Retreat or Rejoice: Responding to God’s Presence (Psalm 114)

Detail of a photo from a set of photos of the Sinai 100 years ago.

Detail of a photo from a set of photos of the Sinai 100 years ago.

Psalm 114 NRSV
When Israel went out from Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.

In the presence of God
Do you flee like the Red Sea?
Back away like the Jordan?
Repelled by The Holiness
Cowering amongst your own shortfall, sin, and brokenness
in the presence of The Judge

Or

In the presence of God
Do you rejoice with the ancient mountains?
Skipping and dancing like spring lambs?
Quaking with excitement at Your Creator’s companionship
Shuddering in surprise
at the deliverance
the grace
the nurture
of the Divine One
Who makes of you a sanctuary
and home

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Today’s featured photo and many more will be found at Go Tell it on the Mountain, a blog from the mountains of the Sinai

Retreat or Rejoice: Responding to God’s Presence (Psalm 114)
© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Receive and Rejoice (1 Peter:1-9)

Rose window from a Catholic church in Germany, St. Maria and Potentinus

Rose window from a Catholic church in Germany, St. Maria and Potentinus

A psalm of praise and invitation based on 1 Peter 1:1-9 (NRSV)

Receive and Rejoice!
Rejoice with an indescribable joy
Inexpressible
Unspeakable
A joy greater than words
A great and glorious joy
Loose
Liberated
Boundless

Receive and Rejoice!
A joy worthy of new birth
Of a living hope
A joy anchored in the imperishable
The Eternal
Undefiled and Unfading

Receive and Rejoice!
This joy was chosen for you
Destined for you
Sanctified, sprinkled and saved for you
By the Merciful One
God… Father of grace and glory
God… Son and Savior
God… Spirit and Sustainer

Receive and Rejoice!

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Receive and Rejoice! © 2014 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.

Poem: Romans 12:12

sprout in dry soilRomans 12:12 NRSV
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Rejoice in hope!
Celebrate!
Shout!
Dance with our Maker!
Play in the dappled sunlight
Echo the sweet song of brook and bird
Laugh with all the children of God’s good earth
Feast on The Promise
Who alone is steadfast
Who alone satisfies and strengthens

Be patient in suffering beloved
Pain clouds the truth
Perspective will hide, so be patient
Christ is still near, weeping with you
Let the tears wash the ashes from your eyes
Let them cleanse the confusion
Remember and Re-joy
Suffering comes to all
it prunes
it breaks open
Like Christ, we die to live
We too are buried only to burst forth in spring green growth

Persevere in prayer
Keep your hand to the plow, the Spirit at the lead
Drive to the Source
Drive deep
Learn to be loved, to be love
Quick to know the will of the Known and the Knowing
Go deep
Go often
Go to the Source
Why unplug your fire power?
Why exchange it for something frail, false, passing?
God’s fire does not destroy, it burns away
so you may be full of Light

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Romans 12:12 © 2014 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.

#LukeActs2014: Rejoice Wisely (Luke 10:1-24)

rejoice-romans 5 2Based on Luke 10:1-24, Jesus sending the seventy two,
especially Luke 10:19-20 NIV

Jesus said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Jesus
You entrust us with your greatness
Lips to proclaim your peace
Your Kingdom drawing all, drawing near
Hands to heal
Freedom of simplicity
Authority over evil
Power over the enemy

It’s so easy to lose you among the wonders and signs
In thinking your attention, your affection
Only offered for results (Look Jesus!)
In celebrating ourselves instead of you (Look what we did!)

It’s so easy to lose you in the crush of refusal
In the lack of fruit though the sewing was faithful
In the grumbling, the apathy
The sand sticks to our sandals
and our souls

It’s so easy to lose you
Our worthiness tied to the work

Remind us again and again, Son of Righteousness
Rejoice only in The Relationship
Your name written on the Family Tree
On the palm of God’s hand

Teach us, Jesus
A hallelujah in every season
For we are yours

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Rejoice Wisely © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are very welcome to use this in a worship or group setting with proper attribution.

Reading for the week of March 9: Luke 10
Click Here for more information on the #LukeActs2014 Reading Plan

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

Pray Without Ceasing

pray without ceasing1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (NRSV)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

Prayer is a request for what is good, offered by the devout of God. But we do not restrict this request simply to what is stated in words. We should not express our prayer merely in syllables, but also through the attitude of our soul and in the virtuous actions we do in our life. This is how you pray continually — not by offering prayer in words, but by joining yourself to God through your whole way of life, so that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer. – Basil the Great

Extended quote by Steve Harper from Let us Pray: The Essence of Prayer
Here is my distilled essence of prayer. First, prayer is attitude. This means it includes occasional acts, but it is actually an ongoing disposition of the heart, not limited to fixed times of devotion.

Second, prayer is abandonment. It is taking every moment and saying, “Not my will but thine be done.” It is the surrender of egotism and the offering of our lives to God–what Saint Francis called being “an instrument of Your peace.”

And third, prayer is attentiveness, so that God can communicate with us as much in the ordinary moment as in the spectacular ones.

Almost everything else about prayer emerges from one of these three elements. In them we find the foundation for both personal and corporate prayer.

Extended quote by Augustine of Hippo from his Discourse on Psalm 37
And all my desire is before you (Ps 37:10)… This very desire of yours is your prayer; and if your desire is continual, your prayer is continual too. It was not for nothing that the Apostle said: “Pray without ceasing” (1Thes 5:17). Can we unceasingly bend our knees, bow down our bodies or uplift our hands, that he should tell us: Pray without ceasing? No; if it is thus he bids up pray, I do not think we can do so without ceasing.

But there is another way of praying, interior and unbroken, and that is the way of desire. Whatever else you are doing, if you long for that sabbath, you are not ceasing to pray. If you do not want to cease praying, do not cease longing.

Your unceasing desire is your unceasing prayer. You will lapse into silence if you lose your longing. Who did lapse into silence? Those of whom it has been said: “Because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold” (Mt 24.12). The coldness of charity is the heart’s silence; its glowing ardor, the heart’s outcry. If charity is always present, you are ever crying out; if always crying out, you are ever longing; if longing, you have not forgotten the everlasting repose.

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

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 <><

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 15, Rejoice

Peanuts Dance. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Peanuts Dance. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

The thought behind the photo:
This year, our congregation’s Christmas play was A Charlie Brown Christmas. The production was wonderful, especially their version of the classic Peanuts dance of joy.

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 31:12-13 NIV
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD– the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 30:11-12 NRSV
You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

The December 15, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 35:1-3, CEB
The desert and the dry land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom like the crocus. They will burst into bloom, and rejoice with joy and singing. They will receive the glory of Lebanon, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the Lord’s glory, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and support the unsteady knees.

All of creation rejoices together in the work of reconciliation, that even the desert and dry land are glad. What a beautiful reminder that God’s grace extends to all of the created order.

In the midst of desolation, God creates a way in the desert for new life to spring up.

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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 <><