Dog Walkers, A Saxophone and Conversations Not My Own

I’m sitting here in a  city that I’ve never been to ,drinking coffee, ready  to write something amazing.  I know I’ll  be inspired to write great things because I’m not one bit distracted.   Just me and Jesus.    I don’t know anyone here so I won’t have to talk to anyone.    I don’t have any responsibilities but to sit here and think and pray and   let words fly from my fingers.   I’m in my little invisible shell where nothing and nobody can bother me.   I don’t even have to worry about my phone because it’s sitting next to me , a little black box with no power!   There’s NOT EVEN ANY WIFI HERE!!!    Will I survive this afternoon?!?  Somebody fan me before I pass out!!  

But Lawdybeeeeee.    The lake!  The ducks!  The dog walkers!   The saxophone music wafting into my ear space from somewhere! All the conversations happening around me!    There is SO much right here to look at and listen to.    I have fallen prey to the monster of distraction!   Even the things that should’ve brought a peaceful distraction-free afternoon have become preoccupations for me.

Distractions! Can we truly escape them, especially in this “always connected” space of time we live in?  In our own strength, chances are the pull towards the distractions will win.   We won’t get anything productive done.   We’ll make one time zapping decision after another.     Our ears will tune in to the conversations of 21 year old strangers nearby.  Not only do I know they’re all 21 , I also know most of their names (first and last), where they’re from and that 90% of all the people in their “plan” are hooking up. The only thing I didn’t learn from intently overhearing these yung-uns talking was what the “plan” was. I’m sure it was college stuff…the plan. I wonder if they’ll ever achieve their goals with all the shenanigans obviously going on amongst them!

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

I was not trying to hear every word of these kids’ conversations. They were sitting so close, though. And not exactly whispering. And my phone was dead, remember? So I couldn’t turn on my favorite Christian music, pop in my ear buds and tune them out. Their words became the music in my ears and I. WAS. DISTRACTED !! (Btw, this photo isn’t of the shenanigan loving folks I had fallen audience to. My phone had died by then and I couldn’t get a real picture of them…not that I would take pictures of random strangers in a city not my own! The nerve!! )

FAST FORWARD TWO DAYS…..because I became too distracted to do another dog gone thing on that breezy coffee shop patio. As I look back on this moment of my weekend, I realize I learned something valuable about myself. Something I’ve known all along, honestly. Try as I may to do the important things. Try as I may to keep my eyes on the prize and my ear to the voice of God, I . GET. DISTRACTED. I’m not immune to any shape , form, or fashion of a “bunny trail” life throws in my path. When I allow these diversions to change my course for the day, they become the boss of me and my day is no longer my own.

Let me just throw this out here. If you are a believer like me, you likely grasp the fact that God has a plan for your life. A good and perfect and amazing plan even. But did you know that the enemy also has a plan for us?

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

2 Corinthians 11:3

There is nothing that delights the devil more than to see us be totally and mind numbingly distracted from anything God has for us. He wants our actions and our thoughts to be so self absorbed and so far from a “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” that we barely even notice him at work. When I realize how little effort it takes to be sidetracked away from fun and easy things, how much more effort must the enemy put into leading us astray from the harder things God has for us? And by “harder”, I mean the more important things. Like feeding the hungry. Telling a friend about Jesus. Praying with someone who is hurting or sick. The things that will make a difference for the kingdom. You better believe that the sneaky snakey devil is gonna work overtime to make sure we feel inadequate or scared or unworthy to do such things. We’ll be reminded how cozy and quaint our little comfort zone is. And those things in and of themselves are enormous distractions

So Self? (Because I needed this reminder more than anyone!) Be aware! Sometimes it’s just cute dogs and soothing saxophone music that will serve to distract from the task at hand. Those things I’m totally aware of. But other times the distractions from the big, amazing God things may come completely from a different direction. I may not even see the distractions as distractions but more of a “Me doing Me” sorta thing.

So for Me and Everyone Else who has an ounce of desire to do things God’s way, here are some reminders of how to overcome these “my way is the best way ” distractions…

Abide in God. Keep Him close.

Let His word sink deeply into your soul.   Fill your mind with so many of His truths that there simply is no room for the lies of the distractions.

Don’t push Him to your backburner.   Keep Him in the forefront of your mind.   Wake up thanking Him for the breath in your lungs and the beating of your heart.    Talk to Him throughout the day.

Love Him more than you love your own way of doing anything.    There is power and confidence in that true love.   

I love how the Message phrases the “abide in Me” verses in 1John 2 . I will leave you with verses 24 and 25 and my prayer that you , too, can overcome the distractions in your life by staying with what you heard from the beginning.

“Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink in to your life. If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father. This is exactly what Christ promised: eternal life, real life!”

