A Steward’s Prayer (Matthew 24.42-51)

wesley do all you can
Based on Matthew 24:42-51

Son of man, my Master and Lord
You entrust me with responsibilities
With authority and influence
With your treasure and blessings
Thank you for the honor

Help me to be humble and strong and loving and wise
With all you have entrusted to me
Help me to care and tend as you would yourself
So your arrival is a time of great rejoicing
So you find me awake and alert
Caring for the people and projects and possessions
To the best of my ability, magnified by your grace

May my every word and action be faithful to you
May they bring you delight and honor
Now and always, Amen

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A Steward’s Prayer  © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Prayer- Show Me My Soul (Matthew 6.1-6)

roots secret rest soul

Based on Matthew 6:1-6

Lord, show me my soul.

Am I truly seeking you and your ways?
Am I watching for you
or watching who is watching me?
Am I awake
Alert for the chance to bless
or looking for a way to be recognized?
Do I hunger and thirst for you
or applause?

Take me to the secret place,
the place only you can see
See my soul
See me
Show me my me
Show me my true motivation
Now show me true life

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Show Me My Soul © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prepare the Way of the Lord (Luke 3, Isaiah 40)

The Path of Light by outeq (aka Juuso K) via DeviantArt

The Path of Light by outeq (aka Juuso K) via DeviantArt

Malachi 3:1 NRSV
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

Luke 3:1-6 NRSV
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” (Isaiah 40)

Deprivation is neither the focus nor the final word of the wilderness. As the honey-eating John knew, the desert offers its own delights. What the wilderness gives us is a path that helps us perceive where our true treasure lies. And does not merely give us a path: empties us enough so that a path is made within us. Through us. Of us. A road for the holy to enter the world. A way for the Christ who comes.
Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas

For a beautiful poem entited Prepare by Jan L. Richardson, click here

In this Advent season we prepare outwardly for Christmas: we hang lights and put up decorations, we bake goodies and wrap gifts. How will you prepare inwardly? The coming of Christ means that God will be incarnate: embodied, lovingly present, in the flesh in your life. Christ is coming into your life, into your heart, in a new way. Advent is a time to prepare a way for that to happen. God enters our lives without our planning or arranging; yet there are ways we can open the doors, and as the carol says of Jesus, “prepare him room.” – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Prepare the Way

Prepare Your Way in Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Prepare your way in me, Lord,
prepare your way in me, my Lord.

Make my rough places smooth,
the crooked make straight, my Lord.

Lay your hand at my root,
that I may bear fruit, my Lord.

Come and empty my heart
of all things but you, my Lord.

Guide my feet in your way,
fill me with your peace, my Lord.

Prepare your way in me, Lord,
prepare your way in me, my Lord.

We’ve turned Christmas into a sentimental feeling-fest. We get warm and fuzzy loving each other and feeling touched at the midnight candles and the pretty music. But listen to the scriptures and it’s actually all about God’s profound and even traumatic incursion against the unjust systems in this world, to create a new order. The mountains and valleys of wealth and power will be leveled. The rough places of exploitation and dehumanization will be smoothed. No wonder there’ll be “signs in the heavens and distress among the nations.” – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, A Way in the Wilderness

Click here for Comfort Ye by Steve Garnaas Holmes, a word of encouragement to those experiencing horror and abuse and those striving to bring justice and healing.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
– Isaac Watts

In muted whispers we articulate our hope;
Restore us again, O God of our salvation.
With mounting anticipation we prepare for your coming;
Revive us again, that we may rejoice in you.
Amidst rising hopes we turn to you, O God;
Show us your steadfast love.
Lord, let us hear now your words to us;
Speak peace to your people.
Faithful One, prepare our hearts to receive your joy;
the joyful kiss of righteousness and peace.
– Bill Treadway

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Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 6, Awake

awake eyeThe thought behind the photo:
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 5:13-14 NRSV
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.”

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

SCRIPTURE: 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.

For a worship resource incorporating Psalm 57 and the song Awakening by Chris Tomlin and Reuben Morgan, click here

The December 6, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 24:40-44 CEB
At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left. Therefore, stay awake! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know.

The work the Christian does is to be accomplished in a spirit of wakefulness or watchfulness. That’s not something we hear often is it? We live in a culture where we are judged by our productivity and accomplishments, and not how attentive we are.

But in this text that continues from yesterday, we are reminded that sometimes more important than our doing, is our keeping watch on the here and now for signs of God’s kin-dom breaking forth here on earth.

