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?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on The Wave

I don't have any pictures this week, so you're going to have to use your imagination.

First, I'll show you a short video:
The Wave at Water World (Colorado)

No, really. Click on it and watch at least a few seconds.

Now, imagine a 51-year-old woman riding that wave.

Actually, imagine a woman of that age pushing off uncertainly from the edge...then getting almost immediately swooped up into the wave and getting spat out on the other side.

She gets back in line and waits for one of the park's boards. 

Several people have their own boards and when they ride The Wave they make it look easy. They stay out there for several minutes, doing tricks and having a blast.

The second time the woman actually stays out there for a little while, thanks to advice from other riders. "Lean left and keep the edge of the board out of the water."

"Hey, I think I'm getting the hang of this!" 

But the third time, she gets a little cocky and gets swooped up by the hungry wave after just a few seconds.

She loses track of how many times she rides it as she keeps jumping back in line. She can't seem to stay out there as long as that second time. What is she doing wrong?

She asks advice from the pros around her and tries not to seem too creepy as she tells them how good they are. They seem glad to hear the praise even though they're too cool to acknowledge it with more than a slight nod.

She has a chance to go back to the water park again the next day and she rides one slide, wanders around the park a little and considers waiting in line for other slides, but nothing really interests her.

The Wave is calling her name.

So, back she goes, even though her knees are a little bruised from the tumbles she took the day before.

This time she does better the first couple of times. A kid even offers to let her use his board if she wants. (She is touched, but declines. "What if I crease it?" she tells him after hearing people talk about someone big getting stuck at the beginning and creasing park boards.)

Then she has some short runs and keeps getting back in line, determined to do better.

By the time she is done, she has gotten pretty good at staying out on the wave for a little while, and on her last run she dares to lift both arms up for a few seconds, and ends with an attempt at a "belly spin." (She got a little ways around and then the wave got her.)

Of course, you're smart enough to figure out that this woman is me.

I keep thinking about The Wave.

Why was I so willing to spend about three hours on the same ride for two days?

It was fun, even when the wave swept you away.

It was challenging.

The ride had a different feel to it. It wasn't just a bunch of people enjoying a simple slide. There were people there who were invested in this ride. They brought their own boards. They seemed to know each other. They encouraged each other when they tried a new trick and failed. They didn't laugh at a 51-year-old woman as she attempted to be a part of their world for a couple of days (at least not to her face).

I'm wondering why I can't be that tenacious in other areas of my life.

Why don't I keep diving in and trying, instead of quitting when I try once and something doesn't go the way I'd like?

Why don't I watch closely how others do it, ask lots of questions, cheer others on, and keep getting back in line to try again?

Why don't I accept the bumps and bruises of life and point to them proudly as proof that I'm attempting something difficult?

Boy, am I glad I don't have any pictures or video of me on that ride. I can hang on to the picture I have in my own mind, having fun and learning to ride The Wave.

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (Hebrews 10:36 NIV)

Have you ever been obsessed with a certain challenge? How can focusing on God help you to keep trying and not worry about how you look to others?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Where We Are

I'm at the beautiful YMCA Camp in the Rockies near Estes Park, Colorado, gearing up with about 150 other staff people for the arrival of 3000 high school students and youth leaders tomorrow afternoon for Rocky Mointain High.

This youth event touches many lives, but I have to admit I was feeling quite afraid on the way out here and the first day or so. "What am I doing here?"  I thought way too many times.

I reasoned that someone else could serve better. Someone else would connect better with the kids. Someone else would be more outgoing and relaxed.

As we've been preparing and worshipping, God has gotten through to me. "Don't be afraid. You can't do this, but I can do it through you."

So I'm starting to relax and trust that I'm supposed to be here.

No one else can serve like me.
I can't connect with every kid, but I can connect with some of them.
I can be myself and not worry about being the most outgoing person (and try to relax!).

Rocky is going to be great. Would you please pray for all of the students and leaders on their way to Colorado tonight? Please pray that the Holy Spirit works in amazing ways in the hearts of everyone involved before they go home on Wednesday.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

Do you ever wonder why you're doing something and think someone else could do it better? How can focusing on God help you to throw aside the fear and trust that God wants you in that situation for a special purpose?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Faulty Memories

I was looking forward to visiting Zion National Park during this two-week vacation. I remembered impressive, huge black rocks with a checkerboard pattern when we entered the park. I couldn't wait to see them again and show them to Allison and Dylan.

Imagine my surprise when we got there and saw....this:

Impressive, to be sure, but definitely not black rock. My brain fought with my eyes all the way down the entrance road to the park. 
Still not black.

