The wide, empty room amplified the rattle of leashes and the snap of plastic clickers. Our first lesson is to make eye contact; call the puppy's name, and when she looks at your face, click the clicker and feed her a treat.
The puppies glanced around, confused. Many names, clicks, and voices pulled their attention in every direction. When my puppy happened to look my way, I added my click and "good girl" to the chaos.
I often feel overwhelmed by the clamor of competing voices, all demanding my time and attention. I am frequently distracted by my worries and plans, pulled in opposing directions by the opinions and expectations of others. I often find it difficult to focus my attention and concentrate on following God's plan for my life.
When God's voice gets lost in the background noise, there are a few steps we can take to refocus our gaze and keep us looking in his direction.
Turn down the noise level.
Our days are busy, and crowded schedules make it difficult to be silent, pray, and listen for God's quiet whisper.
God tells us to be still and know that he is God.
I'm planning 15 minutes every morning to just sit, breathe, and be grateful as I approach a new day.
Reduce the input.
We are constantly bombarded by advertising and media telling us we need to be different to be good enough.
God tells us we are valued because we are created in his image.
I'm cancelling old magazine subscriptions and limiting my TV and Facebook time to reduce the volume of negative messages I receive.
Adjust the environment.
We are surrounded by people who try to tear us down, undermine our successes, and influence us in the wrong directions.
God tells us to choose our friends carefully.
I'm being careful to spend my time with people who build me up, bring positive energy to my life, and work with me to build supportive and nurturing relationships.
The rewards are not always easy to identify. I don't often get a "good girl" and a pat on the head. But I have faith that if I keep trying, keep looking and listening, it will become easier to hear and obey the one who holds the blessings in his hands.
How do you get quiet and listen for God's voice? How do you know you are looking in the right direction?