Discernment begins with each person attending to their own spiritual formation – paying attention to what’s going on inside themselves. Have I learned to pay attention to the voice of God’s community?
The bush track beckons, I begin
with a tired and weary step,
mind full, soul empty.
Cool evening air descends:
refreshing, invigorating, healing.
Inward, self absorbed thoughts, shift
to outward God-given beauty.
Dusky hues dance before me,
fire tails nestle in their nests,
frogs settle into slumber,
stillness fills the air, heralding
The Great Silence.
Peace transpires again.
Bowed head, surrendered heart,
I acknowledge God’s presence.
Adoring His splendor, past concerns fade.
His loving gaze descends on me.
His liquid hot love fills me.
I stumble for words. None are needed.
Grateful, I too have entered into
the Great Peaceful Silence.
We’ll be visiting the topic of ‘Listening to Each Other’s Voice’ this coming Sunday. Here is something written by an anonymous author on the same topic.
“Could you just listen? When I
ask you to listen to me and you start
giving me advice, you have not done
what I asked. When I ask you to listen
to me and you begin to tell me why
I should not feel that way, you are
trampling on my feelings. When I ask
you to listen to me, and you feel you
have to do something to solve my
problem, you have failed me, strange
as that may seem. Listen! All I asked
was that you listen, not talk to or do,
just hear me. Advice is cheap. . .I can
do for myself; I am not helpless —
maybe discouraged and faltering, but
not helpless. When you do something
for me that I can and need to do for
myself, you contribute to my fear and
inadequacy. But when you accept as a
simple fact that I do feel what I feel no
matter how irrational, then I quit trying
to convince you and get about this
business of understanding what is behind
this irrational feeling. When that
is clear, the answers are obvious and I
do not need advice. Irrational feelings
make more sense when we understand
what is behind them. . . . Please listen
and just hear me, and if you want to
talk, wait a minute for your turn, and I
will listen to you.”
Theme – In a world of three billion voices it can be difficult to believe that my voice matters. This week’s theme will discover some of the ways that we can recover our voice. We can then live confidently knowing that we speak with God’s authority. To do this, we need to be very sure of our Father’s voice, and then allow His voice to speak to the important things in our lives.
What is the unique message God has called us to give to the world?
Key Verses – John 10: 1-5
1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
I recently was reading a book on resilience that told of one young boy’s journey through incredible difficulty. This young Jewish boy was taken in by a French couple, and hidden in a room by a couple for six months to escape capture by the Germans.
During this time in solitude, he wasn’t allowed to go outside the room or to make a noise. In the space, he occupied his time by constant pacing and then rocking back and forward. He also spent a lot of time lying on his back and licking his knees.
After six months, he was discovered by the Germans and taken to a concentration camp. But rather than seeing his entry to the concentration camp as horrific, he describes it as a relief. In his account, he describes the connections that he was able to develop in the camp; even though it was a place of death and cruelty. His memories primarily center around the games he played with the other children, and the relationships formed with the older prisoners.
The relief was because he was able to reconnect to people. He no longer was forced to sit silently in a room by himself day in and day out.
The perceptions of this young boy are interesting and quite different to what we would expect. The horror that we envisage in the concentration camp, was eclipsed by the horror of no longer being heard. Being locked away in a place where his voice was no longer wanted, valued or connected, was soul destroying. Facing death in the concentration camp was a relief.
This morning we will first consider three ways that our world can demonstrate a lack of care for our voice. Then we will look at the way God talks to us. Finally we will look at how God affirms our voice. We recognize His voice, and He knows us, because we are His sheep.
What are the faces of not being heard?
The message of contempt is that the other person in the relationship is saying, “I am better than you.” It’s often done by people who feel insecure and have to seek to elevate their own position. The best way they have found to do this, is to put others down. Contempt is the choice for those who know no other way than to tread over others in their effort to feel a bit better about themselves. Their weapon is often sarcasm, the most common vocal expression of contempt.
