Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


3 Comments

Jumping Into Bible Study with Both Feet

IMG_5521

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!

Advertisements


1 Comment

The Changed Perspective of a Thankful Heart

IMG_5142

“Sometimes, when we have too many blessings, we become so overwhelmed with our blessings that we forget to be thankful.”

-Lysa TerKeurst What Happens When Women Say Yes to God

 I just got back from shopping for a birthday gift for my sister.  As I breezed in and out of stores looking for the “right” thing to buy her, I felt overwhelmed by the retail messages assaulting me everywhere I looked.  Bottom line:  in order to be adequate, I needed more “stuff” in the right colors and styles to match this year’s trends.  For most of us, our clothes go out of style before they wear out, yet we receive input constantly telling us that we need “more.”    As I shopped, I was grateful that instead of feeling inadequate or out of style, I could thank God for my closet full of clothes.

As I drove home, it got me thinking about how often we are tempted to look at what we think we “need” and not to recognize all that we have.  How often are we asking God for the next thing when we haven’t even thanked Him for the last one?  How often do we long for Him to work in a certain way, but fail to recognize where He is already at work?

When we take time to thank God, it opens the door for us to recognize His blessings in our lives and to find contentment instead of always wanting more.  Lysa says, “God accepts every expression of gratitude, but He loves to know that His gifts are noticed and appreciated, just as we do”  (p. 81).

I love the way Sarah Young writes about thankfulness from God’s perspective in Jesus Calling, “Let me teach you thankfulness.  Begin by acknowledging that everything—all your possessions and all that you are—belongs to Me.  The dawning of each new day is a gift from Me, not to be taken for granted.  The earth is vibrantly alive with My blessings, giving vivid testimony to My Presence.  If you slow down your pace of life, you can find Me anywhere”  (April 29 entry, p. 124).

For my final blog on What Happens When Women Say Yes to God it seems fitting to share two things I’ve pondered in the past week for which I’m thankful.  As you read, think about one thing you’re thankful for, then take a minute to post it in the comments below.   Make it your personal “thank you” note to God for this week.

Thank You #1:  My Health

A week and a half ago I traveled to Texas to spend time with a close friend battling cancer.   For reasons not totally clear to her doctors, she has lost significant strength in her legs and is unable to stand or walk without a walker.  As I was pushing her around in her wheelchair while we were out one day, I was convicted about the number of times I’ve struggled with my body image.  Standing in the unflattering light of a cramped dressing room and examining myself in the mirror can lead to a grumpy and ungrateful heart.  In the past, I’ve rarely thanked God that I’m healthy enough to walk, stand, run, ride a bike and pretty much do whatever I want.  Now, when I look at my body and a critical thought comes to mind, I think of my friend longing to be able to use her legs unassisted and I say, “Thank you God, for a healthy body and legs that work.”

Thank You #2:  A Delightful Teenager (this title is not an oxymoron)

My oldest son turns fourteen in a few days.  In many households, that is the age when the child you formerly knew and loved is replaced by a sullen and withdrawn teen in the throes of adolescent glory.  I thank God this is not the case in our home.  Yesterday, my son walked up to me in the kitchen totally unprompted and gave me a good, long hug (he had to bend down slightly since he is now taller than me).    Not only do I love him, I still like him (and all indicators are that he still likes me too).  The little boy that we prayed would be confident in who God made him to be has grown to a young man with character, integrity and a quiet confidence about him that I certainly never had at his age. I thank God for the ways He has answered prayers my husband and I have been praying since our son was born.

So, I’ve thanked God for two simple but profound things I noticed this week.  Now it’s your turn. This isn’t just a covert attempt to get more comments on my blog, it is an invitation for you to shift your perspective, have a thankful heart and tell God (and the rest of us) how grateful you are.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Hebrews 12:28-9).

Side note:  For those who are part of the Focused Living Bible Study, you know that our year is coming to a close.  I plan to continue posting on my blog during the summer break.  You won’t be receiving reminders from Focused Living, however, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there is a button that says “Follow” that you can click.   You should be notified anytime something new is posted.

And now, let the thankfulness begin….


3 Comments

One “Yes” Leads to Another

IMG_5129“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 I was talking with a friend about Lysa TerKeurst’s What Happens When Women Say “Yes” to God and she said, “Saying ‘yes’ to God is about the little things every day.  Over time, they have a cumulative effect and add up to something pretty amazing.”  So often we think saying “yes” is only about the really big things, but it is a series of little “yeses” all along the way that prepare us for those larger scale things God wants to do in and through us.

Looking back, I see that God used a series of “Yes” responses in my life in powerful ways.  Each affirmative answer was layered on top of the one that went before it.  God had a perfect plan from the start- He was just waiting for different people to play their parts.   Here is how the story goes…

Six years ago as summer was winding down, I bumped into an acquaintance that was volunteering at Back to School Registration.  We chatted briefly and just as I was about to say goodbye, she asked, “Hey, Marybeth, I’m inviting some women from school to be in a small group at my church Bible study.  Are you interested in joining it?” Julie was not someone I knew well and from my place of insecurity, I saw her as president of everything and friends with everyone.  She was always nice to me, I just felt intimidated because of my own issues.  Still, I’d been praying since school got out for a Bible study with more Christian women from my kids’ public school.  This seemed like the answer to my prayers so I said,  “Yes, I’m interested.  How do I sign up?”

