Grace in Our Failing – An offering from Diane Pennington

Psalm 51: 1-4 NRSV

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.

In our current cultural and political climate, we can barely determine truth, let alone justice. It is both a comfort and a horror to know that God sees through our public exterior to the truth of our hearts.  I am both grateful for and terrified of this fact, depending on the state of my heart and mind any given day, hour or moment.
It’s interesting to note that David wrote this psalm after he had been with Bathsheba and was wracked with guilt over his transgression. He says, “Against you, and you ALONE have I sinned, and done what is evil in his sight”… He doesn’t factor in any other relationship or consequence than his relationship to the Almighty. He knows he is SEEN and that there is no fooling God. What a gift that forces us to see ourselves then with such clarity and authenticity, humility and vulnerability.
How hard is it for us to speak to God when we know how completely we have failed in loving, in our thinking and behavior?
How glorious that, because the Lord desires relationship with US, he invites us to be in his presence and see ourselves.  Not just in the light of guilt or failing, but awash in the knowledge of his love, his fairness and above all his mercy. In the presence of His great grace, how can be help but be humble, grateful and to then extend His mercy to others?
Jesus, merciful Savior, thank you for your grace and love that goes far ahead of your justice. We are not worthy, but we are deeply grateful. AMEN
(c) 2018 Diane Pennington

Invite freedom and healing – An offering from Rev. Lil Smith

Psalm 146:3-4

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
    on that very day their plans perish.

I retreat from a world in which leaders are disconnected from the body of their people.

I retreat from a world that anesthetizes pain and suffering.

I retreat to a place that I can befriend my pain and suffering.

I invite freedom and healing.

In this space, judgment of the world has no power over me.

In this space, I can find a deeper breath.

In this space, I feel more authentically the person God created me to be.

In this space, I praise you.

Oh God, lead us to the healing life of your Breath.  Free us from the plans of the world to place our hope and trust in you.  AMEN

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

One Stronger Than I Is Coming – An offering from Diane Clay

Mark 1:7-8

He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with[a] water; but he will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

          John the Baptizer’s message to the throngs who flocked to him for baptism should be our message to all whom we encounter as we seek to do God’s will and work in the world around us. “One stronger than I is coming…I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8) By our words and actions, we bless many people, but the greatest blessing we can bestow is to point others toward Jesus and help them connect to Him.

In the Message, John says, “His baptism…will change you from the inside out.”  Our efforts bring much needed help and relief to others, but only Jesus can give strength for the living of each day and meeting all the challenges we face.  Only Jesus can bestow unspeakable joy and the peace that passes understanding.

(c)2018 Diane Clay
Small group leader FUMC McKinney
Spiritual Director

He Will Wipe Away Every Tear – An offering from Marcia Hotchkiss

Hebrews 2:17-18  Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

I have noticed that when someone talks about a difficulty he or she is experiencing, others are quick to reply, “I know just how you feel.” But I have learned that is rarely the case. Everyone comes to each new experience with their own personality, memory, and behaviors. The reassurance in this verse from Hebrews is that God doesn’t view our suffering indifferently from on high, but as one of us who knows what it’s like to hurt and suffer. And the even better news is that He was victorious over all of the hurt and suffering that we might find hope and a promise that He will wipe away every tear.

(c) 2018 Marcia Hotchkiss

The Inspiration of the Samaritan Woman – An offering from Verlene Springer

During Lent I like to reflect on the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Christ used the “encounter” to reveal more of himself to her, a sinner and outcast, than He had yet shown to His disciples. She immediately acknowledged Christ to be a prophet and the Messiah. This is amazing but her action afterward is inspirational.

She hurried back to her community telling everyone about Jesus. Her witnessing was so powerful and converted so many to the Christian faith that it drew the attention of the Roman Emperor Nero. Ironically, when she refused to deny her faith, she was killed by being thrown down a dry well. Her name is not certain but in Eastern Orthodox Catholic religions, she is known as Photine meaning “the luminous one” and is remembered four weeks after Pascha, known as “the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman”.

Amazing work, in a hostile environment, by one thought to be “inferior”. Her story reminds me of important truths: God aways sees us not as we are but as what we can become. He seeks the “unlikely’, even me, to accomplish His work. All past is truly forgiven. When the heart’s deepest desire is to follow Him, He will supply all the strength and courage needed to complete His work in the world. Thanks be to God.

(c) 2018 Verlene Springer

Sour Grapes – An offering from Kristin Buehler

“The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” Ezekiel 18:1-4
This passage reminds me to examine whether I am trying to displace blame, as the exiles did by suggesting that they were not in exile through any fault of their own but rather were suffering for the sins of their ancestors.
Am I focused on finding fault or blame, instead of dealing with the current situation or struggle that is present in my life?  What is my resistance to the path I find myself walking? Could this be an opportunity for growth in perseverance, compassion or service?  Can I notice where God is present in this situation?  This Lent, I invite you to notice your feelings in light of your current struggles, not shifting the blame, but examining what offerings the spirit of the universe might have for you as you walk through them.
(c)Kristin Buehler
Spiritual Director

40 Years Go By – An offering from Elaine Weber

Acts 7:30-34  30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’

Forty years go by.
Can you imagine yourself sitting in the desert with Moses?
An angel appeared in the flames of a burning bush, an amazing sight!
Then, the voice of the Lord came.

Trembling. “Don’t look!” Holy, holy ground.

Affliction, groaning. RESCUE!!

Stephen reminds us of the story. The Spirit was with him.

How will I remember the story today? Does the story burn in me? Do I hear the voice of the Lord today? Can I try to hear it more clearly tomorrow?

Sometimes Lent can seem like 40 years instead of 40 days. We’re just getting started. Lord, help me to listen and be amazed.

(c) 2018 Elaine Weber
SMI Board of Directors
HeartPaths Faculty