Escaping the noise

When I visit my parents’ house I now need to prepare myself for the onslaught. I tell myself, don’t say the wrong thing as soon as you walk in the door!

No, I’m not about to confess via a blog some terrible relationship breakdown with my parents. In fact, all is very well, but sadly the same can’t be said for my Dad’s hearing. And given that he stubbornly refuses to wear his hearing aids, he has the TV blaring so loud that I am sure it can be heard two suburbs away. Whenever I arrive at their small unit now, I know the noise is coming!

As hard as I try, suddenly the words are coming out of my mouth: “Please can we turn down the TV.” My mum smiles and nods, my Dad doesn’t move. He hasn’t heard me over the noise!

As I left my parents’ home a few weeks back to meet some friends, I walked outside, jumped in the car and suddenly there it was …. silence! I just sat for a few minutes and breathed it in. But before I had time to get on my self-righteous soapbox in regard my Dad’s need for golf commentary to be at “100” on the TV volume, suddenly I was struck again by the amount of “noise” in my life – much of it self inflicted!

I spoke about this topic at Crossway recently and the level of feedback has reminded me that I am far from alone in needing to better address this issue in my life. From businessmen to uni students, from grandmothers to teenagers, people have thanked me for challenging them to change some of their day-to-day practices.

And yes I am trying very hard to practice what I preach! I’m trying to find the time to block out the noise and escape the hustle and bustle.

And how I need too in a world that continues to get busier and where I am increasingly bombarded by more and more noise, information and options to fill my mind and schedule.

Here’s just a few “noise” measures that highlight the challenge:

  • It’s estimated that on average people touch their smart phones 2700 times a day.
  • We are on our devices on average for more than three hours a day.
  • We receive on average 76 notifications and 121 emails each day [I wish mine was only 121!]
  • And get ready for this one. Tally up the hours we are projected to spend on social media apps over a lifetime and the sum comes to a whopping 5 years & 4 months – 36% more time than any of us spend eating and drinking.

Now I love social media – I’m an avid user, but that last stat has caused me to go back and review my habits again over recent weeks.

After speaking at Crossway, I had a woman in her 60s and another in her early 20s both say they had become “addicted” to their phones and they knew they needed to make some big changes in their daily habits.

Add in TV, radio, information overload, traffic, meetings and the sheer pace of life today! As one blogger captured it, 20 years ago he woke up in the morning and he had two big choices to make – cereal or toast and what CD to take with him in his CD Walkman for the day.

Fast forward and we have 30million songs available on Spotify and over the past two decades in an average large supermarket grocery lines have tripled in size. We live in a world where the option of immediacy is all around us. Where the world says we need more. Busyness all too often has become a badge of honour.

Calvin Miller is spot on: “Noise and busyness prowl around every day pulling us away from mere connection with God, let alone intimacy with him.”

And Rob Bell challenges me with this question: “In a world of so much noise and busyness, why do silence & stillness seem so hard for many of us?”

Yes I think that sums up the key challenge. Busyness and noise have become the . culture defaults and unless we intentionally change the settings – unless we deliberately seek to review and change daily habits – then we easily get sucked into patterns and practices that squeeze the very life out us!

So what can we do? What I am trying to do?

I’m trying to reclaim in life that which we know makes sense, but we don’t make habitual. Practices and patterns that we see in the life of Jesus, affirmed by wise people in the Scriptures and that many have followed for centuries.

To keep it simple for me – I’m trying to focus on these seven slow-down “S’s”.

Seize the moment

Remember simple things matter

Review your schedule

Practice daily sabbaticals

Smell the roses”

Sup with others

Build in solitude & silence

So I don’t fall into information overload here as well, let me seek to give you a brief summary of each and encourage you to reflect on what each “S” may mean in your world.

Seize the moment: Life won’t just suddenly stop being noisy. It won’t suddenly slow down, so whenever we get the moment to break the cycle, seize it! I woke up early this morning in my hotel and for a few hours I didn’t need to be anywhere or meet anyone. That’s rare for me. My default thinking said “catch up on some work”. Thankfully I chose option B – and I went for a great long walk, caught my breath and let life slow down! I enjoyed a coffee and just watched the world pass me by. We have to seize the moments!

Remember simple things matter! After speaking at Crossway I had an email from a professional man and friend who told me that he was no longer bringing his phone upstairs to the bedroom at night. He intentionally put it on charge downstairs and he had removed late-night screen time from his life. “Join the club” I wrote back as I had recently put the same simple practice in place. In a world of busyness and noise, we can make big changes as we cultivate new, simple habits!

What’s a simple step you can make to allow life to slow and escape the noise?

Review your schedule: This one speaks for itself. But how often do we do it with intentionality, allowing the Spirit to lead us towards transformative life changes? Are you in need of schedule-overload surgery? Have you crowded God out of your daily life and routines?

Practice daily sabbaticals: I am so thankful that as I read the gospels I see Jesus modelling something that I still need to master, but am working on. In the midst of the busyness, in the midst of the crowds, he at times just got away from all of it. He called time. He knew the habitual importance of time out, of slowing down, of catching his breath. Leonard Sweet beautifully reminds us that we can practice this pattern – he calls them “daily sabbaticals”. We can declare them at work and . go for a walk. We can declare them when the schedule seems so full, but a 30-minute silent coffee break maybe a busyness dealbreaker. We can declare them with a bath, a good book and glass of wine. The more I practice sabbatical rhythms, the more balanced my life becomes. It’s good for the soul!

Smell the roses”: Want to get away from all the noise and craziness of life? Get out into nature. It just works! It’s a no brainer, be it the beach, the mountains, a favourite park, the forest or throwing stones in the river. This past week I was stuck in a massive traffic-jam on the always busy I405 LA freeway. I needed some time out. I took an exit road and found a beautiful green space where I was able to literally “smell the roses”. The Creator has blessed us with creation to fill our tanks. How often do you make the most of nature around you and allow life to slow?

Sup with others: Sometimes we underestimate the importance Jesus placed on hospitality. He liked to eat with people. He liked to sit at the table with friends as well as people who were very unlike him. He models the importance of food, conversation and valuing simple pleasures! In a world that is too fast and where we are bombarded with so much unnecessary noise I am so thankful for the .gracious gift of hospitality and the joy we can all find as we sit, eat and talk with others!

Build in solitude & silence: I don’t need to go do “Advance 101” because our world . calls me everyday to stay busy “doing” .

But yes, I could do far more retreating and making the time to focus on who I am . as a person. That’s the pattern of Jesus, who shows us the importance of building into life on a regular basis solitude and silence, where he cultivated his relationship with his Father, where he escaped the rush and the crowds, where he re-aligned his life around his key purposes and priorities.

Some will find silence and solitude easier than others – but we all need to keep working on it, even if it is minutes at a time.

There was once a time when I didn’t appreciate periods of no noise or activity. But the older I get the more I see the importance of these beautiful partners – solitude and silence. They are disciplines to cultivate – they are gifts to cherish.

Thousands of years back the Psalmist – in the midst of chaos and turmoil – heard these life-changing words:

How we need to hear these words today in a world of noise. How we need to hear these words in our 24-7-364 busy world. How we need to hear them in a world where there always seem something else to do!

And here’s hoping my Dad might hear them too and turn the volume down!

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