Listening · Words

Listening to the power of listening

As I continue to read Jim Wallis’ Faith Works, I draw your attention to the second section which includes these three chapters:
Do the Work and You’ll Find the Spirit
Recognize the Three Faces of Poverty
Listen to Those Closest to the Problem

The third chapter of this section really affected me. It ended with this:
“It’s difficult to get many different groups working together, but the principle of partnership is this–everybody does their share, and everyone does what they do best. Nobody gets to sit on the sidelines, and everyone brings some answers and some resources. It can work…Always the key is listening to those closest to the problem.” (emphasis mine)

Listening–deeply and purposefully–can be transformative to the speaker, the listener and the situation. Why don’t we engage in this powerful experience more often?

Listening · Words

Listening to what I read

On my reading agenda now is Faith Works: How to Live Your Beliefs and Ignite Positive Social Change by Jim Wallis.

The first three chapters, which he has organized as lessons, have me hooked:
Trust Your Questions
Get out of the House More Often
Use Your Gift

If we started with these three lessons, what might happen?

I am trying to live these…how about you?

(I hope to post more as I progress through the book!)

Listening · Other sites

raising awareness

gravatar-3cmx3cm-v5I recently launched a new resource called 2dollardifference to raise awareness about hunger and poverty. encourages people to experience in a meaningful, albeit partial, way the situation of half of the population of the world: eating for $2 a day.

“Simple but not easy,” participants eat for $2 a day for one week, then give the difference between their reduced food costs and what they usually spend on food (i.e., groceries, coffees, snacks, meals at restaurants) to an organization dedicated to the eradication of hunger.

A host of materials at support the experience-reflect-act process, including a list of relevant books, a special prayer, a sheet of intentions, costs of single servings of various foods, food diary, etc. The site also offers the “chat post” where folks who eat for $2 a day can share online their experiences and reflections. A few organizations that focus on the alleviation of hunger and poverty are listed as possible targets for donations, but participants can donate to any organization they choose.

2dollardifference is designed for individuals or groups and can be done anytime. To learn more, please visit the web site at

Feel free to let others know!

(There is also a facebook page here, if you would like to join.)


Fair weather friend?

“Scrrrrritchhhhh….sssscrrrraaape…,” were the sounds that roused me from my slumber in the wee hours of the morning. Could that be someone clearing the driveways of snow? Snow? Was it supposed to snow? I had heard something on the radio about possible flurries, but enough to scrape?

I pulled myself back deeper under the covers with the schedule for the day loosened and running wildly in my head. I wanted to go to the 7 a.m. Eucharist this morning; then I was to meet a friend for coffee; then another friend for lunch; and tonight I have a class. “IT CAN’T SNOW!”

But sure enough when the alarm finally sounded and I rousted myself free of those warm blankets, I peeped out to see the ground covered with white. And it was still coming down.

No one had asked me whether it was a good time to snow. I didn’t have a choice; it was here.

During the middle of the last snow, I sat in the tire dealer’s store having studded tires put on the car, a purchase that prepares us for the necessary trips out into white weather but doesn’t increase our desire to interact with it. So I could go ahead with all my plans; though never having been a boy scout (or girl scout either for that matter), I am prepared.

Still I hesitated. I thought of the mess on the roads, of the drivers being uncertain of the pavement conditions go faster, of all those who did not get their vehicle prepared. Should I go anyway?

I decided no; I would not go out for the first two events; why risk it? It is a safe choice. And later in the day I could reassess the others.

Hoping to feel resolute and confident, I realize that instead I have guilt and wimpiness. But I also feel this is right. Or is it simply one viable option among several?

