Monday Monologues: Sermon on Being Fully Present, August 6, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I give a sermon on Being Fully Present. (Originally given in Spanish: Presencia Completa).

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

Monday Monologues: Being Fully Present, August 6, 2018 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Sabath_2018

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Fully Present

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

A sermon presented in Spanish at El Shadai church in Manassas, Virginia, August 2, 2018.

Prelude

Good evening. Thank you for coming.

This evening we begin a study of Christian service. Because we are created in the image of God, we want to do all the things that we see in God. Therefore, just as God is always present in our lives, we need to be fully present in the lives of those around us.

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Merciful God,

We praise you for creating us in your image and loving us as your children. Be especially present with us at this time and in this place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, bless our praise and give us the strength to be fully present in the lives of our families and the other persons around us. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

Scripture

The scripture for today comes from the Book of Mark 10:46-52. Hear the word of the Lord:

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52 ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Introduction

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

One answer is to listen actively to the stories of a person, something quite rare in our postmodern, too active, and narcissistic life.

One Saturday, when I was a Chaplain in Providence Hospital in Northeast Washington, there was a lot of noise in the emergency department. There were people in every room and every gurney. The staff was running in every direction and patients were screaming and crying. In the middle of this chaos, there was one man who was especially noisy and bothering the other patients.

As I came to see what was going on, a nurse came and asked him for a urine sample. In the middle of the room, he unzipped his pants and gave her a urine sample on the spot. Immediately afterwards, he returned to his

gurney and began again to cry loudly. He had an athletic build, a hint of a mustache, and was about forty years old. It was obvious that he was drunk.

“Good afternoon,” I said. “I am from pastoral care. Do you have a minute to talk?”

“Sure.”

“How come you are so sad this afternoon?”

“My brother died at the age of forty of alcohol abuse, just like my father.”

“When did your brother die?”

 ¨Five years ago.¨ (2X) ¨So, now you are forty and you think that you also are going to die?¨ I asked speculating.

¨Yes. Today is my birthday.¨

After the revelation of this emotional anniversary, we hugged and began to identify alternatives for dealing with his addiction to alcohol. I remember this visit not only because of all the drama, but because another chaplain before me had could not establish a connection with this patient and failed to have a serious discussion. The connection in this case began when I realized that this patient was experiencing a type of story known as an emotional anniversary.

Today’s scripture

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

The story of Jesus and the bind man, Bartimaeus, includes at least two surprising elements.

The first surprise is that Jesus stopped and talked to Bartimaeus.What celebrity stops to talk to a random person? Jesus did. (2X) The first step in being fully present in the life of anyone is to stop and talk to them. Do you talk to the invisible people in this life who no one else notices? (2X)

The second surprise is that Jesus asks Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” Note that Jesus does not assume that he knows the answer to this question. He offers Bartimaeus respect as an adult and does not view him through his disability as a blind man. (2X)

Bartimaeus’ answer is also interesting. His request to receive healing from his blindness indicates that he has faith. By contrast, “a man lamb from birth” in Acts 3 asked the Apostles Peter and John only for alms (Acts 3:2-3). I believe that the Bible records Bartimaeus’ name because his faith surprised Peter and the other disciples. For us, Bartimaeus’ request seems perhaps obvious because Jesus and this story are just too familiar.

What do we learn from these verses? We need to stop and talk to the invisible people around us and listen carefully to what they say. (2X)

More Discussion

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life? (2X)

In my pastoral training to be fully present meant for the most part to listen to someone actively. Look directly into their eyes and let them tell their story. Only ask questions of clarification occasionally.

If these directions seem easy, they are not. The objective of active listen is to understand the emotional content of the story. (2X)

Author, John Savage, recommends to listen especially for the type of story being told. This story within the story reveals the emotional content that is being communicated.

In the story of the patient in the hospital, the story within the story was an anniversary—in his family the men died at the age of forty due to alcoholism. An anniversary is a story connected to a date on the calendar. Perhaps someone important died or had an serious accident on a particular date. In the story of the patient, the date was a birthday. The most famous date at the time of Jesus was the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt which they celebrated as Passover each year.

Savage (1996, 95) indicates four other types of stories.

1.    A “I know a man who” story. In this case, the person under discussin is normally the person speaking because the subject matter is too sensitive. In the Bible, we read:

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.”(2 Cor 12:2)2.

2. A transition story has three parts—the past, the present, and the future. A hospital visit is normally a transition story. University studies are also a transition with three parts.

A transition obvious in the Bible is the story of the Exodus when the people of Israel left the land of Egypt, went into the desert for forty years, and afterwards entered the Promised Land (Bridge 2003, 43). It is interesting that the people of Israel learned to depend on God during their time in the desert.

3.    A story from the past with current meaning. This is the typical story from the Bible, but this type of story gets special mention in the context of the Lord’s Supper where we read:

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”(Luke 22:19)

4.    A reinvestment story. This is a story like economist becomes pastor. That was then; this is now. In the Bible we see this type of story in the conversion of Paul from a persecutor of the church into an evangelist for Christ.

Finally, after we hear one of the five types of stories being described, the next step is to ask a question to clarify. In my story from the hospital, I asked:

“Okay, now you turned forty years old and think that you are going to die too?” I asked speculating.

