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Yesterday, I talked about the need to formulate a plan for spiritual growth. It is ironic that I was discussing this when my Spiritual Enrichment Plan has been highly disrupted over the last month or so. The culprit? The Dallas Mavericks. I have followed the Mavs since I was a kid and have been overwhelmingly swept away by their run to the NBA Finals this year. I have stayed up until 1 a.m. some nights after wins, catching up on Tweets from the game and rewatching decisive moments. Some mornings, I have been so distracted that I scour the internet, wanting to read reaction to the games I have been watching. I am obsessive compulsive when it comes to these types of events and it has taken its toll on my time, energy, and focus. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed every minute of it and thank God for the sheer enjoyment and fun that these playoffs have provided but I will be relieved when it is all over.
When it is all over, hopefully with a Mavs win, I plan to take a week long sports fast to cleanse myself of my obsessive tendencies. I plan to finish a few books that I have been reading. I plan to return to a more normal routine of time with God and focus on what he is doing in my life. The key point is I am returning to my plan and refocusing myself on what is most important to me, becoming more Christlike. You see, if we are going to treat our spiritual life much like we treat our diet, exercise, or education, we have to avoid the tendency to let life’s distractions derail our plan. We have to simply shake off the rust and return to what we started or we have to rethink the way we are doing things and start anew. Too many times, we want to abandon our plan when we have a few hiccups and failures. Don’t abandon your plan just because you become distracted. You can start over and make it work.
I try to pray every day. I also try to have some moments of silence where I am just thinking about God. But, inevitably these exercises will be made more difficult because of the flood of random thoughts that cross my mind and often take control of my mind to where I end up thinking about something that has no relation to anything. I suspect that this problem is one that most Christian’s experience in some form or the other. So, how can we overcome these distracting thoughts so that our prayers and our meditation on God can be more meaningful? Let me offer three suggestions. Choose whichever one works best for you.
Walking Dog – In most cases we are not able to shut off our random thought process but we can learn to dismiss them quickly. We can begin to treat these thoughts like a dog on the street. The thought surfaces but instead of dwelling on the thought, we simply let it pass on by “down the street” and out of our thinking.
Chalkboard – Here is another instance where we don’t force ourselves to stop the thoughts, we simply acknowledge it and remove it from our thinking. In this method, we envision the thought as if it is written on a chalkboard but as soon as we see the thought on the board we take an eraser and erase the thought. This allows us to return to our prayer or refocus on God.
Breathe In, Breathe Out – This one is simple. First, we focus on our breathing. Then, we take our next breath and as we are breathing we let our minds be filled with thoughts of God. As we exhale, we let go of any thought that will be a distraction to our time with God. Simply put, breathe God in, breathe distractions out.
Pick one of these methods or try all three today as you say your prayers or spend time with God. See if it helps you overcome some of your more persistent distracting thoughts.