Posture and Permission To Listen

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Posture and Permission To Listen

Today, I heard the wind. It was as though it was saying something. I’ve never seen the wind, only it’s effects. If faith is evidence of things unseen, maybe the wind is speaking a language we can only understand in the stillness. Many times when I have meetings outside of the office, I meet at one of my favorite local spots for coffee and such. In between some of my meetings, I may have a few moments of waiting before the next person. During that time, you wouldn’t believe how obvious it is how we love to hear ourselves talk. Everyone one is jumping over each other’s words and phrases to get to what they each want to say next. It’s exhausting. Thanks headphones.

This is a simple reminder that in hearing someone speak, we will hear what is said and what isn’t said. Calming our agenda and opportunity to speak may just help us actually comprehend what is being communicated.

Some steps that may help a posture for listening: Take some deep breathes before beginning. Clear your mind of certain have to’s in the conversation. don’t feel like you have to get a certain response or comment. Put mobile devices away or at least turn them over. I know we’re all looking for the next Instagram photo op, but let’s be honest, checking your phone is rude while someone is speaking. have a goal of the other person leaving knowing that they have had an authentic and life-giving conversation with another human.

Cynicism is tiring. I’m going to try to talk less, listen more; fear less, hope more; do less, rest more; whine less, breathe more. On a personal level, setting a posture for listening means we need to change our environment to be conducive to listening. Maybe it is no accident that silence and listen are spelled with some of the same letters.

Once upon a time we would answer the question of "how are you doing?" with "fine" as if we didn't want to burden people with an authentic response. Today, the answers is overwhelmingly "busy". Maybe it was once an real answer, but now it tends to be a default answer. "Busy" doesn't even describe how we are doing.

I wouldn't argue that we think that we are all very busy, nor would I actually deny we ARE busy. What is it about us today that find ourselves without margin? Does society project guilt towards the thought and act of slowing down? This will erode us from the inside out if and when it becomes reality. Do we wear our clutter and activity like an award that we have won?

Maybe we are hoping for a moment of peace, stillness, or even meaning. Even church activity is more about activity where it was once an environment of being still, learning, Holy communion.

Being busy should never be a badge of honor. After a certain amount of time a state of being isn't how we are doing, it is who we are. If and when our activity level defines who we are, our humanity is diminished.

So, as we move ahead, what are some ways that we could slow down, establish margin, and savor the life we've been given?

Everyday introduces a new idea, new way of doing things, and new challenges. Right brainers tend to thrive these days due to the amount of channels, mediums, and social implications of being a “creative”. For years I pursued a dangling artist carrot. I thought that if I could introduce the most radical “out of the box” idea, or execute the most outlandish creative moment, then I would receive an award or bonus from the Cool Kids Creativity Institute.

Then I joined the staff at a church. Everything began to change.

Everyone puts different levels of value on creativity. I found myself in a marginalized role. I was to be the token Bono on Sundays, bring a good idea to the table here and there, and just expected to do my job. The expectations were different than I had set out to pursue.

It didn’t take me long to sense that God had me right where He wanted me. Doing what I was made to do, and vulnerable to learn more of what I was being compelled to be. With that said, let’s jump laterally.

Once I had someone say “Chad you might want to stop trying so hard, and just be who you were created to be, and not who you think others want you to be.” Those words in addition to how the Spirit was moving and revealing in my life began to alter my head and heart space. It gave me permission to embrace how I was wired to be, and seeking peace and centeredness through prayer and meditation slowly began to recalibrate my motives, hopes, and ambitions.

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Shaming

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Shaming

Shame [sheym] noun

  1. the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another: She was overcome with shame.
  2. susceptibility to this feeling: to be without shame.
  3. disgrace; ignominy: His actions brought shame upon his parents.

When used as a verb, it may say more about the person using it than it does about the victim. Make no mistake, in some situations we can be the victim and the aggressor.

Think about the moments that you have been subjected to shame. Someone in a classroom projecting it upon you perhaps. A “friend” using it to gain some delusional ground on you. Yourself… heaping an invisible dose of it around your neck; allowing it to effect every situation, decision, and relationship in our path. Anyone in any circle will eventually find that shame has no staying power. It may do damage, but eventually it will be revealed for what it is.

Church, shame is a cheap substitute for conviction.

Shame has no place in our faith, relationships, or work. Friends, shame is an insecure method of connection that will never end in true community. Co-workers, there’s just no place for it in the office; It’s simply not endearing, and we can smell it's toxins.

NO one can be shamed into believing. There is no belief there, just emptiness and frustration. Ben Franklin once said “whatever is begun in anger ends in shame”. If this is true, this is very telling of anyone using shame as one of their tactics or techniques.

It attempts to steal hope and life from us. It should have no place and we should walk out of the room when and if we feel it’s presence. It is poison.

Richard Rohr says the Church became so preoccupied with the fly in the ointment, the flaw in the beauty that we forgot and even missed out on any original blessing. We saw Jesus primarily as a problem-solver rather than as a revealer of the very heart and image of God (Colossians 1:15f). We must now rebuild on a foundation of goodness, and not on a foundation of original curse (or sin). We dug a pit so deep that most people and most theologies could not get back out of it. You must begin with yes. We cannot begin with no, or it is not a beginning at all.

May we spread hope, not venom. May we bring peace, not hurt and chaos.

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Hope

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Hope

We all need hope. Sometimes we forget about it until we realize our need of it. At times, the word itself seems empty and unattainable. Hope is mentioned anytime anyone aspires to encourage, rally, or inspire the masses. It resonates in our minds, hearts, and souls. It resonates because we are all in need of hope. Hope for a better, brighter tomorrow. Churchill said, “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

Hope teaches. Hope is active. Hope doesn’t sleep. Hope stands up. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” -MLK Jr. Have hope. Hold it close. Never let go of it. Most of all, give it. Prayer has historically been a source of hope for humanity. The connection with human health and prayer has been studied for decades. Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiovascular specialist at Harvard Medical School and a pioneer in the field of mind/ body medicine discovered what he calls "the relaxation response," which occurs during periods of prayer and meditation. His studies have found that the body's metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down, and breathing becomes more calm.

This state is correlated with slower brain waves, and feelings of control, tranquil alertness and peace of mind. This is significant because Benson estimates that over half of all doctor visits in the U.S. today are prompted by illnesses, like depression, high blood pressure, ulcers and migraine headaches, that are caused at least in part by elevated levels of stress and anxiety.

In Scripture we glean wisdom and insight not to be missed. There is much to learn from the margins; those parts of the stories that aren’t the main storyline. In most of the early text of Scripture where prayer is mentioned, you will find prayer and meditation. If we are more actively grasping for the words to voice our prayers instead of meditating on a Passage or verse while being still and silent, we are missing the full meaning and purpose of prayer. Hope rings out in the stillness of prayer and meditation.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

-Saint Francis of Assisi

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Deafening Silence

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Deafening Silence

Several years back, I stumbled upon a path of contemplative spirituality, and I will never be the same. I have heard of more and more people being compelled to the conversation and intrigued with altering their lifestyle out of necessity for a sustainable pace. I simply wanted to revisit some thoughts that I call, "Deafening Silence".

If we step back from this busy life for a moment of reflection, we will start to hear a deafening silence. The ironic thing will be that it is truly the stillness that is so deafening. The majority of people in my circle struggles with noisy, crazy, hectic schedules, running from meeting to meeting, coffee to coffee, and activity to activity. Being present and available to God through pursuing space, focus, and contemplation is something that we make hard for ourselves.

After you read this JUST TRY to take 5 minutes and sit in silent solitude. It will be difficult. NO texting, NO computer (Messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), NO music, NO iPhone, NO gaming, NO calls, NO talking. Nothing, but silence. If you haven’t experienced this in awhile, the sound will be loud. You’ll see what I’m attempting to explain. When we arrive at a place on our journey where we have run out of words to pray, we will find a brilliant presence of God in the stillness, without words.

“We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” — Thomas Merton

In a society that breeds narcissism and instant everything, a true and even disciplined pursuer of the Holy, might feel strange and even awkward about sitting, kneeling, or laying down. Thoughts of all that we could be doing will attempt to drown out the entire purpose on getting alone to be still, silent, and contemplative. Don’t be surprised if your vices, struggles, or addictions show themselves. That will be the crossroad choice of what we do with that time. Seek peace or give in to the self- centered nature that we constantly combat. If you have not seen the Nooma video “Noise”, go check it out. Bill Hybels has been quoted, “Is the ambient noise level of my life low enough for me to hear the whispers of the Lord?” A. W. Tozer has said “in some instances, absolute silence might well become our greatest act of worship”. The silence Tozer is talking about doesn’t happen in our worship gatherings. Everything in our culture is screaming at a db level that is dulling our hearing the Creator’s voice, and sometimes His will. I myself continue to struggle with this.

My friend, Ian Morgan Cron, says that the “future of the Church is silence”, as we become so hungry for silence in community. To be with one another without having to frantically convince one another of how important we all are may be a form of remedy to what is ailing us.

“God’s first language is silence, and everything else is a bad translation” -Mother Teresa.

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