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, 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.”
  • 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? 

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

Move On (Philippians 3.14)

2019 07 22 Press On Prayer

Greetings Dear Ones,
Why was the blog so quiet last week? I was away at the Warren Willis Camp. I had the joy of leading worship for 168 middle school campers. 5 sermons in 5 days! Whew…

This week I’m writing prayers and liturgies to submit for next year’s United Methodist General Conference worship. It feels big with all that’s going on in our denomination. Thank you for your prayers. I so want to be faithful and helpful.

The theme verse for the conference is Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

The image of pressing on captured my heart. Journeying, persevering, springing, sprinting, running, pursuing, reaching out, moving forward, moving on.

This reminded me of the moment in the musical Sunday in the Park with George, where George has lost his way. He wants to explore the light, to get through to something new, but he doesn’t know how. His great grandmother, a loving witness from the distant past, encourages him to step out in faith, to try, to move on.

Maybe you needed to hear this encouragement today as well. Just keep moving on.

We do not press on in fear
anxious and competitive

We do not press on in duty
obligated and mechanical

We press on in hope
In your abiding presence
In your saving love
Your love, O Christ, urges us on

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

Walk the Walk (Ephesians 4)

sit-walk-stand 

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

Message 2 of 3: Walk
Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-6
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 5/26/19 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: Moving with Christ from death to life. Christianity is a movement, a journey of faith.

In his book, Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee divides the book of Ephesians into three main sections.

  • Sit, chapters 1-3
    • Sitting with Christ, Sitting in Christ, our identity and being
  • Walk, chapters 4-6:9
    • Walking with Christ, movement of faith
  • Stand, chapter 6:10-24

“Walk” is used in the Book of Ephesians

  • Hard to find depending on what translation you use
  • Most often translated life in the NRSV and NIV translations
  • Easier to find in the King James Version and New King James Version (used 8 times)
  • The Ephesians Reading Challenge: Read the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. It’s 6 chapters long, so read chapter 1 Monday, chapter 2 Tuesday, and you’ll finish on Saturday.

Ephesians 4:1 NRSV
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

Ephesians 4:1 NKJV
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,

If a person is really living their faith we say they’re Walking the Walk. What does Walking the Walk look like?

  • Moral, Just, Trustworthy
  • Commitment to Christ
  • Caring
  • Value fellowship/community
  • Passionate
  • Visible joy
  • Makes an impression – like footprints in the sand

Barefoot-Walking on path

Walking the Walk

  • The practical living of faith in Jesus Christ
  • Our life in Christ out in the world by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us and through us
  • Our lives look different because we are walking with Christ. They make an impression.

Ephesians 4:1 NKJV I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,

We display who we are in Christ in our conduct and our choices. It’s for everyone to see. Who we are in what we do. Our being is shown in our doing.       

  • Jesus says, “You are the Body of Christ.” Our faith is lived out in our flesh. Incarnation, skin in the game
  • They will know you are Christians by your love- your loving words your loving actions, your loving choices, sacrifices, generosity, life

Show Me from Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady
Words Words Words I’m so sick of words. I get words all day through. First from him, now from you. Is that all you blighters can do? Don’t talk of stars burning above. If you’re in love show me. Tell me no dreams filled with desire. If you’re on fire show me.

Show that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Show that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. We leave our former walk/way of living for a new walk/way of living with Christ. We turn, we repent and we become a follower of Jesus Christ. Our life looks different because we are moving in a new direction with a new motivation.

Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Ephesians 2:10 NKJV For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 4:1-6 NRSV I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 5:8 NKJV For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV   See then that you walk circumspectly (watchfully, awake, intentionally), not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

This is a life worthy of giving your life to.

mlk protesters win by loveRev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Quote on Loving Your Enemies
To our most bitter opponents, we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.

There is an idea of Christianity that what it means to be a Christian is to be nice, to follow the laws of the land, to attend church, give money to charity, and do some volunteer work.

That version of Christianity does not require the saving power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. That version of Christianity does not require the power of the Holy Spirit living in you and through you.

It can be done in mere human strength. It is humanism. It is Star Trek. They boldly go where no one has gone before because they’ve pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. They have discovered the technology for it, they’ve learned to be better people who make better choices.

