Blessing College Students as They Leave for School

student college dorm

Blessing College Students as They Leave for School
We offer this blessing during worship the second Sunday in August. This is usually the last Sunday our college students are in worship before they return to school.

The students are invited to stand where they are seated. (Option: If the congregation is small enough, the students could be introduced at this time and/or given a gift.) The rest of the congregation is then invited to stand and lay a hand of support and blessing on the student closest to them.

Option: The blessing may begin with an invitation for the congregation to offer their own prayers for the students silently or aloud. The following prayer concludes the time of blessing.

ONE: Holy One,
Bless and protect these college students
as they leave us to begin another school year.

Keep them encouraged and full of hope.
Surround them with godly influences and opportunities.

Fill them with discernment,
that they may remain focused, disciplined and far from foolishness.

Grant these students the mind of Christ-
that they may grow in your wisdom and truth
that they may serve with both power and compassion
that they may carry your light throughout their campuses

Thank you for these students
and for providing the resources for them to continue their education.
Thank you for family members, friends, teachers, and coaches
who have mentored and supported them so that this day might be possible.
Thank you for creating us with the capacity to think, speak, discover and reason.
We rejoice in these good gifts from you and give you the honor and glory for them.

Receive our thanks and extend your blessing in the name of Jesus,
who saves us and leads us and teaches us to pray…

Finish with all praying The Lord’s Prayer

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Blessing College Students as They Leave for School © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

 

Prayers for the Start of the School Year

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Would you join me in praying for educators and students as they start a new school year? Below you’ll find a few prayers for your quiet time. Pick a few to pray each day between now and the end of the month. The prayers are inspired by a resource called Keys to the Kingdom by Prayer Point Press. May you and your community be blessed and grow in the wonder of God’s good earth and the hope of Rabbi Jesus. Lisa <><

Covering our Community in Prayer
August Emphasis: Education

Comforting One, bring peace to all those who are feeling anxious about the first days of school. Fill them with confidence and encouragement. Amen.

Father, every good and perfect gift comes from you. Open the windows of heaven in each school in our community. Supply what they need. Help students, teachers, and administrators to use your gifts to bless others and bring you glory. Amen.

Mighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, reveal your wisdom in every teaching moment. Draw students to you as they study the wonders of your world. May your truth be evident and rise above false voices. Amen.

Gracious God, thank you for those who serve as administrative assistants, food preparers, and maintenance workers. Their example inspires us to serve others with love and humility just as Jesus did. Show us how to do all things, big or small, as unto you. Amen.

Holy Spirit, our Companion, and Counselor reveal yourself to school social workers and guidance counselors, especially when they are working with students. Give them supernatural wisdom and insight. Use them to enlighten, encourage, and confirm your purpose in young lives. Amen.

Jesus our Savior, raise up Godly role models in our schools. Give them the courage to live both humbly and boldly for you. Empower them to be wholesome examples in speech, life, faith, and purity. Let their light shine for you. Amen.

Creative One, thank you for those who sacrifice their time to help with extracurricular activities. Bless them with joy and enthusiasm. Help them see good and lasting fruit from their labor. Amen.

Loving God, your joy is our strength. Fill classrooms and administrative offices with delight and hope. Help educators, students and parents to see you at work and to give you glory. Replace fatigue, frustration, and fear with joy. Amen.

Welcoming One, help every student to feel that they belong- that they are precious and important to others and to you. Protect them from teasing, isolation, bullying, discrimination, and despair. Fill them with truth and hope. Amen.

Holy Spirit, our Guide, and Guardian thank you for bus drivers, crossing guards, and police officers who work so hard to keep students safe. Protect students as they travel to and from school, field trips, and other events. Place an extra hand of protection on student drivers. Amen.

Prince of Peace, cover every school campus with your shalom. Make them safe sanctuaries of learning and growth. Guard hearts, minds, and bodies against every type of evil. Bring an end to bullying, abuse, discrimination, prejudice, and violence. Build bridges across dividing lines. Amen.

Heavenly Father, give young people a healthy attitude toward competition and achievement. Keep them from unhealthy pride, perfectionism, and from making success an idol. Amen.

