Tag Archives: focus

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

Story of the Day for Monday September 24, 2012 

Have You Seen the Gorilla Lately?

 

                And while he was going. . . a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years . . .came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment.

                                                   Luke 8:42-44

 

When I was growing up I didn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder, because it hadn’t been invented yet. In high school I was called “The Gaper” because my mouth, apparently, would hang open while I daydreamed in class. In my freshman year of college I won the “Neil Armstrong Spacey Award” because I was so . . . spacey.

When they finally got around to inventing ADD, I took a test from a licensed psychologist, and it turned out I had come down with a bad case of it.

 

Learning to focus your thoughts and goals is challenging for anyone.  But it is especially difficult when your mind wants to wander down any side street it sees.

I have spent my adult life learning how to focus.  But lately I have come to realize it is equally important to learn how not to be too focused, because when you get too focused you can’t see gorillas.

 

Psychologists from Harvard conducted an experiment in which they played a video of basketball players. Participants were told to count the number of times the ball was passed by the team wearing a certain color uniform. In the middle of the video, however, strange things happened. A woman with an umbrella or a man in a gorilla costume would walk through the center of the court and would be clearly visible for about five seconds.

A control group, who were not asked to count the number of times the basketball was passed, all saw the woman and the gorilla. But, for those asked to focus on the task of counting passes, only a third saw the woman. And, amazingly, the majority (56 percent), failed to notice the gorilla.

 

Jesus was a master at being focused and unfocused at the same time. When he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem to die, nothing could deter him. Yet, at the same time, he was open to notice the needs of people around him.

Jairus, a synagogue ruler, pleads with Jesus to come with him because his only daughter is dying.  Jesus has a clear focus – he wants to help. In doing that, he ignores the crowds pressing in on him.

But, at the same time, he is open to one person who touches his tassel. “Who touched me?” he asks. Peter is dumbfounded by Jesus’ question, and helpfully points out that many people are touching him. They are, in fact, mobbing him. Yet, Jesus is aware that one person in the crowd was different.

That day, Jesus did two miracles. One, because he focused on a goal; the other, because he was sensitive to the unexpected.

How do you do both at the same time?  I don’t know. But I know it’s worth learning.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

How Our Story Ends

Story of the Day for Wednesday June 20, 2012

How Our Story Ends

 

                                                                                       But what will you do in the end?

                                                                                                                       Jeremiah 5:31

 

George Hopkins wanted to prove he could do the impossible and, unfortunately, succeeded. On October 1, 1941, Hopkins jumped from a plane and parachuted to the top of Devils Tower in Wyoming.

While we can admire George’s daring feat, many feel he should’ve spent more time meditating on how he planned to get down. In Hopkins’ defense, he had instructed his pilot to drop an axle from an old Ford onto the summit of the Tower. He planned to wedge the axle into a crevice, tie a rope to it, and shinny down to safety.

When the axle hit, however, it bounced over the edge. It’s just as well — the plan wouldn’t have worked anyway. His rope was too short.

Now what?

We have a daredevil sitting on top of an enormous monolith rising over 1200 feet from the surrounding countryside — without food, shelter, or warm clothes.

 

Achieving bold, daring goals is a waste of time . . . if you haven’t planned what comes next. Many professional athletes are obsessed with the dream of standing on the winner’s podium. But once they achieve their goal, they don’t know how to climb down. Whether the goal is winning at sports, raising a family, or reaching retirement, many suffer from depression after they have reached their goal.

Those who are most focused on achieving goals are most apt to flounder afterwards because they never planned for what comes next.

 

Hall of Fame baseball manager, Earl Weaver, approached the game differently from most. If a runner on first steals second base, he’s better positioned to score. But Weaver didn’t like to call for a steal unless he only needed one run to win the game. Holding the first baseman to the bag increased the possibility of several runs scored rather than one. Weaver had the uncanny ability to focus on the final score rather than the next score.

