Saturday, March 19, 2011

Look Up!

I can't even detail how crazy my last ten days have been! Just when I thought that things were sure to level off, they'd intensify. The enemy has tempted me lately to just let go and vent about the craziness. To be honest, I really have thought about it at times. When it seems I'm nearing the breaking point, I think, "Oh, how I'd love to sit down and write, minute by minute, what my typical day is like!" But for what?

Sure, I could detail the enormous strain that our household faces even without the extraordinary happenings of late. However, what purpose would that serve? When I think of letting go with a tirade, I can hear the Lord whispering to me, "Would that bring me glory, or would you be giving the enemy the attention he so desires? Instead of that, why don't you just rest in me and trust me to use these circumstances for your good? Let me use your life for my purposes and glory."

I do want my life to glorify God. I want to be found faithful during the crazy times when I feel like I can't take another second. I want to look to Him each day to supply me with whatever strength I'll need for each circumstance that I face. I want to cling to the truth that He is in control no matter how out of control things feel at times. I want to have my gaze fixed upon Him, knowing that I might not see clearly now, but I will one day.

It's really all about perspective. I can look at things right now and grumble about how stressful and horrible they are. Or I can look at it differently and say, "You know, Lord, I don't love going through this, but I believe that you're gonna bring great beauty out of it. I don't feel like I can humanly handle any of this, but I thank You that this opens the door for an awesome display of your strength." Then, somehow in all of it, the enemy will have lost out and God will have received the glory. Now I need only pray that I can obey Him in this when I feel like complaining!

These two pictures remind me that outlook determines a lot. They are the same subject, photographed within a minute of one another. What made the second one prettier? It was because I shot it from a different angle, namely looking up! And so our circumstances can look different to us if we will just look up and to Him.

The Narrow Way

I am in a strange place right now. A place where my walls have drawn inward and I recognize that my world has become much smaller. Like the picture, the path that my feet are on is narrow and strewn with rocks. The wonderful part, though, is that the path leads up! Like always, the Lord whispers to me, "Take my hand and walk with me. Stay close to me for I will help you! I will be your light. I, myself, will show you the way. Trust me, dearly loved daughter."

A few months ago I really felt the Lord speaking to me about priorities and focus. Like many of you, I truly desire that my focus be fully upon Him. Yet, the things of this world, good and bad, clamor for my attention...

I am the type of person who gives my all to everything I do. If you are talking to me, I will be with you. You will not find my eyes darting around to other "more important" people that I think I need a word with. If I am hiking with you, it will be all about taking that chunk of time to enjoy one another and soak in God's awesome creation. If I commit to something with you, I will be faithful and will involve myself to the brim. Though things try to crowd my mind, I purpose to give my all to each situation I find myself in.

At the present time, I have a few important things on my plate that require a lot of time and energy. In order to keep the Lord at the forefront of everything I do, I have found it necessary to keep my world small. If you have not been hearing from me, it is because I am focusing primarily on Him and the tasks He's given me. I know that the smallness of my world is just temporary and will eventually expand once again. Knowing this, I have been praying that the Lord will give me wisdom in enlarging my territory. There are so many good things jockying for a place in my life, but I only have so much space to put them in. So, which ones would He have me include? My heart's desire is that I only welcome the things that He is clearly leading me in.

Father, the path You have me on right now is narrow. You have blessed me with some success in this present smallness, yet I know that it will not stay small like this forever. I pray that you would help me make wise choices about what belongs in my world. I pray that my focus will always be on You and that I will not lose sight of what You are calling me to. Strengthen me, Lord, to do Your will. Guide me along the paths that You would have me on. Give me ears to hear what You speak to me and a fierce determination to obey You. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

More Than Meets the Eye

I think of so many things each time I see this picture. I knew the minute I snapped it that I would some day write a devotion for it. I've wanted to draft it on at least a few occasions, but the timing has just never been quite right. Until this morning. I was blessed to have a wonderful moment with the Lord where He suddenly made it all crystal clear to me.

My first thought when I came upon this tree was, "Oh, Lord, this speaks to me! I think that I must know exactly what it feels like to live out this particular visual." You see, this tree is exposed. Uncovered. Vulnerable. Its roots should be buried securely beneath the soil, and yet they are out in the open and unprotected.

Do you ever feel that way? I always remind myself that God is my perfect covering, but that doesn't always stop those nagging thoughts. "I feel vulnerable. I don't feel safe. I feel exposed rather than covered. This doesn't feel good!" I have to mentally gather myself and will myself to trust that the Lord is, in fact, in control. Though I don't always feel it, He is covering me in a most loving and perfect way. He loves me, knows me through and through, and is interested in every detail of my life. And so the mental tug of war continues, "You are so precious to Him, Tamra. Trust Him that everything will be okay. Don't be afraid of what may come. He will prove Himself to be faithful no matter what comes your way."

The Lord brought this picture back to my remembrance this morning as I spent some time with Him. The same thoughts came to me about the tree roots being bared and how I can relate to feeling that way so often. And then the Lord spoke to my heart. I could feel Him impressing upon me the truth of that picture and the reason why I have been so drawn to it from that first moment. Why it has resonated in such a way within me. As is often the case, what He meant to teach me is nothing like what I thought He wanted to teach me.

He showed me this morning that what I can see with this tree's roots is only part of the picture. With perfect gentleness, He whispered, "Daughter, what you see here is not the reality of the matter. There is so much that your eyes cannot see. (Wow!) These are not the only roots that this tree has." I went on to do a little research on the matter and discovered that the roots grow in varying depths and directions. The roots that are shown in this picture probably only make up a very small percent of this tree's root structure. The reality is that this tree is way more secure than I realized. In all likelihood, it has many roots running horizontally in the first two feet of soil for quite a distance. I was surprised to discover how firmly anchored this tree probably is, which was totally not what I was assuming.

As I meditated on these thoughts throughout my day, I was reminded of the story of Elisha and the Arameans in 2 Kings 6. Though surrounded by hostile forces, Elisha told his servant, "Don't be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them." One of my favorites parts of the Bible comes next: "And Elisha prayed, 'O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.' Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." They were not nearly as vulnerable as the servant believed them to be based on what he could see! The LORD showed up for them with a mighty display of His power. I am learning more each day, and am becoming convinced, that things are rarely the way I see them.

Thank You, Lord, for speaking to me today about this picture that has been on my heart for a while now. You are awesome! I thought I understood what it meant, but You had something totally different in mind. I love how You are always patiently teaching me what You want me to know. Help me to remember that seeing is not always believing. Lord, I want to consistently look to You for the reality of my situation! I pray that You will continue speaking to me, teaching me, and drawing me deeper into Your Word. Cause my heart to never stop seeking You. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

The Beauty Within

On a recent hike with friends, one of the moms asked if I had ever looked inside a sycamore fruit. I guess I had never thought to break one open before. When I did, I could have cried. It's an amazingly intricate design that resembles a honeycomb. It so obviously points to our Creator, and I'd had no idea.

This image of the sycamore fruit was still with me the next day as I heard more whispering from the Lord. In the same way that He placed this amazing sight in this fruit, He has tucked away beauty inside each of us. He has lovingly hand-crafted each of us, the crown of His creation. If He cared enough to make the inside of this sycamore fruit a thing of beauty, I am awed by what He must have done in each of us. It was just another of those moments where He reassured me about the way that He sees me - how special I am to Him and the worth He has assigned to me.