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Meet Teresa of Ávila

     If all goes as planned in my world, today’s Listening on the Journey… blog will be posted while I’m on a plane in route to Madrid, Spain.

     The first portion of the educational pilgrimage I’m embarking on will be visiting 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 our 21st Century faith journey.

     I became familiar with these amazing Christians several years ago when I read Devotional Classics[1], the source from which I obtained most of the biographical information shared in my next two posts.

     Both Teresa of Ávila and St. John of the Cross lived during the Roman Inquisition, a period when reformation was occurring in the Church. The most well-known reformation activity was the Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther in Germany. Because of corruption that had crept into the Catholic Church, however, pockets of reformation also occurred within the organized church in other European regions around the same time as Luther’s revolt.

     Teresa, a sister in the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in Ávila, Spain, was what some might call “one tough cookie.” She was a strong-willed leader and independent thinker who endured many physical, vocational and relational hardships. Instead of crumbling under adversity, however, Teresa delved more deeply into a devout life. At the age of 40, she experienced what she called a “second conversion.” Visions she experienced lead her to establish Carmelite houses devoted to contemplative life.

     On Trinity Sunday, 1577, Teresa had a profound vision of a crystal-like dwelling with many rooms—each room moving her closer to the center where the King of Glory dwelt. The Interior Castle is her recollection of that vision.

Ávila, Spain (photo provided by Dr. Deborah Gill, our pilgrimage leader)

A prayer from Teresa of Ávila
“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.”
― Teresa of Ávila

Today, may you too experience “peace within…”

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



Travel that Never Leaves Us the Same

     In three days, I’ll be on my way to Spain. Almost every “must-do” has been checked off my preparation list. Suitcases are packed, making sure to leave enough room to bring home a few souvenirs.

     I don’t consider myself an adventurer. In fact, I generally avoid taking risks.

     I’m certainly not a daredevil! Truthfully, I harbor quite a few fears and am inclined to take the safest path.

     Despite these characteristics, however, wanderlust is woven into my bones.

     I welcome almost any opportunity to travel, to discover new regions, meet new people, explore different cultures.

     The notion of never traveling beyond the comfort and predictability of home sends shivers to my soul!

     In reading the Bible, it seems God designed us for movement.

     In the Old Testament, God often transported his children to new regions. Abraham was moved away from the familiarity of home and family to go to a land God promised to show him (See account in Genesis 12).

     Moses was tasked by God to lead a massive group of Israelites—people who had lived as slaves for multiple generations—to the new “promised land.” Their journey ended up taking 40 years! (See full account in Exodus.)

     In the New Testament, Jesus turned the well-established religious system upside down, moving believers away from adhering to restrictive laws, promising radical relational freedom governed by love—love for God, others and self. (See various accounts in Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)

     After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, persecution plagued Christ’s disciples, causing them to disperse. Because of their travels, the gospel (“good news”) spread far and wide, and the promise of eternal spiritual life was presented to many. (See Acts)

     I’ve never been to Spain. I look forward to seeing new sites and experiencing the culture near the capital of Madrid and into the Catalonia region around Barcelona.

     Because my upcoming trip is about more than visiting never-before-seen sites, I also anticipate growth and movement in my soul. My spirit leapt when I heard about the opportunity to join this group destined for an educational pilgrimage to Spain. Excitement since first learning of the opportunity last autumn has never waned.

     I leave with few pre-conceived notions about what will happen—probably because several years ago, it dawned on me, every time I’ve tried to figure out what God was up to, I was wrong!

     As has been the case in previous personal retreats, I’m praying one of my favorite prayers in preparation: “Surprise me, God!” So far, God’s surprises haven’t disappointed.

     If you think of me during the next couple weeks, please pray for travel safety and personal wellness for each in our group. More importantly, however, I’d appreciate your prayers that during this season of spiritual education and immersion, each heart will hear from God in special ways equipping us to return to our respective home bases prepared to better complete the “good work” God has planned for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

     I want you to know, also, that as I’m in Spain, I will be praying for each Listening on the Journey… reader.

Blessings on our journeys of the soul…

Sue Reeve

Travel to faraway places is often life changing. When I did a Google search for quotes about travel, words from Mary Ann Radmacher, popped out. My first international travel to South Africa in 2005 was heart changing. I will always remember the people, magnificent animals, and shall never forget stunning South African sunsets such as this one.


Boundaries – Tending My Own ‘Yard’

     A few months ago, I helped facilitate a group exploring the book, Boundaries, by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. The study was valuable to me—even though I balked initially at leading the group because of my already busy schedule and because I assumed I already had a good grasp of the topic.

     While relieved to learn I have good basic knowledge about healthy boundaries, the perspective and teaching of the respected Christian psychologists from Southern California, revealed I had never been taught about how my personal boundaries relate to God’s plan for boundaries.

     Following the class, one of our members invited a group to complete a 15-day on-line devotional (Bible Plan, Henry Cloud & John Townsend – Life Journey – The heart of today’s post is a reflection from one of the group members, my friend, Cindy Jeansonne.

     For those not familiar with Boundaries, here’s some context for Cindy’s comments. The authors use a metaphor to illustrate boundaries, explaining an individual’s boundary is like a fence built around her property. God gives each of us responsibility to care for our own ‘yard.’

     God designed a world where we all live “within” ourselves; that is, we inhabit our own souls, and we are responsible for the things that make up “us.”…We are not…responsible for other people. Nowhere are we commanded to have “other-control,” although we spend a lot of time and energy trying to get it![1]

     I hope this explanation provides a backdrop upon which to place the jewel of Cindy’s insightful reflection. She writes:

     When I’m looking at someone else’s yard, I’m NOT looking at mine.

     It’s no wonder this is a great temptation for me. It appears to be the EASIER path! Looking at my own yard and into my heart is painful.

     It’s like my office. I don’t want to suffer through cleaning it and the decisions of sorting and throwing things out…I just shut the door and no one but me knows it’s there. When I open that door to get things or throw something else on the pile, I think, “I’ll clean this up when I have more time.”

     Now, my office is no longer a place where I can reflect and work.

     My heart is the same way. Without intentional reflection, and confession to God, without prayer and the discipline of God-directed action, I am not growing into the light I’ve been called to be!

     Cindy’s Prayer: God, thank you for the gifts I take for granted. Being able to read and learn, reflect and write, and the technology that connects us in this study. Thank you for your forgiveness in the midst of my mess. Amen

     In conclusion, I relate to my friend’s illustration. My home office is an ongoing trial. It’s probably my most personally important room in our home, but the one I have the biggest challenge maintaining order and organization.

     When I asked Cindy’s permission to use her words in this post, she not only agreed but texted a photo of her cluttered office. I’m embarrassed to confess my first thought was, “Wow! Her office is a bigger mess than mine!”

     Then, I chuckled.

     My reaction is so typical of the unhealthy boundaries related to human nature. God has not only called me not to manage the ‘yard’ (or office) of my family, friends and neighbors, but also, not to judge nor compare my ‘yard’ to theirs.

     Once again, I realize my soul is a work in progress! I’m encouraged, though, because I believe realization is a step beyond my past missteps of denial or rationalization.

     In closing, I pray:

     Dear Lord, thank you so much for your kindness and patience and for the sense of humor I imagine you must have as you watch us stumble around the ‘yards’ you’ve designed us to manage. Forgive my prideful comparison. Help my friend, Cindy—and help me—organize our office spaces into safe sanctuaries where we may enjoy sweet closeness with you, the one who created our ‘yards.’ Amen

    Sue Reeve

  1. Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend, Chapter 2, What Does a Boundary Look Like?