An Offering from Nancy: Journey Back

December 24, 2013
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“At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire.”… [GNB]

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  And everyone went to their own town to register.” [NIV] Luke 2:1

Luke sets his account of the birth of Jesus in context of the everyone traveling back to their ancestral towns for the purpose of being registered government census taking. Caesar’s word calls people back to their roots.[1]

Ever made such a trip yourself? I did something like that once when I took my mother on a trip back to some of the places her grandfather had lived and to look a bit at the route he took to travel with 3 family members to Texas after the Civil War ended. His side had lost, and the family farm in Mississippi had been burned in the war. We wondered about what he’d have felt on that trip. Physically it might not have been much easier than the one Joseph and Mary, with her swollen belly, would have made.

Pappy (Everyone called my great-grandfather Pappy) was guiding the trip to East Texas mostly on foot since the only vehicle they had was a lopsided farm wagon pulled by a milk cow. Plenty of time to think about what it meant that they were leaving the land where he had grown up to go to a new land they’d never seen.

Over the years the story of that trip was told and retold, and the only way that trip made sense was to tell it as an adventure with promise. In the new land he found a wife, raised a family, and came to accept that some of the values of the old land needed to be surrendered. I think he died a happy man.

He wouldn’t have made the trip except that things beyond himself had forced the issue. On that later trip with my mom, we talked about how Pappy’s adventurous voyage had impacted our lives, how glad we were he made the journey.

The adventure of that trip for Joseph and Mary must have been retold a lot of times too. Each time, what a wonder that it really changed the world, not just their world, but ours. A difficult journey for them, a miracle for everyone!


[1] Allan White O.P. 25 December 2000, Christmas

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An Offering from Rhesa: Hiddenness

December 22, 2013
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Now that Christianity has become one of the major world religions and million of people utter the name of Jesus every day, it’s hard for us to believe that Jesus revealed God in hiddenness. But neither Jesus’ life nor his death nor his resurrection were intended to astound us with the great power of God. God became a lowly, hidden, and almost invisible God…Henri Nouwen in In Joyful Hope

In a world that celebrates and encourages celebrity, how can you embrace hiddenness?

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An Offering from Donnie: Reflections on Luke 1

December 9, 2013
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Luke 1:26-38—Second Monday of Advent

The Angel Gabriel was sent from God…May it be done to me according to your word.

A year ago or so I read a book by Shawn Small, The Via Advent.  These are my memories of that engaging book.

Have you ever wondered what Mary was doing when the Angel Gabriel visited her?  We know she was betrothed to Joseph and like any young woman, she may have been daydreaming about her wedding day.  How many guests would attend and what gifts would they bring; would the wedding feast last for days?

She may of thought about Joseph, wondering what he was doing and was he thinking about her.  As she entertained these thoughts, she suddenly felt herself engulfed in a great light as if the fire in the fireplace had transformed the entire room.  Then a figure materialized before her, so brilliantly bright as to be blinding yet she couldn’t look away.  Finally, the figure spoke and it sounded like a mountain breeze carrying a beautiful song to her ears.  “Hail, O favored one…”

Gabriel must have been startled when Mary didn’t seem to be taken aback by his imposing appearance, as so many others he had visited had done.  Gabriel must have thought to himself, ‘Who is this woman?”  As he continued with his pronouncement …”He will be called the Son of the Most High”…  Mary began to glow but it was not the word that the long awaited Messiah was coming that confounded her but the fact that Yahweh had chosen her, she was the favored one.

Mary was sure she was still in her daydream, how could she be standing before the Lord’s messenger?  She wondered how she could do any of what Gabriel was saying—she was a virgin, in fact, she had never been alone with a man.  Gabriel looked into the innocent eyes of the girl and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…the child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God.”  Mary was somehow able to simply receive the Gabriel’s words as truth.

Finally he said to her, “Did you know that your cousin Elizabeth…is now six months pregnant with child?  Nothing is impossible with God.”  At this announcement, Mary was astonished and Gabriel waited for her response.  Speaking slowly in a whisper of humility and surrender, Mary said, “I understand the will of the Father.  I am his servant…let it be with me according to all you have spoken and revealed.”  Gabriel then slowly left her.

