Focus

So, I need to ask you a question. Are you, like me, having trouble focusing on life? I mean there are so many distractions out there, that at times I just find it hard to keep the main thing the main thing. Since this post is all about dealing with change and moving forward in life, I think it is important to take a look, no pun intended, at our focus these days. I have been trying to keep pressing on, working from home, attending online classes and adjusting to a different way of doing things,but, honestly, I can’t focus.

I know the stuff I should be doing, but I have gotten pretty bored of all the shoulds and wanna do all the cant’s. Like going to eat out, and by out I do not mean outside in our car, while we drive back to our house after picking up through the drive up window. I mean at a real restaurant, sitting down at a table. Or what about going to the beach? Yup, the beaches are open, But……. You can’t actually go to them unless you happen to live at the beach. I secretly suspect that the beach house homeowners wish they could come to my neighborhood, because they are bored with going to the beach all the time. Well, maybe they aren’t. But I’m guessing they are having trouble with focus too.

So, how do we get back our focus? I asked myself this question quite a bit this week and searched for answer. The answer I found was this; it is not the should’s and the oughto’s I need to focus on and get back on track with doing life, but it is the who. No, not the world health organization, but the WHO: God.

With everything that is happening around us, it is easy to lose our focus on God. We start to look at our problems and they get bigger and bigger in our field of vision, crowding out our focus on God. Let me give you an example to think about:

I’ve mentioned before that my sons are photographers/ videographers and I have learned quite a bunch about the technical side of the industry. You see, their professional equipment has specific guides for the focus of a shot. Whatever lines up within the box will be in focus, whatever is outside will be blurry. when you look through the viewfinder the whole scene is before you, but you can choose to only place one object within the yellow box, with the background completely blurred. Or you might focus on the background with the closest object to you blurred. The scene is the same, but the object of focus changes, as you decide to change it.

I realized whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or uneasy, it is when I have changed my view finder to focus on the problems right now, and take my focus off of God. When I stop and catch myself feeling anxious, I stop and get back into my focus of Jesus. Practically, it looks like this, stop, pray, pick up my Bible and read a passage, close it, then meditate on what I just read.

Hebrews 12: 2 tells us what we should be doing during the difficult times; “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  We have a race to run in this life. A race of faith that isn’t always easy, but let’s keep our focus on Jesus, and not the distractions along the way, which are only temporary. God Bless- Nancy

 

Going Through The Storm

                   Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you—1 Peter 5:7

We once lived next door to an amazing older woman. She had emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century from Hungary. She had come with her Aunt and Uncle but not her parents whom she had a difficult relationship with, as I recall her telling me. She was quite young, around six years of age and spoke no English. She had a hard time at first in school and with the neighbor boy who also did not speak English, but Swedish.

Why I consider her amazing  was for her take on life. Through every difficult situation she would explain all the difficulties facing her as she aged- her husband’s Alzheimer’s, her own declining vision, a fall that caused her a near fatal broken neck,  relationship stresses caused by her family obligations, and of course weather related storms that worried her. At the end of each discussion of her current hardship she would pause and exclaim; “But what are you going to do?” It was not so much of a question she posed to me as a calm answer to all that she was facing and had faced in her long life.

She had been through many storms in her life and she had this great perspective that there wasn’t anything you could do about certain situations, so why get upset. She didn’t avoid talking about her problems as though they weren’t there, she described them, faced them and decided she might as well accept things as they were. She went through.

I remember my Mom giving me similar advice; “This too shall pass” I always thought of it as kinda cryptic, but now that I am older and have been through the storms, I can now say my mom was right. When we are younger, it is hard to take the advice of our parents. We really do think we know everything there is to know about any given situation. But, given the current worldwide crisis due to the corona virus, I am beginning to get a slight glimpse into what the older generations went through and were forced to go through at young ages, giving them every right to know what they are talking about. They were strong and resilient, because they had to be. It wasn’t something they chose to go through. Oh we have had our own share of armed conflicts and large super storms, earthquakes, tornadoes in the late to early 20th and 21st centuries, but nothing on the global scale of the current COVID-19. Our lives have been disrupted and basic supplies are difficult to find. It is now that I recall my grandparents and even my parents stories of what it was like during World War II. Everyone received booklets that rationed items like, meat and sugar. people did not travel and my Mom told me of the air raids that often happened at night. If you were home you were instructed to turn out all your house lights and if in a car you would pull over and turn off the headlights. Apparently it was a regular occurrence.

