Tiger Woods, Second Shots, and the Ridiculous Grace of God

So how over the coverage of the Tiger Woods DUI are you?

Yeah, me too.

IT’S. ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE.

I get it. When the story broke, the NBA Finals hadn’t started, nobody really cares about football OTAs, and hockey… well, c’mon! It’s a really slow sports news cycle. ESPN needs to run something, and Tiger news is better than more Lavar Ball.

Side note: I can’t stand that guy. Lavar Ball. Sheesh!

But the news networks aired the story. The talking heads went to work pontificating about the downfall of Woods. The mug shot was released. Then the dashcam footage came out. And we consumed it all. Every ounce until we were sick of the story. Like a toddler who’s hidden the bag of gummy bears in their room, and instead of going to sleep, they’re gorging on that sugary treat. Everything seems great until they throw up in their bed later that night.

I really enjoy golfing. I don’t get to go that often, and I’m not very good. In fact, I’m below average (USGA says a score of about 90 is average). Still, I love getting out there and doing my best. One great shot per round is all it takes to keep you coming back for more. If you’ve ever been golfing, you know the feeling.

Of course, you also know the feeling of hitting an absolutely terrible shot. The one that only goes about 15 yards or lands right in the middle of the blue fairway… also known as water.

And that’s when you take another ball, throw it down, swing… and hit the most beautiful shot you’ve ever seen. It’d be great if only it counted. My pastor used to often joke about writing a book titled, “How to Hit Your Second Shot First.” He may be on to something. Second shots seem to be so much easier, and often so much better. Wouldn’t you like to have a few second shots?

 

In golf, it’s called a mulligan. But life doesn’t really come with mulligans. Every shot counts. Second shots don’t really exist, and second chances are rare.

In life that is. But grace… grace is a different story.

Now, before I go on, I’m not saying grace is a mulligan. It doesn’t erase your first shot. You’re not Marty McFly. Grace is not the DeLorean. The first shot happened. You can’t change it, and there’s no use denying it.

So then, what is grace? Grace is that ridiculous opportunity, given by God, to throw down another ball and hit the shot again like it matters, because it does. Grace doesn’t remove the past; grace transforms the past. It takes all those missed shots, bad hits, and downright whiffs and somehow makes something great out of it. I can’t explain it, but I’ve experienced it. And in a way, that’s even more powerful.

Which brings us back to Tiger Woods and the general way we obsess over the downfall of superstars. Why do we love watching these people fall? Do we get some kind of gratification from it? Does it make us feel better about our own issues, as if shining the light on their failings dims the light on our own?

And Christians, we’re just as guilty! We give up on people who fall all the time. We may not blatantly ask them to leave our churches, but we’re masters of subtle communication – the looks, stares, whispers when they enter the room. It’s like we want them to feel uncomfortable. What’s that about? Shouldn’t the people who have experienced the ridiculous grace of God be quick to give that same grace to others?

It reminds me of the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. She was caught… in the act… of adultery… Talk about a time you’d like to use a mulligan! (Side note: who are these creepers peeping in the window to catch her?) The crowd, hurling accusations, throws her at the feet of Jesus. He kneels down, writes something in the sand, and shows us exactly what grace looks like. He says a few words and the crowd leaves. Then He looks at her in a way only Jesus can look at a person, seeing her and seeing into her simultaneously. He speaks, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”

Here’s the question – when people fall, are we standing with the crowd or are we kneeling with Jesus? Do we consume all the juicy details of their sin or do we show them how God is giving them a chance to hit that second shot first? Every failure by those in our churches is our opportunity to demonstrate the same grace that has transformed our lives.

What if church became synonymous for second shots and second chances? Not a place of accusations, gossip, and throwing rocks… but a community of people willing to kneel down with the fallen, hand them a second chance, and cheer as they take another swing in life.

You don’t deserve it. Neither do I. Neither does Tiger.

And that’s the ridiculousness of grace.

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Confessions of a Pastor, part one.

I don’t really know when I had the idea. Perhaps it was while I was eating dinner with a friend… or maybe we were drinking a couple of lattes at Starbucks. If you know me well, it could very well have come while I was in the bathroom, which by the way is where I do some of my best thinking. (Before you judge me or are grossed out by that thought, cut me some slack. There are 4 kids in my house 10 years old and younger. Quiet space to just think and let your mind wander is a cherished commodity!)

