Photo Quote: Romans 12:15

rejoice weep

Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for living in someone’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me unless there is peace and joy finally for you too. – Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words

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 <><

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.

*********
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.

Countdown to Christmas Bible Reading Plan

The Road to Bethlehem by Joseph F. Brickey

The Road to Bethlehem by Joseph F. Brickey

This reading plan is adapted from Joy! to Your World! A Countdown to Christmas by Carol McLeod of Just Joy Ministries. You can find the original plan at YouVersion. Feel free to add your own ministry events as we did.- Lisa <><

December 1
Luke 1:1-13; James 5:16; Hebrews 10:35-39
Christmas Dinner at 5:30pm in the fellowship hall

December 2
Luke 1:8-23; Matthew 7:7-11

December 3
Luke 1:24-25; Isaiah 40:28-31

December 4
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

December 5
Luke 1:26-29; Isaiah 9:2-7

December 6
Luke 1:29-35; Psalm 17

December 7
Luke 1:36-38; Genesis 18:1-14

December 8
Psalm 119:1-16
Invite a friend to the Christmas Play

December 9
Matthew 1:18-25; Colossians 1:25-29

December 10
Luke 1:39-45; Psalm 16

December 11
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

December 12
Luke1:46-56; Psalm 138

December 13
Luke 1:57-66

December 14
Luke 1:67-80
Christmas Play at 7pm in the Sanctuary

December 15
Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7
Christmas Play at 9am and 11am in the Sanctuary

December 16
Isaiah 40:1-11, Psalm 23

December 17
Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2-5
Invite a friend to Christmas Eve Services

December 18
Luke 2:8-20

December 19
Psalm 148

December 20
Matthew 2:1-8; Psalm 9:1-10

December 21
Matthew 2:9-10; 1 Peter 1:3-9

December 22
Matthew 2:11; Psalm 95

December 23
Matthew 2:12-23

December 24
John 1:1-18
Christmas Eve Worship at 5pm and 7pm in the Sanctuary

December 25
John 3:15-17; 1 John 1:1-7
Christmas Day Breakfast from 9am-11am in the fellowship hall

Looking for more reading plan options?
Click Here for Through the Advent Door, a reading plan based on the classic Advent texts and Jan Richardson’s book of the same name

Click Here for The Story of Christmas, a reading plan through the New Testament Scriptures leading up to Jesus’ birth and those soon after his birth

For more work by today’s featured artist, Joseph F. Brickey, click here

Commissioning and Blessing of Newly Licensed Foster Parents

foster careCommissioning and Blessing of Newly Licensed Foster Parents
PASTOR:
Invite the family members forward and introduce them.
We rejoice that the _____________ family has been approved and licensed as a foster home. Let us bless them and pray for them as they begin this important ministry.

In God’s Word, we read: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27 HCS)

In another place we read: “Sing to God. Sing praises to His name. … a Father to the fatherless and a champion of widows is God in His holy dwelling. God provides homes for those who are deserted….” (Psalm 68:4-6 HCS)

PASTOR TO FOSTER FAMILY:
____________________________(names), you have heard the call of God to care for the most vulnerable among us – children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves separated from families who have failed them. Will you rely on the power and grace of God to provide these precious children a haven of encouragement, safety and healing? To help them learn to trust again? To live a life that reminds them they are loved and valued, not simply by you, but by others and by their Father in Heaven?

FOSTER FAMILY: We will.

PASTOR TO CONGREGATION:
Will you support this family in their calling?

CONGREGATION IN UNISON:
We recognize and rejoice in God’s calling on your life. We commit ourselves to support you in every way possible, to pray for you and for the children in your care, and to become an extended church-family to them.

At this time, the foster parents/family may kneel or stand in the aisle among the congregation. The congregation is invited to rise, move, and lay hands of blessing and support on the foster parents/family. Anointing with oil is optional.

PASTOR:
Let us pray:

CONGREGATION (OR PASTOR):
God of Grace, we praise you and thank you that you do not leave us orphaned, but welcome all into your family. Shower your blessings upon ____________________(names) as they prepare to receive foster children into their homes and hearts. Prepare and equip them to love these children with Christ-like love. Give them patience to deal with the challenges that are to come. Grant them wisdom to guide and direct the young lives in their charge. When the time comes for the children to move on, fill all involved with peace and hope and trust in the future, knowing they remain forever in your steadfast care.

