Tag Archives: spiritual discipline

Celebrating Our Stories – Words We Long to Hear (Part 2)

Sue’s Note: Jesus cautioned His disciples to beware of the cares of this world distracting them from the message of God. Oh, how easy it is to allow our task-filled lives to distract us from spending time nurturing our soul. Today, my friend, Stephen, describes how his spiritual equilibrium became off-kilter. His words speak volumes to me. I hope you read his post on Monday. I know you’ll enjoy the continuation of his message today.

by Stephen Robinson

     In my post on Monday, I explained how my spiritual routine was disrupted last year when I needed to put my training for the CDA half Ironman on hold. What I realized during this time was that without a fitness goal, I really struggled to reach my spiritual goals. Failure is a great teacher! This lapse caused me to consider which words I longed to hear more:

     “Stephen Robinson, You Are an Ironman” OR

     “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

     So why do I want to share this part of my story with you today? Why has Sue asked me to write about this topic? I believe it is because most of us start our year, month, week or even day with the best of intentions, but sometimes those don’t work out as planned.

     “Today I am going to start my day in God’s Word; I am going to be a blessing to my co-workers;’ maybe I will share about the message from church on Sunday.”

     Then, you rush out the door. Forget your coffee. Worse yet, someone doesn’t let you merge onto the freeway. Seems like your day can’t get any worse. Oh, I guess I just described what my recent Monday looked like! Perhaps a bad day may for you looks even much worse than that!

     What I’ve realized is that after a bad start to my day, I can come up with so many reasons why I wouldn’t want to spend time with God. The truth, though, is that is when I need Him most.

My wife and I started a couch to 10K running program, sometimes we have to squeeze in a run at night.

     The CDA Half Ironman is back again in June. I know I must start training now. It will take some time to catch up to my previous physical stamina, but I recognize if I wait much longer, I won’t be prepared to finish the race.

     Currently, I am 76 days behind on my plan to finish reading the Bible in a year. I realize if I were to try and catch up on my reading plan in a couple of days, it wouldn’t work. (Just as I couldn’t possibly cram and train in a couple of days to be ready to compete in a half Ironman.) But, I also know if I keep procrastinating, I may miss God’s prompting through the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit because I’m not trained to hear it.

     So, I’m ready to put forth the effort to prepare for the half Ironman in June. I’m also ready to throw off the hindrance of procrastination and that alarm clock snooze button and return to my routine of spiritual training.

     Hebrews 12:1 has become one of my life verses.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” – Hebrews 12:1

     Last fall, I had this verse tattooed on my forearm so I would always see it. It serves to remind me never to give up—whether training for a race or sticking to my scripture discipline.

     Even though I know God loves me no matter what, I also realize that if I neglect the training disciplines, I may miss what the Lord is trying to do in me and through me.

     What interferences are keeping you from your time with the Lord?

     Perhaps your day begins in His Word without fail, to which I tip my cap. But, if like me, you find yourself in an undisciplined season of life, or if you’re traveling through a difficult valley, I would encourage you to start fresh tomorrow.

     I recommend the YouVersion Bible app, which has plenty of different reading plans to choose from. Or, perhaps for you listening to a podcast or worship music is a more helpful way to prepare your heart to hear from God.

My wife and I do our best to start our day in His Word together.

     I don’t know what the next step is in your journey, but I pray you will find a fresh rhythm in your walk with the Lord. I believe if you do, He will begin to reveal himself to you in a new way.

     I hope my words have encouraged you to take whatever the next step in your journey may be…

Stephen Robinson

Celebrating Our Stories – Words We Long to Hear…

Sue’s Note: Today’s post is written by my friend, Stephen Robinson, who has written two previous guest posts.

About five years ago, I approached Stephen after church. I knew he was a tech guy, and I knew I needed a tech guy in my life if I was going to develop a web site and write a blog. While I felt certain God was calling me to do just that, I also knew I had neither the ability nor inclination to master the technological aspect of my calling.

Stephen is one of the nicest people I’ve ever me. His patience and graciousness never cease to amaze me. His technical skills to take what I write and make my words and Ron’s photos magically appear on email and Facebook every Monday and Thursday mornings enable me to do what I love to do and feel ‘called’ to do. My friendship and professional relationship with Stephen have helped me understand how the Body of Christ functions together to accomplish the work God wants to do in our world.

I love Stephen’s transparency in this week’s two-part post. Our commitment to God and to the disciplines we’re convinced God has called us into include progress, challenge, victory and sometimes failure. In our lifetime journeys, including our journey of faith, progress is often three steps forward and two steps back.

Every step of the way, every miss and win God’s grace is more than enough!

“You Are an Ironman!”

“Well done, good and faithful servant” – Matthew 25:23

     I long to hear these are two phrases one day.

     However, as I shared in my first Listening On The Journey… post titled, Finish, I have struggled in prioritizing time in spiritual disciplines over time spent training.

     Sue has graciously offered me the chance to write about what I have been up to since completing my first half Ironman in 2018.

     I remember reading Sue’s email a few weeks ago congratulating me on completing the CDA half Ironman again this summer. While it was not easy, I had to humbly reply that I did not in fact finish this summer’s half Ironman.

     I didn’t compete in it this year. My wife gently reminded me/advised me there would be far too many family activities to even think about training. A far more exciting milestone was happening in our family. Our oldest daughter graduated from high school in June.

Stephen and his family after graduation

     If I said skipping this year’s half Ironman was easy, I would be lying.

