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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Focus 3

Today I’m reading Proverbs 4:4-5

Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. 
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them."

Let’s face it – we can always focus better when we’re doing something that we enjoy. When we do it with all our hearts. In fact, we’re pretty good at blocking other things out when we’re seriously engaged with what we are doing or who we are with. Just try talking to a teenager playing a video game. HELLO!!!! ANYBODY IN THERE????? We're good at focusing our attention when we're really into what we're doing.

Athletes call that being in their ‘zone’ – something psychologist Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi has been studying for more than 20 years. (Aren’t you glad you didn’t have to write out that name on your papers in elementary school?) When you’re in your zone, time seems to stand still - everything seems to slow down and your sense of pleasure shoots up. So, one reason to focus is that you will enjoy your life more!!

Here’s what he said: “Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenge is [rightly] balanced with the person’s capacity to act.”

If the tennis game is close, and you have a chance of winning – yet cannot win easily – then you play with your greatest passion. Can you and I transfer that kind of creative tension into the regular elements of life? That's the challenge. The ideal then, is to live so that you are not pushed beyond your limits, nor are you coasting…but you’re living life right at the place of peak performance. That’s focus, and that's brings enjoyment.

We all know what this feels like in at least limited ways. We've had times when we've felt like we hit our stride, that we were in our 'flow'. Knowing what those things are or when those moments happen might be key for us in rediscovering that 'flow' on a more regular basis.

"The boundary between boredom and anxiety." I have to think about that for a while. I seem to slide across that border on a regular basis. Either into boredom or into anxiety...more towards boredom, though. How about you? Boredom or anxiety - what's your bias?

So ask yourself today: Where do I experience your peak performance? Where is it easy for me to focus? What am I doing, or who am I with - that brings this kind of enjoyment? Let me know your insights if you're willing to share them.

I hope that today you find at least one thing where you are fully engaged.


Here are 10 Tips to stimulate your prayer life:

1. Choose a specific place to pray away from distractions so you can concentrate. Ringing phones and crying children will sabotage your "quiet time" before it gets started.

2. Pray at the same time every day, if at all possible. Make it part of your regular routine and it will become habit. Write it into your schedule and then treat it just like a daily appointment.

3. Pray out loud. Many people can pray under their breath or in their minds for long periods and still maintain intensity, but for most of us it's a quick ticket to dreamland. When we pray out loud we have to form intelligent sentences. We have to concentrate more on what we're praying about.

4. Keep a note pad handy so you can jot down different things that come to mind while you're before the Lord. Sometimes you'll get great ideas totally unrelated to what you've been praying about. If you jot them down you can quickly get back to the topic at hand without being too distracted.

5. Make a list to keep track of your prayer needs. This can be done several ways. Prayer needs can be listed by category like "Church," "Family," or "Friends." Or they may be listed by the days of the week. Each day you pray for a different set of needs. You may want to include prayer everyday for a different area of society that has a tremendous influence on the direction of our nation. These seven categories include 1) the church and religion, 2) the family and the home, 3) the media, 4) government, 5) education, 6) business and commerce, and 7) the arts and entertainment.

6. Redeem time for praying out of unused corners of your schedule. Those who have to drive to work can use the time talking with the Lord instead of screaming at traffic (just don't close your eyes!). Busy homemakers can combine prayer with housework, especially if the task doesn't require a lot of concentration. Joggers, swimmers and cyclists can use their workout time for prayer. Sometimes my best times with the Lord have been chats during long, early morning walks.

7. Change the pace during your prayer time. Include praise, thanksgiving and singing as well as petition. Spend some of your time reflecting on the Scripture, meditating on it and digesting its meaning.

8. Keep a prayer journal. Here are two variations of this idea. The first is to keep track of what you prayed for and when you prayed for it. Leave a space to jot down the answer when it comes. This will help you to keep alert to God's answer so you can thank Him promptly. Sometimes prayer answers come in the back door and you don't want them to slip by you. The second variation is to write the entire prayer in your journal. Make it a personal letter to the Lord on a daily basis. Just write "Dear Lord" instead of "Dear Diary."

9. Pray with someone else. Though some prayers can only be said in solitude, there will be times when you'll want to join hearts with another person in prayer. If you commit to meet on a regular basis, the accountability can really help build consistency. Such prayer trysts can become powerful, life-changing events.

10. Pray one-sentence prayers. If the thought of laboring over a topic wears you out, pray short, sincere prayers instead. A sentence or two may be all that's needed to exhaust the topic for you for the time being. If so, just move on to the next item without feeling guilty for your brevity.

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