Friday, January 12, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Holding Through the Silence

I had to make several phone calls today to pay some bills. On one call, I was greeted by the usual prompts to get to the right department, and then the voice instructed me to "please continue holding through the silence" until my call was answered.

What an unusual way of phrasing that, I thought. It felt beautiful somehow, even though I knew she was just telling me that I wouldn't be hearing the usual loop of music until my turn came. 

The company didn't want me to hang up in disgust, thinking that my call had been disconnected.

I barely had time to think about all of this before a nice person came on the line and let me pay my bill, but my mind continued to think about it long after I hung up.

Don't we sometimes feel like God is silent? Doesn't it feel like we've been disconnected and He's not there anymore?

We need to "continue holding through the silence." God is still there, even if it doesn't seem like it.

Maybe He even wants to speak to us in those seemingly silent times.

I found an article on that talks about the benefits of silence. Silence can actually grow new cells in our brains.

Our brains have a "default mode" that actively internalizes and evaluates information, even when resting.

Silence can relieve stress and tension in the brain and body, while too much noise can cause stress and make us more prone to ignore other stimuli that may be good for us.

In this noisy world, are we stressed out and ignoring God's voice when He attempts to talk to us?

Let's all try to unplug once in a while and enjoy the silence, listening for what God wants to teach us in the midst of it.

Please continue holding through the silence...

"My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent," (Psalm 109:1 NIV)

Do you ever get frustrated with times of spiritual silence and think that God's not there? How can focusing on God help you to "continue holding" and listen for His voice?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Road Trips

I'm in Indiana this weekend.

Two days ago I hadn't planned on being in Indiana, but here I am.

Our daughter Allison wanted to go to a good friend's wedding, but she didn't feel comfortable driving by herself to Chicago. The plan earlier in the week was for her to drive to a suburb and have two friends pick her up and they would all ride to Indiana together. 

Then one of the friends had to change her flight to Louisville instead of Chicago because of the big storm out East. There went Allison's driver!

It only took about a minute for me to agree to go along as chauffeur (I did make Allison drive for a couple of hours to get more experience on the interstate).

So my weekend looks much different than I had planned a couple of days ago. 

I thought I would be catching up on housework, paying bills, and maybe getting my Christmas letters ready to send out (Yes, I know it's January). 

Instead I'm hanging around in a hotel room. I took a couple of books, my journal, and my computer along...hoping to do some reflection, reading, and writing.

I wonder if I'll get any of that done?

I guess we'll see as the weekend progresses.

What I was thinking about at times during our drive down to Indiana was that we always need to be ready for a road trip in life.

God may ask us to go somewhere unexpected all of a sudden, and we need to be ready and willing to do that as we follow Him. We'll see new places, experience new things, and make other people (and usually ourselves) very happy when we do that.

I know Allison and her friends are having a great time seeing each other and looking forward to Brett and Mason's wedding on Saturday afternoon. I'm happy because I know this was important to them and I got to help them get here.
Mason Werst and Brett Jonas...Congrats to them on Saturday!

I wonder what other road trips God has in store for me in the years ahead? I better keep an overnight bag packed, just in case.

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 NIV)

Have you ever taken an unexpected road trip? How can focusing on God help you be ready to go wherever He wants you to go at a moment's notice?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Cream Puff Dessert

I made two pans of Cream Puff Dessert earlier this week.

It's one of my favorite things to take to our Mulder get-togethers. It's not too difficult to make and it tastes delicious.

It is kind of a weird process to make the cream puff base, though.

First you boil some water and butter, then add a cup of flour and mix until it's smooth.
You let it cool a bit, and then add four eggs, one at a time.

This is where it gets a little weird. As you begin to stir, your nice smooth batter seems to fall apart.

You find yourself thinking "This can't be right! It looks disgusting and slimy. Maybe I did something wrong."

You stir and stir and stir some more...and finally the batter comes back together and looks a little more normal.

