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Listening. It’s something we are told to do from day one. Every mother tells her child to stop and “listen”. It’s one of the first things we are taught to do as humans.

While it’s something we all know we should do, I think it’s more of a skill than we think. Have you ever talked to someone and impatiently waited for them to finish their sentence? Not because they don’t know what to say or can’t speak, but because they are being intentional about not rushing into what they say. Have you ever met with someone who’s demeanor somehow makes you slow down? These are the masters of listening.

There are many forms of listening: to your family, to your friends, to your coworkers, to your body, to music, to the Spirit. Outward listening and inward listening. Both are easy to overlook. This has always been a challenge, but I think our age has made the challenge greater with the obsession of entertainment and the invasion of media over relationships.

As a musician, it is possible to excel at your instrument and never actually listen to it. I’ve seen people who do this, at the highest caliber. I can admire and respect great skill, but these people are always still looking for something. It is also possible to only listen to it and not excel at the technique required to make something beautiful. This is why it’s easy to write off many Christian low budget films, and why many people write off all Christian films. There may be a good story, but it’s upstaged by the lack of skill to communicate the story. Many churches suffer from this in their worship settings: the heart may be aligned and beautiful, but the musical or technical skill has never been prioritized to communicate the music as well as it could be communicated, or be as beautiful as it could be.

A good artist can do both: execute quality technique and well developed instincts and listen to where the music wants to go. That’s where the Spirit comes in. Many musicians or artists tap into this and don’t know it’s the Spirit. They just think it’s cool because they felt something. That feeling is an encounter, waiting to be acknowledged. It’s the Lord knocking on the door of that moment. It doesn’t matter if the song is quoting Scripture or an obvious Christian song - He can be there in any genre or instrumental performance. Blessed are those who take the time to welcome Him into that moment.

I think one of the reasons God gave us music is to express something deeper than words are able to do. In Revelation John says that if he had the words he would have kept writing, but the words just fell short of describing Heaven at some point. Have you ever wondered if he played an instrument on his lone island, and what it sounded like after that vision? What if he “played out” some of what he saw, and there was no way to record it or communicate it to anyone else? Maybe he had many powerful moments in music that were just that: moments. Many of the Psalms were actual songs in David’s courts. Oh I wish we could have heard his music! His words have been powerful enough throughout the ages, imagine voices, the harmonies, the rhythms, the melodies.

In life, I think it’s equally easy to not stop and listen, learning from a situation. Good or bad, it’s so easy to just keep going. Have a high from a concert one day (performer or attendee), and go back to work the next, unchanged. Get depressed after losing someone and just accept an emotional disability for the rest of your life. But experiences are supposed to teach us something, if we stop to listen. I’ve experienced the gamut of highs and lows. I know what the top of the mountain looks like, and am familiar with the valleys. Both bring opportunities to enrich life, if we stop to listen. There is always a new depth of life to press into, through healing and vulnerability, if we are courageous.

Listening is a form of love. Giving someone or something your full attention in showing love to that person or presentation. A gift of your time, attention, brain space. If God is love, then listening to His voice in all forms is a way of loving Him and reflecting His love of you.

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