Using the Beatitudes for Self Reflection and Growth

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

In his book, The Ladder of the Beatitudes, Jim Forest makes a terrific recommendation: use The Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12) as a set of questions for self reflection. Think about the possibilities for using them to prepare for prayer or worship or the start/end of the day. This kind of reflection provides a framework for discovering our next steps in more fully following Christ.

So, here are the questions which came to mind for me.
What questions do The Beatitudes stir in you? – Lisa <><

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

  • Am I still trying to save myself or am I completely depending on God’s love, mercy and grace?

Blessed are those who Mourn

  • Do I mourn my destructive thoughts and actions, my sin, my brokenness?
  • Am I heartbroken over the brokenness of my community and world?

Blessed are the Meek

  • Do I think too lowly or highly of my gifts, talents and strengths?
  • Have I places my gifts, talents and strengths fully under the authority and discipline of God that they may be used by God for a greater good?

Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

  • Am I doing all I can to build right relationships with God, others, myself, and the rest of creation?
  • Are other appetites taking first place in my life?

Blessed are the Merciful

  • Have I forgiven those who have done me harm?
  • Do I need to ask anyone for forgiveness?
  • Have I rejected revenge and bitterness fully?

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

  • Who or what rules my motivation and desire? God? Others? An addiction? Myself?
  • How am I cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the development of an undivided heart?

Blessed are the Peacemakers

  • How am I building bridges and breaking down dividing walls in Jesus’ Name?
  • How can I more fully abandon violence, prejudice, bias, and hate?

Blessed are the Persecuted

  • How am I loving my enemies and praying for them?
  • Am I living and practicing my faith in gracious ways everywhere I go or am I hiding it as a way of protecting myself?

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Click here for a meaningful and deep sermon on the Beatitudes by Nadia Bolz Webber entitled Some Modern Beatitudes.

Click here for an interesting perspective on the Beatitudes by Richard Rohr entitled How to Win by Losing. Rohr encourages us to read the Beatitudes from the perspective of how they describe Jesus as the suffering servant.

Click here for a post by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled More Beatitudes. He used Jesus’ Beatitudes as a starting point for writing a few more reflecting modern issues. Consider trying this exercise as well.

You are welcome to use this work in a worship or group setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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

Prayer for the Beginning of Treatment

Chemotherapy Vials, photo by Bill Branson on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons

Chemotherapy Vials, photo by Bill Branson on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons

The husband of one of my clergy friends has cancer. This week he’ll receive a triple lumen cath followed by 4 days of chemo before receiving a bone marrow transplant next week.

I admire how transparent they’ve been about the whole experience. She recently posted, “With a healthy dose of fear and much hope, we are walking this path together with the support of each of you and the grace of God to lead us.” She also posted his words before receiving the cath: “and so it begins.”

And so it begins… so much in so few words.

Their faith and the promises of God inspired this prayer. May it be a blessing to them, to you, and to others you may know. – Lisa <><

And so it begins,
the wondering
the diagnosis
the treatment

You are The Alpha and Omega
The Beginning and the End
The First and the Last
Unmatched Majesty, yet you draw near
to this beginning
to my frailty, my brokenness
my unknowing
closer than breath
closer than pulse

You are with me
You are for me
Jesus

You are Spirit
Animating, Leading
Pioneering, Perfecting
Way, Truth, Life
Glory Itself, yet you walk with me
on this small path
through the shadowy valleys
unknown or anticipated
My Guide and Guardian
Every day of my life

My eyes are open to my need
You make space to feel it fully and honestly
You meet me there with
Goodness and Mercy
Help and Wholeness

Holy One
You are my Hope and Peace
I love you and trust you and place myself into your compassion and care
Today and Tomorrow
Amen

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Prayer for the Beginning of Treatment © 2013 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.

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

Prayer: All Will be Brought to Light

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

1 Corinthians 4:5 CEB
Don’t judge anything before the right time- wait until the Lord comes. He will bring things that are hidden in the dark to light, and he will make people’s motivations public. Then there will be recognition for each person from God.

Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.
– Henri Nouwen

Everything belongs, and no one needs to be scapegoated or excluded. Evil or Untruth cannot be directly fought or separated from as much as exposed to the Light.
– Richard Rohr

Timeless One, give us wisdom
to know when to wait and when to act
to know what to pick up and what to leave behind

Holy One, give us faith
to stand, trusting all will be revealed
to bow, knowing all will be revealed

The hidden will be brought to light
hidden actions of our hands
hidden motives of our hearts
hidden words, hidden thoughts

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
on me
on us
Redeem and heal us all

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Prayer: All Will be Brought to Light © 2013 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.

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

Prayer: Unstop Us, Jesus

water down drain 2Mark 8:17b-18 CEB
Don’t you grasp what has happened?
Don’t you understand?
Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing?
Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see?
Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear?
Don’t you remember?

