Monday, February 27, 2006

Article #3: Turn Off the Noise

“Loretta! Did you hear? There’s a Peepin’ Tom out!” explained my Grandma to her sister, Loretta, on the phone twenty-five years ago. The call was unnecessary; Loretta had already heard the big news. A direct, secret source linked them into the heartbeat of the Conyers crime ring. Grandma and Loretta were, and still are, faithful listeners to their police scanners.

That scanner provided our Saturday night entertainment. I spent my week eagerly counting down the days until I could go to Grandma’s. At the end of our Saturday adventures involving Barbie doll purchases at K-mart, Grandma would roll my hair in pink, sponge curlers for church. Those were the days before the endless catalog of CSI or Law & Order cop dramas. Instead, we had our scanners and our ears tuned directly into the short-wave radios of the Conyers Police Department. As soon as the news broke, Grandma, Loretta, and the rest of Conyers were already on the phone. Porch lights would flash on before sirens came thundering down the streets.

Grandma got out of the bed that night to call my parents. It seems that Peepin’ Tom was spotted in their neighborhood. My dad responded to her warning by saying, “Mother, if that Peepin’ Tom looks in our window, all he’ll get is a headache.” He never really shared our undying scanner love.

That scanner is my first memory of loving technology. That love progressed to my Speak & Spell, then Atari, and later Nintendo. Now, technology has become a drug. Cell phones, text messages, instant messages, myspace, blogs, blackberries, DVDs, TiVo, and i-pods control many of our lives. In Boundless webzine’s article titled “Against the Cell,” Lauren Winner states that 71% of American households now own a cell phone. . . . A 2004 poll found that a third of all Americans name the cell phone as the invention they most hate, but cannot live without.”

Why can’t we live without it?

We are addicted to noise. This flurry of sound fills our ears and minds, allowing no space for new life to grow. How can imagination, creativity, or even prayer fit into our minds when they are overflowing with noise?

Richard Foster tells about behaviors that have helped people connect with God for centuries. Solitude and silence made the list. Jesus repeatedly moved into quiet places to talk to God and then listen as God talked back. Foster tells, “It is the Discipline of solitude that will open the door. You are welcome to come in and ‘listen to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence’” (Celebration of Discipline, pp.109)

Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday as it was, began the season of Lent. Jesus took forty days to enter the wilderness, fast, face ultimate temptation, and prepare for the mission God had designed for Him. The Lenten season was designed for early Christians to reflect on that wilderness time as they contemplated life as followers of Christ. Sarah Parsons states, “Lent presents us with time to clear and cultivate part of that wilderness, to create an open space in it” (A Clearing Season, pp.9).

How can we create more space to listen to God? I dare you to unplug the T.V., turn off the cell phone, step away from the computer, park the i-pod, and let the blackberry rest for the next 40 days. Grandma and Loretta—turn off the scanner! Just listen. In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

How would we respond if we heard Him in the quiet places of our lives?


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