Tag Archives: Listening

What’s on your summer reading list?

gossip

Another insightful painting by beloved Norman Rockwell.

Bob and I were watching a really interesting TV show on the top 100 popular books.  Now, how they came up with that short list, I don’t know, and it ranged from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress to modern day novels that have influenced people in, well, other ways.

One of the neat things about this program is that it’s interactive, meaning you go online and cast your vote for your favorite book (among the short list, naturally), and you can vote once a day until the show’s finale.  Which means you can stuff the ballot box, I suppose. 

During the show, different people were interviewed on their Number One choice, and I was impressed how this divergent sampling of human effort has influenced individuals, and in some cases, greatly.

Like me.  One of John Bunyan’s other books, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, was my door to deliverance in a very real way.  But that’s another story, and anyway, I doubt that’s on the list.

The point is that words, or communication of any sort, are powerful.  That includes not only what we put out but just as importantly, what we take in.  In Proverbs chapter 15, information transfer of some sort is mentioned at least fourteen times!  And they didn’t even have social media yet!  Here’s an example of output:

“The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing,
    but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.”

Most of us have probably been party to both—my hand is raised.  What we perhaps don’t emphasize enough is the personal responsibility of intake:

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
    many advisers bring success.”

What I choose to listen to (or read) is actually just as important as what I choose to say (or write, as it were.) We all know the damage done by slurs on social media.  But do we realize that the damage is done not only because those things are put out there, but because they are read? In other words, the reader is just as culpable as the writer.  Always.

I know that I can be quite impacted by stories, mental images both from descriptive writing and the silver screen.  It’s the way we are wired, since the word (lower case “w”) is powerful, being created so by God Himself.  Therefore, what I choose to listen to is also powerful decision.

Sometimes earplugs are a good investment. 

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Proverbs 15: 2,22 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Luke, I am your…um, sister.

My husband, Bob, is a (soon-to-be emeritus) biology professor at our small local college.  He has always been so good about his availability to his students, not only with posted office hours, but also by allowing students to call our home with questions prior to the next day’s test. 

His classes are difficult; it is, after all, college.  In the study of biology, there are things so tiny, one needs to learn to use a microscope effectively, as well as learn exactly what you’re looking for, distinguishing that from all the other crud swimming around on the glass slide.

At the same time, The Prof likes to have some fun in class, and his sense of humor can’t stay in the background for long.  One year on the day of the final exam, he dressed up like Darth Vadar and came strolling down the hallway to a group of students waiting outside the classroom door.

You couldn’t miss him if you tried…

Likewise, I’m impressed with the availability and exposure of wisdom expressed in this eighth chapter of Proverbs.  I really think it’s more than mere poetic personification. 

“Listen as Wisdom calls out!
    Hear as understanding raises her voice!”

It goes on to innumerate all the v-e-r-y public access points where wisdom seeks us out: on the hill, along the highway, at the crossroads, by the town’s entrance…

“I call to you, to all of you!
    I raise my voice to all people…

The operative word is “all”.  There is no discrimination here.  Which is really quite interesting, considering this was written by a man in an extremely male-dominated society, and a Jewish man where any non-Jew was considered less than necessary.

“I love all who love me.
    Those who search will surely find me…

The end of the chapter shows a different aspect, however.  Instead of wisdom searching for me, I’m the one who is waiting and watching for wisdom—

Joyful are those who listen to me,
    watching for me daily at my gates,
    waiting for me outside my home!

All of this brings to mind a cooperative effort between the teacher (Wisdom) and the student (me).  Wisdom makes herself available; sheesh, she even gives me her home phone number!  (Prayer.)  At the same time, I have some personal responsibility.  This is, after all, “college”, and a good student is expected to grow up.

I can be confident, however, that when I put my eye to microscope, (because, let’s face it, some things I need to see in life take more than a little magnification to figure out), Wisdom will be leaning over my shoulder for correct identification, bringing things into proper focus. 

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.”

batman-1293525_1920Easy to see or situations more challenging, either way, Wisdom is available; it’s a promise from a good Teacher.  (With or without the cape.)

