Listening

As an audiologist, I often had to speak with patients about the difference in being “hard of hearing” and being “hard of listening.” Many of us don’t know the difference, but they are not the same thing.

Being “hard of hearing” means that there is a defect in the mechanical system of the body. Being “hard of listening” means there is a defect in the attention span. It is possible to be afflicted with both maladies. Neither issue is always easy to remedy and there are many who aren’t that interested in doing so, regardless of which affliction they possess…because it requires change.

Change often scares people–even the ones who claim to love it.

I’ve noticed that loving the one who speaks often makes a difference in the amount of attention we pay to them. I’ve also noticed that you can love the one who’s speaking…and still be preoccupied with other things to the point that we have difficulty processing anything outside our own whirling minds. I am the poster child for that second thing. It’s one of the many reasons that I’m glad God is patient.

As we approach a new year, many people make resolutions about things they want to do differently in the coming days. I can’t remember the last time I made a list of resolutions, but I do like to pick a theme. This year, for the third year running, my theme will be missionary-martyr Jim Elliot’s quote, “Wherever you are, be all there.” 

It’s the third year in a row because…I’m still not always good at doing it…

…and I want to be.

I’m choosing to work on this theme again because God in His infinite patience has been teaching me something through my efforts and in spite of them. He’s teaching me about settling my mind enough to be in the place where my feet are so that I can hear Him better.

As I thought about getting this down in writing, the following verses came to mind:

“Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:8b-10 (NIV)

Several things spring to mind as I read these words:

  • Sometimes we can HEAR God calling and not be sure to whom that voice belongs–even when we’re already serving Him and His people. (This is a call to know Him better.)
  • Sometimes we will need guidance to help us identify the important things in life. (This is a call to surround ourselves with those mentors who know God’s voice even though they–and WE!–will often be far from perfect in serving Him well.)
  • Sometimes it’s important to lie down and be still in order to hear from God. (This is a call to build in some space for rest.)
  • As important as it is to lie down and be still, one more element is still required: you need to know where your place is. (This is a call to focus on doing what God has called YOU to do and a reminder that you can’t do it all. Hint: That’s why God made more than one person.)
  • God WILL come calling. He always does and He never quits after just one attempt. (This is a reminder that He is patient and insistent, but never rude. His calling is a privilege, not a dictator’s mandate.)
  • We have to CHOOSE to listen.

There’s more; SO much more, but I’m closing for today. I have a full day of being where I am and it’s time to get focused on that. I hope you’ll have a wonderful day and that you’ll join me in exploring what God has for each of us in 2018. As for me…

“Speak, Lord, I’m listening.”

Grace and Peace!

On the cusp

This has been a pretty odd holiday season for us. We kept finishing up tasks to go to the next in order to make the next sprint to go to the…Well, you get the picture. ( I know I probably shouldn’t admit this, but we managed to get through the entire Christmas Day without reading the Christmas story!–And we NEVER miss doing that!!) In fact, your schedule may have mirrored ours. If so, may I offer my condolences and encourage you to plan for a different outcome in the year ahead?

That sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? If you aren’t pleased with an outcome, make plans to change the next one! That will put you in some pretty good company right now as people around the world prepare for 2017 by making resolutions about changes in habits and behavior.

I’ve been working on a new Bible study, praying, and making all kinds of preparation for the tasks I know are ahead of me in the upcoming year. I already know some of what God is loading my plate with in the months ahead. That’s both exciting and also carries a significant amount of pressure.

I’ve been using the past few days to do as much prep work as I possibly can. I’ve always been a fan of being prepared…But I’ve also been pretty much committed  to  the “doing my best work under pressure” theory most of the time in reality. (Grin…There are several former teachers/professors who would be nodding in agreement right now.)

This year, at age 51, I’m trying something new.

I’m also trying something old. I’m revisiting a theme from a few years ago that served me well while we were living with a lot of chaos. I won’t be making any resolutions, but I will be posting a favorite quote by missionary Jim Elliott in several key places where I can see it often. Here’s the quote:

“Wherever you are, be all there.”

That’s it. It’s really that simple. I’ve got a lot of great opportunities coming up this year and I plan to make the most of every single one. God is entrusting me with these opportunities to serve. I want to be fully prepared and fully present to do what He’s called me to do.

When I embraced this quote before, I found that I was more relaxed and yet more focused. I got away from that in 2016, and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t my best year. At times I felt a little like I was wandering in the proverbial wilderness. I’m OK with the wandering. I’m just not particularly fond of the wilderness…especially when it’s of my own making.

I started the day after Christmas. I began with some one-on-one time with God. I haven’t asked for things, but for wisdom, for attitudes that reflect Him instead of me, for the ability to discern best over good…and the ability to know when good enough actually IS His best right then.

I can’t wait! I feel like I’m on the cusp of a significant move forward in my personal relationship with God. I’m excited about serving Him and His people in a brand new way. I’m not under any illusions that it will all go perfectly or that I’ll make it through the year without falling on my face. It’s my hope, however, that all this time on my face in preparation will make those landings easier when they happen and that the rebounds will be quicker and involve fewer people in any resulting pile-ups.

Optimistic realism. That seems to be my theme for life. It’s served me well. This year, I’m asking for it to help me serve God well, too.

What changes are you making? What resolutions are you hoping to successfully implement? Is there a theme or a goal that you’re pursuing in 2017? I want to hear all about it! I can’t wait, actually, because we’re ALL on the cusp of the new year. What do you plan to do with yours?

Grace and Peace–And Happy New Year!!

 

 

 

The first day of the rest of your life…

I had an epiphany yesterday.  Actually, that’s not all that unusual for me, since I regularly find myself learning (or re-learning!) things that I should have already known or perhaps used to know, but suddenly remembered for some strange reason.  So what was my revelation yesterday?

