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I want your attention
Some years ago, my dad was walking in the woods near his home and the Lord spoke clearly to him, “I want your attention.” What an extraordinary thing that the God of the universe should stoop down and speak to a speck of dust like you and me and say, “I want your attention.”
Today God wants your attention.
The problem is that there is so much competition for my attention! Whether I wake bright-eyed or bleary, there is usually a to-do list to greet me, and in my case there always seem to be things that I should have done the week before!
I switch on the radio and the media is desperate to hook me in. Last week the airwaves filled our minds with the horrors of the Manchester atrocity. Over the coming weeks, we could easily be completely absorbed with the next election and its impact on our lives. Of course we need to be engaged but how can we do it with God in mind, not without him?
So many things claim my attention! If it's not my to-do list or the headlines, there is all the internal noise. Worries jostle for prime position and trample joy underfoot. I meet lots of people whose minds are so filled with agonising concern for someone they love that they think of little else. For others, it’s a tricky relationship that sabotages their peace.
What claims your attention? Perhaps it's a battle with temptation. There are endless potential distractions - the apparently legitimate and the obviously illegitimate that can fill our minds. Sometimes it's the little frustrations that consume us. We get preoccupied with the buzzing mosquitoes of life and ignore God. You know the things which crowd your mind, the petty vanities which cloud your vision until you lose sight of what you were made for.
Even worthy aspirations can get in the way. Do you have a grand vision or a spectacular goal that has grown so huge in your thinking that God is forgotten? Many of our dreams are initially God-given, but then we push him out of the picture to take centre stage ourselves.
God wants to claim your attention. David said in Psalm 16 “I have set the Lord always before me.”
How do we do that? It definitely doesn't happen automatically. As Aristotle said, “Nature abhors a vacuum”; the empty space inside our heads gets filled with a trillion other things if we don't deliberately turn our attention to the Lord. We have to consciously decide to put him at the forefront of our thinking, to turn our love and affection towards him.
Mary Kissell has a lovely phrase that she shared with us last year - “It only takes a moment to turn.” It only takes a moment to turn your attention to the Lord, to acknowledge that he is near.
Setting the Lord before us is our intentional recognition that he is PRESENT. The risen Jesus is here, now, in the room and in the words of Brother Lawrence, we are called to practice his presence.
But what if I actually have to concentrate on the matter at hand? What if I am an orthopaedic surgeon? It wouldn't be great if all my attention was on thinking about the presence of Jesus as I wielded my scalpel! We can't always keep our conscious thought on Jesus, but we can know he is with us. As I write this, I am in the same room as my family. My attention is on the writing while deep down I am comforted by knowing they are here with me. Yet if I never gave them concentrated attention, our relationships would fracture. It's ok to have times where we concentrate on other things exactly because we have times which are focused on each other.
Like most people, I get caught up with the stuff of life so I would love your practical suggestions about what might help us turn our attention to God. My mum used to pray for us while she ironed an item of our clothing. Another friend sets reminders on his phone to pray the Lord's Prayer in the middle of the day. I sometimes pray in tongues when I drive. What helps you? Please do add it in as a comment on this blog to help us.
The Lord claims your attention today. Will you set him before you? Precisely because he is the Lord, we can place everything under his feet - all our to-dos, all our worries, all our fears and temptations, all our hopes and my dreams. We can give the comforter our sadness. In return, we gain life and peace (Romans 8:6)
Today lots of things will be shouting at you, “I want your attention!” Will you listen for the still small voice of the one who loves you best of all, asking you to turn the eyes of your heart to him? Will you take a moment to turn to him right now?
Kate Patterson (2 June 2017)
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