Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17

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Where You Look is Where You Will Go

Research has made clear the dangers of driving while distracted. We’ve been well cautioned that behaviors like talking on the cell phone, fiddling with radio dials, chatting with fellow passengers, reading texts, balancing beverages and, the one I am guiltiest of, putting the finishing touches on our make-up do not mix. Likely you’ve had your own distracted experience and can testify to the truth of the research.

But what about distracted walking?

Never thought of it, have you? As one STILL dealing with a broken foot, I can tell you that it is a real thing. A very real thing! I don’t need the research to tell me (but it’s available) that walking while distracted can cause serious bodily harm to the walker.

The CDC reports: “In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States. This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 1.6 hours. Additionally, almost 129,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2015. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip.” (See https://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Pedestrian_safety/index.html)

While one is not likely to be putting on mascara while walking, it seems that many of the same distractions impact drivers and walkers. Bottom line, we need to watch where we walk. The CDC actually advises that one needs to be aware of his/her surroundings. Since my “tumble” and subsequent broken foot, I have become almost obsessive about watching where I am walking.

Maybe, though, I need to be a bit more specific. I have become preoccupied with looking at the ground. I am watching for pebbles, cracks, debris – anything that might cause my foot (which is still in a CAM boot) to twist or cause me to lose my balance, stumble and fall.

It dawned on me recently, though, that perhaps I haven’t been as conscientious about my real walk. My daily walk. My Christian walk.

Am I watching where I am going? Where are my eyes – on the world or on Jesus? Am I distracted?

In this case, my focus needs to shift.

Rather than looking down (at those things, people or situations that have tried to bring me low) or back (at my past – good or bad) or around (at the world), I need to be looking up – to the resurrected Christ! The truth of the matter is that where you look is where you will go.

Looking down, we can become consumed by our troubles. Looking back, we can miss the opportunities before us.   Looking around, we can become caught up in the trappings of this world.

Let’s look to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith!” (Hebrews 12:2a, ESV)

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Hillsong) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czxd5oa-gi0


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Cleaning Closets

Deciding is half the battle “they” say.  You know, the infamous, elusive, unidentified “they.”  I’m hoping “they” are right with this one because I have decided to clean my main closet.  It’s huge, and it is a mess – partly because for a few days I haven’t followed my own rule of putting things back where they came from and partly because I really need to get rid of some stuff!  Maybe I should start with the shoes I bought for student teaching…  Hmm, that was more than 35 years ago.  Perhaps I will get rid of the dress I wore when I first met my in-laws.  That might be a good choice since (1) I am divorced, (2) I weighed a LOT less then and (3) it’s almost 20 years old!  This could be a good time to toss the ugly Christmas sweaters – the ones that were so popular in the 70s and 80s.

Are you getting a picture?  We often hold onto things much longer than we should – and not just dresses and shoes.  How about attitudes, thoughts, grudges, wounds?

Ephesians 4:22-23 (AMP) says, “Strip yourselves of your former nature.… And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude].”  In other words, let the past go.  Clean the junk out of the closets of your mind and heart.  Let go those thoughts of what you think you lost, how things might have been, what you’ve given up, ways that you were mistreated, times you felt overlooked or undervalued.

It helps to have someone help me clean the closet.  I tell stories about my stuff, we laugh, and we bag it or box it and take it out. Then we forget it!  Kinda like Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) which tells us to “Forget the former things” and to not “dwell on the past” because the Lord is doing a new thing.   You must clean out the old to make room for the new.

Ponder the following Scriptures and the contents of your heart’s closet this week:

Monday:   Proverbs 4:25-27 (ESV)

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Question for reflection: What is calling you to look back and keeps you from looking forward?

Tuesday: Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Question for Reflection:  What thoughts do you need to swap – untrue for true, dishonorable for honorable, unjust for just, unclean for pure, etc.?

Wednesday: Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

Question for Reflection: What are you holding on to (thoughts, habits, relationships, etc.) that not only “weighs you down,” but impacts your testimony and witness before those you encounter?

Thursday: Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”

Question for Reflection: How many treasures can you find in your closet that might better serve someone else? Can you take them to a neighbor? To Goodwill? To a clothes closet? Other?

Friday: Isaiah 12:2 (ESV)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Question for Reflection:  Of what (or whom) are you afraid? What (or whom) are you holding on to rather than trusting God?

PRAY: Heavenly Father, I love You. I know that You love me. I trust You, and I trust the plan that You have for me and my life. Search my heart and my mind. Show me those things, those people, those feelings, those memories and those attitudes that I need to let go of. Sweep clean the corners of my mind and the recesses of my heart and fill each with what will honor and glorify You. I claim the peace and joy of an uncluttered mind and a clean heart. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

SHARE: Post comments to share your reflections and reactions from this week’s post. (One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One woman’s sharing is another woman’s blessing!)

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Attention Deficit Disorder

You’ve probably heard or read this old joke.  I just found it in my email from 2004.  (Yes, I have archived email from 2004…and before that, too!)

“Recently, I was diagnosed with A. A. A. D. D. – Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

 This is how it manifests:  I decide to wash my car. As I start toward the garage, I notice that there is mail on the hall table. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the trash can under the table, and notice that the trash can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the trash first.  But then I think, since I’m going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.  I take my checkbook off the table, and see that there is only one check left.

