Friday, February 26, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Secrets

Can you keep a secret?

I usually can, and that's normally a good thing. I don't tell when I hear that someone is expecting or that they're getting a new job or they're taking their kids on a surprise trip to Disney World.

Sometimes keeping a secret is a bad thing.

I had picked the topic of "balance" for our Fresh Hope support group last Sunday. As we talked about not doing too much so that we could stay emotionally healthy, I admitted a secret to the group. "What do I do about the Christmas cards I haven't sent out yet...and I even have some kids I never sent graduation cards to!" I started crying, of course, because I felt so stupid about procrastinating and not doing something I felt I "should" do. The rest of the group urged me to let the Christmas cards go. "I can really do that?" I asked. I wasn't so sure about that, but I took a deep breath and considered it. As for the graduation cards, I could still send them with just a quick apology and get it done.

After Fresh Hope, Gary chided me about the secret I had been keeping from him. I guess if I had to admit it, I had been keeping it a secret. As the months went by, I felt more and more embarrassed about not getting it done. I think I was hoping to just do them sometime and not tell him how late it had been. I felt guilty whenever I thought of those two tasks, and part of it was because of the secret.

Gary asked me on Tuesday if I had sent the graduation cards yet. I hadn't, but I made work of it on Wednesday morning and mailed them out. Whew! If only I had done that last May or June! I felt much better not having a secret from Gary and he provided the accountability I needed to help me finally get it done.

Hiding our unfinished tasks is one thing, but sometimes we can start to keep certain sins a secret from those we love. It's pretty safe to say that if there is anything you feel you must do in secret, it's probably not good for you or your spiritual health. Only you and God know for sure, of course, but it's worth thinking about. 

Consider talking to your spouse or a close friend about your secret. It will be a relief to have it out in the open and you can ask that person to hold you accountable so that you turn away from your secret sin.

Now tell me, would it be a sin if I didn't send out a Christmas letter this year?

Jesus told his disciples: "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim it from the roofs." (Matthew 10:26-27 NIV)

Do you have any secrets you're keeping? Is the guilt bothering you? How can focusing on God help you be brave enough to tell someone your secret and deal with whatever it is?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Fasting

I didn't really have a topic in mind for my Focus Friday this week. Usually I have something rattling around in my brain for most of the week and then it comes out on Friday sometime. This week, nothing.

Then I read a guest post by Susan Gregory on Ann Voskamp's site ( She wrote a wonderful post about finding hope by practicing "The Daniel Fast." I had heard of that before, but I had never tried it. I met some women at the Authentic Intimacy Conference who had done The Daniel Fast at the beginning of the new year and they had great things to say about it. Susan gave many examples of people who had found answers to prayer and gotten closer to God through this partial fast for 21 days. "Clinging to God through prayer and fasting helps keep hope alive."

I've always been intrigued with the discipline of fasting. I've read about it and tried short fasts before, but I've never embraced it fully. I sat in front of my computer and thought about things I've learned about fasting. I thought about times in the Bible where people had fasted before they made an important decision or needed wisdom for something major. I thought to myself, maybe I need to do something like that.

Almost immediately, I felt resistance in my heart. I clicked out of the post and got up. I went to the kitchen and fixed myself a cheese quesadilla for supper. I drank some root beer.Then I made a bowl of ice cream with sliced bananas and chocolate sauce. Then I rummaged around in the kitchen a little more and scooped up a cupful of chocolate chips and mindlessly ate them while I watched Wheel of Fortune.

Even as I ate, I was aware of the conflict in me. It was almost like my flesh was asserting itself: If you're even thinking about denying me whatever foods I want for 21 days, then I'm going to get all I can tonight. I don't care what you think. My brain reassured me: God loves you no matter what. You don't have to fast to get His love. Fasting isn't one of the ten commandments. You don't have to do it.

Now that I'm sitting down to write, I can see more clearly. I don't deny my flesh very often. I often eat whatever I feel like eating, whenever I want to eat it. Sometimes I hold off until I'm hungry, but often I just eat when I'm bored or stressed or upset.

Understand me as I write. I'm not trying to guilt all of you into fasting. I just want us to think about how we live. Are we feeding our bodies with too much food when we're really in need of more of God?

