An Offering from Nancy J: Pure joy.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
            Let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
            Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes

(Psalm 96)

The road to joy is often littered with disappointments.

2013-12-Ice-on-Leaves

(c) Bonnie Oden

We seek the joy of Christmas in our preparation rituals:  hanging garlands, decorating cookies, wrapping presents to please.  We also have felt our spirits fall when people don’t notice how “special” you made it, just for them.  Even when they do notice, the moment passes so quickly.  We have learned the dangers of hanging all our happiness on the reactions we get from the people we love.

This Advent I am watchful for the glory.  It might come as a chorus of angels as I navigate a crowded shopping mall or supermarket.  It may be a whispered reminder as I address Christmas cards.

God with us.  Pure joy.

The moment may be just as fleeting, but the joy abides.

Nancy Jagmin
SMI Board of Directors

An Offering from Elaine: The Greatest Gift

Luke 2:6-7

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

BVM and Jesus

Wow!  Two sentences in scripture tell of the birth of one small child who came to save the world.  God’s greatest gift of love – his son, Jesus the Christ.

Two sentences.  They leave a lot to the imagination.  As I’ve contemplated the story, I see that my friend, Mary, also gave the greatest gift of love to the world that she could possibly have given.  Her “yes,” her cooperation with God, her gift of life, were a testament to her faith and love for God.

Where does your imagination on those two sentences take you?  As one of my pastors often says, “think about it.”

Elaine Weber
Spiritual Director
SMI Technology & Communications Chair

An Offering from Lil: Love is coming

Psalm 89:1

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 
Untitled

(c) Bonnie Oden

 
When I arise in the morning, I take a deep breath and choose love.  
When my feet hit the cold floor, I remember my neighbor who has no floor.
When I put on my glasses, I remember my neighbor who is blind.
When I brew my tea, I remember that we are all connected, steeped in God’s love. 
When I pause at the end of day to give thanks to the One who first loved us and created us, I wonder what the world will be like
when we all choose love.
Love is coming.
 
(c) 2015 Rev. Lil Smith
SMI Seminary Liaison
Spiritual Director and Supervisor

An Offering from Nancy D: Love Does That

This poem from Meister Eckhart causes me to acknowledge some people in my life who have been a kind monk to me.

2009-Rocky-Top-of-Mountain

Love Does That

All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries
about things that bother only
burros.

And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
than physical labor.

Once in a while a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more
than that,

he looks into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears

and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,

because love does
that.
Love frees.
– Meister Eckhart

Nancy Dunkerley
Spiritual Ministries Institute

An Offering from Eunice: Real Love

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

advent-love-candle

Jesus said a lot about love: about the Father’s and his love for us and about our loving others.  So if Christianity is about our learning to love as Jesus loved, then Advent must be about love.  Real love – not just the sentimentality that we feel when we see Nativity scenes or Santa holding baby Jesus.  Real love – the kind that is willing to say nothing in the face of undeserved criticism; the kind that says something kind when others are piling on; the kind that will hold within the tension of what is and what should be without getting impatient and exhibiting anger.  Perhaps this is what Silesius, the German mystic of the 17th century meant when he said: “Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that birth will be of no avail to us unless he is born into our hearts.” 

Eunice Cheshire
Spiritual Director
HeartPaths DFW

An Offering from Nancy J: I wonder…

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)

2003-7-Flathead-Lake

(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?

An Offering from Bonnie: Finding the Gifts in Chronic Disease

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

An Offering from Kathy: Peace

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.”

An Offering from PJ: After Forgiveness, Then What?

Black Angus cattle that call the ranch home make excellent ‘mamas’ to their wee and wobbly young.  They’ll circle their calves for protection, hide them in tall grasses and brush, patiently allow them to nurse, and when they lose sight bellow until a tiny ‘moo’ responds.  It especially breaks my heart when loud and constant ‘cow calls’ fill the air following calf shipment to market.  After a few days the mamas seem to resign themselves to the fact their babies are gone.

While I may be putting too much of a human touch on our grass-loving bovine buddies, close-knit relationships can cause pain.  Whether the source is thoughtless mistakes, harsh words, deliberate betrayal, broken promises, or gradual withdrawal, we often suffer because people are simply fallible humans after all.

We may want to nurture bruised feelings, feed outrage, nourish ill-will, but God has a better way.

“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15

We may drown in sorrow, smother in disappointment, choke on heartbreak, but God calls us to higher conduct.

 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12

One day soon it may be you and I who need godly love, tender compassion, and gentle kindness.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…” Matthew 7:12

Seeking God’s Precious Perspective on Rumpled Relations, PJ

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