A Parched Soul Finds Refreshment…

     Sometimes, my soul feels parched as an old, dry bone.

     During such times, I’m vulnerable to destructive messages, such as:

    • I messed up and did_______________ AGAIN! Why can’t I “get IT right?”
    • What I’m doing—or who I am—doesn’t matter.
    • I’m not __________________ enough!
    • I’m JUST a _______________________.
    • If only I could be like ___________________.
    • How can I fix me to be accepted by ____________________?
    • I SHOULD ___________________________.
    • I’m not lovable.

     Can you relate? I suspect many answered, “Yes!”

     Most of my favorite Jesus stories involve his interactions with women. Throughout history and in many cultures, women have been marginalized. This was certainly the case when Jesus, who was fully God and fully human, walked on this earth. Jesus valued women. He elevated and often advocated for them.

     One of my favorite stories is about a woman, identified only as “a woman from Samaria” or “the woman at the well.” It tells the story of one whose soul was bone dry. (You can read the account in John 4:5-30. You may also like reading a commentary for cultural context.)

     This lady probably was familiar with the destructive messages noted above, which often plague us females living in the 21st Century.

     Whatever the details of her unique history, the encounter the woman from Samaria had that day with Jesus—as well as her understanding of the metaphor he used to convey a profound spiritual truth—changed the trajectory of her story.

 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 NRSV)

     Biblical stories are often filled with the mystery of inconclusive endings—such as: What happened during the remainder of this woman’s life? What impact did her encounter with Jesus have on those whose lives touched hers? What did family and neighbors say about this woman at her funeral?

     Mysteries aren’t a problem for me. Honestly, I love a good mystery. I embrace the challenge of trying to put clues together, imagining how what has happened connects to what is currently happening and how that connects with what is going to happen.

     I’ve come to view my journey of faith as a mystery. I don’t capture clues correctly every time. I don’t grasp quickly the nuance of every divine metaphor. But, as I travel deeper into the mystery, I become a bit better at discerning messages, plus more and more convinced, my story is being written by an all-knowing, always good author.

     Today, if you identify with the description of a “parched soul,” and believe the metaphor Jesus gave to the Samaritan woman at the well, my prayer is that you will be lead to God’s “flowing stream,” for a soul-satisfying swig of “living water.”

     If you’re wondering about the relevance of Jesus, or even if you’re a skeptic, my prayer is that you will have your own personal encounter with the one who promised a disenfranchised, hurting woman spiritually-satisfying, emotionally-quenching “living water.”

Blessings on your journey…

Sue Reeve

P.S. One of the mysteries I enjoy is wondering who reads the Listening on the Journey… blog posts. More than once, I’ve been surprised! Even though I don’t know every reader, I feel a heart link to each one. I pray often for you, believing even though we may have never met, God knows who you are, and God cares about your journey.

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ANXIETY + PRAYER + THANKSGIVING = PEACE | Part 2

Part 2

     On Wednesday, January 31st, I waited almost 4 hours while Ron underwent serious eye surgery. The final day of January 2018, became what I call Philippians 4:6 & 7 Practice.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

     These words are for me some of the most important ever written. Penned by the Apostle Paul when he was in prison somewhere around 62 AD, these two short verses provide a powerful prayer model that works—especially during stressful times.

     Why is it that a few lines from a letter written almost 2000 years ago—a letter tucked into the back of a book that has been printed some five billion times in the past 200 years[1]–remain relevant to a grandma living in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in 2018?

     With all my heart, I believe the Bible is God’s idea—God’s way of communicating divine and timeless truth. During my recent season of concern, I’m more convinced than ever the message of Philippians 4:6 & 7 is relevant.

     In the last Listening on the Journey… post (February 5, 2018), we looked at Verse 6. Today, we’ll dive into Verse 7.

     In Verse 6, Paul presents a process for acknowledging, praying about, and giving thanks during times of anxiety. Verse 7 gives the outcome. Paul wrote these words from a place of painful personal experience, and I find something powerful about learning from someone who’s “been there/learned that!”

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

     Philippians 4:7 peace is soul-serenity, which Paul explains we may not understand but, yet, can fully experience.

     Sometimes, when I’ve practiced this passage of scripture, despite that ‘worry gene,’ which lurks in my DNA, I’m aware of a type of an I-just-don’t-get-it calmness. Philippians 4:7 peace is a feeling, which at times has caused me to worry because I wasn’t worried!

     Before I proceed, though, I must say that even though my words may seem to imply the process of finding peace can be reduced to a formula, in fact, that isn’t true. Generally, I avoid any type of spiritual formula, but as I thought about the title for this post, I was aware of the systematic process Paul presents. I realized I’ve used this process on numerous occasions for many years. Even as Paul’s peace-producing process has helped me and countless others, I hope my experience and words may help someone reading today’s Listening on the Journey… post.

     As I lay awake much of the night following Ron’s surgery, I felt anxious because Ron’s pain was preventing him from resting well. During those sleepless hours, I was reminded once again that the formation of my faith has been a journey—one I believe will continue until I’ve exhaled my last earthly breath.

     Oftentimes, my spirit collides with my humanity. I don’t want to do so, but still I succumb to natural emotional reactions, such as anxiety.

