“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.
Saying No to Distractions
Lately, I’ve been using two filtering questions for my reading and my listening life:
- 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.
- 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:Tweet
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.” @JenpmichelTweet
On the Third Thursday of every month, I send biblical encouragement and newsy insights to newsletter subscribers. You can sign up using the handy (and only slightly annoying) pop-up form or simply click here to subscribe.
And as always, you can also subscribe to Living Our Days blog to get regular content delivered to your inbox twice a week. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page. If you’re encouraged by what you read here, be sure to spread the word!
What I’m Reading Now
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.