Driven to Distraction

You know, I don’t pay attention to many car commercials, mostly because I can’t afford a new car. But I was watching television over the weekend and one caught my eye like none has in quite a while.

Perhaps you’ve seen it: they ask eight or so people to sit in a room and watch a video on a screen.  You hear a verbal command something to the effect, “Please do not remove your eyes from the screen.  Watch the screen at all times.”

Then the producers send in cute puppies, Vegas-style show girls, loud singers, and a host of other distractions.  And of course, not one participant keeps his/her eyes on the screen.

It’s a car commercial with a target audience for those that feel the need to text while driving.  The car they’re advertising has a text screen located high on the dashboard so that you can text and keep your eyes on the road. Sorry. This makes me nervous. PLEASE DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE — EVEN IF YOU OWN THIS CAR.

The fact that I can’t remember many of the details of this commercial says something. I have to say I wasn’t enthralled by the commercial enough to even remember the make or model of the car. From the moment the commercial started, I heard the still, small voice of God whispering in my ear, “That’s you, Sandy.  You’ve been distracted from Me.”  After that, all I could think of was the spiritual implications of how I’ve been distracted from God.

We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith. and He is the One who makes our faith complete.He suffered death on the cross. But He accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy He could see waiting for Him and now He is sitting at the right hand of God’s Throne.  Hebrews 2:12 ERV

I am a writer, so distractions can be the death of an afternoon of hard work or even an idea. But you don’t have to be a writer for distractions to wreak havoc on your life.

Imagine cleaning your house and happening upon some really interesting television show (Discovery ID can do this for me). You sit to watch a few minutes and the next thing you know it’s time to make supper and do homework with the kids — and that inch of dust is still layered on top of the mantel.

Just about the time you sit down for your quiet time in the Bible and a moment to commune with God, a friend with whom you’ve not spoken in ages calls…and it just seems rude to hang up. Before you know it, it’s been two hours and you now have to rush to get to your doctor’s appointment.

Or, let’s imagine that you are at the grocery store with your list — your concise, nothing-else-needed list; the list that you diligently went through the kitchen cabinets, refrigerator, and the freezer to make; the list you intend to stick to because you’ve promised God to live on a tighter budget and contribute a little extra to the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign at church.   As you turn the first aisle, you notice Nutter Butters are on sale (Or Oreos!) and you counsel with yourself saying, “Just one little bag won’t throw my budget off too much.”  And by the end of the grocery shopping, you’ve “one-little-bagged it” on every aisle and your budget is blown.

“We must never stop looking to Jesus,” is the first line in Hebrews 12:2.

And I fail to do it every day. If you think I’m writing to tell you how well I avoid distractions, my dear Child of God, you are reading the wrong devotion in the wrong blog. It takes great practice to ignore the pleadings of the world and while I’d like to say I spend a good portion of every day practicing avoiding distractions, I don’t spend nearly enough. I get caught up in the drama of the world and let the rush of “being in with the in-crowd” wash all over me.

The point I want to share with you is that God uses worldly things to remind me just how distracted I’ve let myself become. In my gluttony, He shows me a young couple who is barely making it on their own. In my gossip-carrying mouth, He allows me to see or hear a bit of unkindness about myself so that I can lay my hate-carrying tongue on His altar for cleansing. In my impatience, He allows me to experience waiting in a way that will only point me to Him. If I’m carrying a grudge or hate in my heart toward someone, He somehow shows me that I have the same quality I dislike about that person.  I must humble myself and forgive that person or there will be no forthcoming forgiveness from God to me.

In my distracted mind, God shows me a car commercial in which the message isn’t that I can text and watch the road at the same time, but that I can’t remain close to God and let a distraction take my attention away. I must remain focused on my Lord as if the distractions of this world are nothing or I will miss the joy that is waiting for me.

Do you have a something you’d like to share in the comments?  Do you need prayer?  If so, you can leave a detailed request or simply write “unspoken.”

Don’t miss the joy of the Lord, my friends! And whatever our distractions are, rest assured that God is never distracted from us.

