Monday, February 22, 2010

The Relationship Between Prayer and Listening to Others

A listener, in an intimate relationship with God, will find it easier to adopt a loving regard toward others. Their listening becomes a channel of God's love as it flows out to others from the Source within. Jesus promised that from us would flow rivers of living water when His Spirit took up residence in us. He is the ultimate source of love, even for those who are not aware of that source.

The person who learns to listen to God becomes an effective listener as this skill is applied in listening to others. It flows from a nourishing prayer life. Our inner life through prayer is nourished by God’s love. With hearts enlarged by His love, born in us is a desire to share this love. It is not that love is required from us, but because the nature of love is to give. When Jesus said that we were to love one another, it was not so much a demand He was imposing but rather a result He knew would emerge as a byproduct of His love permeating our lives.

The attitude of the listener is not that of a master or even a mentor, but rather that found in a friendship engendering mutual encouragement. It looks like the old adage of one beggar helping another beggar find bread.

As listeners we may ask ourselves the question, "Am I really capable of listening to the deepest needs of another person?" The answer will be "No," but the God who by His Spirit lives in us is capable. He can hone our listening skills. This is why it is so essential that we seek to remain attuned to Him. Prayer is for us a gift but it is also a necessary resource in our accompaniment toolkit.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Coming Home

We settled into our retirement home after nearly thirty years of wandering the globe. Condominium living frees us from shoveling snow or weeding gardens. As, in summer, we gaze out our windows at manicured lawn and flower gardens, and the waves dancing on the bay across the street, we are living our dream. In winter, we see the walks and parking lot all shoveled and salted, without any effort on our part.

Coming home to a place where we spent many happy years enables us to nurture friendships we valued as young adults. Over the years we fell into and out of each other’s lives, moving from one place to another, always exchanging greetings at Christmas and getting together whenever our paths crossed in the same city. In spite of geographical separations, our hearts remained attuned to one another. Now we can call and meet for coffee, on a whim or decide at dinnertime to take in a movie together the same evening. What a treat!

Along with the joy of long standing friendships comes profound healing of broken relationships. Occasional visits provided insufficient opportunities to get together with a couple alienated from us, through misunderstanding. We could not invite them over for coffee or a meal to try to begin to build the trust that unfortunate circumstances eroded. Now we are home and free to invite them into our hearts again. We have the time to make amends for whatever split us apart on that day long ago.

“How will I feel leaving my children behind, to return to the place we all called home,” I wondered. Yet where they are in their own journeys, they cannot come home just now. Even that somehow seems right. They need the space to create their own lives and make their own homes, so when they come to ours, they need not assume a role that no longer fits them. When we left and busyness prevented them lingering for lengthy farewells, we knew they had taken wings and were living their own adult independent lives. That was what we raised them to do.

Coming home is a comforting concept in my imagination. We return to the place where dreams began, where hope was palpable and where love was the atmosphere that nourished us.

In the intervening years many early dreams shattered, subsequently replaced by dreams we would never have anticipated. Over time, hope has been buffeted and almost extinguished, yet it bravely continues to face each new dawn. Love has matured from a secure refuge to a giddy feeling finally metamorphosing into a deep commitment that holds steady when we find everything else brought into question.

Coming home is much more that physically relocating Coming home is finding again the place where my heart and my mind are attuned with who I am and where I am. With the Apostle Paul, I can say, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation….” (Philippians 4: 12 NIV) When I know Whose I am, I am home, wherever I am.