An Offering from Nancy J: I wonder…

December 4, 2016

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness to the skies.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:5,7)

(c) Bonnie Oden

I wonder why I resist God’s love.

The Old and New Testament scriptures are full of stories of God’s abiding love for us, despite our many failings and transgressions.  The Incarnation was the glorious embodiment of God’s love, freely and abundantly given to us all.  Surrendering to the will of a loving God seems both right and liberating.  Yet, in a culture that prizes individual achievement above all, the practice of “letting go and letting God” often doesn’t seem natural or even “right”.  Is that why I cling to the notion that my worthiness is determined by what I accomplish? Or do I just prefer to believe that I am in control?

If I lived today with the full awareness that my life and my every breath depend on God’s love and mercy, how would I be different?

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An Offering from Bonnie: Finding the Gifts in Chronic Disease

April 21, 2015

2014-7Butterflies on Blue Daisies6

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.’

 Proverbs 3:5

I was thinking today about the many blessings I have been given in my life and God blessed me with a new insight.  Many of my blessings have come to me through living with Multiple Sclerosis over the last 37 years. I may not be able to walk tomorrow.  I may not be able to see tomorrow.  Tomorrow, my brain my not function like it does today.  This is the reality I have lived with for 37 years.

I decided early on to live a life full of gratitude for what I have been given instead of living a life in fear of tomorrow; to live a life in the sun instead of the shadows.

The MS episodes have brought me and my wonderful husband closer together.  He has always been there to hold me when I needed extra strength and when I was scared.  This melded us together as a couple until we have truly become one, as God intended.  What a blessing.

Another wonderful blessing I have been given because of MS is photography.  I call it “seeing with the eyes of God.”  Most of my MS attacks have affected my ability to see.  For example, I might wake up one morning and not be able to see out of one of my eyes.  An attack may have lasted only a few months, but I wouldn’t know that until my vision returned.  Photography has been a contemplative prayer way for God and me to communicate.  What a blessing.

I am so glad I choose to live in the sun!

(c) Bonnie Oden 2015

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An Offering from Donnie: Joy and Hope from the Jordan

September 9, 2014

This past June, my husband and I visited Jordan.  We were so impressed with the friendly people and the many historical sites dating back to before Christ but very important for Christian.

Much as I would love to tell you about all of the sites, I’ll limit this writing to the Jordan River and Bethany.  Bethany is the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and referred to in John 1:28, “These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing.”  During Jesus time the river flowed through Bethany but it has changed course today.  There is still water at Bethany from an underground stream that keeps the water level visible.  The site today is nothing like what Jesus saw but it was an awe inspiring feeling to know that we were standing were Jesus stood when he encouraged John to baptize him and as reported in Matthew 3:16-17, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him….”

Our small group then walked several yards to the banks of the Jordan River.  The approach to the River was a wooden deck and a trellis to protect us from the summer sun.  IMG_3306Located under the trellis was a small baptismal font that our guide told us was used for baby and child baptisms. IMG_3290

We walked down the wooden stairs to the bank of the Jordan across the river a large group of people were being baptized in the Jordan on the Israeli side.



As we watched the baptisms and dangled our feet in the river, our guide asked for my camera, he snapped a picture of a white dove lighting on the edge of the baptismal font.IMG_3313

What a beautiful message for our small group of Christians, the symbolism of the white dove at the baptismal font could not be missed.  Our guide commented, “Maybe this is a hope filled sign for these difficult times in this part of the world.”   To this comment I have to say AMEN.

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An Offering from PJ– The Trap

May 27, 2014

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

Our worried ranch neighbor called and asked us to search for Blue Boy, her precious but curious Blue Heeler, who had gone missing. Because of coyotes and bobcats we sadly expected to discover only a collar or patches of fur, but wanted to offer our friend peace of mind. After hunting through brush, in the oak grove, by the pond, around the house and near the pole barn, we found him trapped but alive! He had survived two days on apples used to bait a 4 by 8 foot wild hog trap. What a pleasure to witness a joyful reunion between relieved ‘mom’ and one happy dog.

Has refusal to forgive trapped you? You venture out each day, trot along in the sunshine of regular routines, sniff out new experiences blissfully unaware of dangers when suddenly you encounter a person or situation that slams you to the ground.

Feelings hurt. “Why would they say that?” You grow angry. “That was incredibly heartless and rude!” Resentment increases. “How dare they! Who do they think they are?” A sense of betrayal rushes in. “How could they treat me like this?! I don’t deserve this!” And thick bitterness blankets and begins to smother. “I’ll get them back! They’ll pay!!”