The transformation that happens in a life because of Jesus Christ, because of the power of the Holy Spirit at work, is what Dr. King described. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Christianity is a life so transformed it makes an impression. You walk into a room and people sense the character change in you brought on by the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Christianity is a life that takes our baptismal vows seriously and lives them out

  • I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sin.
  • I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
  • I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.
  • According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.

It is time for a robust, alive faith. It’s time for a faith that does scary things. I want to walk as a child of the light. It’s scary to say this because now you and God can hold me accountable. Ok Jesus, what are you going to ask of me?

And yet, it is what real faith is. I want to be known as a child of the light. I want to be known as a person who walks the walk. I pray you want to be known the same way. This is who you are in Christ. This is the fullness of walking the walk.

Prayer: God we recognize we cannot walk the walk in our own strength. We recognize that it’s so good to just be comfortable. We recognize there’s something bigger and great which you are calling us to. So fill us with your Spirit. Make us alive in you.

Fill us, so it overflows with all we come in contact with. Fill us with your mercy and grace so it overflows as we walk. Fill us with your power so it does abundantly more than we can ask or imagine as we walk.

Lord, we know this filling comes first by sitting in you. We cannot walk unless we sit. We will sit in your presence. We will sit with your Word. We will rest in you and receive so we may walk.

Thank you for teaching us this truth. May our lives bring you glory. May your Kingdom come through us. Amen.

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

 

Sermon Recording: The Pruning Season (John 15.1-8)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624

Message 5 of 5
Scripture: John 15:1-8
These are the notes from a message offered 11/18/18, the Sunday before Thanksgiving at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This is the last post in the series. I pray they have been an encouragement to you.

John 15:1-58
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing…. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

This feels like bearing fruit:  

  • Dedicating the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes
  • The marriage of our eldest daughter Elyse to a very faithful, honorable man named Sam. We see the fruit of faith in their lives. We see all the folks along the way who planted seeds of faith which are now blossoming.
  • Tamara’s Baptism- This was the first adult baptism in 4 years.

We’ve been having conversations amongst the missions team and later the leadership council about fruitfulness. Fruit-full. It’s what drove me to this scripture.

Jesus gives us many illustrations of who we are as his followers. We are the Bride of Christ. We are a building made with living stones. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Family of God. We are the Branches of a Vine. Jesus is referring to a grapevine in this instance.

Over and over and over again it says you will bear fruit, you will bear fruit, you will bear fruit.

That is the longing of my heart. It is also the thing that haunts me because having only one adult baptism in 4 years feels like we could bear much more fruit than that. We’re called to bear more fruit than that.

So we started having conversations in the mission team. We have incredibly faithful leaders in that area. We talked about the tens of thousands of dollars being raised for mission efforts- The United Methodist Women’s efforts, the Rummage Sale, our regular Sunday offerings for connectional giving which supports missionaries and projects around the world. We also do local programs like the Day 4 Hope back to school event.

We started having honest conversations about what is bearing fruit. It drew us to a question. As the Body of Christ are we suffering from multi-system organ failure? Are we dying? Or is it as we see in this passage, is it time for some pruning?

I am a novice when it comes to plants. I’ve planted some veggies but I’ve never had to prune. My mother had rose bushes and she would cut them back to nubbins. It looked like she was hurting the plant, but actually, she was helping the plant.

Pruning can feel like loss. Like harm. Like damage. It’s hard to do.

So we started talking about pruning. What in the life of the congregation was bearing fruit? What could we prune and make it more fruitful? What were some things that it was time for us to not do them anymore?

We’d been invited by the conference to be apart of an effort called Dinner Church. We prayed about it and went to meetings. It was about starting a new worship service based on meals. It was very clear. There was not one person in the congregation who felt like we were called to it. Ok, that’s not what we’re supposed to do.

Then we started to have conversations around some of our big efforts, including the Day 4 Hope back to school event. It takes thousands of dollars, 10 months to plan, over 200 volunteers.

We’ve been doing Day 4 Hope for 4 years and we came to the realization there was no fruit. It was absolutely good. It was good to give kids school supplies and the eye exams and the dental check and medical check, haircut, gift certificates, and photos.

We had not built any relationships with the families. We tried. The relationship with the school was at a standstill. Was it time to prune?

The missions team took some proposals to the leadership council and we had some hard conversations. We said, “Yes.” Yes, we are not called to do Dinner Church. Yes, it is time for the season of Day 4 Hope to come to an end.

