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Media Distraction: Rabbits and Lizards

25 Feb

My maltipoo, Roscoe, has a short attention span when it roscoe_whereistherabbitcomes to two words. No matter what my furboy is doing—even sleeping!—if I say either “rabbit” or “lizard,” he stops what he’s doing, cocks his head, and then look toward the back door or a nearby window.

Roscoe wonders, I think, “What am I missing? Is there a rabbit out there? A lizard?”

I have to admit I’m a Roscoe when it comes to the daily news and social media. No matter what I’m doing, it doesn’t take much to distract me these days.

“I wonder what’s happening on Facebook?”

“What’s up in the news? What am I missing? 

Rabbits and lizards. Sad, huh?

The worst thing about media distraction is, it takes up a lot of precious time. 

Time that can never be reclaimed (Psalm 90:12).

  • Time with the Lord in prayer.
  • Time reading or memorizing scripture.
  • Time with family.
  • Time writing about things that matter.
  • Time sharing the Gospel.
  • Time working hard with purpose.
  • Time to be creative.
  • Time to rest my heart and mind—away from all the stressful voices that disturb my peace and joy.

Now I am, by nature, a woman with a lot of curiosity. It’s not that I’m nosy; I just love learning about things. And I’m not condemning these things per se: the Internet and media are sources for learning. (Even though I need to be careful to weigh what we learn against the truth of scripture.)

My rule of thumb is: The news and social media should enhance our lives, not become our lives.

But the enemy of my soul would like to keep me more curious about and loving the things of this world rather than the things that count for eternity—my relationship with God, people with souls, and the eternal Word of God. It’s a pretty powerful scheme (2 Corinthians 2:11). Part of his strategy in my life is getting me addicted to media.

The recent Presidential election kept me glued to my television. I was constantly turning my head, checking out what the most influential talking head of the hour thought about the candidates and how their platforms lined up with world issues. In the process, I got caught up reading a lot of things that made for nastiness and division.

I foolishly thought that would all stop after November 2016. But it didn’t. The nastiness and division continues. And Christians are caught up in it too. Christian friends who share similar doctrines have parted ways over political and social “preferences.”

Have we no respect and civility? Have we forgotten love?

Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Paul said we’re to outdo ourselves in honoring one another (Romans 12:10).

And if a Facebook friend suddenly feels like an enemy? Jesus said to even love our enemies and pray for them! (Matthew 5:44)

I’ve learned I do not need to comment on every negative post; and I’m asking the Lord to help me discern when to share and when to stay silent (Proverbs 26:4-5).

It’s silly to end up in pointless quarrels with people who just want to debate (2 Timothy 2:23-24). But there are also times we need to speak up to expose weak, unbiblical thinking in the church. We need to speak truth while letting love reign, and pursue, with godly wisdom, what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding (James 1:5; Romans 14:19).

And sometimes, we just need to step away from the constant distraction of media and social media—so many voices—and seek the Lord and listen for His voice.

We need to focus on what is of “first importance”—getting out the freeing Gospel message and living in light of it (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We can’t afford distractions.

We’ve got to learn how to deal with those pesky rabbits and lizards!

How can you let media enhance your life without letting it control (or become) your life?

~ Dawn

 

 

 

 

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6 Strategies to Deal with Distractions in Prayer

24 Apr

ChildPeekingDuringPrayerThe home group Bible study met at her parents’ house, and little RoseAnn decided to join the prayer circle at the beginning of the meeting.

As each person prayed, RoseAnn peeked and studied each man and woman around the room.

Then, as the prayers ended, she announced to the group, “You all looked really bored. You kept playing with your hair, Mrs. Green. You were doodling, Miss Willow. You even yawned, Mr. Hancock!”

“Well, little miss,” Mr. Hancock said, “you must not have been paying much attention to the prayers yourself, if you spent all that time peeking.”

RoseAnn’s mouth dropped open. She was so embarrassed. Apparently, she’d never thought about her own distractions in prayer!

I’m little RoseAnn sometimes. Most of the time, I’m focused on the Lord and what I’m praying about. But then it’s like I’m “peeking” into other scenarios.

  • “I’ve got to remember to put out some hamburger for dinner.”
  • “I wonder when Bob will be home?”
  • “When was that doctor appointment?”
  • “Do I smell chocolate?”
  • “I’ve got to get new shoes for the conference.”

Ugh. I have such a short attention span.

It’s like the dog who has the attention span of a gnat. In obedience training, he’s so easily distracted. DidYouSaySquirrel_Maltese

“OK, Master, I’ll heel. Such a nice day. I love walking right next to you all over the neighborhood. OH LOOK … a squirrel!”

And the well-meaning doggie is on the chase!

I don’t want to be like that dog, chasing after squirrely thoughts. So as I’ve thought about distractions in prayer, here are six strategies that help me have better prayer times.

1. Retreat: Find a Place that Makes Sense.

Obviously, although you can pray anywhere, you don’t want to have an extended time of prayer in a crazy-busy place. That doesn’t make sense.

If possible, find a private place, something that becomes a place of retreat from the distractions of your life. Matthew 6:6 says, “…when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place….”

2. Remove: Shut Off Other Sounds

The Psalmist said it’s in the “still” place where we come to know God (Psalm 46:10). This is stillness toward distractions from outside you. (There’s another kind of stillness in #5.)

To encourage stillness, shut off electronics — television, computers, the phone ringer, music, etc. — so you can listen for God’s voice in your heart.

