Poem: We Need to Linger

holy week primitive cartoon adapted
Before we get to Easter, we need to linger:
in the vulnerability of the basin and the towel
at the remembrance and promise of the table
in the struggle and betrayal of the garden
in the shadows and shouts of injustice
at the bloody brutal beautiful cross
in the silence of linen and spices and death

For without these, the empty tomb is empty

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Poem: We Need to Linger © 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for Holy Resistance

true-love-requires-actionBreak our hearts Jesus
That we may weep as You weep
Love as You love

Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus
take away our fear, our apathy, our silence
Grant us
Your courage, Your strength, Your perseverance, Your Word

That we may be Your sanctuary
Your safe and sanctified place of presence

That we may live Your justice
and use Your power with wisdom and humility

That we may be Your whole and holy people
people of integrity

That we may speak and act and love
again and again and again
till every dividing wall of hate, fear, and mistrust
comes crashing down in Your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, Savior of the Nations,
teach us to pray and teach us to live Your prayer…
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

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Click here for Comfort Ye based on Isaiah 40 by Steve Garnaas Holmes, a word of encouragement to those experiencing horror and abuse, and those striving to bring justice and healing.

Prayer for Holy Resistance © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Make us Your Sanctuary (Ezekiel 37:26)

safe place quote

Ezekiel 37:26 NRSV
I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore.

John 1:14 NRSV
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Glorious One
Covenant Maker
Peacemaker
Our Savior and God
You multiply your goodness
You fill the earth with people and provision
You set your safe place in our midst
You pitch your tent
You abide
Not for a moment or a span
Nor for a year or an age
Forevermore
We glory in your presence
Our living and moving and being is in you
Make us your dwelling place
Make us your sanctuary

Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy tried and true
With thanksgiving I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You
– Sanctuary by John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs (CCLI Song #24140)

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Make us Your Sanctuary by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Poem: We Need to Linger

holy week primitive cartoon adapted
Before we get to Easter, we need to linger:
in the vulnerability of the basin and the towel
at the remembrance and promise of the table
in the struggle and betrayal of the garden
in the shadows and shouts of injustice
at the bloody brutal beautiful cross
in the silence of linen and spices and death

For without these, the empty tomb is empty

*************
Poem: We Need to Linger © 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 24, Joy

Mistletoes, photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Mistletoes, photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

The thought behind the photo:
Last year, six three-year-olds from our church preschool came bounding into my office. They were dressed for their Christmas party and so excited to give me a gift. “Open it! Open it!” I reached into the bag to find a white shirt with green imprints of their feet hanging from painted red ribbons. At the bottom of the shirt it read, “Mistletoes.” We laughed and hugged and took some pictures. Their gift was wonderful, but their presence more than their present filled me with joy.

Joy is about presence. The presence of those we love may come and go, but the presence of the One who loves us most never ends. (Hebrews 13:5)  Joy is associated with the word enthusiasm which comes from the Greek word en theos – God within. This is the very heart of the Christmas story- God with us and for us and in us. This is what makes the arrival of the Babe in Bethlehem tidings of great joy.

Joy is the serious business of Heaven. – C.S. Lewis

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-11 NKJV
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

It is joy to all nations that Christ is born, the Prince of Peace, the King who rules in righteousness…Beloved, the greatest joy is to those who know Christ as a Saviour…The further you submit yourself to Christ the Lord, the more completely you know Him, the fuller will your happiness become. Surface joy is to those who live where the Saviour is preached; but the great deeps, the great fathomless deeps of solemn joy which glisten and sparkle with delight, are for such as know the Saviour, obey the Anointed One, and have communion with the Lord Himself…you will never know the fullness of the joy which Jesus brings to the soul, unless under the power of the Holy Spirit you take the Lord your Master to be your All in all, and make Him the fountain of your intensest delight. – Charles Spurgeon

The December 24, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 9:2-7, CEB
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.
You have made the nation great; you have increased its joy.
They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest, as those who divide plunder rejoice.
As on the day of Midian, you’ve shattered the yoke that burdened them,
the staff on their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor.
Because every boot of the thundering warriors,
and every garment rolled in blood will be burned, fuel for the fire.
A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be vast authority and endless peace for David’s throne and for his kingdom,
establishing and sustaining it with justice and righteousness now and forever.

