An Offering from Debra: A Clean Heart

March 25, 2014
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   “Create in me, a clean heart, O Lord!”

 I sang the line with gusto at our Ash Wednesday mass (too much gusto, my daughter would say) and prayed it with sincerity.  And then I thought, what exactly does that mean?  Am I to scrub my heart clean, and if so, how?  Is a clean heart akin to a “pure” heart, which Jesus suggested, in the Beatitudes, was a prerequisite for those who see God?

    I’d been reading Prayers of the Cosmos by Neil Douglas-Klotz.  In it he recovers Jesus’ original language, Aramaic, a language so rich in interpretation I can’t help but think we’ve been missing out.  

    Here are a couple of possible translations of the Aramaic that have certainly broadened my understanding of “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God”:

 

    “Aligned with the One are those whose lives radiate from a core of love; they shall

    see God everywhere,”

and

    “Resisting corruption are those whose natural reaction is sympathy and friendship;  

    they shall be illuminated by a flash of lightning:  the Source of the soul’s movement

    in all creatures.”

 

  Love – Sympathy – Friendship.   Now, those are words my “heart” can grasp and move toward making its own!


“Create in me, O Holy One, a loving, sympathetic and friendly heart.  Then I will see You everywhere.”

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An Offering from Lori: Thank you for loving me

January 20, 2014
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“Thank you for loving me, Lord.”  I have used that phrase multiple times in the past few years.  It’s funny how those words can change both my awareness and my feelings.  Lots of people are talking about gratitude these days, claiming it can change your life and make you feel good.  But it somehow seemed “wrong” to me to tell God I was grateful if I felt sad or disappointed about a situation.  Being honest with God is very important to me.  I can remember sitting and wondering what I could be grateful for at one point, when life seemed to be not what I wanted.  And what I came up with was that I was grateful that God was with me and that God loved me.

Being grateful that God loves you sounds pretty simplistic—most people know that God loves them, right?  But something happens to me when I say those words.  I actually feel grateful, no matter what else is going on.  I am reminded that I am not alone, and that no matter what state my life seems to be in, God still loves me.  The big God who created the universe and can do anything still loves me.  Me, just as I am; weird, scared, confused, disappointed, frustrated, lonely, tired, whatever.  Even when other people don’t understand me or approve of me or include me or care about me, God gets it.  Gets me.  And loves me.  And nothing can top that.  Nothing can take it away, either.  Sometimes I just sit in the middle of that love and weep.  It’s that powerful.

The sculpture was created by Lori (Hoxie) Justice
The sculpture was created by Lori (Hoxie) Justice

So, a few words remind me of the truth, and the truth enables me to live freely in God’s love.  Pretty simple, yet very powerful.  His love is amazing.

Lori (Hoxie) Justice: sculptor, painter, graphic artist; HeartPaths graduate 2012; married Jay Justice on December 28, 2013

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An Offering from Diana: Lessons from the Real St. Nicholas

December 6, 2013
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December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas, a 4th century bishop in the Roman province of Lycia.  In America, we have come to know him as Santa Claus.  Richard John Neuhaus, in his Advent meditation in the book, God With Us, tells us more about the real St. Nicholas.  According to tradition, he was a holy and compassionate man, who used the generous inheritance he had received from his parents to help those in need.  One legend tells of his generosity to a family who was destitute. He tossed three bags of gold into an open window (or down the chimney in some versions), thereby helping them out of poverty.

St. Nicholas

Jesus came to deliver us from our spiritual poverty by giving us the most wonderful gift of eternal and abundant life.  As we celebrate his birth this year,  let us pray that we will have the eyes to see and the ears to hear where we can be like St. Nicholas to those in our communities and in our own families.

As I John 4:9 & 11 tell us, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. Dear friends, since God loved us that much we surely ought to love each other.”

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An Offering from Lee: Love

December 4, 2013
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There are times in our lives when things get real. I mean, what really matters suddenly becomes crystal clear. We have all had these moments of clarity. Sometimes from times of beauty or joy. Like seeing a glacier calve or when a child is born. Sometimes from times of deep sorrow or fear of losing a loved one or our own lives.  When these moments happen Truth sometimes shines through the darkness and right into our souls. We know God is with us. We know we are loved by a love that is greater than we will ever understand. We know that  love is what really matters. Loving God, loving friends and loving our family. All the rest of the dross falls away and no longer hides the sparkling diamond of love. It is stronger, more enduring, more powerful, more beautiful than any of Gods other gifts…wait I seem to remember God’s word actually saying this even better…  NIV1 Corinthians 4-8 a

 

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

 

Yeah, that’s the one!

