Tag Archives: focus

Turning Your Eyes

For many years prayer meant praying the problem away. Right? A little like Clairol washing the gray away by covering the grey. I’d pray and pray and trust that God had it in His control. My focus was on the difficulty that was beyond me; the need that threatened my well-being.

    Sometimes it seemed that God answered my prayers.

    Others times it appeared that He said no. It would be too easy to think there was some problem in me or how I prayed. God seemed distant and silent.

    But as I grew not only in age but also in understanding I began to see the key to praying was who I was praying to – the Lord. He was the Almighty One. He was my Provider and Protector. He supplied my needs. It all went back to Him.

    As a nine year old I didn’t fathom why God didn’t heal my grandfather of lung cancer. My older brother and I prayed. I remember that time now more than 60 years later.

    There in my brother’s bedroom, we opened our Bible and read that verse “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20.

     We held each other’s hand and prayed with full hearts and simple words. Can’t quite remember what we prayed but God knew. We wanted our fun-loving Grandpa to live. After praying I was relieved. I knew that we had done what we needed to do. Asked.

    No one could have been more surprised than I when a few days later we got word that my Grandpa had died. Died.

      Just gone. I could hardly take it in.

      My brother and I never discussed it. I didn’t share my crushing disappointment with others. My parents were already dealing with the pressing needs of the moment. Deep within I knew that something was wrong. God had not answered our prayer.

      My experience with prayer had shaken me. Not that I questioned God. Not at this time. But I felt somehow we hadn’t prayed correctly. It was only weeks later that as I sat on my bed and read books about prayer that I began to understand that sometimes God says yes, sometimes He says no and sometimes He says wait.

     But the Lord Who loved me had not chosen to hurt me, No He comforted me through my pain of loss and disappointment. His Will was not my will. And although my Grandpa died I could trust the One Who said no.

    Yes, I already knew that sometimes my earthly dad said no. Not because he was mean or delighted in causing me grief. No, more often than not, because he knew what was best for me and loved me deeply.

    Slowly my prayers grew to be focused on the One Who was far bigger, far greater, than I could imagine. He loved me.

    “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV

    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35 NKJV

     Just thinking about that blew my mind. That Jesus loved me.

     Honestly I think if I’d been older I would have been more shaken by God’s answer to that simple, innocent prayer we made. But I was a child who had already learned in a way that only a child can know to depend up the Lord. And even though I was surprised by the answer it didn’t separate me from knowing that Jesus loved me no matter what.

     Life and studying God’s Word showed me that my focus must be on the Lord – not on the just the answer. As I learned to know the Shepherd who tenderly cared for the sheep, I also began to trust His care. There were times of disappointment and grief, there were times of illness and loss but always as I read His Word I saw that He was there.

     It was that growing understanding of His loving Presence that held me secure through the storms, some unexpected upheavals, and drew me to increase my focus on knowing Him and making the Lord the focus of all my prayers.

     That beloved hymn that I often was drawn to play on the old upright piano taught me the marvelous truth that as I turned my eyes upon Jesus, those things of earth would truly fade in importance. Gazing into His Face even when there were no words at all to say continues to bring a peace that holds.

    Many times as we look around the darkness surrounds us and we see no light. But as we lift our eyes to Jesus we discover a Light that is brighter and the brightest lights here on earth.

    No, His Word will never fail us and knowing that we can serve in our world and keep sharing His promises. He is the Source of Power. He is the Answer to every need. And our loving Lord is the One Who will never fail us.

     This is no magic wand, no simplistic response to complex challenges. No it is the Truth. Jesus can be depended upon to not only understand our hearts but to meet us at our point of need. In Him is the Light of His Glory and Grace. And we can know Him personally.

    

 

 

 

     

The Power Of Focus

 

When we deal with difficult circumstances it is essential that we pay attention to what we are focusing on. If we feed our fears and starve our faith, we will grow weaker and more depressed and discouraged. If we feed our faith and starve our fears, we will grow stronger and more confident. Whatever you focus on expands.

     It can happen so easily. This morning a few folks shared with me their fears regarding COVID-19 and finances. I listened and certainly understood their concerns. I’ve  experienced some difficult stretches in my own life so I could easily validate their concerns. But after speaking with them it hit me. Yes, afterwards the seeds of their fears lodged in my mind. I found myself worrying about what the financial impact would be on my family.

     But then it subtly grew from concern to a strange feeling of weakness. It wasn’t clear for awhile why the weakness had come over me. Was I sick? But as time passed I realized that I had shifted from a position of faith and trust in the Lord to one of concern and very subtle worry. Fear of the unknown was growing deep within. As soon as I realized the source and how the seeds of earlier conversations had lodged in my mind, I took steps to eradicate them. Putting on some worship music, I focused on all God’s greatness and Power. I remembered how He had provided for me in the past and how I knew He would again. My heart grew lighter and the weakness slowly passed.

