Tag Archives: Soul Care

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.”

H:\Israel Book\Israel Book Tel Aviv & Galilee\DSC_5627.JPG

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.

H:\Israel Book\Israel Book Tel Aviv & Galilee\DSC_8769.JPG

     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

Save

Save

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…”

H:\Israel Book\Israel Book Jerusalem 1\DSC_0168.JPG

     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

H:\Israel Book\Israel Book Jerusalem 2\DSC_2035.JPG

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

Save

Cumulative Stress…

A Modern-day and Ancient Concern

Note: During the next few weeks, my schedule will be tight, and as a result, life promises to be filled with a fair amount of stress. The stress isn’t bad, but stress is stress! As I thought about my situation and about how writing blog posts fit into the mix, I decided to re-run portions of a series of posts I wrote a year ago about stress, using the Old Testament prophet Elijah’s experience to illustrate.

The world in which we live is filled with much stress! During the past few weeks, the news has blared reports of devastating fires, hurricanes, floods and horrific mass murders. Disaster looms with the threat of rogue governments possessing nuclear capabilities. These, on top of personal stress related to family, finances, friends and faith, are the essence of ‘cumulative stress.’ [1]

Reviewing time-tested, God-designed stress management seems timely. I hope the truths in these posts will speak to you

     Following a recent blog post on ‘soul care,’ a reader wrote, “I’ve experienced so many frustrations in “2016” that, at times, left me questioning why do these things happen to good people…However, in my daily prayers (morning and night), I decided one day that all of this is “beyond my control” and I’m going to “submit” and put it into God’s hands and continue to have faith…I have to honestly tell you, from that day, the problems are still here, but I feel less frustrated and more at peace with God and others.”

     In spite of my friend’s difficult situation, strength much greater than hers brings peace.

     Every day I talk with people dealing with what stress management “experts” call cumulative stress. When I first learned about cumulative stress, the picture that came to mind was a block tower children construct. As I thought about tiny hands stacking one little wooden block on top of another, I envisioned each block represented a stressor. One block of stress piled upon another.

     Some children have better eye-hand coordination than others, and their block tower grows fairly high, but eventually, the tower topples, and blocks scatter every which way. Some adults manage stress more effectively than others, but eventually, the ‘soul’ says, “Okay, I’ve had enough.” (John Ortberg’s definition of ‘soul’ is “the deepest part of you…a synonym for the person.”[2])

     Health, emotions, relationships, cognitive clarity and even a sense of spiritual wellbeing are impacted when the cumulative-stress tower tumbles. During such times, our souls need to be cared for well in order to rejuvenate.

     One of the places we visited while in Israel was Mount Carmel. This lush, green area is the site of a Carmelite monastery. On this site Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to prove their gods were more powerful than his God. The encounter ended poorly for Baal’s prophets, and as a result of Elijah’s daring faith, rain came, a terrible drought ended, and the faith of the Israelite people in the one true God was restored. (See story in 1 Kings 18)

H:\Israel Book\Israel Book Tel Aviv & Galilee\DSC_6861.JPG

A stone statue on Mount Carmel depicting Elijah with sword drawn.

     I can only imagine the blocks of stress Elijah experienced during this time! In 1 Kings 19, we read about the impact Elijah’s cumulative stress had on the great prophet of God. But, when we read this remarkable account, we see that in spite of Elijah’s difficulties, he found strength much greater than his own.

     In my next blog post, we’ll look at how God—the same God who this day sustains our faith and peace—helped Elijah rally. Stress-management remedies God provided for the Old Testament prophet continue to be applicable today.

     As I conclude this post, I’m praying God will give you, Listening on the Journey… reader, strength for whatever stressors you are dealing with today…

Sue Reeve

  1. Soul Keeping, John Ortberg, Chapter 2, What is the Soul?

Save

Save

Save