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God’s Love is Patient and Kind

     The other day, I asked my 4-year-old grandson what he was learning in Miss Jean’s preschool. “We’re learning about shapes, numbers and Valentine’s Day,” Reeve reported matter of factly.

     I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day. The thought of focusing on love in mid-winter makes my heart smile.

     A variety of stories, myths and traditions surround the holiday, which my grandson will probably not be learning in preschool. Some are interesting, others rather bizarre. Many focus on a 3rd Century Bishop named Valentine who was martyred because he performed secret marriage ceremonies for young lovers in defiance of the decree of Claudius II, which forbade soldiers to marry.

     During the month of February—leading up to the beginning of the season of Lent—I’d like to focus attention on the most profound love—God’s love—as portrayed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

The Apostle John declares …God is love. (1 John 4:8). If that is true, which I believe at the core of my being it is, then today’s segment of this scripture could be paraphrased to read:

God is patient. God is kind.

Prayer:

God of Love,

Write the words of your love deeply within our souls.

Illuminate the dark days of mid-winter with the light of your love.

Let us listen for the whisper of your Spirit telling us how to love in a way that reflects your love.

Thank you so much, God, for your patience and kindness in this process of learning to love you, others and ourselves well!

~Amen

Sue Reeve

Exploring ‘Winter of the Soul…’

     I’ve always lived in locales with four distinct seasons. While growing up in Montana, my favorite season vacillated between spring and summer. For several years, autumn has been my preference.

     Winter has ALWAYS been my least favorite!

     What don’t I like about winter?

     Darkness. When nighttime hours eclipse daylight.

     Isolation. I miss friendly smiles and waves from neighbors, greetings and updates from the little boy next door. I miss impromptu chats while on evening walks.

     Storms. They’re inconvenient and make it difficult—at times unsafe—to get around. Storms wreak havoc on my carefully constructed agenda. I especially dislike storms!

     The writer of Psalms 104:19 implies seasons are God’s idea

     He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.

     The words ‘season’ or ‘seasons’ are used some forty times in scripture.

     My journey as a Christ follower has transitioned through ‘seasons of the soul.’ Winter of the soul is my least favorite spiritual season! Despite my preference, I know life-changing work occurs in winter’s dark, isolating, stormy days.

     Take the tree for instance. During wintertime it appears barren and lifeless. In fact, though, vital unseen work is happening deep within the trunk of that tree.

     One’s soul during winter often struggles with melancholy, doubt and a feeling of uselessness. Mark Buchanan reflects:

     Winter is when your heart is so closed up you can’t imagine it ever opening again, your dreams so buried you can’t conceive of them resurrecting.[1]

     Jesus told his disciples:

     I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes. (John 15:1-2)

     Jesus was speaking to people who were more familiar with grapevines than trees, but I believe the same lesson applies to me who lives in a region plentiful with trees.

     I did a little research and learned for most trees, the optimum time for pruning is late winter. A skilled arborist knows which branches must be lopped off to ensure healthy growth, beauty and fruitfulness. The arborist cuts without apology. Branches whacked off ooze sap, but the tree expert isn’t worried because the one pruning realizes those cuts will survive and heal beautifully. A scar may result, but the wound won’t be fatal.

     So, it is with our souls. When God prunes off useless branches, it may feel harsh. The pruning may even result in tears. But, God, the infinitely wise Master Gardener, knows what needs to be cut off so we will produce good fruit—the fruit of the Spirit:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control[2]

Unlike a tree, the Master Gardener has given you and me the gift of free will. We can choose to cooperate in the pruning process. I’m a strong-willed woman, and this thought causes me to pause and reflect.

     Because I’ve heard some of your stories, I know there are those reading this post who are experiencing winter in their souls. I too have experienced a couple unpleasant spiritual storms this winter. For each of us I pray:

God of every season…
In this winter season, meet us in those dark, lonely moments.
Quiet our troubled thoughts.
With each breath, may your Spirit breathe joy into our sadness and loss.
Fill gaps of doubt with an assurance you are in control.

In the pruning process, fill us with hope, peace and anticipation of a new season.
Despite the season, let us never lose sight of your beauty!

In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit I pray…Amen

Blessings on your journey…

Sue Reeve

  1. Spiritual Rhythms, Mark Buchanan, Winter
  2. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

Common Sense Steps to Achieve ‘Soul Longings…’

     In my last posts, I’ve explored three words I’ve chosen as overarching themes for 2020: Serenity, Simplicity, and Stillness.

     All are longings of my soul! Some may be longings of your soul!

     My mind gravitates toward ideas and works well when I begin with a vision. In a recent conversation with my Millennial daughter, I realized that isn’t the case for some.

     My daughter, a busy woman navigating a hectic life season, juggles the demands of career, family, and faith. She’s a logical thinker, designed by God—unlike her mom—with an analytical mind. Her thoughts went something like this: “When I hear words like serenity, simplicity and stillness, I think, Well, wouldn’t that be nice! What I need are practical suggestions I can use to make those things real for me!”

     Pondering my daughter’s words, I realized that while a vision is important, unless I take concrete action steps, my soul’s longing will remain a wish. Today I’d like to give a few practical suggestions.

Serenity: The most common portion of the Serenity Prayer[1] [God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.] has become an important prayer tool.

     When I think of these words, my mind goes to three columns. Years ago, they were in writing. Today they’re etched into my brain.

     The Cannot Change column includes the names of any person I know and love as well as anything that’s happened in the past and includes this question, “How much of my emotional energy am I spending on what I cannot change?”

     The Can Change column includes practical action steps and what are frequently known as SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-specific).

     The I Don’t Have a Clue Right Now column joins hands with counsel found in James 1:5, one of the most important scriptures I’ve ever learned: 

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (NLT)

Simplicity: A reader friend told me about her cousin, an admitted “thrift-store addict.” This spiritual ‘ah-ha’ helped her step into simplicity.

The Lord gave my cousin the idea to give away five of every piece of clothing (e.g. five of every color shirt; jacket; pair of jeans; type of shoes: sandals, tennis shoes, boots.) Then, she agreed to let her husband—while she was at a conference—clean out the garage. To her dismay, he got rid of some favorite Christmas decorations. She was struggling with the loss when she felt the Lord’s whisper. “Why are you mourning stuff? Accumulating and storing all that stuff has robbed you of time with your husband, grandchildren, and friends!” She decided that this Christmas, she would focus on her family of six kids and their families. Everyone commented it was the best Christmas ever, and she has experienced a whole new level of peace!

Stillness: These suggestions come from my daughter:

  • Set a time goal in order to create stillness and space to meet with God. For me, this means getting up earlier than I need or even would like so I have quiet time.
  • Shut down social media and other phone ‘stuff’ for a time.
  • Journal thoughts, questions and prayers.
  • Take time to read a devotional with the kids.
  • Prep meals to free up some time in between work and dinner.
  • Create a quiet time for the kids even if they don’t nap.
  • Set a standing calendar reminder or app to remind me to read my Bible or pray.

     My daughter says even though these are “common sense” solutions, she needs to be reminded it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of creating moments of ‘stillness’ when feeling overwhelmed. “Finding joy in the life God has blessed me can be hard. Books that have really helped me are How’s Your Soul by Judah Smith, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist, and Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall.”

     My prayer as I conclude this post is you will find at least one of these suggestions helpful as you consider what serenity, simplicity, and stillness might look like for you…

Sue Reeve

  1. For full version see: www.12steps.nz/prayers/the-serenity-prayer/