Tag Archives: focus

Is Balance a Bad Word? (Guest Post)

Letter tiles spelling out "Balance".
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Is Balance a Bad Word?

by Steph Beth Nickel

How do you feel about the word balance?

When I was in Bible College (approximately a million years ago), I thought the word was synonymous with compromise.

If you “balanced” your spiritual life with your other responsibilities, weren’t you denying the scriptural mandate to do everything as if doing it for the Lord?

It took time, but I realized balance is not a bad word. It doesn’t necessarily mean compromise. Plus, it doesn’t mean that you believe God is more interested in certain aspects of your life than in others.

For example, we are faced with the challenge of balancing how we spend out time and what we focus on every. single. day.

Do I stop and pray for those in the path of hurricanes such as Fiona, which recently affected friends in both Bermuda and the Atlantic provinces of Canada or do I forge ahead, crossing off items from my never-ending To-Do List?

The answer should be BOTH.

As I pray, I can ask God if He wants me to become more personally involved.

If the answer is yes, then I may have to set aside items on my list that are not of high priority.

I must find the right balance.

When I hear about things that are important to me, things that fire me up, I can be tempted to change course, to take up a banner that is not mine to carry, to get distracted from the call of God on my life. I can—and often do—become unbalanced.

I have to ask myself some questions when I’m tempted to change course, something that happens far more frequently than you might imagine.

These questions might also help you if you’re trying to balance your priorities and pursuits.

  1. What are my current obligations? Are there any I could consider setting aside? Which are non-negotiable?
  2. If a new opportunity comes my way, do I have room in my schedule and the energy to take on something more or will I have to set aside something I’m currently working on?
  3. Do I say yes to tasks because I feel God has brought these opportunities into my life or do I say yes because I have a hard time saying no to people—especially if the opportunity intrigues me and is something I have the skill set to accomplish?
  4. On the other hand, do I wear blinders and miss opportunities that the Lord brings my way because I’m so focused on sticking to my current To-Do List?
  5. Do I take on things because I’m “a fixer” who genuinely cares about coming alongside others? Still, there is only so much I’m responsible for, and it’s important to prayerfully discern God’s priorities before jumping in and trying to “fix” something He hasn’t called me to fix.

As a woman of a certain age (61), I’ve finally had to admit that I can’t pursue every shiny object or take up every cause that is important to me.

I foresee that I will always be eclectically interested and eclectically involved. However, I am prayerfully trying to focus my energies on accomplishing the tasks that God has clearly given me and leaving the rest up to others.

Have I found the perfect balance? Not by a long shot, but I’m getting closer.

Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance editor and writer and an author. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at stephbethnickelediting@gmail.com.

You’re invited to visit her website: http://stephbethnickeleditor.com/.

You can join her Editing Tips Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/418423519384351.

The Importance of Contentment (Guest Post)

Girl in hat and sundress, picking daisies in a sunlit field.
[Image via Pixabay]

The Importance of Contentment

by Steph Beth Nickel

Why do you do what you do? Complacency, contentment, or conviction?

An onlooker might not be able to tell the difference.

Sometimes even we can’t tell the difference.

It’s what I’ve always done. That’s complacency.

I believe this is right, and it has been confirmed over and over again. That’s conviction.

But what about contentment?

It may look like complacency, but then again, it just might be conviction.

Contentment is my word for 2020.

As you may know, I am eclectically interested and eclectically involved. Too often I’m distracted by the Oo, Shiny! Books, online courses, careers …

Do you think it’s time to stop buying books (or at least slow down) when you have over 1,000 physical and ebooks you haven’t yet read?

Most of mine are accessible on my phone. <sigh>

And what about courses and lifetime access to online conference sessions, some of which were inexpensive, others … not so much?

I’ll buy this healthy living annual subscription and access to this library of workouts, and I’ll be healthier by the end of the year … if I access them and put what I learn into practice that is. (We won’t mention the fact that I was a personal trainer and know what I need to do to get healthier.)

Of course I’ll maintain my doula certification while writing, editing, working as our church admin, and helping my hubby clean the church each week. Sleep? Who needs it? (That would be me.)

To be honest, my whole life might be a case of FOMO, fear of missing out.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

In 2020, I will seek to live by my conviction that I have been called to contentment.

I will read 24-36 of those books I already have.

I will complete at least 12 of those online courses I’ve purchased and put into practice those things I learn from my paid subscriptions.

I will devote myself to writing—and publishing—the books I’ve begun.

I will maintain my doula certification because this is something I’m passionate about, but I will pace myself and not leave the requirements of my recertification to the last month or so.

I will stop becoming distracted by the Oo, Shiny! and look for the sparkle in the opportunities and possessions I already have.

Plus, I will regularly give thanks for my life as it is in the Here and Now.

How can you grow more content in the year ahead?

Do you have a word of the year? If so, what is it and why did you choose it?

All the very best in 2020!

Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance editor and writer and an author. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at stephbethnickelediting@gmail.com.

You’re invited to visit her website: http://stephbethnickeleditor.com/.

You can join her Editing Tips Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/418423519384351.

Our Desires, Or God’s?

You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.
1 Peter 4:2, NLT*

Peter’s talking to new Christians, who have made a radical lifestyle change and “no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things” with their former friends (1 Peter 4:4).

They’ve left the old life behind and are learning to live for – and with – God, and they’re suffering for it.

That’s the context, but those of us who’ve been Christians longer, or who didn’t come out of such dramatically sinful backgrounds, can still take something from today’s verse.

