In Motion With Marlene: Shhhhhh

This article was originally published in Timbrel, Fall 2017.

Do you hear it? Ticking, engines, chirps, music. Sadness, fear, tension, grief. Inspiration, community, satisfaction, reciprocity.

On my deck, I hear the first set of sounds. I hear the next two sets when I am in a different kind of listening mode, that of prayerful and careful attention to another while they speak.

This kind of deep listening is thoroughly Christian and quite counter-cultural.

Compassionate listening is one of the areas of Sister Care for College Women that is most appreciated. We offer guidelines, do some coaching, and then have the young women experience intentional care with each other in pairs. Here are some of the phrases I encourage them to use as they listen deeply.

“Let me make sure I understand you.” Seeking to fully understand shows how you value the other person. Paraphrasing what they said is one way to ensure this happens.

“Tell me more.” Inviting more sharing indicates you are available for another layer of information.

“Nothing you say will be shared with others.” We need to feel safe with each other.

“I am here.” You are fully present with the other person. Your body is still and you provide encouragement and calmness through non-verbal communication.

“I will wait until you are ready to share.” Show them that there is no rush; you are a patient listener.

“Although I really want to offer a fix, I will only listen.” Listen and ask clarifying questions only.

“Let me be as Christ to you.” Your devotion to your friend is evident.

Being a generous listener is our access to understanding each other. These days, we are constantly being bombarded by texts, tweets and pod casts, and our capacity for concentration and contemplation is weakened. It becomes difficult to pay attention to the subtle, and the quiet. Listening can help us learn to build bridges in the midst of polarities. It can slow us down so that we are able to consider a third way in times of conflict.

Listening is love. It may be the most meaningful gift your friend might receive in any
given week.

Listening may help us acknowledge the gentle nudges of God’s spirit that surface through our friendships and conversations with our sisters in Christ.

Let’s go deep!

 

Marlene Harder Bogard is the executive director for Mennonite Women USA. Previously, she served as Minister of Christian Formation and Resource Library Director for the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA for 25 years while living in Newton, Kansas. Marlene cares deeply about Christian faith formation in all stages of life and is drawn to help folks develop ways of  connecting with God in creative and meaningful ways. Her background includes serving on the Dove’s Nest board, Spiritual Director training, and teaching youth ministry at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.

 

Sitting in the Silence by Tonya Detweiler

Sitting still has never been my forte. All I have ever known is enough energy to get up and go, stay on the go at full throttle speed, often juggling two or three extracurricular activities or balancing multiple jobs at the same time. I have usually been fortunate to find work and activities that offer flexibility and allow this pace to be possible, and because I usually felt happy, it has often felt like a good way of life.

A few years ago the pastoral team at our church challenged us to “5 Habits of Jesus Followers,” which included weekly tasks such as blessing people not connected to our church, eating meals with others, studying scriptures, practicing journaling, and the fifth one… listening to the Holy Spirit. The first four felt doable, because for doers like me, those are the easy ones. You add them to your to-do lists, get them done, and off you go. But that last one felt more difficult.   We were to spend ten minutes a day sitting in silence to listen to what God might have to say to us, reveal to us, or just to center ourselves around God for ten minutes each day. I liked the concept, but couldn’t we talk about it in small group, or form a bible study, or go to lunch and talk about how we were listening? You get it. I needed to be quiet and practice this discipline most of all. And I knew it.

The first day was excruciating. My mind wandered like a toddler from shiny new thing to shiny new thought and I couldn’t focus on anything. The quietness made me uncomfortable in part because I couldn’t get my mind off of the long to-do list hanging in the balance getting untouched because I was to be listening – for ten long minutes. In those early weeks, I know I didn’t last for more than a few minutes a day before declaring this practice a complete waste of time.

And then one morning during my devotional time, I came across this scripture in Matthew 6 where Jesus says, “Here’s what you do: (I liked his action word choice). Find a secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” Matthew 6:6.

This verse was jam packed with action verbs that I could understand, and yet mixed with the foreign art of just being and listening. It mixed the doing with the listening in a way that suddenly made sense to me. It wasn’t about me. It was about taking the focus off of me, and putting it solely on God. I could be quiet because I didn’t have to “role-play before God.” That sentence hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I needed this practice more than I had ever realized.

