Sunday, August 30, 2009

A.D.D. or A.W.D.

Today in worship, I became acutely aware of God's presence and I thought about how often I go through my days wishing I could sense His presence more. That's when I started thinking about how A.D.D. I tend to be and decided that in spiritual matters, perhaps I suffer a bit from A.W.D. - Attention to the World Disorder.

Since I am a teacher, I am well aware of how difficult it can be for a child who has A.D.D. to focus on what is important in the classroom. An overload of stimulus makes their brains take a detour from what they should be concentrating onto just about everything else. They often become frustrated and act out...or they withdraw from the very things that could help them. I heard the lead singer from Casting Crowns say he suffered from dyslexia and ADD which meant it was hard for him to read well and if he somehow managed to read well, his ADD still messed things up. I wonder at times if I am not undiagnosed ADD myself. I find I am easily distracted from what I need to get done, but over the years I have learned techniques to deal with my "random thoughts".....such as using them to write a blog. :)

Back to today's random thought. As I contemplated the fact that God is always with us, but somehow we don't sense it, our pastor began to talk about the very same thing! I was so excited I wanted to raise my hand and say, "I was just thinking about that!" To quote our pastor, "It's wonderful to know God is everywhere, but being in a place where you are AWARE of his presence is a whole other thing. When we focus, we become less aware of our surroundings and more aware of God." Yep, there it is. We are all a little A.W.D.

A.W.D. is being ADD when it comes to God. Instead of being able to focus on Him, we are so easily distracted by the things of the world. We have allowed the things that are not eternal, things of this world, take our focus off of God....and we start to sink under the weight of it all.

The Bible is full of stories where man got his focus off God and onto the things of the world with disastrous results. One of the most evident was when Peter stepped out of the boat and tried to walk toward Jesus. He did just fine as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but the moment he lost focus and started looking at the waves (the things of this world) he started to sink.

It happened to others as well. Different things pulled their focus from God...sometimes they were problems, sometimes they were things we'd think of as blessings, but once they lost focus - their troubles really began!

To paraphrase today's sermon, when our focus is right, we sense His presence and with that we find Purpose, Power, Protection, and Provision. With these come the greatest benefit - Peace. The key is to FOCUS!!!

I tell my son all the time...Focus Levi, focus! He's a lot like me, easily distracted by the shiny and new, or overly occupied with the one little thing that seems wrong. Once our focus is off, it's really tough to get us back to where we need to be. We're a little like the dog on the movie "UP" who could barely finish a sentence if a squirrel ran past within a hundred yards of him. Before you know it, we're off chasing something that is irrelvant in regards to what we're supposed to be doing! Unfortunately it doesn't take much to shift our focus from Sunday morning worship when we felt God's presence, to a place where all we can see are the things and problems of this world.

Yep, I admit it. I have A.W.D. but the good news is, G.O.D. is much bigger than any other letters of the alphabet combined! He is patient and willing to help me focus on Him. His GOODNESS OVERCOMES DISTRACTIONS....(G.O.D.)

When I wonder why I don't sense His presence, I can check to see, have I just lost focus. Am I seeking Him in the everyday of my life? In His presence there is fullness of joy! (Psalm 16:11) If I'm not sensing His presence, I'm not experiencing true joy! It doesn't mean that life will suddenly become a big picnic, but it does mean that nothing the world uses to distract me can separate me from Him or His joy if I will keep my focus right....if I'll keep my focus on God.

Psalm 51 gives us a prayer that we can use to help us "re-focus". "Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And renew a right spirit within me.

I don't mind being a little A.D.D., but I surely don't want to have A.W.D. As the old song says: Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Take time to focus today. He is with might just suffer from A.W.D.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A battle of the mind

Today was a beautiful morning in South Mississippi and a great day for a race. That's what I should have been thinking, but truthfully I just wanted to pull the covers back over my head and get a couple hours more sleep. Still, I got up because I had promised friends I would be there to support a good cause.

When the run began, I found my usual place in the back. I had no illusions that I would have a great race...I simply wanted to finish. The whistle blew for us to begin and I took off at a fairly slow pace. This would be the first time I'd run in weeks and I didn't even have time to warm up...guess I'd just consider my first mile the "warm-up."

I was surprised at how good those first few steps began to feel. I had a bit more "pick up" in my feet than I thought I'd have and even though the race began with a slight incline, I quickened my pace just a bit. When I finally allowed myself to check my distance, I'd covered half a mile. Not bad. I just might be able to pull out a decent run after all.

It was at the one mile mark that the random thought hit me. I had just had an "argument" with myself about whether I should stop and walk or keep running, and I realized, it wasn't that I was out of breath or in pain. I was tired, but not to the point of exhaustion. If I stopped running and walked, it was because I'd lost the battle in my mind.

I started thinking about "battles" we fight in other areas of our lives and it occurred to me that most of them are won or lost in the mind. It is in our mind that we either quit or endure.

