Becoming a Better ‘Listener’…

     In a little less than two weeks, we’ll celebrate Easter. Today’s post includes excerpts from one I wrote the day after Easter 2017. As I re-read these words, I was reminded the contemplative discipline of silence—learning to listen with the heart—is progressive. I realized even though I still have challenges, I’ve grown significantly in this area. A year ago, I needed to make myself set aside times of solitude and silence. Now, they’re an almost-daily practice—times I treasure and prioritize because my soul longs for them.

     As we prepare for the wonder of Easter—and, as I am processing my educational pilgrimage to Spain—I hope each of us will desire to become better ‘Listeners.’

     Two spiritual practices I find challenging are solitude and silence. I tend to ‘talk’ more than ‘listen.’ It’s easier for me to ‘do’ than to simply ‘be.’ A Dallas Willard Lenten devotional challenges me to pursue these disciplines: Dr. Willard says:

“Among the practices that we learn to engage in to enable effectual focus upon Christ is a combination of solitude and silence…These are root-reaching practices that slowly bring us to an understanding of who and what we really are…that allow God to reoccupy the places in our lives where only he belongs.” [1]

     I’m at a juncture in my journey when I want more than anything else for the spiritual work being accomplished in me to be “root-reaching.” I want to produce good fruit that develops from the inside out—fruit not I, but only the Spirit, can produce.

     As Holy Week 2017 closed, so did my meditations in the Gospel of John. One of those last mornings, I was struck particularly with words Jesus spoke to Pilate in John 18:37 “…For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come…to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (emphasis is mine)

     The prayer I entered in my journal that morning was simple.

Jesus, I believe you are Truth. I want to be one of those ‘everyone’s’ who is of the Truth and listens to your voice. Holy Spirit, teach me to be a better listener—to hear the voice of Jesus more clearly. Amen

     A simple congregational meditation Pastor Rodney Wright led us in during our Good Friday service at Lake City Church, plus photographs my husband took during the [2017] season of Lent, sets a tone for the spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence.

C:\Users\Sue\Desktop\Ron Photos\Blog Post Pix\Be Still Bench.jpg

C:\Users\Sue\Desktop\Ron Photos\Blog Post Pix\Be Still Pink Flower.jpg

C:\Users\Sue\Desktop\Ron Photos\Blog Post Pix\Be Still Moon.jpg

C:\Users\Sue\Desktop\Ron Photos\Blog Post Pix\Be Still Kayak.jpg

C:\Users\Sue\Desktop\Ron Photos\Blog Post Pix\Be Still Bird.jpg

Blessings on your journey into stillness…

Sue Reeve

  1. – Excerpted from Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge by Dallas Willard


The Silence Begins…

     If all has gone as planned when I wrote this post back in February, today, March 15th, I will be near Barcelona, Spain, at Cova Sant Ignasi (Cave of Saint Ignatius) Manresa, an Ignatius of Loyola Pilgrimage & Prayer Retreat Center. Much of the five days our group is here will be spent in silent retreat.

     Those of you who know me well understand I love to talk. I rarely run out of conversational topics. When I told my siblings and their spouses about the silent portion of my Spain pilgrimage, my younger sister, Myrna, commented with characteristic droll humor, “Susan, you’re going to be expelled!” Everyone laughed, including me, at the incongruous thought of me being silent for any length of time.

     What few people understand about me, though, is that even though I’m an outgoing extrovert and relish human conversations, my spiritual temperament is more contemplative. I crave silence and deep reflection. I long for quiet moments when I can think deeply about God, when the noise and activity of the life I cherish, fades, and my human spirit is able to listen to The Spirit.

     I have a feeling I’m going to love this season of silence—although I suspect I’ll try to sneak in a cellphone visit or two with my husband during these five days.

(Photo by Dr. Deborah Gill)

     The following biographical information about St. Ignatius is taken from the Cova Manresa web site. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about this remarkable man of faith.

