Tag Archive: Listening


Everybody likes a good story.  Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a good story.  We like to hear them and we like to tell them.  Everybody has a friend who can tell a story in a succinct way, keeping our attention to the end.  Others can drag out a good story long enough that somebody better order dinner since you are going to be there a while.  Fryodor Dostoevsky said, “But how could you live and have no story to tell.”  We have stories that define us, and we generally want to tell them for sure.

The stories we remember, generally, are important elements that have made their mark on us.  There are places we have been, events we have experienced, and people we have met that have made their impression on us.  Sometimes they are great stories that tell our world/life view, and, at times, they tell our dreams, hopes, and desires.  

Some stories have left an impression on us that reveal the dark side of life.  They tell our fears, hurts, and suffering.  We tend to reserve those stories for the people we can trust since each one is often very personal.

Currently, I’m re-watching the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.  It’s a story.  It tells the events of Easy Company during and after the Normandy Invasion that turned World War II around.  It has it’s victories and its defeats.  It is one of those types of stories no one can walk away from.  Today many stories are turned not only into novels but also, movies.  Personally, I like the book form.  The books take the time to develop themes, story-lines, and side stories that are often missed in the visual version.

If we pause long enough we can remember stories in more ways than words.  We can remember smells, sounds and colors.  Sitting here I remember the day I knew as a businessman I was called to ministry.  It was a dark night in the mountains near Mandeville, Jamaica.  I can see the stars to this day.  There were more stars visible then I had ever seen before.  It was about 74 degrees with a haze just rising from the wet ground. Down below the kids on the missions trip were laughing and having a time of relaxation before we would get ready for bed.  I was looking up at the stars and out of nowhere (that I was aware of) a lady comes over the hill from my right.  She is wearing a white top and green long pants.  I remember it odd on such a nice night that she was wearing long pants that looked hot.  She walked up to me and said, “Follow your heart.”  She turned around and walked down the hill.  Once she went over the ridge I had no idea where she went.  I stood there about 15 minutes in shock.  That is all I remember.  I don’t remember walking back down.  I don’t remember what happened the rest of the night.  That was it.  I knew that moment where my heart was. I had no idea how she knew.  True story.

I have not only stories of my own I’ve heard many stories.  That’s what one does when they talk with others for a living.  Listening is the main part of a conversation.  Without paying attention there is no story.

 It’s important to listen to people’s stories.  They tell us a lot about them.  Yes, we learn events of their lives.  But most tales reveal much more.  They can reveal value systems and belief systems.  They can tell our likes and dislikes.  The words that come together bring to life issues we have a hard time letting go of. 

Pastors are encouraged to add good and relevant stories to their sermons.  The stories relate the Bible to real life.  They bring home the point we are trying to make.  Those anecdotes are often remembered better than the facts and figures of theology.  They bring to life words from thousands of years ago.   

As I think this morning about the value of a story (good or bad), my mind wanders to the disciples.  Their life was changed the day Jesus walked up to them and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  It changed their stories.  

Without the calling from Jesus, they would have had a life full of fish stories.  I can hear one now.  “Hey, James,” Peter would have called out, “did I ever tell you about the biggest haul we ever had only to lose them to the hole that was in our net?”  James would have shook his head and replied, “Yeah, Peter, if you have told that one once you have told it one hundred times.”  That would have been the life of the disciples.  Fish stories would have abounded.  My bet is that their fish stories would have been the same as fish stories through the years, which have never really changed..  They would have been stories about the biggest fish and how it got away.  

Instead, they told stories about a man named Jesus who healed the sick, made the blind see and the lame walk.  They told about Lazarus being raised from the dead and thousands of people being fed by a few fish and loaves.  Peter told about taking a few steps on the water.  They also told the stories Jesus told.  Stories about sheep and shepherds, kings forgiving, and a widow’s coin, as well as a rebellious son being welcomed home by his loving father.  Their stories would change the world.  One heart at a time.

What stories do we have today? 

