Considering Those Who Accompany Me on the Journey: Lenten Thanks

     During Lent, which I’ve decided this year will be a season of thanksgiving, I’m reminded repeatedly of the thankfulness I have for people whose lives have in the past, do in the present, and will in the future intersect mine.

     For over 40 years, I’ve been doing life with this guy. The first characteristic attracting me to Ron was his mellow baritone speaking voice. Even though many miles have separated us at times during our marriage, there have been fewer than a dozen days when I’ve not been able to hear my husband’s voice—a sound which always speaks safety and stability.

     As I write those words, I’m reminded that’s how I feel when I hear the ‘still, small voice’ of God’s Spirit speaking to my soul—a voice which scripture promises will never leave me and will never let me down.

     If my husband—with all the limitations that come from being just-a-guy—manages to convey love and acceptance to this very flawed lady, how much greater is the unconditional love and extravagant grace a perfect, all-knowing God shows me.

     One of the best parts of this segment of our marriage is the ability to travel to new places together. Now, honestly, my husband isn’t crazy about travel. He’d just as soon stay close to home. He’s willing to travel to places like Vermont (photo above taken during our trip to New England in October 2019) because he knows the experience brings me deep pleasure. He never begrudges accompanying his wife who’s filled with wanderlust, and he always ends up finding joy in the journey behind the lens of his beloved camera.

     I know from comments I’ve received that Ron’s photos—especially scenes from nature—have blessed you. Partnering with my husband in doing the Listening on the Journey… blog has been a wonderful answer to one of those “Surprise me, God” prayers I love to pray.

For the foreseeable future, I will continue to craft words, and my husband will continue to snap photos. Hopefully, both will continue to point you in the direction of a never-changing God in our always-changing worlds.

Prayer:
God of Perfect Relationship,
Thank you for allowing us to journey through our days with others.
Thank you for the gift of rich, life-giving relationships with others and especially You.
Help me never take for granted your never-ending grace and love.

Amen

Sue Reeve

When ‘Normal’ is Turned Upside Down: Lenten Thanks

I bet your head will bob up and down as you read these two rhetorical questions:

  • Haven’t the past couple weeks been peculiar?
  • Isn’t it mind-boggling how quickly ‘normal’ is turned upside down?

     When I worked for the government, crisis management was an important part of my job. I was privileged to receive high-quality training in the field of critical incident stress management.

     My professional training has been helpful recently in my role in care ministries at Lake City Church. I’ve spoken to well over one hundred people during this time, and I’ve been blessed over and over by some of their stories.

     A tenet of crisis work is RESILIENCE. Studies have shown most people bounce back after even the most horrific event. During my critical incident work, I was impressed by the resilience I observed and became convinced God built resilience into the human spirit.

     One characteristic promoting resilience is faith. These past couple weeks, most people I’ve spoken with possess a Christian faith. More than once, I’ve hung up the telephone feeling awed by the conversation.

     Recent interactions demonstrating resilience began earlier in the month in online exchanges with a Listening on the Journey… reader. Charlotte[1] is the friend of one of my friends. Over the years, at my friend’s request, I’ve prayed for Charlotte when her fight against cancer was especially difficult. I’ve discovered a woman who possesses deep faith, a whole lot of moxie, and despite difficult circumstances remains cheerfully optimistic.

     It came as no surprise to learn Charlotte is also a woman of prayer. Her note encouraged me. Charlotte wrote, “I love the blog. Some days I read it and pray for everyone ‘on my list.’ Other times it seems like you have written it just for me.”

     Charlotte illustrates characteristics of resilience such as hopefulness, prayer, other-centeredness, and commitment to personal growth.

     A recent prayer request crossed my desk that touched me deeply. I followed up with a phone call, and Sylvia told me about her beloved mom who is in the final stages of life, quarantined in a nursing home several states away. Her mother, a hospice nurse for several years, cared for many dying AID’s patients, saying, “They need help, and I will not be afraid.” During the time she was doing hospice work, Sylvia remembers her mama singing “This Little Light of Mine” to her and her sister at bedtime.

