Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective

A well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi named Simcha Bunim used to say,
“Every person should have two pockets.
In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’
In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Rabbi Bunim went on to say one must know how to use the notes, each one in its proper place and at the right time.

He knows us well

When misused, we hunker down in one pocket and make a home
We use a note to justify, judge, and deflect self examination

For my sake the world was created- I’m all that and a bag of chips
I am dust and ashes- Eeyore is my best buddy

But, when we open to the wisdom of the notes, we accept we are not one or the other. We realize we are both notes. Both pockets. We see the wisdom of the notes in the wisdom of God’s Word which goes back and forth, naming us and reminding us who we are- beloved and dust. We are both and we need both.

I am dust and ashesWhen we are too proud, too entitled, too full of ourselves, too self-sufficient, we reach in a pocket and remember anokhi afar va’efer, I am dust and ashes
I am small
I am worthless
I am mortal
I am unclean
I miss the mark, I stray from the path- that’s what the word sin literally means in Greek
I am like everyone else who has ever lived and who will live
I need a savior

Psalm 90:3 NRS
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

Ecclesiastes 3:20b NIV
All come from dust, and to dust all return.

Luke 9:41 NRSV
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is right to remind us we are a “brood of vipers” and of our need of repentance, to turn back to God’s path, not just with our words but our actions.

for my sake was the world createdThen, when we are discouraged, overwhelmed and losing faith (when we feel like dirt) we reach in the other pocket and remember bishvili nivra ha’olam, for my sake was the world created.
I am a unique and beloved child of the King of kings
Christ loved me enough to die for me and raise me to new life
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
I am called
I am gifted
I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great things for God
God is using me in the salvation and transformation of the world

Psalm 8:4-8 NRSV
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Psalm 139:14 NRSV
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

We stand with Jesus in our baptism, water washed, anointed with the fiery dove of the Holy Spirit, named and claimed by God as beloved children.

Jesus stepped into the water not out of his need but of ours
To remind us of our great need- I am dust and ashes
To remind us who we are in Him- For my sake the world was created

Prayer for Perspective
Eternal and Beautiful God,
The One who births us and names us
Grant us perspective
A holy centering
of truth, humility, and our belovedness

Not too high that we fall away from you
our need of you
our need of others

Not too low that we fail to trust
to reach out for you
to reach out with you

In you, with you, for you we are
humble and powerful
unique and alike
common and regal
priceless and dust

Grant us perspective, Merciful One
A holy centering
Let no voice be too loud
Or too soft
So we may persevere in faith
in hope
in following
in becoming
Amen

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I am indebted to Rabbi Jack Moline for a blog post which provided much of the information and inspiration for this reflection.

Two Pocket Devotion and Prayer for Perspective © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are very welcome to use this in a worship or group setting with proper attribution.

Prayer: Wisdom and Reverenace, based on Psalm 111


The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. – Psalm 111:10

Wisdom consists in doing the next thing that you have to do;
doing it with your whole heart and finding delight in doing it.
And this delight is the sense of the sacred.- Helen Luke

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
– William Shakespeare

Observation
In Psalm 111, the author praises God’s works (great, full of honor and majesty, wonderful, faithful, just) and God’s character (righteous, gracious, merciful, provider, trustworthy, redeemer, eternal covenant keeper, holy, awesome). All of this leads up to the last verse, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.”

Are we to fear God? For most of us, fear implies dread, horror, and terror. We fear bullies, monsters, or tyrants- powers far greater than our ability to oppose.

This understanding of “the fear of the Lord” isn’t helpful or truthful. It doesn’t encourage growth or trust. It doesn’t draw us to God or reveal the true character of God. It often results in a less than healthy fear response- fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.

The point of the psalmist is literally lost in translation, the translation of the word fear. I find it helpful to replace the word fear with respect or reverence. When the deepest understandings of respect and reverence are linked with God’s awesomeness and otherness, we have a translation that draws us into worship, relationship, and the pursuit of God’s transcendent wisdom.

Reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.

Assuredly, Loving Souls, you should go to God with all humility and respect,
humbling yourselves in His presence,
especially when you remember your past ingratitude and sins.
– Alphonsus Liguori

Truly humble people are grounded in reality;
they neither preen under illusions of greatness
nor suffer agonies of self-hatred.
– Paula Huston, Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Re-new Your Spirit

Fullness of knowledge always means some understanding of the depths of our ignorance; and that is always conducive to humility and reverence. – Robert Millikan

Prayer: Wisdom and Reverence
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
Great and Faithful One
God of Honor and Majesty
Wonderful and just are your deeds
Your ways are trustworthy, gracious, and merciful

Draw us into reverent relationship with you
Save us from shallow understanding and falsehood

Pour out your wisdom upon us
That we may know you and adore you
That we may trust you and follow you
That we may receive your gifts
and use them to heal and bless and welcome
as you do

We ask this in the Name of Jesus,
Your Truth made Flesh,
Your Light to us and the world. Amen.

