“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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“Open The Door And Smile”

Over the course of the last few months, I cannot tell you how many times I have read or heard mention of the story of Mary and Martha from the Bible. Today, I was sent an email that once again recounted this story. I am beginning to think God is telling me to take a hint. So after reading it today I decided to write about it because it definitely relates to me on many levels and makes me think that maybe my mother should have named me Martha!

Mary and Martha were two sisters who were visited by Jesus.

“She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ” Luke 10: 39-42

So here is how I picture it. (Ladies, I know you can relate to this. We have all been there.) Jesus and his disciples drop by for a visit and Martha asks them in. I imagine at this point she is looking around wondering if the house is clean enough. If only she would have had time to sweep! She then starts to prepare the meal. What will she fix? Oh, visitors on such short notice. While she is busy slaving and sweating over the food preparations she looks over and sees Mary just sitting there at Jesus’ feet. Well how dare her! Just look at her, lazy woman just plopped herself down in the floor and is not even thinking about lifting a finger to help me! And here I am busy in the kitchen. Hair falling in my face, clothes a wreck. (I imagine there is eye-rolling, huffing and puffing and hands on hips at this point.) Martha has worked herself into such a frenzy worrying about every little thing that she tells Jesus, “Do you not see me over here diligently preparing the meal while my sister just sits there? Make her help me!” But Jesus tells her simply that she is too anxious and worried. Mary is happy and content and he will not disturb her.

The Bible doesn’t say what Martha’s response was. Did she throw her hands in the air and stomp off? Did she hang her head in shame and agree with what Jesus revealed to her? I would like to think it left a lasting impression on her.

I am a “Martha”. Worrying over every little thing. I panic when someone stops by to visit and  the house is not in perfect order, instead of being pleased that someone thought enough of us to visit. I need to open the door and smile. Not do a quick glance behind me to see if everything is in place. This should be my aspiration in all areas of my life. There are moments that I spend more time in an anxious state of mind than in the presence of God, in peace and serenity. I shamefully admit that. I need to constantly “choose my part…the good part” that God has laid out for me. It is mine and it is there for the taking anytime I desire. It is my goal to be Mary in a Martha world. A world where life is fast-paced, busy, always in motion. I want to slow down and concentrate on the things that have the most meaning. Life will be much simpler when I do.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

“Come Unto Me”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” ~ Matthew 11:28

I am excited to write this blog today. I have so much to share! So I apologize in advance for the length. I’m sure it will end up being rather long but I have a story to tell about how amazing God works in my life and last night was no exception. So here it goes….

A few weeks ago we started attending a different church. I am familiar with everyone at this church because there are five churches on our “charge”. I have always attended the one closest to me. We all share the same pastor and we often have activities that involve everyone in all five churches. I felt the need to worship at this new church because I needed a change and it seemed to be best for Callie as well. Greg and I enjoy it very much and can relate to the Sunday school teacher in a more positive way. This teacher is the amazing Sharon D. Amazing!… because she is a godly woman who walks with the light of God shining through her no matter what she is doing, whether it be organizing an Easter egg hunt or teaching a Sunday school lesson.

So on to my story. The churches have been holding women’s meetings recently and I hadn’t been to one yet but decided earlier in the week that I would attend last night’s meeting. However, on Tuesday I started feel anxious. Anxiety had invited itself back into my daily routine. I don’t know why. But there it was, the nervousness, the phantom chest pains, shortness of breath. I was starting to worry…. here I go again. Is this going to last? Will it develop into a full blown attack? It continued through yesterday and by the evening, I just didn’t know if I could make it to the women’s meeting. I didn’t want to have an anxiety attack in church of all places. But Greg encouraged me to go. He said “It’ll be good for you. Go and just have fun.” So off I went, praying all the way that he was right and for God to give me strength and bring me peace of mind.

I arrived and took my seat. Still nervous. No one probably noticed but I was already deciding how I would make my graceful exit if I felt like I couldn’t stay. Then I noticed that the lady who was in charge of last night’s meeting wasn’t there and Sharon was there running around getting everything set up. She announced that she would be leading the meeting (that she had an idea for another meeting in mind anyway and would just use it) in the other lady’s absence.

This is where I realized that God was working for me last night. Sharon’s meeting was all about how women have too much stress in their lives and how we can cope and use different methods to relax and let go of worry. I could have fallen out of my seat. How I needed that! We had sweet smelling candles lit, soft music playing, hot tea and we meditated on verses or quotes that had a special meaning in our lives. Then we did relaxation techniques and focused on how to relax ourselves not just in general but for when we start our prayers so that we can give our entire focus to God during that time.

We were told to sit and pray and just be calm and let ourselves relax but I wanted to just shout and say “Praise you God! You knew what I needed and you brought me to it.” Think about this…it was the first meeting I had attended, I almost didn’t go because I was so worried about my anxiety, then Sharon has to lead the meeting in someone’s absence and the meeting was exactly about everything I needed.  I ended up leaving there more relaxed and with a joy in my heart knowing that God was working behind the scenes to give me peace and to show me that He still has my best interest in mind…even as I doubted it when my anxiety level had went up.

To top off the evening, as I drove home I looked up at the sky and there was a cloud forming into the shape of a heart…I snapped a picture (above) with my cell phone just before it started to fall apart. The pic is not so great but had to share it anyway. It was just another “love note” from God.

“Battle Scars”

I have what I like to call “battle scars”. There are a couple obvious ones that can be seen on my body and there are the unseen ones that have left a mark on my heart, my soul and my mind.

One of the more obvious ones is the eight inch scar on my left side from having my kidney removed nine years ago. I was embarrassed by it at first but then I realized that it really is a symbol of a time in my life where I persevered through something major. I worked hard to recover and heal and God was by my side.

The other obvious one is a tattoo of a horse, his hair blowing in the wind as if he is running free. I chose this as a battle scar, a reminder that I had the courage to break free from an emotionally unhealthy relationship…that I was born free and will not be controlled. No fear. No fences. No reins. Like the wild mustangs I love so much. God was there also during this battle, with his hand on my back pushing me toward a new life where I would be safe and happy. I literally felt His hand on my back as I waged this war.

But this newest battle I have faced doesn’t show any physical signs from the outside. I love this quote I read today:

“What are these scars from?” she asked. “They’re battle wounds,” I replied. She looked at me for a long time. “Who were you battling?”
“Myself”

Yet God is with me, His hand on my back, pushing me again. Get up. Look up. Trust Me. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Be still. Know that I am God.

Any battle you face can be won with God’s help. He is your armor, your protection. Without prayer, without relying on God, our efforts at spiritual warfare are useless. I can’t imagine anyone going through any type of struggle and not believing in God. He is where I turn in times of need. I know how powerful His healing is. I have felt it. I praise Him…even in the storm, in the battle, because I know He is the answer.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes ~ Ephesians 6:10