You were bought with a price – An offering from Rev. Lil Smith

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

An offering from Jeanene: Let love be…

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:12-31

(c) Bonnie Oden

(c) Bonnie Oden

Fifteen years ago at the end of a retreat I was invited to write a note to myself.   My note said simply, “Let love be.”  I had no idea what it meant.  I recently reflected on the picture and Scripture shown above.   I wondered, how does a commandment of the law to love God, self and neighbor go from head to heart; from lofty ideal to humble flesh?  And then I remembered recently sitting face to face with my 11 month old granddaughter.  Delighted at her sweet, searching gaze, part of me was thinking, “Don’t you see what time, gravity, and being human has done to this face – – doesn’t it make you want to look away?”  Gratefully, in an instant I was lost in an eternal moment; defenses down; captured by surprising, irresistible innocent love.  And then I remembered that note to myself so long ago, “Let love be.” 

(c) Jeanene McIntyre

An offering from Deanna: Live giving water of balance

This summer our family will go to Lake Tahoe for the first time. Lakes normally have been a place of relaxation and renewal. But because of the droughts – both here in Texas and in California – lakes are no longer a source of comfort but a reason for concern.

(c) Bonnie Oden

(c) Bonnie Oden

 

My parents have a place on Lake Bridgeport and for the past several years the water level has been so low that my dad’s sailboat has sat abandoned at the dock as there is no water to get it out of its slip so it has sat on the dry sandy ground that was once a part of the lake. This has all changed in the last month as the drought in Texas has finally ended and this May was the wettest on record. Lake Bridgeport has ben restored to her normal water level but my family won’t be enjoying the return of the water because with all that rain came storms and my parents condo was destroyed by a tornado that was part of the system that brought the water to the lake.

 

Water – without it, there is no life. With too much of it – life is destroyed.

 

This reflects the spiritual journey. Not enough and we are left feeling thirsty with our meaningless lives and lost wondering existence. Too much and we lose touch with reality living in a fantasy world divorced of real people and real experiences. The practice is to find balance – that place where our thirst is quenched and we have enough to make it until the next rain. As moments in life take us from drought to flood, may we find our own level as we seek the life giving water of balance.

(c) 2015 Deanna Hollas

An offering from Amy:

I am created new.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Luke 24:5

How slow I am to embrace new life in Christ.Untitled

I’ve spent time wrestling in the Lenten desert with who I am called to be. I’ve waited painful hours from the garden to the cross to carry that, which needs to die, to the tomb…reluctance to serve as I am called, impatience with God’s timing, pride, my desire to control. And in pre-dawn prayer I have known Christ’s renewal. I have been amazed, as I’ve experienced God’s love in and through me. Yet, I want to return to the tomb to retrieve my old ways in disbelief that I’ve actually been made new. I keep looking for the dead to see if it’s really dead rather than rejoicing in the living.

In the crucified Christ I am forgiven. In the risen Christ, I am a new creation. I surrender, Holy Spirit, to live in trust and joy among the living.

(c) 2015 Amy Moore

An offering from Donnie: God Has Chosen Me

He is risen and has given me himself as the example upon which my ministry is to be lived out. This was first shown to me in the Father’s relationship to Jesus and by extension,

2005-7-Bee-Balm-with-Orange-Butterfly4Jesus’ relationship to me. The heart of that relationship consists of reaching out in love and concern for all. This happens in and through the intimacy I am called to by Jesus: “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15)

That is pretty heady stuff—intimacy with Jesus–but if I am ever to go out and be of service to others, that intimacy has to be cultivated and not by myself, that is the Lord’s work, accomplished in and through the power of the Spirit. So with his Resurrection, I am given my walking papers—go and reach out to others in love and concern. Alleluia!

(c) 2015 Donnie Hawley

An Offering from Rosemary: Rest For My Soul

“Wonderful, merciful Savior, precious Redeemer and Friend; who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men”.

CA_2nd_08_064_ChrchMtn

This song by Selah resonate within me as I reflect on this Easter season.  An Easter season that found me caught up in the busyness of life.   A short trip, a work project and family matters took my time and attention and left me depleted and in need of rescue.