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You Sneaky Devil, You!

You Sneaky Devil, You!

It’s inevitable. Worry will hit you out of nowhere. Even if you’re basically not a worrier, life will often throw things in your path that will cause you stop and worry. Even if you KNOW that God has all things in His hands and you’re super great at handing Him your worries, sometimes you’re just not and worry sneaks in.

“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Thank you Matthew 6:27 for reminding me that the obvious answer to this question is …

N O !!!!

Nothing good is added to our lives by worry! Worry is a struggle. It can make you feel like you’re being strangled; like it’s choking the very life right out of you. What does worry accomplish? It DOES have some side effects you need to stay aware of. In my best “commercial voice-over” voice, here ya go.

Worrying may cause sleepless nights, belly aches, constipation, diarrhea, frequent vomiting, big zits to appear smack dab in the middle of your face, overeating, under eating, sweaty palms, the shakes, an uncontrollable desire to incessantly text the one causing worry, smeared mascara, drippy down your face mascara, heart palpitations and an overall sense of doom.

Bad side effects or not, can we all admit there are times when it’s just hard to not get consumed by worry? I admit, I worry about things way more than I should. It could be caused by legitimate things…like the poor health of a loved one. Traveling on icy roads and your car has bad tires. Worry can be caused by things we have no control over…like decisions other people make. Regardless of how anyone else may deem our worry, in the moment the worry is very real for the worrier.

By no means, have I figured it all out. As I said, I DO worry about stuff way more than I should. I have, though, discovered some ways to not become consumed by worry when it hits me! So if I may, allow me to share a few ways to help you combat the worry…the legit and the not so legit.

  • Distract yourself with something positive. What do you love to do? What are you good at? Maybe a good mindless Netflix binge would help. Find a good show that will make you laugh and forget about your worries. Turn on your favorite music and sing at the top of your lungs like nobody’s listening. Dance like nobody’s looking. Getting lost in a good book can also occupy your mind and help you forget the worrisome stuff. THE Good Book is an amazing choice here. The Bible is full of sweet advice to help ease your mind.
  • Speaking of The Good Book, after you’ve picked it up and read some of it, you are sure to have found many, many verses that address your needs. Write these down. When I am in a period of deep soul worry or concern, I love to see scriptures in the places I look every day . So I’ll write verses ,such as Psalm 55:22 , on sticky notes. “Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” I’ll stick these to my bathroom mirror or my kitchen cabinets . Anywhere I know my eyes will fall during the day. This helps so much to get God’s encouragement into my heart where it belongs. The more my empty places are filled with God’s truths, the less space there will be for worry.
  • Take a few minutes to just be by yourself and scream out loud. It’s OK! Cry! Stomp your feet !! Be mad at the fact that whatever it is you’re worrying about is taking up so much head space!! This release is strangely helpful.
  • And that takes us right into the next thing. While you’re screaming and crying in your “by yourself place” , cry out to God. PRAY!! If you’re worried or anxious about something and you think it’s His fault, He already knows that! So you can scream your worries to Him. They won’t surprise Him. He’s not gonna love you less because of it. You can cry out to Him for help. He’ll be there. He’ll listen. 1Peter 5:7 reassures us with this “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”   Let that sink in. God, the One who created the universe, CARES ABOUT YOU! So why do we worry in the first place?
  • Do something kind for another person. Serving others turns our focus off ourselves and on to them. When your mind is consumed with worry and concern, shifting your focus to the needs of someone else will take your mind off that worry! And turning your worry into something good and kind is a win!
  • Finally, TRUST GOD! This is the beat all , end all of how I cut out the worry. I trust that God has it. Whatever I’m worrying about, He’s on it, taking care of things in better ways than I ever could. Whoever I’m worrying about, He loves more. My self proclaimed life verse is Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Oh how this verse has gotten me through a ton of angst. I don’t have to understand why things are as they are. I just need to trust God. It’s a choice I make daily.

Worry, concern, anxiety…they’re all just one way the enemy of our souls tries to distract us from the Lover of our souls. If the enemy can cause our thoughts to stray from God and onto ourselves and our worries , he’s winning. Yuck! The devil is NOT the one I want winning anything in my life!!! So promise me something. The next time you’re consumed by worry, scream out to the devil “NOT TODAY!!” Then do one of the things I suggested (or one of your own fool proof worry stoppers) to stop the worry in it’s tracks.

I’m leaving you with a song today. It’s one you can sing at the top of your lungs as you let the worries and concerns consuming you melt away. I hope you’ll listen. And sing it out loud and strong. I’d also love to know YOUR “beat all, end all” ways of stopping worry in its tracks. If you’d like to share your thoughts in the comments, your way may be a huge help to someone reading this today!