The thought went something like, “I wonder if people really know what goes through a pastor’s mind.” I know other’s have done something similar to what I will attempt. Craig Groeschel wrote a great book with the same title back in 2006. Others have preached sermons or sermon series… we even did one at Vertical Church in the early years called “Dirty Little Secret.” But that’s not what I was thinking – those things have always played it a little safe, ya know?

I struggle with doubt.

I experience sexual temptations.

Church people get on my nerves and I want to punch them.

Those may not sound safe, but they are. It’s kinda hip to talk about doubt, sex, and religious people. Throw in a couple of comments about prayer and finances and you’re golden. I want to take you a step further… be a bit more real and vulnerable, and a lot more personal. Maybe the things I’m going to share don’t apply to every pastor. In fact, they probably don’t. It’s also entirely possible that I have issues… certainly wouldn’t be the first time. If you’re a pastor and you can identify, that’s great. You’re not alone. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, pray for me. Evidently I need it.

Last thing, it’s a little bit scary writing this because there are those in my own church who may think I’m being passive-aggressive and writing this about them. Please know that I’m not. I don’t do passive-aggressive. Ask people who really know me – I’m either passive or aggressive. I don’t really have a middle ground.

And with that, here’s my first confession…

#1 If I say what I really think about your situation, I’m afraid you’ll get mad, leave the church, and talk bad about me and my family.

Here’s the deal. As a pastor, I get to have a front row seat to a lot of really awesome things that happen in people’s lives. The downside, of course, means that I also sit across the booth in restaurants and coffee shops as people share about difficulty and pain. The hardest is the self-inflicted pain. You know… the kind that comes from a series of poor choices.

Now, it’s not that I don’t feel empathy. I do. My heart breaks for people just about every day. That’s something they don’t teach you in seminary or bible school… being a pastor means having your heart opened over and over again.

It’s also not that I struggle to come up with something to say. I know the difference (mostly) between the time to speak and the time to listen. I think I’m a pretty good “question-asker” too. It’s always good to ask questions when people are sharing about life. It lets them know you’re interested in what they are saying and helps them share more of their story.

Here’s the hard thing, at least for me. This usually ends with the person on the other side of the booth asking me what I think… or what they should do… what should they say, etc. This is a frightening question. In my experience, you see, some people aren’t very teachable. They want all grace, with little to no truth mixed in (see John 1:14). For them, truth = judgment = judgmental. So if I share what I believe to be the truth they need to hear in that moment, I’m taking a real risk that I will be automatically misunderstood and characterized as a judgmental and condescending Christian pastor.

And that’s when they leave the church.

And typically, when they leave, they talk. A lot. And they try to get others to leave with them. They say things that aren’t true, not only about me, but often times about my family. Sometimes they say things that are pure fabrications; other times it’s half-truths and misconceptions. Rarely does anyone who hears this come to ask if there’s any truth to it. I’ve found that many people jump at the chance to hear something negative about a pastor. It confirms their pre-conceived idea that we’re either incapable of holding down a “real job” or egotistical and self-centered.

Now, you may not believe all that is true. I wish it wasn’t. But it has happened enough to me and the pastors I know that now I’m a bit guarded when giving out advice, especially spiritual advice. I want to tell you what I think you should do, what I think is best, what I think God would want you to hear, but I don’t know how you’ll respond, and that is a really scary place for me. So to be honest, sometimes I hold back. I don’t tell you what I think you need to hear because I’m not completely sure I can trust you.

Because here’s what I won’t do, specifically if you respond negatively… if you leave and start talking. I won’t tell people what you shared with me, how you’re struggling and hurting. It would be easier for me… most people know that hurting people hurt people. I could say everything I know, and it may even vindicate me, but I won’t. I’ll be clear about the things being said about me, but I won’t drag you down in the process. I won’t tell them how your marriage is falling apart, or about your kid’s drug problem, or the impending foreclosure. I won’t even mention that you’re still pretty immature in your faith. I’ll simply say, “I don’t know,” and try to change the subject.

