Focus on What Matters

#163 Blog Post-Focus on What Really Matters

“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” Proverbs 4:25

Our minds conjure up some strange thoughts sometimes. These thoughts can become beliefs and take control of our lives. It is best to take a few moments and reevaluate what matters.

A couple of months ago, I was in a doctor’s office waiting room with my daughter. There was a family who came out after the doctor’s office. The parents were discussing their 6-year-old twin sons’ appointment. The father bragged to their mother about how their boys were in the 95th percentile for height. He went on and on about how tall they maybe when they hit adulthood.  

Children’s development is a popular topic of conversation amongst parents. I remember when my daughter was younger, all of those milestones and percentiles seemed so important. Many parents loved to brag how their child learned how to walk or even read before most. My daughter was born three full weeks early. It took a while for her to catch up on some of these milestones. I used to get scared that she was slightly behind. It dawned on me one day, would this even matter when any of it would occur? Would she be at her college graduation, and they would announce how she learned how to read at age three or walked at ten months? Of course not!

This comparison game tears us apart. When we get caught up in everyone’s accomplishments, we lose sight of what matters. Are our children healthy? Are they becoming more independent and making the right decisions? Are we living in the moment and have gratitude for the beautiful things in our lives? Do we remember how God has carried us through difficult times and set us free from sin and shame?  

Our lives are temporary. Life moves so quickly. The writer Gretchen Rubin said, “The days are long, but the years are short.” If someone cuts you off in traffic, they won’t matter to you tomorrow. If your child learns a skill after the rest of their classmates, the child still learned it. What is your focus on today? It may mean different things to people, but that focus should help us not hurt us. For me, seeking God in my life’s details helps me focus on what matters.

Lesson Learned: Adjust your focus to what matters.

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for comparing my life to others. Thank you, Lord, for life, you have blessed me. Help me know what is worth my thoughts. Thank you for everything I take for granted. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Don’t Get Sucked into Overreacting

“But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”  Galatians 5:15

Confrontation is a part of life.  Some people avoid it; others engage happily.  There are times, where we will have conversations with people, who want to suck the energy out of us.  Try to avoid having your power from getting sucked out of you!

Many years ago, I was the office manager for a Family Practice Physician.  When people are sick, it can bring the worse out of them. Add in, owing money for services rendered, makes people even more upset.  

I had to deal with a trying patient, who owed a large balance.  She began to argue with me. I said, “the doctor deserves payment for the services you used, so how would you like to take care of this payment, today?”  She tried to rile me up.   I paused and repeated the same thing. After the third time, I replied, “since you cannot speak to me politely, you have a choice, you either pay now over the phone or by 5:00 p.m. Otherwise, you will be sent to collections since you are 180 days past due. The choice is yours.”  Thankfully, she paid.  She tried one more jab and said, “I don’t want to be a patient here.” I told her, ‘“sounds great! Let me know when you decide for sure so that I can assist you,” and I hung up the phone.

It is never easy to deal with people who have messy lives.  They want to blame everyone for their unfortunate situation and bring everyone down with them.  Your energy and health will suffer when you try to converse with people like this. It is just not worth it.  God wants us to have healthy boundaries with unhealthy people. It is not our burden to try and save everyone; only God can do that if they want it.  Free yourself from any unnecessary drama.

Lesson Learned: Do not engage with people who are energy suckers.

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, give me discernment when I deal with difficult people.  Remind me not to get involved with the drama of the situation. Help me be a light to those who need you.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

 

Don’t Let Sin Destroy Your Life

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Sin comes in a variety of ways. It can be outright evil, or it can be sneaky. Sneaky sin is scary. If you don’t ask for forgiveness and help from God to resist it, it takes root in your life.

When I was nine years old, my parents and I were at a mall at a surf and ski shop. There were magazines and pamphlets by the front door. At first glance, they were labeled “free.” I noticed one magazine with its bright, beautiful pictures of the ocean. I knew I wanted these pictures for a wall in my room. We left the store, and I had the magazine in my hands.