We’re lured by sweet fruit of revenge, but quickly become trapped in bitterness within a cage of anger and resentment. We enter emotional bondage and find ourselves chained to the offender and bolted to the past. That is until we loosen strangle-holds of destructive thought and release all to God. Forgiveness opens cages and lifts trap doors. Forgiveness enables us to run out and into the open arms of a loving Heavenly Father. Forgiveness ushers in freedom.

God handles life’s injustices far better than you and I ever could. I’m learning to allow Him to do just that.

“Then Peter came and said to Him (Jesus), “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:20-22

Who needs your forgiveness today? Will you forgive?

Springing All Traps Only with God, PJ

COPYRIGHT ©2014 PJ Gover

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An Offering from Donnie: The Samaritan Woman

April 2, 2014

A couple of Sundays ago, the Gospel Reading was a familiar one about The Samaritan Woman also known as The Woman at the Well, John 4:5-42. If you are like me, you may have decided this woman was one of ‘ill repute’ which made her different and put her into a mental-box reserved for ‘different’ individuals. I have always felt Jesus was the one with a message, but was that the only message in this passage? Upon further thought I decided the Woman needed a bit more of my thought and attention, maybe she had a message for me.


Jesus should never have talked to a lone woman, let alone take a drink from her jar; both actions were very much against Jewish law.  She wasn’t polite in her response, sarcastic is a word we could use to describe how she spoke to Jesus. He did not lose patience with her but sat and listened, something she was not accustomed to since being a Samaritan and a woman put her on a low rung of society.

This Biblical scenario called to mind an incident in my life when my husband and I were traveling and stopped in a small Colorado town. After dinner, we were enjoying a drink in the lounge of our hotel. Gathered there were a group of men who would have fit the description of ‘men of ill repute’. One of the men seated close to us was using vulgar language. My husband gently touched him on the arm and said, ’I just want to ask you to please watch your language, my wife is here and she is a lady. I appreciate your assistance.” The young man thanked my husband for being courteous to him and apologized to me. He went on to say that he had been in a gang but was now back with his family who valued respect. A few minutes later another man used the same vulgar language. The first young man got up and asked him not to use that language, consequently, that man got up, came over, and apologized to me.

As Jesus had done, my husband offered the young man compassion and acceptance. Compassion and acceptance is what we all desire and when the Samaritan Woman was given that by Jesus, she became one of his first evangelizers, spreading the word about Jesus and making many converts among those to whom she witnessed about her experience. The message from Jesus is how we are to act, he is our role model. But Jesus uses all kinds of ways to teach us the lessons we need to learn.

Our experience in Colorado, was a ‘Samaritan Woman” experience. In reaching out to this young man who felt discriminated against we have no idea where the message has gone. It might not have changed society but it seemed to make a difference in that encounter and to that young man.

The Woman at the Well helped me to understand that all of us have room to change and just maybe listening to another with compassion and acceptance, no matter what social strata we put them in, is God’s way of using that person to teach a valuable lesson.

Merciful God, I want to accept the ‘different’ people of my day.

May the choices I make be ones filled with love and kindheartedness.

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in Lent

An Offering from PJ: Unexpected Places

January 8, 2014


1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are co-workers in God’s service…”

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

On our last morning during a recent trip to Canada I lost an earring and frantically searched the hotel room to no avail causing us to miss the 11:35 airport shuttle. We settled for one at 12:00 noon and found our way to the ticket agent. I did something I don’t normally do. While the agent was processing our check-in and tagging our bags I started a conversation that went something like this –

“How are you today?”

The ticket agent replied, “Not too well.”

Taken aback at her honesty I heard myself say, “Life is uncertain and we’re not in control.” Why would I say that I wondered.

The woman nodded and said, “It’s not work. That’s going well, but it’s interesting you said control. The woman that normally works this location, her son died yesterday. You heard about the train hitting the pedestrian?”

I shook my head.

“That was her son.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“He was just 20 and a first year University student.”

Is this an opportunity to touch a hurting soul for Jesus? I decided to leap in faith and added, “I like to say life is uncertain, but God is in control and we’re not.”

She looked up at me and smiled and said, “Yes, He is.”

“I lost my father when I was 11 and it is so hard no matter the circumstances.”

With a look of sorrow, she replied, “It will be hard for her … and to see her.”

“But you can be her friend.” She smiled warmly and nodded in agreement.

That was it. She then instructed us where to take our bags for customs.

In the New Year I want to have more conversations like this one. I want God to use me not only for and with the expected people, places and times, but also, and especially, for the unexpected ones. What do you want for 2014?

