As the summer draws to a close, most of us who are engaged in the workplace will return to a world of pinging email alerts and buzzing cellphones and periodic checks of social media. We may fool ourselves into thinking we are “multitasking” when in reality we are simply distracting ourselves from the task at hand by allowing frequent, if not constant, interruptions. Young people are no better, constantly glued to one electronic device or another.

If you can relate to this description, I commend to you a podcast  from the National Public Radio series, “Hidden Brain,” hosted by Shankar Vandantam. The episode is entitled, “You 2.0: ‘Deep Thinking’ in an Age of Distraction.”

This is how the Hidden Brain website summarized the episode:

“Many of us react to the buzzes and beeps that come from our phones with the urgency of a parent responding to a baby’s cry. We can’t help but pick up our phone and look at the latest notification. We know this probably isn’t the healthiest nor the sanest response to a vibrating hunk of metal, so we tell ourselves we should be less distracted. We shouldn’t be so gripped by social media or the churn of work email.

“But Cal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown University and author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says we’re downplaying the problems created by constant interruption.

“‘We treat it, I think, in this more general sense of, “eh, I probably should be less distracted.” But I think it’s more urgent than people realize,’ he says.   ”

By letting email and other messages guide our workday, Cal says we’re weakening our ability to do the most challenging kinds of work—what he calls ‘deep work.’ Deep work requires sustained attention, whether the task is writing marketing copy or solving a tricky engineering problem.

“We’re also denying ourselves the satisfaction that often comes from committing our full attention to a task. Replying to a string of emails rarely arouses this same feeling.”

I would want you to listen to this podcast whether you are a member of our family of faith or not. We could all benefit from removing some of the distractions in our lives, but I think the concept of “deep work” applies to our walk as Christians too. The journey with Christ is not a casual one. It is not intended to be taken lightly or without serious thought, meditation, and prayer. And yet we let the distractions of everyday life crowd out our spiritual exercises as much as we let them interfere with our jobs. We are ineffective at the “deep work” of our faith.

When was the last time you removed all the distractions from your life, even for a little while, so you could contemplate your walk with the Lord? Worship is supposed to help us to do that, but the presence of others can prove to be a distraction in itself. Besides, I’ve seen you surreptitiously check your phone in the middle of the sermon. If you’re serious about bringing your best to the service of Christ, you would benefit from some “unplugged” time to listen for the voice of God and consider how you might respond.

Listening to this podcast came at a fortuitous time for me. Sunday after worship I’ll head for a quiet place to do about two-and-a-half days of planning next year’s preaching schedule. I’ll have a task to perform, work to produce. But more than anything else, I’ll need to listen for the voice of God to help me know what to preach, what we all need to hear, what will help us to grow in our faith. I only hope I can follow my own advice and attempt the “deep work” while avoiding the distractions.