Oct. 27 ~ “If speaking is silver then listening is gold.” Turkish Proverb #civility
Been saving this little dandy for that day when nothing comes to me… and that day was today! Woot for cool old sayings attributed to far away places! And it fits the civility discussion so well!
Oct. 5 ~ Civility supports the dignity of all persons by allowing all to be heard. #civility
*It’s easy to try to shout over someone. It’s easy to judge someone as not worthy of being heard. Give the gift of hearing someone out. Dignity is a mutual possession, we cannot deny it to one and save it for another.
There is a difference between allowing someone to speak, and listening to them. We have all been in situations where we had a voice, but no one else had ears. A great measure of dignity is afforded to both the speaker and listener when a person is given the gift of being heard.
Letting people speak is a good thing… it is respectful and civil. And it is usually for the most part passive. When we really listen we move from passive to active. Look at the other person, make eye contact, set aside distractions.
Don’t just try to think of the quickest, strongest retort while someone speaks. Instead, listen and let their words be fully spoken, fully heard, and then have a moment to their own. Taking time like this can help both the speaker and listener understand what was said. It’s also amazing how an active, attentive listener can help the speaker focus on their words for greater clarity and efficacy.
We’re talking about actual communication happening! That’s a good thing! It’s a great thing! It’s an affirming partnership even in disagreement.
I won’t try to do deep exegesis in every blog post on LGBTQ inclusion. It’s equally worth our time to step back and be reminded that people are people and their stories do mater. I’d also remind us to be mindful of our own stories. Be mindful our own stories? Oh yes, we all have our stories.
It’s time that gay Christians are heard telling their own stories.
It’s time they are allowed to tell their own stories. I’ve noticed, and in the past have been guilty of, a need that many straight Christians feel to frame (and kinda highjack) the stories of their gay brothers and sisters. And when we do that we almost always frame their stories in a way that excludes wholeness, health (spiritual or physical), faithfulness and sincerity. So we use categories that make huge assumptions and use generalizations that do harm. We talk of the gay agenda, the gay lifestyle and we speak from assumptions that a persona’s sexual orientation is always a conscious choice. We speak of assumed abuses in childhood and will seek someone to blame for the gay person’s orientation, yet that framework just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.
Here are three stories that I want to ask you to engage… I just today saw the video from a new, Perrin, who courageously shares his story of faith and sexuality. That’s his picture at the top of the post. Please hear him out and take him at his word about his journey of faith and sexuality.
Justin Lee is someone I have named before, a brother in Christ who grew up conservative Baptist, and had to struggle with his faith sexuality. His book Torn is amazing and I highly recommend it. Justin tells his story in a sincere, gracious and compelling way. He wasn’t abused as a child and tried for years to find a way out of being gay. His story of faith and sexuality is valuable to straight Christians and needs to be heard. Justin is the founder of the Gay Christian Network and has many videos on the GCN YouTube channel.
Matthew Vines is the amazing young man who founded The Reformation Project and has written the book God and The Gay Christian. He also grew up in a conservative Christian home and was not abused. I think he’s done a great job in telling his story and helping advance the conversation we need to have about how we read and interpret our scriptures. Matthew has videos available on his YouTube channel as well.
Even as I share these links and names, I have a lump in my throat. Please, don’t go troll them or say un-Christlike things on their media feeds. As the biblical writer James encourages us, let’s “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Let’s all seek to learn and listen, and seek God’s righteousness without anger.
I want to be your pastor because you intrigue me. Sounds kinda selfish when I say it like that, huh? But it’s the best way to say it. I’m interested in you, your story, your likes and dislikes, your talents and your experiences. And I’m willing to listen.
There’s an outward movement in Christian spirituality that comes directly from the teaching of Christ and certain Pauline texts which push the envelope on being aware of the people around you. Jesus teaches a “neighborliness” in Luke 10:25-37 that has nothing to do with proximity or gain, but everything to do with seeing needs and moving outside my own wants to serve others, being aware and not just passing by other people’s lives. Paul follows up with a lot of statements about caring about one another, but my favorite is found in Philippians 2:1-11, “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
We miss something very important to being human and being a Christian when our religion and spirituality lead us to tell others what to be interested in more than listening to what interests them.
Now, I will at times fail at this very thing I believe so deeply. There will be times I’m caught up in being busy, and I will fail. There will times that I am so interested in my own interests, so excited to tell you what I’m thinking, that I will fail… I am a “preacher” after all.
What I ask, no… what I invite you to do is break in on me. Maybe even, well… shush me. Just do it with some grace and some love. Give me a chance to hear you and understand. I might be distracted some days, but I still want to get to know you.
Please be you, and I’ll try to be me. When we get the authenticity right God’s amazes us, and I’m excited to see where we might go. It’s always been our struggle, to quit bringing God some manufactured gift, some consolation prize, instead of the reality of our open selves, “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:15-17.
If I can serve you today, as a pastor and a friend, just let me know.
One of the most humbling and interesting things to come from my training and experience as a life coach was the realization that I was a really bad listener. You’d think that a pastor, especially one trained to be a cross-cultural learner, would be fairly naturally endowed with listening skills. I’m sure I wasn’t the worst listener, but being “ok” relative to the worst is not all that great.
I was blessed yesterday to visit my first AA meeting, an open meeting with Alcoholics Anonymous. So let me give a quick shout to all my AA friends out there, you rock! And I’m grateful to my good brother who brought me along to the meeting. It’s sometimes a scary proposition to take your pastor out in public, ya know? He stepped out and took a risk, and I was blessed for it!
I’m interested in systems, and so I’ve always been a little interested in AA and the almost mythic power of the Twelve Steps. I was impressed at the meeting, and I almost immediately loved every person I saw. Attending a larger group I was able to see a real diversity, young and old, black and white, male and female, rich and poor, and all the in betweens.
If you’ve never been to a meeting, I suggest you find a larger club to visit. The meeting I attended was close to fifty people, but I didn’t get lost in the crowd. Instead I felt very at home and welcome. It was obvious right away that most of the people there knew each other… this was a community.
And the real lesson of the day for me was that this was a community of listening. It’s such a precious gift to be heard. I was frankly amazed at the way the room sat and listened attentively to the different individuals sharing what was on their hearts or minds. Some were eloquent and others down right hilarious. Some rambled a bit and repeated themselves. None were interrupted. None were corrected. All were heard.
All were heard. This is a powerful reminder for me as a pastor. There are some big differences in the way an AA meeting and a typical Sunday morning worship service are conducted, but the need to be heard is common in both these communities. The gift of being heard is a precious gift, a life-changing moment, in each community. I spend a lot of time selecting songs, studying passages, adapting prayers and building prayer stations… honestly, I spend a lot of time talking. My neighbors at AA yesterday reminded me of my need to invest in time spent listening.
Churches and other faith communities spend a lot of time and energy talking and teaching, but how do we listen? Where do we listen? When do we listen? I’m looking into this in a deeper way this week, and I’m grateful for the good folks I met yesterday who reminded me of such an important truth.
There’s an old saying, “God gave us only one mouth but two ears, so listen!” James (of biblical fame) quips in one of my favorite verses that we should, “…be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Who will I hear, today? Who will you gift with a big basket of listening?