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God’s Mysterious Goodness Penetrates Darkness…

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NLT)

     The woman who’d scheduled to meet at my church office told me she’d been attending Lake City Church for several months. I love to hear about people’s journeys of faith and invited her to share her story.

     It was one of those soul-stirring stories that leaves me feeling as if I’ve been entrusted with a priceless treasure to hold, even if only for a moment. When I asked permission to pass a portion on to you, promising to protect her privacy, she seemed pleased and agreed graciously. I’m calling my new friend Julia because that’s a favorite name of mine.

     Shaking her head back and forth slowly, Julia said she has always had a difficult time believing in God. “Trusting in what I can’t see just doesn’t make sense.”

     “What keeps you coming back to church?” I inquired.

     That question elicited tears, so I knew her answer was going to be good! She explained an encounter she had a few weeks earlier, saying, “I can only believe it was from God.”

     Julia described herself as a woman with a strong work ethic. Despite horrific news of a much-loved friend’s tragic death, she’d been able to make it through a busy workday.

     Emotionally exhausted after work, she decided to get take-out at a fast-food restaurant. Her emotional pain was indescribable, Julia said. How, she wondered, was she going to process this unexpected, incomprehensible news?

     After ordering her food, Julia uttered what she called a “sort-of prayer.”

     Reaching the pick-up window, the woman working behind the counter told Julia the customers in front of her had paid for her meal. The employee then said,

“Also, they asked me to tell you God loves you very much!”

     By that time, Julia said, the tears, which dampened her cheeks, turned into uncontrollable sobs. The kind employee reached through the pick-up window, took her hands and prayed “a long prayer” right there in that fast-food drive-through lane.

     Bit by bit, my new friend’s heart is being cracked open enough that rays from the light of faith are shining through. Julia is starting to comprehend that even though unseen, God is real, and faith isn’t based solely on logic.

     She wants to start reading her Bible and asked for help in getting started. I gave some suggestions and look forward to walking alongside this woman in her newfound adventure of faith.

     So often, I’ve seen God’s goodness most clearly during life’s darkest hours. Weak, vulnerable, with no idea which way to turn, like Julia, I realize “something I can only believe was from God” helped me navigate the darkness.

     Where are you in your faith journey?

     You may be like me. Even though you often feel like you still have more questions than answers, you believe at the core of your being the message of Christianity. An interior nudge convinces you God is only good and wants nothing but good for every sincere seeker. This assurance enables you to keep taking that next step of faith into the Divine Mystery.

     Others may be more like Julia. Trusting in what cannot be seen or proven doesn’t compute for you. Still, a lingering MAYBE lurks in your private moments of wondering.

     Perhaps a starting point for you may be uttering one of Julia’ssort-of prayers” and see where it leads you.

No matter where you are in your faith journey, I’m applauding you…

Sue Reeve

Imagination Ignites Wonder and Worship…

     I’ve loved the Bible for as long as I can remember. One aspect of childhood I cherish is biblical training I received in Sunday School and other church activities.

     Although the church I attended did not have a formal confirmation program, I was encouraged to learn and memorize scripture. My motivation may have been a reward or gaining the acceptance and admiration of authority figures, but nevertheless, the seed of God’s Word sank deeply into the soil of my soul.

     Over the years I’ve studied the Bible for information and truth. I’ve also turned to scripture for inspiration, guidance and comfort.

     During the past few weeks, while working through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises (19th Annotation), I’ve been encouraged to engage my imagination while reading Scripture. This has been a new experience.

     For example, in a recent post, I discussed the account of the Wise Men who visited the Christ child. As I read slowly and pondered this story, I began to imagine what the Wise Men may have looked like, how they may have interacted with one another, what they were like as human beings.

     The impressive, aristocratic travelers were revered enough to be welcomed by the mighty King Herod. Yet, without reservation, they entered the humble home of a ‘blue-collar’ carpenter and his young wife. They bowed low to worship a baby, who–upon first glance—may have appeared to be quite ordinary.

