Everyday… to pay attention to _____?

I could write everyday. Actually, I do write almost everyday in my journal. But, I’m sorry to say, there I write for me, not for you, Dear Reader. I am sorry about that.

“Work” comes into the picture when I have to – when I feel I have to – translate my thoughts from journal to blog, in the hope (and, to be honest, the expectation) that what I have to say will be of some benefit or interest for you, the one who graciously takes the time to read what I write. I particularly hope that I can give a little hope to you.

But, oh, how I long to know, to see how I’m impacting the world. Don’t we all? And therein lies one of my biggest stumbling blocks. In life. In being productive. In everything, everyday. I scream to be paid attention to. Some things never change!

That’s the question. And the answer. The big secret. The challenge and the test. To what will I pay attention? On what – who – will I focus? My God, the Creator of All? On my own pitiful, selfish efforts and desires? On others and their needs? Round and round and round I go, all day long, on a moral carnival ride.

One of the concepts I learned early in recovery from x is that thinking obsessively about x is what I had been doing up to that point. Next, thinking about not thinking about x was the first phase of transformation. It amounts to the same thing, but it’s just different enough that there’s a pathway out to follow. 1 Corinthians 10:13 “…God will also provide a way out…”. It’s a step on the way to the end result of simply not thinking about x at all.

Somewhere I read that they key to getting over an addiction (behavioral) is to let it die from neglect. Don’t feed it. Ignore it. Starve it. But the trouble with this advice is that it isn’t complete. It doesn’t address the need to fill in all that time that I had been spending thinking about x. My friend Sal calls it “Replacement Therapy”.

Today’s readings all related to this idea – that I could

  • think about x
  • think about not thinking about x
  • not think about thinking about not thinking about x
  • and so on
  • think about something else entirely

And the best, most effective ‘something else entirely’ is God. Jesus Christ and what he has done for me.

Romans 8:34 …Christ Jesus died for us. But that is not all. He was also raised from death and now, he is at God’s right side, speaking to him for us.

Can you imagine someone actually voluntarily taking your place in the spot of execution for doing x? Even if x is something relatively trivial or politically incorrect, and some terrorist was now ready to use you as representative of what was wrong in his/her world. This guy steps out of the crowd of gawkers, offers his own life, and you go free. How would that change your life?

James 1:12 is another motivating verse:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the Crown of Life, which God has promised to those who love him.

So, that gets me thinking that there’ll be a reward for not thinking about x. Not entirely focusing on God, but it’s a start. Follow this thought up with Romans 8:35

Can anything separate us from the love of God?

“Nothing can separate, even if I ran away.” (Your Love Never Fails.) I always have guilt. Guilt over what I do. Or don’t do. Always I have a nagging feeling that I should/could be doing something else, something better. This verse is my reminder that it’s not what I do, but how I am that matters to God.

I read about the Crown of Life on redeeminggod.com. The word used, stephanos, means reward like a laurel wreath for the winner of a race, and it’s different than the gift of eternal life, which is a “free gift to everyone and anyone who believes in Jesus for it… it cannot be earned or kept by good works.”

That’s another concept I have a hard time with: if my salvation doesn’t depend on what I do, why does it then matter what I do after having accepted Christ? Again, it’s not what I do, but how I am that makes the difference. And, having eternal life already, but then persevering through trial and tribulation to receive and additional reward?!

Imagine heaven as an eternal Super Bowl Sunday (a Patriots one, of course). Already a party. But then to be recognized in front of an infinite stadium for having endured my circumstances? Honestly, I’d be happy enough just being at the game! In comparison, my daily struggles are what’s trivial.

And finally, from My Utmost for His Highest:

Matthew 6:26-28 about the birds of the air and lilies of the field. The sea, sun, stars, moon, and the very air – “they simply are – yet what a ministry and service they render on our behalf! … so often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our conscious efforts to be consistent and useful. … Jesus said there is only one way … to develop and grow spiritually and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. … in essence… do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on me… simply pay attention to the source, and out of you ‘will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38)'”

I can’t say it better than Oswald. But let me try: I have been still, and I know that God is my Creator. He knows me, and what I was made for, what I was made to do. I am focused on him, and therefore, whatever I do and whenever I do it, he uses to work on and with others through what they see in and hear from me throughout the day.

The key here is that, in order to see and hear from me, I have to be out there in relationship with them, and that’s why my isolating away thinking only about my x is so completely ineffective. And wrong. Useless. Nothing to pay attention to.

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