Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Spirit--Unplugged

Last Sunday, I was able to attend our Stake's Standards Night with my 13 yr old daughter. The main speaker talked about all the electronic distractions of the world. He talked about the spirit being blocked by our busyness. The distractions aren't always bad, but we need to limit them. I found a conference talk by Elder Quentin L. Cook. He talked about having the joy of the Spirit in our lives. Then he went on to tell us about how to stay away from distractions that block the joy of the Spirit:

What do we need to do to have this kind of joy? In addition to attaining saving ordinances and following the living prophet, we need to live in accordance with certain fundamental spiritual principles, such as prayer, scripture study, righteous living, and service to others. It is well understood that if we engage in sinful conduct, we must repent. Let me suggest three other areas or distractions we need to avoid in order to maintain joy and rejoice more fully in the Savior’s gift: (1) avoid distractions which keep us from doing what we ought to do, (2) avoid the magnification of small imperfections, and (3) avoid unfavorable comparisons with others.

We are often unaware of the distractions which push us in a material direction and keep us from a Christ-centered focus. In essence we let celestial goals get sidetracked by telestial distractions. In our family we call these telestial distractions “Saturday Morning Cartoons.” Let me explain.

When our children were small, my wife, Mary, and I decided to follow a tradition which my father taught when I was a child. He would meet with us individually to help us set goals in various aspects of our lives and then teach us how Church, school, and extracurricular activities would help us achieve those goals. He had three rules:

1. We needed to have worthwhile goals.

2. We could change our goals at any time.

3. Whatever goal we chose, we had to diligently work towards it.

Having been the beneficiary of this tradition, I had the desire to engage in this practice with my children. When our son, Larry, was five years old, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said he wanted to be a doctor like his Uncle Joe. Larry had experienced a serious operation and had acquired great respect for doctors, especially his Uncle Joe. I proceeded to tell Larry how all the worthwhile things he was doing would help prepare him to be a doctor.

Several months later, I asked him again what he would like to be. This time he said he wanted to be an airline pilot. Changing the goal was fine, so I proceeded to explain how his various activities would help him achieve this goal. Almost as an afterthought I said, “Larry, last time we talked you wanted to be a doctor. What has changed your mind?” He answered, “I still like the idea of being a doctor, but I have noticed that Uncle Joe works on Saturday mornings, and I wouldn’t want to miss Saturday Morning Cartoons.”

Since that time our family has labeled a distraction from a worthwhile goal as a Saturday Morning Cartoon.

As a writer, the Spirit is very important in being able to produce quality written words. But I am often distracted by what Elder Cook would call "Saturday Morning Cartoons". Over reading of blogs, too much time on Facebook, too many good tv shows. I spend alot of time distracting myself from the fact that I am not working towards my goal of becoming a published writer. I pray every night that the Lord will help me reach my goal, but then I don't give Him the quiet time needed to answer my prayers. I don't know if I'm afraid of success, or afraid of failure, or just complacent in my goals, but I do know that I am the one blocking the Spirit from working in my life.

This week I made an effort to turn off the distractions in my life. I turned off the radio when I drove, I allowed myself moments to just sit still and resisted the urge to check my emails. There were some things that I have realized have a huge pull on my time and I plan on making a bigger effort in the weeks to come to unplug myself more from the world and plug in more fully to the Spirit. This will help me in all aspects of my life, not just writing.


  1. Wow. This post could have been ripped out of my brain. I've noticed this same thing about myself and so I've been working harder to cut out my distractions. I took a week off to be unplugged and it really added some perspective for me. It's stayed with me but I think to make sure I remember, I'm going to participate in unplugged week more often.

  2. Amen! Thomas Friedman traces history in 'The World is Flat' through the Age of Iron, to the Age of Industry, to the Age of the our Age of INTERRUPTION. I think the greatest challenge for me as a writer is sealing off a focus time and a concentration place. It was particularly challenging as a mommy, of course, but it hasn't gotten any easier as an empty-nester. Don't wait young moms and writers! Forget multi-tasking -- it IS a myth. There are days you have to just shut it down -- stop the world and GET OFF. I thought I finally had it made when I was granted access to the Writer's Room at our gorgeous, old library...(heaven) until my kid's started IM-ing me and my IPhone started pinging at me. You will never get that cabin the woods or that deserted island. Bloody noses and dirty diapers may be allowed, but we can minimize distraction and maximize writing time by shelving Facebook, texting, IM-ing and blogging when we put on our writer's hat.

  3. L.T.-I like the idea of an "unplugged" week. Maybe we should sponsor one of those!!

    Mona-Really? No cabin in the woods? You mean I won't have blissful quiet once all the kids move out? Way to burst my bubble!! LOL! Ok, so I kind of figured this out after my kids were all in school and I still got distracted. But there was a small part of me that was still hoping for the magic of an empty house.

  4. One distraction we have decided to cut out of our lives is satellite TV. Those "must see" shows really lose their clout when you've distanced yourself from them. I have seen this abstinence transform my family is some amazing ways. We still have a TV of course and watch movies, but our watching matters now. We don't just sit down and veg in front of the tube.

    Now to tackle the internet and video games. Where one addiction is lost, another is attempting to take its place...Sigh. Where to find a balance?

  5. I definitely struggle with "Saturday Morning Cartoons". It is so easy to become distracted by things. Especially in our electronic age. I know if I were to unplug myself from these distractions I would be able to accomplish so much more.

    Writing is so much more than just the time we spend at the keyboard. We also need mental time to develop our story line and character voice. But when we are constantly putting information into our brain it becomes impossible for the minds to work those ideas into the quality plot-lines we wish to write.



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