More than a Sliver of Light: Lenten Thanks…

Ron captured this amazing image at about 3:00 a.m. while practicing his astrophotography skills at Palouse Falls in Washington. (Note: I think my husband is kinda ‘nuts’ for putting himself through this ordeal, but I sure do like some of his beautiful photos like this one and the one at the conclusion of this post.)

     Not long ago, I needed to walk through a big, empty, unlighted auditorium in order to reach a room on the opposite side. The darkness was confusing, and frankly frightening. I inched forward, one careful step after another. Finally, a glimpse of light shone through the closed door of my destination. It was amazing how just a sliver of light guided me the remainder of the way.

     Feels like we’re stumbling around in a lot of darkness these days, doesn’t it? Isn’t it amazing how quickly our world can change?

     In my last blog post, for instance, I told you I was that very day, March 19th, sitting in a classroom at a retreat center in Springfield, Illinois. In fact, that day I was instead working from home, writing a protocol for our church’s crisis telephone team. The Spiritual Direction retreat I was scheduled to attend had been cancelled.

     My husband and I also had to abandon a long-awaited getaway to Victoria, British Columbia. No photos of magnificent tulips blooming in Butchart Gardens will grace my April posts this year, which is a bummer!

     Like some of you reading today’s post, I have the past two Sundays attended church—by the way, dressed in my bathrobe—while watching television in our family room. Gatherings—first of more than 250; then more than 50; now more than ten—are not being allowed. Restaurants are closed, and ‘old’ folks are being asked to grocery shop at limited hours on specific days.

     So, what do we do when trying to navigate our way through the darkness of dense “unknowns?” While I don’t have one definitive answer, I’m finding solace in the New Testament book of John where the word ‘light’ is used repeatedly. Assurances, like those in John 8:12, remind me Jesus provides more than a sliver of light to guide me out of the darkness.

“I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” (John 8:12 MSG)

Prayer:

Jesus, Light of the World…
Thank you for giving us the light we need
To find our way through times filled with dark days of not-knowing.
Help us trust in you no matter what lies ahead in the days to come.

Amen

Sue Reeve

Stepping into Our Calling: Lenten Thanks

     Following a couple recent conversations, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to calling. A while back when I pondered the same topic, the thought occurred to me that while God’s calling is always good, God’s calling will never be easy. The following brief stories from people I know illustrate.

     The other day I visited with a woman I don’t see often. She told me about her son and daughter-in-law who adopted five siblings who’d been abused and neglected. As she described the challenge her adult kids assumed and the commitment they made to these beautiful, broken children, I was amazed. When I expressed that sentiment, my friend said, “They feel it’s a calling.”

     Another friend told me one of her pastors, a lovely woman, resigned her church position. She, her husband and two children were leaving to do full-time missions work in Central America. My friend said her pastor was stepping into a calling she’d felt since childhood.

     Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines calling as:

a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.

     Karen[1] told me she’d been called as a child to adopt children. Learning about infertility after a few years of marriage wasn’t terribly concerning, Karen told me because she always knew she would adopt. Over the course of almost 30 years, Karen and her husband adopted ten children, four from local foster care and six from China. Many have had physical disabilities; others have been broken emotionally.

     Caroline and Miranda, beautiful young, well-educated women, describe unmistakable callings to work with victims of human sex trafficking. One serves in Cambodia; another is in Indonesia. Surely not an easy calling!

     Jacqueline reported, out of the blue, she was struck with the pain of widows, saying the emotional avalanche was so intense, her knees buckled, and she sank to the floor. Since then, she’s stepped into her calling, offering comfort and care to an elderly widow.

     Linda said she knew she’d been called as a young girl to be a pastor’s wife. Marianne, even though she didn’t feel the calling like her husband, knew she’d been called to be her husband’s wife. Meaningful ministry for her has grown as she’s served alongside her husband in missions work.

     Misty and Mark, a couple well on their way to being ‘empty nesters,’ are considering studying for full-time ministry. Is this stirring within them a calling? They wonder.

