Friday, March 9, 2012

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus--How those words REACH deep within!

I finally feel like I have cleared out so much of the CHAOS in my head and heart.  Those crazy things that I couldn't "shut off"; the ones that were causing me to be so agitated and off balance.  I still have so many things I want to change, need to do differently, and "plans"....but I finally have a direction to go. 

Taking the break from facebook so I could have some "white space" to think has been so very worth it.  Yet it was a HUGE struggle to do it.  Ok---it was more of a struggle in my head to just be obedient to what I felt like God had been convicting me to do for a long time.  The actual "break" has been easier than expected. 

Continuing to say "no" to many things so that I can turn my focus to some other things right now.  Most specifically, the focus right now is on my family, my spouse, and my own spiritual needs.  I'll be back in "full" mode of other things at some point---but for now THIS is where God wants me ministering. 

I had an incredible visit this week with my step-mom.  Nothing else to say about that except that it was SO needed and I feel so grateful for this short time we had together.  I always know that we are going to have a great time, but this time it just really did so many "heart repairs".  Because I had already allowed some "white space" to come in,  I was REALLY able to let my heart absorb so much from her visit.

For so long (at the very least the last six weeks), I have REALLY been struggling with being full of anger, bitterness, negativity, and all of those UGLY emotions.  I didn't like that feeling in the least.  So many situations had been going on around us that I just literally found myself unable to breathe.  No matter how much I fought it, prayed against it, asked for help from others..I just couldn't find the peace in my heart or break down the walls that were RAPIDLY building.  It made me feel like such a hypocrite and the guilt that came with it pushed me deeper and deeper into that pit. 

Clearing my head of the CHAOS became the only focus.  I made some hard decisions.  It meant giving up some things I REALLY love.   In the beginning, I felt so incredibly unstable because I was operating outside of my "box". 

Starting over is NOT easy.  Admitting failure in areas is not fun.  Taking risks is not an easy thing for me---I'm such a "control freak".   Feeling like a "quitter" is not in my comfort zone.  Letting some things go or trying different approaches was not initially easy.  Not serving in some areas at church has been VERY hard because I already feel like many of those relationships have changed significantly.   I also find so much of my identity and the different "things" I do outside of our own home and to step out of that wasn't easy.

Yet, it has been the absolute right thing to do. 

My head is clear.  My heart is repairing.  I've been able to sit and REALLY talk with my husband.  (Talking is not usually my main means of communication.  I've always said I'm a writer, not a talker!)   I'm able to pray with focus again.  Even talking through some "hard" things with him or with other trusted relationships hasn't sent me into a spiral of negativity or anger.  God has REALLY reached in and done some repair work and I couldn't be more grateful for the things He is showing me and doing in my life right now.  It hasn't been easy or without "pain", but the results are becoming more clear every day.

Last Sunday, Jason did a fantastic job speaking about keeping our eyes focused on Jesus.  He normally does a fantastic job of reaching my heart, but the timing on this sermon was perfect.  Divine. 

What he was talking about us needing to do, is what I had been doing the last couple of weeks.  Shutting off everything else so I could focus on Jesus.  He used the chorus of the old hymn  "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" as the basis of his sermon.  I spent so much time this week with the chorus going through my head, soaking in the BEAUTY of the words, and thanking God for the words reaching the deepest places in my heart that I had to research more about the song.  I remember singing it so many times growing up in our little hometown Baptist church.

It was composed by Helen Lemmel.  In 1918, a missionary friend gave her a tract entitled "Focused".   It contained these words: "So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness. "  It was based on the words of Hebrews 12:2:   "We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne."  These words made a deep impression upon Helen Lemmel. She could not dismiss them from her mind. She recalls this experience following the reading of that tract: "Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but none the less dictated by the Holy Spirit."

When Jason spoke Sunday about feeling overwhelmed, having a lost identity, even struggling with aging, difficulties, and just having CHAOS swirling around in our heads, he was really describing me and the feelings I had been battling.  I may not have been experiencing every issue he mentioned, but the feelings were the same. He talked about how when we are overwhelmed, we don't think clearly.  Can I get an AMEN?  That is EXACTLY what was happening with me.  Reality didn't even make sense.  I was even having panic attacks.  Some had been quite alarming!

When I made the choice to calm my heart in so many areas, in essence I WAS making that turn to focusing my eyes FULLY on Christ.  I was letting the rest of the world go away and letting my heart reconnect to the source of all peace, joy, understanding and letting my faith restore the broken places.  Just like I've talked about before, when I felt God LITERALLY forcing my chest to breathe during some VERY hard moments in the loss of Dad and other recently difficult situations....that same peace has arrived again.  Turning my thoughts to Him (quoting Phil 4:6-8 countless times), digging in His word (thankful for B90 more than ever right now), spending time communicating with Him (praying AND listening), turning to those that know and protect my heart (my spouse & a few very close friends), losing myself in worship, etc... has restored that balance. 

The lyrics of "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" has truly come to life for me in a very visible, powerful way.  Just as I felt God breathing for me at times, I've been experiencing how the things of earth will grow STRANGELY dim.  The things I couldn't shut off in my head, have in an inexplicable way grown more dim.  Until Jason spoke about this song, I really didn't have the words to describe what I've been feeling and experiencing.  For someone that had been experiencing such overwhelming chaos to the point of panic attacks to suddenly be having overflowing, abundant peace, joy, and is just unreal.  It's that peace that is talked about in Philippians 4:7....the kind that transcends ALL understanding.  More thankful every day that I'm able to claim that verse as my own because I FEEL it deeper every day. 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Though Jason spoke about the chorus/refrain.  I'm also reminded of another part towards the end of the hymn. 

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;

Believe Him, and all will be well.

Aren't those words the absolute truth?!  I just wish I didn't hesitate so often in remembering it.  He proves it TIME and TIME again!  Yet, in my weak selfish, human side, I too often fail to grasp it.

I'm also thankful for Jason's reminder that as long as we are here on earth, we will at times (even MANY) times feel overwhelmed.  Joy and weeping will mingle together during our time on earth.  (Just as in Ezra 3:13).  It's just part of how things are.  It is also something that drives us to keep our eyes on HIM and something that keeps us coming back to Him admitting our needs, our failures, and our complete reliance!  We  I am nothing without Him.  For that reason, feeling overwhelmed just drives me back to Him.  EXACTLY where I belong.  

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