Posts Tagged ‘Listen’

Listen For Healing

December 18, 2014

Trait of listening to people for healing; listening to God in preparation.

This comment just popped up in some notes I was reviewing. I have no idea where it came from. No idea what the context was. But, it’s interesting, isn’t it?

We’re in Advent, so preparation is on my mind. Much had to be prepared for Jesus arrival. Before conception, Mary had to be prepared. She had to listen to God’s messenger and pay attention.

After conception, Joseph had to be prepared. He, also, had to listen to a messenger of God.

This was listening in preparation. They each had to listen and then act.

But in the story, Zechariah and Elizabeth also had to listen and act. They were important, too. And their son, John, had also to listen (to his parents we presume) and then act.

Our challenge this week is to also listen. What words or thoughts are God whispering into our consciousness?

Then I thought about the healing part.

Who listens? Who talks?

Perhaps we need someone to listen to us. This is a time of year of great stress. There are all the holidays–gifts, parties, family. Also winter is coming on (here in the Northern Hemisphere). That stresses many.

Who do we have that will listen to us? Who will give a comforting word?

Or turn it around. Who needs us to listen to them? Do we realize just how much healing we can do by listening? That would be active listening, paying attention to the words, the feelings, the thoughts between the words. Understanding. Empathizing. Comforting. Praying.

Listening. Preparation. Healing. Comforting. Valuable Spiritual Disciplines.

Listening Actively Using Your Heart

April 30, 2014

For some reason, this morning I’m thinking about listening. I keep running into people who listen only to hear what they want to hear. They pick up something that satisfies their feelings and go with it.

This thought goes along with the brain research that has shown that our brain is capable of believing whatever “we” tell it to believe. Leading a reflective life, we can think about our thinking and hopefully see when that happens to us and make a course correction.

I turn to examples of people who listened. One comment I overheard recently (they weren’t talking to me, but I was listening 😉 was that Jesus listened with his heart to what people said with theirs. He heard not only the words, but also the feelings, motivations, needs, desires, fears that were all part of the message.

I thought about the powerful Persian emperor who heard Nehemiah completely when he asked what was bothering him and then listened as Nehemiah explained his pain and his hope. And then the emperor provided all that Nehemiah needed to fulfill his dream of restoring the walls of Jerusalem.

Active listening means placing our complete attention on the speaker. We think nothing. We observe. What are the words? What is the tone of voice? What is the posture of the body? Where are the eyes looking? What is the context, history? Are we looking at the person? Perhaps nodding our heads as a sign that we are listening and hearing?

And we need to listen to ourselves. Have we convinced ourselves of some truth. Maybe convincing ourselves that we listened to someone when we didn’t?

Yesterday, I listened to a podcast that is a panel of technology pundits discussing the latest company and technology news in the electronics field. One of the panelists is always an outspoken evangelist of the latest gadgets. He loved Google Glass. A year ago. Then nothing happened with the product. He explained on this latest discussion his disenchantment. Another pundit said, “Kudos to you, Robert, for not only having the courage to change your mind, but also to state it publicly.”

When you listen to others, listen completely. When you listen to yourself, listen completely. Have the courage to change your mind if you find yourself in error. That happens to the best of us.

Misinterpreting Requests

February 17, 2014

I was perhaps eight or nine. On first base in a Little League game. Don’t remember how that happened, since it was not a common occurrence. The next kid hit a pop fly. The coach (my dad) yelled, “Tag up.” Well, I knew to go back to the base and wait. So, I interpreted that as “tag up and go.” So, I did. Got thrown out at second. Dad asked what in the world was I thinking. I said, you told me to go.

We were discussing the story of the wedding feast in Cana as told by John. Mary, being one of the few people perceptive of other people’s situations, noticed that the wine was about gone. That would result in humiliation for the bridegroom. She knew that.

She asked her oldest son (or only son if you’re Catholic, but we won’t go there) to do something.

At this point, we all know the story, so we assume that she meant for Jesus to perform a miracle. Someone suggested, we don’t know what she had in mind. Maybe she just meant for Jesus to gather his new friends and run to the store and buy some more. The writer never says.