So that’s my first confession. It’s not the most revealing nor vulnerable confession of this series. Neither is it the closest one to my soul. It’s just simply the first one. And I’m working on it. I’m moving past the fear of “what if” and simply trying to embrace the obedience in the “right now.” I’ve discovered that God has promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.

I’m leaning into that promise.

Donald Trump’s First 100, Fake News, and Politics in the Postmodern World

As I write this, Donald Trump has been POTUS for almost 100 days now. It’s been, shall we say… eventful. As I scroll through my news feeds, both on social media and online news sites, his reception has not been without flair and controversy. To some, President Trump is evil incarnate… (insert inappropriate Spicer-like reference to Hitler)… to others, he is “the son of righteousness rising with healing in his wings.” Obviously, both of these descriptions can’t be true… right?

Fake news.

We started hearing that phrase around election time as eventually debunked news stories were shared on Facebook and other platforms faster than an Ellen selfie at the Oscars. I suspect the phrase “fake news” is just picking up steam. I could see it being the word/phrase of 2017… applied loosely, of course. And that’s the frustrating thing about it. How do you know if what you’re reading is “fake news” or not? Do you trust one or two particular sources or news outlets? If so, which ones? And how did you arrive at that conclusion? And are all other angles of newsworthy events that don’t match your preferred angle labeled “fake news” or do they have a certain measure of viability?

Facebook.

Back in the early fall of 2016 I decided to logoff of Facebook for 21 days… in January. I started January 8th to be exact. Can I be honest for a second? It was glorious! While I certainly knew things were heating up during the inauguration (those in my circle were all too willing to share), I was relieved that I had made a decision months ago that pulled me out of the conversation. Good or bad… Christian or not, I was thankful. But I noticed something when I logged back on. Most of my friends shared news stories from pretty much the same sources – RedState, Blaze, Fox News on one side, and David Wolfe, Slate, Huffington Post on the other (just to name a few). It was an endless legion of voices calling out to me to listen to their truths. It’s not that I hadn’t noticed it before, I had. But for some reason, it intrigued me.

Postmodern Thought.

I wrote my master’s thesis on postmodernity while in seminary. I attempted a dialogue between classical pentecostalism, postmodernity, and the emerging church (a hip topic in the early 2000s). The term”postmodern” represents a broad range of thoughts and ideas across multiple fields of study. As a theology student, I focused primarily on the idea of truth. While there is certainly a postmodern camp that would argue that truth doesn’t exist outside of one’s own interpretation, a more mainstream version is that complete truth can’t be known, possessed, owned by one person or ideology.

Perhaps an analogy would be helpful.

Suppose you and I were both looking at the same city, from the same building, on the same floor, but from two different windows – yours on the north side, mine on the south. From our perspective, what we each see of the city is true; yet, we cannot grasp the fullness of the city from our limited view. So what we see is true because it’s true for me, though it might not be true for you. It’s an oversimplified analogy, but perhaps it helps. Truth is the product of the systems and structures that create a perspective, so it is contextual, changing, and experienced in varying degrees.

Donald Trump, Fake News, and Politics in the Postmodern World

Let me just cut to the chase here… it seems to me that the seemingly unending voices, blogs, website, and news outlets that fill our phone screens are nothing more than the cost of doing politics in the postmodern world where truth is multi-layered and multi-versed. To use the building analogy, we already live in a world where each window in the building has a space to express its individual perspective of the city.

Who’s right?

Who’s wrong?

Who knows?

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I don’t see things getting any better. It’s as if truth has become so multi-layered, so individualistic, that it has turned in on itself and is eating away at the core of human society. In other words, we’re burning down the building arguing who has the right window to view the city. That’s not to say that people just need to hush and not say anything… or that we don’t need to talk about injustice when we see it.

Of course, with so many views and perspectives, it’s increasingly difficult to tell which ones are grounded in reality and which ones are embellished truth or down right fabricated lies! In other words, if everyone has their unique window to reality, how do we distinguish between what is simply a different viewpoint and what is fake news? Moreover, if you’re super skeptical like me, what do you do when you assume most all news media has a financial backer(s) with a vested interest in public perception of truth?

The Way Forward… at least for me.

It would be incredibly UNpostmodern for me to suggest THE way forward. Instead, let me just share with you the way forward… for me.

