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Noon Echoes

The alarm clock blared for the second time.  Nancy reached over and found the button while groggily lifting her head from the pillow.  Morning was here again.  Yawning, she shuffled across the cool hard floor and found her way to the restroom.  Last night’s coffee had to go somewhere.  Morning coffee would soon be coming to take its place.

Two cups and a stiff bagel later, she was on her way to work.  Cars appeared and disappeared in and out of her sight as she made her way through the traffic for the daily delight to see how far away from the building she would have to park.  Joy!  There was a slot two blocks closer than she normally had to park.  This would mark one of the highlights of her day.  A slam of the door and a trudge in the right direction put her in the building before the morning’s first deadline.

With any luck, she wouldn’t have to deal with a customer right before noon and she could make it to her favorite restaurant.  It wasn’t much in the way of ambience or fancy dishes, but it was quiet.  And she didn’t have to deal with people.  She could go hole up in a booth and read a book or sometimes just sit.  The waitresses knew her enough to serve her food and pretty much steer clear.

Then it was back to work.  Push through the afternoon.  Fight sleep.  Make it til quitting time.  Drive home as the same cars appeared and disappeared around her without ever impressing upon her mind unless they intruded into her lane too quickly.  Supper, dishes, laundry and then late night TV while she sorted through bills and read through e-mail.  Goodnight prayers rounded off the day — keep God happy.

Nancy could tell you how many customers she encountered who were angry.  She could tell you how many cars were parked closer to the front door than her car (she often counted them as she walked to the building).  She could count on one hand the number of times she had spoken to a coworker longer than three minutes about something other than work related issues.  She could even tell you the number of minutes it took from front door to front door on a good day.

But Nancy couldn’t tell you whether or not the coworker right across from her was puffy-eyed from crying or whether she had a bad case of allergies.  Nancy couldn’t tell you the depth of blue the sky was as she left for lunch.  She didn’t know she had parked right in front of an expectant mother who was enjoying her morning stroll along the same route she had for seven months.  She couldn’t even remember the gentle “Hello” offered to her by the woman.  She missed the fact that her waitress’  usual frostiness had been replaced by a sadness as she had watched her aged parent finally succumb to disease.  These and many other facts were lost on Nancy.  She didn’t know that this day, she had bypassed almost twice as many opportunities to engage life fully as she normally encountered on a good day.

Nancy just wants to get through another day.  Where she’s going nobody knows, not even Nancy.

Rewind:  A long time ago, a group of smarty pants got together to cause trouble for the one man they didn’t like.  He was popular, and their popularity was in danger because of it.  He spoke, and people listened.  Who would listen to them any longer if things continued like they were?  What could they do?  If they could discredit him in front of a crowd of people, their standing might rise again.  They would be the wise ones, revered and honored by the same crowd.

So they sent people to ask tricky questions.  “Is it really necessary to pay taxes?”  “If seven brothers marry the same woman in succession after each one dies, whose wife will she be when the resurrection happens?”  “Can God make a rock so big that even He can’t move it?”  (OK, I threw that last one in.)  Jesus answered each of the questions with such wisdom that, to use the vernacular, he PWNED his opponents.  There’s nothing like watching a good thrashing — of someone else.  But Jesus didn’t answer the religious hypocrites in order to simply put them in their place.  He answered them to speak truth where the common person could hear the right answer to tough questions.  “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

Listening to this whole conversation was one of the scribes.  The scribes were the equivalent of our lawyers or judges.  This meant that he could read, write and had a pretty good job.  This scribe was interested in the fact that Jesus answered so well.  So he asked Him what is the first commandment above all.  Jesus answered with His famous statement that the greatest commandment is to love God with the whole heart, soul, mind and strength.  Then He added a bonus answer that the second commandment was similar:  to love your neighbor as yourself.  When the scribe heard the answer, he pondered it and responded by saying, “Teacher, you’ve said it straight.  There is only one God, and to love Him with the whole heart, the whole understanding and the whole strength — and to love your neighbor as yourself — is greater than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices put together!”

The Bible records that Jesus looked at the scribe, and He realized that the man had answered him wisely or discreetly.  He then spoke to the scribe and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Interesting word that Mark uses for “wisely” or “discreetly.”  The word is nounechos.  It comes from two words:  NOUS, the word for the mind and ECHO, the verb which means “to have” or “to possess.”  Literally, this scribe had a mind.  Teenagers would say he had a clue.  The Tin Man would say he had a brain.  To dig a little deeper, this man did more than fight for position like the rest of the religious hypocrites around him.  He was actually listening, watching, examining and caring about what was being said and done around him.

His colleagues and business associates around him were simply living life and trying to keep their status.  The seasons of Israel’s history were changing all around them with the advent of the prophet John the Baptist and the appearance of the Son of God.  But they were concerned with parking spaces, whether the coffee was heated to the religiously correct degree and how many steps they had walked on the Sabbath day — all while keeping God happy.  What they couldn’t tell you is how a blind man could suddenly see.  They couldn’t tell you why an adulterous woman should be stoned but the man who was caught with her had to be protected.  They couldn’t begin to count the number of hurting people they passed by every day — sometimes purposefully on the opposite side of the road, but they could tell you how many points down they were in the opinion polls compared to the new Teacher.

