Those of you who know me would readily agree that I enjoy talking. I talk. I talk, a lot! In fact, as memory serves, one of my wife’s family member’s first impression of me was this very thing. Some research indicates that men speak approximately 7000 words per day (women up to 3 times this amount!), but I would wager that my average over the years is likely well above the median threshold. If you disagree with my assessment, call me and we’ll talk!
Of course, talking is only one side of the verbal communication coin. Flip it over, and you’ll find listening. I find myself being challenged to listen, to really listen. In the first few weeks of my sabbatical, a theme is emerging in regard to listening to the Bible. Yes, listening. Not reading, per se, but listening. Here are two experiences (so far) that are impacting me.
Listen, to scripture
The first challenge in regard to listening came from Dr. Luis Palau at the BC Mennonite Brethren Convention on April 30th. He emphasized the value of the Word of God as he preached from John 15. He rather provocatively suggested that if we had perhaps lost the joy of serving Jesus, or felt dry, or felt like something was missing, it might be connected to treating the Bible (the Word of God) too lightly. He continued on to ask, “Have we gotten away from the reading of the Word of God?” I think this is a fair question. He meant more, however, than simply privately reading the Bible. He was referencing the public reading of scripture in our worship services.
This got me thinking, and I made a decision to dig up an audio version of the Bible. With today’s modern technological conveniences, anyone can listen to scripture being read (now, if only Morgan Freeman would be the one reading it!). I’ll share my goal publicly. I want to listen (yes, listen) to the entire New Testament while on sabbatical. Care to join me?
Read, out loud
The second challenge came this past Monday morning as I began a week-long intensive course on the book of Philippians. After some initial introductions and a welcome, the professor read the entire letter to us. He reminded us that in the New Testament era, this was the common practice. People didn’t have their own copies of scripture that they read quietly to themselves; no, scripture was read! And, I would suggest, it was likely read with passion and emotion, perhaps even performed more than read. In fact, common practice in antiquity was that even when reading for yourself, you read out loud. (Have you ever noticed how Philip heard what the Ethiopian was reading in Acts 8?) More senses were involved; listening became more active. Have you ever tried this? I’d love to hear your experiences.
Reflect, and discuss
Strangely enough, I find myself valuing quiet times of reflection and thinking much more in recent years than I could ever have imagined. There is something to be said for simply sitting in quietness, reflecting, spending time listening (and talking) with God. But, to come full circle, this often provides ample fodder for my continued talking. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up talking or taking a vow of silence. Far from it. I’ve still got words left. But, I trust that my listening, reading, and reflecting will give me something of value to say. So, who wants to grab a cup of coffee and talk?