Roger Marsh: Since the turn of the century, technological innovation and social media have profoundly changed our world. Staying connected with loved ones or learning about current events has become so much easier. But there is a major drawback to this advancement, however. We've unknowingly become so engrossed in this fast-paced society we don't know how to stop, unplug, and relax. In reality, we were not created to endure this mental, physical, and emotional overload that we put ourselves through.
Well, today here on Family Talk, we're going to address a Christian's response to this cultural issue through Dr. Dobson's interview with John Eldredge. John is a bestselling author, speaker, lecturer, and counselor. He's also president of Ransomed Heart ministries, located here in Colorado Springs. In a moment, he and Dr. Dobson will lay out practical ways to unplug from our busy lives. They'll also highlight the need to fully experience God in our times of rest and relaxation. There's a lot of content to get to, so let's get started. Here once again, is Dr. James Dobson to reintroduce his guest on this edition of Family Talk.
Dr. Dobson: John, last time you came here to talk about your new book and we got into Wild at Heart your, I guess, bestselling book, 20 years old now, still out there, still available to people. It's a must-read for men and women and we're not going to talk about that again today, but we could. We could talk about it for a month, couldn't we=
John Eldredge: Yeah, we sure could.
Dr. Dobson: ... because there's so much there. But you've written a new book and we're going to dedicate our program today to that book. It's called Get Your Life Back. The subtitle is "Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad". How? In what way has the world gone mad?
John Eldredge: We're spending four to nine hours a day on our mobile devices, three hours a day using our apps. We are consuming 10 hours a day of media. That's enough data in one week to crash a laptop. It's the pace of life. It's the tsunami of media coming at us. And then in the midst of that madness, you have what was ... In the New Testament, they go back to Lot and they say he was tormented in his righteous soul by all that he saw happening around him.
Dr. Dobson: Another translation says vexed.
John Eldredge: Yes.
Dr. Dobson: He was vexed in his righteous soul. Have you ever been vexed?
John Eldredge: Frequently.
Dr. Dobson: That's different than being angry. It just means frustrated to your ears.
John Eldredge: Yeah. That's right. All of that collectively. The basic premise of the book is this: to survive an hour like the one we live in, you have to have a life that's just saturated with God. But the hour we live in is perfectly designed to keep you from having that life because of the distraction and the cell phones and the media, right?
Dr. Dobson: Television, cable, computers. My goodness.
John Eldredge: My goodness. Here's where it began for me. I'm a grandfather now and loving it. But I found myself trying to play with my grandchildren and being distracted. I could give them my attention for about five minutes and then I wanted to check my phone. I wanted to check the news. I wanted to see what was going on. I was a distracted grandfather and I didn't like it. I started looking at all of my other habits and realized, Oh my goodness. Somewhere along the way I got trapped in this madness, that I came to like it. I liked the distractions.
Dr. Dobson: You said that a distraction is something we get obsessed with.
John Eldredge: Yeah, we do, for two reasons. One, because of all the stuff that comes into your inbox every week, this fantastic video of this person jumping off a building or this amazing thing. It gets your attention. But also because the distraction keeps us from facing our lives. We'd rather be distracted then spend 10 minutes quiet with ourselves because we don't like what we find there. So we go back to the distraction.
Dr. Dobson: What do we find there?
John Eldredge: Anger, depression, cynicism, fear, anxiety, right? The whole panoply of human brokenness is right there. And then I just realized instead of looking to God in a moment of quiet, one moment of quiet, I'm talking 30 seconds, I'd grab my phone again. It was Nicholas Carr's book. He almost won the Pulitzer Prize for this book. It's called The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Carr did this immense amount-
Dr. Dobson: Physiologically?
John Eldredge: Physiological changing the structure of the human brain to shorten our attention span, among other things, and get us addicted to the dopamine cycle of seeking the next thing on whose Facebook post of their cat reading a book while sitting on the toilet or some silly thing like that, and we're absolutely captured by it. We are unable to get out of the madness because it's literally changing the way human beings think, and our ability to pay attention to things, which was what was happening to me with my grandkids.
