You were bought with a price – An offering from Rev. Lil Smith

21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.[a] 22 For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. 24 In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters,[b] there remain with God.  1 Corinthians 7:21-24

I visited the Holy Land this time last year, and now, I  often envision Paul by the sea…in prison…at Caesarea.  What strikes me is that Paul is in chains.  Yet, Paul’s letters don’t sound like Paul is in chains.  Paul has freedom despite the chains.  Despite the chains, Paul is free.

Friends, this is the true freedom that is the gift of God.  It is not the false freedom the world wants to possess. True freedom, despite our circumstance in the world, allows us to take a deep breath and choose to follow the One who creates, the One who redeems, and the One who encourages.

Holy God, may we embrace this precious freedom that comes at such a price.  Send us the gift of your freedom and Holy Peace that sets us free…even when we live in the chains of the world.

(c) 2018 Rev. Lil Smith
Spiritual Director and Supervisor
Retreat House Spirituality Center

An offering from Lil: With all my heart…

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  – Mark 12:28-31

Love first. Because I was first loved.

(c) Bonnie Oden

(c) Bonnie Oden

Love God.  Because God first loved me.

Love with my heart.  Because my heart is God.

Love with  my soul.  Because my soul is Spirit.

Love with my mind.  Because I choose the mind of Christ.

Love my neighbor.  Because I am one with my neighbor.

Love yesterday.  Love today.  Love tomorrow.

And the greatest of these is love.

(c) 2015 Rev. Lil Smith

An offering from Donnie: God Has Chosen Me

He is risen and has given me himself as the example upon which my ministry is to be lived out. This was first shown to me in the Father’s relationship to Jesus and by extension,

2005-7-Bee-Balm-with-Orange-Butterfly4Jesus’ relationship to me. The heart of that relationship consists of reaching out in love and concern for all. This happens in and through the intimacy I am called to by Jesus: “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15)

That is pretty heady stuff—intimacy with Jesus–but if I am ever to go out and be of service to others, that intimacy has to be cultivated and not by myself, that is the Lord’s work, accomplished in and through the power of the Spirit. So with his Resurrection, I am given my walking papers—go and reach out to others in love and concern. Alleluia!

(c) 2015 Donnie Hawley

An offering from Brian: Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

He is risen, indeed!jesus mafa stone rolled away

‘Christ is risen’ is a spiritual truth in my life, not because of any archaeological proof from a tomb in ancient Israel, but because when life seems to cave in, Christ’s light leads the way to new life!  I often wish that the path to new life did not have to include the way of sorrow or suffering, but it seems that it does.  The cross of death and the empty tomb of new life go together.  A seed has to die and fall in the ground, Jesus says.  All I can say is that whenever it feels like I am at the end, God makes a way. So I am a walking witness that Christ is risen; he is risen, indeed!

I invite you to pray over Matthew 28:1-7 today.

(c) 2015 The Rev. Brian Hardesty-Crouch

Director, HeartPaths DFW

An Offering from Eunice: Wounded Healers

Many of the headlines I read each day and hear on the evening news seem to repeat history. Someone, some group, some country is offended or taken advantage of, they attack and the violence continues. The stories that appeal to me are almost always ones that tell of people who in spite of hardship are accomplishing great good.

In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, we read that “The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. rocks Then Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?’” Jesus had the truly “amazing grace” to accept suffering and persecution without passing it on. He transformed his pain into the love of good works and he challenged us to do the same.

For me the message of Lent and of the passion of Jesus is well-expressed by Richard Rohr, OFM, who says “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”

My experience is that none of us gets all our needs met, and our human need for affection, acceptance, approval and appreciation is never filled. And few if any of us make it through life without the pain of disappointment, betrayal, injustice, or discrimination. We feel slighted or disrespected and we want to lash out. Can we turn to God to make these wounds into sacred wounds and so become the “wounded healers” for our families and communities? If we can find that God is somehow present in our pain, we refrain from passing it on and use it for good as Jesus did. Instead of retaliating and stoning others with our words and actions, we can become the stones to support the kingdom of God.

