Captivators of Our Attention

 

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It is little wonder that many of us get distracted easily even if we do not have a diagnosis that confirms a reason for it. Information and data of all types bombard us throughout the day. It comes through both visual and auditory channels. It often takes us from the original stimulus down rabbit trail after rabbit trail and is often meant to do just that. Its goal is to capture our attention and seduce us with the message we receive.

 

Many of us will be reading through some online information we actually sought and discover some additional tidbit tucked in it that sounds like additional information on the same topic. Once we hit a key to open that additional input, we discover it takes us to an ad to purchase or buy something we had no plans to even consider.

 

Captivators are seductive and we are drawn in before we sometimes recognize it is bright-close-up-colors-827060happening. It can happen with the sale ads that flood our email inbox daily. We have a fascination with things that are new or different.

 

We also are drawn to things that promise us something we long for.

 

“We will always be drawn to life, whether that is genuine life offered by God or its counterfeit.”  Andrew J. Bauman in Stumbling Toward Wholeness

 

It’s the force that any addiction counts on to sway us away from our better self and escape into another world where our pain of isolation, fear, anger, or betrayal are anesthetized.

 

At its core, life in Christ is an ongoing relinquishment of self to allow the Lord to make us more and more into his image, to transform us from the residual impact of the fall in Eden.

 

That relinquishment is not meant to obliterate the person God designed you or me to be. Baby eyesHis purpose is to regain the original design that He meant so we can flourish. He wants us to be restored as image bearers through his sacrifice and be available to move in life as He has purposed.

 

The same enemy that showed up in the paradise of Eden has not changed his mind about what he wants to accomplish. We are in the bull’s eye of his target and destruction is his intent and he will use any and all means to accomplish it. His disguises are so many they cannot be counted. He has honed his skill over thousands of years of practice.

 

“When life becomes all about self and when the energy of life is about relief from our self-imposed hunger for true connection, then love becomes manipulation, strength becomes cowardice, and dignity becomes arrogance.”  Andrew J. Bauman

 

If any one of us is consumed with what is going on in our lives, there is little likelihood we have a clue about what is happening in anyone else’s life or what they may have to offer in true relational connection. When we don’t, that spurs us into more busyness and more self-soothing choices.

 

How easily we forget in this polarized world the basic truth the enemy is counting on us to forget or dismiss.

 

He doesn’t want us to see that he is the enemy and the force at work each day to upend us.

 

“Evil is the thing that is set against God and, because we are created in God’s image, is set against us. Evil is self-propagating, emulating God’s creative work in its own destructive effort, committed to steering us away from our love and toward lesser things.”  Andrew J. Bauman

 

aerial-aerial-view-airphoto-681381Brent Curtis and John Eldredge describe this well in their book, Sacred Romance, in the chapter entitled “Less-Wild Lovers.”  They want the reader to understand that God is the wildest of lovers who has expended everything (even his beloved Son) to regain what was lost in Eden. Because we were designed for intimacy with Him, once that was broken our hearts will propel us to seek it wherever we can find it. Too often we choose “less-wild lovers” and those are what the Lord would have us forsake. They are the enemy of wholeness.

 

Curtis and Eldredge describe it this way:

 

“We come to a place in our spiritual life where we hear God calling us. We know he is calling us to give up the less-wild lovers that have become so much a part of our identity, embrace our nakedness, and trust in his goodness.”

 

 What are “less-wild lovers?”

 

 “Our adversary also seduces us to abide in certain emotions that act as less-wild lovers, particularly shame, fear, lust, anger, and false guilt. They are emotions that ‘protect’ us from the more dangerous feelings of grief, abandonment, disappointment, loneliness, and even joy and longing, that threaten to roam free in the wilder environs of the heart.”  Curtis and Eldredge

 

Yes, we all experience these emotions. Please note the key word I underlined – abide. If we abide in these emotions, it suggests we live there and never embrace the new life and wholeness Christ offers us. He came to set us free from the emotions that would seek to bind us and cause us to live in the shadows. We are meant to abide in Christ.

