Thursday, May 8, 2008

Profitable Listening

For the first several years after I began driving, I listened to nothing but music in the car. Like most young people, I had no interest in listening to anyone talk about anything, unless it was someone announcing the name of the next song.

A couple of years after I graduated from college, however, I began to have an unquenchable thirst for learning. While I still enjoyed listening to music, I found that I wanted to spend my time in the car more profitably. I wanted to learn things, to broaden my education; because of this, I began to occasionally listen to books on tape. Still, books on tape in those days were (at least to my knowledge) not widely available, and I didn’t have much time to go searching for them. Because of this, I turned to another source of learning: talk radio.

While in seminary, I listened to a great deal of talk radio, in two major forms. First, I listened to a great deal of preaching and other Christian talk programs, such as Focus on the Family. Gradually, however, I found myself less and less interested in listening to preachers and more interested in politics (shame on me, but that’s just what happened!). Before long, I found myself regularly listening to Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan, and other talk show hosts while I was in the car and while I was at work.

During our five years of mission service, Jennifer and I weren’t able to listen to much of anything. Occasionally, someone would send us tapes of great preachers, and we would enjoy them. After we returned home from the mission field, with conversion to Orthodoxy as our goal, I no longer had any interest in listening to evangelical preachers. So, I turned back to talk radio. I resumed listening to Rush, while adding Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and several local hosts to my “playlist.”

Before long, however, I grew weary of talk radio. I began to tire of the shrill tone and the constant repetition of the same old arguments (even if I agreed with them most of the time). The negative tone of the shows began to grate on me. I found that listening to talk radio often raised my blood pressure and put me in a foul mood. And it was certainly not contributing to my spiritual growth. In fact, it may have been doing just the opposite. I longed to hear great preaching and spiritual teaching. But where could I find it?

Enter Orthodox Christian Cassettes. This fine mom-and-pop business, based in Arkansas, produces tapes and CD’s of sermons and lectures by many of the world’s greatest Orthodox speakers and teachers. They both sell and lend out their tapes and CD’s. I borrowed many tapes from them (still no CD player in the car at the time!), but I started feeling guilty that I wasn’t sending them any money. I assuaged my guilt by buying a few of the tapes. Unfortunately, I eventually had to stop, because the tapes and CD’s are not cheap; a whole lecture series can cost up to $60 or more. This is quite a bit to spend, especially if you may only listen to the tapes once or twice (and if you are living on a teacher's salary!).

Then, I discovered that our local library has a large selection of lecture series and audiobooks on tape and CD. I went through dozens of these, and I learned a great deal. Again, I soon found that although these tapes and CD’s were very interesting, they did not help me to grow spiritually. I longed to be able to spend the enormous amount of time that I spend in my car growing close to God, but without having to pay a lot of money to be able to do so.

(By the way, in case you are wondering: Yes, I do spend some of my time on the road in prayer. But I still have so much to learn that I need the teaching tapes).

Finally, I found the solution to my problem. What is it? Check back tomorrow, and you will find out!


Michael said...

I listen to a lot of talk radio (Sean Hannity, Mike Berry, and Glenn Beck) on my way to the apartment from work. After coming home from school though, sometimes I just leave it off. After the hustle and bustle of the workday, not to mention the noise my students sometimes make, my car serves as a refuge for me. Normally, I will try to pray the Jesus Prayer on my way home, listen to Ancient Faith radio podcasts (thanks to you, Father!), or just try to be still.

Eddie said...

I'll tell you my solution: podcasts. If you own an mp3 player (doesn't have to be an iPod), then you can listen to podcasts on the go. My favorite Orthodox podcasts are Come Receive the Light, the Illumined Heart, and Our Life in Christ. They help make my long commute enjoyable.

Fr. James Early said...


You have either hacked into my computer and read my next post, or you have simply read my mind! You too, Michael! Or have you guys been to my Sunday School class? Hmmm....

Charlene said...

Father James,
Were you reading my mind perhaps? In the 9 months since losing a good deal of my vision, I have missed being able to read voraciously about about whatever topic was currently of interest to me. Modern technology makes reading possible, but not the easy joy it once was. Here I have found a church where the worship fills me with great joy. I know is where God wants me to be. Sometimes God gives us great gifts when we least expect them. I want to learn everything all at once about my church, but there is no longer an easy way to access the information. I too have winced over the prices of the CDs. I am ready to shop for that MP3 player or Pod after today's column. Thank you.

Fr. James Early said...


We at St. Joseph's are very blessed to have you with us! I am thankful that God has led you to us. An Ipod would definitely be a good investment, so that you can listen to the many outstanding Orthodox podcasts that are available. You can get a basic one for under $100.

May the Lord bless you.