My, things don’t change much.

Time for questions.  Let’s read these together, shall we?

Do I live my life like a mindless drone?
Do I really see what’s going on around me?
Do I hear and listen to the voices of those around me?
Do I see into their eyes and ponder the state of their souls?
How many opportunities pass me by every day, opportunities to help, to bless, to encourage?

What if we actually took one set time every day to do some hard thinking about our own lives, about the lives of the people around us?  What’s that word Jesus used again?  “NOUNECHOS.”  The word sounds like “noon echoes” to me.  Seems to me that about everybody I meet has time for lunch.  We use it to conduct business, to chat about the weather and other people.  WHAT IF we used the noon hour to listen to the echoes of truth?  What if we took this time to exercise a simple discipline:  the discipline of clearing our mind of STUFF and letting it be a whiteboard for God to write His thoughts on?

“OK,” I can hear someone say, “it sounds good.  But I only have thirty minutes for lunch.  How can I do that?”

Here’s how.  Start by preparing the night before.  Pack a simple lunch.  A sandwich, piece of fruit, a drink.  It doesn’t have to be complex, right?  It just needs to keep body and soul together.  While you are packing lunch, pack two more things:  a Bible and a notepad.  When lunch comes, instead of wasting time chatting about nothing, make a beeline for a table or booth in the company break room and have a seat.  Give thanks for the food.  While you munch, read a Psalm or a chapter in Proverbs.  Or peruse the life and words of Jesus.  John is a great book for that.

“Oh, wait, I need to go by the dry cleaners and …”  Don’t get sidetracked.  Write it down on your notepad and go back to your reading.  Read for about ten minutes.  It will help begin the discipline of putting your mind in a state of listening.

After you finish reading and munching, spend two to three minutes just listening.  You can start with the simple game of “What do I hear” I sometimes play with my kids.  You’ll hear the clock ticking on the wall, the microwave beeping as someone finishes heating up their lunch, the sound of voices in conversation, creaky chairs, stirring of sweetener in drinks, car horns, and more.  It’s fun to actually write them down and see how many unique things you do hear.  The first few days, you might hear a lot of external noise.  The QUIET doesn’t come without fighting for it.  Pretty soon you’ll hear past the external noises, and you’ll begin to hear the voices competing in your own mind.  “Why are you wasting your time doing this?  You know you have to get that project done!”  “She shouldn’t have said that to me.”  “He’s a jerk!”  “Wonder what’s for dinner tonight.”  Write those down, too.  You’ll be surprised at how many conversations try to dominate your thoughts.

If you press on, you will begin to actually take control over your mind and what runs through it.  When you reach that point, you’re actually ready to begin to listen — really listen.  And that is when other thoughts may end up tracing through your mind.  “John looked tired today.  Wonder what’s up with him?”  “What you said to your wife wasn’t fair.  You need to apologize.”  “This town needs a place where business men and women can go to pray.”  “Hmm.  The waitress doesn’t seem her usual cheerful self.”  “That long standing part of your business is draining your time.  Shut it down and focus on this other part.”

Any and all of those things can be the voice of God speaking to you.  What you do with those thoughts shows whether or not you are living in the kingdom of God or whether you are just living life without a mind.  “Hey, shouldn’t I spend some of this time in prayer?”  Well, you can.  But isn’t LISTENING the part of prayer we usually fast forward through?  What do you need to tell God?  Tell Him.  But God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

One thing is for sure, Nancy and you and I will all stand before God one day.  It will be a great opportunity to look back at a life lived — or not lived and tell Him why we did or didn’t do the things we could have done and should have done.  For those who live life with a mind, who don’t ignore the “noon echoes” of truth, it will be a great time of reflection as we look back on the opportunities He gave to us and the way we caught on to some of them and really ran with it.  What joy to realize that we actually were walking in His will!  Those who just tried to make it through another day?  Probably not so much of a grand time of reflection, I imagine.  Which will you be?

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5 Responses to "Noon Echoes"

  1. Jeannie says:

    Touched my Heart & Soul, Thank You.

  2. angie says:

    Thank you. So practical. I’m going to try this on my lunch break tomorrow. Ps love your book on walking with God and also Beautiful Outlaw. Both books were so insightful. Blessings back to you, John. Angie

    1. craig says:

      Thanks for the encouragement. I believe you have me confused with John Eldredge on the books though. 🙂 But it’s nice to be appreciated for one’s other writings in spite of having a different name.

  3. Craig, what a lovely reminder, I am one of those blessed people who have a business run by the best CEO ever – Our Father God.
    I have many opportunities to just sit & thank him for His AMAZING Provision.
    Currently, listening to wood pigeons cooing to each other, water running in my fountain & some other birds chattering away in a suburb of the city of Geelong Victoria Australia.
    Have enjoyed your Meditations for many a year & frequently cut & paste them onto Facebook.
    This article particularly caught my attention – thank you Craig.
    I find Facebook an EXTRAORDINARY way of ministering to others worldwide.
    May God continue to bless you, keep you safe & ALWAYS inspire to reach out to others in Jesus Mighty Name Amen
    Your Sister in Christ, Melinda

    1. craig says:

      Sounds like you are blessed to be in a great spot to enjoy creation! Thank you for the encouragement.

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