If you don’t know about the wonderful missions project (Imagine No Malaria) by the United Methodist Church, please click on the link above, and if you feel so inclined, a donation would be greatly appreciated.

shr

A Very Special Music Monday: Like My Mother Does

Image Source:  www.quotesandwishes.com

I love you, Mama.  We are so much alike it’s scary…but in a good way.  Linda Hall, you are my best friend and role model. You taught me to be a good daughter by watching how you loved and cared for your own mother, my Granny Mae.  You taught me that a mother-in-law can be a source of joy through the relationship I watched you have with my Granny Brook. I realize that because Betty died so soon after Kelly and I were engaged, I’ve missed having her as a source of strength, example, and faith.  Thank you for loving Kelly like he was your own son.  You’ve made such a difference in his life.

My children love you.  You did the job of two grandmothers because you knew that Betty couldn’t be here to share the task with you.  You have offered them your love and advice.  The fact that Claire still gets up on Saturday mornings to have her weekly shot of “Grammy” time is a testimony to the great love and respect she has for you.  The fact that Steven waited so patiently (okay — maybe not-so-patiently) for your rental house to become available so that he could raise his family in the place where he was raised is a testament to our family’s great love and support of each other.  And even thought Martin is still living at home, working on his education, it means a great deal to him to be able to walk over anytime and see you.  I know their adoption papers say that they are not blood-related to you, but your spirit flows through their veins and your influence has shaped the persons they’re becoming.

Four Generations:  My Mom and Joshlyn (center), Steven (right), and Me (left)

Photo Source:  Sandra Hall Rosser

I’ve watched you struggle with eyesight issues all of my life.  Of course, I didn’t know you were handicapped until I was in high school.  You could do everything, except drive, and I just thought Granny Mae drove us everywhere because she loved being with us.  You play the piano like a professional and have been the pianist at Judson Baptist Church for fifty-four years.  You worked as a teacher’s assistant in the Cumberland County Schools and touched hundreds of children’s lives with your love and Christian influence.

You’ve seen me through bad choices, rough situations, emotionally crippling times, and countless other faults and sins I’ve endured in my fifty-one years.  Although I didn’t always appreciate your advice when I was younger, the older I get, the more I realize that you were right more times than you were wrong.  Even when you were wrong, you admitted it, and that made an impact on me.  As a parent, I’ve made countless errors, but I always admit when I’m wrong because it lets my kids know that I am human and need forgiveness.  I’ve even begun to hear that phrase that is music to my ears:  “You were right, Mom!”

In wishing my Mama a happy birthday, I have to acknowledge two other very important women who added to my spiritual and emotional education:  Eula Mae Carter (my maternal grandmother) and Mary Alice Westbrook (my paternal grandmother). I lost them over a decade ago.  Granny Mae’s birthday would have been on September 5.  Granny Brook’s birthday would have been on September 7.  I believe that I have received wonderful traits from my “September Superwomen.”

She watches over her family
    and never wastes her time.
Her children speak well of her.
Her husband also praises her,
   saying, “There are many fine women,
    but you are better than all of them.”
Charm can fool you, and beauty can trick you,
    but a woman who respects the Lord should be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned;
    she should be praised in public for what she has done.                                                                                            (Proverbs 31:27-31, NCV)

My Granny Mae was a woman after God’s own heart.  She lived right beside my family as I was growing up.  My greatest memory associated with her is that she always had her Bible on the kitchen table and open to whatever she was studying.  I had the great privilege of having her as my senior high Sunday school teacher.  She lost the love of her life in her fifties and never re-married.  She worked hard all her life.  She loved me unconditionally but she never minded telling me when she thought I was wrong.  She was a woman who kept her opinions about other people close to the vest — not much of a gossip.  (Sorry, Granny Mae.  I’m striving to be more like that daily.)

