Friday, January 26, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Doing It Afraid

I'm in one of those seasons when God seems to be bringing a theme to my attention over and over. 

In blog posts, books, and Bible verses...I keep encountering the word "fear" and the idea of doing something even if you're afraid.

It has been fascinating (and scary) to notice how many times the topic has come up. When things like that happen, you know God is trying to get your attention.

This week I read one of the books that addressed the topic: Fearless: Free in Christ in an Age of Anxiety by Rachel Starr Thomson, Carolyn Currey, and Mercy Hope (1:11 Publishing, 2017)

I highly recommend it if you have any trouble at all with fear and anxiety holding you back from accomplishing the things you want to do in life.

Rachel and her friends explore the Parable of the Talents, as well as Bible characters like Joshua, Esther, Peter, and Gideon.

They admit that the dangers in life are real. We have no guarantees that something bad won't happen to us, but it's worth the risk to step out in faith.

Fear can be displaced by trust in God and by His love.

Here are a couple of quotes toward the end of the book to inspire you:

"We've been trying to open your eyes to the value you bring to the world, the call upon your life to be consecrated wholly to God, and the love God has for you. These truths are the reason to overcome fear, the reason to 'do it afraid.' 

It's all worth it, because God's purposes for you are more significant than you can imagine."

I love that last line. Too often I hold back because I'm afraid of what might happen if I try something new, but God has great purposes for me. Purposes more significant than I can imagine. I have a pretty good imagination, so it's exciting to wonder what God really has in store!

"Fear will do everything it can to stop you from realizing God's promises. It will try to surround your life with walls that keep you shut down and shut in, with your talents buried and your view of yourself limited to 'I am nothing but a grasshopper, and everyone else must know it.' It will create an alternate reality and wear you out with cares and the exhaustion that is a divided mind."

Do you feel shut in and surrounded by walls that keep you doing the same old things every day? The comfortable things? The easy things? I often do.

It's time to break free from those walls built by fear and step out in faith to new places.

We need to remember the foundation of a fearless life: The Lord Will Be with You (as summarized by Rachel, Carolyn, and Mercy).

If we remember that He is with us, we can do pretty much anything, even if we're afraid.

"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)

Are your fears holding you back from fulfilling God's purposes for your life? How can focusing on God and His love for you help you to move forward and "do it afraid"?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Delegating

I'm not very good at delegating.

I don't know if it's pride or stupidity, but for some reason I usually end up doing most things myself.

I have all sorts of reasons for not asking someone else to help me do something:

They're so busy, I don't want to stress them out.

What if they don't do it right? I'll just do it myself.

I offered to do this. I have to do it now, even if I keep putting it off because of my insecurities or lack of know-how.

I don't want anyone to know I can't do it all.

But I can't. I can't do it all. I don't have enough energy, time, or knowledge to do everything I'd like to do.

Over a year ago (could it even be closer to two years?) I took home a bag from church with a half-finished prayer shawl. 

I like to crochet, so I thought I could help by finishing up the shawl. 

The trouble was, I had never finished someone else's project and I wasn't sure I'd be able to match the stitches. I put it off and mostly forgot about it, except when I happened to glance at it when I was in the den.

I really should finish that, I fretted, but I did nothing.

Until Wednesday. On Wednesday I spend some time with a friend. A friend who loves to crochet. She crochets baby blankets, hats, scarves, and little sombreros for hot crock pot lids.

I asked Charlotte if she might be interested in trying to finish a crochet project for me. I explained what it was and she was enthusiastic about giving it a try. I wouldn't be surprised if she has it done and ready to show me on Sunday already.

Whew! A little bit of stress left my life.

As I look around, I see other projects I'm not getting done. I see dust gathering on the furniture. I see dishes piling up by the sink. I see a clothes basket overflowing with towels. In the basement I see a Scooby Doo costume from the daycare with ripped-out seams (ruh roh!). 

I have two children at home. Why do I think I need to do everything instead of delegating a little of it to them?

I volunteer at Allison Little Lambs Child Care and I often do little things that could be done by other staff members when they have a few minutes free, or even by the children in some cases.

