Tag Archives: faith

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!

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.

Sue Reeve

  1. Names in italics are pseudonyms

Combat Core Lies with God’s Truth

Your egoic false self is who you think you are, but your thinking does not make it true… Your false self is a social and mental construct to get you started on your life journey…it becomes problematic when you…spend the rest of your life promoting and protecting it.

~ Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

Sue Reeve’s Note: Today’s post continues a series written by my friend Bethany (a pseudonym) in which she describes her journey of healing. (Note: To read the original stories, go to www.suereeve.com, and check archived posts, April 11-April 28, 2016, “The Little Girl Inside Our Story.”) Today, Bethany discusses how she learned to combat the deep roots of little-girl lies.)

     A core lie is a thought buried so deep inside us that we begin to believe it. Most of the time we don’t even know it’s there. Our core lies are based on what we put our worth and value in outside of God. In my Pure Desire group, I learned about the limbic brain (the part of our brain that’s in charge of motivation, emotion, learning, and memory). The limbic brain is completely developed by 6 years of age, but it can’t logically tell the difference between truth and lies.

     Most lies we believe are formed at an early age, and a child is unable to logically reject them. They become part of who we are and how we think about ourselves. I realized I needed to learn to recognize those lies for what they are, and combat them with God’s truth about me.

     One of my deepest core lies is that I am a liar. I remember when I was a child I would often get spanked for things I didn’t do. My mom predetermined I had done something, and nothing I said or did changed her mind. I was labeled a liar and punished not only for the thing I didn’t do, but also for lying. She spanked me until I confessed to the crime. In a strange twist, my confession made me into a liar. I lied about doing something I didn’t do just to get her to stop spanking me.

     Over time, I started to believe I was bad and that I was a liar. My mom told me she knew my heart better than I did. I couldn’t even trust what I thought was the truth because I came to believe she knew better than I what was in my heart and what I had done.

     Later, this set me up for deep hurts. When, at the age of 8, I was molested by the pastor of my church and told not to tell anyone because they wouldn’t believe me, I trusted what he said and kept quiet about it. I already thought of myself as a liar, so why would anyone else believe me? The person I should have been able to trust with this awful secret was the one who never believed me.

     In the past months, I have had to learn to retrain my brain about lies I learned to believe as a child. When I’m struggling, feeling like a liar, I say John 8:31-32

If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

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     I’ve memorized this and other helpful verses by putting up sticky notes in the places where I spend the most time during my day. I see them over and over, and their truth reminds me to memorize. Then, when those lies creep in, I have something to fight them with. Some people memorize best when they say it out loud, or write it down. You can even find an app for that, such as MemVerse, Fighter Verse, or Mobilize Faith!

     I hope my words encourage you. In your journey of recovery from any type of childhood trauma or abuse, I ask you to:

     Try to become aware of what lies you are believing.

     Find a verse in the Bible that counteracts the lie.

     Memorize that verse.

     Then, when you find yourself believing the deeply-rooted lie, you can blow it to smithereens with God’s truth about who you are—the true you God meant you to be!

I’m asking God to help you…


Cumulative Stress…

A Modern-day and Ancient Concern

     The other day I ran into an acquaintance at the coffee shop. He told me about troublesome times he’s experiencing. His adult son has been struggling with cancer treatment for months. A little grandson was recently hospitalized with a severe infection that may require surgery. On top of all that, his elderly mother took a serious fall and is clinging to life by a fragile thread.

     A tinge of sadness was etched into his weary countenance, but In spite of his difficult circumstances, it was obvious this man’s faith is intact. Strength much greater than his sustains him.

     Following my last blog post on ‘soul care,’ I heard from a reader who said, “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.

     Both of these dear people are most likely dealing with what stress management “experts” call cumulative stress. When I first learned about cumulative stress, the picture that came to my mind was the 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.” (Perhaps you’ll recall from my last blog post John Ortberg’s definition of ‘soul’ as “the deepest part of you…a synonym for the person.”[1])

     Health, emotions, relationships, cognitive clarity and even a sense of spiritual well being 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. It was on this site that Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to prove their god was 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)

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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 sustains my friends’ faith and peace—helped Elijah rally. The same stress-management remedies God provided for the Old Testament prophet continue to be applicable today.

     As I conclude this post, I’m praying for my two friends, and I’m also praying God will give you, Listening on YOUR Journey reader, strength for whatever stressors you are dealing with today…

Sue Reeve

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