In Search of Living Water

The Serpentine Ghost by photographer Ben Horne

Exodus 17:2-7 (NRSV)
The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Jeremiah 2:12-13 (NRSV)
Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

The Father is the Spring,
the Son is called the Stream
and we are said to drink the Spirit.
– Athanasius

The thirst for God is universal because we have been created with a longing for the Creator. This desire to know and be known by the One who made us and loves us is often ignored, denied, and finally buried under a multitude of pursuits and interests. But then some event in life invites or forces us to pause, and the desire for God comes rushing back to our awareness. And once again we know that real life is impossible without the companionship of the One who first gave us the gift of life and who sustains us even now. – Rueben P. Job, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

From The Awkward Season- Prayers for Lent by Pamela C Hawkins

From The Awkward Season- Prayers for Lent by Pamela C Hawkins

The things of God have a circumference. They are preserved in a written body of truth. It’s like a well – and no one has ever fathomed the depth of God’s truth. To go into the power of the gospel, or of prayer, or the Holy Spirit, or divine love is to plunge ever deeper and deeper into God’s well. Every man or woman used by God has gone down into this vast reservoir. – Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

Quote and Blessing from In the Sanctuary of Women by Jan L. Richardson
And the well runs dry. It’s one of the most common experiences in the spiritual life. A practice that we have cherished, a habit that has deepened us and drawn us closer to God, a discipline that we perhaps have engaged in for years no longer seems to work. … Pondering the questions that lie at the bottom of a dry well offers a journey of its own. What I know is this: to find the answers, we have to pay attention to the dryness. This is a desert place. As uncomfortable as it may be, there is no substitute for these desert places in the spiritual life. They offer a wisdom that we cannot get any other way.

BLESSING
When the well goes dry, listen.
Sit by it, your ear pressed to its rim.
Hear the empty and the hollow of it.
Let be. Let be.
When finally you hear your breath
echo back to you,
let this sound be your first prayer.
Where there is breath,
there is water somewhere.
Breathe.

John 7:37-38 (NRSV)
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ”

Our brokenness is the wound through which the full power of God can penetrate our being and transfigure us in God. Loneliness is not something from which we must flee but the place from where we can cry out to God, where God will find us and we can find God. Yes, through our wounds the power of God can penetrate us and become like rivers of living water to irrigate the arid earth within us. Thus we may irrigate the arid earth of others, so that hope and love are reborn. – Jean Vanier, The Broken Body

Prayer for Living Water
God of the Wilderness, we are thirsty. We are dry and hard. Our hearts are more stone than flesh. Swing your saving rod once more. Crack us open. Break us of quarreling and division. Smash our fondness for complaining. Shatter our mistrust, especially our mistrust of you. Let your living water flow, a stream in the desert, a spring of salvation. God, we are so very thirsty. Flood us and the world with your healing and transforming love, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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Prayer for Living Water © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Gratitude

Gratitude by Donna Betts

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise. ~George Herbert

What does the Lord require of followers? The Lord requires gratitude. And for those of us in the Christian tradition, Jesus wants our gratitude to increase more and more until, like a holy flame, it burns within us and we burst into songs and deeds of thankfulness to God and neighbor. To express genuine gratitude to God, our deeds must demonstrate our love, trust, and service. – Beauty Maenzanise

When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking God for being so generous to you. If you drink wine (or coffee), be mindful of God who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank God for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who ordered things this way. When the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator. – Basil the Great

Resentment indicates we are still trying to fill the emptiness with something we think we deserve. Gratitude is the sign that God has filled the hole; indeed, that God has become the Whole in Whom we live, move, and have our being. – Steve Harper

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. -John F. Kennedy

It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient.
~W.J. Cameron

Jesus calls us to gratitude. He calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. ~William Faulkner

Grateful living: an alchemic operation of converting “disgraceful” things into grateful events. ~ Raimundo Panikkar

How to practice gratitude? Research shows that those who keep a simple gratitude journal felt happier, more optimistic, and even slept better at night. Renowned psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman guarantees that if you (a) write a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life for the better, (b) hand-deliver it to the recipient, (c) read it out loud to them, then “You will be happier and less depressed one month from now.” – reposted from Daily Good

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give,
and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
~Marcus Tullius Cicero

Psalm 118:28-29
You are my God, and I will praise you;
You are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
His love endures forever.

