Friday, November 16, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on One Little Thing

I had trouble getting out of bed for a few months.

I would set the alarm for 6:30 every night, but when it rang in the morning I would reach over, shut it off, and remain in bed.

On a good day I would get up after a little while, by 6:45 or so.

On a "bad day" I would lie there, sleeping off and on until 8 or even 9:00. It wasn't that I was super tired. I got to bed at a reasonable time. I didn't feel especially depressed, but I just couldn't seem to get up. 

I tried to figure out if I was dreading something and how I could change my thoughts so I was more excited about getting up.

I gave myself stern pep talks the night before about how important it was to get out of bed and get the day started.

Nothing worked. My rising time was still sporadic and I felt like a failure because I couldn't seem to do what I said I wanted to do.

Finally, I changed one little thing and I have rolled out of bed for ten days straight at 6:30 a.m.

I moved my alarm clock to the far side of my bedside table.

Just that two feet change caused me to move enough so that I've gotten up every single day. I can't just reach out and turn off the alarm anymore. I have to stretch over and my feet touch the floor and I'm up.

I started thinking about other situations that might be changed by one little thing.

You don't read your Bible as often as you say you want to? Put it beside your place at the breakfast table or on the kitchen counter so you can open it and read a few verses as you eat or while you're waiting for something to cook. One little thing.

You feel like your relationship with a parent or a child or a sibling isn't as close as you'd like? Make a note on the calendar to call that person once a week instead of waiting until you think of it. One little thing.

You're tired of the clutter getting in your way in your home? Fill a box with items you no longer need or use and put it in the car so you can drop it off at Goodwill the next time you go that way. One little thing.

You never seem to get any closer to accomplishing your dreams or goals? Write down as much as you can about all of the steps necessary to complete the project and then write the first small step on your calendar. One little thing.

As we keep doing one little thing at a time, those little things will add up and soon we'll be in the habit of getting up on time, reading our bible regularly, having great relationships, keeping our lives free of clutter, and accomplishing our goals.

It all starts with one little thing.

"Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.[One little thing that led to the man's healing]" (John 5:8 NIV - brackets mine)

Do you have problems or frustrations that keep you stuck? How can focusing on God help you find one little thing you can do to get unstuck?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Super Saturday: Let's Focus on Fear

My mom had an encounter with a black bear recently.

Oh, don't worry. She's okay, but it got me thinking about fear this week.

Mom and Dad were watching TV one night in their house in the middle of the woods in Tennessee.

"John, there's something on the deck!"

Dad got up and turned on the outside light, only to reveal a 150-pound black bear helping himself to the goodies in their bird feeder.

While Dad ran to get the camera, Mom walked up to the patio door and knocked loudly. "Hey, get out of there!" she scolded. 

Why not? It always worked for the squirrels and raccoons that tried to steal from their feeder.

The bear turned and looked at her, then went headfirst over the deck railing. He was in no hurry at all, but he left.

Mom and I laughed about this as we talked on the phone, but it could have ended much differently.

At the time, Dad pointed out that the bear easily could have stuck a furry paw through the patio door. Luckily, that didn't happen.

I've chuckled a few times as I've thought about my fearless mother shooing a big black bear away. I tend to think that she might have reacted a bit differently if my dad had not been there. I wonder if his presence gave her more courage in that scary situation.

Now, I'm not in any way trying to compare my dear father to God, but I can't help but think about each of us and the fears we face each day. 

Frustrations at work.
Relationship problems.
Our own shortcomings.

There are big, scary things out there, and on our own we might be terrified.

When we remember that God is with us, we find the courage we need to face all of our fears.

They might not go away as quickly as my mom's black bear, but we can give it a shot.

"Hey, get out of here!"

And even if the problem doesn't go away, we have God right beside us while we watch what happens.

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." (Psalm 56:3 NIV)

Are you often afraid? How can remembering that God is with you help you to face those fears with more courage?

