An Offering from Lil: A New Fast

August 26, 2014
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My children go to camp in the summer for three to four weeks.  I love that they have time away from the city to connect with  God in nature.  One of the most important things I have come to realize is the benefit of being “unplugged” for at least three weeks.  No phone, no internet, no texts, no emails, no noise competing for their time.

No noise competing for their tiIMG_2125me.

Instead they heard the rain, they saw the stars, they laughed with friends from all over the country, they let go of the pretense of the media vying for their time, and they reconnected with their authentic selves.

No noise competing for their time.

Yesterday I took a fast, just one day, from the world competing for my time.  Today I must work to get a few things done.  But tomorrow I will do it again.  I will water the flowers, I will dig in the dirt, I will walk in the woods, I will listen for God’s voice in His creation.

May you be blessed and take time to fast.

No noise competing for your time.

With a grateful heart,

Lil

(c) 2014, Rev. Lil Smith

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An Offering from Eunice: Wounded Healers

April 11, 2014
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Many of the headlines I read each day and hear on the evening news seem to repeat history. Someone, some group, some country is offended or taken advantage of, they attack and the violence continues. The stories that appeal to me are almost always ones that tell of people who in spite of hardship are accomplishing great good.

In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, we read that “The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. rocks Then Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?’” Jesus had the truly “amazing grace” to accept suffering and persecution without passing it on. He transformed his pain into the love of good works and he challenged us to do the same.

For me the message of Lent and of the passion of Jesus is well-expressed by Richard Rohr, OFM, who says “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”

My experience is that none of us gets all our needs met, and our human need for affection, acceptance, approval and appreciation is never filled. And few if any of us make it through life without the pain of disappointment, betrayal, injustice, or discrimination. We feel slighted or disrespected and we want to lash out. Can we turn to God to make these wounds into sacred wounds and so become the “wounded healers” for our families and communities? If we can find that God is somehow present in our pain, we refrain from passing it on and use it for good as Jesus did. Instead of retaliating and stoning others with our words and actions, we can become the stones to support the kingdom of God.

Eunice Cheshire

Co-Founder of Spiritual Ministries Institute and

a member of HeartPaths DFW Founding Faculty

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in Lent

An Offering from Diana: From the Heart

March 20, 2014
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Lent is a time where we often practice spiritual disciplines such as fasting in different ways and methods of prayerful reflection.  Yet, this season is an opportune time to examine our lives to see how we can follow Jesus more truly and faithfully. We can look within and ask the question, “What are my heart attitudes?”

Luke 18: 9-14 speaks of two kinds of believers: the Pharisee and the tax collector, who both came to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee prays, “Thank you God that I am not a sinner like everyone else.  For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery.  I am certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.”

Here is the prayer of the tax collector, who stood a distance away and did not even lift his eyes heavenward. He beat his chest in sorrow, saying, “O God, be merciful to me for I am a sinner.

Jesus responds, “Truly I say to you, (which means he is speaking with great emphasis), this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

May we approach the throne of grace in humility this Lent.  May our prayer be along with the Psalmist , “Create in me a clean heart, O God,  and renew a right spirit in me.” (Psalm 51:10).  May we fast from pride, from unloving thoughts and actions, judgment and self-promotion and allow God to truly transform our hearts.

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in Lent

An Offering from Amy: Full

January 13, 2014
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In the pre-dawn quiet, on December 31st,  I sat by candlelight prayerfully gazing into my coffee cup. It was almost empty, reflective of the number of days remaining on the calendar. Yet tomorrow the calendar will be full once again. So I prayed about empty vessels becoming full, wondering what my cup might have to offer this coming year. Then I remembered the wedding of Cana.

When the wine vessels were empty, Mary directed the servants to “do whatever [Jesus] tells you” (John 2:5). Surely the servants had no idea why they were filling the jars with water when they figured what they should be doing is finding more wine! Yet they obeyed. The servants brought what they had and it was simple. Did they worry where the wine would come from? Perhaps not. Perhaps they trusted that provision was the responsibility of the host. They simply and faithfully brought the most basic element, water. Jesus stood by and received it, and the most basic element was turned into his glory.

