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Have you ever had a dream so vivid that you felt as if it was a message from the universe? It happened to me yesterday at 5 AM, so I bolted out of bed to write it down.

A lovely voice was singing to the tune of Al Green’s “So Tired of Being Alone” with different lyrics.

She sang:

When you’re out of here

When you can’t go on

When you feel like giving up wherever you go

And it bothered me. My first thought was to worry that my son might be feeling this way, so before he left for work yesterday, I told him about the dream and asked him if he was feeling like that. He said he wasn’t. I said, “I’m aware that I don’t always leave open avenues for our actually communicating. Often, I come at you with tasks or concerns instead of listening.” I asked the second question. “Do you want to talk about anything going on in your life right now?” He really listened to what I said. He told me he knew he could talk to me, and that he was okay.

Who was this message for?

In that patented Nicely-Noodgy way I have, I’m now in the process of cycling through my list of loved ones and contacting them. You okay? Had this dream. Want to make sure you’re feeling copasetic.

So when you ask the people in your life, “Are you okay?” and they say, “I’m fine,” ask the second question. “How are doing, really?”

Check on your loved ones.

Don’t tune out.

Check in with your soul.

Don’t check out.

We’d love it if you stuck around. We’ll stick by you. Let’s make it better, together.

P.S. If you need to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 800-273-TALK (8255).

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Hope is passion for the possible.

This really resonates with me.  The ladies I blog with here already know I am an idea person.  I make connections and see possibilities.  It’s how my brain is wired. But I have also had to come to the reality that not everyone sees these possibilities.

That was the problem in trying to convince the powers-that-be that our church needed a new Facebook page.  Many of them don’t use any type of social media.  Because of this, they don’t understand how it works.  How did we solve it?  We put up the new page.

But sometimes I have to see the other person’s reality.  What is possible for me may not be possible for them.  That’s a hard reality to face when you truly believe in self-determination and doing things by your own effort.  But if I have access to resources that someone else can’t access?  Different possibilities.

Does this mean that everyone needs access to the same possibilities?  I hesitate to say yes.  It is too close to saying that MY possibilities and MY way are THE way.  I guess that’s why I think we all need to be in on the conversation.  I’m far too familiar with my own fallibility to think that my way is the only way.

And so, I remind myself to listen.

–SueBE

Our first house was about a mile from the university where I worked.  Sometimes I took the bus.  Other times I walked.  When I worked in archaeology, I took the bus and then I walked because we weren’t located on the main campus but through a residential neighborhood.  I was a lot thinner than then I am now.

When the time came around for the annual pow wow, I walked from work across the fields to the main campus.  One of the ladies pointed out that she had seen me walking.  “They sure do keep us down by not paying us enough to buy a car.”

I knew what she meant, not having a car can be a huge hardship.  But I actually enjoy walking.  It is my favorite exercise.  When I walk, I don’t listen to music on my phone.  I think.  I listen to birds and dogs and the wind.  Every now and again, I hear a still small voice nudging me to take action.

Walking can be a great way to orient yourself not only in this world, but with Him who made it.

–SueBE

Everyone’s got an opinion these days, and we each think only ours is right. We will insert ourselves into conversations in which we do not belong just to tell other people so. We’ll deny others’ lived experiences with our own conjectures about how we might have lived it, had it been up to us. And everything is up to us — it’s all out there on the table, ready to be judged, pawed over, analyzed. Nothing is private. Nothing is sacred. Nothing can be held out as indisputably true. Please, let us all take a step backwards and listen — just listen. Truth can only come when everyone is heard.

I say, “How could they, possibly?”
and yet possibly people do,
improbably and often.
It’s the old sin, snaking,
rearing up like an asp,
to ask: “Who knows
better than you?”
And there you are,
mouth full of apple,
mealy beneath your tongue.
You know nothing. At core,
at core, all of us know nothing.
Lock your opinion in your bones
until — and, yes, unless — you
find yourself kicking the embers
of the same conflagration.
And even then, know —
there were other ways,
other gates, out of the garden.

Consider the following: A woman decided that whenever she saw a man walking towards her, she would not deliberately get out of his way. She ran into 28 men in short order.

