Listening Prayerfully—a Lifelong Journey…

     Many years ago, when I was still mired in the grind of full-time employment, a childhood dream of authoring a book began to niggle at the periphery of my imagination.

     I attended some writer’s workshops. Instructors always advised ‘wannabe’ authors to write their manuscript before giving it a title.

     I rarely heed that advice.

     From that season of imagining, I knew the title of a book—if I ever wrote one—would be Listening on the Journey… (I hadn’t heard of blogging in those days.) Always, an ellipsis at the end signified the enduring nature of lifelong listening.

     If you’ve read my blog posts for any length of time, you’ll recognize the recurrent theme of “listening…”

     My recent educational pilgrimage to Spain included several days learning about and practicing contemplative prayer. Sometimes referred to as “listening” prayer,” the practice of contemplative prayer focuses more on “being” with God than “talking to” or “doing for” God.

     The group of “pilgrims” I traveled and learned with in Spain met each evening for a time of devotion, communion and sharing. Debbie, our group leader, invited me to present a devotional talk during one session, and the title, not surprisingly, included a “listening” theme.

     My next few blog posts will include the contents of my pilgrimage devotional talk, plus some additional insights learned during this amazing experience.

Part 1 – We all start somewhere!

     Although prayer has been part of my life since I was a little girl, I became intentional in my prayer journey about 15 years ago when a guy in our life group—a fellow who was militant about goal setting—insisted we MUST set a spiritual goal for the approaching new year.

     Even though I was accustomed to setting goals, and, by the way, equally accustomed to not achieving most, I had never considered a spiritual goal.

     It seemed…well, to be truthful, simply unspiritual.

     This man’s suggestion, though, kept nagging at me, and finally I wrote down one spiritual goal for the upcoming year: I want to learn to be a better pray-er.

     The result of that single, one-sentence goal changed the trajectory of my prayer journey. Even though I’d never heard of nor considered a contemplative lifestyle, in retrospect, I realize I’d embarked on one. Every morning that year—and for nearly two additional years, I awakened to a blaring alarm clock at 4:30 a.m., drug my weary bones out of bed and shuffled on slipper-clad feet to the little granite topped desk my husband had built me.

     For 60 to 90 minutes morning after morning, I sipped coffee and drank in the truth of Scripture. I learned writing prayers in my journal was the way I communicated most effectively with my Heavenly Father. Initially, I felt guilty praying this way. Surely, writing out quiet prayers wasn’t the way “anointed” prayer had been modeled for me in my faith tradition!

     Gradually, however, the guilt lessened, and I adopted an attitude of, “Well, if it was good enough for David, who was not only deeply flawed, but a man after God’s own heart… and, good enough for Paul, who boasted in his weakness… then I guess it might be okay for ‘Grandma Susie,’ who is certainly flawed deeply and filled with a ton of weaknesses.”

     Those first few years were exhilarating. I read every book on prayer I could find. I attended prayer seminars. In fact, I organized a one-day women’s seminar at my home church entitled, “Your Answer Starts with Prayer.” Over 100 women attended, and many told me it was life changing. I was learning that prayer isn’t a boring discipline. In fact,

A JOURNEY OF LISTENING PRAYER IS AN ADVENTURE—AN ADVENTURE INTO THE UNKNOWN!

     Then, one morning, I was reminded of an uncomfortable truth. As I drove to work, I read the recently-changed reader board at Davis Donuts. The local corner business is a hometown gathering place for neighbors who enjoy the camaraderie of swigging morning coffee and munching donuts together. The sign declared:

     “A Journey without obstacles will never be an adventure.”

     My next post will unpack potential obstacles we may encounter when embarking seriously on a prayer journey.

What about you?

  • What types of life situations or challenges have motivated you to examine your prayer journey?
  • What “wins” have you enjoyed?
  • What obstacles have you encountered?
  • What prayer practices have you found most helpful?

I would love to receive your feedback!

Until next time…

Sue Reeve

On our journey of prayer, we must all start somewhere. Certainly, this beautiful basilica I visited in Spain, creates an environment inspiring prayer. Serene cathedrals created by nature, such as this one on a North Idaho lake, also encourages one to communicate with the Almighty.

 

Listening Prayerfully—a Lifelong Journey…

Many years ago, when I was still mired in the grind of full-time employment, a childhood dream of authoring a book began to niggle at the periphery of my imagination.

I attended some writer’s workshops. Instructors always advised ‘wannabe’ authors to write their manuscript before giving it a title.

I rarely heed that advice.

From that season of imagining, I knew the title of a book—if I ever wrote one—would be Listening on the Journey… (I hadn’t heard of blogging in those days.) Always, an ellipsis at the end signified the enduring nature of lifelong listening.

If you’ve read my blog posts for any length of time, you’ll recognize the recurrent theme of “listening…”

My recent educational pilgrimage to Spain included several days learning about and practicing contemplative prayer. Sometimes referred to as “listening” prayer,” the practice of contemplative prayer focuses more on “being” with God than “talking to” or “doing for” God.

