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Entries in Intentionality (3)

Thursday
Jul062017

Expand Your Attention Span for Spiritual Growth

Got attention span deficit? In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Dawn encourages us to expand our attention span so we can grow in our journey with the Lord.

According to a Time magazine report (2014) quoting Chartbeat, a data analytics company, one in three visitors to a webpage spends less than 15 seconds reading an article they land on.

A 2016 article in The New York Times noted a survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft that concluded the average attention span had fallen to only eight seconds.

(Apparently goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds, but I'm not sure how you'd prove that's true.)

Human brains wander and are “in the moment” for just over half of our waking hours according to a study from Harvard University. The rest of the time we “zone out.”

I've watched the controversy over the rise of fidget spinners for children with poor attention spans; but attention isn't just a kids' issue.

I've joked that I have a shorter attention span than fruit flies—sort of like this common fly hopping on and off my husband's cell phone! But it's really not a laughing matter.

Part of the problem: we flit between television, radio, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, our iPods and iPads and email. We’re distracted and incredibly busy and can’t seem to concentrate on one thing for long.

This problem affects Christians when it comes to spiritual disciplines and lifestyle.

  • We find time to surf the Internet, but fail to swim in the cleansing streams of our Bibles.
  • We eagerly chat on social media, but seldom get in deep conversations with our Heavenly Father.
  • We can quote lines from favorite flicks, but somehow can’t memorize scripture.
  • We spend hours looking for bargains in the mall, but miss seeing the desperate homeless woman outside.

As I write this, I am deeply convicted.

I am caught up in the busyness of modern society, the craziness of the constant media pull, and the emptiness of life when I forget God.

I need a major adjustment in my attention span, my use of time and the priorities I embrace. Do you?

I'm going to leave it to those much wiser to solve the brain/attention issue, but here are 5 ways I think we can expand our shrinking attention span to encourage spiritual growth.

1. Be Intentional in Seeking God.

Intentionality requires us to slow down and think so we can act wisely. In this crazy world, to come apart before we fall apart.

Redeeming or making the best use of time, as Paul encouraged, isn’t always about cramming more into our lives.

I like what Joan Webb, author of The Intentional Woman, says about this. “Speeding through life is not a productive way to redeem the time,” she says. “A better way to redeem life’s opportunities is to slow down, relax, and enjoy myself, others and God.”

Especially God.

Many Christians believe (see The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question #1) our chief purpose for existence is to enjoy God and glorify Him forever. We need to be intentional and seek Him.

It won’t just “happen” like an instant message flitting across your cell phone.

2. Meditate on Scripture.

Meditation is like mental training to improve our focus. It’s what sociologists call “mindfulness.”

“God designed us with the capacity to pause and ponder,” David Mathis wrote. “He means for us to not just hear Him, but to reflect on what He says.”

As a Christian discipline, meditation isn’t emptying the mind—as modern non-Christian teachers suggest—but rather filling the mind with real biblical truth and then “chewing” on it for a while. It is allowing the Word of God to “dwell in you richly.”

I have found meditation connected to prayer, Bible study and memorization. They all help one another.

3. Incorporate Exercise into your Day.

I’ve heard some people say “bodily exercise profits little,” quoting scripture, but a better translation of 1 Timothy 4:8 is “bodily training is of some value….” We don’t want to ignore our body’s need for exercise. And God designed us for a body-mind connection.

A study from the University of Illinois actually found physical activity can increase cognitive control and attention span. So why not get creative and use exercise time to the glory of God?

  • Prayer walk around your neighborhood.
  • Walk on a beach and hand out tracts.
  • Memorize a scripture while exercising.

4. Stay Hydrated!

We forget how much of our body is made up of water. Even mild dehydration, one study found, can impact a person’s ability to concentrate for long.

In her super-intentional book, 40 Days to Healthy Living, RN Danna Demetre says, "If you wait to drink water until you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated," and one of the symptoms of dehydration, she says, is "poor concentration."

As you drink in the Living Water of the Word, don’t forget pure H20 can refresh your body so you can focus on what God has to say. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times.