IMG_0001

Three Generations:  Granny Mae (center), Mama (right), and Me (left)

Photo Source:  Reflections Photography/Diane Atkinson

She was the reason I was able to participate in any after school activities.  Because my mom was visually impaired (and I was not aware of the ramifications of this until I got my own driver’s license at sixteen), she and Granny Mae made sure I could stay for chorus, cheerleading practice, and any other activity where the school bus couldn’t take me home.  I cherish those times — the three of us coming home from school, sharing what kind of day I’d had with two of the three most important women in my life.

The thing I’ll never forget about her is that when Martin and Steven first came to live with us, she started making breakfast for them on Saturday mornings.  “I don’t know how long they’ll be with us,” she said.  “But we’re going to make memories while we can.”  When we found out that we could actually adopt them, the Saturday morning breakfasts continued and family from all over the neighborhood began to show up.  It was like a having mini-family reunion every week.  I miss that.

My Granny Brook was also a woman after God’s own heart.  She did not believe in mincing her words — you knew exactly where you stood with Alice Westbrook.  She lost her first husband when my father was two years old and married my Granddaddy Percy, who loved my daddy like he was his own child.  Living directly across the street from her while I was growing up meant that I could visit anytime I wanted.  She always had a garden and the best-stocked freezer!  Summer corn and butter beans in February was always a treat.  My husband says she made the best fried chicken, corn, and butter beans ever cooked on this planet.

IMGGranny Brook (left) and Daddy (right)

Photo Source:  Sandra Hall Rosser

The thing for which I’ll always be grateful is that she lent me the money to go college.  My tuition wasn’t much by today’s standards, but it was more than I could manage without a loan in 1980.  She loaned me the money, interest free.  She was proud that I would be the first college graduate in our family and that I wanted to be a teacher.  She loved my children and they loved her.  Martin and Steven got spend more time with her because they were ten and eleven when she died.  She and my grandfather used to take them to the Autryville Cafe for lunch.  Steven always called it “The Chicken House” because he always got a chicken leg and french fries for his meal.

Claire was only four when my grandmothers died.  Her memories are sketchy, so I always tell her stories.  My Granny Mae and Granny Brook considered her their “little princess” and no great-granddaughter was ever loved more.  I remind her that her middle name, Melinda, is a combination of her grandmothers’ names: “M” from Mary Alice, “E” from Eula Mae, and “Linda,” which is my mother’s name.  She carries a huge legacy in that name and she is proving to be a smart, strong, God-fearing young lady.

It’s my mother’s birthday.  I want to have her around for years to come.  The song I’ve chosen today is not necessarily sacred on face value, but the underlying meaning is sacred for me.  It’s generational in nature because I am what my mother is because she is what my Granny Mae was.

Happy birthday, Mama.  I don’t mind being told that I do things “like my mother does.”  It’s a great compliment.  I hope I make you proud.

shr.

Like My Mother Does” (Lauren Alaina)

FREE MOVIE GIVEAWAY (You Bring the Popcorn and the Milk Duds!)

Easter vacation is just days away and if your teen is like mine, he or she gets bored about day three of any school vacation.  With today’s Friday Five, I’m sharing five great movies with faith-based themes that you might not know about.  I’ve seen them all and own three of them.  These are not only good movies because their message is Christian, they are some of my favorite “four-star” family movies of all time.

I decided to go ahead and post these today so that you can have a week or so to locate and rent them.  Although two of these are over thirty years old, the movies are still in print and can all be rented from Netflix or Blockbuster.  If you find that you’d like to own them, most of them can be purchased at Amazon.

To be eligible for the movie giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment at www.lbtk.wordpress.com after this post.  I will collect comments today, Saturday (March 31), and Sunday (April 1).   Everyone who leaves a comment will be assigned a number and then I’ll let www.random.org choose the winner.   I will let the winner choose which of the movies he/she would like to receive.  So make sure you get your comments in by Sunday at 11:59pm!

