Entertainment,  Humility,  Music

Yellow Lights, Red Flags: Warning Signs That Help Keep Our Noisy Lives in Check

I ran a big fat yellow light this week.

Actually, if you must know, it looked a tad orange. How a human brain can go back and forth that many times in a matter of 1.8 seconds is beyond me, but there I was:

Slow down. Punch it. 

I’m good. This isn’t good. 

Cops? No cops. 

I got this. I don’t got this. 


Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

Don’t judge. I’m guessing you’ve been in an orange light situation at some point, yes? 

Those split-second decisions don’t exactly give me time to wrangle my best drawl, sing Jesus Take the Wheel and then wait for Him to move. Most of the time I’m relying on my gut instincts while deciding on the fly. 

But what about the red-flag decisions I’ve seen coming a country mile away? The ones that didn’t look, sound, or smell good but I moved forward anyway? 

  • The boys I kissed. 
  • The gossip I listened to.
  • That guy I dated. 
  • The words that flew from my mouth like a murder hornet. 
  • That toxic person I let in. 
  • The boundaries I didn’t set. 

In every situation, I saw or heard the warning signs clear as day and had a choice to stop… or at least swerve. Instead, I chose to slam straight into the flaming red flag.

Why? Was I clueless? Insecure? Feelin’ feisty? In denial? E, all of the above?

Since most young people don’t heed warning lights before their brains are fully developed, some poor choices could be blamed on age. But I wish someone had told me more about…

That Voice

If you’ve been a Christian for very long, you might have heard people refer to it as that “still, small voice.”

As in, calm. Quiet. Peaceful. 

That Voice (sometimes called God, sometimes The Holy Spirit), gives us discernment. He shines yellow lights, flashes orange warnings, and waves red flags, all for our benefit. 

But since this noisy world seems to only be getting noisier, I feel like I have to put forth a more concerted effort to quiet everything down so I can listen for those warning signs. 

My humanity wants to charge ahead with what seems easy and fun, pretending I can still be a keen listener while surrounding myself with nonstop noise. What I need to do is slow down and just listen, but those two things are usually much easier said than done. 

Bring the Action

Here’s what I’ve done and what I’m working on:

1. I reduced my music consumption 

Our TV rarely comes out to play, but having a steady stream of music playing has been normal for the majority of my life. And here’s what I noticed: when I’m listening to songs, thinking about the lyrics, and continuously singing along, there’s no space in my brain to listen to anything else. 

Talking and listening are not congruent. They don’t coexist well. They are in constant competition. 

After mulling this over in my mind, I’m now perfectly content to move through my day without constant noise. I still love music, so I’m definitely not turning it off completely. But even wholesome/uplifting/Christian music… is still noise. Being intentional about moderation is my new goal.

2. I turned notifications O-F-F

Yes, my phone has less to do, but it’s not sad. 

Also, I’m not a businesswoman on Wall Street and I’m not an insecure teenager. So why do I need to know in real-time if my second cousin once removed just liked my post, your great uncle had fun fishing, and it’s gonna be hot again tomorrow?

Duh—it’s still summer down here.

Not only will those spine-tingling notifications be there later, it feels good to be the one who decides when I take in more info. There are plenty of bosses in the world; I don’t need my phone to act like one too. 

3. I watch and listen for groups of three

If our pastor highlights a certain verse in his sermon…

Then I read the same verse in my bible study…

Then I hear the same verse in a song… 

It’s time to pay attention and listen.

If I’m feeling convicted about something…

Then a friend tells me about something similar she learned the hard way…

Then I read about something that matches…

It’s time to pay attention and listen.

God is obviously trying to tell me something, but sometimes I just don’t get it until the situation spins me around and slaps me on the back of the head.

Has this ever happened to you? It’s the coolest when He speaks to us through other people! And music! And His Word! I can’t figure out why it still shocks me though. I know this is how God works, and yet I’m still pleasantly surprised every time.

Now What?

So now that I have a slightly quieter mind, I want to be an active listener. I’ve thought about this at different times in my life, but since I’ve never been this old and our world has never been this loud, it feels different. 

