Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

The difference between distraction and importance

Have distractions ever caused you to be someone you’re not? Or to do something out of character? Recently, I experienced just that. Friday two weeks ago, I had a big day planned. I got off at Noon and headed for home. And the only explanation I can offer is that I was six steps ahead in my brain when I pulled out of the parking garage, and in my mind I was already on the highway. But you can’t drive like you’re on the highway when you’re navigating downtown Wichita at Noon.

I ran a red light at Central and Broadway. A 2010 Honda smacked into my passenger side and threw me into a big red Dodge Ram. No one was seriously injured (thank God), but my car–my awesome 2008 Malibu that had served me so well–was completely totaled.

I wasn’t texting or talking on the phone. I just had too much going on in my head. I just zoned out. And zoning out isn’t bad. Don’t misunderstand. Sometimes you need to zone out, but there are times when you can’t. There are times when you have to stay focused and on your game, and one of those times is when you’re driving in a city.

Distractions are everywhere. But it’s our choice to be distracted.

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The story of Mary and Martha is one of those old Bible stories that is recounted in flannelgraph and puppet shows all the time, mainly because it’s so relevant to everyone. Even as adults, it’s a message we need.

Don’t get distracted. Even if it’s by something good.

You get that, right? Martha wasn’t overloaded doing bad things. She was making a big dinner for Jesus and His disciples. That’s not bad. That’s awesome! Remember, these guys left home. They left everything they had. Not a luxurious way to live. And I’m friends with enough guys to know that if they hit the road all together, they would rarely have home-cooked meals. They would eat out all the time. For Martha to sacrifice her time and her finances to provide a big home-cooked meal for thirteen hungry men is incredible.

And Jesus was grateful, I’m sure. But you have to get down to the heart of the issue here. Martha was a doer, a controller, a worker bee. She was probably Type A. On my writing blog, I did a series on character profiles based on a book called How Can I Get Through To You, and I’m pretty sure that Martha would classify as a Driver. And Martha had convinced herself that she needed to do something for Christ. She needed to make Him a meal.

Cool. That’s good of her. But Jesus hadn’t asked her to do that.

It’s never Jesus’ intention for us to run ourselves ragged. We weren’t designed to be in constant motion. We weren’t designed to fill up our brains with details and stress until it’s so full we can’t function properly. We weren’t designed to live that way.

God designed us to work, yes. And work is good for us. And serving is even better. But in Martha’s case, serving became extraneous. Her focus had become the work. Her perspective had shifted to herself, and she wasn’t serving so much anymore as she was just running around like a crazy person and hoping that Jesus would realize she thought she was doing it for Him.

I get that way. I think we all do. But the point today is that if we fill up our lives with distractions, even if they’re good distractions, they’re taking us away from a true relationship with God. If we’re so busy running around trying to accomplish things and be productive, we’re going to miss the opportunity to be still and listen.

God never told us to kill ourselves serving Him. He told us to be still and know Who He Is. Yes, we’re supposed to do the Word, but the Word is to listen. Yes, action is important and necessary, but the Bible is a book of balance.

Slow down. Focus. Eliminate distractions. Make priorities and keep them. Because the more extraneous details you get tangled up in, the better your chances are for missing the point completely. And not only will you miss the chance, you may end up doing something out of character. You may end up hurting someone.

God is a God of second chances, yes, and I’m thankful for that. I’m more thankful for that than I have ever been. And when we screw up, He’s there with forgiveness. But if you know the truth, why live like you don’t? If you know the difference between distraction and importance, why choose the one that will waste time?

Being grateful for spankings

Today’s verse is Psalm 119:7.

7 As I learn your righteous regulations,
      I will thank you by living as I should!

Isn’t it funny how mixed up our thinking is? I read this today and at first I really didn’t understand it. It seemed to me that this verse was saying that as we learn God’s rules, we should live the way He tell us in gratitude for sharing His rules. What?

I think part of my confusion (other than the fact that I stayed up way too late last night and my coffee isn’t having any effect this morning) stems from the fact that I still have trouble wrapping my head around God’s rules as gifts.

God doesn’t just make stuff up. He created the rules and laws He did to protect us but also to help us live healthy, successful lives, both physically and spiritually. And when we obey His rules, He is able to bless us. So the more we obey His rules, the more He can bless us. I say that’s motivation for learning every rule He has, wouldn’t you?

This is the same verse in the Amplified Version:

7I will praise and give thanks to You with uprightness of heart when I learn [by sanctified experiences] Your righteous judgments [Your decisions against and punishments for particular lines of thought and conduct].

So, in effect, what this verse is saying that as we live and break God’s rules, God will punish us . . . and when He does, we need to be grateful for His discipline.


That’s a tough one. Because I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time being grateful when I am being punished for something I did wrong. Do I understand that punishment is necessary? Most of the time. But am I grateful for it? Pretty much, no.

But then I got to thinking about growing up. My parents ran a pretty strict household . . . at least, that’s probably what a lot of other parents would think. Really all my mom and dad did was to expect my brother and I to obey the rules. They explained them. And they enforced them. And most of the time, both my brother and I understood the consequences of breaking them . . . and sometimes we did it anyway . . . . Well, maybe I shouldn’t say we. I should probably say I. I was the stubborn, strong-willed, independent child.

And whenever I broke the rules, I was punished. Yes, we spanked in our household. No, I wasn’t scarred for life. Because spankings in our home weren’t spur of the moment things. It wasn’t a simple strike. It wasn’t a moment where Mom hit us in the grocery store and then moved on. Spankings in our home were a production. They took time. A lot of time. First I had to spend some time thinking about what I had done (which most of that, I admit, I spent wallowing in rebellious muttering). Then, Mom came in and explained why she had to spank me, because she loved me too much to let me misbehave. Then came the spanking, which didn’t actually hurt. I think it was the shame that I had disappointed them that caused more pain than that silly little paddle that had my name written on it.

As a child, I understood why my parents disciplined me to a limited extent. I knew the Bible told them that they had to discipline their children, and I knew my parents lived by the Bible. So I got that. And I understood that they loved me. I never doubted that. But I didn’t grasp the concept of the danger a misbehaving child faces if they continue undisciplined until I got older.

Now, I don’t have children so maybe I shouldn’t express my thoughts about this. However, I am child. And I have been a child of my parents, and I am still a child of God. And even though I don’t have children of my own, I know what the Scripture says about raising them because I have lived it.

Sparing discipline of your children for whatever reason is so dangerous. Kids growing up in the world today face choices that will utterly destroy them. And you shouldn’t expect your kids to know the right thing to do automatically. If anything, they will automatically know the wrong thing to do. And God gave them to you to teach them His rules. And if you don’t teach them His rules, they will break them. If your kids don’t take you seriously, how will they ever learn to take God seriously?

And that’s when I started realizing why we should be thankful when God disciplines us. He’s not some overbearing principal in the sky, who’s waiting around a corner to slap our hands with a ruler when we speak out of turn.

He knows the consequences of our actions. He can see where every road will take us. He can see what will happen to us if we disobey. And He is trying with everything He has to keep us off that path because when we ignore Him, it’s like running into a burning house and just waiting for it to collapse on top of us.

So I understand now why David wrote that in gratitude for God’s discipline in his life — discipline that hurts but always occurs to protect us from ourselves — he chose to live the way he should. And I’m praying that I can do that. Because I understand why God corrects me, why He discplines me. He loves me. And just like my parents, He loves me too much to let me do wrong and get away with it. And when I can wrap my head around that concept and learn to love His rules more than my stubborn, strong-willed, damaging indpendence, He will bless me more than I can take in.