Distracted and Consumed

I am chief among sinners. 

I thought about Paul’s words as my pastor spoke the words “Distracted and Consumed” yesterday. I felt the arrows of conviction hit straight and true as he continued on with his sermon, knowing those three words had struck at the heart of a problem. One that I know many wrestle with, even as a society and culture we are suffering from the very disease of distraction and consummation.

I get the irony of writing about this on a platform (and sharing it on other platforms) because it’s the very thing which is distracting and consuming this heart, this mind, and this time. I like to say “well it’s to keep up with this or to share my writing.” Unfortunately though it’s to the detriment of my heart and my focus.

Maybe it’s not so much social media that distracts you, maybe you don’t get consumed by the words, the actions, and the thoughts of others in such a divisive culture we are living in. Maybe the distraction is binging on the newest release from Netflix or your kids’ ballgames (this one I saw first hand last weekend y’all). It is whatever is consuming your time and distracting you from the very thing which God desires of you.

What is consuming your heart that it’s not allowing Him in? What is distracting you to the point you cannot hear Him? I am the first to admit that I willingly would choose those over time with Him, time digging in to His Word, time spent in silence with Him, waiting on Him. I would rather be consumed with distractions than allow Him space in my life…that’s what I am telling Him when I “scroll for just a few minutes.” Or when I say “just one more episode” or let someone else take up residency in my heart.

When I am distracted and consumed, I am more prone to worry, anxiety, doubt, fear, and control. I find that peace and stillness are commodities in short supply. The quiet filling of connection is negated with an empty longing to be known when we are consumed by anything other than the God who desires to know us more.

Maybe it’s time to stop the fighting for our attention and our hearts by simply giving them solely to Him. Not a screen, not the success or failure of our child’s pee wee league team, and not some fictional characters we enjoy.

 

Wrestling with Rest

Do you ever pray for rest and then when it comes despise it?

No? Just me then?

For a few years I felt the overwhelming sense of busy and hurried in my life. It felt like I was sprinting for an entire marathon, and my entire being was just slap out of energy. I felt drained, emptied out fully in every part of my life. It as so bad that my emotions couldn’t be kept in check on anything and I was at a point of no longer caring if they were in check. I poured out to God that I just needed rest, I needed the breath that could only come in Him. I needed carrying and I needed the quiet of Him.

What I didn’t bargain for was an equal amount of wrestling with having rest over a particular season. The resting season He gave me and that I have found myself in for longer than I had drawn up, was turning into a bit of a wrestling match with Jesus. That I was done with the rest, the seeming quiet and the landscape that felt more like a desert than a dream.

We plead for rest and then when it’s given to us, it’s not how we expected it to be. We start wondering if God’s forgotten us, we doubt He has any good in this time for us, we question whether He is even with us in the quiet, the seeming silence of life. And so we start doing, start filling life with busy again because we have become people who cannot be still and know. We can’t revel in the rest He gives us, that He beckons us to with Him. We would rather carry the burdens than take on His yoke of of easy, His burden that is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Learning about rest in Him means that I am not in control, and let’s be honest, I never have been, but I like to lie to myself that I do have control. Learning from Him in a time of rest means I am taking on a gentle and humble heart, just as He spoke in Matthew, one that doesn’t continue in the fretting, one that knows that I am the star nor am I in any control. What we find in rest is waiting. A silent waiting where security, our security, isn’t dependent upon us but fully in Him.

Rest isn’t thrashing about, pointing fingers and accusing God of leaving us. It’s joy and gladness in being with Him in the waiting, in the giving of this time He has graciously bestowed. It is the very words of David that we can see as rest, what we are capable of in rest instead of wrestling with Him.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will You let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your Presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. “

Psalm 16:9-11 (NIV)

It takes learning to be in rest with Him, and not wrestling with the feelings of abandonment or aloneness. It takes choosing to rest firmly and securely in Him rather than attempts at a hostile takeover of my life. It means waiting in silence instead of lobbing doubts of His character at Him. The irony is that we were built to rest, and yet when He gives it to us we wrestle so hard against it because the world tells us we shouldn’t be waiting, shouldn’t be silent, shouldn’t be still. But stillness is where we know that He is God…where He is our security…where are filled with joy….where we are in His Presence.

Lately I have been thinking on what it looks like to have peace, to be at peace, and how the world ultimately is far from any semblance of peace. I’m not sure if it is the political campaigning going on here in the US or if it’s the recent bombings taking place internationally…or possibly it’s the unsettled heart within, but it’s this deep-seeded absence of peace I am seeing more and more.