Eventually my eyes won and I conceded that I must have remembered wrong, but it really took a while. 
OK, I'll give up and just enjoy them!

It got me thinking about memories and I wondered how many other things I remembered one way in my mind, but it was actually different in reality.

Especially as I get older, I can't trust my memory as much. I have to write things down and put notes where I'll be sure to see them.

I guess that's why we take pictures and why some people like to journal. It gives us something to look back on and remember accurately instead of trusting things to our sometimes flawed memories.

Maybe the memories we have about something are darker than they actually were, like my "black" rocks at Zion. If we only have bad memories about something or someone, maybe we need God's help to remember more accurately or at least find the brightness that could be there. 

He may help you see the beauty in a painful time. Keep going to Him with your difficult memories. He is God and He loves you. The Bible promises that you can trust Him, over and over again. 

Never forget that, even if you forget everything else. 

I have to throw this picture of Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona in here.
Some mom's dark memory is going to be how she almost lost a son in July, 2017. 

"Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me." (Isaiah 46:9 NIV)
We saw this beautiful rainbow near Durango, Colorado today. Breathtaking beauty in a dark sky.

The rainbow filled the whole sky (hard to capture from the front seat through a spotty windshield).

Do you find that some of your memories are inaccurate? How can focusing on God help you to remember well and find the beauty even in painful memories?

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on The Big Picture

My family and I are five days into a two-week vacation. (Erin and Blake opted out, but Allison and Dylan joined us for this adventure.)

We've seen Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills in South Dakota, Yellowstone in Wyoming, Glacier in Montana, Seattle in Washington, and Crater Lake in far.

We can't wait to drive down the coast of California tomorrow and later show the kids more beautiful national parks and introduce them to the Grand Canyon.

I got an idea for this week's blog while we were on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park on Wednesday. It was glorious. We looked out across mountains and the deep valley below as we drove higher and higher: 

We saw waterfalls all over the place and enjoyed the view. I noticed the pretty wildflowers as we drove, too. Yellow, purple, white...and red. I saw little groups of red flowers and decided I wanted to get a good picture of them along the rock wall beside us. After we turned around to come back through the park, I couldn't stop looking beside the road for the perfect place to take a picture. Whenever there was a group of flowers, there wasn't a good place to stop.

I told Gary about it and his response was: "What red flowers?" (To be fair, his eyes were on the road ahead of us most of the time so we didn't go careening over the edge. I'm so glad!)

After I pointed them out, he noticed them, too, but we couldn't find a good place to stop. I almost gave up, but toward the end of the drive we saw a few along the road and he found a place to pull off. I walked back to take a couple of pictures. There weren't many flowers, but they were kind of pretty:

Then I looked up and knew I had to take my photo from a different angle:

As I jogged back to the car and we continued on our way, I pondered that situation many times. I realized that I had become so consumed with a good shot of those little flowers that I had missed looking at the big picture and the beauty of the mountains and the valley right in front of me (and above me, and below me).

I love details, and it's not bad that I saw the flowers, but I had to remember to keep the big picture in mind as well. The picture of the flowers with the mountains behind it was so much nicer than the picture of just the flowers.

How often don't I do the same thing in life?

I get bogged down in the details, especially the negative ones, and I forget to see the Big Picture.

I see the little bulge of flesh around my waist and I get discouraged about that instead of thanking God for my healthy body that gets me around and allows me to see all of these wonderful places and serve God in many different ways.

I notice something in one of my kids that I think should be different and I stress about that instead of thanking God for healthy, capable children. I know God will lead them in the ways He has for them, so I can just pray and enjoy watching Him work as I love each of them.

I bristle at something my husband says in a stressful moment and I rehearse it in my mind way too many times instead of letting it go and remembering all of the kind and loving words he has said in our twenty-seven years of marriage.

I have a bad day and I choose to complain to God and whine about my situation instead of remembering that He has good plans for me and things will work out in the end. The good far outweighs the bad, especially when we have our hearts tuned to look for the little blessings God sends our way every day.

Details are important and they make life beautiful and interesting, but we can never forget the Big Picture.

Gary, Dylan, and Allison at Glacier. They're part of the Big Picture!

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (Isaiah 26:3 NIV)

Do you sometimes get so bogged down in the details that you fail to see the Big Picture? How can focusing on God help you to keep both in balance?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Roots

I taught the preschoolers at VBS this week. 

I already knew the Bible stories we talked about and acted out with the help of puppets, but teaching those kids always reminds me of the truths I base my life on.

Our theme this week was "Rooted."

