January 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
“In the gospel accounts, we don’t see Jesus scurrying around driven by what we might call ‘hurry sickness,'” writes Stephen W. Smith. “We don’t sense Jesus navigating white water. We don’t see Him spinning plates or trying to live a balanced life. None of the four biographers of Jesus show Him in a hurry—ever.”
In his book, The Jesus Life: Eight Ways to Recover Authentic Christianity, Smith teaches that we not only need to listen to the words of Jesus but watch the lifestyle of Jesus, as well. And if we look closely, we’ll see that Jesus’ life is marked by a rhythm. This is especially clear, says Smith, in the Gospel of Luke:
Engage then disengage; work in the crowds but always make time to rejuvenate with time alone. Luke revealed that Jesus was not always on, He was not always available. This important lesson is key to sustaining a resilient and satisfying life.
Smith then goes on to tell the story of two “modern pilgrims,” Rich and Carla, who “graduated from a Christian college, got married, and moved to the mission field.”
They both had a dream of sharing Jesus with others who had never heard His teachings. But eighteen months after they arrived in their assigned country, they came back home. They left enthusiastic and invigorated. They returned broken and discouraged. Both shared that they had worked over seventy hours a week in a tireless effort with dozens of volunteer teams to build a children’s center from a crumbling building. They said, “We never had a day off. We never had one moment to ourselves. We hosted college students in our homes who stayed up late playing games, and we found ourselves playing the games with them until the early-morning hours. We went to bed exhausted, got up exhausted, did our work exhausted, and fought all the time—it seemed.”
Sound familiar? Feel familiar?
If so, and if you’d like help in imitating the rhythmic life of Jesus, pick up a copy of The Jesus Life.
(Stephen W. Smith, The Jesus Life: Eight Way to Recover Authentic Christianity, Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2012)
October 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
[I]n the course of life’s seasons, we need to have spiritual conversations with people who are good listeners. Let me be clear here, most people are not good listeners. They listen for facts not feelings. They listen for what they hope to hear. They listen when it may not cost them something.
A spiritual conversation is a reciprocal dialogue between two people where thoughts, opinions and feelings are shared and received. It’s two-way. Not one way.
People who have gone through major transitions—and others who have encountered loss—need good listeners. But what is necessary to be someone who listens well, to be someone who nurtures spiritual conversations? How about compassion and empathy and comfort?
Following is a list of words that I associate with good listeners. We all know what the words mean, but we’ve become fairly complacent in using them. Therefore, as a way to jumpstart our thinking and to help us do a better job of living them out, I’m pairing them with the literal meanings from their origins (with the help of the Online Etymology Dictionary and other resources). My intent is not to “correct” their modern definitions but simply to give depth to what we already know.
For instance, today a companion is a friend or partner. But the word companion is formed from two parts that originally meant “with” and “bread.” So a companion was someone who shared a meal with another. Even now we understand the link between sharing food and sharing our hearts. Here’s what Smith says about companionship:
I wrote in The Jesus Life that spiritual conversations take place at the table where we eat our meals. . . . It’s never an intent when you ask someone for lunch–to share protein, carbs and water with someone. No, when you ask someone for lunch, you’re really meaning, “Hey, let’s get together so we can share what’s been going on in our lives. It’s been too long. How about next Tuesday at noon at the deli?” That’s the stuff of conversations where hearts connect and souls meet and people who are lonely become spiritual companions.
Now, here’s the rest of my list:
acknowledge: “to admit understanding or knowing”
from a blending of Old English on, “into,” and cnawan, “recognize,” with Middle English knowlechen “admit”
affirm: “to strengthen”
from Latin ad, “to,” plus firmare, “make firm”
advocate: “someone called to help or plead”
Latin ad plus vocare, for “to” and “to call”
comfort: “to strengthen much”
Late Latin com, “very,” and fortis, “strong”
commiserate: “to lament with”
from Latin com, “with,” and miserari, “to feel pity”
communicate: “to make common”
from Latin commun, “common,” plus the verb suffix icare
companion: “eating partner”
Latin com, “with,” and panis, “bread, food”
compassion: “a suffering with”
Latin com and pati, meaning “with” and “to suffer”
concern: “a sifting” or “comprehension”
from Latin com, “with,” and cernere, “to sift”
confide: “to trust strongly”
Latin com plus fidere, meaning “very” and “to trust”
console: “to give much comfort or solace”
from Latin com, “very,” and solari, “to comfort”
contact: “to touch with”
from Latin com, “together,” and tangere, “to touch”
conversation: “a turning with”
Latin com, meaning “with,” and vertare, meaning “turn about”
empathy: “a feeling in”
Greek en and pathos, meaning “in” and “feeling”
encourage: “to add heart or bravery”
Old French en, “make, put in,” and corage, “heart, innermost feelings”
sympathy: “a feeling together”
Greek syn, “together,” plus pathos, “feeling”
understand: “to stand in the midst of”
Old English under, “between, among,” plus stand
May we better understand these ideas and, in so doing, better understand each other. May we put them into practice. May we all become better companions . . . and better listeners.
(“Steve Smith, “The Power of a Spiritual Conversation,” Steve and Gwen Smith, September 26, 2012)