Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

soft-heart-cruel-world-2

Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 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.

Take a Stand, inspired by Jeremiah 1.17-19

stand up speak out

Extended quote from Ragamuffin Reflections by Brennan Manning
The prophet Jeremiah is a striking example of the Biblical paradox that surrender means victory, that in losing our life we find it. (Jesus Christ identifies with Jeremiah more than any other prophet and quotes him most frequently.) In the year 625 BC, the Lord summoned Jeremiah to a prophetic career. Jeremiah’s immediate response was reluctance. “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” he said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). He was nineteen at the time. Jeremiah was not the confident, self-assured type like Amos or Isaiah. Sensitive, accustomed to the quiet of small-town life, he was temperamentally unsuited for public life and the harsh treatment that is the customary “reward of the prophets.”

Timid and afraid, Jeremiah had no ambition for such a mission. In no way did he want to preach God’s Word to his fellow Israelites. Nothing pleased him more than to be Mr. Nobody, ignored by the ruling clique of royal counselors and priests. How content he would have been to live in the tiny world of his own heart. And so he remonstrated with God, “Ah, Lord God. I am only a boy.” Each of us can sympathize, because Jeremiah is Everyman and Everywoman.

Take a Stand, a devotion inspired by Jeremiah 1:17-19 (NIV)
The words from scripture are found in regular type.

Get yourself ready!
There are things God leaves up to you
Your part of the preparation
Prayer and study and silence
Clearing out the crap so there’s space for what is coming

Stand up and say to them whatever I command you.
Rise now from the green pasture
From the still waters of comfort and slumber
Preparation leads to action
Sanctuary to Taking a Stand

Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.
God alone is God
They do not deserve your reverence
Your awe
They are human
Dust and ashes, just like you

Today I have made you a fortified city,
an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land –
against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.
The call is beyond you
So God makes you more than you
Steadfast
Enduring
Rock and Refuge
Living Stone
Rejected in the Redeeming
Like your Christ
Your Jesus

They will fight
But the battle is the Lord’s

They will fight against you but will not overcome you,
for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.

*******
On this same theme, consider also reading The Stream of Justice, a stirring encouragement to continue our efforts for peace, freedom, and justice. Written by Steve Garnaas Holmes for Martin Luther King remembrances and similar occasions.

Take a Stand © 2014 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.

Stand Up Speak Out graphic by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Teacher and Comforter (Isaiah 50, Matthew 4)

Jesus, The Coming Messiah
Jesus, The Coming Messiah: Advent Readings from Old Testament to New
December 15: The Messiah as Teacher and Comforter
Readings: Isaiah 50:4-11; Matthew 4:23-24

Isaiah 11:1-10, The Voice
The Lord, the Eternal, equipped me for this job— with skilled speech, a smooth tongue for instruction. I can find the words that comfort and soothe the downtrodden, tired, and despairing. And I know when to use them.

Matthew 4:23-24, The Voice
And so Jesus went throughout Galilee. He taught in the synagogues. He preached the good news of the Kingdom, and He healed people, ridding their bodies of sickness and disease. Word spread all over Syria, as more and more sick people came to Him. The innumerable ill who came before Him had all sorts of diseases, they were in crippling pain; they were possessed by demons; they had seizures; they were paralyzed. But Jesus healed them all.

Prayer
Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word spoken in creation
So we would know light and new life

Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word made flesh
So we would know grace and truth

Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word of Divine Comfort
Who hears our cries and draws near

You hear and you bear
You bear our disgrace and shame
You bear our burdens and disease

No one, no thing, no situation
Can stand against you
You, Eternal One, Eternal Word
You persevere while they come to an end

You
Our Savior
Our Sustainer
Our Shelter
Our confidence is in you

The next devotion will focus on Jesus’ suffering, which is also a major theme in Isaiah 50:4-11.

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Thank you for setting aside times this Holy Season to seek the One we celebrate.

