Archive for the ‘focus’ Category

Just A Step At A Time

April 12, 2017

Psychologists seem to be mostly trained under the influence of behaviorism. Originally it was called the science of the soul.

I think about that when I contemplate dreams. They say it’s just random neurons firing over night.

Perhaps they are a way of working things out. It depends on what you’re thinking about all day and as you go to sleep.

That is why political leaders, in the Bible for instance, had dreams that impacted the country. That is where their attention is all day and their concerns all night.

I have a long To Do list. Many things that need to get done before leaving for Germany in a little over a week. And Easter is in the middle.

Last night I had a typical dream from these periods of my life. I’m running toward a goal, but my feed seem stuck to the ground. Then I just put my head down and concentrated on one step at a time. Next thing I knew I had passed the finish line long ago.

Such is discipline. Focus on one thing at a time and you will accomplish much.

Chasing Illusions

March 30, 2017

Persistence Robin

It is nest building time in Ohio. Robin has been flying into our front window for five days. Thud. Thud. Thud.

It goes away. Then returns. The reflection from the magnolia is so bright, it is convinced that there is a better place to build a nest than in the real tree behind it.

In fact, it sits in the real tree in between bouts with the window.

At least it’s not like other birds who hit the window and knock themselves unconscious.

I was wondering. How often do we chase illusions? Reflections? Not the real thing?

We want something to be true. We are positive that what we see is much better than what we have. It is so delicious. So welcoming. It attracts us.

We chase it again and again. And we hit the wall. And we retreat. And then hit it again.

One day we hit it so hard that we are finally awakened.

That wasn’t reality we were chasing. It was an illusion. A mere reflection of the real thing.

We could have the real thing–peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, self-control–it is right at hand.

The Word is near us. Yet, we listen to the enticing whispers or illusion.

Where Do You Focus

February 7, 2017

“When you complain, nobody wants to help you.” –Stephen Hawking, physicist

So who would have thought that I quote one of the world’s most famous atheists? If you don’t know of Hawking, he is a brilliant physicist who is confined to a wheel chair. Can barely move or even talk.

But isn’t there a lot of truth to what he said?

Quick know anyone who is always complaining about themselves?

When you spend your time focusing on things that are wrong. When you spend your precious resource of time with someone projecting negativity to everyone, what is your impact on people?

Certainly you won’t be a source of growth. You are a source of destruction.

In America, but not just here but also all over Europe, and not just there but in much of the world, we are in an era of negativity.

We don’t like people different from us.

We don’t like policies of others.

Everything is a zero-sum game–there are either winners or losers.

There is a marvelous thing that God built into our brains. We can choose our focus. We can choose our response.

We can choose to focus on others. It’s not so much covering up bad things, bad health, a relationship gone sour. But by choosing to focus on the other person and building them up, we turn the entire situation on its head. Or better we turn it from being on its head to back upright.

We can, one of us at a time, change the outlook of our web of relationships. We can spread positive thinking.

Get In The Flow

January 27, 2017

They call it The Flow.

Stories have been written about great (American) football quarterbacks. They must be great leaders as well as gifted athletes. A game is on the line in the final minutes. Execute properly and the team wins. Lose focus, and loss follows. 

They are focused only on the moment. Just the next play. The mechanics have been drilled into them through ceaseless practice. The team must move the ball 10 yards on this play. That is their focus.

After the game, they may not even remember all the plays. Just the success.

Computer programmers get that. You focus so intently on coding that problem that all sense of time is lost.

Writers get that, too. You’ve done the research. The problem is laid out. It’s just concentrate and execute.

Little kids. Billy out playing baseball with the friends (if they still are allowed outside to play anymore give how overprotective Americans have become). Doesn’t even hear Mom calling for dinner.

Spiritual masters. Look how long Moses stayed atop Mt. Sinai. Jesus in the wilderness.

But not just masters at that level.

When is the last time you lost yourself in something? Remember the feeling. Was it more than a month ago? A year? A decade?

Maybe it is time to find something to lose yourself in. 

Prayer. Service. Worship. Play. Music. Writing. Work.

Try it.

Working On Yourself This Year

December 29, 2016

The real motorcycle you’re working on is a cycle called “yourself.”  — Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

There were weight-loss ads on TV yesterday. Getting ready for New Year’s Resolution season.

I bet you are contemplating a list of resolutions for next year. 

New Year’s Resolutions are great. They give you something to talk about at New Year’s Eve parties. Maybe they last until as late as January 10.

My Yoga class will double in size the second week of January. It will return to normal by the fourth week.