Then you add the next egg and the process starts all over again. Separation. Slime. Stirring, stirring, stirring until you feel like your hand is going to fall off.
 Then it finally gets better.
 After four eggs, you have a nice smooth batter.
 You spread it into a pan and bake for a half hour.
You end up with a puffy base that gets a pudding layer and a whipped cream layer added to it after it cools.
Finally you drizzle some chocolate syrup on right before serving...and enjoy!
(This is not mine...mine is not this fancy and we ate it all before I thought of taking a picture)
Now, I found myself thinking as I stirred this time.

Sometimes we add something to our life and it doesn't feel good right away. It doesn't seem like things are coming together right and we think we've ruined everything. We feel like giving up and starting over, or worse, not trying that again.

Maybe we try a new method of discipline with our children. We know they need it, but they resist. Loudly.

It's tempting to give up and just go back to the way things were before, but if we persist and keep at it we just might get to a new, more pleasant, way of relating to our kids.

Perhaps we want to learn a new skill. We watch videos and read articles and books about painting, or writing, or finances, or underwater basket weaving. We begin our attempts, but it's harder than we expected. The painting is not a Picasso, the writing project stinks, the bank account stays empty, and the basket sinks.

It's tempting to give up and stick with what we already can do, but if we keep trying we may surprise ourselves with what we accomplish. A painting good enough to frame. A book with our name on it. A nice little nest egg. A cute little soggy basket.

When I'm making a Cream Puff Dessert, I have to remind myself that the stirring is important. I can't stop while the mixture is still a slimy mess or the dessert won't turn out right. I have to keep going. I have to remember that something good will come from my hard work.

I have to do that in life, too. I have to remember that something good will come from my hard work.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest [or a Cream Puff Dessert] if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Do you get tired of trying sometimes? How can focusing on God help you to persevere and keep going until you get to something good?

*Cream Puff Dessert (recipe from Sharon Tilstra, many years ago)
1/2 C. butter or margarine
1 C. water
1 C. flour
4 eggs
- Combine butter and water on stove in pan. When it starts to boil, add flour and mix 'til mixture forms a ball. Let cool a while, then add eggs one at a time.
- Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Cool.

8 oz. cream cheese
2 small pkgs. instant french vanilla pudding
3 C. milk
- Beat cream cheese. Mix all together and spread over crust. Spread 8 oz. whipped topping over all and drizzle with chocolate syrup shortly before serving.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Christmas

It's December 22. Just three days until December 25.

Am I ready for Christmas? No.

I finally got the kids to help me put the decorations on our tree tonight.

There is one measly wrapped present under the tree, and it's for Erin from Blake.

I haven't sent a single Christmas card.

We haven't made Christmas cookies yet.

I haven't freaked out about all of this, but I'm kicking myself for not getting started sooner on the things I could have done weeks ago. Obviously some of this will have to wait until after Christmas next week.

When I went to pick out a background for this week's graphic, I typed "Christmas" into Google images and picked out this pretty picture:

Before I started adding text, I suddenly realized I was making a big mistake.

Pretty Christmas decorations are definitely part of the Christmas celebration, but they are not the best representation of this special holiday.

As a Christian, the nativity scene is the best image for me to use when we focus on Christmas. 

Jesus was born in that lowly stable. Mary and Joseph welcomed God to our world in the body of a tiny human baby. That baby grew up and died on a cruel wooden cross to pay for all of our sins. Amazing!

It's nice to put up a Christmas tree...
See the one pitiful present? It's not all my fault - the kids mostly want money this year.
sing carols, bake cookies, enjoy the pretty light displays, and exchange gifts with friends and family members, but the most important part of Christmas is worshiping God by focusing on His Son Jesus. 
My Grandma Morrison gave me this nativity scene for Christmas many years ago.
If we do that, we can have a truly wonderful Christmas, no matter what does or doesn't get done from our to-do lists.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 NIV)

Are you ready for Christmas? How can focusing on God help you to relax and enjoy the real meaning of this holiday instead of becoming stressed about getting everything done? 

*A few years ago, I wrote a song for Gary and sang it in church for Special Music. Check out my "It Is Well" Christmas Stress Song on Youtube.