Finding good in ALL things – An offering from Verlene Springer

Isaiah 49:8-9

“Come out,” to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”

We live in a mixed reality.  Perfect people or perfect institutions don’t exist. Expecting perfectionism, in ourselves or others, may leave us resentful, judgmental, or dissatisfied. Jesus’ life was an example of non-judgmental inclusion. Paradoxically, the only people He seemed to exclude were those who judged and excluded others.  Our task may include a patient attempt to find the true, the good, and the beautiful part that exists in all, even the most problematic people or institutions…even ourselves.

(c) 2018 Verlene Springer

Grace falls like seed – An offering from Shawn Ashmore

Mark 4:3-9 (NRSV)

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

 

Grace falls like seed,
Scattered across terrain—

Some on wide roads,
Some between piles of gravel,
Some amongst thistle and thorn,
Some under sun-scorched beams,
Some with little to sprout,
And some in fertile earth.

How easy it is to be deceived,

More preoccupied about the quality of ground
Than the generous hands that cast life,
Drawing from a seed bag that never runs empty.

(c) 2018 Shawn Ashmore

Grace in Our Failing – An offering from Diane Pennington

Psalm 51: 1-4 NRSV

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.

In our current cultural and political climate, we can barely determine truth, let alone justice. It is both a comfort and a horror to know that God sees through our public exterior to the truth of our hearts.  I am both grateful for and terrified of this fact, depending on the state of my heart and mind any given day, hour or moment.
It’s interesting to note that David wrote this psalm after he had been with Bathsheba and was wracked with guilt over his transgression. He says, “Against you, and you ALONE have I sinned, and done what is evil in his sight”… He doesn’t factor in any other relationship or consequence than his relationship to the Almighty. He knows he is SEEN and that there is no fooling God. What a gift that forces us to see ourselves then with such clarity and authenticity, humility and vulnerability.
How hard is it for us to speak to God when we know how completely we have failed in loving, in our thinking and behavior?
How glorious that, because the Lord desires relationship with US, he invites us to be in his presence and see ourselves.  Not just in the light of guilt or failing, but awash in the knowledge of his love, his fairness and above all his mercy. In the presence of His great grace, how can be help but be humble, grateful and to then extend His mercy to others?
Jesus, merciful Savior, thank you for your grace and love that goes far ahead of your justice. We are not worthy, but we are deeply grateful. AMEN
(c) 2018 Diane Pennington

An offering from Amy: From the desert to the garden

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I am he…for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my name.”

John 18: 4-6a, 37

As my Lenten season jumps from the desert to the garden, Jesus’ boldness in declaring, “I am he,” piercesImage my soul. In this very moment, when he could run away in fear and self-preservation, he knew who and what he was about. In the desert he wrestled with and discovered his unity with God, reconciling his testimony to the truth with the mission that was expected of him by those who did not yet understand the presence of the kingdom of God. From the desert to the garden, when the moment of choice came, he couldn’t not be who God called him to be.

How often do I run away from declaring, “I am she” who loves the Lord, for the sake of my self-preservation? How often do I choose to protect my life of pride, my possessions, over living in unity with mercy and truth?

Let my selfish ambitions die that the full awareness of God’s love may flow throughout my life so that I can’t not declare, “I am she.” One day at a time.

(c) 2015 Amy Moore

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 Diana: An Anointing of Love

John 12: 1-11

We are now entering the week commemorating the most significant event in world history: Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus had tried in so many ways to tell people who he was, plainly and in metaphor, yet not even his closest disciples had understood. In these verses we find someone who did understand. Mary, in an act of bold, extravagant worship, anointed the feet of Jesus with a perfume of the essence of spikenard, worth 300 denari, nearly a year’s wages. It was not only worship, but also an act of great love for Jesus, as in humility she bowed to anoint his feet and wipe them with her hair.Marys_Anointing_of_Jesus

Mary’s act was such a contrast to that of Judas in this scene. Greedy Judas, always thinking of money and power, who would soon betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Mary will always be remembered for her act of love and Judas for his act of pure greed. The eyes of Judas were always on the world, but Mary kept her eyes on Jesus, often sitting at his feet.

It is also interesting to note that the text tells us that the fragrance of the perfume filled the house. Money and power and striving are not how we truly make a difference in the world. Lasting influence comes through love, the kind that is found in Jesus and through Jesus, a love that we find here in Mary’s beautiful gesture.

(c) 2015 Diana Beaudry

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