Joan’s Pet Peeve #2– Is Anybody Listening?

A quote from Pope Francis:

“Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.”

— Message for World Day of Social Communications, Jan. 22, 2016
Here’s my pet peeve for the day–technology can be great, but why can’t I speak with a real person anymore?
We’ve been having trouble getting our newspaper on time lately — now, I don’t mean it’s 30 minutes late, I mean it’s hours late.  Every morning I end up calling the circulation department of the newspaper to report that we don’t have our paper.  When this happened in the past, I would usually be connected with someone who could tell me what the problem was–whether it was temporary or ongoing, and what was being done to resolve it.  Now there is an automated attendant.  You simply punch in a number, depending on your problem, and hear the message “your complaint has been registered.”  I guess I had been calling so frequently that yesterday, the automated attendant told me I should probably to speak with someone and so I was being transferred, but guess what?  I got a voicemail!  I asked for a call back, which I never received.
I also called my doctor’s office with a question about renewing a prescription.  Once again, I was answered by prerecorded message telling me to make a selection.  Since my call was of a “non-urgent” nature, I would have to wait for a call back. (Thankfully in this case, I did actually hear back from someone and was able to have a real conversation  HOORAY!)
My point is this:  efficiency is fine, but often a problem can be solved, or an agreement reached, unless two people actually connect.  Leaving a message may allow someone to “hear” my concern, but it doesn’t mean actual communication has occurred.  In fact, (at least in my case), it often leaves me feeling angry and frustrated.  There are times when I would prefer to wait for a while in order to speak with someone.  That is the only way to properly explain my issue and get an answer.  Even when call backs are made promptly, they may be missed as I cannot put my day on hold to wait.  When this happens, we are caught up in a telephone-tag situation.
Sometimes I feel that people really don’t WANT to communicate with others anymore.  It’s much easier to have a canned response or shoot out a text or email. The task has then been dealt with.  What happened to listening?  What happened to understanding?  What happened to responding with some real emotion such as “I’m sorry” or “I see what you mean” or “I care about what you’re going through?”
That’s it.  My rant for the day.  My point is this — let’s start listening to one another..
“He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame.”  Proverbs 18:13

Women are trash

I have your attention haven’t I. Now, before I get 12 million indignent comments . . . I, in fact, do not think women are trash. And I know no one else does either. Including, (maybe even especially) people who are not christian. So how then, did our society come to the point where it’s okay to say that men are trash? Why is okay to say that about men and not okay to say it about women? The answer should be obvious. It’s not okay at all.

Yet we have examples such as when Kavanaugh was being confirmed and T shirts sporting this phrase were worn with pride. And we were told in essence that equality meant no matter the circumstance women are to be believed over men. Really? What’s equal about that? Anyone with children (boy and a girl) knows that sisters are just as likely as brothers to fib on occasion.  It is the nature of Humans (Man-Kind) to have selfish tendencies. People everywhere throughout history are capable of great love and great hate. We are equally foul-able.

Yes, women should have the right to vote, and work, and have the same opportunity as men do. But if we as women get there by tearing men down; then we’ve achieved nothing more than turning back time and showing the world how hateful we can be.  Today’s women have hated everything about men, we’ve even come up with the term ‘mansplaining’. Let me reverse that as well. What if there were a term ‘womansplaining’? Wouldn’t we find it offensive and immediately accuse men of sexism and trying to hold women back? Again if it’s not okay for them to say, why is it okay for us? It’s not.

Even as recently as last week there was a story in the news about how masculinity is now seen as toxic. The American Psychological Association (APA) has informed us as a Nation that traditional masculinity is toxic. So now, to be in essence what defines men is harmful?? Really? Now simply to be born male you are wrong, harmful, toxic. How sad for our sons, for our brothers, and our fathers. How sad for the men serving and who have served in our military. What a slap in the face that is to our policemen, firemen, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, linemen, truckers . . . and more.

Let me reverse this now too. To be feminine is toxic. To be female is harmful and dangerous to society. Those statements are (of course) false and not okay. Therefore, it is not, and should not, be okay to say the same of men. To be born female means we have different hormones, varying anatomy and even, it seems, different thought processes and ways of handling emotions. To be feminine means the traditional nurturing and also the modern loving and strong. In the same way, to be masculine is to want to provide for loved ones, to protect and encourage.

I am not a “girly girl”. For me feeling pretty is when I have an awesome T-shirt and great looking jeans. Today men can enjoy a Mani-pedi and not be judged for it. We can be modern women and allow our men to be modern men without tearing them down. Isn’t equality expecting the same out of each other? Shouldn’t we equally encourage, support and love each other?

Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Ladies God put us (all) here to cooperate with each other. Today we call it team work. And when we do things right, it’s a beautiful thing.

Proverbs 3:14-16 . . . for she is more profitable than silver, and her gain is better than fine gold.  She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.…

Here’s a call to be an honorable kind of woman that upholds goodness and shows grace. The kind of woman that loves without measure and keeps wisdom by her side. The kind of woman that teaches strength and holds firm in her virtues. The kind of woman that treats men as she would like to be treated.

 

God’s Book of Proverbs – Book Review

I just received our latest book in the mail and am already excited about reading it.  Lifeway Publishing has taken the books and verses in Proverbs and arranged them by topic.  What a great idea.  It makes it easy ti find a particular reference when you need it.  All of the many categories are arranged alphabetically and are easy to locate in either the index or by thumbing through the pages.

The quotes are from the CSB version of the Bible and there is an introduction by Trevin Wax, a biblical and reference publisher.  It also has a page that you can use if you wish to give this book as a gift.

I give this book 5 stars, that is right, this is a necessity for all Christian libraries.

 

You can purchased the book at:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/god-s-book-of-proverbs-P005799586

A Continual Feast

All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.  Proverbs 15:15

This verse made me think about the things that oppress me.  That would include sin, worry, fear, loneliness.   According to Scripture, God has released me from these things.  Here are some of the verses that are important to remember when I am depressed about my sin, my future and my present problems.  (Note in some translations, be cheerful is translated as “take heart.”)

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying ‘Take heart;  it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  Matthew 14:27

Here Jesus is speaking to the disciples who are terrified because a storm is threatening to swamp their boat.  He reassures them:  you’re not alone;  you don’t have to fear.  I’m with you, and I am in control.  God is in control of our circumstances as well.  He’s always with us.  We can be cheerful!

“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son;  your sins are forgiven.'” Matthew 9:2

Jesus heals the paralytic but even better than that He forgives his sins.  He has already forgiven our sins, as well, through His sacrifice and death.  We can be cheerful!

Because of all these things God has already done, we can have a continual feast.  Our hearts can be at rest;  we can celebrate with others; we can share the good news, as well as good food.  We can nourish those around us physically and spiritually.  There’s plenty of cheer to spread around.  There’s no excuse to miss this feast, although some try to beg off because they are too busy attending to worldly cares. (see the Parable of the Great Banquet in Chapter 14 of Luke).

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“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of these men who were invited shall taste of my banquet.”  Luke 14:23-24

The feast is ready.  You’re invited.  You’ll be fed and forgiven, nourished and nurtured.  Don’t stay our in the cold.  Don’t be oppressed or alone.  Jesus is waiting for you at His banquet.  It’s a continual feast.

The Power of Words

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Proverbs 15:1

Words can hurt, humiliate and anger;  or they can encourage, soothe and inspire.  Our words should be used carefully because they can make or break a relationship.  Once spoken, they can’t be called back or changed.

I thought I would tell you a true story about how someone I know used his words wisely.  His name is Gary.  He and his family moved from Kansas to Maryland and began attending our church.  Our daughters became friends with his daughters, and soon our families were spending a good deal of time together.

After they had been in Maryland for a while, Gary and his family moved to a house that was divided into two apartments.  The first day they lived there, Gary saw his new neighbor drive up, so he went out to introduce himself.  Well, imagine his surprise when the first words out of this fellow’s mouth were curses, and his basic message was “leave me alone, I have no interest in you!”  How would you respond to that?  I’m pretty sure I would just cringe and creep away, hoping to avoid this person forever!  I think plenty of other people would be angry and tell that jerk exactly what they thought of his rude behavior.  Neither response would lead to any kind of neighborly relationship at all.

Can you guess what Gary said?  “Gee, you must have had an awful day to be acting like this.”  He and his neighbor actually became friends, or at least friendly.  His gentle and caring answer turned away wrath.  This situation taught me a lot about the power of words and the value not speaking impulsively (of course, I don’t always manage to do it.)

Here’s something the Bible says about our speech:

“I tell you, on the day of judgement men will render account for every careless word they utter;  for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  Matthew 12:36-37

That’s a pretty sobering thought. You can not only end a relationship with harsh words,  you can help someone out and at the same time put them down and criticize them.  Do you love others with your words as well as your deeds?

 

Iron Sharp

This article was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador and also reprinted with permission in The Lutheran Digest.

The book of Proverbs tells us:

A friend loves at all times.”

It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t want that kind of acceptance, isn’t it?  Yet recent studies reveal that 25 percent of Americans have no close friends at all;  another 19 percent have only one confidante (usually their spouse);  and that these unfortunate trends have been increasing over the past 20 years.

A good friend can be an important element in our spiritual life and development.  Now, by good friend I don’t mean the kind of friendly acquaintance with whom we share some common interests or activities.  A true soul friend knows us and accepts us as we really are.  We are honest and vulnerable with them.  We trust them to hear our confessions and keep our confidences.  They love us no matter what, and they always point us toward Jesus.

