getting rid of worry (*and distraction*)

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Our Lord’s words to a troubled, at this point exasperated Martha might be helpful to us, to those of us easily given to worry. It’s interesting how Jesus puts worry and distraction side by side in his reply to Martha. Her sister, Mary, who she was complaining about was attentive to the Lord’s teaching, sitting at his feet, taking it in. But Martha was busy doing what in her mind just had to be done. And feeling the burden and weight of that.

I notice in my own life that even the demands of life can blessedly remove me from what can too easily trouble me, that such demands are actually a blessing. But what is needed is to try to get to the root of the trouble. And key to defusing worry, or so it seems to me, is to not only get our minds off the problem, but onto the right things, even the solution, or maybe better put whatever focus God wants us to have.

Anxiety, worry and fear are signs that we’re likely distracted and not attentive to God’s word for us, to God. Yes, in our limitations and the difficulties of life now, we can’t just discount all fear and anxiety. But it seems to me that we can learn to disabuse ourselves of much of that, and by and by essentially all of it, if we learn to keep up the practice of attentiveness. Learning from Jesus about the love and care of our Heavenly Father (Parent), and how that touches on every single part of our lives, with no exceptions. I would like to add, we also need to want to get rid of the distractions which bother us.

Only God can give us the insight and wisdom we need. In and through Jesus.

don’t go there

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.

Proverbs 4:25

This is applicable in oh so many ways, but whatever it is, good as it may seem, important, usually urgent, or whatever, we can learn what distracts us from God’s peace, indeed from God’s good will. This is part of training in godliness, not to go where we think we have to go, often with the sense of fixing something, maybe even panic over some perceived problem. Or it maybe something that we know is no good, like eating too much of the wrong food at the wrong time. Or something even worse. Often though it can be things that are not at all wrong in themselves in the proper place and space and time. We have to be responsible. We don’t just throw everything to the wind with the idea that the Lord will take care of it. God will, but we’re part of that so that we have to be engaged and responsible in life.

But to the point of this post. No matter what the thought, now urgent it may seem, we will do well and find much help in simply refusing to go there. And a key issue here is distraction. Whatever might be distracting us from what we are doing at the time, the necessary and good thing we’re doing is a sign that God is not in the distraction. It has the mark and scent of the devil. The Lord will speak to our hearts with a strong sense at various times, but always with much freedom. It’s more like an invitation, and never with the sense of rush to throw us into panic. Though there may be directives from the Lord when we ought to act at the time in a specific way. We have to develop a sensitivity to what’s of God and what’s not.

The thought, again in all kinds of ways, just don’t go there, is helping me. We seek to be responsible in everything, in all of life, but always in the love, care and calm of our God. In and through Jesus.

running the race

A blogging friend, professor, scholar from Ireland just wrote a post which is both challenging as well as encouraging to me (if you’re short on time, read that post and skip this one), and something I’ve been thinking about a bit lately. There are plenty of things which can make us stumble or become discouraged and all but give up, along the way. Along with the problem of becoming distracted in sin and idolatry. But we need to be people through Jesus who are set in one direction, knowing we are pilgrims passing through and on mission. Knowing too, that we are an eschatological people. We are present for this world, but with a new world in and through Jesus and God’s grace and kingdom come in him.

All my Christian life I have struggled over this or that, normally not big issues or sins. Little ticky tack kinds of things which get my eyes off the goal and slow me down. I am almost to the point of being used to that, instead of being thrown for a big loop which sometimes would last days and rarely would abate until at least a day or two. Usually that’s not the case anymore, even if an issue is unresolved to me. I am learning to go on and to push through and continue hopefully in the race God has called us to in Jesus.

We so often have to go on in spite of rather than because of, although it is always because of God’s grace in and through Jesus that we can go on. I speak at least from my own experience. I want to get caught up into the life of the Spirit and of God’s love in Jesus for the world. What I need comes in and through Jesus, so as to run this race of faith in a world arrayed against that.