3. Ask Questions that Encourage Study.

Jesus was a master at asking questions. One author suggests Jesus asked 307 questions in the scriptures. He definitely wanted to get his disciples and seekers thinking.

He asked questions like, “Why are you afraid?”—“Where is your faith?”—and “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

Asking questions will help you stay engaged and apply what you are learning. It might even lead to a life-changing research project!

4. Incorporate Christian Music.

A study at Stanford University’s School of Medicine found listening to classical music engages the areas of the brain that affect attention and memory. Music certainly can play a part in a Christian’s focus on the Lord.

Choose music that is both inspirational and truth-packed to get your attention and creative juices flowing. I recommend the CD “Be Still: Piano Meditations” by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

(But Note: if you are like me, when you are deep in study you may want some simple symphonies in the background instead—I find myself singing words of well-known hymns, and my brain starts chasing other topics!)

5. Write to Focus.

Writing long-hand engages more mental processing according to researchers.

Whether you journal or simply make notes in book margins or underline passages, writing will help you focus your thoughts—even better than using a laptop (which can prove to be an easy distraction).

Which of these attention span expanders could help you today? Do you have other ideas to help you focus?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphics adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan272015

Be On Purpose!

Last year, Kathy Carlton Willis shared how to set true D.R.E.A.M. goals. She continues in that theme with this encouraging New Year UPGRADE.

Most of us set goals for 2015 at the start of the year,” Kathy says. “How many of you are already struggling to stick with the plan? Or was there even a true plan to begin with? It’s possible you had more of a wish list of destinations rather than a roadmap for how to get there!”

Do you have a roadmap for 2015? I (Dawn) think we all need one. Otherwise, how will we know when we’ve arrived at our destination?

Kathy continues . . .

January is National “Be On Purpose” Month. What a terrific time for us to evaluate where we were, where we are, and where God wants us to be, operating in the purpose He has for planting us on earth.

We’ve all heard how important it is to place ourselves in the passenger’s seat and allow God to be in the driver’s seat. (Remember calling out “shotgun” as kids, when we ran to the car at the beginning of a road trip? It was the best seat in the vehicle!)

The next best thing so we can get to our destination is to have that roadmap I mentioned earlier.

Live life on purpose, not random accidents.

Today, someone from out of town called asking for directions to our home. She was quite directionally challenged. I told her to go west and she asked if that was left or right. We realized she worked better with landmarks (such as Dairy Queen) rather than measuring blocks, or watching for street names.

Jean’s problem was, she didn’t have a step-by-step GPS to direct her. She had a map that took her to a dot on the map for our town. She had our street address. But she had nothing to connect the dots from the city limits sign to our home.

Life coaches teach the principle of intentionality.

Setting specific intentions allows life travelers to measure progress.

This is the opposite of the guy on the old donut commercial who arose from bed, still half asleep, and said, “Time to make the donuts.” He went from one task to another, with no extra effort or thought, zero passion, and nothing new to show for his work than the day before.

Donuts.

Intentionality allows you to fulfill God’s passions in your life. It puts steps to your goals.

 God’s blessings don’t rely on our work. But He is pleased when we acknowledge His purpose in our lives.

Think of each intentional choice as a step of obedience. Another mile marker on our journeys.

We don’t get to our destination by accident. It’s living life on purpose.

What Living Life on Purpose Isn’t:

  • You can’t wish it here.
  • You can’t fake it ‘til you make it.
  • You can’t procrastinate it into existence.
  • You can’t hope someone else takes care of your business for you.
  • You can’t skip some of the steps to try to speed up the process.

Your upgraded life requires intention. It takes plans. It works best when you operate within your strengths and giftings. It takes strategy. It requires setting up some steps between departure and destination to act as landmarks so you know you’re going in the right direction.

Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Mark well the path by which you came” (Jeremiah 31:21 NLT).

