The Advent Writings, Day 11: Aversionis

Aversionis: distraction (of attention / from the point)
(Source: William Whitaker’s Words)
My Beloved can tell you about hamster mode. And she’s very patient about hamster mode.
(Repeat the Vicki mantra here – if you see my wife today, give her a hug. She needs extra hugs…)
Shauna Niequist, in her book Cold Tangerines, which in spite of being a “girl” book (if it really is a “girl” book – I’m not sure it is…) taught me a ton about how I look at life, inspired me to consider writing as a way to express myself, and made me believe that a creative life is worth pursuing, describes what I have come to call “hamster mode.” She tells how sometimes at night, her brain starts whirring around like a hamster on a wheel, and that writing is where she lets the hamster out of the cage and allows him to run around the desk for a while, to see where he goes.
Dang, I wish I had written that.
So, hamster mode, for me, is where my brain is jumping from idea to idea, thought to thought, without much room between jumps. The ideas and thoughts kind of pile up, spill over, and randomly emerge from my mouth, without any sort of order or relation to each other. Writing is where my hamster gets out of the cage, dances around the table at Biggby for a bit, sticks his tongue out at me, shakes his tail in my face, and runs away, laughing as he goes, leaving little blessings in his wake. I have a mean hamster.
I really should name the hamster. Maybe I’ll call him “Steve.” Why Steve? It’s a pretty name. “Oh great and powerful Steve – Whaddya WANT?”
(Captain Cal’s Reader’s Theatre presents a scene based on Over The Hedge. Thank you for your support.)
Now, a person with a bit of order and discipline in their nature would realize that, mixed in with the aforementioned thoughts, ideas and poopy, is some stuff that really should be remembered, so they would take the time to either write it down as it comes or at least use a little recorder (or their phone) to grab voice memos to refer to later. They would know this about themselves, so they would be prepared at unusual times to grab these fleeting inspirations, since you never know when the hamster is going to kick you in the frontal lobe. (Or wherever it is that such doo doo comes from – Eldest Niecelet knows that sort of thing… I don’t.)
TGeorge is this type of person. I love her for this. I wish I was her for this. Greg is glad that I’m not.
I, of course, am not a person with a bit of order and discipline. I can’t even spell discipline. The reason you see it correctly spelled here is because a) the spell checker on the ol’ iPad keeps marking it as if to say, “Dude, didn’t I just TELL you about this?”; and b) The Proofreader is faithful in all her ways and, under her gentle hand, much that is incomprehensible and jumbled becomes smooth and straight.
Insert the Vicki mantra here…
So, hamster mode kicks in, random thoughts and ideas pop out, most of which get left in the ether someplace, and I wander about, not really knowing what just happened.
No, I’m not ADD, for the record. I was tested, I do have some of those tendencies, but I’m really not AD… OOH! A Squirrel!!!
What was I saying?
(The preceding was a shout out to my brother Ludge who understands that joke better than most.)
Yeah, I get distracted. A lot. I use some tricks here and there to try and keep focused when I really need to – the operative word here being “try.”
I have a purple notebook that contains many, many random things in no order. The theory is that things get noted in there, since writing them down is faster than getting out the device, turning it on, opening some sort of memo app, and typing it in. (Who has that kind of time when a small rodent is nibbling at your cerebral cortex? “Get thee behind me, STEVE!” Oh great – guess what he’s nibbling now? Ewwww…)
The reality is that either I forget to get the thing out; I totally blow past the fact that stuff is in there to be acted on, and the notebook stays happily (or not) in my backpack; or I scrawl things down so quickly that when I refer to it later, it comes out something like “get rizzleflap out are bongo day home urp!!!” Oh, and add a few stars to make sure I notice this very important… something.
I even have a cool name for the notebook: the RIGA (Remote Information Gathering Apparatus). If you’re going to be a train wreck, organizationally speaking, you at least have to have cool acronyms.
(Amusing side note… if I start a list, leave it out where I’ll remember to see it and use it, magically, things get added to the list, in a completely different handwriting than mine. Odd how that happens – every time. Someone in my house LOVES lists, and I ain’t talking about Ezzie the Wonder Dog…)
(Amusing side note 2… I have a tab marker thingie to find my place in the notebook marked “Wonderwall.” As in, “Today is gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you.” I wouldn’t even know those words if it wasn’t for Jeremy Hoekstra. Thanks, Jer.)
