Prayer- Jesus, I Come (Matthew 11.28-30)

tunnel hall walk light

Based on Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus, I come

Barely bearing the weight
of responsibility
of loss
of troubles
of life

Jesus, I come

I need you
I trust you
For you are gentle
humble

Your yoke is so different
Easy
Light
For you bear the weight with us
and for us

So here, have my weariness
Here, bear and birth my burdened soul
Teach me your ways
School me in grace
in hope
in you
Wrap me in your deep, deep rest
Raise me in strength
and honor
and witness

Jesus, I come

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Jesus, I Come © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Quotes: God’s Power Made Perfect in Weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

bible-verse-2-corinthians-my-grace-is-sufficient-for-you-for-my-power-is-made-perfect-in-weakness1

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NRSV
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

God’s power is made perfect in weakness. When we finally surrender to the truth of our weakness, to our primal need for God and others, we open ourselves to the full presence and movement of God in our lives. The weak walls of pride and self sufficiency crumble so that something new and better may rise from the dust of that death. God reminds us of this in Jesus, who in his vulnerability and poverty most perfectly revealed the strength of God’s love and power. – Lisa Degrenia <><

Poverty is not just a life of simplicity, humility, restraint, or even lack. Poverty is when we recognize that myself—by itself—is largely powerless and ineffective. John’s Gospel puts it quite strongly when it says that a branch that does not abide in Jesus “is withered and useless” (John 15:6). The transformed self, living in union, no longer lives in shame or denial of its weakness, but even rejoices because it does not need to pretend that it is any more than it actually is—which is now more than enough! -Richard Rohr

Extended quote from Journey: The Divine Reversal by Steve Harper
We do not go far into the biblical narrative before we run into an essential truth–one that if missed will skew everything else: God does not operate on our terms. When the fallen world is in charge, the rich, famous, and powerful are the heroes . When God is in charge, the “weaker ones” are most often people God chooses to use.

I put “weaker ones” in quotes only to make it clear that we are the ones who categorize, hierarchialize, and stigmatize. When God looks at the world everyone is a beloved son or daughter–a human being made in the image of God, just a little lower than the angels (Gen 1:26, Ps 8:5). With this identity, every person is precious and contributive to God.

But it takes a new set of eyes and ears to recognize this. If we want to go with God’s flow, we must repent (look at life in a new way) and convert (make a 180° turn). In this way we participate in the divine reversal rather than work against it.

Extended quote from The View from the Bottom by Richard Rohr
Most of us in the Northern Hemisphere have a view from the top even though we are nowhere near the top ourselves. The mass of people can normally be bought off by just giving them “bread and circuses,” as the Romans said. Many Americans can afford to be politically illiterate, hardly vote, and terribly naïve about money, war, and power. One wonders how soon this is going to catch up with us.

Only by solidarity with other people’s suffering can comfortable people be converted. Otherwise we are disconnected from the cross—of the world, of others, of Jesus, and finally of our own necessary participation in the great mystery of dying and rising. In the early Christian Scriptures, or the “New” Testament, we clearly see that it’s mostly the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the tax collectors, the sinners—those on the bottom and the outside—that really hear Jesus’ teaching and get the point and respond to him. It’s the leaders and insiders (the priests, scribes, Pharisees, teachers of the law, and Roman leaders) who crucify him. That is evident in the text.

How did we miss such a core point about how power coalesces and corrupts, no matter who has it?

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Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 16, Strong

cross of peopleThe thought behind the photo:
Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
We are weak but he is strong.

Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.
– Anna B. Warner and David Rutherford McGuire

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

The December 16, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 35:4-7, The Message
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! [Be strong!] Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”
Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.

Good preaching and interpretation is able to take old texts for new situations and helps us see things in scripture we may have missed before.

In this season of Advent, how are you seeing this poem of invitation?

How are these promises and call to action to “Be strong!” and “Take heart!” resonating with you this Advent?

