Stone Soup for Five: beat distraction + biblical meditation method two

beat distraction + biblical meditation method two

One of the responses to the quiet time survey that so many of us had in common was how much we struggle with distraction when we sit down to spend time in the Word.  In this series on biblical meditation I want to give you practical ways to practice it, and practical ways to deal with the very real obstacles that we all have today.

What you said:
Question:  What is the biggest challenge you have with biblical meditation?
My biggest struggle is quieting my mind or keeping it from wandering. 
I lose my train of thought constantly. I get distracted and my mind wanders.
If it involves pondering, as in quietly thinking on a passage, my challenge would be a wandering mind and the tendency to fall asleep.
I don't know how to quiet my mind and stay focused.
 Being distracted by social media.
 I get sidetracked thinking of the million other things I need to do.
 My biggest challenge is distractions in my mind of things I need to get done for the day or on my own personal struggles as I try to keep it focused on the Word.

There were hundreds more responses that lined up with these.  It's such a common problem, but there is hope!  Learning how to focus and cut out distraction is learnable.  How do I know?  Because I was the worst!  And there will always be days that I have to fight for focus.  I'm an activator.  I like to jump in with both feet and get going already. Everything within me rebels at going slow, at thinking deeply, at perseverance. Our culture just makes it worse:

I want the bullet point blog post. 
I want the jump link to just get to the recipe already!
I am a 100% all in Amazon Prime 2 day (or same day!) shipping girl.  
I get online to do one specific thing, then get frustratingly sucked in by "10 things your cat is trying to tell you and you won’t believe #4!” and forget what I even got online for.
I always want to know what all my friends are doing and posting right at this very second--because that is way more fun than what I'm doing--and had to take drastic measures to cut social media out of my life.  (It's still pretty nice on the other side, almost 2 years later!)
I have immediate access to more information than any generation in the history of forever and while that is a whole lot of fun, it has almost totally destroyed my focus and made deep thinking hard work, right up there with advanced math. 
Anyone else?

Because of that, biblical meditation was (and still can be) a struggle. Thinking, mulling, connecting, and comparing. That is the hard work of meditation, and it takes discipline and perseverance to train yourself.  But, it’s worth it.  We can't get good at meditating, at pulling up a chair and sitting by the fire, if we are up and out of the chair before we get started.  So let's look at distraction and how to deal with it first.

Distraction defines distraction: that which divides the attention, or prevents concentration.
What is the opposite of distraction? says it is: calm, peace, order, work.

To alleviate distraction, we don't just stop being distracted, but we start working toward calm, peace, and order.  It's the classic "put off, put on" in Scripture.

How do we put on calm, peace, order, and work?  It'll obviously be different for each of us, but here are some things I've learned that have helped me.  Try some out and modify to make them work for you.  And as with anything that we have to learn, it'll take some time, so be patient with yourself and keep trying, because quitting or giving up will just keep you where you are.  It's worth the effort.

This simple task of praying and asking for help is so easy for me to forget to do.  It seems much more natural to read a book or a blog post (the irony of that is not lost on me... as I write a blog post) about how to be less distracted.  But believers have the Holy Spirit living inside us, and He is the helper and comforter.  Inviting Him into our time, all the time, should be first and foremost.  Invite him to help us put on calm, peace and order, in our minds and in our life.  Ask Him to point out where we are sabotaging ourselves and where we need Him to show us another way.

I'm working on the habit of praying before I get out of bed.  Before my feet hit the floor, I want to pray for Him to lead and guide me, for ears to hear, and for eyes to see where He is working.  I pray again before I start my Bible reading time.  I ask for His wisdom, insight, and illumination and to help me limit distractions and increase my focus.

Use a paper Bible
The next most important thing to do is to put your phone in another room.  Preferably to a land far, far away, and dust off your paper Bible.  I was just talking with a teen I meet with and we were laughing about how we don't know the exact reference to some verses, but we know which book it is in, and where it is on the page in our Bible.  (Ephesians 2:8-9 is on the 4th page of Ephesians, in the upper right corner of my favorite Bible... I pointed to it with my eyes closed, and she did the same for a section in 2 Timothy!)  Our brains just work better with books.  Paper books.

We both agreed that reading a book on a screen is not the same.  With a digital page, I don't know where I am on the page, I don't know what came before or what is after... it just feels messy.  But, a paper Bible can be marked in, highlighted, have each page summarized and eventually passed down to others as a record of your own time with the Lord.

You know how frustrating it is when someone (especially your spouse or children) interrupt you when you are reading your Bible?  When you are having a great time with Jesus and you lose that train of thought?  It's really hard not to be completely frustrated at them.  But why is a random notification or text message welcomed instead?  Why do we not get just as irritated at that?

When you read your paper Bible during your quiet time you will never, ever have a notification pop up on the page.  (I do love having access to my digital Bible wherever I go, but never use it for personal study.)  I really encourage you, if you struggle with distraction, start training yourself to use only a paper Bible during your time with Jesus.  Limit the "welcome" distractions more than you limit the unwelcome ones.

Note pad
When I sit down to read my Bible I always have a pad of paper or at least a sticky note pad right by my Bible.  I use that to capture random thoughts, to dos, and things to look up online.  If I write it down, I won't be worried that I'll forget it and my brain can settle into the task again.