 

When we pray, we usually ask the Lord for blue skies at our picnic. But God will often disappoint us when we are focused on our present happiness because he is more concerned with how our story ends.

Jesus doesn’t care how rocky a road is; he cares where the road ends up.

 

George Hopkins’ hairbrained stunt left him stranded on top of Devils Tower for six days. He was eventually rescued by a handful of experienced mountain climbers.

Afterward, when Hopkins was asked why he did it, he said it was “to let people know just what a person can do with a parachute.”

 

He showed us far more than he imagined.

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Pay Attention to the Signs

Story of the Day for Thursday May 17, 2012

Pay Attention to the Signs

                 I will listen to what God, the Lord, will say. For he will speak peace to his people.

                                                          Psalm 85:8

In 1874, Homer Wheeler was an Army officer stationed at Fort Keogh near Miles City, Montana. In his memoirs he describes the tracking abilities of Poor Elk, a Cheyenne scout.

A column of troops was sent out to find some Indians who were reported to have crossed the Yellowstone River not far from their outpost.

The surrounding area had been trampled by buffalo and the grass cropped short by their grazing, so finding their trail would be extremely difficult. Half the column had already ridden past the Indian’s path before Poor Elk noticed their trail.

After following it for a mile, he found where they had camped. He brushed away the ashes from the fires and felt the ground underneath for warmth. After locating the fires he found the pin holes from the tepees. By knowing the size of each tepee he could estimate the number of Indians in the party.

Poor Elk found a moccasin and a piece of cloth that had been thrown away. The moccasin was sewn with thread instead of sinew. This told him they were probably following Sioux, instead of Cheyenne, as they originally supposed. A piece of calico was not the pattern available at the Cheyenne reservation, and a hair braid was the kind the Sioux used to fasten to the scalp lock.

He found where a sweat-lodge had been built – which meant they had stayed in camp for at least an entire day. But the horse droppings showed they had not stayed for more than one day. Further, seeds in horse droppings indicate where the party had come from, and the position of the urine in relation to the hoof prints showed the sex of the horse (the presence of mares indicated it was not a war party, since only women rode mares).

The position of the wickiups and tepees in relation to where the horses were tied – in addition to the care taken in leaving camp was evidence they were not moving in any special hurry.

These Indians, Poor Elk told them, were not Cheyenne, as they suspected, but Sioux, who had recently left an agency. They didn’t cross the Yellowstone at the time reported to them, but two days earlier. Their direction indicated they were probably heading north to join with other Indians north of the Canadian border.

Poor Elk could see what the others could not because he had learned to pay attention to the signs. In the same way, God wants us to pay attention to what he’s doing for us.

The Lord doesn’t bonk us on the head with spiritual truth and wisdom. But he teaches us the way of wholeness, of peace, when we focus our attention on him.

You don’t see much in life unless you learn to look for it.

                                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Little More Vibrato

Story of the Day for Monday April 16, 2012

A  Little More Vibrato

                     Tell them not to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which only end in speculation instead of God’s work, which is done by faith.
1 Timothy 1:3-4

Every year our family hosts an open house. My wife cooks mountains of food, but holds the family under the inflexible rule that we can’t scarf down all the food before the party. This, obviously, places us under an undue hardship. And so, as my daughter, Elly, and I savor the aroma of baked cookies fresh from the oven, we decide the time has come to undo the injustices we have suffered.

We hatch a plan, which revolves around the standard magician’s trick of misdirection. While I occupy my wife’s attention in the living room, Elly will sneak into the kitchen, make the heist, and then we will retire to a private corner of the house to enjoy our bounty.

In the living room, I hold my wife spellbound by singing “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. The key to making this song memorable (as my sister taught me) is to sing it like Elmer Fudd, and then to pinch the skin over your Adam’s apple — jiggling it to create a vibrato.