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Wow, right?  I mean, really, could the “epiphany” have been any more clichéd?  Perhaps not, but it didn’t make it any less weighty for me.

I was standing in the kitchen, putting dishes into the washer and watching the hummingbirds swarm at the feeder when that incredible thought suddenly occurred.  It doesn’t sound any more momentous to you now than it did before, does it?  (grin)

Well, that’s ok.  It was plenty momentous for me.

On Saturday, my husband and I were having lunch together when he stopped to ask me a question:  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  He followed that little gem up with several others:  “Are you good with where you are in life?  Is there something else you’d like to be doing?  Would you like to take classes or go learn something new?  Are you fulfilled where you are or do you really want to do something different?”  Those questions—and others—created quite the conversation for us then, and I suppose, my mind just hasn’t let them all go yet. (And yes, I do realize how blessed I am to have that man in my life!)

Yes, there are new things I want to learn and, yes, there are other things I want to do, but I’m actually pretty happy with where I am right now.  When I was growing up never in a million years would I have expected to look at my life as it is right now and say that truthfully.  I was one of the lucky ones…the blessed ones.  I had a loving family and I did well in school.  My extended family was large and involved and encouraged me to believe I could do whatever I chose.  Naturally, the plan was to go an conquer the world.  College was a given.  A good career and—after a very long time and in my own timetable, of course—I would marry and have children of my own while continuing to work.  That wasn’t God’s plan, however, so …things are very different now.  Oh, I had most of that.  Right up to the children and continuing to work part. And I’m just fine with that…most days.  (I’m not too fond of the days I have to clean the bathrooms.)

Those are things that I had anticipated in the grander scheme of life, but my thought process yesterday was just a little bit different.  You see, since my husband took his new position back in November of last year, I’ve been living in a bit of a whirlwind.  Each task in front of me came with a much longer line of following tasks and a set of dated timelines to get them all accomplished.

While there is still plenty to do, I suddenly realized that there would be no more overnight guests for awhile, no major events to plan for, no more pressing deadlines–and I was truly standing in the first day of the rest of the way I want to live my life in this place…just for me…just for us…just for God.  What kinds of things would I need to keep doing?  What kinds of things should I begin to change?  What kind of a life do I want to build for myself here?

Sometimes we just go with the flow and we forget that the decisions about how we spend our allotment of days is actually important.  Those moments turn into years and the knowledge of that makes me view them more carefully these days.  In my quest to live out the quiet life described in I Thessalonians 4:11-12, and with Jim Elliott’s admonition to “be all there” resounding in my spirit, I found myself deliberating in a new way yesterday…and today, as well.

How about you?  Are you happy with the life you’ve made for yourself?  If not, what would you change—what WILL you change—to make it more like you desire?  Have you talked with God about it?  (For the best results, do this first!!) Have you discussed it with your closest loved ones to get their input?  If your answer is in the affirmative and you really do like the life you’re living right now, then how will you celebrate that and how can you help others around you to make the kind of life that they’re called to lead, as well?

Whatever your answer, don’t just blow past it.  Give this the thought it deserves and take the time to start being deliberate in your changes and in your current joys.  Share your dreams with those around you.  You may find more good company for your journey than you’d ever believe.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, too.  What will you do with it?

Spending the day

What are you doing today?

Is it work or play?  Is it easy or difficult?  Dull or exciting?  Laughter or tears…or both?  Or like most of us, “All of the above?”

I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately.  My “theme” for the year has been Jim Elliot’s quote:  “Wherever you are, be all there.” and that’s a lot harder sometimes than you’d think.

I’m a multi-tasker of the very first order and making a conscious choice to focus fully on whatever is right in front of me this year still feels foreign…even after more than 7 months of trying.

I’m getting better at it.  Little by little.  Day by day of practice…and yet sometimes I have to remind myself right moment by moment.

I’ve had a  house full of company around here lately and even in the midst of it all, I had to remind myself to “be all there” (and not run to the computer and blog about it right then!) so I wouldn’t waste a single second of it:  croquet on the side yard, card games on the back porch, amazing amounts of really great food, phone calls from those who couldn’t make it, the laughter ringing in the rafters and escaping to the yard, the quiet conversations late into the night or while waiting on others to wake up, the tears of shared heartbreak and the prayers of and for loved ones.  All that preciousness that we store up until we can all be together again–I didn’t want to miss even a moment of it.  God uses all of that to sustain us during the times it is more difficult to obtain and I wanted to revel in it and soak it all up like a sponge–wasting nothing, no matter how small.  Friendship.  Family.  Family of the heart.  Days of spirit-filling sustenance from God.  All from Him.

Today, this day that some of us will take for granted, will be someone’s wedding day, someone’s best day, someone’s worst day…and someone’s last day.  Wherever you find yourself, make the choice to be all there today.  There’s a reason you’re having the day you are–and (surprise, surprise!) it may not be all about you.  Someone else may need to see how you handle it.  They may need to see God at work in you today in the easy stuff and, more likely, in the hard stuff, too.

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

This is what I need today:  the ability to be aware of how precious each day really is and a heart of wisdom to “spend” it well…and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one.

Prayer:  Father God, please be with those who have lost today and feel that loss so keenly, with those who are uncertain of their next move and those who charge blindly–or deliberately!–into danger, with those who will choose to laugh in spite of their difficulties today and those who need to learn how to do so.  Be with those who celebrate the wondrous thing and those who will deal with the ponderous ones.  Show us YOU in each situation and help those around us to see You at work in us.  In short, give us You today and help us share You with the world.