Ears to Hear … May 29, 2013


Lakeview UMCDo you know what the problem is with talking? It’s fairly important that you make sense,  don’t speak too long and bore people. That’s not easy.

Sometimes I wish I could just write and not do public speaking–simply because the possibility of me going haywire on my logic or becoming long-winded looms heavy. Matter of fact, sometimes I am reluctant to sing the second verse of a song because I fear I’ve lost the attention of the audience.
I will admit that it’s an insecurity. But I think it’s a good one.

There is just too much talking in our society. And to make sure that nobody else gets a word in edgewise, public speakers insert delays, “a-a-a-h-h-s,” and “u-u-m-m-m-s” just to maintain the podium while they try to figure out the next thing they want to say. It’s really ugly.

The only time to continue to share your thoughts is when you KNOW there are ears which are actually hearing. That would eliminate about 60% of political speeches and an equivalent number of sermons.

Matter of fact, when Jesus wanted to make it abundantly evident that he was saying something really valuable, he led off with, “Verily, verily, I say unto you …” He would often end that same passage with, “He that has an ear, let him hear.”

I’m desperately trying to only talk about things that are important. Sometimes that’s just being silly.  Yes, it is very, very essential that we be silly.  But I know this. Three things should be accomplished in the process of speaking your mind:

1. Never pontificate your points unless you’re ready to receive information that elaborates on your issue or even contradicts your assertion. There’s nothing worse than someone who gets caught in a mistake but continues to preach the same message even though it’s been proven to be erred.

2. Update your proclamations by including evidence that YOU find. I suppose if you read all the jonathots I’ve written since I began, you might find contradictions. They aren’t really contradictions. They are holy findings and realizations that have enlightened my original opinion with mercy and wisdom. It is not flip-flopping to move toward truth. It is stupid when you don’t.

3. And finally, the most important thing to remember when speaking is to convey that you are open. Every little piece of dialogue shared that shuts out another human being, puts God in a box, or forbids creative expression will have to be eliminated eventually–and replaced with openness.

So as I head off tonight to Lakeview United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, I must realize that these folks don’t OWE me an ear to hear. Lakeview signAs a matter of fact, many will arrive and try to discern me on face value, tainting their own potential for receiving. But as long as I am ready to receive from them, find out new ways to communicate, and stay open, my time of words and thoughts will carry some gravitas.

I don’t know everything. I wouldn’t want to know everything–because it would make life tedious. And I do know this–the knowledge I possess needs to expand.

He that has an ear, let him hear.

A good thought. For after all, the human ear sits back on the head and has to take its turn behind a yapping mouth, a nosy beezer and sleepy eyes.

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Miss A Walk-up … September 9, 2012


I always try to make friends with the maintenance people at the motels where I stay. I find them to be nice folk, and honestly, it’s always good to be friends with someone who’s “nuts about bolts.” So when I was leaving my lodging in Detroit, the fellow in charge of taking care of the property ran up to me and said good-bye and asked me where I was heading.

“Mishawaka,” I responded.

His brow furrowed as he squinted, questioning, “Miss a walk-up?”

I chuckled. Apparently combining his lack of geographical knowledge of Indiana with my lazy morning tongue, I had failed to communicate the name. “Mishawaka,” I enunciated, sounding out each syllable.

He paused. I think he was trying to gauge exactly what the word was and also whether I was having one of those “senior brain clogs,” where yesterday was merging with today to form a mental mush. Suddenly he launched into conversation. He talked about how when he was a kid, his father called certain apartments “walk-ups.” He explained that he was certain that his father also missed those old walk-ups and pined for the days when things were simpler and more concise.

I realized that my maintenance buddy was convinced that he had understood me, and that I was a little bit wacky, and I knew that I was going to Mishawaka, and he had misunderstood.

He kept talking. Pretty soon he was discussing how the problems in our country seemed insurmountable because we had lost our values. I had a choice. I could stop him and explain that Mishawaka was a little city in the Hoosier state, and probably embarrass him, making him feel ridiculous, or I could give up on the notion of reality and simply leap into the stream of thought and try to swim my way to shore.

You see what I mean? The reason most of us never get along with other people is that we have so much agenda crammed into our confines that there is no room whatsoever for our friends and new acquaintances to squeeze in a notion. So I decided to forget about Indiana and Mishawaka and simply participate in the present flow of conversation. We talked about walk-ups. We talked about missing things. We talked about life.

It lasted probably no more than seven or eight minutes, but by the time we finished, he was convinced that he had used his young, fertile mind to communicate with an aging gent who had temporarily gone into a nostalgic burst of reminiscing. And I was aware that we had fortunately escaped a moment of embarrassment which would have stuck with him for some time.

Somewhere along the line, we have to stop being defensive, or we’re destined to be offensive. I wish I could spend fifteen minutes with every minister and politician and communicate that principle into their sermons and stump speeches. When I am dealing with human beings, I honor a five-step process when yakking with folks:

1. Don’t argue. Just follow through with what’s on their minds. Don’t try to change the subject to your particular liking or evangelize them to your cause. Get where you want to go by letting them do the driving.

2. Find reasons for agreement and pose ONE question. You’d be surprised at how many things we all share in common. If you have a mind to plant a new seed inside people, just save it for later on in your interchange with them, and pose that one question that will get them to think.

3. Listen for people’s hearts instead of focusing on their ideas. America is overloaded with politics, religion and gossip. The poor, hapless masses are at the mercy of a sea of doctrines and statistics. Please forgive them if they end up piping some of those back to you because they just heard them on TV and want to show off. It doesn’t mean it’s their heart–it’s just topical.

4. Believe in something. I have trouble with conservatives AND liberals. Conservatives can tell you what they’ve been taught and liberals are willing to abandon their ideals so as to maintain some sense of being intellectual or contemporary. Believe in something–not a whole bunch of stuff–but find a few things that have proven to be true in your life, and have a story about them.

5. Always leave every conversation loving. Leave loving. Now, there’s a bumper sticker. We have some folks that show up loving and leave fussy. I would much rather show up fussy and leave loving.

My dear repairer of motels in Detroit never did understand that I was heading for Mishawaka, Indiana. Who cares? It wasn’t worth humiliating him to make the point that he was wrong. Until we reach the conclusion that fellowship is more valuable than always being right, we are a missile unguided, shot off into the air to land somewhere on an innocent bystander. So in closing:

May opinions be damned

Yes, a curse on my will

Settle the angry sea

Proclaiming, “Peace, be still.”

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