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 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? 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Facing Our Fear of Heights

Gary did something pretty amazing on Tuesday.

He hiked to the top of Angels Landing at Zion National Park even though he's afraid of heights.

We got to the park on Tuesday morning and parked "Clifford the Big Red Dog" amongst a sea of beautiful Corvettes.
Then we got on the Zion Shuttle bus and rode to the stop for Angels Landing. We had watched videos on YouTube, so we knew what to expect. Gary wasn't sure how far he'd be able to go, but he said he'd just take it a little at a time and see how it went. 

The sign at the beginning of the trail is daunting:
The beginning isn't too bad. Lots of long switchbacks in the sun. I huffed and puffed and Gary waited for me in the little patches of shade that seemed to come at just the right time.

Once we got through that section, there was a nice section that was fairly level and had lots of shade.
Then we came out into the sun again and climbed higher and higher. Here's a shot at the bottom of "Walter's Wiggles," a section of short switchbacks.
Here's Gary at the bottom.

And here's a shot looking back from near the top.
Once we got to the top, there was an area with lots of people lounging in patches of shade. It was time for one of the first decisions. Should we go on to the next section of the trail?
We watched people climbing the rocky surface and then grabbing a chain to help them as they climbed.

Gary decided to go for it and made his way up to the chain.

We challenged ourselves with the trail that included sections of reassuring chain and short sections without any chain. We had to scramble up and down rocks. Sometimes we had to wait while someone came down because the trail was basically single file most of the way.

 At the top it was wider, but tilted. We made our way out to the end.
Happy people took pictures and enjoyed the view.

We had someone take our picture at the top. We did it!

We enjoyed a snack and watched the bold chipmunks scurry around our feet and packs.
Now we just had to make our way down. I think that was almost scarier, because I saw more of the dropoffs, but Gary said it didn't bother him too much.

It took us four hours, but we had an amazing experience. I am so proud of Gary for not letting his fear of heights hold him back. He kept going in spite of his fears.

All of us can learn from this. We don't have to let our fears hold us back. If we push on in spite of our fears, we may be rewarded with something awesome. 

Now, we have to be smart about this. If we are terrified, we may need some help or some time before we're ready to face our fears. 

We were following two women toward the beginning of the chain section. One woman was coaching the other on how to climb the rocks or get down from a high spot. Her friend did fine for a while, but eventually she got to a spot where she could go no further. She was almost crying and they decided to turn around. She was so scared she couldn't even step away from the chain to let us get by. I had to reach around her and grab the chain. Gary had to let go for a few seconds while they went by.

Gary also said that he could handle his fear of heights on his own, but he was more scared if he was worried about someone else. At the beginning of the chain section I didn't hold on to the chain exactly (it was close, but I tried just holding on to the rock), but that freaked Gary out when I told him. 

He didn't want to have to worry about me falling to my death while he was facing his fear of heights. So I held on to the chain (gratefully).

Maybe you don't have a fear of heights, but something else scares you. Remember that it may be worth it to press on in spite of those fears. You just may experience something amazing! 

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

Is your fear of something holding you back? How can focusing on God help you to face those fears and press on?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Magnificent Monday: Let's Focus on No More Guilt (and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon)

I'm sorry I didn't post on Friday evening, but I had a very good excuse. I was on my way out west with Gary so we could hike from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We didn't have internet access for several days...and so I did not post. 

We enjoyed hiking down from the North Rim and camping at Cottonwood Campground, then hiking back out today. It was grueling (as the Grand Canyon usually is) but beautiful.

As we hiked, I starting thinking about this blog. I felt guilty about not posting on Friday, but as I hiked I made a decision to never post another "Sorry Saturday," "Sad Sunday," etc. again.

Oh, I will probably post sometimes on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, but I'm going to try not to hold on to any guilt about that. After all, I didn't sign a contract that promised a Friday night post. I know my loyal readers might miss it, but they can wait a few days. They have other things to do until I get a post up here.

So from now on, if it isn't a "Focus Friday," it's going to be a "Super Saturday," "Superb Sunday," or "Magnificent Monday."

I'm realizing more and more that when I let my mind go in negative directions, it affects my satisfaction with life and, often, my mental health. Maybe you find that, too, even if you don't deal with depression or a similar disorder.

Can we let go of the guilt we feel for little mistakes and failures? Can we focus instead on the things we do right and the successes we enjoy?

Successes like hiking seven miles down and then seven miles back up the North Kaibab trail at the Grand Canyon.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of our adventure the last couple of days and I'll see you again on Friday. 

