Archive for the ‘Listening’ Category

Your Biggest Challenge

February 14, 2018

Today is the confluence (or coincidence) of Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day. Probably a better happenstance than the coincidence of Easter and April Fools Day coming up in six weeks. (No Easter eggs for you…April Fool.)

Henri Nouwen wrote a little book on prayer called “With Open Hands.” I see it on my bookshelf occasionally when I’m looking for some book in my library. He talks about approaching God in prayer.

What is our biggest challenge in living with-God?

One of the disciplines, such as study, worship, prayer, service?

Perhaps it is the same challenge as in relationships–like your Valentine (if you are fortunate enough to have one)?

Perhaps it is listening.

We pray–but we consider talking to God as praying. But, it does not end there. Just like talking to (or at?) your spouse won’t cut it with them.

Nouwen shares a story about an elderly woman transported from home to the hospital by the emergency squad. One hand was tightly clenched into a fist. When the medical staff was finally able to open her hand, they found she was clutching a quarter. It was as if she were clutching on to her last tangible belonging.

Opening our hands in prayer is a physical act that relaxes us, opening us up to the Spirit, a posture of listening.

We cannot listen while tightly clinging to our own cares and opinions and thoughts.

We must open ourselves to the Other. Focusing all our senses. Mentally alert in anticipation of hearing something important.

We are entering the season of Lent. Perhaps this can be a time of learning to listen to God with open hands.

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

October 31, 2017

I was assignor / director of referees for a soccer tournament over the weekend. There were 27 referees assigned. Six didn’t show for the 8 am game on Saturday. A few others left early. I was frazzled most of the day. Not to mention that I had to referee three games myself.

She was scheduled only for the morning because she had league games elsewhere that afternoon. But those games changed. She could stay. I saw her and asked her specifically to stay on the same field. 

I meant all day. She thought I meant for the 12:30 game. At 1:30 I’m rushing to fill in for a game and she’s leaving. “Where are you going?” “I have a game in Piqua, but I’ll come back. I thought you only meant for that one game.”

She’s back in a half-hour. There was no one at the Piqua game. (That game was Sunday, not Saturday.) 

Lots of failures to communicate.

I thought about this while pondering a conversation I had yesterday morning at the Y. It was about the NFL. Mind you, when I’m at the Y, I see no people with skins darker than mine. Well, maybe a couple of times a month. That is not policy; it’s merely a reflection of the demographics of the town.

So, the (mostly) black NFL players think that they are communicting the injustice of the way black men are treated. 

What do most white men hear? Disrespect to the country. They don’t understand the injustice.

More failures to communicate.
Worse, failures to attempt to achieve mutual understanding.

Like that 60s protest song, “Battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

But even Jesus, (Matt. 16:11) said once, “How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking of the bread?”

Listening, they did not hear.

Happens to us all.

(Oh, the tournament? 53 teams of young players. It was cold, but they all seemed to have fun and enjoy being out playing. The other referees stepped up and helped fill the openings. Good things do happen. There are many, many good people in the world. We just keep overlooking them.)

Question and Listen

August 2, 2017

It’s a small, private dinner party. A few corporate executives, a couple of writers, and a featured guest. He had recently published a book and was a distinguished professor at a prestigious university.

I took a seat two away from the guest. I had a choice of either end of the table. I chose poorly.

I had actually read his book and came armed with a couple of questions. There were parts I wasn’t sure what he was getting at, and there were parts where I thought he had taken a wrong path.

Unfortunately I had arrived after most other people. The person between the guest and me was monopolizing conversation.

After a period of time I noticed that the guest was decidedly turned the other direction talking with the person on his other side. I spent the evening talking with the person beside me. Don’t think he even noticed that the guest had turned his back our direction.

Aside from my being too shy in some social conversations to take charge–I hate to interrupt people–I let an opportunity for learning slip away.

How often do we let our tongues get in the way of learning?

There are very few people I’ve met who couldn’t teach me something. See an interest, ask a question, sit back and listen and learn.

Are We Really Connecting?

May 25, 2017

When you say something to someone, does the message get through?

OK, we already know about kids. How about spouses?

When God says something to you, does that message connect?

I have devoted a good portion of this week learning about a new computer networking standard–a new version of Ethernet–called Time Sensitive Networking. TSN is a hot topic. Perhaps many new people will read my business blog when I write about it.

There are several important new technologies to this standard, and I’ll spare you the gory details. But there is this one–setting a “priority” so that when one device sends a “packet” of data to another, the entire network stops for a nanosecond while that priority packet gets through. It’s like traffic stopping to let an ambulance go by. You have told the network that communication between these devices is a priority and the message must get through.

So, I started contemplating then concept, of course. It’s what I do.

And I thought, when you say something to someone, does their inner dialog network shut down long enough for your message to get throug? Are you being heard?

Or, something you can control–do you intentionally shut down your inner network when someone is talking to you so that you actually receive their message? And in networking, we have what we call data and we have metadata–data about the context of the data. When you listen, do you absorb the entire context? Where they are. What they actually mean. What back story influences the conversation.

