Archives for posts with tag: listening

hallmark: SPRINGFIELD, OR - OCTOBER 28, 2015: Hallmark greeting cards selection at a grocery store supermarket.

Hallmark Father’s Day card: “Dad, thanks to your lectures I never change horses in the middle of a job worth doing, I know the squeaky wheel gets the worm, and I never count my chickens until I’ve walked a mile in their shoes … And you thought I wasn’t listening.”

It is easy to “hear” something different from what is really said. Sometimes it is because we are distracted and we simply misunderstand. On other occasions we “hear” what we want to hear; our mind is already made up. Language, culture, experience, age and a variety of other things facilitate or prevent good communication.

The Burning Bush

I believe the same things that make it difficult for us receive messages accurately from human sources also come into play when God speaks to us. God conversed with Adam in the first garden. God told Noah to build an ark. God spoke to Moses in a burning bush. Paul heard His voice on the way to Damascus.

And I believe God speaks to us in these modern times.

Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When He Speaks by [Shirer, Priscilla]

“Hearing God speak” may mean different things to different people. God treats each of us as unique individuals. None of us are cookie-cutter people. Because of that, God doesn’t “speak” the same way to all of us. Throughout history God has spoken to people in many ways.

My wife is often the voice of God to me. Oh, she is not some mystical creature with a special connection to God but I am convinced that her opinion and wisdom has provided divine guidance, comfort, and assurance. There are others throughout my life that have also served that role.

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Hearing the “voice of God” through another human being can be most effective and most difficult. It seems illogical that mere humans would be the medium for the Divine Other to communicate with creatures like us. The psalmist asks ““Why do you care about us humans? Why are you concerned for us weaklings?”(Psalms 8:4, CEV).

An interesting story in the Bible is found in the 18th chapter of Genesis. “One hot summer afternoon Abraham was sitting by the entrance to his tent near the sacred trees of Mamre, when the Lord appeared to him. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He quickly ran to meet them” and offered hospitality. As they relaxed and enjoyed the refreshments one of them told Abraham that he and his wife Sarah were going to have a son. Sarah overheard the conversation and laughed to herself because both of them were very old.God had promised Abraham and his wife Sarah that they would have a son and their descendants would become a great nation as numerous as the stars. The problem was that both were now too old to have children. (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:14, 17:15-22, 18:9-15). – Slide 1

Remember that at the beginning of the story we are told that “the Lord appeared” to Abraham but the narrative said that Abraham “saw three men” standing nearby. I don’t know what either of them looked like but apparently they looked like ordinary human beings to Abraham. The guest who predicted that Sarah would have a baby is identified as God. Responding to Sarah’s laughter the guest says, “I am the Lord! There is nothing too difficult for me.”

The author of Hebrews in the New Testament admonishes us “to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” And who knows, God might even show up.

Jamie Jenkins

The Word Warriors of Wayne State University believe that “we limit ourselves to words that are momentarily popular or broadly applicable, and so rob ourselves of English’s inherent beauty and agility.” Consequently this group of people are trying to help rejuvenate the language by “advocating for words of style and substance that see far too little use.”

“The English language has perhaps more words in its lexicon than any other,” said Jerry Herron, dean of WSU’s Irvin D. Reid Honors College and a member of the Word Warriors editorial board. “By making use of the repertoire available to us, we expand our ability to communicate clearly and help make our world a more interesting place. Bringing these words back into everyday conversation is just another way of broadening our horizons.”

One way this group of scholars in Detroit helps us to expand your vocabulary is through their annual list of words that we either have never known or have forgotten. They recently released their ninth annual list of words worthy of returning to regular use.

Here’s the words they recommend you start using:

Acedia: Spiritual or mental sloth; apathy.

Anfractuous: Indirect and containing bends, turns or winds; circuitous.

Blithering: Senselessly talkative, babbling; used chiefly as an intensive to express annoyance or contempt.

Bombinate: Buzz; hum.