I like a quote that Susan Gregory had in her guest post: "I knew from personal experience about the power of fasting. I knew what it was like to be so hungry for more of God that the only way to be fed was to fast."

I'm going to think more about this discipline of fasting. I may even get to the point where I'm willing to give it a try someday. How about you?

"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:2-3 NIV)  

Have you ever practiced the discipline of fasting? How can focusing on God help you to consider saying "No" to your flesh and seek to be filled with God instead of just food?

*For more information about fasting, you can check out some of these resources: - This looks like a great article to begin learning about and practicing fasting. You don't have to jump right into a 21 day partial fast. - The Daniel Fast is a 21 day partial fast. This site has resources, recipes, and Susan's blog. I'm going to spend some more time here as I consider fasting. - I haven't read this series of articles yet, but Campus Crusade for Christ is a great organization. I think what they have to say will be worth reading.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on The Bachelor

It's getting close to midnight...looks like it might be a Sorry Saturday this week. I think I've been putting off my blog this week because I kept thinking about the topic I had chosen and I knew it could be a touchy subject.

I mean, you either love The Bachelor or you hate The Bachelor, am I right? I sure do. Which one? Both, actually. Let me explain.

Until about a month ago, I would have said I hated The Bachelor. Every time a commercial came on TV about it my kids would hear lots of negative comments from me. They knew I hated it. I would splutter on for a while about how terrible it was that people were trying to pick the person they would marry while they were on TV. It just couldn't work because people wouldn't be real in front of the cameras and there would be too much pressure, etc., etc., etc. I had lots to say about it at home.

Of course, I never said anything when I was around friends who loved watching it. I just kept my mouth shut and kept my opinions to myself.

Then I went to Florida. My mom likes to watch The Bachelor and I couldn't be rude and tell her how much I hated it, right? So I sat and watched it the first Monday I was there. I still thought it was a terrible way to find love, but I became interested in Ben and the girls (the many girls!) he was dating. One of them was especially intense and "interesting." (If you watch I'm sure you know the one.) The next week my sister was in Florida, too, so all three of us sat down to watch the show. We commented loudly on Ben's choices and what we thought of each girl. It was kind of fun.

I got back to Iowa and we had a couple of other shows to watch on Monday night, but Gary turned it to the last couple of minutes of The Bachelor. I saw who he gave his final rose to and who had to go home. I announced, "Now I remember why I hate this show" as I watched a broken-hearted girl ride away in a limo, but the next day I went to my computer and watched the entire episode because I was hooked. I just had to see what happened to Olivia and the rest of the girls. Plus, they showed upcoming scenes where Ben falls in love with two girls and he lets one go home, but then he changes his mind and lets the other one go home and calls the other one (I'm not spoiling anything for anybody, am I? It has all been on the previews for upcoming shows). Now I have to watch. I must know who those two girls are and which one he picks. Will it be Amanda? JoJo? I get it now. Once you watch, you have to find out how it ends.

As we celebrate Valentine's Day this weekend, I thought it might be good to focus on The Bachelor a little bit. I am hooked on this season, but I still think it's a terrible premise. As the show moves along, you can see everyone getting more and more stressed. The girls get jealous when Ben spends time with someone else. They get desperate for his attention. They cry during their little on camera interviews and whine, "I know I signed up for this, but it's just so hard when he's dating so many other girls."

I worry about everyone on the show. In the previews Ben cries because he's falling in love with two girls and can't decide. Everyone is crying because they're all falling in love and they know he can only end up with one of them. It was kind of fun to comment about one girl's crazy behaviors, but then I started thinking about her, too, and I worry for her. She is a real human being. What will that do to her as she goes home and watches the show and sees the comments about her. Will it ruin her for life? It's one thing to have fun picking apart a fictional character on a show or in a book, but what does it do to someone when they are ridiculed for being themselves?

We all know love isn't supposed to work this way. The best way to fall in love is to wait for one person God leads us to, get to know them over time (without cameras following our every move), and then make the decision to either look for someone else or love that person for a lifetime. 

Love is a choice, you know. I'm sure Ben could make love work with any one of the girls on The Bachelor. They all have really good qualities (yes, all of them). Love is a conscious choice to communicate, show love, forgive, and share life together.

