Sunday, September 27, 2009

Carnival of Distractions

"Any occurrence requiring undivided attention will be accompanied by a compelling distraction." Robert Bloch
Heat waves turned everything to liquid. People looked like melting wax figures, dripping and drooping in the 104° scorcher of a day. The blinding assault from the sun was rivaled only by the suffocating radiant heat rising off the pavement. This was the setting for the Walnut Festival that draws many tens of thousands of people every year for fun, food, carnival rides and entertainment. Yesterday, my son was part of the entertainment for a large portion of the day, playing drums for multiple bands, finishing the day with his own band's 40 minute set. When you are the mother of a drummer, you spend a lot of time transporting his drum set to and from rehearsals and performances. It is a job I love and take on willingly! However, a drum set is not an easy thing to carry around, so you try to pull your car as close to the stage as possible. I got permission from the Carnival director to drive in close to the stage before the park was opened to the public, but he said that would mean I could not leave until the festival was closed for the night which wasn't until 11:00 PM. I calculated, looked for any other solution--there was none--I would just have to stay until 11:00. Drummer-boy finished his band's show at 5:45 (it nearly finished HIM with a case of heat exhaustion, but it was an amazing performance and Mommy was bursting her buttons). My husband and daughter took him home to cool off, and I stayed to make sure nothing happened to the car or the drum equipment inside. When I knew I was going to have 5 hours to sit in my car until I could leave, I thought, "No problem! I've got my Bible study books with me. I'll have plenty to do!" Ah. God's Word. The Gospel of John. A wonderful, rich study, just underway--what a treat! As it turned out, I didn't realize just how hard this was going to be. First, there was the heat. Even after the sun went down, it was still stifling outside, over the 90° mark late into the night. Heat is not my friend. I kept the windows rolled down to allow some air to move through which made it almost bearable. One distraction, semi-handled. Now, with the windows down, the noise became a factor. The din of the milling crowd was a dull roar. Live music was playing on the nearby stage while the carny's in a dozen booths repeated their schtick with endless clockwork repetition calling out to passersby trying to get their business. All the while, the rides clanked and screeched and groaned while screams of terrified delight pierced the night. Wow! It was hard to concentrate. From time to time a group of rambunctious teenagers would bump into my car or just lean on it, not realizing anyone was sitting inside. More than once I had to get out and nicely ask them to please stay off the car. Once, a couple of adults who had been drinking too much, offered to help me get out of my captive spot--I declined their offer. I kept feeling like I needed to have my head on a swivel, watching my mirrors, and keeping my wits about me. Each time there was a brief lull and I could turn my attention back to my reading, the darkness presented me with a new problem. It seemed bright enough, but the light was inconsistent with so many blinking lights on the rides and it wasn't always easy to get in a position where the park lights could fall directly on the words. Layer upon layer of distractions. The harder I tried to concentrate, the more insistent the distractions became. It was a battle. It was like my life! Sometimes it seems the more I try to concentrate on my relationship with my Heavenly Father, to pray and read His Word, to make Him and His Kingdom my priority, it seems the heat gets turned up! Before I know it, the world's carny's start calling my name, and from time to time, unexpected things bump right into my life. Living on a dark planet makes it more difficult to get enough light. It's hard not to feel the need to keep looking around, trying to be prepared for any contingency, when what I really want is to be wholehearted for Him and not be pulled away by all those other things.
"I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible." 1 Corinthians 7:35 NLT
It is a reality that we need to manage this life, and that this life as it is comes with many distractions. From a practical point of view, we can't just ignore them, much as we'd often like to do. This may just be our principle struggle, a constant wrestling we have to do to keep our priorities straight, putting heaven first, but also dealing with the life of earth, minimizing distractions wherever possible.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. " Ephesians 6:12-13 NKJV
The enemy is no gentleman and won't politely wait until we get our armor on--he knows we are most vulnerable WHILE we struggle to put it on, and that is his favorite time to harass us, whirl us around, bump into us, bark his offers that sound too good to be true, entice us away. Vulnerable maybe, but defenseless? NO WAY! The struggle is worth it, and then our defenses are GREAT!!
How is earth's carnival distracting you right now? Is it the food? The entertainment? The wild rides? When was the last time you made the effort to put your full armor on?

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