HERE ARE FIVE OF MY FAVORITE FAITH-BASED MOVIES OF ALL TIME:

1.  THE FIFTH QUARTER (2010 -starring Ryan Merriman, Aidan Quinn, & Andie MacDowell)

The 5th Quarter

Synopsis:  After a car crash takes the life of his fifteen-year-old brother, Luke returns to Wake Forest University with a renewed purpose in his life.  He then leads the university’s struggling football team to its most successful season ever.

Rating:  PG

My recommendation:  Older children, teens, and adults will enjoy this movie.  It is based on a true story and I love it because it takes place in my home state — North Carolina.  I do not own this movie…yet.

2. AGAINST A CROOKED SKY (1975 – starring Richard Boone, Stewart Peterson, Jewel Blanch, & Clint Ritchie)

Against a Crooked Sky

Synopsis:  Sam Sutter is young man who still acts like a small boy.  When a group of Indians attack his homestead and kidnap his sister, he is determined to prove that he is a man.  With the help of an old trapper, he finds his sister in a faraway land.  To his horror, she is married to an Indian brave and has been framed for the killing of the tribe’s chief.  Sam must run an ancient tribal race in order to save her.  In doing so, he learns the true meaning of love and sacrifice.

Rating: Not Rated

My recommendation:  Although this movie is not rated, I would rate it PG because there is a small bit of violence with the death of the chief.  It is appropriate for older children, teens, and adults.  It’s loosely based on another western entitled, “The Searchers.”  I own this movie in VHS and hope to find it in DVD soon.

3.  WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS (1974 – starring James Whitmore, Stewart Peterson, & Beverly Garland)

Where the Red Fern Grows

Synopsis: Billy, a young boy who lives in the Ozark mountains, saves his money to buy two hound dogs and trains them to hunt raccoons.  (Or as we say in the South, “coons.”)  Along the way, he learns the true meaning of love, loyalty, and friendship.

Rating:  G

My Recommendation:  This movie will be enjoyed by older children, teens, and adults – especially dog-lovers.  I do want to warn parents that this movie depicts the death of a teenage boy.  During a scene in the last third of the movie, one of the characters who has been a thorn in Billy’s side throughout the story falls on an ax while hunting and dies.  The newer version is rated PG for this very reason.  The 2003 version is good, but the original just has a special place in my heart.  It is based on the award-winning children’s book by Wilson Rawls.  When I taught school, we would read the book and watch the movie to compare/contrast the stories.  The book is spectacular and the 1974 movie keeps very close to the book’s storyline.  I own this movie in VHS and hope to purchase it in DVD soon.

4.  THE SECOND CHANCE (2006 – starring Christian contemporary artist Michael W. Smith,  Jeff Obafemi Carr, & J. Don Ferguson)

The Second Chance

Synopsis:  Two young pastors from different walks of life are forced to work together in a small inner-city church.  The Rock, a colossal church who owns the building where the small church meets, wants to tear it down so that a parking lot can be built.  The two young pastors realize that despite the fact that they have virtually nothing in common, they share a strong faith in God and His awesome power.

Rating:  PG-13

My recommendation:  This will be enjoyed by teens and adults.  It is an original screenplay and features the music of Michael W. Smith.  I don’t own it, but I have it permanently saved to my DVR.

5.  THE ULTIMATE GIFT (2006 – starring James Garner, Drew Fuller, Abigail Breslin, & Lee Meriweather)

The Ultimate Gift

Synopsis:  When Jake’s wealthy grandfather dies, he assumes that he will inherit it all.  Instead of getting the mega-bucks up front, there are strings attached.  Jake will inherit the money when he completes a series of tasks.  Along the way, Jake learns that the journey he’s on is the true wealth he’ll receive — his ultimate gift.

Rating:  PG

My Recommendation:  This will be enjoyed by older children, teens, and adults.  I first watched it with the kids at church right around Christmastime.  I have to tell you, I cried.  I loved it so much, I bought it for our family DVD library.

shr

Movie photo credits:  www.netflix.com

Things My Father Taught Me: Lonnie Raymond Hall

My Parents & Me on my Wedding Day

The first man I ever loved turned 70 years old yesterday.  That sentence might register high on the “Ick” Factor unless you know that I am speaking of my father, Lonnie Hall.  But in all truth, he was my very first love.  It is because of his love for me that I learned to love God.  It is with much pride that I introduce you to him.  Apart from my mother, he has had the biggest influence on my Christian life.