My parents and I got home, and I went straight to my room. I grabbed a pair of scissors and looked at the front cover to see a price of $5.99 on it. I could feel the blood drain from my face. “Oh no, I’m a criminal!” was my thought. I ran to my dad and begged him to drive back so I could give back the magazine. My dad sighed and said, “no, it’s too far, and it’s fine.” I had tears streaming down my face. My dad soon realized this was not the right way to rectify it and consoled me, “sweetheart, we will go back tomorrow.” And we did.

At that age, I wanted nothing to do with sin. As children, we are taught not to lie, cheat or steal. Something happens to us when we aren’t stable in our faith and follow the ways of the world. We may think we are safe if we know God and have a deep relationship with Him, but the enemy loves to distract and confuse us, especially when it comes to sin.

A few days ago, I was at a bi-monthly gathering. The same people usually attend, but every so often someone new comes. There was a man who I met for the first time. He smiled at me, and I immediately felt an attraction. It felt weird and sweet at the same time. He was making small talk, but he seemed genuinely interested. I soon realized we talked for over 20 minutes straight, I decided to bring in more people into the conversation, so I wasn’t alone. For days, I thought about this situation. I felt guilty and sad that as a married woman I would be feeling like this toward someone else other than my husband.

I decided to confide in a friend, a person who I think, also as a spiritual mother. Thankfully nothing more than conversations happened between the man and me. But I told her how I felt and cried tears of shame and guilt. She lovingly listened and comforted me. My friend was truthful but understanding. She revealed that there was something deeper that I needed to explore with myself and my husband. Expose the sin and work on those areas of weakness and pain.

I think back to that time as a little girl being so guilty of accidentally taking a magazine. Why isn’t that the same reaction I have to sin as an adult? We live in a world where most sins get a free pass because everyone is doing it. When faced with temptation, ask God to intervene right that minute. Please know, that no fleshy desired fulfilled is worth the torment it will bring for months or even years. I want to spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus!

Lesson Learned: If we allow Jesus to intervene, no temptation is too great for Jesus to save us. Sinning is not worth it.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for allowing sin to take a foothold in my life. Cleanse my mind, heart, and soul. Reveal those areas that need work and your intervention. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Consider the Source

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

 

My father gave me a piece of advice that helps me every day.  He advised, “whenever you hear information, consider the source.”  We receive tons of information day in and day out. Filtering out what is correct or wrong, can be exhausting.  The same comes from people, especially those we know and love.

 

A few months ago, I did something I am not proud of.  I got furious at a friend for something which was minor, an emoji on a text.  That’s right, an emoji. There are formatting issues between Android and Apple phones.  In this case, a friend sent me a long group text on her iPhone, and I received it on my Android.  The text came in jumbled. In the past, I mentioned this to her, hoping she would remember.  But, again, of all things to get upset at, this is what I chose.

 

Unfortunately, I chose via text to unload on her.  She called me the next day to explain that she didn’t mean to ignore my request on purpose but to understand that I was out of line to be so rude to her.  This friend was also dealing with a family emergency that would stress anyone out. Instead of pausing and apologizing, I continued to get rubbed the wrong way.  The conversation ended without resolution and more anger.

 

The next day, the conviction of the Lord came down on me.  That advice my father gave me many years ago, “consider the source”  popped into my head. My friend loves me dearly and only wants to see me grow in the Lord.  She would never intentionally hurt me. The remorse I felt came like a wave crashing over me.  I tried to make things right and ask for forgiveness. I knew I would be crying, so I sent her another text begging for mercy.  Thankfully, she received the apology well.

 

The enemy knows where it hurts.  I have this fear of being accepted and loved by others.  Many times, I have been taken advantage of or severely disappointed.  So, I take every look, comment given to heart. My trust has been low.  But if we ask ourselves to consider the source before we comment, we can save ourselves unnecessary arguments or riffs and have open communication and not be afraid to say something.

