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Learning the gift ~ of listening


When we talk about the gift of listening.
It brings awareness to me the power of being quiet and actually taking the time to listen to someone.
To listen to their words, to watch their body language, what they are not saying, while they are sharing.
Matters of the heart are to be treated in a tender, fragile way.
How often have you felt ‘safe’ enough to share places inside your ‘spirit’?
I just spent time with my best friend and as she talked and shared I wanted to truly listen.
I wanted to remember her voice, her ways of expressing herself, the gift of ‘being herself’.
It is not something we want to take for granted or miss an opportunity for connection.
The definition of listen is to pay attention; to hear something with thoughtful attention; to be alert.
When I was in counseling the words I said were heard on many levels.
He listened to what I said, and what I was not saying.
Both are necessary and both are real when one is talking about conversation.
It is a skill. An art. To listen with out thinking of what ‘you are saying’ next.
I remember one time my little grandson was talking to his grandpa and at one point he said,
“grandpa are you Yistening” to me? (he didn’t say the L sound in the word.)
It was a valid question as we all want to be heard. To be valued. To be important enough for someone to hear us.
The real test of a relationship is how easy it is for us to hear. How much do we desire ‘the connection.’
How important it is for us to spend the time to listen to one another.
The word listen is in the bible 397 times, that is a significant amount of warnings.
[They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God.]
11 Kings 17:14

Hardness of heart will make us NOT want to listen.

[“See, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say.”] Job 32:11
[“If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say.”] Job 34:16

Do you see the pattern? I WAITED, I leaned in and paused with you while you gathered your thoughts.

[If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.] Psalm 66:18,19
[For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!] Psalm 95:7

How about this example?

[She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.] Luke 10:39

I am often reminded of the Mary story, as her heart was set on listening to every word of Jesus.
Nothing was more important to her. No job was more valued than to listen and lean in.
What a challenge for us. To truly listen with our mind, our heart and our body language.
What about these words?

26  [‘Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
27  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn —
and I would heal them.’] Acts 28:26-28

Good words to think on, in this noisy world that we live in. May we choose to listen and not be hardened.
May we see and not always judge, may we give attention to, what is the most important.
To learn the gift of listening.

A letter to the women of Grace Chapel

DEAR GRACE,

When I was asked if I would like to write a letter to the women of the church, I had to pause and reflect on what words I would say. I am a senior who has slowly learned to use my voice and I wondered if I did, what would it look like for me to speak to many ages in a room?

Over the last 40 days, I have participated in an online Facebook group that has been reading and studying a book called Whispers of Rest, by Bonnie Gray, 40 Days of God’s Love to Revitalize Your Soul. I think what I would want to share with the ladies, based on what I have read recently in this challenging book, is this:

YOU ARE THE BELOVED OF GOD.

You have a gift and you are a delight. “You will be named my delight, for the Lord delights in you.” (Isaiah 62:4)

If you are a young mom with little ones who demand and tire you, until you have no more strength left:
HE delights in you. He calls you in a unique and personal way. Being a mom of little ones is very important.
It is truly a calling; for you are raising future big people who will need to know how to manage life, faith and responsibilities.

If you are a leader in the children’s or youth department, consider yourself ‘called’ to let your light shine.
You have a light that should not be covered or hidden. You are important and needed.
Remember the little song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine?” Let it shine and do not hide it.
Your voice will come as you stretch yourself in ways you never thought possible. Embrace your calling and giftedness and thank the God who gave it to you. Not everyone can do what YOU do.

Some of you love to encourage through making meals, writing notes, or even taking seniors to their appointments. Use your gift of encouragement in whatever way you find possible. Find something positive to say and speak out and encourage others with words of affirmation. If you can write a note and send it in the mail, do it!
You can easily find envelopes at the dollar store, along with paper and pens. Hand-written notes are always good.

Don’t feel you are not needed because of age. Embrace your age and share your matters of heart with others.
Our experiences cannot be just for us; when we tell our stories, we allow those who have not walked our road to hear and know and see how God has provided.

We just had a panel of four wonderful ladies who shared their stories and opened up their chapters for all to hear. It takes courage to do that – and not everyone’s story is beautiful.
But, everyone’s story is a testimony that we are the beloved.

