Growing in Resilience: You Answer, based on Isaiah 41.17-18

lightning tree by Marilyn

Lightning Tree by Marilyn Bouchard

Growing in Resilience
Day 2, Read Isaiah 41
Reflection: You Answer, based on Isaiah 41:17-18

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them. I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

We are dry
Brittle
Crusty
Empty

Parched with a thirst we cannot appease
Tongues heavy and stuck
No words escaping
We are too poor
Too desolate

You alone answer our silent screams
You, the Lord God

You fill and flood and quench
A wild river on the barren peaks
An ancient fountain in the deep wasteland
A still pool for resting and rooting
A spring of water gushing up to eternal life

You, answer
You, the Lord God, will never forsake

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

You Answer © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Shall, based on Isaiah 40.3-5

Sermon Series resilience plant 1110 x 624Growing in Resilience
Day 1, Read Isaiah 40
Reflection: Shall, based on Isaiah 40:3-5

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 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.”

The time is now, for you have called
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

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Shall © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Gifts of Manna (Exodus 16)

mannaRe-posting two wonderful reflections by Steve Garnaas Holmes based on Exodus 16. In the first he compares God’s provision of manna in the wilderness to those escaping slavery to the steadfast provision of what we need to get through our own wilderness. The second is an important reminder of the dangers of greed. Consider subscribing to his blog, Unfolding Light. – Lisa <><

Exodus 16:13-15
In the morning there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that God has given you to eat.“

What gets you through the desert?
What gets you through?
What gets you through the chemo,
the healing from abuse, the bad marriage,
what gets you through
the job that tries to kill you,
the dark alley of the shadow of death,
the rotten places, the placeless places,
the evil you fear, the evil you’ve done,
your daily inadequacy,
what gets you through?

Some will call it courage or stamina,
luck or faith or reaching down deep.
But you know it’s not you, not yours.
It’s given. To you. For you.
From the Holy One.

The thread you follow,
the source you drink from,
the encouraging voice,
the Divine desire that you thrive,
the gift amid the desolation,
you find it anywhere—
the usual, the impossible,
the unwelcome.
You learn to recognize it.
You learn to receive it.

For that grace that gets you through
you learn to say thank you.

You learn to count on it,
and be surprised,
every morning.
Every morning.

Exodus 16:18-21
Those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. Some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. Morning by morning they gathered it,
as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

God’s vision of justice
is that everyone has what they need.

Manna in the wilderness,
the widow’s jar of meal,
laborers in the vineyard,
feeding the five thousand,
God’s forgiveness upon each heart:
each is given what they need.

It is gift,
that you can’t earn or possess.

Your excess rots in your hands.
What you have beyond your need
you have taken from your neighbor.
It poisons you.

Starve your greed
and feed on justice.
Until all have what they need
even God is hungry.

Prepare the Way of the Lord (Luke 3, Isaiah 40)

The Path of Light by outeq (aka Juuso K) via DeviantArt

The Path of Light by outeq (aka Juuso K) via DeviantArt

Malachi 3:1 NRSV
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

Luke 3:1-6 NRSV
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” (Isaiah 40)

Deprivation is neither the focus nor the final word of the wilderness. As the honey-eating John knew, the desert offers its own delights. What the wilderness gives us is a path that helps us perceive where our true treasure lies. And does not merely give us a path: empties us enough so that a path is made within us. Through us. Of us. A road for the holy to enter the world. A way for the Christ who comes.
Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas

For a beautiful poem entited Prepare by Jan L. Richardson, click here

In this Advent season we prepare outwardly for Christmas: we hang lights and put up decorations, we bake goodies and wrap gifts. How will you prepare inwardly? The coming of Christ means that God will be incarnate: embodied, lovingly present, in the flesh in your life. Christ is coming into your life, into your heart, in a new way. Advent is a time to prepare a way for that to happen. God enters our lives without our planning or arranging; yet there are ways we can open the doors, and as the carol says of Jesus, “prepare him room.” – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Prepare the Way

Prepare Your Way in Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Prepare your way in me, Lord,
prepare your way in me, my Lord.

Make my rough places smooth,
the crooked make straight, my Lord.

Lay your hand at my root,
that I may bear fruit, my Lord.

Come and empty my heart
of all things but you, my Lord.

Guide my feet in your way,
fill me with your peace, my Lord.

Prepare your way in me, Lord,
prepare your way in me, my Lord.

