Twice in the last 24 hours I’ve heard the same accolade given to a man: “He changed my life.”
One was in an episode of “The Good Doctor.” A character, grieving the loss of a coworker, said he had changed her life. Her grieving caused her to see it.
The other was in a devotional. A high school senior gave this praise to a teacher. Many teachers get this opportunity-to change a life.
As you read this, I’m guessing someone in your past comes to mind. A teacher? A coach? An employer? A family member? A pastor? A friend? A coworker?
This person, although living their life with purpose, most likely didn’t look at you and determine, “They need changing. I’m going to change them.” Not that literal. What they most likely did was simply see you. Listen to you. Answer you. Value you. Honor your place in the world. Give you a place in their world. And it was enough to foster change.
May we all see, listen, answer, value, honor, and give enough to foster change. May we all have said of us, “They changed my life.”
Recently a colleague referenced this book by Pat Schneider:
After doing my usual thing of sampling it on Kindle, I purchased it. (NOTE: “Usual thing on Kindle” means if I’m enticed to highlight while reading the sample, it’s more than likely an eventual purchase.)
At first I wasn’t enticed, but then came these two lines from the same paragraph:
When I achieve true waiting, true listening, something happens that I experience as a gift…If I am made in the image of the creator, then I am myself a creator, and my acts of creating participate in mystery.
That first line grabbed my attention. It aligns with several messages I’ve heard recently, the most recent while driving to Orlando yesterday. (NOTE: To radio DJs, your words carry power.) I’ve lived most of my life feeling like I’ve taken on a burden when someone shares intimate stories with me. I’ve been eased and encouraged lately to see these sharings as gifts, completely altering how I listen and experience the moment.
And that second line, it’s a different way to say what I’ve often told others. We are creators. We are creative. We were created to create. Opening our minds to that truth and expanding our definition of creativity frees us to “participate in mystery.”
I came across Amy Cuddy‘s book while browsing in Barnes & Noble. The cover intrigued me.
I ho-hummed through the first two chapters. Then came #3, “Stop Preaching, Start Listening.” Highlighter activated. And mostly because of the illustrative work she retold of Boston minister Reverend Jeffrey Brown. Follow this link to his Ted Talk.
His story of turning around gang violence in Boston in the 1990’s definitely brings light to the definition of presence. You could say that he defines presence as simply showing up. But how you show up is what Cuddy emphasizes with this statement:
When we meet someone new, we quickly answer two questions: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” In our research, my colleagues and I have referred to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively.
She ties warmth and trust together, competence and respect together. And whether we realize it or not, we first check a new acquaintance’s trustworthiness before their competence. Yet, when people are asked which they’d rather be seen as, most choose competent. Cuddy believes that desire can lead to costly mistakes.
To avoid that mistake, she encourages us to focus on the value of listening. Here are five reasons why:
People can trust you.
You acquire useful information.
You begin to see other people as individuals-and maybe even allies.
You develop solutions that other people are willing to accept and even adopt.
When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen.
In order to get somewhere with the gang members, Reverend Brown had this attitude: The youth have to be looked at not as the problem but as partners. How much farther might we get in all life’s arenas if we adopted this mindset? In our families, in our offices, in our courtrooms, in our churches, in our schools, in our legislative bodies, in our town halls, in our social media posts, in our spotlight moments, in our journalism, in our prayers?
There is a time for preaching and a time for listening. How much further might we get if we honored those times?
In the last week I’ve been struck by a theme. It started with a conversation, then continued unexpectedly in the book I was reading.
In the conversation I realized a summary of how I was answering questions about my current life outlook had to do with being a good steward. My summary was this: “I’m trying to steward well my past, present, and future.” In a journal entry the next morning, I wrote four action words by those tenses that could describe that stewarding.
Past: Learn, Forgive, Release, Praise
Present: Abide, Listen, Observe, Praise
Future: Anticipate, Release, Trust, Praise
As I chewed on these words and my summary, as God does, he showed out by having the next chapter in the book I was reading be on this very subject. Chapter 5 of A Life God Rewards is entitled “The Question of Your Life.” Using Jesus’ teachings, Bruce Wilkinson suggests that the important daily question for our lives should be this: “How will I steward what my Master has placed in my care?”
That’s what a steward does-manages his master’s assets. And in the case of a Christian’s life, those assets include talents, strengths, personality, and interests. Stewarding well requires faithfulness. Faithfulness to the action words in my journal entry may be a good place to start.