 

“There is only One Being who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Oswald Chambers

 

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Chasing After Rest

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Today’s hurried culture and frenetic pace seems to have reached impossible levels for many of us no matter what season or age we may be. The “simpler life” of the generations before us may have been “simpler” because the days were governed by work hours and all the wonderful media devices were not on the scene.

 

Life when a family gathered around the radio in the evening to listen to a favorite broadcast is truly a contrast to our lives today.  IF the whole family is home, it is not black-and-white-black-and-white-busy-735795likely that all the members will be in the same room since all our electronic devices beckon each of us to our favorite so that family gathering that happened around the big upright radio is gone forever.

 

Ask most retirees about their lives and they will often comment they don’t know how they had time to work before retirement. They are busy unless health issues curtail that. And it’s not just about fishing or golfing or a multitude of doctors’ appointments that keep them busy. It’s opportunities to serve in endless ways, a chance to learn new things there was never time for before retirement, and discoveries of new passions and ways to use them.

 

For those not yet retired, they can be surprised when they assume a retiree has time to add one more thing to their schedule to help out in one way or another.

 

Sometimes times to relax or rest actually get penciled onto calendars to try to assure it alone-autumn-beautiful-267039happens (even though it still gets eroded many times). Massotherapists are kept busy as people hope an hour of luxurious massage will make up for too little sleep and a non-stop schedule.

 

I wonder if we misunderstand a basic principle. Planning a recreational activity may be fun and it’s grand to have those, but it can still leave us without the refreshment and sense of restedness from our workaday life. It can fail to nourish us and settle our interior world that is cluttered and unsettled.

 

I hear believers parched for uninterrupted quiet times without the tyranny of a clock pushing them. Some even have added, “quiet time” to their calendars to try to assure this occurs.

 

God knew we needed rest.  That is evident of Exodus 23:12 where the Sabbath is established and God wants not only man, but even the animals to rest. Jesus makes reference to that in Mark 2:27 (ESV):

 

“And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

 

clouds-cloudscape-dawn-417066 What we may be missing is that the Lord is not just looking at ceasing from work or physical rest. Too many of us can attest to getting enough sleep and still feeling tired.

 

True rest is not just about pausing our schedules or halting what we are doing.

 

The secret to rest that refreshes is described well by Jennifer Dukes Lee in It’s All Under Control:

 

 “…true rest isn’t about your lack of activity; it’s about the state of your soul. True rest isn’t a place you go; it’s a Person you know. True rest is the unshakeable presence of God, breathing his gift of life into your whole being – body, mind, and soul – whether you are at your busiest or absolutely still in his embrace.”

 

 As it turns out silence is not just a good spiritual discipline. Jennifer Dukes Lee quotes a Harvard Business Review article that states, Taking time for silence restores the android-wallpaper-drops-of-water-iphone-wallpaper-8633nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive.”

 

 Additionally, “the biggest obstacle to creativity is being too busy.”

 

 As you consider your own state of soul rest, consider Jennifer’s words:

 

“The world is filled with ambient noise, and it can be hard to hear God’s voice above it all. Maybe it would be easier if God were a screamer, but he’s more like a whisperer, with his still small voice.”

 

 What does that kind of rest do for us? Jennifer makes that clear:

 

“Resting in God serves two purposes: First, rest allows you to intentionally connect with God. God wants to meet with you, not simply to give you the day’s marching orders. He wants to be with you because he likes you. Second, rest calms the noise around you so you can hear God’s clear direction. In the same way Jesus knew to “go somewhere else” instead of returning to Simon’s house, you can hear where God actually wants you to go when everyone comes looking for you.”

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Are We Focused on the Wrong Weight Loss Program?

 

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There is no question that we are being urged to get healthier from every direction. From TV, magazine, and email ads, to billboards and government recommendations, we are being urged to look at exercise and eating habits. Research is continually putting out new studies about fats, carbs, and proteins. If you read very much of this sort of thing, you also discover research results are changing.

 

I remember when eggs were taboo, but now they have been welcomed back into our diets (especially if they are cage free). Non-fat was the absolute goal in everything that entered our mouths, but now research is showing us the fallacy of that. Our bodies actually need healthy good fats to function well. Our brains are nearly all fat and if we starve it of “good fats,” we are less healthy.

