Tag Archives: Listening

Godly Guru Part 2

Last time, we spoke of how God is someone we can turn to for wisdom and guidance at all times, not just in a church setting.  However, having recognized this, the question remains of how we actually listen to Him.  As the pilgrim seeks to listen to the guru, so we seek to listen to the voice of God.  To do this, we undertake a journey.  Not an outward journey, but an inward one, a journey of the heart.  What we are looking for is that quiet, solitary place where we can be alone with God to listen to Him or commune with Him.  We search for this place by learning to quite our interior life.

In a lot of ways, it is like trying to find still waters.  In such waters, we are able to see the ripples of each drop of rain that falls upon it from above.  When the water is choppy and agitated, it is next to impossible to see these ripples.  In different seasons of our lives it can be easier or more difficult to quiet the waters.  However, if we attempt to make the waters quiet through the force of our own efforts, we will not succeed.  As soon as we lay hold of them, they are stirred up by our hands.  We achieve the opposite of what we aim for.  The water will only quiet and become still by God’s work.  Thus, our part is to create space and time for the water to settle naturally, according to the acting and order of God.  One way we may go about this is to create a set amount of time we spend attending to God.  It may be by way of reading Scripture, prayer, meditation, anything that directs our attention to God.

Another thing that we must be aware of while on our journey to hear God is that there other things besides raindrops that cause ripples on the water.  The devil and our own sinful desires will throw pebbles into the water to create ripples to confuse and mislead us.  These ripples look very much like those created by drops from above, but are counterfeit.  To discern the difference, we need to look beneath the surface.  The drops from above deepen the waters, deepen our relationship with God.  The pebbles have the opposite effect, subtly making the waters shallower and making our relationship with God shallower.  St. Ignatius of Loyola referred to this deepening or making shallow as “consolation” and “desolation”.

This is far from comprehensive treatment of the question of how we listen to God; the tip of the iceberg, as it were.  God speaks to us in many ways, shapes, and forms.  However, when we learn to quiet ourselves and listen to Him, we come to recognize the sound of His voice wherever we may encounter it.  We then find that the guru we have sought so ardently has been with us and speaking with us the entire time.


How Many Bars Do You Have?

If you have a cell phone, chances are that you’ve had the opportunity to lament, “I don’t have any bars!”  Those little bars may occupy an unassuming part of the screen, but they are of vital importance. No bars means no signal, no signal means no calls, texts, or emails.  You may be surprised to learn that Christians, too, have bars.

Okay, Christians don’t literally have bars.  However we do face connectivity problems.  We have “reception”.  Our signal doesn’t come from a tower, but from God.  In order to live a healthy and productive spiritual life, we need to have a healthy connection to God.  It is through this connection that we speak to and hear from God.  Just like a cell phone, if we have a bad connection, we will only hear bits and pieces of what God is saying to us. Additionally, we will have a difficult time speaking with God because there are only bits and pieces of our lives that we share with Him.  With a bad signal, we think that there are only certain places where we meet God (such as church on Sunday morning).  A good signal means that we are able to encounter God any place, any time, and in any thing.

The question now becomes “how do we get and keep a good signal?”  Our reception is in our hearts.  What is usually going on in our hearts?  Are we filling them with sin or with God?

Sin interferes with our signal from God.  Sin tries to block or distort it. If we spend our time doing things like building our pride, ignoring others, or plotting against them,

image by Fiona the Awesome

it’s like going into a tunnel.  Our reception to God’s signal becomes very weak.

There are also things that we can do to build up our reception to God. One of the oldest and well-tested ways of doing this is engaging in the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, practicing solitude, or engaging in service (to name a few).

image by Fiona the Awesome

These disciplines act as spiritual plows and fertilizers that prepare the soil of our hearts for God’s work.  Going with the tech metaphor, they keep us fully charged and do system maintenance that keeps us in good working order.

It is worth noting that having a good signal doesn’t mean that you will begin to literally hear the voice of God.  Rather, you find that you meet God all over the place.  You find that God can be experienced with all 5 of the senses.  You find that God is relevant to, and can be a part of every nook and cranny of your life.  There will be times when God seems distant, like He is only making occasional, long-distance calls.  There will also be times when He chats with us several times a day.  Having a strong connection allows us to continue talking and walking with God no matter what the circumstances are.  It also means that we don’t hang up on Him either, because we know that when we’re with God, we’re on the largest and only 100% reliable network there is.

Taming the Tongue-1

Scripture:  James 1:19-20

We have more ways of expressing ourselves today than ever before.  There’s email, texting, phone, various chat services, letters, and face-to-face conversation.  This unprecedented level of connectedness is fantastic, but not without its drawbacks. Have you ever sent an email or text message that you regretted as soon as you hit “send”?  What about saying something you wish you hadn’t?  In the book bearing his name, James cautions us about the “risks of speaking” as it were.  He doesn’t say that we should never speak, but he does advise us to be careful with our words.

In chapter 1, verse 19, James advises us that we should be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”.  This is because, as he goes on to say in verse 20, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God”.  The first thing we should be concerned with is listening. After all, how do we know what to say if we don’t know what’s going on?  Also, not talking does not count as listening. Listening is taking the time to hear and understand the other person.  Many times we busy ourselves with how to make our next point instead of hearing what the other person has to say.  Consider our relationship with God.  One of the ways God expresses His love for us is the incredible amount of time He spends listening to us.  No matter what we have to say or when we say it, He is always happy to listen to His son or daughter.  We sometimes say that the love we show to others comes from the overflow of God’s love in our hearts.  Perhaps we might also share the overflow of God’s willingness to listen as well?

After we have really listened, we can speak.  Now that we at least know what the other person is saying, we can respond in an appropriate manner.  Another reason that speaking comes second to listening is that it is very easy for speaking to become a selfish activity.  In other words, it is easy for us to speak just to hear ourselves talk.  Consider this:  if speaking is first on our list, why is it first?   Could it also be the case that we sometimes talk because we are seeking the praise and admiration of others?

Finally, James says that we should be slow to wrath.  Anger is a normal and healthy emotion, but, like anything else, misusing it leads to trouble. A person could very well ask “how am I supposed to not get angry?”  After all, we all have things that infuriate us or know people that never fail to agitate us.  An important thing to realize is that there are things that you cannot change overnight. There is no magic “don’t get angry” button.  However there are ways of proceeding that make being “slow to wrath” a less daunting affair.  First, recognize the difference between acknowledging an emotion and acting on it. We don’t have to do anything in order to recognize that we’re angry.  When we’re able to recognize that we’re angry, we can acknowledge our anger and ask ourselves why we’re angry.  Once we know why we’re angry, we can determine whether or not our anger is godly and then proceed accordingly.  By taking time to reflect on our emotions we can be less likely to do or say something we are going to regret later.  In short, we can roughly divide anger into two categories.  There is godly anger:  anger that is an appropriate response sin and injustice; and there is ungodly anger:  anger that is based in sin (i.e. pride, jealousy, etc.)  James warns us to be slow to anger so that we don’t rush into ungodly anger.

One of the reasons are told to be very weary of the tongue is because it only takes a moment to utter a single word, but that word is not so easily taken back once spoken.  James advises us to set priorities to help us avoid making these mistakes.  We should listen first, talk second, and be slow to anger.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Think about the people in your social groups; are the most popular people the ones who talk the most or who listen the most?
  2. How is anger portrayed in popular culture and media?
  3. Why is it so hard to not act on our anger?
  4. How can our relationship with God affect our efforts to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath?