The Gift of Attention

When was the last time you gave Godyour undivided attention?.png

May I share with you my biggest pet peeve? I can’t think of anything that ruffles my feathers more than someone who isn’t paying attention while I’m talking to them, particularly if that person is paying attention to their phone instead. Oh, let me tell you, it’s enough to make this red hair stand on end! I was raised with this odd set of standards called manners—a foreign term in today’s society. Manners dictate that when someone is speaking, you look them in the eye and pay attention even if what they’re talking about is not your favorite topic. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t need to have something witty to say. You just need to give that person your undivided attention.

Today, undivided attention is an oxymoron. With the rise of technology, we believe we can multi-task better than ever, but the truth is, we’re not multi-tasking. We’re just giving more tasks a portion of our effort and attention instead of focusing on one thing (or person) at a time. I’ve been in conversations with people who are scanning the room while I’m speaking. This gives me the impression they would rather talk with someone else, which makes me feel unwanted and unworthy. I’ve also been in conversations with those who pull out their phones and begin pushing buttons and flipping through apps while I’m speaking, making me feel less important than other things vying for their attention. Some, in trying to defend themselves, declare, “I was listening. I just needed to check this email.” But then, they ask me a question I had just answered, which confirmed what I already knew to be the case—they had turned me off the moment they turned the phone screen on.

I think the reason this tops my pet peeve list is that it does so much more than anger me. It hits me where I’m the most vulnerable by making me feel unloved, unwanted, and unimportant. Like what I have to say isn’t valuable. Like my feelings don’t matter. Like who I am is not interesting enough to not be one-upped by a piece of technology. And, friends, I hate that feeling. After all, don’t we all long to feel loved and appreciated?

I know God does. When I think about how much God has done for me, I realize there’s no way I could ever repay Him, and the good news is, I don’t have to. Never once has He asked for repayment or reimbursement. He does, however, ask for my attention. Such a small request, yet I often find myself guilty of my pet peeve, and I go to God with divided attention. Part of me is meditating on His Word while another part of me is scrolling down my to-do list. My prayers are interrupted by random thoughts and other pauses to take care of this or that so I don’t forget. And, yes, I’ve even opened my phone to check an incoming text message or answer a phone call when I’m supposed to be communing with my Lord. (Would you believe I just received a Facebook Messenger notification on my tablet? Spooky, huh? On the plus side, I didn’t stop to check it.)

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
— Psalm 69:30-31

Did you catch that? God wasn’t interested in sacrifices. He sought undivided attention. He desired praise and gratitude. Is that too much to ask? Is it that difficult to set aside some time to be alone with God? No phones. No television. No newspaper. Just me and God. Just you and God. No stray thoughts. No agendas. No to-do lists. Doesn’t He deserve at least that much?

I wonder, too, if we gave God our undivided attention if that habit would transfer over into our interactions with our fellow human beings. What would our world be like if we would put aside our technology and agenda for a few minutes (or hours) and truly listen to one another? How many misunderstandings could be avoided? How many burdens could be shared? How much love and kindness could be related through the simple gift of attention? I don’t know about you, but I’d love to find out.

Beginning today, I make it my goal to give God and others my undivided attention. I know it won’t be easy, and I’m sure I’ll mess up a few times (or more), but by God’s grace, I will learn to listen as He listens and to interact with Him and others with kindness and compassion. Who’s with me?

Portraying the Power of Prayer

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During my lunch break yesterday, I was watching a show on television, and one character made a statement that broke my heart. During a discussion on spiritual matters, the man declared, “In this life, prayer usually doesn’t work. Nobody shows up to save the day.”

At first, I was offended. After all, to say prayer doesn’t work is to call God a liar, for James 5:16 tells us, The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Prayer works. Prayer helps. And while it may seem like nobody “shows up” to save the day, the truth is, God is always present. He performs miracles day after day, but we’re often too preoccupied to notice.

As I sat there rolling that statement over in my head, my emotions gravitated from annoyed to convicted. The person who made this statement claimed to be a man of faith, yet he doubted the power of prayer. How often have I done the same? Is it possible that others have such a weak view of prayer because I’ve failed to allow others to see its power through my life?  

We’re quick to ask for prayer, but how often do we mention our answers to prayer? We’ll spend hours detailing our unfortunate circumstances, but how much time do we spend recounting our blessings? I never want to doubt the power of prayer; neither do I want anyone else to question it because I fail to offer testimonies of how God has come through for me repeatedly.

That being said, I’d like to share with you the blessings Jason and I have encountered on our missionary journey. First off, we were accepted by the first mission board we approached and could take part in our orientation just two weeks after our acceptance. This is not the norm.  

We booked our first two meetings without having to approach any churches because the pastors of those churches invited us, which is always a good thing.  

Despite many people telling us we wouldn’t be able to have our table display and materials ready for our first mission conference, we had everything we needed. Not only did we procure all our materials, but we found great deals and were able to get what we needed for a fraction of the cost we were expecting.

Our first mission conference was a huge blessing to us in so many ways. We were able to see friends and family we hadn’t seen in many years. We had the opportunity to meet and chat with other missionary families who gave us much-needed advice and valuable contacts. We were able to present our ministry to the biggest congregation of the conference as well as those listening on the radio and the internet. The songs and sermons each day encouraged our hearts and strengthened us for the journey ahead. The church fed us every day, and I’m talking about some good food—Thanksgiving dinner, steak and baked potatoes, pork tenderloin. YUM! And above all that, the church provided a love offering far above and beyond what we anticipated. Talk about an answer to prayer!

We have another mission conference booked in a few weeks, and between now and then, we have several pastors to contact, many of whom were referred to us by other missionaries. We’ve also been invited to a third mission conference at the beginning of November, and once again, we haven’t even made the call yet. God is bringing meetings to us before we can even book them for ourselves. What a blessing!

I hope you don’t mind my taking a few minutes to brag on God this morning. I tell you, friends, I don’t think we do that often enough. If we did, more people would know and understand there is power in prayer. If we believe that, it’s about time we acted like it.

How would the world change if all of God’s children lived in the knowledge that prayer works? Let’s find out!

The Lord Is Nigh

Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous_ for praise is comely for the upright..png
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous:  for praise is comely for the upright.
— Psalm 33:1

Psalm 33 begins by giving us examples of ways to praise the Lord.  The chapter then goes on to tell us why we should praise the Lord.  It speaks of how mighty and strong He is.  It tells of His accomplishments.  It details His positions in our lives as Counselor and Judge.  All in all, it’s a beautiful psalm.

But my favorite part of all is where the Bible reminds us the Lord is with us and watching us.  I often wonder what He sees when He looks at me.  Whatever it is, it’s never so bad that He turns away, which is a testament to His faithfulness, not my goodness.

Praise the Lord for always being with His children, for keeping a watchful eye on their every move.  What a display of love and affection!