Tag Archives: Distraction

Spirit Spring and Personal Cistern

They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns
Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

Wendy and I came home from our cruise a week ago with a mixture of emotions. We’ve done some debriefing about it together this past week. As I admitted in my recap, our time aboard fell into a very simple (and some would say “boring”) routine. We read a lot. We watched movies in our room. We sat by the pool in the warm sun. We only went to one of the big stage shows they offer in the evenings. We only truly explored one of the four ports of call. The daily list of activities we could enjoy was mind-boggling, but we pretty much ignored it all. We didn’t want endless activity. We have that at home.

On one hand we truly enjoyed the rest, the warmth, and the break from routine. We enjoyed being together as we always do. It was quiet and peaceful. At the same time, we both came home feeling that our Spirit-tank was empty. Independent of one another, we had thoughts of some thing on which we wanted to ponder and dig into. We had plans for journaling, meditating, seeking, and conversation together. We thought the downtime would afford us the opportunity to dig deep from a spiritual perspective. In retrospect, we didn’t do that, nor did we really even talk about it before we left.

In today’s chapter, Jeremiah’s prophetic poetry is pointed at his own people. He offers a word picture that leapt off the page for me in the quiet this morning. They had access to God’s “spring of living water,” but chose to dig their own cisterns instead. Yeah. I get that. I kind of feel like that with our missed opportunity a few weeks ago.

That confessed, I’m not beating myself up about this. It is what it is. It was a restful week and an enjoyable getaway. Nevertheless, it has served as a reminder for me. The line between “surface” and “Spirit” is an important one. Drinking from the spring of Living Water is not the same as drinking from the well-dug cistern of personal satisfaction.

Chalk up another lesson for the journey. I’m going to do it differently the next time we getaway together for a time of rest.

Have a good week, my friends.

Driven to Distraction

They sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.
Nehemiah 6:4 (NRSV)

For the last couple of years our local gathering of Jesus’ followers have been encouraged to pray about and choose a word that will be a theme for their year. My word for this year is “focus.”

Focus has been an interesting theme as I celebrate my half-century in this life journey, as an empty nest offers increased margins of time and resources, and as I am meditating on the reality of being on the downhill side of this life journey. I am ever and increasingly mindful that while my margins may have expanded in the micro sense, in the macro sense I am working with slowly depleting resources of time and energy.

We’re now almost half-way through the year and I’ve been spending some moments meditating on how my focus is going.  I have to confess that it’s not good. As I think about how I need and desire to focus my time, energy, and resources I find that life serves up a never-ending stream of distractions. I am so easily distracted in a million different ways. Between social media, technology, entertainment, television, games and events there is an endless supply of good and fascinating things on which I can focus my time and attention.

In today’s chapter, Nehemiah is desperately trying to focus on the project he’s been called to complete. He wants to get the wall rebuilt and the gates in place. He’s close to having the job done. Now, he is repeatedly harassed by critics and enemies who want to meet with him. He’s attacked with slander and gossip which requires him to address the lies and rumors. His life is threatened and he’s urged to sequester himself in the temple to be safe. Distractions. Distractions. Distractions.

Nehemiah’s response to these distractions was consistent. First, he took everything to God. He prayed for the work on which he needed to focus, and asked for God’s strength. He handed his troubles and enemies over to God and relegated justice to higher authority. And, he stayed focused on the work.

At the end of today’s chapter:

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

Today, I’m thinking again about my focus. The great thing about having a theme or a goal is that it becomes a point of reference. I may get off course or distracted, but simply having “focus” as my word of the year keeps calling me back from distraction. I can’t do anything about what’s past, but I have a new day, a clean day in front of me. And, on June 21 in Iowa, it’s a long day.

Time to focus.

Closer than I Realize

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.
Deuteronomy 30:11 (NRSV)

There were often times when the girls were quite small that I would quietly be present observing and watching over them. They were oblivious to my presence, their attention drawn to shiny things, new things, and the struggle to stand and walk. Their eyes and hearts were fixed on the exploration of the world that existed just 0-24 inches from the ground. There I hovered, quietly watching and wordlessly removing dangerous objects from their path before they got there. I was intent on their growth, their maturity, and their well-being. In the moment, they had no idea.

