Growing in Resilience: Come to the Feast, based on Isaiah 55.1-2

bread wine wood table

Growing in Resilience
Day 16, Read Isaiah 55
Reflection: Come to the Feast, based on Isaiah 55:1-2, NRSV

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

In the midst of all you are facing
Come to the One who overflows
To Living Water
Thirst no more

Come to Jesus
The One who is Wine
The Vine Eternal
Who was cut off, crushed, and poured out
For your forgiveness and deliverance
May you be rooted in Him
And gladdened in His presence
For His joy is our strength

Come
Rest against our Beloved’s breast
Nurtured and nourished
On the milk of love and kindness

Come
The bill is paid
Eat and be satisfied
With the very Bread of Heaven

Listen…
Listen……
Grace is calling
Come, the feast awaits

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Come to the Feast © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: Morning by Morning, based on Isaiah 50.4-5

Sunrise over sea

Sunrise over sea

Growing in Resilience
Day 11, Read Isaiah 50
Reflection: Morning by Morning, based on Isaiah 50:4-5

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.

Morning by morning
Like the sunrise
Like manna

Morning by morning you waken and provide
You open my eyes to your presence and desire for this day
You open my ears to your encouragement, truth, and grace
You know my weakness, my weariness
You open me to your sustaining

Morning by morning you waken and provide
Now open my mouth to share what first found me
In every season and circumstance
With every soul along the way

Morning by morning you waken me
My eyes, my ears
My mouth, my heart

Morning by morning you waken me
To You and to all
Like the sunrise
Like manna
Great is your faithfulness!

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Morning by Morning © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: You Answer, based on Isaiah 41.17-18

lightning tree by Marilyn

Lightning Tree by Marilyn Bouchard

Growing in Resilience
Day 2, Read Isaiah 41
Reflection: You Answer, based on Isaiah 41:17-18

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them. I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

We are dry
Brittle
Crusty
Empty

Parched with a thirst we cannot appease
Tongues heavy and stuck
No words escaping
We are too poor
Too desolate

You alone answer our silent screams
You, the Lord God

You fill and flood and quench
A wild river on the barren peaks
An ancient fountain in the deep wasteland
A still pool for resting and rooting
A spring of water gushing up to eternal life

You, answer
You, the Lord God, will never forsake

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

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

Prayer for Labor Day

The Carpenter by Nathan Greene

A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the full measure I have received and am still receiving.
– Albert Einstein

An extended quote from All for Jesus
by Charles Spurgeon
To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred.

He puts on his workday garment and it is a vestment to him.

He sits down to his meal and it is a sacrament.

He goes forth to his labor, and therein exercises the office of the priesthood. His breath is incense and his life a sacrifice.

He sleeps on the bosom of God, and lives and moves in the divine presence.

To draw a hard and fast line and say, “This is sacred and this is secular,” is, to my mind, diametrically opposed to the teaching of Christ and the spirit of the gospel…

Peter saw a sheet let down from heaven in which were all manner of beasts and four-footed creatures, which he was bidden to kill and eat, and when he refused because they were unclean, he was rebuked by a voice from heaven, saying, “What God hath cleansed that call not thou common” [Acts 10:15; 11:9].

The Lord hath cleansed your houses, he has cleansed your bed chambers, your tables… He has made the common pots and pans of your kitchens to be as the bowls before the altar – if you know what you are and live according to your high calling.

You housemaids, you cooks, you nurses, you ploughmen, you housewives, you traders, you sailors, your labor is holy if you serve the Lord Christ in it, by living unto Him as you ought to live.

The sacred has absorbed the secular.

Prayer for Labor Day
VOICE ONE: Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, you declared your work good and so do we. Empower us to continue your good work through the labor of our minds and hands.

VOICE TWO: This Labor Day Weekend, pour out again your blessing and strength on all who work. On those who make it possible for us to have food on our tables:
Farm workers, truckers, grocers, cooks, and restaurant employees
ALL: Bless and strengthen, O Lord

VOICE ONE: On those who work to keep us healthy:
Doctors, nurses, technicians, researchers, and medical manufacturers
ALL: Bless and strengthen, O Lord

VOICE TWO: On those who inspire us and lead us to greater good:
Inventors, explorers, religious leaders, teachers, writers, artists, and mentors
ALL: Bless and strengthen, O Lord

VOICE ONE: On those who facilitate needed products and services:
Office workers, managers, and administrators
Retail workers, bankers, lawyers, politicians and accountants
ALL: Bless and strengthen, O Lord

VOICE TWO: On those who make our lives easier and safer by the sweat of their brow:
Warehouse workers, construction workers, janitors and sanitation workers
Police officers, fire fighters, and those who serve in the armed forces
ALL: Bless and strengthen, O Lord

VOICE ONE: On those who work with the poor, the abused,
the dangerous and the dying
Social workers, counselors, and therapists
Hospice workers and corrections officers
Those who work in shelters, soup kitchens, and halfway houses
ALL: Bless and strengthen, O Lord

VOICE TWO: Gracious God, help all workers, especially those in authority over other workers, to carry themselves with honor and integrity. Keep them safe from harm and injustice. Provide the opportunities, benefits and pay needed to sustain them and their loved ones.

