Learning to be Intentional

I’ve spent the last several months reevaluating my intentionalness (is that even a word?) around several areas in my life: reading, listening, praying, meditating, and learning.

I’m what you could call a distracted skimmer. As I would do any activity, I would look / listen for key parts and then move on, always looking for the shiny nuggets that mattered for me to get something done. It makes for great productivity, but lousy growth. I could read book, but not fully engage in it. I could participate in a conversation, but not fully be there. I could read scripture, but not hear God speaking. You can see what this would do to someone’s prayer life, bible reading, and relationships.

While reading two books, things started crystallizing for me that there was a problem. Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, and Albert Mohler’s Conviction to Lead┬ástarted to resonate deeply with me. I won’t get into a review of each book, but the main things I walked away with from both books were the importance of meditation, how time continues to tick away, and how I should be intentionally engaging my mind with challenging things. Recognizing that God would have better things for me in my walk with Him, I’ve set out to slowly change things.

  1. I’ve started reading books on a non-tablet device, a Kindle Paperwhite. That part about being easily distracted is huge for me. While iPads and tablets are great doing it all together on one device; at least for me, they make for lousy ways to get alone with God and my thoughts.
  2. I’m forcing myself to read a lot slower. I’ve found I have to intentionally tell myself, sometimes multiple times on a single page, “slow down, reread that, don’t skip sentences”. This has been very difficult, but so worthwhile. I’m retaining more of what I read and feel like I’m much more engaged in the story.
  3. I’ve started honing in on a particular area of scripture I’m reading and really concentrating on it – sometimes 15 – 30 minutes at a time, asking Gospel-centered questions about the text. In short, I’m learning to meditate and it is glorious!
  4. Last week I deleted my Facebook and Instragram accounts. I started with just removing them the apps from my iPhone, and decided to fully commit last week. Again, distraction – not just visiting Facebook, but feeling the desire to share everything about what I’m doing, reading, not being where I’m at. I finally realized that I could not come up any good reason to stay on Facebook. In the end, it was a time-sink that offered nothing back. All the people I need to stay in contact with are either are at church, work, or a phone call away. I still have my Twitter account, but no longer have the app on any of my mobile devices. I find Twitter to be very beneficial, although it, too, can get out of control if not managed.
  5. I’ve started writing out my prayers in a journal that the kids got me for Father’s Day several years ago. I can’t describe how intensely personal this is. It has become some of the richest times I’ve spent with God.
  6. We took the TV out of our bedroom. Instead of clicking on CNN or ESPN, I’m pulling out my Kindle, talking with Kathi, or getting to sleep on time.

These basic changes are creating calm in my soul. They are slowing me down. They are helping me to also become a better listener, both with people and with God. I’m a work-in-progress, and I’m thankful God knows that.