Listening For God

How easy is it for you to listen for God? Does Heaven seem silent at times? Do your prayers appear to hit the ceiling and just stop there? I struggled a bit to decide on this week’s blog title on whether or not I should substitute the word for with the word to.

When we get right down to it, sometimes God is speaking to us, but we just don’t like what He’s saying. We want Him to speak with neon signs or billboards or maybe in this time in history; Instagram posts or Facebook. We are waiting for these big moments in our lives that will answer our questions and prayers. We seek God for answers of what we should or should not do. What person to marry. What job to accept or decline. What home or car to buy. What to say to someone. What not to say to someone. Everything. And most of the time we hear the Holy Spirit nudging us in one direction or another. Or giving us the right words to say at the right time.

That is usually how we hear God’s direction. But sometimes for the really big decisions it just seems quiet, too quiet. Have you been there? Me too. And it can be frustrating.

I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I just wanna get it right. Not step out and find out, but more like shoot a dart and have it land perfectly on the bullseye on the first try.

Today I was reminded of the Prophet Elijah’s encounter with God. Elijah was hiding in a cave awaiting God to pass by. Reality was, he was hiding because he was scared. And lonely. He felt like he was the only one left who was following God and serving him. He was discouraged and complained to God. God told Elijah to wait and He (God) would pass by the opening to the cave. And then we are told, “A great and terrible wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.After the earthquake came fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13, NIV).

After all that, in the end God says to Elijah “What are you doing here?” Like get up stop fearing everything and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Wow.

I mean I would be done after the earthquake and wind. But yeah fire too. And then the whisper. I suspect all the other natural phenomenon was to simply get Elijah’s attention and bring him out of the cave. But, also I doubt if there was much cave left after God broke apart the mountain with wind. And poor Elijah thought he was scared of what people could do to him.

We all have those moments in our life when it does appear that our whole world is falling apart and we need God so desperately. And then something happens to us. When we get rid of all of our distractions and reduce down what really matters, when our lives are shattered and our protections are removed, we are forced out to the entrance of our own caves, and there in that moment God whispers to us. The earthquakes, windstorms and fire of our lives, get our attention and prepare us to draw nearer to God and listen.

I would prefer to do without all the storms of course to hear God. I can sometimes be stubborn like Elijah though and want the billboards and neon signs, but most of the time I am only waiting to hear from God what I want Him to say. And I always want the message on my time table, not God’s. It is at those times I have to still my soul and be quiet to listen for that gentle whisper of God. And then get up, leave the cave of waiting and go where He leads me. God Bless You – Nancy

Desiring Peace

Peace I leave with you; 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. -John 14:27, NIV

I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, my biggest desire at the moment is for peace. Peace for the world, definitely, but peace in my life as well. I believe we all are feeling angst and a bit uncertain as to what the future holds. We have come out of a world wide pandemic- or at least we are hopeful we have, but just when one difficulty passes, another seems to always take its place. It seems as if we are always on the edge of a cliff , or at the top of a roller coaster, about to plunge into the depths of difficulty, whether health, finances, war, or supply shortages.

As long as we live in the world and take a breath, this world will never be at peace for long. But, as noted in the verse above- our peace isn’t supposed to be found in this world. The peace the world gives is temporary. The peace of Jesus is different. It is His peace. But, what does that mean? In context, Jesus was addressing His disciples about events that were about to take place, namely His death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven. they were about to experience a lot of trouble- but He promised them it would be better. For He would be leaving them, but sending the Holy Spirit to comfort and teach them. We as believers also have this promise from Jesus with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as Savior.

Jesus knew the disciples would be upset with His death and would probably not fully understand what was happening so He prepared them. If you want to read the passage in context, I suggest reading the entire chapter fourteen of John’s gospel.

Chapter 14 begins “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is a powerful verse. Too often I find myself letting my heart (and my mind) wander from peace and confidence to trouble. The kind of trouble that occupies my thoughts, choking out the peace, faith and confidence that Jesus offers. To get back on track, I stop, take a breath, and pray. Then I pick up my Bible and read God’s truth. And I am reminded that He has a plan for the world. A plan that restores the world to wholeness. To bring shalom. To heal the broken relationship between man and God. To heal the land. To heal creation that suffers as well. Real peace. Amen. God bless you – Nancy

Amazed

We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.

