From the corner chair in Starbucks I can see lots of life, but I can hear more than I can see. I love to sit in that chair, it gives me opportunities to practice what I call stealth listening. Some may still call it eavesdropping, but in the last few years it has become much more. The Starbucks world has become a candy shop for the ears.
As a kid I got my hands slapped for secretly picking up the phone and listening-in on the party-line conversations (three or four families using the same number). I never knew who the people were, but there was something intriguing and enticing about those moments of listening in.
In the last few years, I discovered that airports are terrific practice fields for stealth listening. Try it on a lay-over, walk the terminal with ears tuned — just listening.
Young girl on my right, "What about me, is my job safe? I don't care who said it, it's not the truth. Is anybody interested in the truth?"
If you are good at stealth listening, you can hear beyond the words. If you're really good, you can hear the soul.
A fast talker on the left, "I'm bad, I'm bad. That's just the way I am, always have been, always will be."
Sometimes there is so much pain in the voice, the words get lost.
She was frozen in place. No one wanted to get close. "No! No! That's not supposed to be happening. No, don't say that. No, not now! That's not my fault."
Beyond the words, you can hear hidden messages masked inside the tone, the inflection, the cadence, and the volume. It's all there.
Standing behind me in line, "Save a place for me."
Jesus was a master at listening. He could hear the soul before the words were spoken. He knew how to listen. Trust his lead, learn from the Master:
"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen..." (Luke 8:16-18 NIV).
It's a stealth miracle!
A few years ago I snuck away for a short three day photo shoot in Yosemite National Park. There was still snow on the valley floor but signs of spring bursting forth in spite of the shrinking blanket of white.
I spent the first two days exploring the light and shadows of the familiar valley. Working from the comfort and warmth of the rental car as my base, I was able to stuff my camera-pack full of every piece of equipment I own. This way I was prepared for Kodak moments and a few surprises.
Slowly and surely, hour by hour, God was transforming my photo adventure in to a collection of personal breakthroughs. While I was searching for just the right light to reveal the color and texture of Yosemite, God was teaching me to see beyond my vision. The pictures are still the same, but I'm not.
About 3 pm on the second day, I grabbed my stuffed camera-pack (weighing over 40 pounds) and headed up the path to upper Yosemite Falls. I wanted to get to Columbia Rock and take pictures of the sun and the storm clouds and the valley at just the right time with just the right light.
Not until later did it dawn on me that while I was headed up a much more strenuous path than I had expected, everyone else seemed to be headed down. It was taking longer than I had planned and the clouds were moving in faster than I had expected. My illusive light was disappearing and the camera-pack was getting heavier and heavier. Soon, I could barely see the path in front of me. After all this work, I would have to turn around with nothing, not one Kodak moment. I took off my pack and rested a moment before heading down. As I glanced at my watch I realized it had been 30-minutes since I had seen or heard anyone. I was alone.
It was time...
Not pausing for even a moment, I hurried past. "Hi, it sure is easier going down," I commented, as I rounded the corner.
He responded in a sad and awkward voice, "It's... always easier going... down."
There was something wrong. I could feel it. But, by the time I talked myself into turning around and climbing back to that switchback, he was gone. I stood as quiet as possible listening for any sounds of movement... nothing! I called out, "Hey man, where'd you go?" Nothing!
He had totally vanished. To this day I can still see him, and I will never forget his voice, "It's always easier going down."
As I sat on the plane heading home, my regret loomed large. In that holy ground moment, God said, "Keep your ears and eyes open, there will be more."
Why have I not heard them before?
Spend one hour a day for the next 7 days practicing listening. Listen for hurt, for fear, for worry, for embarrassment, for wonder, for joy, and for peace... listen for the hidden.
Practice listening to TV dialogues, dinner conversations, phone calls, voice messages, etc.
Ask God to give you ears to hear... ears that really listen beyond the words. Ask for a stealth miracle.