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An Undistracted Life

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Technology steals my time.

I’ll quickly check Facebook, I tell myself. But a quick check becomes an hour-long foray: scrolling through status messages, chatting with a friend who happens to be online, and skimming multiple photo albums. Coming to my senses while clicking through photos of people I don’t know, I feel alarmed. What am I doing? How did technology become an unconscious priority, soaking up time like a thirsty sponge?

I feel numb. At the end of a long day of teaching and completing household chores, the numbness is a relief — for the moment. Later, I’ll wish I had chosen an alternate way to decompress. The distractions of our instant world do nothing to lower my stress level. They escalate it. I bury my priorities, stuffing them into an unseen corner of my mind and enjoying the brief numbness of the distracted life.

If asked what I value most, I would reply without hesitation: “Relationships.” Relationships with God and other people deliver the most satisfying experiences. The deeper the relationships are, the more honest and truthful they are, the more real they are, the more satisfying they are. I desire deep relationships with God and with the people around me, but often I neglect pursuit of them. I even neglect my own emotions and needs, choosing to retreat into technology-induced numbness.

Technology is a useful tool — and a threat to my priorities. It links me with far-off friends, but keeps me from those who are closest. Socially, the internet creates an illusion of intimacy with others while maintaining insurmountable distance.

It is easy, in some ways, to be vulnerable with others via internet chats or text messages. I type things that I have no courage to say aloud. But is such communication equivalent to face-to-face talk? Text messaging can’t convey body language, emotion, and eye contact. It’ll never be as real as sitting with a friend, listening to the rise and fall of her voice, and nodding when I empathize with her words. Tone cannot be communicated via text. Neither can pain. I can hide behind the computer screen, avoiding honesty and vulnerability.

In Ephesians 4, Paul uses the metaphor of a human body to describe the Church. His imagery is vivid: we are to function as one body, communicating clearly with each other, and maintaining true relationships — “speaking the truth in love” so that we will “grow in every way into Him who is the head — Christ” (4:15).

Paul and the early Church never dreamed of the technological wonders of our culture, but the spirit of his words convince me that he speaks of a closeness between believers that is hardly attainable via status messages and blog comments. The internet is a helpful link, but it does not replace the reality of connecting with people.

The closer I get to another person, the more we grate upon each other’s nerves. We have to talk about difficult things. We see each other’s faults: what can be easily hidden online is soon revealed in person. Paul describes a Body of Christ that is ragged, uncomfortable, and imperfect — yet with hope of redemption. Miraculously, through experiencing the uncomfortable facets of close relationships, I become more like Christ. From annoyance I learn patience. From doubt I learn to trust. From disputes I learn unconditional love.

Another peril of instant communication is its threat to quiet reflection. Armed with cell phone and laptop computer, I expect constant interruptions during my work or quiet time. It is difficult to break away, to leave the laptop at home and silence the cell phone ringer, when I’m aware that urgent messages could be arriving in my absence from the technological world. Snippets of information and communication crowd my mind, interrupting quietness.

In today’s culture, it takes tremendous effort to seek and find time for contemplation. I snatch it in five-minute packages, wondering how medieval monks could spend hours in prayer. Hours? I am fortunate to find ten minutes. And even if I find it, isolating it and pinning it down — sitting in silence before God with no interruptions — is extremely difficult. It doesn’t happen naturally; I have to fight for it. I must ignore the distractions because they never go away.

Technology threatens my relationships with other people and easily robs my time for quiet contemplation. It also distracts me from the reality of relationship with God. My prayers are like twenty-word text messages when they could be warm conversations with my Father. I send quick, thoughtless requests to Him and expect immediate answers in similar form. Then I wonder what’s wrong because God doesn’t text me back. I want Him to conform to the expectations of my society, to make Him into a compliant deity who interacts on my terms.

But God doesn’t want a virtual relationship with me. He wants me to know Him, deeply and fully, as He already knows me. He wants us to have long, loving conversations. He wants me to see Him not as a vending machine, shifting circumstances according to my whims, but as a Father who disciplines and corrects, yet holds and loves. If I restrict my prayer life to blurted one-sentence requests and take no time to dig for the answers my soul craves, I will never grow close to God. Instead, I will keep Him at a safe distance, as if I am hiding behind a screen instead of conversing with Him face-to-face.

I am glad that my soul craves answers, because the craving tugs me away from distractions. Difficult circumstances stretch and pull until all I can do is ask, “Why is this happening?” When I am in pain, the distractions of technology lack their former power to numb my senses. The endless flow of information and communication through phone, television, and internet seems meaningless. My vision clears, and I see that technology is helpless to heal the brokenness of my spirit, heart, and mind.

I close the window of my Facebook page and breathe deeply. The last rays of a gorgeous sunset pour through the window above my desk. I lift my eyes to the plethora of colors: reds, oranges, and yellows painted across the sky. Closing my laptop, I put it away and step outside to see the painting and talk with its Artist. Tempted to feel guilty for wasting another hour of my life, I recognize that there is plenty of grace to cover this and other shortcomings. Standing in the cool breeze of an autumn evening, I feel a renewed desire to live an undistracted life.

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Jessica spent the first 23 years of her life in Tennessee, and the next two serving as a resident assistant at a missionary boarding school in Germany. Now back in Tennessee, she lives in a little yellow house and works a plethora of part-time jobs. Her favorite is running a homeschool cooperative based on Charlotte Mason's educational ideals. Learn more about Jessica by visiting her blog, I Wonder as I wander.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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An Undistracted Life

by Jessica Boling time to read: 4 min
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