Flashlight of Floodlight

I used to think I wanted the floodlight view of my life — the view where I get to see the big picture including where my family will live, who my kids will marry, and where we will retire. At times, I believed I actually had the floodlight view! Boy, was I mistaken!

The reality is I only get the flashlight view of my life. As I walk on the path before me, the flashlight provides only enough light to see the next step. Sometimes even that next step seems risky, but at least it’s just one step. I don’t get to see into the future and all that will happen after that step because if I could, maybe I wouldn’t have the courage to take the next step at all! Maybe that floodlight view would keep me frozen, overwhelmed with all that comes down the path.2mza2rr

There are days when I still struggle with this flashlight view and wish to see more. Other days, I’m glad I couldn’t see down the path too far. It is good to know that it’s just one step at a time. Living in worry of the future or “what ifs” from the past is an easy way to miss the moment and the promises of today.

Today, I accept the reality of the flashlight view. I take the next step that produces perseverance — perseverance that produces character and character that produces hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured his love into our hearts. (Romans 5:3-4)

3 Questions to Help You to Live Selfless in a Selfie World

How to Live Selfless in a Selfie World

It’s official. “Selfie” has been added to the Oxford Dictionary: A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn’t necessary. Oscars selfie

Recently, I read a blog about how a selfie is always a little distorted. People tend to look a little too close or out of proportion. I’m often struck by how not only the image is distorted, but also the subject. Most selfies portray people at their best, in a great location, or doing something exciting. I’ve yet to see a selfie of someone rolling out of bed, hair in all directions, eyes still swollen shut. Selfies tend to distort our reality by showing only the best parts of life.

Navigating the world of selfies is especially challenging for those who claim to look at Jesus as their role model for how to live. Jesus happens to be the most selfless character I can think of. Imagine the selflessness needed for the King of Kings to leave his throne in heaven and take on the form of a tiny helpless baby. He lived in a humble home growing up and worked as a carpenter before launching into his ministry. Even in his ministry, he wandered town to town, visiting the poorest areas and people. He didn’t build himself a beautiful platform and expect others to come to him. He was looking for those who were lost, those who needed healing, those who were willing to receive the gift he had for them.

I remember a sermon I heard as a junior high student when the pastor asked us what kind of glass we preferred – a mirror or a window. The point was to think about how often we look at ourselves and use our time and energy concerned about our own appearance or the time we spend looking out at the beautiful world God has created and the people he designed us to be in relationship with. Looking in the mirror isn’t all bad, but I realized at this self focused age I would miss a lot of life if I spent too much time looking in the mirror instead of out the window—both literally and metaphorically.

I think the selfie fad can be as harmless as looking in a mirror if kept in balance. Even the definition of selfie includes the disclaimer that “occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn’t necessary.” Selfies seem to be most popular with the self focused population of teens so I wonder if encouraging teens to ask a few simple questions could help them live selfless in a selfie world.

Before taking or posting a selfie ask:

Who will see this picture? Will someone get their feelings hurt if they see me in this picture here knowing they were not invited? Is this picture appropriate for others to see? Would I show this picture to — my mom or dad, my grandparent or some other person I respect?

Why do I want to post picture? Am I posting this to get a laugh and have fun? Am I posting this so to change my image or impress others? Am I hoping to see how many “like” my picture so I feel better about myself?

Does this picture reflect who I am?  Is this a distortion of who I am most of the time? Am I reflecting my true character that is important to me? Is it self-inflating or deflating? How does it show who I am in Christ?

I’m sure there are many more brilliant questions out there that would help teens and all of us navigate this new world of selfies. What are your suggestions? It may be as simple as which direction is your camera focused on more, yourself or others?

Read, Apply, Repeat

Remember the directions on a shampoo bottle: Wash, rinse, repeat? Well, it seems that I am at a time in life where God is repeating some past lessons. It’s time for me to Read, Apply, Repeatshampoo

The Larson family just made a major move from our home of nine years in Minnesota to Colorado. I have been amazed how God has gone before us and prepared a place for us. We have even been blessed by meeting wonderful new families and friends for the kids.

One new friend saw from an email that I have a blog. She took the time to read some of the past entries and commented on how similar we seem to be. She referred to a blog about learning to “Live in the Moment” and another about “Lean Into It.”

The move has not gone without some bumps along the way. While we waited for four extra days for the moving truck to come with our furniture, I was struck by how I needed to choose to “live in the moment” again. When talking to a new friend who moved here from Minnesota just a year ago, I was reminded to “lean into it.”

What I’m discovering is that I can read something, apply it, and then I need to repeat the same lesson. Clearly, I had read and applied these thoughts in the past. Yet, here I am in a situation where I need to go back and read, apply, and repeat the same lesson in a new situation.

I love the idea that God is not finished with me yet. I can read, apply, and repeat and He will keep working in me.

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…Philippians 1:6  

What lesson is God repeating in your life? How can you look at it as an opportunity to grow in a positive direction instead of wishing it away?

The Grace Equation

Being intentional and being proactive are important to me. As my family settles into life in Colorado, I want to live intentionally and with purpose in our new home. My goal is to have a home where love and grace are regularly experienced. I want those who enter this home to receive love and grace and have opportunity to share it with others.

I’ve heard love talked about as something one has to have in order to give it away. There is a camp song that says this well: love-111

Love isn’t something you keep to yourself.

You can’t bury it, hide it, or store on a shelf.

