An offering from Lil: Hope that we choose real life

 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

An offering from Deanna: Live giving water of balance

This summer our family will go to Lake Tahoe for the first time. Lakes normally have been a place of relaxation and renewal. But because of the droughts – both here in Texas and in California – lakes are no longer a source of comfort but a reason for concern.

(c) Bonnie Oden

(c) Bonnie Oden

 

My parents have a place on Lake Bridgeport and for the past several years the water level has been so low that my dad’s sailboat has sat abandoned at the dock as there is no water to get it out of its slip so it has sat on the dry sandy ground that was once a part of the lake. This has all changed in the last month as the drought in Texas has finally ended and this May was the wettest on record. Lake Bridgeport has ben restored to her normal water level but my family won’t be enjoying the return of the water because with all that rain came storms and my parents condo was destroyed by a tornado that was part of the system that brought the water to the lake.

 

Water – without it, there is no life. With too much of it – life is destroyed.

 

This reflects the spiritual journey. Not enough and we are left feeling thirsty with our meaningless lives and lost wondering existence. Too much and we lose touch with reality living in a fantasy world divorced of real people and real experiences. The practice is to find balance – that place where our thirst is quenched and we have enough to make it until the next rain. As moments in life take us from drought to flood, may we find our own level as we seek the life giving water of balance.

(c) 2015 Deanna Hollas

An offering from Nancy: I have touched him with my own hands.

. . . I have touched him with my own hands.

1 John 1:1image001

John writes from the perspective of having known the Christ in the flesh.  His powerful, straightforward witness makes our faith seem tangible.  He inspires my most exultant Easter joy with confidence.

Yet I know that John’s witness doesn’t explain my experience of faith.  I have tried to reclaim the moment when I first believed, and it eludes me.  Yet I know it’s not so much that I have touched Him as it is that He has touched me, and I can recapture that moment, just by listening.  When I push aside the clutter in my mind, I know His guiding touch, His restraining touch, His encouraging touch.  When I am truly present, I feel God moving in my life.

As I reflect on the miracle of His resurrection, my heart is full with joy at the knowledge that God reached down to touch me.

(c) 2015 Nancy Jagmin

An Offering from PJ: An Offering of Praise

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)

An Offering from Donnie: Joy and Hope from the Jordan

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.

An Offering from Eunice: Random Acts of Kindness Hit Home!

My husband and I look forward to a Friday evening newscast that ends weekly with an uplifting story. This past week we were moved once again by a story about Chris Rosati, the husband and father in Durham, North Carolina who has suffered with ALS for three years.  You might remember him as the guy who last December “stole” (with their permission) a Krispi Kreme donut truck and gave away a thousand donuts – many to kids in local hospitals.   In May he rolled out the BIGG project (Big Ideas for the Greater Good); he challenged kids to come up with creative and fun random acts of kindness and send him the ideas.  Of the 70 submitted, his non-profit selected those that would make the best viral video to be filmed.  The Friday news story was prompted by the August 3 Red Carpet premier of BIGG, the collection of those videos.  We love stories like these that make us so much more aware of the goodness and generosity of people that is often overlooked because of the plethora of bad news.

The morning after the news story of the BIGG premier, we went to Tony’s, a neighborhood café, for breakfast.  We had just finished and were asking a waitress for our check when our friend and co-owner, Lina came to the table to say that our breakfast had been paid for by a young man who had been seated in the booth behind us.  We were amazed and touched – tears filled our eyes as they had the previous night.  But this time we’d been the recipients of a random act of kindness by someone we didn’t even notice!   She told us that it happens often in their café – people are kinder and more generous than we think.  Lina asked us to pray for Pedro, our young benefactor, who is recovering from back surgery.  And we ask you to join us in praying for Pedro’s healing.  And while we’re at it, let’s pray for more acts of random kindness that lift spirits and spread such joy.

“Small acts of friendliness can create much joy.  ….  But how little do we use this knowledge?”  Henri Nouwen.

Or as my great aunt always said, “It’s nice to be nice.”

Or as St. Paul writes: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22.

 

Eunice Cheshire

Spiritual Director

HeartPaths Founding Faculty

August 2014

An Offering from PJ: God’s Battle Plans

Ukraine Jets Strike Rebels,” “Gaza Fired Approximately 690 Rockets and Mortars into Israel,” and “Israeli Air Strikes Pounded More Targets in Gaza” offer three recent headlines.  Present day battles abound, and we shudder at the horror as chaos and calamity claim more lives.

But humans have always dealt with tragedy and terror, and every day we face our own.  We’re weary, confused and wonder, “What’s happening to me?”  “How can I get through this?”  “Will I ever be whole again?”  Remember, dear Christian, God is not in the ‘abandonment business,’ but in the ‘abiding business.’  He stays with you …

Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

… forever.  Matthew 28:20b, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

He’s with you in every battle … 2 Chronicles 32:7-8a, “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed … for the one with us is greater than the one with him.  With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”

… so give all struggles to God.  2 Chronicles 20:15, “and he said, “Listen … thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

After all, what power do others really possess over you?  Psalm 56:4, “In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”

Remember, your battle just may be a spiritual one.

Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Trusting All of God’s Battle Plans for My Life, PJ

COPYRIGHT ©2014 PJ Gover

www.PJGover.com

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

 

An Offering from Evelyn: Dancing with Sunlight and Shadows

Sunlight and shadows dance on the deck.They are formed by wind-blown branches on the large oak tree. It is a cool, windy May day.  My feelings alternate between the sunlight and the shadows.  I want to live in the sun and not deal with the shadows, but life gives me both.  Why do I resist letting go of my fear of the shadows, limitations, disappointment? Walking through the shadow, allows me to embrace it and integrate it into my live.  Integration neutralizes the fear and the power to control my life.  It’s taken a lifetime for me to recognize this process and work through it over and over again.  It’s not an easy process, but it is well worth the time and effort.  I call it dancing with the shadows into the sunlight.

Prayer and scripture are the foundation to moving through the shadows into the sunlight.  Prayer takes many forms.  Sometimes it is deep, centering prayer.  Other times prayer is writing, drawing, walking, yoga, talking to a friend, or being alone.  The scripture that has held my attention today is Lamentations 3:22 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning great is your faithfulness.”

 

IMG_1802

Dancing with the shadows,

Evelyn

Holy Week Reflections: John

He is Risen!

 

John 20:12-18

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Holy Week Reflections: Matthew

This week we are posting Scripture for you to reflect on and pray with.

Matthew 27:11-61

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus[b] Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[d]

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.