There are a number of longings we hear in this text: changes in ability, the flourishing of dry land, songs for the voiceless.

What are your prayers and longings this Advent?

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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 <><

Seeking Perfection

small hand in elderly handMatthew 5:43-48 NRSV
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The Rev. Claire Wimbush was born with spastic cerebral palsy. Click here for her moving discussion of faith, perfection, brokenness, and the body of Christ. 

Brene Brown’s definition of perfectionism as found in her book Daring Greatly:

  • Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.
  • Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because perfection doesn’t exist. It’s an unattainable goal.
  • Perfectionism is more about perception than internal motivation, and there is no way to control perception, no matter how much time and energy we spend trying.
  • Perfectionism is addictive, because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. Rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to look and do everything just right.
  • Perfectionism actually sets us up to feel shame, judgment, and blame, which then leads to even more shame and self-blame: “It’s my fault. I’m feeling this way because I’m not good enough.”

… If we want freedom from perfectionism, we have to make the long journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.” That journey begins with shame resilience, self-compassion, and owning our stories. To claim the truths about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, and the very imperfect nature of our lives, we have to be willing to give ourselves a break and appreciate the beauty of our cracks or imperfections. To be kinder and gentler with ourselves and each other. To talk to ourselves the same way we’d talk to someone we care about.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NRSV
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Perfection is not the elimination of imperfection, as we think. Divine perfection is, in  fact, the ability to recognize, forgive, and include imperfection! Just as God does with all of us. Only in this way can we find the beautiful and hidden wholeness of God underneath the passing human show. – Richard Rohr

If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it!  A “perfect” person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection. – Richard Rohr

When either waiting or moving forward is done out of a spirit of union and surrender, we can trust that God will make good out of it—even if we are mistaken! It is not about being correct, it is about being connected.- Richard Rohr

God’s power is made perfect in weakness. When we finally surrender to the truth of our weakness, to our primal need for God and others, we open ourselves to the full presence and movement of God in our lives. The weak walls of pride and self sufficiency crumble so that something new and better may rise from the dust of that death. God reminds us of this in Jesus, who in his vulnerability and poverty most perfectly revealed the strength of God’s love and power. – Lisa Degrenia <><

As I make my way forward to the present, I begin to notice the detail in the painting. The strokes of the brush, fragments of the brush that got left behind in the paint and solidified and become a part of the chair over time. I ponder the definition of perfection and conclude that anything done with love and passion and an honest heart is perfect. My mother is no painter, and there are certainly flaws in the texture of the chairs, but this to me is perfect. I close my eyes and say a quick prayer of Thanksgiving.
– Stephen Remedios, A Tale of Six Cane Chairs

Where there is love and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.
Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation.
Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither greed nor avarice.
Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.
Where the fear of the Lord stands guard, there the enemy finds no entry.
Where there is mercy and moderation, there is neither indulgence nor harshness.
Francis of Assisi, as quoted in
The Riches of Simplicity: Selected Writings of Francis and Clare

Prayer: Deliver me from me
Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit
Deliver me from evil and deliver me from me.
Amen.

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Prayer: Deliver me from me © 2013 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.

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

Prayer: The Strength of a Cry

children worshipSCRIPTURE: Psalm 8:2 NAS
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

OBSERVATION
It goes against everything we are taught. The strong are strong. The weak are weak. The strong overcome even if they are wicked. But with God things are different. God establishes strength through our dependence and vulnerability. What is weaker than an infant- young, helpless, little voice, no education, no skills, no strength …

APPLICATION
In our weakest moments, we are heard by God. Our cries of prayer and praise are used by God. God is greater. Grace is greater. Evil is brought to an end.

PRAYER
Abba, you end the evil
Not through our strength, but our weakness
Our whimpers and gurgles and sighs
Our trembling cries
Our silent tears
In the midst of all who would do harm
You hear your beloved little ones
You defend
You protect
We are safe, always safe
Blessed be your Name

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This devotion is based on the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here

Prayer: The Strength of a Cry © 2013 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.