 

Thank you God for the gift of love!

 

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An Offering from Donnie: Grateful for Good News

November 25, 2013
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How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who…

brings good news.

   Isaiah 5:7

Forty some years ago I was a young woman ready to start a family, to become the mother I’d always dreamed about. But as happens, no babies were given and so I used my nurturing skills in the classroom, loving the third graders as well as little stray animals that always managed to find me.

But soon that was not enough, being a mother was what I wanted most in my life.  I wanted to feel the tender softness of a baby, to change diapers and fix bottles. A friend of ours had recently adopted a baby, so my husband and I began to talk about adoption.  Finally we built up the courage to make an appointment with Catholic Charities.  About nine months later,‘ the messenger brought the good news’ that our prayer to become a family had been answered and we were presented with a beautiful baby girl only 7 days old.  We were ecstatic and settled into changing our lifestyle to accommodate this new little person in our lives.

As often happens, ‘the messenger’ had not finished His work, and a few years later, I found myself pregnant and we began to look forward to adding another little person to our family.  Our second daughter was born and we were now a family of four, rejoicing and dealing with all that two little girls bring to your heart.  We loved telling each girl about how they came to be a part of our family; how Catholic Charities with God’s help found just the right baby for us and how God in His wisdom gave us another ‘just right’ baby.

When our oldest daughter was in her twenties, she decided, with our support and assistance, to try to find her birth mother.  Again, Catholic Charities was contacted and with their help and the help ‘of the messenger’, the birth mother was found.  She was also looking for the daughter she wasn’t able to keep.  A meeting of our daughter and her birth mother was arranged.  At the same time a meeting of all family members (numbering 13) took place.  Our little family was expanding by leaps and bounds and we were all filled with joy.

A loving friendship developed between our daughter and her birth mother, one that we could not be happier about.  Over the years we’ve been reminded about how blessed we have been to be the recipients of the ‘good news of the messenger of God’ giving us the experience of adopting a child and giving birth to a child, a blessing for which we are eternally grateful.

Divine Messenger,

I will carry the glad tidings

Of your abundant and abiding love

To all I meet and greet today.

Joyce Rupp

 

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An Offering from Nancy: Good News

September 3, 2013
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Repent, and believe the good news…

So, this morning I was wondering just what is this “good news” that seems to be so important for Jesus? I know it has something to do with loving, being loved, being lovable… but it’s really hard to think that this “good news” is present when I think of the images I saw on last night’s “News Report.” The news being sent into my home was about deaths of so many innocent ones in Syria and elsewhere, fires that rob people of homes, young people killing each other, pending dangers of all kinds. Sure is a lot of not-loving going on! So, where is this good news that is supposed to trump everything?

No wonder he says it takes “repentance” to be able to believe it. Heck, I need repentance– turning aside, changing, some kind of being sorry that any of us cling to the bad news, trying a new way of thinking—just to even begin to believe there is enough good news to offset the bad news.

KerensCem

Then I got an email about a death. Someone I care about had lost a family member with whom he had had a “less-than-perfect” relationship. How to feel about such a death? Strangely, it was good news. Yes, the grief is already complicated, but because my friend has a God-relationship, this death will mix a lot of good news into the whole experience. And, in the end, after a bit of prayer and waiting and noticing as much as he can, my friend will believe the good news at even more levels than he does now.

And that helps me to believe.

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Nothing

May 29, 2013
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Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On the ranch, when calves get up to 500 pounds or so, they’re taken from their mamas and hauled to market. Such is the nature of the cattle industry and most go to start other herds, but the mamas don’t know that. In fact, for a few days one hears their constant bellowing, and what a mournful sound it is. Normally, this is their personal signal for their wee calf to scurry back to safety and security.

But, unlike the forced separation of cow and calf, the Apostle Paul told us that nothing will ever separate the believer from the love of God found in Jesus. He personally calls out to each of us. Consider the words Paul used to encourage the Roman Christians, as he described the extent of God’s love.

Death – Though the physical passes away, nothing diminishes God’s love.

Life – Now and throughout eternity, nothing demolishes God’s love.

