Friday, August 20, 2010

FOCUS IS EVERYTHING!

"The key to successfully climbing mountains doesn't actually have to do with the difficulty of the mountain or the skill of the climber. It's about the One who made both mountain & climber. God is bigger than our biggest problem and God is not limited by our weaknesses. If we focus on God instead of our troubles and shortcomings, we can do whatever it is God has called us to do." --Kari Myers

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
 
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
-- Matthew 14:25-31


Isn't is amazing how many times we lose our focus? This world has so many distractions! When you're striving to attain something powerful or amazing in your walk with Him, do you seem to find that you are suddenly plagued by circumstances or situations which take your focus from your goal? I know I do! And looking back upon it, I am always struck by how easily I seem to relinquish my thoughts to that which is futile or really outside of my control. I want to remain focused upon my Heavenly Father: concentrated upon His promises for me. But, somehow, I allow myself to get distracted by all the cares and concerns of the world, just like Peter, who lost his sight of our Lord being distracted by the wind and waves.

It is especially difficult to remain focused upon Him when our particular storm is hurtful. It seems all we can think about is how much that person or situation has hurt us. We spend all our time thinking about how we feel, or asking ourselves why, or how others can be so callous and uncaring. If we allow our thoughts to be overwhelmed with the pain we experienced, or the anger and resentment we might feel, we clog our spirit and stop the flow of His love and mercy towards us, and our ability to give that to others. Too much time in this state and that seed of resentment becomes unforgiveness, sometimes held even against ourselves. Then, instead of allowing ourselves to walk on water with Him, we spend our spiritual life swimming through mud, struggling to reach Him and the peace He has promised us.

I found my focus was lost or redirected by the hurt felt by another person. I have a hard time accepting that people would take advantage of someone disabled or lacking healthy discernment. I experienced this in the past week: someone I care about was sorely mislead and robbed. Most would say "Well, he should have known better!" But he was lured into the hoax by his loneliness and a deep desire for love in his life. Although he may have had a nagging that all was not as it seemed, his dream took over and he decided to live in the fantasy he'd created instead. Seeing his hurt when he was made to realize that his dream would never come true was painful for me. It brought me completely down to the level of the perpetrator, in that I lost sight of my Heavenly Father. My every waking moment was consumed with the problem, thinking of ways to get back or at least get some justice out of the situation for several days. How many times have we lost sight of Him in an attempt to fight the battle that He promised to fight for us?

Or we lose sight of Him when we are set upon by our own fears and doubts. Doubting our abilities and talents: the talents the He gifted us with, we seem unable to give of ourselves, or set out on that climb to a higher place. Even though He promises us a life improved or a dream realized, we fear falling or maybe failing. Are you struggling with fears or unforgiveness towards yourself or others? Do you feel as though you're swimming through mud in your spiritual walk? Do you feel as though those dreams or goals you want to accomplish are being stalled because you have lost your focus?

I like what Brother Lawrence relayed on this subject through his conversations back in the 17th century in France. It was noted that, "In times as troubled as today, Brother Lawrence, discovered, then followed, a pure and uncomplicated way to walk continually in God's presence."*(1) He learned the joy of a pure, contemplative life and lived it to the fullest.
Here is what he said on the subject of focus:
"We should feed and nourish our soul with high notions of God which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him.

He said we ought to quicken and enliven our faith. It was lamentable we had so little. Instead of taking faith for the rule of their conduct, men amused themselves with trivial devotions which changed daily. He said that faith was sufficient to bring us to a high degree of perfection. We ought to give ourselves up to God with regard both to things temporal and spiritual and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will. Whether God led us by suffering or by consolation all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.


He said we need fidelity in those disruptions in the ebb and flow of prayer when God tries our love to Him. This was the time for a complete act of resignation, whereof one act alone could greatly promote our spiritual advancement.

He said that as far as the miseries and sins he heard of daily in the world, he was so far from wondering at them, that, on the contrary, he was surprised there were not more, considering the malice sinners were capable of. For his part, he prayed for them; but knowing that God could remedy the mischief they did when He pleased, he gave himself no further trouble."
*(2)

How do we get back to where we want to be? Prayer! He gave me my answer today through those subtle ways He has of speaking to us, IF we are really hearing Him. First, I read the devotion which came in the mail for my client to her early this morning. This was a powerful thought, which I felt compelled to post to my Facebook page when I read it. Then it got me thinking all day about how easily I lost focus this week, drawn into the current storm. Then, as I was driving home this evening, I heard a wonderful song on an old CD. I've probably heard it at least a dozen times, but He spoke to my spirit through it today! I REALLY heard it! And it's the key, the prayer of surrender for our lost souls, our lack of focus and our overwhelming fears. I'll close with the words.

Here's the lyrics, written by Bryan Duncan and what might be our prayer each and every day, and most especially when we have lost our focus!

Open up my eyes, I pray
Lord, for just a little glimpse of you
That's all I need, it's all I've ever needed
To see beyond myself, beyond this tiny, little world
All your hands have made
With beauty and strength alone
I can see you comin' to me now
Oh, like a shimmerin' light
Shimmerin' light on an open sea
Barefoot on the water
Laughin' at the ocean
Like you were old friends
Callin' out my name
Saying join me now

Help me cut these bonds where I keep my spirit tied
All safe and dry
Safe and dry, but so afraid
Let me come to you
Let me run to you
With my heart still beating
Beating in my throat
With my sweaty palms and mouth so dry
Shakin' 'til I can't stand still

All I'm askin' is to let me cross
That great divide between you and I
Only you can take me there
So take me there, yeah!

Strollin' on the water
High over every care
Strollin' on the water
Sinking no longer
Let me rise above the high tide
I can do it, I'll do it, yeah
I know that you said, "follow me"

"Just let the water flow, let it go,
oh, keep your eyes on me, feel alive
Try turning circles, yeah
Bend your knees and wave your hands up high,
You feel the wind in your hair,
With your eyes closed,
Take a breath of fresh air,
Feel the mist on your toes,
Look where we are!"

Strollin' on the water
High over every care
Strollin' on the water
Sinking no longer
Let me rise above the high tide
I can do it, I'll do it yeah,
I know where my strength comes from."


Just follow Him and keep your eyes on the prize!


* Passages taken from "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence
(1) Editor's Preface
(2) First Conversation