The outward expressions of conflict, retribution, war and fighting that engulf our news-cycles, neighborhoods and social media have long been present. They are the cries of a world that doesn’t have peace within. They are turning out what they cannot find within, now we just have so many more outlets to see it broadcast, analyzed and speculated upon. Ultimately it’s the root of a fallen earth, an earth that is shaken by a lack of peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV)

This peace isn’t a sweeping global peace. It’s a peace that is carried within as a follower of Christ. It’s a peace that isn’t sustained by our own doing, uncontrolled by us or our grasping for it. No, this peace comes from a sovereign and loving God that we cannot understand in our limited thinking (Philippians 4:7). It’s a faith embodied by a life without seeking retribution for wrongs, a life not at war in every moment, freedom from fear.

This peace given by Christ was in the midst of comforting His disciples as He prepared them for His death and resurrection. He’s reminding them that He was with them for a set time and then He would send a Helper to be with them, live within them. He gives us peace through the Holy Spirit, and yet we often seek it in so many other ways and means.

Look back at these words here and in Philippians 4. He gives us His peace-a perfect peace of a Holy God. It’s a peace that guards, protects, gives freely and abundantly. We aren’t to fear or be troubled in the coming times, in our circumstances or seasons. We are alive in the peace of God, no longer bogged down by fretting, fear and sorrow.

I love that these words here in John then lead us to the story of the vine and branches. That this peace we are gifted means we are grafted into the true vine, one has a Gardener which prunes us to bear fruit out of this peace we are given. A peace that calls us to remain in Him, in the vine, as the branch to bear fruit of peace to others. We have a peace available to us that isn’t fleeting or momentarily-coupled to where we are. It is firmly flowing in us in the Holy Spirit, given as Christ gives-abundantly, lovingly, and mercifully….and eternally.

The peace that seems so absent all around us, is fully flowing in us. It’s a peace we know, freedom we have through Christ if we but choose to believe He gives good gifts to those He calls brothers and sisters in Christ. Peace doesn’t look like what we envision, because He is so much more than what we could ever dream.

As His image-bearers, may we reflect and pour out peace from our lives just as He abundantly gave it to us.

wading in joy

So if you follow me over on IG then you saw my photo late yesterday afternoon. The last two days have been a bit rough around these parts, with presentations crashing to a busted water heater to server switches and grocery bags falling apart in the parking lot.

Yes, all the things in under a 24 hours happened. To me.

Currently I am watching $1200 worth of pipes and a brand spankin’ new water heater get installed into my home. (insert nervous laughter and increased stress) There have been some tense moments, tears of frustration and worried speech. As the grocery bag broke yesterday I just started laughing.

You see, God and I have been having some amazing times together over the last month. Just good stuff, centered on Him and not me, and a whole lot of getting to know Him more and how He is pushing stuff through my life. I have seen blessing after blessing flow out from Him in the form of friends, work, and even writing.

So the reason I am laughing still, staring at this bill, is because my heart started to worry. It started to question and become frantic over this situation, and then I remembered.  I remembered how He’s provided before, over and over. He has blessed and given in such huge ways, and such small ways, that I can only laugh. Because I feel like the devil saw an “in” with me in these situations, reminding me of the old me who would freak out and get wound up so tightly that I was lashing out on others. It wasn’t that long ago, in fact this time last year, where I would be a bundle of nerves and frustration.

Is the situation ideal? Absolutely not.

But what it is a reminder, a physical manifestation, that I get to lean into Him and be dependent upon Him in everything. That in all circumstances, I get to count it all joy.

My brothers and sisters, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

That verse right there used to rub me the wrong way constantly, until I took time to really look at it in the midst of a circumstance, that I get to choose joy in it. I get to count it that way instead of in the frustration column. Out of it comes patience, perfected work in me in fact, if I but choose to be joyous in it, choose to be in Him and not in my self.

Now I may not be joyous at the bill for this new water heater, I am joyful that I get to see this as an opportunity to enjoy the moment, to be with Him in the midst and see this as a perfecting work of patience in my life.

Because my joy, my peace, every bit of it? It’s found in Him and not in me. That’s a choice worth making today, and every day.

Recently I was headed down a main road that leads to my workplace when I happened to see my almost two years ago ex-boyfriend. He was dropping off a delivery near my office building and I immediately was thinking of how to avoid him seeing me.

Then I wondered why. He was near my place of work, in fact directly across the street from my office. I broke up with him almost two years ago. I was simply headed back to the building after going to the County Clerk’s office. This was a by-chance moment that had completely caught me off guard.

