ADHD and Reading the Bible

Spiritual Disciplines and ADHD:  A Series

Over the next several weeks I will be posting a series about practicing the Spiritual Disciplines (Spiritual Formation/Spiritual Practices) for those with ADHD. During this series I will cover a variety of disciplines: Bible reading, Meditation, Solitude, Fasting, Sabbath, Service, Prayer, and Worship, and how those of us with ADHD can engage in these practices.

This week will start with the Spiritual Discipline of reading the bible.

 

BASIC DEFINITION OF A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE:

  • A deliberately self imposed habit that nurtures spiritual health and fosters spiritual growth leading to maturity.
  • Deliberately self imposed actions to alter existing life and thought patterns, thereby breaking the normal cycle of life and breaking the focus on the mundane to contemplate the sublime.
  • Repetitious actions driven by spiritual decisions rather than natural environmental reactions.
  • Spiritual exercises to develop “Sacred Rhythms” to engage in intentional spirituality in the pursuit of intimacy with God.
  • (Source: authenticdiscipleship.org)

Spiritual Disciplines

For those with ADHD who have trouble with focusing, sitting still, and developing consistent reading practices; developing the habit of reading or studying the bible can seem like a daunting spiritual discipline. I used to be an avid bible reader when I was working towards my Master’s degree. I loved doing the research into the history of near eastern culture. I also enjoyed finding out the Greek and Hebrew meanings of words that we often misuse in the English language. Lost in translation had a new meaning for me after I finished my courses.

Eventually my time as an active student came to an end and so did my passion for studying the bible. I’m not quite sure where my motivation went, but it was probably in the same place as my discipline. I went for a period of time where I was not interested in reading the bible. It felt as if I would develop a headache every time I looked at a bible; forget about opening it. During this time I switched to reading a variety of theological books, but eventually I accepted the fact that nothing can take the place of reading the actual bible.

To help you develop a desire and a habit of reading/studying the bible, I’ve listed a few suggestions you might want to try.

Translation Style:

There are plenty of translations of the bible. Some of the most popular are KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, and Living Translation. It’s important to find a translation that you enjoy reading and one that is at your level of reading. If you do not have an advanced vocabulary reading the KJV will be a challenge for you and eventually you will lose interest in reading something you can’t comprehend. Some people prefer to read The Message, this a good option for people who want to read the bible as a paraphrase rather than a translation. It is also at an easy reading level.

Others like myself prefer to have more than one translation on hand. I use the NRSV and the NASB. For reading the Proverbs, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes, I love to read these books in the KJV and NKJV version out loud during personal devotional time.

What are you Reading About?:

One way to develop an interest in reading the bible is to select a topic that is of interest to you. The bible is filled with multiple stories and each of them have a lesson for us to learn from. I’ve enjoyed reading various studies about different women featured in the bible. I’ve also enjoyed topics that relate to areas where I needed to focus on personal character development. What would you be interested in learning about?

-Women of the Bible

  •    Mary (all of them), Hagar, Leah and Rachel

-Characters from the bible:

  •    St.Paul, Saul, King David, Solomon

-Specific Topics for Spiritual Development:

  •    Conquering Fear
  •    Prayer
  •    Fruits of the Spirit
  •     Love

-You might want to read scripture that speaks to a specific season of your life:

  •    Divorce
  •    Fertility Issues
  •    Parenting
  •    Grief
  •    Depression

Keeping a Record:

Are you the type who likes to keep a running journal about your life or spiritual life? Then you would likely benefit from keeping a journal for writing your thoughts and reflections about the bible passages that you are reading. Personally I no longer enjoy journaling my bible studies and it has helped me that I’ve given up that habit for now. I like the freedom of reading the bible and then allowing what I’ve read to sink in throughout the day. If you are a journaling type of person find writing materials that suite your style: online journaling, blogging, notebook, etc.

Structured or Do Your Own Thing?:

If you are the type of person who needs to have structure, there are many bible reading plans available. You can pick them up at a Christian bookstore or find a variety on line. There are options such as, topical studies, read the bible in a year, or seasonal readings such as Lent and Advent.