It should not surprise you that Kelly, my husband, and my Daddy are very much alike in many ways.  My Daddy loves my Mama in such a way that it’s the standard I used when I was looking for a man who would love me for a lifetime the way Christ loved His church.  Over my life, I have seen the kinds of choices that other female friends have made who did not have the kind of love I received from my father. Some of their lives are pretty messed up.  I know every day how blessed I am.

Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.  Proverbs 23:22 (NLT)

To honor his birthday,  I want to share with you five things my father taught me:

  1. Always be honest.  When I was nine, my father left instructions for me to water the dog.  I did not.  When he came home and found the water dish empty, I said, “The dog drank it all.”  Had this been a small bowl, I might have gotten away with this blatant lie.  However, the water “dish” was actually a huge trough-like metal structure.  If we would’ve had twenty dogs, that thing wouldn’t have been dry at the end of the day.  I was punished.  He talked to me afterward and though I don’t recall word-for-word what the conversation was, the impression it’s left with me for the past forty years is that God hates a liar and so does my Daddy.  It’s important to tell the truth because your reputation is all you have.  When you ruin your reputation by becoming a known liar, you are of little use in God’s kingdom.
  2. God is first;  family is second; all others can wait in line.  I learned to love going to church at an early age.  It’s not the building I loved, it was the fellowship of believers.  There have been seasons of my life in which I’ve removed myself from this fellowship.  These were the most miserable times of my life.  Church is where I go to commune with my Christian brothers and sisters and to give my support to them.  I have often said I don’t know what people who don’t have a church family do in times of trouble.  Likewise, family events are not to be missed unless you are sick or dead.  All of my childhood years, my paternal grandparents hosted a huge family meal in June for my Granddaddy Percy’s birthday.  I can’t say that I was always happy to see that annual event roll around, but I always had a great time after I got there.  Now that my grandparents are gone, I long wistfully for the years that the party was held in their front yard.  It has morphed into a yearly family reunion now and we hold it at a local restaurant.  It’s just not the same as finding my Granny Brook’s fried chicken and butterbeans on plywood tables held up by saw horses.
  3. How you treat your employer says a lot about your character.  My Daddy didn’t call into work sick a lot.  If there was ever a time he missed work., it was probably because my brother or I was sick.  He held his job in esteem because it was what paid the bills.  He showed up and worked hard because to do less was to be ungrateful to your employer and to God, who supplied you with the job in the first place.
  4. Love your children well and be involved in their lives.  My father did a great many things in his life that he would never have done except for me.  He coached my softball team.  He came and watched me in forensic speech, school plays, and beauty pageants.  He came to every football game and basketball game when I was a cheerleader at Cape Fear High School.  It wasn’t until after I graduated that I noticed he stopped going to those ballgames.  I thought he went because he was a sport enthusiast, but he went because I was there, participating.  And if you know how much Lonnie Hall hates a beauty pageant, you will get a glimpse of how much I know he loves me.
  5. Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.  This lesson I learned as much from his actions as from his words.  I saw him living the Word of God at home and serving in his church and community.  It thrills me that we will one day be in Heaven together and that it’s partly because of him that I’m there at all.

My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.  Keep their words always in your heart.  Tie them around your neck.  Proverbs 6:20-21 (NLT)

The day that Kelly and I got engaged, my Daddy asked one thing of us:  to find a church, attend it together, and build our family with God at the center.  It’s a formula that’s worked for my parents for fifty-two years.  It’s been working in my own marriage for nearly twenty-five.  We have kept  “his words in our hearts” and they’ve never failed us.  They’ve never failed us because the words of my father are the words of his Father.

Thank you, Daddy.  I love you with all my heart.  I will always be your little girl.

Photo Credit:  Sandra Hall Rosser 1987