I remember the early days of my faith journey. I had decided to follow Jesus and it all seemed so new and unexpected. At the same time, I began to look back with unveiled eyes and to realize all of the ways that my Heavenly Father had been there all along. I could, in retrospect, see how things had been ordered to bring me to this place without my even knowing it.

In today’s chapter, Moses reminds God’s people that the things of God are “not too hard” nor are they “too far away.” So often I, like a small child, allow my eyes and heart to be captivated by shiny things, new things, and those things which exists just 0-72 inches from the ground. My Heavenly Father, crowded out of my vision and consciousness, is ever-present and intent upon my protection, my growth, and my maturity, even when I am oblivious in the moment.

Today, I am thankful that God, and all that God has to offer, is closer and more easily accessible than I perceive or believe in the moment.

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“Stay the Course. Eyes on Me.”

You must follow exactly the path that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you are to possess.
Deuteronomy 5:33 (NRSV)

Some mornings as I read the chapter there is a message that is just for me; A word that speaks directly to the moment I am in at that particular waypoint on life’s journey. This morning was one of those mornings.

We are a fickle culture with short attention spans. What’s trending on Twitter today will be a long forgotten memory in a few days, or even hours. We are inundated with competing messages broadcast from countless media outlets and sources all vying for our attention. The result is that I am constantly distracted.

There is so much available to me at my finger tips through the myriad of screens in my life. If I don’t like this show I can switch to that channel, or watch YouTube, or Vimeo, or stream Netflix. If I’m bored with Facebook I can check Twitter, or Pinterest, or my blog reader. If I don’t like the music on Spotify, I can always look for a playlist on Amazon Prime or turn SonicTap on the television, or I can always go retro and actually turn on a radio. The opportunities for distraction are mind-numbingly endless.

How does this affect my spirit? My thinking? My life?

I fear that it is becoming far too easy for me to lose constancy, fidelity, and focus. When I spiritually experience an obstacle in life’s road, I immediately assume there’s an alternate route that will be faster and easier. Instead of sticking to the path to which I’m called, I’m distracted by all the other paths leading off to who knows where. Instead of focusing on the task at hand I’d rather focus on my iPhone, my iPad, my smart TV, or something else, and then another something else, and then another something else.

This morning, in the quiet of my home office, God whispered to my spirit: “Stay the course. Don’t turn to the right or left. Eyes on me.”

 

chapter a day banner 2015

featured photo:  Blake Patterson via Flickr

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 27

Moses and the Levitical priests addressed all Israel: Quiet. Listen obediently, Israel. Deuteronomy 27:9 (MSG)

I came back from a business trip to Grand Island last week with a nasty little head cold. The cold did a number on my energy level and for the past four nights I’ve slept particularly long and hard. The result is that I’ve risen an hour or two (or three) later than normal and that has thrown my routine off significantly. My body is recuperating, but I feel my soul getting out of sorts.

I’m a morning person. I always have been. I drove my parents crazy because I wouldn’t sleep in. For years, I have channeled my early rising nature in positive ways. I normally spend a couple of hours each morning in my home office in uninterrupted quiet. I pray. I read. I write my chapter-a-day post. I listen.

The cacophany of noise around us continues to grow unabated. Television, cell phone, radio, iPods, DVDs, Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, MP3 players, and Blu-Ray discs. We are plugged in, tuned in, surfing, chatting, texting, and tweeting. Not one of these things is a bad thing. I sometimes wonder, however, about the cumulative effect of all the noise around us.

My time of quiet each morning is like a way-station in the journey. It recharges my spiritual batteries as I unplug from the noise and take the time to listen for God’s still, small voice whispering to my soul deep within. When I don’t have that time of quiet in the morning, I begin to notice in the way my spirit gets brittle and edgy during the day.

I believe that we all need regular doses of quiet in our lives. It’s as important, if not more important, today as it was when God demanded it of Moses’ followers thousands of years ago. Quiet doesn’t happen regularly unless I make it happen. Sometimes, like the past few days, my bodies need for recuperative rest takes precedence over my morning quiet time. It’s only reminded me, however, how much I need it.

Shhhhhh. Listen.