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Wisdom and Reverence © 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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What are you looking for, based on John 6 and Psalm 63

Bread of Life by Kennedy A Paizs

I am the Bread of Life by Kennedy A Paizs. “I want to desire Jesus as much as I desire to eat each day to sustain my physical life.”

John 6:25-27
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Why am I looking for Jesus?
Am I just looking for the goodies?

  • provision- the fill of the loaves
  • an entertaining story on the side of a mountain
  • comfort and blessing since so much of life is insecure
  • an escape to a better place beyond this life

There is a huge difference between using Jesus as a means to an end and desiring a relationship with Jesus for who he is. – Lisa <><

Prayer:
Jesus, you offer me yourself
Not a philosophy to follow
Not a commodity to use
Not a means to an end

You offer me you
Flesh and Blood
Bread and Messiah

Forgive my shallow desires for your bread alone
They dishonor and cheapen the fullness of you

Open me to your great gift
Every part
Open me to give myself in return
Every part
Amen

Prayer:
Jesus, forgive my false following
My misplaced priorities
For using you instead of loving you

Nurture true faith and trust in me
To love you first and always
To love you for you
as you love me

Reorder my consuming
Feasting on your presence
You are my bread, my drink, my life
I love you

Psalm 63:1-8
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings, I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

For more on the themes of seeking, hungering, and false ways we seek to satisfy, look to Junk Food, a prayer by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

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What are you looking for? © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Independence Day Prayer for Unity (Psalm 133)

Psalm 133 Ben Shahn

Psalm 133 by Ben Shahn

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

On this Independence Day, I long for our neighborhoods and nation to experience the freedom of this psalm- the freedom of true unity. I long for the dividing walls to come crashing down. I long for an end to destructive division.

In this Psalm, the goodness of God-breathed unity is compared to the anointing of Aaron as high priest and dew on the mountains of Hermon and Zion in Israel.

True unity is precious, like sacred, costly oil or a trusted source of water in the wilderness.

True unity brings abundant blessing to an entire community. It is generous and lavish. There is so much oil it runs down Aaron’s beard and on to his robe. There is so much dew it can sustain plants, animals, and people on a rugged mountainside.

True unity means goodness for all. It is pervasive, crossing unjust boundaries. The anointing oil is mixed with spices so the aroma pervades the gathering. The dew makes way for fragrant flowers, fruits, and crops which are enjoyed by the whole community.

True unity is holy and unique. The oil is set apart for the ritual anointing of a priest or king. It is used for no other purpose. Mount Hermon is set apart for its height and snow, the highest point in the region at over 9,000 feet. Mount Zion in Jerusalem is set apart for the worship of God. True unity sets a group of people apart, a rare and beautiful light in our world.

Holy God
One yet Three
Reach into the abundance of your companionship
Bring forth unity and healing in our land
Pour out peace on violent homes and hearts
Shower compassion on selfish and short-sighted motives
Rain down justice, generosity, and goodness
so all are covered in blessing and harmony and life
Forevermore
Forevermore
Amen

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Independence Day Prayer for Unity © 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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I Thirst- Prayer Prompts for Good Friday

Jesus knows the gift of water

The refreshment of being spoken in the beginning
as waters were separated from waters

Of guiding a rudderless ark on the vastness of the ocean
and a rudderless people through two seas and on to freedom

The warm waters of his birth and the obedient waters of his baptism

He knows the feel of spittle on his hands
while making mud so a blind man may see
and the feel of spittle on his face from those who mock him

Only a short time before,
Jesus talks with a man seeking answers in the night
Be born again of water and the Spirit

Only a short time before,
Jesus talks with a cast down woman at a public well
Drink the water I give you and never thirst again

Now, Jesus cries out in the midst of the festival
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me
Let the one who believes in me drink
Streams of living water will flow from within you

Soon he pours himself out for the world… I thirst

I thirst for you
because you cannot drink the bitter cup I must drink
I thirst for you
because I desire that none should be lost
I thirst for you
so that you may drink of me, the living water

Drink deeply
I become in you and all who believe a spring of water gushing up to eternal life

Holy Jesus, my Lord and my God,
I thirst for____________
Refresh ___________
Sustain ___________
I drink deeply so that ____________

Finish the sentence again and again…
Leave your prayer below

© 2021
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. (by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com) Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.