Tag Archives: Elijah

A “Gentle Whisper” Speaks to a Discouraged Soul

     The theme I’ve chosen to guide me in 2017 is ‘Soul Care.’ I’ve found the benefit of choosing a yearly theme instead of making resolutions or setting goals is the delightful process of discovery. I’ve been asked by a couple friends to define ‘soul care.’ Truly, I don’t know how to define ‘it.’ I do, however, know

     I desire to hunt for additional doses of ‘it.’

          I believe God is pleased to help me discover ‘it.’

               Though a mystery, I’m convinced unearthing more of ‘it’ is possible.

                    I’m certain in my lifetime, I’ll never achieve ‘it’ completely.

                         I’m confident one day in Heaven, I’ll know exactly what ‘it’ is.

     In the last two blog posts, I’ve looked at the story of Elijah (1 Kings 17, 18 & 19) in relationship to cumulative stress. Block upon block of stress finally took a toll on the great prophet. The tending of Elijah by an angel illustrates that one important aspect of ‘soul care’ is managing stress in practical, physical ways like exercise, good nutrition, hydration and rest, and that often, this needs to be the first line of defense.

     Today, I want to explore 1 Kings 19:11 and 12, which describes how the Lord appeared and spoke to Elijah. These two verses are some of my favorite in the Bible. They tell us God’s voice was not heard in the fierce, mighty wind, an earthquake or the fire, but rather, it came in a “still small voice,” or, as another translation describes, “a gentle whisper.”

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The Mediterranean at twilight

     Last Sunday, Ron and I spent all day with our 16-month-old grandson while his dad, mom and ‘big’ sister skied and attended a concert. We had a great day with Reeve. By the way, the day ended with a new appreciation for moms of toddlers. My Fitbit steps goal was exceeded long before bedtime—even without going to the gym!

     Reeve, typical of a little boy, likes “loud!” He and grandpa read a book explaining, “L is for Lion,” followed by a great time growling loudly at one another. Later, I sat on the floor playing trucks with my little man, perfecting a robust, Vroom-vroom!

     When it was time for bed, though, I rocked Reeve, singing gently, “Rock a bye, Baby” and “Jesus Loves Me.” My voice was soft as we read about the teddy bear going “night-night.” Grandma’s ‘still small voice’ calmed our rambunctious grandson who fell asleep soon after I laid him in his crib.

     I think one of the reasons I love the description of the Lord’s encounter with Elijah is because I’ve never liked yelling. As a child, I learned best when my teachers spoke calmly. I’ve never responded well to dogmatic or harsh rhetoric in relationships, from the pulpit or at a podium. I resist change when I’m scolded harshly or lectured. I balk when someone dictates what I ‘should’ do or ‘should not’ do. Shame has never been a motivator leading me to positive change.

     On the flip side, though, I’m anxious to please when I feel respected. I’ll work my hardest if I feel I’m trusted. And, on those occasions when I’ve felt like the ‘still small voice’ of the Lord has spoken to me personally, behavioral changes always seem easier. Instead of feeling the obligation of I have to,” or “I should,” the voice of the Spirit reframes my motivation to “I want to.”

     This, I believe, is the difference between “behavior modification” and “spiritual transformation.” Behavior modification is an external process that often creates stress. Transformation, a Divine process, occurs from the inside out and results in feelings of freedom, peace and purpose.

     Since I’m focusing on ’Soul Care’ in 2017, I ask myself, “Okay, in terms of ‘soul care,’ what’s your takeaway from Elijah’s encounter with the Lord?” I believe this story is a challenge to carve out time to listen—not only with my ears but with my spirit as well. The noise in my life is often created by my own busyness. Instead of quieting my mind, I tend to bustle about, seeing how much I can accomplish. Then, feeling like I deserve a break from busy, too often I veg out, watching non-edifying entertainment or needless news.

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     I believe my current awareness will help me set some specific ‘action steps.’ ‘Soul care,’ is about ‘being that leads to doing,’ rather than ‘doing’ alone or ‘doing with the assumption of being.’ Though the ‘how?’ still remains cloudy, my past experience has shown that when I’m willing to say, “yes!” to the ‘still small voice, the ‘how to’ emerges.

