Count Me Out!
I have a confession to make: I am one of those people who likes to know and have information– simply for the sake of knowing and having it. Although I may not do anything with all the information, I just like to know what’s going on around me. (No! I don’t call myself “nosey”. So don’t you do it either. (smiles)) Needless to say, I have lots of notifications set on all my electronic devices to keep me up to speed on all things current: Daily Bible verses. Personal emails. WHOAment emails. Church emails. Social media. News. Games. Calendar reminders. The list is endless, which means my phone is constantly making noise, sometimes throughout the night – much to LT’s chagrin.
When I was a little girl attending Sunday School, we’d sing a song to serve as a reminder to us little tikes that God was always watching us so we needed to be mindful of where we went, what we saw, what we heard and what we did.
The song went like this:
“Be careful little eyes what you see…Be careful little eyes what you see.
Because the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little eyes what you see.
Be careful little ears what you hear...Be careful little ears what you hear.
Because the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little ears what you hear.
Be careful little hands what you do...Be careful little hands what you do.
Because the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little hands what you do.
Be careful little mouth what you say…Be careful little mouth what you say.
Because the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little mouth what you say.
Be careful little feet where you go…Be careful little feet where you go.
Because the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little feet where you go.”
It was a delightful song with catchy words and arm movements and I enjoyed singing and acting out all the parts to it. Marching while covering our eyes, ears or mouth, depending on what verse we were singing, was my fave.
While the underlying message of the song remains relevant today, it is more amplified for me. Yes! We should be mindful of the things we hear, see, do, and say because we have to give an account to Someone greater than ourselves; but also, if we are not purposeful in guarding our actions, lifestyles and surroundings we could be influenced and distracted away from our God-given assignments.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." ~1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)
We live in an ultra-technologically savvy age where any and everyone who has something to say (positive or negative), clothes or diet aids to sell, a trend for you to follow or unfollow and everything in between, can simply go online and cast it to the world. Likewise, headlines and unsubstantiated information is only a finger click – or push notification – away.
As parents, we make every attempt to protect our children and shield them from the things that lurk outside of our controlled environments. We have monitoring systems in place to help prevent them from wandering outside our established “comfort zones”. In our household, all music, movies and apps are pre-screened before they are downloaded to our daughters' devices as a safety measure to keep them from being exposed to things that could lead them astray from what they've been taught.
Yet, as adults, we tend to let those same guards down for ourselves and open the flood gates, believing that we have the capacity to filter negative, misleading or persuasive information, sights, sounds and rhetoric that we are bombarded with daily. However, we are always influenced, positively and/or negatively by the people we talk to, the things we listen to and watch or the places we go – in one way or another. Outside influences are constant and they can serve as distractions to separate you from or keep you from reaching your goals or assignments..
“As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].” ~ Proverbs 27:17 (AMP)
In the past few weeks alone, sources from all over the world have been reporting and opining about messy politics, unwarranted violence and social injustices plaguing our nation. Because I passively allowed them to enter my space, pictures and videos made their way onto all my screens; and it seemed that no matter who I talked with or where I went, everyone seemed to be in the know of and offered their opinions about the latest chaotic headlines and the general sense of hopelessness many in our nation are experiencing. And I was taking it all in without using my normal “filtering processes” which seemed to help me discern and separate prudent from unfruitful information in the past. The more I took in, the more I, too, began to experience the heaviness that hopelessness can bring. I, too, was beginning to feel angry because of the injustices that were happening. I, too, was beginning to feel disappointed by the political climate in our country. I, too, began to experience the same emotions that most experienced. Then the headlines poured in with news about the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling. I, too, began to feel…melancholy. I allowed circumstances and people's behavior to influence my peace of mind.
On Wednesday, July 6, 2016, I attended Bible Study, as normal. Our Pastor instructed us not to throw away our faith. And just like he always does, by leading of the Holy Spirit, he dropped a relevant nugget: ‘One of the ways we as Believers can throw away our faith is to be distracted and led by current events and headlines.’ (How did he know?! "He" --the Holy Spirit-- always knows exactly what I need to hear.)
