Celebrating Our Stories – Words We Long to Hear (Part 2)

Sue’s Note: Jesus cautioned His disciples to beware of the cares of this world distracting them from the message of God. Oh, how easy it is to allow our task-filled lives to distract us from spending time nurturing our soul. Today, my friend, Stephen, describes how his spiritual equilibrium became off-kilter. His words speak volumes to me. I hope you read his post on Monday. I know you’ll enjoy the continuation of his message today.

by Stephen Robinson

     In my post on Monday, I explained how my spiritual routine was disrupted last year when I needed to put my training for the CDA half Ironman on hold. What I realized during this time was that without a fitness goal, I really struggled to reach my spiritual goals. Failure is a great teacher! This lapse caused me to consider which words I longed to hear more:

     “Stephen Robinson, You Are an Ironman” OR

     “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

     So why do I want to share this part of my story with you today? Why has Sue asked me to write about this topic? I believe it is because most of us start our year, month, week or even day with the best of intentions, but sometimes those don’t work out as planned.

     “Today I am going to start my day in God’s Word; I am going to be a blessing to my co-workers;’ maybe I will share about the message from church on Sunday.”

     Then, you rush out the door. Forget your coffee. Worse yet, someone doesn’t let you merge onto the freeway. Seems like your day can’t get any worse. Oh, I guess I just described what my recent Monday looked like! Perhaps a bad day may for you looks even much worse than that!

     What I’ve realized is that after a bad start to my day, I can come up with so many reasons why I wouldn’t want to spend time with God. The truth, though, is that is when I need Him most.

My wife and I started a couch to 10K running program, sometimes we have to squeeze in a run at night.

     The CDA Half Ironman is back again in June. I know I must start training now. It will take some time to catch up to my previous physical stamina, but I recognize if I wait much longer, I won’t be prepared to finish the race.

     Currently, I am 76 days behind on my plan to finish reading the Bible in a year. I realize if I were to try and catch up on my reading plan in a couple of days, it wouldn’t work. (Just as I couldn’t possibly cram and train in a couple of days to be ready to compete in a half Ironman.) But, I also know if I keep procrastinating, I may miss God’s prompting through the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit because I’m not trained to hear it.

     So, I’m ready to put forth the effort to prepare for the half Ironman in June. I’m also ready to throw off the hindrance of procrastination and that alarm clock snooze button and return to my routine of spiritual training.

     Hebrews 12:1 has become one of my life verses.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” – Hebrews 12:1

     Last fall, I had this verse tattooed on my forearm so I would always see it. It serves to remind me never to give up—whether training for a race or sticking to my scripture discipline.

     Even though I know God loves me no matter what, I also realize that if I neglect the training disciplines, I may miss what the Lord is trying to do in me and through me.

     What interferences are keeping you from your time with the Lord?

     Perhaps your day begins in His Word without fail, to which I tip my cap. But, if like me, you find yourself in an undisciplined season of life, or if you’re traveling through a difficult valley, I would encourage you to start fresh tomorrow.

     I recommend the YouVersion Bible app, which has plenty of different reading plans to choose from. Or, perhaps for you listening to a podcast or worship music is a more helpful way to prepare your heart to hear from God.

My wife and I do our best to start our day in His Word together.

     I don’t know what the next step is in your journey, but I pray you will find a fresh rhythm in your walk with the Lord. I believe if you do, He will begin to reveal himself to you in a new way.

     I hope my words have encouraged you to take whatever the next step in your journey may be…

Stephen Robinson

Celebrating Our Stories – Words We Long to Hear…

Sue’s Note: Today’s post is written by my friend, Stephen Robinson, who has written two previous guest posts.

About five years ago, I approached Stephen after church. I knew he was a tech guy, and I knew I needed a tech guy in my life if I was going to develop a web site and write a blog. While I felt certain God was calling me to do just that, I also knew I had neither the ability nor inclination to master the technological aspect of my calling.

Stephen is one of the nicest people I’ve ever me. His patience and graciousness never cease to amaze me. His technical skills to take what I write and make my words and Ron’s photos magically appear on email and Facebook every Monday and Thursday mornings enable me to do what I love to do and feel ‘called’ to do. My friendship and professional relationship with Stephen have helped me understand how the Body of Christ functions together to accomplish the work God wants to do in our world.

I love Stephen’s transparency in this week’s two-part post. Our commitment to God and to the disciplines we’re convinced God has called us into include progress, challenge, victory and sometimes failure. In our lifetime journeys, including our journey of faith, progress is often three steps forward and two steps back.

Every step of the way, every miss and win God’s grace is more than enough!

“You Are an Ironman!”

“Well done, good and faithful servant” – Matthew 25:23

     I long to hear these are two phrases one day.

     However, as I shared in my first Listening On The Journey… post titled, Finish, I have struggled in prioritizing time in spiritual disciplines over time spent training.

     Sue has graciously offered me the chance to write about what I have been up to since completing my first half Ironman in 2018.

     I remember reading Sue’s email a few weeks ago congratulating me on completing the CDA half Ironman again this summer. While it was not easy, I had to humbly reply that I did not in fact finish this summer’s half Ironman.

     I didn’t compete in it this year. My wife gently reminded me/advised me there would be far too many family activities to even think about training. A far more exciting milestone was happening in our family. Our oldest daughter graduated from high school in June.

Stephen and his family after graduation

     If I said skipping this year’s half Ironman was easy, I would be lying.

