Divided Attention

FOCUSThose of you who know me well, know how much I love my sports. We are currently in the thick of March Madness, the nickname given to the season-ending college basketball tournament. Last night I found myself trying to watch three different basketball games and a hockey game all while watching a movie. I generally don’t touch the remote at my house, but my thumbs sure got a workout last night. I did happen to catch two goals in the hockey game. But I missed four. I saw a game-winning last second shot in one of the basketball games. But I missed a historic comeback in the last minute of another. Though I got the gist of it, it’s hard to tell how much of the movie I missed while trying to keep track of the games. My lack of focus on any one thing was somewhat comical at the time, but then God pointed out the painful truth of the matter this morning during my quiet time.

The truth is that my attention is divided in much more important matters than what’s showing on TV. Jesus promises that we WILL have trouble in this world. Some of us currently have more than others, but none of us are immune to it. As Pastor Chris often reminds us, “Everybody’s dealing with something.” If you’re like me and your attention frequently gets diverted to your trouble, you’ll soon find yourself drowning. That’s what happened to Peter when Jesus invited him to walk on water…

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.”           Matthew 14:29-30 NLT

The key to staying afloat in this troublesome world is to fix your eyes on Jesus, giving Him your undivided attention. His power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”                                   Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

During this Holy Week, Christians generally have a heightened awareness of just how much Jesus suffered on our behalf. He made the ultimate sacrifice when He gave His very life for ours. If He can do that, then surely we can endure whatever obstacles await us in our own races. Whatever troubles you are facing, I pray you will just keep putting one foot in front of the other. By not giving up, you’ll reach the finish line and taste victory at just the right time. And it’ll be sweeter than the candy in the Easter basket! Victory is ours because Jesus defeated death. That’s cause for celebration—

Easter

(When the movie ended last night, they announced that there would be an encore presentation of the movie airing on its sister channel next week. After all that…ugh!)

 

Weight Limit

26_2s_060_paterno3_C--300x300I have been blessed with the opportunity to escape Pennsylvania winter for a few weeks this month. 70s and sunny seems to agree quite nicely with my muscles, but getting away, in general, has rewarded more than my muscles. My mind, body, soul and spirit have ALL benefited from this midwinter escape.

When it came time to pack my suitcase, I was a bit perplexed for I have never been away from home for this long. I had to prepare for a variety of weather conditions and also bring items I would normally do without if I were only gone for a week. The kicker in all of this is that the weight limit for my loaded suitcase was 40 pounds. There was ZERO chance I was going to allow myself to be charged for going over the limit! So, I did it, and even had a couple pounds to spare.

The byproduct of abiding by that weight limit and getting away from home is LESS distractions. I suppose we could have filled our days with endless activity, but instead, we came with no agenda other than enjoying the warmth. Fourteen days of white space…in a row! I long for those blank calendar days at home, but rarely find one. There is always something that needs done, someplace we need to be, etc. In all the commotion, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most and so hard to stay God-focused. I’ve experienced greater success while away because there aren’t so many things vying for my attention. It seems I left a great deal of “weight” behind. I think Solomon was on to something:

“In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night.”          Ecclesiastes 8:16 NLT

We do, do, do; we run, run, run (go ahead, put it to music)! Yes, I know, sometimes our responsibilities offer no alternative. But when we see an opening, we should take advantage of it. Use your blank space to recharge, refocus, re(whatever you need), etc. It doesn’t require two weeks, or even necessitate leaving home for that matter. But I do believe a conscious effort is required on our part. Go ahead, “pencil” it in on your calendar…with an eraser. You won’t regret it!

FL SunsetMy favorite picture from our winter escape, brought to you by our Creator and made possible with “white space”

Jesus – The Ultimate Gift

Nativity

Have you heard??

“The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” ‭‭           Luke‬ ‭2:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Just as the prophet Isaiah foretold…

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ‭‭        Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Unto you. Unto me. Unto Us. A Son. Is. Given.

God gave us the Ultimate Gift when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, from heaven in the form of a baby. May each of you savor the Savior and the hope, love, joy and peace that He came to give.

Merry Christmas

Advent: The Candle of Joy

joy to the world

Can I be honest? As I sit down to write a post about joy, I’m not feeling all that happy. You see, I’ve fallen victim to everything I’d hoped to avoid this advent season. Sure, my day gets off to a good start as I spend time with Him. But then life happens and Martha springs into action!  She gets busy preparing for the Lord’s arrival. Mary, on the other hand, sees no reason to stress over the Christmas “to do” list. After all, Jesus’ presence is the only thing that truly matters.

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”     Luke‬ ‭10:41-42‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Who cares if the cards get sent? Do we really need cookies? So what if there are no special touches given to our decor? And what about gifts? I guess the response depends on who you ask. (Especially regarding the cookies…right, Mom?) Though I know deep down these “things” are non-essential for celebrating Christmas, they have become tradition and it’s difficult to part with that. Jesus wasn’t necessarily condemning Martha, but rather, affirming Mary. So, for all you fellow Marthas reading this, don’t beat yourself up, BUT also don’t lose sight of the one thing worth being concerned about.

Imagine the shepherds watching and waiting for days, weeks, months and years on end for the promised Messiah. Then. It. Happened. An angel delivered the news…

“but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”     Luke‬ ‭2:10-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Savior that we ALL desperately need had arrived, perhaps not quite as expected though.

“And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” ‭‭    Luke‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The King came to us as a baby. And, oh boy (pun intended), did He bring joy! As believers we have 24/7 access to the joy that comes from living in His presence for the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us. No one or nothing can steal that joy, not even life’s difficulties here on earth. I’ve often heard this differentiation made between happiness and joy: happiness is a circumstance-based feeling, but joy is not. Feelings change with the wind, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews‬ ‭13:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬) and our joy is found in Him!

As Christmas draws near, may we each remain focused on that one thing worthy of our concern—Jesus, the baby boy who brought us joy!

As the popular Christmas carol begins…

Joy to the World! The Lord has come

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room