On Monday I brought a plastic rose in a vase. Is this rooted? "Yes!" they all sang out. "No," I told them as I pulled it out of the vase and showed them it wasn't real and it wasn't rooted. That day we learned to be rooted in grace.

On Tuesday I brought a single rose in a vase. Is this rooted? "Yes!" they called out. "No," I explained as I pulled this rose out, too, and pointed out the lack of roots. That day we learned about being rooted in Christ.

On Wednesday I brought a little plastic container of pretty pink impatiens. Is this rooted? "Yes!" They were finally right, and I got my hands dirty as I pulled one out to show them the little roots. That day we learned to be rooted in Faith.

On Thursday I brought in a whole tree. Nah, just kidding. I had to settle for some pictures. I showed them what a rose can do when it has good roots and room to grow.

I showed them a tree on a hillside with roots you could see.

I showed them a huge tree that would be strong enough to hold a dozen treehouses.

That day we learned about being rooted in Truth. They had fun throwing "temptation socks" at me, and then I pulled out a sheet with "Word of God" written on it and used it as a shield against temptation.

The cut rose I brought on Tuesday is drooping and dying, but I'm going to keep it around for a few more days to remind me of how important it is to be rooted. If we're not rooted in grace, Christ, faith, and truth, we'll eventually die.

I hope those kids remember how important it is to be "rooted." 

I know I sure will.

"So then, continue to [Jesus], Him, and overflowing with thankfulness." (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV - preschool version. You can read the entire verse here)

Are you firmly rooted, or are you cut off from God? How can focusing on God help you to stay rooted and grow in Him?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Storms

(To be clear, this is just a stock photo - I didn't get a picture of Thursday night's storm)

We had a storm roll through last night.

It came just as quickly as the one in May did, but this time it blew hard from the North and brought lots of hail.

Our neighbors' swingset blew over again. We lost a couple of small branches from our front yard tree. Some people had whole trees come down. I think the plastic sprinkler shark (or was it a whale?) that the daycare was using on the church lawn may have blown away. Or maybe it was just pummeled by enough hail that it deflated. I haven't checked it out yet.

We don't like storms, do we? They can be scary. They are usually a nuisance with the messes they make in our yards and basements. They can be downright dangerous and cause injuries and death under certain circumstances.

The storms of life can be scary, too. They are often a nuisance when they upset our plans and cause extra work and worry for us. They can involve sickness, injuries, and death; situations that shake us to the very core.

Physical storms can be frightening, but the sky before or after a storm can be very beautiful. Here's a shot taken at the Butler County Fair last night before the actual storm hit: 
(Photo Credit: Karen Dilger)
Isn't that beautiful?

When we go through the storms of life, we need to look for the beauty, too. God is with us, no matter what we're going through. He'll take care of us and help us get through whatever we face.

I'm not saying it will be easy.

There may be scary times. Annoying times. Heartbreaking times of illness or loss.

But God is there. He'll calm the storm. He'll keep us calm in the middle of the storm.

We just have to hold on and trust Him. In everything.

"Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind." (Psalm 107:28-31 NIV)

Do storms scare you? How can focusing on God help you to get through storms with less fear (actual storms and the storms of life)?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Disappointment

Tonight I decided to go to the "Movies Under the Moon" event at Overman Park in Cedar Falls. I'm weird. I haven't ever stayed for the movie. I just go to hear the guitar music that leads up to the main event.

I knew the weather was a bit iffy, and I even called Bob's Guitars to see if they had cancelled, but they weren't sure at the time I called. Later, it looked like the weather was going to miss us.

I should have called again, because when I got to Overman Park, this is what I found:

I was so disappointed. I had been looking forward to sitting in my lawn chair, enjoying the music, eating most of a big bag of Kettle Corn, and watching all of the people in the park.

Usually this area is just full of men, women, children, and often their dog (or dogs). I love watching all of the interactions between friends and family members as they set up for watching the movie.

This is where I normally could buy a yummy slice of banana cream pie!
I had been looking forward to the evening so much, now what was I supposed to do?

I walked up by the band shell to take a few pictures and then I got in my car and drove back home.

I was disappointed and kicking myself at first for wasting time and gas going to something that I knew might be cancelled.

As I drove home I tried to look at the positives instead:

I got to spend about an hour enjoying a nice drive.

I didn't eat most of a huge bag of Kettle Corn by myself.

I noticed a plaque in the center of the sidewalk that I had never noticed before. Maybe I'll tell you about it sometime in another Focus Friday.

I heard a couple of great new songs on KNWC on the way to and from Cedar Falls. The music helped me worship God after a busy day helping at the daycare center.

I took a risk and survived when it didn't turn out like I expected. It wasn't the end of the world. 

