Prayer: O Lord, Awaken Us

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Detail of prayers written at the Chains Human Trafficking Awareness Event at Community UMC in DeBary. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

In recent worship services at Community United Methodist Church, we highlighted the growing problem of modern slavery, also known as human trafficking. The following prayer was written by Nicole Sallee especially for these services. It is printed here with her permission. Following the services, persons were invited to walk through an interactive experience entitled Chains, where they could learn more information, pray, and join efforts to end human trafficking.

Nicole is the director of worship arts for our congregation and the founder of The Community Freedom Project. Their purpose is to bring awareness to the epidemic of human trafficking and healing to the survivors. Their ultimate goal is a restoration home for Central Florida slavery survivors. For more information on The Community Freedom Project, click here or here.

This prayer followed the song Awakening by Chris Tomlin and Reuben Morgan
(Hillsong Music Publishing 2010, CCLI #5677399)

Prayer: O Lord, Awaken us by Nicole Sallee
O Lord
Awaken us
Awaken us to your presence here
Awaken us to your Spirit in our lives
Awaken us to the passion you’ve burned inside of us to be your church

Open our eyes to see the needs of others
Open our ears to hear their cries
Open our mouths to speak up and stand against injustice

We offer our hands to heal their wounds
We offer our feet to rush to their side
We offer our voice to sing peace
We offer our mind to learn your truth
We offer our gifts in support of your vision

For you are the God of the nations
And every person created is your child
We want to be your hands and feet
We want to reach out and hold the broken

So shake these walls
Rattle this steeple
Give us the strength to be bold

Grant us these things according to your will
In the name of Jesus
Who set the example
Who make it possible
Who taught us to pray…
conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

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O Lord, Awaken Us © 2013 Nicole Sallee
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Nicole via 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.

Transformation and the Journey of Faith

Isaiah 43:18-19 NRSV
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

I am not the man I ought to be
I am not the man I wish to be and
I am not the man I hope to be.
But by the grace of God,
I am not the man I used to be.
– John Newton

The clue to transformation lies in the nature of the word itself: trans…formation.  The fundamental meaning of “trans” is “beyond.”  Our recovery of authenticity is “beyond” a mere rearranging of the components of our lives–it does not occur with a momentary, superficial, or cosmetic remodeling of our existence.  The recovery of authenticity is “beyond” every notion of self-help.  It is, rather, a massive infusion of grace, so that by God’s redemptive act in Christ, we can be reconciled to God and made new as the Risen Christ takes up residence in us. – Steve Harper

Psalm 143:10 NRSV
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~Mark Twain

The separate self is the problem, whereas most religion and most people make the shadow self the problem. This leads to denying, pretending, and projecting instead of real transformation into the Divine. – Richard Rohr

Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. That is how transformative divine love is.
– Richard Rohr

During the rare occasions when theologians and pastors are brave enough to (publicly) have a change of heart, they’re labeled a “heretic” and often lose their jobs, their respect, and many of their closest friends and followers. But theology — our study and beliefs about God — should be a natural process involving change instead of avoiding it. Our God is too big and too wonderful to completely understand by the time we graduate high school, or college, or get married, or have children, or retire. Our life experiences, relationships, education, exposure to different cultures and perspectives continually affect the way we look at God. Our faith is a journey, a Pilgrim’s Progress, and our theology will change. And while we may not agree with a person’s new theological belief, we need to stop seeing the inherent nature of change as something negative. – Stephen Mattson, Christians: It’s Not a SIN to Change Your Beliefs

Isaiah 42:16 NIV
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
Along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Holy Saturday Prayers from The Awkward Season- Prayers for Lent by Pamela C Hawkins

Holy Saturday Prayers from The Awkward Season- Prayers for Lent by Pamela C Hawkins

We cannot cross paths Jesus very long before he begins to have an effect upon our life and our work. The questions we ask about him almost always have an ulterior motive— the motive that recognizes Jesus’ answer is likely to upset our apple cart— the motive which understands that to deal with Jesus is really to be changed.
– Steve Harper, from a meditation on John 18:33-37 entitled You Say So

The awakened subject is not merely to perceive transcendent life,
but to participate therein;
and for this, a drastic and costly life-changing is required.
Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

We ask God to remove our character flaws, we also need to actively replace them with the opposite qualities. If we battle with selfishness, we can begin to do kind or helpful things for others. If we procrastinate a lot, we can get down to doing something that we have been avoiding. As we take action to build positive habits like these into our lives with God’s help, our prayers for change will become more effective. After all, as the Bible makes very clear, faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
– Trevor Hudson, One Day at a Time

Extended quote by Leo Babauta
The biggest reason people fail at creating and sticking to new habits is that they don’t keep doing it. That seems obvious: if you don’t keep doing a habit, it won’t really become a habit. So what’s the solution to this obvious problem? Find a way to keep doing it. When you look at it this way, the key to forming a habit is not how much you do of the habit each day (exercise for 30 minutes, write 1,000 words, etc.), but whether you do it at all. So the key is just getting started.

