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?