First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Did You Say Something? I Wasn’t Listening

I got into trouble when I sent my wife on a fools errand. She went to pick up my son at his friends house, about 20 miles from here. And wouldn’t you know, right after she left he comes walking up the drive way. Our friend Adele said that she told me she was going to drop Edward off at our house. And so I knew I was in deep trouble. How can I have forgotten such a crucial piece of information?

I tried to remember what Adele said to me and when she said it. I thought about pleading ignorance and claiming that she didn’t tell me. The only problem with this strategy is that I do remember her telling me. But I wasn’t really listening. I was thinking of something else at the same time she was speaking to me. And so I remember hearing her, but I also remember other things going on in my mind as well. If I had paid more attention to what she was saying and focused on how important it would become, I wouldn’t have been sweating it out as I waited for my wife to return. And the things that were distracting me weren’t important anyway. I have to remember to stay focused. It is really important to listen to people. That way I won’t get killed by my wife.

The skill of listening to people is very important. It means disciplining our minds to really pay attention, and not letting our thoughts wander. When we’re talking to someone, we need to zoom in on our friend’s words, look into her eyes, and understand everything she is saying. This takes practice and self-discipline. I think about how often I have allowed my thoughts to wander onto the football game that is being played on the television, instead of listening to what my wife is saying. I’m sure she senses that my mind is drifting, but she puts up with me anyway. But I would understand if she became angry with me. Let’s face it, when we open our mouths we all feel we have something important to say. And when people ignore us, it gets frustrating. So when I feel that someone is paying no attention whatsoever to my words, I just want to walk away and do something else. Learning to focus on what other people are saying communicates that we care to the person who is speaking.

And that’s what this is all about - building up our friends. We care about so many people. We care about our friends, our neighbors, and our relatives. Most of us care about the people around us and so we want to help them feel good about themselves. No one feels good when being ignored. So that’s why it’s so important to listen. But there are other ways in which people communicate their thoughts and feelings.

I love to look at the birds of prey migrate over the Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary in PA. Every year thousands of different raptors - hawks, falcons, kites, Osprey’s and Eagles - fly over the mountain on their way south. And on the mountain thousands of bird enthusiasts stand and sit on rocks with their necks craned upward to look at the birds as they fly over. Among the throngs of people sitting on rocks are the expert bird watchers that count the flying travelers in order to monitor bird populations. A bird flies over and the expert says it’s a Coopers Hawk. Another bird flies over and he says it’s a Northern Goshawk. I can’t tell the difference. Even when I look in the bird book, they look almost identical. How can these people looking through binoculars at a bird a mile away tell the difference between them? Because day in and day out they watch the birds and they learn to recognize the subtle differences that make them unique.

In the same way it is important for us to love our friends by learning to recognize the subtle ways they communicate. We don’t always say what we mean. We don’t always express our thoughts. But you know the old expression; he wears his thoughts on his sleeve. It is impossible for me to hide my mood. It’s as plain as the nose on my face. And my wife definitely knows if I am angry just by looking at me. I make it obvious that I am mad or upset. But I drop other more subtle hints about my mood because I’m not so sure I want to talk about it. My family and friends have learned over the years to recognize my mood swings. When we care enough about each other we can learn to pay attention and understand the unspoken communication in the body language of our friends.

Paying attention to the details of a person’s life validates them. My wife comes home from work and talks about what she did during the day. She used to work in the Food Industry surrounded by chemicals all day. She would come home and talk about the product she was working on or the smelly chemicals she was working with. She didn’t have to tell me about them because I could smell them. I had no clue what she is talking about because chemistry was my worst subject in grade school, along with English (and now I am writing a book, go figure.) But just listening to her talking makes her feel good. And as long as I am really paying attention to her and not letting my mind drift off onto other things, I let her know that she is important to me. I believe this is part of the reason our marriage is so wonderful.

The people we love need to feel important. And it is not that hard to help them to feel good about themselves. It doesn’t make us feel too bad either. We just need to pay close attention to what they say and do. Our faces and bodies tell others how we feel. Our words tell others what is going on inside. We communicate our emotions even when we want to conceal them. I believe that all of us can understand each other better. I know that it is possible to be more caring of others. The trick is to understand people by paying close attention to their words and deeds. A good person listens to her friends.


Pastor Bill

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