Jesus, The Coming Messiah is an Advent Bible Reading Plan highlighting the Old Testament prophesies and passages which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

As you read each passage, consider how this description of Jesus the Messiah reveals his character, motivation, and purpose. How does this description inspire you to trust Jesus and his promises? How will you apply and share what you have discovered? I look forward to your comments.

If you’re in Sarasota, please drop by Trinity United Methodist Church for one of our seasonal events or services or just to say, “Hi.” You’re always welcome and wanted.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <><

The Messiah as Teacher and Comforter © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

soft-heart-cruel-world-2

Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

*************
Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 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.

Sermon Recording- Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, a Sermon on Courage (Romans 8)

finding-god-in-oz

Sermon Series – Finding God in Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a powerful allegory for so many of our foundational Christian beliefs. Walk with us as we Find God in Oz.

Message: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, a Sermon on Courage
Scriptures: Romans 8:35-39
Offered 11/13/16, the Sunday after the National Election and Veterans Day at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

It takes courage to open up Facebook. It’s still ugly following the election. I hoped it would go back to puppy videos, inspiring quotes, and pictures of my friends.

It takes courage to watch the news. Protesters remind us of our deeply divided country. We hear hate crimes are on the rise.

I just want to go to my favorite chair with my Bible and journal and pray till it goes away. I just want to stay within the walls of this beautiful, safe place- this sanctuary. That’s what God’s house should be. I just want to sit on my couch and grow my veggies and have a chai tea latte and pet my dog. I want to plug my ears and my heart because it hurts too much to see folks scared and mean. Yet, this is what happens when you become a follower of Jesus; when you ask God, “Give me a heart like yours.” It hurts because God’s heart hurts.

It takes a supernatural courage to face the hurt.

Wednesday afternoon, the day after the election, I’m walking to church and I see my friend Miguel. He’s in the 5th grade. I ask him how he is, remembering him being afraid because month’s before during the election he’d heard talk of walls and deportation. He’d thought he and his family belonged, but then he wasn’t so sure. He’s still not sure. I said, “I will fight for you. Not in a violent way. I’ll stand with you should you and your family need it.” (I really wanted what I said to be real. I wanted to be ready to be courageous.)

With complete faith and serenity on his face, Miguel said, “No matter where we are, God is with us.”

Romans 8:35-39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Miguel knew that in Jesus’ death and resurrection evil is defeated, sin is defeated, death is defeated.

For I am convinced that neither winning nor losing elections, nor pollsters, nor pundits, nor spin, nor lies, nor discrimination, nor prejudice, nor bullying, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Last week we talked about living in the age of loneliness and the essential of friendship, especially spiritual friends. What if, as followers of Jesus, we claimed this as the age of courage? Courage in the face of evil and courage to face evil.

In the Wizard of OZ, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion have courage in the face of evil; courage when the fight comes to them. Courage when the angry orchard attacks them. Courage when the flying monkeys start carrying off their friends. They also have the courage to face evil, to go to the fight, to go to the wicked witch’s fortress to rescue their friends.

I want to be like Miguel- courageous and confident in Jesus’ victory. Courage in the face of evil and courage to face evil alongside him. I want to be with Miguel because he’s my friend and brother in Jesus Christ.

God to give me a courageous heart to stand with Miguel and with
– peaceful Muslim-Americans fearing for their well being
– persons of color fearing the rise of white supremacy
– gay and lesbian persons fearing loss of their rights
– veterans needing easier access to benefits
– women and sexual assault victims fearing they won’t be heard or believed
– lots of people fearing loss of insurance and basic needs

brene-brown-courage-comfort

We’re going to hurt. Will we be hurting for something worthwhile?

islamophobia-bully-advocate-cartoon

Renewal of Baptismal Vows
On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:
1. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
2. Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
3. Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

Psalm 31:23-24
Love the LORD, all you his saints.
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD.

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer when your treatment is being denied

hospital bed dark hall

Bed where patient is waited

This prayer was inspired by a friend whose insurance company denied the tests she needs. Heartbreaking. Frustrating. Infuriating. It is the third in a series of prayers for those walking the long journey of serious illness.

