Listen Up!

Posted on July 22, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

When I was in elementary school, I got pegged to train in ‘Peer Mediation.’ It was a program where students who were having an argument of some type could settle their disputes by attending (usually by adult threat of force) a mediation session counseled by two unbiased (in theory) students. If it sounds nerdy, that’s because it was from the same teachers that thought DARE would keep kids from trying drugs. But one thing they hammered in training was this: listen. Conversations will naturally produce talking, but you have to actively listen to the other party if you want a relationship.

I’d say most of us want a relationship with God, but how many of us actively listen to Him? Probably not many, but why is that?

John 10:27 says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” One reason we don’t listen to God might be because we don’t know what God ‘sounds’ like. When we think of God talking, I think most of us return to the story of Moses talking with the bush that was on fire but did not burn. I also think about Jacob wrestling with God – I would imagine it’s pretty easy to listen to God when he’s putting you in an arm bar. But I came across this verse this week that really spoke to me:

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Too often I think we’re focused on dodging falling boulders, putting out fires, or as my husband would say, playing whack-a-mole with the alligator closest to the boat. As a result, we never tune out life’s cacophony to hear what we claim we want to hear and certainly what we need to hear.

The other reason I think we don’t hear God: we’re too busy talking to Him. My pastor recently said that he spends 95% of his prayer time just listening…Obviously, he’s a man. I think it’s difficult for anyone to just listen, but extra hard for a woman. I read once that men on average use 7,000 words a day while women use 21,000. Sounds about right.

It’s easy to become too focused on telling God all about my needs, desires, even thanking Him for what He has provided me. As a result, I forget there’s someone else I need to yield the conversation to. I actually wondered, would God ever try to interrupt me if He had something He needed to say? Then it occurred me, it’s more likely that I’ve interrupted Him when there was something He wanted to say. There’s a sobering thought for how I’ve treated the creator of the universe.

So, who would have thought after all this time that my Peer Mediation training would turn out to be useful and remind me I need to focus a little more on listening in order to grow my relationship with God. I may not get to the 95% point, but at least I’ll be more successful than DARE – will you?

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Poor Pilate?

Posted on April 8, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Since it is Easter-time, I’ve been spending my time preparing for the big day by doing the usual ‘pre-Easter’ activities like filling plastic eggs full of goodies, reading the accounts of the crucifixion, and wondering how on earth anyone could possibly like Peeps. Gross.

This time around, I was drawn to Pontius Pilate. I suppose I’ve always seen him as a villain in the story. After all, he is the one who ordered Christ to be crucified. But this year, I realized something different about Pilate:

Three separate times he appealed to the Jews that he found no grounds for the death penalty (Luke 23:22). He tried to convince them to try Jesus by Jewish religious law rather than Caesar’s (John 18:31). He tried to avoid having to make a decision himself by sending Jesus to Herod (Jesus was from Galilee, which was in Herod’s jurisdiction) (Luke 23:7). He suggested a lighter sentence (flogging) to appease the thirst for blood, rather than a crucifixion (Luke 23:16). He tried to convince Jesus to defend himself against his accusers (Mark 15: 3). And finally, he put Jesus up against a known trouble-maker and murderer, Barabbas, for the annual Passover prisoner  release (John 18:40). Presumably, he thought the Jews would choose Jesus over a scum bag.

I don’t know why, but I never noticed how much Pilate did to avoid killing Jesus, or at least avoid killing Jesus himself. It’s pretty clear this was something he didn’t want to do, though it’s not clear why. Perhaps he was a softy and didn’t like the idea of flogging and crucifying an innocent man. Or, perhaps he was afraid that he actually was killing the Son of God. After all, his wife tried to warn him against harming Jesus, and we all know wives are always right (Mat 27:19).

John’s account claims that Pilate was ‘afraid’ when he heard Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Upon hearing it, he spoke to Jesus and “from then on tried to set Jesus free” (John 19: 12). Ultimately, we know he conceded to the power of the angry mob, but not before he claimed to be personally innocent of Christ’s blood  (Mat 27: 24).

While I’m still not on Team Pilate, re-reading all of this gives me more empathy for the man. After all, aren’t we all guilty of doing the same thing? Obviously, not too many of us argue with Jewish rabbis on a daily basis. But we all want to do the right thing and defend Christ, but we end up nailing him to a cross all over again.

Though Christians claim to know rather than fear Jesus is the Son of God, we behave the same way as the Roman governor. We avoid making tough decisions, try to take moral ‘short-cuts,’ defend our actions, absolve ourselves of responsibility, and ultimately try convincing others, ourselves and God that we are innocent, or at least justified. Like Pilate, when siding with Christ costs us something, friends, family, power, or even 2 seconds of ridicule, we decide the cost is too high and turn our backs. In this way, we are no different than the man who ordered his death, the soldiers who flogged and nailed him to the cross, or those, who at one point offered praise,but later hurled insults at Christ.

If you go back and re-read this story this weekend, I hope like me, you see yourself in the crucifixion account. It might make remembering why Christ died today a little more clear. It was because he loved his peeps. Not his Peeps.

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