Friday, January 31, 2014

Focus Friday: Looking Through a Magnifying Glass

It can be fun to look at things through a magnifying glass. Seeing things differently than they normally are can amaze us, or amuse us, or even frighten us. Have you ever used a magnifying glass?
I can remember my Grandma Start using a magnifying glass when we would go visit her on Sunday afternoons in Muskegon, Michigan. She kept one handy near her chair and she would grab it when she wanted to read us a portion of a letter from one of my aunts or when she wanted to share something she had found interesting in the newspaper. Her old eyes had trouble making out tiny letters, so she turned to the magnifying glass for help. I don't use a magnifying glass, but I sure can relate to her as I wear my glasses when I need to read.

Seeing things magnified can amaze us as we become aware of the details we couldn't see with the naked eye.
Cells, snowflakes, grains of sand - all of them contain so much more than we can usually see.
Seeing a snowflake reminds us of God's attention to detail
Seeing things magnified can also amuse us. A distorted view of something can look really funny.
My, what a big eye you have!

                                   This guy's a big mouth, for sure!
Seeing things magnified can also frighten us if we don't know what we're looking at. A tiny gnat can look like a monster when it is blown up to look like this:

A super magnified Fungas Gnat - how creepy!
In our spiritual and emotional lives, it often works in the same way.

When we magnify God - we are amazed. Amazed at His power, His love, and His grace. This is a good thing. We need to keep our magnifying glass aimed in God's direction and discover Him in new ways every day.

When we magnify situations in our lives - we are sometimes amused. I've enjoyed many stories from speakers and authors who exaggerate a life situation and make it a hilarious and meaningful example for the rest of us.

When we magnify certain situations in our lives - we can become very frightened. If we focus on an unkind word from someone, we can often blow it way out of proportion until it's hundreds of times bigger than the original offense. I think certain personalities struggle with this more than others. Some people can let things go right away, while others focus on something and keep replaying it over and over until they can hardly function. Friends, it's time to remove the magnifying glass and see things as they really are. Usually the situation isn't as bad as we made it in the end.

In the future, let's be more aware of what we are focusing on. It's okay to use a figurative magnifying glass if it's helping us learn more about God or learn more about ourselves. However, it's time to put it away if it's causing us to get stuck in negative emotions about ourselves or others in our lives. 

What do you usually focus on? Does it help you to grow or does it cause you to just get paralyzed by fear? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Training Tuesday: Off to a Good Start

It's almost Wednesday, but I couldn't let "Training Tuesday" go by without a quick update and a few thoughts. You'll remember that last week we decided to hike the Grand Canyon in April and so I began training in earnest.

I have to admit, I felt kind of ornery the first couple of days. I didn't really want to put extra effort into training. I didn't feel like walking on the treadmill and bumping up the incline to 10 or 12%. It didn't feel good! I didn't feel like drinking mostly water and staying away from Pepsi. I didn't really want to walk up and down the stairs until I was out of breath. But I did it all anyway.

I huffed and puffed on the treadmill and tried to eat less sugar and drink more water. I did exercises to strengthen my core and I even worked a little more on the weight machine (something Gary has been urging me to do for a long time).

On Monday morning I weighed myself with the WiiU and braced myself for no change or even a slight weight gain (all of that flab turning to muscle, you know?). Imagine my delight when this result showed on the screen: I lost 2.9 pounds in one week! This surprised me, especially after no exercise on Saturday aside from walking around at Blake's district speech contest for part of the day. For supper I ate a large order of onion rings at Culver's and then made the mistake of buying a package of mini powdered sugar donuts on the way home (the rest of the family helped, but I ate most of them by Sunday evening).

Anyway, I was happy with my weigh in, and all of the work suddenly seemed worth it. It's still tough, but when I know results like that are possible, I can endure a little pain. As I think about it, I'm wondering if this was a little gift from God to encourage me as I begin this training journey. I'm not expecting a drop like that every week, but I'll keep making healthy choices and see where it goes from here.

One thing I noticed (and I'm assuming that others struggle with this, too) is that I got a little discouraged a few times when I compared myself with my hubby. He trained for most of this week by wearing a backpack (with a big jug of Canola oil in it) while he was on the treadmill. He walked for 35 minutes 3 a 12% incline...without holding onto the handrails.

I can't do that. I tried the backpack full of Canola oil for a day or two but I was trying to go too fast and I noticed my back feeling weird after the second time. Since I had back surgery last May, I decided I'd better drop the pack and try just walking first. Maybe I'll work up to that in a month or so.

In exercise or any other area of life, we cannot compare ourselves to others. It just discourages us and plants seeds of resentment toward someone we think is better than we are. We just need to do the best we can and seek to improve in the things we're working on. Also, we can't try to improve in everything at once! Pick a few things and concentrate (dare I say, "focus?") on those areas first.

I'm a little sad to not have much to report on my spiritual training, but I have been thinking about it all week. It's not that my relationship with God is bad, not at all. I love Him and He loves me, but I'm trying to figure out what I should be doing right now. Just reading a chapter of the Bible at bedtime and doing devotions with the family at the supper table doesn't seem like enough somehow. Next Monday night I'll be starting a Bible study with a great group of women from church. We'll be doing a video study of Lysa TerKeurst's book "Unglued." Maybe that will get my spiritual muscles pumping again.

