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On Listening to One Another

On the various Energion Publications web sites, we have been emphasizing listening in commemoration of Pentecost. This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, but we’re going to continue the topic for a few weeks into what’s called “ordinary time” in the church calendar. It’s precisely in ordinary time that you need to remember the lessons of receiving and listening to the Spirit.

We need to continue listening even when we can’t see the flames of fire or hear God’s voice, or detect other signs of God speaking. God speaks in many ways, sometimes yes with thunder and lightning, but at other times God speaks through those who are around us.

Hearing God in Others

One element of listening that we often neglect is listening as the Spirit speaks to us through other people.

This was a lesson I started to learn in Guyana, South America, where I lived as a teenager. My parents went there as missionaries with my father assigned as Medical Director of Davis Memorial Hospital in Georgetown. Thus I spent a good portion of my teen years among people of a different culture.

I would often get rides to various places with the hospital’s driver, Brother Carr. (Note that when I was growing up as a Seventh-day Adventist, I was taught to address my elders as “brother.” That was so ingrained that I can’t actually remember his first name.) There was another gentleman who worked security and also some other functions around the hospital, and was occasionally a backup driver.

I recall discussing world events with these two men. Different country, different race, different culture, different perspective on just about everything. Those conversations have stuck with me. One day one of these men took me to the seawall which keeps the Atlantic Ocean from flooding Georgetown. After explaining the history, starting with settlement by the Dutch, we turned to current events, which at the time involved Mainland China replacing Taiwan in holding China’s permanent seat on the security council of the United Nations. Elements of that conversation have stuck with me.

Why do I bring up all of this now?

Very simply, there are good reasons to not only read books, watch videos, and listen to sermons/lectures on a variety of subjects. It’s important to learn about these things from more than one perspective. This can involve expanding your circle of friends. Intentionally expanding your circle so that you meet more people who are not exactly like you.

Difference can include:

  1. Differences of faith, including those with a secular or humanist view as well as those of other religious groups
  2. Differences of race, even beyond those we talk about most
  3. Differences of nationality, to include people from countries that are less like our own
  4. Differences of theology within our own faith tradition, such as Reformed, Wesleyan, or Open/relational or progressive, moderate, and conservative
  5. Differences in levels of wealth and privilege (While some object to the term “privilege,” I openly confess to being privileged. It was a foregone conclusion I would go to college and if I wanted, to graduate school. I have never feared starvation. My life is filled with reasons for thanksgiving!)
  6. Differences in geography, such as living in an urban, suburban, or rural area

There are certainly many more, but these are some of the many things that I think many of us don’t interact with enough. For example, I sometimes give money to someone who is homeless, but it’s much harder to get me to say hello. (I publish two books, The Vicar of Tent Town and The Fringe, both of which challenge stereotypes of what it means to be homeless.)

Some Books

And now for a short commercial … well, not really. Some thoughts!

I was thinking about four books that I publish, all by African-American authors. I’m writing about them here, rather than on my company blog because these thoughts are my own, apart from any marketing plan. (No, I don’t deny wanting to sell the books, but if I was writing marketing text, I’d do it in “company” space!)

I want to recommend these four books for specific things in which they can give you a different perspective. In the case of three of the books, the reason I’m listing them here is not the central reason the author wrote the book, nor the reason I published it.

Let’s start first with Dr. Terrell Carter’s book I Have to Live with Them?: Understanding How Black and Brown Christians Navigate Their Relationships with White Christians in the American Church. This is the one book of the four that is precisely intended to help readers understand the dynamic of race relations in the church. It’s written by an African-American pastor who pastors a predominantly white congregation. This one is in the Energion Publications Topical Line Drives series, which means it’s short and to the point. It’s not meant to break major new ground. It’s meant to get you to the starting gate. Dr. Carter has two other titles with Energion as well, which you can find on his author page.

The second book in this list is not written to address any of the issues I’m discussing here, but it does. It’s The Seven: Taking a Closer Look at What It Means to Be a Deacon by Dr. Lonnie Davis Wesley, III. This is, unsurprisingly, a book about the ministry of deacons in the church, and it’s written by someone who pastors a large Baptist church in Pensacola, Florida, Greater Little Rock Baptist Church. As an aside, if you live in the Pensacola area, visit this church. I strongly commend it.

The reaons I’m talking about the book here, however, is because of the background it gives you about the black church in America. It will teach you things about deacons in the church. It will develop your understanding of the early church and what led to their being deacons. If you’re dealing with problems of church polity, you will find scriptural ideas in here that just might help. But it will also help you look at all these things with new vision.

The third is Grant Me Justice: A Mother’s Journey from Murder and Mourning to Mercy and Dancing. This book deals with grief, anger, and the search for justice, but it also tells an important story, the story of a mother and what gave her perspective on what was happening. It’s a story also of grace. And it’s a story that will help many see things from a very different perspective.

An important lesson to learn in reading this book is that hearing the stories of others can provide so much help to each of us in understanding our own journey of faith. God’s grace is high and wide, and its sufficient. God doesn’t have a perspective problem. Stepping into the shoes of a grieving parent as you peruse the pages of this book can change you in many wonderful ways.

Last, but not least (these books are in no order of precedence), I have a children’s book. The book is What Color Am I? It’s the 8th book in the Kamden Faith Journey series. This entire series is about a grandmother helping her grandson in his faith journey. It provides an opportunity for parents to read with the children and discuss important topics with them. In this book Kamden sees a Black Lives Matter protest and asks his Nana for an explanation. What are they doing? Why are they angry?

The response is gentle, faithful, and powerful. I wonder if you, reader, have looked at these various issues from the perspective in this book. It brought tears to my eyes as I created the book layout.


Whether it’s with these books or others and whatever the subject or your situation, try to find an opportunity to listen to someone whose perspective differs greatly from your own. It may benefit them, but it will definitely benefit you.

Note: Featured image for this post was generated using Jetpack AI as a test.

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