Let me emphasize that: the key to forming a habit is starting each day.

What do I mean by starting? If you want to form the habit of meditation, just get your butt on the cushion each day. If you want to form the habit of running, just lace up your shoes and get out the door. If you want to form the habit of writing, just sit down, close everything else on your computer, and start typing. Form the habit of starting, and you’ll get good at forming habits. For the rest of the article, click here

Psalm 31:1-5 NRSV
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame;
In your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
For your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
Take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

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

Reader's Theatre: The Restoration of Peter (John 21)

restoration of peter john 21 iconReader’s Theater: The Restoration of Peter
Based on John 21:1-19 (NIV)
Three speakers:
NARRATOR, JESUS, Congregation as SIMON PETER and DISCIPLES

NARRATOR
Jesus appeared again to his disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias and it happened this way. Simon Peter, Thomas who was also called Didymus , Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter said,

CONGREGATION AS SIMON PETER
I’m going out to fish

NARRATOR
The rest said, “Well go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them,

JESUS
Friends, haven’t you any fish?

CONGREGATION AS DISCIPLES
No

JESUS
Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.

NARRATOR
When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

JESUS
Bring some of the fish you have just caught.

NARRATOR
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.

JESUS
Come and have breakfast.

NARRATOR
None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter

JESUS
Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?

CONGREGATION AS SIMON PETER
Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

JESUS
Feed my lambs.

Simon son of John, do you truly love me?

CONGREGATION AS SIMON PETER
Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

JESUS
Take care of my sheep.

Simon son of John, do you love me?

NARRATOR
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”

CONGREGATION AS SIMON PETER
Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.

JESUS
Feed my sheep.

I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

NARRATOR
Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him,

JESUS
Follow me!

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Adapted from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Reader’s Theater: The Restoration of Peter adaptation © 2013 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.

Prayer: God to enfold me

Celtic Cross by Barbara Walsh

Celtic Cross by Barbara Walsh

Psalm 139:1-6 NRSV
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

The Psalmist marvels, (or is it laments?): “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” The Hebrew word for “hem in” used here doesn’t mean cuddle. It doesn’t refer to a protective embrace, a great big bear hug, or to being wrapped in bubble wrap. It’s not a hedge of protection – it’s concertina wire for trespassers. The word for “hem in” is the word used when a city is laid under siege. You besiege me, O God. You hem me in. You besiege me. You entrap me. You encircle me. You beleaguer me, behind and before. You will not leave me alone.

How fearful a thing to be searched and known by this God.
And yet how wonderful, how wonderful.
– Jeremy Troxler, “Hemmed In” – Psalm 139

God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.

God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity.

~ ancient Celtic prayer found in Alexander Carmichael’s Collection Carmina Gadelica

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Today’s featured artist is Barbara Walsh of Barbara Walsh Photography. Be sure to checkout her Flickr Photostream. Photo used by permission via a Creative Commons license.

Poem: For His Name's Sake

gods namePsalm 23:1-3 NRSV
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake

Not because of me
My deserving
My actions
My offerings

But because of who You are
Your character
Your steadfast identity
Your name

Because of this alone
I lack nothing
I rest in abundant beauty
bed of green, brook of crystal blue
My very soul, my broken being, restored

I am not alone, never alone
You guide me on the journey
comforting, protecting
defending, providing
blessing upon blessing

In every experience
In every moment of light or shadow
Goodness and Mercy are our companions
They follow us all the way home

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For His Name’s Sake © 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.

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.

Photo Quote: The Secret of Change

secret of change - socrates

Philippians 3:10-14 NRSV
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 9:16-17 NRSV
Jesus said, “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 NRSV
God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

This piece was created using PicMonkey, a free, online picture editor. It’s super easy to use and has lots of great fonts, filters and other editing goodies. Someone with limited artistic abilities (like me) can feel very accomplished very quickly. – Lisa <><