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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An offering from Elaine: May Christ be our light!

November 29, 2016
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Isaiah 11:6-9

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Peaceable Kingdom, Edward Hicks

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.

Sadly, these verses do not reflect the world in which we live. In this season of hope, let us pray for an end to violence, hatred, greed, and poverty, and for a stronger outpouring of love, kindness, gentleness, and peace. May Christ be our light!

Elaine Weber
SMI Board of Directors
Technology & Communications Chair

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An offering from Lil: Hope that we choose real life

November 28, 2016
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 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish.  Luke 21: 17-18

(c) Bonnie Oden
(c) Bonnie Oden

I can’t remember a time when the coming of Advent has been so welcome.  Hope for a world in chaos.  Hope that God is creating something new in the midst of hatred, despair and judgment.  Hope that our pointing fingers at one another will be replaced with open arms to embrace a new peace that we have never known before.  Hope that those with ears to hear and eyes to see will not be deceived and will hear your voice and see your face in the stranger.  Hope that we choose real life.

O Holy One of hope, we pray that this time of waiting will prepare us for the new creation you have for the world.  We pray that we are wide awake to recognize you in the midst of the chaos around us.  In the name of the Coming One we pray.  AMEN

Rev. Lil Smith

SMI Seminary Liaison

Spiritual Director and Supervisor

(c) 2015 Rev. Lil Smith

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An offering from Debra: Joy in being alive…

April 13, 2015
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He is risen, indeed!

I love the beginning of spring.  I love sitting outside with the pups and a cup of coffee, watching the sky lighten, hearing the birds wake up and start to sing, feeling the breeze soften as the day awakens.  I IMG_2365especially love watching the leaves overhead seem to burst forth overnight, their tender, pale green shoots rendering what were stark, bare branches to those bursting with life.  I walk around exhilarated this time of year, singing more often than not.  If I ever thought God was nowhere to be found I must have had my eyes closed.

We’re lucky the Easter season coincides with this miracle of nature.  My Lenten focus on where I have missed the mark gives way to a generalized joy in being alive.  Like the risen Christ, I, too, am raised to new life, filled with a joy and hope and a zeal to follow the blueprint to wholeness and holiness God has so graciously provided.

(c) 2015 Debra Cook

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An Offering from Rosemary: Rest For My Soul

April 12, 2015
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“Wonderful, merciful Savior, precious Redeemer and Friend; who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men”.

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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

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An Offering from Eunice: Present

November 4, 2014
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I have no doubt that God is always present. Although I cannot offer scientific proof, I know it from my own life experiences and from the stories like the following one that are often shared with me.

“Just six weeks short of her 100th birthday, Mother died early on a Tuesday morning in June,.  That same day I had reservations to fly to Austin for a few days, then go on to San Antonio to see her.  So I changed my Southwest flight to go directly to San Antonio.  Because of the last minute change, I had a high boarding number and the plane was crowded so I had to take the first seat I came to.  It was an aisle seat next to a lady with her husband.  I noticed she was crying, and he didn’t seem to be comforting her or touching her.  After we took off, I decided to reach out to her although the introvert in me wasn’t at all sure it was the right thing to do.  I took her hand and asked if I could do anything for her.  She said, “My mother died this morning in San Antonio, and I wasn’t with her.”  I replied that my mother had also died that morning, and I wasn’t with her.  We held hands and talked the whole flight about our mothers who both had scoliosis and osteoporosis, and who lived in a lot of pain despite being alert mentally.  Her mother was 93.  As we stood to deplane, I asked her name.  She said it was Ann Black, and I told her mine was Amy White!  I think our mothers were in heaven and asked God to put us together so we could comfort each other.  I still get chill bumps when I tell the story. I firmly believe this was a message from God that our mothers were safe with Him.”

Whether you call this Divine Providence, a God moment, holy synchronicity, or simply, grace, I am sure it is a sign of an ever present and loving God, and a moment on consolation to be celebrated.