Also, good or bad, this is one of the best ways I've found to remember all the things that I have been forgetting.  I remember friends I need to be praying for, conversations that I need to respond to, things I need to get at the grocery store, tasks to be done around the house.  I write it all down and try my hardest not to get up and attend to something until I'm done.  Sometimes that looks like telling myself over and over "now is not the time for that."  Try to train yourself with the same sort of discipline and consistency you would use in training a two year old not to touch a hot stove.

Prepare the night before
One of the biggest outward distractions I have is when things are a mess or when I can't find what I need.  Part of my evening routine includes straightening my desk (where I do my morning quiet time), setting out my Bible and journal, and making sure I have my water bottle filled and nearby.  When I get up, I make my cup of coffee, sit down, and have everything within reach.

Try to keep this time and area free from distractions and clutter.  If I have a stack of papers I need to file plus bills I need to pay, plus our calendar full of things to do I have a hard time settling my mind.  So as often as I can, I try to deal with that in the evening.  Putting on calmness, peace, and order definitely take some forethought and work, but don't think it's a total overhaul and setting up an elaborate system before you can start.  Start small.  This week maybe you can only take one tiny step toward calm and inviting.  Take it.  Then keep going.

If you can, make your space special and inviting too.  Pick up the toys, dust the area, have some flowers from your yard in a vase or mason jar, or light a good smelling candle.  I have an African violet on my desk, a big window with a bird feeder (I love watching the birds in the mornings), a mug warmer, and a cozy blanket.  (But I sit at a desk, so I'm not too comfortable and drift off back to sleep.)  If you don't have a specific spot you can use every day, do a quick search for quiet time baskets, there are some great ideas to keep your things organized and convenient.

Young children
When my boys were younger, no matter how hard I tried to be quiet, they had a silent alarm go off when I got up and they were right there with me, which was a huge distraction to my quiet time.

When they were babies, I would just do what I could, and counted even a few minutes in the Word as a win.  But as they got older, I kept special toys for them that they could only play with during that time, and only if they were quiet.  One of their very favorite quiet activities of all time was a cookie sheet (or you could use a tub to contain it better, but we used what we had) sprinkled liberally with cornmeal (we tried flour, it was a MESS), that they could sit at the table and drive their hot wheels in.  They had construction vehicles, cars, and trucks, and would play happily for at least a half an hour while I read my Bible.  They didn't get to play with it at any other time so it made it special and very few fights erupted.  I would also pick up different types of toys at goodwill sometimes too. Magnet toys, Lincoln logs, special books, and other things that were different from the usual.  They were the special toys just for quiet time and were put away out of reach each day after quiet time.

And of course, there were days I let the TV be the babysitter, or let them have an early morning play time outside in the backyard in the summers and did my study out on the patio between boy-tussles.  Think creatively!

Okay, now let's get to the next practice method of biblical meditation!

Biblical meditation method two
Last week I encouraged you to try a super simple form of meditation or thinking about what you read in the Bible.  For this week, I want to introduce you to another simple method to meditate that is a step above last week's challenge.  (However, if you are enjoying last week's and want to continue doing it, by all means keep going!)  This week we're going to take a section of scripture (it can be a page, a section that goes together (like Ephesians 2:8-10) and ask three questions of it.

What do I notice?
What do I wonder?
What does this remind me of?

For example:
If we were going to meditate through the example verses of Ephesians, I would write them out or read them through a couple of times then ask "What do I notice about these verses?"

I notice:
I've been saved by grace.
Through faith.
Not because of anything I have done.
But as a gift of God, etc.

I wonder:
Are there times I act or think like I can work for my salvation?
Have I fully grasped His grace?
Are there areas I am boasting in (either in word or in actions)?
Am I walking in the good works that He prepared for me?

I'm reminded of:
I'm reminded of the verse in Romans:  ...for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus my Lord.  (If I don't remember exactly the reference, which I usually don't, I remember part of the verse, and then can google it or use my concordance to look it up.)

Learn together

In the comments below, please leave any tips on dealing with distraction that you've learned.  And then share what you've learned from trying this method of biblical meditation by clicking on the tab above labeled COMMUNITY.   Look for the topic of Biblical Meditation in the forum then click on it and find "I notice, I wonder, I'm reminded of." Here we can encourage and learn from each other!

Next up

Next week I'll have another method of easy Biblical Meditation and we'll talk about practical steps you can take to increase your focus. I can't wait to see what you learn from your time meditating in God's word!


  1. Love your tips! I actually do a lot of these and have a special space cleared on my table for my various Bible studies and meditations. I actually have my phone on the table with me and tell myself "you can check your phone aft er you finish this chapter.." or something along those lines. I like having it near because I will use it for commentaries or definitions as I go. I do like the idea of a sticky note pad or paper or journal there to write things down because as much as I don't want to get distracted, sometimes I do! Thanks again for your post. ❤

  2. Alas, my attempts at the special toys/ activities for during that quiet time doesn't work around here. Mr Wigglesworth, who is 3, just wants mommy to do it with him. Little Man, at that age, would end up throwing something within 5 to 10 minutes. But now, Little Man at age 8, is pretty good at letting Mommy read on her own! So, I have hope for Mr Wigglesworth! I've been doing your method #1, but I always like having other tools in my belt. :)

  3. Such great ideas, thank you for being one of His instruments. I'm a Grandma but still get lots of quality,useful ideas from this series. I appreciate it.

  4. I was convicted of my FOMO when I read this post. I've deactivated that huge social media account. I'm still keeping up with what I need AND I'm relishing my uninterrupted time with my Bible study. Thanks for the push off the fbk cliff. The fall is glorious because I'm in Jesus' hands.


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