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.

distractions

Distractions are a part of life. We have to manage life, and certain things come up which might distract us from the main responsibilities and tasks at hand. It’s important not to get carried away with these matters to the point that they become an obsession and undermine what we need to hold to as first priorities. Yet they have to be dealt with.

I have to think that this is part of a training going on to help us become the rulers in and under Christ, that we are to be.

if we endure,
we will also reign with him.

We are being trained to reign with Christ. This seems related to God’s mandate to humanity to rule over the earth as faithful stewards. God made humankind to take responsibilities, yes, under God, but to actually rule in some sort of way. We do this on a small scale now, managing affairs of life in all kinds of ways.

And so we need to learn how to deal with everything that comes up, actually with all of life, the mundane, ordinary affairs, as well as the unexpected matters.

Training by its very nature isn’t easy. It is hard because of us, because I think it could be much easier than what it is, if we had more faith. I’m only guessing now. But I can’t help think of Jesus’ invitation to come to him to be yoked with him, with his promise of rest in the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light. However, there are aspects of life which by nature are challenging, since indeed our faith does need to grow, as we more and more settle and live in the faithfulness of God in and through Jesus. And we do encounter an enemy, the devil, in league with the world and the flesh.

By the Spirit and the word in fellowship with the church in mission in the world, we learn to reign, a reign which serves others. A reign into which we are being led. And prepared for, in this life.

And so I can learn to look at the unexpected challenges of life in a different light. As well as learn to live in the grace which will enable me to mature through the trials and manage the distractions that inevitably come my way, along with others in Jesus. Learning to reign together in him, for the world.

keeping our eyes on Jesus

There are so many distractions  through which we can lose focus. They seem to be piled up on top of each other, but more likely it is especially one or two glaring ones for a season, with a lot of little ones that crop up like weeds, so to speak, day after day. For us in Jesus, our focus is to be on him, and on God’s will in him for us. We so easily get caught up in something different, though, in this and that.

To follow the pioneer and perfecter of faith, Jesus, we are to run a race, a long one, ongoing, with our eyes fixed on him. In that context it means we live by faith, in the way no less,  of Jesus.

But what if everything inside of me compels me to focus on what troubles me? I don’t think we should fight that directly, and sometimes it’s hard to fight it indirectly. I think there is wisdom in accepting where we are. Learning to accept the struggle and sometimes even the defeat. I’m not at all advocating excusing sin, or indulging in it because we are weak, or sorely tempted. Not at all. But what I am suggesting is that we need to accept the struggle we are in, the troubling aspects of that. I would take such to be part of the long race we’re to run.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus means looking to his example by his words, deeds and life, found in scripture. And it means seeking to live in him by the Holy Spirit in this life, a life which is oriented in God’s community in Jesus, and that is missional in sharing and living out the good news of King Jesus.

A large part of learning to fix our eyes on Jesus, is simply thinking about the importance of that in the midst of our failing to do so. We learn to acclimate ourselves to a new culture so to speak, which flies in the face of the culture we’ve lived in for so long. And which seems to fly in the face of reality, as well. The world as we understand it. And that world, actually apart from God and his grace and kingdom, when it comes right down to it.

The Lord will help us, as we look to him concerning this, and give our attention to it. Yes, in spite of whatever, and in spite of ourselves. Together with others in him for the world.

 

Evelyn Underhill on finding rest in God through Jesus*

At this very moment your thoughts are buzzing like a swarm of bees. The reduction of this fevered complex to a unity appears to be a task beyond all human power. Yet the situation is not as hopeless for you as it seems. All this is only happening upon the periphery of the mind, where it touches and reacts to the world of appearance. At the centre there is a stillness which even you are not able to break.

Evelyn Underhill as quoted by Richard J. Foster, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer, 103.

