Posts Tagged ‘listening’

Responding To The Call and Invitation

January 4, 2017

He really didn’t like that guy, the leader of the gang. That guy had the wrong message, the wrong friends, hung out with the wrong people.

In fact, this guy was in a position to take the entire country in a different, dangerous direction.

Then one day it so happened that he met that guy. Face to face. Could have been a dangerous moment. What if the guy had a bunch of his group with him. What if there were a fight?

Of course, I’m talking about Paul and Jesus.

Paul was even a leader of the group that was killing Jesus’ followers.

But Jesus calmed Paul down. Showed him how his interpretation of Scripture was flawed. Then he set up a course of study. Oh, and by the way, gave Paul a mission. Here is the Jew’s Jew. Taught to have no interaction if at all possible with people who were not Jews. Jesus says, be my guy who goes to all the non-Jews of the world and tell them my message.

Paul’s response–I’ll do it.

I’ve been exploring responding this week. 

Have you ever known someone whom you think is just about the incarnation of evil in the world? And then you met them. You had an actual conversation. You discovered that they were really OK. Then you started working with them.

Paul responded positively to Jesus.

It changed his life, the lives of perhaps a thousand or more directly, the course of the movement, and the course of history.

Paul didn’t sit around contemplating his navel, as they say. He was out actively showing his love for God and in his way love of neighbors (although quite narrowly defined). But he was on the wrong path.

He just responded to a request to go in a new direction.

Probably the same with us. Contemplation is a good thing. But we are out in our own ways loving God and loving our neighbor. Then sometimes Jesus intervenes and whispers to us to go in a different direction.

How do we respond?

Listening With Our Entire Mind As A Spiritual Discipline

November 15, 2016

Did you ever hear what someone said and not understand what was meant? Sometimes someone you know assumes a background and just makes a comment. You hear it and think it applies to something totally different.

What if you were a friend of Jesus back in the day? He was full of those comments. You knew that when he said something it had spiritual reference. But, still….

One day after coming up with a way to feed 4,000 people by miraculously coming up with truckloads of bread manufactured from only a few loaves as the “raw material,” Jesus was riding in the boat with his buddies.

He says, “Watch out–Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of the Herodians.”

Do they let the spiritual significance of this comment sink in? Noooo. They are still thinking about all that bread they fed the crowd with and where in the heck it came from.


When I’m studying a section that obviously needs some thought, I like to make a mind map. This is a quick one I sketched out in my journal. There were three key words–yeast, Pharisees, Herodians. So, I mapped out a bunch of descriptions of the three and then tried piecing it together. [By the way, I have a prettier app for the Mac and iPad–MindJet Mind Manager. It’s a great way to outline thoughts and brainstorm.]

Of course, the disciples were caught by surprise. Then didn’t have it written. It was a quick comment.

Yeast can mean a number of things. I read once that it is a symbol of evil. But I thought it likely to look at two characteristics–it permeates through the dough and it causes change.

Pharisees? Well, they represented the religious elite who thought that behavior could be changed through laws and the legal system. And in this manner, they could prove they were better than “sinners” because they followed the law. Jesus usually poked at them.

Herodians? They were the political elite. Ruthless exercise of power was their characteristic.

If the dough is us, then think it through.

We May Listen But Not Understand

October 18, 2016

To you have been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’  –Jesus

I have tried blocking political stuff from my social media feeds so that I can see what people are doing in peace. But it seems to be inescapable.

That part that does slip through has no (as in none) information that is truthful or enlightening. There is no probing into issues or how candidates would actually carry the country forward or represent it to the world. The untruths, half-truths twisted one way or another, character assassinations drive me to drink (well, not really, but I wish).

I’ve been studying the words of Jesus lately. Sort of “red-letter Christian” if you will. Early in Mark, he is recorded in the explanation above. “So that they may indeed listen, but not understand.”

Do you feel like that describes discourse in America today?

We aren’t alone in that in the world, unfortunately. Because I cover manufacturing technology globally, I must become familiar with the situation globally. Many other countries suffer from the same dilemma.

Hmmm. Sounds as if this is a human condition–not simply an American one.

And that was where Jesus operated. He probed deeper than politics. Remember the Roman coin question? He probed into what we call the heart. In that day, instead of heart, they talked about the gut. As in, when something bad happens, we say we “got hit in the gut” (abdomen below the rib cage). That is really where we feel emotions. I think that word brings the meaning home more than the word heart, which has become so sanitized and romanticized over the centuries.

Jesus was concerned with us as individual people. He’s concerned with the way we conduct political discourse. He’s concerned with the way we conduct any discourse.

Are we indeed looking but not perceiving? Listening but not understanding? Or as he said later, “He who has ears, let him hear.”

