Book Review: Listen In

 

 

Conversations that go deep

Every woman longs to be heard, seen and fully known by other women. One of the best ways to encourage this kind of discovery is through conversations that matter.

quote from Listen In: Building Faith and Friendship Through Conversations That Matter

We all want relationships that go deep. Yet too often our conversations stay on the surface. We talk about what preschool we chose for our three-year-old. We exchange opinions on the latest movies. We share what we’re making for dinner tonight. But we don’t always talk about the hurts in our hearts or the painful circumstances that have shaped our souls.

The book: Listen In wants to change that. It is a unique book that allows us to actually listen in on the deep conversations between three friends. The authors–Rachael Crabb, Sonya Reeder, and Diana Calvin–help each other grow closer to God through authentic communication combined with thoughtful listening and gentle questions.

The authors encourage us to:

Imagine conversations that draw you deeper into relationships that lovingly stir repentance, that open doors to experiencing more of God’s mercy and grace, and that awaken you to the thrilling awareness of the beauty his amazing grace has already placed deep in your being.

The book is written in conversational form. We are like a fly on the wall as each woman takes a turn at telling about a significant event in her life–one that has had a hand in shaping her identity. The other two women listen intently and ask questions like: “What did you grow up believing about yourself?” “What were you thinking in your internal world?” “How have you repented?” “Where are you now?”

Each conversation leads to a revelation of a broken place in one woman’s life. Through loving questions and support, the conversations uncover a redeeming grace that has come out of the brokenness.

These are the kinds of conversations we’d all like to have with our best friends over steaming cups of tea. The book is designed to help all of us do that. The authors outline five key ingredients to meaningful conversations:

  1. Identify an intentional purpose.
  2. Tune in to present experience.
  3. Be curious and offer feedback.
  4. Explore shaping events.
  5. Create a vision.

The book is laid out in a format conducive to small group participation. Six chapters of readings and discussion questions could mean six weeks of learning and experiencing your own meaningful conversations.

One quibble about the book. I wish the introduction had given more information about the process. In particular, I didn’t catch on right away that there were three main conversations explored in the book and that each conversation began with one of the women sharing a painful event in her life. I would have found that information helpful from the beginning, but perhaps the authors wanted the reader to experience the conversations as they happened without knowing details in advance.

Overall, I think the book does an excellent job at encouraging women to go beyond surface relationships and giving us the tools to do just that.

Listen In is a wonderful resource for women who want to deepen their relationships with God and their sisters in Christ. 

Listen In: Building Faith and Friendship Through Conversations That Matter is available here.

Listen In

10 Ways to Tell Your Husband “I Love You”

10WaysToTell

I have a problem. I love writing. But I’m not very good at writing meaningful words to the ones I love.

My husband is especially talented at this. I save all the cards that he gives me, because even after decades of marriage, he is able to make my heart melt with his words.

Even though I write lots of words every day–in my books, on my blog–I feel like my words in cards fall flat.

But I agree with Victor Hugo,

Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced that we are loved.

 

 

 

I want to give that happiness to my husband, especially since he always does that for me.

So what helps me is to start with a quote about love as inspiration. Ithen make it personal to him. For instance, if I chose the Victor Hugo quote, I would tell him that I already possess life’s greatest joy because I know without a doubt that he loves me. I would tell him how much I appreciate his loving words.

In case you need a little inspiration for your own Valentine’s Day cards, here are ten more quotes about love:

  • For you see, each day I love you more, today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow. ~ Rosemonde Gerard
  • For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul. ~ Judy Garland
  • Anyone can catch your eye, but it takes someone special to catch your heart. ~ Author Unknown
  • Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so. ~ David Grayson
  • Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. ~ Franklin P. Jones
  • One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love. ~ Sophocles
  • I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach. ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • Every moment I spend with you becomes a beautiful memory.
  • Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.  ~ Barbara de Angelis
  • Faith makes all things possible… love makes all things easy. ~ Dwight L. Moody

love's greatest happiness

Question: Which is your favorite quote?

Discover a Simple Way to Pray

ASimpleWaytoPray

 

I have to admit. Sometimes I struggle with prayer.

At times the struggle is to simply make time for prayer. Other times the problem is keeping my wandering mind on the prayer.

Sometimes I simply don’t know how to pray. I don’t have the right words to express my chaotic thoughts. Or I’m not sure how to pray about a complex problem. Or I’m feeling defeated in an area of my life.

