This week the Dallas Morning News ran a wonderful article about the Rev. Matthew Crownover, Presbyterian pastor and chaplain at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The article talks about Matthew’s work as a chaplain in combination with one of his passions: ultra running. That means running 100 miles up and down trails, in and out of forests, often through the night. He says that running is like a microcosm of life with the obstacles he runs into on trails being like obstacles in life. When he runs, he thinks about prayer and joy and gratitude. The article was in the Life and Arts section on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 (Section E).
One of the things Matthew speaks about is the 80-20 rule. When he’s with patients, he tries to listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent of the time. I like that ratio. It fits with sitting with God often in quiet prayer and taking that quiet center out into the world. Morton Kelsey says, “We can love only those human beings to whom we listen, and love is the heart of the spiritual way. No one can ever learn to listen to God who has not first learned to listen to human beings. The one who cannot listen cannot love either another or God” (from Through Defeat to Victory).
Coming off a retreat at the Christ in the Desert Monastery where my husband, David, and I experienced prayer and silence in extended periods, it is hard to come back to the din of the world. Now, even at gas pumps, we have someone talking to us on a screen. It’s hard to hold on to those mountain top encounters.
That is why the monks, mystics, and worshiping Christians throughout the world teach us that the most important part of practicing spiritual disciplines is the “practice” part. We forget as human beings. We have to be reminded that God is connected to us all the time, even when we feel separation. If we sit long enough, we usually find out that it was us that had separated from God and not the other direction.
There are many instances when Jesus says, “Listen.”
“For those who have ears, listen.”
“Listen to me, all of you, and understand.”
“Listen! A sower went out to sow…”
And from God as Jesus came out of the baptismal waters, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
This week I am working at being especially mindful of listening. I invite you to do the same. Listen to God. Listen to Jesus. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Listen to the “still small voice.” Listen to your beloveds. Listen to your neighbors. Listen to your co-workers. Listen to strangers. Remind yourself to stop and listen.
Anne Clifton Hébert