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Beyond the noise: Quiet time with God

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Sixty seconds.
That was Jeff Walling’s request.
Be quiet and listen to God, Walling asked the crowd at Winterfest, a three-day youth retreat that draws more than 12,000 teens and sponsors to the Great Smoky Mountains.
“Let me give you 60 seconds,” said Walling, minister for the Providence Road Church of Christ in Charlotte, N.C. “It’ll feel like much longer.”
It’ll feel like an eternity, actually.

We live in a 100-mph society where noise, it seems, bombards us 24/7. 
At every turn, we’re hit with advertising — from television to billboards to the supermarket checkout line.
We devote countless hours a day to technology, listening to music on our MP3 players, tweeting on our Twitter accounts and playing games on our iPhones.
One in three teens sends 100-plus text messages a day — more than 3,000 a month, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Lest we older people think we’re any less obsessed, 75 percent of us admit to texting or talking on our smartphones while — ew! — on the toilet, according to marketing agency 11Mark.
What is the cumulative effect of all that noise on our spiritual lives?
“I’m concerned that Jesus is getting lost in the distraction,” said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif.-based market research firm that specializes in the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans and the intersection of faith and culture.
I first started reflecting on this distraction in my own life a few months ago when my friend Kent Risley, a minister for my home congregation, preached on silence and solitude.
“In this world, we get caught up in running the rat race of life,” Risley said in his sermon. “But that is not the race that God intends for us to run.”
In the New Testament, we read about Jesus awakening “very early in the morning.” Not to catch the latest sports highlights on ESPN. Not to check his Facebook messages. Not to program his DVR. Rather, we learn in Mark 1:35: “While it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
We read that verse and sing that song, but do we slow down long enough to talk to God and listen to him?
Do we turn off the TV, take out our earbuds, put down our laptops, give our clicking fingers a rest?
Such questions emerged as a major theme of Winterfest 2012, which highlighted spiritual disciplines such as meditation, prayer and solitude.
Teens who heard the lessons said they hope to put them into practice.
“I plan to get up before school in the morning and spend time with God, in solitude, studying his word and praying so that I start my day with him at the center,” said Jalynn Harris, 16, a member of the Laurel Church of Christ in Maryland.
“I hope to be more involved with God’s will for me by listening to his voice rather than my own,” she added. “I hope to do this by recklessly abandoning myself and living my life as worship by presenting myself to God as a sacrifice and by praising him in the good and the bad times of my life.”
Alec Michael Bissonnette, 18, a member of the Leominster Church of Christ in Massachusetts, said the discipline of simplicity struck him.
“I agree that … today’s youth rely on and use technology too much,” he said. “I have fasted from my cell phone and the computer a few times already since then, and I am planning a fast from eating.”
Oliver Arevalo, 13, a member of the Church of Christ in Falls Church, Va., said: “I intend to focus on the discipline of silence. I can try to add silence to my life by backing off from my electronics a little to give my mind some space to reflect on God.”
But young people weren’t the only ones inspired to assess their emphasis on technology.
Michelle Roberts, a parent who attended Winterfest with a group from the Madison Street Church of Christ in Clarksville, Tenn., embarked on a 40-day fast from Facebook and non-essential computer time.
“Why 40 days?” Roberts wrote in a Facebook note explaining her planned absence. “Jesus fasted for 40 days while in the wilderness prior to being tempted by Satan.
“Since I am striving to be more like Jesus and draw closer to him, what better example is there to follow? Please pray for me during this time of spiritual growth.”
Walling suggested a simple way to remember to talk to God.
He urged the teens to set their ringers to go off at 3:16 p.m. as a daily reminder of this question: “Have I gotten quiet with God?” 
Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

  • Feedback
    I am glad you explored this a little further. I have heard of speakers requesting 30 seconds or a minute of silence as if that one brief moment was the time to hear God’s voice. I am certain that was not Jeff’s point. Silence is a discipline (as all of the other classic disciplines) that has to be cultivated over a long period of time.
    Hasidic Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov once said: “A man who does not observe an hour a day by himself is not human.”
    Darryl Willis
    Ennis, TX
    March, 5 2012

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