Do not cause anyone to stumble – An offering from Rev. Lil Smith

March 12, 2018
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1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 (NIV)

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 11 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

I find some of the most compelling images are the selfless acts of competitive athletes: helping a competitor cross the finish line, stopping mid-race to render aid, carrying an injured player on the other team around the bases because she hit the ball out of the park and earned the run.

I find these acts so compelling not just because of the good that is being shared with the other, but because of the selfless act of giving up the dream of winning to be in service to another.

For it is in these moments my earthly dream is overshadowed by the kingdom-come dream God has for all of God’s children:  following the way of Christ.

May we be your followers today and help others who stumble.

(c) 2018 Rev. Lil Smith
Spiritual Director and Supervisor
Retreat House Spirituality Center

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When God calls: An offering from Verlene Springer

March 8, 2018
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So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

Genesis 46:1-4

When God calls, it is specific to an individual and designed to fill what is needed, at that time, in God’s plan for the world. Like Moses, responses are often a variation of “are you sure you mean me, I stutter?” Or Ananias, “you must have made a mistake this time, God, that guy kills Christians!” It is always a free choice; the rich young ruler “sadly went on his own way.” The call often requires a response to something mysterious. Mary’s “yes” from just a girl changed the world forever. The call comes but the details, the how, often come later. Callings can begin subtlety as a strong desire, a persistent thought, or even a restless feeling of a need for change.  It can come through something someone says, something read, or even a movie or play. An open and attentive stance assists us to better hear God’s voice and be ready to drop our nets and follow Him.

(c) 2018 Verlene Springer

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Focus on Our Faith – An Offering from Diane Clay

March 7, 2018
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Armies may surround me,
   but I won’t be afraid;
war may break out,
   but I will trust You.
I ask only one thing, LORD:
Let me live in Your house
   every day of my life
to see how wonderful You are
   and to pray in your temple.
        Psalm 27:3-4 CEV
 
An image of Jesus “setting his face toward Jerusalem” came to me while meditating on these verses.  Jesus knew what awaited him upon his arrival, yet he resolutely continued the journey.  Just as many of us have verses of Scripture that strengthen us and give us hope in difficult times, surely Jesus recalled God’s love and promises as he neared certain death in Jerusalem.  Like Jesus, our focus should not center on our fears, but rather on our faith that God loves us, abides with us, and will never leave or fail us.
 
(c) 2018 Diane Clay
Spiritual Director
Contemplative
Grandmother Extraordinaire
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You were bought with a price – An offering from Rev. Lil Smith

March 3, 2018
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21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.[a] 22 For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. 24 In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters,[b] there remain with God.  1 Corinthians 7:21-24

I visited the Holy Land this time last year, and now, I  often envision Paul by the sea…in prison…at Caesarea.  What strikes me is that Paul is in chains.  Yet, Paul’s letters don’t sound like Paul is in chains.  Paul has freedom despite the chains.  Despite the chains, Paul is free.

Friends, this is the true freedom that is the gift of God.  It is not the false freedom the world wants to possess. True freedom, despite our circumstance in the world, allows us to take a deep breath and choose to follow the One who creates, the One who redeems, and the One who encourages.

Holy God, may we embrace this precious freedom that comes at such a price.  Send us the gift of your freedom and Holy Peace that sets us free…even when we live in the chains of the world.

(c) 2018 Rev. Lil Smith
Spiritual Director and Supervisor
Retreat House Spirituality Center

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Grace falls like seed – An offering from Shawn Ashmore

February 28, 2018
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Mark 4:3-9 (NRSV)

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

 

Grace falls like seed,
Scattered across terrain—

Some on wide roads,
Some between piles of gravel,
Some amongst thistle and thorn,
Some under sun-scorched beams,
Some with little to sprout,
And some in fertile earth.

How easy it is to be deceived,

More preoccupied about the quality of ground
Than the generous hands that cast life,
Drawing from a seed bag that never runs empty.