The study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself. Working on a motorcycle, working well, caring, is to become part of the process, to achieve an inner peace of mind. The motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. — Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Making a list, even in classic goal-setting language, is merely a list. “I will lose 10 lbs.” “I will read more books.” Whatever. Doesn’t work.

As Pirsig discussed using motorcycle maintenance as a metaphor, you really need to change you.

Jesus knew. If you want to change, you must change your heart.

It begins with a decision.

What sort of person do I wish to be?

Write that image. Embed it in your mind–conscious and subconscious.

Each time you are faced with a decision, remember what kind of person you are.

Should I go to the gym? I am the type of person who exercises for optimum health and fitness.

Should I work on this service or mission project? I am the type of person who helps others.

Do I stop and talk with God every morning and/or evening? I am the type of person who lives with God.

Within 60 days, you will become that person you wish to be. Not completely, of course. You won’t lose 50 lbs. But the change will be noticeable to both yourself and to others. 

Switching Your Focus Not Multitasking

May 5, 2016

Multitasking remains the badge of honor for many in this era of high technology gadgets.

More than half of the people in the front row during keynote presentations at the software conference had smart phones out. How do I know they were using them? Well, the screens were lighted.

There are things called “notifications” on your devices. Maybe little red bubbles with a number inside. The number of new messages or alerts for that app. And you have how many apps?

It’s so bad that as I write this I glanced at the top of my screen and saw a notification for Adobe Creative Cloud. There must be an update. I clicked. Then came the thought–what the heck are you doing?

When I’m at home in a routine, I find it easier to focus on one thing and then the next. When I find myself drifting into thoughts of other tasks or writing, I can blink, look around, do something to return to my task at hand.

Because the reality is that we can really only focus on one thing at a time. Otherwise we are really just existing in a fog of partial thoughts and plan. Accomplishing nothing but stressing ourselves and those around us.

Traveling makes routine difficult. How do set aside private time for spiritual reading and prayer? How to not eat too much, drink too much, or become too tired such that we lose mental edge and focus.

I have at least eight major tasks to work on: four for assigning referees to various soccer competitions, normal writing, write a white paper for a client, write a post for a client, organize details for a mission trip. And there are more lurking just behind these. If I think of the whole group, I just surrender.

But if I focus on one thing at a time–even if for only 25 minutes per task–then I get a lot done.

People ask how I can get so much done. That’s my technique and my struggle. Also I waste very little time on things like TV. (We did watch two episodes we had recorded of Elementary last night. Even I need a break 😉  )

Decide ahead of time what you need to do to become the person you want to be. Then focus on one thing at a time. That eliminates at least one source of stress.

Keep Your Eyes On The Road

February 24, 2016

…And your hands upon the wheel…

OK, that’s an old song. But I was thinking about that today when I heard about a church where attendance is down 80%, the pastors are quitting, no one agrees on much anything.

That is what happens when people, especially leaders, take their eyes off the road. The organization goes off the road–a famous NASCAR driver once said you never look at the wall, because you’ll tend to go where you look–when no one is looking toward the goal. They go off the road, hit the wall, crash, and parts fly everywhere.

That is one reason Paul, the apostle, kept warning leaders and teachers about their responsibility.

We need to be all about service. And about sharing (not telling or screaming) our faith. Our friends may come from all manner of backgrounds. There’s nothing wrong with sharing about Jesus returning alive after having been killed. People have come to Jesus from backgrounds all over the map. Sorry, they don’t have to be Baptist, Methodist, or even Catholic first. Or last. It’s only about Jesus.

And we forget that. We take our eyes off our service, humility, sharing. We let other things cloud our sight and take us off the road.

That is why disciplines are so important. We go back to the Word. We go back to friends who worship and celebrate. We ignore the extraneous stuff. We focus on the important stuff.

I had lunch with a friend this week is is close to the end of his long path to a Doctor of Sacred Theology on Mary (the mother of Jesus). In my upbringing, there wouldn’t have been enough material to write a high school essay. He’s doing a dissertation on just one argument about Mary. Holy cow! It’s stretching my mind.

He told me about the three dominant traditions about Mary among the early church leaders up through 200 AD. And about St. Jerome’s definitive essay about the time of St. Augustine (my favorite of the early fathers). It’s fascinating.

But that’s interesting to discuss, and some people may be staking their whole faith in God on their interpretation of Mary.

But we all agree on the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus–the foundation of our faith. When we keep our eyes on the road and our hands upon the wheel, we all move forward toward the goal. It’s so good.