Please comment if you have any suggestions or questions about training. I'd love to pray for you if you're training for something specific (physically or spiritually). Keep on keeping on! ~Robyn

Friday, January 24, 2014

Focus Friday: Sometimes We Don't Like Focus

I vividly remember the first real date I went on with the man who would become my husband. It was a double date with my best friend and her boyfriend. Gary had come to my college with them and they had watched our Christmas concert. I played the French horn in the concert band and I had probably played a little better that night, knowing that someone who was interested in me was watching in the audience. After the concert, I ran back to the dorm to change clothes and join Gary and my friends for supper at Taco John's. I don't remember eating together at all, but at some point in the evening we stopped by the student center to get our mail and then Gary and I sat and talked.

We made small talk for quite a while as we got to know each other. We talked about our parents, how many siblings we had, and what we liked to do in our spare time. Suddenly the conversation took an unexpected turn.

"What happened to your hand?" he asked curiously as he pointed at my right hand. I felt a shiver go up my spine as I lifted my hand and looked at the knuckles nearest my fingertips. I felt a mixture of pleasure, embarrassment, and fear. As far as I could remember, no one had ever asked me about my scars before. I explained that when I was little I had put my hand up near the burner of our gas stove and had burned my hand. The skin was slightly scarred on the knuckles of my middle three fingers. After stammering out my little story, I put my hand back down by my side and changed the subject. Part of me was impressed that Gary had noticed my fingers and another part of me was terrified. No one had ever looked at me that closely before and I didn't know if I could withstand such detailed scrutiny.

Have you ever felt that way? It seems like most people cover their faces or turn the other way when they see a camera aimed at them. They don't want to have their likeness captured for others to criticize or laugh at. Some people love to be the center of attention, but it seems like many others would do just about anything to make sure attention is not focused on them.

We don't want people to look at us so closely  that they see our flaws and imperfections. I'm not just talking physically here. Sometimes we're afraid to let people know us too well because we don't want them to see our character flaws. We don't want them to find out that we procrastinate, that we're lazy, that we are proud, or that we don't like ourselves very much. We miss out when we let our "focus fears" keep us from being known by others.

We may not even want to think about how much God focuses on us. He can see our every flaw, inside and out. And if we're honest, that terrifies us. We don't really want to be that well known. As we keep exploring the idea of "Focus" we need to get comfortable with the focus that God puts on us. He loves us unconditionally and His love won't change no matter what He sees in us. He sees where we've been, where we are, and where we will be in the future. We need to get comfortable with His focus on us so that we can have the right mindset as we work on our outward focus.

Have you ever had someone focus intently on you? How did it make you feel? Does God's focus on you make you feel uncomfortable?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Training Tuesday: Here We Go!

I didn't plan to have a "Training Tuesday" section here on my blog. I thought it would be enough to hope that I could keep up with weekly posts for "Focus Friday." But sometimes plans change. Mine changed when my husband informed me early yesterday morning that Southwest had some really great deals on airfare and he urged me to look into possibly booking something so that we could go and hike the Grand Canyon in April.

What? Hike the Grand Canyon? But, but, but...I'm not in shape! The last time we hiked the Grand Canyon I was thirty years old and I was a little lighter than I am now.
 This was in March, 1996 before we hiked to the bottom.

With those thoughts swirling around in my head, we both started looking at Grand Canyon info and considering when it would work best to go. We finally decided on a good week and booked the flight. Now we are committed and that is why I'm writing on "Training Tuesday." I'm not promising a weekly post, but I will try to share some thoughts once in a while as we get ready for this big adventure.

I already was committed to exercising regularly, but I didn't really have any goals or a real purpose. I would think about how much I'd like to lose some extra pounds, but my actions didn't do much to bring that about. I kept eating too much ice cream, too much candy, and drinking too much Pepsi. I would walk on the treadmill, but I wouldn't really put much effort into it. I'd plod along at about 3 mph...maybe 3.3 mph if I felt like pushing it a little.

Now that I have a certain trip in mind, it's time to get serious about training. And here's why:
Can you see all of those switchbacks and how far down you have to go? 
(And the bottom isn't even in sight in this picture) You have to go that far back up, too, you know.

So, with that in mind, I started my training last night. I walked for an hour on the an 8% incline...and I bumped it up to 4 mph for most of the walk. Then I started in the basement and walked up to the kitchen and up to the second floor, then walked back down to the basement - five times. That got my blood pumping!

As I thought about getting serious with my physical training, I couldn't help but think of my spiritual training. It's gotten kind of sloppy in recent years. I still read my Bible and pray, but it's at a pretty low level, just enough to kind of get by. There hasn't been that sense of urgency and purpose that really gets me digging into the word and falling on my face before God. I find myself wondering why that is and I realize that maybe this relates to my posts on Focus Friday. Because I have no focus, my spiritual training is lazy and undisciplined. It's time to set some goals and get serious about my spiritual training in the days ahead.