The only way you can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing your own compulsive mental grids— your practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything. This is what we are trying to do by practicing contemplative prayer, and people addicted to their own mind will find contemplation most difficult, if not impossible. Much that is called thinking is simply the ego’s stating of what it prefers and likes—and resistances to what it does not like. Narcissistic reactions to the moment are not worthy of being called thinking. Yet that is much of our public and private discourse.
– Richard Rohr

Now is a good time to remember that the grace given to us by God to become contemplative comes to us at great cost–namely, Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world. We are redeemed and made “response-able” (contemplative) because on the Cross, Jesus re-opened the way to God which original sin had closed. That’s the main reason why contemplatives are among the most humble people in the world. We can never take credit for our spirituality. Life is Gift. Jesus has accomplished what we never could. We must never separate our attentiveness to God from the atonement. Through Christ our “sight” has been restored, our “hearing” repaired, and our spirits returned to the condition where deep communion with God is possible. – Steve Harper

Jesus, you are so very patient
Yet there are times
when you’ve had it with our selfishness
our hard hearts
our dim wits and petty agendas
New life received at a snail’s pace
instead of mounting up with eagle’s wings
Help us to run to you and with you
Opening, Growing
Flowing, Grasping
Claiming, Living
Unstop us, Jesus
Unstop us for good
Our own good
Other’s good
Good without end
Amen and Amen

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Click here for a post entitled 7 Letters of Revelation: Alive and Awake

Click here for a post entitled Being Present to God

Click here for a post entitled Keep Awake!

Unstop Us, Jesus © 2013 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.

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Keep Awake!

alive awake awareMark 13:31-37 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake— for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

It is usually over time and with patience that we come to see the wonderful patterns of grace, which is why it takes most of us a long time to be converted. Our focus slowly moves from an initial preoccupation with perfect actions (“first half of life” issues), to naked presence itself. The code word for that is simply “prayer,” but it became cheapened by misuse. Jesus will often call prayer “vigilance,” “seeing,” or “being awake.” When you are aware and awakened, you will know for yourself all that you need to know. In fact, “stay awake” is the last thing Jesus says to the apostles—three or perhaps four times—before he is taken away to be killed (Matthew 26:38-45). Finally, continuing to find them asleep, he kindly but sadly says, “Sleep now and take your rest,” which might have been his resigned, forgiving statement to the church itself. It is not that we do not want to be awake, but very few teachers have actually told us how to do that in a very practical way. We call it the teaching of contemplation.
– Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

All forms of meditation and contemplation teach some form of compartmentalizing or limiting the control of the mental ego— or what some call the “monkey mind,” which just keeps jumping from observation to observation, distraction to distraction, feeling to feeling, commentary to commentary. Most of this mental action means very little and is actually the opposite of consciousness. In fact, it is unconsciousness. – Richard Rohr

They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him, who look for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once…. This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first. -John Henry Newman

Extended quote by E. Glenn Hinson from his post Fasting from the Internet
found in Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life

I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that it is not easy to learn how to pray or to keep at it when we have learned how. Teresa of Ávila, the first woman named a “Doctor of the Church,” in the main because of her contribution to a Christian understanding of prayer, confessed that she spent twenty years learning how. Admittedly, she didn’t get serious in her effort to learn until a three-year illness and a near-death experience put some pressure on. What she discovered is what everyone who takes prayer seriously will discover, that prayer is, above all, response to the prior love of God.

As Bernard of Clairvaux reminded his fellow monks, “…every soul among you that is seeking God should know that it has been anticipated by [God], and has been sought by [God] before it began to seek [God]. It couldn’t happen any other way, could it?”

How could we mortals get God’s attention, the attention of the God of a universe of 150-plus billion galaxies? We can’t yell loud enough, build a Babel tower high enough, or send a spaceship far enough to get God’s attention unless God has chosen to enter into our consciousness. If we pray, then, we have to learn how to pay attention. We have to cultivate wakefulness.

Ephesians 5:11-16 NRSV
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

The sin of inadvertence, not being alert, not quite awake, is the sin of missing the moment of life. Live with unremitting awareness; whereas the whole of the art of the non-action that is action (wu-wei) is unremitting alertness.
– Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth

We’re like kids whining in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Well, we are there yet. We are here now. But we’re so busy being busy, and whining about it, that we don’t notice. Our busyness is not fruitfulness; it’s fear. We’re afraid of the stillness, afraid of the dark, afraid of what might come up in the silence. We’re afraid of not being in control and of being dependent, afraid of not knowing. We keep busy to stay unconscious. Advent invites us into the dark, into the silence, into wakefulness.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Pregnant Pause

Unexpected God, your advent alarms us.
Wake us from drowsy worship
From the sleep that neglects love
From the sedative of misdirected frenzy
Awaken us now to your coming,
and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.
Steven W. Manskar, A Disciple’s Journal 2014

Here, then, stands the newly awakened self: aware, for the first time, of reality, responding to that reality by deep movements of love and of awe. She sees herself, however, not merely to be thrust into a new world, but set at the beginning of a new road. Activity is now to be her watchword, pilgrimage the business of her life.
-Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

Psalm 57:7-8 NIV
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

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Click Here for a powerful poem entitled Sleeper, Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Click Here for a beautiful prayer entitled Keep Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes

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

Prayer for God's Wisdom and Strength

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

1 Corinthians 1:25 CEB
The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Holy One,
Your wisdom is beyond what we can fathom
Your strength beyond what we can muster
You are Sovereign
We are your little children
We struggle and strive and stress
We need so very much
It is beyond us, but not beyond you
You are God. We are not.
We surrender our grasping, trusting in your provision
We surrender our confusion, trusting in your light
We surrender our fear, trusting in your goodness and hope
Amen.

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Prayer for God’s Wisdom and Strength © 2013 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.

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