Those who are looking for employment are invited to stand. Persons may also stand on behalf of a friend or loved one who is looking for employment. Those seated around them lay a hand of blessing and support on them for the remainder of the prayer.

VOICE ONE: Strong and Merciful One, we also commend to your blessing and care those who are unemployed or underemployed. Guard them against discouragement and discrimination. Relieve them of worry and anxiety. Meet their needs for hearth and home and health. Come quickly with a fulfilling job with a trustworthy employer.

VOICE TWO: God of Life, deliver us and all people from greed, corruption, and predatory business practices. Open eyes to sustainable and just solutions so workers of all nations will mutually prosper. Lead us as we work, so nothing we do is for self alone, but for the common good and for your glory.

VOICE ONE: We ask all this in the strong name of Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth, the Rabbi of Galilee, who taught us to pray

Close with all praying the Lord’s Prayer

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Click here for an excellent Labor Day Prayer by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

Click here, for more information on the beautiful work of today’s featured artist, Nathan Greene

Prayer for Labor Day © 2011 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 and the use of this prayer in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern, incorporating verses of America the Beautiful

mlk prayer pilgrimage

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the 1957 ‘Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom’.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern
ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, first verse

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

ONE:
Lord of All,
As we draw near another Independence Day,
we confess our dependence on you.
Thank you for extending abundance, mercy, and protection
to our nation through the years.
Every resource, freedom, and opportunity we have is a good gift from you.
Without you, we are lost.

ALL:
In humility, we seek your face.
In repentance, we turn from our ungrateful, destructive and selfish ways.
In faith, we call on your power to forgive our sin and heal our land.

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, second verse

O beautiful for heroes prov’d in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov’d, and mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness and ev’ry gain divine.

ONE:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on those who govern our land,
Leaders of our nation, our state, and our community
and all who are running for office.

Grant them a love of justice.
Open their minds with wisdom and compassion,
so all people may be treated fairly and with dignity.

Open their ears to the cries of the desperate and powerless
so cycles of poverty, disease, and abuse may be broken.

Open their eyes to see how best to respond
and open their hearts with courage to do the right thing,
even when pressured to do otherwise.

Dawn a new day of integrity and servant leadership upon our land.
Shower down your Spirit of collaboration for the common good
that there may be lasting peace and plenty for all.

The congregation is invited to lift up their own prayers for our nation

ONE:
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, Amen.

Option: We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, who taught us to pray, Our Father, who art in heaven….

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, fourth verse

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

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For other prayers suitable for Independence Day try A Prayer for our Country or Independence Day Prayer or A prayer of examen for our national holiday, all by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward.
Public Domain.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Leave a comment for posting and publication considerations.

Quotes: Deny Yourself

Quotefancy-217426-3840x2160Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, and Luke 9:23-25 (NRSV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Self-denial is not a mask for self-contempt, but the necessary means for achieving self-mastery; for self-mastery makes possible our self-giving and self-fulfillment. Sin is not wanting too much, but settling for too little. It’s settling for self-gratification rather than self-fulfillment. -Scott Hahn

You will soon be asked to let go of some part of your false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and essential! You know God is doing this in you and with you when you can somehow smile and trust that what you lost was something you did not need anyway. In fact, it got in the way of what was real. – Richard Rohr 

Follow me. One of the most compelling sentences in the Bible. Two words, when spoken by Jesus, create a sense of power and mystery and awe. To follow is to enter into the unknown, to give your life over to another. We rarely want to do this. Yet at the same time it is exactly what we desire: to be led into a better place, a better world, a better life. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

Following Jesus does not mean imitating Jesus, copying his way of doing things. If we imitate someone, we are not developing an intimate relationship with that person. Instead, following Jesus means to give our own unique form, our own unique incarnation, to God’s love. To follow Jesus means to live our lives as authentically as he lived his. It means to give away our ego and follow the God of love as Jesus shows us how to do it. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

The point of following Jesus isn’t simply so that we can be sure of going to a better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is extremely important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life.
~ N. T. Wright, Simply Christian

Lord, spare me from my wishes, that I may be free for you.
Spare me from my little self, that I may be my divine self.
Spare me from my life, that, dying, I may become yours.
– Excerpt of a prayer entitled Spare Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. For more on the ideas of denying our “little self”, ego, and false-self click over to another reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Deny Yourself

“Denying yourself” in its Jewish context means resting in the righteousness of Jesus and denying yourself of the righteousness that comes from performance of the law.
– Simon Yap, What is the meaning of “denying yourself”? 

Yap invites us to consider Leviticus 16:29; Numbers 29:7; Leviticus 23:32; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 16:31.