We just know that Jesus interpreted it as a strong request to perform a miracle. He said, “Woman, my time is not yet come.” Weird comment.

But then he began issuing commands. He took charge of the situation. Mary tells the others to do what he says (good mother, she is).

I love theology and literary tricks. I take the miracle from that point of view that Jesus, whether he knew it there or not but probably did, changed water meant for Jewish purification rites into Communion wine (you saved the best wine for last, said the steward to the bridegroom, surely an ironic statement). A different sort of purification.

But what if it all started because he thought his mother meant one thing, and he interpreted it as another?

Watching The Status of Your Heart

November 25, 2013

Last summer, my doctor thought he found some severe heart problems–in me. I spent a little more than a day in the hospital. Saw my heart on the echocardiogram. Underwent several other tests. Mostly we learned that, while my heart isn’t in perfect condition, it’s not all that bad.

That’s much like my “other” heart–the one Jesus talks about. The one Jesus was most concerned with. He always probed people for the state of their heart. His point about the Pharisees was that they were more concerned with what was outside while the status of their hearts seemed to be sick.

I’m reading Andy Stanley’s book “Enemies of the Heart” right now. He discusses some diseases of the inner heart, the root causes of the diseases and then some practical advice for correction. I heard his sermon series that precipitated the book, so I had a head start. I’m sure I’ll be analyzing more later as I finish the book.

For now, I think I’ll tie into my last post about listening to yourself.

What do you often say that you wish you didn’t? Would you say, “That really doesn’t sound like me?” What about when someone does something wrong and people always say, “He was such a good person.”

Stanly says that no, they weren’t. What comes out of you is a reflection of the state of your heart. You can’t always hide what’s in your heart. It comes out eventually. That is why it is so important to listen to what you say and observe what you do. This information is an indicator about your heart. Just like the probes and tests I underwent last summer.

Paul tells us in Romans that we are all sinners, but also that we have a way out. That’s called God’s grace. But we have to be aware of that and ask for it.

Awareness of the state of your heart helps to focus prayers on fixing your problems–sort of like the medicines I’m on. I’m pondering comments I’ve been making lately. What is in my heart that causes them? I am looking for insight into the causes so that I can change. Life is a series of these corrections which over time we would hope would become smaller and smaller as we achieve maturity in the Spirit.

Seeing Without Observing

October 10, 2013

Most people seem to go through life seeing, but not really “seeing” or observing at a deeper level. Normal human condition is one of near total self-absorption. People see others mainly in relation to what their impact is on them.

I have seen parents who see their children, not for what they are as unique individuals, but more as an extension of themselves. 30 years of refereeing and coaching soccer (plus living through being the parent of an athlete and not always being the perfect example of the right way to be) has given me perspective on the whole “living life through your kids” syndrome. The same works for the famous “stage mother” type.

Seeing without observing causes one to miss opportunities to serve and to miss nudgings of the Holy Spirit. You don’t really see the person who needs help with a load. Or the person with troubles. Or the person who is rejoicing and appreciates when someone notices and rejoices with them. Or when the Spirit nudges you toward saying something meaningful to another.

Jesus seemed always to be aware of everything going on around him. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t pray for his own situation–obviously he did. But look at the number of times he was aware of what the Pharisees were saying about him. About the time the woman knew she would be healed if she but touched Jesus’ robe–and he felt the energy. He didn’t wander around absorbed in his own thoughts. He was always watching people.

We must also be careful about looking to Jesus as an example. John Ortberg taught last Sunday on the book, “Zealot.” I had not heard of the book, but it’s another in a long line of books saying basically that Jesus was not who we think he is. Rather, he was just another man in a long line of failed Zealots. Ortberg takes the author to task much better than could ever do. Click the link and find the sermon podcast. Well worth a listen.

During the talk, Ortberg mentioned that often when someone writes about Jesus, they are really describing themselves. That is, the don’t really look at Jesus, but at what they like and make Jesus fit the mold. I realized that years ago, and try hard to discern the real Jesus–as well as the real Paul. We all confuse them so much with what we’d really like for them to be and say.

