Light in the Wilderness, a Lenten Rock Garden

Lent Garden 1

A few years ago, the good folks at Picture Lent suggested creating a wilderness rock garden as a visual reminder of the season. I loved the idea and continue to use it.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED
Sand
A tray
At least 40 rocks in a container
Tealight and holder
optional- additional symbols

ASSEMBLING THE ROCK GARDEN
Place a couple of inches of sand in the tray. I used a woven tray so I had to line it with parchment paper and place it on a solid tray.

Place the tealight in its holder on the sand. Add additional symbols if you like.

I use a mixture of rocks and shells from my travels in my garden. Use what’s meaningful to you.

Lent Garden 4 set up

USING THE ROCK GARDEN
Spend a few moments in quietness as you place a rock in the garden every day during Lent.

What does the rock mean to you?

  • Is it a burden you are releasing to God?
  • Are you marking your time with Jesus in the wilderness?
  • Is it a habit tracker for something you’ve given up for Lent or a holy habit you’ve added for Lent?
  • Something else?

On Sundays, light the candle instead of placing a rock in the garden. Every Sunday is a little Easter, even during Lent.

I’d love to hear your ideas for using the garden!

Sermon- Quiet Your Soul (Psalm 131)

Sermon Series Seeking God 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 3 of 5: Quiet Your Soul
Scripture: Psalm 131
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/26/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.

If your brain was an animal, what would it be?
There are times when my brain resembles an animal more than a human.

  • A monkey brain- reacting rather than responding to the new or unexpected
  • A hamster on a wheel brain in constant motion- thinking, planning, working and it won’t stop
  • A squirrel brain- distracted, chasing this thought or feeling then chasing another one
  • A dog brain- grabbing hold of an idea or feeling (like resentment) and it won’t let go

What do we long for? We long for peace of mind.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)

We long peace of mind, for quietness.
Even something deeper than that, rest for our souls.
The good news is we can have it no matter the season or circumstance.

Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Let’s hear the testimony of Ruth Haley Barton on how she found rest for her soul. Ruth Haley Barton, author of Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence and the book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation.

I didn’t have a jar of river water, but Pam was kind enough to loan me her snowglobe. This snowglobe settles in about 10 seconds. In practicing solitude and silence I don’t settle this quickly. It’s a new practice for me. I’m learning.

What I do know is that I need it. The idea that we can be all jumbled up inside and settle into a quietness of the soul is a promise and gift of God. These practices are ancient. They are not new nor new age. We’ve just forgotten them or never been taught them.

Rest for our souls- The Christian Practice of Solitude and Silence. Some refer to it as Christian Contemplation, Contemplative Prayer, or Christian Meditation. I like the word stillness. It sounds more approachable.

What is it? We stop. We stop making demands on God. We stop making demands on ourselves. We leave productivity and accomplishment behind for a time. It’s being rather than doing.

We stop and spend time with God. God is God. God is present and waiting. I belong to God.

Psalm 131- a song of quiet trust. A song of ascents used as folks made their way up the mountain range between Jericho and Jerusalem. They were heading to Jerusalem for worship at the Temple. A song of David, the shepherd king, the man after God’s own heart. (Acts 13:22)

Psalm 131, NRSV
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.

The Psalm is directed to God, as is the Christian practice of Solitude, Silence, and Stillness. Notice how striving and achieving are left behind- my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not too high. I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 

There is humility. There is dependence, as a child.

We had a preschool party recently. It was baby palooza, so many babies. One of the moms asked if I wanted to hold her baby and I said, “YES!” I had the joy of holding a three-month-old baby Elias, a nugget of love. He came to me and nestled in.

My soul is calmed and quieted like a weaned child with its mother. 

The Christian practice of Solitude, Silence, and Stillness is very different than the practice of Eastern Meditation. In our practice, we are seeking God and stopping. In Eastern practice, I am doing. I am striving for self.  All I need is within me. I can heal myself. I can attain a higher state of consciousness. I empty my mind. I control my breathing. I control my emotions. I control myself. (notice all the I’s)

How to Practice Stillness. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands palms up on your lap. This is a posture of openness and receiving. Set a timer for 5-20 minutes. Take a deep breath. Gaze on God and allow God to gaze on you. As your mind is distracted, center back on gazing at God.

