Take Time for Empathetic Communication

Take Time For Empathetic Communication

Chapter One

Take Time For Empathetic Communication
Verbally Affirming Others As A 'Way Of Life' 11 From The Pages Of The Diary I Never Wrote 18
Taking Time To Nurture Friendships 13 Light A Little Candle 20
The Ministry Of Listening 14 Bringing Hope To A Desparing World 22
Laying Down My Life 16 Discussion Questions 24

Matthew 5:13-16

Verbally Affirming Others As A 'Way Of Life'

It was a little past noon when my wife and I arrived at the fast service hamburger joint. The mother who was ahead of us was obviously having a difficult time with her two young children as she was raising her voice at them and commanding them to walk faster and stop misbehaving. When the young boy, who was perhaps six years old, saw my wife and I approaching, he pushed his back against the door and leaned against it in order to hold the door open while we passed through. I looked at this young man, who only an instant before was causing his mother to lose her patience with him, and smiled. As I walked toward him I said, "Thank you. You are a very kind young man. Thank you for holding the door open for us." There are few things as beautiful as the proud smile of a young child. When I spoke to him, he stood erect and proud of his unselfish deed. I too sensed a moment of joyful self-regard knowing my comment caused him to feel proud.

The next moment I found myself looking at his mother who was also beaming with pride. In that instant she realized that her son was being ever-so polite and that she had raised him well. It was an inspiring moment for all of us.

It takes so little effort to encourage and build up someone. It just takes a watchful eye and the willingness to offer positive affirmation. I believe that every person wants to do good. I believe it is truly the nature of human beings to want to care about others. Unfortunately, because we do not show this respect to others, they lose their self-respect and begin a terrible downward cycle of cynicism and hate. God put us here together to help each other up.

Try an experiment this week. For as many fingers as you have on your hand, give positive affirmations to ten people this coming week. I think you will be pleased at not only how much you encouraged others, but at how good you feel about yourself. I don't mean trivial compliments like the color of one's dress. Say something positive about their character or an act of kindness which you saw. Affirm and reaffirm their worth by telling them how wonderful they are and how their actions are so significant.

Get started right away and see, if by the end of the day, you are feeling better about yourself. It's great! The way to build yourself up is by building up others. Have fun at it! I know you'll do just great!

"Lord, if I can bring just one smile to somebody's face, or a ray of hope to one who is discouraged, then give me the opportunity to do so. May I remember how much it pleases You when I attend to the needs of others. And may I be reminded that what

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pleases You will always please me. Thank You for the joy of encouraging others. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will begin the joyful discipline of affirming the value of others, and I will start today.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Philippians 1:3-11

Taking Time To Nurture Friendships

An old friend called me. It's not that he is old – he and I are the same age. We've just been friends for many years. He lives in another town outside of the metro area, so we do not talk very often. I think of him and our relationship quite frequently.

"Hi Tom. This is Jim! I was just thinking of you, so I thought I would give you a call." We talked for a few minutes and then at his urging, we arranged a date to meet and talk face to face. I am looking forward to that get-together!

In that short telephone conversation my friend accomplished three positive achievements. First, he took the initiative to contact me. This caused me to realize how often I do think of my friends, but how very little I actually do something like write or call them. Instead of just thinking about me, he acted on his thoughts. He then affirmed me by affirming our friendship. To think of a friend is one thing, but to tell the friend about your thoughts means so much more. His words elicited warm feelings of self-worth. Thirdly, he followed through on his thoughts of me and demonstrated that he desired to continue to build our friendship by making an appointment to meet. That encouraged me and generated excitement about the time we are about to spend together.

If my friend can create such positive feelings within me by just making a phone call, I can conclude that others will respond the same way if I contact them. Why not pass on the good feelings or "warm fuzzes" as they are sometimes called? Before the week is through I am going to write a letter to my friend in Kansas City. Why, if I would write or call seven people before the end of this month and encourage them to contact seven of their friends, then over fifty people would have positive feelings of affirmation. Happiness would begin to spread like butter on toast, all because my friend called me!

