Friday, April 24, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Significance

I'm going to be starting a Bible Study with some very special women this Monday night. I don't even know who all of them are yet, but I know without a doubt that they are very special. How do I know? Because God calls them very special. 

I'm assuming that not all of them will feel very special when they come to the study that night. Some may feel like they don't measure up to the expectations their friends or family may have for them. Others may disappoint even themselves way too often. And I'll bet lots of them wonder if God is disappointed with them when they fail.

I struggle with those feelings at times. About twenty years ago I did a Bible Study with a group of women at our church in Rock Rapids, Iowa. "The Search For Significance" by Robert S. McGee changed my life back then, and God has been bringing it to mind so much lately that I think it's time for a repeat. Back then I went to Bible Studies but I would often not say a single word during our time together. I would go home and cry and feel terrible because I didn't feel confident enough to say what I was thinking. 

During "The Search For Significance" I finally started to speak up. I learned to base my worth on what God thought of me and I wasn't so worried about what everyone was thinking about me in the group.

This study will point us all to truths in God's word that will help us to avoid basing our worth on our performance and approval from others. We'll learn to accept love even if we have failed and realize that we are not hopeless and powerless to change.

The subtitle for "The Search For Significance" is "Seeing Your TRUE WORTH Through GOD'S EYES." I'm praying that this study changes all of us and helps us to fully realize how much God loves us and how freeing that can be as we live our lives for Him.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

Do you feel insignificant? Are you paralyzed by what others may think of you? How can focusing on God help you to live more freely and confidently?

(You're welcome to join us if you live in the Allison, Iowa area - or maybe you could start your own study with a group of friends wherever you live)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Feeling Good

It's Friday, and I'm feeling good. I've been feeling good for at least a couple of weeks now...and I'm a little scared. I haven't felt this good for this long for a long, long time, so I'm a little nervous that the downward spiral will start and I'll feel bad again.

I realize how silly that sounds, but I guess that's something I have to fight against because of my history of depression. I have had lots of good times over the years. I've enjoyed life for short periods of time, but it seems like my thinking often sends my emotions back down to a pretty dark place if I'm not careful (and it has become clinical depression a few times).

I've really been trying not to analyze my happiness too much, because I know that if I overthink it I'll ruin it. I'm trying to just enjoy it and make sure I'm doing all of the things I need to do to keep it going.

I think I'm finally on the right dose of the right medicine, so that's helping. I'm learning to think in right ways so that I don't think myself into a negative place when things don't go my way or stressful situations happen. I'm trying to make sure I balance my obligations with activities that bring me happiness. I'm learning to trust God completely and rest in His love instead of worrying so much about what will happen in the future.

Sometimes I can think myself into feeling bad because I compare myself to other people's lives and I feel guilty for feeling good. How can I deserve to feel happy when so many people are going through pain, grief, poverty, or injustice? That is flawed thinking, my friends, and I'm learning to reject it. I can care about the struggles that others are going through, but their problems do not mean that I cannot be happy. Choosing happiness in the midst of my own difficulties can be one of the best ways to show people what it means to trust in my awesome God. I'll have enough days where it's hard to choose that happiness; when it comes easily I need to enjoy it.

Here's something that's added to my happiness lately:
That's me and my "Peepsicle." I got it for just 18 cents recently. (A yellow peep is missing because I ate it before I got the bright idea to take a picture of it.) I'm going to be happy about that Peep sucker, even though I've had several people tell me that peeps are "nasty." They're welcome to their opinion - just don't take away my peeps!

I got the rubber stamp for 50 cents. I would never use it on a card and risk shaming someone who was feeling sad, but I set it on the windowsill in my kitchen and it reminds me to practice thinking happy thoughts. I realize we can't always think our way to happiness; sometimes we're just too overwhelmed or tired or sick. Many times, however, we are able to turn our thoughts around when we choose to think on things that are "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable." (Philippians 4:8)

When you're feeling good, enjoy it! Thank the Lord for those happy feelings and pray that they last a long, long time.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" 
                                                                   (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

Are you feeling happy today? Enjoy it! How can focusing on God help you to feel more happiness and enjoy life more?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Walking With Jesus

This needs to be a short post this week. I need to get to bed after I look over a talk I'm giving tomorrow at our women's spring conference. Women from other Reformed Churches in our area will be coming to spend the day singing, eating, talking, and hearing from two speakers. One will inform them about missions in Africa and the other (me!) will hopefully encourage them to keep walking with Jesus through the ups and downs of life.

Our theme is "Exercise Your Faith: Walk With Jesus" and our whole team is excited for tomorrow. We know the ladies are going to have a great day with all of the special details that are planned. High heeled shoes will be seen all over the place and happy colors will brighten everyone's day.

Just preparing for this event has been encouraging for me and I've been reminded of how vital it is to walk with Jesus each and every day of my life. I love Him so much and I'm so grateful for His love and guidance.

During my talk I'm going to encourage the ladies to exercise their faith and walk with Jesus. We'll explore some of the ways that we sometimes fall. Then we'll talk about how we can get back up and keep walking with Jesus. Maybe I'll focus on all of that here next Friday. 

"The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 NIV)

Are you walking with Jesus? How can focusing on loving the LORD with all of your heart, soul, and strength help you keep walking on your spiritual journey?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Peace

I really love the devotional book "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. The readings seem to somehow speak right to where I'm at most days. That can only be a Holy Spirit thing, I think. God knows what we need to hear and provides those thoughts through devotions, the Bible, songs on the radio, or something we hear someone else say.

Lately the devotions have been mentioning "peace" and I've been pondering just how much peace I feel in my heart. I have to admit that it's been difficult over the last several months, or has it been years and years? I could blame my frequent lack of peace on the depression I've been experiencing or the occasional times of stress that happen in the life of a family in ministry, but those would be poor excuses.

From Sarah Young: "Your deepest, most constant need is for My Peace. I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live, but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds."

She goes on to say that Jesus works in various ways to rid our hearts of those weeds. One of the best ways is just sitting quietly with Him. As He shines the Light of His Presence into our hearts, Peace grows and the weeds shrivel up.

This challenges and encourages me. I don't have to feel bad for the times when I choose to worry, but I need to recognize that God does not want that for me. He wants me to feel His peace even in the midst of difficult times. 

Today is Good Friday. We remember Jesus' terribly painful death on the cross. It was such a bad day, and yet we call it "Good" because His death was the only way our sins could be wiped out and God could welcome us into heaven. Focus on that today. Focus on the fact that He suffered and died just for you. May that thought bring you His Peace, no matter what is going on in your life right now.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:15 NIV)

Do you feel Christ's Peace in your heart, or is it being choked out by the weeds of worry, pride, selfishness, and unbelief? How can focusing on Jesus get rid of those weeds and allow you to feel His Peace instead?