Advent Desire: An offering from Lil Smith

Psalm 65:5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
    O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas.

(c) Bonnie Oden

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

We have a false sense of security all around us:

The light comes from a switch.

The food comes from a box.

The water comes from a bottle.

The word comes from an advertisement.

The group leaves people out…on purpose.

We are separated from you.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Free us in waiting to let go of ourselves and to choose you.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Your light is filled with expectancy.

Your food provides growth in gestation.

Your water refreshes with peace

You lead us to joy.

O come, O come, Emmanuel so that we may rejoice with you!!

(c) 2017 Rev. Lil Smith
Spiritual Director and Supervisor
Retreat House Spirituality Center

An offering from Eunice: This is the day the Lord has made!

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!  Psalm 118:24

The light coming from the empty tomb is for me a symbol of new life, the resurrected life, hope and joy. DSCN0771Today I want to forget problems, disappointment and worries – personal and national. I even want to put aside the ongoing “to do’ list and focus on joy. It is easy for me to see what is missing, what is undone instead of seeing my cup is more than half full. And yet as I reflect, I am aware that my real life experience is one that supports trust, positive outlooks and gratitude. Most of the negatives that I’ve seen as possible never happened. So this week I pray to keep my attention on the light of hope and joy.

(c) 2015 Eunice Cheshire

HeartPaths Faculty

Spiritual Director

An offering from Lil: You shall be my people, and I will be your God

Holy Saturday Ezekiel 36:24-28

24 I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28 Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

I hear your promises, O Holy One.

But I do not see them.holy-saturday

The stillness of death brushes my cheek.

The smell of death encircles me.

The taste of death is bitter.

Help me let go those parts of me that need to die.

Prepare my eyes to see the hope of the one who returns the sweetness to the world.

Prepare my ears to hear the timpani of new life.

Prepare my broken heart to be flooded with joy as the stone falls away.

I can wait, one more day.

For the promise of You gives me strength.

 

(c) 2015 The Rev. Lil Smith

An offering from Therese: As He has loved us…

John 13:34-35 (Contemporary English Version)

“… I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

 

Whenever I read the scripture above and apply it to my life, I shake my head in amazement. On the nightSimon_ushakov_last_supper_1685 before his execution, Jesus commands us to love one another as he has loved us. Are you kidding me??? How in the world can we love other people as fully and as unconditionally and as generously as Jesus loves? It seems like an impossible task. Not only that – he says that it is his command to us, not his suggestion or wish or hope for us. He commands us. I am daunted by this assignment and feel completely ill-equipped. The standard that he sets seems too high for me to ever reach. I am so intimidated that my impulse is to give up without even trying. (Probably not the response Jesus has in mind for me…)

As I continue to sit with this scripture, however, I hear Jesus’ gentle reminder that his capacity to love came from a lifetime surrendered to his Abba, living as the pure expression of divine love that was the hallmark of his ministry. The standard that he sets for me in the above scripture is not to love others perfectly, but rather to love others as fully as I am able to do in the midst of my own imperfect life. And also to be willing to allow Jesus’ perfect love to flow through me when I know that my own love is not enough.

Jesus commands us to keep choosing love, no matter what. And to allow that loving to continually transform us into his likeness, choice by choice. That I can do.

(c) 2015 Therese Adamiec

An offering from Beverly: Who does He say He is?

Mark 11:1-11

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the highest!”jesus-mafa-palm-sunday

Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilled the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. “Hosanna” means to save now. But, save from what? His disciples, His followers, the Pharisees, the bystanders who had come to Jerusalem for Passover…all had different ideas of who Jesus really was. Many expected Him to be their new king, to save them from Roman rule and bring peace.  Most Pharisees saw Him as rule breaker and disrupter. Peter called Him Messiah. Many knew Him as Healer, who set them free from bondage and disease, and many witnessed His miracles.

Still, all had limited understanding of Jesus, yet in less than a week He would be crucified. His resurrection revealed the whole truth to many. With Scripture, we see more clearly the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Yet, do we?  Who is Jesus to you and me, in the deepest places of our heart? Who does He say He is?