As always, may this prayer for her also be a blessing to you and to others you may know. Feel free to adapt it for your needs.

May all who need tests and treatments have access to what they need. May those with the power to make decisions about access to treatment do so with compassion and justice, especially for those with no one to take up their cause. – Lisa <><

Click here for Prayer for the beginning of treatment
Click here for Prayer for another test, another treatment

Jesus, Good Shepherd
You care for your lambs
Thank you for the compassion and strength you are extending to Janene
Help her to hear your voice and trust your promises

Jesus, Good Shepherd,
You defend your lambs
Thank you for fighting for Janene so she can have the tests and treatments she needs
Thank you for those who are taking up her cause
Help her to rest and trust in your provision
Empower those who are helping her with perseverance, boldness, and favor

Jesus, Good Shepherd,
You lead your lambs
Through the shadowy valleys, you lead
By the still waters, you lead
You make the way
You see us through
Help Janene to follow and trust your healing presence

All the days of this life
And all the days beyond this life
You are ours and we are yours
You are Goodness and Mercy
We are safe and home
Hallelujah! Amen!

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Prayer when your treatment is being denied
© 2016 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.

Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective

A well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi named Simcha Bunim used to say,
“Every person should have two pockets.
In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’
In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Rabbi Bunim went on to say one must know how to use the notes, each one in its proper place and at the right time.

He knows us well

When misused, we hunker down in one pocket and make a home
We use a note to justify, judge, and deflect self examination

For my sake the world was created- I’m all that and a bag of chips
I am dust and ashes- Eeyore is my best buddy

But, when we open to the wisdom of the notes, we accept we are not one or the other. We realize we are both notes. Both pockets. We see the wisdom of the notes in the wisdom of God’s Word which goes back and forth, naming us and reminding us who we are- beloved and dust. We are both and we need both.

I am dust and ashesWhen we are too proud, too entitled, too full of ourselves, too self-sufficient, we reach in a pocket and remember anokhi afar va’efer, I am dust and ashes
I am small
I am worthless
I am mortal
I am unclean
I miss the mark, I stray from the path- that’s what the word sin literally means in Greek
I am like everyone else who has ever lived and who will live
I need a savior

Psalm 90:3 NRS
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

Ecclesiastes 3:20b NIV
All come from dust, and to dust all return.

Luke 9:41 NRSV
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is right to remind us we are a “brood of vipers” and of our need of repentance, to turn back to God’s path, not just with our words but our actions.

for my sake was the world createdThen, when we are discouraged, overwhelmed and losing faith (when we feel like dirt) we reach in the other pocket and remember bishvili nivra ha’olam, for my sake was the world created.
I am a unique and beloved child of the King of kings
Christ loved me enough to die for me and raise me to new life
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
I am called
I am gifted
I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great things for God
God is using me in the salvation and transformation of the world

Psalm 8:4-8 NRSV
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Psalm 139:14 NRSV
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

We stand with Jesus in our baptism, water washed, anointed with the fiery dove of the Holy Spirit, named and claimed by God as beloved children.

Jesus stepped into the water not out of his need but of ours
To remind us of our great need- I am dust and ashes
To remind us who we are in Him- For my sake the world was created

Prayer for Perspective
Eternal and Beautiful God,
The One who births us and names us
Grant us perspective
A holy centering
of truth, humility and our belovedness

Not too high that we fall away from you
our need of you
our need of others

Not too low that we fail to trust
to reach out for you
to reach out with you

In you, with you, for you we are
humble and powerful
unique and alike
common and regal
priceless and dust

Grant us perspective, Merciful One
A holy centering
Let no voice be too loud
Or too soft
So we may persevere in faith
in hope
in following
in becoming
Amen

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I am indebted to Rabbi Jack Moline for a blog post which provided much of the information and inspiration for this reflection.

Two Pocket Devotion and Prayer for Perspective © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are very welcome to use this in a worship or group setting with proper attribution.

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