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Text, Tweet, & Telegram

I’ve recently been reading a biography of Rees Howells, a Welsh man who was a missionary in Africa as well as the founder of a ministry school in south Wales, active from the early- to mid-1900s.

The book records a few telegrams that Rees exchanged with Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.

Reading some of these telegrams sparked a strange aura of familiarity. The style of language, the truncated phrases, the omitted  pronouns and prepositions…they sounded surprisingly like modern-day text messages and Twitter posts.

Granted, Rees never wrote to the Emperor with “LOL” or “PTL”, but his messages from over a hundred years ago could have easily included “@EmperorSelassie” or “From: Rees.Howells@welshintercessor.org” at the top and we would hardly know the difference.

There has been much ado about the impact on language of these new mediums of communication, how we are standardizing slang and brevity. I read in BBC news today that one of the top iPhone apps is a program that summarizes news articles, popular because “people are not scrolling through 1000-word articles–they want snack-sized information.”

The trend is economy, summary, omitting the unimportant…saving time, energy, and money. But it’s not a new trend–it was apparently important in the telegraph age as well.

Perhaps the constant factor is this: people want the “meat” of the information. We don’t want to pay for or expend energy on meaningless filler.

It’s too bad that campaigning politicians apparently don’t understand that.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Life

 

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Getting the Message

Generally, in a conversation, I would put the burden for ensuring understanding on the shoulders of the speaker. The one who has something to say is mostly responsible for making his message intelligible. If he uses a word that the listener doesn’t know, or uses a metaphor that they don’t get, he needs to explain himself in order to make sure that his intended meaning gets across.

Sure, listening is also an active process, with the hearer(s) needing to pay attention, absorbing the content of what’s said, asking questions and preparing to respond.

But fundamentally, if a speaker wishes to communicate something, it’s their responsibility to connect with the listeners.

However, communication with God seems a bit different: there are no language barriers, He knows what we know and what images will communicate to us. So, unlike with human speakers, misunderstanding is not a result of any deficiency on behalf of Him who’s talking.

Then why does it seem so hard to hear from God?

In dialogue with God, there might be an even greater need to listen with intentionality. The environment can distract us, we can be guilty of not pausing enough to actually hear Him, we can come in planning to hear a particular message.

So often in life, we emphasize the skill of communicating clearly. I recall one workshop leader’s mantra: “Be clear! Be clear! Be clear!” We put a great deal of effort into polishing our presentations, varying our vocabulary, and understanding our audience.

But you rarely hear an emphasis on honing our hearing. You might get a pointer or two concerning trying to read your listeners’ body language, but otherwise, it’s all about putting out the right content. There’s little of listening.

I’m not much of a conversationalist. Most people do not identify me as someone with deep insight, penetrating questions, or powerful persuasion.

But I’ve often been thanked for being a good listener. I may not know what to say or what to ask, but I can sit and listen, attentive to whatever the other person would like to share.

And yet, I don’t find this skill naturally translating to my conversations with God. Why is that?

When we talk about prayer, we talk about communicating with God, and many people do mention the importance of taking the time to listen. And I think that’s exactly it. When I’m with someone, if I don’t know what to say, I just listen. I sit. I let them talk. Maybe I give a nod of understanding or a brief comment to encourage them to continue, but I often say relatively little–especially in a group of 3 or more.

However, I rarely take this approach in times with God. Is it because I have (or find) so much to say? I don’t need to resort to silence because I’ve got plenty on my wish list to bombard Him with?

God’s a person, and maybe it’s time for me to talk to Him like one. If my conversational strength is listening, maybe I need to bring a little more of that into my dialogue with Him.

Who knows what He might say…given the chance to be heard. I might actually get the message.

 

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Life, Prayer

 

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