There are things I keep avoiding at home because I don't know how to fix them, or how to complete them. They just cause me stress whenever I see them. It's time to delegate or get rid of them. 

Even delegating a few small tasks can free up a little of my time to pursue other important projects, like those books rattling around in my head that have yet to make it onto the page.

I love this quote from Michael Hyatt (even though I haven't fully embraced it yet): You want to dedicate as much of your energy as you can to the tasks only you can do to move your work and life in a new and better direction.

I think it's high time I start practicing the skill of delegation.

Hey, kids...I have some towels for you to fold!

"Moses' father-in-law replied, 'What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it capable men and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens...have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.'...Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said." (Exodus 18:17-24 NIV)

Do you get stressed out from having too much to do or from keeping projects around that you have no idea how to finish? How can focusing on God help you to be willing to delegate some of those things to others who may be very willing to help?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Holding Through the Silence

I had to make several phone calls today to pay some bills. On one call, I was greeted by the usual prompts to get to the right department, and then the voice instructed me to "please continue holding through the silence" until my call was answered.

What an unusual way of phrasing that, I thought. It felt beautiful somehow, even though I knew she was just telling me that I wouldn't be hearing the usual loop of music until my turn came. 

The company didn't want me to hang up in disgust, thinking that my call had been disconnected.

I barely had time to think about all of this before a nice person came on the line and let me pay my bill, but my mind continued to think about it long after I hung up.

Don't we sometimes feel like God is silent? Doesn't it feel like we've been disconnected and He's not there anymore?

We need to "continue holding through the silence." God is still there, even if it doesn't seem like it.

Maybe He even wants to speak to us in those seemingly silent times.

I found an article on that talks about the benefits of silence. Silence can actually grow new cells in our brains.

Our brains have a "default mode" that actively internalizes and evaluates information, even when resting.

Silence can relieve stress and tension in the brain and body, while too much noise can cause stress and make us more prone to ignore other stimuli that may be good for us.

In this noisy world, are we stressed out and ignoring God's voice when He attempts to talk to us?

Let's all try to unplug once in a while and enjoy the silence, listening for what God wants to teach us in the midst of it.

Please continue holding through the silence...

"My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent," (Psalm 109:1 NIV)

Do you ever get frustrated with times of spiritual silence and think that God's not there? How can focusing on God help you to "continue holding" and listen for His voice?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Road Trips

I'm in Indiana this weekend.

Two days ago I hadn't planned on being in Indiana, but here I am.

Our daughter Allison wanted to go to a good friend's wedding, but she didn't feel comfortable driving by herself to Chicago. The plan earlier in the week was for her to drive to a suburb and have two friends pick her up and they would all ride to Indiana together. 

Then one of the friends had to change her flight to Louisville instead of Chicago because of the big storm out East. There went Allison's driver!

It only took about a minute for me to agree to go along as chauffeur (I did make Allison drive for a couple of hours to get more experience on the interstate).

So my weekend looks much different than I had planned a couple of days ago. 

I thought I would be catching up on housework, paying bills, and maybe getting my Christmas letters ready to send out (Yes, I know it's January). 

Instead I'm hanging around in a hotel room. I took a couple of books, my journal, and my computer along...hoping to do some reflection, reading, and writing.

I wonder if I'll get any of that done?

I guess we'll see as the weekend progresses.

What I was thinking about at times during our drive down to Indiana was that we always need to be ready for a road trip in life.

God may ask us to go somewhere unexpected all of a sudden, and we need to be ready and willing to do that as we follow Him. We'll see new places, experience new things, and make other people (and usually ourselves) very happy when we do that.

I know Allison and her friends are having a great time seeing each other and looking forward to Brett and Mason's wedding on Saturday afternoon. I'm happy because I know this was important to them and I got to help them get here.
Mason Werst and Brett Jonas...Congrats to them on Saturday!

I wonder what other road trips God has in store for me in the years ahead? I better keep an overnight bag packed, just in case.

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 NIV)

Have you ever taken an unexpected road trip? How can focusing on God help you be ready to go wherever He wants you to go at a moment's notice?