Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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Birthing My First Book

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There are certain things in life that we anticipate, imagining we know what they’ll be like before launching into them: marriage, parenting, traveling abroad and remodeling a house, to name a few. If you’ve ever done any of these things, you know our naïve and enthusiastic visions rarely match up with reality.

One thing that fell into that category for me was writing a book. I’d wanted to do it for many years and always hoped it would happen when the time was right. I didn’t know what I would write about, but I believed God would give me the experience and inspiration in his timing. It lurked in the back of my mind, but was not a goal I pursued actively.

And then, in the spring of 2015, the opportunity was dropped in front of me unexpectedly. The Coordinator of my church’s women’s Bible study asked if I would consider writing a study for the group. I had been writing weekly blogs in conjunction with our lessons for the previous three years, so she was confident I could do it. I appreciated her belief in me but knew it was a daunting task. In spite of this, I realized it was a tremendous opportunity for an aspiring writer. After praying and talking it over with my husband, we agreed this was the prompting from God I’d been waiting for.

I was given a few parameters and the topic of “Women of the Bible.” Needing to narrow down the field, I decided to choose the women in Jesus’ family line, not really remembering exactly who all of them were. I wanted the study to point to Jesus and thought these women were sure to do that. However, once I started researching them, I was a little intimidated. If you’ve ever read about Tamar in Genesis 38 or Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 & 12, you know they are not easy chapters to navigate. Despite some unsavory stories and complicated characters, I pressed on, sure that God would reveal truth through them.   Each time I sat down to research and write I was energized and inspired, making the hours in front of my computer seem like minutes.

Five months later, I felt like I’d made nine new friends from studying the intimate details of their lives.  I’d spent the summer with Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary, taking them with me on trips or spending quiet hours at home while my kids were gone. Even the most difficult characters with the messiest stories revealed God’s amazing redemptive plans (in fact, some of them became my favorites).  By early fall Women of the Word: The Family Tree of Jesus was finally finished and ready to be printed at the church so that 180 women could study it together.

Once the book launched, I spent another several months actually doing the study and leading two different groups of women through weekly discussions on the lessons. Watching them grasp the concepts I’d been pondering for months was an amazing thrill. In some cases, their questions and comments helped me to see the characters even more deeply or to recognize the places I needed to add more information or write clearer questions.  (And sometimes it was embarrassing to find editing errors I’d missed despite the hours I’d spent proofreading it.)

I was humbled as women in the groups asked for additional copies of the book to share with friends and family. This led to the third leg of my ever-lengthening journey with Women of the Word as I began the process of preparing the materials for publication through an online service. Suddenly I went from being a researcher and writer to being an editor, graphic designer and layout artist. Until then, I never cared about the process of choosing just the right font or asking publishers for copyright permissions.  The number of details requiring my attention was astounding.

I set many deadlines for myself and watched each one pass with items on my to do list still unfinished. There were times when I thought it would never be done, but by the end of summer, the last few glitches finally worked out. I received a final sample copy in the mail for approval and looked at it with fear and wonder, hardly fathoming that the journey was coming to an end.

By the time it was finished and ready for purchase, it had taken sixteen months—longer than it takes for a baby to gestate. I had no idea how involved the process would be when I started (which was probably a good thing).   And just like marriage, becoming a parent, living through a remodel or traveling abroad, there were many unexpected situations along the way—some positive, some not. Yet all of them provided significant opportunities for growth and learning. And in the end, I must admit, I would do it again…. When the time is right.

The newest version of Women of the Word: The Family Tree of Jesus is the result of many hours of research, writing and prayer. It was also born as a result of countless conversations and numerous people lending their support in different ways (you can read their names in the acknowledgements at the back of the book, if you’re so inclined).   If you haven’t had a chance to do the study, I hope you’ll consider taking a look. If you have done it, would you consider recommending it to someone else?

The process of writing it and studying it with others blessed me significantly and expanded my faith exponentially. My prayer is that God will use it to draw others closer to him as they gain a deeper understanding of his Word and his plan of redemption for all people.

