Relationships

Practicing the Art of Listening

Proverbs 18:13 NRSV
If one gives answer before hearing,
it is folly and shame.


I don't know whether or not I'm a baby boomer, but I do know that I've grown up in the era of psychology. Everything is about learning how to relate to others, learning how to know one's self, figuring out why we are dysfunctional.

One of the psychological "skills" that has been taught a lot is active listening. Wikipedia gives a great definition:

"When interacting, people often are not listening attentively to one another. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next, (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It focuses attention on the speaker. Suspending one's own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important in order to fully attend to the speaker." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening).

It's interesting to me that the Bible was talking about active listening long before we even had psychologists. "If one gives answer before hearing . . ." Even if we hear the sounds that doesn't mean that we are hearing the content. The reality is that if we are thinking about how to respond rather than truly listening, we are focusing (again) on ourselves rather than the other person. We are working on a "defense" for our own position, rather than really caring about how that other person feels (and thinks). We are concerned about protecting ourselves rather than trusting God to protect us.

Are You Eyeing Some Envy?

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. Proverbs 14:30

I love Sophia Loren; I love Jane Mansfield. So, when I saw a photograph of them together, the fan in me squealed. Perhaps you're familiar with the image. It's the two stars, seated together at a table at some Hollywood event. Sophia Loren's eyes look off to the side, staring at Jayne Mansfield's cleavage. Could this be, perhaps, an example of envy being photographed?

We know both women are popular culture and beauty icons; they're sex symbols. Ms. Loren, to this day, is an embodiment of exotic beauty. How many of us have unsuccessfully tried to achieve that dramatic "Sophia look," only to poke ourselves in the pupil with the liquid eye liner?

And, the late Ms. Mansfield's ample bust, supposedly measuring anywhere from 40D to 46 D, is frequently mentioned and even compared to that of Marilyn Monroe's figure. How many of us have stuffed our bras with tissue to look just like her? (Somehow, we never did).

Discovering Real Love

Writing to those loved by God the Father, called and kept safe by Jesus Christ. Relax, everything's going to be all right; rest, everything's coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!...But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God's love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life! Jude 1b-2, 20-21, The Message


We are always changed by our experiences of being loved by God. As we Practice His Presence we will be gently challenged as to what we believe about love. Our wounds associated with love will be "being healed" as we practice his presence.

The first front of healing in our journey as Son's and Daughter's; is to become empowered to more fully receive love from Father. "Be Loved!"

What Do You Gain When You Rescue Someone?

Proverbs 19:19:
A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty;
if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.

"My husband is a hot-tempered man," Rosie told me. "In a fit of rage, he broke my mother's special vase."

"What happened next?" I asked.

Rosie blushed as she talked about rushing to the store to find a vase just like the one her husband broke before her mother returned home.

I looked into her eyes and asked if she had covered for her husband in the past.

Rosie wouldn't look at me. However, she admitted she had rescued her husband many times from the consequences of his behavior.

"Are you tired of rescuing your husband?"

Moving from Client to Staff Member - Avoiding Codependency Issues

Recovery programs hire many program graduates and others who have overcome addictions or have grown up in troubled families. They can be excellent examples for mission clients and usually have special compassion and understanding for those who are still hurting. On the other hand, some are hindered in their efforts to minister to others because of their own codependency.

Here are a few common symptoms experienced by these "wounded warriors":

A. Inability to detach.

Getting My Eyes Off of Myself

A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 NRSV

We visited a church with our kids on Sunday. The pastor, in trying to make a point about honesty, addressed the dynamic that occurs when friends meet together: "How are you?" "I'm fine." He concluded that often the "I'm fine" is actually a lie because we aren't fine.

But are we?

As Christians should we have any opportunity for griping or complaining, moaning or groaning? Or are we actually stating a truth when we say "I'm fine," a truth that perhaps we really don't embrace but which is a truth nonetheless? Paul wrote:

Is My Way Always Right?

Proverbs 17:19 NRSV
One who loves transgression loves strife;
one who builds a high threshold invites broken bones.

I have a terrible tendency to want, to need to be right. And if my opinions, my way is always right, then I am likely going to be in contention with those around me who see and perceive the world differently than I do. Psalm 94:4 equates arrogance (the need to be right): They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. (NRSV) Demanding that only our way is right is the same as boasting. And arrogance isn't the way of the believer. The believer is called to be humble. In fact, when we are humble, we are obedient, but when we are not humble -- when we are arrogant and self-seeking -- we are living in strife with those around us and are in sin. In fact, it is impossible to please God unless we are humble: Before I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word. Psalm 119:67 NRSV

What Kind of Friend Am I ?

Proverbs 17:17 NRSV
A friend loves at all times,
and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.

Prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit (in the New Testament), those who followed the Lord (predominantly Israelites) had only the capacity for earthly love, not for heavenly or agape love since they loved out of their own ability and not through the spiritual ability of the Spirit. However, there were still higher standards of behavior given. In the Law, the Lord required:

"You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." Leviticus 19:17-18 NRSV


You shall love your neighbor as yourself. It was this law that was discussed by the lawyer and the Lord Jesus in Luke 10:

Honesty: Telling It Like It Is

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 RSV
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you.


Scripture talks a lot about not judging others. And then, Paul comes along and commands us to judge others. It seems to contradict itself. This isn't the kind of judgment that brings condemnation or punishment, but rather is the kind of judgment that calls into question. It is, in fact, the judgment that is done in love and demands that another believer turn away from their sin.

Matthew Henry says:

Listening More and Talking Less

Proverbs 18:2
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing personal opinion.


Proverbs talks a lot about, well, talking! I think that we often confirm who we are (whether we want to be that person or not) when we talk. Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." And yet, we still talk. We talk in person. We talk (and text) on cell phones. We talk on the Internet. We talk, talk, talk. And a great deal of the time, we are "expressing personal opinion."

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