Sitting to reflect on this mishmash of emotions elicited from such a commonplace event, I realize that this small decision is like so many larger ones: Trying to take every facet into consideration, realizing that it is not just how I feel about my choice but how it is seen by others, being safe because the risk is difficult to determine, seeing both sides while attempting to block out all but one clear answer…

I look over and see my furry companion unbothered by any of these mental gymnastics, eyes at half-mast, paws tucked under his luxuriant coat. He’s doesn’t worry about such things; for him choices are easy. I consider the warm spot I left in the bed and wonder what would happen if I tried to rekindle that comfortable dozy feeling I had before the scritch of the snowplow, but know that the day has moved on. Escape rarely works and I have much I want to do, it is just different from what I had planned. I reach over and scratch under that delicate chin to hear the purr that escapes.  I am thankful to live with one who doesn’t second-guess.


Energy Justice

Last Thursday and Friday I attended the Energy Justice Conference at the University of Colorado in Boulder. It was organized by Dr. Lakshman Guruswamy, Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Security at the School of Law. More than forty speakers representing multiple disciplines took us through the challenges facing the energy oppressed poor (the one third of the world’s population that has fire as its only energy source) and the consequences of their lack of options. It was more than eye opening. It was at once both distressing given the dire situation of so many billions of people and hopeful to realize that many realize their plight and are working diligently to ease their circumstances.

The challenges, however, are enormous and the solutions are not simple. People who rely on fire to cook their foods, heat and/or illuminate their homes suffer extreme indoor air pollution. The pollution comes from the production of black soot and other toxic substances resulting from incomplete combustion of their fuel source, usually wood, dung, or charcoal. The indoor air pollution especially compromises the health of the women who cook and the children carried on their backs or kept close. Because the fires often sit on the floor of the homes, many in the home suffer severe burns. And the physical labor of the women and young girls who carry the fuel, often across miles daily or every other day, is considerable. The burden of these loads often leads to injury and almost invariably discomfort.

The environmental impacts from those who use fire are serious as well. There is the obvious problem of wood being stripped from the ecosystems causing (often severe) erosion and degradation of the soil. And the production of black soot is almost as serious a threat to the Earth’s atmosphere as the excess of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuels, though it receives considerably less attention among the climate change monitors. Black soot has among its other threats the problem of settling on ice packs and speeding the melting of glaciers.

There is no grid of electrical services into which the energy oppressed poor can plug. It seems they are condemned to live under increasingly difficult circumstances (drought, floods, food shortages, war) caused by the other two thirds of the world’s population. They, whose resources are most fragile are least able to bear the burden of extremes, are the first to feel the negative impacts. No alternatives seem to exist. Or do they?


A visit to the past

As the photo in the previous post suggests, I visited the Denver Museum of Science and Nature yesterday.   It was like a trip down memory lane since we used to go there quite often with a trail of youngsters in tow.   Now my little one is taller than me, but she was still enthralled by the dinosaurs.  And she knows so much more science now that it makes wandering the path through the various exhibits a new experience.

I was glad to find however that there is a younger set (yes, even younger than sixteen) that still runs there.  Their loud exclamations of surprise and wonder fill the halls.  But it’s the little side comments that I love.  Here were the two snippets  that I overheard that almost put me on the floor rolling with laughter:

  • A tiny little boy all of three feet tall looking up at the humongous T-Rex that was fifty tall if he was an inch, said, “He isn’t so tall; he must be a baby.”
  • A little girl in the Egyptian room held her arms stiffly at her side and hopped on both feet while singsonging, “I’m hopping like a mummy…I’m hopping like a mummy!”

It tickled me good, but maybe you had to be there…

Becoming Perceptive · Listening · Reflecting

Listening to Listening to…

Today I visited St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Boulder for both the 8:15 and 10:00 a.m. services.  I went to announce the start up of a new Listening to… group there and to talk about what topic might be of most interest to the folks in the congregation. The list of possibilities includes (but is not limited to) Listening to Stress, Listening to the Blues, Listening to Money, Listening to the Noise of the World, Listening to Parenthood, Listening to Uncertainty, or Listening to Creativity.  Several folks expressed interest so I expect that a new group will begin just after Easter.  (If you would be interested in one of those topics email me.)  After I hear from those who would like participate, I will select a time and make the announcement here, in the new newsletter, The Listener, and in local bulletins.