So,as we are all a little anxious at this moment with our regular predictable lives on hold, let’s remember the words of previous generations. They went through and got through it. We cannot change what is happening, but in those moments when we feel anxious, we can be reminded to turn to God and cast all our anxieties on Him. Sometimes we cannot avoid going through hard times, we just have to. We can’t pretend we don’t have fears or anxieties when we do. It’s okay to describe our difficulties as my elderly neighbor use to do. But once we do, we can go to God and admit we need Him to calm our fears and still our anxieties. I know that’s what I have been doing. -God Bless – Nancy

Pray

Today I have a simple question to ask of you… Do you pray?  If your answer is yes, then let me ask another follow up question…. When?  Maybe your first thought about this answer was a particular time of day, like first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. There is really no set time that is better than others. However, praying first thing in the morning kind of gets the day started off in a better direction. Do you pray alone? Or with your spouse? Or with your kids before bed time? I remember praying with my kids at night while I sat on the edge of their beds. My husband and I began praying together both in the morning and at night a few years ago. My favorite time to pray is when I have the whole house to myself and can just have this awesome conversation with God, pouring my heart out to Him. Or in the car- I promise I do not close my eyes when driving!

Maybe you can’t remember the last time you prayed- I mean really poured your heart out to God with thanksgiving and also with your concerns. Maybe you save prayer for the big stuff- like health scares or financial stresses. Or maybe only when that child or spouse that just needs to change- in your opinion. Or maybe you just get busy and slowly prayer becomes something you’ll get to later in your already busy over scheduled day. Yes, we can get lazy about prayer. It can be like that well intended diet we started. As soon as the desserts show up our diet is gone and our good intentions are lost.

Some people like to schedule their time with God for reading His Word and for prayer. This I do recommend to keep from falling away- like that well intended diet plan. But, if you blow it and miss a day don’t worry, just get back at it. It helps to remember why we pray in the first place. Its all about communication. Jesus even gave His disciples – and us- an idea of how we should pray in the Lord’s prayer. No, we do not have to follow it word for word like a memorized prayer. But, He gave us ideas of how to pray- to communicate- with God- the Creator of the universe.  If you’re unfamiliar with what’s called the Lord’s Prayer you can find it in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

The most important item to take away from Jesus’ model He gave His disciples, was that He prayed to His father. If Jesus prayed, shouldn’t we also? Jesus is part of the Trinity- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Did He need to pray? Wouldn’t that be like talking to yourself? Well, that’s a deeper question to think about now, but what we should realize is that Jesus communicated with God the father regularly. And that is what He wants us to do as well.  It doesn’t matter the formula, time of day, or words- God knows us- He wants to be in a communicating relationship with us. He wants our praise, our thanksgiving, our petitions, requests, our worries and stresses- all the messy stuff of life- He cares. He accepts and does not reject those that call upon Him to be saved (Romans 10:13). He hears us (1 John 5:14), He will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), He loves us (John 3:16). He wants to hear from us, so why not at the end of reading this, you just stop and pray. No excuses, just do it. Not sure what to say? Just tell Him whatever is on your heart. He’s waiting for you to make the first move.

-God Bless

– Nancy

 

Drone’s Eye View

Do you like being stuck in traffic? Me neither. Have you ever been in one of those huge traffic jams on an interstate? When the traffic is moving along great and then all of a sudden a chorus of red tail lights appears up ahead like a wave at a baseball game. It starts in the distance and then it is right upon you, the car in front you and then follows with the car behind you. A sea of red tail lights as far as the eye can see. Everything comes to a stop. And you wait. And wait. And after a few minutes you begin to wonder how long will you be stopped? I mean you have places to get to. Everyone does. But you can’t get anywhere because all the cars around you have stopped and you’re stuck in the middle of this giant traffic jam. The worst is when everyone turns off their engines and gets out of their cars. My family and I were once stopped for two hours on the interstate while traveling. And it was in the middle of summer. It wasn’t fun.

