The Art of Listening

TheArt ofListening

I just returned from an awesome weekend getaway with my sisters. We rented a house on the Mississippi, in Wisconsin. The fall colors were still hanging on, I got to sit and chat with my sisters, chocolate was consumed – it was great!

On a walk with one of my sisters, we got to talking about how people are. Both of us have had experience talking with people who obviously weren’t listening. She related about talking with her neighbor over the hedges. She said while she was in the middle of speaking, the neighbor suddenly pointed to another house and made a comment about the décor. As she finished telling me this, my sister spread her hands and wondered, “Did she actually hear anything I had to say? Did she care?”

I could have told several stories of my own, of exactly the same thing.

What is it with people? I understand interruptions – you’re listening, and suddenly something happens and grabs your attention away from the conversation and you blurt something out. Stuff like that happens.

But (too) often, you can tell from the other person’s eyes and body language that they just want to vent or just keep the topic revolving around themselves – or whatever. It’s more important for them to either say what they want to say, or think about what they’re going to say next. They don’t listen to or hear what you’re saying. They mow right over whatever you might want to talk about. They don’t care; it’s too all about them. All the time.

The world needs more listeners. Maybe the world needs more lessons on listening.

Listening involves your whole body. It takes time and energy. Lots of energy. Listening is hard work. It takes eye contact, attention, memory, linking new information to old information, head nodding, facial expressions, asking pertinent questions, appropriate (short) responses, encouraging body language, routing conversations back to the speaker’s topic, following and mirroring the speaker’s tone and mood, eyes that invite and accept and love, and a focus on the speaker (not on yourself).

We need to practice such techniques. If needed, practice in a mirror. Look at your facial expressions. As you practice, muse about people you know and what they like to talk about. Turn conversations to others. It’s okay to interject some of your own experiences and feelings, but always bring it back to the speaker (hint: you’re not the speaker – you’re the listener).

Listening takes caring. Caring takes love. If you don’t have love, talk to Jesus about it. He’s a really good listener.

Lessons I learned Today

This was from a long-ago time, when I was a new Christian:


This was my first retreat.  At 33, I feel I am yet a babe in Christ, having been saved by His grace three years previously.  I have learned of the love of God through the members of my church.  Never before have I felt such acceptance.  I think they really care for me, and, as it’s not something I have experienced within the world of non-Christians, it has taken me some time to build trust.

I was a little hesitant to attend the weekend retreat, not knowing what to expect, but it took only a small amount of encouragement from my new friends to get me there.  I scribbled copious notes as I sat under the teachings of a Godly sister in the Lord, Arlene Hill.  During a break, some of the ladies chose to go canoeing.  Carolyn Fromer and I went together.  Carolyn was a comfortable Christian lady, some twenty years older than myself.

We paddled quietly through the calm waters of the river.  It was a beautiful fall day in Michigan, sunny, crisp and clear.

As we paddled, we sang: “Peace Like a River,” “It is Well With my Soul,” “Open My Eyes, Lord,” and others.  What a feeling of peace.  And it was all from the Lord.  We were surrounded by trees; I looked through the autumn-printed leaves at the deep blue sky, and offered my thanks to Him as we rocked gently in the sun-dappled waves.

We came upon a tree that hung out over the water.  We steered over to it, and Carolyn saw that there were vines hanging from it.  She makes wreathes, she said, and here, I’ll make one for you.  She pulled a vine from the tree (no easy feat I soon discovered, as I tried to do the same myself), and busied herself in the front of the canoe while I let my paddle dangle lazily from my position in the rear.  Her back was to me, so I couldn’t see what she was doing, but she soon turned around to hand me a beautifully-crafted, miniature wreath.  It was only about four inches in diameter, but was perfectly woven, with delicate tendrils hanging from it.

I took it and said, “Thank you so much, it’s beautiful.”  (How often words are not enough to express one’s feelings.)

As I held it, and examined it, I was reminded of Christ’s crown of thorns, for that’s what my beautiful wreath looked like.

The man who fashioned Christ’s thorny crown had a gift much like Carolyn’s.  He, too, took a vine and quickly made a wreath.  But his creation was not meant to glorify God.  It was used to satisfy his own desires, to justify himself.

Carolyn glorified God with that little wreath she gave me.  She used God’s creation, a vine, and formed it into a gift for another, me.  And it taught me a lesson.