“Cwaa-zy, I’m cwazy fo’ feewin’ so wone-wee . . .”

My wife rolls her eyes and heaves a big sigh. This song always gets to her.

“Cwaa-zy, cwazy fo’ feewin’ so bwue . . .”

When the Nazis overran France in World War II, French resistance fighters continued to oppose Hitler, but they were forced to live in hiding.

In 1943, they decided to come out of hiding and celebrate Armistice Day in the town of Oyonnax. The French holiday, which observes the Allied victory over Germany in World War I, was banned by the Nazis — who were not amused to find posters plastered throughout the town of Nantua, announcing a demonstration on Armistice Day.

On the morning of November 11th, the police from Oyonnax flocked to the neighboring town of Nantua to help authorities arrest the demonstrators.

Once the police left Oyannax, French freedom fighters swept down from their hillside hideouts and easily captured the police station. After shutting down the telephone system and blocking all traffic coming in or out of town, the cheering and weeping citizens welcomed the freedom fighters as they presented a floral cross of Lorraine to “the victors of yesterday from those of tomorrow.” After leading the citizens in a rousing rendition of the “Marseillaise,” the freedom fighters disappeared again into the hills.

The Bible says we can get misdirected from doing what God would have us do. We get embroiled in debates that just aren’t that important and neglect to focus on what we should be doing. The goal is our life in Jesus; a life of faith and love.

I do wish, however, my wife could be more easily diverted from preserving her baked goods for parties. We got nabbed before we could enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Next time, I think a little more vibrato will do the trick.
                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Main Thing

Story of the Day for Thursday February 16, 2012

The Main Thing

                            David’s conscience pierced him after he numbered the people. So David told the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in doing this.”  

                                                2 Samuel 24:10

Rory Sutherland, a British advertising guru, likes to cite the maxim: Any metric that becomes a target loses its value as a metric.

Much to our relief he explains what he means. Businesses seek ways to measure their progress toward their company’s goals. But once the focus becomes improving any certain statistic, the measurement is no longer reliable.

And, since my explanation is even more confusing than Sutherland’s maxim, let me give some examples.

 

A good goal for a shipping company would be to make a profit by providing timely deliveries of packages. So far so good. But suppose the company looks at their delivery times and focuses on improving this statistic? Once quicker delivery time becomes the goal, the best way to reach this objective is to cancel delivery to more remote areas. The result: the company’s statistics improve. But profits and service to the customer declines.

 

Sutherland gives a similar example with airline companies. How can an airline measure improved service? One way is by an increase in on-time departures. Departure times are measured from pushback — when the jet begins to move from the terminal. Once companies make it their goal to increase on-time departures, passengers often find themselves sitting on the runway for longer periods. But now latecomers are unable to board the flight. Again, by shifting the focus from the true goal of the company to improving the “numbers,” the statistics become a false indicator of progress.

Seeking to measure success, in other words, can sometimes make us less successful.

 

David should’ve known better. He had witnessed how God took a young shepherd boy and used him to defeat a fearsome warrior named Goliath. David saw how God blessed a valiant warrior — even though his followers were few and he was always on the run.

Now that David was anointed king, he should’ve learned that God had chosen him for his purposes, and that he would prosper as long as he trusted in the strength of the Lord.

Instead, David wanted to measure his strength. He focused, not on the power of God, but on the strength of his fighting force. David ordered Joab, his army commander, to number the people. Only afterward did he realize he was relying on the wrong measurement for success and asked for God’s forgiveness.

 

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Focus of His Affection

Story of the Day for Saturday October 22, 2011

The Focus of His Affection

                      Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 

                                                                   Luke 12:7

Ted Williams was one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. He won six league batting titles and, in a career spanning a couple decades, averaged – averaged! — .344 at the plate.

Williams was meticulous about every aspect of hitting. He would visit lumberyards so he could choose wood with narrow growth rings for his bats. He would weigh his bats on a postal scale in the clubhouse to make sure the humidity had not increased their weight, and was known to bathe them in alcohol to keep them cool.

