All That Glitters (by Mike Glenn)

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 6.12.24 PMAll That Glitters

No one is paying attention anymore. Just ask anyone. Parents will tell you they can’t get their children to pay attention any more because their kids are always on their cell phones. Husbands will tell you their wives are on social media too much and wives will tell you their husbands are always tracking their fantasy leagues on phones. Professors say they can’t get students to pay attention.

Executives are worried their employees are wasting too much time surfing the web and some experts even say the impact of our inattention has caused a decline in the GDP.

To address the problem, we now talk in terms of “attention capital.” Articles are written about the new discipline of attention management. Today, we need new skills and habits in order to best manage our attention the way we used to have workshops and techniques for managing our time.

Of course, that means there are people staying up late at night devising schemes and tricks to grab our attention and pull us to whatever new thing we just can’t do without or some crisis that demands our attention and subsequent action…Now! Bells ring, gadgets chirp, lights of every color in the rainbow flash in front of our mesmerized eyes. Read this! Order that! Click Here!

Attention is the new commodity.

This has resulted in a predictable backlash. People, exhausted by the world’s constant demand that we pay attention all of time, have started dropping off the grid. They’ve shut down social media accounts and closed their email. Smartphones are exchanged for vintage flip phones. People are turning their attention to experiences and authentic relationships. People want to be in the moment. They want to remember their friends in real ways instead of just another selfie pose.

Attention is now harder to attract and much harder to keep. People are becoming much more demanding and discerning as to what or whom they’ll give their attention to. They are even more demanding as to those things that will keep their attention for any length of time. Google released a study that said the average web surfer takes eight seconds to make up their minds as to whether or not they’ll stay on the web site and click through or move on. Eight seconds!

Which makes me wonder what was it about the star that caught the attention of the magi? As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of discussion about the Star of Bethlehem and there have been several efforts made to explain the phenomena naturally. For instance, there are some who suggest it was a super-nova, a star exploding in a nearby galaxy that would have dominated the night sky. Others have suggesting an alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars that results in a brilliant, shining light in the sky. While there are a lot of suggestions of how a bright light got in the sky, we still haven’t been able to quite figure out how the star moved and then, how did the star point out the house where Jesus was? Why are the magi the only ones to have seen it? Why were they the only ones to have followed it?

Honestly, we don’t know. Here’s what we do know. The magi experienced something that led them to believe they were going to be able to witness a once in lifetime moment. They were so convinced they dropped everything, except their presents, and went to see what was going on. At the end of their journey, they found Jesus – the Savior of the world. And the star? Well, the star had done its job and like John the Baptist years later, once the Messiah is revealed, they fade from the story.

And here’s what I know. Sometimes God answers prayers you don’t even know you’re praying until He reveals the answer. Ah, we say, this is what I would have wanted if I had only been smart enough to want it!”

Maybe that was the magi. Maybe they had been trying to figure out the secret to it all and God said, “Follow the star and I’ll show you”.

Which brings us to an interesting question this Christmas. Why can’t we see the star as the magi did?

Remember earlier I mentioned that attention has now become a commodity? Now, there are experts whose job is find more and more ways to grab your attention and hold that attention. As you guess, they’re pretty good at this. Search engines employ complex algorithms that figure out what you want and what you need by recording and studying your history of internet.

Scientist call it “light pollution.” In some areas, the lights of the city and surrounding area push back the darkness so far that it’s almost impossible for us to see some stars at all. In the same way, I think we suffer from some kind of Christmas light pollution. There are so many blinking lights and waving banners, offering this gadget at half off and that gizmo at a reduced price, it becomes almost impossible to see the Star. We become so distracted we miss Jesus all together.

That brings us to another question: what’s caught your attention this Christmas? What shiny thing has made you look up? What thing in the night has made you wonder what was on the other end of the journey?

Remember, everything that glitters isn’t gold and everything that twinkles isn’t a star. Too many blinking things in our world are nothing more than flashing lights at the end of dead end roads.

So, check again. What star are you following the Christmas? Is it taking you where you want to go?

 

 

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