Learning to Listen: Consolations and Desolations (Part 1)

I woke up on Sunday morning, wondering if I should skip church.  I usually look forward to church but I was also on the brink of developing a twitch from NYC livin’:

The crowds, the heat, the smell of garbage wafting IN the heat, the strategic search for parking while the kids ask for snacks and car radio DJ duties, crazy congestion while driving in my ‘hood (all those one-way streets!).

As much as I enjoy church, it is a big church so I wouldn’t be able to avoid crowds.

If I hung back while the boys went to church, I would be able to relish the rare occurrence of being Home Alone.




But I ended up joining them after all.  As much as I craved solitude to hear myself think, especially after being out with them for most of Saturday, I also craved a good sermon in real life, not online.

Pastor Pete’s sermon was called “Listen.”  Very timely as the boys seem to be listening-challenged this summer, especially while playing hward.

Also timely because I often refuse to listen to Kevin.  Ever logical, he asked me how I can demand more communication from him yet refuse to listen once he starts talking.  My reasoning that only makes sense to me is that once I hear him start talking, I know it’s not going in the specific direction I need it to go.  Yeah, I know:  wack.

So, I had a hard time listening to the “Listen” sermon.  My firstborn started a new phase where he refuses to join Sunday School and wants to sit with me at adult service.  I wasn’t going to force him to go nor was I going to sit with him in his class.  So the deal was that he sit QUIETLY next to me throughout the whole service.  Old school quiet with no i-anythings or even a crayon.

Kevin warned me not to reward him with hugs and cuddles.  Oops.  But he was being so good, making motions of zipping up his lips and throwing away the key.  Kevin also had to serve time by staying with E in his Sunday School class, although he managed to get released in time for some of the sermon.

The point is, I was distracted, making sure M wasn’t sliding off his chair, “whispering,” kicking the lady next to me or otherwise disturbing the peace.

Towards the end of the sermon, Pastor Pete passed out this handout so that we could spend a few moments doing a listening exercise together as a church body, using Consolations and Desolations as a tool:


In case that handout is hard to read, here it is, directly quoted (minus my handwritten notes):

Introduction:  One of the ways God speaks to us is through our deepest feelings and yearnings, what Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) called “consolation” and “desolation.”  Consolations are those experiences that fill us with joy, life, energy and peace.  Desolations are those that drain us and feel like death.  Consolations connect us with ourselves, others and God.  Desolations disconnect us.  The questions below are one simple way of discovering the interior movements of God through which He is speaking and leading.

Take about a few moments for silence, becoming aware of God’s presence.  As you consider the activities of your day, ask yourself these two questions:

1.  Where am I experiencing feelings of joy and peace?  Where am I sensing connection with God (consolation)?

2.  Where am I experiencing sadness, apathy, and a sense of life draining out of me?  Where am I sensing disconnection from God (desolation)?

End with prayer for grace to be more aware of God’s presence and leadings.

Pastor Pete directed us to look back on the past two days for this exercise.

Here is my list:


1.  Being outdoors in warm weather, preferably by the water.  Brooklyn Bridge sprinklers on Saturday, jumping the waves at Jones Beach on Sunday.  Watermelon, figs, olives, Korean pork jerky and cheese pizza only added to the joy and energy.

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2.  Family time with all four of us present.

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3.  Connecting in person with people I enjoy, not people I “should” hang out with.  It’s always a treat when we can see friends in person rather than on a screen.

4.  Taking in gorgeous scenery without rushing to next event.

5.  A good book.

6.  Writing.

7.  Holding babies.

8.  Swimming, yoga, hiking, walking, jogging.  I would love to be outdoors for all of this.

This is turning out to be long so I will have to save my desolations for another post.

I also see how my consolations and desolations can collide or overlap, how too much of a consolation can end up becoming a desolation.  More on that another time, I hope.

I just wanted to start a conversation for now.

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