Saturday, December 16, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Boundaries



I've been running into the idea of "boundaries" quite a bit lately.

I was listening to some old Hearts at Home workshop CDs and happened to listen to one on Boundaries (from the book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend).  
As I listened, I realized I don't always have very good boundaries in my life. Two people in the last month or so have mentioned something about me having to "get a backbone." (I was scared to ask them what they meant by that) 

I know other people think I do way too much, even though I feel like I'm never doing enough for others.

Then I watched a sappy Christmas movie one night on Netflix.

"Merry Kissmas" was a sweet, funny movie.
I was intrigued by a scene about one hour into the film.

Kayla arrives bearing catering gifts for Dustin and his cousin Kim. She made 200 postcards to advertise their catering business and sent some emails to her press contacts to promote an event they were doing.

While Kim is enthusiastic, Dustin doesn't seem as thrilled.

"What about the nutcracker artist?" he asks. "Didn't you work on the story?"

"Umm, no, not yet," Kayla admits.

Dustin then asks, "What do we owe you for the postcards and your time?"

"Nothing!" Kayla answers. "I did this as a thank you for all you've given me."

"But your time is valuable and I'd like to pay you for it."

"No, I don't want your money."

"And I don't want you doing free work."

"I'm sorry if I crossed a boundary?" Kayla offers weakly.

Dustin explains, "It's not that you crossed a boundary. It's that you should have set a boundary."

I can't remember hearing characters talk about boundaries in a movie before.

I feel like God is bringing this topic to my attention over and over lately because He wants to teach me more about setting healthy boundaries.

Maybe I shouldn't be writing about this until after I've learned my lessons...but I thought I'd use it as our focus this week in case anyone else needs to work on it, too.

I do many things for lots of people. Usually I enjoy doing those things, but sometimes I do those things because I don't want someone to get mad. Or I do them because it's easier than asking someone else. Or I do them because I think people will like me more if I don't say "no." Or I do them because...oh, there are so many reasons. Sometimes I don't even know why I do the things I do.

It's time to take a good look at the boundaries in my life and make sure they're healthy.

Here's a good graphic I found from Kristi Holl's blog that illustrates healthy and unhealthy boundaries: 
http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2013/04/how-healthy-are-your-boundaries/

I'm going to keep learning how to be most like the picture on the left, if that's okay with you.

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age," (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

Do you have any problems with boundaries? How can focusing on God help you to set healthy boundaries that allow you to care for others while taking care of yourself, too?

*If you want to read more about this topic, I found a great article about boundaries here:
https://www.gotquestions.org/boundaries-biblical.html

Friday, December 8, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Making Misteaks

Did I ever tell you I'm a perfectionist?

I catch the pickiest of typos as I'm reading. I notice little details in life that most other people would overlook. I am thinking constantly, analyzing people's words and actions to figure out how I should be feeling, what I should say, and what I should do.

It's exhausting.

The worst part about being a perfectionist is facing the fact that I make mistakes. It seems like those happen more and more often.

In my younger years, my mistakes would throw me for a loop because they surprised me so much. I remember being incredulous one day because I realized that I didn't know how to spell "dilemma" (in my mind it was "dilemna") and I wondered what else I was wrong about.

When I made a mistake I beat myself up for it until I felt I could move on.

Fast forward to 51-year-old me. 

I'm staying with our daughter Erin for the weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska. Tonight I took her dog Charlie for a walk while Erin was out. When we got back to the apartment complex, I got out Erin's key and put it in the outside door. That's funny, it worked before but now it won't turn.

A lady came up the sidewalk as I was struggling with the key. I stepped aside and said something about it being my daughter's and that it wasn't working. "You have to turn it to the right," she offered. She opened the door with her key and let Charlie and I go in before her. We headed up the stairs to 312, but when we reached that floor and got into the hallway I was surprised to see a wreath on Erin's door. A wreath? Was that there before? The number said 312, but suddenly the truth dawned on me. 