That’s when I start praying Scripture. Taking the my words from God’s Word helps me to focus on His will, His strength, and His care.

A few years ago I discovered a little book that Martin Luther wrote on the subject of prayer. The short volume, titled A Simple Way to Pray, was written as in response to his barber’s questions, “How do you pray?” (Interesting topic to be discussing while getting that little bald spot shaved.)

Luther’s “simple way to pray” was to pray Scripture, specifically the Ten Commandments. In the book he told his barber, “I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

This method can be used with any Scripture. For instance, lately I have been struggling with my mouth again. Too many harmful words have been tumbling out of my mouth. And the verse that came to mind was Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

My words have not been gold or silver, but more like ashes and dust.

So using Luther’s model, I prayed:

Father in heaven. Your word instructs me that my words have value. They can be precious to the people in my life.

I offer thanksgiving for the gift of speech. Of all creation, you gave the ability to speak to humans alone.

I confess that my words are not always like gold and silver. Sometimes they are not something to be cherished and treasured, but something to be thrown out and forgotten.

But I want to change. Lord, give me appropriate words for every situation today—words that are as valuable as gold and silver.

 

When you are struggling with finding the right words to pray–try drawing your words from the well of God’s Word.

simple way to pray

Question: What verse will you pray today?

Top 10 Ways to Get Your Mouth in Trouble

top10mouth

My mouth often gets me in trouble.

I speak before I think things through. I say something without considering the other person’s point of view. I open my mouth before engaging my brain.

Here are my Top Ten Ways to get my mouth in trouble:

  1. Always talk. Never listen.
  2. Interrupt when you have something to say.
  3. Complain loudly about anything and everything.
  4. Talk endlessly about yourself, your kids, your grandkids.
  5. Be sure that everyone knows about your friend’s embarrassing situation.
  6. Speak before you think.
  7. Let your mouth run on automatic when you’re angry.
  8. Make jokes about your spouse.
  9. Nag. Nag. Nag.
  10. Assume you can control your tongue on your own without God’s help.

And here is the Top One Way to prevent my mouth from getting into trouble:

  1. Pray.

When I pray Psalm 19:14, to guide my words and my thoughts. I begin to focus on pleasing my God rather than trying to be witty or funny or sarcastic or right. I am less likely to demand my way and more likely to listen to the other person. I may even try to find opportunities to build up others rather than look for ways to capture attention.

So today, pray with me:

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

psalm 19-14a

Question: How does praying before you speak change your words?

3 Steps To Take When You’ve Been Punched Out With Words

punched outMy ears burned. My heart hurt.

I had just received a thirty-minute toungue-lashing over the phone. I wanted to ignore the person on the other end. I wanted to hang up. But deep inside I felt God wanted me to not turn away. He didn’t want me to sever the relationship. So I stayed on the line.

We all deal with criticism. Sometimes “suggestions for improvement” are given gently or lovingly. But often a conversation can leave us reeling from the verbal blows.

How can we deal with hurtful words?

Proverbs 12:15-16 has some principles on dealing with hurtful words:

Fools think their own way is right,
    but the wise listen to others.

 A fool is quick-tempered,
    but a wise person stays calm when insulted. (NLT)

From these verses I can see three steps to take when someone punches out our soul with their words.

  1. Hear. First we need to hear. Don’t immediately shut the person out. Proverbs tells us that fools always think their way is right, but the wise listen. The wise keep emotions in check even when they are insulted. When I heard the screaming voice on the other end of the phone, I wanted to hang up right away, but I listened.
  2. Ask. After we have heard the other person’s words, we need to ask God what to do with them. Is there some truth in the criticism? Even though the words could have been delivered in a kinder way, perhaps they contain a bit of truth you need to hear. Proverbs tells us, “The wise listen to others.” Although I certainly didn’t want to admit it, my critic did have a point. I had made a mistake.
  3. Discern. Finally discern what to do with the hurtful words. If there is some truth to the message do what needs to be done. Admit your faults. Apologize. Make amends. But if the criticism doesn’t apply to you throw it out. If the words are simply untrue, mean-spirited, and hypercritical toss them in the trash. Perhaps this time you simply need to  “overlook the insult” (Proverbs 12:16 NIV). After I understood the angry caller’s point, I admitted my mistake and apologized. But a lot of the other things she said were simply wrong perceptions of my actions. I let them go.

