My Needs, My Hopes- a prayer based on Matthew 4

left human hand photo

Photo by Jonas Ferlin on Pexels.com

What would it be like to turn toward Jesus right now and place everything into His healing hands? All you are planning and working for. All you are feeling and longing for. All that weighs heavy upon you – for yourself, those you know, and our weary world.

God is near. God is good. God is strong to save.
Let us pray…

Jesus, my Light, my Savior
Breaker of Chains
Bringer of Grace and Hope

I’ve been carrying this by myself
I hear your call to repentance
The turning will save me
Save us

I’ve been trying to make it right in my own strength
I hear your Good News
The trusting will save me
Save us

I place every need into your healing hands
name your needs

I place every hope into your divine care
name your hopes

I’m listening
pause in silence

Thank you for receiving it all
Receiving me

In you, I find rest and wholeness
In you, I find life
Now and New and Forever
Blessed be your Name. Amen.

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My Needs, My Hopes, a prayer based on Matthew 4 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer for Storm Survivors

Jesus Calms the Storm by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

Jesus Calms the Storm by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

The knowledge that we are never alone calms the troubled sea of our lives and speaks peace to our souls. – A. W. Tozer

I am grateful Taylor Burton-Edwards for making excellent suggestions to improve this prayer.

A Prayer for Storm Survivors
Jesus, we see you calming storms-
storm-tossed seas and stormy lives.
Extend your power and grace again,
especially upon these most recent storm victims.

Speak peace and healing over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and hope over families and communities devastated by sudden loss.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and unity over diverse groups of people
bring them together for greater provision,
just distribution, and effective rebuilding.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak peace and protection over rescue workers
as they reach out to those who are suffering.
Jesus, speak peace. Silence

Speak to us, moving our prayer to action⠀
Jesus, speak, we are listening. Silence

You are the Prince of Peace.
You are the Resurrection and the Life.
You are strong to save.
Our hope and trust are in you. Amen.

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A Prayer for Storm Survivors © updated 2019, Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment below for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Lament, an essential spiritual practice for our violent times

mourn sorrowHow do I stay resilient in the midst of so much violence, evil, corruption, need, and pain? Is there a way to stay awake to the needs around me without becoming overwhelmed and despairing?

I wish I could’ve asked these questions in such a thoughtful way, but I couldn’t. I was crying and had lost count of the number of tissues I’d used.

My spiritual director listened with great compassion and then asked a simple question. “Do you practice lament?”

I didn’t. I didn’t know much about it. I learned and started that same day. It’s become an essential spiritual practice for me as I stay on the front lines with so many in need.

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair. It is not whining. It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole and Chris Rice, Reconciling All Things

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of Practicing Lament)  

  • I don’t want to appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • I don’t want to burden my loved ones and friends.
  • Fully expressing my pain will only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • It feels unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. (Here’s the good news, it isn’t!)

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message
Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

Lament in the Scriptures
We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in Revelation.

  • 1/3 of the Psalms are laments
  • Much of Job is lamenting
    • Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”- Job 3:11
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.”- Jeremiah 9:1
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented
Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. This reminds us we can lament our personal pain.

Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. This reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gifts of God’s grace and salvation. We can also lament the brokenness of society. If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)

Jesus weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This reminds us we can be totally honest and totally vulnerable. No feeling or thought is taboo.

Jesus crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.” – Katongole and Rice
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-7           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.  

What spiritual practices help you stay resilient? 

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Lament Article © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer for the Beginning of Treatment

Chemotherapy Vials, photo by Bill Branson on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons

Chemotherapy Vials, photo by Bill Branson on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons

I wrote this prayer in July of 2013. The husband of one of my clergy friends had cancer. He was preparing to receive a triple lumen cath followed by 4 days of chemo before receiving a bone marrow transplant the following week.

I admired how transparent they were about the whole experience. She posted on social media, “With a healthy dose of fear and much hope, we are walking this path together with the support of each of you and the grace of God to lead us.” She also posted his words before receiving the cath: “and so it begins.”

And so it begins… so much in so few words.

Their faith and the promises of God inspired this prayer.

Over the years, I’ve sadly returned to it. Every time my heart hurts. Every time God remains true and near.

This week my prayers begin for a sixteen-year-old I’ve known since she was a baby. She has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

May this prayer be a blessing to her, to you, and to all at the beginning of a medical journey. – Lisa <><

And so it begins,
the wondering
the diagnosis
the treatment

You are The Alpha and Omega
The Beginning and the End
The First and the Last
Unmatched Majesty, yet you draw near
to this beginning
to my frailty, my brokenness
my unknowing
closer than breath
closer than pulse

You are with me
You are for me
Jesus

You are Spirit
Animating, Leading
Pioneering, Perfecting
Way, Truth, Life
Glory Itself, yet you walk with me
on this small path
through the shadowy valleys
unknown or anticipated
My Guide and Guardian
Every day of my life

My eyes are open to my need
You make space to feel it fully and honestly
You meet me there with
Goodness and Mercy
Help and Wholeness

Holy One
You are my Hope and Peace
I love you and trust you and place myself into your compassion and care
Today and Tomorrow
Amen

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Prayer for the Beginning of Treatment © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain (Psalm 148)