Mary found herself at home again and wondered if she had actually been gone or was it part of her daydream.  As she sat there she looked down at her belly knowing Life was within her womb.

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An Offering from Diana: Lessons from the Real St. Nicholas

December 6, 2013
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December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas, a 4th century bishop in the Roman province of Lycia.  In America, we have come to know him as Santa Claus.  Richard John Neuhaus, in his Advent meditation in the book, God With Us, tells us more about the real St. Nicholas.  According to tradition, he was a holy and compassionate man, who used the generous inheritance he had received from his parents to help those in need.  One legend tells of his generosity to a family who was destitute. He tossed three bags of gold into an open window (or down the chimney in some versions), thereby helping them out of poverty.

St. Nicholas

Jesus came to deliver us from our spiritual poverty by giving us the most wonderful gift of eternal and abundant life.  As we celebrate his birth this year,  let us pray that we will have the eyes to see and the ears to hear where we can be like St. Nicholas to those in our communities and in our own families.

As I John 4:9 & 11 tell us, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. Dear friends, since God loved us that much we surely ought to love each other.”

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An Offering from Lee: Holy Humor

September 16, 2013
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Does God have a sense of humor?

Do you have to be serious all the time to be a good Christian?

Could laughter and joy and maybe even being a little bit silly be part of God’s vision for our lives?

http://www.jesuslaughing.com/free-stuff.html

The famous theologian Reinhold Niebuhr says, “Humor is, in fact, the prelude to faith; and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”

 

Let’s explore this idea together!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 from 10am til noon

at Midway Hills Christian Church, 11001 Midway Road, Dallas, TX,  75229.

$20 at the door.

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An Offering from Nancy: Good News

September 3, 2013
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Repent, and believe the good news…

So, this morning I was wondering just what is this “good news” that seems to be so important for Jesus? I know it has something to do with loving, being loved, being lovable… but it’s really hard to think that this “good news” is present when I think of the images I saw on last night’s “News Report.” The news being sent into my home was about deaths of so many innocent ones in Syria and elsewhere, fires that rob people of homes, young people killing each other, pending dangers of all kinds. Sure is a lot of not-loving going on! So, where is this good news that is supposed to trump everything?

No wonder he says it takes “repentance” to be able to believe it. Heck, I need repentance– turning aside, changing, some kind of being sorry that any of us cling to the bad news, trying a new way of thinking—just to even begin to believe there is enough good news to offset the bad news.

KerensCem

Then I got an email about a death. Someone I care about had lost a family member with whom he had had a “less-than-perfect” relationship. How to feel about such a death? Strangely, it was good news. Yes, the grief is already complicated, but because my friend has a God-relationship, this death will mix a lot of good news into the whole experience. And, in the end, after a bit of prayer and waiting and noticing as much as he can, my friend will believe the good news at even more levels than he does now.

And that helps me to believe.

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An Offering from Diana: Moving Forward, Trusting God

August 19, 2013
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A recent reading of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes in Matthew 14 brought new insights I have never before considered. I had always focused on the crowd and the significance of Jesus feeding them, but this time I took special note of the disciples. When Jesus told them to feed the crowd, they clearly saw that there were only five loaves, two fish and multitudes of people in need of food. Yet Jesus was not concerned about the need and the numbers and the limited amount. His concern was that after he had prayed his disciples moved ahead and started to give out what was available. As they did so, the amount increased until all had eaten and were satisfied, with twelve baskets of food left over.

So often in our lives we look at the needs of our community and world and do not know where to begin. We are only one person after all. We may feel that we do not have the time or perhaps the right gifts or credentials to make a difference. It is easy to hold back, feeling like we do not have enough to offer, just like the disciples whose eyes were on the five loaves, two fish and the crowd of thousands.

Yet God calls us to begin, to move forward with what we have. God will take our efforts and provide the increase. We may not completely see the results this side of heaven, but if we are praying and trusting and moving in the right direction, the results will be there in God’s way and time.

St. Therese of Lisieux spoke of doing the small things with great love for God and spent her short life in this pursuit. For St. Therese, her recognition and honor came after she had left this earth. She was not only declared to be a saint, but by Pope John Paul II, she was named as a doctor of the Church, only one of three women ever to receive this honor. Millions of people have read her autobiography, Story of a Soul, and countless lives have been changed.