I would have missed out on something special if I had stayed home worrying about the possible bad weather and they had held the event after all. 

I want to live like that. I want to take chances and experience amazing things, even if it means I'm disappointed sometimes.

Disappointment can be a reminder to us and help us to get our focus back on God when something doesn't go as planned.

Man, I really wanted that Kettle Corn.

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:11 and Psalm 43:5 NIV)

How do you handle disappointment? How can focusing on God help you to set aside the negative emotions that disappointment can bring?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Too-late Tuesday: Let's Focus on Being There

Ironically, this may not be one of my better blog posts. It should be, because I just got back on Saturday from the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop.

But I'm tired.

And it's Tuesday.

Half of my brain says, "Let it go and wait for the next Focus Friday."

The other, more neurotic, half says, "But you haven't missed a week in over a year. You can't start now!"

So I write.

I want us to focus on the importance of "being there" this week. 

I've gone to this conference since 2010, so you could argue that I don't need it. I've listened to lots of speakers, read many books, subscribed to magazines, learned a ton in the last eight years.

I could save the money and just stay home and write, but I go.

Shelly Beach is just one of my many writing mentors - love her!
I attend because there's something about being there. It's exciting to meet famous authors, as well as new authors and wonder what they'll accomplish in the years ahead. It's fun to have late-night conversations with friends about writing and...other things that have absolutely nothing to do with writing.

It feeds my soul to share my love of writing with like-minded people. It spurs me on to keep writing even when I go through another year of mostly procrastinating. (One of these years....)

Here's a panel with: Wanda Sanchez, Shelly Beach, Cynthia Ruchti, Mary Potter Kenyon, Anne Philo Fleck, and Jolene Philo
It occurs to me that there are other things we're tempted to think we can go without:

Church attendance.
Family get-togethers.
Coffee or lunch with a good friend.

We've neglected them all so many times. We're busy. We're bored. They'll understand. I'll get back to it sometime.

We have to make time to really be there.

It feeds our souls to share our love of Jesus with like-minded people. It's fun to have conversations with family members and friends about our faith, our interests, and everything that's on our minds. It spurs us on to accomplish big and little projects when we meet with others who have succeeded.

When we're tired and feel like pulling away from others, that's the time we probably most need to reach out and really be there.

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20 NIV)

Do you pull away from church, family, and friends when you are stressed, busy, or tired? How can focusing on God help you to really be there and enjoy all the benefits of connecting?

Monday, June 5, 2017

"Missed the Boat" Monday: Let's Focus on Memory Lane

I'm in Michigan. I left on Saturday morning and drove a friend here so she can see her grandchildren (triplets!) graduate from high school tonight. While she's visiting her family, I'm staying with my sister in Wyoming. (The suburb of Grand Rapids where I grew up)

As I drive down familiar streets, my head whips left and right to see how things have changed, and how things have stayed the same. 

My old elementary school is no longer there, and neither is the pool where I spent many hours swimming.

On Sunday, Jill and I went to our childhood church, Grace Reformed. It was so good to see familiar faces. We got to talk with some people; others just gave us curious stares, not sure if they should know us or not.

This morning I took a long walk...down memory lane.

I walked past my old high school:

It used to be Rogers High School, but now it's Wyoming High School.

I went past our childhood home:

I'm always surprised at how small it looks compared to how big it seemed when I was a kid.

I walked down Parkland (our address was on Parkland even though we had to drive down Plas St. to get to our house because there is a cul-de-sac).

I walked past the Wyoming Public Library. I worked there for a few years when I was in high school. There is just one wall that remains from the old library. It looks completely different inside and out.

Even if we can't physically visit the places where we grew up and lived before, we can always go down memory lane in our minds and remember the people and places that shaped who we are.

I thank God for my growing up years in Wyoming, Michigan, and for all of the places I've lived since then.

It was Pentecost Sunday yesterday, so I'll close with a verse about the Holy Spirit's role in our lives. He'll help us walk down memory lane and remind us of all that God has taught us over the years.

"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26 NIV)

Do you like to walk down memory lane? What people and places have shaped you over the years? How can focusing on God help you to continue to grow into the person He has made you to be?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Optical Illusions

My friend Rosemary freaked me out this week.

I was working in the infant room at Allison Little Lambs and she stopped in for a second when Alice was picking up her baby, Olivia. The three of us chatted for a few minutes, and then Rosemary pointed and said, "Who's over there?"

We glanced over to where she was pointing and Alice said, "Oh, that's my son, Steven." (He's three and came in with mom to help pick up his sister.)

"No," Rosemary said, "I know him. I mean the other kid."