     Taking a year off from training showed me how easy it is to become undisciplined in my spiritual development. Looking back on this year, I realize how undisciplined my time in the Word has been. Hitting snooze on my alarm is MUCH easier when I’m not training for a physical race. Less time in the morning to get ready for work often meant my time in God’s Word would have to wait, sometimes until that night, or more often than not, until a few days later.

     2019 started with the best of intentions. My wife and I agreed together we’d read the Bible in one year. I had every intention of staying disciplined in my quiet time. What I realized, though, was that without a fitness goal, I really struggled to reach my spiritual goals.

     This realization hit me hard. I began asking myself tough questions:

     Am I living to one day cross the finish line of a 140.6 full Ironman to hear the words, “Stephen Robinson, You Are an Ironman! OR,

     Am I living to daily die to self and serve the King of Kings?

     Has my life become about reaching physical fitness goals OR growing in my spiritual journey?

     I yearn to one day hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I ask myself another sobering question:

     Anything less and what am I living for?

     I’m reminded of this uncomfortable truth. All the medals on my dresser don’t mean anything if they come at the sacrifice of my time spent with God.

     In my follow-up post on Thursday, I’ll discuss how I plan to re-start both my training for the next CDA Half Ironman and jumpstart my spiritual discipline as well.

     I hope you’ll join me for Part 2!

     Stephen Robinson

Spiritual Direction – An Exciting Phase Begins…

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe?…’ ‘Safe?” said Mr. Beaver … ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”

(The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Aslin is a metaphor for Christ.)

     About the same time today’s blog is scheduled to post, I’ll be boarding a plane bound for San Antonio, Texas, embarking on an expedition of education and exploration.

     If all goes as planned, this first of four intensive retreats, with lots of study and work in between, will culminate with my certification as a spiritual director in September 2021. Excitement today will be as high as that airplane’s altitude.

     What led me to this pursuit? There are undoubtedly more answers to that question than I’ll realize until I take up residence in Heaven. I have, however, identified several pivotal points in my faith journey:

  • When my 5-year-old arm shot up at the end of a children’s church service after the teacher asked her petite congregation if anyone would like to ask Jesus into their heart. I was one of those eager kids who raised her hand whether she knew the answer or not, so I’d probably done so at the teacher’s invitation before. This time, however, was different. I knew in my little-girl spirit that something changed. I had no way of knowing then that this was the starting point of a life-long process of soul renovation.
  • During adolescence, I developed a deep distaste for the disconnect between what I was told about being a Christian and how I observed Christians. Although it took lots of years of wrangling to come to grips with this, I realize that my often- unwisely-used discernment and criticism were actually the longing of my heart to live a fully integrated, non-compartmentalized life in tune with Jesus’ commandment to love my God with a full soul and all the strength I could muster; to love my neighbor—or those with whom my life intersects; and to love myself.
  • During my 20’s, two traumatic events created huge crises of faith. On one level, I felt God had betrayed me. On another level, during some pain-filled years, I experienced God’s grace and became convinced God really, truly knew me and loved me with an intensity much greater even than my love for my little daughter. I realized in the deepest recess of my soul God knows my name and cares about me individually, a thought that never ceases to fill me with comfort, confidence and courage.
  • During my 40’s, I was feeling what I’ve come to recognize as ‘divine discontentment.’ I set my first spiritual goal one New Year’s Eve, scribbling on a slip of paper, I want to learn to be a better pray-er. That goal changed the trajectory of my spiritual journey. For a season, I drug my weary bones from bed between 3:45 and 4:15 a.m. every morning in order to spend the first 60-90 minutes alone with God. My spiritual growth really took off during this intense season during which I discovered journaling prayers. It was, however, a physically exhausting regimen I needed to change after almost three years.
  • In my 60’s, a couple years after retiring from a long government career, I was once again feeling ‘divine discontentment.’ I began volunteering at my church as a pastoral counselor and working with a Christian life coach, both life-altering experiences. The coaching process was so beneficial I started taking necessary steps leading to my own coach certification in 2017. Also, I was invited to become a member of my church’s staff and continue to work two days a week at Lake City Church.
  • Approaching 70, one morning I said to my coach, “Jodi, I feel like God is trying to say something to me, and I just can’t figure out what.” “Have you ever thought about working with a spiritual director?” she asked. I wasn’t sure what spiritual direction was but was intrigued. While doing a personal retreat at St. Gertrude’s Monastery, I scheduled an appointment with Sister Lillian, and my first session of spiritual direction was one of those experiences that felt “just right.” I continued the practice with a brilliant woman Jodi recommended. Dr. Debbie introduced me to aspects of ancient spiritual disciplines, including contemplative prayer. For the first time, I felt as if my soul had found its true home. An educational pilgrimage to Spain led by my spiritual director was a life changer.
  • Now, thoroughly ensconced in my 70’s, I’m leaving on a jet plane. I was sent off with a big hug, sweet kiss and blessing from my husband. Ron’s blessing is essential since this guy I’ve loved for more than 40 years has always been my biggest supporter and most trusted advisor.

     While writing today’s post, I was reminded of the New Year’s spiritual goal I made the second year: I want to learn what faith looks like. After several months of reading books about faith, underlining scriptures concerning faith and listening to preachers expound about faith, one day it dawned on me. Faith is simply walking into God’s faithful character.

     Today that’s what I’m doing. Only this time, I’m flying.

     My hope and prayer are that as you read these words about my faith adventure, you will begin to examine your own journey. How does God want you to grow, live and love more fully within an integrated life of faith? I’m sure we’ll be ‘chatting’ more about this in the future…

Sue Reeve

P. S. I apologize this is such a l-o-n-g post! Promise a much briefer one next time!