Adjusting My Focus

gratitude, blessingsWhy do you take a camera with you on vacation? I do because I expect to see something I’d like to turn into a memory.

That is also the reason I keep my phone with me when I go out for a walk. I never know what beauty, uniqueness or special moments will be there for me to capture.

Many years ago, I decided to approach each day this way. Not with a camera, but by focusing on the gifts God has placed all around me. During this time, I have observed so much that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

There are countless reasons to be thankful. Some are large and obvious. Others are commonplace and easily missed. When I purposefully look for them, they become beacons to happiness.

This morning I looked out my window as the sun was rising over the frozen landscape. Instead of thinking how cold it was going to be for me to walk to an appointment this morning, I took a few moments to be grateful for a new day and the opportunity to embrace whatever it may bring.

I may not feel the same when I step into the frigid air, but there is a much better chance than if I approach it with negativity.

The secret to my happiness is not really a secret. All I have to do is open my eyes to all that God has given me. When my focus shifts from lack to abundance, I am more likely to capture the special moments and turn them into precious memories.

One Shoe Dance

dance, distraction, perseveranceEmily is passionate about Highland Dancing. She works hard and was starting to “place” in competitions. One of the dances was more of a challenge than the others.

In the Sword Dance, two swords are placed on the floor in a cross pattern. The complicated dance steps move between and around each quadrant. Avoiding contact with the swords adds another layer of difficulty. Demerit points are issued if one is touched.

At one competition Emily took her place behind the swords. The piper started playing. In the first eight beats of music she prepared for the dance by positioning herself and placing hands on hips. In the next eight beats she made eye contact with the adjudicator and gave a slight bow. Eight more beats and with arms high above her head, the dance, missing shoe

As Emily executed the intricate steps, the lace on her right shoe started to loosen. Soon the shoe was completely untied. Instead of being distracted, she kept her focus – even when the shoe worked its way completely off of her foot. Her steps remained quick and accurate. The dance ended, Emily bowed again to the adjudicator and smiled as she picked up her shoe. She had completed the dance without touching a sword. Even better, she “placed” in the sword dance that day.

Emily’s focus and determination taught me an important lesson. Unexpected challenges may come my way but I don’t need to let them stop me. If I focus on my goal rather than the distraction, I, too, can end up a winner.

Rebellious Children

#inspiration, #God,  attention, rebellionMy husband and I were attending a church service when we heard the cry of a child. The fussing became muffled but didn’t stop.

A few minutes later we could hear the child being removed from the sanctuary. That is when things intensified. Not only did the crying get louder, but a little voice also started yelling, “No daddy. I don’t want to go out.” The wailing and pleading continued as the father moved to exit the building with his distraught child.

Later, upon reflection, I recognized that I have shown the same type of behaviour with my heavenly Father. When I choose not to behave the way God wants me to, I am being rebellious. I fuss and complain because I’m not getting my own way.

God may choose to remove me from the situation but that’s not what I want. Instead, my desire is for things to change to accommodate me. I let it be known that I want to stay where I am. In essence, I’m also saying, “No daddy, I don’t want to go. Let me stay here.”

In this state, there is no reasoning with me until God has my full attention. If I’m not focused on Him, I’m not hearing or understanding what He wants me to know.

God is not surprised when I act this way. Although this behaviour seems to be an inherent part of human nature, it doesn’t mean any of us are given permission to act as rebellious children.

It is only when I am still, quiet and completely focused on the Lord that my rebellious thoughts will be captured and I will no longer act like an unruly child.

“We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT)

New Glasses

#inspiration, vision, perspectivePrescription in hand, I headed for the Optical Store, determined to make the necessary change.

A few months earlier I had been there, looked at new frames, received some price quotes and then decided to put off getting new glasses. Even though my prescription had changed, my old ones didn’t seem that bad, so I thought I could get by with them.

Hours spent in front of a computer screen started to result in blurry vision. Reading a book could do the same. Sometimes the issue took hours to fully resolve. For the sake of clarity, the time had come to make the change.

Decisions on frame style and lens type weren’t as difficult as I’d thought. I felt good knowing soon I’d be looking at the world more clearly through a new pair of glasses.

This could have been accomplished much sooner if I’d just made the change when it was needed rather than putting it off.

I guess this is a mirror of my life as I have been known to resist change there as well. My reasons to stay the same seem valid at the time. It’s too much effort. Things aren’t really that bad the way they are. Eventually, I lose clarity and situations become distorted. My focus is no longer healthy.

What I need is a new perspective, another way of looking at things. When I figuratively change glasses my outlook and therefore my life, improves. It’s amazing what a shift in focus can do!

Clearing the Clutter

#God, #inspiration, focus, clarityI had done a good job of ignoring it – or so I thought. The need to do some decluttering could be pushed to the back recesses of my mind. The problem was it kept resurfacing.

The longer I waited, the more monumental the task became. As much as I hated to admit it, something had to be done.

With my husband’s help, I started with a few boxes in the basement. Much to my amazement most of the contents were no longer needed. We started piles for recycling, donating and keeping.

It felt good to start eliminating and I moved on to more challenging areas. At the end of the day we loaded the donations in the car and took them away. This process was repeated over the next several days.

For the first time in months, the area around my desk was clutter free. Unnecessary papers went to the recycle bin and others were filed away where I could easily access them.

I expected the area to look better, and it did. What surprised me was my mental state. Peace and happiness flooded over me as I entered my work space.

I hadn’t realized the clutter was holding me back. Once it was cleared I became more focused and productive.

