Listening to Lent: How to Care Less but Actually Care More

Mt Sopris 2016Leaves rustle behind me. I listen. The minute intermittent scratch—barely audible, but amplified by the silence around me—is the only sound for miles. Besides my own breathing. 

It’s a field mouse burrowing under the long, golden grass that is my seat. Now a crow croaks above. His wings send a windy squeak into the stillness. If clouds made noise as they scraped over the snow-dusted mountain peaks, today I would hear it. 

It’s that quiet. 

Stillness. Peace. 

This day my world consists of the shifting sounds and changing colors of wilderness. The aspens stand on their milky trunks with their gray branches reaching for eternity. A doe and fawn skitter through the meadow, never realizing my hunting partner and I are there. I can travel only where I can walk, see only to the next ridge, talk only to my friend under the next tree. For this moment life has narrowed, simple. 


All this as somewhere war ravages, terrorists plan more cowardice, politicians puff up like self-important peacocks, philosophical debates rage, earthquakes rumble, economies tumble, hunger ravages, homelessness decimates, and world events vast as the sky mount. I know these things because the information age is upon me. Information technology speaks loudly and carries a big stick. But not here. Here I’m journaling about field mice, aspen trees, and crows. Would that our worlds could become this small and contained again. 

Sitting in this meadow I slowly realize, once again, I lack what it takes to fight AIDS in Africa, prevent earthquakes in Pakistan, support the correct U.S. Supreme Court nominee in DC, house the homeless in Denver, adopt baby girls from China, save the environment, stop war, care for my family, stay fit, love my wife, read a good book, be a friend, love God, and figure out global warming all at the same time. 

I need life narrowed down. I can’t be global. I don’t have enough mind, heart, and soul to wrap around it all. Technology may have shrunk the globe to a village. But it’s still too big for me. 

Focus on today and the here and now

Leonard Sweet writes in, “SoulTsunami” “Technology is outrunning our theology and ethics, leaving us panting, helpless anachronisms.” 

Anachronism I am.

Despite their enormity, at one time most human beings would never have heard about tsunamis, hurricanes, and tragedies untold much less be given an opportunity to help. The sun would have risen and set on a day containing, as Jesus said, worries enough of its own. Each day we are bombarded by more information than we can assimilate or even care about. One of my professors put the dilemma this way: we are camel-age creatures living jet-age lives.Jay and Caitlyn

We need a theology of human limitation

Call God shortsighted if you like. We seem to have been designed to function best with narrower boundaries. In his outstanding book, “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” Richard Swenson asserts we need a theology of human limitation.

We cannot do and care about as much as we believe we can. We need time and ways to shut out the voices telling us to change the world! By gaining distance from the global noise, I can actually hear the people and concerns near me.

Otherwise, it feels as if a terrible wind has torn down the walls and ripped off the roof of life and we stand naked and exposed to every storm the world dreams up.

Obviously technology is not all bad. My son was born two weeks premature in 1984. A new technology saved his life. And, selfishly, hot showers are remarkable. But there is the law of unintended consequences to deal with.Cobalt Blue 

Find an isolated time and place to listen for God 

The question is, how?

For me these retreats into the wilderness—back in time—help. Through isolation and stillness, through shrinking my world God enlarges my mind, heart, and soul. When I am out in the wild, I sleep in a tent, have no cell phone access, no cable TV, no high speed Internet, and no idea what is going on in the world. But I am not out of touch. 

When the enormous worries of the world invade, I lift my eyes to the hills and ask, where does my help come from? In response I hear God whisper and even roar in the treetops: I Am here. 

In the wild—in isolation—for one day—or even a few—time slowed down as golden sunlight chased shadows across the green sage valley for the umpteenth time: I Am timeless, God said. In the glistening eyes of my hunting partner: I see and love, God winked. Snow covered Mount Sopris towered, gleaming in the morning sun: I Am almighty, God assured. 

The weight of the world is on God’s shoulders. Not mine! Maybe if I let God carry the weight, I can focus on and care about those things I can affect. Thanks God, for whispering louder than a myriad of modern, screaming voices. Thanks for holding the world in your hands. Thanks for narrowing the world down, if for just a moment. 

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A version of this was first published on September 20, 2010 at

Categories: Christianity, Faith, God Sightings, Jesus, Lent, Nature photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Listening to Lent: How to Care Less but Actually Care More

  1. Georgie Ann Kettig

    “The world is too much with us” (William Wordsworth),… I haven’t read his poem, but I do agree with the thought, as well as your descriptions ~ but it seems it was still true, even in the much less technology-infested world of the 1800s!,… perhaps in a glorious spot, such as you have found, God’s sensitive and majestic essence can shine through His Creation to touch and inspire the attentive, listening soul, but it seems that we’ve always had to try to look out beyond our “immediate circumstances”, in order to find and connect with “something” that truly reflects the divine, and brings us supernatural peace,…

    “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” used to appear on NYC subway train walls (in the 60s/70s), to advertise a popular play in those times,… I didn’t see that either, but I could certainly identify with the concept,…

    Too often the message of that busy world is clamoring chaos of conflicting needs and demands,… and lately “opinions and attitudes” have climbed a ladder to do their constablaring

    • Georgie Ann Kettig

      (part 2):,… my cord shorted out, leaving that unfinished, but at least it didn’t all disappear!,… kind of a miracle,… but I couldn’t figure out how to get access to the end portion,… so, I’ll try to complete it here,…

      (cont),… Too often the message of that busy world is a clamoring chaos of conflicting needs and demands,… and lately “opinions and attitudes” have climbed a ladder of generalized acceptance to do their constant challenging blaring far and wide,… the self-acknowledged limited and “older me” (that you describe so well), reminisces about a time when the mind worked more gently, observing and considering various options, and letting time and patience be important influencers in the choices we made, and the paths we followed,…

      I conclude that such “simplicity” is a benefit to us, especially as we attempt to “walk with God”, as much as we are able,…

  2. Hi, friend. As usual your wise perspective adds so much. Thank you. I love the line: “a time when the mind worked more gently.” Is that also part of what we need in our public discourse today? Minds that work more gently! Keep walking with God.

    • Georgie Ann Kettig

      thanks, Eugene,… you, too,… (-:

    • Georgie Ann KETTIG

      it seems to me that “thought” is actually a different process than spewing out knee-jerk attitudes and opinions, which are often seeming to me now, to act more as “blinding forces”, than “reflections of truth”,…

  3. Super good Eugene! Thanks for your thoughts, they definitely resonate w me.

    Phil Rice


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