Quotes: Calling, Purpose, Vision

Reaching for StarJoel 2:28 NRSV
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, and
your young men shall see visions.

When we speak of vision, we are speaking of more than a moment of inspiration; we are talking about a conviction that alters us completely—inside and out.  A vision is a sense of “for this I was made” —- “to this I must give my life.” It is the flame that ignites our ministry and the foundation that enables it to stand against winds of opposition and change. – Steve Harper, Shepherd’s Care: Vision (1)

The two most important days in your life
are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
-Mark Twain

If you want to build a ship,
don’t drum up the people to collect wood
and don’t assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The human imagination hungers for substance, for meaning, for God. If it encounters a world without meaning, it slowly starves for lack of anything to chew on. The “organs of meaning” must have something to eat. Feeding the God-hungry imagination is, I believe, precisely the church’s task in spiritual formation.
– Sarah Arthur, The God-Hungry Imagination

Habakkuk 2:1-3 NRSV
I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

A vision without a task is hopeless, a task without a vision is treachery
but a task and a vision together is the hope of the world. –Suzette Hattingh

You get God’s vision by saying

  • What do You want me to do?
  • How do You want me to do it?
  • And when do You want me to do it?

You need to stop praying, “God, bless what I’m doing.” And instead start praying, “God, help me to do what You want to bless.” I get up in the morning and I pray a very similar prayer every day. “God, I know You’re going to do some very exciting things in the world today. Would You give me the privilege of just being in on some of them? I just want to be in on what You’re doing. I want to do what You’re blessing.”
– Rick Warren, 3 Aspects of the Vision God Has for Your Church

The Bible doesn’t teach us to keep looking over our shoulders to see if others approve of us or not or to second guess ourselves when we see an opportunity to do more or to rise to the next level in the work God has given us to do. We’re told to fix our eyes on Jesus, to love God with every fiber of our being and give ourselves wholeheartedly to his purposes. – Carolyn Custiss James

“Do not be afraid,” just like “you are forgiven,” are needed companions throughout our lives. We strive to be faithful followers, to be strong and bold in vocation. But sometimes, strength wavers. Sometimes, boldness weakens or mutates into arrogance. By and large, those experiences come because of fear. “Do not be afraid” can fade into the background all too quickly when tragedy or injustice or downright ignorance holds sway. But God does not give up on us. God does not strip us of our calling in those times when we realize that even having nothing to fear but fear itself still leaves us with a considerable antagonist to face. Rather, God calls us out — out of sin, out of fear — and gives us the possibility of a new day. – John Indermark, Do Not Live Afraid

Quote and Blessing from In the Sanctuary of Women by Jan Richardson
One of the signs that we’ve found our way to a core desire, something that God desires for us, is that in following it, we feed not only our own hunger but that of others as well. When we pursue God’s longing for our life, it never serves only ourselves. Vocation is a word that gets at this idea. … Vocation isn’t merely about what job we have but about who God has created us to be in this world. Vocation conveys the notion that God has designs on us and has placed us within this world to work for its flourishing in concert with our own. In writing about vocation, Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Where the hunger of the world beyond you
meets the hunger of the world within you:
may you find yourself in this place.

Ephesians 1:17-19 NRSV
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

For an excellent article by Steve Harper on the four dimensions of a vision, click here

For a summary of how a vision becomes manifest in the world as explained in the book Visionary Leadership by Burt Nanos, click here

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

Quotes: Biblical Leadership

leadership quote - JQ Adams1 Peter 5:2-4 NIV
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

We like to declare that the Gospel is counter-cultural, and thereby God-given and transformative.  Should we not draw the same conclusion about ministry that is rooted in the Gospel? Isn’t our ministry supposed to be counter-cultural. too?  And the most powerful way we do this is by adopting the biblical model of ministry–of being shepherds. The Bible’s use of this metaphor (in both Old and New Testaments) was a way of overturning the “CEO” model of religious leadership that defined and dominated Jewish priesthood.  It made ministry relational, not regulatory–incarnational not institutional.  Ministers were to be servants, not masters.  Holiness was the watch-word, not hierarchy.  People mattered more than position and power. Our need for counter-cultural ministry is as great as ever.  The world experiences CEO’s all the time.  But what they are longing for is pastors–people who will show up in their valleys with rods and staffs, ready to help them make it home. – Steve Harper, Counter Culture Ministry