When I did find quiet moments, I found my Merciful Savior and Friend waiting with open arms.   As I sit beholding Him, the cares and concerns of the world drop away and I am “reset” by his loving embrace.

I wonder…”Why am I so quick to forget the healing and hope found there”?

The Easter season brings the hope of renewal.  Renewal available to me each new morning from the Lamb who rescues my soul and gives me His rest.  O Lord remind me again, to come….. “In the morning I will lift my voice, in the morning I will lift my prayer to you and eagerly wait”.  Wait for my Redeemer to renew me again.

(c) 2015 Rosemary Conoley

An offering from Lil: Resurrection is here and now…

He is risen.  Christ conquers death again and again.  It is not a thing of the past.  It is the here and now.  It is the promise of a new world where the lion lies down with the lamb in peace. edward_hicks-peaceablekingdom

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust we are transformed by the Living Christ.

We are recreated by the Holy into new life.  But going back to the beginning of this journey, to Ash Wednesday, we have to know we are dust and be dust for this to happen.  Otherwise, our need to create our own identity will prevail.

May you carry the image of dust with you all year knowing the Living Christ is always transforming you and the world.

He is risen, indeed!

(c) 2015 The Rev. Lil Smith

An offering from Diana: Early on Sunday Morning

This season as I read the familiar accounts of the resurrection, my attention was drawn to the phrase, “Early on Sunday morning…” in each gospel.   I recalled a very special early morning many years ago when I understood the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection for the first time. Jesus did not appear to me as he did for Mary Magdalene that morning of his resurrection, but I am sure I was just as amazed and forever changed. It was a time when I was wrestling with some important questions about life and faith. I was staying at a house in the desert and woke up just as the sun was coming up over the hills. It was the most glorious sunrise I had ever seen. I felt a peace and a presence at the moment and a complete assurance of Jesus’ love.river sunrise

There is something about Jesus’ resurrection taking place early in the morning that is more than just a coincidence or a convenient moment.   The word “morning” in scripture seems to hold a particular significance. In Mark 1:35, we read that Jesus himself rose early in the morning to pray. A few other beautiful and encouraging verses:

His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.  Lamentations 3:23

 Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.  Psalms 30:5

 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.  Psalms 143:8

 Morning by morning he awakens me and opens my understanding to his will.  Isaiah 50:4

I am not a morning person, but in the stillness of the early morning, I sense those new mercies, the gift of joy can be found once again, I am filled with hope for the new day. Jesus waits for us each morning to give us a fresh, new vision for the day ahead as well as for our lives. His resurrection power continues. He is risen indeed!

 

(c) 2015 Diana Beaudry

An offering from Kathy: A foundation of faith and trust

Mark 8:16-17 (The Message)

” Meanwhile, the disciples were finding fault with each other because they had forgotten to bring bread.  Jesus overheard and said, ‘Why are you fussing because you forgot bread?  Don’t you see the point of all this?’ “

I have someone in my life I have accompanied through many trials.  Over the years, I have witnessed GodDSCN1476work miracles in her life.  But in each trial, she responds as if God has never done anything in the past to help her.  She suffers the worry and anxiety, wondering if God is going to show up and work at all.  She has very little foundation of faith and trust.

I thought of her when reading of the disciples, arguing over their next meal, when they had just participated in the feeding of the five thousand.  As I pondered this, I envisioned Jesus building a brick foundation.  Each brick was composed of two things: an answered prayer and the gratitude that issues forth from our spirit in response.  Each brick becomes one in a foundation of faith and trust.

I examine my own foundation.  What does it look like? I look at the quality of the bricks: Do I spend enough time in thanksgiving for those answered prayers?  How strong is it?  Are there cracks or weaknesses in it?  Do I help Jesus in building my foundation by recognizing daily His provision in my life?

(c) 2015 Kathy Oehler

An offering from Lee: I am not alone

In Psalm 31 someone is really in anguish: asking for God’s help, reminding themselves that God is faithful and with them.  This song “I Am Not Alone” which is a new YouTube release from Kari Jobe says what I and the Psalmist have both felt and I bet you have too in your life.  Sometimes music touches my soul in ways just words can’t!

“I Am Not Alone”

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul.

(c) 2015 Rev. Lee Self