Tag: listening (page 1 of 3)

The Six Hardest Words to Say to Each Other

In our marriage, John and I agree the six hardest words for us to say to each other are, “You were right.” (and even worse) “I was wrong.”

Or even “We were both right and we were both wrong.”

The thing is, not only are those words hard to say, it’s brutal work facing our own misperceptions and listening and getting to the place of being able to truly own the humility behind them.

A few people I know are in a bad spot right now. They are angry and hurt and sure that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They are so sure of their rightness, that they are not willing to talk or listen to anyone with a differing viewpoint.

If you’re reading this and your heart is racing, thinking “Is she writing about me???!!” The answer is yes. I’m writing about you (whoever you are). And me. And all of us.

Because who of us haven’t been in this spot from time to time – like a toddler with eyes squeezed shut and fists clenched, desperately in need of a “Settle down and take a time out until you’re yourself again.”

A few weeks ago I read the account of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 in my devotional time and I have not been able to get one thought out of my mind.

Saul was PASSIONATELY religious. He was POSITIVE he was right and righteous and obedient to God as he persecuted Christians – eyes squeezed shut, fists clenched. Ironically he had to literally be blinded before he could recognize how spiritually blind he was. It was only when Jesus entered the picture that eventually his eyes were opened and he saw things differently. Slowly his hands and his heart opened to something new.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about. What things are we SO SURE OF? Are there perceptions or judgments that, if we invited Jesus in, He might change our minds, and uncover blind spots? That feels scary and vulnerable and really uncomfortable.

I LOVE being right! There are times when I gather my righteous indignation around me like a comfy blanket on a cold dark night. I don’t like the thought that I might be wrong!

So….What do you feel self-righteous about? Who is someone you disagree with? What questions could you ask to better understand their perspective?

Today I pray: Lord your Word says our hearts are deceitful above all things. Only You can uncover my blind spots, my impure motives, my misperceptions, my self-righteousness. I desire to humble myself before You today. Search me and show me where I’m wrong…where I need to ask forgiveness…where I need new eyes to see.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

Do You Feel Like You’re Wearing an Invisibility Cloak?

Do you ever feel like you’ve accidentally put on Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?

A few years ago a couple of people made an appointment with me.  I didn’t know what their agenda was.  When we met all they did was ask me questions about a painful experience.

And then they listened.

And asked more questions.  And listened some more.

They asked, “and then what happened?” and “how did you feel?” and “oh no!” and “what can we do?” like it really made a difference to them.

And here’s the thing.  Yes, what was asked and answered was important, but the most transformative thing for our relationship was that when I walked away I didn’t feel invisible anymore.  It felt like I mattered.   What I thought, what I felt, the pain I had experienced made a difference to them.  Have you had an experience like this?

A few years ago my husband and I had the opportunity to spend some time with former President Clinton in a couple different contexts (no he would not remember my name!).  Regardless of what you think about his politics or his morals, here’s a man who makes people feel like they matter.

We were wrapping up an interview with him when he saw an African American guy with a saxophone that was about 189 years old in a back hallway.  Clinton got so excited asking this guy about the brand of sax he played, and the type he used to play, and the music he liked.  He laughed and they swapped sax stories and he asked questions and really listened.

Clinton was so present it was hard for his handlers to tear him away.  One of the most powerful men in the world.  And he was saying to this man, “I may be the president of the United States, but you matter too.”

This is Joe.

He’s a guy with Down’s Syndrome who has a great smile and a can-do spirit.  He’s the guy who sweeps the stairs at exactly the same time every morning at my health club.  When I first asked his name he looked scared, like he had done something wrong.

When I thank him each day for his great work he always looks a little surprised.  Today I took another step and asked him, “Joe, how long have you worked here?  Do you like your job?”

I’ve noticed Joe.  I’ve tried to let him know he matters.  But how many others do I miss during the day who are longing to be noticed?  Feeling like they’re accidentally wearing and invisibility cloak?

What if Jesus hadn’t looked up to see Zaccheus?  What if He hadn’t taken time to talk to the woman who touched the hem of His robe?