"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8 NIV)

So we're going to the Grand Canyon. Part of me thinks this is crazy. Can I really do a long hike like this and survive? I guess time will tell. I'll do my best with my physical AND spiritual training and then I'll try to enjoy the adventure once we get to Arizona. Remembering the good time we had about eighteen years ago helps quite a bit. Looking back through the pictures and souvenirs reminds me of the beauty of that wonderful place God created and I'm really looking forward to this trip.

My Dad, me, and Gary at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Focus Friday: Where Do We Begin?

We're just beginning our journey together and I'm not quite sure where to begin. I have lots of thoughts on this idea of "focus" and they're all swirling around in this old brain of mine. Do I talk about why we lose our focus...or where our focus should be...or how we sometimes focus too much on something...or the things that tempt us to lose our focus? Whew, this may be even more difficult than I thought it would be.

For today, let me point out something I noticed over the last week. After I introduced this idea last Friday, I was surprised to see how often the idea of "focus" made an appearance throughout the week. I saw the word "focus" in several blog posts, on Facebook, and on the screen when I started watching a movie (the company was "Focus Features"). The word showed up in books I was reading, billboards, and TV commercials. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating just a tad, but it did seem to show up many, many times over the course of the week.

This has happened to me before. About a year ago, we were thinking about buying a new car. We liked the little rental car we used while we were on vacation and Gary thought about getting one of our own. We checked out the Chevy Sonic at the dealer's and really liked it, but we decided to wait a little while. Suddenly all we saw were Chevy Sonics. Blue ones, red ones...they seemed to be everywhere. As it turns out, Gary found a good deal on a used Chevy Impala and we set aside our plans to own a Sonic. Now I hardly ever see one.

I can remember quite a few times when I was thinking about something and then I seemed to notice that word or object all over the place. My focus was on a car or a food or a person and that's what I noticed as I went about my daily routine.

Maybe that's enough for us to start with this week. Take a look around you. What do you find yourself noticing most? Food? Clothing? Money? Cars? Certain people? It could be that your focus is on one of those things. Notice that they're not bad things, but too much focus on any of those things could be bad for us.

This reminds me of a YouTube video that my kids used to watch a long time ago. Maybe you've seen it - it's the one about the German Coast Guard Trainee. (You can see the 1 minute video by clicking here: German Coast Guard Trainee)  A distress call comes over the radio and you hear a desperate voice calling out, "Mayday, mayday, we are sinking! We are sinking!" The German Coast Guard trainee picks up the microphone and asks haltingly in a heavy German accent, "Halo, this is the German coast guard. What are you sinking about?"

Pretty corny, isn't it? But the idea is sound: "What are you sinking about?" needs to be something we ask ourselves once in a while. Where is your focus? What are you thinking about?

Does this ring true with you? Do you find yourself noticing the things you are thinking about as you go about your daily routine? Are there things you either need to stop or start thinking about so that your focus is on the most important things?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Focus Friday

I've lost focus in recent years...literally and figuratively as it turns out. My eyes have gradually been changing as I've gotten older. I keep a pair of reading glasses in several rooms of my house, in my purse, and in my coat pocket. More often than not, I'm grabbing for one pair or another so I can read the small print on a pill bottle, an ingredient in the kitchen, a piece of mail, or a phone number in the directory. If my cheaters are not handy, I'll try to squint and make out the words or numbers, but I usually have to give up in disgust and go find a pair of glasses or ask one of my children "What does that say?" I try not to do that too often because it just invites all kinds of ridicule and jokes about old age.

When I'm attempting to see something without my glasses I may think I know what something says, but I am often very surprised to see what is there when I finally use my glasses. "Oh, that's an 8, not a 6!" or "Blake, why is your principal sending me this notice about 'Lurch School?'" and it turns out to be the "Lunch Schedule." Now, that makes more sense.

I've finally resigned myself to the fact that I just need to keep a pair of readers handy and use them often. Why does it seem harder to get accustomed to that habit in my emotional and spiritual life as well? It seems that as I've gotten older it's become more and more difficult to keep my focus on the right things in life.

When I was young I would focus on one thing after another and set goals and usually accomplish them. Now that I'm more mature I find myself "piddling" many of my days away. It's not that I don't have things to do. There are tasks to get done, dreams to pursue, and stacks of things to go through all over my house, but I often drift through the day without much focus. I have a general feeling of restlessness and sometimes even a little angst as I flit from one thing to the next. The hours go by and I'm often shocked to find the day gone before I know it.

Do you ever feel that way?

I've decided to explore this idea each week on "Focus Friday." I invite you to join me as I look at how and why we sometimes lose our focus. We'll look at where our focus need to be, how to get it there, and how to keep it there. Things may look a little fuzzy at times, but hopefully our spiritual eyesight will get clearer as we go along. I invite your comments and ideas as we think about "Focus."

For this week I'll leave you with a verse to get us started:

"Great are the works of the LORD; They are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever." (Psalm 111:2-3 NIV)

Now that's something to focus on, isn't it?