Once upon a time in a world long ago, one could hear the gentle request: ‘A penny for your thoughts.’ I’m not sure how much inflation has impacted that amount, or if there is a today version of it, but when someone asks that of me, I often find myself drawing a blank, unable to pinpoint anything specific. Maybe you would assume that’s because my 

 remains in mint condition, but my assessment (in my defense) would be that I am mostly unaware of the contents of the thoughts occupying my gray matter. If I would stop to pay attention, however, there would be revealed a very long list of random subjects in there, on a wide range of topics, some excellent, some, well, less so. The truth, for all of us, is that at any given moment, we are fielding hundreds of thoughts. The key is, as we’ve been saying, to pay attention to what we’re paying attention to.

To that point, because it is a New Year, I’ll allow myself to repeat a story: An older couple is upstairs in their room watching TV. The wife looks at the husband and asks if he would go down and get them a dish of ice cream. He heaves himself out of his chair and goes down to the kitchen. A while later he returns with two hot dogs, at which point his wife says, “You forgot the mustard!” Focusing on the task at hand, and not the intrusion of the thousands of other things along the way, proves helpful. Short term memory is likewise helpful.

Jesus gives us New Life. Kingdom life. Eternal life. A life radically unlike the one we were born into, the one holding us captive in sin and darkness. Life in Jesus is one of uninterruptible peace and joy in the presence of the Holy Spirit. From C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters (correspondence between a senior demon and a subordinate demon), Lewis has Screwtape bemoaning: ” . . . Out in His (God’s) sea, there is pleasure and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore.’ Ugh! . . . He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working.” (p.106). Such tongue-in-cheek accuracy! And yet we are so often distracted by lesser treats, missing out on the excellent fare provided for us.

A frequent stumbling block in this New Life Jesus gave us is that it’s a life with conflicting values and priorities to the one we know all too well. Some of Jesus’ Good News instructions don’t at first seem to be good news. Not practical. Not coherent. Not sustainable. Not even, dare I say it, desirable. G.K. Chesterton quipped: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” Our big goal includes looking to the One who has given us life, and discovering His ‘pleasures forevermore’ to be available and waiting. More tomorrow at 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM.  PD

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