Posted in listening, Ministry

What else?

A few years ago my wife had to take a class at her work on how to talk to patients (she’s a nurse practitioner). It stressed the importance of asking open-ended questions. For instance, ask, ‘What else can I do for you?” rather than “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The latter invites a simple yes or no. The former draws out more information and communicates more care.

Ever since she shared that with me, I’ve been more aware of that principle. I immediately notice when I hear a doctor, nurse or anyone ask a closed-ended question. I always think, “Weren’t you there for the class?” I also work very hard to remember to ask, “What other questions do you have?” “What else can I do?” “What do you need right now?” More often than not, the answer is, “Nothing.” But at least I gave them the chance.

I made a post-death pre-funeral home visit today and carefully worded my questions to the family. “What other questions do you have?” “What else do you need to know?” Each and every time I asked, I learned more about what to include in the memorial service, a little more about the deceased, and allowed the family to express a little more grief.

I remember some of my market research training from years ago. You always ask, “What else?” Several times, until you have heard all that the speaker wants to share. Asking the right questions can make you a much better listener! I wish I had known about this earlier in my career.

Posted in Ministry, questions

Yes, I have time for a question

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Twenty minutes or so before worship began last week, a good friend of mine asked, “Do you have time for a quick theological question?”

My heart rate increased, adrenaline began pumping as I reveled in that moment. Even in those moments when I should focus on the hour ahead of me, I love a good question about God, faith, Jesus or the church. In fact, when someone asks less specifically, “Can I ask you a question?” I will often reply, “I hope it’s a bible question!”

Many questions aren’t biblical or theological. In fact, they are usually anything but. For example,

  • “Do you know the copier access code?”
  • “Do we have any more garbage bags?”
  • “Whatever happened to __________?” (Fill in anyone’s name.)
  • “Where do you go to get your car fixed?”
  • “Who is that person I saw at church yesterday? He was older, had gray hair, wore glasses…”
  • “Why is it so cold/hot/noisy/dark/bright in here?”
  • “Where can I find a roll of toilet paper?”
  • “Why didn’t I get any offering envelopes?”
  • “When is the dumpster going to get emptied?”
  • “Can I use the fellowship hall for a birthday party in June?”
  • “Who left this food in the refrigerator?”
  • “What happened to the food that was in the refrigerator?”
  • “Why isn’t there anything on that bulletin board?”
  • “When did you get glasses?”
  • “Where are your glasses?”

Do I have time for a theological question? Most certainly, yes!

Posted in Grace, Life

God’s whirlwind answer to Job’s profound questions

hurricane-irma-satellite-noaa-ht-jc-170905_12x5_992Sitting here, waiting for Hurricane Irma to traverse the length of Florida, I couldn’t help (because I’m a pastor) think of Job’s encounter with God in a whirlwind in the bible (Job 38:1).

Job had three really good questions for God while he was suffering from the loss of his family and health. His so-called friends tried to help him figure things out, but they weren’t much help.

Job asked, “Why was I even born? If I have to suffer this much, why didn’t I just die at birth?” (Job 3:11) Great question. If life includes suffering – and it usually does – then why even bother? I know from my own turning forty experience that if you hurt bad enough, you just want it to be over.

Second question: “How can you be in the right before God?” (Job 9:32) Job’s well-meaning friends offered him their best advice: “You must have really screwed up. Just turn back to God and get past this.” Job knew he hadn’t done anything to deserve what he had to go through. And how are you going to get in good standing with God anyway? He does what he wants. What chance do you even have to argue your case with God?

“If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14) Good question. If life is hard and too quickly comes to an end, what’s the use? Cut down a tree and it grow back. Terminate a life, and that’s it. Game over. No second chance. No redo.

God answers God from a whirlwind. (Was it a  hurricane? Or a tornado?) And he simply asks a series of questions. “Do you know how this world works, Job? Were you there at creation, at its inception? Do you even have a clue?”

So when the whirlwind comes, we remember that He is God and we are not. We can’t do much to control the weather. All we can do is flee or hide. Our vote doesn’t count. We just ride it out the best we can.

But we know why we were born. We were created for good works (Eph. 2:10). We’ll have plenty of chance to do that on Tuesday, when recovery begins and we can be there for our neighbors.

We can be right before God, but only by faith. “We maintain that a person is justified by faith” (Romans 3:28).

And, there is life beyond the grave. The Lord will come, the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

So let the hurricane remind you of our Lord’s power, grace and return. It’s one of the best object lessons ever!