Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


We don't have children. This has not kept us from watching and enjoying several "children's" movies, however. These days studios that have traditionally always produced movies strictly for children are injecting expressions and moments into their children's films that are intended to be picked up by more mature audience members. They decided to do this so that the parents who are by necessity watching these movies with their children - hopefully in the theater when they are first released - will not be bored out of their minds. The problem is that sometimes, these "adult moments" are just a bit too overt. At least, I feel that way. There have been a few times that we were watching something obviously targeted to children that had a scene that was just too suggestive for my comfort. If I had children, I would be disturbed to have them watching it. I don't know what would be worse, having them understand some of the things that are meant to "go over their heads" or having them start asking, "What does that mean, Mommy?"

Anyway, despite the fact that we don't have kids, we have seen and in fact own quite a few movies that were made for kids. Hubby and I still quote lines from "Finding Nemo." That movie was so cute. And many of the other movies like it were funny and cute, too. But this post is about a different Disney/Pixar movie. "Up!" came out in 2009 and like so many of the Disney-Pixar movies that have come before it, was a hit. And also like all it's Pixar predecessors, "Up!" was filled with quotable moments. One quote from this movie stands out far and above all the others, however. If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Just as a reminder, here is the quote I'm referring to.
As one commenter on another site said, "Who could have guessed that one word could be so epic?" And epic it is. Since the time we saw this movie, shouts of  "squirrel!" have been a common part of our family vocabulary. It's become a bit of a game to see who can shout it first when we see a squirrel while driving down the road - or anywhere else for that matter. But while the scenes and the basis of the quote are obviously founded in the reality that most dogs lose all thought of whatever they were doing when a squirrel catches their eye. the meaning goes far beyond this simple truth. And so "squirrel!" has come to mean more than the literal appearance of the furry little critters known for hoarding nuts. "Squirrel!" is a ubiquitous term referring to any instance where our train of thought or focus is inexplicably broken or snatched away by some transitory thought or event.

My husband has even taken to using the term "squirrelled" to refer to these moments. IE, "I was going into the bedroom but then I squirrelled and forgot what I was doing." He has especially used the reference in recent weeks because of an event that could have no other - or better - explanation than "squirrel!"

A few weeks ago, he drove my car to work because his truck had been acting funny the day before. He always calls me when he gets to work, to let me know he got there safely. This day was no different. I answered the phone. He said, "I'm here...... I wrecked your car." You'd have to know my husband to imagine how casually he said this. He has a devastating sense of sarcasm, which he thankfully reins in with me, but he's also capable of being incredibly deadpan sometimes so that it's often difficult to tell when he's being serious and when he's being sarcastic or joking. Even after 24 years together, I sometimes still have trouble telling when he's being serious. So for a moment I thought, "He's kidding." I think I probably said as much. Then he launched into his explanation of what had happened. I won't go into it because it was a rambling and breathless account that made little to no sense at the time. He forgets, sometimes, that I don't know everything he knows. Meaning he sometimes talks about situations or people or things, especially from his work, like I actually have personal knowledge of them. Which I don't. Not most of them, anyway. This event was no different. He was talking about a light and didn't seem to hear me when I asked him, "what light?" Then he mentioned that he looked down at the radio to turn it down and that's when it happened. He hit the cement base for a lamp post in the parking lot. The lamp post itself was apparently already gone, thanks to a semi truck at some point in the past. He hit this thing with the right front of my car and literally tore the bumper off. He made quite an issue of not understanding how it could have done so much damage considering how slow he was going and where he hit.

The long and short of it is, he was distracted first by this light on the building - which I finally later managed to get him to explain was in fact a light he was supposed to make sure was either turned off or on (still not clear on that part). He was trying to figure out if it was on or not. Then he jumped from that to the radio as he thought to turn it down so that he could call me to let me know he was there. And somewhere amid all that, he collided with the lamp post base. Later, he summed it up very succinctly by saying he "squirrelled." Since then, the term has become even more prevalent in our conversation. (My car has been fixed now, and looks better than it has in years. A blessing for sure.)

