Focus

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Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 16:8

I was in my bedroom one afternoon, looking out at the backyard through the sliding glass doors.  The doors have old, cracked, and peeling window tint to help keep out the heat from the hot Florida sun.  The sun beats down on this second story room for most of the day, and the window tint helps significantly.

I watched the branches of the tall palm trees in the backyard as they swayed with the breeze.  It was so beautiful, and so peaceful.  After awhile I began talking with the Lord, thanking Him for His provision and the many blessings in my life.  Soon I began pouring my heart out to Him about the challenges I was facing. This was such a difficult season of my life.  It’s hard to admit, but at times I even questioned whether I would make it through.

As I continued gazing at the branches, the Lord opened my eyes to something right in front of me that had somehow gone unnoticed.  He showed me that when I focused on the peeling window tint, the beautiful palm trees faded into the background, just a blur, and barely noticeable.  When I focused on the palm trees, the cracked window tint faded and I saw the splendor and magnificence of the stately palms.

His lesson that day?  What we focus on can completely change our perspective.

So what are we focusing on?  And Whom are we focusing on?

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Psalm 27:8

My mother is an amazing woman.  When she turned 50 years old, this quiet homemaker decided that she was no longer content riding on the back of my father’s motorcycle, so she enrolled herself in a motorcycle course and learned how to drive one herself.  After successfully passing the course, my father rewarded her with a Harley Davidson motorcycle of her own.  We were all so proud of her!

During the course, one of the points the instructor kept drilling into his students was WYLIWYG – Where You Look Is Where You Go.  He reminded them to keep their eyes on the road ahead, and not be distracted by the things around them.  After a few mishaps, they learned the lesson well.

That lesson is for us who are Christ followers as well.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Yet the problems of life loom large at times, blocking our view of everything else.  We lose sleep, we lose our peace, and the problem in front of us seems to grow bigger with each passing day.  We know the Lord could step in and fix it, remove it at any time, and we question His goodness in letting it remain.

What if we were able to see past the problem, and focus on the presence of God instead?  And what if we stopped worrying about the worst that could happen and instead focused on His promises?  His promise to never leave us nor forsake us.  His promise to never give us more than we can bear.  His promise to provide what He knows we need to eat, drink and wear.  His promise to work all things together for our good.  God is not a man, that He should lie, and He can be trusted.  He truly can.  He is faithful, day in, day out, and always, always keeps His promises.

Abram believed the Lord, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

None of our lives are perfect.  We are all works in progress, and the process is messy at times!  Sometimes things in our lives may look pretty rough – cracked and peeling even, but that can’t be our focus.  We can and should do some clean up work, but the Lord helps us with it.  He instructs us what to do and how to do it, and brings along the tools to complete the work.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Lord, remind us, over and over if necessary, that You are our ever present help in times of trouble, and that You are with us always.  When we have a tendency to look at what is wrong, or broken, remind us that You are a miracle working God with a master plan, and that You are working in the background and will bring deliverance at just the right moment. Help us to trust You even when it looks hopeless, because with You, there is always hope.  Help us to look beyond the cracks and see the beauty in our lives.

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Perfect Timing

Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

My home is under renovation right now, and things are in disarray all around me. My house has two balconies, and both have wood that has to be replaced, after standing faithfully for more than four decades. Our plan was to also replace the wood siding on the second story of our home, in addition to several minor things that needed some attention.

The process is slow, and at times, frustrating.  There have been many delays.  I was particularly concerned when the contractor was unexpectedly called out of town shortly after being paid for the siding materials.  The materials were purchased and sat on the side of the house.  Each day that went by and the work did not begin, I grew more impatient. I thought surely the contractor would have arranged for one of the sub-contractors to install the siding while he was away.

He returned, but still the work was not begun. Finally I received a call from the contractor, and he informed me that the siding we had selected was no longer up to code. It seems that with every hurricane, the code gets stricter.

As I reflected on this turn of events, the Lord spoke a familiar, yet unwelcomed, truth to my heart: His delays are always for my good. Always.

See, had the contractor installed the wood siding when I wanted it installed, it would have had to be removed, and it would have cost me greatly, both in time and materials, and we would have had to pay for the more costly option of stucco. The delay saved me time, money, and a bigger headache.

But they that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Not long after that, Hurricane Irma came onto the scene. I prepared my home as best I could, but there were some things I didn’t have the time, knowledge or strength to do – such as putting boards over my windows.

My beloved came to my rescue. Using leftover wood that the contractor had not yet removed, he, my daughter and I measured and cut the wood, and then covered our windows. My heroes!

I had not been happy that the unused wood was still here, but yet another delay worked in my favor.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:25-26

I am in awe of the Lord’s goodness to me. If He loves me so much that He allowed these delays for my good, I can rest assured that delays in other areas are for my good as well.

That means your delays are for your good, too. Maybe you’re waiting for the Lord to send you a spouse, or a baby, or a job, or a car, or a house. Maybe you’re waiting for a loved one to come home, or come to the Savior. Maybe you’re waiting for healing.

Waiting is hard! We try to wait without complaining, try to remain cheerful and hopeful, but sometimes we fail. The Lord knows. He sees, and He understands.

Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Psalm 103:13-14

Sometimes He sends us reminders through Bible verses at just the right moment, or a message that we hear on the radio or television, or a conversation with a friend. Sometimes He sends us heroes.

I read recently that God is never early and never late. He is never in a hurry, but is always right on time.

Delays. I don’t know what it is that you’ve been longing and praying for, but I know this – the Lord hears you, He sees you, and everything is going to work out in His perfect way and in His perfect time.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

What a Difference a Day Makes

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

One night awhile back, I had gone to bed hot and irritated.  I live in Florida, and our air conditioning had been having issues for weeks.  After several service calls, the issue had still not been resolved.

There is a balcony off of my second floor bedroom, and tall palm trees in my backyard block the view of the neighbors.  As I prepared for bed, I opened the balcony door, hoping for a breeze to help the ceiling fan cool me.

For the first time in weeks, I slept.  No outside noises woke me during the night, and the Lord sent a breeze to cool me.  I woke well ahead of the alarm I had set.  In the darkness, I contemplated going back to sleep, but instead decided to just have a time of quiet reflection.

I watched as the darkness gave way to light, and watched the breeze blow gently through the palm leaves.  There were still no outside noises – no slamming doors, no vehicles starting, no barking dogs, no voices shouting.  It was peaceful.  It was perfection.

So the LORD said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 2 Kings 19:11-12

It took me back to my younger days, and my very first apartment.  Money was very tight – so tight that I often ate what I called poor man’s pizza, which was nothing more than toast with spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese.  To save money, I often slept with the windows open.  I lived on the third floor, and palm trees blocked the view of the neighboring apartment buildings and the shopping center across the street.

I was a new believer in Yeshua (Jesus), and I greeted every morning with the joyful expectation of spending time with Him.  I devoured the Word of God.  All of my free time was spent studying, praying, and listening to songs about Him.  He filled my life.  He filled me.

Seasons come and go.  Life gets busy, and sometimes the important things are relegated to a lower place in our lives.  It isn’t intentional, and sometimes isn’t even apparent until we have a nostalgic moment, and then we long for the simpler times.  We quiet ourselves, and the Lord whispers that if we slow down and spend time with Him, today can be that way, too.

He reminds us that with all of the distractions of this life, He is peace.  He is hope.  He is there.

What a difference a day makes.

Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. Lamentations 3:22-24