Click on the link to read the official description and to learn more about Women of the Word: The Family Tree of Jesus.  I would consider it an honor to have you study it.

https://www.amazon.com/Women-Word-Family-Tree-Jesus/dp/1534854665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472008841&sr=1-1&keywords=women+of+the+word+the+family+tree+of+jesus

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When “Good Enough” Isn’t

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Dipping my paddle in the water, I balanced on the board and pulled hard, ignoring my body’s protests. It had been twelve weeks since I’d fractured my elbow and wrist in a bike accident. I’d been looking forward to vacation and assumed I would be “back to normal” so I could enjoy biking, paddle boarding and swimming. The doctor had assured me the bone would be fully healed by then but my physical therapist was still concerned by my ongoing pain and stiffness. The tendons and muscles that had constricted to protect the fractures were still tight, preventing full range of motion.  My therapist pushed me hard in our sessions leading up to the trip, not wanting me to settle for “good enough.” She’d had other patients who didn’t want to do the hard work to be 100% recovered.   Beyond the concern about my quality of life and ability to use my arm fully, she worried about future problems that would arise, particularly the early onset of arthritis in my elbow joint.

Just before I left on vacation, she gave me a list of exercises to do daily and encouraged me to press on toward healing. A few days later, taking my first spin on a paddle board in the harbor, I remembered her words. With each dip of the paddle, the pain and stiffness that were so strong at first began to subside. By the end of the day, my arm felt loose and almost normal after all of the activities I’d done. But with the dawn of the next day, I was right back where I started. Some days it was tempting to give myself a break and not do the exercises she’d assigned, but I knew this would only prolong my recovery.

I had to trust that my efforts were incrementally improving my range of motion and flexibility, despite the discouragement of the painful stiffness returning each day. It started me thinking about a passage of Scripture written by Paul:

“Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” (1Timothy 4:7b-10, NIV)

Physical training produces a healthy body, but it is not a one-time event. Whether it’s doing physical therapy to regain full strength or just exercising consistently, we must move our bodies to maintain health. Similarly, we need to engage daily in training ourselves for godliness. The difference is, this kind of regimen has eternal significance.

As believers, we know this–yet why is it so difficult for us to put into practice? Maybe it seems easier to just coast through life without spiritual discipline. Laboring and striving sound like hard work, so we settle for “good enough” instead of pressing on in our pursuit of Christ. We want to amble along comfortably instead of living with a sense of urgency. Yet there is so much we miss when we surrender to this lackadaisical attitude. We limit the exciting things God wants to do in and through us and we fail to experience the abundant life he promises.

The pain in my elbow reminds me throughout the day that I need to keep working and pressing on with my therapy. I’m praying that circumstances in my life will prompt the same sense of purpose in my walk with God. Will you join me? When facing a difficult situation, let’s pursue God and see what he wants us to learn instead of defaulting to self-pity. When we encounter the same issues over and over again, let’s confront them head on and lay them at the feet of Jesus instead of growing weary and giving up. Let’s not ignore  baggage that will only weigh us down or hold us back. Let’s trust him to use ongoing challenges to refine our faith and make us more like him. With each day, let’s make it a priority to spend time aligning with God through praying and reading his Word before jumping into the day.

One of the best ways to labor and strive in your faith is to commit to studying the Bible regularly.  During the summer months, it’s easy to let this discipline slide. As you prepare for the busyness of fall, why not prioritize time for a weekly study? If your schedule feels overloaded, this is not the activity to jettison in an attempt to simplify your life. Don’t settle for “good enough”  by keeping your walk with Jesus on the back burner. Press on and see what new things God has in store for you. Discover deeper truth in the Bible as you delve into it with others. Then strive to apply it to your life. Yes, some days it will feel like hard work and other days you will not follow through. But setting a goal to be consistent will give you a clear focus and over time you’ll begin seeing results.

I imagine I could function for the rest of my life with a right arm that doesn’t extend fully, but I don’t want to settle for that. I don’t want my daily life to be less than it could be and I certainly don’t want to set myself up for even bigger problems in the future. In a similar way, I don’t want to be stunted spiritually. I don’t want to settle for a lukewarm faith. I want to keep moving forward and discovering new things about God, his Word and how he wants to work in and through me to impact the world and further his kingdom. Will you labor and strive with me to do this? Will you commit to doing the hard work for your sake and the sake of those around you? I guarantee, it’s worth the effort.

Click on the link and make Third Day’s song “Soul on Fire” your prayer today.

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