     Taking a year off from training showed me how easy it is to become undisciplined in my spiritual development. Looking back on this year, I realize how undisciplined my time in the Word has been. Hitting snooze on my alarm is MUCH easier when I’m not training for a physical race. Less time in the morning to get ready for work often meant my time in God’s Word would have to wait, sometimes until that night, or more often than not, until a few days later.

     2019 started with the best of intentions. My wife and I agreed together we’d read the Bible in one year. I had every intention of staying disciplined in my quiet time. What I realized, though, was that without a fitness goal, I really struggled to reach my spiritual goals.

     This realization hit me hard. I began asking myself tough questions:

     Am I living to one day cross the finish line of a 140.6 full Ironman to hear the words, “Stephen Robinson, You Are an Ironman! OR,

     Am I living to daily die to self and serve the King of Kings?

     Has my life become about reaching physical fitness goals OR growing in my spiritual journey?

     I yearn to one day hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I ask myself another sobering question:

     Anything less and what am I living for?

     I’m reminded of this uncomfortable truth. All the medals on my dresser don’t mean anything if they come at the sacrifice of my time spent with God.

     In my follow-up post on Thursday, I’ll discuss how I plan to re-start both my training for the next CDA Half Ironman and jumpstart my spiritual discipline as well.

     I hope you’ll join me for Part 2!

     Stephen Robinson

Climbing That Mountain…

I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

Psalm 121:1 & 2 (MSG)

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     July 2, 2017, my brother, Steve joined an exclusive group of people when he reached the summit of Mount Rainer. According to the National Park Service, each year approximately 10,000 attempt the summit. Only half succeed.[1]

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     For many years I referred to my only brother, Steve, who was born five days prior to my ninth birthday, as my “little brother.” That doesn’t work nowadays, however, since Steve towers more than a head taller than his oldest—and shortest—sis.

     Steve has been an important person to me his entire life. I’ve watched him grow from a sweet, chubby baby into a fine man who works hard, loves God, and has quietly mentored several men. He’s a faithful husband and devoted daddy to his own three beautiful daughters. His youngest daughter, Chantal, climbed Mt. Rainier with her dad, joining him for a photo op at the summit.

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     During a family gathering on the 4th of July, I talked with Steve about the climb. He looked as he admitted feeling—exhausted—and I appreciated his willingness to discuss openly the good and not-so-good parts of his experience. I appreciate his permission to write this post.

     Without any doubt, this accomplishment is impressive. The experience Steve and Chantal share is one which can never be taken from them. But, as is the case with most impressive experiences, it wasn’t easy!

     We all encounter mountains. Life journeys often lead us to some daunting heights. Climbing some mountains, like the 14,000 feet high magnificent glacial peak in Western Washington, is a challenge one welcomes and chooses to accept. Other mountains are neither welcomed nor chosen.

     The disability with which we’d rather not live.

          A disintegrating marriage we believed would last ‘til death do us part.’

               Disastrous loss due to an economic or natural disaster.

                    The charming beau who turned into a hurtful spouse.

                         Childhood abuse that continues to haunt our memories.

                              Our beloved child who grew into a raging teenager.

                                   The dream job that wasn’t.

                                        Etc., etc., etc.

     Yes, life is full of mountains. Whether chosen or not, I think the recent conversation I had with my mountain-climbing brother offers some valuable insights:

  • Reach deeply into your soul. Determine your desire. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, said, “You are made in the image of what you desire.”[2]
  • After you’ve tapped into desire, dare to dream about achieving your desire.
  • Fear not failure. This was Steve’s second attempt at climbing Rainier. A sprained ankle at 11,000 feet prohibited him from reaching the summit on his first attempt.
  • Learn from an experienced, trusted leader. Steve said he would not have been able to complete this climb if he hadn’t followed the rest-step cadence emphasized and established by Ben, their seasoned leader.
  • Persist even when the going gets rough. Steve fought muscle cramps, nausea and fatigue. Yet, he kept putting one foot in front of the other until he reached his intended destination.
  • You’re never too old to reach a new goal. Steve was the elder statesman of his group.
  • Keep learning and growing. I asked Steve what he’ll do differently to train for the next mountain he plans to climb in a few months. He mentioned some additional strength training, and said he’s going to do a lot more stretching. Stretching physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually is always needed when we climb any mountain.
  • Never underestimate the value of a community of caring, concerned friends. Because of his extreme fatigue and cramped muscles, Steve needed assistance from his team. They were willing to extend helping hands and never stopped cheering him on.

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     Mark Batterson’s perspective related to physical and spiritual goals fascinated me when I read it a few months ago. Batterson says:

Any goal that cultivates physical discipline will cultivate spiritual disciplines too.[3]

     I was curious to learn if there was a spiritual aspect to my brother’s climb and how this impacted his venture. Tears welled up in Steve’s eyes as he considered my questions. I would never discuss this profound aspect of the climb my brother entrusted to me.

     In closing, I want to say, “Well done, brother, and sweet niece! I am SO proud of you!” You have illustrated well these words penned by Thomas Merton:

The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied
it is to be lived.[4]

To each reader, I pray blessings on your journey—no matter what mountain you may be climbing…

Sue Reeve

  1. www.alanarnette.com/climbs/rainierfaq.php
  2. Thomas Merton (1915-1968), Thoughts in Solitude
  3. Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Chapter 15, Life Goal List
  4. Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude