Conntecting the Dots

A Focused Life

Good morning! What’s on your to-do list today? I’ll be making raspberry jam with my daughter, but first I want to connect with you and share a personal thought from my spiritual journey. If you’re a busy woman, I’ll bet you can relate.

About a year ago I began feeling the need to focus my physical and mental energies in regards to ministry. Responding to that was easier said than done because loving what I do makes me prone to say yes to every need/opportunity that comes along. But having too many deadlines and too many emails eventually led to too little time and too much pressure. The cry of my heart became, “God, show me how to spend my time and energy. Help me focus on Your priorities to maximize my effectiveness as a Kingdom-builder.” And so began a painful process of letting go.

First, I resigned from a couple of guest blog positions. That wasn’t so bad compared to a more painful change – saying goodbye to a freelance writing position I’d held for 10 years. That position had garnered invitations to be on the faculty of several well-known Christian writers’ conferences. It had generated steady income. It had given me the privilege of interviewing dozens of people whose stories impacted me deeply. But it had also demanded large amounts of time that could have been spent preparing for speaking engagements and writing my next book.

While I realized the benefits of letting go, I hesitated to do so because of the cost involved. For example, would I ever receive another invitation to teach at a writers conference? How would the lost income be replaced? And in an age where the face of publishing is ever-changing and many publications are suffering economic cutbacks, would I ever find another position as a regular contributor?  I wrestled with these questions for several months. It proved to be a soul-searching exercise, a test of my values and ultimately my trust in God’s provision and sovereignty. It also proved to be a learning opportunity – one that helped me understand Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9.

In this chapter, Paul refers to athletes disciplining themselves so they can most effectively run the race before them. That means focusing on what matters most and letting go of anything that interferes with accomplishing their purpose. Is there a cost involved? Absolutely. Is it painful sometimes? You bet. But an athlete’s desire to win a prize that will fade away overrules everything else. Paul likens this to our spiritual journey and says that believers ought to run the race of life with one goal in mind – to win an eternal prize. “So I run with purpose in every step,” he writes (1 Corinthians 9:26).

Because life is short, we need to run the Kingdom-building race with purpose in every step. That might mean letting go of something that in itself is very worthwhile in order to achieve a greater good. It may mean saying no to an invitation or opportunity that warrants attention but in reality steals time and energy from what God has called us to do.

You know what’s ironic in my situation? About the same time that I finished writing my year’s assignments and decided to give up my position with publication, the editor emailed with an unexpected message: the magazine had laid off four employees – himself included – and he didn’t know what the contributors’ status looked like. I’d wrestled for months about giving up my position, and in the end, God confirmed my decision with circumstances beyond my control.

And so, I enter a new season of ministry. As a writer, I’m still sad about this position coming to a close. But as a Kingdom-builder, I anticipate a sharper focus with new opportunities ahead. And so I press on…running with purpose in every step.

How about you? Do you feel like you’re running your Kingdom-building race with a sharp focus or are you being distracted? If the latter, what needs to change?

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