Disrespect and humiliation are closely connected when a person is treated contemptuously. Contempt is one of the ugliest faces of not being heard. It seeks to humiliate a person and degrades their very being.
In the Christian world, we talk often about the necessity of being humble, but we want to have a comfortable humility that is of our own making. The path of humiliation is much more difficult than this. Jesus saw this on the cross when he was mocked. “Come down and save yourself. Come on – you can save others but you can’t save yourself.”
We live in a world where we are distracted to the point of breakdown. Each day throws an avalanche of information at us. We are expected to deal with this information and it’s volume, and the way that we handle it has led to a new word: multi tasking.
Clifford Nass, a researcher at Stanford University, assumed that those who multitask heavily, would nonetheless, develop some other outstanding skills. He thought that they would be amazing at filtering information, switching between tasks quickly, and keeping a high working memory. Instead he found that, “When you try to multitask, in the short-term, it doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task, and it usually at least doubles the number of mistakes.”
Just as an aside there is one thing that we can add to our brain’s mix. In the case of music, it’s a little different. We have a special part of our brain for music, so we can listen to music while we do other things.
When we arrive in another’s presence in a distracted state, we are not able to give them the attention they need to be fully heard. Have you ever tried to get people to turn their mobile phones off completely? In some contexts it can be so difficult, and the best we can do is to go silent. Which isn’t silent because they will still vibrate, distracting those people, so they are unable to focus on your story, because they cannot wait to find out what that vibrating alert meant.
A number of years ago, I read Professor Manning Clark’s, (the notable Australian historian) summary of Australia as a culture that doesn’t believe in anything very much. At least we don’t believe in anything enough to change what we do.
Indifference is defined as: ‘lack of interest in, disregard for’
In the context of today’s message, it’s all about the way that we view people. I will never forget at a training event that I was a part of, we did the everyday thing of introducing ourselves to each other and telling each other our names. One person said, “Don’t bother telling me your name. I am not interested because I won’t see you after the next 6 weeks.” And that summed up his attitude to other people!
Bob Geldof’s great song, Indifference, highlights the lack of care that led him to create an initiative such as Live Aid:
“I don’t care if you live or die, couldn’t care less if you laugh or cry,
I don’t mind if you crash or fly, I don’t mind at all.”
Indifference says that you don’t matter to me, you don’t offer anything that can benefit me, so therefore I am not interested in your story.
My Poem: Eternity’s Breath (see below this article)
I wrote this recently as I reflected on the fast arriving anniversary of my father’s death. I allowed myself a moment of sadness as I thought about his voice and how it’s now missing from my world. I don’t hear his laughter, or his attempts to be funny, or his incessant questions any more. I realized that I miss these things and his presence in my life.
But, then I considered eternity, and realized that there is my Heavenly Father’s voice that is speaking to me. And that in the context of eternity, this time now is a brief second where I don’t hear my father’s voice. But, I also realized that I haven’t always been good at recognizing God’s presence in my journey.
I thought about God’s voice in my life as I reflected on what words I will hear throughout eternity, and I wrote this about the sound of God’s whisper to me and to all humanity.
It’s gentle rhythm beating, with the sounds of,
loves eternal longing, that beats in all our hearts,
none is forgotten.
It’s very easy to allow the din of the world to drown out God’s voice. When I thought about my father’s death I realized that I made myself too busy, too quickly, and I wasn’t able to hear what God really wanted to say to me during my pain at that time.
And then two years on as I sought to discern the voice of God speaking to me I wrote these words:
What voice will be heard…
When I wrote this line I was thinking: Who listens? I mean really listens? There are too many people, who are too busy, with too many problems that they are facing. Who could be bothered with me? Then I recognized God’s listening.
The voice of love whispers, you child are heard by me.
Our Father speaks a beautiful language. It a language that understands when we repeat ourselves, when we go over and over the same things. When we say embarrassing things, when we cry, when we feel like we can’t make another day, when we don’t make sense, when we are angry, scared or alone..
