Friday, October 30, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on...Something

Some days I have so much to do...that I don't do much of anything. My brain scrambles through a long list of "shoulds" and "ought to's" and then it gets tired and urges me to go play Mahjong Tiles on my iPad.

Now, I realize that this is a very silly way to live. It drives my husband crazy when he sees me doing it, because he doesn't do things that way. When he has lots to do, he works hard to get things done so he doesn't have to think about them anymore.

I've gotten a little better in recent years, but I still have to work on this "avoidance" tendency I have. It doesn't do me any good to procrastinate and put things off just because I get overwhelmed. It just adds more stress later when I'm trying to meet a deadline.

I was reminded of this on Thursday when I attended a workshop about public speaking. I learned some very good tips that will help me with speaking events in the future, but the points that stayed with me the most were things like this:

"You have a message to share that only you can share to people that can only hear it from you."

"Your message is your gift from God."

"All successful people make decisions quickly...Indecision is your enemy...Procrastination is the devil."

"Everything you want is out of your comfort zone or you'd already have it."

"Don't wait! Time is speeding up, not slowing down...Don't have any regrets."

(All of the above quotes were from Arvee Robinson, a master speaker.

Her words really got me thinking about what I want to accomplish. I don't have all the time in the world to do the things I want to do, the things I feel God calling me to do. The days, weeks, months, and years keep flying by...what am I doing with all of that time?

So today, I want to focus on...something, instead of focusing on everything. When I look around at everything, I get easily overwhelmed and want to run away and do nothing. By focusing on something, I just might get it done and be able to move on to the next thing, knowing that the gifts God has given me are being used and that people are hearing the message that only I can share. 

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV)

Are you focusing on too many things? Is it time to focus on...something, so you can get it done and share the gifts and messages God has given you with just the right people?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Language

This week I'm writing my blog on my iPad mini in Germany. I've been thinking an awful lot about language during our time here. Of course, we've been hearing tons of German, but as we have visited different places there have been tourists from all over. I love languages, so it has been fun for me to try to figure out what people are speaking. 

I wish I could speak more German. I started to study it a couple of months before we came here, but I didn't get very far. I can say "I drink milk" and "He is strong." Unfortunately, I don't need to say those things very much. Instead, I should have concentrated on signs and warnings.

"Kein Winterdienst. Bei Schnee und Eis. Benutzung auf eigene Gefahr." 

We saw those words on a sign on an old castle before we started to climb a tower early in our trip. No idea what it meant. We climbed anyway. We have observed similar signs all over in our travels. We look, we shrug, and we move on. We figure someone will either yell at us or rescue us if we are doing something wrong. 

We've been lucky. In most places, people speak "a little bit" of English. It's usually much more than a little bit. We're grateful. I can't help but wonder about people who dare to travel who speak a language that is less common. They must feel so confused and frustrated at times.

I have lots of little examples that show my language problems, but for now I'll just share something kind of funny. After we asked directions from a guard at a castle, I said "gracias" as we left him. A couple of other times I've said "Si'" instead of yes. Since I know Spanish so well, I think my brain defaults to that if I'm not concentrating.

All of this foreign language stuff has me thinking about how we communicate with God. We speak to Him in the language that feels most comfortable to us. That makes sense, doesn't it? I wouldn't try to speak to Him in German (although I could say "You are strong."). I speak to Him in the language I know best. English.

But what language does God speak? Hebrew? Greek? Every language? We just don't know, do we? What we do know is that He understands us and loves us completely. He'll never throw up His hands in frustration or ignore us because He doesn't want to deal with our feeble attempts at communication (Yes, I had a lady do this to me in a park. She just kept walking.). 

Danke, Gott . (Thanks, God.)

 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spurit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (Romans 8:26 NIV)

 Have you ever had a problem with another language? How can focusing on God help you communicate with Him perfectly wherever you are? 

(Now I have to go see if I can schedule this to publish  on Friday since blogger is all in German on my iPad!)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Infection

It's another Sorry Saturday because my hotel internet wasn't working last night and I had to get to bed because of this:
Yes, I'm definitely not looking my best right now. My eye was sore earlier this week and when I put my contacts in on Thursday morning it seemed blurry and felt funny. My left eye looked a little bloodshot. So I took the contacts out and drove out to Michigan without them. I had a good visit with our daughter Allison in Chicago and got to Michigan that evening and noticed that my eye was even more red. I went to bed hoping it was just from the long drive and prayed it would be better in the morning.