A year later, one of the Bible study’s coordinators invited me to co-facilitate a group for the following year.  I was flattered, but I didn’t consider myself the “women’s ministry” type.  My passion had always been working with teens, and I wasn’t sure I was equipped to shepherd my peers.  However, I sensed God calling me to branch out and see how my past experience could translate to impacting women.  So, I said, “Yes.”  I was blessed beyond measure by facilitating.  I grew deeper in my faith and in relationships with godly women of all ages.

A few years into facilitating, my older son was starting Middle School when I received a phone call, “Would you be willing to serve as our school’s Parent Education Representative?”  I’d never been involved much with PTA before.  However, the more I learned about the position, the more I sensed God nudging me to accept it.  With my past experience working in a public high school, it felt like a good fit.  And so, I said, “Yes.”  Almost immediately, God gave me an idea that I had the opportunity to implement through my PTA position.

In my new role, I approached one of our pastors, Mark, with a big request, “I love what my husband has been learning in the men’s group at church.  Would you be willing to take the time to adapt it for a Parent Education evening at my son’s school?”  He said, “Are you kidding?  I pray for opportunities like this!  Yes!”  A few months later, Mark, spoke to 150 men in our public school about “Raising Boys to be of Character.”  Our principal had never seen so many dads show up for an event in all her years of education.  She was truly baffled and amazed.  Mark was even asked to return three months afterwards to do a follow up workshop.  Now, two years later, Mark has spoken about raising boys at least a dozen times and continues to be a sought after speaker in our public schools.  His message has impacted hundreds of lives because he said, “Yes” to the idea God inspired in me when I said “Yes” to serving on the PTA.

After Mark spoke at my son’s school that first time, I was so excited that I shared during an open microphone time at Bible study.  Later that morning, a woman approached me, “Hi, I’m Kirsten.  I loved your sharing today and would like to write about it on a local news website.  Can I interview you?”  The answer was easy, I said, “Yes.”

Kirsten sent an e-mail with a few follow up questions after our interview.  A tag line under her name caught my attention:  “Are you a mom who likes to write?  Join our Writing Moms group.”  As a former English teacher, I’d been writing for years, I just hadn’t shared it with many people because I was too insecure.  Tentatively, I probed for more information and finally responded “Yes” when she invited me to a writers group meeting.  My heart pounded as I walked in, but the women were warm, friendly and encouraging.  Instead of feeling intimidated by them, I felt welcomed and validated.

A few months later, Kirsten approached me, “Would you consider writing a blog on Rich Stearns’ book The Hole in Our Gospel for the news website I write for?”  I’d barely ever read a blog and had no idea what writing one entailed.  Our church was studying the book, but I knew very little about it.  On top of that, our house was being remodeled and we were already had a lot going on. However, I’d been praying for subject matter to write about and an audience with whom I could share it.  Now, both were being offered to me.  After talking and praying with my husband, we realized I needed to say, “Yes.”   We decided God would equip me with the time and inspiration I needed to write the blogs.

My involvement with the local news website opened another door for me, enabling me to write a different blog about our home remodel.  Over a year and a half I chronicled all of the crazy things that happened and what God was teaching me through them.  Both blogs enabled me to share stories about God’s transforming power on a public non-Christian website.  I was amazed to see how God used the stories to touch lives.

By the spring of 2012, I sensed God preparing me for a new challenge.  I’d been steadily co-facilitating a small group and loving every minute of it. However, I needed to say “No” to make room for a new “Yes.”  It was a step of faith and obedience for me to put aside facilitating without knowing what would come next.  A few months later, God made it clear when Karen, the Bible Study Coordinator, asked me to start writing a blog for the next year.

Although God had been preparing me, this newest “Yes” stretched me in significant ways.  First and foremost, I was not technology savvy and felt overwhelmed about setting up and maintaining my own blog.  Secondly, I realized writing about our studies meant I not only had to complete them weekly, but that I had to get them done early.   I also had to come up with something worthwhile to say every week.  With trepidation, I said, “Yes,” knowing I would have to rely on God every step of the way.

I could not have kept up the pace of completing the studies and writing something weekly if God had not given me the time and inspiration along with the support of a faithful prayer team. Looking back, it’s clear how each small “Yes” prepared me for the next one.  God never revealed more than I needed to know, He just asked me to trust Him enough to answer “Yes” one step at a time.

There have been a few other side benefits to saying, “Yes” over the past six years.  My faith has grown significantly.  I’ve made some amazing new friendships by rubbing shoulders with different people.  My confidence in God’s ability to equip me and use me has grown, and my insecurities have diminished.   People who intimidated me because of their strength have become trusted friends who have cheered me along.

Any person who says “Yes” to God has stories to share.  Hopefully my “Yes” moments have given you a glimpse of that, but now it’s your turn.  Take a moment to look back at your own “Yes” stories and share one.  Then, pray that God will prepare you for the “Yeses” yet to come.

One of my main motivations for saying, “Yes” has been to invite God to further His kingdom here on earth. Last fall I discovered the Irish band Rend Collective Experiment and their inspiring song called “Build Your Kingdom Here”. It has become a prayer for me each time I hear it. Click on the link below- you’ll want to stand up and shout, “Yes” to God.