Tag Archives: Listen

Nowhere to Hide

So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.
Jeremiah 36:32 (NIV)

Along my life journey I have taken a few willful detours. I chose to leave the path of following Jesus and, instead, struck out on my own way. It was during these detours that I learned the lesson of the prophet Jonah: You can’t actually escape from God because no matter where you run He’s already there. It’s like the lyrics to David’s psalm:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

In today’s chapter, Jehoiakim the King of Judah is spiritually on the run. Jehoiakim wanted nothing to do with God. He barred the prophet Jeremiah from the temple. He put layers of bureaucracy between himself and the prophet so that he wouldn’t have to listen to Jeremiah’s incessant messages telling the King to turn from his rebellious ways.

And so, Jeremiah dictates God’s message to his servant and scribe, Baruch. He then sends Baruch to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops at the temple. God’s favor appears to be on Baruch as he recites the words of the scroll and his message gets passed up the chain of command until he finally has an audience with the king.

King Jehoiakim’s hard heart, however, was unmoved. As the envoy reads the scroll, King Jehoiakim has each column cut from the scroll and thrown into the fireplace of his chamber. He then tries to have Jeremiah’s servant arrested. So Jeremiah repeats the message to Baruch so that a copy would survive, and he adds a prophetic prediction of the negative consequences Jehoiakim and his royal line will experience because of his willful choice to shun God.

In the quiet this morning I am thinking about King Jehoiakim. He also was experiencing the lesson of Jonah, the same reality I experienced on my rebellious detours on my life journey. You can’t really successfully run from God. No matter where you run, God’s already there. I can harden my heart. I can refuse to listen and willfully ignore the truth, but then I’m just like the child who puts a cardboard box over their head and thinks no one can see him.

 

Hush Up

Then Moses and the levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying: Keep silence and hear, O Israel!
Deuteronomy 27:9 (NRSV)

We grow up being continuously hushed.

  • Be quiet. Your mom is sleeping.
  • Be quiet. Dad and I are trying to watch this.
  • I don’t want to hear another word out of you. Go to sleep.
  • Be quiet, class. Eyes up here.
  • Listen up, team!
  • Shhhhh!

The truth is that it’s difficult to hear amidst all the noise. Even Jesus said, “those who have ears to hear, listen to me.” But in order to listen we have to silence, or tune out, all the other noise around us.

I’m not sure that there has been another time in human history that is as noisy as the time we’re living in. We are deluged by noise. Noise from ever present phones that beep, buzz, and blare. Noise from televisions that are constantly on in the background. Noise from endlessly streaming playlists. Noise from planes, trains, and automobiles. The noise, at times, seems never ending.

So, how am I supposed to hear myself think?

How am I supposed to hear what my loved ones are really saying?

How am I supposed to hear God’s still, small voice in my spirit?

Today, as I switch off the satellite music channel playing in my office, I’m thinking about my need for quiet. I’m contemplating the reality of noise becoming an ever present distraction in my life. I wonder how much I miss because even when I try to listen I cannot hear myself, or God through the din.

Today, I’m consciously choosing to hush up, and listen.

chapter a day banner 2015

featured image: Nuno Martins via Flickr

The Power of a Play

Michael Buesking painting depicting the events of today's chapter. His artwork can be found at prophetasartist.com. Click the painting to be taken there.
Michael Buesking’s painting depicts the events of today’s chapter. His artwork can be found at prophetasartist.com. Click the painting to be taken there.

“They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear.”
Ezekiel 12:2b (NIV)

I received an inquiry yesterday from a community theatre who would like to do a group reading of a play I wrote, Ham Buns and Potato Salad. What excited me about the request is that it came from a town not far from where I live and in my reply I inquired about the possibility of sneaking into the reading anonymously to listen to the reading and to hear what the readers thought of it.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about watching a play I’ve written being produced is listening afterwards to what others saw and heard in it. I have been struck by the wide range of perceptions. Some people catch the jokes and enjoy the characters but clearly don’t get the things I was really trying to say about humanity, community, family and faith. Others really perceived the themes I wove into the fabric of the story and were touched deeply by them. 

