Friday, July 28, 2006

Distracted in Paradise

The myth of location is one I've always subscribed to. It goes like this: if only I was in the right place, then I'd be in better shape spiritually, mentally, emotionally. There have always been those "ideal" locations: our summer cabin in northern Michigan called "Cherith: after the place where God fed Elijah, the beaches of western Michigan, the deck of a sailboat crossing Lake Michigan, the rolling hills of southern France or the warm shores of the Mediterranean. Those have been my good places to go to, and to long for when I was stuck in the routines of normal life and ministry. I'm sure you have yours, unique to yourself and your story.
And good things did happen to me when I went to those places. My pace changed, pressures were eased, I ate better, slept longer, read good books I'd postponed, prayed clearer and wrote without interruption.
But now I live in a destination location, an almost paradise. In the sweltering heat of this summer, I have access to the cool waters of the Pacific. Yesterday our son Isaac flew in to surprise his mother (and sister Liz who is with us for 2 weeks). In the early evening we went down to the beach above and swam in the ocean. It was perfect!
The problem for me is that I'm still inwardly distracted. When I get to my study in the morning, I can't ignore my email in-box, and then I check responses to this blog-site and read other blog entries at other sites. I try to read and get zipped off by tangetial thoughts about our check-book balance and the need to get tickets for the next trip to Chicago, and job descriptions for staff, and the syllabus for confirmation. I am reading Eugene Peterson's great book "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places". I start with a paragraph and by the time I get to the end of it, I realize I was "reading" the words, but thinking about something else, so I have to go back up and re-read it again, and again, until I "get it."
But today was sort of an epiphany as I hit pages 308-309, where he summarized the "baptized life" of the believer with the words: REPENT, FOLLOW and PRAY. "Repent is the no and Follow is the yes of the baptized life." I need the "no" of stopping, releasing, relinquishing, abandonining, turning off the cell phone and computure, not answering the ringing phone or opening the mail. I need to repent of the boundary-less life of incessant interruptions and incursions. And only then do I begin to listen and follow. Following is the inner discipline of listening to another's voice and obeying another's commmand. I'm not the self-employed, self-directed professional, but the obedient servant to the master. And out of following comes the language of prayer and worship.
So, alone in the study today, with candle lit and coffee on, I was able to get quiet, and repent of all my lists, and listen to that calling voice.


At 10:59 PM , Anonymous Isaac said...

So far I've left my cellphone off or at least the phone part of it off during my short vacation. My intention is to not read my email (more than once a day), not constantly check messages and avoid loggin into IM.

It used to be a sign of presigue to "be connected" as often as possible. Increasingly, the true elite can disconnect. Take for instance the Blackberry Detox for weary businesspeople the Sheraton in Chicago offers;


At 10:28 AM , Anonymous Kalon L said...

Sheesh, I thought I was the only one who had trouble with distractions interfering with time with God. My current scheme (read the paper and answer emails, then turn away and spend time reading/praying/journaling) works imperfectly (the email conversations can become so heated that they drown out trying to be quiet).

Would love to know what works for others.


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