After returning home that night, I heard about (and saw the graphic video) of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile. Soon after, I spoke with a close family member and we vented to each other about the frustrations and anger we felt due to climate of our nation. Because I read all the headlines and stories and allowed them to fill my thoughts and consume my consciousness, to the point where I discussed it at length, I felt exhausted and upset, which is a clear sign that I was distracted, looking at the situations instead of God. I listened to the headlines, which changed by the minute.
“So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4:18 (AMP)
“But the [Holy] Spirit explicitly and unmistakably declares that in later times some will turn away from the faith, paying attention instead to deceitful and seductive spirits and doctrines of demons, [misled] by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared as with a branding iron [leaving them incapable of ethical functioning]” ~I Timothy 4:1-2
Before going to sleep that night, I decided to mute the notification for the site where I saw “the video” because I knew that EVERYONE would be posting about it throughout the night and the next day. I wanted – needed – to take a break from it. But, in normal fashion, during the night, my devices still pinged, ponged or buzzed due to all the other sites reporting the events.
The next morning, I woke up and was about to grab my phone to read the plethora of notifications that came throughout the night. I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was convicted. God’s words came back to me. ‘Don’t throw away your faith with distractions.’ Besides, what would be the point of muting the distractions, only to follow up the next day? “Ok. I hear you, Holy Spirit.”
Instead of grabbing my phone, I walked out to my writing area in search of the journal where I'd written my daily prayers, affirmations and scriptures. Yes, my teeth needed to be brushed and my face needed to be washed. But if I could look at my latest news feeds and social media posts without bothering to do it, I could certainly make starting my day more productive and positively a priority.
Although my decision to turn off that one notification came out of sense of self-preservation, so to speak, it served a greater good. Silencing it meant that I no longer had direct access. If I wanted to see them, I would, literally, have to go look for them. It meant that I could take a step back and check what I was feeling. I am not saying that all the emotions that I felt weren’t warranted. But I know that righteousness and true peace are not dependent on how I feel and my only trust should be in the Lord – not headlines, opinions or circumstances. Besides, headlines, opinions and circumstances are always changing. How can we keep up with them?!
“and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:7 (NKJV)
In my blog post, “Keep Calm. And Focus”, I spoke about my God-given writing assignment. In that post, I was also transparent about some of the distractions I faced in regards to it. As a Believer and follower of Christ, I have an even greater responsibility from God: He wants me to be His light in this dark world. When people are “freaking out” over our world’s conditions, they should be able to come to me for a Godly perspective on why “freaking out” isn’t an option for Believers and to give my testimony to those who aren’t followers of Christ so they can understand why I am not “freaking out”. When people express how shocked they are with current events, I should be able to tell them that the conditions of this world are temporary and true peace only comes from the true Prince of Peace. Yet, by allowing the distractions of social media and news to take precedence over my need to talk to and hear from God so I could get His instructions on how I can make a difference in our world, I was blending right in, ranting and raving right along with everyone else. I allowed headlines to penetrate my perspective and left myself vulnerable to my emotions (which will steer me wrong. Every. Single. Time.).
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
~ Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)
Unfortunately, tuning out distractions and guarding yourself against outside influences is not a "do it once and your'e done" type thing. I wish it were that simple. We are constantly faced with all kinds of set-ups -- every minute of every day; and what distracts one person could have no effect on someone else. For me, it may come via news and headlines today, via someone close to me tomorrow, or a television show the next . This means, more than ever, I need to consistently do self-checks to make sure that my words and actions are aligned with God's.
Since muting that one notification, I've taken action to mute all of the news related apps that I had running. It's ironic how something you thought you needed could have such a positive impact on your life once it's gone. I feel free (and I'm willing to say that LT is sleeping even better without all the background noise too!)
Note from TC: Like I said before, what proves to be a distraction for me may not be the same for you. But now that you’ve read my testimony and confession, what distraction(s), great or small, do you need to “tune out” so you can get back to your assignment? Reality TV? Social Media? People? Extra Curricular Activities? Video Games? Pokémon Go?
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” ~Matthew 24:9-14 (NKJV)