in Our Gospel by World Vision President Rich Stearns.  Our whole church read it together over the course of six weeks.  In fact, writing my thoughts about that book was what launched me into the world of blogging.  The book opened the eyes of many people in our church to the tremendous needs existing among vast numbers of impoverished people around the world.  Our church was so moved that we committed to investing time and resources in a village in Ethiopia for the next seven years.  A lasting impact will be made as we build a school, sponsor kids, dig a well and provide support to help the people of Sintaro move from surviving to thriving.

I’ve had a small taste of the frustration of not having water readily accessible.  For the people of Sintaro, this is a way of life.  Three times a day they must hike down a steep ravine to get water from a dirty stream for all of their needs—from cooking to bathing to drinking.  Women and children lug heavy jugs back up the trail to the village.  It’s sobering to think about the amount of time they spend getting water.  Having running water readily accessible is a pretty vital aspect of life.  I think most of us who have it take it for granted.  I know I do.

My husband and I have gotten involved with an event to raise money to dig a well in Sintaro Village.  A team of us has been planning a hike for the community to “walk for water.”  The people of Sintaro do it three times daily.   We’ll do it for an hour on a Saturday to identify with their struggle and raise funds to make a lasting difference.  The sponsorship money hikers  contribute or raise will go directly into a fund to build the well in Sintaro Village.  It’s a simple but exciting opportunity to make a difference.   Registration has been open for the last month and we’re hoping to have at least 100 people participate.  We still have a ways to go to reach that goal, but I’m confident we will.  All it requires is signing up, sponsoring yourself and maybe asking a few  additional folks to sponsor you as well.  If you invite friends, their sponsorships will be matched by an anonymous donor.  Participants will have the choice of walking on a paved trail or hiking on a dirt one for about an hour.  That’s it.  If you can’t hike or won’t be in town, please consider sponsoring someone else or making a donation.

I ‘m hoping we’ll remember the heart behind this event—it’s not about feeling guilty or fulfilling a duty, it’s about aligning ourselves with the heart of God.  I think Jesus says it best:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”  -Matthew 25:31-40

To get more information or to register for the Hike, click on the link below.

http://www.hikeforsintaro.org

To see a 3 minute video of the hike the Sintaro villagers make three times a day, click on the link below:

Click below to hear a song that will inspire you to bring water to those in need: :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYP5gE-kDjY

I’ll look for you out on the trail October 5th!


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Jumping Into Bible Study with Both Feet

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Summer is a grand time of year.  I love the freedom, the spontaneity, and the flexibility.  I love seeing family and friends who I don’t get to see much during the rest of the year.  I love vacations, warm weather and how every week holds the promise of something new and different.  I love the extra time with my kids.

Although our California weather says that it’s still summer, I can feel the fall coming on.  It’s not so much in the air yet as in the ways my preferences are changing.   My kids have started school, which means it’s time for schedules, routines and plans.  As much as I love summer, I’m ready to admit it’s over and move past the dreaded August Angst (see my last blog if you don’t know that term).  I’m ready to re-engage with women at church and Bible Study with more regularity.   I’m excited to open a brand new workbook and dive into a Bible Study that will surely impact me in ways I can’t imagine right now.  I look forward to connecting with old friends and making new ones as we gather to worship and study God’s word together.  Maybe that excitement I feel stems from Jesus words in Matthew 18:20

 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

 We are not called to be Lone Rangers in our faith, God meant for us to draw near to one another as we draw near to Him.  When we do that consistently, His Spirit moves and works in powerful ways.  Something significant happens when we gather with others to open the pages of the Bible and encourage one another to live out what we’re learning there.

I hope you’re excited too, because we have a great year ahead of us.  Whether you are a member of Focused Living or someone who has found this blog in a different way, I hope that reading along this year will encourage, inspire and challenge you.  Please join the conversation by commenting when something strikes you.  It is good to share what you’re learning along the way.

You might have noticed that my blog’s appearance has changed a bit this fall.  It felt like a good time to freshen up the look, kind of like buying new school clothes.  You’ll see a few changes that I hope will make it more “user friendly”.  Hopefully you’ll learn to navigate it with ease in the months ahead.  I’ll give you a little “tour” to explain it all.  If you are already familiar with the jargon and format of blogs, you may not need this.  I’ve put the subjects in bold so you can skip to the ones you may want to learn about.