– Paul in his letter to the Christians at Thessaloniki (Thessalonians 2:2)

What amazes you? It might seem at times that there is nothing that is amazing. Nothing that just encourages you to the point of feeling overwhelming joy and contentment. You see, I think that is a result of being amazed. We are filled with both joy and contentment. It’s difficult right now to find this joy and contentment. Or to be amazed. If you are following along with this blog, than you will recall last week’s topic of weariness. If you don’t follow, I encourage you to do so, in order for you to not miss any of the blogs. And you can join me in this journey of walking out my Christian faith through difficulties, and changes that we all face in one form or another. I try to encourage you from my own life, that while life is a challenge and is constantly moving forward, we do not have to lose heart. God is with us.

In Paul’s letter, quoted briefly above, Paul is writing to a church located in Thessolonica. He, along with Silas and Timothy, had shared the Gospel of Jesus there over the course of a three week time period, with several people responding positively to the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah, had been crucified and rose on the third day. He was their hope and salvation. However, there was a group of Jewish leaders who tried to have him thrown out of town He narrowly escaped. You can read more about this in Acts chapter 17. The message had been accepted by some, and a group of Christian believers began to meet. After a time, he sent Timothy back to encourage these new believers in their faith. He himself was not going back to avoid a riot. The believers there had also been subject to persecution for their faith and yet remained hopeful and looked forward to the return of Christ. This news brought joy to Paul and it was the reason he wrote back to them in this letter.

So, what does this have to do with being amazed? Well, like the Thessalonians, we all face struggles, difficulties and have the option to lose faith and hope. We are all the same. Human nature has not changed. But, they remained faithful.

There have been times, when I have struggled and felt like the whole world was falling apart, or at least my world. In those times, what I needed was a reminder of just how awesome God is; how amazing He is, and how this life, despite its struggles, is not falling apart, but is growing me and deepening my faith.

I can recall several times, when God has shown up in a time I was struggling. It is something small, and what others would overlook or consider a coincidence. But to me it was the greatest sign that God was with me and encouraging me to hold onto hope. To focus on His goodness, despite the bad circumstances in my life.

I remember one time, as I had left a Christian conference, not uplifted, but to be honest, I was rather discouraged. The conference had the right intentions, but the wrong motives. I had been given an insiders look into this ministry and was looking forward to someday serving in a leadership role, only to find myself very disillusioned and discouraged by what I saw behind the scenes. Though the conference was to last the entire day, I asked my husband(who was attending with me) if we could leave early, before the last session. He didn’t like the idea of leaving early, but reluctantly did for me. I recall it caused a bit of a heated discussion between us.

If you have been around churches or Christian ministries for awhile, disappointment is bound to happen. When we get more involved, we will find the flaws and truths. Sadly, this turns many away from Christianity and at least in my case, discouraged me, because I had really thought this was a legit group. Just like in Paul’s day, there are many who claim to be in ministry to serve others, but they are not, and need to be avoided. It is not just that they are people who are not perfect and sin, there are some people who are intentional defrauding others for their own benefit.

My husband and I drove away from the conference early and stopped at a nearby dollar store. If you are not familiar with these stores, in the United States we have stores that sell basic household needs for one dollar per item. The quality is not great, but if you just need something quick, it is the place to go. I cannot even remember what we were stopping to purchase, but I DO remember feeling so discouraged, hurt, angry and sad. And mostly confused. My thoughts began to rattle around in my head as my husband went off down a different aisle. I recall standing near the glasses and fighting back the tears. I did the only thing I knew to do:pray. So as I walked by those glasses, I began to pray silently, asking God to help me, to understand He was still there, to help me forgive those who had hurt me, and to ask forgiveness for myself, if I had acted wrongly towards my husband or others, by leaving the conference early. I barely notice as someone passed by me with a cart loaded with items, and handed me a piece of paper. It was a Gospel tract with the photo of a rose on the front with the words “You’re Special” printed just above the rose.