I was immediately confused because Olivia was the last baby to be picked up that day.

"What other kid? It's just Steven."

"No," she insisted adamantly. "He's right over there. He's hiding!"

Okay, now I started to get goosebumps and my mind was racing to try to remember if I actually had one more kid that hadn't been picked up yet. (I'm sure all of you remember how many times I've left the oven on and forgotten about it, right?) 

No, I did the math. There shouldn't be any kids hiding in the corner.

Alice agreed. "Where?!" we asked as we stared where Rosemary was pointing.

Finally, (and I really can't remember who figured it out first) the mystery was solved. "It's a mirror!"

All of us burst out laughing as we realized that she had seen Steven's legs in the mirror on the side of one of the cupboards and she honestly thought another kid was hiding back there.

My thanks to Deanne's grandson Devon for helping me reenact the "mystery child" situation.
Whew! I hadn't forgotten about a child after all. I was so relieved, and every time I thought about it after that I started laughing again.

Rosemary sounded so sure, she had Alice and me believing (almost) that someone was there. But it was just an optical illusion.

It got me thinking the rest of the week about how many times we get alarmed or upset because of someone else's misperception. 

They see danger and tell us all about it and we get scared, too, even if there really isn't anything to be afraid of.

A friend goes on and on about how unkind another woman is and it clouds our perception of that person, even though she's been nothing but kind to us.

We read hatred into someone's actions even though it may have just been an honest mistake.

We have to keep our eyes wide open and choose to believe the best about people. 

And always look out for mirrors.

"Foolish dreamers live in a world of illusion; wise realists plant their feet on the ground." (Proverbs 14:18 The Message)

Have you ever been fooled by an optical illusion? How can focusing on God help you to see past the illusions and understand what is really happening in the world around you? 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the Certainty of Uncertainty

If there's one thing you can be certain of, it's that life will always be...uncertain.

I realize that even more after the past couple of weeks.

On May 4, I saw a comment on my friend Robyn Niles's Facebook account about the passing of Wendy Jenkins. What?! Wendy (Tuttle) was a classmate of mine all the way from elementary school through high school. She was 50 years old. How could she be gone? I had gotten together with her a couple of years ago when I was in Michigan and always enjoyed connecting with her on Facebook. 

I asked Robyn about it a few days later and found out that she had gone in for a root canal and had some kind of reaction to the procedure. 

I still can't believe it. No warning. No chance to say goodbye.

Another example of how quickly things can change blew in on Wednesday evening. We had been hearing about a storm front headed our way and Gary was busy much of the day trying to figure out whether to cancel the Baccalaureate Service that evening or hold it an hour later, after the weather got past us.

At about 5:00, the power suddenly went out. We looked out the kitchen window and remarked about how black it looked out there. Then the wind started to come up, and then it really blew!

"There goes the basketball hoop!" It tipped over backward, away from the driveway. "Whoa! Look at the tree branches go!" Big branches seemed to be plucked from the middle of our tree and wooshed away to the North.

Gary got on the phone with the school and they made the call to postpone the service, then he went to the bedroom to change clothes. "The camper and boat tipped over!" he called to the rest of us.

"What?!!!" We raced to the back of the house and looked out the windows to see our camper lying upside down in the church parking lot.
Our boat was also up on its side, resting on our neighbor's boat. (Sorry, Carl and Barb!)

Later we found out that Carl had been looking out their back slider and had seen the camper go up and over the boats before smashing upside down. Wow!

After the wind died down and the danger was past, we ventured outside to take pictures and marvel at the strength of the wind. Trees were down all over. Our church garbage can ended up in the backyard of a church member four houses North of the church. 

Nobody got hurt in town, but a man from Dike was killed by Parkersburg when his semi was blown over on highway 57. Again, you never would expect that. A freak storm changed a family's life in an instant.

We can make our plans, but we just don't know what the future holds. Weather, disease, accidents, and even little disruptions to our lives make life very uncertain. 

As a Christian, the only way I can handle life's uncertainties is resting in the certainty that God has everything under control. I may not like everything that happens to me. Sometimes it may bring excruciating pain, but I know that I can trust my God. The Bible assures me of that over and over.

Gary took a picture after the rain stopped. Do you see that little piece of rainbow in the sky? I take it to mean "I will never again destroy your camper with a windstorm." No, I'm just kidding, but it is a really neat photo. 

Gary used it in a message for the graduates at Baccalaureate on Thursday night, reminding them that even when life seems chaotic, God provides hope.

That's something we all need to remember.

"Because of the LORD's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

Have you ever thought about the uncertainty of life? How can focusing on God help you to hold on to hope in the midst of that uncertainty?