A Heap of Empty Words (Matthew 6)

words pile scraps

Matthew 6:7-8
Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

You are there in the midst of my prattle
and my hiding

Thank you for your patient presence
Thank you for calling me again to what is deeper and true

Forgive me for defaulting to well-worn words
Empty language borrowed from ritual or even scripture
Help me come to you honest and real
nothing veiled, nothing hidden
Help me come to you present and fresh
new every morning

Matthew 6:9-10
Jesus said, “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Glory to You, Heavenly One
Abba, Maker, Creator
I long for your kingdom, the fullness of your grace and victory

The longing is a sign of you in me
Abide more and more, so I not only long but look and see
Abide forever, so I not only long but pray and speak and act
Full-filling your words
now mine

A Heap of Empty Words © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The 2016 TED Talk Experiment- Week 8

TED talk blog graphic 2
Back from vacation and back to TED.

10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation
Celeste Headlee
TEDx Creative Coast, April 2015
1. Be present. 2. Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn. Be prepared to be amazed. 3. Ask open ended questions 4. Let ideas come and go in order to stay listening 5. Think of the conversation as “on the record”- be precise with what you claim 6. It’s not about you- do not self promote, do not presume your similar experience is their experience 7. Try not to repeat yourself 8. Forget the details, go for the big idea or emotion 9. Listen, listen, listen – if your mouth is open, you’re not learning 10. Be brief- be interested in other people

A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit
Judson Brewer
TEDMED 2015 Palm Springs California, November 2015
Being mindful (curiously aware) helps us step out of our fear based habit patterns as we step into being. Mindfulness leads to disenchantment with the hurtful behavior which can lead to a transformation of the trigger, behavior, reward cycle.

Dive Into an Ocean Photographer’s World
Thomas Peschak
Mission Blue II Solomon Islands, October 2015
“The best way for me to effect change is to sell love.” Conservation Photographer Thomas Peschak fell in love with the beauty and importance of our oceans at a young age. Through his photographs, he encourages us to do the same. “You can’t love something and become a champion for it if you don’t know it exists.”

The Doubt Essential to Faith
Lesley Hazleton
TED Global 2013 Edinburgh Scotland, June 2013
Fascinating retelling of Mohamed’s reactions to receiving his first revelation of the Koran- doubt, fear, despair. “Abolish all doubt and what is left is not faith but absolute, heartless conviction…. Absolutism is the opposite of faith.”

Everyday Leadership
Drew Dudley
TEDx Toronto 2010, September 2010
“We need to get over our fear of how extraordinarily powerful we can be in each other’s lives. We need to get over it so we can move beyond it.” Leadership isn’t about changing the world, it’s about changing a person’s perception of what they’re capable of, how much they are loved, how valuable they are, how much influence they have for the greater good.

I’m trying an experiment in 2016. Maybe you’d like to try it with me.

Here’s where I am
I’m tired of the spin. I’m tired of ideas, news, and entertainment really being one long sales pitch for profit or power.

I’m longing for creativity, curiosity, and inspiration. I’m in search of passionate people willing to speak to the truth and complexity of living with a heart of hope. I want to hear from authentic humans who are in the trenches working for the greater good.

I think I’ve found them in the TED community.

“TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.”

TED’s been around for 30 years. I’ve heard about them and even watched a couple of talks, but I’ve never spent any concentrated time mining the good stuff. So….

Here’s the plan
Watch 5 enthusiastic, inspiring TED Talk presenters a week for a year.
Apply and share the goodness.