To this virtual room of women, I challenge you:
USE YOUR VOICE, YOUR GIFTS AND YOUR CALLING.
EMBRACE THEM AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO MOVE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

THERE IS BLESSING IN TAKING THE RISK

Learning to choose quiet love

[The Lord is with you. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love.] Zephaniah 3:17
Have you ever held a baby or small child who was crying, upset or very unsettled?
I have and have become aware of the fact that if I hold them close and whisper softly to them they would settle down and slowly I would feel the resistance leave as they lean into my shoulder and stop the fight.
I think this word picture could be the same for us and our relationship with Jesus.
“He will quiet you with his love.” I see this as a choice, HE WILL, because He wants to love deeply.
I had never thought of quiet love till Bonnie Gray challenged us in the book to think of it.
My personality gravitates more to quiet, peaceful people, I find it very disturbing to my spirit when people are loud and rude and non relational.
It probably goes back to some childhood issues; but really a quiet love is so much more relational and allows the freedom of growth and safety.
Learning to enjoy a quiet love is spiritual.
I often have no sound in our home, the quiet ministers to me and allows me space, like Bonnies first book, taught us about white space, in her book Finding spiritual whitespace.
It is freeing.
Many people are de-cluttering their homes and finding the process very healing and refreshing.
Removing things that have little meaning and that are taking up space that could be more useful.
In our retirement times I have chosen to have quiet interactions, walks without a lot of talking, driving with no sound on, just a quiet togetherness.
It is peaceful and surprisingly easy to do and as you find it to be a part of your every day.
We have so much that interrupts us, we must learn to choose a quiet love.
It is intentional and takes effort but it is so worth it when we make that choice.

Learning to allow rest

In Bonnie Gray’s book Whispers of rest, she shares with us the importance of slowing down and forcing ourselves to rest, to breathe, (which happens to be my word of the year).
Life is busy and we can get so caught up in things that must be done we forget the healing power of rest.
[Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.] Deuteronomy 33:12
The word picture I get when I read this; is a parent carrying a child.
Remember when your little ones were small and they cuddled up to you and laid their heads on your shoulder and fell asleep in safety? Yeah that is the picture that I get.
[The beloved of the Lord rests in safety— the High God surrounds him all day long— the beloved rests between his shoulders.] Deuteronomy 33:12
[and you will have confidence because there is hope; you will be protected and take your rest in safety.] Job 11:18
[I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.] Psalm 4:8
Allowing ourselves time to rest and restore our weary spirits is vital to our health.
[And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest;] Psalm 55:6
[He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”] Exodus 33:14
[Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.] Psalm 116:7
[Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.] Matthew 11:27-29
[so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.] Ist Corinthians 2:5
Are we getting the picture of rest?
Have you ever been so tired that your spirit aches and your fatigue is so over bearing you cannot think?
We must learn to rest. It is allowing ourselves the ability to stop and renew before pressing on.
Bonnie’s book Whispers of rest has challenged me to slow down, and listen to what my spirit needs.
Can I challenge you to do the same?

Learning to abide

Jesus said for us to abide in His love.
What does that mean for us?
To remain steadfast and continue in faith; to wait for and accept; to reside or continue in a condition; attitude or relationship.
To abide in his love is to hold tight to what He told us.
To stay firm in relationship with Him.
When I was a teen there was a time in my life when I had a prayer answered in a very powerful and mighty way.
It made me solid in my belief. It fortified my faith. It strengthened my knowing and desire to know more.
After that experience I knew that nothing would ever remove me from HIS love; for He heard the cry of my heart.
He answered the plea of a young teen, it was actually more of a challenge.
Show me WHO you are, then I will believe. He heard and answered.
Was it deserved by me? No.
That didn’t matter to the God who heard my prayer.
HE knew I needed something concrete and solid so I could remain in his love and accept it.
It is easier for us to accept something from someone when we know they are sincere in their intentions.
Learning to abide is a life choice. It is where we choose to reside and live.
Just as we have chosen physical homes where we find comfort and safety, we can find that in God’s love too.
[O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides] Psalm 26:8
[You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty] Psalm 91:1
[My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.] Isaiah 32:18
[As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.] John 15:9
Learning to abide is a life choice, a decision from our heart, and a very peaceful truth.

