Long before they diagnosed attention deficits I was the kid who talked all the time or played games at my desk all day. Focus was always a bit of a chllenge for me. Besides the normal curriculum demands of high school, college, and two graduate degrees, my greatest learning was to establish attention centers around me so I'd always know what was most important. Even now, thirty-five years after he called me to serve in pastoral ministry, these attention reminders are posted strategically around my office as cue cards for life and mission. When I sit at my lap top they are right in front of me, unavoidable. They keep me from being distracted.
Three frames are central. They were printed, matted, and frame by yours truly. There's nothing exceptional about their appearance. And, I've had to re-print and re-frame them a couple of times due to the rigors of moving five times. They are my Life Verses (Psalm 40:1-3), my Ministry Verses (Ephesians 3: 8-9). amd my Passion Verse (Psalm 71:18). They were impressed on me one day when I was facing a crisis involving my call to ministry. On the back row of Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, these verses clarified what he called me to be and do. They're been especially dear lately as I've sought to define my mission in this new chapter of life, retirement. Even now they provide pin-point clarity about what he desires of me.
More and more I am thankful that he gave me this direction for life and ministry. Being so easily distracted complicates serving in this kind of multi-faceted world. With all the toys and goodies of this high-teach age staying on point is difficult. Now, thirty five years, four churches, and a stint with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, later, those directional verses loom even larger in defining what my friend Jerry Sosebee called the "fourth quarter". Only now, looking in the rear-view mirror, does this kind of elementary process even make sense.
Jesus was aware of his mission too. Several times he stated it. In Luke 4:43 he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose". Even more, there are the reminders that he came to seek and save those who were lost, to be a ransom for many, and to bring the truth of the kingdom to the multitudes, who were like sheep without a shepherd. Read through Luke's Gospel and make note of his final trip to Jerusalem, the many distractions that could have hindered him, and the words he spoke to remind them of his purpose.
Once I was so frustrated over those verses I ripped the old, cheap frames from the wall and threw them in the garbage can. At that moment they seemed more burden than blessing. Later that evening I went back to the office, retrieved them, and then refurbished them the next day. In a world that moves with such fierce velocity, with so many turns and stop-overs, so many noble and needful things to shift my attention, I needed them then and now as mile-markers and directional arrows.
Usually, when asked to provide counsel to a colleague dealing with distractions, I ask if he or she has some kind of direcitonal pointers to link them to their calling. Many times the answer is, sadly, no. Yes, I love my accountability partners, the wise counsel of my dear wife, and a library full of books. But, those three frames, with his word to me back in 1979, are what have given me some consistency and endurance for ministry.
Three frames. Think about it.