Jesus, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Show students the way out when they are tempted. Keep them far from pressures which tempt them to cheat in order to get ahead. Keep them far from compromising integrity or purity in order to fit in. Give them a strong No! to sin and a resounding Yes! to wholeness and holiness. Amen.

God of the nations, thank you for the great gift of education. Thank you for making us a thinking people and for the blessings of curiosity and discovery. Bless and help developing nations to provide education for their people. Help us never to take education for granted. Amen.

Loving God, bless every home in our community.
Bring peace where there is anxiety.
Provision where there is need
Wisdom where there is confusion
Understanding where there is anger
Freedom where there is addiction
Recovery where there is illness
Reconciliation where there is division
Shalom where there is brutality
Unity where there is prejudice
Hope where there is despair
Faith where there is none

Thank you for your help and healing power
Thank you for your presence and salvation
We need you Lord Jesus, come quickly.
Amen.

Reign and Rain Down, a prayer based on Isaiah 45.8

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Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the LORD have created it. – Isaiah 45:8

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
You alone are God
There is no other

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Let all the earth open to your gifts
New life and right relationship springing up
Budding and blooming in our wasteland

Life comes to our mortality
to our frail clay
to our dust
You hold us and wash us and form us
You flood us and fill us
That we may carry this great grace as it carries us

O, the glory of your grace
Grace extending more and more
More and more to us and more and more through us to others

O, bring the reign of redemption and reconciling
Salvation and solidarity
The fullness of your unfailing love

Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Creating power flows from you
For you alone are God
There is no other

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

Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit (Galatians 5)

Sermon Series spirit filled 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Spirit Filled
Message 5 of 5: Pour Out Your Fruit
Scripture: Galatians 5:1, 13-14, 16-25 
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/7/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

What is the Fruit of the Spirit?

  • What is your favorite fruit?
  • 9 virtues (character traits) which the Holy Spirit grows in our lives
  • Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Who wants more of this in their life? We all do. If you had to pick one to have more of in your life, which would you pick? (I want patience. Give me patience now!)

They are all good like a good piece of fruit. They are good gifts from God.

God expects fruit in our lives. They are the natural progression of being a follower of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in our life. Growth in grace. Being alive and multiplying. Being rooted and grounded in Christ.

This is the fruit of abiding in Christ. The Spirit abides with us and in us. This is the natural fruit from believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving.

It’s very simple: A follower of Christ should look and act differently than someone yet to believe.

Where’s the fruit? Do we look all that different?

  • Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?
  • Where are the bodies, families, and unjust systems healed for the Glory of God
  • Where are the leaders leading out of Godly wisdom and humility?
  • Where are the abused, angry, and addicted rejoicing in Christ’s freedom?

There is fruit my friends, but too often we don’t tell anyone about it. We hide it. We’re afraid of bragging, being weird, we’re shy.

Testimonies of Grace Stimson, Alida Noel Provence, and Pam Rader. 

The Holy Spirit is at work. There is fruit. It’s about having eyes to see it. It’s about wanting it. The Spirit is never forced upon us.

Galatians 5 is all about freedom.

Galatians 5:1
For freedom, Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

  • Freedom from a false understanding of the law which lays a heavy burden on us
  • Purpose of the Law was to show us our need of a Savior- we can’t fulfill the law in our own strength
  • Good gift of the law was twisted into a set of rules – follow the rules you’ll earn God’s love and salvation
  • How are we saved? By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by your own doing, not of works and rules (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Galatians 5:13-14
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers, and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • Wide swing to another end of the spectrum in understanding freedom in Christ
  • Christ has set me free so I can do whatever I want
  • No- our freedom is so we can love and serve one another

In true freedom, we live by the Spirit not the law, not rules
In true freedom, we are guided by the Spirit not our fleshy selfishness or achieving

Galatians 5:16-25 NRSV
16 Live by the Spirit, I say and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious:

  • a “sin list” of 15 actions
  • fornication, impurity, licentiousness (misuse of the good gift of sex)
  • idolatry, sorcery (playing God)
  • Enmities (hostility), strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy
    • Heart of peace sees people as people
    • heart of war sees people as objects, obstacles to be overcome or fixed, projects, problems, a means to an end. People not as people
  • drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (misuse of the good gift of celebration)

I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

tug of war

Tug Of War Battle: Flesh vs. Spirit, Heart of War vs. Heart of Peace, Old Life without Christ vs. New Life with Christ. Just like in Tug of War, there will be a surrender. Will you surrender to the flesh or will you surrender to the Spirit? Do you want the Fruit of the Spirit or do you want the crazyville of the sin list?