There are more trees on the North Rim and they are just starting to turn. So pretty!

Here I am at one of the bridges on the trail.

You know me and my flowers (foreground)

Gary had the great idea of taking a pic of our shadows as we started hiking.

You can see a bridge at the bottom of this picture and how the trail loops around on the right side here.
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind [the Focus Friday or something else I missed] and reaching out for the things that are ahead [next week's blog post or some other project], with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward [seven miles upward?] call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV - italics mine)

Do you have a hard time letting go of guilt? How can focusing on God help you to let it go and enjoy all of the good things He helps you to do and experience?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Swearing

The other day I got some plastic letters ready to put on the sign in front of church. They were stacked up in order, placed neatly in a basket. 

I set it down and turned to talk to someone. Crash! The basket fell and the letters went everywhere. I turned to my friend, my eyes wide with surprise. I laughed and started picking up letters, resigned to spending a little extra time getting them back in order.

"At least I didn't say a naughty word!" I joked as I worked.

"Oh, you do that, too?" my friend asked.

"Well, usually it's just in my head, but sometimes, yeah."

Swearing has been on my mind quite a bit lately. 

I wanted to read Trevor Noah's book Born a Crime, but it was always checked out at the library. One day I happened to check and they had the CD version.
I recommend listening to this book on CD - he performs it so well, especially since there are so many
lines of dialogue in African languages. You just have to be ready for a fair amount of swearing.

As I began listening, I was fascinated with his stories about growing up in South Africa. His mother is black and his father is white, which was a crime during apartheid. Every once in a while, he would throw in a swear word, but I could handle it.

As I continued to listen, the swearing became more frequent, and I became more uncomfortable. I had to wrestle with my thoughts a bit before I decided I could continue to listen.

He wasn't taking God's name in vain. The words he used were actually understandable as he told stories about growing up in South Africa. He was poor. He was colored (His word, not mine. That's the term they used for mixed races.) He went through experiences that most of us could not even imagine. He was telling his story and he was using the language he used during those years. I couldn't really expect him to change things to "shoot" and "frick" just to protect my sensitive ears.  

That being said, I think that all of us would do well to examine how we're talking. 

What is the first word we think of when something bad happens to us? Maybe we can't stop a swear word from entering our mind, but we can usually keep it from coming out of our mouths with just a little effort.

True confession time: I remember when Gary and I were first married and living on the farm. It was winter and I had to go outside for something. I was running across the yard and our dog, Skip, got in front of me and made me fall.

For some reason, I told Gary's family that when we got together, and my sister-in-law Helen smirked and said, "What did you say then?"

I probably blushed as I muttered, "Dumb dog." She laughed, but I've always wondered if she knew I was lying. (She does now!)

Truth is, I said a lot worse than "Dumb dog." I said something that starts with an F. I know, it shocked me, too. I hardly ever swore, let alone used that word.

I was in a bad mood, and when that dumb dog tripped me, swearing was the first thing on my mind. Luke 6:45 says it is "out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks."

Don't you find that that's true? When your heart is right, swear words are far from your thoughts. When your heart is messed up, you can think all kinds of nasty things.

My heart was good the other day in the office. I really didn't even think of any naughty words when the letters fell. I don't want my friend to think that I take swearing lightly, because it's serious.

We can overlook the swearing of others, especially when they don't know any better, but we can be careful to refrain from using bad language so that we can be a good example for others.

Even when your dumb dog trips you and makes you fall in the snow.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Do you have a problem with swearing? How can focusing on God help you to get your heart right and use words that are wholesome instead?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus (or not) on Cold Sores


Last night I told my daughter Allison we would be going to the Cedar Falls writing group "if I didn't look too hideous in the morning." I was just starting to get a cold sore and I wasn't sure what it was going to look like today.

I slathered on Abreva before bed and prayed for the best. It was noticeable this morning, but I decided it wasn't too bad to venture out in public.

I would have missed out on a great meeting if I had stayed home just because of a little spot on my lip. 

We are pretty vain people, aren't we? 

We worry about what people will think of us if we aren't dressed the right way or if our hair isn't just so or if we have a big zit on the end of our nose (or a cold sore gracing our bottom lip).

I've gotten over most of that. I don't wear makeup. I don't mind going in a store in jeans and an old sweatshirt on a Saturday. I never spend much time on my hair, but physical imperfections bother me.

Cold sores, big pimples, and other abnormalities make me feel extremely self-conscious.