St. Ignatius, a man with a deep spiritual vocation[1]

The Pilgrim:

St. Ignatius was popularly known as The Man in the Sack, as he wore a simple robe.

Íñigo López de Recalde was the son of a noble family. He was born in the hamlet of Loyola, between the small Basque villages of Azcoitia and Azpeitia, in 1491. At the age of 15 he entered the service of the kings of Castile, being a good diplomat and military. In May 1521, while defending the city of Pamplona, ​​he was seriously injured in one leg. During his recovery, and compelled by some readings, he decided to make a radical change in his life and began a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for which he set out to embark at the port of Barcelona.

On the way there, he passed by the monastery of Montserrat and on March 25, 1522, he came down to Manresa where he lived eleven months, which were decisive in his spiritual transformation. The stay of Saint Ignatius in Manresa – much longer than anticipated – has a great relevance in the life and the works of the Saint. As he himself recounts, it was in this city where he had the mystical and spiritual experiences that inspired him in the writing of his main workExercicis Espirituals,a method of seeking the will of God, an aid to guide one’s life according to God : “to love and to serve in all things.”

Finally, he embarked in Barcelona and arrived in the Holy Land. 

When he returned from Jerusalem, he decided to study first in Barcelona and then in Alcalá de Henares and Salamanca, until he was imprisoned by the Inquisition.

He then continued with his studies in Paris, where he was part of a group of ten companions who set out, within a year, to go to the Holy Land and become missionaries. And if that was not possible, they would put themselves under the Pope’s orders. Once ordained priest, and faced with the impossibility of returning to Jerusalem, they placed themselves at the service of Pope Paul III. In 1540, he founded the Society of Jesus, and was chosen as its first superior. And so he continued until his death, in 1556, when he was 65 years old.

In 1609, Pope Paul V beatified him, and was proclaimed a Saint in 1622.

Que deu et beneeixi,

(“God Bless You” in Catalon, the language spoken in Catalonia, Spain, where Barcelona is the capital.)

Sue Reeve

P.S. Even though I’m not skilled at photography like my husband, I hope I’ll have a photo or two I can share with you upon my return.




Meet St. John of the Cross

     If all goes as planned in my world, today, Monday, March 12th, our pilgrimage group will travel from Madrid to Barcelona.

     The first portion of the educational pilgrimage was spent exploring sites where Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) and St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) had unique spiritual encounters—experiences which continue to minister to folks navigating their own 21st Century faith journeys.

     In my last post, I introduced you to Teresa. Today, I’d like you to meet a man who was mentored by and worked with Teresa, a man who came to be known as “John of the Cross” because of his suffering and deep commitment to Jesus.

     I became familiar with both Teresa and John several years ago when I read Devotional Classics[1], the source from which I obtained most of the biographical information shared in my last two posts.

     John studied philosophy and theology at one of the leading European universities, a Carmelite college in Salamanca, Spain. He met Teresa of Ávila when he was ordained in 1567.

     John spent most of his life in the service of the Catholic Reform. He was arrested and put in confinement by those who opposed the reform. During his period of confinement, he wrote The Dark Night of the Soul, which described God’s work in his spirit during a dark and difficult season.

     When I was first introduced to John of the Cross, I was traveling through a “dark night.” It was a difficult time and one I would not welcome back. Yet, through this season, I had a keen awareness God was with me and that a divine work was occurring in my soul—a place I could not see but one known by God. It was during this time that verses 11 & 12 from my favorite psalm—Psalm 139—came alive:

If I were to say, “Certainly the darkness will cover me,
and the light will turn to night all around me,”
even the darkness is not too dark for you to see,
and the night is as bright as day;
darkness and light are the same to you.

     If you are experiencing a “dark night of your soul,” my prayer is that you’ll be encouraged by the words in this psalm and the life of St. John of the Cross. Even as God was very present with John—as well as with me over 430 years later—I feel certain God is also with you and will use this difficult time for a significant purpose.

Dios te bendiga!

Sue Reeve


  1. Devotional Classics, Selected Readings edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, A Renovare Resource for Spiritual Renewal