Abundant Thanks

I read this quote the other day and found myself laughing out loud. 

“The “what happened” moments are easier to prove today when everyone has a cell phone…”

In sports and in life there are three types of people.  

  1. Those who make it happen
  2. Those who watch it happen
  3. Those who wonder what happened

The “what happened” moments are easier to prove today when everyone has a cell phone.  I laughed while sitting in a coffee shop, staring at my phone. I laughed out loud and looked up around me and of the approximately 12 people in the coffee shop at that time, I would guess maybe 2 of them stopped looking at their devices long enough to look up to see who was laughing.  There was not one individual who was NOT looking at a cell phone or iPad or laptop. It got me thinking – what do we value most?  Should we not be valuing one another and being thankful of having a few moments to talk with another human being and maybe even meet new people?  Should we be spending less time looking down and more time looking around?

What do you value most in this life? Some say that the thing you spent most of your time on is what you value most but I’m not sure it is that easy. For many people, spending a lot of time on something such as work is HOW they show value to other things such as family and financial security and well-being.  We cannot live in line with our values, though, if we cannot identify them. You can start to identify your values by listing that for which you are thankful.

When we identify those things in our lives for which we are thankful, we begin to paint a clear picture in our minds and hearts of what we value the most.  When you wake each day, take a few moments and consider your thanks-giving.  Begin each morning by identifying a few things for which you are thankful and then add the emotions behind those. How do they make you feel?  

Is your list more intrinsically focused on extrinsically?  Do you find yourself more thankful for your cell phone or for your individualism and its role in the community?

Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI have a report on line which outlines the 10 Core American Values[1]. It is a unique insight on the things that make America unique but can also help us identify our values.  

Experiencing a life of abundance starts with an attitude of gratitude.  If we approach life with any other attitude, I believe, we fall short of what it truly means to be human.  

Take a few moments to count your blessings and instead of Snapchatting about it – try looking up and around and see what new things you may discover. 



Listening & Hearing: Two Different Acts of Obedience

When we speak with other people do we speak AT them or WITH them?  Is it a monologue or is it a dialogue?  When we participate in dialogue, do we listen to HEAR or listen to RESPOND?

Most people will, if they are honest with themselves, realize that they listen to respond.  Do we automatically begin writing and editing a rebuttal script before the other person completes what they are saying?  There’s a good chance there is a second monologue going on in your head WHILE you read this!

Another way to put this is to understand the difference between ACTIVE and PASSIVE listening. It is about BEHAVIOR.  Listening is not just the act of hearing something but is also the process of making sense out of what we are hearing.  ACTIVE listening is full engagement.  We can determine if people are engaged in active listening by looking for physical cues such as nodding, smiling, eye brow or forehead responses and eye contact.  The listener may ask questions, respond with non-sensible vocalizations to signify their agreement, disagreement, or understanding.  This is analytical listening – it is piecing together the information that is coming at them, ordering it in their minds, placing the words and phrases in categories, and matching them with historical references throughout our own lives.  If we are inclined to counsel individuals, we are engaging in active listening. Carl Rogers defines empathetic listening as “entering the private perceptual world of the other.”

What, then, is PASSIVE listening?  Typically, the listener is not reacting and is not listening with the goal of responding. We may be taking in and absorbing the information. The passive listener is not necessarily NOT paying attention. We are simply absorbing.

When I speak in front of small or large groups, they are typically the passive listener.  There is little two-way communication, not a lot of eye contact from the listeners, and the listener feels safe from feeling that they have to participate.  This can be very helpful to the speaker because it gives that person flexibility to drive the conversation, direct the imagery, and create emotional responses.

This all sounds pretty analytical but there is something I’m trying to point out.  In our everyday interaction with people it is helpful to know if we are being active or passive listeners. When the clerk asks, “how are you today?” are they listening for our response as an active participant in the dialogue or as a passive engager?  More than likely, a passive engagement as they are merely on cruise control and likely following the corporate script of customer engagement.  When someone approaches us with an emotional declaration such as, “I love you” or “I need to talk about something” the immediate reaction they get from us will typically set the entire tone and direction of the conversation. It will either slam the door on our availability or open it up and welcome them in to the inner circle of our undivided attention.

Counselors, especially lay-counselors (camp, church or small community helpers), are trained to face the person, not respond to other people or situations in the room, make eye contact as well as other verbal and non-verbal responses in order to establish the ground rules with a response. That response is this:  I’m going to listen OR I’m not really going to listen.

The active listening test:

We can check whether people are engaged in active listening by asking questions about the content and about their emotional reaction to what was said.  We can paraphrase what we heard, or ‘parrot’ back to the speaker what we believe we just heard. We can check on the perception of both listener as well as speaker by asking for confirmations, affirmations, or clarifications.

Specifically, for me, I am a very active listener when I am in Church.  I grew up in an AME church and when my Pastor asked for an amen, you responded.  Today, I give an “amen” without being prompted, to show my active listening and to solidify the statements within my understanding.  I am sure, if you stopped and thought about it, you could think of times when you were a very active listener.  Maybe with your children as they are sharing their day, or with a coworker who is discussing a concern.



We can all continue to improve our listening skills and today I want to encourage us to do that by simply being more aware of our bodies and our minds while someone is talking with us.  is the inner monologues in our heads louder than the speakers’ voice?  Are we solely listening to respond or are we listening to understand? There is a time and place for both these acts of obedience and it is our job to determine what is appropriate for each setting in which we find ourselves.


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