 

Lesson Learned: Consider the source and before you make your decision to act.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for overacting on comments made.  Help me to determine what is true and noble. Let the little things roll off of me, so they do not take root in my heart and mind.  Help to forgive these minor instances quickly and to communicate. Thank you, Lord, for wisdom and strength. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

 

No Sin is Hidden from The Lord

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.” Luke 12:2

There is a small pleasure of not getting into trouble when I should.  I feel it when I perform the California rolling stop when driving.  But the Sheriff behind me is looking for someone else, so they do not pull me over.  While that may be a sign of grace, true sin will catch up to us.

Many years ago, when I was in college, living at home, my parents were renovating the backyard.  My friend and I were at my home studying for a class. Except, we were distracted by the attractive construction workers.  (Hey! We were young and single!) They would have to walk past the kitchen bay window where my friend and I were “studying” next to, to get tools and supplies from the truck.

As they would walk, by we would smile big and do funny dances at them. We did this because the house had tinted windows. Well, we were so wrong about that! The next day, I was outside and walked past that same window and could see inside, when the lights were on in the kitchen.  And the lights were on in the kitchen that day were giving the construction workers googly eyes. From that day forward, I never looked at them and tried to avoid them at all costs.

I remember thinking, I  thought I could get away with acting like that.  If I knew the construction workers could see my friend and me, we never would have behaved that way.  In life, we sin and think we had gotten away with something or hurting someone because they would never find out about it. However, Father God knows every sin.  He knows every move we make. All of these sins will come to light, and we will be judged for it. There are no tinted windows between God and us.  Let us repent for our sins, and the sins were are unaware of daily!

Lesson Learned:  All sin will come to light.  No sin is hidden.

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, convict me when I sin.  Holy Spirit, show me when I sin and not realize it.  Thank you for giving us grace and mercy. Give me guidance to always do the right thing. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Sabotaging the Outcome Before I Even Start

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Matthew 14:30-32

The activity of swimming is one of my least favorite things. I had ear infections, after many visits to the pool. My swimming abilities were sub-par. I don’t like swimming. In college, I had to face my fears whether I wanted to or not.

My major in college was Kinesiology, the study of human movement. There was a requirement of taking six different sports classes, one of them being aquatics. I talked to the administrator for my major and asked if I could get around that particular requirement. They said, “if you want to graduate, you must take the class.” Thankfully my best friend, who is like a fish in the water, offered to take it with me and be my support.

The first day of the class came, and I was nervous. The students were waiting out by the pool. An older man drives up in a yellow Corvette, gets out of the car shirtless in swim trunks with a cigar hanging out of his mouth. The man walks up to our group and asks, “beginning swim? I’m Flip, your coach.” First, we took care of the paperwork of people adding the class and straightening out schedule questions. Then he said, “we will start tomorrow, class dismissed.”

Now, I was upset because I was all worked up for and had to put on a bathing suit for nothing. I walked over to Flip and said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can teach me how to swim, I am horrible at it, and I hate being in the water.” Flip, took his cigar out of his mouth leaned in and said in a calming voice, “can you give me a chance, my dear? I will not let anything happen to you. But if it doesn’t work out, we will go from there, okay?” And the next day, I did.

Flip had us in the shallow pool, and we got used to the water. We did simple exercises. Then he asked us to all get out and walk over to the Olympic size pool, that was about 16 feet deep. He told us to get into the pool and hold on to the side, slowly let go, and then we will dip below the water, and come back up with our heads above the water, without needing to tread water. And it worked. I couldn’t believe it.

After class, he asked, if I will be okay and I said yes, I would. He told the students to buy some goggles and flippers for the hands to skim across the water. By the end of that same week, I was swimming laps in the Olympic pool. I come to find out; Flip was the coach for Olympic Gold Medalist swimmers Gary Hall Jr. and Amanda Beard. My friend says, “oh my, only you would tell an Olympic Swim Coach, he can’t teach you how to swim.” Yes, I would!

There were two lessons I learned from this experience. Attitude is everything. It was so helpful to have a coach, who listened and acknowledged my fears, but encourage me that I could do it. Flip knew I couldn’t handle hearing, “oh suck it up, you big crybaby!” And how many times, are we faced with something difficult in our lives and we cry out to God, “I can’t do this! Why do I have to be in this situation?” We will have to endure some growing pain and hard times. But God is able; we are capable through Him. God wants us to be victorious! If we aren’t victorious in a particular situation, God had something better meant for us.