There is such an enormous hunger for meaning in life, for comfort and consolation, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for restoration and healing, that anyone who has any authority in the Church should constantly be reminded that the best word to characterize religious authority is compassion. Let’s keep looking at Jesus whose authority was expressed in compassion. – Henri Nouwen

Listen Friends, what I want to tell you is this. The world needs you to start leading again. To step out of the shadows and into your strength, your skills, your compassionate heart, your crazy ideas. But you don’t have to be THE ONE in charge. And you don’t have to go it alone. Let’s share our strength. Let’s make room on the stage for the voices that have a whisper in a crowd. (They want to roar, and we need to hear them.) Let us – well and truly – LEAD.
– Rachelle Mee-Chapman, Tithe Your Power 

The Bible doesn’t teach us to keep looking over our shoulders to see if others approve of us or not or to second guess ourselves when we see an opportunity to do more or to rise to the next level in the work God has given us to do. We’re told to fix our eyes on Jesus, to love God with every fiber of our being and give ourselves wholeheartedly to his purposes. – Carolyn Custiss James

Matthew 20:25-28 NRSV
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Spiritual leaders fear being judged in this one way—as either a success or a failure based solely upon numbers. If we live in this fear, we can never allow ourselves to listen to God. This is the pivotal choice every spiritual leader must make: serve God or serve our fear. If we serve our fear, we will be enslaved to the ways of the world and the egos of those around us who seek to control our lives. If we serve God, we will fearlessly be able to see and discern how God is working for life and growth in every situation, large and small. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

I think being able to apologize for my mistakes and not ever seeing that as a threat to my authority is critical…but that is different than apologizing for who I am.  Everyone does this but I hear women do it all the time. It’s not helpful. I think trying to pretend to be someone that you are not does nothing but water down your power.  Because in a way, we are most powerful when we are simply who God made us where God put us. Maybe this and only this is where our authority rests. No need to defend it or protect it or apologize for it. Just rock it, brothers and sisters.
-Nadia Bolz-Weber, The Authority of Apology

When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, he is not going to ask me if I was a clever orator. He is not going to ask me how many books I wrote. He is only going to ask whether I continued in the line of men and women, starting way back in the time of Adam’s grandchildren, who led others to call upon God.
– Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

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

Reflection on Psalm 1: I Want to Grow Like a Tree

Landscape with Olive Trees by Vincent van Gogh

Reflection on Psalm 1 by Jim Harnish
reprinted with permission

O life-giving God,
whose power surges through the whole creation,
I want to grow like a tree.
Not like a weed, Lord, or an overnight kudzu vine,
but like a strong, healthy tree,
patient enough to grow slowly,
but always growing,
always sinking deeper roots,
always stretching wider branches,
always reaching higher into the sky.

Like a tree, Lord,
that can hold its own when a hurricane blows in from the Gulf.

One day, Lord, the tree will fall.
It will have been here long enough.
Even sequoias die.
That’s okay, Lord.
No tree lasts forever.
But may my tree fall because it has lived its life fully,
richly, deeply, drawing everything it could from the soil
and giving back life to the rest of creation.
May the fruit of my tree
be a gift of life to others.

Thank you, Lord, for the soil in which you have planted me.
This is where I want to grow.
Like a tree beside the waters.
I want to grow.

Reflection on Psalm 1 © Jim Harnish
Please contact Jim directly for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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

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.

Advent Door 14: I am not, Therefore I am

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 14 Reading: John 1:6-8, 19-28

Scripture Summary: The authorities ask John the Baptist to identify himself. He says who is isn’t and then says who he is. 

John the Baptist’s claiming of Isaiah’s words to describe himself places him firmly in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets. He knows he comes from Elizabeth and from Zechariah, but with his answer he places himself in the lineage of those for whom the wilderness, both literal and metaphorical, was home, their place of formation as messengers of God. John’s response to his questioners is not only a way of saying who he is, but also where—and whom—he has come from.
– Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door

It is not the question, what am I going to be when I grow up;
you should ask the question, who am I going to be when I grow up.
– Goldie Hawn

I heard an English teacher once say that there is really only one story line and that every story ever written is a variation of this one theme- Who am I? Romeo and Juliet, Ulysses, The Great Gatsby, Les Misérables, The Lord of the Rings, Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird… this is the universal story, our search for meaning and identity.