But that’s part of observing. Sometimes it takes a long time to finally figure it out. A long time to realize your own prejudices in how you observe.

A daily discipline is to clear your head every morning through silent meditation for even just a few minutes and ask God to help you focus on others, not yourself.

Why don’t you hear us, O God?

August 28, 2013

Why don’t you hear us, O God?

A teacher was speaking. I made a hurried note, because I was driving across rural northern Indiana at the time. “Read Isaiah 58” was all I noted.

So I returned home late last week, opened to Isaiah 58 in the Kindle app on my iPad and began reading. What a great passage. A preacher could easily develop a sermon series from this passage.

I’m going to contemplate this for a while. So, pull out that old Bible and read it to prepare for a few meditations.

Isaiah, speaking God’s words to his people, answers the question I began with. But, to start at the beginning…

“Shout out, do not hold back!

Lift up your voice like a trumpet!

Announce to my people their rebellion,

to the house of Jacob their sins.”

This is God talking to Isaiah. He’s encouraging his prophet to speak. In fact, not just to speak, but to do so dramatically. What is it he is to speak? It’s about how the people have stopped doing the Lord’s will–what the Lord wants.

Before we condemn those people of 2,800 years ago when Isaiah preached, we can think of ourselves.

“Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” (if you followed “Car Talk” on National Public Radio) talk of the famous “dope slap.” That’s when you’re acting like a dope or said something stupid and somebody (maybe even yourself) slaps you on the side of the face. You dope.

That’s a little crude, but it’s what Isaiah is doing to the people of his nation. He’s saying something like, “Wake up people. You think you are so good, but you’re not. Oh, and here’s why.”

Probably all of us need one of those “dope slaps” every once in a while. Usually just when we think we’re so smart, or so good, or so wise, or so beautiful.

Has someone tried to give you a verbal dope slap recently? Did it wake you up? Or did it miss the mark?

Recognizing The Emotions In Others

August 8, 2013

Have you ever thought about buying a car? You drove to a dealership of a brand you think you might like. You walk over to the line of cars and start looking around.

Then–a salesperson approaches. Big smile. Looking for a car? He breaks the ice. Then he proceeds to tell you all the features of the car and the price, which is only $X.

How do you feel?

A few times in my business career I have been in sales. For the past 15 years or so, I go along on sales calls to provide technical support or perhaps be that person who describes all the features. In fact, only recently I was on another sales call. Many times I have been shocked to watch the interaction and see that the salesperson has never taken the time to know the person we are meeting with and what her needs are.

Or sometimes even watch the prospect. I left a sales meeting one time with a top sales person and told him, “He’s ready to buy.” My friend was shocked. “What?” I said, “Didn’t you watch him while you were talking? He stopped being preoccupied. He asked questions assuming he was already installing the product on his machine. And many other buying signals.”

Observe the other person

These sales people are not unlike us. We are more interested in what we are saying than we are in the other person. But the fourth step of gaining emotional intelligence is recognizing the emotions in others.

One must be very careful here. It is far too easy to miss an emotion. Maybe the anger masks insecurity. And maybe we try to psychoanalyze. We must be observant. Turn the focus on the other person (not on us). Ask, “What’s up?” Then, listen.

  • Watch (observe) the other person
  • Ask questions in a friendly manner (not like a lawyer cross-examining)
  • Listen (really listen) to what they say verbally and physically
  • Paraphrase back to show you were listening and to validate their worth

I am still amazed at how many people are mostly focused upon themselves. Most are good people. They don’t realize it. They may even think that they are focused on the other. But they’re not.

Try it. You’ll learn a lot. And maybe make some new friends.

Radical Listening

August 2, 2013

Earlier this week, I shared this quote at the end of my Yoga class from Ernest Hemingway, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people don’t listen.”

I’ve written before about listening. I think it’s overlooked as a spiritual discipline. It’s definitely overlooked as a relationship builder and as a learning tool.

So, I look for ideas about listening wherever I can find them. Here, Taylor Jacobson, a career coach, wrote on the Website Goodlife Zen (go figure for the title) about Radical Listening.