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Be sure to check out Nadia Bolz Weber’s sermon, Thank You (a sermon), on the classic gratitude text, Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healing ten lepers.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Hymn Text: Come Sup With God

Image of The Lord’s Supper from the Congo.

Sadly, the way we as Christians have historically responded to the gift of the Eucharist is to make sure that we understand it, then to make sure we put boundaries around it and then to make sure we enforce both the correct understanding and the correct boundaries. But on the night Jesus was betrayed he didn’t say “this is my body broken for you…UNDERSTAND this in remembrance of me….he didn’t say ACCEPT this or DEFEND this or BOUNDARY this in remembrance of me he just said do this in remembrance of me. – Nadia Bolz Weber, “This teaching is HARD, who can accept it” – a sermon on the Eucharist

The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fattened; let no one go forth hungry! Let all partake of the Feast of Faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness. Let none lament their poverty, for the Universal Kingdom has been revealed.
– John Chrysostom

Today I am reminded of the hospitality of Christ. We are all welcome at his banquet. We just have to accept the invitation. Let’s take the time to RSVP “Yes!” this year. I pray you have a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving. Lisa <><

ps- This hymn would also be great for World Communion Sunday, traditionally celebrated by many Christian denominations the first Sunday in October.

Come Sup With God
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Meter 88.88 (LM)
Suggested tunes:
HURSLEY (United Methodist Hymnal #339) or
GIFT OF LOVE (United Methodist Hymnal #408)

Come sup with God all you who thirst
All you who hunger be the first
Feast on Christ’s Body and his Blood
O taste and see this meal of Love

Come children, elders, blind, and spent
Come foolish, able, indigent
Confess, repent, and then receive
Forgiveness flows abundantly

Come often, friend, for here is grace
made manifest in time and place
Christ’s mercy floods our brokenness
with healing balm and righteousness

Come to be changed. Come to be fed.
Come savor Christ, the Life, the Bread.
Drink deep the gift of healing poured
and leave a vessel of our Lord.

Sing Praise to Christ our Host and meal
Whose saving work provides the seal
for us once bound, now freed from death
to live for Christ with every breath

© 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Doing for Others

The Good Samaritan by Dinah Roe Kendall

Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?
Martin Luther King, Jr.

God wants all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul. It is this unconditional and unreserved love for God that leads to the care for our neighbor, not as an activity which distracts us from God or competes with our attention to God, but as an expression of our love for God who reveals himself to us as the God of all people. It is in God that we find our neighbors and discover our responsibility to them. We might even say that only in God does our neighbor become a neighbor rather than an infringement upon our autonomy, and that only in and through God does sevices become possible.- Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder

We are not commanded (or forbidden) to love our mates, our children, our friends, our country because such affections come naturally to us and are good in themselves, although we may corrupt them. We are commanded to love our neighbor because our ”natural” attitude toward the ”other” is one of either indifference or hostility.
– W. H. Auden

Saint Francis of Assisi took a novice out for a day of preaching the gospel. As they left Assisi, they helped a farmer move his cart; down the road they talked with a merchant and listened to his problems; around noon they shared their meal with a hungry beggar; soon after lunch they prayed with a sick woman; on their way back, they helped a woman carry her heavy load. When they returned to the monastery at dark, the novice commented that the day was gone and they hadn’t preached to anyone. “My son,” Francis responded, “we’ve been sharing the gospel all day long.”
– Derek Maul, 10 Life-Charged Words

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes. ― Fred Rogers

The heart is like a garden.
It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love.
What seeds will you plant there?
– Jack Kornfield

The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves.
Eric Hoffer

There comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now. – Wangari Maathai

The world is a dangerous place. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. -Albert Einstein

I have the view… that the human being was not made for pleasure, was not made to gratify the ego, was not made to make money, was not made to have babies: it was made to serve something bigger than oneself. We are built to serve.- Jacob Needleman

The social contract that businesses, organizations in general, have with the world is changing, and unless organizations can demonstrate and explain the social purpose and the social value that they’ve fulfilled, they will fail. They will run into insurmountable obstacles. –David Schmittlein, Dean of MIT Sloan School of Management

It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely. – Leo Buscaglia

Isaiah 58:9b-12 (NRSV)
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

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For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Devotion: A Long Obedience

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NRSV)
Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is . . . that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.– Friedrich Nietzsche

Things that make life worth living require time and effort. They always have and they always will. It’s a universal truth. Daily practice, commitment, and focus are indispensible. There are no short cuts to great marriages, peace treaties, and breakthrough discoveries. Successful artists, athletes, students, diplomats, researchers, business owners, etc. all embrace a long obedience in the same direction to realize results.

