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?