 

pexels-photoThere is a great deal to keep up with regarding health and weight loss. Some programs seem to work for some people for a time, but once they stray everything slides to worse than before the program started. Some programs seem to work for no one.

 

Then there are the issues of how each decade adds new challenges. We keep trying to hold back the tsunami effects of hormonal changes and each new decade, but keep losing the battle many times. Few of us will have bodies that look or function like they did when we were 20 or 30 when we reach 60, 70, and beyond.

 

I wonder if we are as concerned about the other weight we carry.

 

The writer of Hebrews 12:1 talks about laying aside another kind of weight, doesn’t he?

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

 

The Passion Translation of Hebrews 12:1 reads like this:

 

“As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. pexels-photo-618612Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.”

 

 Clearly, the writer has chosen the metaphor of a race and there is always a great deal of physical training and exercise and diet regimens when a big race is ahead. But the writer uses that to talk about another kind of race and another issue of “weight control” that can hinder us in that race.

 

The race the writer of Hebrews speaks of and that Paul often refers to is the race we run in our spiritual lives. He makes note that too much weight there can bog us down as well, but I don’t think I hear many of us talking about a weight program to deal with that kind of weight.

 

What would a weight loss program look like for the spiritual race?

 

Matthew Henry identifies two parts of the program in his commentary on this verse.  He clarifies what the “weight” is that we are to deal with as “all inordinate affection and f19d67f40d9e79188d3713b57a10ffb5concern for the body, and the present life and world. Inordinate care for the present life, or fondness for it, is a dead weight upon the soul, that pulls it down when it should ascend upwards, and pulls it back when it should press forward; it makes duty and difficulties harder and heavier than they would be.”

 

That spells it out very specifically for us. These are things that do challenge us on a daily basis in our personal, work, social, and cultural life. Every one of these areas push to keep us focused on the seen world and that world is pretty messy, depressing, and scary. If our focus remains there, we can lose hope.

 

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV) speak directly to this challenge:

 

 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

 

The “seen” world shouts for and seduces us for attention.

 

When our focus is shifted there, we can become angry, anxious, and ambivalent. We can have difficulty sleeping and our eating habits change as a result of those stirred emotions.

 

The second part of the weight loss program we need to address from Hebrews 12:1 is “the sin that clings closely.”  What sin is that?  It’s the one that has the greatest asphalt-dark-dawn-531321advantage over us based on our lived experience, the circumstances we are in, our overall constitution, and the company we keep.

 

Sometimes that sin is one we can quickly name, but sometimes we don’t want to name it because if we’re honest we aren’t sure we want to give it up. It has become a habit that in some way gives us back something we like, want, or think we need.

 

Yet it is in this area that we add to the weight noted in the first part of the weight loss program Mathew Henry identified. We now add the weight of guilt from unconfessed sin as well as shame that causes us to hide when we most need to be vulnerable with God and other safe people in our lives.

 

There is no doubt we should take our physical health and well being seriously by stewarding our bodies well. But if we neglect this more serious “weight loss program” related to our spiritual life, the consequences will last beyond this life.

 

The Word offers healthy “essential” building blocks for the spiritual weight loss program.”  Here are just a few:

 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12: 2 (ESV)

 

 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  Galatians 5:16 (NIV)

 

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)

 

How is your spiritual weight loss program going?

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Tripping Over Obedience

 

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How often have you been walking through your home (over areas you know so well) and tripped? It can happen because someone moves a piece of furniture, leaves an item on the floor, or we fail to turn on the light and try to navigate in the dark.

 

One of the things we sometimes trip over is obedience.

 

Just for clarity, let’s see how a dictionary describes obedience. The dictionary I am looking at reads:

 

“compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority”

 

That makes it pretty obvious why obedience can trip us up. If we are honest, most of us will admit that we prefer to do what we want to do, in the way we want to do it, and when we want to do it.

 

Choosing to obey means we need to bend our will to someone outside of ourselves.

 

It’s little wonder that one of the challenges a parent faces is teaching a child to be obedient, to “train up a child in the way he should go…”from that familiar passage in Proverbs 22:6. On the other side of that challenge is the child (of ANY age) who has to comply.

