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Posts Tagged ‘focus’


Because it’s been such a strange weather season in the Sierra Foothills where I live, the plants have had a difficult time knowing when to come out, but the weeds don’t seem to have that trouble at all. They are everywhere.

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Around my little cottage, A.K.A. my little shoebox, is a large area that I have to weed whack twice a year. Once when everything starts growing in the spring, then once just before summer when everything has turned a golden brown.

Usually this isn’t an issue. I just do the front yard in one day, and the back yard the next. Then a few weeks later, I do it all again. But, this year, I look at the whole expanse that needs to be done, and it just makes me tired.

I realized this after I dropped my son off at school and pulled the truck in the back of the house. The weeds – that look a little like wheat quite frankly, so they’re not unattractive, just tall – where way taller than they should be. As I sat scanning the yard, looking at them and how tall they are, I realized that I had only done one quadrant of one days work about two weeks ago.

That’s about 1/8 of the acre that needs to be done. In short, not a lot.

It felt like a heavy weight slowly oozed through me as I sat there trying to figure out when I would be able to squeeze in the time to get out the weed whacker and actually tackle them. Then it sunk in that not only did I not have time for another two weeks, but, I was just too tired to do it.

Sometime that’s just what happens in our live isn’t it? We have a task that we know needs to be done, something we’ve done without an issue for years, when all of a sudden it’s just overwhelming. We realize for whatever reason, we just are too tired to tackle it. Then on top of that comes the sense we’ve got such a long way to go to get it done, that doing it seems like an impossibility.

We can get to that spot in a lot of different ways, maybe your workload has become heavier, or there’s been a change in your lifestyle, or your child is transitioning to another level of life, or your parents are. No matter what the change may be, when added to the current load of life, it all of a sudden becomes more than we can handle.

It’s kind of like the old story about the straw that broke the camels back.

But, as children of the Great I Am, we are not called to handle these things on our own. He makes all things possible as we look at Him, not at our current impossibility. He will make a way for us, we just need to trust Him to do it. And, He’ll help us with that too.

“I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?”

Jeremiah 32:27

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2012 Calendar, sized as A4 page

18 days until the end of school.

The school year is winding down and the countdown to summer has begun. My son knows the exact count better than I, but it’s about 18 days until he is done with school.

And, I can really tell.

Focus problem

Typically my son is a pretty conscientious student, but lately trying to get him to focus has been a chore of monumental proportions. It’s like there’s some sort of unseen principal at work that states the closer the end is, the less likely that any work gets done. The problem with this, is that there is still work to do to maintain a decent grade in any given subject.

I was talking about this to a teacher friend of mine, and she said she sees what’s going on with my son all the time. It’s like students just want to stop before they reach the end of the year.

Finish line phenomena

She said she not only sees this propensity to stop before they get to the end when it comes to the academic school year, but she’s seen it during sports events too. To illustrate this too common phenomenon, she told me a story about a time when she was helping time kids who running track during PE.

There she was, holding the stop watch in order to time each one of them. Most of the students got off to a good start, but then something really odd happened just as they were coming down the home stretch to get to the finish line. Many of them just slowed down, and not only slowed down, but started to dawdle their way toward the end, with some of them actually turning off the track to get water or just sitting down.

Stopwatch

Counting down the seconds until the finish line.

She said she couldn’t believe her eyes, there she was still holding the stop watch as the seconds ticked by because the timer didn’t stop just because they did, finally she did the only thing she could think of to get their attention so they would finish.

She yelled. “Go! Go! Go! Keep on going!”

That startled some of them into action, but she didn’t have to yell at them only once, she had to continue until they crossed the finish line.

Continual prodding

I very often feel like that with all the prodding I’m doing with my own son as the school year winds down. And, my friend’s story also made me think of the Apostle Paul and what he wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 about finishing the race.

No matter who we are, many times we’ve had the experience of just nearing the finish line and feeling like we just can’t quite make it. So, we slow down, we dawdle, we stop for a drink of water, or we just sit down. When we get to that spot, a lot of times we just lose focus, and many times don’t even know that we do because we just can’t see the finish line any longer.

It’s a good thing we have a LORD who not only sees the finish line, but has made the commitment to get us across it, even if that means taking drastic measures to get our attention, or incurring us across it Himself.

“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

1 Thessalonians 5:24

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With the holidays hurtling towards us at breakneck speed, I have been thinking quite a bit about focus, about what our focus is and in the process rereading a piece by A. W. Tozer titled, “The Gaze of the Soul” found in his book, “The Pursuit of God”.

In light of these thoughts about focus and our oftentimes random, unfocused way of being – I am constantly amazed at how easily we allow ourselves to be dragged hilly-milly here and there – I am resharing my own thoughts on focus from a long ago written piece.

—————

Focus.

When I first had my son, I remember one bit of parenting advice among many. I don’t even know where it came from, but, it went something like this, what you focus on when parenting is what kind of parent you will become.