If you are the type that doesn’t like structure it is important to find a less structured reading plan in order to stay on track. If you approach bible reading without any structure whatsoever, you are less likely to make reading a habit and eventually you will quit reading.  Structure is very important in managing ADHD.

Time Factor:

Everyone, and I mean everyone has time to pray and read the bible every single day. We tell ourselves we don’t have time and it is easy to believe we don’t. But think about it? When was the last time you heard someone say they don’t have time to go to the bathroom in a day, or don’t have time to eat or drink over a 24 hour period. Have you ever heard a mother say that she doesn’t have time to hold or feed her baby? Never. The fact is we make regular and consistent time for things that matter to us; having ADHD doesn’t change this.

Only you know what times are best for you to make time to read the bible. To start, it doesn’t have to be an everyday activity. If you are not used to reading the bible, you can start with a few scheduled times per week and make you way up to as many days as you need to. I don’t generally read the bible on weekends, Saturday and Sunday are the days when I catch up theological blogs, and reading.

If time management is a major weakness of yours, it would be best to start with readings that you know will only take 10-15 minutes of your time. Again, the idea is to start easy and work your way to increased times. What is most important is quality time taking in the word.

However you choose to engage in reading the bible, it will enrich your walk with God. The bible is filled with God’s promises to us. It is through the bible that we read of His love for us and His desire for us to love and care for one another. Let’s not allow ADHD prevent you from experiencing the power of the word in your life.


 

Bible Study Tools

Biblegateway.com 

Bible Study Tools Online

Bible (More than one translation)

Commentaries

Concordance

Paper (e.g. journal, diary, notebook, etc.)

Internet Sources: bible study sites, video series, online sermons

Dictionary

Lexicon

Bible Reading Plan

Bible study curriculum (e.g. Beth Moore, Kelly Minter, etc.)

Audio Bible

Smartphone Apps

Charts/Outlines/Maps

Devotional Books

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ADHD Forget Me Not!

adhd forgetfulness

The ADHD Promise

Psalm 119: 15-16 “I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.”

Sometimes people with ADHD are known to not be consistent with following through on their promises. There are a variety of reasons for this such as becoming overwhelmed with over commitment, hyper focusing on one activity and losing track of time, not remembering appointments and meetings, and a number of other reasons.

As Dr. Sam Goldstein explains in an article from Everyday Health online, “By its nature, ADHD leads to forgetfulness. People with ADHD have problems doing what they know in a consistent, predictable, independent manner. They often miss the cues in the environment necessary to shift or adjust their behavior. This leads them to forget things, things they know they should do. We now understand that the biggest problem for people with ADHD is not so much an inability to pay attention but an inconsistency in paying attention, which leads one to forget.

Working Memory
Source: adhd101.com

Forgetting is a part of life, even the important things are sometimes forgotten, even an important activity like spending quiet time with God.

I wish I could say I was consistent with my spiritual quiet time, but I am not. There are times when I am consistent with setting time to connect with God in prayer and devotional reading and then there are those days when I only remember as I am rushing out the door, or just hitting the pillow in exhaustion.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having our spiritual quiet time. For those of us with ADHD it is even more imperative to our well-being that we not forget to take quiet time to connect with God and recharge. Through these connections we allow the Holy Spirit to slow down the racing thoughts in our minds or step away from our hyper focus. Time with God helps us to develop wisdom, discernment, patience, joy, and peace. Our time of prayer and devotion is a way to strengthen our character and bring some sense of order to our day.

God is not like humans, he will not be angry or upset with us for forgetting to meet with him. Unlike others, he will not text us non-stop or call us with a frustrated reminder that we forgot to meet him. With God he is always with us, therefore, the onus lies with humans to make the move towards connecting with God.

God doesn’t go anywhere, we do!

Let’s make the most of having this constantly loving God who is always full of grace. Make it a priority to not forget to spend time connecting with him on a daily basis. There doesn’t have to be a specific time or method; what’s important is remembering to make time for God.

