18. Staying Focused

“God give me a deep humility
  a well-guided zeal,
  a burning love,
 and a single eye,
 and then let men or devils
 do their worst.”
— George Whitefield


When my kids were in school, I looked forward to autumn. Summer weather normally doesn’t reach southern California until the end of August, and our hottest temperatures often hit during the month of October. But mornings are cool and refreshing, and they’re especially advantageous for what I call “prayer walking.”

In 1990, I became actively involved with youth ministry. For a while I taught Jr. High on Sunday mornings and Sr. High on Wednesday nights. The struggles and triumphs of men and women in the Bible seemed exceptionally real to me at that time, and sharing my insight with inquisitive students filled me with a sense of joy I had not felt for a very long time.

As I grew closer to individual tweens and teens, becoming aware of their needs and desires, I felt burdened to pray for each one. And praying during refreshing walks through my neighborhood became a vital part of my ministry.

I remember one morning in particular. Winds from the northeast had filtered the sky into a clear Santa Ana blue. Every leaf was cleanly outlined and the temperature suited me perfectly. Bougainvillea vines painted tree trunks and fences with vivid lavender, flawless white, and brilliant pink. There were no clouds to help measure the height and breadth of the atmosphere, so the azure ceiling that spanned over my head seemed fathomless. I felt I had God’s undivided attention.

As I walked over the hills of my neighborhood enjoying the magnificent start to the day, I strolled through a mental list of young friends and acquaintances. I thanked Jesus for the memorable week I’d had with the high school kids at Hume Lake summer camp. I praised Him for the life-changes I had witnessed and for providing the unusual stamina that had enabled me to survive the adventure.

I thought about how Tim and Julie’s sibling relationship had been nurtured, and how Richard had worked through the emotional devastation of a close friend’s death. I prayed for healing on behalf of Melody’s injured knee and Mark’s wounded self-esteem. And I listened for the Holy Spirit’s subtle guidance as other concerns filtered into my mind.

Ahead of me, I saw a lemon alongside the road. When I reached the bright yellow fruit, I kicked it. I continued walking and tried to concentrate on praying, but my eyes followed the lemon as it rolled several yards and then stopped. When I caught up with it, I gave it another kick – this time a little harder and a bit more vindictive.

The game progressed around a corner … past a weeping willow tree … across the street. It wasn’t until I found myself at the bottom of the steep driveway leading to my house that I realized my sunny thoughts had turned gray and dismal. Rather than feeling full of purpose, I suddenly felt discouraged. Instead of dwelling on my Savior, I found myself focusing on the sour circumstances of life.

I stood for a moment and contemplated my change in demeanor. Then I kicked the lemon into a patch of weeds, smiled, and prayer walked up the hill.


“Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith …”

(Hebrews 12:2)



Go out, find a lemon (or a rock will do nicely), and kick it hard into a patch of weeds. It truly will help you release cares and frustrations … and remember this analogy. Note: Do not kick a cat!