It was at that moment I’m thinking, ok Lord, multi-system organ failure or pruning? What is it, Lord? In the midst of the leadership, I heard it’s time for pruning.

Please refer to the reaching ministries handout for the next portion of the message.

In our history, we are a generous people. We are generous with time, money, resources, love, grace, hope. It’s time to prune that generosity into something face to face. If we’re really honest, it’s so much easier to give money and stuff to someone else to do the ministry for us than to be face to face ourselves.

Bearing fruit, being fruit-full, means being face to face. Relationship building, skin in the game, a ministry of presence, faith in action, servant-hearted, choosing to be a hometown missionary.

We are the ones sent to this community. We are the branches. We have the fruit and so many others are in need of it.

Reaching Ministries

  • Trinity Preschool
  • Trinity Family Ministries
  • Partnership with Phillippi Shores Elementary School Teachers
  • GlorYoga
  • Brookdale Assisted Living on Swift
  • Fish of Sarasota- rides to doctor’s appointments

We are at a new season in our life here at Trinity.

John 15:4-5
4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing

In order to be fruit-full, we need this abiding. In this abiding, God removes every branch that bears no fruit. (Verse 2) We give thanks to God for removing our

  • Sin, Shame, Guilt
  • Prejudice, Evil, Injustice
  • Hate, Apathy, Isolation

It is removed so that the Holy Spirit can abide in us. So that something new can happen, we can bear more fruit.

More fruit in our character, the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Our lives are changed as we share the fruit we are bearing. We become fruit-full. It’s wonderful to help someone else do ministry but it does not excuse us from the calling God places on our lives to bear fruit ourselves. Our own calling.

What bears fruit is pruned to make it bear more fruit. (Verse 2) Our character is changed bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. Our community is changed as we bear the fruit of faith.

  • Things start going down- the crime rate, acts of violence, the unemployment rate
  • Things start coming up- the number of kids graduating, the number of kids who can read well, the number of people who have hope, the number of folks who place their trust in Jesus, the number of folks whose lives are changed.

The seeds bear fruit and there is a harvest. This is who we are. This who you are. This is who we can be. 

We’ve been talking about what it means to be resilient for weeks now. Now we’re at the point where the resilience begins to bear fruit.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording: Shall, Making the Path (Isaiah 40)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Message 4 of 5
Scripture: Isaiah 40:3-5
These are the notes from a message offered 11/4/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Romans 5:1-5, The Path to Hope
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Shall, by Lisa Degrenia
The time is now, for you have called, O God
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called
You have spoken
Not an if or when or maybe
Not even a try

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth

So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together

Book Recommendation: Canoeing The Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger

LEWIS AND CLARK AND THE MEN OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY

  • Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804 to find the Northwest Passage
  • Purpose: Commerce
    • Finding the route believed to connect the Missouri River with the Pacific would make commerce possible across the continent and the riches of Asia that lay beyond.
  • Purpose: Control
    • Whichever nation found the Norwest Passage first, and then controlled it, would control the destiny of the continent.

What they thought would happen:

  • Travel the Missouri River to its source
  • Over the next hill, they would find another river. They could then calmly coast to the Pacific Ocean because that’s the way the river would be flowing
  • What they found was the Rocky Mountains, mountains like they’d never seen. So high, so long, so steep. They were unprepared. Everything they had been told was absolutely wrong.

Lewis and Clark List of Hardships 

  • ANIMALS: Plagued by Mosquitoes and Small Pesky Flies. Encounters with Grizzly Bears
  • MISSOURI RIVER: Fighting against strong currents and shifting sandbars. Dangerous hazards caused by navigating rapids and obstacles in the water
    • Exhaustion from the daily grind of moving the heavy keelboat up the Missouri River that involved arduous rowing, pulling the keelboat through shallows using a rope from onshore (called cordelling) or pushing the heavy boat with long poles (poling)
      • The boats were not canoes but a keelboat (55 feet long, 22 oars at its sides, and a cannon mounted in the bow)
    • The Great Falls proved to be a difficult challenge. The men had to bypass the falls which involved carrying their canoes, supplies, and equipment all by hand for over 1 month
  • THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS: Later in the journey it was necessary to abandon travel by water and physically carry the boats. This process called portaging, proved to be very draining and extremely time
    • Traveling over harsh, tough terrain
    • The harrowing journey on the rough Lolo trail through the Bitterroot Mountains
  • WEATHER: Enduring extreme weather conditions such as intense, blistering heat, the bitter cold, blizzards, hailstorms, snow, and continuous rain
    • In the winter months, it was often difficult to find food
  • NATIVES: Confrontations with hostile Natives and Natives who were invaluable to their survival and success. (Sacagawea)
  • LENGTH OF THE TRIP: The outward journey and the return journey home covered over 7000 miles. May 14, 1804, to September 23, 1806 – two years, four months and ten days
    • As the journey progressed illnesses became an increasing problem
    • Hard to find supplies along the way