Song_of_the_Silent_Snow_by_Martina Carnesciali

Song of the Silent Snow by Martina Carnesciali

Psalm 148:7-8 NRSV
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

One winter, while we were living in North Carolina, it snowed. I sat for a long time in silence at our bedroom window watching the soft flakes float to the ground. It was fascinating to me. I grew up in Florida and had only seen snow a couple of times in my life. The perfect peace of that experience birthed the snow verse of this hymn. As I began to think about other natural experiences, the other verses came to be. – Lisa <><

God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Meter 77.77
Suggested tune: THE CALL (United Methodist Hymnal #164)

God who brings the cleansing rain
saturate our thirsty bones
with the milk of mercy sweet
with the blood that brings us home

God who rules the fiery sun
kindle now our brittle hearts
set ablaze our tender lives
forge our ways till sin departs

God who rides the winds of change
anchor us against its wrath
set our face toward holy ends
fix our walk upon your path

God who sends the silent snows
quiet us against your breast
cover us with hope-filled wings
whisper soft your word of rest

God who steps into our time
Take away this needless fear
Turn our lives to songs of praise
Play us for your world to hear

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God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form. Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to music.

Easter Message- Collective Trauma, Collective Hope (Matthew 28.1-10)

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 5 of 5: Collective Trauma, Collective Hope

Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/21/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Read Matthew 28:1-10

notre dame burning

Last Monday, the Paris Cathedral of Notre Dame burned. 

  • Where were you when you heard the news?
  • What did you think?
  • How did you feel?

As I watched, heartbroken and sick to my stomach I thought of the three historic African American churches which burned in Louisiana in the last few weeks. I prayed it wasn’t intentional, arson or terrorism.

I heard this term for the first time: Collective Trauma

  • trauma that happens to a large number of people
  • the size of a community or so large it can cross national boundaries
  • it can affect generations to come
  • The older you are, the more you’ve experienced collective trauma
    • war, genocide, slavery, terrorism, natural disasters, accidents

We mark days, time, and life by collective trauma- before and after the trauma

  • Pearl Harbor
  • Deaths of Famous people- President Kennedy, Dr. King, Princess Diana
  • Chernobyl
  • The Challenger Explosion
  • The 9/11 attacks

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Columbine school shooting. Fifteen persons lost their lives that day.

Rick Townsend, whose daughter, Lauren, was 18 when she was gunned down, said
“It seems like every month there’s a new tragedy of some kind somewhere around.
It just makes you feel sometimes hopeless.”

Now we add the Burning of Notre Dame to this list.

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site, over 850 years old
  • Survived: crusades, reformation, revolution, 2 world wars
  • 13 million visitors a year. That means millions and millions of memories- that once in a lifetime vacation, an encounter with Gothic architecture or art, a profound moment of prayer. Maybe they were baptized there. Now millions share the pain over the burning of Notre Dame- collective trauma.

Why does this affect us so deeply?

  • We care about beautiful and sacred places and the people tied to those places
  • What would it be like if my church burned?
  • Something we presume will always be there is gone or forever changed
  • Increased sense of impermanence, mortality, vulnerability, helplessness

notre dame post fire

Yet in the midst of the darkness, pain, tears something new rises

  • In one of the most secular cities in the world, bystanders did not watch indifferently
    • They held each other, raised candles and sang hymns in the streets. Ann Voskamp said, “Songs rose like incensed prayers, mingling with plumes of smoke.”
  • People worked together, risked together, to make a human chain to pass sacred objects from flames to safety- what some believe to be a nail that held Christ to the cross, the crown of thorns which pierced his brow, and a piece of the cross itself
  • At that moment, the world was drawn together in a common goal in the midst of their common pain and it broke down all the dividing walls that so often separate us from each other.
  • Now there is a commitment Notre Dame will be rebuilt on those ancient foundations. Something new will rise.

This is the Good News of Easter
What starts in darkness, pain, and tears will rise, it ends with new life.
Earth to Earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust ends in Resurrection!

As much as there can be a sharing in communal trauma, this rising can be shared. All of us begin our lives in the darkness of our mother’s wombs. And there is pain and there are tears and there is new life and there is rising.

That first Easter morning, the women started for the tomb in darkness.
Mourn-full, tear-full
Mind-full of the trauma and pain
Expecting to encounter death
Instead, they found a rising. They found new life.

Matthew 28:5b-6
Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

He is not here! He is risen!
What? How?

Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He told you… remember, he told you
He is not here! He is risen!

Blinding light begins to rise within them
Awe-full, Hope-full
Mind-full of words and wonder, this story and this truth
He is risen! Hallelujah! He is risen, indeed!

Where are you experiencing darkness pain tears?
They do not have the last word
There is new life coming, available
There is a rising

What needs to die, that you might know resurrection?
They need to die because they bring on the pain, darkness, and trauma.
Let them die so Christ may be alive in you.

Pastor Lisa’s Testimony

It is Easter! Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed!
It is not about collective trauma, it is about collective hope!
Collective grace
Collective blessing
Collective new life available to each of us

Communion Prayer

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Collective trauma, collective hope © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for Patience

looking forward

Holy One, grant me
Patience in the waiting

Raise me to be
Steadfast
Resilient
Persevering
A child of hope

New life takes time to root and grow and bear fruit
It takes trust and tending

Give me eyes to see beyond the now to the then
Give me your eyes

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV) 
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word, I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.
– Simone Weil

Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.
 Peter Marshall

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