Don’t Lose Focus

paddle boardingIn August I was given the opportunity to try a new activity. Since I have a healthy respect, (bordering on fear), of water, the idea of paddle boarding brought mixed emotions.

My friend assured me the water was not deep and I’d be fine. She patiently showed me how to get on the board and how to go from sitting to standing. I was nervous but determined. To say I was excited when I managed to stand and maintain my balance would be an understatement.

After a few minutes I was feeling quite confident with my newfound skill. An insect landed on my arm and I used the other arm to swat it away. This caused me to not only lose focus, but my balance as well. My worst fear was realized as I plunged under the water.

Fortunately, the water was not deep and I was able to get on my feet with no difficulty. My friend told me I’d just done the most graceful backwards swan drive she’d ever seen! I may not have been graceful getting on the board but it sounded like I made up for it when falling off!

When I considered what happened, I realized my balance was lost because I got distracted and stopped focusing on what I was doing. The lack of focus was what caused my fall.

How often in life has that happened? More times than I care to admit! Distractions are all around me and if I give them my attention I’m bound to stumble and fall. Sometimes I can get back on my feet and other times I end up over my head. At the best, my goal is delayed. At worst, it has come to an untimely end.

My experience with paddle boarding reinforced an important life lesson. If I want to live a productive life I need to keep my focus on what is of importance.

No, I’m Right!

#Jesus, #prayer, #inspirationDo you ever talk back to your GPS? Not only do my husband and I talk back to ours, we challenge it on a regular basis!

When I stop to think about it, the technology in these devices is quite remarkable. They pick up a signal pinpointing my location and then analyze routes to find the best one to get me to my destination.

Why would I pay for one of these units and then disregard what it tells me? The short answer is because I think I’m right!

We recently looked at a map to visualize our route before putting the address into the GPS. It didn’t take long before the familiar voice (we call her Susan), told us to turn and we said, “No, that’s not the right way.” It recalculated and gave new directions, which we also ignored. We carried on like this for close to two hours.

After reaching our destination we discovered the route Susan wanted us to take would have been more direct. There was more than one way to get to where we were going and the one we stubbornly stuck to was not the best one.

How often in life do I seek advice and then ignore it because I’m convinced I know best? When I’d rather be right than listen to other options, my objectivity suffers. Who knows what I might learn if I take the opportunity to listen to others? My lesson this time is that I’m not always right!

“There is no one as deaf as he who will not listen.” Yiddish Proverb

Children and Candy

#inspiratioin, Bible, lessonMy husband and I put together a little Easter egg hunt for our family. This year we had some items labelled for each of the younger children.

In the pre-hunt instructions, they were told not to take something if it wasn’t marked for them. They could either put it back where they found it and keep looking for other treats, or they could pick it up and make sure it got to the right person.

There were only two items personalized for each child, the rest were available to anyone who found them. We were surprised by how our five young grandchildren handled this.

I must admit, if it were me, I’d probably have put the other person’s treasure back and kept gathering treats for myself. That was not the case with these young ones. If something labelled for another was found, their own search stopped until they gave it to the one it was marked for. Without exception, each unselfishly put the needs of a sibling or cousin before their own.

Although they enjoy their candy and were excited to collect all they could, none were concerned about losing out by helping another. Without meaning to, they reminded us of what is important.

The Bible says “and little children will lead them.” That was certainly the case at our home that day. Little did I know that the combination of children and candy would remind me to do unto others as I would have them do to me.

People should be concerned about others and not just about themselves. (1 Corinthians 10:24 GWT)

How Do You Use Your Chopsticks?

#inspiration, lesson, feed your neighbourMany years ago my mother told me a story that came from Korea. This story has been on my mind so I’m sharing it with you.

Once upon a time a man set out to find a place where, he’d been told, lived the happiest people in the world.” When he came to the gates of a large city, he was met by a guide who took him to a house bearing the name “The House of Happiness.”

Just before they knocked at the door the guide asked if the man would like to first visit a house on the opposite side of the street. They went across. This house had a sign over the doorway which said, “The House of Sorrow.” Inside there was a large room, with a table running down the middle, loaded with food of every description. Around the table sat some very sad, hungry-looking people.

“Can’t they eat?” the man asked.

“Oh yes,” replied his guide, “But our custom forbids that anyone should pick up food with his hands, so everyone who arrives is given a pair of chopsticks. Even then it isn’t easy, for, as you can see, these chopsticks are five feet long. In fact, the people you see here are hungry and sad because they are not able to get the food to their mouths with such long chopsticks.”

The man and his guide went away, crossed the road, and entered the other house – “The House of Happiness.” Inside was a similar room, with a table down the center, laden with food. The people sitting around it looked well fed and happy. The man noticed that they, too, had 5 foot long chopsticks.