Distracted, by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Sometimes you are distracted by your prayers,
your desires pulling so many ways
like chores, the must, the ought,
the please oh please,
the wouldn’t it be better if.

Forget your prayers
and pay attention to the Beloved,
sit without purpose,
simply gaze,
and be without excuse
beheld.

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Sermon- Quiet Your Soul © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Ponder Prayer (Luke 2:15-20)

Nativity by He Qi

Nativity by He Qi

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. – Luke 2:19

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Ponder Prayer
Welcome Little One
Holy One

So much has been said about you already
So much to take in

How can I hold you?
How can I hold you and all that you are?

Make by heart your baby book
There to gather all the names
the stories
the promises
There to pause and ponder
the silent snapshots
Treasuring you as you treasure me
Keeping them safe for times to come

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Click the link to read the scripture which inspired this reflection, Luke 2:15-20

Today’s post was made richer and clearer after reading Richard Rohr’s post, Finding God in the Depth of Silence

Ponder Prayer © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Palms Down, Palms Up ― A Prayer of Letting Go

left human hand photo

Photo by Jonas Ferlin on Pexels.com

A few short weeks ago I discovered Kaisa Stenberg-Lee on Instagram. I was immediately struck by her tender spirit and creative, hands-on prayer practices. I’m thrilled to welcome her to the blog today and for you to get to know her and her work through this guest post.

Kaisa is a gifted spiritual director and workshop leader, born in Finland, educated in the Netherlands and Wales, and now serving in Denver, Colorado. Kaisa also enjoys “walking in nature, drinking tea, reading, trying new Korean cooking recipes, biking, embroidering, watercolor painting or whatever other craft my hands have landed on at the time.”

This post was originally written for and published here. Be sure to check out her other writings and prayer resources on her beautiful website, Kutsu CompanionsMay you have a powerful experience with God through this simple practice. – Lisa <><

Palms Down, Palms Up ― A Prayer of Letting Go
This simple prayer is supported by bodily movements that express the inner postures of the heart. I have modified Richard Foster’s “Palms Down, Palms Up” prayer, and added some elements to it. In essence, this prayer helps us to bring our worries to Jesus and express our longings to him.

The Prayer follows four movements:
1. Hands on the stomach for grounding and tuning into our inner center. 2. Hands on the lap, palms facing down as a symbol of releasing and letting go of concerns and worries.

3. Hands on the lap, palms up to signal readiness and desire to receive from God.

4. Hands on the heart to express gratitude.

“Palms Down, Palms Up” Guided Prayer
1. Settle down and sit comfortably on a chair or cushion. Close your eyes. Gently place your hands on your stomach. Take a few deep breaths. Notice how your body moves to the rhythm of your breath. Deepen your breath so that you can feel it fill your chest, stomach and rib cage with air.

Now start paying attention to the whole of your body, your feelings, and thoughts. Do you notice any tension, pain, numbness or tightness in your body? Does anything worry you or make you afraid? What else do you feel? Where can you feel those emotions in your body?

2. Lower your hands to your lap, palms facing down. Let this turning of the hands be a symbol of your wish to turn any worries or concerns that you might have to God. Give the worries to God and say to him in your own words quietly: “I let go of this … frustration/ anger/ fear/ worry/ guilt, or whatever it is that you want to let go off,” and give it to God. Don’t rush this. Keep turning those things over to God as long as they keep coming to your mind. God is near. He is reaching out to take over the carrying of your burdens.

Can you let go of your fears and worries? Can you trust him to carry them for you?

3. Once you have handed over your burdens to God, and your mind has come to a still, turn your palms up as a sign that you are now ready to receive from God.

Relax, and imagine placing your hands, palms up, into God’s caring hands. Feel how you are being held by God. You don’t need to go anywhere or do anything. You are safe. You can fully relax and trust that you will be taken care of, and that you will be provided for. Enjoy the feeling of God holding your hands in his hands, and loving you.

Imagine God gently whispering to you, “(Your name…), what do you want?” Tell him in the quiet of your heart what you desire. What do you want him to do for you?

Wait for His response. You might feel like he has something to say to you too, or that he simply wants you to know that he cares for you and that you are safe with him.

