Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Matter of Focus

This past Sunday, Easter Sunday, my pastor asked me to give a testimony about how God's resurrection power had changed my life. I was saved at the age of 30, when, after falling to the bottom of a pit of hopelessness, I was rescued by the love and grace of Jesus. Perhaps at some point, I'll put my testimony here, but that's not the point of this post.

I absolutely love to talk about Christ has changed my life, and so agreeing to give my testimony in church, in front of the Easter crowd, wasn't difficult for me. The difficult part was that I was supposed to keep it between 3-5 minutes! Those who know me know I can't even start to tell a story in less than 5 pastor knows it too, but he says that, hoping I'll at least try to be doesn't really work.

Anyway, I prayed that God would use my testimony to touch someone else's heart, maybe someone who was in that sort of despair I used to feel, who needed to feel the love of Christ. What I didn't realize was how God would use my testimony to speak to me!

I've had a lot of struggles lately, and have felt like satan, while he'll never win the war, has been pretty dominant on the battlefield of my life recently. Health struggles, INSURANCE struggles (the devil came up with America's health insurance plan, you know...mostly kidding, please don't send me angry emails if you work for a health insurance company!!), the rebellion of a teenager, enormous medical bills, house repair issues, braces for another teenager, broken arms, a drunk driver totaling my son's car and causing him medical problems for months, and just the daily life a single mom trying to keep all the balls in the air...and that's just over the last 8 months or so!!

As I spoke on Sunday, I was reminded of how powerful God really IS, and how much He really has changed me--how faithful He has been to see me through every single struggle I've faced...and if He has already seen me through all these years, and brought me through them stronger in my faith than ever, then I have to trust that He is also faithful to see me through anything I face now, or anything in my future. A rebellious son? God knew that was gonna happen way, way before I did...He's not surprised, and He's not worried. My health? God knows what's wrong with me, and He's allowing everything for a reason. And since His plans for me are for my good, I can trust Him.

We will always have problems in this life, but how we manage to get through these struggles really comes down to two things, and they are dependent on one another:
Where your focus is
Where your trust is

I can focus on my problems--and I've got plenty of them to look at! But when I do that, they become bigger and bigger, and it seems like that's all there is...just problems everywhere! And as I dwell on them, I become very negative in my thinking, and much more vulnerable to the attacks of satan on my emotions.
But when I choose instead to focus on God--well, the problems become secondary...they're still there, but they don't have the hold on me they did before.
One of the best ways for me to focus on God is to focus on His Word...when I start to worry or think negatively, I purposely replace those thoughts with Scripture that reminds me of the Truth...
Worried about the rebellion of a child? "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Prov 22:6)
Worried about how to make ends meet? "But my God shall supply ALL your needs, according to HIS riches in glory." (Phil 4:19)
Facing a seemingly impossible situaton? I love this one..."unto Him who is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all we can think or imagine, according to the power that worketh in us,..."(Eph 3:20) or simply "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Gen 18:14)
I could go on and on (and I usually do...) but you get the point. Rick Warren says the only difference between worrying and meditating is what you are focusing on!

I think I'll make the issue of where our trust is a whole separate post, so look for it tomorrow. Today, though, I issue a challenge:
Commit whatever problems you are facing to God...even if you don't see HOW He's gonna handle them, He will.
Then--try to "catch" yourself thinking negatively, focusing on a problem...and when it happens, purposely choose to replace that thought with a Scripture, a promise to God that reminds you that the truth is that God's got it under control.
My guess is that by the end of the day, you'll begin to see a difference in your outlook!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Little Leverage

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted an entry. Much has happened in my life since the last time I blogged, and most of it I may never post about...suffice it to say, God evidently has an interesting year planned for me, a plan for pushing me out of any last comfort zone I still had, and for stretching my faith beyond what I thought would be the snapping point.

But, I can honestly say, as Paul did, that I am "perplexed, but not in despair...cast down, but not destroyed." I have encountered some struggles recently I hoped I would never, ever have, but I have also encountered the mighty hand of God, the incredible support of a loving church family, and of course, my wonderful friends who hold me up when I collapse!

One day recently, when I was praying about a particularly distressing problem that I felt incapable of handling, I read this passage (Ephesians 1:17-20):
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms."

There are so, so many incredible things about this passage, but what particularly struck me that day was this last little bit. His incomparably great power is available for us who believe--okay, that's great, but I gotta admit. I often have trouble wrapping my little pea-sized brain around what that really implies, just how much power that really is that's available.
The next sentence just blows me away: "That power"--that is, that "incomparably great power" that we can know by experience when we believe--is the very same power He exerted when He RAISED Christ from the DEAD!! Now, THAT'S Power!

And suddenly, there was an image in my head: I was standing there, looking at a giant rock, a gi-normous probably weighed several TONS. And it was in a place that I needed to get it HAD to be moved...BY ME. And there I was, staring at this gargantuan rock, preparing to use a lever to move it out of the way. Only my "lever" was a stick...a fine stick, to be sure, but a stick nonetheless...a piece of wood, weighing probably a few ounces at best.
Now, I remember my science well enough to know that a lever is a simple machine that helps us do work. A lever can help you move a rock out of the way MUCH more easily than you could do by sheer muscle.
But a lever has its limits. And a small stick is simply no match for a giant boulder. So there I am, trying to wedge this little stick between the enormous rock and the ground, and then Puuuuussssshhhh it up...and, of course, it broke...

So now, I had a gi-normous rock and NO lever. And I started to look about for another stick, when I saw had been right behind me all along, and I have no idea how I could have missed it, but I had. It was an absolutely humongous piece of power a lever on steroids, and then some. And I looked at the equipment operator, and at my giant rock, and I said..."no, it's okay, really, I've got this one...I can move it myself, I just need to find a bit bigger stick."

Now, remember this was all just an image in my head (don't you feel sorry for my head just about now?). But as I "came to," I realized how absolutely foolish I must have seemed to that equipment operator, trying to move that enormous rock with a completely useless stick when he was RIGHT THERE with a tool that could have made that rock move like IT was the little stick!

And I realized, THAT'S the kind of power we're talking about here...the power that could toss a multi-ton rock like a twig.

The rock was, of course, all the problems I grapple with and try to "move" out of the way, all on my own. The power equipment is right there waiting, but I gotta be willing to get out of the way and quit trying to do it myself.
Another bit of this analogy that I just really began to see as I typed it up is this: the power equipment was there all along, ready and waiting to take care of the need...BUT using it would require not only giving up my own futile efforts, but giving control of the situation over to the equipment operator. See, there's no way I could have climbed up into that equipment and figured out how to correctly USE it...but I was welcome to climb aboard and join him as he easily moved my rock.

So, quit trying to handle life with nothing but your own power; give your problems and crises over to the One who has the best power equipment there ever was..stuff so powerful, it defeated death itself!!

One caveat, by the way...sometimes the problems don't just go fact, to be honest, my big rock is still sitting right where it was, it hasn't been moved an inch. But my perspective on it is changing...because when I gave it over to the equipment operator, the expert, He said, "oh, you don't want to move that rock right now, because it would do more harm than good. Let's leave it right where it is until it's really TIME to move it, and then I'll just pick it up and get out of the way for you..." So, even though it's still there, I'm not worried over it anymore, because I know the Master Planner has it all worked out.

Well, as I reread this post, I can only hope that you have gotten a sense of the message God gave me, and not just a sense that I may be a deeply disturbed all made sense to ME, really it did!!

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" Ephesians 3:20