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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The Fallacy of the “Epic Fail”

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From the moment I heard the phrase “epic fail,” I chose not to make it part of my vocabulary.   It seemed like everywhere I turned, I would hear people jokingly say “epic fail” to describe anything from burnt toast to a catastrophic train accident. This type of phrase, known as a “meme” (rhymes with “team”), is a cultural symbol or social idea that transmits quickly from person to person and becomes part of the fabric of our language and culture.

The first time my husband and I heard our boys say it, we added it to the list of “banned words” for our household. We didn’t want our boys over-using such a negative and exaggerated phrase to label mistakes, whether they were theirs or someone else’s. If they viewed every mistake as an “epic fail,” we thought they’d be less likely to stretch themselves to try new things.   Failure and mistakes are valuable tools for learning and we didn’t want them emphasized in such a negative way. Over-inflated descriptions like that have a way of defining us, even when they’re said in a joking manner.

When I read Beth Moore’s comments about the word “failure” in Children of the Day, the choice we’d made to ban the term was reaffirmed. She says: “Satan loves to fuel our feelings of failure. Just when we finally muster the courage to act or take a stand for the gospel, he prompts us to believe we blew it. Our feelings of failure can start an ongoing cycle of inadequacy: If we feel like failures, we’ll act like failures and, if we let that condemnation go unchecked, we’ll make our next decision out of the same perceived defeat” (Children of the Day, p. 41).

The Apostle Paul rejected the idea of failure and encouraged the Thessalonians to do the same. Acts 17:1-9 describes his visit to Thessalonica with Silas and Timothy and the riot that started as a result of his teaching. Their visit to Thessalonica ended with the three men fleeing the city at nightfall, leaving the new believers behind to deal with the mess. Still, in his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says:

“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.   We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-6a, NIV).

Paul did not view their efforts in Thessalonica as a failure because regardless of the outcome, he knew that he, Silas and Timothy pleased God by sharing the gospel with pure motives. They didn’t try to put a positive spin on a bad situation; they simply didn’t see it as a failure in any way.

How I wish I could say the same of myself. I’ve often let my perceived failures hinder me from moving forward with something that God is calling me to do. Once my feelings get hurt or my ego is injured, I’m tempted to sit on the sidelines and nurse my injuries instead of getting back into the game and trying again.

I’ve dealt with this repeatedly over the last few years as I’ve been growing and learning as a writer. It can be frightening to share a piece I’ve written and to ask for constructive feedback. Sometimes the observations people make sting. A few times I’ve even been brought to tears and have wanted to give up. However, I’ve begun to embrace those constructive comments and harsh words as opportunities to continue improving. I’m beginning to see my mistakes as tools to teach me. Since the ultimate goal of my writing is to encourage, inspire and challenge people in their faith, I want it to be the best it can be. This means learning from my mistakes and pressing on rather than letting them define me. My prayer is that, like Paul, my focus is not on pleasing my readers, but pleasing God.

When our efforts don’t look successful from a worldly perspective, it’s important to remember that: “Christ’s economy completely redefines failure…We can’t let Satan shut us in or he wins the battle. He’s trying to make wound-lickers out of warriors. When God opens the door again, let’s stand back up, brush ourselves off, and step through it” (Children of the Day, p. 42).

Paul reminds us of the power we can access through Jesus: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV). Don’t let Satan deceive you with the sting of a past “failure” or the fear of a future one. Instead, adopt Paul’s attitude and reject the idea of the “epic fail.” If your motivation is pure and your goal is to please God, you will be a success every time, regardless of what the world sees.

The band MercyMe has a fantastic song out right now about rejecting the label of “failure.” Click on the link and be inspired by the catchy tune of “Greater.”

(Moore, Beth; Children of the Day; 2014; Lifeway Press; http://www.lifeway.com)

(For more information about memes, you can visit: http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/weirdwebculture/f/What-Is-an-Internet-Meme.htm)