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

An Offering from Lil Smith – Coming home

I am coming home.

I am coming home to celebrate the most incredible gift with you.

I wonder how I will be received.

Will there be room at the inn?

At the table?

In your heart?

Real space that looks past all my shame, all my failings, seeing me as an unblemished child in the manger wrapped in bands of cloth.

Will you look at me again this way?

This is the best gift you could give me.

I am coming home.

(c) 2017 Rev. Lil Smith

Spiritual Director and Supervisor

An offering from Elaine: May Christ be our light!

Isaiah 11:6-9

Edward_Hicks-peaceablekingdom 3

Peaceable Kingdom, Edward Hicks

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.

Sadly, these verses do not reflect the world in which we live. In this season of hope, let us pray for an end to violence, hatred, greed, and poverty, and for a stronger outpouring of love, kindness, gentleness, and peace. May Christ be our light!

Elaine Weber
SMI Board of Directors
Technology & Communications Chair

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 Dorothy: Standing on a sturdy branch…

(c) Bonnie Oden

(c) Bonnie Oden

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-6

The image of this chipmunk spoke to me loudly about my current living situation—hanging on and carrying on. My daughter and her family have been living with us for five months. Things are tense, and there is no end in sight. The chipmunk’s situation is precarious, but he trusts in the sturdy branch on which he stands, calmly chewing away on the piece in his paws. I, too, stand on a Sturdy Branch, One that will hold me up in the midst of the chaos of my life. The chipmunk reminds me to “be anxious for nothing “ (Phil. 4:6) and to “rejoice in the Lord.” He knows what all of this is about, even if I don’t. That knowledge builds my trust and lightens my load. My thanks to the chipmunk for the needed reminder.

(c) 2015 Dorothy Castle

An offering from Elaine: Lord open my eyes to the beauty around me

I’m reminded of last Thanksgiving and the pine cones that made up the centerpiece adorning our dinner table. My granddaughter, Anna, had picked them all up off the ground in her neighborhood.

(c) Bonnie Oden

(c) Bonnie Oden

I imagine her joy and excitement in finding one, then another, snatching them up and placing them gently in her little bag. This “fruit,” fallen from the tree, became a wonderful blessing to our family, a thing of beauty for us to share.

Lord, open my eyes to the beauty around me. I don’t want to miss even one little bit.

Yesterday, I saw the first tiny, tiny buds on the Rose of Sharon bush outside my kitchen window. I anxiously await the blooms, the mixture of pink and white, as two bushes have seemingly grown together into one.

Lord, open my eyes to the beauty around me. I don’t want to miss even one little bit.

(c) 2015 Elaine Weber

An offering from Nancy Kate: Bearers of seeds

Pine cones, bearers of seeds, a hidden latent forest lying on the ground. Notice the seeds, notice the potential.

(c) Bonnie Oden

(c) Bonnie Oden

As a spiritual director I am always looking for what else is there than what is showing, more than what is said. What is the unseen God doing? What is the unseen love, grace, call that is inside the part we can see? From years of noticing seeds in students, to now noticing seeds in spiritual directees, I cannot see what is before me without wondering what more there might be. How did I learn to look at something or someone and see more than what shows? I honor those who have seen the seeds of goodness in me even when I feel protected by my outer shell. What is the invitation to accept what makes the seeds grow inside me?

(c) 2015 Nancy Kate Dunkerley

An offering from Ellen: Part of a greater whole

As a young girl I played for hours in the woods near our summer cabin.

(c) Bonnie Oden

(c) Bonnie Oden

I would gather pine cones, inspect bugs, search for treasure, sit beneath a tree and read, hide in the shadows, and bask in the sunny spots. These many years later I still have a tremendous love for time spent in the woods. A walk in the forest is a reminder to me of the intricate and incredible design of our Creator. A forest contains an entire ecosystem of plants, animals, and tiny micro organisms. There is an interdependence among all of these elements. Each has a necessary function. A pine cone falls to the ground, containing the seeds of a future tree. Leaf mold fertilizes the soil. Tree roots prevent erosion. This reminds me of the body of Christ. We are all interdependent, part of a greater whole, each bringing our own gifts for the good of the community.God places a unique purpose in each of us. We need one another to thrive and grow just as all of the elements of the forest are needed for growth and regeneration. Praise God for all of creation!

(c) 2015 Ellen Mechler

An Offering from Eunice: Present

I have no doubt that God is always present. Although I cannot offer scientific proof, I know it from my own life experiences and from the stories like the following one that are often shared with me.

“Just six weeks short of her 100th birthday, Mother died early on a Tuesday morning in June,.  That same day I had reservations to fly to Austin for a few days, then go on to San Antonio to see her.  So I changed my Southwest flight to go directly to San Antonio.  Because of the last minute change, I had a high boarding number and the plane was crowded so I had to take the first seat I came to.  It was an aisle seat next to a lady with her husband.  I noticed she was crying, and he didn’t seem to be comforting her or touching her.  After we took off, I decided to reach out to her although the introvert in me wasn’t at all sure it was the right thing to do.  I took her hand and asked if I could do anything for her.  She said, “My mother died this morning in San Antonio, and I wasn’t with her.”  I replied that my mother had also died that morning, and I wasn’t with her.  We held hands and talked the whole flight about our mothers who both had scoliosis and osteoporosis, and who lived in a lot of pain despite being alert mentally.  Her mother was 93.  As we stood to deplane, I asked her name.  She said it was Ann Black, and I told her mine was Amy White!  I think our mothers were in heaven and asked God to put us together so we could comfort each other.  I still get chill bumps when I tell the story. I firmly believe this was a message from God that our mothers were safe with Him.”

Whether you call this Divine Providence, a God moment, holy synchronicity, or simply, grace, I am sure it is a sign of an ever present and loving God, and a moment on consolation to be celebrated.

Eunice Cheshire

Spiritual Director

HeartPaths Founding Faculty Member