He doesn’t treat our voice with contempt, thinking that He is better than us. Or, with distraction being permanently busy with other things or with indifference that says, “I don’t care enough.” God says, “Speak to me my beloved child, keep talking. Tell me the silly little details that you think matter only to you. These things matter to me.”
John 9: 37-38 – After healing the blind man. Where do you see the Son of Man?
37 Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?”
38 “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.
Then Jesus told the story in the Bible reading we had about the sheep and contrasting His voice with the voice of the Pharisees. The Pharisees showed a mix of contempt for Jesus, distraction with their relationship with God (the law got in the way), and indifference to the truth of the message Jesus brought.
“and they follow him because they know his voice”.
Once we know His voice, then we can speak with new confidence, with authority and with power, because we know we have been heard; and that God and our lives now bear witness to Eternity’s breath speaking through us.
This section concludes with John 10:10: here is my voice. I have come that you may have life, eternal life. Recognize this and make it your voice too. Speak the words of eternity.
Eternity’s breath whispers life,
It’s gentle rhythm beating,
With the sounds of,
Loves eternal longing,
That beats in all our hearts,
None is forgotten,
All creation is heard,
Restoring loving, kindness,
The voice of love whispers,
Time to turn to me.
Life’s transitions remind us,
With their constant call,
Of what we seek to ignore,
Reminders in the din,
That our heartbeat is eternal,
One day we’ll meet again,
We’re not forgotten,
Each life is eternity,
The voice of love whispers,
You belong to me.
What voice will be heard,
As we yearn to understand,
What is needed,
As we seek to hear again,
The melody of life,
Can play its tune once more,
Creating a new song
That can be heard by all.
The voice of love whispers
You child are heard by me.
The lifting fog
When the cloud touches the mountain,
And evening arrives early,
When daylight is overtaken by,
the fog’s clinging haze,
The light – succumbs to shadows,
Darkness oozes in,
The light gives way to gray,
Constricting what is seen,
The view ahead is limited,
By the thick enveloping blanket,
that dims the light ahead,
It blurs behind the darkness,
Fog clinging to all it sees.
The fog’s haze meets with me,
Both from the outside and looking in,
Life battles my situation,
That seeks to take away,
My hope – is crushed by anxiety,
Despair is lived each day,
My creativity is limited,
By the fog’s shadows,
Covering all I do and say,
I seek to catch a glimpse,
Of what will come today,
But, my vision is limited
By the fog that lies within.
I know the fog will visit,
For a time and then will leave,
It’s clinging dimness struggling,
Against the sun rays clearing,
To the emerging day,
That opens a brighter, loving way,
It is transparent and surprising,
Because of where it came,
Shadows highlight light,
To show the path ahead,
My sight renewed, refreshed,
No longer am I limited,
By the fog’s brief touch with me.
Theme – To really understand God’s voice requires us to listen to each other. God created His community to enable us to hear each other.
What are the ways we can learn to listen to each other better?
I need to listen to people, to really listen,
to stay out of the way of their thoughts.
To be a safe place for them to share their fears,
hopes, frustrations, brokenness, anger, dreams, desires,
embarrassments, loneliness, confusion.
I will listen to their story no matter how long it takes.
No matter what is said. No matter where it takes us.
I will be caring,humble, compassionate,open,
understanding, fun. I will be a friend.
The Art of Connecting
(St Bridget of Ireland)
I arise today with a great strength:
God’s power to guide me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s eyes to watch over me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to give me speech,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to shelter me and
God’s host to secure me.
Theme – In a world of 3 billion voices it can be difficult to believe that my voice matters. This weeks theme will discover some of the ways that we can recover our voice. We can then live confidently knowing that we speak with God’s authority. To do this firstly we need to be very sure of our Father’s voice and then allow that to speak to the important things in our lives.
What is the unique message God has called us to give to the world?
Key Verses – John 10: 1-5
1“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
Let my edges that cut be stroked by sand and salt
Let my slick surfaces coarsen till it’s crushed to bits
Let my colours soften as they scrape the bottom
Let the waves love me in their rough way
Let me be changed by that love
Let me not forget that I held another
Yet fully inhabit the particularity
Let me be smooth enough to be rubbed by smooth fingers
and slipped inside a pocket or a bowl
Let me prove that beauty is born when something breaks.
