Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective

A well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi named Simcha Bunim used to say,
“Every person should have two pockets.
In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’
In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Rabbi Bunim went on to say one must know how to use the notes, each one in its proper place and at the right time.

He knows us well

When misused, we hunker down in one pocket and make a home
We use a note to justify, judge, and deflect self examination

For my sake the world was created- I’m all that and a bag of chips
I am dust and ashes- Eeyore is my best buddy

But, when we open to the wisdom of the notes, we accept we are not one or the other. We realize we are both notes. Both pockets. We see the wisdom of the notes in the wisdom of God’s Word which goes back and forth, naming us and reminding us who we are- beloved and dust. We are both and we need both.

I am dust and ashesWhen we are too proud, too entitled, too full of ourselves, too self-sufficient, we reach in a pocket and remember anokhi afar va’efer, I am dust and ashes
I am small
I am worthless
I am mortal
I am unclean
I miss the mark, I stray from the path- that’s what the word sin literally means in Greek
I am like everyone else who has ever lived and who will live
I need a savior

Psalm 90:3 NRS
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

Ecclesiastes 3:20b NIV
All come from dust, and to dust all return.

Luke 9:41 NRSV
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is right to remind us we are a “brood of vipers” and of our need of repentance, to turn back to God’s path, not just with our words but our actions.

for my sake was the world createdThen, when we are discouraged, overwhelmed and losing faith (when we feel like dirt) we reach in the other pocket and remember bishvili nivra ha’olam, for my sake was the world created.
I am a unique and beloved child of the King of kings
Christ loved me enough to die for me and raise me to new life
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
I am called
I am gifted
I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great things for God
God is using me in the salvation and transformation of the world

Psalm 8:4-8 NRSV
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Psalm 139:14 NRSV
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

We stand with Jesus in our baptism, water washed, anointed with the fiery dove of the Holy Spirit, named and claimed by God as beloved children.

Jesus stepped into the water not out of his need but of ours
To remind us of our great need- I am dust and ashes
To remind us who we are in Him- For my sake the world was created

Prayer for Perspective
Eternal and Beautiful God,
The One who births us and names us
Grant us perspective
A holy centering
of truth, humility, and our belovedness

Not too high that we fall away from you
our need of you
our need of others

Not too low that we fail to trust
to reach out for you
to reach out with you

In you, with you, for you we are
humble and powerful
unique and alike
common and regal
priceless and dust

Grant us perspective, Merciful One
A holy centering
Let no voice be too loud
Or too soft
So we may persevere in faith
in hope
in following
in becoming
Amen

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I am indebted to Rabbi Jack Moline for a blog post which provided much of the information and inspiration for this reflection.

Two Pocket Devotion and Prayer for Perspective © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are very welcome to use this in a worship or group setting with proper attribution.

Recommended Resource- Pray As You Go

Update: This post is from 2019 with a few updates. I recently returned to using Pray As You Go and wondered why I ever stopped. It’s a rich, beautiful resource which never fails to connect me to God through scripture and stillness. I still highly recommend it. 

Followers of Jesus nurture their relationship with God by “doing devotions.” We head to the bookstore, or maybe even our local church, to pick up a guide to read on a daily basis. It’s a great way to build a habit of spending time with God and very helpful for stretching us in our understanding of God’s character and Word.

Here’s where it can be problematic:

  • We’re always reading about someone else’s encounter with God in place of having encounters ourselves. We stay at a distance from God.
  • Our devotions become knowledge-driven or emotion-driven rather than Scripture-driven and encounter-driven. We may find what we read interesting, we may be stirred by the story, but are we receiving it as a call to apply spiritual truth to our life?
  • Our prayer life stays shallow if we only use the prayers of others and never practice praying ourselves.
  • We can become forever dependent on an “expert” rather than trusting God wants to speak to us right now, at whatever point we are in our journey of faith.