     Whatever we focus upon expands. It’s an important truth. The mind expands in relation to what our thoughts dwell upon. And it grows and grows and grows. So if we have a fearful thought, that will grow leading to anxiety, stress and more fear. The opposite is also true. If we focus upon God’s Power to overcome anything, our minds are focused upon faith. We will grow strong in that faith and even draw more evidences of faith to us.

    Now this is an amazing tool when you think about it. We have control over what we choose to feed our mind. Some folks are pushing away from the news these days. Others are limiting how much they listen to it. They have discovered that it feeds the mind with negativity and worrisome thoughts that don’t help them live and have productive, joy-filled lives.

     Others are intentionally listening to music that encourages and builds hope. I’ve been delighted to see the number of social media posts with uplifting music. As we listen to those songs our hearts relax and we remember. Although this chaos hit us unaware, music reminds us that there is a higher truth. We can rise above the present circumstances and focus on the good, the kindnesses that are so evident, God’s faithfulness, and most of all, our ability to choose.

     Maybe you have difficulty focusing on the good and feeding your faith. Maybe for you it’s a straight uphill battle. I understand. There have been times of great change in my life where it was difficult to just get out of bed in the morning. It was hard to imagine life ever being ok much less good. But, you know, it happened. Slowly one day at a time I took the next step. I did what I could do that day and those small steps took me to a different place. Yes, I found myself at a place I would never have been if it had not been for those difficult circumstances.

    I discovered through that that even though we are shaken by sudden change we need not be defeated. We can choose what our mind focuses upon and draw even more faith to us. We can open our eyes to see the bigger picture- not just what it’s like for us. Suddenly we are not alone. Others are struggling and unsure.

    So how do you focus your mind on faith? Here are some steps to take:

  1. Assess where you are right now
  2. Tell yourself a positive truth based on God’s Truth
  3. Intentionally focus on the good things, no matter how small
  4. Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. Challenge any negative thoughts
  5. Stay in the present
  6. Find some faith-focused friends, co-workers, family members

 

     Lastly, take time to remember. Yes, remember the times of chaos in your life and how you survived then. Think back to previous experiences of chaos and notice how you managed to come through. Whether it was a tornado experience, a devastating hurricane, a divorces, an illness, etc take time to reflect on how you made it through. What did you do? Who was there? What did you turn to?

    Remembering helps me realize how many times I’ve coped with chaos in the past and survived. Again and again I’ve experienced that feeling of devastation and fear but I survived. At the time it was very difficult and scary. But looking back I can see how God sustained me and helped me one day at a time. Life went on. But I was different.

   Yes, through every chaos I’ve grown.  I still feel the fears of sudden change and chaos but I know Who to go to and I know that nothing is a surprise to God. He will help me as He’s promised to and as He has done again and again in my life. Will there be changes? Absolutely. But He is in control and I can trust Him.

  • This is from my soon to be released book Finding Faith in the Chaos

 

 

Running To Win

They couldn’t believe it.

He was not expected to win.

His style was ridiculed. His arms flailed widely, his head way back.

But on that day on July 12, 1924 Eric Liddell astonished the crowd by winning

the 400 m  race.

When asked where the power came from

Eric quietly directed folks to the One and Only One.

“God honors those who honor Him,” he said. I Samuel 2:30.

Astonishing. Amazing. Beyond human understanding.

It is still true today.

When we put the Lord first in our lives and honor Him

He blesses us.

Unexplainable but unquestionably blesses us.

Shortly afterwards Liddell went to China and spent the rest of his life teaching there.

Turned his back on the fame and popularity.

“A fellow’s life counts for far more at this than the other,” he responded when asked about his decision.

Liddell was at peace.

So different from our world of striving and medals and fame.

But could it be that he left us a reminder – almost a warning.

You can have all this world offers but there is something that matters far more.

It makes me wonder about my own life. And yours.

Are we truly focused on what counts the most?

Choosing the best over the good.

That’s what it boils right down to, isn’t it?

Living our life with our eyes on eternity. Going for the goal of a life surrendered to Him.

Eric Liddell’s faith was paramount in his life.

It guided him and gave him light in the dark of distractions and confusion.

What is the most important in your life?

How is that giving you direction and focus?

Above all, hold on to what will never fade.

Let’s focus on our goal in life and then run with strength.

Life is shorter than we think –

Living an amazing life can be yours.