But yet we find ourselves, us singles, in these moments sometimes and have to remind ourselves that this is most certainly our past and not our future. We have to forgive ourselves and the other person to in some instances, and remember the peace we have now rather than the issues that may trigger from seeing them.

For me I had to remind myself that forgiveness was given, and it still has to be given on those days when I remember what happened and what was said. It’s not about reliving the past but about learning from it, and that includes learning about myself and the relationship I chose to be an active part of for months. It’s choosing to forgive when the doubt creeps in or the loudness of unforgiveness wants to crowd out everything else.

It’s funny how those reminders find themselves weaving into our lives so unexpectedly. I used to believe it was a bit of temptation and torture. Now I view it as an opportunity to pursue grace, mercy and forgiveness again. To let it guide my heart and remind me that I am not living in a past tense, but a future present. So I can face the past, the good and bad, having learned about who I am. Thus allowing me to be a better me for the present life and continue to work on the future of who I desire to be.

Let those moments serve as a reminder for you too. That you are not your past, unless you haven’t learned from it. You are in your present and allow whatever you may harbor to be set out and forgiven. Push through the pain and allow peace to fill you now, instead of regret and bitterness. No matter what has happened to us, we have the choice of how it affects us now.

Overwhelmed and Overcome

Do you ever look at a to-do list and start to get a bit anxious? Only because five more things pop in your head you need to place on there, and you just know they won’t get done.

Does your inbox look a mess? Unread emails, unreplied emails from weeks ago that you just cannot seem to catch up to?

For the most part, I can control the anxiety of a to-do list because of my choice to focus on specific things to work through them. But I will be honest here, yesterday got the best of me. I had several things going on at once, new things added and then the Monday wrench thrown in towards the end of the work day.

I will also share that I did not respond very well to the final slap of Monday. I suddenly found myself overwhelmed and frustrated. I came home and pulled out my study for small group, only to be reminded that I do not have to be overwhelmed. Things and people can demand my time and attention, I am the one who chooses where that fits into my life.

I know who I am, and my value is not set on to-do list or task. My worth is not defined by another person’s insecurities, or jabs at my life. (I am still processing that one…) I remembered something that flooded my heart during the service on Sunday, as we walk through apologetics. Aaron shared that when we pursue things, we’ll find that truth of them-their cultural standard-constantly shifting.

So today. In this very moment, I am choosing to be overcome by Him rather than overwhelmed by things. by people. by to-dos.

Mini-Break Holiday

I don’t normally take advantage of a three day weekend to go out of town. I am not sure as to why but I often just look at it as a way to accomplish more with the extra day, whether errands or around the house. For the last year a friend had been living in Atlanta, and I had been attempting to make plans to visit. It seemed at every turn they got cancelled by weather or illness or scheduling (my part).

Finally last month we settled for the MLK holiday weekend, that way we both were off for an extra day and could have a very chill break.

Let me just tell you, if you don’t live in the Southern US (and some of you don’t so hey Canada and Ireland!) that the weather this weekend was superb. We don’t see mid-60s in January. We just don’t around these parts, but we did for three glorious days. It even looks like we’ll get up there today. My friend and I ate ridiculously great foods, imbibed on some adult beverages and I did some damage at Ikea. I also put the media cabinet together upon my return home yesterday, like a boss.

Why am I sharing all this today? Because we simply need breaks in life. I know I just returned to work off a Christmas holiday vacation, where I had my wisdom teeth removed and an abbreviated visit home. Something about this weekend had an extra touch to it, whether it was the spring-like weather or being in another city that I feel at home in.

We need moments where our phones get put away, we enjoy the person we’re with and the environment we are in. Did I check my phone on occasion? Yes. But I didn’t feel it necessary to stay glued to it, as I often push myself to do. I realized that this mini-break holiday is needed in all our lives for a breather. To take a pause and remember life and appreciate it for what it is-fleeting. I could check emails in my off-time or I could indulge in a walk around a beautiful park in the middle of downtown Atlanta.

This mini break holiday put a bookend on the last year for me that brought about alot of internal dwelling and thought, alot of frustration and tension. It closed the door on a chapter that I had been lingering in for far too long, attempting to write my own paragraphs. When all I truly needed was a break, space and to breathe in the newness of it all.

A new chapter.

A new mindset.

A new appreciation for life that is to be lived, not worried or fretted over.

May you get a mini break holiday in your life if you’ve not had one. To become unsettled and renewed. To gain joy that is lost and peace in the midst of it all.