Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Distractions ...

I have been noticing lately that I am much more distracted than normal. My mind seems to wander in ways that it never used to. I am having a harder time focusing on one thing for an extended period of time. And I am fairly confident this has nothing to do with turning 50 this summer.

For instance, I sit down to read and within minutes I find my mind wandering away from what I am reading and almost without conscious thought I step away from the book and am checking my e-mail, making a pot of coffee, or throwing a load of laundry in.

Or, I am watching television and am checking and re-checking my phone during the entire show or movie in case I might be missing something exciting that someone might want to tell me about online. Seriously?

Or, I am working on a teaching and find that I need to keep a notepad next to my computer in order to record all the tangential thoughts that keep pinging around in my mind while I am working.

I  have a feeling I am not alone in this.

I remember reading that our brains are being rewired to expect, and even desire distractions. We have become accustomed to being constantly interrupted by a link, a video, a notification of a new e-mail, so much so that our brains have simply come to expect and look forward to these interruptions.

I am not a technology basher. But I do want to stay awake to how I am living. And what I am noticing is disconcerting to me.

So I am engaging in a little exercise, which I hope may re-train my brain to stay focused for an extended period of time when I am attending to or working on things that matter. Let's say I am sitting down to read. Once I start, I set a timer for 30 minutes, and I simply refuse to get up and attend to other things during that time. My mind still tries to interrupt me ... "Check your e-mail!" "Google that piece of information you want!" "Get up and get a piece of gum!" but I simply refuse to give in. I stay focused for 30 minutes, no matter what. And after that 30, I take a little break, and start again.

This re-training practice will help me stay focused when I sit down to read and reflect on the Scriptures. I want to be able to be focused enough to hear God speak to me; to hear his words through His Word. I want to stay with a passage of Scripture or a set of passages long enough that I can plumb the depths of its meaning, or meditate on how it might intersect with my life. I can't do these kinds of things if I am constantly distracted.

I don't know if this will work. I tried it yesterday, using my phone for a timer, and within 30 seconds I got a text from one of my kids and then one from my husband, and I told myself , "I'll just check this one text ..." and before you know it I was in a full-blown texting party with my family.

So, I will try again today. I want a mind that can focus on the most important things. I don't want to give up that ability for something as shallow and relatively meaningless as spam e-mails or the next ice-bucket challenge video on Facebook ...

What if?

I've spent all day working on my teaching for the upcoming & Women's Conference at Orchard -- Rise and Shine Women's Retreat --  and I am just filled to overflowing right now with God's good heart toward his creatures. I am filled to overflowing with the knowledge of how much he wants for us ... and how very often we refuse his good gifts.

In some of my reading today, I came across this little bit of writing from David Whyte and it just struck me to the core with its painful truth:

“Sometimes reading … I look out at everything growing so wild and faithfully beneath the sky and wonder why we are the one terrible part of creation privileged to refuse our flowering.” (David Whyte)

What if we simply did nothing except refuse to "refuse our flowering?"

What might our lives look like then?

Poems

This poem by Mary Oliver pretty much describes my morning:

Just Rain

The clouds did not say soon, but who can tell for sure,

it wasn't the first time I had been fooled; the sky-doors opened and the rain began

to fall upon all of us: the grass, the leaves, my face, my shoulders,

and the flowered body of the pond where it made its soft unnotational music

on the pond's springy surface, and then, the birds joined in and I too felt called toward such throat praise.

Well, the whole afternoon went on that way until I thought I could feel the almost born things

in the earth rejoicing.

As for myself, I just kept walking, thinking:

once more I am grateful to be present.

(From Evidence,  a book of poems by Mary Oliver that my children gave me for my 50th birthday)

 I try to read poems often, and I especially enjoy poems that I can understand, that I can read without working too hard. I find they often speak to my soul in ways that other types of writing can't.

I especially love Mary Oliver's poems, and I enjoy a book of poems that Garrison Keillor edited, simply entitled Good Poems.

Give poems a try!  You just might like them!

 

The power of subtracting

A great German thinker named Meister Eckhart said,

"God is not found in the soul by adding anything but by subtracting."

I remember where I was when I first read this line. I was laying on my couch reading the book in which it was contained. Ever have one of these moments?  The whole world just kind of stood still, got real quiet, and I felt a gentle whisper in my ear that said: "Pay attention to this."

What if less really is more?

What if there are things God wants me to subtract in order to know him more deeply?

What might those things be? And am I willing to subtract them?

This fall, as everything seems to ramp up and the push to add more things to your days and weeks and months is very strong, take a moment every once in a while and ask God, "Is there something you would like me to subtract from my life during this next season?"

And if He answers, by all means subtract it!

Less is more.