Posted in Distractions, Faith, God, Life, Listening, Music, Pandora, Pastors, pride

I’m Still Listening

I’ve just gotten into using Pandora. I don’t know what the difference is between the things that I’ll jump on the bandwagon for and the things that I won’t. Some of them that I’ve just started – itunes (I’ve always liked actual CD’s – call me crazy), instagram (no idea yet), or even Words with Friends (the students have me playing it, but I’m absolutely terrible.) Maybe I wait and see if it will catch on (still waiting on Google+) or more than likely, I wait until I have some free time to try it out and it’s easy to access. I still haven’t figured out the “cool” Pandora play lists yet, but I have a couple that I love and regularly jam to. The thing that I’ve noticed more than anything is how long it takes me to realize that the music has stopped. You see, if you listen long enough, or if you like me listens while you work, eventually the music is going to stop and you’ll click on the box and you’ll see a message that inquires whether you’re still listening or not. There are some days when I immediately notice, whoa, whoa, whoa, the music has stopped. There are other days when I’m running a bit more on the ragged side or if I’m deep in thought or a project and I finally realize it but can’t remember where along the way it stopped.

Yesterday, for the first time in many, many years, Mike and I worshiped together at a local church. Neither of us responsible for any part of the service. No preaching, speaking, singing, playing the piano, announcements…nothing. Several things struck me all at once. One, I was tired. And it’s a lot easier to zone out and yawn really loudly and for a long time when you’re not the one leading worship. I noted that there’s something energizing or I would say more accurately – Holy Spirit infusing – about leading worship. Sometimes it’s hard to go from closing your eyes during the prayer to focus in on what’s being said. Then I began to wonder to myself about how the folks in the congregation feel? After a few moments I arrived at the conclusion, that a lot of it had to do with me. If you are an active participant in worship – singing, listening to the words of the prayers, paying attention to the children’s sermon – than you’ll get a heck of a lot more out of it.

When I calmed down in my own skin for a minute and actually tuned in to the word God was speaking, I was able to realize that somewhere along the way, the music had stopped and I indeed needed to click the “I’m Still Listening” button. As pastors or those that work in the church, how often are we tuned into the word God would have us share with our congregations, but we’re not quite as open, when we’re not the ones in charge, doing the feeding, and being open to the ways that word will be revealed to us?

I don’t know about you but I feel like there are times when we have been coasting and cruising and we’re doing the appropriate motions and the right spots, but our movements aren’t connecting with our brains. Things are going pretty okay, but if we tuned ourselves in just a bit more to the music flowing all around us, things would be going pretty fantastic…or at least more in tune. Once I got my head and my heart communicating and opening up, I heard a great, convicting, challenging, and well-thought out sermon that was a confirmation that I needed to wake up and do some listening. Isn’t it funny that God brings those things that we need to hear? We just need to clean out our ears sometimes and sort through distractions to get to the place where we can feel and know the presence of God clearly and actively.

What are ways that we stay in tune to God’s music?

What are the things that get in the way and distract us?

What are ways that we can practice listening or centering?

Posted in Faith, Family, God, God's Providence, Mommy, Parenting

Listening and Following Directions

Yesterday Enoch got in trouble at school.  When you have a child as boisterous as ours you’re not entirely surprised by this, but you may think to yourself, okay – we’re due for one of those.  However, it’s never fun as a parent to hear that your kid got in trouble.  Everywhere we go and Enoch sees someone from his class, he’s not always great about remembering and saying everyone’s names, but they all seem to know his name.  I’d like to think it’s because he’s wonderful, but wonder if it’s because they hear his name called a lot.  Hopefully a little of both.  Anyway, Enoch got in trouble because he wasn’t listening and following directions.

I am always eternally grateful for the Episcopal Day School here in Rock Hill and all of the many ways they have worked with our kids and support them.  I can’t say enough what a great job they all do there!  I also cannot say enough how much I appreciate that Mike works while the kids are in pre-school and than has the opportunity to be with them in the afternoons.  I know that everyone doesn’t have these choices and opportunities and they are a gift.

Mondays are Mommy Day when the kids get home from school because Mike teaches piano and guitar lessons and then has practice with the worship team at St. John’s.  As much as I don’t always like to drag myself away from work and trying to make a dent in the to do list, I really enjoy Mondays and look forward to being able to tell the kids, you’ll get to see and spend time with Mommy this afternoon and evening.

We usually have a great time.  And we did at times yesterday.  But there were also a lot of times I wanted to scream and say I’ve had it.  That whole listening and following directions thing – yep, it’s for real.  In putting in time out after time out whether at home, in the car, or at the park, we talked over and over about listening and following directions.  Over and over after he stayed in time out, he would agree to start listening and following directions, and over and over when he didn’t want to listen and follow directions, he wouldn’t.  Oh the cycle of parenting.

It got me thinking a lot though.  We keep talking about listening and following directions together.  It’s one thing to not listen and it’s another thing to not follow directions but it’s also a bit of both.  We all know about selective hearing.  I know that if I reach a certain decibal or tone than maybe he’ll turn around and stop, but before I get there he may not be paying a hill of beans of attention to me.  Oh to have the child that immediately stops and listens and follows directions.  My mom has frequently classified Enoch as the strong-willed child, and I promise his picture should be in the books describing it.  But again, as I’m thinking this yesterday and typing it today – I can’t say that it’s not something the rest of us don’t do at times.

We selectively listen for the things that we want to or don’t want to follow.  We don’t have the discipline to always listen to those that might know more than us or to the Creator who actually for real knows better than us.  Were you the child that immediately stopped and listened and followed directions or were you the child that questioned authority and wondered if it really was as threatening as they said it or if this was really serious or not?

Listening and following directions for a child is a great deal about safety and what’s best for you and trusting that your parents are telling you what’s best for you.  But isn’t it the same way with us and God?  Do we listen and follow directions?  Do we read the scriptures or dig down in our faith and engage with texts on justice and mercy and kindness and love?  Do we follow the directions of love God and love neighbor or do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God?  Are we really hearing it or are we hearing it when we want to and it fits and it still allows us to do what we want to do?

Move over, Enoch.  There may be some more strong-willed children out there.  Heck, I think the Bible and our pews and our grocery stores and all around us – we may be chock full of them.

As we try to teach Enoch about listening and following directions, there’s a lot of time outs and boundaries and loss of privileges.  How does God get our attention about listening and following directions?  Does God use our full name at the top of God’s voice?  Does God shoot a message across the sky saying hello – take the call dude?  Are we plowing so full steam ahead in whatever we think we’re supposed to be pursuing that it’s going to take something radical to derail us and make us re-evaluate?  I don’t know.  When I think of a loving Parent, I don’t think of someone that just lets us get our way all the time or do what we want to if it’s harmful to us.  I think of One who is patient and fair and consistent.  I think of one who corrects and is present and who is there to make sure the consequences are real but who is ready for a hug and to wipe away a tear and offer words of encouragement and a new opportunity.

How do you do at listening and following directions?  How has God our parent shaped and molded us?