If a bat didn’t meet his specifications, he would return it. Williams demanded his bats be 33 ounces. An official from the Louisville Slugger company couldn’t believe that Williams could sense such minor differences in weight, so the company official set six bats in front of him, and challenged him to identify the bat that weighed a half an ounce more than the others. He did.

He once set a shipment of bats back to the factory because the handles were too thick. He was right: they measured the grips and they were five thousandths of an inch too large.

 

When we care deeply about something, we pay attention to the smallest details. We’re tuned in to things that others might ignore.

 

Dr. Robert C. Murray, Jr. related an incident in Reader’s Digest. Late one night, he was summoned to the hospital to attend to one of his patients. He tried to quietly slip out of the house, but tripped over a toy in the dark and loudly crashed to the floor. As he lay there, rubbing his sore leg, his wife slept soundly.

Then, their infant made a faint cough in the nursery. His wife immediately leaped out of bed, rushing past her husband as he lay on the floor.

As she returned from the baby’s room she looked at her husband and said, “What on earth are you doing on the floor?”

 

One of the ways that Jesus assures you how deeply he cares about you is by noticing the details. When he tells you he knows the number of hairs on your head, he’s saying that’s how closely he’s focused on you. You are the object of his attention.

 

David wrote a psalm, inviting God to know the details of his life. “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any harmful tendency in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”

If our standing with God is based on our behavior, our desperate desire is that God would not know us; that we could, somehow, hide from him. But once we understand that we are the focus of his affection, everything changes. He even knows the hairs on our head, but will not turn away his face.

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

Looking For Lost Donkeys

Story of the Day for Monday September 5, 2011

Looking For Lost Donkeys

                    Kish told his son, Saul, “. . . Go and look for the donkeys.”

                                                                             1 Samuel 9:3

“Serendipity” is considered one of the ten most difficult words to translate from English into another language. The word was coined by Horace Walpole in the 18th century.  He recounts the ancient legends of the princes from Serendip (modern Sri Lanka) who continually make fortunate discoveries they were not looking for.

 

That is what happened to Kish’s son, Saul. He went out looking for three of his dad’s lost donkeys, and he came home as the anointed king of Israel.

Saul, and his servant, could not find the lost donkeys. The servant persuaded Saul to ask the prophet Samuel which way they should go to find the donkeys.  The prophet just happened to be in town that very day.  He reassured them the donkeys were okay, but before Saul left, Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king among the people of Israel.

 

Do you get edgy when God refuses to follow your agenda?  You plan your life one way, and he scraps your schedule and plans and works things differently. There is a spiritual danger in being overly rigid in our plans and expectations. Our expectations can blind us to the wonders God has planned for us.

Prof. Richard Wiseman gathered 400 volunteers who admitted they were exceptionally fortunate in life, or extremely unlucky.  He gave each participant a newspaper and asked them to count the number of photographs in it.  The “unlucky” group averaged two minutes. The fortunate group averaged a few seconds.  Why? Because, on the second page, in large print, was the message, “Stop counting – there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

The study demonstrates that “unlucky” people become so focused on their agenda that they develop tunnel vision. The harder they look, the less they see or experience.

 

Check out the stories in the Bible. How many times does the Lord do significant things in people’s lives because they planned it that way?  Not often.

 

When the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was nine, he walked through a snowy field with his uncle John.

When they reached the far end of the field, they looked back. Frank’s uncle proudly pointed to his tracks – which formed a straight line across the snow.  Frank’s, on the other hand, meandered all over as he examined bronze pod-topped weeds or the play of shadow on a hillside.

Uncle John pointed to the difference in their tracks as an object lesson in focus.

Later in life, Frank Lloyd Wright reflected, “I determined right then,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”

If you’re looking for lost donkeys, be open for anything. God is at work.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)