I’ll be honest I was scared to look up, or turn around. I knew it had been from God, and frankly I expected to see an angel in disguise, pushing that cart. When I did gather my wits about me and turn around, they were gone. No one in the store with a loaded down cart, ANYWHERE. Yeah, God showed up. and amazed me with His care and concern. I still can’t believe it, except for the fact that I have that little Gospel tract to this day. Oh, I’m sure there are some who would doubt the identity of my fellow shopper, but it doesn’t matter, I believe God uses whatever means to deliver messages of hope.

I think He continues to do this, but we are the ones who don’t notice. I had another amazing incident recently, but not so dramatic. It required me to do some research, but once I had, I was once again amazed by God. He answered my prayers, but not in the large demonstrations, but in small ways. I had almost overlooked it, it appeared so insignificant. I wonder how many times God has answered our prayers, but we fail to notice, because we are not seeing what He has done. We need to look for the amazing. Looking for God’s handiwork in our lives.

Paul was filled with joy as he wrote, not because he recalled his own difficulty there, but that there had been fruit form his preaching, “You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.” verse 1 chapter two. He was amazed by what God had done there through the Holy Spirit. He could have focused on his own life threatening experience, but chose instead to see God’s hand at work.

Struggles and difficult times do not last forever, but sometimes we must go through them. Yet God is with us. God bless and look for the amazing this week.- Nancy

Weary

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about you, but I am weary. And I suspect many of you are also. We all get weary at times, trying to keep it all going. And keep it together. To keep ourselves together. We carry these burdens for ourselves and even for others. We must maintain our work selves, our church selves, our family selves and society selves- All these roles we find ourselves in. Trying to keep all the roles connected, balanced and producing good results. And if that isn’t enough, there’s this burden we carry around with us as a constant reminder of the problems in the world. We are of course not responsible for the world or its events, yet we find ourselves burdened and troubled by the global crisis’ . Too much bad news, horrible news, incomprehensible news. Earthquakes, bombings, hurricanes, uprisings, Covid. We are all just a little weary right now. And the constant contact through our mobile devices in our pockets, keeps all these problems and global crisis’s on our minds and always within reach, inescapable, it seems.

We might tell everyone around us that we are”fine” when the reality is, we are not “fine”, but far from it. We are weary. We need rest. We need help in dealing with all of this. We need each other and we need Jesus’ peace and comfort.

I admit I am not an expert in dealing with it all, but there are a few steps we all can take to help each other. First, talk with each other openly. If you are not doing well, let someone know. Talk to a friend. Tell them what is going on and what is wearing you down. If you are having serious, suicidal thoughts, tell someone or call a professional hotline. Help is close and people who are trained to listen are waiting for you to reach out to them. You are not a bother. Your friends and family do love and care about you, they need you here. The pain you feel is temporary, it will get better and there are people who can help with your pain.Let them help you.

Second, if you are just tired and weary from too much of the world taking your joy, step away from social media, or block or snooze individuals or pages that are upsetting you and causing you undue stress. Do not keep your phone where you sleep and don’t let it be the first or last thing you check in the day. Instead read, listen to music or take a gratitude inventory.

Third, a gratitude inventory is something I have recently begun. Before your day begins or as it ends, meditate on what you have to be thankful for. At the end of the day, recount the positive events of your day and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Just breathing and living another day is reason enough to be thankful. If it is the beginning of the day, offer thanks for the opportunity for a new day, a new beginning. Even the little things matter. So be grateful for a bed and a pillow, for a meal to wake up to. For your family and friends. God has provided it all. We forget sometimes that not everyone is enjoying these at the moment. Some are homeless, others have lost a loved one or a friend. Some do not have the hope of Jesus. They are trying to do life all on their own,in their own strength.

Fourth, don’t dwell on the negative. Look for the good during your day. Focus on what has gone right, instead of what is going wrong. Focus on positive Bible verses like the one above. Write down these verses and place them on sticky notes everywhere to be reminded of them. Or subscribe to a daily word app that will send you a text or email.

Fifth, to know these verses, you must pick up your Bible and read it. Or get an app for your phone with a daily verse. Remember the Bible is not just a book written by a bunch of dudes in the past. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It has power to change minds, challenge you and give you peace and comfort. Don’t believe me? Just try it for a week. It doesn’t mean that suddenly all your problems will disappear, but it will change your perspective. It will change you. Bad circumstances, like those of the world right now, are not going to go away immediately, we cannot change these, but we can change our attitudes and perspectives. And surprisingly, by doing so we change our brains. Our thoughts affect our physical brain chemistry as well as our physical shape. Someone has said that we are what we eat, but scientifically speaking, we are what we think about.

