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How Can I Stay Awake in an Age of Distractions?

This past weekend the Friends of Jesus Fellowship gathered in Barnesville, Ohio. Our theme was “Stay Awake” – drawn from the teachings of Jesus to his sleepy disciples.

Even 2,000 years before cell phones, streaming music, cable news, and video games, it was hard to stay awake. The original Jesus community struggled to stay conscious, aware, and focused on the things that matter. Even when Jesus was with them in the flesh, teaching and leading them, it was a challenge to stay grounded. Peter, James, and John couldn’t even stay awake with Jesus for one hour while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane!

When Jesus was arrested and hauled off to be executed, every single disciple fled for his life. Just hours before, they had all insisted they would die rather than abandon Jesus. Now where were they?

The first disciples struggled to stay awake and responsive to Jesus’ voice, but it seems like we have an even greater challenge. While the twelve apostles knew Jesus as a man, we today only know him through the Spirit. It’s easy to lose track of who Jesus is in our lives. It’s easy to forget that he’s even real. In the midst of so many worries, comforts, and distractions, most of us operate in a state of practical atheism.
Friends of Jesus Fellowship Spring Gathering 2017
This is certainly true for us in the Friends of Jesus Fellowship. We’re all tired. We get get our priorities mixed up. We lose track of who Jesus is and where he’s calling us. Like Martha, we are worried and distracted by many things. But we need only one thing.

Our time together in Barnesville was a reminder of that one Life that gathers us together. We reconnected with the still, small voice of Jesus who speaks to us when we’re ready to listen. We are part of a Spirit-led community that draws us out of distraction and into a more true and beautiful world.

It was a joy to have several families at the gathering, and to care for one another’s children. We watched them play together as friends in the family of God. Our young ones reminded us that we are all part of a larger community of friends. We’re knitted together in the love of Jesus. I’m very grateful for the grounding and sense of place that I find as part of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship.

Coming back home to Washington, DC, I need to remember that sense of connection and purpose. The distractions have not gone away. I spent four days unplugged from electronics, but my screens were waiting for me as soon as I left the gathering.

It’s easy to wish for a simpler, more innocent age. People have always longed for that, regardless of their circumstances. But I’m not called to that kind of nostalgia. I’m wondering how I can embrace an abundant, Spirit-filled life in the midst of urban America.

My challenge now is not to remove distractions, but rather to repurpose them for good. How can I use technology to foster greater faithfulness, connection, and resilient community? Rather than distract myself, how will I connect and focus? I need more signal and less noise. How do I get there? More importantly, how do we get there together?

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  • Dr. Pendley

    Important questions! Wish I could’ve been in Barnesville. Peace. Shawn

    • Thanks! Maybe we’ll see you at another gathering. 🙂

  • charlesburchfield

    / / in the midst of so many worries, comforts, and distractions, most of us operate in a state of practical atheism./ /
    This reminded me of something I had read and heard by Parker Palmer on a show called “on being” hosted by Krista Tippett. That was my first introduction to Parker Palmer. I have since read several things of his but have found especially helpful, in my situation, his testimony about surviving severe depressive episodes he’s experienced in his life.

    / /in his essay, Leading From Within, Parker Palmer talked about “functional atheism.” By this, Palmer meant the Christian leader who speaks about God, but who lives, acts and leads in a way that believes if anything good is going to happen, it is pretty much up to the leader to make it happen./ /

    / / How can I use technology to foster greater faithfulness, connection, and resilient community? / /
    if it wasn’t for the technology I enjoy right now I wouldn’t have any Fellowship. I’m very grateful for my little Samsung tablet!! It’s opened a world to me that connect me to a community of faith in the blogosphere. I started blogging about four years ago on the Progressive Channel. I have since made many connections with faith communities, have written many things and have felt the Holy Spirit reach through my words to connect with like-minded others who are seeking to sort out the truth and find what God has for us to do in these days of political lies, betrayal and duplicity. I love watching shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, full frontal with Samantha Bee, Comedy Central with Noah Trevor. Without this technology this world of social commentary and political satire would not be open to me. I stay at home most days with a chronic illness that pretty much keeps me bedridden. My home is my church!! Internet home access to computers is a blessing!!

    • Thanks, Charles. I’m glad you’re able to use technology to find these connections!

  • Joe

    this still seems to me to be the great unanswered question of our age: how, then, should we live?

    Technology is all around and has many benefits. But how do we use it without it using us or slipping into angry proto-luddite memes?

    • Luddism seems to be almost entirely defeated at this point.

      • Joe

        I think there are some at the “radical” end of Christianity (usually associated with the anabaptists, I’ve no idea how that translates into Quaker settings) – who rage against things they see as modern, who push a particularly angry organic, vegetarian, egalitarian story which basically amounts to them being enlightened almost Gnostic beings and everyone else being poor unenlightened saps. In my perception it bleeds into various deep-green environmental groups on the left.

        Been there, not going back.

        • I’ve been there, too. I think it’s good to reject self-righteousness in whatever form it appears. At the end of the day, the only cure is love and humility.