(Jesus replied) One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:42 ESV

Young Will sat up front and kept himself looking alert in 6th-grade French class. He didn’t act up, goof off, or engage in any typical middle school boy behavior. Only problem was, he seemed to have a sieve where his brain should be. After two months trying different remedies to help him with French, I decided to ask him outright why he thought he wasn’t making progress.

His forthrightness stunned me.  “It’s like this, Madame Cochrane, my mom only allows me two hours a week to play Fortnite (a video game). So, if I want to maximize my two-hours play time on Saturdays, I must spend the week strategizing and planning my time.

Will had mastered the art of appearing to pay attention, with full eyes on me and the board, all the while living somewhere else in his mind.

I think we can all relate to that. Last Sunday in church while singing a hymn, I time-traveled days ahead to when I fly out to Seattle to prepare Mom for a move back East. When I ‘came to’, I pictured reaching forward and pulling Maria back to the ‘here and now’ of standing and singing.

Although actively participating in the singing, my appearance hid a distracted mind.

In our Luke passage, I picture sisters Mary and Martha. Yes, we notice how kitchen tasks absorbed Martha’s attention, causing her to fret.  But even had she put meal prep aside in order to sit down near Jesus, as her sister, would she have been present, attentive to his teaching?

Why is this so hard for us? Many reasons come to mind, but the primary one is that we have an enemy whose goal is to distract us away from Jesus. Our identity which we often attach to our doing as well as the beckoning of the world both fight to be most important to us.

God be praised that he doesn’t leave us alone with our distractions! I thank him for keeping after me. Recently, he has tapped into my power to visualize other ways of living, of being present with him.

I love how God packs the Bible with vivid imagery.

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the faithfulness of God forever and ever. Psalm 52:8 (NASB)

When I read the above verse, I let my mind wander, pondering what a tree needs to flourish. Nutrient-rich soil, cool water, and sunshine came to mind. How clearly these requirements apply to me. For me to grow and produce fruit for others, I have to stay connected to Jesus. Abiding in the vine, following the Good Shepherd, seeking the Kingdom are all metaphors for being present with God.

Picture our green olive tree.  Let’s suppose she’s afraid of what might happen in the future. Can’t you just see her pulling herself up and away from where she is planted?  There she goes, out the door into the dry sandy wilderness of ‘futurizing’, trailing her roots behind her.  How long is her strength going to last? In a short time, away from where she constantly received the light and water she needed, she starts to weaken.  Her branches become dry and wither.  If she doesn’t come to her senses, she will die, away from her One Source.

Friends, that is us, when we don’t stay put, when we don’t grip our Savior’s hand firmly. Jesus is HERE in the present. Outside of each successive eternal now-moment, is nothing but sinking sand. Why do we tend to run ahead into these frightening, lonely places?  I don’t know.

But one thing I DO know…and it’s this.  I want to stay put, to hold on and live this gift of another heartbeat, another breath standing on my Rock where ALL of God’s goodness is.