Refreshing Or Distracting? Musings From Mark Fields

In this article, Mark Fields, Director of Vineyard Missions USA, asks if our activity is actually refreshing and renewing, or a means of distraction, and invites us to find true refreshing in stillness with God.

Mark Fields

Director of Global & Intercultural Ministry, Vineyard USA

[Original Post By Vineyard Missions USA]

I understand something of the value of keeping a journal to the process of spiritual growth. It’s a place to record significant observations and meaningful verses, and it provides a wonderful opportunity to notice the patterns of God’s working in one’s life.

However, I have never been able to do it consistently. Littered around our house are a number of journals with a handful of entries on the first few pages followed by many empty pages. Each represents a new attempt to begin journaling marked by the purchase of the perfect new journal, but each is quickly abandoned.

Perhaps these weekly musings are the closest I have come to consistently journaling. I reflect deeply on my spiritual life, but struggle to put my observations in writing.

Recently I ran across my first journal dating back some fifteen years to when I initially began this journey of spiritual formation with its current level of commitment. I was emerging from a period of burnout — the result of being in a rigorous academic program while flying 150,000 miles a year helping to develop the Vineyard Movement around the globe.

I simply had more “going out” in ministry than I had “coming in,” and eventually, I ran dry. It was not a healthy time.

Recently, I read a few of my earliest journal entries. I realized I have grown more than a bit since then. What were then esoteric new names like Dorotheos of Gaza and Ignatius of Loyola have become familiar friends and trusted guides over the years. It was interesting to read my initial thoughts about what were, 15 years ago, startling new discoveries, but which have now become a normal part of my life and understanding.

One of those first discoveries was the realization that distraction is not refreshing, nor is it renewing — it does not refill me.

As the pandemic drags on, the temptation to seek relief through distraction grows. I have read numerous news articles on, for example, the frequency of bingeing new shows on Netflix.
The problem, I discovered long ago, was that distraction feels quite helpful while I am distracted. My mind is occupied with a story, or other things, and not focused on real problems and challenges. But once the show is over the problems still remain and one carries the additional guilt of having wasted time in an, ultimately, unfulfilling activity. I am distracted for a time but not actually helped.
For me, refreshing, renewal, and refilling come from spending time with God.
The growth is often unnoticeable on a day-by-day basis, but over time, the changes become more evident. In the last 15 years I have seen this repeatedly in my own life and in those of my friends on the same journey. Consistent time with God results in deep changes in one’s life and that even when it seems like little is happening, God is at work. My part is really just to keep showing up.
Recently, I have been noticing a place of silence deep inside. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but when I recognize it, I know it’s a good thing. I want to live out of that place. I’m pretty convinced this deep internal silence is the result of daily spending time with God around the Jesus Prayer.
This ancient prayer was, and is, the central practice of the Hesychasts in the Eastern Church. Interestingly the Greek word hesychia means “stillness.”
I wonder if there is a connection; I am finding that for myself, internal stillness in the midst of all the uncertainty these days is really important to my emotional and spiritual health and am so grateful to God for this gift.


Mark Fields currently serves as the Director of Global & Intercultural Ministry for Vineyard USA. Prior to assuming his current position, he was the Senior Pastor of the Vineyard Community Church in Pomona, California, for more than twenty years. Mark is a lifelong learner and attended Fuller Seminary as well as the London School of Theology. He has traveled and ministered extensively around the world. Mark and his wife Karen have been married for nearly forty years, are the parents of three adult children, have a growing number of grandchildren, and reside in Southern California.