My Beloved’s Voice
You are my beloved
Soft words giving
My Father’s voice
Sure and insistent
I am your beloved
By an open heart
Longing to speak
Hope and trust
Well done my child
by Jason Sturdee
An urgent knock beat repeatedly, on my front door,
Then the door flung open, the one I was trying to ignore.
A friend stood before me, expectation on his face,
“We’ve found the Messiah, let me show you the place!”
A Messiah here, a Messiah there, I’d heard it said, I just didn’t care,
He’s out in the desert, He’s beside the shore,
He’s in the upper room right now,
I’d heard it before.
Now the people are expecting a saviour one day,
A deliverer from Rome, that’s what we all pray,
Yeah I wish it would happen, I had believed in my head,
But I’ve turned into a cynic, and my hope is long dead.
Lack of enthusiasm didn’t deter my good friend,
He was quite determined, he just wouldn’t bend,
He threw me my sandals, my belt and my cloak,
Through the countryside he dragged me, it wasn’t a joke.
I had no expectations of what I would see,
Perhaps a small gathering, not much more than three.
But upon our arrival, I’d absorbed the huge crowd,
The only word I could utter, was “strewth”, out loud.
A local man stood before them, with no bearing of pride,
No clothes of rank or privilege, no pompousness in stride.
Nor adorned with fancy women, or powerful men, that one could see,
He looked like a common labourer, well, a person much like me.
I’ve attended many lectures, debates and verbal brawls,
Academics using six syllable words to point out another’s flaws.
Their tongues like twin edged sabres, they’d block, parry, spar and thrust,
A form of great entertainment worth seeing, you surely must.
This new man on front stage, he talked so differently, it’s true,
Those who tried to shout him down, his answers ran them through.
Prestigious men of influence, couldn’t trick him or ensnare,
Eventually they stopped trying, but their looks warn him, to beware.
Not only the fights with leaders, that set the man apart.
Sometimes he spoke in riddles, but you could not deny his heart.
He spoke with authority and power, and got known throughout the land,
But to me, the man was a mystery, who I just didn’t understand.
Let me tell you of his miracles, words can’t fully, convey the show,
People were healed, i mean really healed, that everyone did know.
The Pharisees and leaders, said “it’s devils power”, that he used,
But the way he touched, the sick and sad. it’s only tenderness, that he oozed.
Even here, in these mighty acts, he used no formula, or set phrase,
He seemed to delight in variety, left the audience in a daze.
Go show yourself to the priests, another, healed by his word, but not close,
Once he placed, mud pies in eyes, which frankly, I thought gross.
One event, stood out from all, witnessed, with my own eyes,
The teachers friend, had been dead four days, we heard the mourners cries.
He asked the tomb to be opened, what would happen, I had no doubt,
The man they call the Messiah, yelled “Lazarus, come out!”
To raise a man from the dead, is not common, 50 I heard,
The fact that this man Jesus, did it simply, with his word
I no longer thought him crazy, or his followers, as such,
I honestly can’t deny the truth, cause I’d really seen too much.
The miracles and the speeches, broke down barriers, in my mind,
To deny his deity, would be, to act if I were blind.
But of all the things, I’ve seen him do, one thing touched me, to the core,
It’s the way that he loves others, with kindness, it’s his nature I adore.
Now I’m sure you know what happened next, his betrayal and the cross,
When we saw, the hard way he died, we weren’t coping with the loss.
On the third day, when we saw him alive, our feelings, difficult to explain,
We were bubbling over, Jesus had risen, he removed that terrible pain.
Much time has passed, since those days, but we’ll never forget God’s son,
The sacrifice that he’s given, the commitment to get the job done.
We come together, with our family and friends, to remember what he achieved,
We’ll break the bread, we’ll share the wine, and thank Christ Jesus, for what we received.