Dr. Dobson: John, when I was at Focus on the Family a number of years ago, the director or president of the organization called K-LOVE came to see me. We sat and talked and he said, "Our audience will not hold still for a speaker. There is only one speaker out there that they will listen to, and it's you, for five minutes."
John Eldredge: Right.
Dr. Dobson: Five minutes. How sad that I can't talk for 30 minutes about an intellectual subject or teach anything.
John Eldredge: It's not just a cultural crisis. It's a spiritual crisis because down through the ages, serious followers of Christ have believed that true discipleship and real transformation of our lives requires being able to give God our attention. If we can't listen to a speaker for more than five minutes, you're going to have a really hard time praying, for example.
Dr. Dobson: Well, it explains why churches are diminishing in the number of people that come.
John Eldredge: And how the pressure on churches, by the way, to put on amazing services.
Dr. Dobson: Entertain.
John Eldredge: You have to have a worship thing going on that rivals professional musicians. I mean the pastor has to be brilliant or he doesn't have a chance. It's a spiritual crisis at its root. I just want to help folks learn some very simple ways to get out of the madness.
Dr. Dobson: At the beginning of the program we did yesterday, I thought we were going to be talking about this book. We talked about Wild at Heart. But I started it by quoting a very familiar verse, Psalm 46:10, which instructs us to "be still and know that I am God." Boy, if there's anything that contradicts the American or the worldwide phenomenon of busy, busy, frantic lifestyles, that's it. People can't hold still long enough to listen to the voice of God. I want to admit to you it's a problem for me too because I'm trapped in the same culture to some degree.
John Eldredge: Yeah, and it's coming into our phones and into our inbox every hour. The distractions there. But here's the beautiful thing, the research that's coming out now that shows if you will be still for even a few moments, the cortisol levels in your body go down. You actually do begin to quiet down. It heals the frenetic brain, that way of life. If you'll just do that once a day, be still before God-
Dr. Dobson: It makes a difference.
John Eldredge: It will heal your soul.
Dr. Dobson: Let's go back to what you said about the brain. How is the human brain affected by all this noise?
John Eldredge: For years, brain researchers thought the human brain was a fairly fixed reality. That after childhood ... It's immensely pliable in childhood. But the previous consensus was after childhood it's a fairly fixed system. The good news is it's not. It's immensely pliable through most of your life.
Dr. Dobson: You're absolutely accurate on that. I've read the same research.
John Eldredge: Right. The hopefulness on that has to do with healing trauma and also healing addictive behaviors because the brain can learn new ways. It actually forms new connections and you can get out of those things. The way the Internet works and the way people use their cell phones is training the brain to only pay attention for very short periods of time without something new being presented to it.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. How does one go about getting out of this mad, mad, mad, mad world we live in?
John Eldredge: Chapter one, I set the bar very low. It's called The One Minute Pause because I want people to realize it's accessible. It's doable. We're teaching people to pause a couple of times a day, maybe when you pull into work in the morning before you walk in the door, maybe when you get home at night, pause. We're teaching people 1 Peter 5 where it says, "Give all your worries and cares to God because He cares for you." Learning to turn it all over to the Lord. Desert Fathers called it benevolent detachment. I can do it for 60 seconds. That's all I'm asking. Okay? 60 seconds, you pause. You give Christ your attention and you say, "Jesus, I give all the madness to you. For right now, I release it to you."
Dr. Dobson: My field is child development and I am very interested in how you protect kids from the madness that you're talking about.
John Eldredge: Okay.
Dr. Dobson: If you watch videos for children, cartoons included, it is flash, flash, flash. We're teaching children to be addicted to that kind of speed.
John Eldredge: Exactly. So here's the fun answer. The answer for kids is the same as adults, by the way. It is nature. Get outside. Your soul was literally, including your brain, was designed to live in the world God created, and things like sunlight and the actual sounds of nature, birds chirping, a stream, rain, snowfall.
Dr. Dobson: Wind.
John Eldredge: Yes. That is what heals the human soul. The big request is get kids back outside. The World Health Organization announced 10 years ago now, so you know it's worse, we spend 93% of our lives indoors, including childhood. So if you live to be 100, you will have spent 93 of those years.