The same thing happens in my spiritual life. When my mind is cluttered with unimportant things, there is less room to focus on God. I don’t intend to crowd him out, but that is exactly what I am doing. The only treasures worth pursuing are found in the word of God and my relationship with Jesus. These are the ones guaranteed to last for eternity.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21

Inventory Time

#God, #inspiratioin, #blessingsOh, the joy of annual inventory! In a gift store with many small items, the job can seem overwhelming. By the end of the second day, I was getting frustrated with myself when I forgot my tally and had to recount several items.

What I found interesting was the number of items I had forgotten we had. Some that had been tucked away need to be put out on display again, while others are best discarded.

After I had counted physical items, I decided to take inventory of my life. Holding onto past hurts, disappointments and regrets is a waste of valuable time and space. I need to let them go. Instead, I should be focusing on the many blessings in my life. They deserve to be put on display.

God has blessed me with a loving husband, and close relationships with our children and grandchildren. We are healthy, happy and productive. I have time to work, time to rest and time to play. I’ve been given inspiration to see the world in a positive light and to share that with others. I have a roof over my head, water that flows when I turn on a tap and food in my pantry.

I could go on and on as I count my blessings. They are far too numerous to list here and I know I will not grow tired of counting them.

All that I am and all that I have are gifts from God. By far the greatest gift is the joy I have in knowing I’m a much-loved child of my Heavenly Father.

Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. (Psalm 21:6 NIV)

Smell the Coffee

#Lord, #inspiration, #God, prayer, wisdomI was in the middle of an exercise class when the aroma of fresh coffee wafted in from a nearby kiosk. Not being a coffee drinker, it did little for me. Many others were impacted and soon were talking about their desire for this beverage.

The way the scent impacted most of the class made me think of the phrase, Wake up and smell the coffee. My interpretation of this phrase is to stop living in my own little world and to pay attention to what is going on around me.

It is very easy to become inwardly focused. Sometimes I get so caught up in what is happening in my own life that I fail to notice the struggles others are experiencing.

I need to remember life doesn’t revolve around me. This is when it’s time to stop and pray to the Lord for wisdom. He will give me an understanding of the needs around me and the guidance to know what I can do for others. When I follow his direction my life will be a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:5 NIV)

Like a Fish Out of Water

focus, Jesus, inspirationThere it was, propped upright on a bed of shells and seaweed, far from the water’s edge. The small, yellow-fleshed fish appeared to be staring at us, although we knew the eyes were now unseeing. It must have been tossed to the shore in the earlier high tide.

The body was lifeless but no decay had set in. Somehow it had managed to escape the keen eyes of the pelicans soaring above looking for their next meal.

My husband spotted it first and pointed it out to me. I said, “Fish out of water.” He nodded and we continued with our walk.

That simple phrase continued to roll around in my mind. I have often felt like a fish out of water but now had a disturbing visual to accompany the thought.
According to the phrase means, “to feel awkward because you are not familiar with a situation of because you are different from the people around you.” The expression alludes to the fact that a fish cannot survive for long on dry land.

Looking back on my life I realize that the times I felt like a fish out of water occurred when I was self-focused. By turning my attention outwards I can see that it’s not all about me.

Jesus often brings me into unfamiliar situations. He does this not to make me uncomfortable, but so I can experience growth. When I embrace these times and look for the opportunity to be of service to him, I will no longer feel like a fish out of water.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5,6 NIV)


Are You Distracted?

inspiration, God, Jesus, focusThe province I live in has a distracted driving law. Recently the penalties for this offense have become more sever in the hopes of reducing the accidents caused by distracted driving.

From what I have observed on the roads, many drivers are still multi-tasking while behind the wheel. Cell phones are the biggest distraction for many of us.
This applies to more than driving. I’ve witnessed people bump into others while busy texting. Sometimes they have even stepped out into traffic without looking up.

While at home I’m guilty of checking my phone each time I hear the notification that tells me a new text or email has come in. This distracts me from what I should be doing.

I can’t blame all of the distractions in my life on my cell phone, though. My mind is frequently on something other than the task I’m performing.
Recently I was baking a cake to take to a gathering that evening. During the preparation my mind was busy thinking of the other tasks I needed to do. After the cake was in the pan, I set the oven timer and started to clean up the kitchen while mentally going through my to-do list. In my distracted state, I forgot to put the cake in the oven!

I know that I’m not the only one who is challenged with distracted living. Nor is this an affliction that began in our modern, busy world.

Jesus gives us an example and a solution in the biblical story of Martha and Mary. Martha was distracted by at all the preparations that had to be made. Jesus advised that these preparations were not as important as spending time with him.

When I spend time in prayer with Jesus I experience a peace that enables me to focus on what is important rather than the distractions in my life.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NIV)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7 NLT)

Where Is Your Focus?

God, imspiration, trust, solutionSometimes it takes an unusual situation to show me that I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing. A recent experience pointed this out.

I had arrived at work one morning to find it unusually cold inside. I put the heat on and waited. Hours later it was only a degree or two warmer.

I called my employer to let her know of the problem. She gave me suggestions on dealing with our sometimes finicky heating system.
Nothing seemed to make a difference. Periodically through the day I tried again and was always frustrated at the lack of heat.

The next day I received a message from my employer saying that the reason the heat didn’t work was because the switch on the thermostat had been turned to “off”. It seems that the problem was with the operator and not the equipment.

Wanting to create value in this situation, I looked for the lesson. It wasn’t as difficult to find as the off switch had been!

There have been times when the discomfort I was experiencing was something I had control over. When my focus was solely on the problem that was all I could see. It was the solution I needed to focus on.

Often I forget where my solution lies. My knowledge and resources are limited. It’s God that sees the whole picture and is able to direct me. He cares about every aspect of my life. I need to continually focus on him and trust that he will provide what I need.

Those who know your name trust you, O Lord, because you have never deserted those who seek your help. (Psalm 9:10 GWT)