The lady from before was a couple of doors down, getting into her apartment. 

"I think I'm in the wrong building!" I announced. 

"That's probably why your key didn't work," she said.

Charlie and I made an embarrassed beeline down the stairs and out the door. We made it to Erin's building and went up the two flights of stairs to her wreathless apartment door.

I felt silly, but there was none of the old despair and shame I would have felt years ago. 

It was dark and these buildings all look pretty much the same, especially after you get inside. It was an easy mistake to make.

We have to face the fact that we are going to make mistakes. Beating ourselves up about them isn't going to do anyone any good. Learning something so we don't make the same mistake next time is more helpful.

Maybe we can even get to the point where we can laugh at ourselves. 

I'm sure that lady in the next building over had a little chuckle tonight.

At least Charlie and I finally made it home!
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Do your mistakes bother you too much, or can you laugh at most of them? How can focusing on God help you to live more freely and not feel condemnation when you make a mistake?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Information

We live in an amazing time.

I made myself some hot chocolate tonight and noticed this on the bag of mini marshmallows:
"Eat one at a time." Really? They're mini marshmallows. It seems like it might be safe to eat two or three at a time.

Then I started thinking about regular-sized marshmallows and a little game we used to play in youth group every once in a while.

I went to the computer and typed in "Has anyone ever died playing Chubby Bunny?"

Snopes had the answer. Yes! A twelve year old girl had died after choking on marshmallows. (She and her friends started playing before the scheduled "supervised" time for the game.)

 Then I remembered that I had seen "Sea Urchins" on the menu board at the Japanese Restaurant Allison and I had eaten at for lunch today. I had commented "I wonder how you eat those?" and Allie had ventured some guess about removing the spikes first.
(Photo from http://www.msadventuresinitaly.com)

"How do you eat sea urchins?" went into the Google search box and immediately I was looking at lots of links that answered my question.

Now, all of this is absolutely fascinating, I know, but we can get carried away if we're not careful. Once we start googling, it's hard to stop. One answer can generate more questions, and instant answers can make us feel pretty smart about lots of subjects.

We can even do this with spiritual matters.

Instead of going to the Bible and looking for answers, we google it.

"How will the End Times happen?"
"What is heaven like?"
"How do I forgive someone who's hurt me?"
"How long was Noah on the ark?"
"What's the name of that guy that cursed those kids and bears came and mauled them?"

Try it! Instant answers.

We have to realize that our search results may not always be accurate depending on who is writing on certain topics.

We need to be diligent and check what we find with the Bible itself, digging deep and making sure we look at verses in context and know what the Bible says as a whole.

If we do that, we won't just be smart...we'll also be wise.

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly [maybe marshmallows and sea urchins?]." (Proverbs 15:14 NIV)

What's the strangest thing you ever googled? Do you use the internet to answer spiritual questions, too? How can focusing on God help you to discern what's true from all of the information available online?

Friday, November 24, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Timeshares

Gary and I stayed at a hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for four nights at a very good rate, plus we were offered a $150 gift card.

All we had to do was promise to sit through a two-hour presentation the second day of our vacation.

They didn't say "timeshare" during the phone call, but we knew that's what we were signing up for. 

Sure, we'll take a cheap vacation! We know how to say "no."

Now, I don't want to upset any readers who may have already purchased a timeshare. I imagine it may work for certain families who like to vacation in a certain way.

We are not one of those families. 

We wouldn't feel comfortable staying in a fancy resort like the one in Puerto Rico in my title graphic above. We like things a little simpler. We don't want to be locked into anything.

As I've pondered timeshares since our trip, I've thought about sharing our faith and how it might seem like a timeshare to some people.

Say a prayer and you get to go to heaven? Yeah, right! What aren't you telling me?

When we got to our presentation, we started out in a room full of about twenty people. The guy in front rattled off tons of information and explained why vacationing this way just made perfect sense. 