Eunice Cheshire

Co-Founder of Spiritual Ministries Institute and

a member of HeartPaths DFW Founding Faculty

An Offering from Karen: Alignment

The Reading:   Luke 5:27-32 (The Calling of Levi)

31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

 

For several months, I’ve experienced severe hip pain.  Visits to orthopedists, diagnostic tests and steroid shots brought no answers or relief.  Many nights are sleepless, and many days it is difficult to walk.  Effective pain medication causes me to break out in hives, so like Paul, I’m usually aware of the thorn in my side.  I’m weary of making excuses to colleagues and friends, and I don’t doubt some of them are growing weary with me.  But starting a couple of weeks ago, I began serious physical therapy.  Bethany, my grueling and aggressive therapist, looked at my situation with a fresh set of eyes and determined that parts of me are “out of alignment.”  So, we are working to correct that as well as to strengthen surrounding muscles.  If this does the trick over time, my future self-care regimen will need to include exercises to keep that ‘weak link’ aligned and strong.  I’m praying that this relatively easy ‘cure’ will help manage what could become a more serious and debilitating long-term problem.

In Lent, we might take time to reflect on our own spiritual lives and where we might be out of alignment.  Doing so before serious breaches in relationships occurs seems like a prudent idea.  Working to strengthen our “spiritual muscles” will keep us strong.  In the meantime, this reading reminds us that ‘the well’ have no need for a Physician, and Jesus serves as the model for living the ultimate life of spiritual health.

 

Prayer:  Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to You. Allow your healing hand to heal me. Touch my soul with Your compassion for others. Touch my heart with Your courage and infinite love for all. Touch my mind with Your wisdom, that my mouth may always proclaim Your praise. Teach me to reach out to You in my need, and help me to lead others to You by my example. Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring me health in body and spirit that I may serve You with all my strength. Touch gently this life which You have created, now and forever. Amen.

An Offering from PJ: God Stillness

Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God …”

At the ranch it’s easy to let the stillness and quiet wash over like gentle rain showers on cool autumn mornings. Settle into one of the four wrought iron gilders on the porch and while away the hours. Soak in the views of green pastures and swaying oaks and cedar elms. Let soft breezes caress your face and catch scissor tails, white wing doves and the occasional hawk gracefully sail on unseen air currents. Listen to the caw of crows, the cries of cicadas, the trumpeting of cows, and the branches overhead rustle in whispers of wind. Inhale the heady fragrance of nearby rosemary bushes, and the presence of God seems close and very real.

But within the frenzy of daily demands, the roar of traffic and the clamor of city noise, it proves much harder to sense God’s presence and plan. So how do we who feel crushed under life’s weight discover the stillness spoken of by the Psalmist? It’s possible, but requires a life lived with intention.

Choose God. Jeremiah 24:15, “… choose for yourselves today whom you will serve … as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Read His Word. Psalm 119:11, “Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You,” and Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you …”

Pray and praise. Matthew 6:7, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation …,” Ephesians 6:18, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times …” and Joshua 7:19, “… give glory to the Lord … and give praise to Him…”

Be thankful.1 Chronicles 16:34, “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For his lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Love God and others. Luke 10:27, “… love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Fill your mind with the good and godly. Philippians 4:8, “… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Living Intentionally Moment by Moment, PJ

COPYRIGHT ©2013 PJ Gover

www.PJGover.com

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

An Offering from Diana: Redeeming Time

When summer is just around the corner, we look forward to having more time for refreshment and renewal. The hot days seem conducive to a more leisurely pace, with thoughts of vacations, lounge chairs with an iced tea or lemonade in hand, losing ourselves in a good book, or spending more time in prayer and growing closer to God. Often though, with the modern conveniences of air conditioning and technology, life seems to move on as briskly as usual. Work continues and our lives stay just as busy, although part of the busyness may shift to activity filled vacations, family visits, and catching up on projects we could not accomplish during the year.

