Tag Archives: focus

As one man…

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“Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they turned out as one man.” –
I Samuel 11:7b

Boys in the boat

Rowing is a complicated sport. Much more involved and complex than I would’ve guessed. Then again, my only rowing experience was watching The Notebook where the character Noah was leisurely rowing himself and Allie, and all the swans were there…

But I just finished reading “The Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown, and there was some serious rowing talk in this book. The true story is about a college rowing team that went to the Olympics during World War II. These guys had to practice all during the school year, daily, many hours each day. Intense.

And as they progressed and the team was weeded out, they had to perfect working together, reading each other’s signals, rowing in sync. A quote from the book said this:

“All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.”

Like one smoothly working machine, he said. They made progress doing it this way. This is how they win.

When one guy was off, and lost focus, their whole team felt it. They each had to be focused and in the zone, going after the same purpose for this to work.

In I Samuel chapter 11, Saul had just been named king. He found out about another kingdom that was threatening the Israelites, making plans to gouge out their right eyes, when they were given a week to get a plan together. When Saul heard about this, he was given power through the Spirit of God. He sent a message to the people, inspiring them to stand up for God’s people. It worked. In the end of verse 7, we read, “Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they turned out as one man.”

They turned out as one man.

Oh how much more could we accomplish for our God if we would turn out as one man.

If we could focus together simply on the things God is calling us to do, rather than get distracted by all the other things – the preferences, the selfishness, the not-doing-it-just-like-I-like-to-do-it – how many more people could we see living their lives for God?

Focusing on the main objectives: Loving God (Matthew 22:37), loving each other (Matthew 22:39), and making disciples (Matthew 28:19) – we can show His love more effectively.

For sure, there will be other things that need to be addressed, but when they take precedence over those three things, we have an official distraction. I can only imagine how much Satan would love to keep us focused on the other things just a little more than the things that matter the most.

But we can’t let that happen. Let’s promise to stay focused, and turn out as one man as we work together serving our God. I’m renewing my commitment today.

 

A lesson from some lightning bugs

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The sunshine had gleamed off the pool water just hours before, but suddenly a storm was rolling in. What seemed to be one enormous black cloud that covered most of the sky was moving quickly toward our home, and the wind ripped through our neighborhood. And just like that, the electricity was gone.

As the evening turned to nightfall, with the storm long-gone, the hope for a quick fix was beginning to fade. I stepped on the porch, looking at my usually busy and well-lit neighborhood and seeing simple darkness.

But the longer I stood there and let my eyes adjust, I began to see a few lightning bugs in our tree. Then as if they were multiplying, there were bunches of them in the tree, and as I looked across the street, the other trees in the neighborhood began flicker with their light.

This isn’t my picture, my yard or my bugs,

but it was a pretty picture 🙂

It was beautiful. In that moment, I felt God’s presence and began to thank him for the lesson he was teaching me.

Every evening those fascinating little bugs could be filling the trees and I miss out on them. Between my busyness and the lights and distractions all around me, they are hard to see, and I don’t take the time to stop and look for them.

Often, I’m sad to say, my time with God is similar. I let so many other things distract me from purposely taking moments of my day to focus on Him, listening for his words that He is speaking just for me that day, and sharing things from my heart with Him. Sometimes it’s hard to hear Him when I let so many other things take priority. It’s not how He intended it to be.

Our time with God is crucial. When I don’t take those moments with God, my fears get bigger, my confidence weakens, and my sense of direction gets skewed. God knows how much we need Him; He created us to be with Him. But there is someone else whose main job is to keep that from happening. Satan doesn’t want us to focus on God. He knows the power that comes with that, and for him that is bad news.

Thankfully, there are times in our lives when we are forced to slow down and make him a priority. Often those times don’t feel like a blessing, muck like the loss of electricity with its frizzy hair and cold showers didn’t feel like a blessing in the beginning. But when I begin to see what God is trying to show me during those times, it is worth it.