I think I will start right now! I think I will contact an old friend with whom I haven't talked for a long time. I bet he will really be surprised to hear from me: "Hi God. This is Tom. I was just thinking about You…"

"Lord, forgive me for being so self-centered. I am sorry if I have forgotten to consider the needs of others. As I think of friends, move me beyond my thoughts to action. Let me be an encourager today. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will pick up the telephone and encourage a friend… now!

– Thomas Duckworth –

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1 Corinthians 12:25-27; Galatians 5:13-14,

Galatians 5:22-23; Galatians 6:2 Acts 3:6

The Ministry Of Listening

I saw him through the kitchen window. He was heading for the back door, greasy and angry. I thought of my white woodwork as I caught the vibrations of his negative emotion. I turned to leave and go upstairs. Better that he find an empty kitchen than his fearful, critical mother. An unseen hand gently turned me around and led me back to the sink where I had been paring carrots. I picked up another carrot as he stormed in the back door.

He stood there, silently trembling with the overwhelming burden of bottled-up anger. Love and fear battled with me, but an inner voice settled my conflict. 'It's his problem, not yours. Just listen to the person; never mind the content. Do it for him… and for Me.'

I turned toward him to listen. At first he seemed unable to speak. I waited, then spoke quietly, "You seem very angry." He could not answer except to open his fist, releasing a tool which clattered to the floor, shattering the silence. "I think you are very angry," I said now without judgment or fear. The Spirit had led me to serve as a sounding board, not judge or problem solver.

As I reflected acceptance of him, hurting, raging, and furious, he was able to open the spigot and release a torrent of emotion. I didn't understand much of what he said about the car motor, but I understood the outpoured feelings, and it was to these I responded. There was disappointment, outrage, anger, pain. I said almost nothing; he simply unloaded. I nodded, felt the hurt with him, and hung in there. It lasted about ten minutes in all.

Later this wonderful son told me how he had experienced those moments. He had felt like a balloon blown up to six times its proper capacity. He was about to burst. Because I stood there, quiet, accepting him in his anger, only voicing the feeling when he could not speak, it was safe to let it out. The balloon could return to its normal size. Our relationship was strengthened.

The turning point was that still; small voice saying, 'It's his problem, just listen. Don't criticize, don't judge, don't even give advice. Accept him and trust Me to lead him. I need you only to accept him, to listen'.

When another person has a problem, the helpful thing I can do is to listen with care and acceptance. Only after the emotion has been let out can he move toward a solution. My natural inclination is to probe, preach, criticize, and offer solutions. But God asks me

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only to listen.

"Understanding Father, make me, like You, a person who loves those who are hurting enough to listen without condoning their sins or condemning them as persons for whom Christ has died. Help me to be quick to listen and slow to give advice, and enable me to apply Your 'salve' of healing to their deep hurts."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God being my Helper, I resolve to be a good listener – I will give attention to hurting ones without quick advice or insensitive judgment.

– Kay Kline –

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Matthew 25:31-40

Laying Down My Life

I was in the midst of a major sewing project with a built-in time crunch. I had planned carefully so that there would be time for a bath, shampoo, and just possibly a manicure. Everything was moving along on schedule when the phone rang. A familiar voice began to pour out a heart full of hurt and disappointment. I struggled to listen and care, but my head was at the sewing machine where a zipper lay, half-stitched.

Torn between my plans and the needs of the person on the other end of the line, I asked myself, 'What would Jesus do?' The answer was clear. But I was left with an identity crisis: 'I'm not Jesus; I'm a human being.' The words rang back to me with astonishing clarity, speaking to my humanity: "I demand that you love each other as much as I love you" (John 15:12, Living Bible). Jesus was speaking to me as a human being. He wasn't asking me for an act of divinity. My basic needs had been met. Only the desire for personal convenience prevented me from wanting to take time for her.

