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Turning off the noise to listen to God

Photo: Fred Hsu, CC via Flickr Photo: Fred Hsu, CC via Flickr

I sit at the desk in my little home office. A fall sun streams through the window, pouring brilliant light on my plant. If a plant could speak, I know it would tell me how happy it is.

It’s a perfect Monday -- comfortable temperatures, no wind, a cloudless blue sky. My window is open wide, facing the usually quiet neighborhood street. Kids are at school, parents at work. What a day to write.

Across the street, the house painter is back. This man has been meticulously transforming our neighbor’s tall, two-story home with rollers and brushes. No spray paint on this house, which is morphing from boring beige to a deep, resonant forest green.

As he paints, he listens to talk radio. The morning’s stillness is pierced by a man’s belligerent voice asking whether we shouldn’t be concerned that a couple of minor state officials’ names appeared on the Ashley Madison website, where married people pursue clandestine affairs.

To write, I block out noise. But closing the window is unthinkable on a beautiful day like this. I search my cabinet for some instrumental music but instead I pick up one that makes me want to sing. I can’t write so I might as well sing along. I hear the lawn mower and I can hardly hear the words. I turn off the music and resolve to find the steady drone of the mower as a good accompaniment to writing.

But the painter has carefully drawn a huge extension ladder to its full height and he’s climbing up to the tall peak of a very steeply slanted second story roof. All this to reach a narrow patch of wood that divides one part of the roof from a slightly taller one. Then I think, where’s my cellphone? I may need to call 911. At one point, the painter lies flat on his back to get the proper stroke marks in. I know I should be writing, but I’m mesmerized.

The mowing is done, the music has gone silent, and the painter is now painting something so low he’s sitting on the ground. Finally. But now, the radio has my attention.

As I reflect on it, I realize I’ve described not just my effort to write through distractions, but a pretty telling synopsis of my prayer life as well. Earlier this morning, sitting at a quiet kitchen table, my mind wandered everywhere but toward the relative silence.

In a world beset by noise, news, information and distractions, it’s hard to focus. How do we make room for the quiet, whispered voice of God? It’s difficult, but it’s important to try. And how often we discover that right there in the midst of our crazy daily life, God is waiting to engage us?

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