Proverbs 8:1,4,7,29,30;34; James 1:5 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Are you listening?

headphones-152341_1280I am at a venerable point in life when my adult children, (all in their 30’s at this writing), have been saying thing like,

“Mom, I heard you coming out of my mouth!”, or…

“Is that how Dad would treat Mom?”, or…

“I’m ‘channeling’ you, Mom”, and one of my personal favorites after the birth of a granddaughter,

“Mom, I’m sorry for all the #*@!! I put you through.”

It’s a time when you realize that something, by God’s grace, got through, is still getting through.  Sometimes it sure seems like our kids just aren’t paying attention.

But they are.  In more ways than one.

I love the New Living Translation header for Proverbs chapter 7:

“Another Warning about Immoral Women”

Emphasis on “another”.  Just in case you missed the first one or two. 

Can’t you just see the kid rolling his eyes?  That whole oh-mom-do-we-have-to-talk-about-this-again attitude. 

To which the obvious answer is emphatically affirmative.  Because it’s critically important that the child is told why.  Because they have friends who haven’t been told.  Because there’s a society drooling in anticipation to ensnare him in something dangerous and deadly.

Like chapter five, this chapter isn’t just for the guys, either.  And actually, taken as a whole, it can be seen as something more than sexual promiscuity, something far deeper and far more insidious—

Seduction.

How interesting that Babylon is personified in Revelation as a prostitute.  Babylon, the representation of all that is anti-Christ, all that would seduce me away from Christ and set up her own kingdom within my heart.  If I read Proverbs chapter seven and insert the word “Babylon” in place of “woman”, it brings out a whole new context.  It forces me to look at myself, my decisions, my desires in an uncomfortable light. 

Seduction.  Undoubtedly, sex is one of the vehicles that the enemy perverts for this purpose.  It’s definitely a strong one, but it’s only one.  He has many options when it comes to seduction.

  • People’s applause and affirmation, (including family, loved ones, people whose opinions “count”),
  • Financial security, (an oxymoron, BTW),
  • Emotional comfort zone

You know, like sex, all these can be good things!  We need affirmation, I appreciate my husband’s detail to retirement preparation, and emotional security is important to every other kind of health, so that’s not the point.  Instead, when these things (and there are many others) draw us away from God’s intended purpose—intimacy with Himself—then Seduction is at work…overtime!

I appreciate the in-your-face strategies that given in this same chapter, including 1st-person observation revealing the woman’s tricks, calling attention to the son’s heart (something sorely neglected in our day), the use of flattery, the lie of anonymity, and the advice to not even start down that path.  It reminds me that I need some strategies as well…

“…so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.”

The words of the Parent ring just as true today, in all areas of life.  I aspire to be an attentive child.

 


2 Corinthians 2:11 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

2 Corinthians 2:11 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


I Did It My Way

Proverbs 23:9 

Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

All of us fall into ‘the fool who doesn’t listen’ category from time to time. One example that comes to mind is of Martin, a fellow cadet on my second trip to sea. Martin was a first tripper and all seafarers are aware that first trippers know nothing. Hence the saying ‘only first trippers and seagulls sit on a ship’s rails!’

Mart154Martin was an intelligent but unconventional young man, with an unusual upbringing. This included time spent growing up as a missionary kid out in the bush in Kenya, followed by a boarding school education back in England, while his parents continued to serve in Africa. We hit it off straight away. Martin was a couple of years older than me, but theoretically I was the senior cadet having served longer at sea. Friendship and length of sea time did not mean that Martin listened to me. In fact, his failure to listen meant that we both regularly got into trouble with the chief officer (otherwise known as the mate) and even the captain on occasions. Three incidents in particular spring to mind:

1. When we were told to paint the emergency fire pump Martin thought it would look better in rainbow colors. I told him the mate would not like it. Martin didn’t listen and we ended up repainting the fire pump. In our own time.

2. When given the task of repairing the canvas lifeboat covers Martin soon got tired of stitching on the patches. He suggested glue. I told him the mate would not like it. He didn’t. He made us stitch around the patches we had glued. In our own time.

3. When presented with numerous flags to wash by hand Martin felt that a spot of bleach might help restore the flags to their former glory. I took a stand on this one and told him that bleach would damage the flags. Martin didn’t listen. I didn’t see him add the bleach but I sure as heck saw the results. So did the captain when we tried to sneak the damaged flags back to the wheelhouse. I still remember the explosion. “YOU DID WHAT! YOU WASHED THE FLAGS IN BLEACH?!!!” The captain’s cap didn’t quite leave his head, but as a small man he was prone to jumping up and down a lot when he lost his temper.