Then I thought about prayer.

For many it’s talking to God. Or maybe requesting a package from the Great Vending Machine In The Sky?

Can you shut down your inner networking for a few nanoseconds (or minutes or hours?) to listen for God’s message packet to come through?

Leaders Listen To Be Effective

February 10, 2017

Leaders are listeners.

But not just listeners–active listeners.

Some people think that leaders are talkers. It is unfortunate if the person who thinks that is also in a leadership position.

You might get the idea from reading Jack Welch’s books (former CEO of GE) that he spent his time talking to (at?) people convincing them of his message. Maybe that’s why he build an unsustainable conglomerate.

Listen to people. Which employees have great ideas, boundless energy, great passion?

Consider how they relate to the corporate mission.

Tap them for positions where they can succeed by implementing those ideas. And where their success also makes the company successful.

Encourage them. Challenge them. Support them with resources.

Everyone wins.

And where did it start?

The leader has an open mind and listening ears. Then thinks and considers. And at the right time, acts.

See, listening is not passive. It involves engaging the mind combined with deep observation. My focus is not on myself. It is actively engaged with others.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Responding To God With Laughter

January 5, 2017

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was an old woman. Past the years of being able to conceive at any rate. She had had no children. Desperate for her husband to have children (times were different back then), she told him to take a servant as a concubine and have a child. He did, she did, it was a bad family decision. Good for the descendants of Ishmael. Bad for relations between Sarah and Abraham.

Then God told her she would conceive. She laughed.

Luke, the gospel writer, does not tell us Elizabeth’s response when her husband came home from Temple duty one day.

“Hi honey,” he might have said. “You’ll never guess what happened to me today at the Temple. I was struck unconscious. An angel of God appeared to me. Told me that we would have a child. I told him you were past the years of conception. He said, that’s OK, go home, sleep with your wife, and she’ll get pregnant. God says so.”

And she said, “Rrriiiigghhht…. Now I’ve heard them all.” Maybe she laughed. But they did, she did, and John (the Baptizer) was born.

Looks like one response to God is to laugh. At him. But he doesn’t get mad.

Did you ever get one of those whispers from God that told you to do something and you thought it was so crazy that you laughed at the thought? 

Maybe not getting pregnant at 60, but maybe talking to someone you see who is from a different race, culture, social strata, or gender? 

Maybe you get a whisper to share your story of faith in public. You laugh. “Not me, I can’t speak.” But God wants you to.

Overcoming Distrust Within Families

December 16, 2016

When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

Not only had Joseph and Mary not lived together, yet, but they also must not have engaged in some of that “heavy making out” without actual intercourse. There was no physical way Mary could have become pregnant–at least by Joseph.

So Joseph’s first reaction was disbelief. The only possible thing that could have happened was illegal, immoral, unethical.

Imagine she comes to him. “I got pregnant. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but God said it was through the Holy Spirit.”

“Riiiggghhhhttt” he said.

But then he’s visited in a dream. It’s OK, go ahead and marry her.

So, in a normal marriage, how often would the wife remind her husband about that initial distrust? Weekly? Daily?

But there is no indication of any further marriage problems. We hear almost nothing about Joseph. Couple of mentions. We have a lot of useless speculations. But when we don’t know, we don’t know.

But I thought how great it is to be open to new revelations. We never know when we’ll hear a whisper, have a dream, get slapped up against the side of the head to get our attention by the Spirit?

If we are open even though it forces us to reconsider our opinions and prejudices, we listen.

Yesterday I talked about mindfulness. Being present in mind when we’re present in body. This is part of it. If we slow down and are present to the possible whispers of the Spirit, the whole trajectory of our life can change.

Pay Attention-I Guess Jesus Said Something Important

October 10, 2016

He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen!” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen.”  Mark 4:2, 9

Thus Jesus introduces and ends the parable of the sower–or rather the story of the different types of soil meaning the different types of people.

The trouble with listening is that so many people think they do it.

You can hear a lot just by listening.

When someone talks, listen. And listen completely.

These are some of the quotes I’ve compiled on listening. The people Jesus taught–they had to listen. There was no workbook. No DVD so that they could replay the story. I bet there were discussion groups.

Mark’s next story immediately following was about a lamp that is not meant to be hidden but that exposes everything. Then he says, “Pay attention to what you hear.”

The act does not end with hearing the words. It’s paying attention. Listening with your brain and your heart.

When you converse with someone, do you hear only words? Or do you hear the emotions and the meaning. Did you “hear” anxiousness? Joy?  Concern? Something that needs a response?  What was the whole message? Actually, can you even remember the words within 30 seconds of their birth?

And what about prayer? We are taught to pray with intention. But what good is intention if you don’t listen for God’s answer? Maybe you pray for God to bring someone into your life. You meet someone. You nod and pass by. Maybe that was the person God was bringing to you. He lobbed a softball at you and you whiffed.

“Pay attention.” Jesus told us something important either was just said or is about to be taught. Are we paying attention, or are we checking social media? Click, click, click…