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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Listening into free speech

Do you hear what I hear? A famous Christmas carol, and one that is especially important these days. Take a listen. Sorry about that...but Carrie Underwood!

One of the great spiritual practices is "listening." Actually asking people what you have heard in the conversation? This practice is the cornerstone of "discernment," which is the way in which Christians come to decisions. We listen for, to, with, and sometimes against God. In this listening--praying--we come to understand who God calls us to be, and what God calls us to do.

These days what are you hearing? Are you hearing pain and frustration? Are you hearing anger and despair? Are you hearing impatience and arrogance? Have you asked anybody what they have heard from you? What are you saying these days? 

Listening someone into free speech is a way that we have conversations about issues and events in our lives that matter. And we center these conversations not on what we say, but rather how we have heard. How have you heard what someone else has said? Have you asked if you've heard it correctly? Have you tried to hear it correctly?

This is why I do not listen to talk shows on radio or watch TV opinion shows about news. They are not interested in listening. Apparently there is no money in actually listening to someone else, and trying to help them explain what they are experiencing. The money must be somewhere else.

It's interesting but Jesus often listened people into free speech. Most famously, he once asked a guy who had been an invalid for 38 years sitting next to a supposed "healing" pool if he wanted to be made well? The man did not disparage Jesus for his obtuseness, nor did he despair of his healing; rather, he simply explained why he could not be healed. Both Jesus and the man knew he wanted to be well, but did the man understand why he wasn't well? That was the question. And the man knew the answer, and Jesus healed him.

Jesus actually listened to the man, and the man felt free to express the true nature of his incapacity. He wasn't able to be well because he was immoral, or poor, or didn't have the right skin color. He was unable to be well because he didn't have any friends. And he knew that. So Jesus became his friend, and the man was healed. That's what it means to listen someone into free speech. To be able to be a part of their lives enough in order to make a difference.

So what are you hearing these days? How are you listening to people in your lives? Happy Advent!

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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