Titles

On the top left of the page you’ll see the title “Life in Focus” followed by the sub title “Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect.”  These will appear on the top of the page every time you log in to read my blog.  Below the blog’s permanent title is the post title.  This will change with each new post I ad.  For example, this post is called “Jumping into Bible Study with Both Feet.”  (“Blog” is just short for “Weblog” which is basically like an online diary or journal with multiple entries available for others to read.  “Post” is just a blogging term for an entry- kind of like a single journal or diary entry.)

Photo

On most posts I try to include a photo that will visually connect to some aspect of my post.  I like taking pictures and it is just a way to scratch my creative itch and find a way to make that blog topic memorable.  I’m a visual person and often remember old posts I’ve written by the pictures I put with them.  I hope you like them!

Date/ Comments

-You’ll notice in the upper left corner there is a date.  The date listed corresponds to the date I posted that particular entry so you can have some context for it. Below the date is the word “Comments.”  There may be a number in front of the word indicating the number of comments already made about that post. If you click on the word “Comments” and then scroll down to the bottom of that particular blog post, you’ll see a short bio about me followed by any comments that have already been made about my blog.  Below them, you’ll see a blank field.  Right above it says “Leave a Reply” and inside the blank field it says “Enter your comments here…”  You can type your thoughts about the blog in that box.  (If you don’t click on “Comments” the field for writing one won’t appear at the bottom.)

Home and About

-On the right side of the page at the top you’ll see the word “Home” which just takes you to my most recent post (you would use this if you scrolled down to read older posts and then wanted to go back to the top).  Next to it is the word “About.”  If you click on that, it tells you a bit of background about the blog and its author (me).

Search

-Below “Home” and “About” is a blank field with the word “Search” next to it in a blue box.  If there is a topic you are interested in finding in my blogs, you can type it into the field, click “Search” and see if a post comes up.  This only works if I entered the word you’re typing as a category when I wrote the post.  It is not a 100% reliable way to find topics in older posts (sorry).

Recent Posts

-Below “Search” you’ll see a title that says “Recent Posts.”  It lists titles of the last 5 blog posts I’ve written. If you click on any of them, the post will come up for you to read.

Archives

-Below “Recent Posts” is “Archives.”  You’ll see a list of months starting with the present and going backwards.  If you click on any of these, it will take you to the posts I wrote during that month, starting with the first one.

Categories

-Below “Archives” is the heading “Categories.”  This just lists all the main categories covered in the post.  It is just my brainstorming of all the categories touched on in the post.  (This connects to my explanation of “Search” above).

META

-Below “Categories” is a heading that says “META.”  You pretty much don’t need to worry about this unless you are really into techie stuff.  If you want to join WordPress or want to start a blog, this is where you would do that (but you don’t need to do either of those things to read or comment on the blog).

Follow Blog Via E-mail

-Below “META” you’ll see a heading that says: “Follow Blog Via E-mail.”  Below it is a blank field for you to enter your e-mail address.  Once you’ve done this, click on the blue box below it that says: “Follow.” Clicking “Follow” causes you to receive e-mail notifications anytime I post a new blog.

Facebook, LinkedIn, “More,” and “Like”

-Below my posts you will see the symbols for Facebook and LinkedIn.  If you are a member of Facebook and like a post, you can click the Facebook logo and put a link to my blog on your timeline.  You can also post it on your LinkedIn page by clicking on the LinkedIn Logo.  If you click on “More” you have the option to print the post or to e-mail it to someone else (which is another way to share it if you are not on Facebook).  The “Like” button is for people who are registered on WordPress.com.  It is just a way to show that you liked what you read (a way bloggers on the site communicate with one another and affirm each other).

**Sometimes you may see an advertisement at the end of a blog post.  This is not from me but from the host of my blog (wordpress.com).  Just ignore it and keep scrolling down.  I don’t have control over the content of the ads, so I apologize if you don’t like them.

I think that covers all the details. Hopefully it makes it easier for you to read, navigate and respond to the blog.  I look forward to sharing together as we study God’s word this year!