Consider also: During a prayer ceremony, a box full of beautiful, hand-forged glass beads was passed from person to person. Each bead was unique and connected to a prayer; the bead you chose indicated which prayer you would read aloud. Out of dozens of beads, I chose the bead for “silence.” Oh, the irony! I have always been a quiet person — a good baby, an obedient child, never prone to expressions of emotion or even strong opinion (except in my writing). Loquacious friends know they can call me, and I’ll listen for hours. So what was my reaction to choosing that particular bead? “Fifty-three years of being quiet, Lord. When do I get to speak?”

Clearly, the questions need to be asked: Who always gets out of the way? Who gets to speak and who remains silent? And why do we simply accept these answers?

When it comes to politics, the loudest voice wins. The voice doesn’t necessarily represent the majority; it doesn’t have to. If it makes its point loudly enough and with enough aggression, the others will back down. We are seeing this on a daily basis with our current government. Who is allowed to speak when it comes to immigrants and immigration? Not the immigrants themselves. Why? The story is about them. So why are their voices largely unheard?

Who drives policy and who is expected to step aside, even when the policy has nothing to do with the drivers and everything to do with the conceders? Why? Because the drivers have the power. Is that fair? Is that even logical? And if it isn’t, what will it take for the conceders to stand their ground?

I want you to think about this. Are you the person who steps aside or the one who expects others to get out of the way? Are you a loud voice or a silent one? And most importantly, how does God expect us to treat the other? Is God a walk all over people God or a considerate God? Whom did Jesus side with — the powerful people or the silent people (women, the downtrodden, the poor)? And when the silent are enjoined to be “civil,” to not make a fuss, is that what Jesus would do?

What we do with the answers to these questions will say a lot about who we are. It may even determine what happens to us in the next life. I have a feeling that Heaven is where the silent finally speak.

I’m starting to think I’m just not being heard. I send emails that get no replies. I ask questions that get no answers. I listen…and listen…and listen to what others have to say, but when I speak up, nobody has time. Or patience. Hello? Is anybody out there? Is this mic on?

We spend our lives — from newborn shrieks to deathbed confessions — trying to be heard. Why? What makes us so important? Nothing…and everything. We are, to ourselves anyway, infinitely important. But out there in the world? You’ve got millions of voices, all competing to be the loudest, the most heeded. What are the odds of an introvert winning that competition?

Once, long ago, a friend at work convinced me to join her in a primal scream. It was very satisfying…except to the company’s security guard who had no idea we were just trying to vent our frustrations. Oops.

If you want to be heard — really heard — you have to turn to prayer. Or poetry.

Even before I open my mouth
my confession is out there. Phrases thudding,
homely, unscrubbed as orphans. Pathetic, crude words
with sharp edges and blunt, dumb sounds.
Big, lumpy, dirt-encrusted words. They fall from me
like a curse, like the girl in the fairy tale
fated to speak in snakes and other slippery critters.
Who hears such ugly offerings?
Only one. The one we turn deaf ears to,
despite the shouts of sunsets, the “Hear this!”
of the scent of night jasmine. The one who calls us
to listen. For in listening, we will be heard. At last.

Admittedly, it is easiest to get God’s message, and get it right, when He’s super specific.  Give me words and give me the details, Lord!   But there are many times when I get a nudge.  Or something that is oh so subtle and quiet – a feeling.

These messages are just as important but in the business of my life, I wonder how many of them I miss.  I think I’m going to go sit in the other room and finish a knitting project.  Knitting is a great time to sit and listen.

–SueBE

We live in a strife-filled age.  No, really.  I’m not joking, but I am stating the obvious.  This weekend, I listened to a class descend into chaos as people talked one over the other.  One of the class members had brought up the situation in Puerto Rico.  “How dare that mayor be so rude!”

cricket cricket cricket

We never got past this one particular comment because one person would say X.  Then the next person would say Y.  Back to someone else supporting X.  Ooops, now we’re back to Y.

It wasn’t until I saw this Aristotle quote that it all clicked.  Each and every person there expected everyone to agree.  If they were listening, wouldn’t that be in the end result? Wouldn’t they naturally see the superior nature of X opinion and just cave?