With time it has gotten easier, but it has more importantly, gotten more essential as a part of my day. There are still days when ten minutes might as well be an hour because it feels like just that. But there have been times when God has cleared my mind, centered me around a thought that was just what I needed to hear or reflect upon, or there have even been times when this practice of listening quietly to God has guided me towards an action that I might have either missed or miscalculated had I not spent that quiet time listening to God in silence and slowing down just enough to avoid a wrong direction. Of utter importance, it is ten minutes a day when it is not about me. It is about whatever God wants to reveal to me. And that practice of submission has been a healing grace and treasured time that is necessary before I thrust into the craziness of whatever the day may bring.

I am reminded often of the saying, “Don’t let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the voice of the Lord.” How true this is. How true Jesus’ words are that challenge us to find that secluded place where only God’s noise can be heard. It can indeed center us for the entire day on the noise that is yet to come. Listening, in this context, couldn’t be more active or more necessary. And to do that well, we must slow down and often even stop. For then God has room to come in and speak to us without role playing or shouting above the earthly noise that can so easily take over.

Tonya Detweiler serves as the board treasurer for Mennonite Women USA. She was born in West Liberty, Ohio into the Mennonite home of Ray and Mary Hunsberger. Tonya grew up in Newton, Kansas and has fond memories of spending countless hours on her grandparent’s farm. Tonya currently serves as president of Blue Diamond Communities in Goshen, Indiana where she lives with her husband Craig and their blended family of five children. In her free time, Tonya enjoys landscaping, entertaining, cooking and traveling.

Holy Ground by Elizabeth Raid

When the speaker for our annual Western District Conference women’s luncheon, in Dallas, Texas, walked to the podium with a mask covering her face, I wondered who this mysterious woman was and how her story might relate to my life. Her Spanish words were translated into English as she shared about a childhood of sexual abuse that carried over into an abusive marriage. Troubled relationships with a son and daughter only multiplied her feelings of failure and low self-esteem. However, she continued to go to church and act as if all were well. She saw her mask as a powerful protection from her painful life experiences, keeping her secrets safe. Continue reading

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Annual Report Fiscal Year 2017

Greetings Friends of Mennonite Women USA,

Please click the link below to find our Annual Report from our fiscal year ending July 31, 2017.  I hope you enjoy seeing a summary of our year in infographic-style!  As a board and staff, we remain committed to live out our mission statement to empower women and women’s groups as we nurture our life in Christ through studying the Bible, using our gifts, hearing each other and engaging in mission and service.  We are very grateful for your support!

Marlene Bogard
Executive Director
Mennonite Women USA

Read the report here!

Woman of the Month by Kathryn Aschliman

In response to your invitation to “Send an email to our office to let us know how you are part of this royal tribe of Mennonite Women USA,” I am moved to write about an attempt at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana to maintain contact with women who no longer are able to attend our monthly Mennonite Women Work Day.  To assure them that they are not forgotten, we  select a WOMAN OF THE MONTH to whom we extend our love and for whom we offer prayers throughout the month. Continue reading

The Lady’s Prayer by Charity Kheshgi

Charity Kheshgi is a writer and Sign Language interpreter living with her husband and 3 cats in Pittsburgh, PA. She loves making new friends, reading, and playing board games. She is a member of Pittsburgh Mennonite Church where she currently serves on the Mission and Service commission.  

The Lady’s prayer is a new take on the prayer format that Jesus offers in Matthew 6:9-13 with the Divine feminine as the listener and guide. It shifts the focus from the material to the immaterial kingdom and emphasizes our agency in the creation of a better life and a better world. As a daily meditation, the prayer centers us with love in our hearts, light in our spirits, and purpose in each breath.

Continue reading

Share in the Journey

I’m excited for the theme for the fall Timbrel, “Caring and Listening”.  As an ICU nurse, I find that for myself, our increasing paperwork requirements and increased reliance on communicating and recording with our bedside computers can seem to be a greater priority than spending the desired time to care for and listen to those who come in to the hospital with a multitude of needs. At times the intensive physical care and procedures our patients require and our patient’s physical condition make communication more difficult. I embrace Mennonite Women USA’s mission and vision statements, which includes the phrases  “…nurture our life in Christ through…hearing each other”, and “…across generations, cultures and places to share and honor our stories, care for each other…” This is such a part of what makes us community, and communication and community are such similar words! Continue reading