Too Many Turkeys Will Spoil Your Shot

Short on time? Listen to the audio version of this post.

Both my brothers are avid hunters, and although I am 110% for sportsmanship, I’ve never been hunting (unless you count shopping for good deals). As a result, I enjoy hearing my brothers’ stories.

Recently, one of them was telling me about a time he went turkey hunting, and there were so many turkeys he couldn’t focus on one to take the shot. Turkeys are ADHD creatures by nature, and they can’t stand still. Dozens of them together are like the blurry results of an overdue vision appointment.

I couldn’t help but think that we Christians can have the same problem in our spiritual lives.

Too many turkeys, too much calling for our attention, keep us from being effective in our calling.

How can we get anything done when we’re not focused on purpose-driven work?

Calling Out the Turkeys in Our Lives

First, I think we have to identify what our turkeys are. Each of us has unique challenges based on our work and responsibility, but my guess is that we also have a few in common.

  1. Social media: Access to our social networks is literally a hand’s reach away. The notifications and lit-up screens snatch our attention from where it needs to be.
  2. Comparison: Nothing wrecks our focus so instantly as the comparison game. When we start comparing ourselves to someone else, we derail our progress and lose a productive mindset.
  3. Over-commitment: When we say “yes” to more things than our schedules can handle, we become ineffective and exhausted.
  4. What other turkey-time-stealers would you add to this list?

Re-Focusing Our Sights on What Matters

Calling out the turkeys that steal our time and focus is step one. Step two is much harder, because it requires acting on the information. We have to renew our minds daily, or even several times a day, if we’re going to fix our aim where it needs to be.

Scripture gives us a guide for evaluating the claims on our attention. Let’s put those turkeys to this test:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Philippians 4:8 NKJV

True, Noble, Just, Pure, Lovely, Praiseworthy. That list is a pretty good litmus test to see if our focus is purpose-driven or simply distracted.

What turkeys are wrecking your focus, and what steps can you take to get your attention back where it needs to be?

~ Kristen

How to Escape Tickle Sticks and Other Temptations

Short on time? Listen to the audio version of this post.

During a recent trip to the Florida Keys, my husband James taught me how to use a tickle stick and net to catch lobster. If you’ve never lobstered before, here’s how it works. You snorkel until you spot two long antennas peeking out of a hole in the ocean’s hard bottom. Then, you insert the tickle stick into the hole to annoy the lobster enough to expose itself. While distracting the lobster with the tickle stick, you swoop in behind it with the net. Lobsters swim backwards, so poking the lobster with the stick usually sends it directly into the net.

Although the tickle stick is dangerous only to lobsters, the experience reminded me how the Devil will often use temptations to get our focus away from where it should be. When we’re distracted,  we’re often unaware of the impending danger that even little wrong choices can present.

For illustration, let’s compare the wise lobster to the foolish one and see some parallels for our own decision-making.

Wise Lobsters Don’t Wait Around.

Not every lobster falls for the tickle stick distraction. Some of them, usually the seasoned veterans, immediately swim away once you get them out of their hole. They’ve either seen enough of their buddies get taken or escaped nets in the past to know that the tickle stick may be pretty and shiny, but it spells D-A-N-G-E-R.

In the Bible, Joseph also had the good sense to run away from pretty and “shiny” temptations. When his master’s wife threw herself at him, Joseph didn’t stop to admire her curves or painted face. He just ran.

In fact, he was in such a hurry to escape that the Bible says “he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Genesis 39:12b NKJV).

Joseph wasn’t about to get caught in Mrs. Potiphar’s net. During an earlier temptation, Joseph had reprimanded her with these words: “There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he [Potiphar] kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9 NKJV)

If something shiny is dangling before you today, step away from it. You might be avoiding imminent danger or at least gaining some much-needed perspective. Always stop and ask the question: Would God be pleased with this choice? If not, swim away like the wise lobster.

Foolish Lobsters Are Too Curious.

Based on my lobstering experience, wise lobsters seem to be the minority. The reason is simple: That tickle stick is too darn distracting. It’s metal, shiny, and swinging right in front of their beady eyes. Of course, they want to know what it is.

When Satan tries to distract us from living for God or making wise choices, he often employs a similar tactic. He swings something that looks too-good-to-be-true in front of our faces. After all, isn’t that what he did with Eve in the garden? He appealed to all three “lusts” that I John 2:16 warns about: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (NKJV).

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), that it was pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6 NKJV, parentheses added).

Satan snared her with a classic “tickle stick” approach, so Eve never saw the net coming.

Don’t Get Taken.

James and I netted ten “keepers” and celebrated with surf and turf for dinner with family. We thoroughly enjoyed our catch this year.

Unlike lobster, Satan’s snares produce nothing that brings true enjoyment. No amount of butter can make them better.

The way not to get taken is to run from temptation. Where should we run? Scripture provides the answer:

  • “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10 NKJV).
  • “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14 NKJV).