Angels/principalities – In the spiritual realm, nothing drains God’s love.

Present – During this very day, nothing defeats God’s love.

Things to come – No future event destroys God’s Love.

Power – No political, military or societal force dilutes God’s love.

Height, depth – Nothing in the physical world devours God’s love.

No created thing – Nothing that comes into being dashes God’s love.

 

In what ways will you demonstrate God’s love today?

 

Loving and Living God’s Love,

PJ

COPYRIGHT ©2012 PJ Gover

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A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

February 13, 2013
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Loving God, today begins a season of inner reflection and examination.

Forty days stretch before me and invite me inward to that silent, holy space that holds your Spirit. This special time beckons me to see my life through Christ’s eyes and the truth and reality of your love incarnate.

Grant me the grace to enter the space of these days with anticipation of our meeting.

And, when I open my soul to your presence, let your loving kindness rush over me and seep into the hidden spaces of  my heart.

Amen.

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A Christmas Offering from Lee: Surrendering Is Not an Easy Thing to Do

December 26, 2012
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Luke 2:1-20

1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

angel announcesIt seems like angels in the Bible can be pretty hard to deal with a lot of the time.  So why is it we are always wanting to see one? In the Bible angels are not sweet and cute and certainly not cuddly.  Angels come as messengers of God!  That is big time!  In fact that is big time enough that the Angels first statement is, “Be not afraid.”

For me personally, when I am face to face with a messenger from God, I can assure you that I am very afraid.  The fact this angel is trying to reassure me is not likely to have a whole lot of effect on how I feel in the presence of the angel.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate how the angel would be concerned about my best interest and give me CPR if needed.

The angels seem fairly positive in today’s scripture.  They show up, and the shepherds grovel appropriately.  And the angels make some pretty amazing and huge announcements directing the shepherds to go see for themselves.  So after the angels leave, the shepherds make haste to go and see for themselves.

Ever wondered what they talked about on that walk?  Bet it was some way out guessing and interpreting and comparing about what they had seen and heard!  Anyway, they make it to the manger, and praise God, and tell their story…to whom exactly?

We know Mary was one of the people the shepherds told.  W know she pondered it.  Wonder what that means exactly? I bet it was reassuring to hear others having God experiences regarding her baby boy. After all, she had given her life over to her experiences with God and this baby.  Hmmm…so maybe the angels are sent to them to help them to do just that, turn their lives over to God and Jesus.  Each to what amount they are able to surrender.  Surrendering is not an easy thing to do.   So maybe the angels are big and awesome to help them do that!  I think it would be helpful to me! How about you?  Do you need some big kind of scary angels to help you do the things God wants you to do?  Some tasks need more “encouragement” than others I bet!

I believe angels still visit us to help move and encourage to do what God desires of us.  What moves and encourages you to follow Jesus the most, maybe that is one of your angels!

Merry Christmas,

Lee

Rev. E. Lee Self
Rev. E. Lee Self
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An Advent Offering from Nancy: Imagining an Interview with Joseph

December 24, 2012
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DSCN1134Matthew 1:18-25… an imaginative retelling

 

I found Joseph still in Nazareth, taking a rest among his projects. His assistants were off on break, so we had time to talk. My publisher was very interested in Joseph’s son who was rumored to be risen from death, and my assignment was to find out whether there was anything of interest about his beginnings.

 

Interviewer: Joseph, thank you for letting me come see you about your son, Jesus. It seems everyone in the country is suddenly interested in everything they can find out about him. Until now you haven’t said much about his beginning. What can you add to the stories they already have heard?

 

Joseph: Well, his story makes even more sense to me when I remember how it all started. Our families had already arranged for Mary and me to be married. We’d had a nice betrothal ceremony and our families and friends were all abuzz about what we’d be like as a married couple. But she was still in her father’s house, and, though some of our peers were okay with sex before the actual wedding, we were still virgins.

 

Interviewer: So you hadn’t had sex yet?

 

Joseph: Well, I knew I hadn’t! But then word got back to me that she was pregnant! Some of the women found out and they gossiped about it till one of my friends told me. I was pretty upset. I felt betrayed and confused and ashamed and angry that she would have an affair when we were already betrothed. I thought I knew her better than that! And then what would this do to my business? My livelihood depends on having a good name in my community!

 

Interviewer: So what did you do?

