In these times when the country is being torn apart by violence, hate, and destruction it is easy to feel helpless and frightened.  COVID-19 continues; violence and riots do not stop; long-held rage is released, and we discover that we have ignored the atrocities suffered by the African American community across the nation for years.

My heart breaks for people so injured and my brain looks for something…anything that can speak to these new realities. What can I do?  How can I make a difference?  What is being demanded of me as one individual? I cannot simply watch from the sidelines and hope the violence will end.

Enter God with a simple directive: “Ask Raymond!” Ask my dear and special friend, Raymond, who has been a voice of honesty, wisdom, and care in my life for many years.  “Ask Raymond” because Raymond will be honest and direct in his answers.  “Ask Raymond” because Raymond will know what I am asking and will respond.

The Reverend Dr. Raymond Hargrove is a Regional Minister in the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ. We met in 2009 when I led a four-day retreat for Florida Clergy on Spiritual Life. Raymond is wise, gentle, very tall, and a powerful voice for reconciliation. In 2009 I had just brought a new program about Spiritual Life to a church in Florida and it was my pleasure to share this new adventure with Raymond.

But God had additional reasons for bringing our lives together. Raymond preached at my 40th anniversary of ordination at the Cocoa Beach Community Church and we had many wonderful occasions to talk about God and ways that we might work together to look at spiritual life as a means to grow the church.

Our lives were separated by time and space. I finished my work in Florida and returned to Illinois. Raymond continued his ministry in Florida. Our contact was diminished. But when my deep concerns were raised with the question of what could I do to respond to the reality I was learning, I immediately called Raymond. And his answer to my request was direct and powerful.


My mind and my heart relaxed – my spirit smiled at Raymond’s wise directive. I thanked and praised God for bringing Raymond into my life.

Of course, this is the first step in any kind of dialogue between people who must tell each other what is breaking their hearts and their spirits.  JUST LISTEN!  YOU MAY NOT LIKE WHAT YOU HEAR. BUT IF YOU DON’T LISTEN YOU WILL NEVER LEARN WHAT WE MUST DO TO STOP THE VIOLENCE AND THE BROKENNESS IN OUR COUNTRY TODAY.  LISTENING IS WHERE WE MUST START.

True listening is always an act of love. It attempts to hear without reacting.  It recognizes the dangers we face if we do NOT listen. It knows that action without listening can prevent healing from taking place.

Listening also allows our heart and spirit to reach out in compassion and trust that God, the Great Listener, is also listening with us.