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?

My apricot tree

When Christians want their own way

God wants us to be happy, right? He loves us, so it would follow logically that He wants us to have everything we want and to be happy all the time. That’s what many people think. That’s what much of the culture believes. That’s the concept that many Christians cling to and convince others of.

And I guess it isn’t untrue. God does want us to be happy but not at the expense of growth. He does want us to have everything we want but not at the expense of our witness. More

My apricot tree

My apricot tree - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Samuel 11:25.

“Well, tell Joab not to be discouraged,” David said. “The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow! Fight harder next time, and conquer the city!”

On first glance, this verse doesn’t seem to have anything to do with what God wants for our lives. So to really understand, you need to know what’s going on in the story. Because if you just read the statement, you would think that David is simply trying to encourage his general, but if you know the story behind it, you will be shocked at its callousness.

This is David’s response after he arranged the death (murder) of Uriah the Hittite, a loyal, innocent man. All for the sake of legalizing his affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.

It’s a cold, callous, cruel statement. Basically just washing his hands of the whole situation, pretending he had nothing to do with it, acting as though Uriah was simply another casualty of war and not someone who was murdered without reason.

This is David! The man after God’s own heart! How did the boy who killed a giant with God’s aid become a man who could he do something so evil? So wrong? And then turn around and act like it was no big deal? How can someone who loved God so much do something so horrible?

Well, maybe the answer is complicated, but the root of the issue is simple: David wanted his own way. He convinced himself that God wanted him to be happy and that he deserved to have everything he wanted.

He thought Bathsheba was beautiful. And he wanted her. So he took her. And when something threatened the happiness he found with Bathsheba (her husband), he had him killed. David eventually came back to his senses, but it took a lot of pain to get him there. And he never really recovered. And neither did his family. If you read the history, you can trace all the rest of the trouble David had throughout the remainder of his reign and life to this single act. Consequences of a poor choice.

David pursued happiness with Bathsheba, even though he knew it was wrong. And he hurt people — not just the people around him at the time. He hurt his children. And his grandchildren. And his grandchildren’s children. He wrecked his reign of Israel. The consequences of his choice damaged his entire country, because he had been given a position of authority and he took it for granted.

So how are we different from David?

We want the things we want no matter if God has said it’s wrong or not. We want our own way, even if God has told us that way ends in death. We think we know better. And we rationalize our foolish choices because we think God wants us to be happy, and we think that being happy means getting our own way. But desiring our own way no matter what turns us into people who hurt others. It’s so backward. You would think that desiring your own way and acting on those desires would make you happy–but it doesn’t. If anything, it makes you unhappier than you were before. Because happiness is temporary.

The difference is desiring what lasts.

You can chase happiness all you want. You can pursue your wants and desires all day long. But at the end of the day, those things are going to end. Your circumstances are going to change. And then the things you thought you wanted and the happiness you sacrificed the people you loved for won’t be enough anymore.

God does want us to be happy, but above all else He wants us to be like Him. He wants us to desire the things He desires. He wants us to love Him and to love people and to live the kind of life that He would live. He wants us to desire the things that are right.

Desiring God’s way and acting on those desires may not always seem common sensical. Actually, it may seem foolish. It may seem like you’re signing your life away or giving up on a dream or sentencing yourself to a life of poverty. But doing what God wants is never foolish, and He always blesses it.