“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!

“Be Still and Know That I Am God”

I stood in the snow, looking over the banks of the river. The low temperatures had caused the surface of the water to freeze overnight. It looked as if the river had stood still.

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I am often amazed at how the water continuously flows, every second of every day. But today it looked as if it had come to a complete halt. It was an unusual yet beautiful scene. Our church services had been canceled due to the snow squall that had blown in with blizzard-like force the night before, the winds whipping across the road so fiercely that it was making our commute back home almost impossible. But with the morning came warmer temperatures, calm air and blue skies. I ventured out with my camera to capture the scene that had been created overnight. I had my quiet time with God along the river, crunching through the snow. I spoke with Him and told Him I was open to whatever He wanted me to know.

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Then I began to think about the stillness of the water. It seemed calm on the surface but there was still so much going on underneath. The river still flowed. I couldn’t see it but I could hear the ice cracking as the water below kept moving. I immediately compared this to my relationship with God. So many times, it seems as if He is unnervingly still and quiet. I want to hear from Him and yet it seems as if He is nowhere to be found. It is in those times that I have to remember that He is still working in me and for me. I may not always see it, just as I couldn’t see the water moving but He still working behind the scenes and below the surface to keep His plan for my life in motion. It is in those moments that I must be the one to be still and know that He is God.

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“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

“Zoom Out”

In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” -Proverbs 3:5-6

Take a look at this picture. What do you see? Ugly, dead tree branches? A barren tree in winter? With no lush green leaves sprouting from it, it isn’t much to look at.

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But what if I show you the whole picture? What do you see now? Yes the tree is weathered and worn but can you see the beauty and uniqueness in that? It is still standing firm in its foundation. The ocean at its base makes for a beautiful scene. The  wind, salt water and erosion have taken their toll, but through it all, it still stands.

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Many times we go through beaten and battered times in our lives. We wonder why and often question God’s motives. But we are only seeing a tiny part of the picture. Like the first photo, we see something ordinary and not so amazing. But if we “zoom out” and see the bigger picture as God does we can see that there is more to our struggles than we imagine and that we can persevere by trusting in God and knowing that His picture for our lives contains much more than we can comprehend.

Don’t look at the ugly parts (the dead tree branches) of your life and forget to focus on what God has in store. Look at the whole picture and see the beauty in the fight.