Some ideas:

  • Find a consistent time of day for prayer/devotionals. To avoid missing this time, set an alarm (on your phone, computer, watch, etc.) and when it goes off, stop what you are doing and tend to your prayer time.
  • Use your smartphone for bible or devotional reading. By doing this you will have your “bible” and devotional reading with you wherever you go.  You can even send yourself emails and texts and when your notification makes that noise, you’ll stop to check your phone and bam!, it’s a bible verse or devotional for you to read.
  • Place different bible verses on your desktop. While at your computer, you can take a break and meditate on a verse from your desktop.
  • Stick verses/devotionals on your bathroom mirror and have prayer time while you brush your teeth or remove your makeup at night.

You know yourself best, find a method that works for you, and remember, even if you forget about God, he never forgets about you. There is no punishment, just unending patience, grace, and love on God’s end.

Psalm 119: 15-16

ADHD Sleep Zombies

exhausted at work

Sleep is one of those amazing things that our bodies do in order to keep us healthy. There are varying arguments among researchers as to how much sleep humans need per day in order to function. I’m not so much concerned with what researchers believe is the right amount of required sleep because I already know how many hours my body needs in order for my mind to function fully. That magic number is 9hrs. Yup, 9hrs. It seems like a lot of time to spend sleeping, but over the past couple of years that has been the magic number.

sleep-deprivation-effects

It is not uncommon for people with ADHD to encounter issues with sleep deprivation. There are problems falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting quality sleep while sleeping. When we include those who also have restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy, sleep deprivation sounds like an understatement.  All these sleep problems result in people with ADHD spending the day on the verge of snapping at people or almost daydreaming one’s self to sleep. Lack of sleep leads to issues with not being able to think clearly, memory problems, and emotional sensitivity. None of this sounds like the makings of a pleasant and productive work day.

The relationship between sleep and ADHD is not a new one. At one time, sleep disturbances were included in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, but due to a lack of demonstrable evidence, sleep disturbances were removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, when its Third Revised Edition was published in 1980.14” (Help4adhd.org)

This is the goal!
This is the goal! Except for the creepy man watching while you sleep.

 

Sleepy Time

Try to maintain a consistent time for going to bed during weekdays.

If you have a lot on your mind, try doing some simple meditation or mindfulness techniques to allow your mind and body to be ready for sleep.

Ear plugs are helpful if you are a light sleeper.

If you co-sleep with your children, consider having them sleep in their own bed. (If this is causing sleep issues for you.)

Check the temperature in your room, if it’s too hot or too cool, adjust it or sleep with bedding that make you warmer or cooler.

Avoid taking any stimulant medication late in the afternoon.

Pray

“Pray” is not a cliche, this is an action that makes a huge difference in our lives. Prayer will help those with a mind full of thoughts slow down. There was a reason why the early Jewish community practiced night time prayer; it was to ease their minds and allow them to sleep. Those in antiquity were vulnerable to night time attacks from others, wild animals, the elements, and more. They knew that if they did not hand their worries over to God each night, they would get no sleep and be unproductive during the daytime. Prayer eases the mind.

We (North Americans) are not facing threats to our lives that others around the world still encounter during the night time, our battle is of the mind. We can do something about our sleepless nights. It won’t be an overnight change, it will take some time. The mind is set in its ways, and often there is a lot of trial and error before we find peace.

Each night, hand over your troubles to God in prayer and let His presence and promises provide you with restful sleep.

Here is a night time from the United States Navy that I hope will be of some help to you.


 

PRAYER BEFORE SLEEP

Dear God, as I lay me down to sleep,
relax the tension of my body;
calm the restlessness of my mind;
still the thoughts which worry and perplex me.
Help me to rest myself and all my problems in your
strong and loving arms.
Let your Spirit speak to my mind and heart while I am asleep, so that, when I wake up in the morning,
I may find that I have received in the night-time,
light for my way;
strength for my tasks;
peace for my worries;
forgiveness for my sins.
Grant me sleep tonight, and tomorrow power to live.

Amen.