He showed pictures of beautiful resorts and explained how you could go practically anywhere and save so much money if you just owned so many "points" with their company.

When he got done, he turned us over to our personal representative. Our guy sat us down and asked if we had any questions. When we said we weren't interested, he said he understood but he still needed to show us the showrooms so he'd be doing his job well. 

We walked through the cabin, then the townhouse, and then the yurt. They were very nice, we had to admit. On the way back inside, we told him we still weren't interested. He said fine, but he needed to have his boss come and show us some other options before we finished.

Boss came, showed us two more options. We said we still weren't interested, signed a paper saying so, and then our representative led us to the desk to get our gift card and we were on our way back to our hotel. Whew! We made it out without caving in!

How much different it should be when we're sharing our faith with others.

First of all, we need to be honest. We share our lives with all of its ups and downs, showing how our faith in God helps us to keep going. We can't tell people that everything is going to be like staying a luxury resort with all of the amenities after they accept Christ. 

It's going to cost them something. Sometimes it will be financial costs, sometimes it will be emotional or relational costs. But it will all be worth it.

Next, we need to keep offering this relationship with Christ.

One of the things I noticed about the timeshare presentation was how many times they emphasized the fact that it was "today only." They are in real estate and they legally can't offer the incentives again later.

They created a sense of urgency. They wanted us to think, "Oh my gosh, this is a pretty good deal! I better sign up today or I won't get a chance again."

It's so different from the Gospel message. Of course, as Christians we feel the urgency of introducing people to Christ so that their eternal destiny is assured in heaven. It's important!

However, we don't have to pressure someone into accepting Christ. We trust the Holy Spirit to work in that person's heart until they are ready to surrender. We can share the Gospel and let them go home and think about it...praying that they will make that decision to "buy" when the time is right.

Finally, we always speak in love. Our timeshare reps were very nice, very understanding, and very low pressure. They told us about their company, showed us around, and smiled when we told them "no."

We've heard about companies that are not so nice. They make you stay for hours and hours as they try to convince you why you should buy their timeshare. They get downright rude.

Years ago, we sat through a presentation like that. We finally got away, but it left a very bad taste in our mouth for that company. I'm sure we would never consider them or recommend them to anyone.

We don't want to be like that with the Gospel message. We present it with love, especially to those we've already developed a relationship with. When people say no, we need to continue being kind and live out our faith in hopes that someday they'll change their minds. It does no good to beat people over the head with our Bibles. That would make them that much more skeptical and wary of those called "Christians."

So no, we don't own a timeshare...but we're looking forward to an absolutely beautiful final home.
"Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!" (2 Corinthians 3:7-11 NIV)

Are you skeptical about offers that seem too good to be true? Do most people feel this way about the Gospel? How can focusing on God help you to share your faith in honest, low-pressure, loving ways?

  

Friday, November 17, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Secret Gardens

Gary and I are on vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. On Thursday I went to Parrot Mountain.
A Parrot Mountain tip...you can get tickets a little cheaper at their store at The Island in Pigeon Forge. It was a neat experience and the gardens really had lots of Bible verses and settings that were encouraging and inspirational.
I recommend it! 
Before you even get in, you can see large parrots squawking on their perches. The brochure promised the chance to see, touch, and feed all kinds of birds, plus enjoy beautiful gardens.

I walked along the pathways, talking to each bird I came to, hoping to get them to talk. I enjoyed looking at beautiful peacocks and interesting birds I had never seen before.

I got to one area with about a hundred birds you could pet and feed. I fed some small birds and then moved on to the big parrots and cockatoos. One of the staff was playing with a parrot named Mimi, so I put out my hand to offer it some seed. Wham! The bird grabbed my finger in its beak. 
Bad Mimi!

I pulled my hand back and the staff guy kind of laughed. "When she does that, you just have to do this," and he grabbed the parrot by the head and played with it some more.

Um, no thanks, I thought. I think I'll leave Mimi alone.