The first question that usually arises in this situation is “What is going on, or what happened?” The second is usually “How long are we going to be stopped?” You can’t see far enough ahead to see what happened, but you can see behind you as the long line of stopped cars grows further into the distance. With social media and available apps, sometimes we can find out just how far up the road the traffic has stopped and if there are any alternate routes. But, what would be really nice to have is a drone.

My oldest son, Michael, has a drone and is an officially FAA licensed drone pilot. I am amazed at the photos and video footage he takes as a real estate photographer with his drone. As is commonly heard in real estate “Location, location, location” A drone can give potential buyers the perspective of what the house or land looks like from above. It can see how far the property is located from the beach, schools, restaurants, or what lies around it. This view is especially helpful when viewing parcels of land on which there are no buildings to photograph, just an empty lot. The boundary lines can be edited in later, but gives the overall size of the lot, that would not be appreciated as well if seen from a ground level perspective.

I would like to have a drone of my own. Not the kind to view the traffic jams-although that would be sweet- but a drone for life. I do not like being stuck anywhere, including in the  valleys of life. When you are in a valley you can’t see up out of the lower level you are in. It is not a mountain top experience where you can see the path laid out before you. Those times when you don’t seem to be moving forward, those times of waiting and wondering, “How long will I be stopped” “I wonder what is going on?” I would fly my life drone up and on ahead to see what the stop was and how long ahead I need to travel until the jam is cleared. That would be awesome. Then I could just review the video footage and know confidently just how long this valley of stopping and waiting would be.

Of course, there is no such thing as a life drone. So, I just need to stop, relax, turn off the engines of my own plans and timing as I attempt to move forward. I can either enjoy this time or be miserable. Either way, the traffic isn’t going anywhere until the road clears. I do not have the perspective I need to see on ahead in life, but I do know someone who does. I don’t need an app for that. Prayer and seeking God’s perspective doesn’t need an app. It just needs time. The kind of time when I’m stopped in a valley of waiting. Waiting can be something God uses to slow us down long enough to stop, pray, and pick up the Bible and read. We can find the perspective we need when we stop and pray and read. God might not show us everything at once, but He might provide encouragement that will help us as we wait.

This morning I was reminded that God’s perspective is not mine. As Proverbs says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Pr. 16:9, ESV). We might think we know what we are doing, the where we are going to and the when we are expecting to arrive, but we don’t. We do not have God’s perspective. As Solomon observes, “All of the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit” (Pr. 16:2, ESV). God’s weighing the spirit, is like the bigger perspective of the drone. God can see what direction we are heading on our own and what lies ahead of us if we continue on this path. He is concerned with our hearts and with our spirit, not just with a physical direction we’re heading. Sometimes the valleys of waiting and stopping are to help us become what God intends for us, not just to stop us from getting from point A to point B.

If you feel like you are stuck in a traffic jam of life let me challenge you to take a step back and trust God . He knows what is going on up ahead. If you want to understand His perspective, seek Him in prayer and in the Bible. That is my challenge for myself today- God Bless- Nancy

Location, Location, Location

Where’s your there? Have you ever thought about that? Confused? Don’t worry, let me explain first and we’ll come back to that question in a minute. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here in the south east part of the United States where I live. So, to enjoy this nice day of warm sunshine without any clouds in the sky, my husband and I went out for a coffee date. We went to our usual place that offers regular coupons allowing us to buy one coffee and get one free (we are very cheap with our dates!). It also has tables outside where customers might sit, talk, and enjoy their coffees on beautiful sunny days.

Coffee dates like this one are great times to talk with your spouse. You are away from home for a short time and free from distractions. On this beautiful sunny day we were out sharing the highs and lows of the past week. We also shared new challenges upcoming for our lives. I share this scene because I want to encourage you to do the same. Spending time talking, away from distractions is a benefit for relationships. Second, I wanted to share with you some of our conversation so that you might understand my question; “Where’s your there?”

As I was sharing my concerns with my husband, who by the way is a great listener, when we are away from the distractions at home, a subject came up. I recently had the opportunity to share some of my personal, educational, professional and ministry information on a website. My first thought when I saw this opportunity was “Wow, this is great” and “This could be a great opportunity for getting my self out there!” Immediately though, my second thought was “Is this where I want to be?” Is this organization the right one for me, that would represent what I believe in and am trying to promote?

