Friday, June 28, 2013

Losing Focus

Church was, and still is, one of Noah's favorite places. When he was younger, he loved staying after church and goofing off with his friends. When it was time to head home, it was a chore to get him to leave without literally picking him up to go.

 "Hey Noah, it's time to go. You'll see them again soon. We need to go. Come on. We need to leave to eat dinner. Noah, go to to the car. I'm leaving." (I'm sure there's a big list of parenting mistakes here, but stay focused :)

Once we decided it had been long enough. We told him we were leaving. We walked out to the car. He didn't follow. We got in the car, watching him through the glass doors. He wasn't budging. We pulled the car out of the parking space. He wasn't phased. We drove off and drove around the church, through the side parking lot and circled back around. There he still stood. Not impressed. 

Noah is a kid. Obviously we wouldn't leave him, and apparently he knew that. But here's another story about someone who did get left, and it's a sad one. 

In the Bible in the book of Judges, there was a man named Manoah. He had a wife, but they weren't able to have children together.  An angel of God showed up and big things happened. The angel told Manoah's wife she would have a son. The angel gave her specific instructions for this kid - while pregnant, don't drink anything fermented or eat things unclean, and don't shave his head. He is set apart and will be God's way of getting Israel out from under the Philistines. 

His parents really wanted to make sure they were raising him the way God said, even requesting another visit from the angel for an additional parenting class.

This kid was Samson, and he was special. Samson's hair was long and he was freakishly strong as he got older. But something happened. 

Along the way, Samson lost focus on God, and in Judges we read this -
     "But he did not know the Lord had left him." Judges 16:20b

Samson wasn't a kid anymore. He was set apart by God, but he let his desires for things other than God become his focus. By doing so, He turned his back on God, and was left alone and weak and blind.

Though things didn't end well for Samson, ultimately he realized his sin. He asked God for one more shot at the Philistines and killed everyone in the temple of Dagon, including himself.

When people turn away from God, it's always heartbreaking. But there seems to be an extra layer of tragedy when they don't even seem to notice they're doing it.

I've been there. You might ha
ve too. It's easy to get so focused on something or someone else that our attention is no longer on God. Sometimes these things are "big" sins, other times they're perfectly acceptable things that we let become bigger to us than God. Neither is okay.

How can we keep this from happening? Proverbs says this-
     "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23

Guarding your heart does seem like the best place to start. If my heart is focused on God, I won't be able to get distracted by the things that can take my eyes off God.

A lady from a Bible study I am part of shared some wisdom her husband passed to her and I haven't forgotten it - If you have a minute, do this with me.

Look at something across the room from you, like a picture on the wall. While you are looking at it, notice all the other things you can still see (especially if your peripheral vision is better than mine). Right now, as I do this, I can be looking at the picture but I can still see my window, my favorite chair, my couch, my kitchen, my cat licking himself, lots of books and papers I didn't pick up from yesterday - a bunch of other stuff.

Now walk closer to that picture you were focused on. As you get closer and closer to that picture, those other things are no longer competing for your focus. I can't see my cat, those papers, and when I finally get as close as I can to that picture, it's the only thing I see.

I want that with God so much. To be so focused and so close that nothing else will even be competition. I know you know as well as I do how we can make that happen. The more time I spend talking or listening to God, the more time I spend reading His words to me in the Bible, and the more time I spend listening to and reading from other people who are teaching me more and more about Him, the more focused I am getting.

Sometimes I just need a little reminder. Reading about Samson getting his eyes gouged out will do that.

I wonder if Samson hadn't taken his focus off of God, what a beautiful story he could have had, rather than a sad one. I want mine and yours to be beautiful stories. Let's get focused.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cleaning out the attic

Our attic was overflowing. I didn’t see this as a problem, but my husband said our attic isn’t made for that kind of storage. What?

