Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The reward is in the time

It is easy to get distracted when it comes to anything like a little quiet time with God. Taking time with my best friend is hard enough, but time alone with God is sometimes harder. Why is that? I think it might just be because the enemy of our souls knows exactly what happens when time is spent together with our mighty Savior! He knows the power that is given and the settling of uncertainty that comes. He doesn't want either to occur, so he puts up as many smoke screens and mirrors to distract us from this exchange as much as possible. Create the right environment and you can eliminate a few distracting forces. Allow the wrong ones and you will find time alone with God becomes harder and harder.

"When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don't make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won't make you a saint. If you 'go into training' inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn't require attention-getting devices. He won't overlook what you are doing; he'll reward you well." (Matthew 6:16-18)

Jesus points out that there should be some times (periods) in our lives when we will set aside some time and energy toward really "concentrating" on God. We may think of these times as going to a retreat, choosing a time to fast and pray, or even just a few days set aside with limited interruptions from the outside world, such as camping in the outdoors or fishing by a cool stream. The purpose of the "set apart" time is to focus on God. It is to have some 'alone time' with him and to allow him to really settle into the space we have created for him by enjoying the space he has created for us! In the process of "concentrating" on God, we are bringing all our efforts, activities, and attention to one central place. We are moving from being very scattered in our efforts, activities and attention, to being very focused. When we are concentrating on something or someone, there is a tendency to come to a place of "convergence" - we become in sync with each other.

For example, my mother is at a stage where she loves some time now and again to just tell me something - sometimes about anything that comes to mind, while at others it is a more concerted effort to share something she was wanting to tell me about. In that "talking time" she sometimes doesn't make a lot sense because word-finding can be difficult at a hundred years of age! Yet, when I take the effort to really concentrate on her (putting aside all other distractions), I find that she is really trying to connect with me, figure something out, or share some very meaningful experience she has had that she needs me to know about. If I miss the chance to concentrate on her and what she is sharing, I miss the chance to connect with her where it is she needs me to make that connection. It is vital to make that connection - in her eyes and in mine.

When we are in the process of concentrating on something, we are coming to a place where that object becomes clearer, stronger, and more intensified. It is like turning up the power on a microscope, with each lens serving to intensify the view we have of the object within our focus. Jesus reminds us that we need those times when we are concentrating on him - not because he 'needs' to be the center of our attention - but because we gain something in the time of examining him this closely.

It was no big production to take time to listen to my mom. All it takes is a little time, effort on my part to concentrate, and a heart desire to get something out of the encounter. That is what God says he will reward. Not a big show of religious activity - just the simplicity of a heart focused on knowing him better. So, don't miss out on the times of "concentrating" on God. The ability to focus on him, the desire to have him "intensify" himself in us, is really a matter of us making the time and effort of really getting into the encounter with him. Just sayin!

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