Whenever we tell stories, we make decisions about where to start the story and where to end it; and depending on the start and the finish, we give power to different aspects of the story. One example is the story of Sam Cerio. Sam, like our high school graduates here, recently graduated from Auburn University with a degree in aerospace engineering. She’s about to start a career as a structural design analyst at Boeing and this week, with tears in her eyes, walked down the aisle to marry her fiancé. Sounds like your average fairytale, doesn’t it? A bright woman with a promising future. But the story sounds different if I back up two months and tell you that in April while Sam was competing at the NCAA regional semifinals as a gymnast, she dislocated both of her knees, tearing many of the ligaments. At her graduation ceremony she hobbled across the stage on crutches to get her diploma, and her one goal was to be able to walk down the aisle at her own wedding, just two months later. Sam’s tears weren’t just about the emotion of getting married, but also her courage and determination to walk again and to do so on her wedding day.Read More
If you have ever played “Simon Says,” raise your hand. Great. Let’s try it. Is everyone willing to give it a shot?
Simon Says, touch your nose.
Simon says, pull your ear.
How many are still in? Wow! You are all good at this game! I think we’ll stop before the bitter end! What’s the biggest disappointment in Simon Says? Getting out. Or, maybe even worse, when you don’t think you got out, but someone insists that you did.
A few minutes ago we handed our 3rd Graders their first grown up Bibles. 3rd Graders, raise your hands so I can see you. There you are! I want you to promise me that you will never play Simon Says with your Bibles. Do you know what I mean by that?
Here’s the thing. Sometimes we are tempted to read the Bible to find out “who’s in.” Who does God love most? How can I be assured that God is on my side? And then we use the Bible to tell other people that God is my God and not necessarily yours. Please don’t do that.Read More
Former actor, humorist and social commentator Will Rogers once said, “Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.”
Of course politicians are not the only people prone to being bad listeners. As Pastor Leah asked in the title of her article in the May Courier, “Is listening becoming a lost art?”
It does seem that finding a good listener is an increasingly rare gift. Perhaps that explains why there is such a growing need for therapists and counselors who spend the bulk of their time being paid to listen. As a little plaque that sits in my office where I do my work as a therapist puts it, “A good therapist is one who lets their clients talk themselves out.”
But good listening involves more than simply letting someone else talk.There are many aspects to being a good and compassionate listener.When we turn to our Scripture readings this morning we can find in our God an example from whom we can learn to become compassionate listeners.Read More
This past week we had a Compassionate Listening workshop that Rev. Alison Hendley led. We offered it because so many of you, in response to what we’ve learned about adverse childhood experiences and trauma, expressed that you wanted some resources of how to be a good listener. In the reading from Job just now, you heard two men who were talking past each other. You heard the repeated words, “Listen to me. Be silent. I will tell you...” Each man is trying desperately to be heard by the other one, and neither of them is listening to the other. If we go back a few chapters, however, we get just a glimpse of something entirely different. At the very beginning of Job’s struggles, when he has lost everything in his life, his friends actually do something quite amazing:
“When Job’s friends saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”
Wow. What great friends. They show up for him in his time of need; they express anger and grief at his loss; and then they sit with him where he’s at—on the ground— for an entire week without saying a word.Read More