It seems that lately I have been running myself ragged in an effort to get everything done. At home and at work, there just seems to be so many irons in the fire: two kids getting married this summer, work and ministry obligations, home repairs, time with family and friends, and on and on. The To-Do List seems to be infiltrating my thoughts and occupying much of my time. Because there are so many things clamoring for my attention, it has been difficult to focus on just one idea at a time. Even my quiet time with God in the morning is no longer sacred. The many tasks seem to edge their way into this time which I have set aside for centering my heart and mind for the day ahead.
I have discovered that when I attend to the barrage of thoughts, it only requires a few minutes of attention. Then I can refocus my mind on building my relationship with God. What helps to refocus when the To-Do List starts ticker-taping through my consciousness is to temporarily stop. I attend to the baggage filling my mind by writing down the items, set them aside, and then return to my quiet time. By doing this I know I won’t forget to do these tasks later, and I will no longer be distracted by them. Once done, my mind that was full is now better equipped to attend to the one task of growing in my devotion with God.
Unfortunately, I have discovered that some of the items that get written on my list are intangible. Occasionally those things creeping into my mind are feelings of worthiness, anxiety about the future, the longing for a new life partner, and occasional loneliness. It’s been helpful to download these from my brain just like the important tasks. When I do, these too can be written on paper and set aside just like the To-Do List items. It’s important for me to be able to spend deliberate time and energy discovering how to address them. These often take more time and mental energy then the usual To-Do list items.
Each day I have been intentionally seeking tangible ways to be in the moment by being mindful. For me, to be mindful means inviting God in and letting go of all that is not critical to the present moment. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” To be mindful is to seek ways to be still, and especially to seek God amid the stillness. Recently I read the Psalm 46:10 from Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE. It has a more contemporary spin on the passage: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at Me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” A mind that is full has difficulty pausing to spend time with God, “above everything” else.
Even Elijah, a man who was greatly favored by God, could only connect with God when all was quiet. ‘The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.’ (1 Kings 19: 11-12) How profound that God was in the whisper? Which brings to light, how often do I really listen for God’s whisper?
When I turn to God first, by turning away from the many distractions, it is then I am more mindful with the task at hand. How ironic that I feel less divided because I am no longer pursuing so many things all at once. I have come to realize that I do not need to be all things to all people. Rather, I just need to be the person God created me to be. It means I must be tuned in enough for God’s guidance. At times that means saying “no” to some things. That creates space and time to be able to say “yes” to the opportunities that God puts in my path.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
As you explore the many things that fill your mind, take some time to write them down. If the same things get written down day after day, try to discover why that is occurring. Are there things that you feel obliged to attend to? Might they be the intangible things that can only be addressed at a deeper level inside yourself? What things bring you great joy? Whatever the reasons they keep entering in and filling your mind, give them some attention, but try to do so one at a time. Seek ways to be mindful toward those things filling your thoughts. Seek to be fully present by inviting God into your mind so that you might be able to hear God’s gentle whisper talking to your heart.
Lord of Life, there are so many things going on in my mind and life that I don’t feel like I am doing any of them very well. Help me to prioritize my thoughts so that I am better able to order my day, manage my schedule, and keep my mind focused on You. As I explore what brings me joy, help me, Lord, to say yes AND no appropriately as I go forward from here. Guide me to be mindful each day so that I don’t succumb to having such a full mind that I am missing out on the opportunities that You provide. Guide my mind and dwell in my heart. Amen.
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