The group of “pilgrims” I traveled and learned with in Spain met each evening for a time of devotion, communion and sharing. Debbie, our group leader, invited me to present a devotional talk during one session, and the title, not surprisingly, included a “listening” theme.

My next few blog posts will include the contents of my pilgrimage devotional talk, plus some additional insights learned during this amazing experience.

Part 1 – We all start somewhere!

Although prayer has been part of my life since I was a little girl, I became intentional in my prayer journey about 15 years ago when a guy in our life group—a fellow who was militant about goal setting—insisted we MUST set a spiritual goal for the approaching new year.

Even though I was accustomed to setting goals, and, by the way, equally accustomed to not achieving most, I had never considered a spiritual goal.

It seemed…well, to be truthful, simply unspiritual.

This man’s suggestion, though, kept nagging at me, and finally I wrote down one spiritual goal for the upcoming year: I want to learn to be a better pray-er.

The result of that single, one-sentence goal changed the trajectory of my prayer journey. Even though I’d never heard of nor considered a contemplative lifestyle, in retrospect, I realize I’d embarked on one. Every morning that year—and for nearly two additional years, I awakened to a blaring alarm clock at 4:30 a.m., drug my weary bones out of bed and shuffled on slipper-clad feet to the little granite topped desk my husband had built me.

For 60 to 90 minutes morning after morning, I sipped coffee and drank in the truth of Scripture. I learned writing prayers in my journal was the way I communicated most effectively with my Heavenly Father. Initially, I felt guilty praying this way. Surely, writing out quiet prayers wasn’t the way “anointed” prayer had been modeled for me in my faith tradition!

Gradually, however, the guilt lessened, and I adopted an attitude of, “Well, if it was good enough for David, who was not only deeply flawed, but a man after God’s own heart… and, good enough for Paul, who boasted in his weakness… then I guess it might be okay for ‘Grandma Susie,’ who is certainly flawed deeply and filled with a ton of weaknesses.”

Those first few years were exhilarating. I read every book on prayer I could find. I attended prayer seminars. In fact, I organized a one-day women’s seminar at my home church entitled, “Your Answer Starts with Prayer.” Over 100 women attended, and many told me it was life changing. I was learning that prayer isn’t a boring discipline. In fact,

A JOURNEY OF LISTENING PRAYER IS AN ADVENTURE—AN ADVENTURE INTO THE UNKNOWN!

Then, one morning, I was reminded of an uncomfortable truth. As I drove to work, I read the recently-changed reader board at Davis Donuts. The local corner business is a hometown gathering place for neighbors who enjoy the camaraderie of swigging morning coffee and munching donuts together. The sign declared:

“A Journey without obstacles will never be an adventure.”

My next post will unpack potential obstacles we may encounter when embarking seriously on a prayer journey.

What about you?

  • What types of life situations or challenges have motivated you to examine your prayer journey?
  • What “wins” have you enjoyed?
  • What obstacles have you encountered?
  • What prayer practices have you found most helpful?

I would love to receive your feedback!

Until next time…

Sue Reeve

On our journey of prayer, we must all start somewhere. Certainly, this beautiful basilica I visited in Spain, creates an environment inspiring prayer. Serene cathedrals created by nature, such as this one on a North Idaho lake, also encourages one to communicate with the Almighty.

One Spirit Meets Different ‘spirits’…

Help me to journey

Beyond the familiar

And into the unknown.

Give me the faith

To leave old ways

And break fresh

Ground with You…

(The first stanza of the Prayer of St. Brendan of Clonfert, “the Navigator”

Irish patron of sailors, written in the 6th Century)

     Last Sunday, my young-adult granddaughter called to say, “Happy Easter, Granny!” She was on her way to church with a friend—another young woman—who was attending church for the first time ever. I told my granddaughter I would pray for her friend, which I’ve been doing every since early Easter morning.

     Even though I wouldn’t recognize this young woman for whom I’m praying, I know God knows her, and I believe it is only the Spirit of God who can reveal the message of the Resurrection to her spirit.

     Later in the day, I visited with my mother, a woman in her 90’s, who for as long as I’ve known her, has embraced the message of Easter. Mom’s influence was the first and undoubtedly one of the most powerful in my faith journey.

     Mom is struggling right now with difficult issues unique to the elderly. They take a toll physically, emotionally and even spiritually. I try to help how I can but admit frequent feelings of helplessness.

     Even though I struggle knowing how to best pray for my mother, I know God knows her, hasn’t abandoned her, and I believe the Spirit of God will guide and bring hope to my aging mother’s spirit.

     The last event on a busy Easter Sunday was celebrating with our daughter’s family. Our toddler grandson was eager to show me the stained-glass window craft he’d made in Sunday School. But, truly, Reeve’s greatest excitement centered around candy and coins contained in plastic Easter eggs.