Dr. Dobson: And most of them in an urban environment where they don't get outside. I had a chance to go to Texas. I was on a ranch there. Man, I experienced what you're talking about, just being there. Shirley and I were there for four days and I absolutely loved it because there was something healing about it.
John Eldredge: Isn't it?
Dr. Dobson: But most people don't have a chance to do that.
John Eldredge: The research shows even a 20-minute walk outside lowers the cortisol levels in your body. I work in an office building. But what I do is I go outside every day and walk around the building. I just take a walk outside. Pay attention to what the weather's doing. Let the wind kiss your cheek. One of the rescues is in the world God made. Nature heals the human soul.
Dr. Dobson: Cortisol is the hormone that affects the brain and puts you on an alarm reaction state. You're not able to relax when you're under the pressure of that hormone. You're telling me that just being outside reduces that level.
John Eldredge: It does significantly.
Dr. Dobson: Hormonal activity.
John Eldredge: So does pausing. So does practicing the psalm that you read. Just being still. Our whole world right now triggers the fight or flight mechanism all day long. It's got everybody on hypervigilance. Well, we can make choices to get out of that. Many of my friends are choosing to cut their social media use in half. In fact, a number of them have actually gotten off social media altogether. You actually can make choices. The difference here is that this isn't persecution. You actually have a choice. We're not locked up. We're not in concentration camps. We could actually make choices about this madness and you can get your life back really rather easily.
Dr. Dobson: One of them that I've done very successfully is I have refused to text. I'm the only person I know that will not do it. I see people clanking away on their cell phones, texting each other. It's slow and it absorbs them. I mean it absolutely absorbs them and I just will not do it. I've got big hands. I don't like to hit keys anyway, so I just decided I'm not going there. It frustrates people because they try to get to me that way and I don't even know that they have texted me.
John Eldredge: But CS Lewis also considered himself to be a dinosaur and he was a man who changed his time. So you hold fast to that. Hold fast to that.
Dr. Dobson: I'm on email, so that's just another form. When you've got it in your pocket and your phone rings all the time, it consumes you.
John Eldredge: So here's another simple step. Just turn off notifications, folks. You can check your phone at reasonable times during the day, right? You can go from a meeting to lunch and check your phone. You don't need notifications on 24/7 pushing things at you. Here's the latest weather alert. Here's what your mom just posted on Facebook. You don't need that stuff. It's really quite simple.
Dr. Dobson: Going back to children, how in the world do you control that because everybody they know is carrying a cell phone?
John Eldredge: Get them a flip phone. Don't give them a smart phone, folks. The technology actually is starting to swing the other direction. I think smart businessmen and entrepreneurs are recognizing there are parents that want an alternative route. So there are phones that will give you access to some things, but not everything.
Dr. Dobson: Great idea.
John Eldredge: Right? It's brilliant. Okay, you can still get a hold of Mom and Dad, but you do not need access to the Internet. So here's one of the things we did. We actually developed an app because we know people live on their phones. This is it. I can't change the world in a snap of my fingers. So we developed an app called The One Minute Pause. It's free. I'm not making a nickel off of it. It guides people through 60 seconds of prayer and turning their attention to God.
Dr. Dobson: How do they get it?
John Eldredge: Get on the App Store. It's for iPhones and Android. It's absolutely free. It's called One Minute Pause. We made the sponsor of it my ministry. So it's not even connected to me It's Ransomed Heart. It's our ministry. So it's just One Minute Pause by Ransomed Heart and it is this beautiful time of prayer, of turning our attention to Jesus.
Dr. Dobson: John, where does this lead if we go faster and faster and faster? Is it like an automobile engine where if you keep the pedal all the way to the floor, you'll eventually burn that engine out? Will there come a point of mass chaos if we don't get control of it?
John Eldredge: I don't think it will be chaos. I think it will be breakdown. I think human beings are finite. We were made immensely dependent by God. I love this. You have to sleep every day. You have to drink water. You have to breathe air. All of our creation was intended to show us how dependent we are on our Creator so that we would turn to Him and walk with Him. I think what's happening already in the incidences of depression and anxiety and suicide rates, you're just watching humanity saying, "I can't take it. I can't keep up. I just can't do it." I actually think that's a good thing for people to get to the place that they say, "I can't keep up."
