Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…lessons learned while being unplugged.
This past weekend my lovely wife and I headed for the hills. We spent four glorious days nestled in a deep green valley high up in the Blue Ridge mountains. For some reason, though we had the ability to make calls and send and receive text messages, our phones were not able to easily connect to the internet. Because of that, and the fact that we have never had T.V. in our little home in the hills, we found ourselves literally unplugged from the world at large. For four days we had nothing to watch, were aware of no news, and yet…somehow…we survived. Actually we thrived! We spent much time talking with one another about the current events of our lives, and the lives of our family, and all without a bit of help from social media. We shared with each other plans and dreams of things yet to come, both in the short term and the more distant future. We enjoyed each other’s company and didn’t feel like we were missing a thing. In fact, we didn’t miss a thing. As we took rides in the mountains purely for the entertainment value, we noticed nearly everything and found most of it fodder for conversation. I’ll tell you this, you sure feel connected to the one you are with when you are unplugged from the world around you.
Another of the activities we enjoyed as a result of being unplugged was our regular time spent with the Lord in His word. At home, though we sit in the same room at the same time spending time with God, we are each often reading in different places in His word. This practice does allow for some awesome sharing when there is time before we head off to our respective jobs, but unfortunately not all the time. By the way, though not the highlight of my thoughts on this particular Thursday, we find spending that quality time with God in each other’s presence a huge marriage builder, and we highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see their marriage flourish like never before. I am not aware of a better return on investment when it comes to developing and maintaining spiritual intimacy for a couple.
Anyway, as I was saying a moment ago, being unplugged from the world gave us a special way to be plugged in to the WORD. Normally when we are at our cottage I use my phone to read the bible during our devotional time. This time however, there was no connection, so instead of taking turns reading the one copy of the bible we have there (perhaps we should have another on hand) Lynn offered to read aloud to me, so we could both share it at the same time. What a delightful variation to listen to His word spoken in a familiar, yet different vocalization than the one in my head that I generally “hear” as I read to myself. I was blessed to take in the words of my God who loves me so, in my loving wife’s voice. As she was reading aloud Monday morning prior to packing up to come back home, I thought to myself what a special gift I had been un-expectantly given because I found myself even more unplugged from the world than I had anticipated being.
We live lives of incredible busyness, some of it is beyond choice, but much of it with mindless deliberation. That might seem an oxymoron, but we do busy ourselves deliberately, and yet without thoughtful intention. Yes, most of us have jobs, and if we want to fund our existence, we settle on the fact that our work, no matter how much we may enjoy it…or not…is a requirement on our time. But what about the other busyness we find ourselves tethered by? How much time do we spend doing things we don’t really have to? How much of that discretionary time is freely given to the world around us?
It’s not that we don’t have our excuses at the ready. If we are asked about how much entertainment we take from our televisions, we are quick to mention that our jobs are so stressful that we need to plug into the world of entertainment to relax. After all, we can’t be Christ-like if we are over-stressed. If we are questioned about how many hours are spent with our favorite cable news network tuned in, feeding our minds with their interpretations of the latest happenings, we retort that we certainly shouldn’t live our lives with our heads stuck in the sand. Certainly, wise people should be in the loop. Right? If queried about the time spent on social media, we ironically point out that it’s how we keep up with friends and family we wouldn’t have time for otherwise.
As a counselor I get to sit with all kinds of people from all walks of life. One common thread throughout is the struggle keeping our hearts and minds where they need to be. Is it any wonder? God created us for relationship with Him and with others, and we have a horrible imbalance in our lives in regard to His plan. We are so plugged in that we have become disconnected…from everything truly important, God and one another. I never claimed to be a genius, but when things are out of balance I think it might be time to add weight to the other side of the scale. If we want to have more balance in our lives spiritually and emotionally, then we must find some equilibrium. So the question should be raised. In a week’s time how much time do you spend being electronically entertained? How much time do you spend watching the news? How much time are you on social media? The answers won’t be published anywhere except in your mind, so be honest…I hear it’s not much use lying to yourself anyway. Now, in comparison, how much time do you spend with God, in worship, in prayer, in meditation, in His word? Again no sense trying to fudge the numbers when you’re the one you are answering to. If you responded to some of those questions the same ways I have, then most of us need to take some time off of one side of the scale and place it on the other. Unless of course, you want your life to be unbalanced and live with the consequences of that skewed condition. Here is the problem. We may have ended up here by mindless deliberation, but it requires focused intentionality to get back to where we should be. In plain words this isn’t going to get fixed with laziness.
Isaiah 26:3 says, You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! If your peace seems out of balance the Bible prescribes fixing our thoughts upon God. Have you ever noticed that whatever you focus on soon seems to fill your view? This scripture is making just that point. If we want peace we have to learn to trust. If we want to trust more we have to focus on God instead of the problems around us. Ask the Apostle Peter about this principle and he will likely tell you about a time he took a walk on top of the water to go see Jesus.
Psalm 1 reads, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. If the desired outcome is the joy of the Lord and peace that passes all understanding, we can’t spend so much of our time plugged into an ungodly world. I understand a person wanting to be aware of the world around them, but if you allow awareness to become saturation, don’t be surprised when under a little pressure you release the negativity you have been immersed in. Again, this scripture indicates that the godly delight in the law of the Lord, he meditates on it day and night. This is the only way to return the balance we all so desperately need in our lives these days.
Joshua 1:8 reminds us yet again, Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Once again, the question must be, what are we spending our time in, the word or the world? We can either meditate on the world at the alters of entertainment, the latest news cycles, and social media…or we can meditate on the WORD of the Living God. Concentrate your activities around the world and you will find the strife and frustration of all of that overtaking you. Meditate on God’s word of instruction and it promises success…regardless of the circumstances. The next logical question is, are you willing to unplug from the world and plug into the word to tip the scales in your favor?
In closing, hear the words of the Apostle Paul, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV)
So now, being intentional, stifle the input of the world around you, correct the scales by delighting in and meditating on The Word both day and night…and go be awesome!