     Rebecca, highly successful in the business world, developed a passion to help professionals she observed burning out in the “corporate cauldron.” To boost knowledge and credibility, she returned to the demands of seminary, obtaining a Doctor of Ministry degree. My friend makes a difference in her bi-vocational calling.

     Writing blogs is part of my calling. I recall sitting at my prayer desk several years ago, considering a vague lifelong dream to write a book. The words, Listening on the Journey… came strongly to mind, and I wrote them in my prayer journal, assuming it would be the title of the book I would one day write. The word “blog” wasn’t even in my vocabulary back then.

     Today, I am sitting in a classroom in Springfield, Illinois, pursing what I believe is another piece of my calling—becoming a certified spiritual director.

Prayer:

God Who Calls,

Thank you for all who are courageous and step into their calling.
Give each the strength to do what you’ve called him or her to do.
Fill every heart with the peace and joy that comes from knowing and doing what you’ve prepared for us to do.

Amen

Sue Reeve

  1. All names used and in italics are pseudonyms

Mundane & Marvelous Moments – Lenten Thanks

Palouse Falls, Washington – February 2020

     Recently, I was privileged to conduct spiritual direction sessions with a seminary student. I’ll call this remarkable young man—a member of the Millennial generation—Luke.

     Categorizing generations isn’t a science, and statistics vary, but generally speaking, the Millennial generation includes those born between the early 1980’s and early 2000’s. They are by far the largest in population, having overtaken the massive Baby Boomer generation by more than 20 million.

     Luke is very intelligent. He was well educated at a prestigious higher education institution. He’s a leader and accomplished on many levels. Yet, as is characteristic of many Millennials I have met, he yearns from a profound place for greater spiritual depth, breadth and meaning. A combination of these factors and desires led Luke to further his education at seminary.

     The process of spiritual direction is designed to include questions leading the directee to search prayerfully and inwardly for divine answers and insights. One question for Luke was: “How would you like to experience God?”

     This young man told me he doesn’t have problems being disciplined in spiritual practices such as Bible study, reading books written by godly authors, journaling and praying. But, he said, he would like to feel eager to spend time with God rather than doing so because it’s the right thing to do. He longs for a sense of God’s deep presence. He’d love to experience the marvelous, mysterious, miraculous.

     I could relate to Luke’s longing because it’s also mine. It was also probably the psalmist’s longing as recorded in Psalms 42:1 & 2

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…

     I’ve thought a lot about my real and raw conversations with Luke as well as my likeminded desire to experience more of an amazing, big, ginormous God.

     Judah Smith, a well-known Millennial pastor in the Pacific Northwest, suggests:

     “Yield your ambitions and dreams and desires to God. That is a safe place and a sane place. Let him be God. It’s his job, and he’s really good at it.”[1]

     A juxtaposition between perseverance in spiritual disciplines and leaving our spirits open to the mysteries of God can feel confusing. I am certainly no authority on this, but it seems there are times in our journeys of faith, as well as variations in our God-given spiritual desires, that cause ebb and flow.

     There will be times of education, formal or informal, when gathering credible information is essential, ensuring we are equipped to do what Paul advised his protege Timothy,

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV)

     Sometimes, the Spirit calls us to show up and “do.”

     Then, there are other times when even though we are faithful in spiritual disciplines, there’s a restlessness for “more.” With the psalmist we yearn for what was described as Deep calling to deep… (Psalms 42:7)

     Sometimes, the Spirit calls us to quiet down and “be.”

     I thank God for the richness of moments that may feel mundane, when I persevere in doing the work needed for the Spirit to prepare me with knowledge and wisdom.

     Equally, I thank God for those marvelous moments that seem divinely-tailor-made for my soul. My personal experience is these moments, though rare, leave an indelible imprint and always a deeper desire to know God more fully and to serve God more faithfully.

Prayer:

God of the Mundane and the Marvelous:

Thank you for giving us minds able to learn.

Thank you for implanting your desires into the hearts of your children.

Help me to be faithful in spiritual disciplines, and

To never lose the desire for MORE of your mysterious magnificence!

Amen

Sue Reeve

  1. How’s Your Soul? Why Everything that Matters Starts with the Inside You, Judah Smith, 2006, Chapter 6 – A Quiet Soul d