*Note: The bear in my blog graphic above is not my mom's black bear. He left before Dad could get a picture.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Throwing Things Away


I've been doing quite a bit of writing this week, but I've also been throwing things away.

It feels great.

I've been spending some time in my craft room, going through the drawers and boxes. I have lots of great stuff, but I've also found many things to throw away.

Dried up bottles of paint. A gaudy purple trim I'll never use. Little scraps of paper I don't need. Ugly things. Broken things. 

I found a box of old letters in the craft room, so I took it upstairs to go through and try to combine with a box of old journals.

It was interesting to see what I had saved for so many years. 

Some things were precious (love letters Gary and I had exchanged while dating, cards and letters from special friends and relatives, notes about cute things our kids had done). I stuffed those into the journal box.

Other things, not so precious. 

Old birthday cards, nice at the time, but not really needed anymore. 

Wedding invitations and programs from people I hardly remembered. 

A letter from a high school friend, confirming his crush on me and wondering if it might even be love, sent to me during my freshman year of college (It was sweet at the time, but I don't need my kids finding that someday and wondering if I carried a torch for that guy for all these years! Definitely not, so it was time to throw it out). 
You know it was in the olden days because postage was only 20 cents!
Throwing things away. It feels good to clear out the clutter, free up some space, and let go of things that no longer mean anything to us.

We need to do that with our thoughts, too. We have many wonderful memories and thoughts in our brains, but there's a lot of junk in there, too.

Every once in a while we need to throw away the negative thoughts cluttering up our minds. 

Even better, we need to catch our thoughts as soon as they enter our brains and work on getting rid of the junky things we think.

I found an interesting article that talks about actually writing down our thoughts and physically throwing them away. It made a difference in how people felt. Conversely, if people wrote down thoughts (positive or negative) and put the paper in their wallet or purse, they were more likely to hold onto those thoughts.

So friends, let's think more about throwing things away. Let's throw away the physical clutter and junk getting in our way and distracting us in our homes, but even more so the mental junk and clutter fogging up our minds and getting in the way of living the life God wants for us.

When we "throw away" all of those negative thoughts and attitudes, our minds will be clearer and we'll find the space we need to experience God's peace, enjoy our relationships with others, and do the things we've been put on this earth to do.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off [throw away] your old self, which is being corrupted by its evil desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22 NIV - brackets mine)

How much clutter do you have in your life (physically and mentally)? How can focusing on God help you to throw most of it away and enjoy life more?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Consuming

When we get overwhelmed, stressed, or scared, it's easy to turn to consuming instead of producing.

Just look at the graphic I made for this week's post. Some people spend lots of time on the computer or phone, researching new ideas or escaping into movies or cat videos. Some people keep reading book after book after book instead of writing their own (ahem...moving on). Some people eat when they're not hungry just to dull the pain of whatever is stressing them out. Some people drink too much so they can forget whatever is bothering them (probably something a little harder than Pepsi, but that's all we have).


Do you ever do that? I sure do.

None of the things in the picture above are bad things when they are used or consumed in moderation. They only become bad when we consume them in excess to avoid something productive.

I'm still figuring out how to push through the uncertainty I feel and get something done (producing) instead of running to the computer or the pantry or the fridge (consuming).

Being aware is one of the first steps, but that doesn't make it easy. It takes lots of practice to get into new habits that will lead us to more productive choices.

I think reading the Bible is also important (and the only thing that we can never consume too much of). Knowing what the Bible says will give us encouragement and strength for making those tough choices to do our work instead of consuming, to stay away from too much food or drink instead of consuming, to invest in our relationships instead of consuming. 

With time and effort, we can get better at producing.

We'll enjoy better relationships, cleaner houses, healthier bodies, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

And then we can reward ourselves with a hilarious cat video.
Click here to watch a funny cat video.

"Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." (Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV)

Are you stuck in too much consuming? How can focusing on God help you to form better habits and become someone who produces instead?