     In the next post, I’ll look at a next important step as revealed in Elijah’s story for dealing with the effects of cumulative stress. Until then…

Blessings on your journey of ‘soul care’…

Sue Reeve

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Elijah Experiences ‘Soul Care’…

“Learning to honor the body as a place where God makes his presence known becomes an important discipline for the spiritual pilgrim.”

Ruth Hayley Barton – “Spiritual Rhythms”

     In my last post I touched on the topic of cumulative stress. Many in our world—perhaps even you—are dealing with layers of stress, even like the Old Testament prophet, Elijah.

     I’ve received extensive stress management training, and I’ve loved the Bible since childhood, but I claim to be neither a psychological expert nor a theologian. With that disclaimer, I’d like to share some thoughts about stress and about Scripture.

     First, stress isn’t all bad. The most non-descript color to me is ‘beige.’ I visualize life colored ‘beige’ if there were no stress. A modicum of stress adds color and vitality to our days.

     Secondly, not all stress is created equally. Positive stress is known as eustress. Negative stress is called distress. Sometimes the two intertwine. For instance, our daughter was planning her wedding and finishing up her Master’s degree at the same time. As I’m sure you can imagine, stress related to two of Sarah’s most wonderful lifetime events created some tense moments!

     Thirdly, I’ve been told our body, mind and emotions don’t know the difference between positive and negative stress. Considering the children’s-building-block analogy from my last post, it seems that no matter if a block of stress is from eustress or distress, the tower keeps growing. Eventually, if not managed, it will topple. It seems human beings aren’t designed to be in a perpetual state of either good or bad stress.

     Re-reading the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17, 18 & 19, I was aware it painted a great picture of cumulative stress and its impact. Both eustress and distress are described. In addition, chapter 19 captures wise stress management remedies applied in lovely, divine ways. I hope you’ll take time to read the passage considering this slightly different focus.

     Elijah’s stress began before the dramatic and stress-filled encounter with the Baal prophets. He, as well as his fellow citizens, felt the impact of the long drought’s effects. Chapter 17 describes some of the stress-filled incidents he encountered.

     Chapter 18, as we’ve discussed, describes the incredibly mind-blowing encounter on Mount Carmel. Talk about a mess of stress!

     After all those faith-filled events, Chapter 19 tells us how this great man of God undoubtedly experienced a dump of Cortisol—the stress hormone which leads to ‘fight, flight, freeze’ responses—when the wicked Queen Jezebel threatened his life. Verse 3 says, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”

     For a full day, Elijah ran to the desert until he finally collapsed. Before falling into an exhausted sleep, he prayed, “I have had enough, Lord,”…“Take my life…”

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     1 Kings 19:5 says Elijah fell asleep from sheer physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion under a “broom tree.” I’m not sure if we saw a “broom tree” while in Israel, but we did see a lot of olive trees like these.

     Have the stressors of life ever carried you to a place where you were convinced you couldn’t handle one more thing, felt useless and like life wasn’t worth the effort? I’ve been there, and it’s not a fun place to be!

     The verses that follow are lovely to me because they show how much God cares when one of His children reaches that low point. How an angel interacted with Elijah provides some potent strategies for dealing with times when cumulative stress overwhelms.

     One of the most important ways to manage stress is exercise. Running a full day sure qualifies as exercise in my book! Exercise forces us to breathe deeply and helps us sleep better.

     Sleep! Sleep disturbance is common when a person is carrying a load of stress.

     Rest was probably Elijah’s primary need. Souls aren’t designed to burn the candle at both ends. Recently, I read “Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap!” The angel assigned to attend Elijah insured this remedy

     Next, the angel provided Elijah with good nourishing food and plenty of water. Healthy food and good hydration are essential when dealing with periods of high stress.

     Finally, the angel told Elijah it was time to get back to work. Even though there may be the temptation during times of cumulative stress to keep sleeping or eating, returning to purposeful routine and activity as soon as possible is vital and beneficial.

     In my next post I’d like to comment on the last part of Chapter 19, which describes the way in which the Lord spoke to Elijah. This is one of my favorite portions of Scripture. Until then, I encourage you to examine, along with me, the manner with which we manage stress by caring for the physical vessel housing our soul…

     Blessings on your journey of ‘soul care!’

