“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!

“You Survived”

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What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23

 This morning as I was opening a book that I carry with me, a piece of paper fell out. It was a copy of an email from a dear friend of mine. As always, the words were beautiful, inspiring and encouraging. I hadn’t read it in a while and one sentence caught my attention :

“The battle is over but the memories will have to be rearranged to the back of your mind and this is where God’s gift must be fully internalized…………………..YOU SURVIVED.”

This was a while before the full-on panic attacks had started and she was speaking of another time and another battle but I realized that it could easily be used in the terms of that struggle as well. As with any type of situation that causes us grief, pain, disappointment or fear, the lingering thoughts of that time will sometimes resurface and pull you back into a place where it seems as if you are reliving it all over again. This is especially true of anyone who has faced anxiety or panic attacks. We all know that the memories of the way that moment felt are what cause you to stay in a constant state of fear.

You really do have to rearrange those memories to the back of your mind. It takes a lot of will power and a ton of faith but it is do-able. I am proof. I think often of the worst days. I don’t let them linger very long though. I shuffle them back to where they belong and replace them with praise for the One who brought me through the fire, refined and strengthened.

If you are struggling, if your battle is all uphill, I encourage you to simply call out His name. Let Him show you how mighty and powerful He is.

And if your battle seems to be over, yet the memories are haunting you, replace them with thoughts of praise and thanksgiving. Prioritize your thoughts and bring God to the forefront. Remember that with Him, YOU SURVIVED.

“I Trust You”

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Once upon a time I had this conversation. I hope that if you are reading this and feeling like the trials of life are too much to bear, then you will realize that this is what God has to offer you and He truly is in control. Bless Him even in your storms. You CAN make it through.
Why am I here?

I brought you here.

 But why? I don’t like it here. It’s different and frightening at times.

 There’s no reason to be afraid.

But I feel weak here. I have always been so strong. I can handle anything. I can’t handle this. This is way beyond my limits.

When you are weak, I am your strength. I brought you here to show you how to trust Me. You are indeed strong enough at times but I need to make some changes in you.

But why does it have to be this way? Can’t it be done differently? Isn’t there an easier way?

 If it were easy, you wouldn’t have any need for Me. You wouldn’t know what I was capable of.

 What did I do to deserve this?

 I am not vengeful. The only thing I give you that you deserve is My never-ending love. If you are to be all that I would have you to be, you must accept these changes. You will like the outcome. Just be patient. You are made for so much more, but I must tweak the things within you that will make you more like Me.

 It’s hard to let go of those things. Where is the old me?

 The “old you” was fine in many ways, but the new you will be so much better. The things that wear on your nerves will polish your soul. Like a diamond made perfect by tremendous heat and pressure, these trials will refine you.

 I don’t know if I can do this.

 Draw your strength from Me. Fully rely on Me. Press on, even when it is hard. Keep your mind focused on Me and on becoming more like Me. Stay active. Focus on those around you and not on what your mind is telling you to think or feel. Together we can do this.

What if I fail?

Don’t be discouraged or feel ashamed. I see the real you and I love you just the same. So do those around you.There may be setbacks but you will prevail if you continue to follow Me.

Thank you.

Continue to thank Me for all that you go through and the blessings will continue to rain down. It may seem as if you have been forgotten but you haven’t. Stay conscious of My presence and eventually you will learn to enjoy this journey that you are on. It will become easier and more peaceful. Peace is the greatest gift I can give to you.

I trust You.

That’s all I need you to do. I will take care of the rest.

 And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit – 2 Corinthians 3:18

“I Will Not Be Hindered By Lies”

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January. This month has been haunting me for quite a while. It was January of last year that my panic attacks hit me hard, completely debilitating me. I never really figured out why but I keep thinking to myself, “If I can make it through January (and then February) I will be okay”. So far, I am trying to simply be more optimistic and smile even when I don’t feel like it, laugh when I’m not sure it’s in me and force myself to do something positive even when it’s hard. And as I go, I find myself feeling better. But this morning I realized that isn’t enough. God made it known to me that in the fear I was facing and associating with this month, I still wasn’t trusting in Him as I should be.

I will be honest, there are a lot of times when I know He wants to walk side by side with me but I act like a toddler with a temper tantrum, wanting things my own way and screaming, “Not right now…I don’t wanna!” No, I don’t really do that but you get the picture.

Then there are the moments I do stroll alongside Him but I’m like a sixteen year-old with an iPhone. Head down, only looking up occasionally to say “Huh? What did you say?” Not fully involved in the conversation or appreciating the friend who is willing to “hang out” with me.

So I prayed about these things this morning and God led me to Ephesians 6: 10-12 (Amplified Bible):

10” In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].

11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.

12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere”

From this I understand that the enemy wants nothing more than to remind me that January was bad for me last year. He wants me to believe that this month is cursed and that I will not make it through. But with these words from God I know that I can continue on the journey that He has me on. That I will fulfill whatever He has in store for me through the struggles I overcome on a daily basis. I will not be hindered by lies, deceit and strongholds, whose only purpose is to distort or confuse my thinking. Any lie, with our permission, will gain control of our emotions and change our behavior. These things do not come from God.

But these things do:

22 But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness,

23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. – Galatians 5: 22-23

What are you facing today? Whatever it is, please let these powerful verses speak to you. Personally I am writing them down and carrying them with me this month : )