Tag Archives: Listening Prayerfully

Fear Leads to the Road of “Yes, BUT…”

Today, I continue a series about a journey of listening prayerfully (See April 9, 16, 19 & 23 archives).

     In my journey of listening prayer, I’ve discovered there will be times I come to a juncture and must decide which road I’ll take.

     The Road of “Yes, BUT…” or

     The Road of “Yes, WHAT…”

     In my experience of counseling, I’ve encountered many folks who insist on taking the road of “Yes, but…”

     You’ve probably experienced this. You listen intently, suggest an option you know is solid, and wilt when the person you care about says, “Well, Yes, but…”

     Even though “Yes, but…” answers frustrate, I try to remember that way too often, I have chosen the same road. God’s response has always been extending a hand of grace. It is with that same spirit of grace I write today’s post.

     One of my favorite poems is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. In the last stanza, Frost says…

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

     There are many reasons we choose the road of “Yes, BUT…” A common thread, however, is fear. The enemy of our soul has a strategic plan for keeping us from becoming the person and accomplishing the good work God designed for us to be and do. Fear is a formidable tactic.

     Three fears are common:

     First, fear of the unknown. Even if I don’t like where it takes me, the road I know is predictable and often feels comfortable.

     Hebrews 11:1 lets us know the essence of faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Faith journeys aren’t always comfortable and predictable.

     When the Lord called Abram, He said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) The journey of listening prayer will undoubtedly take us to places requiring us to let go of a certain comforts and predictability.

     The path of “Yes, BUT… that’s motivated by fear often sounds something like this: “Yes, BUT…What if…?” In my critical stress response training, I learned anticipatory stress—or, as I call it, “What if…Stress”–is common, especially following unexpected loss or trauma.

     Although understandable, continuing to insist on taking the path of “Yes, BUT…” keeps us from moving into the new land our Heavenly Father wants to lead us.

     Secondly, there’s fear of inadequacy, a fear most of us seem to battle regularly.

     “Yes, BUT’s” motivated by fear of inadequacy are often followed by an “I’m too…” statement:

     “Yes, BUT, I’m…

          too old,

                too young,

                     too smart,

                         too dumb,

                              too damaged,

                                   too over-qualified….

     The list goes on and on.

     Romans 12 is a practical portion of Scripture, and I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s modern English translation in The Message:

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

     Assessing honestly, prayerfully, humbly and gratefully my personality, strengths, weaknesses, talents, abilities, habits, history, tendencies, relationships and resources honors the design God gave me and helps reveal “Yes, BUT, I’m too…” lies I believe.

     Lastly, there’s fear of failure.

     I love David’s vulnerability. Often in the psalms, he prays, “Lord, let me not be put to shame!” Steps of faith into the unfamiliar require risk. Risk taking holds a potential of humiliation.

     I try to convince myself failures are merely opportunities to grow and learn, but honestly, fear of being embarrassed scares me.

     To counteract fear, I remind myself often God is never the source of incapacitating fear. Paul reminded his young friend, Timothy, of this in 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV): “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

     Ignatius laid down his sword at the Lady of Montserrat signifying his absolute devotion to follow Christ. I visited this site while in Spain, and our group leader suggested we “lay down” our symbolic “swords.” One of mine was the “sword” of fear.

While this may be a lifelong challenge, I know I can grow as I focus on God’s love, learning what the disciple, John realized, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear….” (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

What about you?

  • What are fears that cause you to take roads of “Yes, BUT…”?
  • How might the truths of Scripture used in today’s post help you combat those fears?

Until next time, may we gain new courage for our journeys…

Sue Reeve

When Ron and I were in Israel, quite by chance, we met a lovely young couple—Eli and Lena—who spent most of one day showing us around Tel Aviv. During their recent trip to Japan, they remembered my obsession with path photos and sent several. I’m calling these two path pictures, “The Roads of Yes, BUT…” Thanks so much, Eli and Lena, for thinking of us

Listening Prayerfully – Learning from Those Who’ve Gone Before…

Today’s post is the fourth in a series about a journey of listening prayerfully (See April 9, 16 & 19 archives). These posts include contents of a devotional talk I made to my travel group during our amazing educational pilgrimage as well as additional insights learned during the time I was in Spain.

