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God’s Ways vs. My Ways…

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8 & 9 KJV)

     In a recent post, I made this statement, “God has given me free will and will not violate my free will.” A dear friend, who is more knowledgeable about Scripture than I, disagreed. My friend commented, “The word violate seems strong and connotes a right that God will not trespass.

     I want to clarify that in no way was I trying to diminish God’s sovereignty. God is God—all-knowing, all-seeing and always present—and has the power to act in accordance with that Divine character. Also, God created humankind with the free will to choose to obey or disobey. Examples of both God’s various methods as well as humankind’s obedient and disobedient choices are evident throughout the Old and New Testaments.

     The more I learn and experience God’s character of grace and goodness, the more I desire to choose to obey. I understand because of many factors, I, as well as others, may be misguided in some of our perceptions or choices. I believe God sees beyond our behavior—even our words—to our hearts and will guide in good paths those whose hearts desire to be led.

     If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you know I love Scripture. The Bible has been the most important guideline for my life. Since early childhood, it has provided hope, comfort, confirmation, correction, direction, and so much more.

     I am not, however, a theologian and try to be exceedingly cautious about giving the impression I know what in fact I do not know. Isaiah 55:8 & 9 is a constant reminder that God’s thoughts and ways often run contrary to the prism through which I view life.

     Robust discussion, even disagreement, are healthy when delivered respectfully, which, by the way, my friend did. I considered her perspective; read references she provided; and will undoubtedly make new discoveries and grow in this process.

     In considering this situation, I’ve asked: What exactly does respectful disagreement look like? Perhaps the best way to answer this question is by comparison.

     Respectful disagreement is delivered with

          a spirit of humility,

               kindness,

                    courtesy,

                         consideration for another’s perspective.

     Disrespectful disagreement on the other hand is delivered with

          an air of self-righteous superiority,

               harshness,

                    sarcasm,

                         contempt for another’s perspective.

     Disagreeing respectfully may feel counterintuitive in a culture that seems to value snarky over civil and gotcha more than grace.

     I’ve observed, however, that

  1. respectful disagreement often results in expanded insight and greater unity, while
  2. disrespectful disagreement creates even deeper divides.

     Because of the free will God has granted me, I desire to choose the first option to the best of my ability and understanding.

Blessings to you!

Sue Reeve

Making Compost…

      Lately, I’ve been thinking about a few Julys ago when I retired after working more than 40 years.

      A couple days after saying my final good-byes during a joy-filled retirement celebration, I stood in our back yard gazing at nothing noteworthy, thinking about nothing in particular, when Ron came alongside, put his long, strong arm around my shoulder and said, “Well, Sue, now that you’re retired, what do you plan on doing?”

      Without considering my response, I said, “Honey, all I want to do is make compost!”

      Compost is organic waste that decomposes. Composting results in valuable, nutrient-rich material called humus.

      At the time, the answer I gave my husband seemed flippant. The remainder of that summer, however, composting became a potent metaphor for the previous three years—years that led me to retire earlier than most financial advisors would have advised.

      During that pre-retirement season,

  • I went through two major surgeries after enduring chronic pain for several years.
  • Both my father and father-in-law died.
  • The small department for which I worked underwent turmoil like I’d never experienced before. One colleague chose to lash out viciously at me, and I was never able to determine why. I was disappointed by choices of other friends and colleagues I’d respected deeply. In addition, I was asked to promote into a position I never sought and felt under-qualified to fill.
  • After attending and serving in a church we’d loved for over 18 years, we realized the focus of the fellowship was changing in a direction we were not, and we made the painful decision to leave.

In other words, I’d dealt with lots of garbage—physically, emotionally, professionally and spiritually!

      Almost every day that summer, I toted a bag of kitchen waste to our big black compost bin, sweltering on the hottest side of the house. Vegetable peelings, produce scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds—all were tossed into the bin. After securely locking the lid, I’d give it one or two sharp turns. Contents tumbled, mixing old and new refuse, which supposedly sped up the process of decomposition

      When throwing in organic waste, I’d symbolically toss in an issue of soul waste from the past three years. The emotional ritual was cathartic. Before long, I began adding expressions of thanksgiving and prayers of blessing. My tired, aching soul was healing. I began imagining that just like plants in our garden would benefit from the humus being created in the compost bin, God was going to use my personal garbage for a worthwhile purpose.

      Dr. Sam Rima encourages ministry leaders to engage in spiritual composting, recognizing “dark side issues and allowing God to transform them…” Dr. Rima writes, ”By practicing the discipline of spiritual composting, the Holy Spirit can transform our weaknesses into rich spiritual humus from which our most powerful and fruitful ministry will come.” [1]

      Life is filled with painful incidents and difficult circumstances we may identify as garbage. Surely, that’s how I felt about the three years preceding my retirement. I’m so grateful God’s Spirit sparked an offhand idea in my frazzled brain that became a healing, life giving summertime ritual.

      Remembering those days brings both a chuckle and utterance of gratitude.

I’m praying July 2019 will be a time of rich blessing for you and those you love…

Sue Reeve

  1. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership – How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures, Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima

Growing Good Fruit…

     A couple days ago I walked around our yard checking out flowers, herbs and veggies I’d planted the end of May. To my utter delight I discovered several tiny cucumbers still attached to flowers as well as three of the cutest little ‘cukes’ we should be able to eat within a few days.

     Several tiny tomatoes have emerged on the “Sweet 100’s” cherry tomato plant. A couple basil plants were begging me to harvest some of their leaves and make a batch of pesto. Pruning will guarantee additional batches of the flavorful herb.

     This morning in my devotional reading, my mind kept returning to the type of fruit the Divine Spirit grows in the human spirit (See Galatians 5:22 & 23). I return often to the Fruit of the Spirit, assessing how it is—or is not—growing in my life. In today’s post I invite you to join me in your own assessment.

     We’ll ask ourselves these questions:

  1. “How is each fruit of the Spirit [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control] growing in me?
  2. Am I more [loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled] today than I was six months ago?
  3. What does the Master Gardner (God) need to prune from me in order that my life will bear more spiritual fruit? (See John 15:1-8)

     Relax as you ponder the lovely fruit of God’s spirit and enjoy some early-morning photos Ron has taken of flowers this spring and summer.

Blessings as we grow good ‘fruit’…

Sue Reeve