Sue Reeve

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Perhaps one of the trees planted around these date trees was a “broom tree.”

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Together We are Better!

     As we saw in my last blog post, Elijah felt terribly alone. When God asked the prophet why he was in the cave, Elijah answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:14-emphasis mine) God then revealed that there were 7,000 who, like Elijah, hadn’t abandoned the faith.

     It’s common to feel we’re alone in our suffering. Cumulative stress can lead to clinical depression. Isolation is a common characteristic of depression. A life-giving supportive group is the best remedy I know to combat a pervasive sense of aloneness.

     In the 1930’s two men discovered the power of community to help themselves and others deal with alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous has helped millions achieve and maintain sobriety. Today, the 12-step principals of AA are used in many support and recovery groups.

     In the 1960’s a woman named Jean invited a group of friends to her home to talk about how to succeed in losing weight. Weight Watchers grew from that group. Other groups like TOPS have tapped into the power of community in helping people who struggle with weight problems.

     God designed men and women for relationship and community. In God’s perfect world, the man and woman He created enjoyed perfect relationship within a perfect community. But, ‘perfect’ didn’t last. When the man and woman God created chose to do life on their terms rather than God’s, relationships became complicated.

     The primary community is usually our biological family. Families are vitally important, but they are usually not the best source of help when we’re struggling with complicated ‘issues.’ In fact, family dynamics and generational patterns of behavior are often a big part of our ‘issues.’

     Religious and social communities are also extremely important, but they are usually too large or diverse for building close personal relationships and too broad based to help deal with targeted pain.

     In my years of experience, I’ve both observed and benefited from participating in authentic, supportive, non-judgmental groups. Some have been community or professional support groups. Ron and I have developed dear friendships in small church groups. I’ve loved participating in several women’s groups where we’ve all been focusing on the same topic.

     At Lake City Church where I work part time, I’m privileged to serve as a liaison to various care, recovery and support groups, including Celebrate Recovery[1], the Genesis Process[2], Pure Desire[3], and Grief Release[4]. I’ve seen first-hand the hope and healing groups bring to many men and women.

     Joining a group when you’ve never been in one before is intimidating. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Are you feeling a nudge to join? If so, listen with your heart. That may be the ‘still small voice’ speaking. Pray about it. Trust God won’t let you down. Listen for confirmations. I have a listening rule of thumb. If my spirit seems to be saying “go,” I listen. If another confirmation comes through a friend, sermon or something I hear ‘randomly,’ I imagine the Divine Spirit is saying, “Listen up, girl!” If a third confirmation comes, I figure God cares enough about me to hit me upside the head (of course, figuratively and not literally speaking!).
  • Make sure a primary tenet of the group is confidentiality!
  • Avoid the temptation to go it alone. You can purchase curriculum and do bookwork on your own, but nothing replaces personal support and accountability. On-line groups can be a good alternative for some.
  • Transparency and sharing are vitally important in a group. Exposing privately held pain that’s been stored in the dark basements of our hearts to the light is a major step toward healing. Having said that, though…
  • When in DOUBT, DON’T. Listen to your gut. A warning trigger may mean it’s not the right time or place for disclosure. Exposing a little bit of your story at a time is all right.
  • Examine honestly your discomfort. If doubts or uncomfortable vibes continue, talk to a trusted friend or counselor.
  • Realize group members are not professional counselors. Some events have been so traumatic, and it’s better to work with a professional. Sometimes, glimpses of deep trauma are revealed within the group process.
  • You don’t need to stay in the same group forever. If you’ve been helped significantly, you may want to stay and even aspire to become a leader. Or, you may want to join a different group with a different emphasis or explore a different– perhaps deeper, layer of healing. What’s important is to keep on growing!

     I hope these suggestions have been helpful. As always, I welcome your feedback.

     Blessings on the journey….

Sue Reeve

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This amazing pod of pelicans reminds us that God designed us for community. We ‘do life’ better together.

  1. lakecity.church/celebraterecovery/
  2. http://lakecity.church/genesischange/
  3. http://lakecity.church/betrayalandbeyond/ & http://lakecity.church/puredesire/
  4. http://lakecity.church/griefrelease/

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