Continuing from last time…

     As I’ve journeyed into the adventure of prayer, learning to listen for and discern the voice of God, I’ve discovered there will be times when I come to a juncture in my journey, and I must decide which road I’ll take. I call these roads,

     The road of “Yes, BUT…” or

     The road of “Yes, WHAT…”

     I believe my favorite time in Spain was the day we spent in Ávila where we focused our attention on the 16th Century saint, Teresa of Ávila, also known as Teresa de Jesus. Teresa chose the road or “Yes, WHAT…” often and has much to teach this 21st Century gal. Today, I want to honor her memory by sharing a few facts I learned about her during my pilgrimage.

     Before I begin my praises of a woman I believe is praiseworthy, I’d like to say I’m not deifying Teresa. Like every man or woman who’s lived on this earth—except Jesus, Emmanuel (God with us)—she was flawed.

     As a pastoral counselor, I am privileged to help guide people to answers the Holy Spirit has already implanted within them. In a process of discovery, it’s not unusual for the one being helped to give too much credit to the helper. I’m always quick to say I’m a very flawed woman loved by a VERY good and gracious God.

     All credit for success in my spiritual journey belongs to God. I have a feeling Teresa would agree with me. While she’d be pleased to know her influence made a difference, I also believe she would credit God for every gift she possessed, every opportunity she was given and every insight she gained.

     I also imagine, like each of us who comes to a juncture and must choose which road to take, a tug-of- war occurred as Teresa wrestled with her free will. God wants—and will reward—obedience, but God never forced her and will not force you or me to take the most God-honoring path.

     Teresa was born in 1515. Her parents were devout and loving. She was close to her mother, who died when she was 14 years old. I’ve heard psychologists say early teens are the most difficult age for a daughter to lose her mother or a son his father. Traumatic incidents often become means we allow to define us. To do otherwise, demands a choice. I can take the road of “Yes, BUT…,” avoiding, stuffing, masking or using pain as an excuse. Or, I can choose the road of “Yes, WHAT…,” seeking help to understand the impact and implication of the pain, allowing it to make me stronger, more resilient and empowered to help others.

     When Teresa was a child, girls were not taught to read nor write. Teresa’s parents chose a different path, going against cultural norms. Teresa was well educated and well read. Years later, when Teresa founded a convent, she too was willing to buck the system, choosing a different “road,” insisting all nuns would be taught to read and write.

     As an adult, when Teresa wrote to the Bishop, she made deliberate grammatical and spelling errors because she knew if she wrote too skillfully, the Bishop wouldn’t find her communications believable because of bias related to a woman’s intellectual ability. While some may call her behavior lying, I see it as strategic cunning, a willingness to choose the road of humility rather than pride to advocate most effectively for those she was called to serve.

     Teresa suffered extreme physical pain and illness. It’s easy to choose the road of self-pity and complaining during such times. Physical and emotional energy required to manage pain is exhausting. Instead of complaining, though, during her dark, bedridden season, Teresa allowed suffering to drive her more deeply into God’s Spirit. Later in life, even though she lived with chronic pain, Teresa kept moving, traveling many miles by foot to minister.

          When Teresa entered the convent, there was a type of caste system in place for nuns. Those with financial means were afforded the opportunity to be supported by their families. They enjoyed nice apartments and choice food. Poor nuns, however, were required to beg for food. Even though Teresa was from an affluent family, she refused to choose the road of entitlement and forbade this practice in the convent she founded. Every sister was treated in the same way. Each lived simply within their religious community.

     There’s more I’d like to share with you about Teresa of Ávila, but this post is already too long! We’ll discuss more soon. I hope you’re learning to appreciate this remarkable woman!

This was my favorite statue of Teresa depicting her writing a book of prayers, which was eventually used by religious orders throughout Spain. This photograph encourages me to get to work on a devotional book I believe God wants me to write. If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate your prayers in this endeavor. I’m stuck at the juncture and can think of lots of reasons to choose the road of “YES, BUT…!”