I made my decision: the shampoo could wait, my fingernails too, and I had faith for the zipper. So, I listened for fifteen tear-filled minutes. When it was all out and she was emptied of the pain and tears, we prayed together over the phone. It was her problem, but I had been privileged to "lay down my life" for a few minutes to be God's agent – to listen, to reflect, and to care.

Jesus said to His disciples long ago (and to you and to me – His contemporary disciples): "I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done – kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love. I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I love you. This is the very best way to love. PUT YOUR LIFE ON THE LINE FOR YOUR FRIENDS. You are my friends when you do the things I command you… You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil… As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. But remember the root command: Love one another." (John 15:12-16, Message New Testament)

Wrote the apostle Paul: "Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived." (Galatians 6:2, Message New Testament)

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"Heavenly Father, help me not only to be ordered and scheduled in the use of my time, but also quick to accept your divinely-appointed 'interruptions'. I want to have the joy of bearing the burdens of my troubled 'brothers' and 'sisters' in Your 'forever family'. For Jesus' sake. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The God-ordained 'interruptions' in my life are my opportunities to demonstrate practical love for God's hurting people!

– Kay K1ine –

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Philippians 4:14; Isaiah 40:31

From The Pages Of The Diary I Never Wrote

December 1972. A call came from the superintendent of schools, asking me if I would be willing to finish out the school year, as they had dismissed the science teacher. It consisted of six science classes a day. In one of the classes was a boy, I'll call Adam. All the faculty knew Adam made F grades, with the exception of one D-. They also knew him to be an habitual troublemaker, which resulted in his spending most of his school hours standing in the hallway, or in the Principal's Office. The superintendent informed me that, regardless of Adam's grades, he was to be promoted into high school. In other words, "We want Adam gone and forgotten." For a number of years I had been a pitcher in "fast pitch" softball. One day I saw Adam trying to "Fast pitch." I went over to him and said, "Adam, you could learn to pitch with some training and practice". His reply was, "Mr. Weller, do you really believe I can"? Adam and I became friends. From that day until the end of the school year, Adam caused no more problems in the science class. His grade went from a D- to B- in those last three months of school. How was that possible? Someone told him, "you can."

December 21, 1998. I awoke at 4 A.M. I was very dizzy and had some chest pain. I sat quietly, though in pain, reflecting on the three operations I had had within a period of eight months. One of those was a four-way bypass. My pain was increasing and soon I found myself weeping. Normally when I cry, I do not shed tears, as my tear ducts seldom produce tears. This morning, however, I wiped tears from my eyes. They continued to roll down my cheeks. Around 4:30 a.m. something very special happened. I felt God call me by name. "Lowell Weller, what does my Word say in Philippians 4:13?" Then God seemed to answer His own question. Again He said, "Lowell Weller, you can." "You can endure this with my help". In fact, "You can endure all things." Soon the dizziness subsided and the chest pain ceased. There, all alone at 4: 30 a.m., I realized again the truth of God's Word, My Grace Is Sufficient.

Date… Today. Perhaps you, or someone you know, is going through a very DIFFICULT time. Their load and their hurts are too heavy for them to bear. Perhaps their pain is so severe the medication given by their physician is not lessening their discomfort. In solitude, tears are coursing down their cheeks and they feel like giving up. Like Adam, all is useless so why try? They're thinking, "Quit, give up, I'm beaten." As my words to him, "You can, Adam", altered his grade and attitude, your kind and compassionate reminder of Philippians 4:13 may mean that their defeat and hurt will be turned into victory and joy.

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"Dear Jesus, my Great Physician, please help my unbelief, and may my entry tomorrow read, "YES, O, YES, GOD'S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT. THROUGH CHRIST I AM MORE THAN A CONQUEROR."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I agree with Mosie Lester's song… "O His grace is sufficient for me, and His love is abundant and free. And what joy fills my soul, just to know, just to know, that His grace is sufficient for me."