Humility Is So Misunderstood

August 11, 2016

Being a humble person does not equal being a weak person.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

It takes great strength of character and personality to be humble.

19th Century philosophers (whose thinking still infects people) obsessed over power and powerful people. Most famous was Nietzsche and his Übermensch, translated in the comic books as “Superman.”

Today, many people, and evidently the popular press, still celebrate powerful people, especially men.

Yesterday I discussed pride. The antidote to pride is humility. We read in the Proverbs “Pride goes before a fall.” Jesus said, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23: 12)

All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. — Jesus

Humility merely means to put others first. To many in America–and evidently in many other places–putting others first is weak. But, pride and striving to achieve power over people is actually a manifestation of an inner weakness.

Putting others first means that my first response isn’t about me. Pride is “all about me.” It’s trying to make myself look better than I am.

We can develop a discipline around humility. For some, it probably comes to them naturally. Or maybe they were raised from infancy to consider others first. That would be me.

We can become self-aware about when our thoughts are moving toward “me first” and choose to consider other people.

The first step is that thought, that moment in time when we can choose, that moment in life before it becomes just a part of who we are.

We can choose.

Hold a door open for someone is a start. Help carry a physical burden. As we grow, we can help someone carry an emotional burden. We can listen to others. I don’t mean hear noise. Listen. With attention. Not with a busy mind thinking of our response or the beach.

Humility is a choice–a choice for life with-God.

Collaboration-It’s a Good Thing

July 8, 2016

They were sitting on the couch intent on their iPads. Chatting away about the project. My grandkids, that is, ages 9 and 7. They were building something in Minecraft, together, connected through iCloud. But also connected by voice.

Collaboration, it’s a good thing. Sometimes technology enables us to collaborate to build better things.

In my other profession, the one that pays the bills, I research companies and industries involved in a building and using a variety of technologies. But it always gets down to people. And how people interact.

Many companies foster silos. People exist only within their department or division or within their product group. They seldom share information or ideas. Many may not even know people in another division.

I’ve seen other companies where there is an attempt to bring people from a variety of functions together, but collaboration is hampered by what we call politics. The trust level in the company is not high. A person may be reluctant to say something out of fear that the comment may be taken out of context, spread to higher management ranks, and they may suffer career repercussions.

Once upon a time I led a department that designed machines to solve specific customer problems. We needed lots of ideas. White boards were a new thing. I bought a bunch. Put them in every cubical, office, and conference room. I told the engineers, sketch the problem on your white board. As you wander through the room to get coffee or whatever, look at the whiteboards. Talk to the other engineer. Maybe new ideas spring up.

We designed some pretty cool machines.

What are you building? Technology? Relationships? An organization?

Sensitize yourself to the atmosphere of the office or organization if you’re geographically spread. Are people sharing ideas? Are people receptive to ideas from others? What can be done to encourage collaboration?

One of my favorite quotes from the cartoon character Bugs Bunny was when somebody wanted to tell him something. “I’m all ears.”

Ah, the beginning of collaboration.

Great Leaders Have Great Interpersonal Skills

January 8, 2016

We were at a dinner. It was a special dinner with several courses each paired with a wine. The idea was to teach a little about wine and also sell the wines, of course.

It was a group experience. Most of us came as couples, not as a large group. We entered the room to discover it was set up with several long tables. We were going to share a table with six people whom we did not know.

The man adjacent to my wife was an owner of a local company. He was personable. Asked a lot of questions of my wife and the other people. Seemed genuinely interested in the other people’s lives.

My wife has been to many business dinners with me by now and has met many business owners or ranking executives. She comes from a working class background, so it was initially all new to her.

After the dinner on the drive home, she said, “Men like him are always interested in other people. They make others feel at ease. They are interested in others.”

An astute observation.

Recently while reading on leadership, I ran across this observation, “Great leaders have great interpersonal skills. They care for their people. As a leader, you need to know how to listen quietly and hear what people are really saying, by asking questions and being open to the truth. When challenges come, it’s especially important to open up and show you care.”

I’m watching a friend start a new business. He really cares about all the people he has hired for the team. He guides those who need a little help. He encourages each one. It’s a joy to watch.

No matter where you are called to be a leader, this is a great role model. Leadership isn’t all about me. It’s really all about them. How can I help them? How can I nurture them? How much do I care?


Respond To Others Rather Than Giving Speeches

December 15, 2015

“My wife told me about a situation at work. I told her how to solve it. Now she’s mad at me. What gives?”

“I told him over and over about the gospel, but I can’t seem to make him understand.”

Have you ever heard comments like those or something similar?

I’m following up on yesterday’s post on listening.