*I know this is not the precise language Evelyn Hill is using, and I encourage us all to understand her thoughts on her own terms. But this is how I might express becoming “centered,” or how she is putting it here, in summary form–for a title. Though there certainly is more to it than finding rest.

distraction

One of the most troubling problems followers of Jesus encounter is the problem of distraction from attentiveness to the Lord. Of course the story of Mary and Martha is a prime example in scripture. Martha was burdened over the many preparations that had to be made, while Mary was content simply to sit at the Lord’s feet to hear his teaching. Martha let Jesus know about it, and he gently- I’m sure rebuked her, telling her that she was worried and upset over many things. That only a few things, actually one is needed. That Mary had chosen what is better, which would not be taken from her.

Distraction can be acute as in falling head over heels into some problem. In which we need prayer and help from God just to get through it, and out of it on the other side, back into the light of day. Oftentimes distraction is low grade and chronic, spanning our lives over lesser matters which keep us from the one thing that does matter.

Ironically distractions can help us by awakening us to our need to give our full attention to the Lord. We may feel up against it, so that it is hard to focus, which can help bring that awareness. Or we might realize that our lives are taken up with what doesn’t matter, in other words we’ve given our full attention to lesser matters, perhaps asking for the Lord’s help along the way, but not attentive to him.

No matter what our distraction we need to keep Jesus front and center. We need to give him our full attention. In fact if we’re facing an awareness of either acute or chronic distraction, that is an occasion for us to turn to the Lord, and endeavor to listen to him. We need to bring what distracts us to him. When we do, he can help us by giving us discernment so that what we do, the many things we need to do, can be done out of love for God, and for our neighbor. And he can give us needed wisdom for an especially acute distraction, or temptation toward such. As well as wisdom for the long haul.

I hate the sense of distraction away from God and his work in Jesus. And yet I often can be distracted in ways which seem innocent or even important, even when I may know that the distraction isn’t the best. Often this involves weakness and even struggling over sin such as in our attitudes.

We can be thankful to God that we long for something better. In Jesus is the way to learn to listen and give our full attention to God. Like Mary we want to choose what is best, sitting at the Lord’s feet, with others of his followers. Together in the way of Jesus for the world.

 

the one thing needed

We remember the story of Mary and Martha along with their brother Lazarus, when Jesus visited their home on one occasion. Martha was busy preparing a meal. There was certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact it normally would be expected. Jesus is well known for table fellowship, and eating and drinking with all kinds of people, and these three were among his close friends.

But something is not right in this story. While Martha is busy preparing a meal, her sister Mary is sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to what the Master has to say. For all we know Mary is sitting there, taking it in, time stopped for her, or perhaps going all too fast as she soaks in the Lord’s words. Meanwhile Martha in the other room has resentment building inside. Her sister Mary is with Jesus and the others, and she is left alone to do all the preparation and work for the meal.

Finally Martha has had enough. She goes into the room and interrupts Jesus with her intense and troubled words: “Master. Is it right that I am busy preparing the meal, getting it just right, but my sister Mary is not helping me!?” Jesus looks at Martha and after a short silence he gently yet firmly says to her in a lowered voice, “Martha, Martha. You are worried and troubled over many things. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In thinking through this story again, I wonder where we do something of the same as Martha. We are busy, busy, busy. Doing good and important works. Things that need to get done. Yet we neglect what is most important. We miss the point of our existence. To sit at Jesus’ feet to hear his words. Or for us today, to be still and know that God is God. To attend daily to God’s word.

Their story doesn’t end here. We can surmise that Martha learned well from this encounter. And this is important for us to hear as well. All too often we are busy and distracted from the one thing that is needed: drawing near to God and listening to his word to us in Jesus. This needs to become a preoccupation with us. There are all kinds of voices clamoring for our attention, not to mention the most insidious danger of all, when we think we have it right, but are not seeking the Lord’s face, or in close fellowship with him so as to be regularly hearing his voice.

This is something which I aspire to.