So do we dump the devotional books/guides and just read the Scripture? Well… Reading Scripture can be a powerful daily devotion option, especially when you use one of these approaches to give you some structure. “Just me and my Bible” can also be intimidating, confusing, and lonely.

It’s no wonder we struggle.

For many of us, we need something in between. We want to encounter God in a transforming way through the Scriptures, but we also need some guidance. I found this in between, this sweet spot of devotional practice, through a resource called Pray as You Go. 

pray as you goPray As You Go is an audio and written prayer practice offered seven days per week via a free website and app by Jesuit Media Initiatives. It is helpful for both Catholics and Protestants because it’s so Scripture driven.

  • Each session begins with a bell or chime followed by music to help you settle into a prayerful frame of mind
  • A Scripture is read
  • Reflection questions based on the Scripture are offered with time for you to respond by simply talking or listening to God
  • The Scripture is read again followed by a closing blessing

The aim of Pray as You Go is to help you to:

  • become more aware of God’s presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God’s Word
  • grow in your relationship with God

How I find Pray as You Go helpful 

  • Its peaceful meditative tone is a very different tone than my loud, full, rushed day. I need this time of stillness and contemplation.
  • The questions appeal to my imagination. They open me to explore the Scripture, to listen deeply, to engage it for myself. It is an experience. The questions can also challenge me to look at a passage in a new or deeper way.
  • The open-ended questions help me apply what I’m hearing
  • I feel connected to a community of believers rather than by myself. I especially like the music selections from around the world.
  • It uses texts throughout the Bible so I don’t just read my favorite passages
  • I like to settle into a comfortable chair when I use Pray as You Go. Others use it during their morning commute, on a break during the work day, while out for a walk, etc.
  • After the 10-13 minute devotion, I’m motivated to continue praying or journaling

I’d love to hear from you! 

  • Give Pray as You Go a try. How was the experience?
  • What is your current devotional practice? How is it helpful to you?
  • How have your devotional practices changed as you’ve matured in faith?

May the Lord bless you and bring strength and transformation into your life through your devotional practices. – Lisa <><

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Recommendation- Pray As You Go © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer and Reflection Based on Luke 10-11

summer in the scriptures luke (1)Prayer based on Luke 10:1-12
The Mission of the Seventy

This is the glory of your saving love
That you don’t just bless us
Heal us
Guard and guide us

That you don’t just forgive us
Redeem us
Save and sanctify us

For you, that is too light a thing

You make a place for us in your saving work
You call us and empower us
Each of us

You make a place for us in your family and a place for us in your plan
that we might experience your power and the wielding of that power
that we might experience the fullness of your grace

The glory of your saving love is
Your hope and your hope made real in the world
Your love and your love in action

Glory to you, Most Blessed Savior!
Glory to you, Lord of Mercy and Light!
Glory to you and to the fulfillment of Your Kingdom
in us and in all!
Amen!

Based on Luke 11:37-53
A wise person once advised me, when you come across scriptures where Jesus is instructing or correcting the Scribes and the Pharisees, stop, listen, and allow the Holy Spirit to examine your own heart. Pastors, small group leaders, and ministry leaders are often more like them than we want to admit. They were the “churched people” of their day. They too took their faith seriously, worshiped deeply, prayed and read the scriptures searching for God, answered a call, and studied hard to prepare themselves for leading God’s people, bore the responsibility and sacrifice of leadership.

Reflection and meditation on these texts keep us humble and soft in God’s hands. We need God’s grace and leading to avoid falling into the same enslaving practices.

In this light, let us reflect on Jesus’ warnings from Luke 11, often referred to as “the woes.”

Verse 42: Woe to you … for you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God
God, reveal in me where have I focused on rules and details above you.
Free me from the need to control and micromanage.
Free me from blocking access to your love and grace and justice.

Verse 43: Woe to you … for you love to have the seat of honor … and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces
God, reveal where my pride, ego, and need for attention have become false idols.
Forgive me and heal me of judgmental attitudes that separate me from you and from others.

