Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

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Turning my head for the briefest moment, I realized my carelessness just in time to see my front wheel colliding with the curb. The pavement seemed to rise up to meet my face as I crashed in a heap. Before I’d had a chance to react, I was sprawled on the side of the road, tangled in my bike and still clipped into the pedals. Rushing back to help me, my husband gently pulled the bike off me and surveyed my injuries.

The road rash on my swollen cheek and shoulder looked bad, but were minor injuries compared to the pain radiating down my right arm. A trip to the ER confirmed I’d fractured my elbow. Wrapping my arm from shoulder to fingers, the nurses listened sympathetically as I lamented that I didn’t have time to slow down at such a busy time of year.

Initially I didn’t realize that even my most common activities would be impacted by this injury.   I knew I could forget about getting exercise for a while. The effort required for simple tasks like bathing and dressing was hard enough. What I didn’t anticipate was that holding a book, writing and typing with two hands would also be extremely challenging. Suddenly, the main things I sought for spiritual and mental health were no longer available to me.

Lying in bed the morning after my accident, I realized I needed to find some new ways to connect with God that were outside of my usual practices. I thought of the many people who constantly share their life happenings on social media—it almost seems as if events don’t really “count” unless they’re posted. It turns out I can be the same way with my spiritual disciplines. If I don’t write prayers in my journal or fill in answers in a Bible study workbook, I feel like I haven’t done an actual “quiet time” like a dutiful and faithful Christian “should.”

I’ve written and thought a lot about the idea of abiding—of remaining present and engaged with God throughout each day. With the limitations created by my injury, God is challenging me to find new ways to do this consistently. My broken elbow has caused me to be a lot less productive and a lot more introspective. Holding an ice pack to my face with my left hand and having a nearly unusable right hand prevents me from multitasking like I usually would. It’s hard to grasp a book or even scroll through my phone. In those idle moments I’m trying to focus on God instead of letting my thoughts just ramble. My injury is teaching me to settle into the quiet and just be in God’s presence.

As much as I’ve grown over the years, I’m realizing God still has many things to teach me (or re-teach me). I am learning to trust him in the midst of my physical weakness and to be attentive to what he wants me to learn during the season of forced rest. And with each passing day, I’m learning to be thankful for the ways life has been simplified to accommodate my injury. I’m learning things I would be too busy to recognize in the usual fast pace of my life.

I’m taking comfort from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth when he writes about an unnamed physical problem that challenged him:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, NIV)

God’s grace was sufficient for Paul. I pray the same will be true of me as I learn to let his power be made perfect in my weakness. With every task I am unable to do with one hand, I’m being prompted to thank him for something- whether it is the patience I’m learning or the people he’s using to help me.

When I completed my last Bible study workbook by Kelly Minter, I started praying God would provide new sources of inspiration for my writing, but I never anticipated it being something like this. I hope you’ll join me over the next few weeks as God teaches and blesses me through this unexpected season of physical challenges. And as you read, I hope you’ll consider the new places he wants to take you on your faith journey this summer. Sometimes you don’t even have to leave home to do it!

I couldn’t resist sharing a song that feels like it was written just for me in the midst of this crazy time.

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The Lure of Lesser Lights

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Jesus tells us: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) The many lights that twinkle during the Christmas season celebrate this truth. I like to believe that all lights people hang at this time of year give Him praise, whether they were intended to or not. However, as much as I love this season, I often take my eyes off Jesus. Sometimes the true Light is only in my peripheral vision as I let lesser lights guide me during this hectic time of year.

The Bible reminds us that God’s word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our paths. (Psalm 119:105) However, spending quiet time with the Lord can get pushed aside as other things vie for our attention. So many shiny lights blink with urgency that it’s easy to let them guide us in place of God’s Word.

One of the biggest pitfalls for us is the lure of meeting expectations that abound during this season. All of those real or imagined hopes we try to fulfill lead us down a path to exhaustion.   We can spend the season trying to find the right gift, decorate the house exquisitely, bake everyone’s traditional favorites, wear the perfect Christmas outfit, or maintain cherished traditions. The season can become engulfed with fulfilling expectations. However, when we let them be the lamp to our feet and the light to our path, we often end up feeling physically and emotionally depleted.

Every day we have to make a conscious choice: we can choose to light our paths with the world’s expectations or we can choose to light our paths by spending time with the Lord in His Word. The light we choose to lead us influences the direction we go. One path leads to disappointment, the other to joy. The best way to keep Jesus in the center of the Christmas season is to keep Him central in our daily lives, especially when we feel too busy. Even if our formal Bible study groups are on a break for the holidays, our personal times with God can continue. It is the one thing that will keep us in alignment with Him during this busy season and into the New Year. Let’s not let the “urgent” tasks of the moment cause us to sacrifice what is ultimately most important.

Thinking about this reminded me of a letter my husband and I wrote to our boys last Christmas. We’d bought them new Bibles and wanted to explain their importance. Our goal was to help them understand the reason we make reading and studying the Bible a priority in our lives. Here is a short excerpt from that letter:

“Our hope and prayer is that as you get older, you will immerse yourself in God’s word and see that it is the jumping off place for everything in life. It will give you wisdom about your daily choices, your relationships, your future plans, and so much more. It will show you who God is and what He thinks of you. It will show you how to pray and what to pray for. It will equip you with the tools you need to engage in spiritual battle. It will give you confidence to obey God when it would be easier to follow the crowd. It will give you hope no matter what difficulty you find yourself in. It will tell you the truth when the world tells you lies. It will give you a firm foundation for making big life decisions. It will give you wisdom when you don’t know what to do. But, it will only do these things if you take the time to read it, study it, and talk about it with others. As you “marinate” in the Bible, the truth you discover will flavor who you are and impact the world around you. You will further God’s kingdom on earth as you live out the things you learn in the Bible.”

This Christmas season, let’s not let our Bibles gather dust on our shelves as we’re on a break from our usual routines and engrossed in the holiday season.   Before you turn on your computer or tablet, check your phone, unfold the newspaper, or click on the TV, try sitting quietly with Him for a few minutes at the beginning of your day.

-Read through the Christmas story in Luke 1 and 2 and Matthew 1 & 2 and prophesies about Jesus in Isaiah 9:2-7, Isaiah 42:1-9, Isaiah 55:1-13 and Micah 7:18-20.

-Review your most recent Bible study workbook and complete the parts you skipped during the busyness of the fall.

-Write a short prayer. Commit your day to God and trust Him to guide you. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you.

The things that seem so urgent will still be there when you’re finished. The ones that need your attention will get done and the others won’t matter quite so much.

If these suggestions sound idealistic and unrealistic because of your hectic schedule, pray that God will multiply your time. He’s ready and waiting to spend time with you and will orchestrate your day to make it possible. All you have to do is ask.

Start a new tradition this Christmas and make time daily to let God’s Word light your path instead of letting expectations be your primary guiding light. Instead being disappointed and exhausted, you’ll find God’s Word leaves you fulfilled and energized. As His peace rests upon you, you’ll bless others in a way that outshines fulfilling even the grandest of expectations.

Click on the link to celebrate the true Light of Christmas with Chris Tomlin’s “Light of the World.”