Bucolic: Of or relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life.

Effulgent: 1. Shining brightly; radiant. 2. (Of a person or their expression) emanating joy or goodness.

Gauche: Lacking ease or grace; unsophisticated and socially awkward.

Guttle: To eat or drink greedily and noisily.

Mugwump: A person who remains aloof or independent, especially from party politics.

Stultify: Cause to lose enthusiasm and initiative, especially as a result of a tedious or restrictive routine.

You can pursue the meaning of these words and their proper use in a sentence if you wish. Then when you use them in conversation your friends and acquaintances will be impressed- or at least confused.

Although they have not been a part of my vocabulary, most of these words can be applied to my life in one way or another. There is no doubt that at times I am guilty of acedia. I certainly am blithering and gauche at times. I have been known to guttle. These are not very complimentary but can be used to accurately describe me and my behavior. But I think the one word that applies to me for which I offer no apology is mugwump.

I have never been called a mugwump (probably because most folks don’t know the word) but that is who I am, or try to be. I am not a person without an opinion. As a matter of fact, I have an opinion on just about everything and all too often I am willing to express it. However, it is clear to me that others have opinions that are different from mine and that is alright with me. I know that I can be wrong or that another opinion might offer a better or complimentary perspective.

While I hope my thoughts and opinions are respected, I make no claim to having a corner on the market of truth or wisdom. Mutual respect is very important and often I find that is often a missing ingredient in “party politics.” Elections, legislation, budgets, personnel, and a host of other issues tend to divide us in both secular and sacred settings.

 

 

If recognizing that the other person (or party) might have a better idea makes me a mugwump, this is who/what I am. I want to be willing to listen respectfully and when I disagree to be careful not to demonize the other person or ridicule their perspective.

As much as it is possible I want to live in peace with my fellow human beings loving them and respecting them at all times. I think that is what Jesus meant when he instructed us to “love one another… just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). And it is in keeping with the Apostle Peter’s admonition to “love one another, and be kind and humble with one another” (I Peter 3:8).

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

I have often said that if two people always agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. That is not to suggest that any person is expendable but simply a way to express the fact that all people do not or should not think alike. No one has all the right answers.

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It is not a bad thing for people to hold different opinions. In fact, differing perspectives are healthy and helpful. Unfortunately that is not always understood and appreciated. Persons with different opinions are often ridiculed and disrespected. Expressions of disagreement are sometimes unkind and damaging.

In our current environment, civil and respectful discourse are often lacking when significant issues are the topics. Hurtful and disparaging words are frequently heard in public discourse. It seems that we are yelling at each other more than talking with one another.

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John Wesley suggested a better way than argument and debate to approach issues on which we differ. He believed if people would confer with one another they would make better choices and come to reasonable conclusions. Thus he admonished the early Methodists to engage in Christian Conferencing. Wesley expected Christian conference to shape people’s lives.

Christian conferencing is sometimes called “holy conferencing.” Steve Manskar says, “The phrase is typically employed ‘to encourage people to have polite conversation with each other, particularly around issues where people are going to disagree’.”

United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said that “holy conferencing is not limited to a specific topic or a specific venue for decision-making. It is also not a strategy to shut down conversation or stifle impassioned speech. It is a means for staying connected to each other in spite of our differences.” In a study guide she wrote to assist churches and groups she offered eight principles for constructive dialogue. I share them with you as a better way of dealing with difficult issues as well as daily affairs.

  1. Every person is a child of God. Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded that to love God is to love our neighbor. “If anyone boasts ‘I love God’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both” (1 John 4:20-21, The Message).