Listening to Parenthood will start after Easter at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Boulder. I will announce dates and times for this group soon.  I spent the last four Wednesday nights participating in the Lenten program with folks there.  Each evening started with Centering Prayer, then the Eucharist with an emphasis on a different form of prayer.  After the service, folks gathered for a potluck dinner (the food was so good that I bought a cookbook the Altar Guild was selling that featured many of the recipes served) and then one of three programs.  I led Listening with Expectation; the other two offered sounded wonderful too…one about journaling, another about forgiveness.  What a delight to meet new people and to participate in their Lenten program!  I look forward to having Listening to Parenthood meet there.

And this Thursday Listening to Uncertainty will begin in my home parish, St. Aidan’s.  It is such a pleasure that the time I spend at other local churches only strengthens my connection there.

Of course, people from other churches and the community can participate in the Listening to... groups; they are not just for the local congregants.   There are no restrictions on who may attend the groups.  The churches are kind and generous to offer their facilities so the groups can meet.  They also do a lot of work to let folks know about the Listening to… offerings. I appreciate their support in helping this work begin.

I’ve been to services at various churches in the Boulder area and I feel part of every one.  Each has its own personality, character and spiritual emphases, offering in the collective a broader view of what community is all about.

I went this morning to make an announcement, but I left with so much more.  I worshiped in that glorious setting open to the Foothills, heard words familiar yet individualized, experienced a heart felt homily, spent time with folks I didn’t know.  And this happens every Sunday…isn’t that wonderous?


Whooooo is it?

At dawn every morning this week I have heard an owl just outside our home.  I’m wondering why suddenly he (or she?) is hooting; is this a seasonal owl behavior?  Never lasting very long, the song is distinctive.  I wish I knew what the bird looked like too.  Is it a Great Horned Owl?  I hear that species is typical for the owls found around here.

But no matter whether the owl be a he or she, a Great Horned Owl or a Barn Owl, large or small, whatever…it makes me smile and wonder at the life out in the darkness.



(No, there is no owl in the photo…too bad, isn’t it?)

Listening · Words


Listening is noting what, when and how something is being said. Listening is distinguishing what is not being said from what is silence. Listening is not acting like you’re in a hurry, even if you are. Listening is eye contact, a hand placed gently upon an arm. Sometimes, listening is taking careful notes in the person’s own words. Listening involves suspension of judgment. It is neither analyzing nor racking your brain for labels, diagnoses, or remedies before the person is done relating her symptoms. Listening, like labor assisting, creates a safe space where whatever needs to happen or be said can come.

— Allison Para Bastien (found on

Listening · Words


“Words are medicine too….Words can harm…just as the wrong medicine can harm. But words can also heal.”

Even the smallest utterance is an encouragement and an invitation to respond. Our words open intricate channels of relationship. Each time we speak, our words are alive with energy. Every word that passes our lips, every phrase and sentence we utter, has power. The words you share with me touch my brain, affect my mind, and help shape my soul. Your sentences and gestures, the tone of your voice, the language you choose—all carry the potential for healing and growth.

Souls in the Hands of a Tender God, Craig Rennebohm with David Paul, 2008


I tried to listen…

…on the Pearl Street Mall. I had one person sit to tell me his story of coming to this country from a far away land. Then the police let me know that one can’t set up a listening post like this without a permit. Still the two hours I was very instructive. Being aware of others…I learned a lot.


Listening · Words


…being truly listened to is a rare experience for many of us and to be listened to attentively and respectfully can be very empowering.

–Victoria Field in Writing Works by Gillie Bolton, Victoria Field and Kate Thompson, 2006

Listening · Words


When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist; Shakespeare knew how to listen to his work, and so he often wrote better than he could write; Bach composed more deeply, more truly than he knew; Rembrandt’s brush put more of the human spirit on canvas than Rembrandt could comprehend.

When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.

But before he can listen, paradoxically, he must work. Getting out of the way and listening is not something that comes easily…

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L’Engle, 1980