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • What does God want me to accomplish in 2015? What is God’s big picture for my five-year plan, my ten-year plan, my life-plan?
  • How does God lead me to use my natural and spiritual gifts, strengths and personality type to best fulfill these end results?
  • What are the biggest challenges and obstacles in getting to the destination? What detours can I pre-plan to avoid the roadblocks?

Define Your Landmarks:

1. Think of the steps to get from departure spot to destination. Seek God’s wisdom, allowing Him to be a Vision-Caster in your life.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open” James 1:5 (MSG).

2. Write down your plan.

“Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.’” (Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV).

3. Get to work! A dream can’t come true without putting effort into it—not just talk.

For a dream comes with much business and painful effort, and a fool’s voice with many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3 AMP).

 Follow the directions, step by step.

What will you do today to live life on purpose, rather than simply going through the motions of making the donuts?

Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published and she has several books releasing over the next three years, including Grin with Grace (release date 3/20/15) with AMG Publishers, CBD and Amazon. She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas. Learn more at: www.kathycarltonwillis.com/.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

 

Tuesday
Aug202013

Becoming an Intentional Woman

Joan C. Webb believes in the power of a woman’s story. In this powerful post, she shares how you can become an intentional woman—embracing who you are and making choices to fit God’s design for your life.

“‘If I live intentionally, being true to my own personality, serving out of my God-given giftedness and calling, I’ll no longer feel the urge to envy another woman’s marriage, ministry, talents or work.’ As I jotted this ‘aha’ into my journal,” Joan said, “my shoulders relaxed.”

Joan has given me and other women many “aha” moments, but I was curious about this “aha” that changed her life and ministry.

She continues …

Believing this “aha” gradually transformed my life. Although I rarely voiced envy, secretly I felt disappointed that others had fulfilled their dreams (or so I assumed) but I hadn’t. I longed to live out the secret desires that God had planted deep within my heart.

Yet I felt trapped. My life revolved around working hard and making others happy and satisfied, especially my husband. I didn’t want anyone (including God) to call me “selfish” for taking time and energy to nurture my own interests and gifts. People-pleasing and over-doing gave way to my burnout.

I prayed, “Lord, show me who I am now, and who I can become—the person You had in mind when You created me.”

I wanted to be intentional, instead of having a knee-jerk reaction to whatever happened.

I didn’t realize it initially, but God answered my prayer through a re-usable process that has helped other caring women like you. I invite you into this intentional journey:

Step One: Come As You Are Today. Ask yourself three awareness questions:

  • What is good about my life right now?
  • What concerns me about my life right now?
  • What is missing in my life right now?

Step Two: Celebrate Your Yesterdays. Realize that:

  • Every woman has a story written with the multi-colored pens of her experiences, relationships, pain, disappointments, choices, failures and successes. 
  • There is power in your story and you maximize that power when you partner with God.
  • You can courageously remember and celebrate past experiences, learning to appreciate God’s goodness in developing your unique life script.

Step Three: Commit It All to God.

  • Embrace Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)
  • Assess your God-given personality traits.
  • Surrender your present, past, temperament, and gifts to Christ.

 Step Four: Consider Your Choices. Understand that:

  • You live in an age of over-choice.
  • Without acknowledging the roles (including your Child of God and Self-Care Manager roles) that you’re attempting to manage currently, you’ll find it hard to be objective about your needs.
  • Discovering your current stressors and supports in each role will help you make intentional choices to relieve your overwhelm.

Step Five: Clarify Your Next Steps. You:

  • Pinpoint one intentional action you want to take.
  • Pray for wisdom.
  • Picture your desired outcome.
  • Plan how you’ll achieve it.
  • Act. Set a date for implementation. Share your decision with a safe person. Step out with God to make the change.

The key reason for living intentionally is to glorify God as the person He created you to be. I love that, because it is doable and reasonable.

What He has for me fits me—and what He designed for you fits you.

What intentional decision have you been avoiding—and how can you be intentional this week? What loving encouragement is God whispering to you right now?

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Intentional Woman (co-authored with Carol Travilla), The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right and a four book devotional series for children. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about becoming an intentional woman, visit www.intentionalwoman.com