1. Embrace core convictions with a closed hand.  There are certain beliefs and convictions I will hold tightly. From Jesus Christ as the centerpiece of the human story to the glaring need for racial reconciliation and gender equality, these realities are central to my personality and identity. I will not apologize nor compromise on them.

2. Embrace “truth” with an open hand. While I will hold tightly to core convictions, I will hold “truth” loosely. It seems in our world that we have legions of voices of truth. News channels, blog sites, our crazy uncle on Facebook… so many are vying for the opportunity to speak into our thoughts. While I may have my preferred sources, I will still hold on to the truth they speak with an open hand. Challenge them. Disagree with them. Point out their flaws. It’s ok. These are open-handed.

3. Embrace people with both hands. When I was a youth pastor, I used to teach our students that “it is better to be right than right.” Better to be in right relationship than destroy the relationship on the altar of proving you are right. In other words, even though I may believe strongly in my truth, I don’t have to be a jerk about it. I can run from pride and arrogance. Are there times I’ll just have to hold my tongue, nod, and silently disagree? Yes. I don’t have to correct everyone. They are entitled to be wrong, just like me.

The Apostle Paul said it best, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rom. 12:18) Now, that doesn’t mean just shut up and never speak out or share your opinion. I think the verses immediately before and after really provide the context. He says “do not repay anyone evil for evil” and later, “do not take revenge.” When I share something on social media, particularly something political, I ask myself, “Why am I sharing this? Am I trying to prove a point? Am I in an imaginary argument with someone who I hope sees this and changes their thinking? Am I trying to instigate something? Is this a passive-egressive attempt on my part?”

So what do you think? What is your way forward and how are you navigating the current culture? I’d love to hear your thoughts… as long as it doesn’t contain fake news!

😂  🤣  😂

What I Learned About Myself During Election 2016

It’s Thursday evening, and my four kids are watching Netflix after dinner… I believe they are watching Goosebumps. My wife and I just had an impassioned conversation about the aftermath of #Election2016. Like many Americans, I was surprised by the results. While I thought it would be closer than the pundits and pollsters were saying, I was still surprised. Admittedly, I had probably equal disdain for both of the major candidates. In my opinion, Republicans and Democrats had both nominated people I couldn’t imagine being deserving of the office. Others had run on both sides that I could’ve supported. So I could morph into whatever political conversation in which I found myself… pro-… anti-… I understood the talking points.

But now it’s Thursday, the election is over, and a whole lot of people are upset, fearful, confused, hurt, and maligned. Don’t get me wrong… I’m cynical. I have little doubt that had the election gone differently, the aftermath would have been similar… equal fear, equal gloating, equal ugliness on Facebook by some, equal despair by others. But it didn’t go differently, and here is where we are. So where do we go from here?

There are many voices saying people should just move on, accept the loss, lick their wounds, and come back the next time. Fair enough. You’re right. They will have to do just that, but not yet. It’s only Thursday. And their fear is legitimate, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. It doesn’t have to make sense to you. I’ve already heard stories of little kids being bullied in school for being non-white, asked if they were “illegal” and will they have to leave, women who feel uncertain about their safety in a culture that elected a man who said what he said. And sure he apologized, but that doesn’t take away the hurt. Give them space to mourn, grieve, doubt, scream, protest. Your “christianese” words aren’t helping. It’s only Thursday after all.

At the same time, we can’t forget that millions upon millions of people felt so disenfranchised with the current political system, so abused and forgotten, that they latched on to an outsider who told them they weren’t stupid, backward, or forgotten. They were, in fact, valuable and worthwhile… this mass of white, black, asian, and hispanic people who felt ostracized and dictated to by a foreign culture that came across arrogant and elitist. I grew up in the heart of “Trumpland.” I know exactly how it feels to be labeled as soon as someone finds out you’re from West Virginia. Do you know how many times I’ve heard the statement, “I can’t believe you’re from there… how is that possible?” While I was not a Trump supporter, I can understand the attack on your identity when you’re called a “basket of deplorables.” And sure she apologized, but that doesn’t take away the hurt. Give them space to celebrate, cheer, believe, hope. They feel like they’ve been heard, finally. Your attack on their intelligence isn’t helping. And besides, it’s only Thursday.