It was not. It was worse. I called our insurance and the nurse suggested going to urgent care because it sounded like pink eye. I was pretty sure it was contact related and I would end up going to an opthamologist. I talked with Gary and we decided maybe I could wait until I was back in Iowa and could see my doctor there. (Have I lost all of you yet? I'll try to wrap it up for everyone who is hanging with me.) When I called to get an appointment they suggested I see someone here and then follow up with them on Monday. So, I called an office close to my conference. They were full but I could go to Rockford (north of Grand Rapids). I said I would wait. 

I thought maybe I'd just wait til Monday and hope it got better. A while later I realized I couldn't wait. It was hurting more and I felt terrible. I called the office back to get the Rockford appointment and they just happened to have a 1:45 at the office right by my conference. Thank you, God! I had to miss a couple of sessions at Breathe, but I'm so glad I went. The doctor found a contact in my left eye! He got it out and gave me some drops to put in. 

Whew! Long boring story done! All of that to say that I'm hopefully on the mend and my eye will keep getting better. Before I knew what the problem was, I worried that it may be pink eye and I thought noone would want to be around me. Now that I know what happened I feel a little better, but I'm still very self-conscious about it. When you don't look your best it's hard to feel confident. I wanted to meet lots of people at this writers conference and connect with old friends. I have connected with friends I've met in other years, and that has been great, but I just feel...yuck.

This experience has been challenging me, though. I realize that I have some issues I need to deal with. There are thoughts and feelings that cause infection in my soul, just like the forgotten contact started an infection in my eye. My eye wasn't getting enough air and it wasn't good for it at all. Our souls can get cut off from God's life giving air when we keep things too long, too. We can't just wait and hope things will get better. That doesn't work. We need to get rid of them so the infection can clear.

Grudges. Bitterness. Resentment. Fear. Shame. Rage. A judgmental attitude. Just like I didn't know I had a contact stuck in my eye, sometimes we hardly realize we have these things affecting our souls. We need the Great Physician (God) to point them out and lovingly remove them for us. Then the healing can begin.

"...for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13 NIV)

Do you have an infection? How can focusing on God help you to let Him remove whatever is causing it and start you on the road to healing?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Looking (Part 2)

I want to continue the theme we began last week and share a few more thoughts about looking. You see, I blew it again and neglected to really look at something.

We bought a new GPS recently. I took it out of the box and tried to hook it up to the computer to make sure it had the most current maps. I ran into a little problem. I couldn't plug it in.

I looked and looked at my cord and the GPS and couldn't figure out how to plug that cord in. I even called TomTom and explained my predicament. Granted, we had a bit of a language barrier, but he seemed puzzled by my inability to plug in the new cord. I earnestly explained that the slot on my GPS was about a half inch wide but the cord end was only about a quarter inch wide and I didn't see how it could plug in. He asked some good questions and then basically told me to take it to a Walmart or BestBuy and ask someone to show me how to plug it in. I was slightly offended and hung up feeling frustrated. I know how to plug things in. I'm not dumb. I even tried forcing the plug into the little slot, but it didn't work. I left the GPS by the computer and moved on to other activities.

A couple of days later I had to do something with our old GPS. I picked it up and saw immediately what I had done wrong with our new GPS.

The cord had to turn sideways and plug into the slot made especially for it. The slot I somehow neglected to see when I was looking all over my GPS for a place to plug into. Sigh. How could I have missed it? It was right there in front of me, but I didn't see it until I saw an example I could follow.

This situation made me think of lots of times when we don't see something. Sometimes we aren't looking (like last week's pedometer), but sometimes we're looking as hard as we can but we still miss something.

Maybe we want to have a better marriage or a healthier relationship with our children or a stronger spiritual life, but it seems like we can't figure out where to "plug in." We have certain ideas but they don't seem to fit when we look at our situation. We might even try to force the connection, but it doesn't work.

We need an example. When we see what a good marriage looks like, or a healthy parent/child relationship, or a strong faith walk, we just might be able to turn our thoughts and actions around so that we can get plugged in and improve in those areas.

Of course, Jesus is our finest example. He shows us the way to live and love and thrive. Look to Him first. Talking to Him and reading the Bible will give you so much guidance in every relationship you have here on this earth. When you know that your relationship with Him is solid, then you can look around for other examples and follow them. 

Ask questions when you see someone who has a good marriage, a healthy relationship with their children, or a strong faith in God. They'll help you plug in and grow in so many ways.

"Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived." (1 John 2:6 The Message)

Are you frustrated because you can't figure out where to "plug in" and improve some of life's problems? How can focusing on God help you to follow Jesus' example and find godly people to learn from here on earth?