4. Finally, lift your hands to your heart and thank God for being with you and loving you.

Resources:
Seeking the Kingdom, Devotions for the Daily Journey of Faith by Richard Foster
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Sit- We Receive When We Rest (Ephesians 2)

sit-walk-stand

Sermon Series: Sit Walk Stand
Inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians

Message 1 of 3: Sit
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-9
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 5/19/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Click Here for more information on the Ephesians Reading Challenge
Read the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks

The main theme of Ephesians: What it means to move with Christ from death to life

Read Ephesians 2:1-3  
Paul describes what life is like before we place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It can look like life- doing, accomplishing, living. In reality, life before Christ is basically the walking dead.

Read Ephesians 2:4-9
The passage now shifts from death to life. Notice the descriptions of God’s motivation, God’s character, God’s heart. God is rich in mercy. Rich in grace. God has great love and uses that great love to love us. God loves us even when we are dead. When we have nothing but death to offer.

Death to Life. Jesus raising us up. We are Easter People.

For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. – Ephesians 2:8

Gift Box Illustration
Jesus offers us the gift of mercy, grace, and salvation. We pass it by again and again. How can we receive the gift of God if we are constantly in motion, constantly striving?

  • We are busy doing life: do the laundry, do my job, go to the grocery store, go to the doctor, cook the meal. We make to-do lists.
  • Busy doing for God: do my devotions, do my volunteer work, do the Bible study, do my duty and invite my new neighbor to worship

You can only receive when you rest– when you sit; when you stop. This is why it is first. Sit Walk Stand. Sitting is our position in Jesus Christ. It is being before doing.

Faith is depending on what Christ has done and is doing before you do anything. Jesus raises us up from death and seats us. Sit- We receive when we rest.

What would it be like for you to do the Ephesians Reading Challenge? For you to read the chapter from Ephesians and just sit with God’s Word. It’s not about acquiring knowledge, not about getting answers, not about checking off something from your to-do list. Read. Sit with Jesus, the Word. That’s the challenge.

What would it be like to sit with Jesus in prayer? The only thing you say is, “I just want to be with you.”

Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

How many of us sit down, even lay down, and we have a monkey mind. Our souls are full of anxiousness. Jesus will give us rest for our body, mind, emotions, and soul. This is why sit is first. We receive when we rest.

Instead of being yoked with the world and the ways of the world, we are yoked with Jesus and His ways. The best way to learn from Jesus is to be with him all the time. Not doing with Jesus or doing for Jesus, but being with Jesus.

Pilgrims progress lay down sin burdenWhat burdens is Jesus inviting us to lie down?
We often think of the burdens of life: sorrow, anxiousness, trouble, stress, pain, overwhelm, grief, worry…

The first burden Jesus invites us to lay down is the burden of our sin. That sin is tied to busyness and distraction.

  • The sin of trying to save ourselves is Pride. I don’t need what you did in your death and resurrection. I can do it myself.
  • The sin of trying to be worthy to be saved is also Pride. What you did in your death and resurrection isn’t powerful enough so I’ve got to help.
  • Can a dead person do anything? No! Jesus makes the first move because we can’t. By grace, we are saved through faith, and this is not your own doing it is the gift of God.

God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-6

In Genesis, humans are created and what is the first thing they do? Rest. Created on day 6 and the next day is day 7, the Sabbath, the day of rest. Being before doing. We can only receive when we rest.

Death to Life. See yourself resurrected from the dead and seated with Christ. Receive salvation as the grace gift that it is. You are alive in Christ.

Already Raisen by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Live as if you are risen

The fear-tombed, nay-saying, people-pleasing
prisoner of scarcity, shame, and threat— that one has died.

The stone of Outcomes has been rolled away.
The linen grave-clothes of Consequences are lying abandoned.

You are free.
Forgiven, accompanied, love-enabled, miracle-powered,
you are a member of the risen body of Christ.

You are those hands with holes in them Jesus shows, and says, “Peace.”
You are the flesh the Spirit moves to do her next wonders.

You’ve already died and gone to heaven,
no mere flesh now, but pure love,
unafraid of death and its useless threats,
with unshakable courage,
nothing to lose, everything in your hands.

Don’t live as if you’re afraid to be crucified.
Live as if you’re already risen

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Sit Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.