My December Book Recommendation is “Listen, Love, Repeat: Other- Centered Living in a Self-Centered World” by Karen Ehman.
In her book, Karen encourages us to put others first and truly listen to the hearts of others and then love and encourage them. She introduces this concept called a heart drop. She says, “A heart drop is when a person, either directly or in a cryptic way, gives you a peek into his or her heart. It may be through actual words, or you may pick up on a feeling, perhaps sadness or loneliness.” She shares a story about a friend who was struggling and needed some encouragement. Months before, her friend had shared about her struggle with reading as a child and how there was this one book that her grandmother had that she could read when she was young. Karen shares that she took note of the name of this book and made it her mission to find it for her friend. It was an older book so required a little time on her part to hunt it down. When she gave it to her friend months later to encourage her when she was discouraged, her friend was so surprised and said how did you know. She reminded her of their conversation and the friend was in awe that she remembered that small detail and acted on it. Karen says in her book, “Hearing a heart drop is an art we must lovingly cultivate. It can lead to the most wonderful times of encouragement as we make it our habit to listen and love.” I just loved this- a heart drop! I want to truly listen to others so I can hear their heart.
She shares in the book that as a whole, our culture is very ME-focused; in addition, we are all so busy in life and that most of our time is spent on our schedules and our relationships. I love that her book encourages us to try to get from self-centered thinking to other-centered thinking! Listen to what she says, “Because near-narcissism and the too-busy lifestyle is the normal default, to become a person who thinks of others first takes great effort on our part. It requires us to live alert. To be on the lookout not only for the conversational heart drops but for those who might need a helping hand or a dose of encouragement- with no expectation of a return favor.” I love this- Live Alert! This requires intentionality! Looking for opportunities to encourage and serve and bless someone takes great effort on our part. I feel this effort is so worth it and should be our focus this Christmas season and all year long.
Her book is full of ways to live other-centered and I wish I could share all of them with you. I am going to focus on two of them. One chapter in the book is called, “It’s about Time.” She shares a story about a friend who came to her father-in-laws’ funeral to be there to support her. She shares why her presence was so precious a gift because the funeral was in a town 3 hours away. She says, “Mary’s kind gesture meant more to me than a lovely plant and accompanying sympathy card. Why? Because it cost her something that is very dear to all of us these days: time.” Again, we live such busy lives that many of us don’t have extra time to give away. Sadly, we are missing out in blessing others with our gift of time. Karen says, “So when someone does clear his or her schedule in order to make time for a loving gesture, the impact of this gift is magnified.” This chapter definitely encouraged me to give others my time!
Another idea she shares in the book is to be a barometer of feelings. She says, “ a barometer is a scientific instrument used in meteorology to measure atmospheric pressure. We need to become a feelings barometer, measuring the emotional state of others and sensing the pressure that they are under. Rather than being caught up in our own lives, too busy to notice, we can instead be keenly aware of those around us who are left out, lonely and helpless.” Again, another great way to live other-centered, not self-centered. As we try to be a “feelings barometer” this Christmas, we need to be aware that for some people, the Holidays are going to be hard. They may have recently lost a loved one and we need to be sensitive to them. Karen has a whole chapter in her book about reaching out to those who are grieving. She shares in her book that for some, “Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year. Instead, there is loneliness and sadness.” She shares a post that Kay Warren shared the first Christmas after their adult son had passed away. Kay shared in her post that opening family Christmas cards was very difficult that year and honestly, she left them all unopened until after Christmas because it was so hard to see these happy family photos. In her post, she even recommends sending a plain card to grieving families with a hand written note letting them know you are aware of how painful Christmas can be and that you are praying for them. Such good advice- so many people are hurting this Holiday season and it is important we are aware. Again, we need to be a feelings barometer especially this Christmas.
I totally recommend this book to you! Karen gives so many great practical ways to live an other-centered life! Let me end with this challenge. She says, “Are you ready to fight against our selfie-obsessed culture? To stop putting self first and instead think about others? To live alert, and tune your ears to hear a heart drop?” So how do we do this? She says, “Living our lives prayerfully, preparedly, purposely and perceptively will help us tune our ears to the heart drops of others, so we can respond to their deepest needs in a meaningful, spirit-centered way.” Again, such great words to focus on! She says that we need to daily pray for God to “give me eyes to see the needy, ears to hear the hurting, a smile to encourage the weary and hands ready to help those who need it.” This is my prayer for me and for you again not only this Christmas season but all year long!