(c) 2015 Beverly Middleton

An offering from Deborah: The root supports you…

You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  Romans 11:18bdeborah blog graphic 3.28.15
I love re-reading scripture because fresh truths appear, sometimes slowly upon reflection, sometimes glaringly fast; sometimes even a little of both, as happened with this short snippet from a passage in Romans.  It is easily scanned and easily agreed with…why yes, God does support me!  But the phrase beforehand clearly states that I do not support God.  What?  So I paused…and pondered.  Was there an example?  I was about to visit a friend who was recovering from surgery.  In this instance, am I supporting God?  Not so much.  The truth was, God didn’t need me…I needed Him.  Humbly, I realized that I hadn’t even invited God to bless the visit, something I rectified once I arrived at the hospital.  Walking down the sterile halls after a lovely time with my friend,  I was thankful that welcoming God into our moments is as close as a realization and a prayer.

(c) 2015 Deborah Bouis

An offering from Debra: Prayer in time of distress

Psalm 102:1

“The prayer of one afflicted and wasting away whose anguish is poured out before the Lord.”Image 1
I groaned when I read this first verse of Psalm 102.  Cancer has a tendency to make one terrified of phrases like “afflicted” and “wasting away.”  Someone I love very much is battling cancer, and while there is always hope, underneath us both is an underlying dread that this isn’t going to end well.  So far, through God’s grace, our fears have been manageable.  So we soldier on, trying to live each day like there isn’t the spectre of death hanging over our heads.
The psalmist calls out to the Lord in verses 2 and 3, “Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry come to you.  Do not hide your face from me now that I am in distress.”  I give thanks that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I am God’s beloved, and that this God who loves us both is at our sides always, regardless of how this ends.

(c) 2015 Debra Cook

An offering from Regina: The God of Hope

Psalm 51:5-6 (from The Message)

“I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since I was born. What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.”river sunrise

In these days of reflection and prayer, I am conscious of my shortcomings – of how easily I can settle into merely going through the motions rather than being fully present with family, friends, work, and most important, with God. The days of life flow by and I’m swept up into its current. When I go to God in silence and listen attentively I am deeply aware that this is a time to correct the course, to give myself more fully to the One who at the dawning of each moment gently and lovingly offers me a fresh start, a time to grow closer and be more fully who I am created to be.

Only the God of Hope can see it all, the world and my own small part in it, and still offer unwavering patience, undeserved grace and love without end that encourages me to try again in every moment. It is the ultimate “do-over.” Thanks be to God. Amen.

©2015 Regina Strader Hunt

An offering from Evelyn: Living by Faith

Living by faith has become a way of life. Living by faith allows me to see God as I “read between the lines” of my circumstances. Faith reveals where God is in all situations both good and difficult ones.

(c) Bonni Oden

(c) Bonni Oden

Finding God no matter what I am faced with gives me hope. Experience has taught me that hope does not depend on the outcome but on trusting God. Understanding hope this way has increased my trust in God. Is it easy? No, because I am human. Internal resistance and struggle kick in. It’s a control issue-me or God. So faithful living is an ongoing process.

My faith anchors me to God’s eternal power and divine nature. When I fall short of righteousness and faithful living, God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness frees me to move forward into faithful living with hope and increased trust.

Romans 1:17b “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

Evelyn Pope

© 2015

 

An offering from Donnie: New Hope of Dignity

 

New Hope of Dignity

John 9:1-17

In this Gospel reading from John, Jesus reached out specifically to the blind beggar. His actions show us that all are worthy of dignity no matter whom he/she may be.

Like many of the people who didn’t understand Jesus’ actions and refused to see, I, too, can stay in my blindness. It is safe to be with others who are similar to me, who look the same, think the same and disapprove of the same people and things.BVM and Jesus

I remember when I was a young elementary school teacher, I had a little girl in class who was physically and mentally disabled; her disability caused her to look and act very differently from the other children. I’m embarrassed to say that I was reluctant to do more than the bare minimum for this little one. Luckily for all of us in that third grade class there was a boy who recognized the dignity of the disabled girl and was very attentive to her, sat with her at lunch and played with her at recess and came to me with sweet stories about her.

I now see God’s hand in all of what happened that year. Not only I, but many of the children in class viewed her differently and made the effort to see her as one of God’s special children. I am so thankful for that wonderful opportunity to overcome my own blindness and see that I was being offered new eyes of faith in how I view others.

 

You are my lamp, O Lord!

O my God, You brighten the darkness about me.

-2 Samuel 22:29

(c) 2015 Donnie Hawley