Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Denver Interlude and Holiday Plans

A recent trip to Florida for meetings offered me the chance to stop and spend time in Colorado, my old stomping ground, on the way home. There I did for the first time something I've been doing for almost 20 years on trips to Washington - I set up about a dozen appointments for lunch, dinner, or coffee as a means of strengthening relationships with supporters and significant friends. It's the first time I've made a trip like that to Colorado, though, in the two years since I moved away.

The family I invited myself to stay with (!) seemed a little bemused by this process... it being, I suppose, an unusual one. I'd been doing this for so many years I'd sort of forgotten how much our culture has shifted and how busy people's lives have become. Making time to get together with a friend - one with whom your paths might not naturally cross - is a luxury many cannot afford.

I'm glad - grateful - that it's actually part of my job to do this. It's one of the best ways folks who follow this full-time ministry lifestyle can ensure they are not forgotten but still have relationships back "home" (and hopefully prayer and financial support when that is needed as well).

During the several days I spent in Denver, I ran into and/or remembered others I'd love to catch up with, too. From that vantage point, continuing the process seemed do-able. Now that I'm back in Oregon, with all the responsibilities for work, house, family, and school settling back around my shoulders, I have a harder time picturing myself do this. I haven't even returned messages received from some of those I began to pursue but was not able to see.

One person I met with is a good friend who is single, and who as we spoke alluded to the awkwardness she feels about this week's Thanksgiving holiday. It hasn't been that long; how could I have forgotten what it's like to be single on Thanksgiving? Wondering where you will go, who will invite you and when... the delicate process of answering the inquiries of others when you are not sure they are about to extend an offer or, not interested in accepting it!

The question would come up at church or the office: "What are you doing for Thanksgiving? You'd be welcome to join us if you have no other place to go!" Usually I received several offers on those unflattering terms. Maybe I could go one place for dinner, and drop in elsewhere for pie and coffee? Would that be too weird? Would I feel like the pathetic add-on person and wish I'd skipped the whole thing and just stayed home?

My marriage has generally made my life more complicated, but it does simplify and answer the question of who I'll be with on the holidays. This year's Thanksgiving feast is conveniently close - as will be, I imagine, every holiday that we stay in Eugene. No need to go over the river or through the woods: Grandma Wade lives less than ten blocks away.

I'm a little more bent toward variety than tradition, but tradition wins this time. And I'll include some of my own favorite traditions though they differ from those of my new family. I'll make pumpkin pie from scratch and watch the Macy's parade. And this year I'll try to practice an unholiday-like moderation, as well, as I continue to diet. The pounds and inches are not melting off very quickly, I admit. But I do feel better and am managing to keep the doctor's orders fairly well. When I go see her again next year, I hope there will be less of me.

Restraint has an appeal all its own. It offers a simplicity and clarity which feasting cannot offer. This time of year I often think of my first Thanksgiving in Eugene way back in college days, which began with the usual feast but was followed by three days of ramen and apple slices. I suppose that even that year, the Wade family was gathered almost ten miles north of me in the big house where we'll go this Thursday.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Ministry of Listening - latest finds

Got a few more items for my public file of research and ideas about the ministry of listening:

1. First, from a blogging pastor/writer:
The Most Important Skill of a Disciple Maker

Few skills are more important in life and more underestimated than the skills of listening.

Most people don’t even recognize listening as a skill. It is; and it is a proficiency we can improve with practice. Listening skills can help us in our marriage and in our relationships with our children. Better listening skills can help us be a better boss or a more effective employee. Most of us could enhance our friendships with improved listening skills. And, listening is the most important skill a Christian can have who wishes to help others become better disciples of Jesus Christ.

...If an individual really wants to help another grow in Christ, active listening is the number one skill needed.


(I think this concept could easily be broadened to apply to any type of coaching. Only by really listening to the student or disciple can the coach or discipler give the most meaningful, appropriate input.)
 2. Something I heard about through Joel News (reporting on a similar initiative in Amsterdam).
Underheard in New York

Underheard in New York is an initiative in which four homeless men in New York were given mobile phones and Twitter accounts so they could share their daily lives with others. This led to amazing encounters and changes in their situation.

Watch a video about Underheard in New York >
3. A bit of Bible study I picked up from a workshop at Missions Fest Seattle:
Listening Like Jesus

There are so many strategies and models for communicating the gospel. But is there a missing ingredient in our presentations? Do we give enough consideration to the question, is anybody listening? And if so, do they understand anything we've had to say? After all, who gets to say whether we clearly presented anything - the presenter, or their supposed audience? Again, a principle that probably applies to much more communication than just evangelism. But let's listen in on Jesus and a take a look at a few of his notable encounters, especially in the book of John. 

Take a look at the verbs used to describe the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Some versions translate all of these more simply to "said," but the word used in the highlighted phrases is one doesn't mean just talking, but responding after listening based on perception and evaluation of what has been said:
  • John 3:2 This man came to him by night and said to him...
  • John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him...
  • John 3:4 Nicodemus said...
  • John 3:5 Jesus answered...
  • John 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said to him...
  • John 3:10 Jesus answered and said to him...
Could it be that really engaging in a listening conversation had to proceed the "sermon" of John 3:10-21? We see a similar pattern in how John describes the encounter Jesus has with the woman at the well:
  • John 4:7 Jesus said to her...
  • John 4:9 The Samaritan woman therefore said to him...
  • John 4: 10 Jesus answered and said to her...
  • John 4:11 She said to him...
  • John 4:13 Jesus answered and said to her...
  • John 4:15 The woman said to him...
  • John 4:16 He said to her...
  • John 4:17 The woman answered and said...
Such language is also used in John 9 as well as Luke 5:22 and 6:3.

Answering like Jesus, the workshop presenter proposed, requires listening like Jesus... not looking for a chance to say your piece, but being ready to give a response to a situation or what others are saying or thinking (1 Peter 3:15, Col. 4:5-6).
4. Finally, if you are a person who prays, you might lift up my friend Shane and some folks he'll be working with in Cologne, Germany, as they go out and listen to immigrants in the next week or so. Very much along the lines of what we did this summer, which I described in A Fresh Look at Exploring the Land.