     Sylvia is sad her mother will undoubtedly die without loving family by her side even though she knows God will be with her mom as she transitions into her heavenly home.

     Tears welled up in my eyes as this daughter told me about a video call she had with her mother a few days ago. The nurse at the care facility told Sylvia her mother had been sleeping a lot and hadn’t been eating nor talking much the past few days. But Sylvia’s mama perked up and smiled when she heard her daughter sing “This Little Light of Mine.”

     Sylvia’s story reminded me family connection and meaningful work are two additional characteristics of resilience.

     Thankfulness is another important attribute leading to resilience. When I chose to make Lent 2020 a season of thanksgiving, I had no idea where this theme was going to take me! My email communication with Charlotte and phone conversation with Sylvia surely became part of my Lenten Thanksgiving journal.

     How are you dealing with the Covid-19 crisis? I hope you’re doing well and despite the inconvenience, you’re discovering the power of faith, hope, prayer, and service to others. I trust you’ll be able to carve out times for personal growth, connecting with family and engaging in meaningful at-home work activities.

     Above all, I pray each of us will remember to express thankfulness!

Prayer:
God Who Sees,
Thank you for the blessings you’ve shown during this time of international crisis.
Please protect, encourage, strengthen and empower
Each person reading this post and all who are working so hard and selflessly to give care, comfort and to stem this virus.
We ask for your grace and mercy to blanket the earth.
Amen

Sue Reeve

  1. Names in italics are pseudonyms

“Grandma, Jesus Died for Our Sins:” Lenten Thanks…

Sunset over the Camas Prairie at Greencreek Cemetery, Greencreek, Idaho (where both of Ron’s parents are buried)

     “I up, Gamma Susie!”

     Each Friday when I watched our granddaughter, that’s how she’d let me know she was ready to start the day.

     Emmi rubbed sleep from her groggy little eyes as I entered her bedroom. Sitting up in her toddler bed, she greeted me with this declaration:

“Gamma, Jesus died for our sins!”

     Easter was just around the corner, and I knew my granddaughter was learning about Easter in Sunday School and from her mom and dad.

     “Yes, Emmi, Jesus did die for our sins,” I agreed, and then asked, “And, what are sins?” By that time, my granddaughter had awakened fully, and in her matter of fact, recently-turned-three-years-old manner, articulated each word clearly,

When – I – make – a – poor – choice!

     All granny prejudice aside, I thought that may have been one of the best explanations of sin I’d ever been given.

     Our sweet granddaughter turned nine last Sunday. This birthday has been rather disappointing. No school. No friends’ roller-skating birthday party. Lots of changed plans. The Coronavirus Pandemic will surely be one of the defining events those in Emmi’s generation will never forget.

Most certainly, Emmi loves boating on the lake!

So sweet to our Shih Tzu, Merci.

     I don’t know about you, but every day I make poor choices. Daily—sometimes multiple times during the day—I sin.

     Sin is central to the doctrine of Christianity. The Apostle John said,

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

     A process that helps me recognize, confess and ask forgiveness for my sins is an Ignatian spirituality tool known as the EXAMEN. There are various versions, but the one I’ve been using is:

Prayer of Examen

  1. Give Thanks.
  2. Ask God to reveal your sins.
  3. Examine how you lived this day (thoughts, words, deeds).
  4. Ask forgiveness.
  5. Ask God for the grace to amend your ways.

     Ask these two key questions:

  • Where did I experience God’s love today?
  • How did God’s love impact the way I lived my life today?

Prayer:

God, who gives good gifts,
Thank you, God for the gift of being a grandmother.
Thank you for the insight you give to even a little child.
And above all,
Thank You, Jesus, for dying for our sins!

Amen

Sue Reeve