Tag Archives: prayer

When ‘Normal’ is Turned Upside Down: Lenten Thanks

I bet your head will bob up and down as you read these two rhetorical questions:

  • Haven’t the past couple weeks been peculiar?
  • Isn’t it mind-boggling how quickly ‘normal’ is turned upside down?

     When I worked for the government, crisis management was an important part of my job. I was privileged to receive high-quality training in the field of critical incident stress management.

     My professional training has been helpful recently in my role in care ministries at Lake City Church. I’ve spoken to well over one hundred people during this time, and I’ve been blessed over and over by some of their stories.

     A tenet of crisis work is RESILIENCE. Studies have shown most people bounce back after even the most horrific event. During my critical incident work, I was impressed by the resilience I observed and became convinced God built resilience into the human spirit.

     One characteristic promoting resilience is faith. These past couple weeks, most people I’ve spoken with possess a Christian faith. More than once, I’ve hung up the telephone feeling awed by the conversation.

     Recent interactions demonstrating resilience began earlier in the month in online exchanges with a Listening on the Journey… reader. Charlotte[1] is the friend of one of my friends. Over the years, at my friend’s request, I’ve prayed for Charlotte when her fight against cancer was especially difficult. I’ve discovered a woman who possesses deep faith, a whole lot of moxie, and despite difficult circumstances remains cheerfully optimistic.

     It came as no surprise to learn Charlotte is also a woman of prayer. Her note encouraged me. Charlotte wrote, “I love the blog. Some days I read it and pray for everyone ‘on my list.’ Other times it seems like you have written it just for me.”

     Charlotte illustrates characteristics of resilience such as hopefulness, prayer, other-centeredness, and commitment to personal growth.

     A recent prayer request crossed my desk that touched me deeply. I followed up with a phone call, and Sylvia told me about her beloved mom who is in the final stages of life, quarantined in a nursing home several states away. Her mother, a hospice nurse for several years, cared for many dying AID’s patients, saying, “They need help, and I will not be afraid.” During the time she was doing hospice work, Sylvia remembers her mama singing “This Little Light of Mine” to her and her sister at bedtime.

     Sylvia is sad her mother will undoubtedly die without loving family by her side even though she knows God will be with her mom as she transitions into her heavenly home.

     Tears welled up in my eyes as this daughter told me about a video call she had with her mother a few days ago. The nurse at the care facility told Sylvia her mother had been sleeping a lot and hadn’t been eating nor talking much the past few days. But Sylvia’s mama perked up and smiled when she heard her daughter sing “This Little Light of Mine.”

     Sylvia’s story reminded me family connection and meaningful work are two additional characteristics of resilience.

     Thankfulness is another important attribute leading to resilience. When I chose to make Lent 2020 a season of thanksgiving, I had no idea where this theme was going to take me! My email communication with Charlotte and phone conversation with Sylvia surely became part of my Lenten Thanksgiving journal.

     How are you dealing with the Covid-19 crisis? I hope you’re doing well and despite the inconvenience, you’re discovering the power of faith, hope, prayer, and service to others. I trust you’ll be able to carve out times for personal growth, connecting with family and engaging in meaningful at-home work activities.

     Above all, I pray each of us will remember to express thankfulness!

Prayer:
God Who Sees,
Thank you for the blessings you’ve shown during this time of international crisis.
Please protect, encourage, strengthen and empower
Each person reading this post and all who are working so hard and selflessly to give care, comfort and to stem this virus.
We ask for your grace and mercy to blanket the earth.
Amen

Sue Reeve

  1. Names in italics are pseudonyms

God’s Mysterious Goodness Penetrates Darkness…

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NLT)

     The woman who’d scheduled to meet at my church office told me she’d been attending Lake City Church for several months. I love to hear about people’s journeys of faith and invited her to share her story.

     It was one of those soul-stirring stories that leaves me feeling as if I’ve been entrusted with a priceless treasure to hold, even if only for a moment. When I asked permission to pass a portion on to you, promising to protect her privacy, she seemed pleased and agreed graciously. I’m calling my new friend Julia because that’s a favorite name of mine.

     Shaking her head back and forth slowly, Julia said she has always had a difficult time believing in God. “Trusting in what I can’t see just doesn’t make sense.”

     “What keeps you coming back to church?” I inquired.