I moved on to other birds and then realized my finger was actually bleeding, so I went back to the staff guy and asked for a bandaid. He cheerfully got one for me.

I did find other very nice birds I could hold that didn't try to eat me. Some of them talked and they were so sweet.

I moved on and got to feed the lories some nectar.
That was really fun.

Before all of the bird interactions, I came to a door with no markings.
I cautiously pushed it open, sure some staff person would yell at me any second.  I was delighted to find a secret garden. There were mourning doves and other small birds moving around the small room full of green plants and decorations.

"Wow! I bet everyone else is missing this," I thought. "They walked right past it and I found it."

Then I saw another door. I went out and found this sign:
I felt pretty dumb.

I had missed the entrance and gone in the wrong way. It was a "Secret Garden" but it really wasn't supposed to be a secret. Everyone was meant to enjoy it. I should have been inviting others into the garden instead of being glad I had discovered it all by myself.

How often don't we do that with our faith? We marvel at what God has done for us, but we act like we don't really care to share it with others. We want to keep it all to ourselves.

Friends, we can't do that. 

Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins. That is so much more awesome than a cute little hidden garden. We need to take that good news and tell it to as many people as we can.

Think of that in the days ahead, and if you ever go to Parrot Mountain, watch out for Mimi.

"He said to them, 'Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.'" (Mark 4:21-22 NIV)

Do you keep your faith to yourself, like a secret garden?How can focusing on God help you to tell others what Jesus did for you so they can enjoy life with Him, too?


Friday, November 10, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Trying New Things

I tried something new today.

Gary and I went to a Chinese buffet, and they had a guy down at the end making sushi.

Now, I'd never tried sushi before. I was pretty nervous about it. Would it taste good? Would I get sick? What kind should I get?

I smiled over the sneeze guard at the sushi maker and told him it was my first time. I asked him what he recommended. He gave me a blank look and said just enough that I could tell he felt more comfortable speaking Chinese than my language.

I tried to explain again that I'd never had it before and asked what was in it.

He pointed to the different rolls and told me, "This, vegetable. This, crab. This, spicy tuna. This, ___." (I didn't get it, but I smiled and nodded)

I still wasn't too sure about trying it, so I kind of stepped back and let a woman go ahead of me with her empty plate.

As she started to dig in, I asked her if she'd had it before.

"Oh yeah, too much," she kind of laughed.

I told her I had never had sushi before and I wasn't sure what to get. "You've never gotten sick from it, have you?"

"No, it's good!" She explained what was in most of them and when she got through the line (I was still carefully picking what I wanted) she came back past me with some pink stuff on top of her sushi and explained that she liked to put ginger on top.

"I think you're really supposed to eat it after you're done, but I put it on mine 'cuz I have kind of a sweet tooth," she said.

Well, you all know about my sweet tooth, so I took a piece of ginger, too. I went back to my table, more confident after I had gotten advice from someone who went there all the time.


Turns out I really liked it. I went back from another piece later. I didn't care for the ginger very much, but it was interesting.

As I ate, I thought about how often I resist trying new things because I don't have someone to explain it to me and lead the way.

Then I went on to ponder how this could relate to sharing our faith.

Sometimes, people might be curious about our faith but they aren't really sure how to start. They might ask us about it, but when we respond with a bunch of "Christianese" they have no idea what we're talking about. 

Repentance, grace, born again, sanctification, justification, and other big words can leave them confused and frustrated.

We need to put it in words they understand. We need to share our experience with them so they can try it themselves and decide if it's for them, even if they don't embrace it exactly the way we do.

When you see someone hanging around uncertainly in the back of church before or after the worship service, talk to them and lead the way. Invite them to sit with you. Smile and greet them warmly. Answer any questions they have in plain English, not "Christianese." 

When you have a chance to share your faith at work, or school, or around town...do it! Introduce someone to your Savior. Help them try something new.

Once they "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8) they'll be back for more.