 My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go to my desk where I find the can of Coke that I had been drinking. I’m going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over. I see that the Coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the coke a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye–they need to be watered.  I set the Coke down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.

I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers. I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.

I splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill. Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day: the car isn’t washed, the bills aren’t paid, there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter, the flowers aren’t watered, there is still only one check in my checkbook, I can’t find the remote, I can’t find my glasses, and I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.

Then when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I’m really tired.  I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it, but first I’ll check my e-mail.”

This semester I am teaching two undergraduate courses in Special Education.  On the first day of class my 46 students and I engaged in some lively dialogue about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  I asked them to please tell me who does not have ADD?  They laughed as we launched into deeper dialogue about the differences and challenges that we all have, but beyond that dialogue I have continued to think about ADD – Spiritual ADD that is.

You’ve experienced it.  (I refuse to believe that I am the only one.)  You know how it goes.  While praying your mind wanders to the children, the dry cleaning, fixing dinner.  While listening to the minister on Sunday you begin to doodle a grocery list or a “to do” list in the corner of the bulletin.  While reading your Seminary homework sleep overtakes you and you weren’t even sleepy when you began reading. (Yikes, I slipped a confession in there with that last one.)

Peter experienced ADD.  He left the boat to join Jesus as He walked on water.  As long as he kept his focus on Christ, he was fine.  The very moment he became distracted, looked away, took his eyes off Jesus – he began to sink.  And that is what happens to us.  We become distracted, turn our focus away from God and we sink.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”  The Amplified translation of this Scripture says “look away from all that will distract” and “look to Jesus.”  Easier said than done?  Certainly.  But we must be intentional in our walk, our service and our relationship with Christ.  Identify your distractors and rather than a pill, endeavor to take captive every thought and cease every action that is not of the Lord.  Determine to maintain focus during prayer, worship and life.

At the end of the day you still may not know where your keys are, but you will know where YOU are – centered in the will and plan of God!

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Traveling Light

Indulge me, I’m going to stick with this traveling, packing, suitcase thing that I started in the last post.  And I’m going to try to make it short and to the point. (I’ve been getting a little long in these posts – sorry!)

For about the past 10 years I’ve engaged much more actively in missions abroad.  I remember well, still, my first trip.  I started packing months before our departure.  I packed on paper (which I still do for most trips) before I packed my actual luggage.  I had a luggage scale at home, so I was constantly weighing my luggage.  Too heavy. Take something out.  Weigh it again. Take something else out.  I must have repeated this cycle a gazillion times.

There was NOTHING that I felt that I could take out.  Look, I was going to some strange land.  I needed to be prepared for every possible situation.  I was thinking (and I was right) there will be no convenient mart, drugstore or fast food joint around the corner in case I need something.  If you don’t have it in your suitcase, you do without, and I didn’t want to do without.  Definitely packed some Nabs! (Did you figure out what Nabs are from my last post?)

My pastor always advised us to pack then take half of the stuff out.  Then, on one trip, a roommate shared a tip that I have followed to this day when traveling abroad.  Pack old clothes!  Take old linens.  Wear old underwear.  Yes, wear it and throw it away.  Use it and toss it.  Two things happen.  Your suitcase gets lighter and lighter (so you can bring home lots of new stuff and souvenirs without exceeding your luggage weight limit) and your dresser drawers and closets at home get cleaned out!

We have a lot of stuff in our life suitcases that we need to just toss.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV) refers to the baggage or weight we need to lay aside.  I believe there are two categories of baggage here – past experiences and personal sin. 

Past Experiences include things like guilt, defeatist attitudes, feelings of rejection, fears of failure and poor self-image.  These are attitudes and feelings that weigh us down and keep us from being our personal best.  They are not from God!

Personal Sin is sin that is very specific to individuals, and we all have experienced the weight of our weaknesses and struggles such as unforgiveness, jealous spirits, pride, greed, lust, anger or bitterness.

Both, our past experiences and our personal sin, can drain our energy, slow our pace and cause us to stumble.  They are the equivalent of trying to carry extra luggage without wheels and those wonderful straps that connect several pieces together!  We become distracted from our purpose and focused on trying to maneuver with all that baggage.

Hebrews instructs us to “lay aside every weight, and sin” so that we can run. (Picture OJ running through the airport.  Oh my.  Did I just reveal my age with that reference?!)

The bottom line – WE DON’T HAVE TO CARRY OUR BAGGAGE!  Think how you feel when you drag your luggage to the airport, across the parking lot and into the terminal.  Then you finally check it, and you are free from struggling with it and stressing about it.  It is especially wonderful when you are able to check it through to your final destination.  You walk about freely through the terminal shopping, eating, etc.  You travel “light.”  God would have us “check” our past experiences and sin laying them at His feet so that we may navigate freely enjoying the abundant life that He offers us.  And unlike the airport, He will never give your luggage back to you all ripped and ragged and dirty. (I could really write some posts about that!)  He will carry it forever!

Can you say, “Check it straight through, please?”