I guess our attic will accommodate a small amount of our stuff, but couldn’t handle the job we (well, me really – Shawn and Noah are happy getting rid of everything) were asking it to do. The way I saw it, if there was room for it, I could put it there. Apparently the weight of all my junk on top of our house is something to consider. 

I finally talked myself into cleaning it up and clearing it out.  We had at least 22 plastic totes in the attic, not including any Christmas decorations, luggage, bags of other clothes not in totes, paint, pictures, wreathes, etc. It was full.

So, I mentioned to Noah that it would be a good summer project for us, putting it on my “to-do-sometime list.” Noah had it on his short list of things to do – as soon as possible. His summer list included finishing an enormous Lego set he bought around Christmas time but hadn’t found the time to complete, finishing “Mockingjay” – the third book in the Hunger Games series (loved this series!) , and a duct tape project . We were having breakfast Friday and I mentioned that since we didn’t have any commitments that day, it might be a good day to get started on something from his list. Surprisingly, he chose the attic. Which meant I was also choosing the attic.

For much of the weekend and this week as well, we have been up there, sweating and lifting, carrying boxes and dusty things up and down the stairs.  I sorted through lots of things, some from my high school days, some from our wedding, lots from Noah’s early years, and a bunch of stuff of my mom’s. In the middle of this, I found a lot of our things ruined. Candles – melted. Sweaters – weird stains.  Any craft project that involved hot glue – fallen apart. White things – yellowed.

*While I wish I would have thought to take a before-picture of the stuff in the attic, this is the mountain of stuff we are getting rid of that is now in the spare bedroom...*

I tried to clean some of it up. I put a sheet, a blanket, and a couple of pillow shams in the washer to see what would happen, hoping they would come out looking like new.

Later that evening, I remembered the things in the washer. I went to get them out and was bummed by what I saw. All over the inside of my washer was some weird substance that resembled damp clumps of that stuff you put in the bottom of hamster cages. And some netting I didn’t recognize. Through the process of elimination, I realized that a few hours before it had been a blanket.

Not only was the blanket destroyed, it also had potential of destroying my new washer. Let me give a bit of background here – We just bought a washer a few weeks ago, after a washer we owned for around 3 years broke due to no fault of our own, with no warranty and no help from Whirlpool (even after a scathing email complete with a frowny face). Shawn used a Shop-Vac to suck all of the grossness  out of the washer last night. I am washing a test load right now as I write this, hoping the machine comes out of this alive.

God kind of spoke to me about this ratty old blanket, the melted candles, and the yellowed things from my attic that I thought were so important. By holding on to things I couldn’t let go of, not only was it not helpful, it was potentially harmful.

Things from my past that I wish I had done differently and other things I knew I had done my way that went against what God wanted for me.  I know these things aren’t good, but there was a part of me that would still think about them and not want to give them up entirely. I wasn’t giving these things an active place in my life, in my symbolic living room, but I was holding on to them, giving them value by storing them in my heart and mind. Whether it was remembering fondly things that make God sad, or beating myself up over things that have been forgiven, neither belong in my attic. Not only would it do harm to me by keeping them there, it has potential to do harm to others as well. Kind of like the harm that could come to my washer.

In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul warns the Christians in Philippi about this sort of thing –

            “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

He is calling for an attic overhaul of sorts. If we have things in our minds and hearts that don’t fit into his neatly separated storage containers – true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy – toss it.  It doesn’t belong. In verse 9 he tells us that by doing this, and following his example as he follows the example of Christ, we can have the peace of God. Boy do I want that peace.

God will gladly help us clean out those thoughts, and we can start fresh with our newly acquired Apostle Paul Storage System. And to keep it clean, when we start to have a thought that we know isn’t God-approved – we need to get rid of it. Storing it isn’t an option if we want God’s peace. So glad He is happy to help.

On a side note, my washer just dinged, and I checked – it’s working great! Shew J

Oh, also I am having a yard sale this Saturday – 2 Louie Court in Williamsburg Colony in Barboursville J