This week may be a God-given opportunity for all of us to chew on these thoughts. How do we steward the last year? How do we steward this week? How do we steward 2021?
Prayer. It’s a subject that raises many emotions, beliefs, and practices.
About it, a friend told me this today:
I believe the Father and Son want a conversation. I’ve struggled with prayer having been raised in a church where everything was so formal. When I began talking to our Father like he was riding shotgun in my truck, I began to feel the difference.
Now that’s an image to check out how one’s prayer life is going.
Is anyone riding shotgun?
If so, who?
Is it any person of the Trinity?
How balanced is the conversation?
How much listening is happening?
How long is the trip?
Does the conversation ever stop?
If so, what stops it?
What happens in the conversation lull?
Suggestion: use this imagery the rest of this week. See what changes in your praying. Who knew prayer could be like riding shotgun?
Two weeks ago I completed a 14er. That’s what Coloradans call hiking one of their mountains that has an elevation over 14k feet. Not an easy feat for this Floridian.
In order to get to the top, I employed several mind games; some worth sharing, others are none of your business. I roleplayed being novel characters, rewrote song lyrics, and said “Lord, have mercy” the most ever in one day. And my friend Danny, who suckered me into this adventure, witnessed it all. Well, most of it.
(at the base)
Danny is a native. Pretty disgusting how easy this was for him (some of that none of your business mind games). And he’s a Cubs fan. Seriously-who needs enemies with friends like Danny?
All the way up and all the way down, Danny looked out for me. Sometimes right by my side, but most of the time yards ahead, usually within eyesight. It didn’t really matter, though, where he was. Knowing he was there somewhere was enough.
I never felt abandoned. Not by Danny. Maybe by my lungs, but not by my friend, guide, encourager. I didn’t always have my eyes on him, but I knew he was around.
(Danny capturing me ascending)
If we humans can do that for each other, imagine the depth that God can.
He’s everywhere simultaneously. He’s by my side, up trail, at the peak, and back in the parking lot, all at the same time.
He’s communicating constantly. Listening to my jokes, my whining, my singing, my doubting, my spoken and unspoken thoughts, and responding compassionately.
If anyone’s native, it’s God. Been around forever. Witnessing our everything. Created all those humans hiking up the mountain he spoke into being. Wise and discerning to give us Dannys. Whatever adventure he invites us on, the answer should be “yes.” You might call it a mountain climbing state of mind.
(from the peak)
I’m really enjoying my current read, A Spirituality of Listening by Keith Anderson. If you’re attending First Baptist Bradenton tomorrow, you’ll hear some references.
I just finished chapter five, Story: Shaped by Biblical Narrative. Here are some examples of why you might enjoy this book:
God doesn’t ask that we rise above all of life’s pain; rather, he asks that we bring all of our story to God. God doesn’t ask that we walk around in disguise pretending there are no holes in our hearts; God asks that we bring those painful hearts to the throne of grace.
When someone says thank you for something you have done, it is a gift of gratitude from God. When someone shows you love, that love is a gift of grace from God. When someone tells you the truth, it is a gift of love because God cares to move you from your defenses, hiding, and resistance. Telling our story to one another is perhaps the most sacred thing we do because God shows up in the words, emotions, and crafting of our words.
Listening isn’t always something we want to do. I’ve become fascinated by our capacity for hearing in recent years. Now in my 60s, I am losing capacity to hear in one ear. It comes in handy when I’m being told something I really don’t want to hear. It’s convenient when I need a good excuse to miss a deadline or just prefer not to have definite instructions for something I might not want to do. It doesn’t mean I can’t hear at all in the “bad ear,” I just sometimes can’t tell you what the words are. I might hear sounds, muffled words and intonations. To hear the words, I must turn my face and my good ear to the speaking voice. That makes it, for me, a metaphor for spirituality – we turn our face so we can hear again. We turn our face in a new direction so the words have meaning and are not merely sounds.
This is a quote from a book I just started reading entitled A Spirituality of Listening.
I appreciate the metaphor. If I’m going to hear what God is saying to me, it’s vital that my face and my ears are turned in his direction. What might keep my face and ears turned away?
All sorts of fears and lies that the enemy would rather I choose to listen to
So in order to listen, I have to turn my face and ears by choosing humility, surrendering control, trusting truth, embracing discomfort, and recalling God’s ways are indeed best.