Perhaps if we can stay alert and awake, we might not just catch those glimpses of heaven, but help usher it in. – Mark E. Yuris, Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 1

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

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.

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

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

Being Present to God

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.

Psalm 46:10 NRSV
Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.

Honestly, I think I did feel God’s presence more clearly in Costa Rica. But it’s not because He was more present, it’s because I was paying more attention. I was lonely, scared, and anxious, and totally dependent on God to sustain me. So I looked for Him everywhere. – Jamie Wright, The Perfect Shade of Greige

If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is. -Amy Carmichael

If I did not simply live from one moment to the next, it would be impossible for me to keep my patience. I can see only the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to think about the future. We get discouraged and feel despair because we brood about the past and future. It is such folly to pass one’s time fretting, instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus. – Théresè of Lisieux, quoted in A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck

It is living in the naked now, the “sacrament of the present moment,” that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us. Words by themselves invariably divide the moment; pure presence lets it be what it is, as it is. When you can be present, you will know the Real Presence. I promise you this is true…. Presence is the one thing necessary for wisdom, and in many ways, it is the hardest thing of all. Just try to keep (1) your heart space open, (2) your mind without division or resistance, and (3) your body not somewhere else—and all at the same time! Most religions just decided it was easier to believe doctrines and obey often arbitrary laws than the truly converting work of being present. Those who can be present will know what they need to know, and in a wisdom way.
Richard Rohr, The  Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See

What would my life be like if I just stopped praying altogether? I mean, what if God promised me that things would stay the same regardless of whether I prayed or not: would I still continue to pray? That’s a hard question. But I’ve thought about it because on a whole other level I’m a little curious about why some of us feel compelled to pray, even when our scales of belief are tipped toward the negative. But even with a sporadic prayer life, I can’t imagine a life without prayer, without some effort to reach for God with all the cares and worries I drag with me wherever I go, and without some effort to invite God to speak to me in the times when I am sensible enough to just be quiet. Plus there’s a side of me that doesn’t really know how to express my love for God without prayer in my life. I’m not sure when or how I started feeling this way, but somewhere along the line, I’ve discovered that when I do pray, I am reminded of who God is and who I am. It’s hard to pray for anything without at some point naming God as one who is capable of all things. – Enuma Okoro, Reluctant Pilgrim

Exodus 33:12-14 NIV
Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning 

The spiritual life is a journey to the center, the center in which we come in touch with the pain of God as well as with the love of God, the pain of our world as well as the hope for our world, the pains of our own lives as well as the light that breaks into our darkness. It is a journey in which we resist the many distractions that pull us away from the center with an endless number of things that quite literally “occupy” us. And it is a journey of prayer in which we stand in the presence of God with a listening heart.
– Henri J.M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

The closer we wish to come to God, the more of our carefully constructed selves we must relinquish. We have to give up our illusions, our defenses, any selfish personal goals, our carefully designed sense of who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do. This sounds terrible, and it can be painful. However, as we give up these areas, we open ourselves, and God enters more fully.
– Sarah Parsons, A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent

The Word is God knowing us deeply. God’s Word is the act of paying attention, more like listening than speaking. The Word of God is a presence—indeed, a person— who knows you, who understands what moves you, who feels your reality form within you…
– For the rest of Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ powerful post, Piercing Word, click here

For a prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled You Are Here, click here

Extended quote by Steve Harper from a blog post entitled See God in All Things.
I especially appreciate how Harper quotes so many well know Christians to remind us that God’s presence is a long standing Christian belief. – Lisa <><

We call God “sustainer.” That means there is not a split second or square inch where God is not present and active. Discernment is learning to look for God in every moment and every event of our lives.

In the Christian tradition this is called “ordinary holiness.” Jean-Pierre de Caussade called it “the sacrament of the present moment.” Oswald Chambers put it this way, “One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is revealed” (My Utmost for His Highest, February 7).

One of our best examples is St. Francis of Assisi, who expanded the vision of God beyond the monastery, convent, academy, and cathedral—and helped Christianity see God in Brother Sun and Sister Moon.

John Muir did similarly as he discovered the wonder of nature in lands “out West” that (thanks to his untiring advocacy) became National Parks. A Christian himself, Muir believed “God’s Cathedral” always surpassed human cathedrals.

Discernment means being on the lookout for God all the time and everywhere. As John Wesley said (borrowing from the Puritan tradition), “Every moment is a God moment.”

John 15:9 NRSV
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”

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