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
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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

For Unto Us a Child Is Born! – A Christmas Offering from Brian Hardesty-Crouch

I invite you to ponder Isaiah 9:2-7.

 

Any child is a mystery.

This child is a mystery.

God’s love- a mystery.

 

Mysterious- yes.

Good News- absolutely!

 

“And she gave birth… and laid him in a manger”

Luke 2:7

 

May your every Christmas be wonder-full and mysterious.

 

(c) 2017 Rev. Brian Hardesty-Crouch

What Is It That Fills Me with Awe? – An Advent Offering from Nancy Jagmin

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139: 1-2, 6)

 

It is said that Advent is a season of wonder.  What is it that fills me with awe?  Today (truth be told), I have one foot in the exuberant joy that is just around the corner. I struggle to avoid “skipping ahead” to lose myself in the beloved story.  But still, I know that it isn’t just contemplating God coming to earth that fills me with awe.  I drag myself back from anticipating the Incarnation to ponder the reality of God being fully present in me, not just on earth.  Now, that truly is too wonderful.

 

(c) 2017 Nancy Jagmin

Sit and Savor: An Offering from Lil Smith

(c) Bonnie Oden

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” – Isaiah 52:7

Peace.

Did you hear the whisper?

Peace.

Did you see the light?

Peace.

Did you feel the breath??

Peace.

Sit and linger.

God is near.

(c) 2017 Rev. Lil Smith

Spiritual Director and Supervisor

 

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

A Slower Path for Advent – An Offering from Cathy Irby

The walk to pick up a grandchild from school takes only ten quick adult minutes. But if I am accompanied by his younger brother the walk takes thirty minutes, because little Luke finds wonders all along the sidewalk. We investigate ant trails, bees gathering pollen in weeds, pecans spilled from overhead branches, rocks that surely contain fossils. My efficient adult walk completes a task. My languid little boy walk nourishes our relationship and opens my senses to God’s creation alive in the suburbs.
My Advent can pass quickly as I check off tasks and hurry through the whirlwind of activities to arrive at Christmas Day. Or my Advent can take a slower path where I look and listen and feel God’s presence in my world. I still arrive at Christmas Day, but the wonders are spread all along the way.

(c) 2017 Cathy Irby