Monday, February 15, 2010

Drifting away

The lovely Carol gave me a present yesterday morning -- a copy of NurtureShock, where I read about an experiment with "gratitude journals." Apparently, "those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events."

The effect of gratitude journals, as a way of paying attention, came to mind when I thought about this passage from the beginning of Hebrews 2:

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
Another thing that struck me from this verse was the idea of drifting away. When I think about Mark Sanford, Tiger Woods, Eliot Spitzer or Bill Clinton for that matter, I don't think any of them woke up one morning thinking, "Today I'll torpedo both my marriage and my career." What I believe happened is that they drifted away; they weren't paying quite enough attention.

For that matter, if we think about the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees who plotted against Jesus, what were they thinking? "Today, instead of following truth and following the Lord, I'll focus on my career and my perqs and maintaining the status quo. Even if my God raises somebody from the dead, I'm bound and determined to put my career first, and God had better not send any pesky prophets to turn me away; I'll just kill them, as my ancestors did"?

I don't think so; I think they drifted away too. How do we avoid their fate? Here's a thought -- by paying careful attention (Hebrews 2:1).

  • Though the author of Hebrews wasn't talking about this, the aforementioned gratitude journals are a terrific idea. Every so often, write down some things you're thankful for. Don't do it every day, or it'll be tiring and you'll be tempted to write the same things down all the time.

    Remember to thank the Source, too!

  • " what we have heard," which refers to salvation and the world to come. To me this means at least two things. First, as Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). What this is about: following and obeying the Lord (that's what "Lord" means). When I head off to work, do I think at all about what the Lord wants me to do? I hope so. Because there are challenges and temptations, among them
    • impatience
    • selfishness
    • envy and greed
    • apathy
    and if I don't pay attention then I might fall (or jump) into them.

    Another aspect of the gospel is our destination in the world to come. If I'm heading for heaven in the future, if my citizenship is in heaven and I remember that... what does that say about who I am and how I should be today? When our family lived in Japan, we were aware that we were Americans, foreigners. We knew we were different, and though we lived there nearly six years, we knew we were coming back someday. We cared about our neighbors and neighborhood, we paid our taxes (to both Japan and the US tax offices, very complicated), but we never became Japanese.

    What's that mean, practically? Should be be so heavenly minded that we're no earthly good? On the contrary -- if we're too earthly minded, we won't have any idea of heaven, and "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" won't mean anything to us. As Peter says, since we're heaven-bound, and since we know this earth is only temporary, we ought to live holy and godly lives (2 Peter 3). Mostly I think we know what that means: living lives worthy of our true homeland. Something to keep in mind.

So in the days and weeks ahead, I plan to pay careful attention to these eternal things: God's amazing love, the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, our heavenly homeland and destination.

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