 

accident-banana-skin-be-careful-36763It can be tempting to keep the subject of obedience in the area of childhood or in some cases with the law portions of scripture, but the bigger test is how we respond to obedience as adults.

 

There are the usual things we kid about like whether or not we obey the speed limit, yellow caution lights, school zones, and moving out of the way of emergency vehicles. There are also a fair number of other laws or rules we are subject to in our rule-governed society (even in this era where it seems they can be ignored or mocked).

 

There are the moral codes we tend to know, as well as ethical codes that govern most professions. Then there is the question of whether your marriage vow included the word “obey” or not and your understanding of the vow and what it means. But there is so much more to obedience than even this growing list.

 

Obedience also means tuning in and following the nudges of the Holy Spirit from the Lord.

 

Those nudges are ones we can doubt or question and really get in the way of our plans. Our resistance also reveals remnants of the old sin nature we inherited from the Garden of Eden and our selfish bent.

 

I love what Jennifer Dukes Lee has written about obedience in her latest book, It’s All Under Control:

 

 “Obedience is not for wimps….It turns out that obedience is quite often a gutsy thing that will compel you to stand upright and march forward, even if it threatens your security, forest-forest-path-leaves-1112186your own longings, and your idea of success. Obedience is not an act of the weak, but a rising up of the strong. Obedience might embarrass you or inconvenience you. Sometimes it will leave you in the dark, and the only light you will see is the small patch pooling at your feet. You ask for a spotlight to see straight ahead into the next two years of your life, but instead God gives you a ‘lamp unto (your) feet’ and lets you see no further than this hour.”

 

Because the Lord has not given us one of those LED lights that shine a long distance ahead, the challenge to obey is often difficult since we can’t see why and what He asks of us in the moment may make no sense to us.

 

We tend to be myopic. God has that picture, but He also has the long view and the end is in mind. He obviously knows what is needed to get us there and is committed to help us do so if we will yield and obey those Holy Spirit nudges and whispers.

 

We certainly see a plethora of examples in the Bible of what happens when people don’t obey from Cain onward. Sadly, we mistake the goodness of God when He points us where we should go so we accomplish his will and design for us. What’s worse is how often those around us who didn’t get the same message question what it is we believe we are to do.

 

Something else that happens is that we miss how early He begins to lead us to where He may want us to go and what He wants us to do. Incredible, right?

 

I recently published my first book (Bring Me A Vision, A Story of Redeeming Hope). In the scheme of books and authors, it is a small beginning. Nevertheless it felt like a big risk to take that step.

 

I first sensed a nudge to write the book in 2015 and since it was someone else’s life story, dawn-daylight-daytime-213172I needed to risk putting that idea in front of her for her acceptance or rejection. I didn’t know at the time that writing a true story is one of the harder books to write due to all the legal and liability concerns. I had obeyed the nudge before I knew that, but it didn’t surprise the Lord. If I had known that first, I might have worn earplugs and refused to hear Him.

 

There were many challenges along the way and in September of 2017, we laid the book down when some of the doors to publishing we had pursued closed. We felt a peace about waiting and obeyed that nudge and little by little, one door and then another opened until the book was released at the beginning of August 2018.

 

I was full of self-doubt about nearly every step, but risked being obedient. Then a few weeks ago I was reviewing my 2013 journal and noted an entry from October 2013 where I had written what I sensed from the Lord:

 

“The book is within you. It is you that has not believed. The vision has not been about one thing only, but has been about courage and belief to use what I have placed in you and not autumn-backlit-branch-226721bury that gift.”

 

 I was stunned when I read the entry. I had long ago forgotten this and when I sense something like this and write it in my journal I know if it is from Him that I can wait to see if my hearing was accurate.

 

At the time I was still working as a licensed professional clinical counselor in full-time ministry with no time to write (except case notes) even though it had been a lifelong desire to write. It was not until early 2015 He nudged me to participate in a Writer’s Boot Camp that required I start a website and begin blogging. He put each little piece in place over a long period of time. He saw the big picture. I did not.

 

“Every day we have a choice to make. We can choose to believe that God sees the bigger picture and that we are here to put certain pieces in place, even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when it hurts. Even when we have to surrender every outcome.”  Jennifer Dukes Lee

 

I think we will be less likely to trip over obedience if we can remember that God has the eternal perspective and knows exactly where He wants to take us and do in and through us.

