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.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3 and James 1

soft-heart-cruel-world-2

Based on Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice Translation and James 1:19-25, NRSV

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you and your Word
Hearing and Doing

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017, updated 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a message for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer Practice- I Am

“I am no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God”
~ No Longer Slaves

I AM
I AM WHO I AM
The name of God given to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14)

I AM
The name so often used by Jesus
“I AM the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)
“I AM the light of the world.” (John 8:12)
“I AM the gate.” (John 10:7,9)
“I AM the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
“I AM the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14)
“I AM the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
“I AM the true vine.” (John 15:1, 5)

I AM
The name of the Victorious Christ
I AM the Alpha and the Omega
Who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty
The Beginning and the End
The First and the Last (Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13)

I AM reveals who I am
Loves who I am
Empowers who I am
Reminds me who I am
I am a child of God

Finish the sentence
I am no longer…

I am a …

I AM, Your naming and claiming are stronger than anything we face during these disrupting days⁠

Your naming and claiming are for us and for all.⁠

Your naming and claiming are forever and for always. ⁠

Glory to your Holy Name.⁠

I AM prayer practiceWe are thankful.
We are humble.
We are grateful for your great grace and your great hope.

We remember all those don’t know they’re your children.
Who don’t know they are found.

We remember those who feel unworthy of you.
Those who think they do not need you.
Those who do not know you exist.

We remember all who are overwhelmed by news and need

Break through our great need and isolation
Help us connect to one another
Help us help others connect to you.

Name those you long to come to faith…

Thank you for hearing our prayer.
You desire none should be lost.

This prayer practice was inspired by the song No Longer Slaves. CCLI Song #7030123. Words and Music by Brian Johnson, Joel Case, and Jonathan David Helser. © 2014 Bethel Music Publishing

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Prayer Practice: I Am © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
(by Lisa Degrenia, http://www.revlisad.com). Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Morning Prayer for the New Year

close up of coffee cup on table

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Imagine waking up every morning, and the first words out of your mouth are this prayer of commitment and openness to God by Steve Garnaas Holmes. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution worth keeping! Happy New Year, dear ones. – Lisa <><

God, help me today
to love with gusto,
to forgive with courage,
to look for your grace,
to seek presence, not comfort,
to be grateful in all things,
to receive you in whatever form you come to me.

Help me today to be who you create me to be,
not what others desire,
to trust you in what is difficult,
to let your love flow through me
without impediment or hesitation,
to be present in this life,
not hankering after one I imagine.

I surrender myself to your love thriving in me,
love that unites me with all your Beloved,
with all Creation, with you:
for even though I am not fully aware
I am fully yours,
and I give you my thanks;
I give you my life.
Amen.
~ God, Help Me Today by Steve Garnaas Holmes

I’m grateful for the faithfulness, artistry, and voice of Steve Garnaas Holmes who generously allows me to repost his meaningful work. I cannot recommend his blog highly enough. You’ll find him at unfoldinglight.net. – Lisa <><

Go and Show Yourselves, Reflections on Jesus Healing Ten Lepers (Luke 17)

10 lepers tenLuke 17:11-19, a classic scriptural teaching on gratitude
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Leper by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Leprosy meant uncleanness… impurity…
some distance from God… and from others.
If one were cured of leprosy
one had to be pronounced clean by a priest.

Call to mind all your impurities, your flaws,
your failings public and secret,
what distances you from God, from others,
from your true self, what’s disgusting about you.

Show yourself to God. You are made clean,
pure, whole, acceptable, good. You’re fine.
Imagine all shame, guilt, and sorrow gone.
Evaporated. You’re perfectly fine.

Humility and gratitude dance hand in hand.
Judgment has no footing. Only wonder.
Tenderness toward others flows naturally.
Once you know everyone’s secret we all look different.

Thanks by Steve Garnaas Holmes
The Samaritan, the foreigner, the outsider.
Not accustomed to being treated well.
Not burdened with a sense of entitlement.

How often I expect life to go well because,
well, because I’m a good person and I deserve it.
How we privileged folks take our blessings for granted.

What if I were to shed that arrogance, lay down
the burden of expecting everything to be fine,
and greet every grace with wonder and amazement?

I’d spend my life at the feet of Jesus. I’d burst
into flames, a burnt offering of thanksgiving.
I’d be glad. Always. Every breath I’d start again.

Every moment would become miraculous.
I’d become impervious to heartache.
I’d spend my life dancing.

What am I waiting for?

Start here by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Those mornings when you wake up burdened,
already thinking “Oh, why bother,”
start here:

thank God for one thing.

One person whom you love will do,
though even a remarkable coincidence is acceptable.
You don’t even need to go into peaches,
the color blue, or migratory birds,
or a child’s laugh you heard the other day,
let alone the angelic speech of nerve synapses
or the inscrutable ballet of spiral galaxies,
or God’s outlandish love for you.

Just one thing to give thanks for.

Then resolve to live the day
in adequate gratitude for that one thing,

and begin.

Confidence by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Jesus sends lepers to the priest
to show him they are healed—
before they are healed!
It’s only as they go they are made well.

Jesus seems pretty confident.
They must be, too, or they wouldn’t be going.

Take for yourself this confidence:
that God wishes you well,
and that it shall be so.

What afflicts you now
will not determine you.
Already your blessing is decreed.
Go and show yourself.

I’m grateful for the faithfulness, artistry, and generosity of Steve Garnaas Holmes who generously allows me to repost his meaningful work. I cannot recommend his blog highly enough. You’ll find him at unfoldinglight.net. – Lisa <><