How Do You Stay Focused?
For much of July and August I had the honor to serve in two cities in southeast Turkey. I stayed most of the time in Gaziantep and worked as a volunteer in a school for refugees. I taught English and also worked with crisis counseling. For a couple days I also had the opportunity to head up to Suruc where I taught English with a local church there. In both places, nearly everyone I was working with were refugees out of the Syrian city of Kobani.
I have since returned to Istanbul and this past week was the first week all of the teachers had to be back in my school. About a third of the time there is some real preparation and planning for the coming school year. The remaining two thirds of the time we are enduring what I would call TED Talk type inspiration. The biggest *joy* of it all for me is that all of this is happening in Turkish. As bored as the other teachers are, I have the added burden of trying to translate the little i can understand into English. When I am truly focused I can follow the basic flow of the conversation and am picking up maybe a third of what is actually said. The problem is, how do you stay focused. Eight hours of this, for five days straight makes it tough to stay on task and it is much easier to pull up a phone app or grab a book and completely zone out. When that happens I understand nothing.
What I have experienced this week is also what I think most of us regularly experience in our walk with God. The language of the Spirit is not our primary language and even in our best moments we can only comprehend “as through a glass darkly.” If we do not invest all of our attention to it, even that little we could grasp is completely gone. When we allow the daily grind of life to divide our attention we lose all chance of gaining anything from the Spirit. Like I have had to do this week, we need regular reminders to turn our eyes and ears and hearts back on to the things from which they are prone to wander.
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Earlier this week I was asked by someone at my school, “why don’t you become a Muslim?” In Turkey they have a game called Ear to Ear that is very similar to the game telephone that I played as a kid. I explained how when I read the Quran it did not feel reliable but rather the end product of a process very similar to that game. That was the opening to a conversation with three other teachers lasting a couple hours where pretty much every argument against Christianity I have ever heard was presented. Please pray that the discussion would be the first of many such good conversations this year. Please pray that God would continue to remove the mental and cultural barriers that prevent them from coming to truly know Him. Finally, please pray that I would be a positive representation to everyone in my school and community of who Jesus is.