Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year's Eliminations

 Cape Cod, MA
 
 "I have decided that I will not let anything
that will ultimately mean nothing
keep me from that which will eventually mean everything."
~ Pastor Chris Hodges

A New Year's post is always requisite, although I've never been one to post a list full of resolutions.  Intentions, sometimes.  Because, let's face it, the whole "resolve" thing always ends up a wash by mid-year. 
 
The truth is, I don't need more to-do's.  I need less. 
 
Much less.
 
So much less that my word and my theme for the New Year has become simply "simplify".
 
Last year was a whirlwind year for me. The beginning of this year has created time for me to catch my breath and really breathe in this new life He has given me.   

In that same vein, I love that our church begins each year with 21 days of prayer and fasting.  It is such a contrast to the craziness that often envelops our year ends.  It's become a time to be still and know (Psalm 46:10).
 
It's a time to retreat and I love it.

And so, rather than compile a list of resolutions to be tackled, I compiled a list of distractions to be eliminated.
 
I've reduced my hours in the office to part-time so that I can have precious time with my children in the afternoons. I've reduced my extra writing to occasional freelance only. I've slowly, methodically eliminated some of the excess things in my life, yes - even some of the good things, so that I can prioritize my life, my time, and my heart on the very best things.   
 
Social media was at the very top of the list to take a break or "fast" from for the 21 days: the mindless, incessant scrolling; this innate yet irritating need to document my every thought. 
 
The very first day, I found myself reaching for my phone more times than I can count, only to remember, I deleted the social media apps. 
 
There was nothing to look at.
 
Don't get me wrong - I know and have experienced so much of the good that can come of it, but I also know and have experienced the vacuum that sucks  hours and hours of your my life away. 
 
For. nothing. 
 
Elimination of distraction forces attention elsewhere - towards the things that really matter - towards the things that are real and tangible in the very moment. 
 
Towards the things that I referenced in my last post, the very things Jesus said were the most important:  loving God and loving people. 
 
Deciding to forgo distractions frees you for the pursuit of His presence. 
 
It's what I used to do here - on the pages of this blog.  I'd sit for long periods of time in silent prayer, reading His words, listening to His voice and then I'd take the time, undistracted, to peck out my own words - straight from my heart to the keyboard to the screen. 
 
I used to write.  A lot. 
 
And then I got distracted.  A lot. 
 
And so, I wrote only in fragments.  140 character or less in a tweet.  A status on Facebook.  Thoughts posted on a scrolling feed and lost forever.  A blog here and there, but for the most part - when I'd sit to write - to do the very thing I love - the one thing I feel as though I was made to do - I felt empty.  As though I'd given all my words away and lost any original thoughts of my own.  
 
At best, I was losing the ability to hear my own voice in the midst of so many others. At worst, I was losing my ability to hear His voice because of the distractions.
 
You know, it's the choosing - the deciding - to be the Mary in a Martha world - (one of my favorite books, by the way). 
 
It's the daily asking Him to give me a Mary heart - one that it is still and quiet.

We know the story - Martha had opened her home for Jesus and like so many of us, she'd likely wanted everything to be perfect.  Busying herself in the kitchen while Mary simply sat at His feet, soaking in His presence. 
 
Bring that story into our 2014 and I see myself in Martha so clearly.  Longing for His presence, inviting Him in, but I'm just so buys... maybe not so busy in the kitchen as a I am trying to take a perfect shot with my iPhone, to capture the moment just right - choosing the right filter and sharing to Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Flicker... 
 
and all the while, the Lord is saying, "Just put the phone down for a minute.  Come and sit at my feet." 
 
"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.”

Eliminate some of the things to focus on the one thing.
His presence. 

Who is like You Lord in all the earth?
Matchless love and beauty, endless worth
Nothing in this world can satisfy
'Cause Jesus You're the cup that won't run dry

Your presence is heaven to me

Treasure of my heart and of my soul
In my weakness you are merciful
Redeemer of my past and present wrongs
Holder of my future days to come

Your presence is heaven to me

All my days on earth I will await
The moment that I see You face to face
Nothing in this world can satisfy

'Cause Jesus You're the cup that won't run dry
You never run dry

Your presence is heaven to me
~ Israel Houghton Lyrics

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