Posts Tagged ‘listening’

LEGACY 21: The Legacy of Asking Key Questions

July 13, 2018

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written a blog myself, but the idea for one popped up this morning when I awoke. We (my wife and I) are on our way to northwest Ohio (a 12-hour drive) to wrap up the affairs of her 93-year-old father, who died (preferable in my book to the somewhat euphemistic “passed”) this past Tuesday. In his waning days, he asked a relative, “What is the purpose of life?” The relative, definitely younger and less experienced in life, was taken aback and, not knowing how to answer, didn’t respond. She said she wished she had known what was going on and said something. I’m not sure that was the important thing. Can we ever really know if we say the right thing?

So I found myself thinking, “What are the key questions we should ask?”

What prompts us to ask? What is the purpose of asking? Do we really want answers? Or are we looking for something attendant—Relationship? Mere information? Satisfying our curiosity? (Why is it that children are always asking WHY? and we as adults stop asking?)

There are 2 kinds of questions—unimportant and important. Key questions definitely fit into the latter. But there are probably a host of questions that are important but not key. So let’s keep delving down into levels of importance and “key-ness.”

There are questions that identify information that matters, as opposed to trivia. There are questions that help influence decision-making. And there are questions that change our lives. I’m not a philosopher, so questions of epistemology (the theory of the nature of knowledge) I’m not qualified to begin to answer. How much can be known? The answer is the Question of the Ages: Who knows? (and if you respond in pat theological certainty, “God knows!”—how do you know that? And the begging questions, “Are there things He doesn’t know?” And on and on it goes…)

In my little, often-unknowing mind, there are a few KEY key questions for sure. My father-in-law asked one of them: “What is the purpose of life?” It can be asked in other ways or with other nuances: “Why am I here?” “How can I find meaning/significance?” “What do I need to be doing with my life?” Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING (according to a 1991 survey conducted by the US Library of Congress and Book of the Month Club, one of the 10 Most Influential Books in the US. See Wikipedia under the term “MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING.” A humorous footnote: The archived article, from the NY Times, has 13 total books listed. Five of them, including Frankl’s, are tied for 9th place. There is no actual 10th place book.)

Key questions revolve around key needs: purpose, relationship, legacy. What will I leave behind? (Why do I blog? What do I gain by it?)

My father-in-law was one of the most purposeful and effective men I’ve ever met. He lived a full and productive life and left a great legacy for his family and his world.

I wish I could ask him now, “What did you mean by that question? Do you have an answer? Was it the answer you expected? Is it the answer you wanted?” and “Are you still asking questions? If so, why?” And perhaps the most important one for me, “What question should I be asking right now?”

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“Deadly Poison (Ivy) Will Not Hurt Them At All”

June 30, 2018

(Bill Campbell, whose story this is, is 79. He has been my pastor for the past 21 years. The Holy Spirit has prompted him to write a book titled THE GOD OF PROMISES, which he is in the process of submitting for publication. This testimony of his healing from poison ivy is excerpted from the latest revision with his permission. If you’re interested in reading the entire book, let me know below.)

When we pray, the Spirit will illuminate any Scripture he desires in answer to our prayer. And, we believe that he will help us when we believe his words. For example: recently I was spraying weed killer on some poison ivy growing down the hillside behind our home. I saw some growing behind a large maple tree, and I had to stoop down and spray under the tree to reach it. A branch of the tree was in my way and I pushed it out of the way with my shoulder to spray back under the tree. While I was spraying the branch popped loose and was rubbing against the side of my face. When I looked at it I realized that the poison ivy had grown up the tree and out onto that branch and it was the poison ivy I was pushing out of my way with my arm, shoulder and the side of my face.

I have been very sensitive to poison ivy in the past and get seriously bad rashes and blisters. Not long after getting back to the house and washing up, the left side of my face and my left shoulder were already starting to get red and puffy.

I was praying, and I reminded the Lord: “You said that ‘by your wounds I am healed.’ This isn’t right – as your child I should be healed.” Then I heard in my mind, … when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all. I thought, “Lord, that is out of context.” I immediately heard again, … when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all. I was thinking this over silently, and I heard in my mind for the third time, … when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all.

I knew that the Holy Spirit has the right to take Scripture out of context and apply it to our circumstances even though we do not have that right without his specific guidance. So I said, “Lord, that is out of context, but if that is your word for me I receive it gladly, and I thank you.” That evening the rash got no worse, and the next morning the poison ivy rash was gone, healed. The Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is powerful and active.

LEGACY 6: AUTHENTICITY

May 14, 2018

(Originally written 9/20/14)

Authenticity is, at best, being who you are and were meant to be.

It’s ironic that so-called “reality” shows are really more Truman-esque than real. Because the participants are on-stage, there is an acting-ness, a phoniness.

“All of life is a test.” (from the movie The Recruit) Problem is, with tests, we don’t get to grade ourselves. Someone—or someones—outside ourselves do that. There is some standard we’re being measured against. Are we trying to measure ourselves against that yardstick rather than something intrinsic?

“To thine own self be true,” said Shakespeare’s Polonius. Ironically, he was not. Nonetheless, the truth of that statement captures our fascination. We treasure authenticity. We resonate with people who are real. We are awed by people who are able to operate gloriously in their unique gifting or calling.

