Quick to listen

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“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… “ -James 1:19

Yesterday was a “slow to speak” day. Today, we’re going to practice moving to the next level: Quick to listen.

You might naturally be a quiet person—or have a lower “word count” in a day—but that doesn’t make you a good listener.

When we listen, we’re not waiting to interject our piece. We’re listening to understand a person.

  • their experience
  • their perspective  
  • their perception of reality
  • their hope for this conversation

Don’t be quietly arrogant. Your silence isn’t about proving a point. Your silence is about wisdom and human connection—valuing the other person, and listening for how you can best contribute to this point of connection.

Simple, not easy.

Also, this is the way of love.

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Slow to speak

In Uncategorized by benjamin

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… “ -James 1:19

Make today a “slow to speak” day.

I realize that’s going to be brutal for some, simple for others. But, either way, here’s how I want to encourage you to think about it:Be purposeful with your words.

You might be an out loud processor. But don’t use that as a cop-out to verbally vomit and be careless with your words. Pause and ask yourself, “is the right time to process?”

  • Is this the time?
  • Is this the person?
  • Is this the place?

    If yes, go for it!

If no, or if you’re not sure, hold off.

That said, some of us—I’m in this camp—use internal processing as a justification for withholding. We’re slow to speak, if we speak at all. The situation was begging for me to interject, be vulnerable, offer insight, admit my weakness… but I stayed silent.

“Slow to speak” means to be purposeful with you words, not to withhold them.

Slow down so that your words can be a gift—purposeful participation in the moment of human connection. After all, we’re in this thing together.

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Five and five

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Tomorrow I release an interview with Eric Boles on The Spirit Farm Podcast.(If you haven’t subscribed yet, do so now!)

In the interview, I ask Eric about his morning routine and how he stays so motivated and positive. His answer is great, but I found myself wrestling with the challenges of morning routines while having young children. Here’s how I’m thinking about it right now…

First five
I might only have five uninterrupted minutes in the morning before leaving the house. (That is, unless I want to wake up before 6am, which… I don’t.) So. I’m going make the most of those five minutes. I’m going breathe, pray, reflect, affirm… in rapid fire. 

Instead of telling myself, “I don’t have time… these crazy kids… it’s just a season…” I’m going to do what I know I can do. I’m going to focus my day in the first five minutes. 

Then, I know I’m going to have at least five more minutes when I’m driving. 

Drive five 
When I get into my car I resist the temptation to turn on the radio (not much of a temptation) or a podcast (big temptation). I take the first five minutes of my drive time to make sure I covered the appropriate bases in my time earlier in the day. 

Did I think about my goals?
Did I elevate my emotions? 
Did I invite God into my day? 

Five and five. More is better, but some is a start. And you have to start to start. 

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Siri Shortcut

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I just created a shortcut for Siri that opens up one particular note in my Evernote App. 

“Siri, open Morning Routine”—and it opens. I look at this note almost every morning to start my day, but that’s another story. 

I guess that the most positive spin on Siri is in relation to the Invisible Spirit of God. The Spirit is not going to give you a weather report, but “Spirit” can certainly simplify your life. 

What if the first thing you did when you…

  • woke up
  • hit a challenge
  • felt pain
  • experienced discouragement

… was to say, “Spirit, a little help here”? 

I find that my factory programming reacts a bit differently—defensive, aggressive, selfish, fearful. But in moments where I pause and, before reacting, call on the Spirit–who is always available and everywhere–and invite God to inform my interpretations and responses… things go better. 

“Spirit… let’s figure this out together.” 

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” —Jesus (John 14:26)

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Waiting for ferries

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Hilary’s dad lives on an island in Western Washington. It’s a beautiful place, but there is only one way on and off—and that’s by boat. 

When we went to visit, we had to wait in a short line, pay $20, then file onto a ferry to get across the Sound to the island. The ferry only makes the trip a few times a day, so if you live on the island, your life revolves around the timing of the ferry. 

Forget to buy sugar at the store? Too bad—no cookies tonight. (It’d be a 3-hour sugar trip! And that’s if you haven’t missed the last ferry of the day.)

On the surface it seems like a terrible inconvenience. And I felt a bit inconvenienced as I waited on both ends of the ferry. But… upon further consideration, perhaps the larger lesson is that I live my life in too big a hurry. 

There’s something beautiful about living where you want to live despite the dramatic decline of pace and convenience. (Perhaps because of…)

Pace is often mistaken for purpose. But I know a lot of really busy people who don’t accomplish much of significance. 

Are you in a hurry today? Is it worth it? 

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Love’s invitation

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“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” -Jesus (John 13:34)

As Jesus is wrapping up in life on earth, He’s imparting to His followers “the main thing.” 

One of the many things to appreciate about Jesus is that He kept it simple. Sure, His wisdom is other worldly and we only see and hear in part. But, at the same time, He was alway breaking it down—especially for His inner circle. We have the benefit of reading what they heard, first-hand. 

“A new command.”

That means that there were old commands. In fact, Jesus affirmed the old commands—old testament—and then said the most important part of all of the Jewish teachings was this:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” -Jesus (Mark 12:29-31)

Jesus summed up all the Law and all the religious teachings in two sentences. 

Then… Later…

Jesus simplifies it further:

Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

In other words (my words),

“You’re loving me as you love each other, so just focus on loving each other and we’re good.” 

Life = simple
Not easy, but simple. 