Against the backdrop of darkness is the dawning of a new day. New light. New life. Bonds of oppression broken. Endless peace. At the core of Isaiah’s message is rejoicing. Joy.

The Messiah is born, inaugurating God’s coming kin-dom.

When we remember those rods of oppression that seem unbreakable, what is the good news that breaks through?

As we celebrate the dawning of light through the birth of the Christ child, where in our lives are we seeing the in-breaking of God’s kingdom, and who are we sharing this good news with?

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><

Quotes: Kingdom of God

Logo from the 2011 Baptist Union of Great Britain's (BUGB) Assembly

Logo from the 2011 Baptist Union of Great Britain’s (BUGB) Assembly

Matthew 6:33 NRSV
Jesus said, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it. – Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons

Daniel 6:26 NRSV
I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end.

The ultimate reality is the kingdom of God, and Christianity at its best is here to proclaim and lead people into that kingdom, calling them out of smaller rings, smaller kingdoms. Christianity at its worst, using the definition in this paragraph, can become a sin when it holds people within its ring and won’t let them enter the kingdom of God. Jesus diagnosed the religious leaders of his day as doing this very thing.
– Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy

Mark 1:14-15 NRSV
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Sometimes I’m so focused on the ‘Not Yet’ of the Kingdom of God
that I miss the ‘Now’ of it, too. – Sarah Bessey

God is the God of the future, and that is good news to our longing for something better to come. But the truly radical good news resides in the fact that God is not content to rest up until kingdom come. “I am with you” declares, among other things, that matters dear to God’s heart like justice and love, compassion and righteousness, are God’s pressing desires for the current day. God’s presence affirms that we have not been left behind or abandoned to fend for ourselves. Divine presence provides notice of God’s transformation of this world for the good. Jesus’ life and ministry serves as that notice made incarnate for our sake and for the sake of this God-filled world. As individuals and communities who follow Jesus, God invites us to make those our priorities as we trust holy presence to dispel fear and lead us on the way ahead.
– John Indermark, Do Not Live Afraid

The Kingdom of God is greater than all report, better than all praise of it, more manifold than every conceivable glory. The Kingdom of God is so full of light, peace, charity, wisdom, glory, honesty, sweetness, loving-kindness and every unspeakable and unutterable good, that it can neither be described nor envisioned by the mind. The citizens of heaven are the just and the angels, whose king is Almighty God. In the Kingdom of God, nothing is desired that may not be found. In the Kingdom of God is nothing that does not delight and satisfy. In the eternal Kingdom there shall be life without death, truth without falsehood, and happiness without a shadow of unrest or change. -Saint Patrick

The church, the community of Christ, is a joyful people, but the source of their joy is not that they live easy lives in a happy world or that things are getting better every day, but that their trust is in God’s coming kingdom. … If God’s promise of the kingdom of heaven is an empty promise, then a life of seeking justice and showing mercy is a fool’s illusion. Only the promised kingdom validates a life of hopeful service. But the promise of the kingdom is sure; therefore, joyful, blessed, happy are those who put their lives on the line, trusting that promise. – Tom Long, Commentary on Matthew

When we pray “thy kingdom come,” it is an engagement of our will to act in ways that can bring the Kingdom to pass on the earth. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Our thoughts, words and deeds are the means through which the Kingdom comes.  A spirituality which expects God to do it all while we watch passively from the sidelines is a false spirituality. We only pray “thy kingdom come” correctly when we are in the game.- Steve Harper

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Extended quote and blessing from In the Sanctuary of Women by Jan Richardson
It is hard to keep our eyes open to the things of heaven while attending to the things of earth, and vice versa. How do we sort through these competing claims? There are days I long to escape the mundane, days I want to flee from dealing with dishes, with laundry, with phone calls, with taxes, with errands, with paperwork, with institutions, with broken systems, with all that tries my patience and wears me out. Yet at the same time I recognize that even at their most maddening, these recurring activities help ground me, keep me from tilting off the planet, root me in this world where God lives. Where God hides. Where God waits for me to look for the holy not beyond my daily life but in the very midst and sometimes mess of it.

BLESSING
May you give your devotion to the things of heaven.
May you give your attention to the things of earth.
May they find a place of meeting in you.

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Click here to check out a wonderful visual and musical meditation, Let Your Kingdom Come from Songs for a Revolution of Hope by Brian McLaren.

Click here for a wonderful, honest reflection on Jesus’ Matthew 13 Kingdom of God Parables by Rachel Held Evans entitled Slow.