We’ve turned Christmas into a sentimental feeling-fest. We get warm and fuzzy loving each other and feeling touched at the midnight candles and the pretty music. But listen to the scriptures and it’s actually all about God’s profound and even traumatic incursion against the unjust systems in this world, to create a new order. The mountains and valleys of wealth and power will be leveled. The rough places of exploitation and dehumanization will be smoothed. No wonder there’ll be “signs in the heavens and distress among the nations.” – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, A Way in the Wilderness

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

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
– Isaac Watts

In muted whispers we articulate our hope;
Restore us again, O God of our salvation.
With mounting anticipation we prepare for your coming;
Revive us again, that we may rejoice in you.
Amidst rising hopes we turn to you, O God;
Show us your steadfast love.
Lord, let us hear now your words to us;
Speak peace to your people.
Faithful One, prepare our hearts to receive your joy;
the joyful kiss of righteousness and peace.
– Bill Treadway

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Quotes: Fasting and Prayer

Fasting Prayer graphic

Matthew 4:1-4 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. Anger, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.
-Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Fasting calls us to the remembrance that Christ alone is our “food and drink,” and as we make him our Source, we are liberated from the addiction to secondary things.
– Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (1)

Many of the traditions of spiritual life that have developed within Christianity are intended to help that dying to self that Christ describes as poverty of spirit. Fasting is one of these traditions– a small dying to certain foods and drinks. The chief value of fasting is not dietary but is linked to intensified battle against the tyranny of one’s never satisfied appetites and desires. Fasting is always linked with increased prayer and almsgiving: the deepening of communion with God and with neighbors in need.
– Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes

Extended quote from Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr
There are three primary things that we have to let go of, in my opinion. First is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right—even, and especially, to be theologically right. (That’s merely an ego trip, and because of this need, churches have split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos.) Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.

I’m convinced these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Until we each look these three demons in their eyes, we should presume that they are still in charge in every life. The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, and practically, spelling out just how imperious, controlling, and self-righteous we all are. This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.

John 4:13-14 NRSV
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

John 6:35 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Fasting kind of “hangs the soul out to dry,” and in doing so we find that we can live (indeed, live better) when we are not attached to things which are subject to loss, decay, and death. – Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (2)

Prayer, fasting, watching may be good in themselves; yet it is not in these practices alone that the goal of our Christian life is found, though they are necessary means for its attainment. The true goal consists in our acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.
-Seraphim of Sarov

Matthew 6:16-18 NRSV
Jesus said, “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The value of fasting was (and still is) not the amount of mortification we practice, but rather the concentration of our attention upon God.  The value of fasting is not how much we suffer, but rather how much we allow the time we would have spent eating to become time we spend “feasting” on God. – Steve Harper, Desert Wisdom: Fasting (4)

Click the link for an excellent article on the concept of a “perpetual fast” from “inferior appetites,” by Bill Guerrant entitled Rethinking Your Lenten Fast

Click the link for questions and reflections to consider as you experience your fast, Fasting by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Photo Quotes: Luke 5

Luke 05 05Luke 05 12-13Luke 05 16Reading for the week of February 2: Luke 5
Click Here for more information on the #LukeActs2014 Reading Plan

I decided to pick a few verses from this week’s reading to memorize. Some of my artist friends illustrate verses in various mediums as part of their devotional time, so I thought I’d give that a try, too. I used PicMonkey, a free, online picture editor, and really enjoyed the process.

Into the Wilderness

Jesus Heals and Demon Possessed Man by Joseph Michael Brown

Based on Luke 8:26-39

Luke 8:29 CEB
… and the demon would force him into the wilderness.

Before Jesus frees the demon-possessed man, his neighbors would try to bind him with leg irons and chains and guards. It didn’t work. He would break the restraints and overcome the guards and be forced into the wilderness. You might know what that’s like. Brokenness… Isolation… Life as wild as your surroundings.

Jesus knows the wilderness, too. Before he begins his public ministry, the Spirit leads him into that very place. (Luke 4:1-13) Forty days and forty nights we can’t begin to imagine. The evil one tries to break him, but fails again and again. The wilderness for Jesus becomes a place of preparation, like the wilderness wanderers of old. Just like them, he is not alone. Just like them, he is offered the path of deliverance and salvation. Jesus emerges ready to lead and light the way.

Jesus knows the wilderness, its beauty and its danger.
Because he has been there before he will not hesitate to go there to find us
In our brokenness, isolation, and wildness
In our battles with disease and mental illness and addiction
In our lives of poverty and prejudice and fear and evil

Because he has been there before he can offer us what he found
Wholeness, belonging, new life

Because he has been there before he can lead us out.

Because we have been there, and been there with him,
We can join him in leading out others

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Click for another post on this text entitled Resisting Temptation

Click for another post entitled Quotes: The Wilderness

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