The Fruit of the Spirit is the evidence we’ve surrendered to the Spirit, that we’re finding true freedom in Christ.

There is an awful, scary warning in the middle of this passage. (v. 21) If you act like the sin list you won’t inherit the Kingdom. But I still get angry… I still envy… I want patience NOW… I don’t have self-control over chocolate, or something else.

We’re awakening and becoming self-aware. The warning is serious, we take it seriously, so we get to work. I’ll work on my patience.

Did you hear the W word? I’ll work on being more patient and there we are trapped again. We turn the list of the Fruit of the Spirit into a new set of laws which will bind us. We work hard to achieve them in our own strength.

Truth: We can’t create the Fruit of the Spirit. All we do is surrender to it. 

We give ourselves grace because it takes a long time to bear fruit. If you were to plant a fruit tree, how long would it take before it bore fruit? If you were to plant seeds, how long would it take? The Holy Spirit is the seed.

John 15:4
Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

We abide. Every day we open ourselves to the Spirit. Grow fruit in me. It’s that simple.

An apple tree doesn’t have to focus and work really hard to produce apples. It’s the natural result of seed meeting soil, sun, water.

The Holy Spirit is the seed.  The Spirit meets the soil of our soul. It’s watered by our openness and trust, prayer, scripture, community, seeking, surrender.

Give yourself grace. Tell someone about the fruit.

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Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Fruit © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Recommended Resource- Pray As You Go

Followers of Jesus nurture their relationship with God by “doing devotions.” We head to the bookstore, or maybe even our local church, to pick up a guide to read on a daily basis. It’s a great way to build a habit of spending time with God and very helpful for stretching us in our understanding of God’s character and Word.

Here’s where it can be problematic:

  • We’re always reading about someone else’s encounter with God in place of having encounters ourselves. We stay at a distance from God.
  • Our devotions become knowledge-driven or emotion-driven rather than Scripture-driven and encounter-driven. We may find what we read interesting, we may be stirred by the story, but are we receiving it as a call to apply spiritual truth to our life?
  • Our prayer life stays shallow if we only use the prayers of others and never practice praying ourselves.
  • We can become forever dependent on an “expert” rather than trusting God wants to speak to us right now, at whatever point we are in our journey of faith.

So do we dump the devotional books/guides and just read the Scripture? Well… Reading Scripture can be a powerful daily devotion option, especially when you use one of these approaches to give you some structure. “Just me and my Bible” can also be intimidating, confusing, and lonely.

It’s no wonder we struggle.

For many of us, we need something in between. We want to encounter God in a transforming way through the Scriptures, but we also need some guidance. I found this in between, this sweet spot of devotional practice, through a resource called Pray as You Go. 

pray as you goPray As You Go is an audio and written prayer practice offered six days per week via a free website and app by Jesuit Media Initiatives. It is helpful for both Catholics and Protestants because it’s so Scripture driven.

  • Each session begins with a bell or chime followed by music to help you settle into a prayerful frame of mind
  • A Scripture is read
  • Reflection questions based on the Scripture are offered with time for you to respond by simply talking or listening to God
  • The Scripture is read again followed by a closing blessing

The aim of Pray as You Go is to help you to:

  • become more aware of God’s presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God’s Word
  • grow in your relationship with God

How I find Pray as You Go helpful 

  • Its peaceful meditative tone is a very different tone than my loud, full, rushed day. I need this time of stillness and contemplation.
  • The questions appeal to my imagination. They open me to explore the Scripture, to listen deeply, to engage it for myself. It is an experience. The questions can also challenge me to look at a passage in a new or deeper way.
  • The open-ended questions help me apply what I’m hearing
  • I feel connected to a community of believers rather than by myself. I especially like the music selections from around the world.
  • It uses texts throughout the Bible so I don’t just read my favorite passages
  • I like to settle into a comfortable chair when I use Pray as You Go. Others use it during their morning commute, on a break during the work day, while out for a walk, etc.
  • After the 10-13 minute devotion, I’m motivated to continue praying or journaling

I’d love to hear from you! 