Holy Spirit, fill us to the brim with a heart like Christ, that we might be faithful with our simple offerings; faithful even in bringing what sometimes feels like dirty water, trusting you to turn it into something beautiful. Thank you for Jesus, Immanuel, who shows us the way. Amen.

Amy is a graduate of HeartPaths.

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Going and coming

October 21, 2013
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 In returning and rest you shall be saved.  In quietness and trust shall be your strength. –Isaiah 30:15

When does a leaving home journey become a coming home journey?

The contemplative path almost always includes facing one’s wounds by experiencing the deepest pain held at bay by denial.  In wading through distress on many levels simultaneously, wholeness begins.  This is the integration process.

The end of one journey is the beginning of another.

Staying on the path,

Evelyn

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An Offering from Martha: Recovering Tree

July 19, 2013
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Stripped and naked was I, following the storm and tornado.                      Recovering Tree

               Surrounding ground scrubbed to dust.

Limbs and leaves torn from my trunk

               Sad and broken my body appeared

This was not the future

               It was the present

AND…

               It matters.

 

Though not as tall as I used to be,

               Neither are the houses on this sacred ground.

Isn’t it curious how the foundations still exist?

               And how my roots are firmly planted

               Stretched but not severed.

A new shape is forged by the horrific storm

               I (we) will never be the same.

 

Gasping at the view, it is difficult to believe

               That any blessings are contained

               Within this time of shock and grief.

 

BUT…

               They are.

 

It may take some time to see this truth

               But they are here, even in this stark chaos of reality,

               Unveiled by the daylight.

 

Time is passing, debris is removed.

The tools and sounds of recovery surround me.

               Like the beating of a heart, the hammer pounds.

The saw’s shrill buzz expresses excitement.

Bulldozers gone, their work complete.

               Plowing and scraping, recovering avenues and space.

Space for new things to happen – new things to grow.

              

I stand firm in this soil that was given,

               My eyes have seen much

               My body was ravaged.

But, still l stand.

               New life is appearing. Fresh foliage is proof!

 

                                                               God is making all things new!

 

Martha Jacobson

Breast Cancer Survivor

Spiritual Ministries Institute Board Member

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An Offering from Evelyn: Freedom

July 4, 2013
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Galatians 5:1a “For freedom Christ has set us free.”

Fireworks

The last two lines of the first verse of The Star Spangled Banner are: “On, say does that Star – Spangled Banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Celebrating the July 4 holiday this week bring the words the land of the free and home of the brave into focus for me. Not only do I reflect on Francis Scott Key’s words written in 1814, the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but I also reflect on what freedom means to me personally. Just as the meaning of the land of the free has changed over the centuries so has my personal meaning of freedom. When I was six, freedom meant learning to read and walking to and from school by myself. By the age of thirteen freedom was riding the bus downtown with a girlfriend for an afternoon of shopping. (I date myself.) By sixteen freedom was my driver’s license. The list goes on- high school and college graduation, first real job, marriage, children, retirement. All of a sudden, here I am in the present-at age 70. Choices still abound. As my definition of personal freedom continues to evolve, they do not seem as clear cut as some of the earlier ones did.

What has remained constant in my ever-changing definition of freedom? God’s presence is the constant. Joined with my natural growth simultaneously was spiritual growth. It is my connection to God that has given wisdom and discernment to the choices I make that lead to more or less freedom. God never changed but my awareness of the holy and sacred has. Spiritual practices or disciplines have nurtured deeper awareness. These practices have also allowed for the removal of distractions that take my focus off God’s presence. Three practices encourage grounding in God’s presence. They are scripture reading, prayer and journaling.

Micah 7:7 “But as for me, I will look to the Lord. I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Looking and waiting,
Evelyn

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An Invitation to a Monday Morning Soul Check from Lee

June 24, 2013
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May 27, 2013. 69-minute talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Hong Kong Coliseum. The sangha is on the spring Asian Tour and this talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into Chinese. This is the Public Talk.