There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.– Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society

Why do I continue to imagine being a Christ follower would be different? Why am I so often puzzled when ascending to the next level of spiritual maturity does not happen easily, instantly or automatically? It’s a universal truth. There are no short cuts to going up and growing up in faithfulness. God’s transforming grace is a responsible grace. Every day, every moment I have the freedom to choose whether or not to persevere and participate in that most important and most beautiful long obedience, the one that moves in the same direction with Christ.

Faithful One, make me faithful.
Steadfast One, make me steadfast.
Unchanging One, change me.
I surrender to your Word and ways.
Fulfill your good purposes in me and through me, now and forever. Amen.  

Get Your Geek On: The term “long obedience in the same direction” was borrowed from Nietzsche by Eugene Peterson as a title for his book on the Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134. (It’s quite ironic that Nietzsche’s writing and Peterson’s writing would intersect, since one worked hard to proclaim God dead and the other works hard to proclaim God very much alive and relevant.)

The Hebrew transliteration for ascent is ma’aloth, meaning “to go up.” These psalms were sung by Hebrew pilgrims as they made their way up the mountain three times a year to Jerusalem to celebrate and worship at the great feasts of faith. During the holiday season it’s not hard for us to imagine the excitement, expense, and effort, of making a trip to a beloved place for feasting with those we love.

Over time, these 15 psalms became associated with the 15 steps of the Temple in Jerusalem leading from the Court of the Women up to the level where Jewish men could observe the priests’ activities at the altar. It would have been common to sing one of the Psalms of Ascent on each stair as you made your way up and up, closer and closer to God’s most holy place.

Quotes: Change

Like a living organism [faith] has a remarkable ability to adapt to change. At our best, Christians embrace this quality, leaving enough space within orthodoxy for God to surprise us every now and then. At our worst, we kick and scream our way through each and every change, burning books and bridges and even people along the way.
Rachel Held Evans,
Evolving in Monkey Town

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral. –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NRSV)
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

In the higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often. –John Henry Newman

When Jesus came, He shocked, surprised and exposed the system. Are we not called to do the same? – Tim Green, Dean of Religion, Travecca Nazarene University

God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Meter 77.77
Suggested tune: THE CALL (United Methodist Hymnal #164)

God who brings the cleansing rain
saturate our thirsty bones
with the milk of mercy sweet
with the blood that brings us home

God who rules the fiery sun
kindle now our brittle hearts
set ablaze our tender lives
forge our ways till sin departs

God who rides the winds of change
anchor us against its wrath
set our face toward holy ends
fix our walk upon your path

God who sends the silent snows
quiet us against your breast
cover us with hope-filled wings
whisper soft your word of rest

God who steps into our time
Take away this needless fear
Turn our lives to songs of praise
Play us for your world to hear

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God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain  © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.
Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to music.

For more information on the art, quotes and the use of this post in other settings,
please refer to the copyright information page.

Quotes: True Happiness

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. –Helen Keller

Psalm 106:3 (NRSV)
Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at
all times.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit,
not of our gratified emotions.
– Evelyn Underhill

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
–Theodore Roosevelt

Those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment. – Tony Robbins

Proverbs 14:21 (NRSV)
Those who despise their neighbors are sinners,
but happy are those who are kind to the poor.

Happiness is an unintended consequence
of working toward a goal larger than one’s self.
– Viktor Frankl

Bliss does not come from outside. It comes from inside, from serving the people.
Anna Hazare, Indian Activist

Psalm 41:1-2 (NRSV)
Happy are those who consider the poor; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble. The Lord protects them and keeps them alive; they are called happy in the land. You do not give them up to the will of their enemies.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know:
the only ones among you who will be really happy
are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
– Albert Schweitzer

Trust and Obey by John H. Sammis (verse 1)
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will,
he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

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For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.