"...if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." (Isaiah 58:10 NIV)

Are you afraid to try something new? Have you ever tried something after a friend or relative led the way? How can focusing on God help you to be someone who feels comfortable introducing others to Jesus?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Terrific Tuesday: Let's Focus on Being Wise

Most of you know that I participate in NaNoWriMo in November. 

I started out strong on November 1 and wrote 1,824 words. I didn't have any story ideas before I started, but a bit of a plot developed as I wrote furiously that evening.

The next day, I had second thoughts. Gary suggested that maybe I could better spend the time working on some of the projects I already have started instead of doing NaNoWriMo this year.


Not do NaNoWriMo? But I've always done NaNo, I thought.

Still, I could see his point. I'm always whining about not having time to write...and then I'm going to spend well over fifty hours this month writing a story that probably won't turn into anything?

I got really sad thinking about not continuing this tradition, but I realized it would be wise to give it up and spend time this year on other things.

I have a very rough draft of a novel waiting to be worked on. I have a book on depression in the works. I procrastinated and have some other things to work on before the end of the year.

Yes, I decided, I'll have to give up NaNoWriMo. Too bad. 

I went to the computer and checked out my author info at the NaNoWriMo site. It said I had signed up about twelve years ago and it had stats going back to 2011.

2011: The Secretary...464 words (a pitiful attempt)
2012: No Answer...5639 words (I got a little more serious)

2013: My Title Will Come After About 20,000 Words...50,049! 
          (I can't even remember the plot of that one!)
2014: Clone Wars...50,037! (This one had lots of short stories in it)
2015: A Very Depressing Story...50,178!

I won three years in a row! And then:

2016: Gratitude...25,224

I hadn't even remembered that I hadn't won last year. I thought that I always had to win if I did it. Not true. I can still participate, and it's fun to win, but I don't have to win at all costs. This year, other things need my attention, too.

I want to be wise, and I'm learning that wisdom involves sacrifice.

Being wise might mean setting aside some activity we've always done so that we can do what needs to be done. 

Being wise might mean leaving the bag of candy corn at the store and picking up a bag of apples instead.

Being wise might mean turning off the TV and picking up our Bible.

Being wise definitely means looking to God to see what He has in mind for us. 

Some years it might be winning NaNoWriMo, but other years it might be finishing that other book.

I feel better tonight. I may not "win" NaNo this year, but I'll participate. I'll try to get my work done during this month and see if I can find some time once in a while to add to my word count.


I'll try to use my time wisely in the coming year so I can free up time next November to write those 50,000 words and win.

Until then, I'm sure I'll have lots of opportunities to make good choices and practice being wise.

"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV)

Do you make wise choices? How can focusing on God help you to let go of things you "have" to do and do what He has in mind for you instead?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Super Sunday: Let's Focus on Growing



The other day, while showering, I realized that someone had flushed the toilet because the water pressure changed a bit. I was grateful that the temperature didn't change.

Just like that, I was back in Fern Smith Hall at Northwestern College.

I remembered how our RA stressed the importance of yelling "Flush!" before we flushed the toilet so the girl in the shower could jump out of the stream of water before it scalded off a patch of skin.

Well, I was a very timid, insecure young woman as a freshman. I didn't talk very much until I got to know someone. My friends teased me because I didn't even laugh out loud. I just shook with silent laughter.

So I distinctly remember being too shy to yell "Flush!" Instead, I flushed and rushed out of the bathroom as quickly as possible and scurried back to my room, hoping the girl showering wouldn't figure out who had subjected her to third degree burns.

Isn't that pitiful?
Does this look like the face of someone who would cruelly torture another human being?
I was transported back in time again when this blast from the past showed up in my Facebook feed one day. It's me, ten years ago.



I joked about not remembering this woman, because I hardly do. My hair was short and permed, now it's longer and straight. I'm smiling here, but I was still pretty reserved and insecure much of the time.

Those two events got me thinking about growing this week.