(c) 2018 Shawn Ashmore

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Grace in Our Failing – An offering from Diane Pennington

February 20, 2018
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Psalm 51: 1-4 NRSV

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.

In our current cultural and political climate, we can barely determine truth, let alone justice. It is both a comfort and a horror to know that God sees through our public exterior to the truth of our hearts.  I am both grateful for and terrified of this fact, depending on the state of my heart and mind any given day, hour or moment.
It’s interesting to note that David wrote this psalm after he had been with Bathsheba and was wracked with guilt over his transgression. He says, “Against you, and you ALONE have I sinned, and done what is evil in his sight”… He doesn’t factor in any other relationship or consequence than his relationship to the Almighty. He knows he is SEEN and that there is no fooling God. What a gift that forces us to see ourselves then with such clarity and authenticity, humility and vulnerability.
How hard is it for us to speak to God when we know how completely we have failed in loving, in our thinking and behavior?
How glorious that, because the Lord desires relationship with US, he invites us to be in his presence and see ourselves.  Not just in the light of guilt or failing, but awash in the knowledge of his love, his fairness and above all his mercy. In the presence of His great grace, how can be help but be humble, grateful and to then extend His mercy to others?
Jesus, merciful Savior, thank you for your grace and love that goes far ahead of your justice. We are not worthy, but we are deeply grateful. AMEN
(c) 2018 Diane Pennington
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Invite freedom and healing – An offering from Rev. Lil Smith

February 20, 2018
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Psalm 146:3-4

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
    on that very day their plans perish.

I retreat from a world in which leaders are disconnected from the body of their people.

I retreat from a world that anesthetizes pain and suffering.

I retreat to a place that I can befriend my pain and suffering.

I invite freedom and healing.

In this space, judgment of the world has no power over me.

In this space, I can find a deeper breath.

In this space, I feel more authentically the person God created me to be.

In this space, I praise you.

Oh God, lead us to the healing life of your Breath.  Free us from the plans of the world to place our hope and trust in you.  AMEN

(c) 2018 Rev. Lil Smith
Spiritual Director and Supervisor
Retreat House Spirituality Center

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For Unto Us a Child Is Born! – A Christmas Offering from Brian Hardesty-Crouch

December 25, 2017
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I invite you to ponder Isaiah 9:2-7.

 

Any child is a mystery.

This child is a mystery.

God’s love- a mystery.

 

Mysterious- yes.

Good News- absolutely!

 

“And she gave birth… and laid him in a manger”

Luke 2:7

 

May your every Christmas be wonder-full and mysterious.

 

(c) 2017 Rev. Brian Hardesty-Crouch

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Mary’s Yes – An Offering from Eunice Cheshire

December 24, 2017
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“Then Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.’” Luke 1:38.

This is Mary’s “yes” to God’s action in her life.  Henri Nouwen in his meditations for Advent titled In Joyful Hope says: “You have to say ‘yes’ fully to your powerlessness in order to let God heal you.  But your willingness to experience your powerlessness already includes the beginning of surrender to God’s action in you. Your willingness to let go of your desire to control your life reveals a certain trust.  The more you relinquish your stubborn need to maintain power, the more you will get in touch with the one who has the power to heal and guide you.”

Jesus, I confess that I struggle to stay in control.  My Christmas prayer for myself is to surrender and trust you for what I need to grow.

(c) 2017  Eunice Cheshire
Spiritual Director &
HeartPaths Core Faculty

 

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What Is It That Fills Me with Awe? – An Advent Offering from Nancy Jagmin

December 23, 2017
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O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139: 1-2, 6)

 

It is said that Advent is a season of wonder.  What is it that fills me with awe?  Today (truth be told), I have one foot in the exuberant joy that is just around the corner. I struggle to avoid “skipping ahead” to lose myself in the beloved story.  But still, I know that it isn’t just contemplating God coming to earth that fills me with awe.  I drag myself back from anticipating the Incarnation to ponder the reality of God being fully present in me, not just on earth.  Now, that truly is too wonderful.

 

(c) 2017 Nancy Jagmin

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