There is a verse in Titus that ties in with this and it caught my attention. It is Titus 2:2: "Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance." I never really thought about the fact that it is the older ones among us who need to be reminded to endure. Perhaps it is because we have convinced ourselves that since we are older, we should have an excuse to tire more stop before the race is done. For some, it is even an excuse to not begin the race at all. Think about how many times you have heard, "I'm too old for this." Just because we are older, does not mean that we should no longer endure. Romans 5:4 says: "For everything that is written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." When we look to the scriptures we can find that encouragement that helps us win the battle of the mind.

Caleb was 80 when they entered the promised land. When it came time to divide out the land, he asked for the hill country! That would be the most difficult to settle, but he was ready for whatever challenges might come. Caleb had long ago won the battle of the mind. When he went in to check out the promised land, he believed not what his eyes saw, but what God had said. He didn't worry that the promise had "expired" like some out of date coupon. He did not consider his age in whether or not God could do what He had promised. It wasn't even a factor. God had promised it, and that was enough.

I finished the race today, a bit slower than I would have liked, but I finished it all the same. I can't say I completely won the battle of my mind, but hopefully I learned a few things along the way. It is time to turn more to the scriptures to find the encouragement that I need to endure...not so much in races, but in the spiritual battles I face. If I am following the promises of God, then He will be faithful...the question is, will I endure? This is a battle of the mind that I want to win.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Focus on His voice

It's been a while since I've written a blog, so I apologise in advance if this one gets a bit long. This blog is also a bit different than most....

Today's blog came from out of the blue while I was at church. I got to thinking about how wonderful Sundays are...they are a time to refocus on what is truly important. While I love the Lord, the distractions of daily life can sometimes cause me to lose focus and get slightly off course. Today, during worship, I thought about how important it is to focus on His voice....that's where the random thought came in. The words "focus on His voice" reminded me of something else.

Last night, I watched a movie that I have seen bits and pieces of before...."Enough" with Jennifer Lopez. For those unfamiliar with the movie, it is the story of a woman who marries a man that later turns out to be quite crazy and tries to kill her. In desperation, she learns to defend herself using Krav Maga, a form of martial arts. It is definitely not a movie for children, but in it I found some very interesting parallels. Those are the source of today's blog.

To begin with, the villain in the movie was played by a very handsome man, Bill Campbell. He seemed to be perfect and offered all our heroine could hope for. Once he "had" her however, things began to change. Once she had given him what he wanted (in this case, a child) he was pretty much done with her. The relationship went from passion to disinterest to abuse and as the movie progressed it became evident that he meant to destroy her by any means possible. That reminds me so much of the enemy we battle. Satan goes to and fro about the earth seeking those whom he may destroy. At first, he appears as an angel of light - beautiful and promising. Over time however, his true character emerges and he can be seen for the monster he truly is.

In this movie, the woman tries to escape with her child only to be hunted down by the husband. He is violently abusive toward her and anyone who tries to help her. Intimidation is his favorite tool. Finally, she has had "Enough." She can no longer run and hide. No one can do this for her. If she wishes to save her daughter, this battle is hers alone.

She sends her daughter off to safety with a friend and then she begins to train. (Some may recognize the martial arts form being used as Krav Maga.) There are of course the montages of her practicing with the trainer and becoming ever stronger. Finally, she has but one more lesson to learn. Her instructor tells her that you must plan for the unexpected because Life doesn't always deal with us fairly. There can come a momentary distraction and the enemy hits us with a blow that throws us to the ground. As the young woman lies back on the mat, her coach admonishes her to listen to his voice...focus on his voice. In that moment, when she is lying there, he reminds her that her enemy will be true to the coward that he is. When he thinks he has her - he will come and kick her...

Those who have seen the movie know how this ends. For those who have not: spoiler alert!

The young woman goes to the home of her husband and waits. While she waits, she removes his guns, knives, all weapons that could be used against her. Then she dresses for battle. The part that impressed me most was her feet. She put on boots that reminded me so much of the scripture in Ephesians that say our feet are to be shod with the preparation of peace. Then she waits.

The battle that follows is frightening and at one point you think she has won, but she cannot bring herself to land the fatal blow. As she calls a friend to tell her she cannot do it, her enemy sneaks up and hits her from behind. She is lying there and you are sure she is done for...True to form, her enemy comes to kick her while she is down, but then hear her coach's voice saying: "Focus on my voice..." The final kick of insult that the enemy meant to land instead becomes his downfall. In the end, she wins and her enemy is dead.

There are so many times in life when satan is like the bad guy in this movie. He comes as a beautiful promise, only to then turn to destroy you. In this movie, the woman wasn't fighting simply for her own life. She was fighting for her child. Quitting was not an option...losing wasn't either. She tried to run, but running wasn't going to make this problem go away. She had to take a stand and fight. And at some point in our battles, we may find ourselves like this woman - down and waiting for satan to throw his is then more than ever that we must focus on our Father's voice. Listen to Him, do not be distracted to the left or the right. There is yet hope, it is not over, and we will win.

I don't know what battles you face today. Just remember, even if your adversary has you down, you are not out yet. Even if it seems the devil is coming to deliver his final blow, do not give up. Focus on your Heavenly Father's voice. Shut out everything else and focus on HIS voice. It's not over yet.

1 Peter 5:8 -11 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen

Ephesians 6: 12 -18 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.