I've grown physically over the years:
Here I am in March, 1966 (fifty-one years ago)
Me in 6th grade in 1977
I've grown taller (and a little bit wider) as I've gotten older.

Even more important are the changes I've gone through inside.

I'm no longer that timid freshman in Orange City who was more worried about hearing the sound of her own voice than the welfare of her wingmates.

I'm no longer that insecure twenty-four-year-old who didn't say a word during Bible Study in Rock Rapids because she was afraid and then berated herself the rest of the day wondering if the rest of the group thought she was stupid.

I'm no longer that thirty-four-year-old in Orange City who stayed very busy but struggled with depression.

I'm no longer that forty-year-old in Chandler who smiled a lot, but was afraid to voice her opinions most of the time.

I'm not even that fifty-year-old in Allison who finally dealt with her depression and learned to feel more comfortable making her needs and wants known.

I thank God because I keep growing.

As frustrated as I get with areas where I fall short, this week I've also been reminded of how much I've grown over the years.

I like who I was at every age, but I'm glad I didn't get stuck back there. I'm glad God has been helping me grow physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. 

I'm a different person now than I was before.
Gary and I after we hiked the Grand Canyon in December, 2016.
I'm fifty-one years old...and growing.

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:14-15 NIV)

Can you look back and see how you've grown over the years? How can focusing on God help you to be thankful for who you've been and look forward to future growth?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Perspective


Back in September, Gary and I hiked at the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. We had an awesome time enjoying the beauty of God's creation and challenging ourselves with some difficult trails. You can see some normal pictures of Angels Landing at Zion here, but today I'd like to show you a different perspective. 


If you type "Angels Landing Zion" into Google maps, you'll get an image like the one above. The trail begins down at the bottom, right next to the river. It goes North and then turns and goes South until you reach the top of Angels Landing. 

It doesn't look too difficult, does it?

After we were home, Gary decided to look at the trail in satellite view.




All of a sudden we realized what an extreme trail we had been on.

It was scary enough the day we hiked it, but seeing the satellite images reminded us of just how narrow the trail was in places. Just how high the top of Angels Landing was. Just how crazy we were.

Maybe it's good that we didn't see these images before we hiked. We just put one foot in front of the other and kept going until we got to the top. 

We hung on tight to the chains along the trail and stopped once in a while to enjoy the view.

It's a little bit like that in our daily lives. We are all on a lifelong journey. We can't even see what the basic trail looks like, let alone the "satellite view" of God.

Our perspective is so limited.

We might be terrified if we saw all of the twists and turns, high mountains, and deep valleys ahead of us in life.

God's perspective is limitless.

He knows all of the ups and downs, the good times and bad times in our lives. He is with us on the journey.

We don't have to see the whole trail before us. We just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust God until we get to the end.

Hang on tight to Him, but look around once in a while and enjoy the view.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

Aren't you glad you can't see all that life has in store for you? How can focusing on God help you to keep moving forward, holding tight to Him and enjoying the journey?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on The Artist

Last Thursday I went to ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan while I was there for the fabulous Breathe Christian Writers Conference. My dad and I took in just a small portion of the many works of art spread out around the city.

We saw this detailed quilt in the Ford Museum:

"Kirsten" by Carolyn Zinn
The funny thing was, it wasn't quite as clear when we looked at the quilt on the wall. Through my phone camera, the face really showed up.

"Owl" by YanFang Inlow
In another venue, we leaned in close to see the fine embroidery stitches over the top of this amazing painting of an owl.

There were so many beautiful, interesting, and sometimes bizarre pieces of art. I loved it.

I was even more impressed when I realized that the actual artist was sometimes present. 

This painting of 9/11 was sobering, but it took on even more meaning as the artist pointed out that each of the windows in the twin towers was actually a candle in memory of the 2977 innocent souls lost that day.
"9/11" by Mher Khachatryan


As we walked up Monroe Center, an origami display caught my eye. Thousands of tiny paper cranes made up three beautiful mobiles. A sign in the window invited people to come inside and see the artist at work.