I remember a couple of years ago at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Michigan. I had a problem with my eye. It was sore and extremely red. I could hardly talk to my friends because I was sure they couldn't stand to look at me or were worrying I had pinkeye and would infect them if they got too close. 

I skipped a workshop and went to the eye doctor and found out I had a contact stuck in my eye and it was getting infected. (When I got back to Iowa I figured out I also had an old one in the other eye. What is wrong with me!?)

Even after I knew my problem was temporary, it was hard to show my face at the conference.

We need to remember that what is important is what is inside of us.

Of course, we want to look nice most of the time, but physical imperfections do not have to bother us so much that we don't want to spend time with people.

Cold sores and infected eyes are temporary.

What about people who have permanent "flaws"?

Scars, skin diseases, missing limbs, drooping muscles after a many things can mar our physical beauty and make us self-conscious.

If we learn to put more effort into becoming beautiful on the inside, maybe we'll be able to make peace with the physical flaws that are part of who we are.

God loves us just as we are. He knows every cell of our bodies and he loves every inch of us. 

Some people will stare at our flaws and stay away if it makes them uncomfortable, but the people who love us will never go away. They will love us for who we are inside. A missing limb or scar just becomes part of how they know us and it doesn't matter a bit.

They can even look past a giant zit or an ugly cold sore, I'll bet. 

(image from

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (Psalm 31:30 NIV)

Do physical flaws make you feel self-conscious? How can focusing on God help you to make peace with the imperfections that bother you and move ahead confident that God sees you as beautiful, inside and out?

Friday, September 1, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Rejection

I went in for a tune-up with my counselor in Waverly last week. 

I told her about several situations where rejection had really upset me and sent me spiraling down emotionally. 

In each situation, I recognized what was happening and came out of it quite quickly, but it hurt so much. I wanted her thoughts about how I could deal with rejection better.

She looked thoughtful, then suggested something a bit unusual.

"Your rejection button is broken," she stated. 

"When you feel those feelings, you just have to stop and tell yourself 'I can't process this correctly, so I'm not even going to go there.' Then do something to comfort yourself, just like putting a band aid or ice pack on a wound."
She acknowledged that there definitely is pain associated with rejection, but I could just do something to make me feel better instead of over analyzing.

"Could it involve ice cream?" I begged.

"Sure, sometimes. Just do something that will help you feel better. Listen to music, read a book, do something fun. Go spend time with someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally."

I looked at her blankly and realized I had another problem. I don't feel that way with very many people (probably because my rejection button is broken!). I think I'm always looking for a reason for them to reject me or reading more into the slightest hint of rejection they might show.

"I guess I'll have to talk to God about that," I said.

"Well, God. There you go!" 

I realized she was right. He's the only One I know loves and accepts me unconditionally. The Bible tells me that over and over again. 
When those situations come where I feel rejected, I can run to Him and pour out my pain to someone who understands.

And maybe I'll have a little ice cream, too.

"He [Jesus] was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain." (Isaiah 53:3a NIV)

Is your "rejection button" broken? How can focusing on God help you to let go of the pain of rejection and get back to a healthy way of thinking?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Possessions

Not my basement...but pretty typical. (I got this from Google images.)

Gary worked hard this week, but he didn't have to prepare a sermon. We're having a special concert by the Randy Aalderks family tomorrow morning. (If you're in the area, please come at 9:00!)

That's why he had a little extra time today. 

I was just starting to brown hamburger for dinner when he announced, "I think I'll work in the basement for a while."

You know how basements are. 

We had a big pile of cardboard boxes we didn't need at the bottom of the stairs, so he started hauling those out to the van so we could recycle them. Once he got through with those, he said he'd keep organizing for a while.

I was surprised at how anxious that made me feel up in the kitchen. 

I kept working to get the "Crusty Mexican Bean Bake" ready for the oven, but I really wanted to rush downstairs and make sure he wasn't touching any of my stuff.

What's he moving around now?

I know my crafting area is a mess. I was going to work on it this weekend. I hope he doesn't start throwing away the papers on the floor. I want those!

Why can't he just organize the "man shelf" instead of getting into my areas? (Pretty much the whole basement)

I always ask him before I get rid of any of his stuff, but I was just sure he was going to start pitching all of my perfectly good junk without consulting with me first.

I managed to not have a panic attack and he didn't spend too long down there, so I think my things are safe...but it got me thinking.

Why was I so worried about my stuff? 

I don't use much of it regularly, but it's down there, safely out of the way, but close enough that I can get to it "just in case."

