Friday, March 12, 2010

Listening as Spiritual Hospitality (Henri Nouwen) - a quick reflection and rambling

I feel so tired today ... yesterday's flu / allergy (or whatever it was) with its sneezing bouts and runny nose really drained me. God is good though as I recovered enough to attend my Home group meeting and then only "crashed" when I got home.

I have so much to do today and I kept thinking I need to start the day being quiet and try and be still and listen to God first. So this quote from Henri Nouwen (at the end of this post) was especially helpful ... a reminder that in my busy-ness with so much to do, I need to remember to take time to really listen ... not just to God but to others and not just rush to complete my many tasks. Important as my tasks may be (and yes, some of them really are :-)), learning to better listen will keep my feet on the ground and remind me that ministry should be first people oriented not task oriented. Though of course often the two go together ...

The importance of listening also came home strongly to me yesterday and today. I called a very prominent Christian organization to arrange collection of our left over bric a brac (good stuff) from our recent Gala and while explaining to someone on the phone who I was and the situation (pastor, church and the why we had these items etc) I heard a lady in the background comment in a loud and irritated voice say, "We don't want their left over junk!" He tried to explain something to him (it was muffled as I think he had the sense to cover the phone) but there were some loud angry words ... Then someone told me over the phone that their store was very full (overflowing?) etc. I asked if they could put me in touch with another store (same organization) and the voice said, "No. All are full and they have no need of things." Blatant lie obviously ....

This morning I got a call from another charitable organization (non Christian) whom I had contacted the day before and who actually recommended that I call this Christian organization. He asked me if I called them and I said yes. Then he laughed and said, "They told you they were full, right?" I said "yes" and he said, They're lying. They do need stuff." And he proceeded to tell me that he called them to let them now that I would be calling and the person in charge (same lady) told him that I had already called and that she did not want my "left over junk!"

I had a nice chat with me and he promised to come over and collect what he could. And this even though his organization did not primarily deal with some of the items - they dealt mostly with used clothes and they just collected the other things listed to help others. In my conversation, I decided to try and explain the context again and I found it was not needed as he was listening and understood I was not giving him junk. In fact, he understood (and I reiterated) that if any items were unsuitable for his use, he was not obliged to take them as I would find others willing to take the items. I do know of a place from a church member - a thrift shop for example but our idea was to give them away to these organizations as proceeds go to charity.

What I think is most disappointing is that our church (and myself personally) help this Christian organization every year in their fund raising. I have personally walked many hours in the hot sun to help. I may sound petty but this year when they ask for my help, I am going to give the person in charge an earful - not so much for not listening properly but telling me blatant lies! I might even want to reconsider supporting this organization if they do not address such issues. Shameful!

Listening as Spiritual Hospitality

To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.

Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.

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