     That question elicited tears, so I knew her answer was going to be good! She explained an encounter she had a few weeks earlier, saying, “I can only believe it was from God.”

     Julia described herself as a woman with a strong work ethic. Despite horrific news of a much-loved friend’s tragic death, she’d been able to make it through a busy workday.

     Emotionally exhausted after work, she decided to get take-out at a fast-food restaurant. Her emotional pain was indescribable, Julia said. How, she wondered, was she going to process this unexpected, incomprehensible news?

     After ordering her food, Julia uttered what she called a “sort-of prayer.”

     Reaching the pick-up window, the woman working behind the counter told Julia the customers in front of her had paid for her meal. The employee then said,

“Also, they asked me to tell you God loves you very much!”

     By that time, Julia said, the tears, which dampened her cheeks, turned into uncontrollable sobs. The kind employee reached through the pick-up window, took her hands and prayed “a long prayer” right there in that fast-food drive-through lane.

     Bit by bit, my new friend’s heart is being cracked open enough that rays from the light of faith are shining through. Julia is starting to comprehend that even though unseen, God is real, and faith isn’t based solely on logic.

     She wants to start reading her Bible and asked for help in getting started. I gave some suggestions and look forward to walking alongside this woman in her newfound adventure of faith.


     So often, I’ve seen God’s goodness most clearly during life’s darkest hours. Weak, vulnerable, with no idea which way to turn, like Julia, I realize “something I can only believe was from God” helped me navigate the darkness.

     Where are you in your faith journey?

     You may be like me. Even though you often feel like you still have more questions than answers, you believe at the core of your being the message of Christianity. An interior nudge convinces you God is only good and wants nothing but good for every sincere seeker. This assurance enables you to keep taking that next step of faith into the Divine Mystery.

     Others may be more like Julia. Trusting in what cannot be seen or proven doesn’t compute for you. Still, a lingering MAYBE lurks in your private moments of wondering.

     Perhaps a starting point for you may be uttering one of Julia’ssort-of prayers” and see where it leads you.

No matter where you are in your faith journey, I’m applauding you…

Sue Reeve

A Prayer for the Storm…

Sue’s Note: In Monday’s post, I discussed life’s storms. Even as Jesus spoke peace into a terrifying storm his disciples experienced on the Sea of Galilee, I believe Jesus can speak peace into storms you and I face in the 21st Century.

In today’s post, I offer a heartfelt prayer for readers who are weathering a particularly difficult storm. I know most who read this blog are women, but I hope if you’re a guy and this prayer applies, please substitute ‘him’ or ‘his’ for each feminine pronoun.

Lord,

For each friend—whether I’ve met her in person or not—who’s struggling in a storm, I offer this prayer.

First, I want to thank you for people who have prayed for me when I was overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, and my soul wearied with the wrestling.

Please, Lord, speak peace into her storm. May my friend, in your time, see this season of dark desolation as a backdrop to display the jewel of your grace.

Enable my friend’s spirit to catch glimpses of your goodness as she keeps trudging forward. Give her strength to keep placing one faltering foot of faith in front of another.

Enable her knowledge and belief in you to move from her head into her heart. May she feel in the very depths of her being—that secret place only your Spirit can reach—that you not only love her as you love everyone else, but that you cherish her as a unique individual whom you fashioned in your divine image.

Lord, won’t you give my friend the gift of ideas as she sorts imaginatively through the internal clutter. Help her discern well your best plan for future steps.

So often I’ve believed I must be in control. Thank you for the way you’re showing me the freedom that comes when I’m willing to relinquish my firm grasp and allow you to control what I’m not equipped to manage. I pray you would tenderly show my friend how to loosen her grip and place into your trustworthy hands every hope, dream, disappointment and doubt.

One of my favorite photos from our trip to Israel is of fellow traveler, Sarah, praying on the Sea of Galilee. Like Sarah, II often pray with open hands—not because I am pious, but to remind me of my tendency to want to be in control rather than relinquishing my grasp into God’s trustworthy hands.

As she walks in new freedom, I ask you will replace despair with hope. Energize her as she pursues her dreams and uses her gifts. Cover her with the umbrella of your transcendent peace and patience.

Finally, Lord, I pray my personal favorite prayer for my friend and sister-of-the heart:

God, Surprise her!

In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, I make these requests,

     Amen

Be blessed…

     

Sue Reeve