– Lowell Weller –

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Matthew 5:14-16; John 8:12

Light A Little Candle

I was exhausted when I arrived home, but the girls were still waiting for me. "Hurry, Mom, we are late", said one. Quickly I changed from my long underwear and slacks to a dress. I sighed, glad that this was the last day of my job at Salvation Army Christmas Center. We had rushed all day taking interviews, writing food vouchers and handing out toys. Our job was frustrated because many of the people could not understand English.

My girls and I trudged two blocks to church. We slipped into the crowded balcony as the congregation finished singing "When Lights Are Lit On Christmas Eve." Bone weary, I leaned back in the pew and tried to relax. The service was beautiful with Christmas carols and the Christmas story.

Then came the time for the candle lighting. From the large candle which represented Christ, the Light of the World, the pastor lit his candle, then he lit an usher's candle. The ushers lit one candle at the end of each row. In turn, each person lit one more candle. Watching from the balcony, we saw the whole lower floor, light after light, row by row, come ablaze.

In the balcony, we all waited. However, no light appeared for our candles. Engulfed in darkness, we had been forgotten. Why doesn't someone just go downstairs and get a light? It would be so simple. I looked around, hoping to see someone walking toward the stairs. No one stirred. Everyone sat waiting expectantly. Then they all started looking around, probably thinking the same thing I was thinking. Again I thought, why doesn't someone…?

Suddenly, I moved. I bounded down the stairs and asked the usher if he would please light my candle. "Oh, we forgot the balcony," he said. "Here, take this," and he handed me his large candle.

I flew back up the stairs. The first man I approached had no candle, so I handed him mine. Quickly I lit the candle of the first person in each row.

The last man, alone on the last pew, motioned me past, indicating that he had no candle. I handed him the large one. I joined my daughters and placed my hands over their hands as the lighted candles were lifted. We all sang together, "Joy to the World, the Lord is Come." I felt refreshed. The weariness of the week had disappeared. There was strength given to me, not only for the duration of my service, but enough left over to carry away.

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Daily we pray for the Lord to use us, to give us an opportunity to serve Him. Little do we realize what Jesus meant when He said, "As you go into the world, preach the gospel…"

Jesus had been a light in the darkness; he came to show us the way to God. We sometimes forget that Jesus also said, "You are the light of the world." We may not realize that whatever we do, we are being a witness, positive or negative. The world is seeing Jesus in action through our deeds.

Sometimes, doing the obvious thing, meeting an immediate need, becomes a way to light a candle and push back the darkness.

"Cleanse me, oh Lord, that your light might shine forth from my life. Help me see clearly needs around me and give me the courage to step out and help, even in little ways, that your name may be glorified."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Light of God in us is greater than the darkness of the devil in the world.

– Laura Drewer –

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Isaiah 43:1-13; Romans 8:28-39

Bringing Hope To A Desparing World

It did not happen to me. It happened to all of us. Individually, I think I am guarded from its consequences, but collectively, we all suffer together. There have been bombing and explosions in America. There have been murderous attacks on airplanes and in schoolyards. Disasters have left thousands homeless, desperate or dead. Suddenly, our right to pursue happiness has been thwarted. Our belief in peace in our land is being challenged.

Yes, when these tragedies happen in another country, we are saddened, but we are not threatened. That has too quickly changed. We are people now held hostage by our fear that a terrorist attack could happen at any time and at any place. And somehow, we need to vent our feelings about these fears.

I never realized how much these events were affecting me until I started to recognize how often I have been thinking about them. I am angry. I am confused. I am helpless. Answers will not remove the anger. They may alleviate my confusion, but I am still left feeling helpless. I have a voice and am able to speak out against these violent acts of aggression, yet my words of frustration cannot change what has happened.

So, I took a little walk. The sounds and sights during my stroll drew me back to my depression. A young child crying… the pain. A broken water sprinkler leaking… the waste. A yard dead for lack of water… the loss. The marigolds growing in a crack of a driveway… wait a minute. What was that? I paused to look again. There, growing in a most unlikely place, with no other flowers surrounding it and nothing to give it shade, a petite flower shouts out an important message. In the midst of adversity there is still beauty. Through the hard, concrete path of life, God sends His message of hope. Despite all the pain in life, God whispers still, "I am here!"