Lesson Learned: Let your faith lead you through the difficult times and God will help you figure it out in some way.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for not trusting you. Help me to see where you are in difficult times. May the Holy Spirit give me wisdom and knowledge. May my attitude change and learn to build on those positive experiences. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Recovery from Perfection

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”  Psalms 51:12

There is a couple, Al and Marilyn Sargent, who are neuro-psycho emotional researchers in South Orange County, California.  They have an amazing practice where they train, coach, and consult with people to better than personal lives and/or their businesses.  Their techniques are simple and effective. I have had the pleasure of getting to know them in the last month.

There was a quote on one of their exercises, “recovery is more important than being perfect!”  This quote resonates deep within my soul. Social Media and the Film Industry promote perfection through good lighting, filters, photoshop, and airbrush.  Sadly, it tricks us to thinking this is reality.

I had to adopt a gluten free diet because I had a diagnosis of gluten allergy through my blood work.  My favorite food is pizza. Pizza is all about the crust. A tasty gluten free pizza crust is hard to find.  I found one at Trader Joe’s and decided to give it a try.

The directions told me to bake one side of it, flip it over to cook the other side and then top it with my favorite toppings and broil it for a few minutes.  Seems easy…

I went to flip it and the crust broke into 5 different shaped pieces.  I was so angry, I wanted to quit and dump the crust into the trash. But something stopped me.  I decided to still cook it and see if it would work than give up.  The pizza crust turned out fine.  So, I recovered. I didn’t strive for perfection, I decided to put forth the effort, make it work, and not waste food.

There are times in life, where we would rather give up than see it through.  Where would we be if God did that with us? We mustn’t give up because it isn’t perfect.  In our lives, things will get messy and uncomfortable. God doesn’t want us to give up because it isn’t perfect.  God wants us to rely on Him and recover.

Lesson Learned:  Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.  Sometimes, we need to recover and it all works out.

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for wanting things to be perfect all of the time.  Thank you for guiding me to be resourceful and for the wisdom to follow through. Help to never give up!  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

 

The Love of the Father

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves.” Proverbs 3:11-12

When you love someone, especially a child, you want to take care of all of their needs. You don’t want them to feel pain or fail. It is easy to do everything for them instead of letting them do it themselves.

My husband is a middle school math teacher. The students are still young and immature but think they know everything. One Friday afternoon, my husband came home with a migraine. He took a nap hoping to sleep it off. Just as he fell asleep, I heard a person yelling outside of our front gate for us to open the door.

I looked out the window and recognized the man from a neighborhood Halloween party from a few months back. I went outside, and he asked if this is where my husband lived and he wanted to speak to him. When I said, it was our home; he explained that his son needed to turn in a math assignment or he couldn’t go to the concert that night. The father was there to deliver that assignment.

I stood there, floored. Many thoughts were running through my head, such as, how did he know where we lived? This father had some nerve coming to a teacher’s home unannounced to turn in an assignment for his kid. And maybe he should let his kid feel the pain so that he doesn’t do it again.

In my anger, I lied (sorry, Lord!) and said he wasn’t home. The father seems displeased and ask if I could take the assignment and give it to my husband. I accepted the homework and closed the door. His son is never going to take responsibility because he father will always clean up his mess after him.

I realized that I do that with God. I expect God’s grace to ignore my sins and still take care of me. God has a big heart and is full of grace. But there are times where God will let us suffer the consequences and feel the pain of our sinful actions. It seems strange, but this is a way to display love. If we make our kids feel the pain of missing out because of their mistakes, then they learn and become more responsible. When God allows us to feel the pain from our sin, we then will try not to continue to sin and come to a place of redemption.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes we have to feel the pain to have growth in our lives; otherwise we will never change.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for my sins. Help me to learn from my mistakes. Thank you for loving me and for your discipline. Remind me to do what is right than ignore responsibility. Help us who are parents and teachers to do the same for our kids. In Jesus’
Name, AMEN!”