     Even though the message seems obscure to my 2-year-old grandson, I believe God knows this little red-haired guy and has heard every prayer sent heavenward on his behalf. It is only the Spirit of God, who can awaken Reeve’s spirit into an authentic relationship with the Resurrected Lord.

     The people whose lives intersect ours on many different levels are important, including family, friends, and for me, people I met on my recent educational pilgrimage to Spain.

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Fellow “pilgrims” and new friends with Fr. Javier (center) who served us communion in the ancient cave where St. Ignatius’ spirit encountered God’s Spirit in life-altering ways.

     Relationships included brief but meaningful one-day exchanges with four different tour guides who shared well their knowledge of history, culture, and love for their homeland.

     I’ll never forget the soft-spoken Jesuit priest who guided our talkative group of Protestant pilgrims through four days of teaching on contemplative (silent/listening) prayer. Fr. Javier Melloni’s deep religious devotion and keen intellect were evident, but what impressed me most about Javier was his ability to be fully present whether in prayer or while visiting one-on-one. I was reminded through his example how “not present” I so often am—whether communicating with God or with one of God’s creations.

     My most significant interactions were with the eleven “pilgrims” with whom I shared this experience. There was one lone male, the gracious husband of our leader, Dr. Debbie Gill. Four of us were married; one was recently widowed; and one teenager, traveled with her mom. Five were never-married, well-educated (three with doctoral degrees), mature, confident and committed women. Two were from New York City; two from Washington, D.C.; four from Missouri; one from Arkansas, and of course, yours truly, the “granny” from North Idaho!

     Even though we all held similar fundamental beliefs, our individual stories, personalities, life events, and journeys of faith created prismatic perspectives through which we each embraced the unique pilgrimage experience. Like the 6th Century Irish missionary, Brendan, each of us had beforehand decided to “journey beyond the familiar,” to travel beyond “old ways” and to “break fresh ground” with the God we love and serve.

     The result? The same Divine Spirit met with each of our human spirits in distinctive ways. In our always-changing worlds confidence in the never-changing Spirit of God seems cause for great comfort and joy.

Blessings on your journey beyond the familiar to break fresh ground…

Sue Reeve

For God So Loved …

Four Transformative Words

     As I write this post, it’s Saturday, the day after the sadness reflected upon yesterday, Good Friday, and the day before the joy of resurrection we’ll celebrate tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

     Often, I fail to remember the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday was one of silence and waiting.

     Before leaving this early spring morning to enjoy a quiet time on the lake kayaking, Ron asked what I was planning to do while he was gone. I told him I MUST write Monday’s blog post. He asked what I planned to write about. I admitted I didn’t have a clue!

     Even though I’m feeling stronger physically every day after having what I believe was a case of flu compounded by jet lag, and even though I think my body clock has re-set from Spain’s time zone to that of the Pacific Northwest, my usual stamina and active imagination haven’t returned. In many ways, the past few days have been ones of fuzzy-brained silence, waiting for some sort of inspiration to dawn—kind of like Saturday of Holy Week.

     I hoped the reality of a deadline might jumpstart inspiration this morning when I sat down at the computer. As my fingers hovered over the keys, rambling thoughts converged on four transformative words from Scripture,

“For God so loved …” (John 3:16)

     The message of Easter is that God gave a fully-cooperating Jesus to absorb the wrongdoings of humanity by offering Himself as a living sacrifice on the cruel Roman cross. That happened on Friday. Then, Jesus conquered human death by resurrection on Sunday.

     So much of this story, which I embrace wholeheartedly, seems a paradox, and at least to my understanding, remains a mystery. That’s okay. I want my wholehearted belief to be beyond my comprehension—to be much bigger than my frail human understanding. I love the mysterious part of my faith.

     Despite my lack of comprehension, the story of Easter provides me an opportunity to accept once again the message of Jesus, urging me to become more like my extravagantly-loving, humble, willing Savior. I know I’ll never arrive in this quest, but I believe I can grow more and more in Christ likeness as I surrender my human will and imagination to God who so loved…

     Because we’ve read the story, we, unlike Jesus’ friends, know God had a plan for the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. God was at work, but the Divine work being accomplished was in the depths, behind the scenes, in realms hidden from logical, human understanding.

     Journeys of faith often include the same types of experience. On our level of belief, we know God hasn’t disappeared, but sometimes it’s hard to transition into a level of trust when God’s silence can be misconstrued as absence.

     Because I’ve experienced this dilemma on more than one occasion, and because I talk to people all the time who are trudging through this same reality, I realize we all need a dose of encouragement from time to time.

     Encouragement is what I hope today’s blog post provides. No matter how bleak your circumstances, no matter the silence with which your prayers have been met, I pray my words might:

     enable you to persevere,

          embolden you to keep moving forward, one foot of faith at a time,

               reassure you God knows what’s going on,

                    foster belief that God hears, and

                         inspire you to never forget, “God so loved…”

Blessings on our ongoing understanding of the multi-layered messages of Easter…

Sue Reeve

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