Their journey was nothing like what they expected. Everything they had been told was wrong. They were unprepared.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Somewhere you never expected? How does it feel to be that out of your element? That unprepared?

At that point, you have a decision to make. Lewis and Clark had a decision to make. You can turn around and go back. (Sometimes you can’t go back.) Or you can just stay where you are. Pitch a tent. Build a city. Or we can try to move forward. Off the map. Into the unknown.

Lewis and Clark decided to move forward. They adapted. They abandoned the boats, their safety net because they were no longer helpful. They were known for their skill on the water and now they would need to become hikers.

They moved forward. This is resilience, perseverance, endurance. Moving forward in the face of adversity. Moving forward in the face of the unknown. Moving forward in the face of suffering. Moving forward.

So many of us find ourselves in these positions. I did not expect to be here- divorced, fired, widowed, my family in multiple states, financial crisis…

So many of us did not expect to find ourselves in the face of the unknown but because of the grace of God, the power of God, the presence of God, we can move forward.

Lewis and Clark were able to move forward because

  • they made the decision to move forward
  • people came alongside them to move forward

We too can move forward. We can make the decision, we have people who will come alongside us, and we have God in Jesus Christ, the pioneer, and perfecter of our faith who is already out there ahead of us. For us, with us, behind us, before us, above us moving us forward.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Christianity is a movement. A movement forward. We are a pilgrim people.

Isaiah 40:3-5, The Way to Make the Path
A voice cries out: The voice is God shouting “Come on!”

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

This is what our God does. Our God moves that mountain so we can keep moving forward. Our God raises us up out of that valley so we can keep moving forward. Our God fills in the potholes so the rough places are made smooth. Our God takes those winding, curvy, rollercoaster-y ways and makes them smooth so we can move forward

It may not feel that way when we’re walking it. It may feel like a mountain high or a valley low or rough and twisty. But God is making a way where there seems to be no way.

This is resilience. Do you trust God to make a way where there seems to be no way? Trust God.

God is not only going to make a way for you, but God is also going to help you make a way for others. All of a sudden you’re going to find yourself a Sacagawea helping someone make their way.

It’s all grace. It’s all goodness. That’s the God we serve, we know, we love. That’s the God who saves us.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording: Faith Doubt and Lament (Psalm 130)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624

Message 3 of 5
Scripture: Psalm 130
These are the notes from a message offered 10/28/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

This message and recording also include our annual All Saints Remembrance, where we thank God for our departed loved ones and friends, especially those who have helped us to find faith or grow in our faith. 

Resilience Series Review: Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it. Romans 5 reminds us of the path to hope. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message. The author of this translation of the Bible died this week, Pastor Eugene Peterson.

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.

When an old wound is triggering unhealthy responses, I seek the help of a counselor to address it. When life is overwhelming, it’s also helpful to speak with a spiritual director. A spiritual director asks, “How’s your soul? How’s your relationship with God during this situation?” After some prayerful listening, a spiritual director often suggests a spiritual practice to help you stay connected to God.

At a session a few months ago, after sharing, the spiritual director asked me if I practiced lament. I didn’t. I hadn’t even thought about the spiritual practice since seminary. I started practicing lament and it helped greatly.

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

  • Appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • Burden my loved ones and friends
  • 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?
  • Seems unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. It isn’t!

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 the book of Revelation.
  • 1/3 of the Psalms
  • The book of Job
    • Job 3:11 Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”
  • 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

  • Weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Reminds us we can lament our personal pain.
  • Weeping over Jerusalem. Reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gift of grace/salvation and the brokenness of society.
    • If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)
  • Weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

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. 

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, Reconciling All Things, p. 78

We teach preschoolers how to pray using simple words. Help. Thanks. Wow! (praise) (A big shout out to Anne Lamott for her book of the same title). We need to also teach them Sorry (confession) to lament- Ouch! Us big kids need the same lessons.