But people don’t work that way.  If there are 9 people in the room, there are at least 26 opinions on any given topic.

In calling us to care for the widow and the orphan, I can’t help but believe that God wants us to listen to these people.  Their experiences may be very different from our own, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t listen.  And part of listening?  Acknowledging that you’ve heard.  “I hear you.”  You don’t have to restate that you disagree and that you are oh-so right.  You can listen and still hold on to your belief all the while letting someone know that you hear.

–SueBE

 

Everybody’s trying to be heard. They’re making a point, even if nothing’s being said.

Like the way my cat stalks elegantly into the kitchen, gliding over to his bowl and waiting, back foot out, tail up, as if he’s still in motion. He’s conveying, I’m moving toward this bowl, and as you can see, for some inexplicable reason, it’s not filled to overflowing. It’s only half full. Is there… some…reason for this, hooman?

When I fold laundry, I have to remember that in KitKat’s language, a folded towel reminds him of his early days when he was still getting used to being in a house for the first time. I’d fold an old towel, put it onto the floor, then the couch, then the bed, so he’d realize he could sit anywhere he liked. He was welcome here.

So one time I was folding towels near where KitKat was resting on the bed. I put one down, ready to fold the next one. He immediately got up and came over to the towel, carefully putting one foot on it, looking at me as if to say, Is this okay? Cuz I’m going to sit on this towel you put here for me. Gingerly, the next foot went on, and he looked at me, then the next, until he was sitting in a circle, purring. So nice of you to fold this fresh, clean towel for me! It’s soft and comfy. Even warm! Guess I’ll take an eighteen-hour nap now!

He looked so comfortable there that I just patted his head and went on with the laundry. In his language, he’d heard me say, Sit here, beloved feline friend. It really was a nice gesture. I wish I’d thought of it!

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated when I pray and it seems no answer is forthcoming. But I look around and realize we’ve got a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a peaceful place to call home.

Just like a slow-blink from my KitKat. Seems to me that God sends his love without even saying a word.

Some people talk to God as easily and readily as picking up a phone — they have God on speed dial. Through meditation, prayer or other means, they’ve perfected the art of hearing what God is telling them; their ears perk up at sounds outside the spectrum of human hearing. I admire them. I envy them.

My ears stretch and crane for the slightest peep. I hear only the silence of my own selfish heart. Would I believe the voice of God if it came to me? Or would I dismiss it as a figment of my own imagination? What does it take to hear God? Well, for one, it requires being attuned to your own inner self. This is difficult to do when one is not essentially interested in one’s inner self. Call it dint of long acquaintance, but I am thoroughly sick of my inner self. I’d like it replaced, please, with something better, holier, more interesting. I am tired of slogging through its sludgy waters.

Then I remember: St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta last heard the voice of God as a young woman traveling on a train. She never heard the voice again, not through the long years of her service to the poor, holding the hands of the dying, through her own illness and death. Not once. Her “dark night of the soul” lasted decades. And it would be difficult to argue that she wasn’t trying to do what God asked of her all those years ago on that train. She was. With a resounding silence as her reward.

So maybe God doesn’t speak to us with an eye as to what we deserve or even ask for. Maybe God figures once is enough for the right folks. Only when was my once? Was it deciding to go away to a college I’d never even visited before but which ended up creating lasting ties and thoroughly overhauling my spirituality? It was a decision that could certainly be described as providential. But I’d hate to think that the first, last and only time I heard or heeded God was at the raw age of 18. That’s a lot of wasted years.

Or is that I don’t know how to listen? That would be strange indeed, as I count listening as one of my greatest ministries. I’m the woman that strangers pour their hearts out to while standing in line at Walmart. I hear about other people’s crises of faith. So maybe I’m not supposed to hear but to be a conduit to the One Who Does Hear?

I wish I knew, but I suppose that would require a rather loud message that I, for whatever reason, lack the skill to interpret. It doesn’t mean that I am going to toss out my inner telephone. No, I’ll keep it on, hoping as I have through all these long years, that someone will give me a call. I’m waiting.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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