They have a few questions to ask the audience and the questions might touch something very deep in you and provide you with insight to see the way to go. Allow the question to penetrate into your heart.

• Are you in love?
• Are you still in love?
• Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love?
• Do you think that he or she is happier than you are now?
• Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy?
• Have you been able to preserve your freshness and beauty for yourself and for the other person?
• Are you capable to offer him or her freshness and beauty everyday?
• Do you know how to handle the suffering within yourself?
• Are you able to help handle the suffering in the other person?
• Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering?
• Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person?
• Do you have the capacity to help the other person suffer less?
• Have you learned the way to calm down your painful feelings and emotions?
• Do you have the time to listen to yourself, your suffering, your difficulties, and your deepest desire?
• Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less?
• Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing about reconciliation?
• Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself?
• Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness?
• Do you really think you have a clear spiritual path to go?
• Do you have the feeling of peace and contentment within yourself?
• Do you know to nourish your love everyday?
• Have you ever met a person who is truly happy?

Love, Lee

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A Lenten Offering from Eunice: Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

March 26, 2013
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“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23c5

While I am convinced this passage applies to me and every Christian daily, it is one that seems especially meaningful during Holy Week when I am mindful of Jesus’ passion in such a poignant way. I’ve always thought this instruction was quite high on Jesus’ requirements for his disciples because this saying is direct, succinct and it appears in all three synoptic gospels. (Also in Mark 8 and Matthew 16.) It is a scripture passage that I’ve heard many sermons on and it has given me much to ponder over the years. It can be applied to so many human attitudes, struggles and situations.
I recently reread a passage from Walk with Jesus by Henri Nouwen that gave me pause. “There is even a harder task: to carry my own cross, the cross of loneliness and isolation, the cross of the rejections I experience, the cross of my depression and inner anguish. As long as I … cannot carry the pain that is uniquely mine, I may become an activist, even a defender of humanity, but not yet a follower of Jesus.”
As I reflected on Nouwen’s meditation, I recalled this scripture passage and the myriad of ways we humans have devised to avoid carrying our crosses – the crosses of loneliness, emptiness, incompleteness, envy, frustration, fatigue, disappointment, low self-confidence, failure. The list seems endless. And we seem to attempt to try to fill these inner voids, these dark empty spaces, by pulling others in with us. We are tired and feel justified in being impatient and unpleasant. We cast our angry or melancholy moods onto others with our rudeness and short tempers. Attempting to boost our own self-image, we take bites out of others’ self-esteem with criticism or resentful remarks. We project our envy by whining, trying to make others feel guilty for their good fortune. Finding ourselves over-committed, we attempt to elicit sympathy – perhaps even try to get others to rescue us.
When we experience inner pain – internal angst – we often try to avoid holding it, avoid carrying our cross by laying it on others. Jesus, however, picked up his cross with great courage and persevered to Calvary. Perhaps one of the invitations of Holy Week is the challenge to pick up and carry the personal crosses of our inner pain and to carry them without burdening or hurting others. Jesus accepted his pain and suffering without passing it on. He endured physical pain, but also the inner pain of humiliation, rejection, false accusation, loneliness and abandonment and returned only love and forgiveness.
Frequently during Lent, we are asked to reflect on whether we are as faithful to Jesus in the painful times as we are when things are going well. When Jesus instructs us to “take up your cross and follow me,” perhaps he is asking us simply to be like Him, to be kind, loving and forgiving daily in both our dark and our sunny days.

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A Lenten offering form Lee: Stillness

March 16, 2013
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Gracious God, I ask you to plant a seed of stillness in my soul. Everything in my life moves ever more quickly, and I am continually expected to fit more things into time that is already brimful with activity. Even when I have moments that require nothing of me, my mind races and I seem unable to locate a switch to turn it off. Give me, each day, the desire and capacity to breathe in the wonder of air, to envision a still lake on a windless dawn, to drop deep into the well of my own being and find there the peace of your presence. I ask this for the sake of your love. Amen.
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