What about you?

  • Can you think of a time when you came to a juncture in your journey of faith and bucked the system rather than accepting status quo?
  • What did you learn because of the choice you made?
  • What part of Teresa’s story speaks most deeply to your soul? Why? What action step is God asking you to take as a result?

Until next time…

Sue Reeve

Listening Prayerfully—‘Dark Nights’ Draw Us Deeper…

On April 9th, I began a series of blog posts about a journey of listening prayerfully. These posts will include contents of a devotional talk I made to my travel group during our amazing educational pilgrimage as well as additional insights learned during the time I was in Spain.

Continuing from last time…

     When I embarked seriously on accomplishing a single-sentence goal: “I want to learn to be a better pray-er,” I didn’t realize I was embarking on a lifelong adventure.

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

     Some three years after I determined I wanted to learn to be a better pray-er, I began encountering obstacles. One morning, I was reminded of an uncomfortable truth. As I drove to work, I read the recently-changed reader board at Davis Donuts, a local corner business and 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.”

     I read that sign during a time when it felt like I was encountering one obstacle after another. I was discouraged. During that season, I was introduced to St. John of the Cross and his writings concerning the dark night of the soul.

     My husband didn’t like it when I talked about my dark night of the soul. He thought it was too negative. But, on some deep level, I knew that even though it wasn’t a pleasant time in my journey of faith, it was a necessary time.

     Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I realize now that sometimes the deepest and most important work is accomplished in the winter season when outwardly, everything appears lifeless, like this tree waiting for springtime.

     While in Spain I learned much more about St. John of the Cross. Much of the teaching occurred during a bus trip we took over back roads between Toledo and Avila. The forest through which we traveled reminded me of a fantastical candy land. Trees, with rounded tops looked like lime-flavored lollipops. Pink-flowered trees evoked memories of savoring sweet, sticky cotton candy as a child at the county fair.

     Visions of lollipops and cotton candy are a stark contrast to John’s “dark night” experience, which is like nothing I’ve experienced and like nothing I want to experience.

     John was arrested by the traditional church during the Spanish Inquisition. For nine months he was imprisoned in a 6’ by 10’ airless room. During his incarceration, he was flogged repeatedly and fed a diet of bread and water.

     Confined in that cell, the friar’s[1] imagination expanded. He found solace by composing poetry in his mind, and during this bleak, dark season, John learned how to give all his problems to God.

     While in Spain, I saw the high window of the castle located by the Tahoe River through which John escaped on a hot night in August. John, who realized he would undoubtedly die in that cell, chose life! His escape was miraculous. The emaciated friar found refuge with the nuns at Teresa of Avila’s convent. Secretly, he was nursed back to health at the convent hospital.

     So, what, I ask, can I, a woman living in the USA during the 21st Century, learn from St. John of the Cross, a Spanish friar living more than 500 years ago?

     Starla, a young professional woman in our group, has studied St. John and the ‘dark night,’ and provided insights that helped answer my question:

  • Dark nights of the soul call us into a deeper relationship with God.
  • During dark nights, we learn patience for whatever work God is accomplishing in our lives.
  • Tendencies toward greed and self-indulgence become simplicity and moderation in all areas of life.
  • God’s work done in the “dark night” is a passive work of the spirit that prepares and strengthens us for future work God has designed us to accomplish.

     My next post will look at times when we arrive at junctures in our journeys and must decide which road we’ll take. I call these two roads at a juncture:

     The road of “Yes, BUT…” and

     The road of “Yes, WHAT…”

What about you?

  • Can you identify a “dark night of the soul” in your spiritual journey?
  • What learning occurred during that time?
  • How did your “dark night” draw you ‘deeper?’

I would love to receive your feedback!

Looking forward to next time…

Sue Reeve

  1. Friar – a man who is a member of one of the mendicant religious orders founded in the Middle Ages, as the Carmelites, Franciscans, or Dominicans. [1250–1300; Middle English frier, frere brother < Old French frere < Latin frāter brother] fri′ar•ly, adj. monk, friar – A monk stays in a monastery; a friar does not.

    https://www.thefreedictionary.com/friar