     They not only worshipped, but they shared their wealth with the humble family. The financial gifts were probably going to be needed a short time later when Joseph was instructed to flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of the greedy, paranoid and wicked King Herod. (See Matthew 2:1-21)

     I’m an observer of people, and I try to look for admirable characteristics in almost everyone. Sometimes, I admire a person’s attractiveness, sense of style, talents, work ethic, kindness, fitness or gift of homemaking and hospitality.

     Probably, though, people I admire most are men and women who quest for knowledge, who are intelligent. They’re curious, observant—always discovering. Even though their bright brains are filled with much learning, they are not ‘big-headed.’ Rather, they possess a gentle humility.

     They embrace the mystery of God, listen respectfully to others, and are generous in a variety of ways. They find delight in and are willing to gain insight from an innocent child and never show disdain for those who are less well educated. They esteem simplicity, practical common sense, intrinsic savvy and godly wisdom as much as intellectualism.

     As I pondered the story of the Magi and let my imagination make connections to my world, I concluded, I really like these guys! I also realized how God uses many different types of people to accomplish divine purposes. This causes me to worship God in a new dimension.

     If incorporating imagination into your own Bible reading sounds intriguing, I encourage you to re-read a favorite story. Using your imagination, visualize yourself in the scene. Discover how you may be drawn into a fresh scriptural experience.

     If this spiritual practice does not resonate with you, don’t use it. Stay true to the way the Spirit is speaking to you. My deepest desire is that we will be led always in longing to discover more about God with awesome wonder and worship being the result. That is always my most important objective.

Blessings as you wonder and worship…

Sue Reeve

God-Awareness and Self-Awareness…

     I’m taking some literary license here when I paraphrase words spoken by The Apostle Paul:

Good grief! Why do I keep on making the same mistakes over and over? I don’t want to keep making them, but I do. Why can’t I just do what I know is the right thing to do? (For a more accurate translation, find Paul’s words in Romans 7:14-17)

     Have you, like me, found yourself lamenting similar questions?

     As I’ve told you previously, I am currently in a 2-year program—into my fifth month now—of study that will lead to certification as a Spiritual Director.

     The program requires much personal introspection, direction and accountability. The process isn’t always easy. I’m convinced, however, for spiritual growth to occur, we must be willing to allow the Spirit to show us what lies beneath emotions plus factors that influence thought patterns and motivate behaviors.

     Throughout church history, much has been written about the importance of self- awareness that draws one into deeper relationship with God in order understand one’s God design.

     In the 14th Century, Catherine of Siena said,

Be who God created you to be, and you will set the world on fire.[1]

     John Calvin, a 16th Century theologian, pastor and reformer during the Protestant Reformation, said,

Knowing yourself begins with knowing God. Man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.[2]

     A 20th Century theologian said simply,

Self-Awareness leads to God-Awareness.[3]

     The Christian’s spiritual growth must be forged upon the mercy, grace, and unconditional love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then he or she must be willing to listen with the heart to what God is saying. Finally, we must trust God to provide wisdom and resources needed to make life-giving, God-honoring changes.

     Self-awareness dawns in different ways. Writings of ancient Christians have whetted my spiritual appetite to learn more, but throughout every age God guides us to life-producing resources when we search humbly and expectantly.

     In the 21st Century, the era in which God has placed you and me, we are blessed to have access to many different translations and paraphrases of Scripture to read, listen to and study. Counselors, pastors, coaches, spiritual directors, educators, inspirational books, groups, podcasts, and Youtube, talks provide helpful insights to assist spiritual awareness and growth.

     A powerful tool that’s helped me with self-awareness is the Enneagram, an ancient personality assessment, traced to around 4th Century Christians. The Enneagram has re-surfaced in the last few decades and is used widely for personal and spiritual growth. I believe it is a tool God has resurrected to help 21st Century seekers live in the freedom God intended for us.

     I’ve read several different books about the Enneagram. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d recommend starting with The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It’s a well-written primer, penned from a Christian perspective.

Blessings in your journey of self-awareness that leads to greater God-awareness…

Sue Reeve

  3. Although I’ve read this quote attributed to Thomas Merton, I’ve been unable to verify