Monday, January 14, 2019

A Life of Attentive Listening

A few more images from our snowy winter hike this past weekend.

I'm anxious to move on to our next phase in what I suppose is becoming a bit of a series, and explore our sense of smell. If you missed the first two posts where I discussed sight and sound, you will find them here and here. But as if often the case when the Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention, the subjects of seeing and listening are on repeated refrain in my life right now, indicating to me that I may need to camp out here for awhile and do some soul searching.

I started yet another book this weekend. As one of my goals for the new year was to read a book a week and it's now the 14th, it seems necessary at this point. When I set that goal I wasn't accounting for the massive headache that accompanied the never-ending-cold I had been battling since Christmas Eve. Thus the reason for what may well now be a bit of a read-a-thon, if I am to reach that goal. But I may allow grace to intervene and relieve me of the stress entirely. I don't typically like to rush through books, but to read them slowly and truly savor them, and all three of these titles merit that.

Along with Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller (a re-read I felt was needed), I am also reading Sacred Space - Turning Your Home Into A Sanctuary by Jill Angelo, and then yesterday I picked up The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up To God's Goodness Around You, by Shannan Martin. On the latter, I simply could not pull myself away from it, and I want to share some quotes and insights I gained from it with you here today.

Have you ever been reading and come across a phrase or passage that gave you a little stick? You know the feeling. Like when you leave a piece of the plastic fastener from a price tag in a sweater, or a pair of socks? It's not painful, just uncomfortable, and enough to get your attention. That has been happening a lot to me lately in my reading, and then yesterday when I came across this;

"It’s impossible to engage in healthy, productive listening 
while simultaneously building a competing argument."

- Shannan Martin
The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up To God's Goodness Around You

Well, let's just say that was more like the prick you feel when they stick your finger to draw blood, and it really made me think. Because, confession, I think I may be the world's worst at doing this very thing. I can recall so many conversations in the past nineteen years of our marriage when Bill has said, "You're not hearing what I'm saying." And do you know what? He's actually wrong. I do hear him, but because I'm so busy thinking of how I'm going to respond and building my argument, I'm not really listening. And at this point I'm going to quote Shannan word for word when I admit that "I am often more concerned with what I’m about to say than I am with what was just said to me. More often than I’d like to admit, I’m more interested in the sound of my own voice." Ouch! That was painful!

I also touched on this in my previous post on listening, but I'm also bad about being engaged too often with a screen while simultaneously trying to carry on a conversation, which especially for Bill, sends the message that I view him as being less important than whatever it is I am engaged in.

Later in the chapter she writes,"God created our five senses as a way for us to understand our world—and Jesus referred to them often—but, as it turns out, talking is not one of them."

Can you believe that for a moment there I questioned her on that one? Sad. But as it turns out seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.  Nope, talking is NOT one of them.

"Only as we engage in the hidden practice of listening (I LOVE THIS!) do we learn about the struggles of others, gaining empathy where we once cast judgment. Jesus admonished us to. . .

“Pay close attention to what you hear. 
The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given” 
- Mark 4:24 

I was rocked by the simple clarity of his words. There’s no room for interpretation here. He warned us to listen closely to his voice while actively demonstrating a life of attentively listening to those around him. This is the heart of relationship, though it grows more old-fashioned with every passing digitized day.

If Shannan is right, and listening is at the heart of relationship, then I've got work to do! We should never take the people we love, both family and friends, for granted. Every day we spend with them is a gift, and we could just as easily awake tomorrow to find that one of them is no longer with us. But most likely our phones, our laptops, our televisions, whatever it is that is constantly vying for our attention will be. Cherish the ones you love, my friends, and join me in engaging in the practice of attentive listening.

Until then,

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