Friday, November 27, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Thankfulness

We've just celebrated a special holiday. Thanksgiving. This is the time of year when we get more deliberate about thanking God for our families, friends, and all of our blessings. It's good to do that at this time of year, but I want us to focus today on how important it is to cultivate that thankful attitude all year long.

I love the devotional "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. It seems like the Holy Spirit has something to say to me just about every day I read it. Lately the devotions have been talking about being thankful. The picture and quote above is from the devotions for November 24. I'd like to share another line or two from that same page:

"You give me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience -- at times, blind obedience." (Jesus Calling, Nov. 24)

Isn't that amazing? It is so different from what most of the world thinks. Most people think that the only way they'll have joy is if they are free from problems, blessed with good health, and enjoying fulfilling relationships with everyone in their lives.

Jesus calls us to something that seems impossible. Thank Him for everything. Thank Him for the good things, but thank Him for the bad things, too. Thank Him for the hard times, for times of illness, for strained relationships. He has some purpose for them, even though we may never understand.

Only by choosing to be thankful can we experience true joy and peace inside. Note that I am not saying we should just put on a happy face and deny that what we may be going through is hard. Jesus understands if we are sad, fearful, angry, hurt, or just plain tired. We can't stop with those emotions, though. In obedience, blind obedience many times, we choose to give thanks and it helps us get our perspective back. We may not know why we are going through something, but choosing to give thanks will get us back to focusing on God instead of our situation. 

Focusing on Him will lead to peace and a joy inside that the rest of the world cannot hope to understand. That joy will shine out from your broken places and will be something beautiful that just may lead someone straight to Jesus. 

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 
                                                   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

Do you give thanks in good times and in bad? How can focusing on God help you to choose to be thankful? 

*I highly recommend Sarah Young's devotional "Jesus Calling" ( and also Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts" which challenges all of us to choose to be thankful, even for the hard things in life. (

Friday, November 20, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on...Snow?

I want to move to Florida. Just kidding, but I have experienced the shock of our first snowfall of the year today. We had no snow on the ground this morning. A little before noon the flakes began to fall. The forecast didn't look good so school dismissed an hour early. As I write we have about a foot of snow on the ground.

I don't like to be cold. Poor Gary had to hear me whine as we went out to give blood today. I whimpered as I rushed through the blowing snow and drank at least two mugs of hot chocolate today just so I could try to feel warmer.

Now, I think I'd better work on my attitude a bit or it's going to be a very long winter. We do live in Iowa, after all. It would be pretty unreasonable to hope for no snow.

It was kind of interesting to watch people before the snow began. I made sure I had plenty of milk in the fridge so I wouldn't have to go out to get some. Gary went uptown this morning and said there were all sorts of people scurrying around getting errands done before the snow. 

The State Football Championship games in Cedar Falls were postponed and other activities were cancelled tonight and I'm assuming most people are staying indoors unless they really have to go somewhere. It's kind of nice to have that excuse, actually. The snow slows people down and gives them a break from some of their rushing around. 

I opened the front door a while ago to check on the depth of the snow. I shuddered from the cold, but I had to admit the world looked beautiful covered in its blanket of white. Later it will be plowed up and get dirty, but tonight it is pristine. I have to admire God's handiwork.

I admire it, but I think I'll still let Gary be the one to plow it from our driveway tomorrow.

"He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.' So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor." (Job 37:6-7 NIV)

Do you like the snow? How can focusing on God help us to make it through another long winter without too much complaining? 
(My apologies to my readers who live in areas where you don't get snow. I know it may be hard to relate. Tell you what, I'll send you some of ours!)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Fear

Gary, Dylan, and I are in Chicago today and tomorrow, visiting our daughter (and sister) Allison while she's here working with Easter Seals for an internship this semester. We checked in at our hotel and then rode the Blue Line train to the Loop. We met Allison at the Willis Tower and saw where she works, then took the elevator up to the SkyDeck. The view was incredible. We tried to time it so we could see the city in daylight and also after the sun set. So cool to see the city light up as the sun went down. We went out on the ledge on the west side of the building and got a dizzying view of the street below. When we'd finally had our fill, we got in line to ride the elevator back down 103 floors. While in line, I checked my phone and found this text from Erin:

i'm safe. Just so you know. Scared. But fine. Girls were supposed to go to Paris tomorrow but i think not going. Obviously. i love you

This is not the text you want to receive from a child working for a semester in Germany. As a parent, your mind automatically goes to all sorts of possibilities for what could be wrong. From her text, it was obvious that something major had happened, but we had no idea what it was. This began a few minutes of frantic searches on our cell phones and we read about the attacks in Paris. 

It was terrible to hear about all of the violence, but also a relief to know that she hadn't been in immediate danger. In today's world, I suppose everyone's minds go to 9/11 and you wonder what may happen before it's all over.

I guess that's why I decided to focus on "fear" this Friday. Aside from a few moments of fear right after her text, I can't say that this incident caused me to experience much fear, but I am very aware that there are probably millions of people who are experiencing lots of fear as they watch what is happening in Paris. Some are afraid because they have lived through this and have to deal with the emotions and grief they feel. Others may feel fear because these events have reminded them of the uncertainties of life and the reminder that we never know what might happen to us or to those we love.

We can't help but feel fear at times, but we don't have to live afraid. There is a wonderful God that is above all evil in this world. We don't know why He allows things like this to happen, but we know that He cares and understands all of our emotions. He loves us and wants us to trust Him even though we don't know what may happen to us in the future.

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship." (Romans 8:15 NIV)

Do you feel lots of fear as you look at the world around you? How can focusing on God help you to stop being a slave to fear and trust Him instead?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Getting Back Up

I meant to write my Focus Friday last night. I had a busy day and then we attended North Butler's musical production of Cinderella. All of the students did an excellent job. We got home and I decided to head for bed while Gary watched a little TV. Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, I thought of it. I didn't write my Focus Friday yet. It was only ten o'clock, I could have easily jumped back up and written something for a while. But I didn't.

As more and more seconds ticked past, I felt my good intentions dissolve. It's so comfy here in bed. Nobody will care if I write it tomorrow instead. I'm so tired. Soon I was asleep.

The only problem is, my excuses continued the next morning. I was half awake at about seven, but I lazed in bed for another hour, dreading all of the things I had to do today. Please understand, my day was not packed with difficult, high pressure tasks. I had just a few more things scheduled for today than normal and just that much put me into "procrastination mode." I got some things done, but I could have accomplished much more with a better attitude and the resolve to get things done.

I've been fighting that feeling a little more lately. That feeling that I'm not getting enough done so I might as well not even try. That's a terrible way to think because it keeps me stuck in negative thought patterns and tempts me to give in to despair. 

The truth is, I don't have as much energy as I used to. Maybe I can't get everything done, but I sure can keep plugging away and get as much done as I can. I can balance work and relaxation and enjoy life as each day unfolds. 

An important thing to remember is that it's useless to live in regret. Today I wished several times that I had gotten up last night and written my Focus Friday. I didn't get back up! It's over and it's time to move on. I write my Sorry Saturday and try to get back to Focus Friday next week.

Sleeping in too late, failing to meet a deadline, letting an opportunity slip by, missing the chance to connect with a friend...whatever the situation, we have to choose to "get back up" and keep moving forward. Grieve the failure, but then let it go and focus on the present moment and what you can do in it. Let's press on, dear friends.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14 NIV)

Have you had a time where you didn't "get back up" and you regretted it? How can focusing on God help you to live in the present moment and do the best you can right now?