The last step is to take time to pray. God does hear us. It might be we have been neglecting our prayer lives, because we feel like there is a wall between us and God. Or we think He is mad or unhappy with us, but here’s the thing, He knows who you are. He made you. He’s okay with your doubts. He’s okay with you for not being perfect. He loves you. He knows you have messed up, so that’s not a surprise to Him. Just talk to Him, like a friend. He promises rest for the weary and help with your burdens, you don’t have to do this alone.

A Little Bit of Jesus

So, it’s been a while since I posted and while many of you might have been waiting with baited breath, you might not be after you read the post. You see it has taken me some time to wait to hear from God on what to write. Yes, I wait until there is something that He puts on my heart to write about. This will probably make some uncomfortable, but maybe that will be a good thing.

Early on in my undergrad degree I learned something called religious syncretism. It by definition is ” An amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.” (Google). In my coursework it generally referred to Christians in non -western areas that incorporated Christianity with their old religious beliefs. Generally, it might have involved the use of icons or fetishes with prayers to God. It could be a bit confusing for missionaries working with syncretisms biases.

But the question I want to pose for us all today is how much have we been affected by syncretism in our own faith? Do we pray and then consult a horoscope? Do we sing along to Hillsong praise and worship and seek out palm readers? This may or may not seem obvious to you, depending upon your knowledge of how God feels about occult practices, but are there others areas in which you have blended an eastern religious practice with a Christian one? Meditation is another example. meditating on God’s Word is scriptural, but emptying our minds to seek nirvana is not.

This is just a brief example and many will not agree with my observation, but if we truly want to grow in our faith we must leave the childish things behind as the Apostle Paul says;”When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”(1 Corinthians 13:11, NIV). We will only grow when we follow Christ with our whole hearts and minds. We do not need to blend Jesus in to our own beliefs but rather follow what He teaches in the Bible. Too often we add Jesus onto our lives, similarly to adding sprinkles on top of our ice cream. We want just enough to look good on the outside, or just enough so we can talk with other Christians in church, or maybe as a sort of good luck charm or last resort to get our prayers answered. But, No, Jesus want to be all, not just added in or sprinkled on the top of our lives. Faith might be small like a mustard seed, but Jesus should be greater in our lives.

Perseverance

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance- Romans 5:3

Perseverance is a tricky word. When we think about it we might picture an athlete pushing through pain to accomplish his goals. The runner pushing themselves toward the finish line. The single mom pushing through her exhaustion to care for her child after a full day at work. Persevere. Keep on course. Push through the pain, the hurt, the disappointment.

The world we live in now is a place of perseverance. What we thought would last only for a little while, is now dragging on. Our plans have been changed so many times to accommodate new rules, new restrictions, new guidelines, new quarantines, it almost seems pointless to make any plans.

We have also seen the worst in people, at times, and not the best. Those who cannot deal with this world of change and of suffering. Some are pushed too far and seek to take it out on others. Hurtful words. Violent exchanges. Demands for things to get better.

Others bury their heads and pretend it is the new normal, or that the reactions to the pandemic are overblown and exaggerated. They hide their frustration when they need to, out of the fear they might offend. The frustration builds until they too, begin to find fault with their fellow human being and lash out on social media upon people they barely know.

We might wonder, and rightly so, just what has happened to the world in which we live. It is not the way it should be and its not about a world wide pandemic. We are all being pushed and squeezed, aroused by the pressures to survive. We all have this deep need for freedom. To live free. To live in Grace and Mercy. Yet we find ourselves struggling to persevere. We are so accustomed to fast food, fast internet, fast dating, fast connections to a global community that when we must wait we cannot bear it.

If you are familiar with the Bible, you will notice that I did not complete the verse above from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. If you read on in the rest of the verse, you’ll find Paul’s adds that perseverance produces character. Character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint.