God, the Author of Life, was having frustrations with His people in today’s chapter: “They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear.” God instructs Ezekiel to produce another performance art piece. This time, Zeke is to metaphorically act out being taken in exile. It is clear that God intended the play (that’s really what it was, Ezekiel was an actor playing out a scene) to communicate to people in ways that all the sermons delivered by the prophets had failed. The goal was to provoke thought and prompt questions as God asks his actor, “Son of man, did not the Israelites, that rebellious people, ask you, ‘What are you doing?’”

Today, I am reminded that a good story, well produced and performed, can be more powerfully moving and create more productive conversation than a Sunday sermon. Today’s chapter is evidence to me that our creator/artist God knows this to be true. It’s a tragedy that the institutional church, by and large, abandoned the arts centuries ago. I am excited that this Saturday night our local group of Jesus followers is having an “Original Works Night” which we do periodically for artists among us to have a venue to present their works. It’s a start. There is hope.

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 27

Moses and the Levitical priests addressed all Israel: Quiet. Listen obediently, Israel. Deuteronomy 27:9 (MSG)

I came back from a business trip to Grand Island last week with a nasty little head cold. The cold did a number on my energy level and for the past four nights I’ve slept particularly long and hard. The result is that I’ve risen an hour or two (or three) later than normal and that has thrown my routine off significantly. My body is recuperating, but I feel my soul getting out of sorts.

I’m a morning person. I always have been. I drove my parents crazy because I wouldn’t sleep in. For years, I have channeled my early rising nature in positive ways. I normally spend a couple of hours each morning in my home office in uninterrupted quiet. I pray. I read. I write my chapter-a-day post. I listen.

The cacophany of noise around us continues to grow unabated. Television, cell phone, radio, iPods, DVDs, Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, MP3 players, and Blu-Ray discs. We are plugged in, tuned in, surfing, chatting, texting, and tweeting. Not one of these things is a bad thing. I sometimes wonder, however, about the cumulative effect of all the noise around us.

My time of quiet each morning is like a way-station in the journey. It recharges my spiritual batteries as I unplug from the noise and take the time to listen for God’s still, small voice whispering to my soul deep within. When I don’t have that time of quiet in the morning, I begin to notice in the way my spirit gets brittle and edgy during the day.

I believe that we all need regular doses of quiet in our lives. It’s as important, if not more important, today as it was when God demanded it of Moses’ followers thousands of years ago. Quiet doesn’t happen regularly unless I make it happen. Sometimes, like the past few days, my bodies need for recuperative rest takes precedence over my morning quiet time. It’s only reminded me, however, how much I need it.

Shhhhhh. Listen.

Day 16: 3 Things You Are Proud of About Your Personality

Murph with his tongue waggin'
Murph with his tongue waggin’

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 16: Three things you are proud of about your personality.

Over the years I’ve used a personality test introduced by John Trent and Gary Smalley in their book The Two Sides of Love with different groups I’ve taught and led. Trent and Smalley use animals as word pictures to describe the four predominate personality types: Lion, Otter, Beaver, and Golden Retriever. It’s a quick and easy little test and the word pictures are something with which people can quickly identify.

While we all have certain dimensions of every personality type, according to the Trent-Smalley test I’m predominately a Golden Retriever. Here are three traits of a Golden Retriever personality I’m proud of:

Deep Relationships: When it comes to relationships, I like to go deep. Some people may be able to survive having a million relationships that are an inch deep, but I require a small handful of relationships that mine the depth of each other’s hearts and lives. I like it that way because it is relationship in the deepest, truest sense of knowing and being known. It is intimate and life-giving for both participants.

Patient: Living in community with others requires generous doses of patience. As a spouse and as a parent I’m glad that my personality comes with a natural sense of patience. I often see conflict and relational damage done by jumping to conclusions and flying off the handle with one another. I like to look back and see how patience with others has allowed the other person to experience, grow and mature in a natural, organic way in God’s time without the entanglement of my impatient pushing, pleading, and critical cajoling.

Good listener: I like that others find me to be a good listener, and I’m often amazed at what complete strangers will tell me within just a few minutes of meeting them. While at times it’s disconcerting, I feel blessed that others trust me to be a confidant to both their joys and their trials.

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