And yet… as I sit here listening to the chatter coming from my living room, I’m still bothered by something, something that has struck me like a knife in my own heart – I don’t listen very well. Sure, I follow the general courtesy of not talking while others are, but that’s just being polite. That’s not listening. The more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t listen to understand. I listen to respond. I listen to critique. I listen to find the hole in your argument or narrative, exploit it, and win the argument.

As I look at #Election2016, the darkest thing I see hides itself in my own heart. I’m a horrible listener. I am the exact opposite of James 1:19… too often I am “slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry.” I’m the one who hears the cries of my brothers and sisters, and even if I don’t say it, I’m thinking in my own heart… “move on, accept the loss, lick your wounds, and come back next time.” I hear the voices of those calling out in “Trumpland” and I look down my nose at them with contempt, thankful that I’m no longer “one of those” and that I “got out of there.” But I’m not listening, at least not with the intent to understand. I’m usually listening with the intent to correct. Because if I’m right, you must be wrong, and I’m always right.

I need to listen more. I don’t need to view every conversation as an argument to win. That just makes you my enemy. I don’t need to have the final word. My voice is not that important. I don’t need to comment on every Facebook post and correct the thought process of its author. Who do I think I am? Instead, I need to simply respond with, “Why do you feel that way?” Then listen… and actually listen. And when they finish, I don’t need to respond defensively but inquisitively… “Tell me more about that. What was that like? How did that make you feel?” I need to learn the true meaning of James’ words… “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Perhaps I’m not alone in this. Perhaps we could all listen a bit more to the people with whom we disagree, or especially, the people we don’t understand.

Last thing… if you’ve been reading this, and the whole time thinking of people who you think need to read it, you’re probably a lot like me and need to learn to listen too. But it’s only Thursday. We can talk about that later.

Same-sex marriage and the SCOTUS decision: Why are you angry, really?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that the SCOTUS released a pretty controversial (at least in some of my circles) yet landmark decision, effectively legalizing same-sex marriages throughout the US. For some people, this was a huge win – the culmination of years of hopes, dreams, and work. For others, it was yet another sign of the declining morality in America.

Immediately, it seemed that everyone had an opinion. My Facebook news feed filled up with links and shares about it faster than Kim Kardashian could fill up a photo album of selfies. Obviously, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, this struck a nerve, especially in the evangelical Christian community. A lot has already been said, and I certainly don’t want to add to the noise. However, after spending much of the day thinking about it, I do have just a few thoughts I would like to share.

Regarding the anger – I totally get it. I understand why you’re angry. We get mad when our gods get punched in the face. Does that sound offensive? I really don’t mean it to be. As evangelical Christians, we have pledged our allegiance to a vision of America that simply doesn’t exist. We have worshipped our position at the center of political power and rejoiced as leaders sought our approval for their decisions. But things have changed. We have lost our position of power and influence (if we ever really had it, but that’s another blog). Our god, this vision and position we covet, took an uppercut to the chin with this decision. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last. Our god is dying, and this terrifies us.

We’re angry because we’re confused about the Kingdom of God. The way we talk just highlights this. As if this or any decision gives God more or less cause to bring judgment. We are not Israel of the Old Testament. Our country is a kingdom of this world – comprised of both the potential and frailty that comes with such a distinction. Our best days are still filthy rags compared to God’s Kingdom.

We’re angry because we have defined ourselves by what we are against. Our identity is carved out over and against a variety of socio-economic and political issues. This is not uncommon nor even totally avoidable. However, when taken to the extreme, it means that when the issue we are fighting against wins, we lose. And nobody likes to lose. But it’s a little more complex than simply losing. Our identity loses – and it leaves us heartbroken. Because again, nobody likes to lose.

Finally, we’re angry because we don’t see the potential staring us right in the face. We have an opportunity that hasn’t been seen in generations – the opportunity to be counter-cultural. The opportunity to be a prophetic voice calling out from the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The opportunity to be a peculiar people, to be light in darkness. The opportunity to declare the praises of Him who has called us out of said darkness and into His wonderful light. The opportunity to once again be known by what we are for – the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hello! My name is…

What’s your name?

