Our church devotion this week was all about how God created us to be involved in community. Community is built when a group of people come together and establish relationships with one another at various different levels. One of the key components in maintaining any healthy relationship at any level is communication. Good communication is built around a number of things but this post is going to be focused on just one. LISTENING.
We are horrible listeners. We just are. There are many reasons for this but most of them fall into one of two categories. the first being distractions around us and the second being distractions inside of us. The worst part about our horrible ability to listen, is that when we become distracted while others are speaking to us, we are essentially telling them that they are not important to us. Oh, I'd pay attention to you but you aren't more important than this text I just got. Or that person that's walking down the street behind you. Or the thought of what I'm going to do later today. Or what I'm going to say in response to what you just told me.
If we consistently communicate to others that what they say to us is not important, eventually they will just stop talking. When there is no communication, there is no realtionship. The scariest part of all of this, is that our poor listening often goes beyond just the relationships we have with the people around us to the relationship we have with God.
So, how can we become better listeners? I'm glad you asked!
One of the tools we can use is to start practicing what is called "mindful listening". Websters simple definition of the word mindful is to be aware of something that may be important. When we practice mindful listening we keep ourselves aware that what someone is saying may be imortant to us and we in turn pay full attention to their words. This isn't always easy since both outer and inner distractions seem to come at us a mile a minute. In order to better practice mindful listening here are a few tips that I found:
1. BE PRESENT
Focus on the person who is speaking. If there is too much going on around you then see if the two of you can move the conversation somewhere where there are less distractions.
2. CULTIVATE EMPATHY
Often when someone is speaking to us we are spending more time interpreting what they are saying through our own lens of experience so that we can form a response. We will listen better if we try and see what a person saying from their point of view. It doesn't mean we have to agree with them but we can acknowledge the other person's perspective.
3. RECOGNIZE OUR OWN "CUES"
Our cues are the thoughts, feelings and physical reactions we have when we feel anxious or angry, and they can block out ideas and perspectives that we're uncomfortable with. Essentially once someone says something that we don't agree with we tend to shut down/off. If we learn to recognize our cues we can choose to remain open minded as someone is talking so we can fully hear them out.
If reading these tips has helped you or maybe sparked an idea of your own on how to listen better feel free to comment and let us know!
Back in 2011 the movie "In Time" was released. I have to be completely honest here, I have never seen the movie. Mostly because I don't think Justin Timberlake has done anything worthwhile since his days in N*Sync. (Bye Bye Bye) The reason for mentioning that particular film in this post is because of the premise of the film. I found the following synopsis on IMDB:
Welcome to a world where time has become the ultimate currency. You stop aging at 25, but there's a catch: you're genetically-engineered to live only one more year, unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich "earn" decades at a time (remaining at age 25), becoming essentially immortal, while the rest beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day. When a man from the wrong side of the tracks is falsely accused of murder, he is forced to go on the run with a beautiful hostage. Living minute to minute, the duo's love becomes a powerful tool in their war against the system. Written by Twentieth Century Fox
This past Sunday our Pastor spoke on how we needed to be better stewards of our time here on earth and this movie popped right into my head. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a countdown on your arm and once that countdown reach all 0's that was it? How differently would you live your life? How would we change our priorities if we knew for certain we only had so much time left?
The fact of the matter is that we don't have a lot of time here on earth. Here in the United Sates the average life expectancy for women is 81 and for men it is 76. That isn't a lot! I used to roll my eyes and laugh when people told me how much faster time seemed to go by as you got older. Yeah right, I thought. Now, as I am watching my children grow up, my oldest is turning 10 soon, I am beginning to see the wisdom in what they were telling me. A year now isn't the same as a year when I was a kid, lol.
What I find even more concerning is that while in the movie "In Time" they had a countdown telling them exactly how much time they had left. The reality that we are faced with everyday is that we don't know for certain how much time we have left. Every day is a gift. Every moment is an opportunity. What are we really doing with the short uncertain amount of time that we have? We may not have an actual countdown on our arms but our time clocks are running out!
I don't know about anyone else but I have no doubt that I could do more with the days that God gives me. I could hug a few more people that I love. I could play a few more minutes with my kids. I could pray a little bit longer for God's will to be done on the earth as it is in heaven. I could enjoy a few more quiet moments sitting next to my beautiful wife on the couch. I could spend another second or two gazing upon the splendor of God's creation.
Those are the things that seem important to me when I think about how limited my time here on earth is. Recently, my wife and I took a trip with some friends of ours and for reasons unknown the soudtrack for our weekend was the song "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim Mcgraw. I am not a country music fan but I want to end this post with lyrics from the bridge of that song:
Like tomorrow was a gift
And ya got eternity to think about what to do with it
What did you do with it?
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?
“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. ”
― Eric Liddell
Eric Liddell was a Scottish athlete and missionary. His training and Gold Medal win in the 1924 Olympics held in Paris can be seen in the 1981 film "Chariots of Fire".
Pastor James Taylor has been preaching on the concept of Stewardship for the last 2 weeks. This past week he spoke about talents and how we should be using what we are good at for God's purposes. It was a great sermon and it got me thinking about why we struggle so much to give our talents back to God.
God has given each and every one of us a particular talent. Something that we are not only good at but driven to do. For example, one of my very good friends that I think of as a sister, has a talent to paint. Not only is she very good at painting, she loves doing it. It is truly a God given talent.
With that being said, I also feel as though she is limiting what she can or can't do because she truly desires to give that gift back to God. Some of you may be wondering what I mean by that last statement. Well, allow me to clarify a bit. When we as Christians recognize we have a talent and then desire to give that talent back to God, we often create false boundaries around that talent. These false boundaries then limit how we use our talent.
Think about Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner I quoted above. Would his talent as a runner had as great an impact for God's glory had he decided that in order for his running ability to be used by God, he could only run in "Christian" races? Of course not! He ran for God's glory on the grandest stage a runner could have and the world saw it! Eric didn't artificially limit his talent so it could be used by God. He pursued his talent with every fiber of his being and by operating fully in it, God was glorified!
Now, I am also not saying that just because we have a talent there are no boundaries at all. Eric Liddell actually refused to run some particular races in the 1924 Olympics when he found out that some of the heats would be run on Sunday. That was a boundary that he accepted and refused to cross. What is truly interesting to note is that one of the races Eric refused to run in, the 100 meter dash, was his best event! Because he bowed out of that event, he entered into the 400 meter. That is the event he won gold in and set a record that lasted 12 years! The boundary set by God for keeping the Sabbath didn't stop Eric from competing but actually became one of the primary reasons for Eric's fame.
Now, let's get back to my friend with the incredible painting talent. She doesn't need to create false boundaries for her talent and restrict the use of her talent to give God glory. All she needs to do is stay within the boundaries God sets in His word and then allow her talent to shine to the best of her ability.
God takes pleasure in His son's and daughter's when they use their God given talents to their fullest. In fact, I believe, The grandest stages of the world are set and waiting for those that honor God with their talents. So get out there, find your passion and talent then do it to the absolute best of your ability so that your Heavenly Father can take pleasure in it!
Phillip Reed is the Associate Pastor of Faith Chapel Ministries. His passion is to reconcile the lost to their Heavenly Father.