On the way to discovering who I am, I discover who I am not. This process of elimination is not failure, but focus. Close enough doors and only a few remain. In a world of far too many choices, there is peace to be found in knowing we are not all things, nor must we strive to be so. Our uniqueness is a gift. What I am comes alongside what you are and forms a greater whole. What we are comes alongside who God is and forms all that is needed for us and for the world.

May you know the One who made you
And thus know yourself
Soaring in your strength and gifts
Joining with others for healing and provision
At peace with who you are and who you are not
Assured of your beauty and worth

Be Still, Remember
a hymn for reaffirming the baptismal covenant
Suggested Tune- ONE BREAD, ONE BODY (United Methodist Hymnal #620)

Be still, remember, who you are.
Come touch the water
of your birth.
Be dead to sin, alive to God.
Remember who you are in Jesus.

You are beloved.
You are an heir.
You are a child of God.

You are claimed.
You are marked.
You are named by God.

Chosen and blessed
Gifted by God
Witness through word and deed

Be Still, Remember © 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.
Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to music.

This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><

For more information on the Christian season of Advent, click here

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

God's Presence and Our Presence in Darkness

1 Kings 8:6, 10-12
Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. … And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.”

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Psalm 139:11-12 (NIV)
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

The bright darkness by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
When darkness descends on you,
the unknown enfolds you,
the unseen holds you close,

when you look about for light
and see only shadow,
a way that can’t be found:

know that you have entered
the holy of holies,
the presence of God.

In the darkest regions,
the shady neighborhoods,
places under a pall of gloom

where mercy and justice are hidden:
God is not absent, but cloaked,
and holds her beloved even closer.

Bright mystery, holy darkness,
strip us of knowing too much.

Glory so thick you absorb all light,
bless us, who cannot see.

Isaiah 45:3 NRSV
I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

Mystery is rarely comfortable. We want to understand what we are doing here, to see more clearly how God is at work, to know how the future will unfold. This Gospel passage confounds us, reminds us that God works in the darkness as well as in the daylight. (Mark 13:24-37) – Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door

Job 23:8-12 NRSV
If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.

Extended quote by Idelette McVicker from She rises while it is yet night 
I embrace Proverbs 31:15: ”She rises while it is yet night …”

Not necessarily in the 4:30am wake up call kind of way, but in the way of rising into the Night that I see all around me and so often struggle with, even within.

  • The Night that looks like gender inequality, violence, oppression, poverty and suffering.
  • The Night that looks like not having all my ducks in a row and all my themes clearly abstracted.
  • The Night that looks like admitting struggle and anguish, but also joy.

I am encouraged because into this very Night –our own and our world’s– women of valor rise.

Eshet chayil, says beautiful Rachel Held Evans.

So– that blessing, that ode to womanhood in Proverbs 31, for me, speaks to our valor and our ability to rise, in spite of.

  • When we don’t have all the answers yet, to rise …
  • When we don’t know exactly what we are doing, to rise …
  • When we are criticized and ridiculed, to rise …
  • When it seems like Night is winning in the world, to rise …
  • When the darkness wants to overwhelm, we will rise …
  • When we don’t have it all figured out yet, to rise …
  • When we make mistakes and fall down, to rise …

I don’t want to be scared of entering into the process any more. I don’t want to be scared of making mistakes and saying the wrong thing or of being overbearing, because I’d like to imagine that we are listening for each other’s hearts –with ears of Love– and not just for the words.

While it is yet Night –in my own struggle and in our world– I want to rise …
I hope you’ll join me.

If you know the artist of today’s featured work, please let me know so I may give him/her credit.

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

Success and Failure

Psalm 118:25 (NIV)
O LORD, save us;
O LORD, grant us success.