Transformation and the Journey of Faith

Isaiah 43:18-19 NRSV
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

I am not the man I ought to be
I am not the man I wish to be and
I am not the man I hope to be.
But by the grace of God,
I am not the man I used to be.
– John Newton

The clue to transformation lies in the nature of the word itself: trans…formation.  The fundamental meaning of “trans” is “beyond.”  Our recovery of authenticity is “beyond” a mere rearranging of the components of our lives–it does not occur with a momentary, superficial, or cosmetic remodeling of our existence.  The recovery of authenticity is “beyond” every notion of self-help.  It is, rather, a massive infusion of grace, so that by God’s redemptive act in Christ, we can be reconciled to God and made new as the Risen Christ takes up residence in us. – Steve Harper

Do you really want to be converted? Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change? Conversion is certainly not something you can bring about yourself. It is not a question of willpower. You have to trust the inner voice that shows the way. You know that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else’s opinion. Thus you become entangled in countless often contradictory thoughts, feelings, and ideas and lose touch with the God in you. And you end up dependent on all the people you have gathered around you. Only by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to a new life of freedom and joy. – Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

Psalm 143:10 NRSV
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~Mark Twain

The separate self is the problem, whereas most religion and most people make the shadow self the problem. This leads to denying, pretending, and projecting instead of real transformation into the Divine. – Richard Rohr

Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. That is how transformative divine love is.
– Richard Rohr

During the rare occasions when theologians and pastors are brave enough to (publicly) have a change of heart, they’re labeled a “heretic” and often lose their jobs, their respect, and many of their closest friends and followers. But theology — our study and beliefs about God — should be a natural process involving change instead of avoiding it. Our God is too big and too wonderful to completely understand by the time we graduate high school, or college, or get married, or have children, or retire. Our life experiences, relationships, education, exposure to different cultures and perspectives continually affect the way we look at God. Our faith is a journey, a Pilgrim’s Progress, and our theology will change. And while we may not agree with a person’s new theological belief, we need to stop seeing the inherent nature of change as something negative. – Stephen Mattson, Christians: It’s Not a SIN to Change Your Beliefs

Isaiah 42:16 NIV
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
Along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Holy Saturday Prayers from The Awkward Season- Prayers for Lent by Pamela C Hawkins

Holy Saturday Prayers from The Awkward Season- Prayers for Lent by Pamela C Hawkins

We cannot cross paths Jesus very long before he begins to have an effect upon our life and our work. The questions we ask about him almost always have an ulterior motive— the motive that recognizes Jesus’ answer is likely to upset our apple cart— the motive which understands that to deal with Jesus is really to be changed.
– Steve Harper, from a meditation on John 18:33-37 entitled You Say So

The awakened subject is not merely to perceive transcendent life,
but to participate therein;
and for this, a drastic and costly life-changing is required.
Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

We ask God to remove our character flaws, we also need to actively replace them with the opposite qualities. If we battle with selfishness, we can begin to do kind or helpful things for others. If we procrastinate a lot, we can get down to doing something that we have been avoiding. As we take action to build positive habits like these into our lives with God’s help, our prayers for change will become more effective. After all, as the Bible makes very clear, faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
– Trevor Hudson, One Day at a Time

Extended quote by Leo Babauta
The biggest reason people fail at creating and sticking to new habits is that they don’t keep doing it. That seems obvious: if you don’t keep doing a habit, it won’t really become a habit. So what’s the solution to this obvious problem? Find a way to keep doing it. When you look at it this way, the key to forming a habit is not how much you do of the habit each day (exercise for 30 minutes, write 1,000 words, etc.), but whether you do it at all. So the key is just getting started.

Let me emphasize that: the key to forming a habit is starting each day.

What do I mean by starting? If you want to form the habit of meditation, just get your butt on the cushion each day. If you want to form the habit of running, just lace up your shoes and get out the door. If you want to form the habit of writing, just sit down, close everything else on your computer, and start typing. Form the habit of starting, and you’ll get good at forming habits. For the rest of the article, click here

Psalm 31:1-5 NRSV
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame;
In your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
For your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
Take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

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

The Discipline of Prayer

pray the hours
Psalm 5:3 NIV
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

Psalm 63:6-8 NIV
On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days … Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether.
– John Wesley

We take a giant step forward in Christian devotion when we see it more as a life to be lived than as a time to be observed. Consequently, it is more appropriate to speak of a “devotional life” than a “devotional time.”
– Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People

When you pray, I think what happens is that you are steadfastly refusing to abandon this place that knows and believes, loves and trusts. You’re going to this place saying, “I’m staying here. I’m standing here. I’m going to believe this.” That’s daily prayer, that’s eating the daily bread to again believe the Gospel, to again believe the divine indwelling, to again trust and draw upon who you most deeply are. You gradually learn how to live there, how to draw your strength and solace from there, how to draw your dignity from this abundance. – Richard Rohr

