domestic distractions

Ear defendersIt’s currently quite noisy in our house. the vacuum cleaner is being navigated around, the washing machine is on a spin cycle and the tumble dryer is, erm, tumbling. I am trying to concentrate on some reading and writing (including this bloggage) and am finding the extraneous aural invasions are somewhat distracting. I can’t hear myself think.

[ASIDE: Of course nobody can hear themselves thinking – and I think that is probably a good thing: imagine the cacophony going on inside your head as all of the different thoughts shout for attention!]

It’s very easy to get distracted. One minute you can be writing a bloggage and the next min… ooh I fancy a cup of coffee. Or you can be reading your Bible and sudden… “I wonder what we should have for tea?” Praying seems to be the worst: “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy… what’s the name of that bloke in that TV show with the thing and the thing… Forever and ever, Amen.”

Sometimes distracting thoughts like that are a sign that we need to pause, to give God space and time. Sometimes they are a sign that we are too busy and need to slow down. Sometimes they might actually be God trying to get our attention. And sometimes I reckon they might give us new ways to reflect:

A desire for a cup of coffee might be an indication that you are thirsty, but you can also use it to consider how fairly traded you are, pray for those who produce the coffee (or tea), reflect on the privilege of having clean running water from a tap, pray for those who have to walk miles for water, reflect on Jesus saying that his water results in springs of living water welling up to eternal life…

“What should we have for tea?” can be turned into a prayer of thanks for the food we have, and a desire that we might serve others with food that is nutritious, nourishing and nommy. It might lead to a thought about the 5000 strong picnic and God’s amazing provision. Or it can take you to reflect on world hunger and the ‘Enough food IF‘ campaign.

“What’s the name of that bloke in the TV show with the thing and the thing” can be turned into a prayer of thanks for entertainment, prayer for those who work within the entertainment industry and often get neglected from our praying, and prayer for those who do not have the privileged lifestyle we have and who spend their whole waking life working.

I am not recommending that we spend our whole time wandering off following distractions. But when they happen, we can either find them irritating or we can ask God to speak through them.

So thank you Lord for the household appliances that are making so much noise. Thank you for how much easier they make our life, and help me never to take that for granted. Be with those who have to do all these things by hand, who would long to have the opportunity to be distracted by machines like that.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Ding Dong merrily on high volume

I can hear the sound of ringing. No it’s not Christmas bells! Last night I went to a concert with one of the world’s biggest Paul Weller fans, to whom I happen to be married. It was a concert in support of the charity Crisis and Paul Weller was the headline act. It was loud! (And yes I am aware that that may well be a sign that I’m getting older.)

I confess I am not one of the world’s biggest Paul Weller fans, but I recognise that he has written some decent tunes (my wife Sally will claim that is a serious understatement) and is an extremely accomplished musician and singer. I was looking forward to being able to hear him sing some of those songs with which I have become familiar.

mixing deskThe problem I found with last night was that the sound levels were abysmal. Because the volume of the instruments was so high they had to turn up the vocal mics even higher and the voices were distorting terribly. We could not hear the lyrics and even one of the world’s biggest Paul Weller fans was struggling to discern what he was singing. I could not understand why the sound technicians were not doing something about it until I stood near the back where they were based and discovered that it sounded better where they were stood (albeit not perfect).

Reflecting on this experience, and with ringing still in my ears, first of all I want to speak up on behalf of sound and video technicians in churches. They are always the unsung heroes if everything goes smoothly because nobody notices them. If there is a loud squeak, however, or the wrong slide comes up on the screen then everybody notices. I was at a church recently where there were one or two technical problems. I got really irritated by a man who was stood right in front of me who insisted on turning around and staring at the technicians every time something went wrong. In the end I shifted slightly so that I was stood between him and them in an effort to protect them and perhaps persuade him to concentrate on worshipping Jesus.

So first of all, two pleas on behalf of our sound and video technicians. The first is that if something goes wrong, try to avoid turning around and staring at them. It won’t help them, they’re trying their best, they know something is wrong. The second is to encourage you to thank them, acknowledge their contribution that has enabled you to worship Jesus.

The other thing that I reflected on from last night’s experience is to ask whether you are able to hear the lyrics. Sometimes the volume of all our preparations for Christmas is so loud that we are unable to hear the good news of Immanuel. Sometimes we are so busy rushing around, sorting out, planning, making sure everything is in place that the volume of the hassle and bother drowns out the voice saying, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” And I’m not just talking about all our present buying, wrapping, card writing, food buying and so on. In churches we can get so busy preparing everything for Carol services, nativity plays and so on that even though we are desperate for others to hear the message of Christmas, we can’t hear it ourselves.

What is God saying to you this Christmas?

Be blessed, be a blessing