What we are all searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself. Well here is the wonderful surprise: God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves! The irony is that we actually find ourselves, but now in a whole new and much larger field of meaning. – Richard Rohr

In the spiritual life, the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act’. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied… to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. -Henri Nouwen

Extended Quote from Steve Garnaas Holmes
To deny yourself is not to punish yourself, or to take on misery. It’s not to live in denial, to turn your back on who you are, but the opposite. We falsely see ourselves as finite, discreet individuals, separate from the world, in danger at any moment of disappearing back into the abyss. It’s not the real truth, but an image of our “self” that the ego uses to manage our consciousness. And we believe it. We spend our lives—mostly unconsciously— protecting that little “self,” and in particular its power, security and esteem. (Hence Jesus’ temptations in the desert.) It’s what St. Paul calls “the flesh.” He doesn’t mean our body; he means something even smaller, contained within our body, limited by our fears and appetites.

But we aren’t such little “selves.” We are part of something infinite. By the life of Holy Spirit in us we are members of the infinite Body of God, who dwells in us and we in God. We are sustained not by our own protection of our little lives but by the life-giving fountain of grace welling up within us to eternal life, flowing with perfect, infinite compassion.

To “deny ourselves” is to deny whatever fears keep us from loving fully. It is let go of our self-centeredness, to say no the illusion, to transcend our ego, to abandon our little skull-caged, death-leashed bit of fear and desire and instead become the infinitely alive and loving children of God we truly are. As those who embody God’s love we give of our lives for love; we are not afraid even of death, because we trust that with love and grace God overabundantly renews life in us. So we follow Jesus out of our selves and into infinite life: without fear we take up our cross, practice compassionate self-giving and join Jesus in loving the world into its newness. You are love; you are Beloved. Deny anything less, and love without limit.

Extended Quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber
Sermon on Losing Your Life and How Jesus Isn’t Your Magical Puppy

This saying of Jesus that we are to deny the self and lose our life to gain it has been abused and perverted. Perverted into messages like “If you want to be a follower of Jesus you must deny your Queerness, pick up your cross of heterosexuality and follow him.” Or “deny your dignity and pick up your cross of continued domestic abuse and follow him.” Or “deny your experience and pick up your cross of trusting religious authorities to tell you what to believe.”

I wanted to convince you that when Jesus says deny yourself, that maybe it’s really denying the self that wants to see itself as separate from God and others. Deny the self that believes that spirituality is a suffering avoidance program. Deny the self that does not feel worthy of God’s love. Deny the self that thinks it is more worthy of God’s love than it’s enemy is. Deny the self that thinks it can do itself. Deny the self that is turned in on the self.

Because I really want you to know that dying to that false self no matter how painful, will bring you real life.

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Click here for another incredibly honest and faithful sermon on the “deny yourself, take up your cross” passage by Nadia Bolz-Weber, entitled “A Sermon on Addiction and the Problem with our Me-based Solutions.”

Click here for a reflection on how denying yourself intersects with social justice by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

For quotes on “taking up your cross”, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please leave a comment

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Only Beloved Son and Sacrifice (Genesis 22, John 3)

Jesus, The Coming Messiah
Jesus, The Coming Messiah: Advent Readings from Old Testament to New
December 2: The Messiah as Only Beloved Son and Sacrifice
Readings: Genesis 22:1-18; John 3:16-17

Genesis 22:12, The Voice
Don’t lay your hand on the boy or do anything to harm him. I know now that you respect the one True God and will be loyal to Him and follow His commands, because you were willing to give up your son, your only son, to Me.

John 3:16-17, The Voice
For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction.

This story is sometimes referred to as the sacrifice of Isaac. In other places it is called the sacrifice of Abraham. It is one of the most powerful and disturbing stories in all scripture. God instructs Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved son, his long awaited child of promise.

Isaac was to be the first of a great nation; of countless descendants. “Like the sand on the shore…like the stars in the sky… a blessing to the nations,” God vowed. How would this happen if Isaac was dead?

Abraham does not seem to question. He seems to moves forward with purpose- obedient, full of faith and resolve.

Isaac asks about the sacrifice, and Abraham replies, “God will supply.” (verse 8.) Is his voice strong and confident or does it crack and catch with emotion? Does Abraham wonder if Isaac is the sacrifice God has provided? We do not know. What else was said? Again we do not know. The two fall silent as the altar is built, as Isaac is bound and laid upon the wood.

God the Father stops the sacrifice of Father Abraham’s beloved, promised son. Whatever needed to be confirmed in Abraham has been found.

As Abraham said, God the Father indeed provides the sacrifice for that day and later the sacrifice for all time- a beloved, promised Son. In the mystery of Trinity, God is Father and Son and Sacrifice and Savior. God alone is bound and laid upon the wood. No blood will be shed but God’s own. – Lisa Degrenia

Prayer
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Beloved Son who makes the way for us to be children of God

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Sacrifice of the ages for our forgiveness and salvation

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Heaven and earth fall silent before such wondrous love

What will you ask of me?
How will you test my reverence and loyalty?
In that moment I pray I will be found willing
And faithful
And worthy
That I will know beyond all doubt the command is from you
And in that knowing, I will trust you
Hand steady
Mind focused
Ears tuned to your next command

Help me remember, You will provide
Here I am

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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 Only Beloved Son and Sacrifice © 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.