Friday, April 28, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Book Reports

About a month ago, I told all of you I was jumping in and getting serious about writing a book. I had a plan to finish a rough first draft by June 2 (about 50,000 words, I figured).

Well, it's almost May 1. I'm not halfway done. The first two days after I told you about it, I wrote 1,000 words a day. But then all of you stopped praying for me and I stopped writing.

Just kidding! I'm sure you still prayed, but I stopped writing. To be fair, I got a little busier with volunteering at the daycare and some other tasks, but I still had some time and I just didn't use it to work on this project.

I started back in on April 19 and I've put my butt in the chair several times in the past couple of weeks. I may not be done by June 2, but I will keep plugging away until I'm finished. If I make time to write even just a little every few days, I'll have to finish eventually.

I can't remember who told me about a woman in a nursing home who decided to work on a quilt for ten minutes every day. The teller thought that seemed like such a small amount of time - she would never finish it. But she did!

I also heard of a man who wrote an entire novel by writing for twenty minutes in his pickup during his lunch break every day.

So I will keep writing. 

If I can stop reading.

I've been reading some great books by Rachel Starr Thomson lately. I'm on book 4 of the Oneness Series and I'm really enjoying it. Kind of reminds me of This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti.

I just recently discovered her writing and am so glad I did. You can check out her blog and more about her writing at

Can't wait to move on to some of her other novels and nonfiction books.

 I also have stacks and stacks of books waiting to be read. So many books - so little time!

One of these weeks I'm going to give my full Focus Friday to my friend Shannon Popkin's book Control Girl. I've read the first few chapters and have found it so practical and wise. I sure have problems with wanting to maintain control and refusing to surrender. Shannon's book teaches us how to surrender control to God and become Jesus Girls instead of Control Girls. I'm thinking this might be a great Bible study for a group of us from church to do sometime in the near future.

Finally, I've been really wanting to get to A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner. It's the second in a series of three. I enjoyed meeting Pearl Spence in A Cup of Dust and I can't wait to see what happens in this next installment.

I feel so blessed to consider Susie Finkbeiner a friend after meeting her at Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Michigan. She's a great writer and one of my inspirations.

So there you have it. A "book report" about my book and some ideas for some books you may enjoy reading.

Keep praying for me and let me know if I can pray for you as you do a little bit at a time on your own project. If you do that, it will get done!

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23 NIV)

Is there anything you've been putting off but really want to complete? How can focusing on God help you to consistently do a little bit at a time until it gets done?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Love

This is going to be a weekend filled with love.

Tomorrow afternoon a young couple will get married in our church. I watched the rehearsal tonight and remembered our wedding so many, many years ago (Twenty-seven!). I listened to their vows and thought of the day we had made our vows to each other and I wondered how faithful I have been in living those out.

Gary would hopefully say I've done well, but I know I've gotten lazy and selfish and complacent at times. There's nothing like a wedding to help you prioritize your own marriage. 

I'll be praying for Daniel and Taylor as they begin their married life together, and I'll keep praying for our marriage as we learn to love each other even more than the day we got married.

On Sunday, the GEMS and Cadets have a special service. Gary realized midway through the week that the scripture passage was the same for both the wedding and the service the kids will help lead. 1 John 4:7-8 tells us that love is from God. If we know Him then we will love. For the service on Sunday I think Gary is focusing on how God's love fills us up and then overflows to other people. What a beautiful image...being so full of love that it can't help but flow to others.
Let's focus on that this week. Loving our spouse, loving our families, loving others as God's love fills us up and overflows.

It's going to be a lovely weekend.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:7-8 NIV)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the Blood

Today is Good Friday.

It's a day for Christians everywhere to remember the pain Jesus suffered and His death on that cruel cross.

(Image from the website of Leonardo Ramirez. He has a really neat letter to Jesus there. )

This morning my friend Kristen mentioned that she and most of her family had watched "The Passion" last night after our Maundy Thursday service at church. It was hard for her to watch. All of that pain. The suffering Jesus went through. 

I've seen "The Passion of the Christ," too. The scene that stays with me the most is where the Roman soldiers are flogging Jesus and someone is counting loudly in Italian as they beat Him. I think I winced with every blow of that instrument of torture and I cried to see Jesus broken and bleeding.

At our service last night, Gary asked me to sing a solo while people took communion. I played the keyboard and sang "Your Blood Covers It All" by Allie Lapointe. It's a beautiful song. (My rendition was not quite beautiful. I didn't practice enough to make it excellent. I need to go back and read last week's post. Do as I say, not as I do, friends.)