3. Refocus: Lift Up Your Soul.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look away from yourself and look to God. Then, focus your attention away from the things of earth and “lift up” your soul — give your full attention to the Lord (Psalm 25:1).

Practice His presence and rest there. It’s a choice! Let it become a joyful habit!

4. Resist: Don’t Give In.

The simplest solution, once you realize you’re distracted, is to turn your heart and thoughts back to prayer. Don’t take time to “entertain” or examine the distraction.

Recognize that the enemy, Satan, wants your mind to wander. Resist him (James 4:7) and capture your thoughts for the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:5b). Another way to say this is, refuse entrance to anything that hinders during your quiet time with God.

5. Relinquish: Yield Over Stresses and Struggles

Carol, a friend of mine in college used to say “Be still” near the beginning of her prayers. This “be still” was a message to her own heart. It was like she was saying a stern “Shhhh!” to remove the inner distracting rumblings of her troubled spirit.

This is stillness that is more internal, and the best way to arrive at this stillness is to yield (hand over) all worries or anxieties to the Lord as they arise in your heart (Psalm 55:22; Matthew 6:25-34; John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7). Stillness comes when we cast all our anxieties on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7-8).

6. Record: Jot It Down.

Be prepared with paper and pen when you go to prayer. If a distracting thought returns, one strategy may be to write a simple phrase to help you dismiss the thought and pick it up later.

(Be careful with this one. I once wrote half of a blog this way because I couldn’t seem to shut my mind off to distracting thoughts! I’d pray a sentence, jot a note, pray a sentence, jot a note. Maybe that’s a good strategy for writing — to pray before we write — but it’s not very effective for developing intimacy with God. Imagine if you did that in a conversation with a good friend!)

What distracts you when you pray? Which of these strategies might help? Can you think of another strategy?

– Dawn

Flitting

25 Jul

AttentionSpanI don’t have a short attention span, I just … Oh look, a butterfly!

I don’t have a short attention span, I just … O look, a squirrel!

I don’t have a short attention span, I just … O look, chocolate!

I don’t have a short attention span, I just … O look, bling!

I don’t have a short attention span, I just … Did you SEE THAT?

LOL!

I love hummingbirds, and they’ve nested in my back yard. One built her nest in my eight-foot palm tree.  A couple of them fight over the bird feeder.

But what I get a “kick” out of most is when the mama bird  hovers right in front of me, staring HummingbirdNesting_2croppedinto my face. The focused attention is simply awesome, and I’m always a bit sad when she flits away into the high trees. I  talk to her and keep wishing she’d linger longer. But no … her attention span is, well, like a hummingbird – short and sweet.

One day, after one of these short encounters, I had the thought:  “Dawn, is your God-attention span growing, or do you flit in and out of time with the Lord, distracted by other things?

Maybe you know what I’m referring to. Have you ever been deeply involved in Bible study or prayer, only to be distracted by something else? Have you left time with God for something more “pressing” at the moment? Or just something that captured your imagination?

Sad to say, I have.

It’s like talking face-to-face with someone, and then your cell phone rings, and you turn away to chat on the phone. (If you feel it’s important, you might say, “Excuse me, I have to take this” before you turn away.) But most of the time, it can wait.

And if you had eyes in the back of your head, you might see the person with a “Who am I – chopped liver?” look. Rude.

Only, when we’re alone with the Creator of the Universe, is anything else really all that important?

Short of a fire in the house or a choking baby – those sorts of emergencies – most things can wait when God is speaking to us, don’t you think?

Some things have helped me not flit around when I’m with God.

  • After I ask God to help me focus, I ask Him to help me pinpoint any possible distractions I might face, and I try to deal with them ahead of time.
  • I prepare for my time with God. I turn off disruptive technology (phone, TV, magazines, etc.) – anything I think might distract or disturb.
  • I find a place where I won’t be disturbed (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). (Ladies, that’s hard with a little one, I know, unless it’s nap time … and then you feel like a nap.) I have a regular place, stocked with all I’ll need so I don’t have to get up and down for things.
  • I make sure I have paper and pen to jot down a reminder note when I’m “distracted” by something I do need to remember. Then it’s immediately back to the Lord with a “What was that You were saying, Lord?”
  • I practice stillness. I am retraining my brain to focus and “be still” before God (Psalm 46:10). (It’s hard work, because I have one of those Type A+, crazy-monkeys-running-around brains!)
  • I pursue God. (I’ve found that what I pursue – hunt for with intensity – will capture my attention!) Psalm 27:8 – “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
  • I also have a plan, so I don’t just flit around from verse to verse. There are specific things I want to accomplish. I use a Bible study, a book with scriptures and questions, or a study I create on my own – researching a topic.
  • I find when I pray aloud, it’s easier for me to focus. (One way to drown-out my chattering monkeys!)
  • Besides my own flitting flesh, the enemy wants to destroy my times of intimacy with God, so I ask the Holy Spirit to help me persevere in His grace. I need a lot of grace. My spirit is willing, but my body (my brain) is weak (Matthew 26:36-41). The Lord who created my brain can also control it, but I need to ask for and rely on His help.
  • I praise God for the times I do spend with Him. (Beating myself up doesn’t help.)

I’m sure there are so many other ways to grow in our “God-attention Span.” What helps you not “flit” in and out of God’s presence during your Quiet Time?

– Dawn

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