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...

When you are scared ...

I don’t know what you tend to do when you are scared, but I tend to freak out.

I am not a “good” scared person, whatever that means.

But I do have one thing I do that helps. I recite Psalm 23 aloud, from memory.

I am not a huge “memorize passages of the Bible” person; I just didn’t grow up that way. But I do find that I have some passages embedded in my head and my heart. Psalm 23 is one of them.

So on the morning I was flying from Iowa to Philadelphia to be with my son after he had undergone emergency surgery the night before, I was scared. A little teary …

And on the short, dark ride to the airport, my husband and I were quiet and tense. But God whispered to me, “Say Psalm 23 … for both of you.”

So with a lump in my throat, and tears streaming down my face, I started in:

“The Lord is my shepherd … I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil.

For you are with me;

Your rod and your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,

You anoint my head with oil,

My cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever.”

My fear was abated a bit, my panic level dropped.

And both Chuck and I felt held, protected, loved, strengthened … for whatever was ahead of us that day.

The Bible ...

So many questions these days about the Bible, and what certain parts of it mean …

Know what?

I don’t have that many answers.

The Bible remains a mystery to me …

Occasionally, I think I catch a glimpse of truth.

But mostly, I remain humbly confused.

In awe … but confused.

Drawn to it... but confused. 

I love what Debbie Blue says about the Bible …

“The Bible isn’t really at all good at being an instruction manual.

It’s good at leading us into a tangle of wild poetry, heartbreaking stories, contradictions, twists and turns, the concrete struggles of a vast array of unruly, disparate human beings being sought after by God …

The Bible isn’t a cage that contains God, making God available to take out or hang in our living room,

it’s a witness to the fecund, ungraspable Other

(and our relationship to that Other).”

We need to stop reading the Bible for “answers.”

We need to start engaging the Bible to touch God …

and to give him a chance to touch us.

The Good Book ...

So often, we are told to think of the Bible as some kind of instruction manual.

I believe that is a description that belittles the majesty of Scripture. It also belittles the difficulty most of us have when reading the Bible.

Don't get me wrong: there are commands in there.

But, an instruction manual?




Frederick Buechner closes a sermon on the Good Book this way:

"Finally, I think it is possible to say that in spite of all its extraordinary variety, the Bible is held together by having a single plot.

God creates the world, the world gets lost; God seeks to restore the world to the glory for which he created it.

That means the Bible is a book about you and me, whom he also made and lost and continually seeks,

so you might say that what holds it together more than anything else is us.

You might add to that, of course, that of all the books that humanity has produced,

it is the one that more than any other - and in more sense than one - also holds us together."

Next time you open your Bible, remember the plot:

God creates the world, the world gets lost; God seeks the restore the world (all of it) to the glory for which he created it.

Sounds much more exciting, fascinating, complicated and compelling than reading an instruction manual. 




You must have a room ...

Sacred space is an absolute necessity for anybody today.

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you.

This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.

This is the place of creative incubation.

At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

(John Campbell)

We should be willing ...

"To take the holy scriptures and read them is the first thing

we have to do to open ourselves to God's call.

Reading the scriptures is not as easy as it seems...

We tend to make anything and everything

we read

subject to analysis and discussion.

But the word of God should lead us first of all to contemplation

and meditation.

Instead of taking the words apart,

we should bring them together

in our innermost being;

instead of wondering if we agree or disagree,

we should wonder which words are spoken directly to us

and connect directly with

our personal story.

Instead of thinking

about the words

as potential subjects for an interesting dialogue...

we should be willing to let them penetrate

into the most hidden corners of our hearts,

even to those places where

no other word has found entrance."

(Henri Nowen)

The first hour of the morning ...

"The duties and cares of the day crowd about us when we awake each day -

if they have not already dispelled our night's rest.

How can everything be accommodated in one day?

When will I do this, when that?

How will it all be accomplished?

Thus agitated, we are tempted to run and rush.

And so we must take the reins in hand and remind ourselves,

'Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God. Tackle the day's work that he charges you with, and he will give you the power to acomplish it.'"

(Edith Stein)

How do you start your day?