At the time, I took it to mean that if I focused on the things that I didn’t like about my own parents parenting then I would repeat those same things. And, if I focused on the things I thought were good about their parenting, along with those things that I thought were important about being a parent, then I would be able to work towards the goal of what I thought a decent parent was.

Focus.

In time, the idea took on a mind of its own to me. I realized that what I focused on is what I became, even if I didn’t like the focus. If my focus was uncontrolled, and, I didn’t make sure my focus was on what I respected or held dear, then I inadvertently walked in a direction that I neither liked nor felt comfortable in because those paths weren’t what I wanted. But, because my focus was not controlled, that was where I went.

We all have this focus problem that ultimately translates into a behavior problem. Even Paul himself wrote the things he wanted to do, he didn’t and the things he didn’t want to do, he did. It’s all about focus. Our hearts may be in the right place, but, if our focus is off, we have a problem.

Focus.

God is very clear about where our focus should be. On Him. All the time. Without ceasing. This isn’t for His good, (after all He is whole in who He is, He doesn’t need us to focus on Him) it is for our good, because He knows how we are. Where our focus is, there we shall merrily go, until we find out we’ve actually gone too far, don’t know where we are and in our wanderings have lost our focus. Again.

“Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha uv’khol naf’sh’kha uv’khol m’odekha.”

“Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,”

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

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Preston Castle

It’s the beginning of October and already everywhere you look all that is Halloween is starting to show up. The pumpkins, the cute little ghosts, the black cats, it all has become very commercialized and acceptable, not at all what it began as all those years ago.

And now, as seems to happen about every ten years or so, the paranormal element of it is coming back full force. I was reminded of this just the other day when I looked at the Yahoo home page, and there was a grainy, green tinted photograph that had something to do with a ghost. I didn’t stick around to see exactly what it was all about, but saw enough to think, “Here we go again.”

In recent years, the popularity of the paranormal has gone through the roof with shows that revolve around hunting them and coming up with hard scientific evidence to prove their existence becoming popular cable shows.  I’ve seen a couple of these shows a few times, but watching a group of people running around after dark looking for things that go bump in the night has no appeal for me. It seems to me that most people would rather watch people getting scared out of their wits, than actually go into the situation themselves. I don’t blame them, especially when there could be a remote possibility of actually running into something that goes ‘bump’ in the night.

Whether or not you actually believe in that sort of thing, it’s hard to deny the fear that can spring up in us full-grown when it comes to wandering around at night in the dark.

About 45-minutes from where I live, a beautiful old juvenile rehabilitation center stands tall against the background of the rolling California foothills. Built in the 1880’s to usher in a new age of helping boys who have taken the wrong path to become upright members of society, Preston Castle – also known by its actual name, the Preston School of Industry – is an amazing specimen of roman revival architecture that you can’t help but want to see up close if given half the chance.

I was given that chance when I was assigned a story about the past, present and future of the building. In the course of my research I was treated to personal tour of the building from the Preston Castle Foundation president. As he led me through the huge building, I couldn’t help but think that although it was in need of a lot of work, it still retained its beauty and grandeur. It reminded me of a slightly disheveled cousin of the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, which was built by George Vanderbilt, one of the industrialist giants around the same time.

Preston Castle closed its doors for good  about 50 years ago. In recent years it has become quite a hot spot for the paranormal, with individuals from shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures coming through and spending the night in lockdown to see if there is any residual presence of a brutal unsolved murder in the kitchen, or any sense of the many who stayed, and presumable died, in the castle’s infirmary wing.

Although many people seem to focus on that dark side of Preston Castle’s past, maybe because they like to be scared and then go home, as I left the amazing castle, I couldn’t help but think of all those boys who came through its doors, and the reality that it was built because there was an upswing in juvenile delinquency during that time period. Which means to my mind, there must have been something going on in society that caused most of these boys, and presumable girls, to have to live on the street and sustain themselves through crime.

The Civil War had left families broken in both the North and the South, orphan trains were bringing kids out West to work on farms where some of them were treated so brutally that they ran way rather than endure the harsh treatment. I’m sure there are others societal elements that contributed to the rise in crime amongst young people of that time, but, it was this particular darkness that struck me when I drove away from the castle.

These kids were essentially orphaned by society in one way or another, which is a darkness that still exists whether we choose to see it or not.

My beloved Nann used to say, “It’s not the dead you have to fear, it’s the living.”

And, it seems to me that as long as we choose to entertain ourselves by scaring ourselves with the darkness of the dead, we can essentially distract ourselves, blind ourselves from the reality of the darkness we live with everyday.

The darkness that only the LORD Himself can overcome because He is the only one who can save us from ourselves.

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.”

Psalm 14:2-3

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Webtreats 53 Twitter Icons Promo Pack

Image by webtreats via Flickr

The other day I was in a dress shop and three women came in who could only be described as twittering. They were like three beautiful birds who were just talking incessantly about this, that and the other thing, which really didn’t add up to much in the substance department, but went a long way towards entertaining.