Lord, may we always run to you and pursue the good paths of peace. Help us stay close to you so that we can easily spot temptations that would lead us away from your plan for us.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful this post first appeared on DailyPS.com

 

 

 

 

How Can You Hear God’s Voice? Lessons from the Lake

How many of you want to hear God’s voice? That’s not a trick question. Any believer would give a wholehearted yes! By “hear,” I’m not referring to an audible voice but perhaps peace or clarity in a situation where we feel unsure or fearful. Maybe we’re struggling to see God’s hand or wanting to simply find the reassurance of His presence.

However, before we can hear God’s voice, we must first be prepared to listen. This first step is one we often forget and maybe why we often fail or become frustrated in our conversations with God. We’re too busy doing all the talking or perhaps just plain too busy for God to get a word in.

This summer, my family and I traveled to our family cabin in New Hampshire. One evening while we were kayaking Lake Winona, I broke away from the others who were fishing. There was a restlessness in my soul, and I wanted to talk to God about it. Through that solo kayak trip, I rediscovered some basic prerequisites for hearing God’s voice.

Be still.

As I paddled across the lake, I panted the prayer: Lord, I want to hear from you. Though emotionally I wanted to listen, I physically wasn’t still enough to do so.  My arms moved back and forth, pumping blood through my veins so hard I could barely concentrate on my own thoughts.

Of course, God could hear me. I just couldn’t hear Him. This experience showed me that my constant movement interfered with my ability to listen.

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a NKJV)

Scripture makes clear that stillness is one condition for knowing God. Yet how often do we forget this simple truth?

By nature, I’m a busy person. My husband has even commented that I’m “always moving.” Although in many ways, this ability to hustle is a blessing, I need to take time away from the busy back and forth of life.

I finally glided to a stop on the lake and was content to simply be there. That’s when I could soak in the sunset’s reflection on the water, relish the fresh mountain air around me, and take time to quiet my own thoughts. With my body stilled, I was getting ready to listen.

Unplug.

Next to stillness, we also need a quiet place to prepare our hearts to listen.

Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. (Psalm 4:4b NKJV)

On the lake, I could easily find that undisturbed serenity. However, on a day-to-day basis, we deal with constant “chatter” that makes it hard to meditate on God’s Word and take time for personal reflection.

Back in my parent’s childhood, the only items they had to unplug were things like toasters and power cords. Today, we have to unplug ourselves.

If we actually documented how much time we’re on our Smart Phones, I think the results would shock us. A survey from 2017 documented that millennials spend 223 minutes per day or approximately 3.7 hours on their mobile devices. Based on the upward-trending data from the previous years, that number has probably increased.

Not only are we dealing with a potential time-waster, we’re also dealing with all the distractions and drama that come along with our generation’s need for connectivity.

Yes, smart phones and social media have a purpose. As a writer, I’m keenly aware of the potential and grateful for the way I can connect with readers across time and space. However, the social online sphere can produce so much noise that it drowns out any chance for silence.

Take time to unplug, and don’t make apologies for doing so. A missed text won’t be the end of the world. It will still be there waiting for you to answer later.

Make room.

Clearing the schedule might be easy to do when you’re on vacation, but what about in real life? After all, real life can be messy and disruptive. We can’t predict the emergencies in our lives, and for some people, daily life feels like one crisis after the next.

Jesus was no stranger to crisis. Almost constantly, people were begging him for healing or for their needs to be met. When he wasn’t teaching or performing miracles, he was dealing with the Pharisees’ questions and their accusations.

Matthew 9 records one such busy day. On his way to heal a ruler’s daughter, he made time to heal an ill woman and then met a crowd full of expectations at the ruler’s house. They told him he was too late, and the girl was dead. I love Jesus’ response.

He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.

Did you catch what he told them? “Make room.” The mourners were pressing in from every side and He couldn’t even reach the ruler’s daughter. He had to disperse the crowd first, and then He healed her.

True, you may not have to deal with physical crowds, but you may deal with an overflowing inbox, social media notifications, and text strings longer than the Great Wall. Put those “crowds” outside so you can be alone with Jesus. You then make room to hear Him and watch Him work.

What distractions are pulling at you today, and how can you make room to listen for God’s voice in spite of them?

~ Kristen

Tweetable

How Can You Hear God’s Voice? Lessons from the Lake – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The Command to Rest

If there’s one adjective we all use to describe our lives, it’s probably busy. Some days, I look at my list and wonder: How did all that get there? One item you won’t see on the to-do list is this: Rest. But I think we would all do well to add it.

I’m not talking about lazy, couch-potato rest, although if we burn out our bodies to the point of illness, that sometimes becomes necessary.

Instead, I’m talking about a quiet rest, a renewing rest, a distraction-free rest. What that looks like differs for each one of us, but here are some suggestions:

  • Spending a quiet weekend morning with our Bible, journal, and coffee (always coffee!)
  • Leaving the laptop off on weekends
  • Taking a break from social media
  • Getting outside to enjoy nature and the good things God created for us to enjoy
  • Making time to catch up with friends and family

As Solomon reminds us, there is a time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). However, the Bible reveals that our “seasons” should include rest.

Click here to read the full post at DailyPS.com.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Carve time into your calendar to rest – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)