     That’s all right.

     God understands that even though my spirit may be willing, it’s also fragile.

          It’s times like this when I’m humbled by my frailty.

               It’s times like this when I’m able to rest in the strong arms of my Abba Father.

                    It’s times like this when I realize my journey of faith isn’t about perfection—but, it
                    does involve progress.

     As I attempt to become a spiritually mature woman, I find greater success when I’m gentle with myself concerning weaknesses. Gentleness, however, doesn’t mean I can ignore or keep excusing weakness forever. I must also accept my responsibility and make decisions for the way in which I proceed in my journey of faith—even when circumstances are less than lovely or when life has treated me unfairly.

     Passages of scripture such as Philippians 4:6 & 7 provide tools that help me learn and grow. My hope and prayer are that these two short verses will do the same for you.

Blessings on your journey of faith…

Sue Reeve

     P.S. By the way, in case you’re wondering, Ron is progressing well. This morning, I’ll chauffer my husband—hopefully, for the last time in a long while—to his medical appointment. The eye surgeon will remove the 16 stitches (I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that number!) he placed in Ron’s eye eight days ago. Our hope is soon my husband, who has experienced more than a few anxious moments related to his vision, will enjoy pre-teen eyesight!

     For all who’ve prayed for Ron and sent well wishes, THANK YOU!!

  1. http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/best-selling-book-of-non-fiction/

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ANXIETY + PRAYER + THANKSGIVING = PEACE

Part 1

     My husband has dealt with poor eyesight since he was 12-years old. For many years, Ron managed well with monovision contact lenses, but a couple years ago, his vision worsened, and he learned the reason was related to a genetic abnormality. With surgery, the prognosis for significant improvement was promising.

     Last Wednesday, I waited almost 4 hours while Ron underwent surgery his doctor later explained was a “serious, three-in-one operation.” That final day of January 2018, became what I call Philippians 4:6 & 7 Practice.

     The next two Listening on the Journey… posts will look at this practical portion of scripture.

     Words of Philippians 4:6 & 7 are for me some of the most important ever written. Penned by the Apostle Paul when he was in prison somewhere around 62 AD, these two short verses provide a powerful prayer model for stressful times.
     

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

     Today, let’s look at Philippians 4:6.

“Do not be anxious about anything.” (v. 6 a)

     From verse 6, we learn first to acknowledge anxiety, willing to accept anxiety isn’t a sign of weakness, lack of faith or negative thinking.

     Sometimes obstacles seem insurmountable.

          Sometimes disappointments don’t stop, but snowball.

               Some circumstances are terrifying.

                    Sometimes life simply stinks!

Paul implies it’s all right to admit life we will face anxious times.

     I’m convinced I inherited a “worry” gene. If I’m not intentional, my emotional default is to become anxious. During this latest anxiety-producing event, I was tempted a time or two to wonder:

    • What if the doctor isn’t really qualified to do this surgery? After all, he said it’s a pretty rare operation.
    • Maybe we should have gone to a bigger city than Spokane.
    • What if Ron won’t be able to drive, and I need to chauffer him around. [God, you do remember how much I dislike driving, don’t you?]

     Sure, anxiety is part of our human condition, but anxiety left unchecked produces barrels full of what if’s and should’s. That’s why words Paul wrote to his Philippian friends demonstrating a remedy for dealing with the reality of anxiety are critical.

     Rather than nursing anxious thoughts, Paul tells us to pray purposely, petitioning God for the desired outcome.

“but in every situation, by prayer and petition…present your request to God” (v. 6 b)

    • Ron and I have been praying about the condition of his eyesight for a long time.
    • For over a year, we’ve prayed for the surgeries he was told were inevitable. We’ve petitioned God for insight to make wise decisions and to equip every medical professional with special skill.
    • We’ve prayed for God’s favor and blessing.
    • We’ve asked our family of faith to join us in praying.
    • We’ve asked God to help us accept any outcome, to never forget that while we may not understand God’s ways, we will cling to our assurance that God is always good.

Then, Paul urges us to intentionally turn our thoughts toward thankfulness.

“with thanksgiving, present your requests” (v. 6 c)

     Psychological research shows the powerful benefit of thanksgiving, even to the point of changing brain chemistry.

     Thankfulness, I believe, trumps anxiousness every time.

     When a situation is worrisome, though, this is easy to overlook, and I need to remind myself I must be purposeful to think thankful thoughts.

     sLast Wednesday, as I pondered Ron’s medical situation, I knew we had much for which to be thankful.

    • Ron’s genetic condition often results in damage to the heart as well as the eyes. A medical test assured Ron’s heart is fine.
    • We live in a nation where excellent medical care is plentiful, and we’re blessed with good medical insurance.
    • Friends and family are supporting us with prayers and well wishes.
    • We have each other and embrace our vows for “better or worse; in sickness and in health.”
    • Following surgery, we’ll return to a warm, comfortable home for rest and recuperation.
    • If I MUST, I’m capable of driving, and we own a nice, safe vehicle.

I hope you’ll join me next time for a look at verse 7—a promise for peace despite anxiety…

Sue Reeve

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