At times the words we hear feel like a stab to the heart. But we need to remember that God can work out everything for good for those who love Him. So listen to the words, ask God what to do with them, and discern whether they are truth or simply trash.

Ask God how to handle the hurtful words you receive.

lip serviceWords matter. They can hurt or they can heal. If you want to learn more about offering healing and helpful words, you can get my e-book, Lip Service: 11 Simple Ways to Change the World with Your Words just by signing up for my monthly e-newsletter! Look for this book cover on the right hand side of this page.

 

 

How to Practice the Art of Listening

For years my son picked up his grandmother, Shirley, from her senior apartment and brought her to church. Now Nathaniel is one of those strong, silent types and typically not too talkative before noon. One Sunday morning Shirley entered the church vestibule complaining that Nathaniel had not let her get a word in edgewise during her ride to church. We didn’t believe her for a minute.

We all love Shirley for many reasons. I especially love her for the fact that when I’m with her I never have to think of something to say. There are never any awkward silences because my mother-in-law fills them all!

Shirley is not the only woman known for her loquacious tongue. Recent research estimates that women speak approximately 9000 words per day. (compared to 6000 words per day for men). Women gather in coffee shops to chat, get together in book clubs to share thoughts, and join Bible studies to speak about faith. Women love words.

The trouble with so many words is that sometimes they get in the way of real interaction and relationship.

Proverbs 18:13 tells us,

“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.”

Genuine communication involves not only sharing my thoughts but listening to the ideas of others. One of the best ways to use my 9000 words per day is get others talking.

I want to give the gift of purposeful attention to the people in my life so I’m trying to learn to be a good listener.

Experts tell us to ask an open-ended question to get people talking. Focus on the answer and use what you have learned about the person to ask a follow-up question. Try to find a common interest between you and your conversation partner.

In case you need a little help coming up with questions, here are a few that can get people talking:

  • If you could replay any moment in your life, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite holiday (or season)? Why?
  • What’s the best surprise you’ve ever received?
  • What word would you say describes you best? Why?
  • If you could meet any one person, whom would you choose?

 

The more I practice the art of listening, the more enjoyable conversation becomes. When I’m intent on what the other person has to say, I don’t worry about coming up with something impressive or witty to add to the dialogue. If I’m not planning my next comment while the other person is talking, I’m much more likely to learn something interesting.

Practice the art of listening.

Question: What question do you use to get people talking?

This article was adapted from my book, Bless These Lips. Check it out here.

How to Be a Hero: Defend Someone

This post is an excerpt from my e-book: Lip Service. If you would like to see more, sign up for my monthly e-newsletter in the book on the right. (If you are getting this in your email go to www.sharlafritz.com)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak
for themselves.”
Proverbs 31:8 NIV

Not long ago I was talking with a group of people when the conversation drifted to the topic of a mutual acquaintance who wasn’t present. This person had made some questionable judgment calls and had ended up looking rather foolish. I’m ashamed to say we all shared a few chuckles at this person’s expense.

Fortunately there was one person in the room who had the sense to say, “I know she can seem a bit harebrained at times, but I wish I had her joy of life and sense of humor.”

Our laughter dissolved and our negative talk fizzled because one person chose to defend the subject of our comic stories. I don’t know about the other people in the room, but I suddenly realized I would prefer that others describe me as full of joy and humor rather than foolish and silly. I would hope that someone would guard my reputation if I were not around to defend myself. I was embarrassed that I was not the one to stick up for the mutual friend.

Defending someone when they are not around is an act of heroism.  You are rescuing their reputation, you are saving their dignity. When you stand up for another person, you are protecting their character. A true ally will shield another’s good name. There is no shortage of people who are anxious to tear others down. Be the person who turns the conversation around.

Here are some tips for defending a friend, especially if they are not present:

  • Show the other side of the person. Explain that your friend’s actions being talked about do not exhibit her usual behavior.
  • Give an explanation. Perhaps you know the reason behind the apparent bad behavior.
  • Change negative to positive. When the critics are spouting off someone’s failings, mention her good points.
  • Get the facts. If a friend is being accused of doing something wrong, tell the bearer of the bad news that you refuse to believe it until you hear the whole story from your friend.

Choose to think the best about others. Stand up for your family members. Defend your friends.