All You Had To Do Was Ask!

“Do not go about spreading slander among your people.  Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life: I am the Lord.”  Leviticus 19:16

 

Gossip, misinformation, rumors.   These things can ruin a reputation, cause unnecessary heartache, or even a loss of life.  Our society thrives on it. It takes too long to gather facts.  Even if it is false, information gets put out there to create excitement and drama.  Social media is one of the worst places for this to occur.

 

One day, I noticed a Facebook post on a private page that involves my daughter’s school.  The person posted a picture of a parent selling snacks after school. This post was a soapbox moment for her.  She blasted the school’s administration for allowing junk food to be sold.

 

There was a very good reason for the snacks.  A group of parents of incoming 5th graders,  came together to raise money for next year’s science camp.  There was a meeting for fundraising ideas and this was one of them. Parents donated snacks that could be sold one day after school.  There was a variety of pre-packaged snack choices: some healthy, some not so not. Even though selling items had to be approved by the principal, this had nothing to do with the school.  

 

The post reeked of judgment and condescension without any truth to it.  Thankfully, every parent that commented defended the fundraiser. They explained why it was taking place.  This didn’t seem to appease this parent that posted them initially. Unfortunately, she continued her rant about other issues that had nothing to do with the fundraiser.  I was so livid. So I wondered, why couldn’t the parent who took the picture, just ask what was going on, instead of publically blasting a situation she didn’t know anything about?  Sadly, the answer is, that is just what people do.

 

Why is that?  Why don’t we just ask?  We need to gather information before we make a judgment or comment.  When something riles us up such as politics, religion, or problems in our community, we never ask why.  We just create rumors and gossip from lies or half-truths.

 

This is not how God wants us to communicate with each other.  We are to be loving and patient. If you are not sure of a situation, just ask.  Asking questions can save a ton of heartache and pain. And that advice begins with me.

 

Lesson Learned:  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for spreading gossip.  Help me to keep my emotions in check and listen to one another.  Create in me a new heart. Restore areas in my life that need work.  Help me to forgive. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

(Better) Thought and (More) Prayers with Action

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16

There are a lot of emotions towards tragedies, such as mass shootings. The obvious emotions of sadness and grief are in our hearts. When that initial shock wears off, the opinions from people on social media come out. Then the divide grows deeper.

Recently, one of the sad things I have seen from some people is that “thoughts and prayers” do nothing. As a Christian this breaks my heart because in some way, it has felt useless.

Have you ever had someone say, “you are in my thoughts and prayers” and it felt like they were just saying it? Down deep you knew they would forget and no words will be prayed on your behalf. In America, many seem to take action first but usually on adrenaline and emotion. In other third world countries, their only resource is God. That is why we see more miracles there, than in America and other first world countries.

Prayer provides God’s perspective and peace. When we diligently seek God first and pray, we will hear what God wants us to do. Ask God what you should do and how He can use you in a situation. Should I volunteer for an organization or go to a march of what I believe in? If there isn’t a march for what I believe, should I go organize one? Pray for the elected government officials to do the right thing and not make their decisions based on who donates to them. Ask for guidance on who you should vote for in all elections.

There are many things to ask God and things God will reveal. But you must have faith that God listens to our prayers (because God does) and an answer will be given.

Prayers aren’t always answered right away. Things take time to develop. We must continue to pray for situations that cannot be decided quickly. Fervent prayer is a way to contend for things that take time to come into fruition.

Prayer is not something for our to-do that we hope we can get to. There are so many things that don’t need our attention that we give priority. Prayer should be first, not our last resort. Whatever is important in our life, pray first. Let our thoughts meditate on what is true. And when God provides the answers, then take action.

Lesson Learned: Pray first, think good and holy thoughts and take action.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me when I try to act out of emotion and pain. Lord, I give you the matters in my life that need help. Heal our country and let people hear each other out. Let conversations actually create action that will benefit all people. Holy Spirit help me when I don’t have the words to pray. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”