We’re still growing in Him, and He’s still revealing areas in our lives where we need to let go of sin and hurt.

Are we still chasing our own desires? Self is still with us, and it finds new ways to rear up. Our own desires may even be good, at least on the surface. That’s not the issue. Our reality check is this: are we chasing what we want, or what God wants? (click to tweet)

It comes back to surrender, again and again. Putting God first, listening for His will today. He may want to redeploy us, while we’re fine-tuning the routine we’ve created for what He led us to do yesterday. Or He may want us in the same role, but we need to see that we’ve started owning it – when it’s His. Or maybe we’ve become ruled by our lists, and He wants to remind us to be quiet with Him first and enjoy His presence.

However He has us serving today, and with every person we meet, let’s cultivate a heart that’s eager to hear His will for each moment.

God, You are our Shepherd and our Leader. Sometimes we still get distracted chasing our own desires, like a dog with its tail, and we forget about being eager to do Your will. Slow us down, re-focus us on You. Quiet our hearts, open our eyes and ears to Your leading. Help us to put You first.

When I’m on the mental hamster-wheel, here’s a song that helps: “A Future Not My Own,” by Matt Maher.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Lord Will Fulfill His Purpose for Me

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.”
Psalm 138:8, NIV 1984*

Not everyone has a large and visible calling-type of purpose, but we’re each called to the “long obedience in the same direction,” to the faithfulness and openness to God that lets us touch many people’s lives in small ways.

And it’s His purpose, not my plans. Oswald Chambers writes, “We have to maintain our soul open to the fact of God’s creative purpose, and not muddle it with our own intentions.” (My Utmost for His Highest, Sept. 21)

This takes the pressure off. Instead of trying to keep track of everything and move it forward, I need to be looking to see what He’s going to do in any situation. What He might want to do through me.

I’m under authority. I’m neither the strategist nor the victim of circumstances. I’m a vessel the Potter has made, to fill and pour out as He sees best. And I believe on the other side of this life we’ll look back from His perspective and see that He has done all things well.

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…”

Simple. Straightforward. I think I can hold onto that today.

Father, help me keep perspective and balance. Help me not get too self-absorbed or take too much responsibility for my own usefulness. Help me trust and obey You.

Here’s Robin Mark with “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)”. (Note the line “The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures…”)

* The 2011 NIV says “The LORD will vindicate me…” New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Keeping Focused

As Margaret from the Hallelujah blog pointed out in last week’s “Friday conversation,” there’s plenty of commercialization and other pressures that threaten to distract us from the true meaning of Christmas: Jesus’ birth.

What do you do to intentionally keep focused on Christ in the days leading up to Christmas?

For me, faith-centred Christmas music helps.

Speak to One Another

Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. … Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:15, 19-20, NIV*

I can’t stand sales team pep rallies. You know, the impassioned speaker who gets listeners “all fired up,” leads in a group cheer, and works them into such a frenzy of eagerness that they practically trip over each other on their way out the door to convince the world to buy what they’re offering.

We do need encouragement and motivation, especially in those occupations which encounter a lot of negativity or opposition, but I don’t know if hype is really the best way to provide it.

We also need encouragement and motivation in living the Christian life, whether we’re experiencing outright opposition or just the general wearing-down of daily stress. Again, spare me the theatrics.

St. Paul told us to be alert and intentional about how we live. He knew how easily we can miss opportunities or be distracted from the underlying battle, or even be distracted from God.

With all our busyness, it seems like we rush into and out of church or Bible study groups and never have time to encourage one another. Our pastors and leaders can only pack so much into a message or worship service.

Technology changes things. You’ll often find me listening to a worship CD or to K-LOVE to let the songs keep me focused, and I’m trying to share encouragement through this blog. But the first and best way involves actual human contact.

When we take time to hear one another, we can share a word, a prayer, a song. Nobody wants a pat, trite answer, but a Spirit-inspired bit of encouragement from one Christian to another can really help.

Father, thank You for Scripture, and for the way You speak through fellow believers. Please help us encourage one another with words from You. And help us keep silent when all we have is words from ourselves.

I’m thankful for so many strong Christian music artists who share encouragement. Here’s a song to keep us on track today, by Steven Curtis Chapman: “Not Home Yet“.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Trust and Confidence

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV*

These verses are resonating with me again this year. The first time was a season of uncertainty and they anchored me against fear’s pull. Now, in a still-uncertain but less personally-tumultuous season, I’m drawn to a the beginning rather than the end: my spirit is stopping at the trust and confidence, and the verse is a reminder, focal point, perspective-keeper that I can carry with me into each day.

It’s an aid to let me follow James’ directive to continue looking intently into God’s word and to do what it says. What it says to me at this point is:

  • Trust in the Lord;
  • Put your confidence in Him.

Somehow that expands into resting securely in God’s love, strength, grace and power. It means trusting that He’s present with me now – not benevolently watching from “up there” but right here with me, His Spirit dwelling with mine even though He’s also with you and simultaneously sustaining all of creation.

Present. Not distant.

I want – need – to stay present with Him. But in the words of the old hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” I’m “prone to wander … prone to leave the God I love.”

Father, Your Spirit has drawn me to Yourself, and given me life. Thank You for such grace and mercy. So many times I lose focus and drift away, but You always call me to return. Please heal the fractures and unite the fragments. Give me that unity of focus on You that I need. Let me stay by Your side in trust and confidence. Help me not to wander.

Here’s a mix of new and old: Jars of Clay singing “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.