“Look where you want the pencil to go.” Dad-ism. It’s what my dad used to tell me when he was teaching me how to draw.
In the words of race car driver Mario Andretti: “Don’t look at the wall. Your car goes where your eyes go.”
Where are you looking? What are you focusing on?
The news. I know. Me too.
I gave up the news last September. I realized I was taking in a dose too large for my soul—so I stopped. No news on the radio. No news on the TV (that had been gone when my kids were born). No checking headlines on my phone.
Newsflash: the world went on without me! And I had a lighter spirit for all the whitespace and silence that I carved out. I was a truer version of myself.
I would zip in and out of the media to check on things like our community’s tornado recovery, an election or two... I couldn’t help but respond to the siren call of the media when the coronavirus began to spread.
After a few weeks of news intake, my mind is swimming in words, images, even graphs. I have zeroed in on a situation that I cannot control. I have consumed lots of information. And now my soul is overflowing with anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, guilt, and shame.
Maybe you too have consumed too much media. And now you have a stomachache, headache, heartache.
Or maybe you’ve been ignoring the news altogether, or minimizing your intake. You’re employing the avoidance strategy. You’re hoping that if you don’t think about it, bad things won’t happen.
God calls us to be good stewards of our minds: to be informed by the world around us, transformed by the Word of God. Our tricky task is to find a middle ground: not ignorant, on the one hand; not overwhelmed, on the other; but informed.
The 20th century theologian Karl Barth said that you should ‘take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible” (Time Magazine piece on Barth published on Friday, May 31, 1963)
Reading or hearing or watching the news can be a spiritual habit. Receiving the joys and the concerns of our world, from local to global, can be an occasion for prayer. Verb “to pray” in Greek is closely related to the verb “to pay attention to.” Pay attention and pray.
I’d like to share a few things I’ve found helpful as I “right-size” my daily dose of news:
- Set a few times during the day to check
- Take a few moments to pray after receiving the news (something as simple as “Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.”)
- Avoid checking the news first thing, or last thing before bed: it’s not the way I want to frame my day
- Set up whitespace or silence for your soul to breathe (meditation/prayer habit)
During troubling times I find myself going to the Psalms, the Hebrew prayerbook, to remind myself of who God is and how God cares for us in the midst of difficulties.
Scripture: Psalm 46
- Psalm for protection, God’s protection against natural forces of chaos, political forces of nations
- Text for Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”
- Listen for God’s word for you, today.
1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
6The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.
We’re going to use a verse of this Psalm as a prayer. Let us pray.
Be still, and know that I am God!
Be still, and know that I am
Be still, and know that I
Be still, and know that
Be still, and know
Be still, and
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, world without end, Amen.
Until next time, receive this blessing from God. It’s the oldest blessing in the Scriptures, the “priestly blessing” from Numbers 6.24-26:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Today, this week, and always. Amen.