The answer to this question will indicate if you have been listening sufficiently well.

Summary

What does it mean to be fully present in someone’s life?

Every one of us can stop and listen more closely to those around us following the example of Jesus with Bartimaeus

Prayer

Let’s pray.

Holy Father,

Thank you for your forgiveness and presence in our daily lives. In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us strength to listen more closely each day to the people around us. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen

Reference

Bridge, William. 2003.  Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change.  Cambridge:  Da Capo Press.

Savage, John.  1996.  Listening & Caring Skills:  A Guide for Groups and Leaders.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press.

Also see:

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to connect:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Sabath_2018

Continue Reading

Savage Teaches Listening; Hears Unheard Stories

John Savage: Listening and Caring SkillsJohn Savage.  1996.  Listening & Caring Skills:  A Guide for Groups and Leaders.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Being fully present when listening to someone is tough.  It requires setting aside our own egos to hear not only what the person is saying but what is not being said—the backstory.  The backstory is important because language is laconic; tone of voice and body language provide the context. John Savage’s book, Listening and Caring Skills, helps to start down the road of being fully present in listening to your family, friends, and colleagues.

Introduction

Listening and Caring Skills focuses on preparing pastors for ministry, but the principles apply more generally.  The book starts with an introduction defining the problem and follows with three major sections:  Basic listening skills; hearing the story, and advanced listening skills.

Communication Gap

Savage starts by defining the listening problem as closing the gap between what is said and what is heard (17).  This gap can be huge because the speaker desires to communicate feelings, intentions, attitudes, and thoughts.  This internal desire is actually communicated with words, tone of voice, and body language.  Words communicate about 7 percent of the message; tone of voice communicates 38 percent; and the remaining 55 percent is communicated through body language (16).  Focusing on just the words used in written communication leaves out important information needed in making decisions.

Consider the potential for conflict just because of weak communication.  Skyping can communicate words, tone of voice, and some body language.  Telephone conversation can communicate words and tone voice but no body language.  Email communicates only the words—unless you are really good with emoticons!  Clearly, if I use a form of communication that is incomplete, the potential to be misunderstood grows in proportion to what is left out.  Face-to-face communication at least allows a complete set of details to be communicated.

Five Styles of Communication

Once we are face to face, communication is technically feasible, but we do not normally engage everyone at the same level.  Savage lists five styles of communication:  direct and open, open but partial, distorted full information, distort and delete information, and only non-verbal communication (15-16).  At best communication is an art:  people lie; people don’t listen’; people run off.  Being fully present is a gift that we give to those who we really care about.  In my experience, people notice immediately when you are really listening.

Fogging

A lesson worth the price of the book is a technique called fogging which is often used by politicians and lawyers.  In fogging one only answers the part of the question that one agrees with.  The most famous example of fogging occurred in Matthew 22:15-22 when Jesus was baited with the question:  is it lawful to pay taxes…?  If he answers yes, then the Jews will be offended;  if he answers no, then the Romans will be offended.  Instead of answering, Jesus asks to see a coin–everyone agrees on the coin used to pay the tax.  When one fogs, one does not answer the whole question and does not become defensive—even when the question is hostile.  Fogging allows the conversation to continue without becoming emotionally charged.

Listening for the Five Types of Stories

Savage observes that in order for people to feel like they have been heard, you need to identify the emotional content of what they are saying. Oftentimes, this emotional content takes the form of one of five story types that he outlines (95), including.

  1. Anniversary.  An anniversary is a story connected to a date on the calendar. Perhaps someone important died or had an serious accident on a particular date. In the story of the patient, the date was a birthday. The most famous date at the time of Jesus was the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt which they celebrated as Passover each year.
  2.  A “I know a man who” story. In this case, the person under discussion is normally the person speaking because the subject matter is too sensitive. In the Bible, we read: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.”(2 Cor 12:2)2.
  3. A transition story has three parts—the past, the present, and the future. A hospital visit is normally a transition story. University studies are also a transition with three parts. A transition obvious in the Bible is the story of the Exodus when the people of Israel left the land of Egypt, went into the desert for forty years, and afterwards entered the Promised Land (Bridge 2003, 43). It is interesting that the people of Israel learned to depend on God during their time in the desert.
  4. A story from the past with current meaning. This is the typical story from the Bible, but this type of story gets special mention in the context of the Lord’s Supper where we read: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”(Luke 22:19)
  5. A reinvestment story. This is a story like economist becomes pastor. That was then; this is now. In the Bible we see this type of story in the conversion of Paul from a persecutor of the church into an evangelist for Christ.

If you can identify the story that a person is telling, chances are good that you will connect with them at a deeper, emotional level.

Assessment

Savage’s Listening & Caring Skills is a book that I have recommended, given away, taught, and preached about.  Active listening skills are of value in dealing with your children, difficult co-workers, and demanding supervisors.  In the church, pastors can benefit from periodically reviewing Savages principles and teaching them to those in leadership.  It is simply a great book.

References

William Bridge.  2003.  Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change.  Cambridge:  Da Capo Press. (Review)

Savage Teaches Listening; Hears Unheard Stories

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Sabath_2018

Continue Reading