Keyword for 2015: FOCUS

Foto by Lisiane Detaille

Foto by Lisiane Detaille

December 30, 2014

Wind gusts stung my cheeks. Two degrees below zero, but the temperature didn’t stop me from taking my daily walk with the dogs. I squinted as I admired the ever-enchanting, Umbrian landscape from the top of a hill. Sunrays warmed my face, and I relaxed.

These last weeks of the year, I felt tense. Of course the frenzy of the period leading up to Christmas contributed (including a rare cleaning rage), as did having guests, breaking the daily routines due to school holidays, watching the new Hobbit movie, shopping, cooking, visiting friends, and worrying how to get our daughter to the long abided Christian winter camp in a snowy Abruzzo.

As much as I loved to write, I simply didn’t get to it. At times, my mind was skimming the surface of potential subjects, but whirlwinds of irrelevant thoughts blew them out of reach. The continuous distraction irritated me.

“God, please give me focus so that I can write again.”

Focus on Me, and you’ll have the right focus in anything you’ll do.

Bible verses popped up. Hebrews 12:2, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Isaiah 26:3, You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

I realized that I had spent little time with Jesus, because my days were filled with other activities—activities I didn’t even fully enjoy, because I constantly felt “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”—yes, just like Bilbo Baggins after years of owning the master ring of evil.

Allowing my own program to drag me away from the source of light, I gave darkness the opportunity to further distract me, steal my joy, and become superficial and ineffective.

“Forgive me, Lord—again.”

It wasn’t the first time and it probably won’t be the last time I let circumstances reign my life, but I know that it’s best when He is King.

In the first week of 2015, I dwelled in His presence every day, and enjoyed every single thing I undertook. Including writing this post.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17).

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Hope Against All Odds

More MH17-plane-crashthan two weeks ago, on July 17, 298 people died. They were victims in a war that didn’t concern them, because someone decided to down the airplane in which they sat on their way to their home, holiday, or work.

I know—every day innocent people die in senseless wars. But this particular incident rocked me to the core. Maybe because it involved almost two hundred fellow citizens (Dutch). Or because it’s so easy to imagine being in their shoes.

The following article, “Now Is The Time,” which I wrote for yet another FaithWriters’ Weekly Writing Challenge, reflects my thoughts and emotions. It asks the difficult questions that many people will have, but it ends with a message of hope–and a call to all Christians.

 


 

Now Is The Time

Yes!

Wendy leaps between the closing doors into the train, then slumps down onto the nearest vacant seat.

The young man across from her smiles.

“You made it.”

“Yep.” Not in the mood for chitchat, Wendy picks up her smartphone to check Facebook.

Incredible—how can they keep posting all these irrelevant messages after yesterday’s plane crash?

She’d hardly slept. The sickening image of a plane with 298 people being hit by a missile at 33,000 feet kept haunting her. Had they known what happened? Were they still alive while falling? Will the guilty ever be caught? Wide awake, she’d tried to give words to her distress. Her best friend, a marble cover notebook, patiently received phrases filled with grief and frustration. Only at about 5 a.m., merciful sleep arrived.

She hadn’t heard the alarm. When she woke up at last, she ran to catch the 8.15 train. Being responsible for the social sciences section of a national newspaper, she couldn’t afford to miss the early morning briefing.

The phone rings in her hands. It’s her editor, Stanley.

“Don’t come to the newsroom, Wendy. The boss called; she wants you to cover a Christian meeting. Says she needs some hope amidst the tragedy.”

She sits up straight. “What? You know religion isn’t my thing, Stanley.” The last thing I need is being around a bunch of cocooning Christians.

“Sorry, girl. Write something nice about the effect of faith on mourning. Here’s the address.”

“Wait a sec.” Wendy rummages through her bag in search of her notebook.

Oh no.

In the rush, she left it on her nightstand.  All of the sudden, she feels incomplete. Of course, she writes her articles on her laptop, but the first ideas, the raw emotions—she just has to jot them down by hand, ink on paper.

“Hold on, Stan.” She continues digging until she finds a scrap of paper and absentmindedly accepts the pen the young man offers her.

She’s still writing when the trains stops. The man greets her with another smile and leaves. She holds the pen out, but he shakes his head and mouths, “Keep it.”

“Thanks–no nothing, Stan. Okay, I’ll do my best. Ciao.”

Looking at the address, she realizes that she needs to get off as well. Grabbing her bag, she jolts for the exit.

No!

Too late; the doors snap shut in her face.

 ***

An hour later, she approaches a building adorned with a huge banner that says, “Now Is The Time!”

Time for what exactly? For God to show up, at last?

She wonders how any person in his right mind can believe in a good God—unless they close their eyes for reality.

When she enters the lobby, a person walks up to her. To her surprise, she recognizes the young man from the train.

“Hello, my name is Michael. Welcome.” He seems genuinely pleased and hands her a conference kit in which she identifies an information flyer, folders of Christian organizations, a notepad, and a pen. She takes out the flyer and hands the kit back to him.

“I’m here as a reporter. I’m not religious.”

“That’s good. Neither am I.” His eyes sparkle. “But don’t you need the notepad?”

Wendy stiffens. “No thanks. This flyer and my memory will do.”

Then her reporter instinct kicks in. “What are you doing here if you’re not religious?”

He smiles. “I am a Christian though. You know, Jesus never preached religion.”

A band starts playing in the auditorium.

“Did you know that God doesn’t rule the world?”

Wendy frowns. “Well, actually I already guessed so.”

“Tell me… Who’s behind yesterday’s plane crash? God or Satan?”

What?

Behind the doors, many people start singing as one, in perfect harmony.

Wendy raises her voice. “Then where’s the hope?”

“Jesus is our hope.” Michael lowers his head to speak directly in her ear. “God provided a way out of the darkness—Jesus. He’s come to usher in the Kingdom of light and invites all people into that Kingdom.”

“But how–?

“It’s time that Christians get out of their cozy buildings. It’s time they rise and shine His light into the darkness. The more light, the less darkness.”

Wendy takes the pen out of her bag. “Now, where’s that notepad?”

Michael hands her the kit. Their eyes meet; he smiles, his face all aglow.

Marveling, she puts the pen to the paper as words bubble up.

Hope against all odds. Will light defeat darkness?