Anyway, the words are so meaningful:
     All my sins, all my shame, all my secrets, all my chains;
     Lamb of God, great is your love, your blood covers it all.

(You can listen to the whole song on YouTube here)

That's what we need to focus on today. Jesus' blood covers all of our sins and shortcomings and by it we are assured a place in heaven.

Be somber as you focus on that tonight and on Saturday, but then get ready to rejoice on Sunday as you celebrate His resurrection.

His blood covers it all!

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Ephesians 1:7 NIV)

Are there sins you are holding onto or regrets you can't get past? How can focusing on God help you to remember that Jesus' blood covers all of that and you can live a joyful, fulfilling life?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Excellence

Last Friday Gary and I saw the opening night performance of "Dancing at Lughnasa" at Northwestern College. Our son Blake plays "Father Jack" alongside seven other talented actors. 

He was nervous, we were nervous. Had they practiced enough? How would they do? 

They did just fine. We enjoyed the play so much, especially because it was fun to see Blake shine.

As I looked at the back of our program later, I realized why we could enjoy it so much.

I think it all comes down to this line: "...excellence honors God."

Blake and the other actors, as well as everyone involved behind the scenes, worked hard to make sure they were presenting the very best performance they could. 

I've been thinking about this all week. I realize that I haven't been honoring God with excellence in many areas of my life.

When I play the keyboard for worship I often don't take the time to practice enough and it sounds pretty rough on Sunday morning.

I often wait until just before our Fresh Hope support group to pick a topic and decide what we're going to talk about that night.

I usually look at my Sunday School lesson on Saturday and then finish getting ready to teach on Sunday morning.

I write my blog posts at ten p.m. on Friday nights instead of starting earlier in the week.

Now, these things are understandable if I've had a busy week and can't find the time, but usually I have plenty of time and I just put them off.

What's the big deal? People understand when I goof up on the songs, they aren't upset. My friends at Fresh Hope don't mind when we just chat about something unstructured. The kids in Sunday School seem to enjoy the lesson and learn something. People usually like my blog posts even though I write them so late.

The big deal is that I'm not honoring God when I put off all of these things and do a mediocre job. 

I think of my friend Nancy and how she would often talk about doing things with excellence when she directed our handbell choir back in Chandler, Minnesota. She made us keep practicing until we could play a song well. It felt good to do our best and bless our listeners with an excellent performance.

I feel myself being called to focus more on excellence in the things I'm doing. 

To practice until I can play confidently.

To spend some time preparing for our Fresh Hope discussions.

To start my Sunday School lesson early in the week so I have time to prepare those special activities or crafts that the kids love so much.

To spend a little more time on my blog posts and make sure they are the best they can be for my readers.

Of course, there's grace. We are all going to make mistakes and fail sometimes, even when we take time to prepare. God loves us and people will usually be understanding.

Oh, but just think of how much it can honor God and point others to Him when we take the time to do things with excellence.

"But since you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you--see that you also excel in this grace of giving." (2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV)

Do you strive for excellence in all that you do, or do you settle for mediocre? How can focusing on God help you to do your best and honor Him?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Clean Refrigerators

Sometimes little things bug me. 

For weeks (months?) I was bothered whenever I opened my refrigerator. Milk had spilled on the bottom shelf and left a big yucky spot. Crumbs were all over. Other spills were visible when I took things out or put them in. It bugged me, but I didn't take the time to do anything about it.

One day this week I decided to take a few minutes and wipe out my fridge. I didn't even do a super thorough job. I just moved things around and wiped the shelves off with a wet cloth.
See? Doesn't it look great?

I was surprised by how good I felt every time I opened my fridge after that. Such a little thing brought me so much joy.

I began to think about other things that have been bugging me. Some of them are things that would only take a little while to get done and get off my "To Do" list and out of my head.

Others are bigger projects, but maybe I can break them down into bite-sized tasks and get some of them done.

We don't have to spend huge amounts of time working on one project. Doing things a little bit at a time is so much better than feeling overwhelmed and leaving everything until later.

I'm off to look at my clean fridge one more time, then I'll choose something to work on, even if it's just for a few minutes. That's the way to really get things done.

"Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the LORD with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times." (Romans 12:11-12 Good News Translation)

Is there anything that has been really bugging you lately? What little thing can you do to make it look better or get closer to finishing a project? How can focusing on God give you wisdom about what things to work on and when to do them?