Did the wife ask for advice? I doubt it. She’s probably smart enough to work out things. Why treat her like a child?

What would be a better response? Discussion. And Empathy. “Gee, honey, that’s too bad.What are you going to do?” (OK, the actual conversation would be longer, of course.)

Let’s look at evangelizing.

How well has speaking at people worked for you? Not well? Of course not.

Once again, what does the other person want? Did you ask? Are you merely offering simplistic advice? No one appreciates advice.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

What is that key? Respond. In order to respond properly, first we must listen actively.

Why Is It So Hard To Listen?

December 14, 2015

Why is it so hard to listen?

I walked into the President of the company’s office. I was head of marketing and engineering at the time.

“Gary, nobody listens to me,” he moaned.

“Huh?” I tactfully replied.

“Nobody listens to me.”


“Gary, nobody listens to me,” he tried again.


I finally broke his mood, and we got productive.

OK, what I was trying to do was break through his “woe is me” mood and move on. Problem was, the team of vice presidents (including me, too) just didn’t listen to him. He had lost us.

One reason people don’t listen is that either you don’t have much to say, or you say it way too frequently.

More often the problem is with the listener. We just don’t practice active listening.

Some are trapped inside a narcissistic personality. They are so focused on themselves that they don’t hear other people. Ask a narcissist if they are, and they’ll tell you. “You seem to think about yourself first.” “Well, yes, of course.” (As in, doesn’t everyone?)

Narcissism is a major problem in society right now. But not everyone is narcissistic.

Some just have problems of their own. Like my boss, they just can’t break out of the cycle of despair to even see other people.

Some people are easily distracted. They may be talking with you, but their attention keeps drifting elsewhere. Smart phone notifications anyone?

How about caring? I should have known about the Baby Boomers’ self-centeredness way back in my senior year in college. I was tutoring a guy in German so that he could graduate and accept a good job. I said something about having empathy for a professor. “I don’t have time for someone else,” he replied. Well, at least his wife smiled and thanked me when he passed and graduated.

Why is it so hard to listen? Probably because we just don’t try.

Curiosity Is The Foundation of Learning

November 9, 2015

How could you draw that smile (on the Mona Lisa)? How do you draw? What do you know how to draw? How do they paint the Eiffel Tower? Do they tie ropes to the guys? Why can’t they make a light bulb that lasts longer? Why can’t they make a better battery? How did they know about waves in the air when they invented them to make a radio?

That wasn’t even the entire conversation with my 8-yr-old grandson. I just asked him about his trip to Paris.

I told him that the world is filled with problems to solve. That’s why we need engineers and scientists.

I’m worried that school will kill some of that curiosity, but that’s another story.

The thing is–he’s always been curious. At 18 months taking a walk down the street could take a long time as we stopped explore all manner of things.

The conference I attended a few weeks ago featured a keynote speaker called Michael Gelb. He wrote a book, “How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci.” It is a fascinating book about a fascinating guy.

The first of seven characteristics–Curiosity.

What is that doing in a spiritual discipline blog?

Think of all the curiosity in the New Testament.

All of the original 12 close disciples were curious about Jesus. Who is that guy? Paul at first was opposed, then he too wondered, “Who is that guy?”

Paul also had to answer the question, Now what do we do after we believe? (Hint: Love the Lord and love your neighbor.)

I’m incessantly curious–what is God trying to say to me? What does the Bible say? What should I be doing? Why do people act that way? How can I help? What can I do to serve?

Curiosity can be a powerful spiritual discipline. It keeps us from becoming complacent.

Big Mouth Little Ears

November 4, 2015

The dental hygienist was cleaning my teeth with some sort of high-pressure water hose. She told me, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you have a big mouth, because you don’t.” 😉

You have to think of something while you’re at your annual visit to the dentist. Sitting in the chair that’s tilted far back. Your mouth open as wide as you can get it and stuck in that position for 30-40 minutes. It hurts my jaw.

The thought popped into my mind about what James says about the pain that a big mouth can cause in others. You open your mouth. Words come out. Sometimes without a filter between impulse and speech. Then you see the pain on the other person’s face. At least I hope you are not so self-absorbed that you don’t notice other people.

Once said, the hurt is there. Never to be entirely undone.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “When someone else talks, listen completely. Most people don’t listen.”

That reminds us that most of the time it is better to keep our mouth closed and listen to the other person. Yogi Berra once said that you can hear a lot just by listening. Yep.

My problem in this regard is that I can be content to not say anything at a gathering. No, really. However, if you ask me a question, I’ll answer it. If it’s something I’m passionate about, I’ll really answer it.

But, I’d rather be quiet. No regrets that way.

My lesson–when all is said and done, the less said the better.