Verse 44: Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it
God, reveal every hidden thing I think and do which hurts others.
Reveal my hypocrisy.
Reveal where my attitudes and actions bringing contamination rather than community.
Lord, bury me with you and raise me to new life.

Verse 46: Woe also to you … for you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.
God, reveal how my actions and expectations are burdening others unnecessarily.
Forgive me for placing myself above others and beyond accountability.
Humble me and grow in me a love and solidarity with all people.
Turn my faith into compassionate action.

Verse 47: Woe to you! For you … are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors
God, reveal how I am perpetuating the prejudices and injustices of previous generations.
Heal me and empower me to join you in breaking this cycle.

Verse 52: Woe to you… for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.
God, reveal how I am making you and your ways confusing and difficult.
Grant me a hunger for your truth and kingdom living.
Help my words to match your words, my ways your ways, so others find you easily.

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For the next few months, I’m reading a chapter from the Gospels each day. This is part of the Summer in the Scriptures reading plan sponsored by the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Click Here for the reading plan.

You’re most welcome to read along and to join the Facebook discussion group, Summer in the Scriptures. You don’t need to be a Methodist or attend a Methodist church. All are welcome and all means all.

As part of the Facebook group, I’ve been supplying prayers based on the day’s reading. Feel free to post your prayers and observations based on the readings here or there as well.

May the grace of the Gospels, the challenge, and the call, inspire us to great faith and great good works in Jesus’ name. – Lisa <

The Glory of You Saving Love © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Reflection based on Jesus’ Woe’s © 2014 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.

Coronavirus- Three Critical Reflection Questions for Moving Forward

Microscopic view of Coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract. Analysis and test, experimentation. Sars

We’re living a mile-marker moment in the history of humanity. Like the invention of the printing press or WWII, life to come will be marked as before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

I attended a webinar sponsored by Fresh Expressions and Fuller Seminary entitled Two Churches at Once. It recognized the dramatic and lasting changes we’re experiencing right now due to the pandemic.

Click Here to register to watch the video of the webinar.

During the webinar, I found these questions from the Rev. Dr. J.R. Briggs profound. I’ll be spending time with them in the coming days and hope they will be helpful to you as well.

Thoughtful, rich questions like these will help us move forward in clarifying our priorities, purpose, and core beliefs in a new age. They’ll also help us live them out in the new normal.

I’d love to hear your responses. Feel free to share them below- Lisa <><

What has coronavirus taken away? 

What has coronavirus not taken away? 

What has coronavirus given us?

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© 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Now Offering Online Devotions

Greetings, dear ones.

I’m doing my best to get creative so we can stay connected during our time of social distancing and quarantine. It’s hard because of the steep technology learning curve. (I refer to hard things as eating frogs!) It’s also exciting to conquer something new!

On Wednesdays, I’m offering a scripture reflection and prayer time via Facebook Live on our congregation’s Facebook Page. Join us at 8:00 am Eastern time or watch the video when it’s a good time for you.

This morning, we reflected on Psalm 27. Boy, did I need these hope-full reminders from God’s word.

On Wednesdays, I’m also offering an evening check-in time of reflection at 7:00pm Eastern time, again via Facebook Live on our congregation’s Facebook Page.
https://www.facebook.com/TrinityUMCSarasota/ 

For you folks who are into churchy words- Wednesday mornings are a type of Lectio Divina and Wednesday nights are a type of Examen. Both are very friendly to folks new to these practices.

We’re also offering worship on Facebook Live Sunday mornings at 9:00am and 10:30am.

PS- You can hear me struggling with the music on today’s recording. If you have any suggestions on a better way to provide music for these gatherings, please pass it along. The suggestion needs to honor copyright laws, such as using pre-recorded music. We do have a CCLI license.

Be safe. Be encouraged. Be hope-full. – Lisa <><

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