When is a time when someone made you feel like you mattered?  Who are the people you tend to overlook?  Who would feel affirmed if you asked a question and listened?

The One Practice You May Need Most This Week

How many of you are multi-tasking right now? Admit it…

You’re waiting in line at Starbucks, listening to the guy next to you talk about his favorite Super Bowl commercial, and scrolling through this post.

Or you have CNN on the TV, while you are eating a piece of toast, feeding your toddler, and clicking back and forth between this and Twitter. Right?

Me too.

I want to do and see and hear ALL OF THE THINGS. Now.

I have a busy mind and a serious case of FOMO.

Like gawkers at an accident, I’m also perversely attracted to what outrageous thing has been said or done in our unsettled (ahem…?) political climate.

The problem with this is that it makes for a lot of noise in my little brain. A lot of different voices vying for attention.

Silence may be the most important discipline you and I need this week.

No, I don’t mean not speaking up for those without a voice. I don’t mean abdicating our responsibility to speak truth.

I mean silence as in turning off the radio. Turning off the TV news. Turning away from Twitter.

I mean making space for God. Leaning in to hear His whispers instead of the shouts of the world.

The other day I was walking around Lake of the Isles at an arctic 5 degrees. I had been listening to a podcast on my phone, but all of a sudden it stopped – frozen – and I was left with a lot of white space.

The world around me was snowy and silent. The clatter in my ears was stilled.

With this space, I found myself noticing the beauty of creation and thanking God.

Several who are experiencing injustice around the world came to mind and I prayed for them.

A new idea emerged.

The Holy Spirit prompted me to reexamine how I’m viewing a relationship.

God spoke into the silence.

Some of you reading this may be genuine candle-lighting, silence-seeking contemplatives. Bless you. That would not be me.

But my frozen phone made me think about the importance of choosing this as a discipline more often. So yesterday my Sabbath included no radio, no news, no Twitter.

Less static, more stillness.

What if, this week, we set aside time to turn off the noise, and like Samuel, said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”?

One Key to Racial Reconciliation

This weekend a video went viral of a confrontation between a policeman in our town and a young African American. As hard as it is to watch, John and I have viewed it several times. We’ve prayed, and reflected, and read the many articles and responses.

(Warning – graphic language)

Everyone watches through a certain lens, with particular baggage, expectations, and bias.

People are quick to take sides. To want to say this person was RIGHT and this person was WRONG.

But what if issues like racial tension became less about one-upmanship and more about relationship? 

What if our posture was more one of humility, curiosity, and respect towards those different from us?

As I’ve reflected on this, I really think one of the keys to racial reconciliation is that we ask more questions, and listen longer than is comfortable.

I wonder how this cop and this young black man would answer these questions about the incident:

  • How did you feel during this experience and why?
  • What were you thinking? What motivated you to respond the way you did?
  • What, if anything might you do differently if you were to have a “do over”?

Whoever’s “side” we gravitate towards initially, what if we were to listen carefully to “the other’s” answers and ask more questions?

What if the cop were to invite the young man out for coffee and just listen?

What if the cop were to listen deeply to the young man’s answers with respect and without defensiveness?

What if the young man were to listen deeply to the cop’s perspective?

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. 1 Cor. 13

The Discipline of Different

I sit and stare. Very uninspired.

I’m doing a “Read through the Bible in a Year” plan.

The good part of this is that I don’t just get to choose my favorite parts to read each day – you know the blue sky promises, and the verses that support my own biases and self-righteousness.

The bad part is that I don’t get to choose my favorite parts to read each day.

This was part of my reading recently.

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You notice there is no highlighting, no notes written in the margin, no underlining. It’s God’s instructions for the Tabernacle in Exodus 26.

Bo.Ring. Continue reading

How to be a Thirst-Quencher

“Come and see a man who knows all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.” John 4:29 MSG

This was part of my reading this morning.  You know who says this…the loose woman who goes to draw water in the hottest time when no one else is around, so she can avoid the judgmental stares of fellow thirstys. Kind of like a morbidly obese man shopping at the 24 hour grocery store at midnight.

Instead, the woman at the well runs into Jesus who sees her, and knows her and loves her. And the story of her life is forever changed.