Dr. Dobson: There's one illustration that means a lot to me. Jesus came down from the hill where He'd been praying and He came to the seashore. There were masses of people there to be healed. Who knows what diseases they had? Do you remember what He did? He walked past them and got in a boat and rode off. All these people in need, some were dying. He had had enough. He knew He had come to a point where He needed to regenerate and to be alone. I've thought a lot about that. Have you ever heard that illustration before?
John Eldredge: I love it. I love it. I use it in my book. Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." Christ knows what madness is like, I mean thousands of people trying to get his attention, the constant crowds. It said at one point He could not go into the villages any more. He had to sleep out in the woods. So He knows what it means to be hard pressed. He says, "Come to me and learn from me. Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Dr. Dobson: Since we read that there in the scriptures and we know it and believe it, God knows that we need rest too, doesn't He?
John Eldredge: Yes, He does.
Dr. Dobson: Many ministers absolutely break their health because they can't slow down. Mrs. Jones is always in the hospital. My dad did that at 39 years of age. He was an evangelist and he did 20, 22 revivals per year. He got so worn out and tired. In those days, evangelists lived with the pastor. He had kids who stood at the doorway while he was getting ready for bed. I mean his life was really very difficult. And then he had to travel. He traveled in a car and at 39, his health broke. It was an emotional breakdown, but it was actually a neurological thing. It took him two years to get out of it. I've seen up close and personal what happens when you abuse a human body, even with good things.
John Eldredge: Right, which is why chapter two in the book is called "Benevolent Detachment, Learning to Let It Go." We get caught up in people's drama. We get caught up in the cultural drama and at some point we have to recognize we are not God. We can't save the world. We can't even carry it. Good people with tender hearts and good consciences carrying way too much and learning to truly, 1 Peter 5:7, cast all their cares upon the Lord.
Dr. Dobson: Have you tried to do that, John?
John Eldredge: Every day.
Dr. Dobson: You have been a well-known speaker and writer and there's no end to what you could be doing. People are calling you and asking you to come and speak and asking you to hold conferences. I know a little bit about that world because I've been there. Have you ever just sat down with your wife and said, "Wait a minute. Let's talk this thing through. This is not right. We're going too fast. We're working too hard. Let's see what we can change." Have you ever done that?
John Eldredge: Last May.
Dr. Dobson: Really?
John Eldredge: We took June off and we said to our team, "We're not well. We're actually burnt out and we can't keep running at this pace. We've got to get away and rest and recover and realign. And then when we come back, we have to re-look at our schedule." Because again, I'm the one saying yes to most of this stuff. Most of it is choices we can make. That's the hopeful part of this.
Dr. Dobson: Once you get it under control, guess what happens? It creeps up on you again. You have to do it again and again and again.
John Eldredge: That's right.
Dr. Dobson: Well, we've been talking to John Eldredge, New York Times bestselling author. His new book is called Get Your Life Back. That's what we've been discussing. Everyday Practices For a World Gone Mad. John, this is good stuff. Thanks for being with us for two days. I love talking to you. Let's do it again.
John Eldredge: I'd love to. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Dobson: God bless you, my friend.
John Eldredge: God bless you all here.
Roger Marsh: Wow. What an impactful program. Rest is so very underplayed and undervalued in our hurried society, however we were not made to withstand this constant barrage of life day in and day out. I hope this edition of Family Talk has been a reminder to you to take time to relax and reconnect with our creator. You can learn more about today's guest, John Eldredge, when you visit our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org. Once you're there, you can also discover more about his brand-new book, Get Your Life Back, which by the way releases today.
This two-part program was chock-full of so much meaningful wisdom for our daily walk with the Lord. If you would like a physical copy of this interview to re-listen to again and again, be sure to request a CD when you visit our broadcast page. Go to drjamesdobson.org and then click on the broadcast icon at the top of the page. Thanks for tuning in to these insightful programs featuring Dr. Dobson and John Eldredge. Join us again tomorrow as we kick off a three-part interview with author and speaker, Tracy Russell. She'll share how her marriage was forever changed by Dr. Dobson's book, Love Must Be Tough. It's a great discussion that you won't want to miss coming your way on the next edition of Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh. Hope you'll join us then.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.
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