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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

Spiritual Direction – An Exciting Phase Begins…

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe?…’ ‘Safe?” said Mr. Beaver … ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”

(The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Aslin is a metaphor for Christ.)

     About the same time today’s blog is scheduled to post, I’ll be boarding a plane bound for San Antonio, Texas, embarking on an expedition of education and exploration.

     If all goes as planned, this first of four intensive retreats, with lots of study and work in between, will culminate with my certification as a spiritual director in September 2021. Excitement today will be as high as that airplane’s altitude.

     What led me to this pursuit? There are undoubtedly more answers to that question than I’ll realize until I take up residence in Heaven. I have, however, identified several pivotal points in my faith journey:

  • When my 5-year-old arm shot up at the end of a children’s church service after the teacher asked her petite congregation if anyone would like to ask Jesus into their heart. I was one of those eager kids who raised her hand whether she knew the answer or not, so I’d probably done so at the teacher’s invitation before. This time, however, was different. I knew in my little-girl spirit that something changed. I had no way of knowing then that this was the starting point of a life-long process of soul renovation.
  • During adolescence, I developed a deep distaste for the disconnect between what I was told about being a Christian and how I observed Christians. Although it took lots of years of wrangling to come to grips with this, I realize that my often- unwisely-used discernment and criticism were actually the longing of my heart to live a fully integrated, non-compartmentalized life in tune with Jesus’ commandment to love my God with a full soul and all the strength I could muster; to love my neighbor—or those with whom my life intersects; and to love myself.
  • During my 20’s, two traumatic events created huge crises of faith. On one level, I felt God had betrayed me. On another level, during some pain-filled years, I experienced God’s grace and became convinced God really, truly knew me and loved me with an intensity much greater even than my love for my little daughter. I realized in the deepest recess of my soul God knows my name and cares about me individually, a thought that never ceases to fill me with comfort, confidence and courage.
  • During my 40’s, I was feeling what I’ve come to recognize as ‘divine discontentment.’ I set my first spiritual goal one New Year’s Eve, scribbling on a slip of paper, I want to learn to be a better pray-er. That goal changed the trajectory of my spiritual journey. For a season, I drug my weary bones from bed between 3:45 and 4:15 a.m. every morning in order to spend the first 60-90 minutes alone with God. My spiritual growth really took off during this intense season during which I discovered journaling prayers. It was, however, a physically exhausting regimen I needed to change after almost three years.
  • In my 60’s, a couple years after retiring from a long government career, I was once again feeling ‘divine discontentment.’ I began volunteering at my church as a pastoral counselor and working with a Christian life coach, both life-altering experiences. The coaching process was so beneficial I started taking necessary steps leading to my own coach certification in 2017. Also, I was invited to become a member of my church’s staff and continue to work two days a week at Lake City Church.
  • Approaching 70, one morning I said to my coach, “Jodi, I feel like God is trying to say something to me, and I just can’t figure out what.” “Have you ever thought about working with a spiritual director?” she asked. I wasn’t sure what spiritual direction was but was intrigued. While doing a personal retreat at St. Gertrude’s Monastery, I scheduled an appointment with Sister Lillian, and my first session of spiritual direction was one of those experiences that felt “just right.” I continued the practice with a brilliant woman Jodi recommended. Dr. Debbie introduced me to aspects of ancient spiritual disciplines, including contemplative prayer. For the first time, I felt as if my soul had found its true home. An educational pilgrimage to Spain led by my spiritual director was a life changer.
  • Now, thoroughly ensconced in my 70’s, I’m leaving on a jet plane. I was sent off with a big hug, sweet kiss and blessing from my husband. Ron’s blessing is essential since this guy I’ve loved for more than 40 years has always been my biggest supporter and most trusted advisor.

     While writing today’s post, I was reminded of the New Year’s spiritual goal I made the second year: I want to learn what faith looks like. After several months of reading books about faith, underlining scriptures concerning faith and listening to preachers expound about faith, one day it dawned on me. Faith is simply walking into God’s faithful character.

     Today that’s what I’m doing. Only this time, I’m flying.

     My hope and prayer are that as you read these words about my faith adventure, you will begin to examine your own journey. How does God want you to grow, live and love more fully within an integrated life of faith? I’m sure we’ll be ‘chatting’ more about this in the future…

Sue Reeve

P. S. I apologize this is such a l-o-n-g post! Promise a much briefer one next time!

Celebrating Our Stories – Hard Work and Learning

     Today is Labor Day, a national holiday set aside to honor the contribution of workers whose diligence made our nation prosperous.

     Even though the calendar doesn’t quite agree, Labor Day also seems to signify the end of summer. For some, school has already begun. For others, like our daughter and son-in-law, both teachers, and our 3rd– grade granddaughter and pre-school grandson, school begins shortly.

     The other day, I gave a whole mess of canning jars to a friend who has a huge garden. Each late summer and early autumn, my industrious friend and her helper husband fill the family pantry with canned fruits, veggies, soups and pickles. My days of canning have either waned or ceased, and I was delighted to know the jars—some passed down from my mother—will be put to good use.

     I hope you’re having a wonderful day with family and friends this long holiday weekend and that you will enjoy these photos and brief thoughts.

Ants seem to be rather insignificant creatures, and yet, the writer of Proverbs reminds us we can learn important lessons from God’s tiny conscientious creation.

Knowledge comes, but
Wisdom lingers.
~Alfred Tennyson

I’m a big proponent of getting as much knowledge as possible for as long as possible. One of my most fervent prayers, however, is that I will use knowledge wisely.

     It is so easy to focus on what is wrong in the world, our nation, community, church, job, school, family and even ourselves. Fault-finding robs joy. “Gratitude,” as Melodie Beattie, author of the excellent book, Co-Dependent No More, reminds us, “unlocks the fullness of life.”

     As we enjoy the tail-end of summertime, I pray each of us will find joy in whatever season of life we are; that we will commit to lifelong learning; that we will seek wisdom and that we will always practice gratitude…

Sue Reeve