Sermons

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Listening





Sometimes we extroverts appear to have some difficulty listening.  Actually, we do listen, but we don't always look like we are.  We listen with more than our ears - all our senses combine (using especially intuition, visual scanning including paying attention to body language, and nuanced auditory cues) to take in and classify/organize information.  We actively listen, nodding, asking for clarification, making noises of understanding or assent as someone talks.
Listening for God is a little different, a little more difficult.  We are not face to face with God, even if we may be face to face with one of God's people who carry God's messages; we can't use the visual cues and scan the universe in quite the same way as we can do at a party or in a one-to-one situation with someone.  Listening for God is similar, though, too, in that we are listening with the heart and probably need to take some time for further reflection after an encounter, which is true for live, in-person listening as well as spiritual listening.

I think I am about to embark on a time of particular listening and am wondering about how to do that listening.  Sometimes people go on silent retreats.  (This terrifies me.  I don't mind lots of silence but enforced silence for very long sounds like something that would make me crazy.  All you contemplative introverts can shake your heads sadly now.  But there it is.)  Some people walk the labyrinth or take long walks in the country or in the mountains or at the beach.  Some people engage in short but regular periods of silence (like centering prayer only with listening hearts turned on rather than focusing on resting in God's arms).  Some people call a spiritual friend or mentor to help talk things out/through.

Just in the same way I do with people, I like to use a combination of ways to listen for God.  Through people, through reading, through prayer, through silence, through concentrated action.  It is as if one's senses are all heightened, looking for a particular frequency into which one might tune oneself - tuning into the God channel, I guess. Being open to surprise, to revelation, to direction coming from way off-center.  Of course, this listening goes on all the time, but there are particular times in which one needs to be intentional about listening.  I believe one of those times is coming near.

How do you listen for God?  How do you know when the time has come for a particularly focused time of discernment?


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