I did it on purpose because I think we all want to quickly move past the perseverance part, past the character and move onto hope. We want hope. We need hope. Hope that everything will get better. Hope for this world. Hope in Christ. Hope in Heaven. Even before the verse mentions perseverance, Paul tells us to rejoice in suffering. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like suffering. I do not find anything to rejoice about when I am suffering. Yet this is what Paul begins with. Is there something that Paul knows that we do not? If we study his life we will find that yes, he does know suffering. He nearly died several times after being stoned and beaten. He was shipwrecked and nearly drowned. He was bitten by a venomous snake. He lived with the guilt that he had personally seen and approved of the arrest and deaths of Christians,including women and children, before he himself became one. He had been put on trial and put in jail. He knew suffering. He knew perseverance. He developed character.He found hope. He, like many of the Roman Christians he was writing to, were persecuted, arrested and beheaded because of their faith. But he did not think of himself as a type of superhero or martyr, he knew his weaknesses. He struggled with them, he prayed for his thorn in his flesh to be removed. God said no. Instead Paul relied on God’s strength. not his own to persevere. He wrote and he encouraged others to do the same. God is our strength.

What we are going through now will produce character, not in a flash, but overtime, as we learn to trust in God and rely upon His strength and not our own.

Doing Battle

We all know that the past several months have not been easy and more than likely you thought we would all be out of this much sooner. Back to normal. Back to regular. But in some parts of the world, we are still feeling the effects the global pandemic has brought us. At times we do not know what to call the feelings we are all experiencing. Is it stress? Yes. Anxiety? Yes. Fear? Yes. Frustration? Yes. We can identify many of those feelings and I have brought up in previous posts, how to limit the effects of those overwhelming feelings. Move away from dependence on social media and news, have a quiet time with God, read the Bible, get away and pause to hear from God. But, perhaps we have been overlooking the one feeling, the emotion that might seem unlikely; grief. See, grief can come in many ways, not just from the death of a loved one.

I was reminded of grief this week upon hearing of the sudden passing of a pastor’s father. My Mom passed away five years ago, so I have been well acquainted with grief that hits like a train. Like a tornado. It’s inescapable. It’s overwhelming. It hurts. And it changes everything in our world. It is something that simply cannot be undone. It’s final. Permanent.

Grief can be felt with any kind of loss. A job. A home. A business. A relationship. A reputation. A schedule. A normal life. We often experience this sense of loss and sadness that we can’t shake. We feel guilty for feeling sad over what seems such temporary losses. We know we can find another job, another home, another boyfriend or girlfriend, start another business, create another routine, start over. But we still grieve that which has been lost and what has been changed.

So, how do we deal with it? Well, much in the same way we deal with anxiety, fear, stress. We need to go to God. We need to pray. And we need to realize that the emotions we are feeling do not need to consume us and consume all our thoughts. We must choose our thinking. We must get back to capturing every thought and weighing whether or not the thought is truth or a lie. When we recall the losses in our life, we can remember the good, let go of any guilt, and remind ourselves that God is still in control.

We do not do this battle alone. God is with us and will answer our prayers, even when we are not quite sure what to pray. Sometimes the best answers to prayer I have experienced are after I simply cried out “Help! God I need you” Just a simple request when I’ve realized I am in over my head.

We also need to do battle for our thoughts alongside others. We can encourage each other. Open up to each other and share our personal struggles. The body of Christ should never shy away from a friend who wants to share their struggles. We are all broken vessels, needing God’s help. If we really think we have it all together, we are mistaken. And if anyone looks to Christians to have it all together, they will sadly see us fail miserably. Christians do not have it all together, we just know who to go to when we are overcome by sadness and grief. We do not need to stay in our sad, discouraged places. This is only temporary. Life will get back to normal, even if normal means change.

Was it you?

Some days we can let our circumstances get the best of us. And our emotions. We get tired and we get cranky. On the outside we are adults, but on the inside we can act like an unruly two year old. We want our way, and when we don’t get it, we get upset.

The recent events of the world have stretched me and tried my patience to the point of my becoming that unruly two year old.  I feel bad for feeling bad, which makes the situation worse, it seems. I have been the queen of self- criticism before, and on a particular, hot, tiresome August day, I acted both as a temperamental toddler and a self-critic. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I had been fighting the constant battle of my thoughts. If you read my last blog, you know that I addressed fear versus caution in the midst of this pandemic. Most of the time, I can keep my perspective and my focus on Christ and the things that matter, rather than on the fears that continually get fueled by what I see and read. It is easy to give into fear, especially when you’re worn out and tired.