The woman looking for water, the morbidly obese man looking for groceries, you, me. We’re all thirsty. Continue reading

When Life is Loud and Crazy and You’re Doing All of the Things

Confession: I went running on a tiny island in the Bahamas this morning and I felt guilty that we have generous friends who have lent us their home here, and we can take the time to enjoy it in this season of our lives.  And as I am running feeling all the guilty feelings, here’s what I’m thinking…

I’m wondering how many of you read the post on Wednesday about doing good, and you sighed deep, and your shoulders slumped, and you Just. Felt. Tired. Even more tired maybe than usual. Because for you it’s a season of weariness.

  • You’re a single 20-something working two jobs while trying to put yourself through grad school.
  • You’re a business owner with huge responsibilities to bring in revenue, and cast vision, and lead your staff well.
  • You’re a married mom working outside the home and raising kids while trying to keep your marriage alive.
  • You’re homeschooling 4 kids and volunteering as a coach or a deacon or a leader in some capacity.
  • You’re a single mom juggling job, daycare, car-pooling, finances, house repairs and….

You’re stretched to the max.

You read the post and wanted to throw something at the screen and yell, “I don’t need a kick in the pants! I need a latte and a massage!” Continue reading

5 Things to Do When a Friend is Hurting

A few weeks ago I wrote about those times when we feel like we’re under water and we’re trying to help a drowning friend, but everything is in slow motion, silent and hollow, and we can’t communicate and it’s so frustrating.

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One of the common elements I notice with friends who are in hard seasons is loneliness. Not necessarily that they are alone, but they feel isolated. We feel bad and we want to fix it or DO something and we don’t know what to say or do.

My friend Betsy Anderson came in and shared on this subject with a community of young married couples I shepherd at church last Sunday.

She is wise and kind and has experienced a tremendous amount of pain herself.  She has written curriculum and taught workshops on caring for each other in community.  I’m not good at this, but I’m learning from her. Here are a few of her good insights: Continue reading

Two Practices to Help you Get off the Moving Walkway

Returning to Real Life after a vacation (even a short one) in a Warm Place is a little like jumping onto one of those moving walkways at the airport in the “keep walking” lane. You’re concentrating on getting Somewhere and thinking about Things, while juggling luggage and trying not to run over other moving walkers.  It’s easy to be absorbed with lists and tasks rather than present to God and others.

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This was my challenge last week. Real Life kept getting in the way of a Real Relationship with God – you know, where you actually are still, and listen, and talk to Him and say “What do You have to tell me about Yourself and myself, Jesus?”  I’d be humming along, getting things done – even good things like reading the Bible – and all of a sudden realize that being with Jesus was kind of like brushing my teeth – I was going through the motions without thinking about it.

Here’s what happens when being with Jesus is like brushing my teeth – I start feeling fat and ugly and discouraged and cranky, tired, and out of sorts – kind of like a toddler who needs a nap or a time out. Continue reading

Holding My Breath

It’s summertime, which for me conjures up memories of being at the “Lake House” with my cousins, perpetually in a wet swim suit, rarely out of the lake.  One of the many games we would play was “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying”.

Ok, it wasn’t a real active game, but you know…simple pleasures.  And nobody actually died so our parents considered it a win.

Sometimes, as adults, without even thinking about it, we play life like the  “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying” game.

When I started running, I became much more aware of the importance of rhythm and rest, and basics. Like breathing.  And not holding our breath til we, you know, pass out.

This is not about Sabbath, but Selah. Selah is a term used mostly in the Psalms and a few times in Habbakuk that is a bit of a mystery.  Scholars aren’t positive what it means, but they think it means “rest” or “pause”.

Mark Batterson says, like in music, if Sabbath is a full rest, maybe Selah is a sixteenth rest.  A chance to catch your breath.

Or maybe Selah is the life jacket that helps us pop up above the water of everyday stress.

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If, as Eugene Peterson says, Sabbath is a day of “shutting down and shutting up.” maybe Selah moments are those in your day where you stop to think about breathing.  Reorient, and remember that you’re not in control, but you know the One who is. Continue reading

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