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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Playing the hand you are dealt

If you live your life animated by the flesh—namely, your fallen, corrupt nature—then your mind is focused on the matters of the flesh. But if you live your life animated by the Spirit—namely, God’s indwelling presence—then your focus is on the work of the Spirit.  A mind focused on the flesh is doomed to death, but a mind focused on the Spirit will find full life and complete peace.  (Romans 8:5-6 VOICE)

We all probably have been around some individual who is always looking back at the way things "used to be".  They recount all the "good things" of yesteryear while totally missing all the stuff happening around them right here and now. Their determined link to the past is totally destroying their ability to even see one thing good about the present.  Suffice it to say that what we focus on becomes the sole object of our attention so many times.  When that focus is on what "has been" instead of what is "now" and "will be" as we move forward is to really limit one's focus to things no longer in our control or influence.  Our focus "shadows" or "colors" what we can see right now.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating on occasion:  Change is just something out of our control.  We cannot possibly control all the change around us. There are some things within our control, but in life we find that all the variables which impact our lives are pretty much external to us and therefore, they are not fully in our control.  We may have some "influence" over them, but we really don't control the way things will "turn out".  There is only one thing within our control and that is our focus.  What we choose to make the center of our attention, even for a little while, will eventually begin to play on our imagination, invade our thoughts, and pull at our heart strings.  

If the object of our focus is Jesus himself, then what innervates our imagination is his creative power.  Our thoughts become filled with the possibilities of his power, not the limitations of our abilities.  Our heart swells with joy at his presence and yearns for more time with him when our attention has drifted elsewhere.  If we want to move beyond our "fleshly desires" being the things which control our lives, then focus is where we start.  We have to pull our attention away from the things which only feed those thoughts solely focused on things which don't point us toward right-living.

How do we re-center our focus?  One of the first ways we begin is by breaking ties with the past.  I remember telling one of my friends struggling with some changes in our work environment this means we "play the hand we are dealt" instead of always looking for another hand.  Even in poker, you cannot ask for a totally new hand - you must at least play part of the cards you are dealt.  When I played canasta with my family, my heart would sink when I'd get the hand dealt to me that was about one of each card in the deck.  When you are trying to make "books" of 7 of a kind getting one of a kind is pretty disappointing. The only thing I could do was play the hand I was dealt.  The crazy thing about canasta is that you don't play alone!  You have a partner who may just need those cards you have in your hand, so you play what you have.

We sometimes try to move our focus beyond what we have in front of us today. The truth of the matter is that Jesus wants us to use what we have today - not yearn for what we once had, or constantly be looking for a "new hand".  The "cards" may be pretty lousy at times, but learning to use what we are given is the first step in the process.  Leaving behind the past isn't always easy, but once the "hand is over", it doesn't really matter how many "good cards" you held in that hand.  The next hand awaits.  It is time to pick it up, sort it out, use it to the best of our ability, allowing God to keep us focused and centered on the stuff which matters.  Some might call this contentment.  Others might call it "focus".  Others call it trust.  I think it is all three.  Just sayin!