 

Joseph: it took a while, but I arranged to have some time alone with her and I confronted her with what I’d heard. She was pretty tearful, but she admitted it was true. She was pregnant. I was devastated at first, but then she begged me to hear her out, so I did. She said she was pregnant by some mysterious power of God, by some incredible holy spirit.

He paused when he remembered that conversation.

You know, I really liked her back then. I’ve grown to love her more and more over the years, and she has become increasingly precious to me. But in those days we were so young and in a lot of ways not yet aware of God’s ways.

 

Interviewer: What do you mean, you weren’t aware of God’s ways?

 

Joseph: Well, I was trying really had to be a righteous man, to be upright and fair in all the ways of my faith. I obey Torah, and I keep Sabbath.  I knew I had a cultural right to have her punished, but I didn’t want to make her suffer that way. I decided I would just tell everyone I’d decided to call our marriage off. That way her family could help her with this pregnancy and they could decide what to do with the child. So, I left and went home.

He paused, leaned forward a bit, and his tone became more intense.

But, see, then I had a dream, one of those really life-changing kind of dreams. I still feel something when I remember that dream. It was awesome!

I don’t know how you feel about dreams, but I’m named for my ancestor, Joseph, and I’ve always heard stories about how the one true God came through to him in dreams way back when a lot of our people were still just getting used to understanding they had been chosen for something special in the world. That Joseph was always a hero to me, and my family always spoke of him with great pride.

So, when I had this dream, I just couldn’t ignore it. It was as if my ancestor was right there saying I should pay attention and do what it told me to do.

 

Interviewer: So, what was the dream about? What was so special about this dream?

 

Joseph: In the dream, I’m alone in my house and this unbelievably bright light appears in the room with me. I can’t quite see what the shape is, but I have a sense it is like a person, more like an angel. And then I hear it speak to me. It knows who I am. It calls me by name.

His voice deepened.

“Son of David, Joseph, don’t be afraid.” Then this voice tells me that Mary was telling the truth, that the child growing inside her is really from a holy spirit. And it tells me I am to name him.

 

Interviewer: And in our law, that would make him legally yours! Our law states, “If a man says, ‘this is my son,’ then he is so attested.”

 

Joseph: Exactly! Even in the dream I knew that God was asking me to say yes to this child the same way Mary said she had said yes to an angel that came to her! When she’d told me that story it seemed so fantastic that I was sort of concerned about her mental state. I thought she was making it all up to cover up her own mistake. After all, remember she was pretty young and naïve then.

He looked at me intently.

But, see, the dream changed all that for me! When I woke up I knew I had a choice to make. The situation was pretty much a mess, it seemed a scandal that could have ruined a lot of us, but the dream was saying God was involved… What can I say? I didn’t really have any proof except that dream and the promises of my ancestors before me that God is trustworthy!

 

Interviewer: Remarkable! What has it been like for you since that day?

 

Joseph: Hmmm. Well, for one thing, I realized later that there was a promise fulfilled, that one about a virgin conceiving a child who would be called “God with us,” Emmanuel.

He grinned now.

But I want to tell you, none of us in the family called him that when he was growing up! People might call him that someday, but we weren’t about to have him get some big head about being any different from any other little boy. We loved him way too much for that!

 

Interviewer: Anything else?

 

He leaned back a little and closed his eyes a moment as if to reflect on his own story.

 

Joseph: Well, people don’t come around asking about this very much. You’re one of the few who have ever asked me what it all meant to me. But I’ve lived long enough now to think that there are lots of times in life when the situation seems out of control, times when we might just sort of sweep things under the rug… You know what I mean? Like when you lose a job or someone you love dies or your kids let you down or any number of personal troubles, not to mention all the bad news that everyone says is a sign of doom. There is so much bad news all around us. These are times when I know its pretty hard to believe that a good God in fact is in the midst of the mess.

 

And I do not know the how. There is no formula to make any of us believe the impossible. But I can tell you that when that day I let myself believe, when I claimed the scandal, and gave it my name…then I found the dream was true and God was born in the very midst of it all.

 

I left him there with his reflections, and I began to have a few of my own. I won’t forget this man who is a lot like me, but who is also a witness to me. He reminded me that the impossible good news can happen. It does happen. I hope I can be like Joseph and  believe the unlikely proclamation of an angel, find that God is with us. And holy is his name.

Peace,

Nancy

Nancy Dunkerley

 

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