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?