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

Being Present to God

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Psalm 46:10 NRSV
Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.

Honestly, I think I did feel God’s presence more clearly in Costa Rica. But it’s not because He was more present, it’s because I was paying more attention. I was lonely, scared, and anxious, and totally dependent on God to sustain me. So I looked for Him everywhere. – Jamie Wright, The Perfect Shade of Greige

If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is. -Amy Carmichael

If I did not simply live from one moment to the next, it would be impossible for me to keep my patience. I can see only the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to think about the future. We get discouraged and feel despair because we brood about the past and future. It is such folly to pass one’s time fretting, instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus. – Théresè of Lisieux, quoted in A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck

It is living in the naked now, the “sacrament of the present moment,” that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us. Words by themselves invariably divide the moment; pure presence lets it be what it is, as it is. When you can be present, you will know the Real Presence. I promise you this is true…. Presence is the one thing necessary for wisdom, and in many ways, it is the hardest thing of all. Just try to keep (1) your heart space open, (2) your mind without division or resistance, and (3) your body not somewhere else—and all at the same time! Most religions just decided it was easier to believe doctrines and obey often arbitrary laws than the truly converting work of being present. Those who can be present will know what they need to know, and in a wisdom way.
Richard Rohr, The  Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See

What would my life be like if I just stopped praying altogether? I mean, what if God promised me that things would stay the same regardless of whether I prayed or not: would I still continue to pray? That’s a hard question. But I’ve thought about it because on a whole other level I’m a little curious about why some of us feel compelled to pray, even when our scales of belief are tipped toward the negative. But even with a sporadic prayer life, I can’t imagine a life without prayer, without some effort to reach for God with all the cares and worries I drag with me wherever I go, and without some effort to invite God to speak to me in the times when I am sensible enough to just be quiet. Plus there’s a side of me that doesn’t really know how to express my love for God without prayer in my life. I’m not sure when or how I started feeling this way, but somewhere along the line, I’ve discovered that when I do pray, I am reminded of who God is and who I am. It’s hard to pray for anything without at some point naming God as one who is capable of all things. – Enuma Okoro, Reluctant Pilgrim

Exodus 33:12-14 NIV
Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning 

The spiritual life is a journey to the center, the center in which we come in touch with the pain of God as well as with the love of God, the pain of our world as well as the hope for our world, the pains of our own lives as well as the light that breaks into our darkness. It is a journey in which we resist the many distractions that pull us away from the center with an endless number of things that quite literally “occupy” us. And it is a journey of prayer in which we stand in the presence of God with a listening heart.
– Henri J.M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

The closer we wish to come to God, the more of our carefully constructed selves we must relinquish. We have to give up our illusions, our defenses, any selfish personal goals, our carefully designed sense of who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do. This sounds terrible, and it can be painful. However, as we give up these areas, we open ourselves, and God enters more fully.
– Sarah Parsons, A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent

The Word is God knowing us deeply. God’s Word is the act of paying attention, more like listening than speaking. The Word of God is a presence—indeed, a person— who knows you, who understands what moves you, who feels your reality form within you…
– For the rest of Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ powerful post, Piercing Word, click here

For a prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled You Are Here, click here

Extended quote by Steve Harper from a blog post entitled See God in All Things.
I especially appreciate how Harper quotes so many well know Christians to remind us that God’s presence is a long standing Christian belief. – Lisa <><

We call God “sustainer.” That means there is not a split second or square inch where God is not present and active. Discernment is learning to look for God in every moment and every event of our lives.

In the Christian tradition this is called “ordinary holiness.” Jean-Pierre de Caussade called it “the sacrament of the present moment.” Oswald Chambers put it this way, “One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is revealed” (My Utmost for His Highest, February 7).

One of our best examples is St. Francis of Assisi, who expanded the vision of God beyond the monastery, convent, academy, and cathedral—and helped Christianity see God in Brother Sun and Sister Moon.

John Muir did similarly as he discovered the wonder of nature in lands “out West” that (thanks to his untiring advocacy) became National Parks. A Christian himself, Muir believed “God’s Cathedral” always surpassed human cathedrals.

Discernment means being on the lookout for God all the time and everywhere. As John Wesley said (borrowing from the Puritan tradition), “Every moment is a God moment.”

John 15:9 NRSV
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”

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