I keep hearing voices.
I know they aren’t real, but if I ignore them, I do so at my own peril.

Ironic voices: Last week, I heard a computerized voice from the store whose technicians dress like Mormon missionaries.

In the calm demeanor of “Hal 9000” of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the phone call began with, “The item . . . The item . . . the item you . . . you . . the item you brought for repair . . .”

Finally it sputtered, “The item you brought for repair is ready for pickup.”

“Who was that?” My wife asked. I told her about the stuttering computer voice.

“Your computer store called with a broken auto-dialer to tell you that your computer has been repaired?”


“And you believe them?” she asked. No irony is lost on this woman.

Conflicting voices: Then my doctor’s computer called to remind me of my obligatory “after-50 test,” called a colonoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor will drive a camera north up my south end.

It’s no “Kodak moment,” but since this is my first time, I’d hoped to speak with my doctor personally.

The worst part about these computerized calls is that they are voice-activated. Meaning, if the computer misinterprets some background noise, it might suddenly ask, “You’ve selected a colostomy. Is that correct?”

Look it up. That’s a very different outcome.

Emergency voices: These voices continue during my week. They are from more automated callers and computerized menus asking me to spell, press or say the correct response. I get so frustrated that I’m afraid one day I’ll have stroke.

After the stroke, my poor wife will find me slumped over my computer and she’ll call 9-1-1. A tinny computer voice will tell her to press 1 if she really loves her husband and is praying for him to live.

Pressing 1, she’ll be told, “You’ll get faster service by going to www.911.com. My wife doesn’t do the Web, so she’ll likely remain on the line and be selected for one of those “random surveys.”

God voices: I’ll have to admit, computer voices can seem much more definitive than spiritual voices. Computers understand 0’s and 1’s — black and white. Nothing else.

I guess it would be handy if God’s voice was computerized. You could plug in your GPS interface and say, “Here I am! Should I go this way or that?”

Or maybe you could e-mail God. But, of course, not before you read the obligatory FAQs.

Or perhaps as election day approaches, you could ask God which candidate should get your vote. You’d be required to use your telephone keypad to numerically spell your candidate’s name. Given my luck with automation, I’d likely elicit the response, “You’ve selected Satan. Is that correct?”

No, that’s not correct. Gratefully and gracefully, God desires to know each of us personally. God loves each of us the way he loves all of us. And he loves all of as if he had only one person to love.

My sense is that people who are looking for the automated answers from God are the ones who are not willing to do the work to enter into a personal relationship with God. The work required is the same as any good relationship. Talk to God, spend time with God and share the gifts of God with others.

Final voices: The voice I should have heard is my wife’s. The “Hal 9000” was not to be trusted. At the store’s pickup counter, my computer wouldn’t so much as boot up. It had failed, had failed, had failed . .