That earring? A small price to pay for God’s perfect timing.

Finding God in All the Unexpected Places, PJ

COPYRIGHT ©2013 PJ Gover

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An Offering from Evelyn: Gratitude

November 18, 2013

Exodus 33:14  God said, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”

I’ve always loved the Thanksgiving holiday. The gathering of the larger, extended family around the table filled with special food was always unifying and grounding.  My Thanksgiving traditions have changed.  Now I share the holiday with a smaller part of my family. We still gather at the table which is filled with special food.  I still find it unifying and grounding.  In reflection on the transition of tradition, I find the essence of what provides unity.  It is God’s presence.

God’s presence allows me to be content in my circumstances.  This awareness allows me to live authentically.  God’s grace abounds when I shed pretense and realize that I have enough.  Gratitude follows.  Gratitude becomes not only a response but an attitude that infuses all areas of my life.  Gratitude opens my heart so God’s love flows.  A deep sense of inner peace results.

Looking forward to this year’s Thanksgiving celebration, I am grateful for God’s presence in the past.  I am grateful for God’s presence now.  God’s grace surrounded me through the years.  God’s presence has gone with me.  My awareness has increased over the years. In this moment I am filled with love and resting in God’s inner peace.

Take a minute to reflect on your awareness of God’s presence as you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. How do awareness, grace and gratitude blend to form the foundation for true Thanksgiving. What might result?



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An Offering from Diana: Redeeming Time

July 29, 2013

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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An Advent Offering from Karen: A Sign of Love

December 21, 2012

Isaiah 7:10 – 14

The Reading

New International Version (NIV)

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.


To encourage the king to believe that his people would be victorious in battle and the kingdom would endure, God offers to let Ahaz ask for a sign, any sign, through the prophet Isaiah.  But the king refuses to put God to the test. So God gives a sign anyway that tells of the future of the Davidic kingdom—without this corrupt king in it.  Ahaz sounds pious; but the Book of Kings tells us he was a spiteful unbeliever. He was trapped here. If he asked for the sign, he would be submitting to the prophet; if he did not ask, everyone would know that he did not believe. So he said, “I will not tempt Yahweh.”

Matthew tells us that Jesus’ conception and birth from a virgin is the second and ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy or sign.  Another king did not want to hear a sign and ordered the death of countless infants as Mary, Joseph and the newborn fled to Egypt.

Do we sometimes avoid being receptive to signs from God?  Are we keeping so busy or is our world so noisy that, even unintentionally, we may miss a wonderful gift?  “Mindfulness” is a way of going about each day attuned to what God is offering us at every moment.  Our sin doesn’t have to be “spite” or fear of losing kingly power; we may just be reverting back to old habits of trying to do everything on our own.

mother and childOne of the things that will always stop me in my tracks is the sight of a newborn being tenderly cared for by his or her mother.  It is a sign of love, renewal, hope, sustenance, provision and oh so many more of the gifts we receive from our Creator.  That a young girl would be chosen by God to carry His Son, and that this would be the most important sign He would ever send His people makes me want to do more than stop in my tracks—I want to know what other signs and wonders surround me.



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An Advent Offering from Eunice: A God of Surprises

December 19, 2012

Luke 1:57-66  (NIV)

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.  On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”  They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”  Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.  He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.  All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

coming to the lightElizabeth and Zechariah inspired by the Spirit and immense gratitude defied even their sacred traditions to name their son John.  I find it more than interesting that the one whose role it was to “prepare the way” for Jesus – to announce that one was “coming greater than I whose sandal I am not fit to unloose,” was named John, meaning God is gracious. Like Jesus, John would instruct his followers to share what little they had and to feed the hungry.   John was full of surprises – his birth, his name, his unconventional lifestyle and his mission as the messenger of the One whose ministry was to reveal a surprisingly loving God.  Even John’s name prefigured the surprising message of Jesus – the good news that we have a God who above all else is gracious.  “In many of his parables and aphorisms, Jesus invited his hearers to see God not as the judge, not as the one who has requirements that must be met, not as the legitimator of conventional wisdom-but as gracious and compassionate.” (Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)

As we prepare spiritually for Christmas, we pray that the message of a loving and generous God takes over our hearts to make us gracious in new and surprising ways.  This Advent let us reach out to Abba the very source of graciousness and compassion to find the strength to be instruments of this grace and compassion for ourselves and others, to offer our families, our communities and our world the true peace of Christmas.  By trusting God’s promises like Elizabeth and Zechariah, we will find that our gracious God is a God of surprises.



Eunice Cheshire, Founding Director
Eunice Cheshire, Founding Director


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