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The Sweet Anticipation

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A few days ago our daughter and son-in-law celebrated their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary and in a few months our son and daughter-in-law will celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary just prior to my husband and I celebrating fifty-four years of marriage.

 

What precious memories!

 

It is hard to fathom that time has flown by so quickly that we now mark these years together. How well I still recall the beginnings of these relationships. Getting acquainted, accessory-anniversary-band-265856becoming friends, and then hearing the desire to engagement are still clear in my mind and heart.

 

Then came the sweet anticipation of the wedding day.

 

Every detail was considered to make the day as beautiful and special as possible. Where would the wedding take place? How many guests would be invited? What about the food and beverage choices for the reception of guests? What colors would be chosen for the theme that would go through the engagement to the wedding to the reception? What could we afford for the honeymoon?

 

Those parts of the planning that focused on the bride were a primary focus. What flowers, shoes, hairstyle, and jewelry would be chosen? But central to everything was the wedding dress. It needed to be “just right” and fit like a dream and allow us to feel art-artistic-cake-408495beautiful and cause our groom to be mesmerized as we stood at the back of the aisle waiting for the music’s signal to walk toward him.

 

My mother made my wedding dress, as she was an excellent seamstress. The dress itself was made of beautiful lace and she added a silk peau de soie overlay that attached at the waist and extended into a chapel length train. Her talents included stringing pearls into a design to hold the veil she also made. (Yes, she did an amazing job!)

 

Those gifts of my mother did not pass on to me so when our daughter needed a wedding dress I enjoyed the fun of shopping with her as she tried on one and then another at bridal-design-dress-291738several shops until we found one we fell in love with. Then we called her dad to come and look and participate in the final decision.

 

I can hear more than a few of you reminding me that all these preparations also add more than a little stress and more decisions than we ever imagined before we were the ones making the plans.

 

Even with all that, anticipating our wedding day or the wedding day of a child, grandchild, or very close friend is a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

 

What sweet anticipation of what that day will actually be like and finally becoming beautiful-bridal-design-291759one with the person we love the most in the world!

 

As our pastor has been teaching throughout this year through the book of Revelation, it has not escaped my awareness that we who are betrothed to the Lord are in that time of preparation for the wedding He has planned for us. The bride price has been paid at Calvary for those who have accepted his invitation.

 

Unlike the modern wedding preparations most of us know about, this will be more like the ones of long ago. In those days once the betrothal and promises have been made, the groom would go to prepare the place for him and his new bride to live. The future bride was to be preparing herself so when he came for her, she would be ready. She did not know the exact hour or day so she needed to be in a state of readiness.

 

I was reminded of all the preparations Esther completed written in the Old Testament book of Esther prior to being called to meet an earthly king. There were all sorts of aromatherapy-aromatic-bottle-932577scented lotions, oils, and potions used so that every part of her would be lovely and fragrant. She also received wise counsel about how her deportment and attitudes were to be to please the king.

 

What I cannot help but wonder is how well I am using this time of preparation with that day in mind when the Lord comes for me (and you). Not unlike days of old, we do not know the exact time or hour and yet it is clear from what his Word teaches in both Old and New Testaments that the time is growing near.

 

If I am holding the day that He comes dear, am I experiencing sweet anticipation? We should be getting ready for a party unlike any other.

 

How will I (or you) greet Him? beautiful-bloom-blooming-540522

 

What will I (or you) give Him?

 

If you have accepted his invitation, savor the sweet anticipation, but also be about preparing for his arrival as the Lord continues to prepare the place for us He has designed.

 

Read John’s words in Revelation 19: 6-9 (TPT):

 

“Then I heard what seemed to be the thunderous voice of a great multitude, like the sound of a massive waterfall and mighty peals of thunder, crying out:

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!

Let us rejoice and exalt him and give him glory,
because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come.

    And his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, shining bright and clear,
has been given to her to wear,
and the fine linen represents
the righteous deeds of his holy believers.”

Then the angel said to me, “Write these words: Wonderfully blessed are those who are invited to feast at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” And then he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

 

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