I've seen tee shirts that deal with this phenomena of sudden loss of focus by poking fun at how easily we are sometimes distracted by something "shiny."

And I own a shirt that pokes fun at the loss of focus associated with chemotherapy, called "Chemonesia" by the very creative designer of the shirt. Having experienced this firsthand, I can attest to how difficult it was to keep my train of thought, even while speaking. There were times that I would literally lose what I was saying in the middle of saying it. Thankfully, that seems to have stopped along with the chemo.

The point is, we are prone to being easily distracted, especially by fleeting thoughts and objects that flash like a mirror in the sun so that they immediately snag our attention. (This post is itself a testament to my own issues with difficulty maintaining my focus. I started it two days ago!)

Generally, these little distractions that pop up are harmless. They come and go, catching our focus for a moment or two, then we go right on with whatever we were doing. (Just like the dogs from "Up!") But sometimes, those distractions rob us of something important. They can interrupt our peace, intrude upon on times of prayer and meditation on the Word, and disrupt our thoughts when we're on the verge of gaining enlightenment. I've had this happen to me. I'll be reading my Bible, talking to the Lord, or listening to a sermon that's stomping all over my toes and suddenly, "squirrel!" Something completely random will pop into my head, or some flicker of movement or flash of light will jerk my attention away. Sometimes I can shake it off and get right back to where I was. But sometimes whatever I was on the verge of grasping is simply lost. The question arises, is this a tactic of the devil or a failing within myself?

I'm not a proponent of blaming everything on Satan. He's out there and he certainly does his best to get in our way whenever he can. But doesn't the Bible teach us that we are the ones with the power? That we can drive him away with the mere mention of the name of Christ? That if we make the effort to resist him, he will flee from us? Then why is it that we so often try to blame him for the problems in our spiritual lives?

I think that perhaps we are the ones failing to resist his lures. We let our minds wander when we should have them wholly focused on God. We place less importance upon our devotion and worship than upon the fleeting things of this life. We let thoughts about spouses, children, work, and countless other things, both large and small, intrude upon the time we ought to be wholly devoting to God.

Fortunately for us, God is utterly faithful. He tolerates our finite little minds wandering all over the place while He is trying to talk to us. He gently draws our attention back to Him when we've let it drift off to something else. He waits patiently for us to chase the squirrels that catch our eyes, and remains right there for us to come back to once we're finished with the chase. God's amazing, like that. I only wish I could do a better job of ignoring the squirrels. Because I hate thinking that I might miss out on something magnificent that God is trying to reveal to me simply because I couldn't stop myself from thinking about the laundry that I need to do or the grocery list or something else equally unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps it is like any other skill. Focus needs to be exercised and practiced to be strong. And that's where I fail so often. I don't practice like I should. I don't devote enough time to focus on the things of God. If I did, maybe the squirrels would be easier to ignore.

Right now, I'm trying desperately to ignore the intrusion of a desire to go scrounge up something to eat. [sigh] I'm hungry and that's just not easy to ignore. Nor is my dog, who is apparently needing to go out. (He doesn't bark or whine at me. He just won't sit or lay still for any length of time. And when he really gets desperate, he chomps his teeth at me.) Then there's the washing machine that dinged a while ago, letting me know I need to toss the sheets into the dryer if I want to sleep in my bed tonight. Oh, and there's the reminder I have programmed into my iPad that nags me until I finally get up and go change the bag in my litter robot. (Have I posted about this thing? It's amazing. Only has to be emptied every several days and by empty I mean take out the sack that collects the "waste" and put in a new bag. Takes all of two minutes. Thank You, Lord, for technological advances!) [sigh, again] My stomach is rumbling. Doggone it!

Oh, well. Might as well get up and deal with all the distractions. Then maybe I'll be able to focus on reading my Bible without - squirrel!

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