God blesses each of us with certain gifts or talents.  He gives us these gifts for the purpose of glorifying Him.  How often we, in our iniquity, use His gifts for our own desires.

Lord, I thank you for bestowing upon me the gifts you created in me, personally.  Cause me to remember to use them always to your glory.  Give me wisdom, Lord, that I may find your opportunities to use your gifts, to share with others your infinite love and mercy.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

Present-Day Update: That brown vine still hangs in my home as a reminder to use my gifts for Him.

Are You Ready to Soar?

Today’s post is taken entirely from today’s Daily Living for Seniors, found at

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

If you ever get a glimpse inside the nest of an eagle, you’ll see something fascinating. A mother eagle starts building with thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and other items that seem entirely unsuitable for the project. Then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she has killed, making it soft and comfortable for the eggs.

By the time the growing birds reach flying age, they don’t want to leave because of the comfort of the soft nest. So the mother eagle begins pulling up the soft carpet, baring the sharp rocks and branches. As more of the bedding gets plucked up, the nest becomes more uncomfortable for the young eagles. This encourages them to leave their home and move on to more mature behavior.

In order to move forward, the young eagles must be made uncomfortable. And in order for us to move forward into spiritual maturity, sometimes God does the same thing: He gets you out of your comfort zone and puts you in a place where you have to jump out and trust Him to help you soar!

Wherever God is pushing you from being comfortable today, see it as a chance to develop a deeper trust in Him and soar on the wings of faith He’s given you.

Prayer Challenge:

Pray that God would show you where He wants you to jump out and trust Him to bring you to a new level in your spiritual journey.

Questions for Thought:

Think of a time when you were pushed out of your comfort zone. How did it make you feel?

Where do you believe God may be ‘baring the rocks’ in your life to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone?

Ruth’s Obedience

I listened to a sermon about Ruth yesterday. The pastor pointed out that Ruth gleaned from the fields of Boaz and that, even though Ruth was content with living off the “left-overs,” God had so much more for her; and, so much more for us.

Even though the pastor focused on Ruth’s kindness, I have always been drawn to the picture of obedience that Ruth paints. She did all that her mother-in-law, Naomi, directed her to do. The basis for her obedience seems to be her commitment to her mother-in-law (Ruth 1.16-18), which I believe was given to her from God.

It was Ruth’s initiative to glean from the fields, and she “happened” to choose the field of Boaz. Naomi was excited to learn (and recognized immediately that it was God’s Hand) that Boaz had shown kindness to Ruth, as Boaz was a near kinsman, able to redeem Ruth (and, by extension, Naomi). Boaz had, indeed, singled out Ruth to extend his kindness to protecting her, feeding her, and heaping upon her that for which she worked.

Note that Boaz, also, exhibited obedience to God in that he followed God’s ordinance to harvest his fields but leave what was left for the gleaners. If he had not been obedient, if he’d been one to hoard it all for himself, he would not have met Ruth.

The height of Ruth’s obedience came when Naomi directed her to, at night, find where Boaz was lying, uncover his feet, and lie there. What would happen next? Naomi told Ruth that he would tell her what to do. Ruth’s reply to her was simply, “All that thou sayest unto me I will do.”

In her shoes, I might have argued. Whaaat? Lie down next to a man I hardly know, and he will tell me what to do? What if he laughs at me? Scorns me? Ignores me? Throws me out? Gets embarrassed and asks me quietly to leave?

But Ruth obeyed. God blessed her obedience.

{God always blesses obedience.}

So I played, “What if…”

What if Ruth had not been so obedient? What if she decided she wasn’t worthy to try to grab the attention of such a distinguished and popularly honored fellow?

Don’t we all sometimes disobey because we think we’re not worth it? Because we’re less than others? That we don’t deserve such kind treatment? We haven’t earned the right for others to think highly of us?

That we don’t deserve to be loved like that.

God created us, and He decided that WE DESERVE TO BE LOVED LIKE THAT. That’s what He created us FOR!

Look at the blessings and honor He showered upon Ruth: She’s a direct kinsman to King David and to Jesus Christ Himself!

It is the epitome of egotism, pride and puffed-up self to think that our opinion of ourselves is more valid than God’s opinion of us.

Read in God’s Word what He thinks of you. (See my post, A Love Letter to You.) Act in obedience to Him. See what amazing blessings He desires to shower upon you, His beloved child.