“Looking Outward and Upward”

This is a post that was previously written in April of 2013. I had talked to someone about the book mentioned in the post and felt God nudging me to repost it. Maybe someone needs this encouragement today.

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“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – C.S. Lewis

I told someone yesterday that I was convinced the universe was against me this week. Today I feel selfish and foolish for saying that. Yes, this week has been stressful. It seems that everything I tried to do went in the exact opposite direction that I had planned. Every single day held a struggle. (You know it’s bad when more than once a day someone looks at you and says “Are you okay? You look tired/stressed/wore-out/sleepy”)

So I prayed. I prayed for understanding. For a way to step outside of these things going on inside of me and just realize that they aren’t as bad as they seem.  A way to strengthen my faith once again. When compared to what has gone on in our country the past week, I knew that what I was dealing with was insignificant. But at the moment I just couldn’t pull myself away from my little pity party.

So this morning, I read the quote above from C.S. Lewis. I loved it! Then I recalled someone telling me about a book that C.S. Lewis had written in 1942, called The Screwtape Letters. I thought the name sounded very odd and wasn’t sure it was something I would want to read. I didn’t think much about it again until today and so I looked it up on Amazon. As it goes, there is a “senior devil” and a “junior devil”. The senior’s job is to teach the junior how to turn his “patient”, a newly saved Christian away from God, whom he refers to as the “enemy”.  The letters to his new student, describe perfectly  what you are to do if you do not intend to live your life as God has planned.

I began to read some quotes from it. This one in particular hit home with me:

If this fails, you MUST fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves.”

Exactly what I had been doing all week. I was questioning God’s plan. I was turning my gaze away from Him and looking inward instead of outward and upward. Upward toward the One who holds all the answers. It’s easy to worry and stress over the things that are out of our control. I know that more than once this week I threw my hands up to the sky and said “How much more do you think I can take?!” I feel horrible for having done that. But in the moment, it was what I was feeling. I realize that I am not here to question anything. I am a servant of God. I am here to love Him. To love those around me and to spread kindness and comfort to others. To share His word and my faith. It is a constant work in progress. It’s not easy, I have to admit. Sometimes the easiest path is the one that takes you down a road of anger, pity and tears. But where does it lead? Nowhere. It’s a dead end. The hardest road is the one that causes you to look at yourself through God’s eyes and see where your thoughts truly lie. Then take that road anyway, brush yourself off and simply trust. I guarantee that road is not a dead end.

I think The Screwtape Letters will be my next read. I’ll let you know how that turns out. And if anyone has read it I’d love to hear what you think!

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“A Little Boy Named Noah”

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Our little piece of Southwest Virginia has been reeling recently from the death of a little red-headed boy named Noah. Noah was reported missing by his mother on a Sunday, nearly two weeks ago. After a five day search, his body was found in the septic tank of his home. His body was laid to rest on Wednesday and yesterday, his parents were arrested for abuse and neglect of Noah and his baby sister. No further information has been released as to his cause of death. That is expected in a few weeks. A sad ending to a beautiful life that has touched so many hearts.

Teachers, family and friends of Noah described the five year old as having an infectious laugh and sweet smile. He loved sports and spider man, like most little boys. I have also heard that he dearly loved his little sister.

I began thinking about how many people have been touched by this little boy. How so many people helped search for him and prayed for him. I began to wonder if he had known this type of love and care in his short five years. I began to wonder if he was hugged often and told how special he was. I hope and pray that he was. I don’t know these things but I do know this. He is in a place now where the love he feels is overwhelming. He is being held by the One who created him. He is with the grandparents who went before him. He is not hurting or suffering.

The death of a child is not something we easily comprehend, especially if it could have been prevented. But in this case, I wondered if maybe God saw little Noah’s need for that remarkable love and He decided that He would give it to him a little early. Maybe he saw that the baby sister he adored needed to be saved and this would ensure that. I don’t have the answers, but take comfort in knowing God is holding Noah, like so many other little ones who became angels much too soon.

Having said that, I ask of you this:

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Pay attention to those around you who look like they are struggling. If you know of a parent who is barely staying afloat or a child who looks as their home life isn’t just right, do something.

Prevent Child Abuse America gives these tips on their website about how you can help:

  1. Be a friend to a parent you know. Ask how their children are doing. Draw on your own experiences to provide reassurance and support. If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to baby-sit or run errands, or just lend a friendly ear. Show you understand.
  2. Be a friend to a child you know. Remember their names. Smile when you talk with them. Ask them about their day at school. Send them a card in the mail. Show you care.
  3. Talk to your neighbors about looking out for one another’s children. Encourage a supportive spirit among parents in your apartment building or on your block. Show that you are involved.
  4. Give your used clothing, furniture and toys for use by another family. This can help relieve the stress of financial burdens that parents sometimes take out on their kids.
  5. Volunteer your time and money for programs in your community that support children and families, such as parent support groups, child care centers, and our state chapters and local Healthy Families America sites.
  6. Advocate for public policies, innovative programs and issues that benefit children and families.

And if you are that parent who can’t seem to cope, there is always, always help and there is no shame in asking. Talk to a friend, a family member or a pastor. Just let someone know you need help.