Disconnected

“He was one of the most supremely stupid men I have ever met. He taught me a great deal.” ― John Fowles

I’m walking across my college campus. From my office to the classroom today takes me from one end of the university grounds to the other. All along the way I get to watch our student population move. Some are moving from class to class, others are meeting with friends, a few are heading off to a part-time job. Lots of movement between class times. Every other person has their head bent down, intently focusing their gaze on that ever present cell phone.

Today it’s raining.

What consistently amazes me semester after semester is the number of students who appear completely unprepared for the weather. The predicted rain happens all week and barely an umbrella or jacket to be seen. We don’t have much in the way of winters down here in Houston, but there are times when a cold, wet freeze will blow through. I will bundle up and walk to class and pass up students wearing their current “uniform” of gym shorts and flip flops. (I sometimes wonder if the males on my campus even own a pair of long pants?)

There were a few art students today making their way through the drizzle with very large charcoal drawings – waving about in the wind and wet. Nothing covered up from the elements – all that work running off in puddles.

Here’s the irony of it all. As connected as these college students are to their cell phones and the gateway to information that these provide, they remain ever in the dark about the most basic information available to everyone. The most connected generation in the history of mankind – connected to information at a the swipe of a finger – remains as disconnected as ever when it comes to some of the basics; weather, directions, history, news, popular culture, etc.

Ease of access does not always guarantee better use of resources. My students are walking across campus with their noses inches from the cell phone, yet they have no idea about the weather forecast. Their dress gives them away.

Is there a larger lesson here?

What about me? I have access to God instantly. I can find help at a moments notice. I don’t need to waste another day worrying.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews :16)

I wonder if I’m living out an ironic sort of Christian life?

Knowledge, relationship, understanding, peace, are all right there as I turn and approach the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Instead, I typically muddle through each day carrying around a bag full of fear, worry, stress and pride. These leave me completely unprepared for any normal day of weather that usually occurs.

By weather I mean; failures at simple things, angry people, uncertainties about the future, boldface lies, arguments with loved ones, and bad habits that never go away. To name only a few examples of social meteorology that can rain down.

“A forecast can be wrong, but not the weather.”  ― Marty Rubin

It’s not necessary to trudge through the weather unprepared, with wet feet, windblown hair and a chill that stays all day. Yet I have spent weeks in “bad weather” just because I never approached that throne of grace. Maybe I was too busy filling up sandbags? Or was I over-involved in the crisis of the day, windblown out of my spiritual senses?

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

It looks like rain. It’s always right over the horizon. Don’t you need to stay dry? How about coming in and finding some shelter? I think I hear your phone buzzing…

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Distraction

shipwreck-pictures

“The soul is torn apart in a painful condition as long as it prefers the eternal because of its Truth but does not discard the temporal because of familiarity.”

― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

How long has it been since your last distraction?

Sometimes, they last for a short time and then you refocus and get back to it. I was trying to get a calculation mistake corrected in an email the other day and almost had to chase everyone out of my office so I could focus and get it right. That was a brief distraction and I can’t do math equations with five conversations going on all around me.

There are all sorts of sources of advice about how to keep focused and avoid those inevitable distractions. That kind of advice can be a wonderful distraction itself when you’re tired of whatever task is before you.

“I always advise people never to give advice.”  ― P.G. Wodehouse

What about the ones that take us away for long, long stretches of time and space? Distractions that become habits. Persistent distractions that get in the way consistently.

I was thinking the other day about being distracted for years. Is it possible that a distraction can last that long? Can distraction(s) keep you from what you know is really essential? Can you become distracted for so long that you forget the real purpose, meaning, calling, direction, plan or obedient steps to your life?

It seems like whole seasons of my life pass by and I end up distracted by so much urgency. I was thinking THIS was the big plan but then one day realized it was all a distraction. I get frustrated or angry or despondent because of the distraction of this present moment – losing sight of eternity. Days blend into one long blurr because I’ve lost touch with the eternal purpose that I know is lodged in my soul and draws me onward.

Circumstances get blamed for their distracting effect. I just finished teaching my Sunday School class about Saint Paul chained up in a ship sailing through a fourteen day hurricane all the while giving the captain nautical advice. God had told Paul that he was going to take him to Rome. Even the certainty of a shipwreck, over two hundred panicked passengers, crew members fighting for everyone’s life, none of that could distract him from his certainty of where he had been told he was going – even if it meant a potential execution.

I’m so glad that he never gave up. It inspires me to keep running, despite the failures, opposition and distractions…

I think he was able to keep from being distracted because he had something very certain and specific to focus his mind, heart and soul upon. Unlike Peter, Paul didn’t start to sink but kept his eyes of faith on what he knew was eternal. He certainly suffered tremendous physical, emotional and social pain. Read his epistles and at times he reveals how much he struggled. But, he wasn’t distracted.

“Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1

Circumstances, like weather, change. I don’t want to have a fair weather faith.  Even when I’m soaked to the soul, I want to ignore more and more of those constant distractions and keep walking as if I’m a citizen of eternity right now.

“It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the sunshine; I am in it as the butterfly in the light-laden air. Nothing has to come; it is now. Now is eternity; now is the immortal life.”

― Richard Jefferies