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  1. Listen before speaking. This means that you suspend judgment about the other. Welcome with open arms others who don’t see things the way you do. Do not focus on convincing others that you are right. Instead, listen to others so that you can understand better why they hold their opinions.
  1. Strive to understand from another’s point of view. Bishop James S. Thomas said that the truth was clear to him when he was thinking his own thoughts by himself. It was when he was in the presence of others that it all got confused! In other words, he had to confer with others to see more sides or angles or perspectives on whatever the matter was at hand.
  1. Strive to reflect accurately the views of others. To strive to express accurately others’ views is a matter of honesty, not to mention integrity. If we skew, or cast the worst light on another’s viewpoint, and give it a spin that is not accurate, then we are being dishonest.
  1. Disagree without being disagreeable. “Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.”  (Eph. 4:29 CEB)

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  1. Speak about issues; do not defame people. Calling people names defames them and is inflammatory. The simple moral fact is that words kill. Words that defame kill both the spirit and the reputation of others.
  1. Pray, in silence or aloud, before decisions. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Praying for those who disagree with us is hard to do because it challenges our prejudices, anger, and malice.
  1. Let prayer interrupt your busy-ness. Praying in the midst of our disagreement might actually bring out the best in us and for the common good! It’s always appropriate to call for prayer and also to be in an attitude of prayer in the midst of discussion about weighty, divisive, and important conversations.

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Bishop Dyck concludes her study guide by saying, “In order to confer with others who disagree with us, we need to practice our faith in ways that challenge us spiritually as well as relationally. To love God and our neighbor requires nothing less.“

Jamie Jenkins

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Clarence Carter is a singer who was blind from birth. He was born January 14, 1936 in Montgomery Alabama and early on exhibited an interest and talent for music. He taught himself to play the guitar by listening to the blues classics of John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed. At the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega, Alabama he learned to transcribe charts and arrangements in Braille. In 1960 he graduated from Alabama State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in music.

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Jason  Ankeny said his musical style “exemplified the gritty, earthy sound of Muscle Shoals R&B, fusing the devastating poignancy of the blues with a wicked, lascivious wit to create deeply soulful music rooted in the American South of the past and the present.” Between 1968 and 2015 Carter recorded 37 albums. More than 20 of his singles were in the top 100 songs on Pop and R&B charts.

Carter’s 1999 album, Everybody Plays the Fool, contained a song with the following lyrics:

You talk too much. You worry me to death.

You talk too much. You even worry my pet.

You just talk, talk, too much.

Do you know such a person? Have you been that person? I do and I have. I don’t know why but sometimes I just don’t know when to stop talking. I have been told that I can talk a lot and say very little. Guilty! I know there are times when words are not helpful or appropriate but I just cannot help myself. When I am uncomfortable with silence, I often break the silence by talking.

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Lydia Dishman, in an article entitled “The Science of Why We Talk Too Much (And How To Shut Up),” says, “The ideal conversation should be a total give and take, with each person speaking about 50% of the time. That means staying quiet half the time.”

OK, but how do you achieve this 50-50 conversational ideal? Rob Lazebnik, a writer on The Simpsons, says it is easy: just ask questions. Then actually listen to what the other person is saying, and find openings.

Easy? Lazebnik said it was but then he said, “Talking is like drinking a great Cabernet. Listening is like doing squats. Listening is like reading a corporate report. Talking is like eating a cinnamon bun.” Easy? Baseball fans can understand his analogy: “Talking is a Miguel Cabrera home run. Listening is getting hit in the head by it.”aaeaaqaaaaaaaalvaaaajge5m2mzngrjltjhzgqtndnimi04njhhlwfjotjmmdc5zmy3ma

Studies have shown that most people who are talkaholics are aware of the amount of talking they do, are unable to stop, or do not see it as a problem. I am confessing- I know I talk too much and sometimes I cannot help myself but I understand that talking too much is a problem.

I know that in silence one can hear not only what is being said, but also what is not being said. But how does one withstand the pressure to speak?

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In a conversation a long time ago one person said that he had no real talent, nothing to offer for the benefit of others. When pressed, he finally said, “Well, I am a good listener.” He seemed to have no understanding of the value of listening.

There is a time to speak and a time to stop speaking. A time to talk and a time to listen (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Lord, help me to learn the difference.

Jamie Jenkins