Take Action
As you go through your day, watch for an opportunity to defend someone. If someone you know is being vilified, stand up for their reputation. Be the one in the room who chooses to protect them.

Links about Defending Someone:
· How to Stand Up for a Friend in Trouble: http://www.wikihow.com/Stand-Up-for-a-Friend-in-Trouble
· Meaning of the Phrase “Stand-up guy”: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/331975.html

 Question: Which idea for defending someone will you find most helpful?

Pray Without Ceasing

1 Thess 5-17

“Pray without ceasing.”

 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I don’t know about you, but I have always struggled with the apostle Paul’s command to pray continually. It always seemed like an impossible request. How could I possibly pray without ceasing?

Then a few years ago, when I was worried about a situation in my life, I thought of how that concern was on my mind all the time. I didn’t simply think about the problem once in the morning and once before I went to bed. It was continually weighing on my mind. Then I thought: What if I turned every worry into a prayer? I would be praying without ceasing! (Well, almost anyway.)

Awhile ago I read Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst where she talks about her struggles with healthy eating. Lysa used a similar prayer tactic: Whenever she had a yen for foods that she had eliminated from her diet, she talked to God about the craving instead of giving in.

We can also use this tactic with our words. Use ordinary events in your day as reminders to pray.

Before our husbands come home from work, let’s pray that our words will build them up.

Before we meet a friend for coffee, let’s ask God to guide our conversations.

Before our kids come home from school, let’s pray for listening ears and loving hearts.

Use times of everyday conversation to trigger a prayer for lips that bless the people in your life. It will be a step toward more conversations with God and better conversations with the people you love.

Question: How do practice prayer without ceasing?

A Simple Way to Pray

I have to admit. Sometimes I struggle with prayer.

At times the struggle is to simply make time for prayer. Other times the problem is keeping my wandering mind on the prayer.

Sometimes I simply don’t know how to pray. I don’t have the right words to express my chaotic thoughts. Or I’m not sure how to pray about a complex problem. Or I’m feeling defeated in an area of my life.

That’s when I start praying Scripture. Taking the my words from God’s Word helps me to focus on His will, His strength, and His care.

A few years ago I discovered a little book that Martin Luther wrote on the subject of prayer. The short volume, titled A Simple Way to Pray, was written as in response to his barber’s questions, “How do you pray?” (Interesting topic to be discussing while getting that little bald spot shaved.)

Luther’s “simple way to pray” was to pray Scripture, specifically the Ten Commandments. In the book he told his barber, “I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

This method can be used with any Scripture. For instance, lately I have been struggling with my mouth again. Too many harmful words have been tumbling out of my mouth. And the verse that came to mind was Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

My words have not been gold or silver, but more like ashes and dust.

So using Luther’s model, I prayed:

Father in heaven. Your word instructs me that my words have value. They can be precious to the people in my life.

I offer thanksgiving for the gift of speech. Of all creation, you gave the ability to speak to humans alone.

I confess that my words are not always like gold and silver. Sometimes they are not something to be cherished and treasured, but something to be thrown out and forgotten.

But I want to change. Lord, give me appropriate words for every situation today—words that are as valuable as gold and silver.

 

When you are struggling with finding the right words to pray–try drawing your words from the well of God’s Word.

Question: What verse will you pray today?

Top Ten Ways to Get Your Mouth in Trouble

My mouth often gets me in trouble.

I speak before I think things through. I say something without considering the other person’s point of view. I open my mouth before engaging my brain.

Here are my Top Ten Ways to get my mouth in trouble:

  1. Always talk. Never listen.
  2. Interrupt when you have something to say.
  3. Complain loudly about anything and everything.
  4. Talk endlessly about yourself, your kids, your grandkids.
  5. Be sure that everyone knows about your friend’s embarrassing situation.
  6. Speak before you think.
  7. Make jokes about your spouse.
  8. Let your mouth run on automatic when you’re angry.
  9. Nag. Nag. Nag.
  10. Assume you can control your tongue on your own without God’s help.

And here is the Top One Way to prevent my mouth from getting into trouble:

  1. Pray.

When I pray Psalm 19:14, to guide my words and my thoughts. I begin to focus on pleasing my God rather than trying to be witty or funny or sarcastic or right. I am less likely to demand my way and more likely to listen to the other person. I may even try to find opportunities to build up others rather than look for ways to capture attention.

So today, pray with me:

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

Question: How does praying before you speak change your words?