When I do try to find something, I usually have to dig through lots of other things before I finally put my hands on the wanted item. 

I have so many interests and projects going on upstairs. I could probably get rid of everything in the basement and still have plenty to keep me busy for the rest of my life.

We would do well to apply that to our spiritual lives, too. If you'll indulge a very rough analogy: We have so much going on upstairs that we could probably get rid of everything here on this earth and still have plenty to keep us busy for the rest of our lives.

Some people have done that. Minimalists, they call themselves. They sell everything and live in tiny houses or travel with just one suitcase and a couple of changes of clothes.

I don't think I'm ready for such a drastic change, but I'm going to move slowly in that direction. Keep filling boxes for Goodwill. Try not to buy things I don't need. Use what I have. Hold on to things loosely and be willing to give things away to people who need them more than I do.

I want to concentrate more on storing things up in heaven instead of here on earth. 

Maybe I'll tackle the basement this week...while Gary is working on his sermon.

"Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'" (Luke 12:15 NIV)

Are you too worried about your earthly possessions? How can focusing on God help you to hold them loosely and store up more treasures in heaven instead?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Doing Hard Things

(I found this photo at
I read a quote by Ann Voskamp this week. It was so good I had to write it down and put it on my desk:

Do the hard things you don't want to do--they can be the holy things that get you where you want to be the most. ~Ann Voskamp

That day I was inspired by it.

Every time I've seen it since then, it has slightly irked me and I've thought about throwing it away.

Truth is, I don't want to do the hard things. They're...hard.

It's one thing to do the hard things we want to do. It's quite another to persevere and do the hard things we don't want to do.

Resisting the temptation to eat a few more oreos.

Going for that run when we would rather sit and veg in front of the TV.

Hanging in there when a marriage gets difficult.

Disciplining our children, even though we would rather let things go and hope they get better.

Apologizing when we've hurt a friend's feelings.

Forgiving and letting go of the anger when a friend hurts our feelings, especially when they don't even realize it.

Giving our best at work, even when we don't feel like it.

I've struggled with a few of those situations (not all of them). What I consider hard may be easy for you, and you may have an entirely different list of things you don't want to do.

Doing those hard things is often the best way to get to where we want to be.

It may not feel good at the time. There may be pain and struggle and discomfort. 

But on the other side? There is a sense of accomplishment. A joy we can hardly describe. A gratefulness for the hard things we chose to do, because they got us to a better place. Physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually...we've grown.

I'm not throwing away that quote. I think I'm going to copy it a few more times and place them strategically:

In my pantry (next to the Oreos).

In my stairwell, so I see it as I go up and down, training for another Grand Canyon hike in September.

By the kitchen sink, so I can meditate on it as I do the dishes (something I actually like doing) and hopefully go on to tackle some hard things instead of procrastinating and avoiding them.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the LORD..." (Colossians 3:23 NIV)

Do you avoid doing hard things? How can focusing on God help you to consider the hard things holy and tackle them so you can get to a better place? 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Super Sorry Sunday: Let's Focus on Garrison Keillor

I am a big fan of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. I love the music, skits, stories, and jokes. 

I always wanted to go see a live show up in St. Paul, but I never did, and then Garrison Keillor retired in July of 2016. 

I've enjoyed the new show with Chris Thile very much, but I've missed Garrison's voice and Lake Wobegon stories.

When I heard that Keillor was going to go on tour this summer with some of the regulars from A Prairie Home Companion, I asked Gary if we could go.

He wasn't interested, but he said I could go. I decided to splurge and get a front row seat in Sioux Falls (with Gary's blessing, of course).

The big night finally arrived. Before I left, Gary told me to just have a good time. "Don't let anything ruin your night," he warned me. He knows me so well. Sometimes I can get disappointed when things don't go the way I plan. 

I got to the Washington Pavilion and found my entrance.
Heading for the front row from Orchestra Right.
I was just about in the very center of the row and I sat there alone for a few minutes, just taking in the stage and the people milling around getting everything ready.
A self-conscious selfie before the fun begins.
Finally, more people arrived. The lights dimmed and the house broke out in applause as Garrison Keillor took the stage. He stood about ten feet from me and started telling a Lake Wobegon story. It was awesome!
In this picture, he's actually farther away - I didn't dare take a picture when he was right in front of me.
The time seemed to fly by as we heard music from Garrison and Heather Masse:
We listened to a funny skit about Dusty the Cowboy, with sound effects and other voices provided by the talented Fred Newman:

During the intermission, Garrison led a sing-along of old folk songs, patriotic songs, and hymns. It was fun harmonizing with such a big makeshift choir.