I want to listen for God’s voice for a variety of reasons, but also so I can be aware of yellow lights and red flags a bit sooner. 

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash

Speaking of color, did you know turning your phone to grayscale can help curb phone addiction? Since the gray tones make everything look drab, it removes positive reinforcements in our brains and therefore makes scrolling and gaming look… blah.

My friend has been doing this for a little over a month and he said it’s great. Never heard of such a thing? Google it. You can always turn your phone settings back to full color (in 4 easy clicks or by asking Siri to do it), but if this helps get some of the noise out and quiet your mind, go for it!

Have you been in the middle of a yellow light situation?

Is your yellow light about to turn orange?

Have you ever ignored a red flag?

Are you ready to try greyscale on your phone?

Tell me in the comments. I reply to them all.

Know someone who might like this post? Don't hoard it like a secret family recipe, share it...


  • Amber

    We love a good dance party and sliding around in our socks while rocking out, but I’m also on board with less music! I too, struggle with having to process lyrics on top of my daily decisions – especially if it’s an overwhelming day.

    Classical or instrumental music without lyrics are favorites, as well as songs in other languages.

    Dan Newton’s Cafe Accordion Orchestra is a favorite upbeat instrumental group that feels like I’m in Paris. Instrumental flamenco guitar or Hawaiian ukulele tunes work well for dinner parties or barbecues. I sometimes like traditional Chinese instrumental music with dinner when we cook Asian recipes… it creates a sort of theme night or restaurant experience.

    I also pay attention to the overall vibe of my playlist. Christian music is often minor key and mournful sounding, however sincere. My kids often complained about listening to the “sad” radio station, which was Christian radio. I realized there are too few joyous songs! Switchfoot is melancholy and will make the whole household depressed if played too long.

    So that is what I’ve learned so far about how music works for me. Let me know if you have any fun music recommendations.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Wow, Amber… you’re like a music expert! I love your Hawaiian ukulele idea for dinner parties or BBQs. I’ll have to remember that one. You’re right that a bunch of the Christian music sounds/feels melancholy. That’s why when I listen to it I tend to choose anything more upbeat: Lecrae, Elevation Worship, Rend Collective, TobyMac, etc. Jack Johnson, Surfaces, and a few country artists are always good options for kitchen dance parties. 🙂

  • Jepson Terry

    Great insights. I just heard a great podcast by Juliet Funt and her new book, A Minute to Think. I am training to create space.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thanks, Terry. I’ve never heard of Juliet, but I’ll look her up. “Training to create space.” Sounds perfect.

  • Lydia Thompson

    I love this post, Carrie! Truth in all of it. What really resonated with me was your line, “but since I’ve never been this old and our world has never been this loud, it feels different.” With the barrage of uncertainty and absence of harmony that’s been surrounding us as a nation and right smack-down to our communities and families, I’ve had to strive (and be okay with striving in this situation) to find harmony and keep my eyes on Jesus who is my peace. I’m working on making more time to spend with the Lord.
    Love you and hope all is well!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thank you, Lydia. And now I get to tell you what resonated with me was “…the barrage of uncertainty and absence of harmony….” Well said, but unfortunately, so true. And yes, I think striving in this situation is fully appropriate. Great to hear from you, amiga.

  • Karen Kahler

    Great reminder Carrie! I’ve run through many red flag moments and have many regrets. When the devil hits replay on those moments I ask Jesus to answer the door and thank Him for His forgiveness. Thanks for the reminder to silent living so we can hear His voice

    • Carrie Talbott

      “When the devil hits replay….” Ugh–I hear ya, friend. Thanks for chiming in and reminding us we’re not alone.

  • Kathi Morse

    I’ve experienced God getting my attention just like you described for years. In our family we say, “God’s underlining that for you, are you paying attention?” Sometimes we just smile at one another in church, on the couch, or in the car while silently drawing an imaginary line in front of us. It’s so cool to know our God does this with lots of His kids! God bless you for sharing this simple but profound truth about our Living Loving God.

    • Carrie Talbott

      I love the imaginary line! Such a great reminder and fun family inside joke, except… not a joke. 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing, Kathi.