Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

The one thing necessary

My computer geek friends are excited about the new Windows 10, but I am more interested in a personal operating system update—one that would include the L10:41 feature.

This service goes through all the programs you have running in your brain, determines which single one you need right now, and and shuts the rest down. Otherwise known as the Martha app, this service isolates “the only one thing (which) is necessary,” as Jesus told Mary’s busy-busy sister (Luke 10:41).

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not only women’s brains that are like computers with multiple programs running at the same time. The difference may be that males have less capacity to handle all the multi-tasking, so all that background activity just slows everything down for us.

The condition has become clearer to me having returned from a nine-day trip to Guatemala with some people from my church. There I experienced a singularity of purpose and focus that was quite refreshing.

It wasn’t that we were totally cut off from life back home. I checked emails from time to time, and kept up with what was important. But so much that typically seduces my time and attention simply fell away.

Partly that was to do with the environment. I had only a suitcase of clothes to choose from, and limited reading material for any free time, which I couldn’t fill by tackling the to-do list I have at home. We ate when we were served and what we were served. We got on the bus when we were told to and didn’t fret (too much) if it didn’t leave on time. Our schedule was set for us, and all we had to do was show up and be cheery.

Even being limited by the language barrier was refreshing. Because I didn’t understand the background chatter, for once I wasn’t secretly tuned in to all the conversations around me like most journalists and writers, looking to hoover up any possible story ideas or neat turns of phrase.

Basically, the absence of other choices left me deciding to focus on what was in front of me, either the task at hand or the person with whom I was speaking. Giving them my full attention: now there’s a wild thought…

Since getting back to the U.S., I’ve found all those dormant background programs launching themselves again without my permission. The clarity is dimming a bit. I’m thinking of this project, that appointment, those people, all at the same time. If we’re not full-brained about anything, can we really expect to be wholehearted about it?

Having previously described my brain as one of those automatic little vacuums, bumping into things and randomly sucking up debris, I have decided it is perhaps more like Woodley, our Golden Retriever: essentially harmless and well-intended, but prone to wander if not kept on a rather short leash.

But seriously, both Marcia and I have remarked on the phenomenon of losing our Guatemala still center: like Martha we are “worried and bothered about so many things,” without really trying to be. It seems that if you are not intentional about being focused, you are simply bound to be fuzzy. And so one falls victim to the weapons of mass distraction.

The hopeful thing is that if we try to isolate that one thing, if we choose what really matters most, Jesus promises that “it shall not be taken away” (Luke 10:42). Sounds good to me.

Now, what was I saying again?

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