Martin had a knack of thinking up shortcuts. No amount of advice would deter him from taking action that others were convinced was foolish. I guess the best defense that Martin had was his youth, but many of us left youth behind many years ago yet still fail to heed a voice of wisdom, or worse the voice of God. It is no excuse to say we didn’t hear, we didn’t understand, or we thought that our way was better. When God speaks we need to listen. Carefully. Then we need to do what He says, when He says, and how He says. 


Be Quiet

Proverbs 10:19

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”

Shut Up!

This proverb can be summarized in just two words. “Shut up!” Or more politely, “Be quiet.” The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

How often do we say something to another person and wish that we hadn’t? Once spoken words are hard to take back, especially when they cause hurt. A word spoken in an angry moment can do significant and lasting damage. We need to be careful with our words. Sometimes it is wiser to say nothing.

Build up or tear down?

We can build or destroy both relationships and reputations by the way that we speak and the words that we use. But what about our own reputations? Are we known as being of few words or many? Are we prone to gossip, or are we people others can talk to in confidence? Surely it is better to excel at listening, rather than being known as a person who never stops talking?

Words of life

Jesus was an expert at knowing when to speak and when to listen. He provides an example in John 8 when the Pharisees try to trap Him into saying the wrong thing. Instead of responding immediately Jesus writes in the sand with His finger. When He does reply His words are so powerfully challenging that one by one the Pharisees turn and leave. Jesus knew that His chances of changing the way that the Pharisees thought was slim, so why waste words on them? Instead He chose His words carefully and a difficult situation was defused. The words that Jesus then used to the woman the Pharisees had accused were words of life.

We all have the same opportunity to build up or tear down. Do our words bring trouble, or can we follow the example set by Jesus and offer words of life to a hurting, damaged, and increasingly desperate world?


I Did It My Way

Proverbs 23:9 

Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

All of us fall into ‘the fool who doesn’t listen’ category from time to time. One example that comes to mind is of Martin, a fellow cadet on my second trip to sea. Martin was a first tripper and all seafarers are aware that first trippers know nothing. Hence the saying ‘only first trippers and seagulls sit on a ship’s rails!’

Mart154Martin was an intelligent but unconventional young man, with an unusual upbringing. This included time spent growing up as a missionary kid out in the bush in Kenya, followed by a boarding school education back in England, while his parents continued to serve in Africa. We hit it off straight away. Martin was a couple of years older than me, but theoretically I was the senior cadet having served longer at sea. Friendship and length of sea time did not mean that Martin listened to me. In fact, his failure to listen meant that we both regularly got into trouble with the chief officer (otherwise known as the mate) and even the captain on occasions. Three incidents in particular spring to mind:

1. When we were told to paint the emergency fire pump Martin thought it would look better in rainbow colors. I told him the mate would not like it. Martin didn’t listen and we ended up repainting the fire pump. In our own time.

2. When given the task of repairing the canvas lifeboat covers Martin soon got tired of stitching on the patches. He suggested glue. I told him the mate would not like it. He didn’t. He made us stitch around the patches we had glued. In our own time.

3. When presented with numerous flags to wash by hand Martin felt that a spot of bleach might help restore the flags to their former glory. I took a stand on this one and told him that bleach would damage the flags. Martin didn’t listen. I didn’t see him add the bleach but I sure as heck saw the results. So did the captain when we tried to sneak the damaged flags back to the wheelhouse. I still remember the explosion. “YOU DID WHAT! YOU WASHED THE FLAGS IN BLEACH?!!!” The captain’s cap didn’t quite leave his head, but as a small man he was prone to jumping up and down a lot when he lost his temper.

Martin had a knack of thinking up shortcuts. No amount of advice would deter him from taking action that others were convinced was foolish. I guess the best defense that Martin had was his youth, but many of us left youth behind many years ago yet still fail to heed a voice of wisdom, or worse the voice of God. It is no excuse to say we didn’t hear, we didn’t understand, or we thought that our way was better. When God speaks we need to listen. Carefully. Then we need to do what He says, when He says, and how He says.