So, there I was, exhausted, worn out, stressed and alone in a gas station bathroom. I had had enough of it all. The worries of the pandemic, the fears of moving into new chapters of my life, the pressure of resuming my seminary classes after a summer break, the disappointments and disagreements between family members, and the late hour. I felt my eyes well up with tears, but I didn’t want to let myself cry. I’d have to walk back through the store portion of the station, and didn’t want to face anyone, even a stranger with my red eyes and running mascara. I quietly told God I wanted to give up. I’ve had enough. I  knew that much of what had been happening in my personal life was a spiritual attack from the pits of hell, but I was just tired of fighting it.

In those moments of frustration and desperation, it seems like the most logical thing to say or think is to cry “Uncle”. Our faith is being stretched so much. We just want to throw in the towel and tell the Devil he’s won. We’ll stop trying to make a difference in the world. Just look out for number one, forget others, Isn’t that what the world tells us to do? Why go against the current? Why speak up for the truth? Why follow God? Why keep going to school to answer God’s call to be a pastor? How many war wounds and battle scars are enough God? I just wanna give up God, it’s not worth it anymore, can you help me God? If not, I’m giving up!

But, you were there. And you made a difference. I never saw you, might not ever meet you. But I know you had been there and must have listened to God’s voice, that still, quiet voice, to leave me a note in the bathroom that evening. It was such a clear message from God, that in my two- year tantrum mindset,  I tried not to see it. I was just so fed up with everything. I know God it was really a note from you. An answer from you, not just from a person. You are pretty intentional, and you intended for me to see that little piece of folded paper.

There it was, a handwritten note, slightly damp from the water of the sink from others who had seen it, while they washed up. It was written in colored pencil or ink, and some of the writing from the back side of the paper had faded. But there was no doubt about the message; “Jesus loves you so very much” Simple. To the point. And not even a memorized Bible verse. Just the reminder I needed that late evening at a gas station bathroom. I recited in my mind the words over and over again as I walked back out into the parking lot. Jesus loves me. So. very. much. Not just the simple Jesus loves me this I know, of the familiar kids song, but different, personal, and just what I needed to hear from God.

So thank you, who ever you are, you made a difference in my world and hopefully in the world in general. Thank you for not giving up in telling the world that yes, in fact, Jesus does love them so very much. Maybe you were a child, who forget their handwritten picture on the sink earlier that day as you washed your hands, or maybe you were a teen or adult, who knew to hear God’s voice and share the love you know with the world who does not know of God’s love.

We all have a part to play in Christ’s kingdom if we are Christians. Don’t give up and throw in the towel. Your action might be small, like a little piece of paper on a sink. But you make the difference in the world.

The world is desperate for answers, for peace, and for love. God has all that, and He is offering it freely. We all need to encourage each other about God’s love for us. Of His truth. Of His peace He offers. Of His hope that does not disappoint. Of His answers to prayer, that sometimes come in the form of little notes left on sinks.

Maybe you are looking for answers, be sure not to overlook those little quiet voices, reminding you to look to God for those answers. Be quiet enough to listen so that you don’t miss them. They might come in the form of a little, folded, love note from God. God hears you.

Focus

So, I need to ask you a question. Are you, like me, having trouble focusing on life? I mean there are so many distractions out there, that at times I just find it hard to keep the main thing the main thing. Since this post is all about dealing with change and moving forward in life, I think it is important to take a look, no pun intended, at our focus these days. I have been trying to keep pressing on, working from home, attending online classes and adjusting to a different way of doing things,but, honestly, I can’t focus.

I know the stuff I should be doing, but I have gotten pretty bored of all the shoulds and wanna do all the cant’s. Like going to eat out, and by out I do not mean outside in our car, while we drive back to our house after picking up through the drive up window. I mean at a real restaurant, sitting down at a table. Or what about going to the beach? Yup, the beaches are open, But……. You can’t actually go to them unless you happen to live at the beach. I secretly suspect that the beach house homeowners wish they could come to my neighborhood, because they are bored with going to the beach all the time. Well, maybe they aren’t. But I’m guessing they are having trouble with focus too.