Success & failure.
We think of them as opposites, but they’re really… companions – the hero and the sidekick. ~Laurence Shames

I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me,
but now I am more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.
– Bob Goff, Love Does

Jesus’ life didn’t go well. He didn’t reach his earning potential. He didn’t have the respect of his colleagues. His friends weren’t loyal. His life wasn’t long. He didn’t meet his soul mate. And he wasn’t understood by his mother. Yet I think I deserve all those things because I am spiritual. – Hugh Prather, quoted in Secrets of a Good Life

Usually, without growth being forced on us, few of us go willingly on the spiritual journey. Why would we? The rug has to be pulled out from beneath our game, so we redefine what balance really is. More than anything else, this falling/rising cycle is what moves us into the second half of our own lives. There is a necessary suffering to human life, and if we avoid its cycles we remain immature forever. It can take the form of failed relationships, facing our own shadow self, conflicts and contradictions, disappointments, moral lapses, or depression in any number of forms.
– Richard Rohr

Anyone who doesn’t make mistakes isn’t trying hard enough. -Wess Roberts

No matter how significant or life-changing your greatest hit or miss might be,
neither even begins to define who you are. – Colin Powell

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
-Winston Churchill

We err when we think that we can have a “sliding scale” of accomplishment in the rest of our lives, but must have a “perfect score” when it comes to discernment. Instead, we must understand that finding and following God’s will inevitably brings us to moments when we realize we have failed to “get it right.” It’s in that moment we must understand that discernment is not about complete accuracy, but rather about complete devotion.
– Steve Harper, Ministry Musings: What if I Get it Wrong

While Adam and Eve had done something wrong, what they felt wasn’t guilt. Guilt didn’t make them hide their nakedness…it was shame. And here’s why that’s a significant distinction, because guilt is about what we have done – but shame is about who we are. We should feel guilty for the wrong we do. That is healthy and leads us to the foot of the cross where we receive grace upon grace for the forgiveness of sins. Shame on the other hand…that’s different. Shame keeps us afraid of God. As I said earlier, this is an origin story and here’s something we learn from Adam and Eve: shame has an origin… and it’s not God. – Nadia Bolz Weber, Sermon: A re-telling of Adam and Eve and that Damned Snake

Genesis 24:42 (NIV)
When I came to the spring today, I said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come.”

The beginnings of Jesus’ ministry required after his baptism that he immediately enter the desert, where he was tempted. The basic temptations were the three “Ps” — power, prestige, and possessions. … Here we reach the depth of the gospel’s foolishness. In our society, these three “Ps” are not temptations at all. Instead they are the basic promises advertised all around us as the rewards for living society’s values. There is no escaping the seriousness of Christianity. Either it is a stumbling block to the people in our society, or the values of modern society are foolishness to the serious Christian. It cannot be both ways. – W. Paul Jones, The Upper Room Disciplines 2003

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.
– Maya Angelou

All the greatest things you have done,
with those of all the masters,
are little purple berries
on the end of bare branches
that songbirds come and eat
and then migrate far,
strong and beautiful.

All the mistakes you ever made
fall like leaves and rot
in God’s good dark earth
until, after time and regret
and a winter of letting go,
it all becomes rich, black soil.

Reckoning by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

If your success is defined as being well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference then we don’t want successful leaders. We want great leaders – who love the people enough and respect the people enough to be unsought, unbound, unafraid and unintimidated to tell the truth. – Cornel West

We 21st-century types want our lives to be full of successes and significance. We want our children to be impressive to the world around us. Jesus calls on us to have more patience with and respect for failure, hiddenness, and insignificance.
Alyce M. McKenzie, Reflections on the Seed Parables in Mark 4:26-34

Mark 10:42-45 (NRSV)
So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nehemiah 1:11 (NIV)
“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.

The plain fact is that the world does not need more successful people, but it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it. – David Orr

A Servant’s Prayer
Divine Master, we are your servants;
Bearers of the cup of salvation from you, our King, to a thirsty world.
Forgive us, for we often twist and waste your gifts and empowerment.
Set our hearts and minds aright,
that we may rise above falsehood and selfishness.
Open our eyes and hands,
that we may share every ounce of your blessing with joy and thankfulness.
Renew us and send us forth again,
that we may live courageous and faithful lives,
for the honor and glory of you alone. Amen.