Another trick I use for focus: loom knitting. Some of my First Cov peeps will notice that when I have a Sunday off from worship team, I can be found sitting upstairs in the balcony, and am usually knitting for the whole service. Here, then, are the reasons for that: 1) I sit upstairs because my beloved NEVER takes a Sunday off from the tech team, so this way we sit “together” once in a while; 2) as I’m knitting, my ears are wide open. I’m actually hearing and retaining much more than if I was just sitting listening, even if I was reading along on the iPad;
(Yes, I do have a Bible app on my iPad, and I LOVE it! PocketBible for iPad ROCKS!)
3) if I’m knitting during the service, I’m not standing or sitting there getting twitchy and antsy because I don’t have some instrument in my hands, and not thinking that I wish I was up there playing along. Keeping my hands busy and my mind engaged keeps me from wanting to be bass boy (or keyboard boy or wind controller boy or whistle boy or… you get the idea) for the morning. I can actually be off for a week, instead of spazzing out over not playing.
Generally, anyplace where I’m trying to listen and focus, and think I can get away with it without offending someone, I’ll be loom knitting. If you were to come across me at Biggby some morning, you might find me listening to the Daily Audio Bible on the iPod while knitting. Same deal.
I have issues. And they are deep and wide ranging.
So, I’m now at around 1100 words and climbing, and haven’t gotten to the point. Ain’t hamster mode neat?
The point is, I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets distracted. Can I get a witness, brethren and sistern? Hallelujah! Amen! Get ye down!
Normal life is distracting. Then dump a few weeks of holiday happenings on top of it, set the blender to “Whip it! Whip it GOOD!” and what do you get? A primordial ooze that would make Carl Sagan drool with joy, were he still around to do so. No wonder we can’t see our way through it – no scuba mask in the world is gonna keep our vision clear in that, not even if you spit on it and wipe it around to keep the mask from fogging up.
Or am I the only one who ever did that?
How in the name of Fats Waller are we expected to mindfully find our way through Advent, coming out the other side with hearts and heads ready for the King to take His throne? How do we walk into the new year with our focus on Him, following Him in the adventure He has for us?
In the words of Master Oogway (Kung Fu Panda 1), “I don’t know.
The great news is this: We aren’t being graded on neatness (as my beloved would put it, “this isn’t a 4-H project!”). We don’t have to reach a certain grade in Advent 101 to pass. No final exam (not yet, anyway), no 10,000 word essay on the cultural significance of fruitcake (ba-dum-DUM!), no more school room, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.
Hmm… that sounds familiar for some reason.
Our Father God who sent His Son knows us and loves us, in all our quirks and issues, in all our frailty and distractions, in our striving to keep our heads clear and our eyes focused. He cheers when we take baby steps forward, and holds out His arms to catch us when we stumble. He sees our sincere attempts to make space for Him, and it touches His Father’s heart. He smiles when His kiddos sing the songs of Christmas, when the little ones put on the costumes and tell the stories, when the organ cranks up to the final verse and we all belt out,
“Yea Lord, we greet Thee on this happy morning! Jesus, to Thee be all glory given! Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing…”
So, our Advent is hectic, imperfect, distracted, and not as pure and focused as we hoped it would be a couple of weeks ago? That’s okey dokey. Our Father knows who we are, He knows how we sincerely try, and He meets us where we are with love and grace, as we keep moving toward Him. The point is, keep moving. Keep trying. Keep looking, watching, wondering, praising, loving and living for the King. Then room will be found for Him, and other things will find their place under His feet. Keep moving Him back to the center, setting the other stuff aside, and when things shuffle and quake, move them around again and bring Him back to where He always should be – at the center of our hearts and lives.
That’s Advent.
Aversionis: distraction (of attention / from the point)
Oh come, let us adore Him. Oh come, let us adore Him. Oh come, let us adore Him…
Christ the Lord!
(O Come All Ye Faithful, John Wade / trans. Frederick Oakley)

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