“How is it,” he asked the guide, “that these people have managed to feed themselves?”

The guide explained. “These people are well fed because they use their own chopsticks to feed their neighbour. So each feed the other, and all are satisfied.”

This simple story still resounds with me because of the lessons it presents. I can picture the people who did and didn’t use their chopsticks well. Will I be selfish or do what I can to help others? The quality of my life depends on how I use my chopsticks.

My Olympic Lesson

#God, #inspiration, Support, guidance, pace myself“I never thought watching a bicycle road race would be interesting,” I said to my husband. The 136.9 km race was well underway when I sat down to watch this Olympic event.

After a steep climb two riders were clearly in the lead. When they started the descent, one pulled away. As her lead increased the commentators said she would be hard to beat. With 10.7 km to go, Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands crashed. She went down hard and didn’t move for quite some time. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for her competitors to ride past as medics tended to her.

Maria Abbott of the USA moved into first place. We watched her maintain her lead until the final few kilometers. A group of three behind slowly decreased the distance between them and passed her in the final meters before the finish line. She gave it all she had but finished out of the medals by mere seconds.

It wasn’t the front runners who won the medals, but the ones who paced themselves. They held back slightly during the race so they’d have the energy to finish strong. They were also the ones who stayed together and shared emotional support during this grueling exercise.

I realized there was a lesson here for me. Many times I’ve had a strong start and then faltered before I reached the finish line. Sometimes I’ve plodded slowly up a steep learning curve. Once I have the required knowledge and am on the descent I try to make up for lost time. As I speed to the finish line I encounter an unexpected bump and down I go. It may be a stumble that I recover from easily. Or, it may be a spectacular crash.

The more time I spend on the ground assessing my disappointment and injured pride, the greater the chance I will admit defeat. Instead of getting back into the race I question why I ever entered it in the first place. In effect, I beat myself.

My objective should not be to set goals that I reach in my own strength. I want to run with endurance the race God has set before me. Instead of trying to speed ahead, I need to follow the pace he dictates. Sometimes that includes slowing down. Part of my preparation must be quiet time spent with God. That’s where the true training comes from. I’ve learned he will guide me and place me with others for mutual support. Together we will advance into the writers he wants us to be. This is how I can hope to achieve the prize of bringing glory to him.

I heard a sports commentator say that in order to be winners, athletes have to believe they belong with the best. That goes for me as well. As a child of God I am already a member of the winning team.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)

What Should You Wear?

Jesus, inspiration, faith, peace, compapssionDo you ever look at all the clothes in your closet and tell yourself you have nothing to wear? No matter how much you have, nothing seems appropriate.

I’ve recently discovered that my choice of apparel or accessories is not as important as I once thought. Unable to decide which pair of earring looked better with my outfit I chose to wear one of each. This kind of spontaneity is unusual for me and I waited for the comments that were sure to come.

Imagine my surprise when my departure from the norm was not noticed. This was a valuable lesson that I am not the center of attention!

More than what I wear, it is my heart and attitude that people notice. My goal should never be to draw attention to myself. Instead I want my life to reflect the light and love of Jesus. To do this I need to wear peace, faith and compassion. These are appropriate for every occasion.

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25 NLT)

Too Many Voices

Jesus, inspiration,  filter, clearIt was unlike any other team building exercise I’ve been part of.

The objective was to remove an object from the centre of a large circle without stepping into the circle. The resources available for us to use were placed on the ground. The only instructions were that the person handling any of the resources had to be blindfolded and each blindfolded person needed someone with them to be their eyes. Other than that it was up to us.

One of the biggest challenges came when too many people started calling out instructions. The blindfolded person had no idea if it was them being spoken to. Instructions needed to be given very clearly. “Move this way” meant nothing to someone who could not see.

The goal was only achieved after the clear, authoritative voice of one person had everyone working together.

This exercise had many lessons to teach me. The first one was that racing off without a plan is not effective. That one was fairly obvious.

More important was realizing how many voices I can be subject to when setting out to reach my goals. Some are well meaning, but don’t have my answers. Others are negative, saying my goal is unachievable. Not all of these voices are audible. My own negative thoughts and self-doubts are a very large part of this process.

Just as the blindfolded person needed to trust the one with vision that was guiding and keeping them safe, I will benefit from one or two who ‘have my back.’

Too many voices cause confusion. I need to be able to filter out the ones that are not useful. The most important voice of all is the one strong, clear voice that speaks with authority and confidence. For me this is the voice of Jesus. He seems the total picture without hampered vision. He also knows exactly where I need to go and the best way to get there.

When I am in confusion with too many voices giving me advice, I need to stop and call out to Jesus. He will never lead me astray.

My sheep respond to my voice, and I know who they are. They follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will never be lost, and no one will tear them away from me. (John 10:27-28 GWT)

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