Have you ever been the recipient of great advice that tells you “Just get out there!”or, “Put your name out there!” Maybe a coworker was encouraging you, or your best friend, or your mom. I admit I have said this many times to my own adult children. A few years ago there was even a marketing campaign for a cruise line that said “Get out there!”

I admit, I don’t always like the marketing and platform building done in ministry. It is common now days for ministries and churches to build marketing strategies and branding themselves. So, there are many who offer the advice to “Get your name out there” But, let me ask once again, “Where’s there?” I suspect that there is inhabited by they. I’m sure you’ve heard of they. “They say drinking coffee is good for you. They say drinking coffee is bad for you. They say this is in style.  They say this is out of style.They say you should go to college. They say you do not need a college degree” Have you ever thought who are they and why do they have so much to say? And just where is there that you’re suppose to be getting out to? That’s why I suspect there is where they live.

So, why did I have hesitation about putting my name out there? Well, I have often found that opportunities that do not give me peace are best avoided. It is the Holy Spirit giving me caution about what I am about to do. My husband and I often refer to it as the yellow or caution signal. Sometimes it is obvious and we refer to this as a red flag. But sometimes it is about questioning the there asking whether this is where God wants me to be. Other times it requires asking myself about my own motivations, like “Am I calling attention to myself or pointing others to God?” These two questions, coupled with prayer are essential to test whether something is from God and beneficial.

The Bible tells us we are to test things to see if they are from God. One example is found in 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (New International Version Bible).  Paul, like John, offers this from Romans; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will” (12:2, NIV).

The Bible also tells us that are works will be tested. This is where the motivation question, my second question, that I ask myself comes into play. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this subject as well; “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will  be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). If my motivation is solely for myself then it is like adding straw to the fire; it’s going to get burned up, in other words, its not going to last into eternity. It’s basically worthless.

So, in this combination of questions, the where and the motivation, helps me to decide if this is the there I want to be. So, let me ask you again; “Where’s your there?”  Is it a place where you will be in God’s will? Is it a place where you are pointing others to God, or just to yourself?  Location is important. God has something good for you and listening to Him will put you in the right place at His right time. We can get ( and give) great advice to help others grow and move past difficulties and “get out there”. Let’s make sure we know where the “there” is. Is it in God’s will, or somewhere else? -God Bless- Nancy

The Truth About Gratitude

The rain has been falling steadily this morning, so I have been taking my time to get ready for the day. Rainy days make me want to stay inside and enjoy a second cup of coffee in the morning. Growing up on a farm, I know the importance these Spring rains are for the crops. The rain loosens the soil and softens it, enabling the plow to carefully til the soil for the seeds to be planted. So, sometimes the rainy mornings are good for the soil of our own hearts as we can be willing to slow down and take our time before heading out for our day.

This morning was like that as I was watching a streaming program as I slowly enjoyed my second cup of coffee. The program I was watching provides a Bible teaching that has practical application for the everyday life. But, for this morning the programing was about the previous year’s(2018) outreaches that this ministry had been involved in. I have to admit that watching the recap of the natural disasters from last year, made me realize how soon I had forgotten about these. There seems to be so many of them so often, that I have become complacent about them.

But the real message I began to think about as I watched was how much outreach had been provided. Thousand of gallons of water, food and supplies were given. Hundreds of people were helping to load cars with these supplies after having unloaded large semi trucks of donated goods. Groups were carrying buckets full of supplies on foot to homes that could not be reached by car. Volunteers were sifting through the rubble of burned out homes to find valuables for the home owners who had lost everything to wildfires. Many of these teams spent time praying with the homeowners to encourage them and offer hope. So many people were helping in the video, it began to spring up a bit of guilt in me. I wished I had helped out too.

But, what also struck me as I watched was how this particular ministry is criticized because it is run by a woman. In the past I have heard many criticisms from fellow Christians such as she has had plastic surgery, owns a mansion and has a private jet. Or that she teaches prosperity. But the truth is there in what she does as a fellow Christian reaching out to those who are in need. No, this isn’t a plug for her either, but just a realization, that should we should all be challenged to do something for others. We might not have the financial means to give a thousand dollars to over seven hundred and fifty families who lost their homes to fire, but we can do something. It starts with a grateful heart.

