Tag Archives: listen

Slow Lent Movement: Part Two

Slow down for Lent

Yesterday I introduced Bishop Payne’s concept of a Slow Lent.   Here are five slow spiritual disciplines that complement traditional Lenten disciplines.

1. Traditional: repentance 
    Slow: speak less, listen more.

In our hurried culture, we often are so quick to speak, to get our words out, that we rarely take the time to listen to what others say, especially those that we disagree with.  We rush to judgment when we need to listen and possibly to change the direction of our thinking, planning, and acting.

2. Traditional: forgiveness
   Slow: let go of one “should.”    

Many of us carry various kinds of “ought’s or should’s” that overload our schedule. We need to “forgive” ourselves.   For example, as a new pastor, I feel I should be involved in different local community activities.  One piece of wisdom I received recently is that a new pastor should not be involved in local community activities during the first year so that he or she can fully enter into the life of the congregation.   So I have given up that “should” even before Lent starts.

3. Traditional: catechesis (teaching)
    Slow: re-learn one basic of the faith

Rather than focusing on the newest spiritual discipline, simply re-focus on some basic spiritual discipline.  This year at Resurrection Lutheran, we will be re-learning the Lord’s Prayer and its meaning for prayer and life.

4. Traditional: fasting
    Slow: choose one way to ‘unplug’

For some Christians, Lent means giving something up so that one can better focus on God.  The usual items are chocolate, desert, alcohol, or meat.   Bishop Payne suggested that perhaps we “unplug” from the internet or turn off our smartphones or television.  We might not be able to do it 24/7, but we might choose to turn it off every evening or every Saturday.  Of course, the purpose is to open our time and our lives in a fresh way to God.

5. Traditional: almsgiving
     Slow: simplify

Certainly we need to be as gracious as our God and give to people in need.   Lent is a great time to practice such giving.  Yet our culture is so focused on the accumulation of things, perhaps we can shift our attention from accumulating to letting go.  My uncle Jerry lived for several years during his retirement in an RV.  Whenever he considered buying something, he had to consider what he would give away to make space for the new.  It made him think twice before buying.

Which discipline might help you slow down this Lent?

Are You Listening?

To Listen Is To Focus.

When I was about ten years old, I was pulled from my class room and given a hearing test by the school nurse.  I was surprised, since no other student was given the test that day.  I listened carefully to the instructions and dutifully raised my hand whenever I heard the special ping come through the earphones.  I was certain that I had done extremely well, and said so to my mother that afternoon.   Then I told her how strange it was being the only one tested.  

My mom then gave me the second surprise of the day.  She said, “John, I asked for that test, because you don’t seem to listen very well at home.  I was wondering if you had a hearing problem.”  After the test, my mom talked with the school nurse and they agreed that I did not have a hearing problem, but that I did have a listening problem.  I would selectively hear what I wanted to hear, ignoring those sound/voices/instructions that I did not want to hear.  

In a congregation there is always some selective listening.  We tend to pay attention to those activities and ministries that excite or appeal to us.  A busy mother of young children may tune out the invitation to a men’s retreat (or she may tune in if she thinks her husband should go!)  We all have filters that select what to hear, see, or feel.   In our media culture, we are all surrounded by so much “communication noise” in so many forms (music, internet, television, video games, cell phones) that it can be difficult to listen to one another.   Yet each of us can work to improve.

Here are six of my communication rules.  

  1. I never read letters or notes that are not signed. 
  2. Important information deserves face-to-face conversation.
  3. To over communicate is much better than to under communicate.
  4. Never write in an e-mail what you would not say face-to-face.
  5. To over communicate is much better than to under communicate.
  6. God communicates his love to me every day.  Am I listening?

How are your listening for God?  for others?