"These words that I command you today shall be on your heart."

Practice Rich Habits of Faith to Minimize Distractions in a Noisy World

Sunday Scripture

“I don’t need to listen to this,” I said out loud (to myself) as I clicked out of my podcast app.

The truth is, I could have information pouring into my eyes and ears every minute of the day: news, commentary on the news, audio books, book reviews, interviews, or conversations on the Bible, theology, parenting, and faithful living. It’s become a matter of discipline for all of us to steward our attention, saying no distractions, even the good things that get in the way of the very best uses of our time and attention.

When God began preparing his people for life as an independent nation, faithful to him, he unloaded what must have been hours and hours of instructions, “statutes and judgments” into their ears through his servant Moses. They are recorded for us in Deuteronomy, but in chapter 6, it’s almost as if he paused in the flow for a moment of summary and intense focus on the “why”:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-6

Obedience for the believer is not a matter of legalism, but rather a loving response. Based on this, our love of God becomes the filter for discerning what gets to claim our time and attention.

"These words that I command you today shall be on your heart."

Saying No to Distractions

Lately, I’ve been using two filtering questions for my reading and my listening life:

  1. Is this upsetting me?
    This may seem obvious, but there’s a sensible tipping point between hiding our heads in the sand, refusing to acknowledge unpleasantness and subjecting our brains and hearts to a steady diet of angst. If what you are reading or listening to is interfering with your sleep or your productivity, it’s probably wise to make another choice.
  2. Is this content helpful to my specific calling?
    There’s a time and a place for entertainment, but the servant of God needs to be missional even in her reading, watching, and listening habits. For example, recently, I was listening to a great podcast, nodding and agreeing with every word, when it occurred to me, “I know all this stuff. I should be listening to something that challenges me.”

Lately, I’ve been using 2 filtering questions for my reading and my listening life:
1. Is this upsetting me?
2. Is this content helpful to my specific calling?

A Habit Called Faith

With so little time available in the average day for faith formation, I want to be diligent and focused–no fooling around on rabbit trails or trivialities. The believers I most admire (from historical figures like Blaise Pascal to book mentors like Elisabeth Elliot) stress the importance of establishing habits of holiness, so when I learned that Jen Pollock Michel had written a book titled A Habit Called Faith: 40 Days in the Bible to Find and Follow Jesus, she had my immediate attention.

Michel argues that habit is not equivalent to empty ritual–a message that could be considered controversial in a culture that decries “going through the motions” in favor of something more “spontaneous” or “authentic.” Making a practice of our faith, showing up in the presence of God, opening the pages of scripture by faith can be a powerful routine, and Jen offers a forty-day trellis upon which the habit of faith may grow.

A reading schedule that travels through most of Deuteronomy and the entire gospel of John is supported by brief chapters offering background, clarification, parallel passages, and the author’s own unique insights. It’s a good beginning, and if your own habit today has been to forget God and to live disconnected from his truth, this book may offer you a turning point for continuing the good work God has begun in you.

Many thanks to Baker Books and Net Galley for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

Cheering you along,

“The great paradox of the Bible is that the commands of God make spacious places of our lives. They don’t limit our freedom so much as they make true freedom really possible.” @Jenpmichel
#AHabitCalledFaith

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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What I’m Reading Now

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71 thoughts on “Practice Rich Habits of Faith to Minimize Distractions in a Noisy World”

  1. Your filtering questions are spot on, Michele. We should all be asking ourselves those on a daily basis. Yes, it’s time to focus on what God is calling us to do/be instead of mucking around with the earthly things that drag us down.
    Blessings!

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  2. A Habit Called Faith sounds intriguing. I’m writing it down as a possibility for summer study, once my church Bible study has completed this semester. I so appreciate your book reviews, Michele, introducing me to writings I might not otherwise discover.

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  3. In today’s crazy world, there are so many rabbit holes. Nice reminder to back up, and get out. I’ve sometimes done the same when hearing or watching to remind myself, I don’t need that information in my head.

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  4. I love those two questions! I try to glance through the headlines on a neutral source, but not spend my energy reading about things that upset me that our out of my control. There is so much that we CAN do, that being paralyzed by all the things that our out of our control really keeps us from doing them.

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  5. Excellent questions to ask! I don’t consciously filter like that, but yes, I sure have noticed the importance of being choosy about what I listen to. With so many distractions and sounds of negativity all around us, we do need to choose carefully.

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  6. I went through my podcast list today and deleted lots of episodes that had piled up. It’s so hard to do though when they sound interesting! But there’s only so many hours in a day and I do not want to fill them all with podcast listening. 🙂 I appreciate your questions to discern my priorities too.

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  7. Great questions to ask about the things we input into our minds and lives. I quit watching the news 28 years ago because it just upset me (not to mention it kept repeating things, teased the viewers to get them to watch commercials, and focused on only the bad).

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  8. Wow! You have a way of cutting through all the noise, Michele. 2 simple criteria – is it upsetting and is it worthwhile? Thank you for sharing. While I do sometimes read articles by authors I disagree with, a perpetual state of outrage is unsustainable and unhealthy.

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  9. Thank you for the reminder of rabbit trails and what I should spend my time pursuing. I needed to hear this. Love the books lists as well. Thank you for linking up at A Stylish Fit

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  10. I definitely agree with the upsetting/ bother me comment. I only (in the past few years) began filtering out that “stuff” that really upset me on a deeper level realizing that I did not want to live my life restless and upset.