Sometimes we envy them, which is a tragic waste of our own undiscovered uniqueness. Trying to copy someone else is like buying a ticket to Cancun but waiting for the plane to Cabo: It doesn’t get you where you really want to go. Both places are great destinations, but only one is right for you, and waiting in the wrong terminal IS terminal. Life is too short for envy.

How do we find our own true self?

  • We have lost the art of listening—to others, to our hearts, to silence. What resonates in your life? Everyone has SOMETHING to offer. The current hit book/movie Divergent plays on this truth, this intense desire we have to find our true calling, to be authentic. Many of our classics relate to the same truth—Tom Sawyer, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Matrix—the list goes on. We can listen to the stories in what we read or watch—what characters fascinate us? What heroes would we most like to be like? There is a message in our hearts that is only heard by listening to what we are drawn to most.
  • Accept limitations. Be who you are capable of being without putting yourself down for not being more. Accept the linearity of life—we only get one, at least only one at a time. Start where you are. Steady wins the race. Plod if you must, but move toward the real you somehow. Accept the mistakes of the past—they are part of who you are. Make them count. Include them.
  • Smile. Learn to enjoy the moment. Be alive whenever you can, and focus on making it more of the time. Don’t be afraid of rejection—the world is longing for people who know who they are and aren’t afraid to show it.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. –Howard Thurman.

The glory of God is man fully alive. –St. Irenaeus

Listen With Your Whole Heart

June 16, 2013

Listen with your heart. Listen with your whole heart. That is the key to loving people.

Listening changes people. Listening converts people. Listening is the heart of the matter.

Listen to others. But first listen to your own heart. Listen to God. Hear His heartbeat for you. Then when you can listen to others, you can listen to His heartbeat for them.

Wholehearted people are the people we admire. They accomplish superhuman feats. They change the world by changing the people they impact. They pour out their lives by pouring out their hearts, but they do it best out of a reservoir that is overflowing.

When I really listen, time gets expanded exponentially. Eternity comes into the moment. Time stands still, breathlessly waiting for me, for the one I’m listening to. I become one with them, and enter their pain, their joy, their love, their successes, their failures, their hearts.

When I have fully listened, and a sense of wholeness is fully complete, time resumes—but that moment has been captured in memory, a snapshot or a video to replay at leisure, or at needed times.

Hearing God and Reflection

April 9, 2012

Hearing God and Reflection.

Incredibly good blog on hearing God through reflection!

Sam Williamson’s blog “Beliefs of the Heart”

The Golden Rule of Blogging (and Most Other Things That Matter In Life)

March 20, 2012

Couple days ago, I read a blog called “The One Top Secret Blogging Tip You Can’t Live Without (Not Really).” It really is the best advice I’ve seen on how to spread your blogging (not that I’ve really seen that much—as you will see by what I say regarding his advice). It’s by chiefofleast.com, a guy named Bryan Daniels, by his own description “a budding husband, father, teacher, student, coach and friend.” His response was at least partly in response to a request by me (one he frequently gets) for help in figuring out how to make my blog better. His advice, in a single word, is this: Listen!

Listen to what other bloggers who are saying things similar to what you’re saying. Listen to bloggers who interest you. Listen, and network, and connect. Offer them honest praise.

And really, when you think about it, isn’t that what the “Golden Rule” says? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Duh. I want people to read my blog, so how do I translate that into the Golden Rule? Simple: Read their blogs. Connect with them. Make them feel the way I want to feel.

Honestly, I haven’t done that. Somehow I justified it with, “I don’t have time,” or some other blather I told myself. But I’ve started. Thank you, Chief of Least!

 In two short months it’s worked for Bryan—he’s gone from 16 subscribers (including his mom, wife, and good friends) for the entire fifteen months, to over 1,150 followers, according to his counter. Pretty good investment, I’d say—a 7200% return in two months, which translates into a 43,000% return in a year! (Man, if we could do that with money, we could wipe out the entire world’s debt in a few short years, and our own would only take the couple of months!)

Call it networking, call it connecting—at the heart of it, what makes it really work is listening. It’s about making the other person feel important. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian who stood against Hitler—at the wise young age of 33, six short years before he was martyred for that stand—wrote a little book titled Life Together, based on lessons he had learned as the leader of a small band of seminarians in pre-WW2 Germany. He identifies what he calls “Ministry” (chapter 4 in the translation by John W. Doberstein published by Harper & Row in 1974), and lists a number of little-thought-about “ministries,” the first being “The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue.” The section on “The Ministry of Listening,” less than two short pages, has these gems (and this is about half the content that is there!):

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them…

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he may not be conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.

…There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person…It is little wonder that we are no longer capable of the greatest service of listening that God has committed to us, that of hearing our brother’s confession, if we refuse to give ear to our brother on lesser subjects. Secular education today [keep in mind, this was 1939] is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously…But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.

So, I want to offer myself to listen to you. I need to learn this. My email address is on my blog here if you want to write to me personally, or just comment below.

I’ll probably get overwhelmed, so if I don’t answer right away, please be patient with me. And while you’re waiting, maybe you could think about giving someone else the gift of listening…