I was kind of fascinated by them and thought about how many times we all find ourselves in that position, twittering about a whole lot of nothing and enjoying it. It seems to have nothing to do with gender either. Because of the fact that I’m by nature a quite person and usually hear more than I speak, I’ve been in the position to hear both women and men twitter on about a whole of nothing.

The whole idea of twittering has been taken to whole new level by social media and the whole concept of twitter is just as fascinating to me as watching those three women in the dress shop.

Maybe it’s the cute little blue bird that twitter uses as its mascot, or maybe it’s just that they’ve captured the love we all have to twitter on about nothing to close friends and strangers alike, but Twitter is on to something and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

The catch-22 about it is that most of it is just a whole lot of talking about nothing. I mean really, do you, or I, really care about where our friends are going for dinner on a given night? Unless, of course, we want to go there ourselves, and in some way it pertains to us and whether or not we’ll go based on their recommendations, but that comes after they’ve gone, not when they’re on the way. Which points to the fact that, in general, unless it has some relevance to us, we’re entertained for a while with twittering, but are bored with it in the long-term.

Even though I really like Twitter, I’ve gotten to the point where I only seek out the feed of one person, and that’s really only because I want to see what he has to say about the LORD. That’s it, that’s why I tune in a few times a week, the posts he makes about himself I kind of skip over, but, the posts he makes about the LORD I read. He makes very real short assessments of who the LORD is, who we are and the relationship between the two, all within the constraints of the Twitter feed, which is really amazing to me.

But, it’s not just my fascination with Twitter and twittering and the fact that it’s taken off that I sometimes think about, it’s what our involvement with it and what that involvement says about all of us that speaks volumes. Where are thoughts are, there our hearts are also, and sometimes with such a glut of twittering entertainment that we surround ourselves with, we are lost to our need to make sure we get a reality check and make sure in the middle of it all that we focus on the One who is truly a life-giver.

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

Luke 12:34

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Yosemite Wolf photographed by Karin Saunders

Although I’m an unapologetic cat person, I have always loved wolves. There’s just something about those beautiful animals that live in a structured pack family on the outskirts of man’s world that has always fascinated me.

The American Indian tales have a great amount of wisdom and truth in them and, depending on the tribe can feature an assortment of animals, tricksters and other character’s that emphasis a basic truth.

Just recently when I heard an old Cherokee tale about two wolves, I paid close attention. Maybe you’ve read it, but just in case you haven’t, here it is.

A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Reading this story you can’t help but get a visual of the wolves, their attributes and the fact that which one is fed is the one that grows. And, like the grandfather, we all have this fight raging inside of us.

This begs the question, which inner wolf are you feeding?

The reality of the situation goes one step further. At some point we all must come to grips with the realization that we are in a losing battle against ourselves. The only way we can win the battle is to turn to the only One who can provide us with the sustenance that can feed the positive wolf within and in the process starve the other.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8

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Decorated Easter eggs in basket.

Image via Wikipedia

Art Linkletter used to say, ‘Kids say the darndest things,’ and really they do. You never know what’s going to come out of their mouths, how they will express themselves and whether what they say is a whole truth, partial truth or just a big whopper of an untruth.

On Easter Sunday, which is quickly morphing into Resurrection Sunday to reflect what it’s really about, we had brunch with some very good friends. Among the assorted group there are two children, my son and my friend’s son who is six.

This six year old insisted on giving the blessing for the meal which was a wonderful, concise expression of what Easter is all about. This little guy didn’t just pray about it in vague generalities either, he knew and thanked God for  coming down as Jesus then dying on the cross and rising from the dead so that we can be free from sin in Him.

As we began to gather our food on our plates, we were suitably impressed that this little guy had it all down pat.

Now, we had brought some little Easter gifts for our friends and especially for this little guy. His grandparents and mom had said he couldn’t open any of them until after the meal was over.

Of course, being six he could hardly wait for the meal to be over. He’s a good eater anyway, but he was finished before the rest of us. When he was done, it was all he could do to sit still and not hurry everyone else along to finish their meal.

Pretty soon he began to circle the table looking for empty plates to take out to the kitchen with an ever watchful eye on the basket that sat nearby with his name on it, just waiting for him to open it.

Finally, after a bit he couldn’t stand it any longer and he said ‘Is everyone done? Can I take everyone’s plates?’ At this we all laughed, because almost everyone could relate to his impatience at our turtle slowness in finishing up, especially since such treasures lay just ahead.

At the laughter he immediately jumped to defend and explain himself and his desire for the basket, all the while his eye was trained on it.

‘I know it’s all about Jesus, but….’ he said.

How many times do we say the very same thing in a different way in our own lives?  We say, “I know it’s all about you Jesus, but….” or “I know it’s all about you Lord, but..” as we look at the something we really desire allowing it to take our eyes off of Him and who He is and what life is really all about.

Many times, our eyes go one way, while our mouth goes another and our hearts are somewhere else. Yet, the reality is they should all be lined up focusing on Him, because at the end of the day it’s all about Him with no ‘but’ involved.

“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'”

Matthew 22:37

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