Every “form” of prayer (whether liturgical or charismatic) is only the doorway into the presence of God. To equate or define prayer according to the form is to miss the essence. No matter when you pray, where you pray, or how you pray—praying is “just being with Jesus.” – Steve Harper, Just Be With Jesus

Prayer, fasting, watching may be good in themselves; yet it is not in these practices alone that the goal of our Christian life is found, though they are necessary means for its attainment. The true goal consists in our acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.
-Seraphim of Sarov

Prayer is the practice by which all that we are, all that we believe and do, is transformed into the action of the Spirit working his will in the details of our dailiness. Prayer consists in the transformation of what we do in the name of Jesus to what the Holy Spirit does in us as we follow Jesus. – Eugene Peterson, Tell It Slant  

Where shall we sense the fragrance of obedience, if not in prayer? Where strip ourselves of the self-love that makes us impatient when insulted or made to suffer? Or put on a divine love that will make us patient, and ready to glory in the cross of Christ crucified? In prayer. – Catherine of Siena, A Life of Total Prayer

On the palm of your hand you write my name, O God.
Through the pages of creation, my life unfolds.
In the chambers of your heart, I have a home, O God,
where every cry is heard, every tear seen,
every thanks
whispered in the dark or sung to the morning
is known to you.
And still, I am slow to thank, to ask, to trust.
O God, who is great and good,
help me to pray.
-Pamela C. Hawkins, The Awkward Season: Prayers for Lent

Click here for an excellent essay by Rachel Held Evans on the values of structured/liturgical prayer entitled “Give us this day” (some thoughts on structured prayer).

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

Quotes: Habits

good bad habitsThe hard must become habit.
The habit must become easy.
The easy must become beautiful.
– Doug Henning

A tree may always be known by its fruit, and a true Christian may always be discovered by their habits, tastes and affections.
~ J.C. Ryle

Some people think they should reap every day, but reaping requires sowing. Think about what you want and begin sowing now. Reaping will come.
– Renovare’

Sow a thought and you reap an action
Sow an act and you reap a habit
Sow a habit and you reap a character
Sow a character and you reap a destiny
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Habit is good. Most of the really important things we do in life, we do out of habit. We eat, sleep, make love, shake hands, hug our children out of habit. Some things in life are too important to be left to chance. Some things in life are too difficult to be left up to spontaneous desire- things like telling people that we love them or praying to God. So we do them “out of habit.” Thus, in the church we generally do the same things over and over again, week after week, telling the same stories and singing the same songs.
Willimon and Hauerwas, Lord Teach us

We ask God to remove our character flaws, we also need to actively replace them with the opposite qualities. If we battle we selfishness, we can begin to do kind or helpful things for others. If we procrastinate a lot, we can get down to doing something that we have been avoiding. As we take action to build positive habits like these into our lives with God’s help, our prayers for change will become more effective. After all, as the Bible makes very clear, faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
– Trevor Hudson, One Day at a Time

Do not have your concert first and tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and first of all get into harmony with Him. – Hudson Taylor

Not long ago a very wise man told me that souls who do not practice prayer are like people whose limbs are paralyzed. Even though they have hands and feet, they cannot command them. – Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

The words flee, be silent and pray summarize the spirituality of the desert. They indicate the three ways of preventing the world from shaping us in its image and are thus the three ways to life in the Spirit. – Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

Quotes from Wilderness Time by Emilie Griffin

  • Since our enslavement occurs most often at the level of habit, it is at the level of habit that our liberation needs to begin.
  • Spiritual formation involves a fundamental choice. Choosing to live for Jesus Christ may mean adopting a certain style of life or, perhaps more properly, a rule of life. We take on a series of spiritual practices that will open us to God’s work in our lives.
  • Think of the spiritual life as a pattern, a series of concrete actions that will gently move us toward transformation in Christ. The disciplines themselves, however, are not transformative. The transformation in us is God’s work. It is a work of grace.