Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

Listening is important. I have listened through the years to many parents who were exasperated, fatigued, and generally flummoxed over the behavior of their children. The age of the children? Babies who won’t sleep, terrible two-year old’s, energetic unruly toddlers, insecure adolescents, and teenagers trying to find their place in the world.

Listening is important. I have listened to adults who are trying to care for aging parents. The attempt to parent your parents is exasperating. Your efforts may or may not be appreciated. Your questions seem intrusive, nosey, controlling even. Are you eating enough; are you drinking water, do you need a housekeeper, are you current on your bills, what is with all the empty wine bottles, do you think you should still be driving?

Listening is important. Every Sunday after worship, people are invited into the gym for coffee, cookies, and an organ recital. My heart needs a bypass, my kidneys are not quite right, cataract surgery next week, liver, hips, knees, memories, everything is suspect. And the most common phrase in the organ recital, “Can you say that again, I did not hear you?” How many of you would have thought the most common phrase was going to be, “What a great sermon!”

Listening is important. I am called to listen, but also to offer some perspective, wisdom, or advice. The question I most often ask after listening is: “Is it age appropriate?” The behavior that you are describing, is it age appropriate? Babies, like old men, don’t tend to sleep through the night. We cannot expect a two-year old to act like a five-year old. We should expect adolescents to test their boundaries as they begin to grow into adulthood. Aging parents do need some occasional looking after, and the kids you raised may just love you enough to ask difficult questions.

Listening is important. Doctors will tell you that your information and insight can be more informative than a battery of tests. I had my annual physical this past week. Thanks to the pandemic, I had not actually had a physical in two years. Two years at my age is not like two years at 30. After some niceties, my doctor of three decades said, “Tell me Jim, what is going on with your health?” I described 15 things that did not work right, a little arthritis here, some sleep issues there, consistently missing four-foot putts, headaches, stiffness, and hearing loss. He looked at me and said, “Age appropriate. Get a shingles shot and I’ll see you next year.” I appreciated his honesty and was comforted by the fact that I was not exceptional, just aging.

Listening is important. It is also important to have realistic expectations. Not all marriages are made in heaven. Vows are not always honored. Sometimes people who love each other can’t live together. Not all children are geniuses. The world has always been dangerous and violent. The problems in Eastern Europe have been going on for centuries. Power hungry men act like power hungry men. If you turn on the news expecting to be uplifted, then maybe you should adjust your expectations.

May God help us. May God help us to be better listeners; may we share the human experience with increased patience and compassion. May we learn from the pages of history, and work to build a more peaceful world.

I should stop now; my carpal tunnel is killing me.

One day closer,
Pastor Jim