Eunice Cheshire

Spiritual Director

HeartPaths Founding Faculty Member

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An Offering from PJ: An Offering of Praise

September 29, 2014
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Psalm 8:9, “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

During the drive to the ranch last evening an incredible cloud formation greeted us.  It looked like two smooth layers of vanilla cream frosting with the upper edge whipped into meringue-like peaks.  In the wide opening between the layers, piles of fluffed-up white clouds glowed with the waning golden orange light of sunset.  I glimpsed God’s creative beauty, and it took my breath away.

In our frenzied world it’s easy to ignore God’s blessed adornments.  We may not intentionally choose blindness to what sits outside windows and doors, but often we’re simply too busy to notice.  Was it necessary for God to create a world teeming with rich color and depth?  He did so anyway.  His creation reflects divine perfection and glory, and you and I know Him better because of it.

Romans 1:19-20a, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made …”

We have much to look forward to when we stand in God’s presence one day.  Consider the beauty of a spring day fresh from gentle rain showers, a smiling child’s rosy cheeks, the radiance brought forth from Rembrandt’s brushstrokes depicting reflected light, or lush green fields filled with coral, crimson, and canary-colored wildflowers.  Imagine these intensified to infinity, and then we can only begin to realize what will be fully known in eternity.

1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

Today step outside and behold God’s marvelous works!

Psalms 145:5, “On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.”

“Dear Lord, allow me to be intently aware of Your beauty and glory reflected in Your creative Hand, and praise You for it.  Thank you, AMEN.”

Admiring the Almighty’s Artwork and Soaking in His Splendor, PJ

COPYRIGHT ©2014 PJ Gover

www.PJGover.com (blog)

http://4homestore.com/devotionalbook.html (PJ’s devotional book)

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An Offering from Donnie: Joy and Hope from the Jordan

September 9, 2014
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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 Kathy: Peace

September 4, 2014
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Throughout the night, I was disturbed by one person’s question spoken angrily earlier that day, “What I want to know is if there is a God, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world!?”  I’d certainly heard that question many times at patient’s bedsides.  Nothing I read or heard brought me closer to living peacefully with it.

 

The next morning, in the silence of prayer, I heard these words which brought me the peace I sought:

“My Children,

There is no answer to this question that will satisfy your souls and, as My followers, the closer you become to Me, the more the evils of the world will grieve you and cause you pain because you begin to see things even more through My eyes.

I did not create the world to be filled with the evils you see and experience.  It was not My will. However, because of the nature of sin in a fallen world, pain and sickness and evil will exist.

A shift in focus is needed if you are to live in peace with this question.  Shift your focus to being a source of light and beauty to the world and know that any evil or sin committed against you, no matter how small or how great, can be brought to Me to be healed.  There is no hurt so deep that cannot be healed by Me.  There is no slight so little that does not deserve My attention.

Yes, there is sin and suffering and evil in the world.  The Good News is that I am greater than the world and I can conquer all of this in each of your lives if you let Me.

I love you all and I want each of you to live in peace, entrusted to My care.  Go forth in the light of My love to be lights to the world.”

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An Offering from Eunice: Creating All Things New

March 31, 2014
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“I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.” Isaiah 65:17
 

For me, there are some of the most hopeful words in Scripture. They are echoed in second Peter, “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth” and in Revelation 21, “then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” I like to think of the “Kingdom coming” as all of humankind each day becoming a little more like the vision Jesus expressed in the Beatitudes.

The hopefulness of “a new heaven and a new earth” seems so much more attractive than the fatalism expressed in some parts of our society today. We hear things like: “Well, I have always been impatient (or short-tempered, moody, etc.), that’s just the way I am.” Or “there have always been wars and there always will be.”   Why do we let fatalism cast such a dark shadow over us?

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Faith is the deep trust that God’s love is stronger than all the anonymous powers of the world and can transform us from victims of darkness into servants of light.”

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I become excited when I think of myself and the world being transformed little by little each day and evolving into the fulfillment of the “new heaven and new earth.”

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in Lent