Here are his seven techniques. These are not new to me, but it’s always good to see things in a new way, or on a new list. I have used all of these, and they work. Try some out today and visit the Website for his complete descriptions.

1. Take notes.

Active listening techniques like nodding, eye contact and affirming sounds are great, but we’re good at faking these. Taking notes is harder because it requires us to synthesize. This process gets us present and aids the learning process, even if we never look at our notes.

2. Paraphrase.

Attention inevitably slips. A great technique to combat a lapse is to paraphrase. “I’m not sure I got that exactly. Did you mean … ?” When you’re committed to listening, try to resist the temptation to contribute your own thoughts, and paraphrase instead. You’ll find yourself listening more closely, if only to avoid looking foolish.

3. Ask for repetition.

If you’re feeling extra courageous, an act of great respect and mindfulness is to simply acknowledge when an attention lapse happens. Asking for repetition can act as a bridge to greater attention, since noticing that your attention has lapsed is an act of presence in itself.

4. Ask probing questions.

One of the oldest tricks in the book, and still one of the best. You can trick yourself into listening more closely by watching for opportunities to probe. Just remember, don’t fake it – the best questions are genuine ones.

5. Validate.

Phrases like “thank you for saying that …”, “I like what you said about ….” and “That makes sense because …” force you to pay attention and also demonstrate a high level of engagement.

6. Provide buffer time.

Your ability to listen depends to some extent on your environment. One of the simplest ways you can promote a positive listening environment is to allow plenty of buffer time. This allows you to put your phone away and direct all of your attention to the person and matters at hand.

7. Go slow, pause and breathe.

Remember that for every word you choose not to speak, you create another opportunity to listen. Pick your spots to speak more carefully and learn to say less by going slowly, pausing and breathing.

Waiting on God’s Arrival

February 7, 2011

“The second is that we await Him steadfastly because of His love, without grumbling or struggling against Him, until our life’s end.” Julian of Norwich’s second teaching.

This sounds almost like a paradox of the first teaching. Look at the verbs. The first is to seek. The second is to wait. The first is active, the second sounds as if it is passive. But I don’t think that is the meaning. Waiting is an active verb, too.

Imagine a hunter in the woods and meadows. He is seeking his prey. That means he has determined what his prey will be (deer, elk, pheasant, rabbits, whatever). He goes to an area where that prey is known to live. He looks for the right habitat and finds the most likely places to find his prey. That is similar to the seeking that Julian taught in her first saying. Go out and look for God in places where you would expect Him to be living.

Then, you must wait. But in waiting is the anticipation of finding your prey. All of your senses are at work. Do you see anything? Hear anything? Smell anything? Taste? Feel? And your emotional “senses” must also be tuned into what you are waiting on.

Waiting is active, but it is also tiring. It may get cold. You may get uncomfortable. You may get discouraged. Will the prey every show? Is it all in vain?

If so, do not grumble and complain. Maintain your vigilance. It is tiring to be always on alert, but you must carry on. And Julian says that you must maintain that state of watchful waiting until the end of your life. You never know when God may speak to you again. You must be ready. You must be receptive.

When you wait, be vigilant.

Waiting for God

February 3, 2011

Have to admit that I was somewhat uneasy Tuesday afternoon and evening. A major storm was coming. We were on the edge of projections between ice and snow. I’ve been through one ice storm lately where we were without electricity for several days. So I spent the evening listening to the sleet hit the windows and tracking the storm on my iPad.

I thought of people whose stories were recorded in the Bible. How David must have had some of that unease while he was in the desert with the storm of Saul’s army around. How he wrote so many Psalms that sometimes complained to God about the situation he found himself in while he thought he was a loyal God follower.

It’s interesting about the Psalms. It’s a book of songs (without the music–not even the guitar chords). But it is more a conversation with God. Some songs show delight in God’s goodness. Some are the blues. I’m not sure if any other religion deals with such honest emotions of people in their sacred writings.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Psalms the prayer book of the Bible. He even wrote a book with that title. I wish I still had it. He organized them into themes so you could easily find the one that suits your mood. The Psalms are a good place to go when you feel that unease and while you wait for God’s presence.

He always appears. Just not on my whim–more like on His.