It was a wonderful night which I enjoyed immensely. 

I only felt a bit uncomfortable a couple of times. 

During his Lake Wobegon story he got a little graphic about a dating experience. 

In another part of the story someone lost their Speedo and flew naked above a lake while strapped to a parasail.

Probably the worst moment was during one of the songs when he asked us to sing along with the chorus: "I'm an aging, progressive democrat." I smiled, but I just couldn't open my mouth. (I hoped he wouldn't notice and have me removed from the theater.)

So, my Friday night was enjoyable...but I started to overthink it on Saturday.

When I told people I was going to hear him, most of them said, "Who?" ...and I started to feel kind of odd for liking a show no one had ever heard of.

When I told someone I had seen him, they commented about how political he was...and I wondered if it was bad that I liked him when our politics differ so much.

When I heard the graphic and naked parts of the Lake Wobegon stories...I squirmed a bit and wondered if I should be there.

When Gary teased me about being so excited that Garrison Keillor was "right there!" as I flung my arms in front of me to show how close he was...I wondered why I don't get that enthusiastic about other things in my life. 

So I couldn't write yesterday. I was mulling all of this over.

I haven't completely figured it all out, but I've been talking to God about it and I think He's okay with me liking Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion

It doesn't matter if other people have never heard of him. It doesn't matter if he's a democrat with different morals than me.

Now, I realize that anyone could take this the wrong way. I'm not saying that we should embrace anyone and everyone no matter what they say or do. 

We have to be careful to obey and honor God as we live for Him. We also have to try not to judge others for what they choose to watch or listen to. Maybe they get something special from a certain show or program that we don't understand. Maybe God will show them later that it is not something they should be watching or listening to. We just don't know. 

My faith is strong. I love my LORD. And listening to A Prairie Home Companion brings me joy. It makes me laugh, it introduces me to interesting musicians, it makes me think, and it has enhanced my life. 

It may not be for everyone, but I'm glad I discovered it years ago and was able to see Garrison Keillor in person.

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4 ESV)

Is there anything or anyone you like that might seem a bit questionable to others? How can focusing on God help you to be discerning in your choices and have freedom to enjoy a variety of entertainment?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Music

I love music.

I love to sing and play instruments, but I also love to listen to other people making music.

I did that tonight.

Cedar Valley Acoustic Guitar Association (CVAGA) has some awesome members that share their talents as the crowd gathers at Overman Park for "Movies Under the Moon." 

Families come and spread blankets on the ground. Kids turn cartwheels in the grassy area in front of the stage. Cute dogs are everywhere. I like to watch all of the interactions going on as people greet each other, but I'm pretty focused on the music. 

Some acts are pretty good, but not exactly my style. Some are amazing and I have to concentrate extra hard to try to figure out what they're doing on their guitars.
(Not tonight, but a picture I found online of a typical night at Movies Under the Moon)

I noticed one lady tonight because she kept walking around talking to people. I heard her say a couple of times, "Oh, the music could go on forever for me! I just love it!" 

The funny thing was, it didn't seem like she was listening to the music much at all. I just saw her walking around talking to people. I didn't see her so much as glance at the stage (maybe she did when I wasn't watching).

Now, I realize that the guitar music is mostly meant to be background noise that people can ignore if they want to, but something seems wrong about that. Those people are up there playing their hearts out and it feels rude to not give them my full attention.

But I'll bet it doesn't really bother them. It's what they signed up for. They know that some people will listen and appreciate their music while others will continue talking to their family or friends and just clap politely when everyone else does at the end of every song. It's okay.

As I think about tonight's event, I ponder my own life. I think too often I expect everyone to listen to my life's song with rapt attention and applaud loudly. I sometimes feel neglected and get upset when I feel ignored.

How much more freely I could live if I just changed my expectations for this life "gig." 

Everyone has their own lives. 

Sometimes they might tune in to my "song" and appreciate the things I'm singing about, but sometimes they'll be busy with family and friends and my music will just be background noise for them.

I can keep singing my heart out, doing my best and not worrying so much about my audience.

There's a line in a song by Sara Groves that says, "I live and I breathe for an audience of One." 

That's how I want to live, singing my song faithfully for my Lord.

"My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music." (Psalm 57:7 NIV)

Do you love music? Have you ever thought of your life as a "song"? How can focusing on God help you to sing faithfully and not worry about how others respond to you?