March 11, 2011 – Listen Up

I first send my prayers to the victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Events such as this remind us that we ourselves are sitting in an earthquake zone and that according to the experts it is just a matter of time before a major earthquake hits our neck of the woods.  It also hits home somewhat for me because it was 5 years ago today that a tornado hit and devestated our property.  We were very fortunate that no one was injured and that we had so many wonderful friends and family who helped us in so many ways.  But it is again a reminder that our lives are fragile and can change in an instant, and that it is up to us to make the most of the time we have.

The themes of being people of service and being prepared for whenever God decides our time on earth will end hit home for us Christians, especially during this time of Lent.  It’s always funny to me seeing people struggle with deciding what to give up for Lent, or deciding what extra things to do as a means of sacrifice and giving.  I see this every 2 years with my Confirmation classes.  One of the requirements of the students is to perform 15 hours of volunteer service work.  Most of them when they hear this for the first time go into a panic: “What?!  15 hours?!  What do we do?!”  But as we begin to talk about things they can do they find that they are already doing more than they realize, and the 15 hours then don’t seem so daunting.

There are of course tons of ways that we can be of service to others, and many of these are just regular, everyday things.  If I tried to list them all it would take a thousand blogs.  But many times we still feel like we come up short, and we rack our brain trying to either come up with other ways that we can be of service, or we try to find the time to squeeze something else into our busy schedules.

We as humans of course are imperfect, and we always have room for improvement, but I think we usually find that if we really look at our lives in an honest and critical way that we are not doing as badly as we think; in fact we are probably doing more than we will ever realize.  Even though I do quite a bit for the church, I still wonder if I have gifts that I am not utilizing to the fullest.  But then I’m reminded that things that don’t even seem like works of service such as blogging, internet work, etc. are still important ways that I can utilize my particular talents in a positive manner.

As I have mentioned before I am not the most vocal person in the world.  Call it being quiet, call it shyness, call it what you want.  At times I have thought to myself that this is something I need to work on, that I should speak up for myself more often, which in some cases is true.  But I was also reminded this week that being quiet and being a good listener can also be a useful gift.  I had an instance this past week when someone was telling me about their bad day, and at the end of the conversation their last line was “I feel better now!”.  It reminded me that being a “listener” can not only be helpful and valuable, but it made me wonder if quietness and listening is something that our society is lacking right now.  We seem to have become a “turn up the volume” society.  Crank up the music!  If you don’t think you are being heard, yell louder!  I even hear many people say, myself included, that they can’t read or study without having some music or the TV on in the background.  Have we become a society that has de-valued the benefit of listening?

The Bible certainly recognizes the importance of listening.  There are many verses that can be pointed to, but a couple that stood out to me were Proverbs 19:27 which says “cease to hear instruction … and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”  And in the book of Samuel, whenever the Lord came to Samuel he would reply “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”  Jesus many times would wander off by himself to pray quietly.  Bishop Braxton, when he was here for his pastoral visit a few manths ago, reminded us that an important part of praying was listening to what God has to tell us.  And there was a teacher of mine who reminded our class that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.  In other words, listening is an important part of our Christian being, and perhaps something we can all work on this Lenten season.

A couple of random notes to finish: It was nice to see a good crowd in church for Mass on Ash Wednesday evening.  Now we just need to work on the days in which we are obligated to attend Mass.

Finally, the irony of the week: I receive e-mails from Ligouri Publications whenever they release new reading material, and this past week I received an e-mail talking about a new book that tells us how to pray in this electronic age, and how to push aside the i-pods, computers, etc. in order to spend time with God.  The final line of the e-mail: This book is available for download on your Amazon Kindle device.

This coming Thursday is a high holy day for people such as myself.  No, I’m not Irish and I’m not talking about St. Patrick’s Day.  Thursday begins the NCAA basketball tournament, and 4 days of non-stop hoops!  Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my Irish friends (if they are still my friends!).

Have a great week.  Peace.

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