But honestly, it’s not about being thankful for what we have, or that its not us that is being affected by a disaster. That’s really not the motivation that I am talking about. It’s the motivation that we should have towards what God has done in our lives. The gratitude that comes from realizing what Christ did on the cross for us, to save us from ourselves. To save us from being separated from Him forever, the thing we deserved, but He took instead in our place, defeating death, once for all. That’s the kind of gratitude we need to have. That is the motivation we need to help others.

Colossians 3:15-17 offers a look into what this attitude should be like; “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts toward God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (NIV).

It’s a long passage, but it offers us an idea of how we should be doing life. If we find ourselves faltering in being grateful and thankful, which according to the passage should be our attitude in what we say or do, it offers the direction to stay in the Word, letting it dwell in you. In other words, reading your Bible, keeps you grateful. Probably because you can be reminded just what you have to be grateful for. It has challenged me today to check my attitude. Have I been grateful lately? Not just thankful. Not just counting my blessings. Not just thankful for what I have. Gratitude isn’t about being thankful for the what in our lives, but the who, Christ, and what He did on the cross. Maybe this upcoming Easter season, we shouldn’t be celebrating new beginnings, but thanksgiving and gratitude, letting God’s Word soften the hardness of our complacent hearts, much like the Spring rains softens the soil, making it ready for planting. -God Bless -Nancy

Setbacks

Some of the best ideas I get when deciding what to write in this blog come from my family. Just last night my Husband made a very good observation; we have a bike seat but no bike and pillows but no bed. Let me explain what he meant. See a couple weeks ago I ordered an exercise bike. Nothing fancy, just something to help my husband get back in shape. Oh, and me too! After reading all the reviews online I decided that we also needed a gel seat thingy to go on the bike. Well, the gel seat arrived, but the bike never did. They lost it. Just how do you lose a 76 pound box with two day shipping is beyond me. Oh well, so we have a seat and no bike.

Later that same week we ordered a new mattress and yesterday the delivery company called and said they have the pillows, but the mattress wasn’t loaded on the truck. So…. I will have pillows but no bed. The mattress will be delivered sometime later in the week, but until then its just the pillows.. And the bike seat.   Have you ever had something like this happen? We make our plans and purchase our items, but then there is a setback. A wait. How do you handle the wait?

I have had many setbacks over my years on this planet. Some turned out to be really good, like issues with infertility. We now have three grown children, but I recall the times when everyone I know was getting pregnant. It was tough. To wait. The biggest thing I have learned is that no matter how upset or angry I might get when things do not turn out the way I want when I want them to is it doesn’t change a thing.

I have also learned that people can make mistakes with orders and getting upset and angry at the other person, whether it is a store or a delivery company, doesn’t do much good. For one thing, it doesn’t make a lost bike reappear, or a mattress suddenly load itself on a truck. It doesn’t change my mood either. But, showing grace towards others can. We all can make mistakes, so wouldn’t it be nice if someone would extend some grace towards us when we mess up? And how we handle the wait when we have a setback is what God is trying to help us with. To grow us up, so we won’t get upset over the little things in life. He is helping us to learn to trust Him.

If you have felt like learning to wait and trusting God is difficult, you’re not alone. King David wrote about trusting God in the Psalms. It is a good book of the Bible to read when you’re struggling. It has helped me. In Psalm 20:7 David writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of our Lord our God” (NIV). Sounds good huh? But then keep reading to chapter 22 when David cries out to God and exclaims “Oh my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer” (vs. 2, NIV). So, what’s up with that? Well, what you’ll find is David’s heartfelt conversation with God in prayer and praise. He complains at times out of his desperation, but then remembers how God has been there for him in the past and ends up praising God for His goodness.

See, sometimes we want to believe all those people in the Bible were so perfect and so spiritual without major problems or setbacks, but in reality they are like us. Or we are like them, if you will. As you read the Bible you will discover that the people God worked through were not the mighty spiritual giants, but just people like us. The ones that make mistakes and the ones who have setbacks. The ones without bikes for our seats or beds for our pillows. The ones who have to learn to trust Him and not ourselves. God Bless -Nancy