I’m turning 60 years old this year.  I’m not sure how I got this old.  Just yesterday I was 45.  It seems like yesterday we moved to South Carolina.  Fourteen years later and it seems like yesterday the moving van pulled up.  It took some time.  Baltimore is no longer home.  Bluffton is home.  It helps when the grandkids live right around the corner. Such transitions take time.  I don’t know where the last 14 years have gone.  

Since I can now live in Sun City (I don’t), and I’m entering my sixties, I decided to write to the older generations.  Just today I got a chance to talk to a 21 year old.  He was so young.  My kids are in their late 30’s.  Having a chance to engage a kid was energizing for sure.  In many aspects his life is drastically different than my world.  He doesn’t know life without a cell phone.  I remember days we worried about the influence of television.  He doesn’t even watch it.  He watches his cell phone.  

Recently, I was in a meeting with two different generations.  One of the older men sat and listened for the entire hour.  He didn’t say a word.  As we left, one of the young guys referred to his silence.  He replied, “I’m listening and learning.”  What was he learning?  He was learning about the conflicts and challenges the young guys face.  He was learning there was a lot he did not know.  So he listened.

More and more, especially in the church, the older generation (Baby Boomers) are becoming detached from the technologically infused younger generations.  The detachment means the kids don’t call.  It means if the Boomers don’t engage the Internet, more than likely they won’t be in communication with their grandkids.  Last week I Face-Timed my mother who lives in West Virginia.  She found it amazing to see her youngest son some 650 miles away.  For the first time in a long time, she didn’t ask when we were going to stop by.  The technology might be scary for us old guys, but it’s quite amazing.  

We like to blame the younger generations for the detachment.  It’s not their fault.  It’s nobody’s fault.  Let’s be truthful.  It’s hard enough to maintain the relationships right in from of us much less keeping the long distance ones going.  Some of the detachment is distance.  We blame them for not staying in contact.  They blame us for moving away.  Meanwhile, we refuse to learn the new technology that can connect us with them on the other side of the world.  

On top of distance, there are the cultural influences that separate us.  I still hear the Boomers complaining about no prayer in school.  I hate to say it, but that bus left the station a long time ago, and it’s not coming back.  Today, my grandkids have to figure out transgenders, as well as the broken family unit.  Often they have to do so on their own.  

Meanwhile, our generation complains that the younger generation is selfish and egocentric.  We must be honest.  We are just as bad, if not worse.  When the Bible talks about thinking about others more than ourselves and we don’t apply it to our children and grandchildren, we are the selfish and narcissistic ones.  When we demand they respond to us when we played our part in the failed relationship, we violate the basics of Jesus’ words about loving our neighbor, which means laying down our life for their sake of our neighbor.  We fail to understand that our kids are Biblically defined as our neighbor.  We don’t know them.  It’s long over due to stop blaming anybody and start listening. Listening to learn and to know.

We are studying the Psalms on Sunday during the education hour.  I have been reminded that Psalms say a lot about generational relationships.  It doesn’t surprise me that our generation only knows Bible passages that point fingers at our kids.  Psalms 71 says we have a responsibility to proclaim the power of God and his marvelous deeds to the next generation.  Somehow, we replaced God.  We declare our deeds – we think we are the greatest generation.  No wonder they quit listening.  

 In Psalm 78 Asaph asks God to have their children set their hope in God and not be like their fathers who are a stubborn and rebellious generation whose heart was not faithful to God.  Faithfulness is not defined by church attendance.  It’s defined by loving God and loving others.  Anybody notice that Jesus loved others by listening first and responding second?

Psalm 145 repeats Psalm 71.  Instead of talking about us and pointing fingers at them we are to declare the work of our Lord. What is the work of the Lord?  He loved us.  With that love he moves us to love others not just ourselves.  

Maybe we exasperated our children (Ephesians 5).  There is only one act of love to redeem our relationships with our kids.  Ask for forgiveness.  By laying our lives down we will then be considered the greatest generation.