Learning to accept how delightful you are

[Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.] Psalm 37:4
[He brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.] Psalm 18:19
[Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!] Psalm 22:8
It is clear to me and I hope to you that God loves us with a powerful love.
I looked up the meaning of delight for reference and this is what I found.
A high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture: to be pleased.
Isn’t it amazing that we give God delight?
He delights in you.
Have you ever watched a beautiful moment and had that ‘wonderful’ feeling?
I think we all have. We delighted in the person, or situation because it was good.
It left us with a warm wonderful feeling.
In Bonnie’s book Whispers of rest, she challenges us to accept and believe and begin to process how delightful we are in the eyes of God.
It’s not an easy assignment especially if one has had a struggle with esteem or broken images of ourselves.
Not many of us were told when we were growing up we are delightful to someone.
It is not a common word to use, yet God did.
Why did God use it? because it gives value.
When I turned fifty I purchased diamond ear rings for myself.
I still find delight in them for they meant something special to me.
Before that I was given a diamond band by my husband and it also gives me delight when I think of him processing how he was going to purchase it. How he involved our daughter in the secret to give me a perfect fit.
When I turned sixty I purchased a diamond vintage ring and band for myself to symbolize sixty years.
It still gives me a feeling of delight for it was special and meaningful.
We are special and meaningful to God. The God who loves us with a deep and intimate heart.
He says to us over and over:
[I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.] Jeremiah 31:3
Jesus said: [As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.] John 15:9
Can we begin to learn to accept how delightful we are?
It really is a heart choice. Words of affirmation are building blocks to healing.
Are we ready to accept them?

Learning the beloved of God

“You are my beloved…in you I take delight.” Mark 1:11
In Bonnie’s book, whispers of rest, she gives us a challenge to believe that we are the beloved of God.
I looked up the definition of that word so I would understand what I was grasping.
There is great depth to this simple word.
It is Beloved: greatly loved, cherished and precious, dear to the heart.
You are… that is identity. Who you are. YOU are loved.
Then the rest of the verse says “I”… that means who is saying it, that would be God for it’s his word.
In you, I take delight. The father says that to us.
Did you ever feel that or experience that growing up? I didn’t.
The reference verse is this:
[At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”]
Mark 1:9-11
Read it again.
“You. Are. Chosen and marked. by my love.”
We can allow ourselves to grasp this for ourselves even though it was meant for Jesus.
Another version says:
[And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”]
Have you ever felt the feeling of pleasing someone in a deep meaningful way or felt like that for your children?
That is what this is saying. I take delight in you, I am pleased with you. I Love you with a deep love.
It is powerful.
I pray that as we continue to explore some of these word choices we begin to get a grip of God’s deep love for us.

Learning to confide

“If I make my bed in the depths, you are there…if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there…your right hand will hold me.” Psalm 139:8-10
As a survivor of childhood trauma it has been very hard for me to trust.
It has been even harder to share matters of the heart with anyone.
Have you ever had someone share something that was fragile to you and they nonchalantly shared it not thinking of confidentiality?
Yeah, it is hard to learn to confide when one has had a history of ‘non-trust’.
I have had to dig deep and learn to choose who is worthy or who has shown me their ability to keep confidences.
When I was in counseling I knew that whatever I told my therapist HE could not and would not share it to anyone.
The only way they can legally share, is if there is a life threatening issue or abuse that must be shared with authorities.
I knew that my ability to share was conditioned by HIS ability to listen and keep quiet.
In the book Whispers of Rest, Bonnie challenges us to share matters of the heart with the Lord.
To confide the deepest places so that it can be not hidden anymore.
The Holy Spirit is a good listener.
Bonnie challenges us to take a walk physically and talk to the Lord.
I find myself talking throughout the day, not in a prayer with my eyes shut, just an ‘I am here and I know you are here listening.’
As the verse says, YOU are HERE wherever I am and you hold me, you are present.
When we touch another one, it is says “I am with you.”
Your right hand will hold me.
Sometimes when we are sharing deep matters of our hearts, it is comforting to have someone lean in and show us they truly are in the moment with us.
I heard a wonderful Ted talk the other day I am going to post here.
It is about trust, confidence and truth telling. It is about choosing to confide and making a right choice.
It is incredibly challenging. Learning to confide is a gift we can give to ourselves, it is freeing.
So long as we confide to the right person.
Do you try to be that type of listener? Non judging, caring and sympathetic to the words?
Learning to confide is a gift. Let’s do our best to make it worth it to be a good listener.

Learning to move forward

The next word Bonnie uses in her book “Whispers of Rest” is come.
It is an invitation to move in a new direction and to take a risk.
“Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me…watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you.
Keep company with me, and you will learn to live freely and lightly.
For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
The word come means to arrive by movement.
It is purposeful, with the intention of moving forward.
Bonnie challenges us to enter into a quiet space, so that we can be restored and rested.
I love the line ” learn the unforced rhythms” reminding me of a teachable moment.
In order to do anything well and often we must learn it.
Let us find rest for our souls as we learn to breathe and move forward.