I’ve been meaning to ask…where are you from?

I’ve been meaning to ask…where are you from?

This past Sunday, we began a four week series called: “I’ve been meaning to ask” in which we will explore scripture, our connections to God, and one another. We’ll explore four different questions, and why asking them is valuable, as well, the importance of listening to one another. When we remain engaged and curious in our conversations, stopping to listen to one another and witness their story, we begin to experience a connection that is life-giving!

In starting out a conversation with ‘I’ve been meaning to ask’ means … hey! I’ve been thinking about you, and wondering about your story, can we have a conversation, and it automatically makes the other person feel seen and not overlooked or forgotten.

I’ve been meaning to ask… starting out with a question this way,” conveys intentionality, warmth, curiosity, and consideration. In essence, this question also implies the following statements: “I’ve been thinking about you, and I’ve been wanting to check in… You’ve been on my mind… I haven’t known how to have this conversation, but I’m getting started with a question.” The ellipses symbolize the main objective of this series: to cultivate courageous conversations— and to keep having them, even if we need to pause. Our weekly sub-themes provide a trajectory for going deeper. As you can see, these questions aren’t surface level; they invite us to share our pain and seek ways to care for one another. We pray that through vulnerability and authenticity these conversations lead us to glimpse hope, joy, and beauty.” *

The hope is that in this series, we will be invited to engage in conversations, remain connected, to see AND hear one another and in our differences, see one another as beloved children of God who belong.  While it won’t resolve the many differences that the world holds, it will “help us strengthen our capacity for empathy and compassion. It will show us the simple power of asking unassuming questions. It will remind us that courage is rooted in the heart.” * If anything, it will invite us to think about how we engage in conversation with both friend and neighbor.

*Taken from the Sanctified Art Series / sanctifiedart.org / @sanctifiedart

This past Sunday, we started with “I’ve been meaning to ask, where are you from?” And in asking the question, we might often think we know someone, but when we stop to ask the question and listen and hear one another, we might discover and learn something new about the person we’re talking with! We heard the story of the calling of the disciples as recorded in the gospel of Mark, where Nathanael asks the skeptical and assuming question “What good can come out of Nazareth?” in speaking about Jesus, Nathanael walks into the interaction with Jesus assuming he knows who Jesus is, and that he knows everything about him.

Had Nathanael said ‘nope, Nazareth … I’m out, there’s nothing good that can come out of that place, it’ll be a waste of my time,” he would have missed out on an encounter with Jesus in which he witnessed and heard Jesus, and it was life changing for the story ahead for Nathanael!

And like wise, Jesus sees good in Nathanael, and is engaged in conversation. Jesus doesn’t look at Nathanael and judge him, or say ‘stop rolling your eyes at me’ … they don’t look at each other and snub their noses up in the air and say … you’re not worth my time and energy. No, they both remain engaged, they ask questions, respond in kind, and they see one another as people … with a story, so they listen, observe, and leave the judgement off to the side. And the story that is told from that point forward is life giving, beautiful, and quite amazing!  Jesus sees and answers Nathanael’s question, Nathanael listens and hears him.

One of the key components in engaging in conversations and life with friends, family, and friends yet to be is to remain curious and engaged. To not go into a conversation with judgement, your own ideas, – whether they are your friends or are someone who looks different than you or thinks differently than you. speaks a different language, comes from a different country, … but to see each person as someone who has a story, to ask questions, to listen, to stay curious to learn more. 

And to remember that God has breathed life into each of us, breathing life into our bodies into existence as we are reminded of this as we read in Genesis 2:7 “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”

And while we have received the breath of God, breathing life into our existence, we can see each person as the individuals that we are, different and beautiful people, who have a story that has been lived, and a story to tell, with our own experiences.

When we remember that God has breathed life into each of us, and remember the story of the calling of the disciples, we can learn from Nathanael and leave our preconceived ideas at the door when we enter a conversation and interaction with someone. We can learn from Jesus to remain engaged. 

Nearly one week ago, we welcomed a family from Afghanistan. With excitement, anxiety, worry, and curiosity, – on both sides – the family and the welcome team … the engaging conversations began, and we listened to one another, we began to ask questions, we explained some cultural differences, Cindy and I shared a cup of tea with the family … and it was beautiful. And had we simply not been open to and explored the idea, learned, prepared for and responded to the invitation, we would have missed out. Further, if we would have responded, showed up, and then left them at the house or sat in silence and smiled at one another, or played with the baby and not engaged in conversation … we would have left the house as someone who assumed we knew how they were feeling and their story. But because we began to listen to one another, asking questions, and truly listening we all said our see you laters with full hearts. 

Over the next few weeks, each week you will be in invited and challenged to be mindful about how you enter into conversations – with friends, with family, with new and soon to be friends, how do you enter into conversations with people that you would rather duck and cover from. But to pause, see that person as someone who received the breath of God into their lives … and who has a story … and then remain engaged and curious. Pausing to set aside your ideas and preconceived ideas to truly be present and listen. We all know how we feel when someone calls to check in, when someone calls to say … “Hey! I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to ask, to follow up with, have been wondering … I’d love to have a conversation with you!”

The next post will share some thoughts about entering into conversations, and ways to be mindful, as well as some questions that you might use!

I do hope and pray that this will be an encouraging way for all of us to be present, and engaged in connecting, and re-connecting with friends, both new and old.

Portions of this post, are from my sermon on February 6, you can hear it in its entirety by visiting the worship page.

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