Ambiance of leisure...

Pastor Eugene Peterson has written that "pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure."  He calls it the "ambiance of leisure" that encourages both people in a conversation to listen for - and hear - the presence of Christ in one another. "Only in the ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance. Speaking to people does not have the same personal intensity as listening to them."

For years I know that I have felt more willing and able to listen and be fully present during my vacation times.  My daughters used to tell me I was more fun to be with on vacation and I know I heard them more deeply during those relaxed and unstructured days, too.  For 35 years I've been trying to get better at listening during my work time.  And while I've gotten a little better at it the humbling truth is that I still get tied up in knots sometimes over time.  I feel cranky and short inside and know I can't listen well at all when I'm busy. I work hard at keeping my daily calender as open as possible - and still find myself squeezed into the mold of this world at day's end. 

Peterson reminds us that from time to time Jesus would say to his friends, "Come off by yourselves; let's take a break and get a little rest." For there was constant coming and going. They didn't even have time to eat.  So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves."

The late Henri Nouwen used to speak about how being "busy" is seen by many as a sign of success and badge of importance.  People tell me all the time, "I know how busy you are..." Truth is I am less and less busy more and more - intentionally - so that I can stay present and able to listen.  But the squeeze of filling my calendar with stuff is an ever present challenge.  I think that's why I've flirted with early retirement over the past year.  I used to fantasize about being a monastic, too.  But the geographic solution never works because wherever I go, I still have to take myself with me.  (NOTE:  I will, however, start serious work on a Sabbatical schedule this year so that I have 3-4 months for rest, study and reflection in the next 18 months.)

So during this part of my vacation, I'm getting part of the house in order so that the stress of clutter is diminished.  I'm reading and listening to new music, too without any real order for the day.  And when I return to work after Labor Day I pray there will be just a little more carry over so that this season might be a bit more open to listening than the year just past.

Off now for a little Patti Smith break...


Come be my April Fool
Come you're the only one
Come on your rusted bike
Come we'll break all the rules

We'll ride like writers ride
Neither rich nor broke
We'll race through alleyways
In our tattered cloaks so

Come be my April Fool
Come we'll break all the rules

We'll burn all of our poems
Add to God's debris
We'll pray to all of our saints
Icons of mystery
We'll tramp through the mire
When our souls feel dead
With laughter we'll inspire
Then back to life again

Come you're the only one
Come be my April Fool
Come come
Be my April Fool
We'll break all the rules


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