David found such a friend in Jonathan, who “helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16).  One author says, these are the friends who make us “run hard after God.”

I have been blessed by a number of spiritual friendships, including a long-lasting relationship with my college roommate, Nancy.  We don’t see each other very often because we are busy people who no longer share a room or go to classes together.  We stay in touch by writing letters and sending emails.  Once or twice a year, we meet at a church about midway between our homes.

We bring our lunch and eat together.  We pray.  We share our experiences.  We talk openly about our families, our problems, our joys and our struggles.  Nancy rarely tells me what she thinks I should do,  Instead she asks me to consider what God would have me do.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Nancy sharpens my awareness of God.  Meeting with her and writing to her becomes a spiritual practice, a life-giving activity that helps me notice how God is working in my life.

Some spiritual friendships, like my friendship with Nancy, just seem to evolve and deepen over time.  When this happens, it’s a bit of God’s grace.  Give thanks if you already have this blessing!  However, we can also be intentional in our pursuit of sould friends.

If you do not have such a friend, pray about it and see who God brings across your path.  You might start by asking someone you know and trust to become a prayer partner.  Meet regularly, share concerns, pray with each other and for each other.  You will be amazed to find your friendship drawing you closer to your true self, closer to other Christians, and closer to God.

Take Time to Laugh

Happy Reformation Day!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Proverbs 17:22

It’s a little strange that I’m the one pointing this out, since my side of the family is often teased for being rather glum and pessimistic.  Anyway, I just want to say, sometimes it’s good to laugh — laughing at ourselves, the world, life and whatever crazy situation we find ourselves in. Lutherans love to laugh at themselves and  the third Chapter of Ecclesiastes, which Leslie has been posting on, also tells us that there is “a time to laugh.”

Laughter is actually good for your health as well as your mood.  Here are some of the benefits I found on: http://www.organicfacts.net:

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Remembering Old Friends

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17

I was recently looking some old file folders with information I kept about Via de Cristo.  It reminded me of many of the people with whom I served on retreat teams, met in small groups, planned activities and served the Lord.  Many of these folks were part of my church family.  It was a busy and productive season of my life.  Now I go to another church, where my husband is the Pastor.  I’m still in touch with some of those friends, but others have moved or just moved on.  Life changes.

However, thinking about them reminds me of how influential our friends are in encouraging us in our Christian walk.  Being in an accountability group (Via de Cristo calls them reunion groups) makes it harder to procrastinate or slack off in our spiritual disciplines.  Having a close group of friends to help you when you have an idea you’d like to try (like this blog) is encouraging, too.  There are so many things I’ve done that I would never have dared try without my friends.  There are so many insights I would have missed without them there to notice and tell me.  My friends gave me confidence;  they prayed for me;  they loved me and supported me even when I messed up. They were God’s gift to me.

So today I am remembering and give thanks for all my friends, old and new:  for the things they have to teach me and the many ways they help me in my Christian journey.  Don’t be a lone ranger Christian.  Take friends with you wherever you walk.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow;  but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.  Again, if two lie together, they are warm;  how can one be warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him.  A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

 

At All Times

“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

I was a little upset with a friend a few days ago.  Do you know what terrible sin she committed?  She didn’t agree with me, and she told me she didn’t. Now I certainly wasn’t furious.  But I was hurt. I got defensive.  I felt frustrated.  I didn’t see why she couldn’t “get” my position.  I don’t like conflict, and even this minor disagreement made me feel out of sorts for the rest of the day.  Sunday of all days.  How annoying.

This morning I remembered this verse and I got over myself.  You see, the Bible tells us to love our friends at ALL times.  Not just when they’re supporting us.  Not just when they’re behaving the way we think they should. Not just when they follow our advice.  Not just when they AGREE with us.  So I wrote my friend a note. I still don’t agree with her, but  I told her I cared about her and valued our friendship (I do).  I told her I appreciated all that she does for me and our community (I do).  I realized that loving each other doesn’t depend upon complete agreement.

Here’s the bigger lesson in all this.  In John 15:15 Jesus says,

“No longer do I call you servants….but I have called you friends.”

Jesus is my friend, and he loves me at all times.  Not just when I am being “good.”  Not just when I’m paying attention to Him.  Not just when I’m praying or praising Him, but all the time.  I‘ll fall down and disappoint my friends.  I’ll get annoyed and say angry words without thinking.  I’ll be inconsistent and bull-headed.  Jesus won’t do any of those things.  He is my one constant, yesterday, today and forever.  And He is my friend.  How wonderful is that!  What does He ask in return?  Just this:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:  just as I have loved you,  you are also to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 12:34

What does this loving friendship look like?

“Love is patient and kind;  love does not envy or boast;  it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

If Jesus is my friend who loves me at all times, shouldn’t I try to be the same kind of friend to others?

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Live at Peace/Tame Your Tongue

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