Thursday, October 9, 2014

Alert and Thinking Straight

In medical assessment, one of the skills you are taught is to evaluate the mental "alertness" of your patient.  It goes a long way in assessing if the data is consistent with what you glean in the review of other information you might find in your assessment.  A patient who is less alert than their baseline assessment had been at a previous point might be under the untoward influence of a sedative, or perhaps have suffered a life-altering event such as stroke or bleed into their brain.  To be alert, one is to be fully awake and able to direct full attention toward something.  If the patient is awake, but drifts easily back to sleep, without being able to focus or concentrate on what you are asking them to do, the medical provider will begin to look for causes of this "drift" in attentiveness and alertness. It is this faculty which gives us our ability to make decisions, engage in thoughtful process, and even follow along with a train of thought someone else may be discussing. Without alertness, we are simply "there", but not really engaged in the moment.  To be less than alert places us at risk - for what we turn our attention toward is what we often pursue or become.  When we are unable to focus our attention, the dangers are often great!

Be alert and think straight. Put all your hope in how kind God will be to you when Jesus Christ appears.  Behave like obedient children. Don’t let your lives be controlled by your desires, as they used to be.  Always live as God’s holy people should, because God is the one who chose you, and he is holy.  That’s why the Scriptures say, “I am the holy God, and you must be holy too.” (I Peter 1:13-16 CEV)

Two commands:  Be alert and think straight.  At first these don't seem too difficult, but if you have ever tried to 'be alert' when you are just a little bit scattered in your thoughts, you might find it is kind of difficult.  On the other hand, even when you have your thoughts well-ordered, you might find yourself drifting out of alertness just because there are distractions all around.  The two work together, yet they are not entirely 'dependent' upon each other.  Just as the level of alertness keys me in to begin to assess other things which may be going on with you, such as reviewing recent medications you may have been given, or the presence of some traumatic event which may have altered your level of consciousness, the influences of life's demands place us at risk of decreased alertness and into circumstances where 'ordered' thought is more than a little bit difficult!

When we are alert, we are keenly aware of what is going on around us.  We may not know "everything" which is occurring, but we are "on alert" and begin to take in those things which we can see, hear, feel, etc.  We process this "data" and form certain opinions of how it is we are to use it, reject it, flee from it, etc.  If we possess the ability to "think straight" in those same moments, we often find we can trust the input to be "sorted" well and those things which should be embraced will be, as well as those which should be rejected will find their way quickly out of our minds and hearts.  Obedience is based a whole lot on being alert and thinking straight - for in embracing the "correct" stuff and rejecting the "lame" stuff, we are beginning to walk as we should - as obedient children of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most of us don't consider ourselves as "holy" - we are just on the journey which leads to the incorporation of better choices, upright living, and honesty in our actions.  In some sense, we see this as being "less than holy", but in reality we are already declared to be holy - we are just in the process of learning to "walk this out" in our daily lives.  So, even when we don't "feel" holy, we are.  What God asks of us is to remain alert to the things which will "dissuade" us from making right choices - in other words - be alert!  Use some good "thinking skills" in making our choices - not allowing our minds to become so cluttered by life's demands that we just make spur of the moment choices which are not well thought out.  When we begin to live in such a way, the steps toward obedience are quicker and more reliable.

So, as we go about today's "living", we need to remember two things.  1) What consumes our thoughts will impact our choices.  If we are "on alert" to what can so easily consume our thoughts, we will be quicker to reject the stuff which is just going to add "clutter" to an already complicated amount of thought.  If we let our "alertness" drift, we might succumb to the loudest impressions we are exposed to - making our choices less than reliable and very inconsistent from what we would desire for our lives.  2) When our focus is fully awakened, we are "alert" to the possibilities of what stands in our midst.  Some of the time, we engage in life without bringing our focus into full "alertness" - we just go about life without really spending time to get our focus right in the first place.  This is why I start my day with study in the Word, over a cup of coffee, and in a quiet place.  I remove distractions, focus my attention, and let the level of "alertness" begin to bring order to my thoughts.  Anything less would place me at risk of hasty decisions, and not very reliable actions.  How about you?  Are you allowing your focus to be fully awakened? You might just be surprised what purpose you might discover in today's activities when you allow such an awakening!  Just sayin!

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