Have you done something for God today even though it seems small?

Have you prayed for someone, been encouraging to someone, offered kindness to a stranger?

Have you taken a step forward to follow the nudge of God, where as before you have said, “I can’t do that!”

If it seems even to be a small step, do not be concerned, God will amplify your efforts, will take what is seemingly small and make it into
something beyond your imagining.

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An Offering from Evelyn: Living Water

August 15, 2013
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John 7:37-38 Jesus cried out “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ’Rivers of living water shall flow out of the believer’s heart.’”

August is the hottest month. We have had several continuous days of over 100 degrees temperature. When it’s this hot my thoughts turn to staying hydrated. I keep a bottle of water close by at all times. I notice my thirst most when running errands, getting in and out of the car that’s baked in the sun. Taking a slow swallow of cool water is refreshing when I am hot and sweaty. If I’m lucky, a drop trickles down my mouth and runs down my chin on to my neck. Relief! Ah!
It is more important to stay spiritually hydrated than it is to stay physically hydrated.
In this passage from John, I think Jesus is talking about those of us who are spiritually thirsty not just physically thirsty. My spiritual thirst can be quenched by the river of living water that flows through me. My mental image of the Holy Spirit living in me is of a river or stream of water flowing through me. I picture this stream functioning as renewing my soul. It fills me with love. It delivers God’s grace and mercy. I also picture this flow of water removing any impurities that may cause a block or dam. If the dam formed, it would cause stagnation. This spiritual flow takes out the toxins of bitterness, envy.
Prayer is the pathway to experiencing rivers of living water flowing out of my heart. In prayer I have a spiritual ” Ah” with Living Water. In the process of prayer, I am grounded in humility with gratitude and praise. I become aware of the presence of God. I rest in God’s love. I am protected. I am content. All is well with my soul.
Staying spiritually hydrated,
Evelyn

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An Offering from Diana: Redeeming Time

July 29, 2013
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When summer is just around the corner, we look forward to having more time for refreshment and renewal. The hot days seem conducive to a more leisurely pace, with thoughts of vacations, lounge chairs with an iced tea or lemonade in hand, losing ourselves in a good book, or spending more time in prayer and growing closer to God. Often though, with the modern conveniences of air conditioning and technology, life seems to move on as briskly as usual. Work continues and our lives stay just as busy, although part of the busyness may shift to activity filled vacations, family visits, and catching up on projects we could not accomplish during the year.

All good things, and yet…where is that time we promised to read some good books, dig our spiritual wells deeper, listen more closely to God’s call in our lives? How can we slow down, build energy and vision for the year ahead, tap into the deep reservoir of God’s peace, power and wisdom? If it is not now, then when will we take that time?

Last year I had an experience that helped me to know the value of slowing down and taking time to pray and replenish my energy. There had been several months filled with stress and I was feeling very drained. We have a beach cottage on the west coast and we went there to spend a few days. I went to relax on an upstairs porch and noticed a dove sitting on her nest on one of the beams above me. She seemed unafraid so I stayed where I was. Every day I spent quiet time on that balcony. The dove was there every day too, sitting quietly. I began to relax and feel myself again and it was as though she was teaching me what was important – a simple dove, one of God’s creatures.

In Carl Honore’s book, In Praise of Slowness, he talks about the importance of decelerating
from life in the fast lane and taking time to slow down. He describes a Slow philosophy which is gaining ground worldwide against the frenetic pace of everyday life. It does not just mean just giving up and being slothful, but being deliberate with our time and learning what is important and healthy for our wellbeing.

Finding spiritual growth, discovering new insights or becoming more centered once again is difficult to achieve as we race down life’s highway. We cannot produce ourselves what we are meant to receive from God. Jesus hit this point home when he was visiting sisters Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was rushing around, concerned about all of the details of the dinner she was preparing while Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he was teaching. He told her that Mary was doing what was truly important, not to diminish Martha, but to show her that what is most valuable we receive from him. It is in the contemplative, quieter times that we will find the renewal and transformation we seek.

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