A Servant’s Prayer © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

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

Faith in Action

James 2:14 (NRSV)
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Being willing is not enough; we must do.
– Leonardo Da Vinci

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Eugene Peterson tells the story of three apprentice devils who were being sent by Satan to their tour of duty on earth. Before they left, they reported to Satan what they intended to do.
The first said he would tell people there is no God.
The second said he would tell people there is no hell.
The third took a different approach. “I will tell them,” he said, “that there is no hurry.”
Satan told the third devil, “Go, tell them that, and you’ll ruin them by the millions.”
– retold by Steve Harper in his blog post Benedict’s Rule: Motivation

Any social-change hero succeeds in doing three fundamental things:
raising awareness, creating impact, and transforming the heart.
– from a talk Nipun Mehta delivered at the United Nations on Feb 15, 2012. Nipun is the founder of ServiceSpace.org, which works at the intersection of technology, gift-economy and volunteerism.

Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive and go out and do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
-Howard Thurman

John 14:12 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way. Many who may seem to us to be children of the Devil will still become Christ’s disciples. – Francis of Assisi

I don’t preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, “Now is that political or social?” He said, “I feed you.” Because the good news to a hungry person is bread. – Desmond Tutu

Life Himself came down to be slain
Bread came down to suffer hunger
The Way came down to endure weariness on His journey
The Fountain came down to experience thirst.
Do you, then, refuse to work and to suffer?

The following prayer is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi,
but that cannot be confirmed.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

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Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience: Station 4

photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
Station 4a: Remember and Represent
Station 4b: Renew

The Setting
One half of a medium sized room with medium lighting. (Stations 3 and 4 can share the same room)  A white bed sheet or cloth is pinned to a wall. Instructions for station 4a are placed on a music stand a few feet from the wall so people encounter them as they approach the station. A bowl of water and a bowl of ashes are placed on a small table to the right of the white cloth. (Due to the amount of ashes needed for this exercise, we used ashes from a fireplace for this station rather than ashes made to be placed on a person’s forehead for Ash Wednesday.) Baby wipes and instructions for station 4b are placed on a small table to the left of the white cloth. A trash can is placed near this table.

The Experience
1. Persons read the following and perform the action for station 4a: For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) Remember Who created you and what you were created for. By placing your hands into the water and then into the ash and then onto the wall, you are affirming your desire to join Jesus in bringing hope, salvation and new life to the world.

2. Persons read the following and perform the action for station 4b: Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:22-24 NIV) You’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:11 The Message) As you clean your hands before exiting, thank God for this fresh start and invite Jesus to use your hands for good works.

My Experience
Confession and forgiveness, prayer and worship, growth and illumination. The journey with Christ naturally makes its way to joining Jesus in his mission. As I placed my ashy hands on the cloth, I remembered how eager Jesus was to get his hands dirty in saving work: the sawdust of honest labor as a carpenter, the rags of desperate lepers, the linen and spices of dead sons, the bread and fish of a miraculous meal, the salty spray when lifting Peter from drowning, the mud pie to make a blind man see.

I see Jesus smiling with a child-like delight while making the mud pies. (John 9:1-41) Our God is holy, pure. Yet God is willing to come down to our level, to be hands on, personal and intimate (how intimate is spit!), to get messy and dirty so we might be whole. Jesus making mud reminds me of Genesis 2 where God makes Adam (a whole person) out of mud and breathes life into him. (Adam literally means earth man or mud man.) Coming to faith requires remembering we are mortal/dust and in need of God’s eternal love and salvation. Embodying that faith means remembering those around us are also mortal/dust and sharing what we have found with them.

Jesus is willing to touch our lives, even though they are messy, oozing, and soiled. Am I as willing? As eager?

May the Blessed One
Open our lips in blessing
For words have the power to create or destroy
May the Blessed One
Open our hands in blessing
For actions have the power to heal or to wound
May the Blessed One
Open our hearts in blessing
That the grace poured in by Christ
Would overflow
To all, in all and through all

This station is the fourth of four prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could of course be used anytime when the themes for self-reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and recommitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience: Station 1
Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience: Station 2
Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience: Station 3

© 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia and Nicole Sallee. 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, photos and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Julie’s Prayer

I took this picture on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida during a morning devotional walk. The joyful colors reflect Julie's joyful heart and the spirit of her prayer.

Dear God,
For the all the ways You heal, for the open doors, and the ones You so lovingly close, for the protection from the evil one who wants us to forget You and Your mission in our community, for Your Spirit who lets us both rest and be disssatisfied with complacency, we give You thanks and trust You. Amen

A huge thank you to my friend Julie Riddle for permission to share her prayer. – Lisa <><

For more information on the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.