All good things, and yet…where is that time we promised to read some good books, dig our spiritual wells deeper, listen more closely to God’s call in our lives? How can we slow down, build energy and vision for the year ahead, tap into the deep reservoir of God’s peace, power and wisdom? If it is not now, then when will we take that time?

Last year I had an experience that helped me to know the value of slowing down and taking time to pray and replenish my energy. There had been several months filled with stress and I was feeling very drained. We have a beach cottage on the west coast and we went there to spend a few days. I went to relax on an upstairs porch and noticed a dove sitting on her nest on one of the beams above me. She seemed unafraid so I stayed where I was. Every day I spent quiet time on that balcony. The dove was there every day too, sitting quietly. I began to relax and feel myself again and it was as though she was teaching me what was important – a simple dove, one of God’s creatures.

In Carl Honore’s book, In Praise of Slowness, he talks about the importance of decelerating
from life in the fast lane and taking time to slow down. He describes a Slow philosophy which is gaining ground worldwide against the frenetic pace of everyday life. It does not just mean just giving up and being slothful, but being deliberate with our time and learning what is important and healthy for our wellbeing.

Finding spiritual growth, discovering new insights or becoming more centered once again is difficult to achieve as we race down life’s highway. We cannot produce ourselves what we are meant to receive from God. Jesus hit this point home when he was visiting sisters Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was rushing around, concerned about all of the details of the dinner she was preparing while Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he was teaching. He told her that Mary was doing what was truly important, not to diminish Martha, but to show her that what is most valuable we receive from him. It is in the contemplative, quieter times that we will find the renewal and transformation we seek.

A Lenten offering form Lee: Stillness

Gracious God, I ask you to plant a seed of stillness in my soul. Everything in my life moves ever more quickly, and I am continually expected to fit more things into time that is already brimful with activity. Even when I have moments that require nothing of me, my mind races and I seem unable to locate a switch to turn it off. Give me, each day, the desire and capacity to breathe in the wonder of air, to envision a still lake on a windless dawn, to drop deep into the well of my own being and find there the peace of your presence. I ask this for the sake of your love. Amen.
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An Advent Offering from Diana B: Willingness to Say “Yes” to God

DSCN1132Luke 1:39-45

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Something miraculous and wonderful has just occurred in Mary’s life.  She is to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah.  Her cousin Elizabeth has also had a miraculous experience of becoming pregnant late in life with John the Baptist.  In these short verses we receive a picture of how the Holy Spirit filled them and fueled their faith.  Through meditating of their experience of conversion, we receive an encouraging picture of how the Spirit works in our lives as well.

First there is our belief and a “yes” to God.  Mary responds to the angel Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  Elizabeth also responded to news of her pregnancy with faith, believing it was from God.  In verse 25, “The Lord did this for me,” she exclaimed.  “He has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

The Spirit also gives an inner witness or confirmation.  When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, at the sound of her greeting, Elizabeth’s baby leaped for joy.  Joy is different than just happiness or excitement.  It involves a certainty or inner knowing that gives us wisdom or the awareness of God’s presence.  Sometimes we too can feel our hearts leap when we sense the voice of the Spirit.

The third manifestation of the Spirit is blessing.  The word blessed stands out here and is used several times by Elizabeth.  There are many ways in which we recognize the Lord’s blessing in our lives.  One of the most profound is the gift to know and experience the presence of God and the power of God’s kingdom regardless of our circumstances.  Yet this is often overlooked when we are making a list of blessings.  We tend to focus on what is more material or tangible.  I believe that both Mary and Elizabeth received this gift from the Spirit throughout their lives in times of happiness an in times of sorrow, and so can we.

Mary’s canticle of praise is not part of today’s reading, but the fact that it follows this joy-filled visit between Mary and Elizabeth speaks volumes about what is to be our response to the work of the Spirit.  As mentioned above, we tend to praise God out of material abundance, but what a wonderful season to count our spiritual blessings and perhaps even compose our own canticle of praise.  How much more will we enjoy our Christmas celebration if our hearts are full of praise and thanksgiving for what the Lord has done, beginning with the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ and a young woman’s willingness to say yes to God.

Peace,

Diana B.