Tag Archives: listening

When the Word Is Quiet

The measure of a conversation is how much mutual recognition there is in it; how much shared there is in it. If you’re talking about what’s in your own head, or without thought to what people looking and listening will feel, you might as well be in a room talking to yourself. ~Dylan Moran

“Go on in the living room.” Katherine’s voice echoed down the hallway.

An old woman sat in the hard, wooden chair. White hair framed a glaring face.

“Go here. Go there. I just want to know why.” Mary struggled to speak, her voice barely a whisper. But her body was yelling loud enough.

I walked over to see what was going on.

A stroke took away most of Mary’s voice, and age has taken away her strength. Mary whispers everything she says. Katherine is hearing impaired and couldn’t understand Mary’s angry outburst.

I squatted next to Mary and asked what was wrong.

“No one ever tells me what’s going on. ‘Go here. Go there. Take a bath.’ But they never tell me why. I just want to know why.”

“Well, Miss Mary, I’m Traci. I come to read every week.” I placed my hand on her knee, and she looked in my eyes. “You always come in the living room and listen to me read. Would you like to come in today and listen?”

She covered my hand with her own. “Yes, I would.” She grasped the chair arm and began the painful process of standing. Katherine tried to help. “You go away.” Mary whisper-yelled at Katherine.

She grabbed her walker and followed me to the living room.

“I just want to know why.” I lift my eyes to heaven, but the answer is incomprehensible. “Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to go there?” Nothing. The answer is inaudible, and I am hard of hearing.

Mary didn’t follow me because she was desperate to hear my story that day. She followed me because I am familiar. She found me to be gentle and reassuring.

Sometimes I need a gentle, reassuring mediator, too. I cry out to God, but his voice is too quiet, my ears too deaf. I don’t know what to do, so I sit stubbornly in my chair glaring at the world in confusion.

Then the Spirit whispers words I mostly don’t understand, but they are gentle and familiar. I take Jesus’s hand and follow him to the Father’s throne room where I am a part of the story.

And so are you.


Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house. Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says, Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,” that time of wilderness testing! Hebrews 3:5-7 MSG

Are You Listening?

“Part of doing something is listening. We are listening. To the sun. To the stars. To the wind.”  ~Madeleine L’Engle, Swiftly Tilting Planet

As the mother of two very talkative sons, sometimes I don’t quite listen. Several years ago they were very, very interested in Star Wars. It was the only thing they talked about at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And being stuck in the van with them meant being captive to their incessant light saber, hero, super-powers talking. Finally, I told them I would not listen to it anymore.

The thing is. . . I hadn’t been listening for a long time already. I had tuned out what they were saying because I didn’t want to hear it. I wasn’t interested in what they were discussing. I had more important things to deal with. I couldn’t be bothered.

Somehow that attitude transferred itself to other areas of my life. I half listened to friends while I thought about what I needed to be doing next. I “mm hm-ed” on the phone as I washed dishes and wished the speaker would hurry it up. I planned dinner while the kids told me the latest news, worked on plot twists while Matt unwound by telling me his own stories, and typed out a blog while my mother talked on the speaker phone.

So a few weeks ago, I decided it was time for me to start listening. People all around me have things to share, and I can be the ear they need to listen. I had no idea where I was about to be lead.

A few days into the “listening experiment” I asked God if he could help me to slow down and be an ear to someone who needed it that day. Then I headed into my busy day- drop Amos off at the orthodontist, stop by the dump to get rid of the recycling, head to the grocers, check at the pet store to see how my book is selling, and then back to get Amos. Forty-five minutes? No problem!

I dropped Amos off, stopped by the pet store- the owner was in a meeting, so I said I would come back- and then headed to the dump. On the way there I had to slam on the brakes, and recycling with a lidless kefir container in it went spilling all over the back of the van. I cleaned it up as best I could and thought I would stop in the restroom to wash at the grocery.

A shopping cart with a small girl, perhaps two years old, was parked in front of one of the stalls. I used the other and then went to wash up. A woman appeared out of the other stall and as the child cried, the mother exclaimed, “I just don’t get it! What do you think?” I looked over, and she held a positive pregnancy test. She went on to tell me that she had had an ultrasound that morning and was told the baby had died. The doctor prescribed a medication to help her get rid of the fetus, but she was afraid to hurt the baby if a mistake had been made. What did I think she should do?

Really, God?  I stayed with her a while, listened, offered my advice, and prayed for her. Then I headed  off to the pet store again.

There I discovered that the owner’s husband had had a heart attack and died the week before, her aunt had also died that week, and her son’s pet had died that morning. OK, God, I get it.

I realize that people are hurting around us all of the time. The woman in the stall next to you. The cashier at the pet store. People everywhere need a listening ear. But busyness and lack of interest turn down the volume so that we don’t have to hear what everyone else needs to say.

And then Matt preached it on Sunday. God wants to speak to us, but are we listening? Well of course I’m listening! I mean who wouldn’t want to hear God, right!?

Only maybe I am listening like I used to be listening, not noticing the woman next to me crying over the loss of a wanted child, not hearing the pain and fatigue in another’s voice who is struggling with loss. What if I am ignoring God because what he has to say isn’t easy to listen to or I don’t particularly want to hear what he has to say?

So now I add to my prayer, God let me be an ear to those who need to talk AND let me have ears to hear you, no matter what you have to say, — even if I have to listen to Star Wars.


Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 NIV