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    by Susan McGrath

The Listening Post
Date Posted: October 1, 2005

(This one is from last fall, but I felt led to "post" it again. Hope you enjoy it!)

When I was in college I belonged to a campus ministry group that tried to be visible to students. With a large university, over 20,000 students, it was hard to connect with people one-on-one without some type of conversation starter.

So "The Listening Post" was set up in the student center, where hundreds, if not thousands, of students would pass by each day. Obviously not everyone stopped. Some paused just long enough to find out what it was.

(What it was, consisted of a wooden post, painted white with the stenciled red letters "Listening Post" down each side. What we offered was a place to talk about a concerns, voice an opinion or just chat about the weather with someone who would respond with respect and compassion. We weren't trying to shove Jesus down people's throats, or into their ears, just show His love!)

All different types of people stopped at the Listening Post. Some were Christ-followers. Some were tree worshipers. Some thought they only needed themselves to get through life -- but they proved that wrong by showing that they needed someone to talk to!

The opportunity to connect with strangers was great in this scenario because once they began talking, you were no longer strangers. I believe it was a great service to provide in the often lonely, stressful world of college.

What about the world our kids are growing up in? Do our kids have a "listening post" in their lonely, stressful and sometime scary world? Sure, they won't talk to us about everything, especially after they reach "that age", but do they have a Christ-centered adult who will listen to their fears and triumphs?

Do we offer a time, a place, an attitude of acceptance that makes them want to open up and tell us what's on their minds and hearts? Can they come to us as parents and know they will be loved rather than condemned when they have made a stupid mistake or desire something other than our plan for them?

I know I need to continue to refine my listening skills. I once saw a movie where the woman was giving a quiz to her boyfriend to discover personality types or compatibility or some such nonsense that you find in magazine articles. One question she asked was, "When I'm speaking to you, are you listening or waiting to talk?"

His answer came with no hesitation -- "Waiting to talk." I know I'm often guilty of that.

But I want to be able to listen to my kids with my heart, not just my ears. Asking questions that show I care. Listening to their side of the argument when we disagree, and still being able to make them feel loved when I say "no" anyway.

James 1:19 tells us, " . . . Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

If my heavenly Father can take time to listen to me and give me instruction on how to be a better listener, the least I can do is practice it!

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Biography Information:
Susan McGrath is:

a recovering journalist trying to encourage others and glorify God through writing;

living the small-town life with husband Tim and sons Lincoln, 12, and Sawyer, 6;

completing a few put-off writing projects while using chocolate for therapy.
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