Focus

focus

After a somewhat grueling workout at my Crossfit box this morning, I was feeling a little disappointed in my overall conditioning progress. I approached the head coach, Adam Neiffer, to ask his advice on perhaps picking up a couple more classes a week in order to improve. His response surprised and challenged me. His answer: “No.” He told me it wasn’t more volume (more time) that I needed. Instead, what I needed was focus. I needed to rest a little less between sets; I needed to increase the intensity I gave to the workouts I was already doing. As I listened to and reflected on what he was saying, I was reminded of how his words, though true for my Crossfit workouts, were true across the spectrum of my responsibilities and goals. There is nothing more effective than being “fully present.”

Without focus, everything is blurred. Nothing is clear, and nothing worthwhile develops. Too often I am guilty of somehow trying to be two (or more) places at once. I am at home while thinking about what I need to do for work. I am at work thinking about how I should have left for home already. I am at the gym sweating and gasping for breath thinking about how soon I will be able to rest. And when you’re only half-way up, you’re neither up nor down.

Focus, on the other hand, is so much more effective AND enjoyable. It is effective because focus facilitates the full investment of my affections and attention. All of me is in the now. I am much better when all of me is there. I’m a better husband and father when I am “fully present” for my wife and kids. I am a more thorough scholar and speaker when I am fully vested into progression of thought and word. It’s true even for the time I invest in private prayer. I’ve often thought that the “more time” I set aside for prayer or meditation would produce greater results in my life. But if I just mutter out prayer while keeping an eye on the clock – I’m neither up nor down. I’m not doing heaven or earth much good that way. But prayer that is fully aware of His presence, and that embraces Him fully – makes the ticks of a clock irrelevant.

Finally, being “fully present” is the most divine way of living. Jesus was fully present with people. Whoever was right in front of Him had his fullest affection and attention. Though Jairus’ daughter lay dying, Jesus still paused for the woman in the crowd who touched him. Neither of them received a partial Jesus. The Holy Spirit is fully present in this moment; all the attributes and power and promises of heaven are breathing into this moment. “Now” is too precious, too sacred, and too powerful to waste by forfeiting it in anticipation of “next.” Now is the right time to be all here. This moment deserves and requires my focus.

Jim Elliot, the missionary martyr, famously said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Thanks for the reminder, Adam.

Thanks for reading; I hope to have encouraged you today.
~ Dav

Blessing is God’s Idea

Pot-of-Gold

God is not a leprechaun. As I understand the folklore, the little green-clad fellas are quite rich but would do anything rather than part with their shiny gold coins. If you manage to catch one, however, you can then negotiate for his pot of gold – if you’re lucky.

But our Heavenly father is not reluctant to bless. We do not have to catch Him at the right time or right mood and then negotiate with Him to open His hand to us. He is good, profoundly so, and more generous that many are often willing to consider.

As my eyes fell across Exodus 23:25 this morning, I was struck by how it reveals the nature of God. “You shall serve the Lord your God and I will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.” Here, God presents His design and desire to bless His people. Their bread and water will be blessed, and He will actively drive out sickness from their midst (the Hebrew syntax is not as mild as the English suggests). This promise is an expansion of Exodus 15:26, and is developed further in Deuteronomy 7:14-15.

What impresses me, happily, is that we observe in these passages that blessing is God’s idea and His ideal. Israel doesn’t initiate the concept of being blessed. They haven’t written out a list of requests or demands to be fulfilled by a reluctant deity. Blessing comes from the heart and mind of God. He thought of it. Blessing is God’s idea. Further, blessing is God’s ideal – it is His preferred state for His people. The best thing He can imagine for His people is them blessed: them not lacking supply, nourishment, offspring, or health. Blessing is not the exception to the rule (for the lucky); it is not elusive; it is not exclusive. Blessing is what God prefers for His people.

Now, one might counter with “Hey Dav, you know that blessing was only promised to the obedient, right?” Yes. I know. But that does not counter the concept, it affirms it. Obedience is God’s preferred state for His people: us following His wise, loving and altogether good leadership. And, just as preferred for us as obedience, is blessing. They are both God’s idea and ideal. Blessing was not God’s reluctant response to good behavior. Obedience facilitated the funnel through which God could bless.

So great is God’s commitment to bless, God sent His Son to fulfill all righteousness for us, to take away all our sin and shame, and to BLESS US (Acts 3:26, Galatians 3:14, Eph. 1:3, etc.)

I realize that the subject of blessing raises the ire of some. Too many folks are too eager to make sure no one tries to talk God out of His pot of gold. Others, to be fair, erroneously imagine that God IS the pot of gold. Neither of the former agendas are mine. I simply celebrate and give thanks that blessing is God’s idea and ideal for me and my family. I have no need for fear, no pressure to perform, and no reason not to believe for and embrace the blessing of the Lord.

God bless you; thanks for reading!
~ Dav

 

Not Just an Apron

apron

 

I love to go to Starbucks. I particularly enjoy my gold card by which I enjoy free refills of my Trenta-sized (what a fantastic idea!) iced tea. Beside my delight in the all-too-soon consumed beverage there, I am fascinated by a principle I observe behind their counters. And, I resolve to not live by it.

Each person behind the counter at Starbucks has an apron. Some are green, some are black – I don’t know what that means, if it’s like the shirts on Star Trek or what – but they all wear aprons. And when those people, most of whom I have never met and never actually see in the real world, wear those aprons – they are the most fantastic people in the world.

I can walk up and be totally confused and stare at a menu and they happily ask how they might help. If I’m not ready, no big deal! Just let them know. When I order (or my wife or her sister order) some crazy drink that takes up a whole sentence to describe (including verbs, adjectives and abbreviations) they smile happily as if to welcome such nonsense – like they were waiting for my odd order.

Even better, when I purchase the afore mentioned Trenta-sized (what a great idea!) iced tea, and use my phone to scan the payment, they hand me a delicious cup of nirvana that I promptly drink faster than that Nesquik Bunny. Then, with haste, I return to the counter and present my empty cup to an aproned person who quite happily refills my tea. I can do this as long as I am in the store. It nearly justifies the price I paid for boiled leaves and water. What marvelous persons inside those aprons.

But, what do you think would happen if I shoved my cup toward one of those persons after they removed their aprons? Methinks they might possibly suggest where else I might shove my cup. Why? Because, it is just an apron. The apron connotes an external, temporary, certain-times-only role. And while I respect that principle at Starbucks, I reject it for my Christianity.

In Ephesians 4:1, Paul urges his audience to “walk” worthy of the calling they have received. It is significant that he uses the word “walk.” It denotes our whole manner of life: everything we are, everywhere we go, all that we say and do. Paul is not talking about certain or special times; he is talking about all the time. We are to practice, to express the grace we have received with every decision and detail of our lives. We are to walk like we really believe all that God has done in and for us in Christ – to live like we believe it’s true. We can be consistently confident in our identity, purpose, and anointing in Christ. And we can demonstrate this calling one step at a time, with every step we take. Because, thankfully, it’s not just an apron.

Cheers! I’m off to enjoy some tea. And, thanks for reading.
~ Dav