I won't win any awards for my photography - sorry Stacie!
It was so interesting to talk with Stacie Tamaki and hear about the inspiration for her art.
She pointed out details of the mobiles that I would have missed, such as the teeny, tiny heart tucked into each crane on the mobile called "Filled with Love." 

 As we talked she was busily folding and before we left she added this little crane to her business card and gave it to us.


At another venue I admired a painting obviously set in Mexico. The artist was sitting close by, so I asked him about his work. I found out that Jim Starkey and his wife live in Sayulita, Mexico part of the year. The frame for "The Committee" is made up of tiles he bought in Mexico for sixty cents each.
"The Committee" by Jim Starkey

It was so neat to be able to talk to the artists about their work. I could ask questions, express my admiration, and learn more as the artist pointed out little details I hadn't seen before.

As I left ArtPrize, I couldn't help but think about how we see God's art all around us. Of course I saw it recently at the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, but His handiwork is also visible in an Iowa sunset and the great variety of human beings we see every day.

We can admire nature and all of the incredible things God has made, but it's even better when we remember that The Artist himself is right here. 

We can ask questions, express our admiration, and learn more as the Artist points out little details we otherwise might have missed.
"A. Lincoln" by Richard Schlatter
The Grand Prize for ArtPrize this year went to "A. Lincoln" by Richard Schlatter (see description below). Dad and I didn't see this one, but we enjoyed lots of awesome art.

I'm going to keep my eyes open for exhibits of God's workmanship in the days ahead. I'm so glad I know The Artist.

"Through [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3 NIV)

Do you love art? Do you know any artists? Do you know The Artist? How can focusing on God help you to appreciate His art and see the beauty in all that He has created?

*Here is the description of A. Lincoln by Richard Schlatter from the ArtPrize.org website:

Over 24,000 Lincoln pennies were used to create a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Included are the use of 1,681 1943 steel pennies (for the shirt). Every year from 1909, the first year of the Lincoln cents, through 2017 is represented in the piece, which measures 8 feet wide by 12 feet high—a total of 96 square feet. It took about 315 hours to complete. The image changes as the viewer moves from side to side and views the piece from different angles and distances.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Magnificent Monday: Let's Focus on Taking...Our...Time

Ironically, this post on taking our time will be one of my hastier undertakings. It's getting close to "Terrific Tuesday" but I'm just neurotic enough that I don't want to let another day slip by without updating this blog.

I attended the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan this past weekend. My head is still swimming with all of the things I experienced there, but one thought has been bobbing to the surface often enough that I need to explore it here.

On Friday evening, our keynote speaker Leslie Leyland Fields shared this thought:

"When we throw our work out there too quickly, we're hoping the truth of our message will redeem the artlessness of our art. (It won't.)"

I kept pondering that as I thought about my blog. 

Was I throwing my work out there too quickly? 

Most of you know that I normally write on Friday evenings. I've been thinking about my topic before I write, but I just sit down and write it in one sitting and post it when I'm done.

I've had a good response most weeks. I think I've even been kind of proud of the fact that I can just whip up a blog post in a couple of hours.

Leslie got me thinking. Would it be better to spend more time on my blog posts? Could they encourage and inspire people even more if I wrote them "patiently and artfully" (in Leslie's words)?

I'm going to try that in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned to see if it makes a difference in the quality of my posts.

This idea can transfer to all areas of our life, can't it?

A meal prepared patiently and artfully can nourish the bodies and souls of those we feed.

A Sunday School lesson prepared patiently and artfully can do all kinds of work in our own heart and make us more effective as we teach it to our class.

A job done patiently and artfully can help us feel a sense of accomplishment and healthy pride in a job well done and it can be a witness to those we work with.

In this world of rush and hurry, it would do us all a world of good if we would slow down and take...our...time. 

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

Do you rush through life and all of its many tasks and projects? How can focusing on God help you to slow down and do things patiently and artfully?