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  11. Michele, just yesterday, one of the points in my pastor’s sermon was “pay attention to what you are paying attention to.” And now here you are, going deeper along the same lines. I love your two questions and will begin to apply them to the things that grab/demand my attention.

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  12. I’m listening to the Great Adventure Bible in a Year Podcast and we are starting Deuteronomy this week. Jeff Cavins talked yesterday about pretty much what you said. Guess Someone is trying to tell me to pay attention.

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  13. Great message. We need to be aware of how what we allow into our hearts and minds effects how we think, feel, and act. There is nothing wrong with entertainment but when we feel the negativity it is no longer entertaining it is poison and it we need to be the filter that stops it. We have the power to walk away.and fill our lives with that which makes us healthier and stronger.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This sentence stopped me in my tracks. “I know all this stuff. I should be listening to something that challenges me.” Too often I buffer with things I already know, have already seen/heard when God has called me to more. Thank you for this post. I am convicted.

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    1. Isn’t it just so fun to hear our biases and our known realities echoed back into our ears? I’m all for a good chat over coffee and even for a reinforcing read or listen, but sometimes we just need to be pushed into being convicted of our blind spots and moved to a heart of repentance.

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  15. I love the two questions you use to help filter what you listen to, view, and read. This sounds like an interesting book to really dig into. I’m fairly intentional about what comes into my head, but it’s always good to evaluate how I’m doing in this area.

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  16. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and by letting me know that you did by leaving such a sweet comment!!
    Stay safe, healthy and happy!!
    Hug
    Deb

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  17. Dear Michele, thank you very much for this admonition! Since retiring, downsizing, and moving I’ve gotten very lazy and distracted by media that is less than edifying. That said, my family knows my quiet time is precious. Whether they can tell or not (& they probably can), I can tell when I miss it. And for years I’ve let the Holy Spirit guide me for what He wants me to focus on in Scripture. I learned a long time ago that no matter where He directs, God’s Word holds just the instruction and/or encouragement that I need. Thanks for the gentle reminder in being steadfast in the Word.

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    1. I’m so glad to hear how you are weathering MULTIPLE transitions, Alice. We are heading into the thick of empty nest pretty soon, and I’m really trusting that God will use good habits I’ve established to maintain my equilibrium as life turns upside down!

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  18. Straight forward and to the point questions! I know I always need help in where I am to spend my time and efforts! And I can listen, read of things I already know too, instead of challenging myself! You have me thinking, Michelle!

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    1. Oh, those comfy reads and those conversational podcasts that feel like coffee with the girls…
      They’re great in measure, but I think God wants us to be continually challenging ourselves, too.

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  19. I love this: “our love of God becomes the filter for discerning what gets to claim our time and attention.”

    I have been feeling this so much lately. I am never quite sure what to do with that feeling, but I am learning that recognizing it and bringing it to God is a good place to start! And that book seems great!

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    1. Isn’t it just so freeing to come from a posture of love in our spiritual formation? It’s a fairly new mindset for me, and I have some baggage to fling out the window as I drive down this new road.

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  20. Those are good filters. Someone–maybe Spurgeon?–once said that many of our choices are not between good and bad, but between better and best. There are so many good things to watch or listen to or read, it’s hard to decide which to spend time with. And I long ago stopped watching the news, as it only made me agitated. I try to stay informed in other ways. I agree wholeheartedly that habits can be good friends and obedience out of love is not legalism.

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    1. I’m pondering a quote from another book right now that applies to this topic: “When you’re weak, you fall into your habits.” That’s both comforting and chilling, depending on what kind of habits we have.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Like so many others here, I too have been considering number 1 this past year. I think it would be good for me to also consider number two on a DAILY basis. I pretty much use number two to direct what books I read. I don’t necessarily use number 2 to direct the daily rabbit trails I go down with social media and internet searches. Good questions!!!!! Always feel refreshed and inspired when I visit you!

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    1. So good to hear from you, Amy! As hard as it is to curb our trips down the rabbit trails, it’s so freeing to say, “I don’t have to listen to/read this. It’s not in my wheelhouse.”

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  22. When I saw the title of your post, I immediately thought of Jen’s book and wondered if there would be a mention of it. Low and behold, there was! I am loving this devotional myself and it was a helpful repetition of sorts to read again both some of her thoughts and your sharing similarly on this topic.

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  23. I can relate to asking question #2, Michele. I appreciate the encouragement of habits of holiness and for the book recommendation, A Habit Called Faith.

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  24. I love the filters that you have mentioned. There is just so much information, isn’t there. And sometimes we feel obliged to take in what’s being dished out. You’re right. We can choose. We don’t always have to take in negativity or things that don’t sit well. Thank you for joining us for #MischiefandMemories

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  25. We are overloaded with information in these technoloigcal times. Great questions that can be applied to people as well: are they making a positive difference to my life or bringing me down? Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories

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  26. Sorry this is so late! Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Michele, your filtering questions are perfectly on point. The first is an obvious one but I think we all sometimes miss it as we get pulled into the unpleasantness in the world around us. I have been filtering all the negative and unpleasant things from my daily routine with a much grander strictness than ever before. And now I can focus on the second one…what can I be doing to increase my knowledge and better myself after I have filtered out all the negative distractions? I think this really is applicable to everyone. What a wonderful reminder! Thanks for sharing and linking with me.

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

    Like

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