Archive for the ‘focus’ Category

I Choose Where My Thoughts Dwell

March 19, 2021

Many people are reflecting upon a year ago. Of course, I am one.

A year ago, we signed the papers and I transferred a bunch of money and we became property owners in a different state. While in Illinois signing papers, my hair stylist called from Ohio. The governor was shutting down businesses like hers and she had a spot open. My usual appointment was three days after the shutdown. I told her I was a six-hour drive away and couldn’t make it. I didn’t get a hair cut for fourteen more weeks. Even a former hippie needed a trim by that time.

We had two major changes–facing life in the pandemic and adjusting to the new reality of living in a community where we knew no one with only a superficial knowledge of the area.

I made it a priority to establish a daily discipline much like I had the past 20 years. Just a few adjustments. No gym. No Yoga classes. No soccer. The only thing that slipped for a while was strength training. Eventually I took care of that and the body is getting back into shape.

Had we not moved, two things are likely. We would have caught the virus (I estimate that 90% of the people we knew from where we’re from have had Covid), and we would not have seen our family.

When other thoughts pop into my head–nostalgia, missing something, adjusting to new surroundings, what if this or that–I choose to focus on what matters. I choose not to dwell on any “what might have been” random thoughts.

This advice from the Apostle Paul to the gathering called Philippians applies, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

When You Work, Work

March 16, 2021

I recently read that phrase in a book meant to help us along the way. What a wonderful concept that we so often miss.

When we work, work.

When we study, study.

When we pray, pray.

When Luke Skywalker said he’d try to do something, Yoda replied, “Do or do not; there is no try.”

How often I go to my desk to study something or write something and I “wake up” to discover my mind is far afield!

How often do we go to work and spend our time talking with (or complaining about) people? If we settled upon a task and actually did it, how successful could we be?

How often do we sit in meditation or prayer and after a period of time awaken to discover we’ve been thinking about dinner?

We are not going to be perfect at this. But we could try a bit of magic called focus. Paying attention to what we are about. What a revolutionary idea.

Speaking Your Mind

March 4, 2021

Saying whatever comes to mind without an interposing filter–describes every two-year-old everywhere.

Also most sixteen-year-olds who have learned much, but whose brains are not yet fully developed.

I knew a person who would often find trouble with the bosses by always “speaking the truth.” Unfortunately, that version of the truth was always negative, tearing down the reputation of companies and people.

Many people today wan to say whatever they want (true or not) whenever they wish without regard for consequences. If perpetuating lies forwards my perceived best interests, then fine.

These feelings are not modern.

The Apostle James wrote in the first Century about the dangers of speaking without thinking. The tongue, he said, is a tiny organ that can cause great trouble.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa said, “Divinity is purity, it is liberation from the passions and the removal of every evil: if all these things are in you, God is truly in you.”

He also said [pronouns changed to include us all], “You must always examine your own thoughts, your own words, and your own actions in the innermost depths to see whether they are oriented to Christ or are drifting away from him.”

I like those words “oriented” and “drifting away.” I could probably write an entire book just on the meaning of those.

Energy

February 2, 2021

We waste so much energy. Not the petroleum or electricity part. Although that is true. I mean our spiritual and mental energy. Our personal energy.

We succumb to illusion and delusion losing awareness of the ultimate truth. Our mental activities are scattered, dissipated. We have lost focus on the truth of God’s eternal spirit.

We organize our spiritual life into churches, denominations, organizations. And then we squabble among ourselves within and among those things.

We waste so much energy. Emotional, physical, psychic, spiritual.

Let us become clearly aware of the Spirit and our need for our own spiritual formation. Instead of scattered arguments, let us recall the lessons of pride and forge humility on the anvil of the spirit.

A writer once described his main character as having the ability to concentrate entirely on the task at had even in the midst of crises. He called it the immense power of focus.

A magnifying glass can focus the sun’s energy enough to start a fire. Imagine what we each could do if we were to focus the true source of energy onto the things God has asked of us–showing mercy, pursuing justice, loving our neighbor.

What Do We Love?

November 30, 2020

“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so thatd we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

1 Timothy 6

Yesterday for Americans, we left the season of gratitude. We entered Advent, the looking forward to Christmas—for many the season of “I want…”

I sympathize with businesses. I’ve spent a fair share of my business life trying to figure out how to increase sales and profits. But the way 140 years of experience have taught them the tools of manipulation of emotion blurs the lines of ethics.

And the target is not just kids. We target kids to bring them into the desire emotion with toy cars and their parents with a big luxury car with a bow in the driveway.

Look at Paul’s key words above—desires, love (of the wrong things), plunged (into ruin), wandered (from faith), pierced (with pains).

It’s about the heart. Is our heart set on the things of God? Is our heart set on objects of desire?

As we enter the Advent journey, let us maintain focus on what matters.

Where Is Your Heart Pointed?

November 9, 2020

We watched a dramatization of an Agatha Christie Miss Marple story last night. The sub-plot behind the main plot of uncovering the murder mystery concerned the decision of a beautiful young woman who must choose a husband from between a man who does foolish things out of a deep love for her or a man who is a political climber, member of Parliament who has not the capacity for love.

She, of course, chooses love.

The Desert Father, Abba Poeman (the Shepherd), once said, “Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”

We are in the aftermath of a hard-fought, yet strange, election season in the USA. Some who won are not positive they won all they hoped to win. Many who lost are mired in bitterness and despair.