Spending time with God has so many benefits… Seeing new things in scripture, feeling a sense of direction, peace just when we need it, a reminder of how much we are loved by the creator of everything.

So together, let’s make it a priority to spend time with God daily. We need it. And keep your eye out for the lightning bugs… they really are beautiful.

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

7/01/2014

Losing focus

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Church was, and still is, one of Noah’s favorite places. When he was younger, he loved staying after church and goofing off with his friends. When it was time to head home, it was a chore to get him to leave without literally picking him up to go.

 “Hey Noah, it’s time to go. You’ll see them again soon. We need to go. Come on. We need to leave to eat dinner. Noah, go to to the car. I’m leaving.” (I’m sure there’s a big list of parenting mistakes here, but stay focused 🙂

Once we decided it had been long enough. We told him we were leaving. We walked out to the car. He didn’t follow. We got in the car, watching him through the glass doors. He wasn’t budging. We pulled the car out of the parking space. He wasn’t phased. We drove off and drove around the church, through the side parking lot and circled back around. There he still stood. Not impressed.

Noah is a kid. Obviously we wouldn’t leave him, and apparently he knew that. But here’s another story about someone who did get left, and it’s a sad one.

In the Bible in the book of Judges, there was a man named Manoah. He had a wife, but they weren’t able to have children together.  An angel of God showed up and big things happened. The angel told Manoah’s wife she would have a son. The angel gave her specific instructions for this kid – while pregnant, don’t drink anything fermented or eat things unclean, and don’t shave his head. He is set apart and will be God’s way of getting Israel out from under the Philistines.

His parents really wanted to make sure they were raising him the way God said, even requesting another visit from the angel for an additional parenting class.

This kid was Samson, and he was special. Samson’s hair was long and he was freakishly strong as he got older. But something happened.

Along the way, Samson lost focus on God, and in Judges we read this –

“But he did not know the Lord had left him.” Judges 16:20b

Samson wasn’t a kid anymore. He was set apart by God, but he let his desires for things other than God become his focus. By doing so, He turned his back on God, and was left alone and weak and blind.

Though things didn’t end well for Samson, ultimately he realized his sin. He asked God for one more shot at the Philistines and killed everyone in the temple of Dagon, including himself.

When people turn away from God, it’s always heartbreaking. But there seems to be an extra layer of tragedy when they don’t even seem to notice they’re doing it.

I’ve been there. You might have too. It’s easy to get so focused on something or someone else that our attention is no longer on God. Sometimes these things are “big” sins, other times they’re perfectly acceptable things that we let become bigger to us than God. Neither is okay.

How can we keep this from happening? Proverbs says this-

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

Guarding your heart does seem like the best place to start. If my heart is focused on God, I won’t be able to get distracted by the things that can take my eyes off God.

A lady from a Bible study I am part of shared some wisdom her husband passed to her and I haven’t forgotten it – If you have a minute, do this with me.

Look at something across the room from you, like a picture on the wall. While you are looking at it, notice all the other things you can still see (especially if your peripheral vision is better than mine). Right now, as I do this, I can be looking at the picture but I can still see my window, my favorite chair, my couch, my kitchen, my cat licking himself, lots of books and papers I didn’t pick up from yesterday – a bunch of other stuff.

Now walk closer to that picture you were focused on. As you get closer and closer to that picture, those other things are no longer competing for your focus. I can’t see my cat, those papers, and when I finally get as close as I can to that picture, it’s the only thing I see.

I want that with God so much. To be so focused and so close that nothing else will even be competition. I know you know as well as I do how we can make that happen. The more time I spend talking or listening to God, the more time I spend reading His words to me in the Bible, and the more time I spend listening to and reading from other people who are teaching me more and more about Him, the more focused I am getting.

Sometimes I just need a little reminder. Reading about Samson getting his eyes gouged out will do that.

I wonder if Samson hadn’t taken his focus off of God, what a beautiful story he could have had, rather than a sad one. I want mine and yours to be beautiful stories. Let’s get focused.

 6/28/13