Three mornings a week, I shrink-wrap my blessed buns in bicycle shorts and tie a camouflage bandanna around my graying temples. Thus dressed for stress, I go jogging to the rhythm of the finest
hymns – kind of like “Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” but I call ‘em “Jogging for Jesus” tapes.

Synchronized in body, spirit and soul, I move in perfect harmony with my world and my creator. OK, maybe not perfect harmony, but certainly on a better happier beat than some of the rude runners I was meeting. Beachside joggers seemed as though they were running in conflict with their universal harmony.

Perhaps they were unable to see me as I flew past them at almost 6mph, but surely, they heard me. Each time I encountered someone, I always said something spiritual, like “May you live the long life of Methuselah” or “run like Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife.”

But these joggers either gave me a stare like I was Jimmy Swaggert approaching them for a date or they would totally ignore me. Was it just their envy of my sculpted abs, caused their rudeness? (It is those distracting features that prevent my editor from publishing my full picture.)

But recently, things changed when I discovered a muting button on my headset wire. When I push it, the music stops and I hear my world. So, I wondered what would happen if I used this button to dim the sound as I greeted fellow joggers. Would they respond?

Astoundingly they became much friendlier. People could hear my greeting. But more amazing, I could hear myself. Being able to hear one’s self is an elementary principle of communication. I had either been yelling at people (hence their rude looks) or just barely squeaking out a greeting. Beachside people weren’t rude after all.

Our world is filled with a cacophony of distractions that can quickly divert your attention into the black hole of banality. Maintaining the people connection that God created us to sustain is always a challenge – even for ministers.

Years ago, I was visiting a wheelchair bound psychiatric patient when I allowed one of those distractions to derail my people connection. I arrived in the ward to find the Jenny Jones show turned three points above a megaphone, so the competition for my attention was intense. Jenny’s guests included a mother and her two daughters discussing their recent Playboy pictorial.

So, I attempted to tune one ear to the patient and the other to the revealing story of mom and daughters. He began his story two years earlier when he had a great job, an expensive house, nice cars, great wife and kids.

“Geez, these psych patients can get so lost in themselves,” I thought. Where was he going with this story? – Where was he?” Did he say something about a diving board? …blah, blah, blah.”

“Wow! Mom and daughter were all in the same issue! I could hardly tell mother and daughters apart.” The minister part of me feigned outrage and the male side of me found it difficult to tune this out.

The patient’s voice barged back into my thoughts. “So, what does God think about this?”

Thinks about…? My voice trailed, fishing for comprehension. Had I missed something? Probably.

“It seems like she left me and took the kids because of my diving board accident,” he said. Why did God allow that to happen?”

Yup. Missed something. Big time. Definitely a fourth down play. Pass or punt? “Hey,” I thought, “I’m a professional. I know stuff. I got some answers about stuff. I’ll use my best stuff.”

“Well,” I began, “I am sure that prayer coupled with a community of believers could become very supportive for you.” Yeah, I liked it. Good stuff. I wondered if Jenny’s show would still be on in the employee lounge.

“Is that all?” He asked incredulously.

“Is that all God has to say? I’m paralyzed. No, job, home or family. And all you can say is that God wants me to pray and go to church?” “I think God owes me a few more answers than that!”

The situation is desperate. My back is up against my own goal. What do I do? Hmmm. How about give up on the “game playing?”

“Those were lousy answers,” I began, “and I doubt if God liked it any better than you did. I was tuning in the TV and tuning you out. Can we start again?”

He should have cussed me, kicked me and run me over, but he chose to give me another chance – another chance to tell him what “God had to say” about his situation.

When the sounds in our world begin to pull us away from our connection with people they rob us of our created purpose. Whether these distracting sounds enter our head through Sony headphones or they are just self-generated noise, they can become parasitic sounds which compete for brain cells. They can be no more helpful than hearing an A.M. radio evangelist through your orthodontic work. But when we begin to use those distractions like Novocain to deaden our senses so that we have blocked our connection to people, it is time to take a step back.

I’m not sure I was ever able to accurately quote God’s plan for this man’s life, but I think I finally became to him what God was expecting me to become – an interceptor of his hurt and a reflection of hope.