If you give your heart to politics, you are doomed like Sisyphus to cycles of elation and despair.

Giving your heart to God is “like a rock”, stable, secure, dependable.

Life will provide you with plenty of cycles of up and down. God is always there to stabilize. Daily disciplines focus your heart firmly on that which never changes.

Becoming Effective Rather Than Merely Efficient

February 19, 2019

Peter Drucker, the famed management consultant, once noted that effectiveness should be cultivated rather than efficiency.

I am a productivity geek. I follow (mostly) David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology using an app called Nozbe.

But what good is it to check off many items on your todo list if they are not the most important things?

Try Make Time: How To Focus On What Matters Every Day by Knapp and Zeratsky. The authors worked at Google Ventures. One previously worked on gmail development and the other on YouTube development.

They introduce the concept of the daily Highlight. Either the night before or first thing in the morning determine your highlight of the day–the most important task/project of the day. The thing that, upon reflection at the end of the day, will have brought the most joy or satisfaction.

Achieving Laser focus on the highlight becomes the next most important thing. Perhaps you block a period of time on your calendar for working on the highlight. That is one of many tips on achieving Laser.

How we pay attention to our Energy is the third part of the process. Followed by Reflection which completes the feedback loop.

Jake and JZ (as they are called throughout the book) pack tons of tips in the various sections. Some of these you will find useful, others sound strange.

You will find this book a useful resource as you move from merely efficient to becoming effective.

It Helps To Keep Your Eye On The Target

March 27, 2018

Every morning when I’m not traveling, I brew a pot of coffee in a French press. When it’s done, I pour it into an insulated carafe so that it will still be hot when my wife comes down for her cup.

I’ve discovered that first if I pay attention to what I’m doing (a big if) and if I concentrate on the small opening in the carafe, then I can pour four cups without spilling a drop even on the outer rim.

What an intriguing thought, that. Keeping our awareness turned on and our eye on the target yields desired results.

The pattern holds for work. Maybe you do “thought work” such as writing or actually thinking. Cal Newport called it Deep Thinking, where our awareness and focus are on the work for a period of time.

I’ve seen it in craftsmen from working on cars to building molds for thermoforming plastics to electronics. Their awareness is on the task and their focus is on the goal–what it is that they are trying to accomplish.

Those who are followers (disciples) of Jesus look to him for guidance on how to live. Since we are in the Christian season of Holy Week, it may be instructive to read the gospel accounts of his last week on earth as a human.

He had always been aware of his task and certainly his awareness was sharpened even higher this week. He seemed even deeper in concentrated conversation with God than ever. He knew the target. His eye was on it, unwavering.

Many of you will recreate that week this week. Maybe communion on Thursday evening. A somber watch on Friday afternoon. A quiet Saturday. Celebration on Sunday morning.

Awareness and target? Focused on the resurrection.

Thanks Giving

November 21, 2017

How often do you stop and give thanks?

I have a ToDo app that allows for tasks to pop up regularly. I have a task that pops up in my priority list every week. It says, list six things that I’m grateful for and practice gratitude.

There are times when that task comes to my attention, and I find it difficult to take just a few minutes and focus on my blessings.

I’m too busy. Or, I’m not feeling blessed. Or, my mind wanders. I am cursed with thinking too much–I think.

I think about being socially awkward and the latest social gaffes I’ve made.

In America, we are reaching the day on the calendar that comes to our attention once per year. It is a harvest celebration. Most, if not all, societies have some kind of harvest celebration. Farmers live on the edge. Rain comes too early. Or too late. Or too much. Or not enough. Plant diseases sweep through the area. Just having a harvest is cause for rejoicing, celebration, and yes, giving thanks to the God who provided after all.

Or

In America we are reaching the day that marks another day of family tension as we (or some of us) gather to have a meal, complain about things, and leave. It is also the day that marks the beginning of the “holiday season” with Christmas and New Years celebrations coming. And the beginning of shopping for Christmas presents for ourselves and others.

Song lyrics come to me at the weirdest times. I’m just now thinking, “It’s time to stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

As we plan and worry and prepare for travel for Thanksgiving, take time to stop. Listen. Give thanks.

Let Your Speech Always Be Gracious

September 12, 2017

“Let your speech always be gracious.”

Paul says that in his letter to the Colossians where he instructs them on how to live.

I notice that he added no qualifiers. 

There is a reason–that we might be persuasive.

Does that mean that we make our points better with gracious speech rather than shouting?

Earlier in the letter, just to let us know this is important, he says, “But now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.”

I read these teachings and I feel challenged. I’m instinctively analytical. I analyze everything. And everyone. And often it is best that I keep all that thinking to myself. But sometimes…sometimes I say what’s on my mind anyway. Then I’m embarrassed for days.

My speech, verbal and written, must be for building up, not for tearing down.

And that’s a challenge.

How do we do that?

Paul answers. “Set your mind on things that are above.”

We become what we think about. If we are always focused on our passions, our anger, ourselves, then our speech will betray our thoughts and inner turmoil.

If we focus on Jesus and “things that are above”, then our communication will follow. Full of grace, understanding, encouraging.

What was your last Facebook post? (That seems to be the place that brings out the worst in us.) Mine was about eating Italian food. I figure that’s safe. (Well, and this gets automatically posted to Facebook. I hope my meditations are gracious more often than not.)