So, let’s ask ourselves today: What does love require? 

What does love require of you in that painful situation? 
What does love require in that dilemma? 
What does love require in that opportunity? 

What does love require? 

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Doorways

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“Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.” -Jesus (Mark 6:10)

I don’t know why Jesus told His followers to stay in one house when they visited a town. Perhaps it was simply a matter of respect. The family welcomed them, so don’t be perpetually looking for fancier hosts and more comfortable accommodations. Be thankful, stay put, focus on the work. 

No matter…

Reading that verse recently made me think of something I read in a book by a guy named Brendon Burchard. He said that when he walks into a room, he uses the doorway as a trigger, reminding himself to be himself and add as much value in the room as possible. 

So… let’s say that you’re walking into your home. What if you used the doorframe to frame your state of mind: “I’m going bring the best I have to my family right now.”

When you walk into a boardroom: “I’m going to be myself and bring the best of me for the good of the whole.” 

When you walk into the gym: “I’m going work hard and push myself, while not being a selfish jerk to my fellow fitness enthusiasts.” 

Every time you walk through a doorway, let that be a reminder to you. 

Be you. 
Be your best you. 
Bring what matters and make the most of the present moment. 

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Wet firewood

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It rains a lot in Western Washington. And it’s cold in the winter. So if you visit around Christmas, like we recently did, you’ll be building fires and sitting with blankets.

And when you’re building a fire, you’ll want to make sure you use dry logs, because when they are wet, they are difficult to burn. You don’t want to find yourself wasting time and energy trying to burn soaked lumber, using up all your paper and cardboard in fruitless attempts to warm the cabin, furthering your reputation as a city kid.

I wonder if you’re trying light a fire with wet logs. Is there a struggle you’re engaged in that’s hopeless? Have you been clinging to the thing out of pride, desperation, or some misguided sense of responsibility? Are you banging you head against a locked door?

There’s a difference between an obstacle and a locked door. You can breakthrough barriers and obstacles with strategy and perseverance. But some doors are locked so that you have to find a different door. Yet some of us keep ramming our heads or burning matches to the nubs out of pride and the “comfort” of stilling with our hopeless problem. Believe it or not, we can become hooked on our problem or struggle because it’s the devil we know and we’re afraid to give it up. The false sense of purpose has us trapped in a struggle cycle.  

Maybe it’s time to get new wood or try a different door.

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Church Everyday

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“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” -Jesus (Matthew 18:20)

A lot of people are really concerned about declining church attendance in America. I’m not one of them. 
Even when I was leading a growing church—with a budget that relied on growth in attendance and giving—I refused to make anyone feel pressured to attend or to give. Why? Two reasons:

  1. We show up and invest our resources when we believe in what’s happening. 
  2. The Sunday expression of church, organized as a 501c3 (with any variety of brands)—with standing, singing, sitting, listening—is not, in itself, sacred. 

What’s sacred is every single moment that you realize that God is with you. 
Everything is sacred! Everything is spiritual. God is with you and everywhere. 
Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” —Jesus (John 4:21-24)
Going to church on Sunday is great, and I hope you do it. It’s helpful for connecting in community, receiving encouragement, and expressing yourself in love to God. But don’t be confused. Spirit is everywhere. 
Thus, “church” happens anytime two or three people gather with the intent of being aligned with Jesus. If you’re encouraging someone to be who they were designed to be, you’re participating in church. If you’re in an exercise class and honing the gift of your physical “temple” with others who appreciate the gift of their health, you’re being church. When you surf with like-minded friends, appreciating creation in all its rhythmic splendor, it’s as “spiritual” as anything else you can do in a week. And when you get coffee with a close friend or offer counsel to a struggling co-journeyer, you’re welcoming God on earth. 
Going to church is awesome. Let’s still do that—whatever the form. But being church–loving one another everyday, and staying connected to Spirit–that’s the essence of the good, full, and abundant life.  

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Church vs Kingdom

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“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.'” -Jesus (Matthew 10:7)

Another place this verse is translated, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Look at your hand. It’s physical, material, real. You shake other hands with it; work with it; serve with it.

The kingdom of God/heaven is as close as your hand. And it comes through your hands, and hands like yours.

One way the kingdom organizes its efforts is through “church.” Church, then, is like the “hands and feet” of God. The kingdom is the invisible becoming more visible.

Jesus barely mentions church, but he referred to “the kingdom” constantly. As if He was interested in introducing the authority, business, and way of God here on earth. The church gathers—in all kinds of ways—to remind people to be about the brining of the kingdom to earth.

We can’t let our divisions of church (501c3 orgs with endless brands) get in the way of collectively bringing the Kingdom to earth. We are people of a new way… the life and priorities of Jesus, springing up right here in the middle of self-serving, smaller kingdoms of this world. His is an upside-down, others-first, kingdom of humility and sacrifice.

The kingdom of Jesus draws crosses and doesn’t have time for categories.

The kingdom of Jesus gets its hands dirty, reaching for the hopeless and hurting.

The kingdom of Jesus hosts feasts for sinners and outsiders, sometimes bumping the prideful religious to a backseat.

The kingdom of Jesus has a King who stands on his balcony, looking to see when his wandering sons and daughters will return home.

The church helps us organize in practical ways. The kingdom is reflective of a KING still bringing His gentle rule to a self-interested people prone to mis the point.

And this kingdom is as close as your hand.

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