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.”
  • 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 130:5-8           
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. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording: The Path to Hope (Romans 5)

sermon series resilience 1110 x 624
Growing in Resilience: When Suffering Stays
Message 2 of 5
Scripture: Romans 5:1-5
These are the notes from a message offered 10/21/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’ll be posting the series on Fridays in the coming weeks. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Resilience isn’t so much bouncing back from adversity but moving forward in the midst of it

The Story of Asha Mevlana

Asha Mevlana cancerWhen Asha Mevlana was 24, she had a great job at a start-up, an apartment in New York’s SoHo, lots of friends, a beautiful head of hair, and a pearl-shaped problem in her left breast. She thought it was a cyst. Her mom had a cyst around the same age. It turned out to be breast cancer.

The defining moment of her suffering, however, wasn’t the diagnosis, or the biopsy, or the eight months of chemo, or her baldness. The life-altering moment came when her doctors announced that she was cancer-free.

Something had changed. Everyone around her had gone on blithely living their lives, talking about the crummy weather, the long lines at Starbucks, and American Idol. They seemed to value such inconsequential things, and she found herself yearning for a time when she did as well. Life seemed empty. She wasn’t religious, but she found herself praying: “Just give me a second chance and I’m going to change my life.”

Asha did. She took a new path. Asha risked leaving her safe job to pursue a lifelong dream of being a professional musician.

Asha now plays an electric 7-string viper violin. She’s toured with many well-known artists, played in the American Idol Band, appeared on The Tonight Show, the Ellen Show and the Grammy’s. She currently plays with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Asha Mevlana TSO

We often think suffering will end us. Instead, it can open us to a new path. For followers of Jesus, suffering is part of the path to hope: suffering to endurance to character to hope

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we are justified by faith…

Sin separates us from God. We cannot bridge the gap- no amount of good deeds, generous gifts to charity, kindness, rule following. We can’t get there in our own strength. God knows this and sends Jesus to bridge the gap. When we place our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our Leader and Forgiver, we cross the bridge of faith. We are saved. Its Just-as-if-I’d never sinned. We are no longer separated from God. It is a gift of grace to be received. And there’s more…

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Those who are justified also receive peace, grace, the ability to stand before God and with God, and hope. We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. We have a future full of hope. The word “boast” (kauchometha) also means “rejoice” or “exalt in.”

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives. – Bill Gaither

Hope is not optimism

  • Optimism involves the expectation that things are eventually going to get better – we will bounce back
  • It’s easy to candy coat situations with Optimism
  • Hope is rooted in the real, in the truth
  • Hope asserts that no matter what may come, no matter how bad things may get, God’s word and promises will prevail
  • There is a hope in Christ located beyond our immediate circumstances
    • Example: A terminally ill patient may not be optimistic about the treatment he is undergoing but may remain hopeful that God keeps God’s promise of resurrection.

Romans 5:3
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, (what?!?!)

We do not boast/rejoice because we are suffering. We boast/rejoice in the midst of suffering. Suffering cannot squash our boasting/rejoicing because it is anchored in hope of the future.

  • A future sharing God’s glory
  • A future which transcends suffering
  • Suffering is temporary grace is eternal, salvation is eternal

Romans 8:31-32
31 … If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? … 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:3-5
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

And there’s more! Endurance, character, hope, love. There’s more than one kind of hope. A hope of the future and a hope of the now. Hope in things above and hope for things here below.

THE PATH TO HOPE: SUFFERING, ENDURANCE, CHARACTER, HOPE
God does not delight in suffering and God does not cause suffering. God’s presence and power bring good out of suffering. We can experience that goodness right now.

  • God creates a path from suffering to hope- suffering to endurance to character to hope
  • We can move forward down the path in the midst of the suffering
    • Moving forward with energy and motivation to act, to dare, to keep trusting
    • We can move forward with a sense of growth in resilience and resolve in the midst of the suffering
  • God is creating a greater and greater capacity in us for hope and for the outpouring of God’s love
    • Like a potter gently opening up the clay to make a vessel, God opens up our heart for God’s love to be poured in
    • This love isn’t sentimental and sweet. The love pouring in is Agape. It’s the sacrificial, resurrection, sin eating, death defeating, love of God in Christ which saves us is now.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;  struck down, but not destroyed.”

In Christ we are resilient!

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Mark and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.