Love won’t survive if it’s hidden each day,

In order to keep it, you give yours away.

I believe grace follows the same equation. If I believe that I’m doing pretty well on my own, I don’t need a lot of grace or forgiveness, I’m less likely to extend grace to others. After all, shouldn’t they be pulling their weight like me? This perfectionistic mindset shows grace to no one!

Extending grace is something that I know I don’t always do well. I can show grace for period of time, being patient and loving and then I go and blow it. Literally. I blow it with my kids or husband. The irony is now that I have blown it, I have an opportunity to seek grace from my family. My family has an opportunity to practice extending grace to me and I get to practice receiving it. Hopefully, next time someone is in need of grace I can remember the grace I’ve received and extend it again.

I love the grace of learning to live in grace! Who can you show grace to today? Is there someone you need to ask to show grace to you? In order to be a person of grace, I need to both extend and receive grace. It’s the grace equation.

The Filling Matters

It is true. I have a black thumb. I love the idea of a beautiful garden and fresh herbs. I think eating home grown vegetables is the best. This is not my reality. Instead, my garden is full weeds, enormous forgotten zucchini and tomatoes with fungus. Trust me, there will be no gardening advice found here.

Several years ago, Peter built me a lovely raised garden. He worked hard to lay pavers and build a fence to keep out the deer and rabbits. But when it came time to fill the garden, we wanted to be economical. We found a guy on Craig’s list that would bring us fill dirt for a fraction of the price. This dirt is where the fungus on the tomatoes came from.

This summer I have the joy of watching my neighbor build and plant his own garden full of vegetables and flowers. As he showed me his seedlings, he described the different types of soil that he chose based on the needs of each plant.  I’m excited to see his harvest because I have confidence that the investment in his soil will pay off with great produce. garden_soil

It occurred to me that what I choose to fill myself with is important if I want to produce fruit that is life giving and not full of impurities!  This means regularly filling myself with Gods word. Not just taking the cheap fill of someone else’s thoughts about what the Bible does or does not say. How can I hear what God has to say to me if I don’t take the time to read and reflect right from His word to me?

My goal is to produce the fruit of the Spirit and I have seen first hand, the filling matters.

God’s List

I love, love, love a to-do list! I love the feeling of setting a goal of what I’m going to do in a day and then checking each item off the list. There is a satisfaction in crossing or checking something off my list. I’m even guilty of writing obvious things like “shower” on my list, just so I have one more thing to cross off at the end of the day. Anyone else like me? to-do

Lately, there are a couple of “work” tasks that I have had a on my list that I procrastinate, avoid, or ignore. I will do everything else on the list, but these items. The bummer is that they are things I really feel God has called me to do. They are opportunities for me to use the gifts that He has given me to help others, but I really don’t enjoy them. These tasks on the list feel like “work.” These unchecked items were starting to weigh me down.

I was stuck in the “should-dos” instead of “want to dos” and it was no fun. I needed something to change. Through talking with a coach, I discovered a new way of thinking about my to-do list and it has made all the difference. Each day, I make a to-do list. This list has always felt like my to-do list for the day. Yet, my goal is to do my work for the Lord all day. I have decided to look at this list as God’s list for me; including the things that I have been avoiding.

Such a small change in my thinking has made a huge difference. No longer do I look at the items on the list as just for me. I even pray about what God would like to have me do that day. The work items still require discipline on my part, but I have a sense of joy and obedience as chip away at them. It is no longer about me just checking the item off the list (although this still feels great), but is about doing my work for the Lord.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

Willing to Be Interrupted

Sometimes in my busyness it is difficult to take time to slow down and notice when someone around me needs me. It may be one of the kids, a friend, or even my husband. At times, my “to do” list seems to be calling me and I don’t want to slow down and take the time to ask why someone is looking down let alone take the time to really listen. I don’t want to interrupt my day or flow of activity to check-in when it may require me to stop what I’m doing. The “do-er” in me doesn’t want to be interrupted by the idea of just “be-ing” with someone. If you’re a fellow do-er, this may be a good reminder for you, too.

This week I’ve been taking a closer look at the life of Joseph and saw something that I had never seen before. When Joseph was in prison, God was with him and the Bible tells us that he was given a role of responsibility in prison. I’m not sure what his job was, but in the midst of it, I see that Joseph had eyes to see others in need and that he was able to stop what he was doing and take time to be present with those who needed him. He was willing to be interrupted.

When Joseph came to them (the cupbearer and baker)the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials… “why are your faces so sad today.” Genesis 40:6-7

 I’m not sure what your mornings look like at your house, but most mornings here are quite a whirlwind. Everyone is busy hustling around trying to get dressed, brushed, prepared and packed. If someone is looking sad, it may be easy for me to not even see it! If I do see it, I may dismiss it quickly, rationalizing that I just have too much to get done to get us all out the door. If I do stop and take the time to check in, I may not have time to really listen and get my list finished. mom_hectic_morning_web

Really? I’m not proud of this. I know that God put me here for relationships — relationship with him and with my family and others. It’s embarrassing to think of the times that I am too busy to even see the needs of those around me. I miss the sad look on my child’s face or miss the lonely person standing quietly, hoping someone will say hello at Bible study. What if I took time to slow down, look around, and really see those around me. What if took time to check-in, to ask how they’re feeling and then really listen?

I’m challenging myself this week to slow down, look around and be ready to be interrupted. My goal is to “be” more and “do” less. What about you?