So, how do we get back our focus? I asked myself this question quite a bit this week and searched for answer. The answer I found was this; it is not the should’s and the oughto’s I need to focus on and get back on track with doing life, but it is the who. No, not the world health organization, but the WHO: God.

With everything that is happening around us, it is easy to lose our focus on God. We start to look at our problems and they get bigger and bigger in our field of vision, crowding out our focus on God. Let me give you an example to think about:

I’ve mentioned before that my sons are photographers/ videographers and I have learned quite a bunch about the technical side of the industry. You see, their professional equipment has specific guides for the focus of a shot. Whatever lines up within the box will be in focus, whatever is outside will be blurry. when you look through the viewfinder the whole scene is before you, but you can choose to only place one object within the yellow box, with the background completely blurred. Or you might focus on the background with the closest object to you blurred. The scene is the same, but the object of focus changes, as you decide to change it.

I realized whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or uneasy, it is when I have changed my view finder to focus on the problems right now, and take my focus off of God. When I stop and catch myself feeling anxious, I stop and get back into my focus of Jesus. Practically, it looks like this, stop, pray, pick up my Bible and read a passage, close it, then meditate on what I just read.

Hebrews 12: 2 tells us what we should be doing during the difficult times; “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  We have a race to run in this life. A race of faith that isn’t always easy, but let’s keep our focus on Jesus, and not the distractions along the way, which are only temporary. God Bless- Nancy

 

Going Through The Storm

                   Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you—1 Peter 5:7

We once lived next door to an amazing older woman. She had emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century from Hungary. She had come with her Aunt and Uncle but not her parents whom she had a difficult relationship with, as I recall her telling me. She was quite young, around six years of age and spoke no English. She had a hard time at first in school and with the neighbor boy who also did not speak English, but Swedish.

Why I consider her amazing  was for her take on life. Through every difficult situation she would explain all the difficulties facing her as she aged- her husband’s Alzheimer’s, her own declining vision, a fall that caused her a near fatal broken neck,  relationship stresses caused by her family obligations, and of course weather related storms that worried her. At the end of each discussion of her current hardship she would pause and exclaim; “But what are you going to do?” It was not so much of a question she posed to me as a calm answer to all that she was facing and had faced in her long life.

She had been through many storms in her life and she had this great perspective that there wasn’t anything you could do about certain situations, so why get upset. She didn’t avoid talking about her problems as though they weren’t there, she described them, faced them and decided she might as well accept things as they were. She went through.

I remember my Mom giving me similar advice; “This too shall pass” I always thought of it as kinda cryptic, but now that I am older and have been through the storms, I can now say my mom was right. When we are younger, it is hard to take the advice of our parents. We really do think we know everything there is to know about any given situation. But, given the current worldwide crisis due to the corona virus, I am beginning to get a slight glimpse into what the older generations went through and were forced to go through at young ages, giving them every right to know what they are talking about. They were strong and resilient, because they had to be. It wasn’t something they chose to go through. Oh we have had our own share of armed conflicts and large super storms, earthquakes, tornadoes in the late to early 20th and 21st centuries, but nothing on the global scale of the current COVID-19. Our lives have been disrupted and basic supplies are difficult to find. It is now that I recall my grandparents and even my parents stories of what it was like during World War II. Everyone received booklets that rationed items like, meat and sugar. people did not travel and my Mom told me of the air raids that often happened at night. If you were home you were instructed to turn out all your house lights and if in a car you would pull over and turn off the headlights. Apparently it was a regular occurrence.

So,as we are all a little anxious at this moment with our regular predictable lives on hold, let’s remember the words of previous generations. They went through and got through it. We cannot change what is happening, but in those moments when we feel anxious, we can be reminded to turn to God and cast all our anxieties on Him. Sometimes we cannot avoid going through hard times, we just have to. We can’t pretend we don’t have fears or anxieties when we do. It’s okay to describe our difficulties as my elderly neighbor use to do. But once we do, we can go to God and admit we need Him to calm our fears and still our anxieties. I know that’s what I have been doing. -God Bless – Nancy