Isn’t that one of the first questions we ask someone when we meet them? It’s generally how we identify each other, by our names. You can only go so long saying “Hey buddy” or “What’s up girl” until it becomes a little awkward. Now what can get really confusing about names is when you are known by a name that is not your real name. I once knew a guy in West Virginia that we all called Chunk. His real name was Jason, and he was a fairly large guy, which is why we called him Chunk. This new name became how everyone knew him. He even began signing his name on birthday cards as Chunk. The name his parents had given him virtually disappeared, replaced by this other name.

Who has the right to name a person? Usually, the parents right? (Hopefully after they’ve given it some thought… I knew a family that named their kids after the day of the week they were born, which was kinda weird having two Tuesdays in the same family.)  The ones responsible for creation are the ones also tasked with naming, giving an identity to this new being. There’s a certain power being exerted when you name someone. Used properly, it can be a beautiful moment filled with meaning, heritage, promise, hope.

But naming has a dark side.

Often times we will rename people, and in doing so, push upon them a false identity that is far too simple and monochrome for any human being. For example, we have the tendency to name things we don’t understand in order to define them and have power over them. We do this all the time, particularly with groups of people with whom we disagree: liberals, conservatives, gays, homophobes, racists, republicans, democrats. We even do this in the church: missional, attractional, traditional, universalist, Calvinist, Arminian. If I name you, I can argue with you and ultimately dismiss you based on the name I’ve given you, never really needing to actually hear you or consider what you are saying. With the power of renaming you, I can turn you into a caricature of who you really are, and then dismiss you.

Now, I understand that often times we have embraced these names and used them to formulate an identity, and even find pride in that. But we are so much more complicated than the names that have been given us. And all I have to do is put the word “just” in front of it to convey the idea… You’re just a Calvinist… you’re just a universalist… you’re just missional. Get the idea?

In Mark 5, there is this very bizarre story of Jesus’ interaction with a demon-possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes. (You can read it here.) In that story, Jesus asks the man, “What is your name?” The man responds, “My name is Legion…” Pause. Do you really think that is the name his parents gave him? As if Mr. and Mrs. Demoniac-guy sat down on the day their son was born and proclaimed, “He shall be called Legion.” If that sounds ridiculous to you, that’s because it is. This man was living his life under a name that was given to him not by his parents, but by some outsider. Maybe it was the demons that invaded his life that renamed him. Or perhaps the people of the nearby villages ran in terror screaming, “Here comes that Legion!” and it stuck. I don’t know how it happened, but this man has fully assumed an identity that is foreign to who he was created to be. An outsider has named him. An outsider has defined him.

But names forced upon us from the outside never really convey the truth about us, or the true reality about our identity. 

I don’t think Jesus called him Legion. Because calling him Legion would have affirmed the false identity and caricature that this man had become. Jesus didn’t want to dismiss this man based on his flawed theology or argue with him on the finer points of the doctrine of demon possession. Jesus hadn’t come to dismiss, argue, or write off people – He had come to heal.

Can you imagine if we took the same approach in our world today? As followers of Jesus, what if we skipped out on the power of renaming people in order to dismiss them and instead embraced the grace of God in order to engage them and see Jesus heal them? What if in our conversations with each other there were no liberals or conservatives, pro- or anti-, jews or greeks? What if we chose to relate to other people as authentic human beings, complex and nuanced, rather than a caricature of some ideology?

Would it make a difference?

Our First Inclination

In a world where we are all infatuated with our voice and the delusion of our self importance, where the first inclination is to speak and voice our opinion on any and every matter, often times the best response is to simply listen. Listen to those who have gone before. Listen to those who have experienced what you’re wanting to talk about. Listen to first-hand accounts. Listen to their cries, their longing, their frustrations. Listen without formulating a response to defend your beliefs and ideals. Listen without creating a point-by-point checklist of how you will respond.

Listen to understand. Listen like you would hope they would listen to you.

If you do chose to speak, ask questions. Ask them how they feel, what they’re thinking. Ask them to tell you their stories, to share their hopes and fears. Ask, and then return to listening.
And no matter what they say, resist the temptation to become angry or defensive. We’re not listening in order to win an argument. We’re listening in order to build a relationship. Everyone who speaks quickly often speaks out of anger. But when we choose to listen first, we have the opportunity to replace the anger with compassion and healing grace.
Admittedly, these thoughts are not original to me. Centuries ago, a man named James, probably the brother of Jesus, penned these words:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

James 1:19-20