"Eloise, Your Thoughts?"

Most every late afternoon we get a call from our eldest son. He uses the time to update us on his day and we then reciprocate regarding our days as well. This daily chat has kept us connected. On many occasions our pre-teen granddaughter is sitting nearby and oblivious to the particulars of the conversation. She usually has her headset on and is playing a game or listening to music. This is her time to decompress following a busy day at school.

What kind of listener are you?
Image credit: www.clipart-library.com

After a good fifteen-minutes of carrying on with our “Number One,” Matt will interrupt himself, look at Eloise sitting on the couch with him, and ask “Eloise, your thoughts?” He loves to tease his daughter and delights in catching her off guard with this playful interaction. She’s a good sport in all of this and responds to this surprising interruption by scrunching her up upper lip and flaring her nostrils to show that she is annoyed by this uninvited attention. Unless pressed further, she usually simply responds with her own question, “What?”

Unlike Eloise, I have been known to listen in on another’s conversations… unless I don’t want to! During my study and writing each week, it is common for me to warn Monique ahead of time that I am not going to be listening. Then, I put on my ear plugs, listen to my favorite online jazz station, and take my place behind the laptop keyboard. Some call this “selective” listening! I’m not sure there is such a thing. It is just an excuse for not being a good listener!

All my adult life I have confessed to not listening well. I am not proud of this and have tried to work on it with very little progress. I have attempted to answer this deficiency with numerous excuses, but many of my family and friends are unconvinced of my sincerity. As Monique often sarcastically says to me, “You know a little about a lot!” And I usually interrupt and talk over her words by responding, “And I love sharing what little I know, too!” I blame this on being the firstborn of my family! 😊

Just recently, one of our daughters called to challenge my issue with talking over another’s words. She said, “Now, Daddy, I want you to listen when he (my son-in-law) calls to talk to you. Don’t interrupt him! Don’t try to fix this! Just let him say what he needs to say.” Her twin sister is just as perceptive about my issues with being “listener challenged!” When she was a little girl, she’d take my chin cupped in her small hand and turn my head toward her face to get my full attention. Then she would begin to share what she wanted me to hear! As you can tell over the years, I have been repeatedly “managed” like this by my loved ones!

The Word of God challenges us to listen well. James reminds us to “Be quick to listen, slow to speak.” (Ja. 1:19, NIV). The writer of Proverbs speaks repeatedly about this subject. “Pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.” (Pr. 4:20). “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and shame.” (Pr. 18:13). Yet, the most convicting to me of all the scriptures that address the need to listen well is found in the opening verses of Philippians 2. This great hymn of the early church instructs us to imitate Christ’s humble attitude and says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition… but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look… to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4).

The motivation for becoming a more responsive listener is rooted in a love for others. Why did Jesus come to earth to die for us on the cross? He loved each of us and the whole world, too! The inspiration in that second chapter in the Philippian letter reminds us of Christ’s incredible example of self-sacrifice and of our need to put others before ourselves! This humbles me!

I have thought a lot about that opening question that our son puts to his beloved daughter every day. On a much more serious note, and considering my own need to grow into a better listener, I should be asking more often, “Lord, Your thoughts?”

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com


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