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

Christmas 9b: Vulnerable God

Nativity Keystone from the National Cathedral by Theodore Barbarossa

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.

I am overwhelmed with the idea that God would become flesh. Flesh is frail. It’s dangerous to be human. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The glory of God and the greatness of God’s love is most poignantly seen in God’s willingness to be vulnerable. – Lisa <><

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability…
To be alive is to be vulnerable.~ Madeleine L’Engle

Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation, and change. – Brené Brown

We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone — but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.- Walter Anderson

Intimacy is  the way that love is transmitted. Some  say the word comes from the Latin intimus,  referring to that which is interior or inside. Some say its older meaning is found by in timor, or “into fear.” In either case, the point is clear: intimacy happens when we reveal and  expose our insides, and this is always scary. – Richard Rohr

There feeding the angels, here on earth a hungry child;
there unfailing Bread with perfect powers,
here, along with speechless children, needing the nourishment of milk;
there doing good, here suffering evil;
there never dying, here rising after death and bestowing eternal life on mortals.
God became one of us so that we might become God. -Augustine

The sphere of God unfolds into time and space and flesh, unknowable yet intimate.
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

Intimacy. The word in the Latin – without fear, an invitation into the innermost space. Jesus does what God had been doing over and again – relentlessly pursuing, and breaking even his own rules in the process. … While some Christian men seem obsessed with several debatable Pauline texts, they miss the core – Christ himself – the intimate God, the vulnerable God, the God who moves toward rather than pulling away. This makes our silly debates about feminization and roles quite small. With perspective, we’d keep the main thing the main thing – vulnerably living in and participating in the life of Christ in this world. – Chuck DeGroat, What the Church Needs is Men Without Fear

God shares in the poverty of my flesh, that I may share in the riches of the Godhead.
-Gregory of Nazianzus

The enfleshment and suffering of Jesus is saying that God is not apart from the
trials of humanity. God is not aloof. God is not a mere spectator. God is not
merely tolerating or even healing all human suffering. Rather, God is
participating with us—in all of it—the good and the bad! – Richard Rohr

While we exert ourselves to grow beyond our humanity, to leave the human behind us, God becomes human; and we must recognize that God wills that we be human, real human beings. While we distinguish between pious and godless, good and evil, noble and base, God loves real people without distinction.- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Daily Meditations from His Letters, Writings, and Sermons

Love is not love until love’s vulnerable. ~ Theodore Roethke

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. ~ C.S. Lewis

Extended quote by Debbie Blue
in From Stone to Living Word: Letting the Bible Live Again

“The Word became flesh” is God acting, God reaching. It reveals the lengths God is willing to go in pursuit of humanity, and it reveals an intimate, passionate, and vulnerable pursuit. The Word enters the darkness in order to bring light. Barth says that in this act “the antithesis, the distance, the abstraction that is created by the fact of darkness…is overcome.” It was not God who created the distance: it was humanity; it was sin. And in Jesus Christ, the distance is overcome.

Jesus Christ isn’t God standing back, beckoning fools to get out of their big and loud and stinky vehicles; Jesus is God climbing in the seat beside the fools and remaining there for the duration of the ride. The Word become flesh isn’t God giving up and turning away in disgust when God sees the people eat their third meal of the week from McDonald’s; it is God joining them for the meal. Instead of God protecting God’s good reputation, remaining above all the futility of the human race, instead of God maintaining good taste and impeccable manners, in Jesus we see God entering the paltry ruckus of life as we know it. It looks foolish. But it reveals, perhaps, something about how God feels about us. It was always in God’s heart to give up glory and power in order to achieve union. In the story John tells, wisdom plays the fool in order to be with us. The story of the Word become flesh is the story of God with us in an incredibly vulnerable way.

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