  • Give Pray as You Go a try. How was the experience?
  • What is your current devotional practice? How is it helpful to you?
  • How have your devotional practices changed as you’ve matured in faith?

May the Lord bless you and bring strength and transformation into your life through your devotional practices. – Lisa <><

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Recommendation- Pray As You Go © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why I Use 4 Journals Instead of 1

My spiritual life grew richer and deeper thanks to the practice of spiritual journaling. When I first started, I used to put everything in one journal- some reflections on a scripture next to memories from a trip next to notes from a lecture next to a prayer next to a brain dump for an upcoming project. It was a mess and I had trouble finding the treasures when I needed them again.

This year, I made a change- dividing my writing needs into four journals. It’s been a huge improvement. Maybe it will be helpful to you as well.

For most of my journaling, I use inexpensive, college-ruled composition books. I need a place to write and they serve that purpose. Three of my four journals are composition books. I leave a page or two at the beginning of each for a table of contents.

  1. A journal for general note taking, project planning, and brainstorming
  2. A journal for morning devotions, prayers, and evening reflection
  3. A journal to record memories from my travels

My fourth journal is a Clever Fox Planner. I wanted to try bullet journaling for scheduling appointments, to do lists, resource lists, etc. The Clever Fox Planner is a hybrid with predesigned spreads at the front (such as goal setting, monthly calendars, and weekly scheduling) and standard bullet journal pages at the back. I like the quality of this planner, especially the thick pages and that it lays flat when open. It’s working well for me in conjunction with my digital Google calendar. (not an affiliate link, not a sponsored review)

I’d love to hear from you!

  • What journals do you keep?
  • What topics do you writing about?
  • Do you have a favorite planner or journal? What do you like about it?

May the Lord bless you and reveal many things to you through your journaling.
– Lisa <><

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Why I Use 4 Journals Instead of 1 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Ending Your Day with Reflection Questions

I read an article recently about the benefits of ending your day with several reflection questions. I’ve found the practice helpful and thought you would as well.

Reflection is an ancient practice, with references in the Bible (Lamentations 3:40-41; Galatians 6:4-5; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Ignatius of Loyola encouraged the practice with the early Jesuits, as did John Wesley with the early Methodists.

Here’s what I noticed
As you walk through the questions, you decompress and let go, you also rest in knowing where you’re headed the next day, both of which foster better sleep.

More importantly, questions like these keep us self-aware and awake to the Holy Spirit. As we answer the questions we hear from God and move forward in the journey of faith. Never forget faith is a movement. We are followers of Christ, moving forward with intentionality, constant discovery, and growth. Our growing bears fruit in our words, actions, and service to others.

I also noticed the longer I keep to the practice, the richer it becomes. It started off simple, even superficial. But as the days passed, I began to be more honest with myself. I also began to trust I could be more and more honest with God.

write journalHere are the questions I’m using. They came from several different sources. I answer them by writing in a journal.

1. What happened today?
Make a quick bullet list or write a narrative

2. Glory Sighting: Where did you see God at work in others? In and through you?
Each day can bring a new testimony to God’s grace, provision, and power.

3. What did you read/hear/learn?
Christians are lifelong learners

4. What are you thankful for?
“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.” ― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

5. How are you feeling emotionally?
Be honest and seek Christ’s perspective

6. How did you fall short of loving God, others, and yourself?
Ask for and receive Christ’s forgiveness and freedom

7. What are you asking the Holy Spirit to do in you and through you?
This could be about a relationship, your work, a situation, your ministry, etc.

8. What will you do tomorrow to move forward with Christ?
Answer this in relation to question 7

What questions would you add to this list? I look forward to hearing about your time with God and to seeing the great and good changes this practice will bring in your life.
– Lisa <><

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NRSV
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

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Ending Your Day With Reflection Questions © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.