23 August 2010

Meditation: "Ears to Listen"

"Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" --Jesus

"There is a distinction between hearing and listening. We may have functioning hearing organs and still fail to listen to what others are saying."  --Rodney Clapp

"We are used to thinking that it was light that broke the primordial darkness from which all life comes, but it was really God's voice...'Let there be light.' Sound precedes light; we hear before we can see."  --Stephen Webb (quoted in the Rodney Clapp article quoted above!)

Dear Friends,

[First, a disclaimer: I was prompted to write on this topic after reading an article in "The Christian Century" by Rodney Clapp.]

About six weeks ago, I destroyed my iPod. Not intentionally, mind you, but it got fried when I jumped into a swimming pool and swam for 10 minutes before realizing it was in my pocket. No amount of time buried in rice seems sufficient to resurrect it from its watery demise.

At first, I felt terribly bereft. I was so accustomed to listening to music or my regular podcasts during my bicycle commute, that I felt strangely lonely and out-of-sorts riding without those ear buds stuck in my ears. Slowly, I came out of it. But now, just a few days ago, I received a new iPod and can resume sticking those earbuds into my head and listening to music and talk whenever I want.

Except I feel somewhat ambivalent about it now. You see, as it turns out, I've discovered that it was refreshing and kind of freeing not to fill my ears with sound during my commute. Without the iPod, I could clearly hear things in the world around me. Without the iPod filling my head with sound, I could hear myself.

I've always had issues with being heard. Quite honestly, I quickly and easily get frustrated and cranky if I am talking to someone and it's obvious that they may be hearing me, but aren't really listening to me--aren't really taking in what I am saying. When I sense this is happening, I quickly feel like shutting up and walking away. What I never thought about was that maybe even I wasn't really listening to myself. (What a mind-blowing insight this was!) And somehow, my iPod had become a tool I used to distract myself from what was going on in my own head and heart.

I've always considered myself a good listener--but given this recent experience, I'm realizing that maybe I need to recommit myself to listening deeply--to the world around me, to other people, to myself, to God.

How about you? What kind of listener are you? I pray God will grant you the grace to listen deeply--with all your mind and heart--to listen to God, to others, and perhaps most importantly, to yourself.

Blessings on you,


12 August 2010

Meditation: "Choose Hope"

"Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown. Hope makes you see God's guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment and darkness." --Henri J.M. Nouwen

"God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken." --Psalm 62:2

Dear Friends,

It is rough out there. Today I heard on the news that the number of people applying for jobless benefits is on the rise again and foreclosures are also higher than expected. The economic malaise that has gripped our country (and world) for the last couple of years continues to linger and cast its shadow. I also have been reading lately about how significant and inevitable the consequences of global climate change will be. Even if every nation stopped spewing CO2 into the environment tomorrow, it's not clear that we will avoid all of the negative consequences of global warming. And then I think about the number of people I know who have recently been diagnosed with serious illnesses, and if I were to dwell on it too long, I know I would easily get overwhelmed.

I'm not trying to drag you down! But I'm aware that these issues--that are so huge and out-of-control and difficult to address--feel quite weighty to me sometimes. I wonder what kind of world my children will inherit. I wonder if we human beings even have the wherewithal to make the changes necessary to avoid destroying ourselves.

For me, to avoid getting hopelessly entangled in all of this, I have to make a conscious choice, and that is to CHOOSE HOPE. Many people see hope as a naive wish that things would be different than they are. But the kind of hope that I seek is deeper than that. The hope I wish to embrace "is willing to," as Nouwen writes, "leave unanswered questions unanswered." The kind of hope that I find myself coming back to over and over again in times like these is the hope that God is indeed my rock and salvation, and that no matter what happens, God is all in all. These aren't platitudes to me, but rather sturdy anchor lines in a tumultuous world.

I hope and pray that, by God's grace, you will choose hope--and in so doing will find the courage to live each day in what is often a turbulent world.

Blessing on you,


The Serenity Prayer (attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.