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

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Music Monday: Hurricane

Life has recently felt a bit disjointed, a little crazy, a little out of control, and a lot nonstop for me.  When I arose this morning, I felt run-down and a bit like an over-done steak.  Ever been there?  Are you there right now?

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Once, I ran out of gas driving my little blue Subaru in the days when I was first teaching school.  That was way before cell phones.  It wasn’t dark, but it was close.  I was on my way home from school and just about half a mile from my exit on Interstate 95 when the car sputtered, puttered, and I guided it off the road as it rolled to a stop.  Yep, the needle was below “E” if that’s possible.

Image Source:  www.automopedia.org

I sat for a few minutes, wondering what to do.  I decided to get out and walk to the exit ramp, go to the Exxon station and call my daddy.  Before I took more than ten steps, a pick-up truck slowed down and pulled up in front of my car.  It was the grandfather of one of my students (and the janitor at Eastover-Central Elementary School).  Once I told him what the problem was, he advised me to get back in the car, lock it, and he’d be right back.  In about twenty minutes, he was back with a full gas can and poured it all into my gas tank. The car started right up.  He wouldn’t even let me pay him!  Leon Patterson was an angel that day.  (As I later found out, he couldn’t really afford to be as generous as he’d been that October afternoon.  So, I made sure he always got extra goodies from me at Christmas and any other holidays that came throughout the year.)

I could have run out of gas on another road or at a different place along the highway that Mr. Patterson might never have passed.  Or I could have been driving my parents’ car that day, which Mr. Patterson would never have recognized.  But it was just the right spot and in the car Mr. Patterson knew belonged to me.  He found me along a highway in a situation that could have been dangerous.  In my heart, I know God sent me Leon Patterson that day.

Image Source:  www.touch-the-flame.deviantart.com

God sees us running around under our own steam.  He sees that our tanks are getting to that dangerous “below empty” level.  He’s just waiting for us to run out of gas and turn to Him for strength and solace and comfort — to give up the burden and take His lightness to our souls.

So, today — even though there was a storm raging in my heart — I just took a little time for Him.  I let Kelly run a couple of errands for me on his way home from work instead of dragging myself out of the house to do it.  I sang as I swept the kitchen (and grimaced at the amount of dirt that can accumulate in just a couple of days) and in between songs,  I spent a lot of time praying.  I sat down and played hymns on the piano.  I listened to my favorite Christian radio stations.

Image Source:  www.amerigas.

And Natalie Grant was singing my song.  So, I thought I’d share it with you, even though it’s late.  Who knows?  Even though the calm has finally come to my house, the storm may be raging at yours.  Just remember God made those winds, and He can control them.  Just let Him.

shr

Hurricane” (Natalie Grant)

How Can I Keep From Singing: It is Well with My Soul

I’m not even done with the first month of 2012 and I am already weary.  It seems that there have been so many problems plaguing me and the people I love.  Of course, some of the problems are new, but some of the problems are just left-overs that have hung around from 2011.  There are even some issues I’m facing that have been hanging around for years — some have taken new forms, but some are just that same old mean, nasty, lingering problems that I’ve known and experienced for the past few years of my life.  I have friends in the same position.   Some of us are fighting depression, the loss of employment, and troubles with family.  Some of us have been lied to and betrayed.  We’ve lost trust in some of the people closest to us.  The people in our lives have confused us and, as my Daddy sometimes says, “We don’t know our butts from third base.”

Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the fiery troubles that are coming in order to test you. Don’t feel as though something strange is happening to you, but be happy as you share Christ’s sufferings. Then you will also be full of joy when he appears again in his glory.  1 Peter 4:12-13 (GWT)

I know that I’m being tested.  I know that you are being tested.  Some of the testing is ugly and brings worldly thoughts into our heads.  Just this past weekend, I thought of someone who, in my eyes, has it made.  I even said to myself, “Now I could live her life and do such a good job of it, Lord, you might consider giving her life to me permanently.  What do you think of that God?”  By the way, God didn’t think much of it.   Instead. He’s spent the last two days showing me how very blessed I am despite my personal sufferings.  He hasn’t let me forget a single thing in my life that is good or the fact that those blessings are directly from Him.

Our suffering as Christians serves five purposes:

  1. Suffering causes us to rely fully on the Lord.  Sometimes, we run away first to try and “make it on our own.”  But when that fails we humbly come to God on our knees, even if it takes years.
  2. Suffering causes sin to lose its power.  No matter what the world does to you, God is always there.  You are not alone.  You have His power.
  3. Suffering causes our witness to become stronger.  When we find success after suffering, we offer praise to The One who gave us the strength to survive.  God gets all the glory.
  4. Suffering causes us to become sensitive to the problems of other people.  We recognize the hurt we’ve experienced in others and we have empathy for them.  It makes us approachable.
  5. Suffering causes us to be esteemed in God’s eyes.  When we don’t give up, God sees the determination in us and we are blessed.

It’s easy to leave God’s Word and prayer out of our lives when we’re hurting.  Who has time to read the Bible and pray when you’re licking your wounds?  This, then, is the time to get up off that couch, put away the bag of chips, put on some lipstick (my friend, John Pat McCall says you can accomplish anything if you’ve got your lipstick on), and ask God what He wants you to do.  I’ll bet His response will be to do something for someone else, expecting nothing in return.  Getting “into” others is a sure-fire way to get “outside” of yourself.

I chose “It is Well with My Soul” for this week’s HCIKFS emphasis because it’s a comfort song and I’ve been in drastic need of comfort and hope this past week.   I chose to share this particular video version because Bill Gaither tells the background of the hymn”s writer, Horatio Spafford.  You will hear about the ghastly things this man had to endure in his life.  His losses were great, but His joy in the Lord was profound.  This is how I want to live my life!  The world may steal my happiness, but it will never take my JOY!

shr

“It is Well with My Soul” (Gaithers with Guy Penrod) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=KYP–c2LTfg