PASTOR:
We ask all this in the strong name of Jesus, the One who brings new life, the One who taught us to pray… conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

**************
Click here for more information on Open Hearts Family Services, the Foster Care division of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home

Click the following link for John Gill’s original Blessing-Celebration of Newly Licensed Foster Parents

Commissioning and Blessing of Newly Licensed Foster Parents
© 2013 John Gill, adapted with permission by 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 resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Advent Wreath Readings: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love

The Advent Wreath in Christ Church Cathedral, Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010

The Advent Wreath in Christ Church Cathedral, Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010

First Sunday in Advent: Hope
READER ONE:
Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ.
More and more candles, more and more light,
as we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World.

ALL:
God of Promise, come into our darkness.
Renew your hope in us,
for you alone bring life out of death.

READER TWO:
Receive God’s promise of hope from Psalm 33:
The eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

ALL:
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.

Light the candle of hope

ALL SINGING:
O Little Town of Bethlehem or Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Second Sunday in Advent: Peace
READER ONE:
Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ.
More and more candles, more and more light,
as we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World.

ALL:
God of Promise, come into our darkness.
Renew your hope and peace in us,
for you alone bring life out of death.

READER TWO:
Receive God’s promise of peace from Psalm 4:
Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
The LORD will hear when we call to him.

ALL:
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
We will lie down and sleep in peace,
For you alone, O LORD, make us dwell in safety.

Light the candles of hope and peace

ALL SINGING:
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Third Sunday in Advent: Joy
READER ONE:
Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ.
More and more candles, more and more light,
as we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World.

ALL:
God of Promise, come into our darkness.
Renew your hope and peace and joy in us,
for you alone bring life out of death.

READER TWO:
Receive God’s promise of joy from Psalm 28:
Praise be to the LORD
For he has heard my cry for mercy
The LORD is my strength and my shield

ALL:
My heart trusts in him, and I am helped
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song

Light the candles of hope, peace and joy

ALL SINGING:
Hark the Herald Angels Sing or Angels We Have Heard on High

Fourth Sunday in Advent: Love
READER ONE:
Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ.
More and more candles, more and more light,
as we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World.

ALL:
God of Promise, come into our darkness.
Renew your hope, your peace, your joy, your love in us,
for you alone bring life out of death.

READER TWO:
Receive God’s promise of love from Psalm 36:
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
Your judgments are like the great deep
You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

ALL:
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

Light the candles of hope, peace, joy and love

ALL SINGING:
Silent Night

*************
Notes:
This worship resource emphasizes the classic Advent candle symbols of hope, peace, joy and love. Psalms are used for the scripture references so it may be used in any liturgical year. The passages from Psalms come from the NIV or NRSV of the Bible.

This worship resource calls for “more and more candles” to be lit each Sunday in order to emphasize “more and more light”. (The present and second coming of Christ growing more near as time passes. The celebration of Christ’s first coming at Christmas growing nearer as well). Thus, no candles are lit prior to the service. Some prefer to have the previous weeks’ candles lit prior to the service so only one candle is lit each week, thus adding light to those already lit. Feel free to use whichever method you prefer.

Also, feel free to substitute different hymn and song choices following the selection from Psalms. I especially recommend the Advent Wreath Candlelighting Songs by United Methodist pastor Gary L. Lake Dillensnyder found on the General Board of Discipleship Website. Beautiful, modern texts to the familiar hymn tune Trentham (Breathe on Me Breath of God).

Click here for a resource for lighting the Advent Wreath on Christmas Eve.
Click here for a post discussing the Christian understanding of Advent.
Click here for a brief history of the Advent Wreath.

Advent Wreath Readings: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love © 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 music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Prayer of Release: Let It Go

It's Time to Let Go by Andrew Mitchell Photography

It’s Time to Let Go by Andrew Mitchell Photography

I think Christians have yet to learn the pattern of redemption.
It is evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided.
It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds—
much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe.
Much of the Christian religion has largely become “holding on” instead of letting go.
But God, it seems to me, does the holding on (to us!),
and we must learn the letting go (of everything else).
– Richard Rohr

Concealment makes the soul a swamp.
Confession is how you drain it.
– Charles M. Blow

Philippians 3:12-14 NIV
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Luke 20:38 NRSV
God is God not of the dead, but of the living.

God of the Living by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
God is God of the present moment,
not the past.

Your sins were in the past;
but God is in the present moment.

God does not stay in the past,
remembering your sins:

God is in the present moment,
loving you.

Forgiveness is letting go of the past
and coming into the present.

Repent of your sin—let go of the past—
and come into the present,

where you are a child of God,
a child of resurrection.

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV
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.

Prayer of Release
Jesus, you hold us
That we might let go of
All that is false and destructive
All that we think will save us but will not
All the guilt and shame we needlessly carry
All the regret that suffocates our future

You open the door to all that is hidden and hurtful
We release it all to you
We trust your strength to catch us

silent prayers of confession

The burden is gone
Blown away in your grace
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The new is born

**********
Prayer of Release: Let it Go © 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.