If you're single, be patient as you wait for someone to come along that you can choose to love. If you're married, keep making that choice to really love your spouse each day. God will help us all to accept His love for us so that we can pour out love to everyone in our lives. 

So, now you know why I hate and love The Bachelor. I'm going to stop watching - right after this season is over.

[Note on March 4, 2016 - I'm back to just hating The Bachelor. I didn't realize that they had a fantasy suite and sleep together. This is so wrong, plus the heartache that everyone goes through as everyone's emotions are pulled in so many directions. Dating one person at a time is the only way to really look for true love.]

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (I Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)

Do you watch The Bachelor? That's okay, but as you watch, think about the mistakes everyone is making as they "fall in love." How can focusing on God help you to really fall in love and choose to keep loving your spouse?

P.S. - Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband Gary on Sunday! We just celebrated our 26th anniversary on February 10. I'm looking forward to many, many more happy years together!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Sex

Don't get worried about this week's blog post. The title was meant to grab your attention, but I won't be saying anything inappropriate here. I just thought it might be time to discuss this important subject, especially since the world around us seems to be constantly bombarding us with messages that can confuse and depress us.

While I was in Florida I attended an Authentic Intimacy Conference. I was a little nervous about the subject matter, but it was a wonderful day. Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow did a great job teaching us why our sexuality matters, what holy sexuality looks like, and how to restore intimacy with God.

Married and single women from all over Florida (and Iowa) soaked up their words and we went away with a better understanding of intimacy (and sex). Linda and Juli also did a question and answer session that was very tastefully specific. Women could text their questions to a certain number and the women answered many of them. They received 180 questions! Of course, they couldn't answer them all, but the ones they did answer helped everyone to think more about their own relationships and the challenges some people face.

Friends, do not be deceived by the lies that Satan tries to tell you about intimacy and relationships. Whether you are single or married, he'll try to deceive you. 

If you're single, he may lie and tell you you'll never find a spouse. He may tempt you to settle for a string of sexual encounters instead of waiting for sex within a marriage relationship. He may try to confuse you and make you wonder if you're actually attracted to someone of the same sex. He'll do anything he can to mess up your relationships here on earth so that you'll be less likely to enjoy a close relationship with the One who made you.

If you're married, Satan has all kinds of lies for you, too. He may whisper in your ear that you married the wrong person and you would be so much happier if you found your true soulmate. He may try to take away your satisfaction with marital sex when he shames you for the relationships you had before you got married. He might point out every physical flaw you have whenever you look in the mirror. He may tempt you with someone who seems to understand you so much better than your spouse does. He knows that a strong marriage is a great witness, so he'll try to ruin it any way he can.

Let's learn to recognize the lies! God's truth is so much better. He made us. He loves us. He wants what's best for us. He wants us to wait to have sex until we're married and once we're married He wants us to enjoy sex only within that relationship.

If there are problems, we can overcome them. It may take some hard work to recognize Satan's lies and replace them with God's truth, but it is possible. You and your spouse may need outside help to get to a better place in your relationship, but it will be worth it. Don't just live for years enduring a bad relationship. Make plans to improve it and get to a much better place. Every marriage goes through seasons. The loving feelings come and go, so hold on until they come back. Don't throw your marriage away during one of those difficult seasons.

I want to close by highly recommending that you go to and check out the resources there. You can buy books that help with relationships. They also have tons of questions and answers you can look at. You just might find the answer to some of the questions you have about your own relationships. Some of them get very specific, but nothing is too graphic. Linda and Juli want to help women everywhere have a more healthy view of intimacy and sex.

I'm also including a two minute YouTube video that team member Hannah Nitz made. When I inserted the video here, it just happened to show me! I'm right down the row from three ladies taking a selfie (about halfway through the video).

The most important intimate relationship we can have is our relationship with God. We can't see Him, but we can develop that relationship as we read the Bible, talk to Him in prayer, and learn to trust and obey Him. I pray that each of you falls more and more in love with Jesus in the days ahead.

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." (Psalm 63:1-3 NIV)

Are you happy with your human relationships (marriage and friendships)? Are you happy with your relationship with God? How can focusing on God help you to achieve greater intimacy in all of these relationships?