Hurrying to Listen


not-listeningDuring a recent day of solitude and silence (what my mentor, Wayne Anderson, called an “EPC” for a time of Extended Personal Communion with God in solitude, silence and prayer, I had some thoughts about listening.

I had been reading in James 1, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…(vs. 19).”

I was challenged by the practical counsel to be quick to listen, but unhurried to speak. It really is the opposite of many of my instincts. I find in group settings that people are often talking over each other, seeking to be heard. What about the wisdom of listening? How can we know what is worth saying if we haven’t listened well to others—really heard their hearts?

In the context of James 1, the listening is about:

  • “Humbly accepting the word planted in you, which can save you.” (21)
  • Listening with the intent to follow (22).
  • Listening intently to the perfect law that gives freedom and continuing in it” (25).

I can cultivate a posture of listening with God in both solitude and in my work place. I can learn to listen better to my family, friends and co-workers rather than always saying what’s on my mind. I can listen to those who cross my path over the course of the day.

I’ve come to realize that listening takes time, but it’s time well invested. When I listen well, I am enabled to then speak more to the heart of matters and act more in keeping with the heart of God. I can actually learn to have a listening heart in the midst of conversations where I am speaking. I can practice the reality of God’s presence right in the middle of things. When I listen, I hear the Father’s heart and will, and can then speak in keeping with it.

Reflection: When have you seen the fruitfulness of listening well in your relationships or your work? When have you paid the price of rushing past listening to speaking?

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The Power of Leaders Who Listen


I’ve been doing more and more ministry consulting recently, especially focused on helping churches and other ministry organizations work on the transformation of their leadership cultures. Most leaders emphasize talking over listening. The assumption is that more words will always win the day. But we are discovering the transforming power of listening:

  • Listening to God for myself and for our ministry.
  • Listening with God to our past (and the good to be kept or the harmful or worthless to be turned from and left behind).
  • Listening to one another in leadership teams.
  • Listening to God for the people and the ‘program’
  • Listening to people we serve.

When we fail to listen, we may also find ourselves failing to keep first things first. We forget the words of Jesus that are rich not only in personal wisdom but in leadership wisdom as well:

Matthew 6:33 NLT, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Instead of being attentive to the reign and the way of God, we find ourselves seeking first:

  • To be different
  • To be attractive
  • To be relevant
  • To be cool
  • To be liked

Are these God’s invitations to us? Are these evidences of His loving reign and His good way? Everything good is a fruit of making our seeking of God a first response instead of a last resort. When God is truly reigning in our lives, we are different in ways we cannot manufacture directly. We love one another from the powerful center of sharing Christ in common. Our lives actually display God’s glory in increasing measure. And what could be more relevant than a community of people living a truly caring, joyful, relaxed way of life together?

For Reflection:

  • What are you tempted to seek first these days in your life and ministry before God’s gracious reign and His life-giving way?

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Spiritual Direction Is..


I’m very grateful for the opportunity to serve many pastors and Christian leaders in person and over the phone as a spiritual direction. I love how this ministry of listening often enables another to discern God’s voice of loving guidance in their lives and leadership. David Benner provides a very helpful description of spiritual direction in his book Sacred Companions:

“Spiritual direction is an ancient form of Christian soul care that goes back to the earliest days of the church. It has never really gone away. It is just that large sectors of the Christian church have forgotten their own heritage.

In its classical form, spiritual direction is a one-on-one relationship organized around prayer and conversation directed toward deepening intimacy with God. As we shall see, spiritual directors are not experts, nor do they direct. They do not follow a standardized curriculum or implement a prepackaged program. Rather, they journey with others who, like themselves, are committed to the process of spiritual transformation in Christ. And most important, they seek to help those with whom they journey discern the presence and leading of the Spirit of God-the One Jesus sent as our true Spiritual Director.” (David G. Benner. Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002, p. 17.)

Reflection questions:

  • Who has served as a spiritual director in your journey with Christ, whether or not they would call themselves one?
  • With whom do you have regular conversations about your conversational relationship with God?

(A repost from April 2010)

Levels of Listening


(An edited journal excerpt from January 22, 1991, which was Gem’s 27th birthday. Where does 20 years go?)

How well do I listen? To whom do I listen better than to others? I’m finding different levels at which I listen:

  1. I just don’t listen
  2. I have to listen (authority power)
  3. I feel like listening (fits my feelings)
  4. I choose to listen (willing service)
  5. I actively initiate the opportunity to listen

What moves me to listen at these more intentional and heart-full levels? I’ll go to listen to those I respect deeply, those I feel have something significant to say. I seek out opportunities to listen to those who have demonstrated their love for me. I’ll travel far to listen to those who speak words that touch my deepest needs in a spiritually rich way. I go out of my way to listen to those who are profoundly simple in their speaking and thinking. In what ways am I becoming such a person? To what degree does my life inspire or attract others to listen?

I believe that this will happen as I am intentional in cultivating a life of listening continually to the Lord in scripture and in those quiet, reflective moments of solitude and silence.

How is God inviting you to grow as a listener today?

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Looking Back: A Little Treasure Hunting


As I continue my work on the Unhurried Time writing project, let me share links to a collection of posts and a quotation on the theme of unhurried time. I pray that you are allowing the grace of God meet you in the midst of your holiday preparations.

CLICK for “A Little Treasure Hunting”

 

A Good Word: Spiritual Direction is…


I’m very grateful for the opportunity to serve many pastors and Christian leaders in person and over the phone as a spiritual direction. I love how this ministry of listening often enables another to discern God’s voice of loving guidance in their lives and leadership. David Benner provides a very helpful description of spiritual direction in his book Sacred Companions:

“Spiritual direction is an ancient form of Christian soul care that goes back to the earliest days of the church. It has never really gone away. It is just that large sectors of the Christian church have forgotten their own heritage.

In its classical form, spiritual direction is a one-on-one relationship organized around prayer and conversation directed toward deepening intimacy with God. As we shall see, spiritual directors are not experts, nor do they direct. They do not follow a standardized curriculum or implement a prepackaged program. Rather, they journey with others who, like themselves, are committed to the process of spiritual transformation in Christ. And most important, they seek to help those with whom they journey discern the presence and leading of the Spirit of God-the One Jesus sent as our true Spiritual Director.” (David G. Benner. Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002, p. 17.)

Reflection questions:

  • Who has served as a spiritual director in your journey with Christ, whether or not they would call themselves one?
  • With whom do you have regular conversations about your conversational relationship with God?

Buy a copy of Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction on Amazon.com

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