We must never give up hope, not just hope in God, but hope in ourselves as well. For God may just be able to use us as a marigold in a cracked driveway: a blossom of love to the loveless… a fragrance of joy to the hopeless… a foundation of strength to the helpless.

Grow!

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"Father, there is much I do not understand about the world. Hatred, prejudice, anger, violence surround me every day. Yet, I will trust in You, for You are my strength and redeemer. Deliver me from despair into hope that I may show my confidence in my Savior, in whom I pray. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will be a beacon of hope in this world by affirming the love of Christ.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Give an example from your own life (or from the life of a friend or relative whom you admire) that illustrates the truth of the following statement: "It takes so little effort to encourage and build up someone. It just takes a watchful eye and the willingness to offer positive affirmation."

  2. Tell to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statement: "I believe it is truly the nature of human beings to want to care about others. Unfortunately, because we do not show respect to others, they lose their self-respect and begin a terrible downward cycle of cynicism and hate."

  3. Try an experiment this week. For as many fingers as you have on your hands, give positive affirmations to ten people this coming week. (Think of how wonderful your life will become when you practice affirming people as "a way of life".)

  4. What changes do you think would take place in our local churches (and in the 'world in general') if each day every Christian would say something positive about another person's character or another person's observed act of kindness? Why is a critical and judgmental and negative spirit (attitude) so hurtful in the local church (and in the 'world in general')? (Carefully read Galatians 5:13-16 in several 'translations', especially 'The Living Bible')

  5. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The way to build yourself up is by building up others."

  6. What are some of the positive results which you can anticipate when you take the time and exert the effort to call a friend (or write a letter to a friend) and express your love and appreciation to that person (especially if it is a 'friend' with whom you have not had contact for several months or even years)?

  7. How can the fact that you are an empathetic 'listener' (rather than a person who is quick to offer advice and criticism and 'solutions') help another person who is greatly troubled and confused and perhaps 'angry' because of life's difficult losses and sorrows and disappointments? (Note Galatians 6:1-3; James 1:19)

  8. Do you believe that, at times, God asks you (as one of His followers) to 'set aside your own personal convenience and comfort', and, instead, to 'put your life on the line for your friends' (and perhaps even for mere 'acquaintances' and 'strangers')? (Note John 15:12-16; Galatians 6:2) (Do you believe that the God-

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    ordained 'interruptions' in your life are your opportunities to demonstrate practical love for God's hurting people?)

  9. Share an experience from your own life (or from the life of your friend or relative) in which you developed a close 'Big Brother – Little Brother' relationship with a younger person who was battling with 'self-doubts' and a 'low self-esteem' and with 'multiple failures', and, as a result of your involvement with that younger person, you witnessed an 'amazing transformation' in his actions, attitudes, and level of achievement.

  10. Share a 'low time' (of discouragement or grief or loss) when, in the depth of your brokenness, you called upon God for help and guidance and understanding and comfort, and, as a result, you 'heard' the voice of God tell you "My grace is sufficient".

  11. Tell with what degree of 'conviction' you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Sometimes, doing the 'obvious thing', meeting an immediate need, becomes a way to light a candle and push back the darkness."

  12. In the midst of adversity and despair and cynicisms in our society, what should be the Christian's reaction (response)? Do you believe that these are "no hopeless situations in life, only people who have grown hopeless about those situations"? Why should a Christian never give up hope – in God, in himself, in other people? Do you see yourself (a follower of Christ) a 'light in a darkened world', 'a blossom of love to the loveless', 'a fragrance of joy to the hopeless', 'a foundation of strength to the helpless'? What specifically can you do (perhaps this following week) to encourage the discouraged, to give guidance to the confused, to give comfort to the bereaved, to give friendship to the lonely, to give relief to the poor, to give hope to the despairing?

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