Using the Beatitudes for Self Reflection and Growth

beatitudes wordcloud colorIn his book, The Ladder of the Beatitudes, Jim Forest makes a terrific recommendation: use The Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12) as a set of questions for self-reflection.

Think about the possibilities for using a few of them to prepare for prayer or worship or the start/end of the day. This kind of reflection provides a framework for discovering our blind spots or next steps in more fully following Christ.

So, here are the questions which came to mind for me.
What questions do The Beatitudes stir in you? – Lisa <><

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

  • How am trying to save myself?
  • How am I completely depending on God’s love, mercy, and grace?

Blessed are those who Mourn

  • How am I mourning my destructive thoughts and actions, my sin, my brokenness?
  • How am I heartbroken over the brokenness of my community and world? Am I becoming immune to the constant bad news?
  • How am I continuing to beat myself up over my past sins, attitudes, and mistakes?
  • What do I need to confess right now? In my confession, I am freed from the burden of my guilt and shame. I am comforted by the mercy of Christ.

Blessed are the Meek

  • Do I think too lowly or highly of my gifts, talents, and strengths?
  • How am I placing my gifts, talents, and strengths fully under the authority and discipline of God that they may be used by God for a greater good?

Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

  • What am I doing to build right relationships with God, others, myself, and the rest of creation?
  • What am I doing to build right relationship between others? In systems broken by injustice?
  • Are other appetites taking first place in my life?

Blessed are the Merciful

  • Have I forgiven those who have done me harm?
  • Do I need to ask anyone for forgiveness? If so, set the appointment now.
  • Have I rejected revenge and bitterness fully?

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

  • Who or what rules my motivation and desire? God? Others? An addiction? Myself?
  • How am I cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the development of an undivided heart?

Blessed are the Peacemakers

  • How am I building bridges and breaking down dividing walls in Jesus’ Name?
  • How can I more fully abandon violence, prejudice, injustice, and hate?

Blessed are the Persecuted

  • How am I loving my enemies and praying for them?
  • Am I living and practicing my faith in gracious ways everywhere I go or am I hiding it as a way of protecting myself?

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Click here for a meaningful and deep sermon on the Beatitudes by Nadia Bolz Webber entitled Some Modern Beatitudes.

Click here for an interesting perspective on the Beatitudes by Richard Rohr entitled How to Win by Losing. Rohr encourages us to read the Beatitudes from the perspective of how they describe Jesus as the suffering servant.

Click here for a post by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled More Beatitudes. He used Jesus’ Beatitudes as a starting point for writing a few more reflecting modern issues. Consider trying this exercise as well.

Beatitudes Reflection Questions © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. You are welcome to use this work in worship or group setting with proper attribution. Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why This Plan is the Best Bible Reading Plan

I’ve spent years looking for the perfect Bible reading plan.

  1. Not too much reading per day, not too little
  2. Easy enough for a beginner, challenging enough for a seasoned saint
  3. Five days per week so you can catch up if you miss a day or two.

The search did not bear fruit; it only delayed me reading the Bible at all. (Excellence is a virtue. Perfectionism is its evil, twisted shadow-side.)

Here’s the truth- There is no perfect reading plan.

The important thing is to just read, to intentionally and regularly seek God through God’s Word.

It’s essential. This is how we learn what God’s voice sounds like, who God is, who we are, and what God desires for us. This is how we hear God speak into our lives day after day after day.

So, let’s get reading. 

If you have a favorite Bible Reading Plan great! Use it!

If not, consider using my favorite plan – the 5 Day Bible Reading Plan by the good folks at Lower Lights Publications.

Here’s why I think it’s the best.
1. It’s free.

2. They update the reading schedule dates for each new year, but the reading plan itself stays the same.

3. It’s easy to print and slip it into your Bible or journal. (8.5 X 11, folded in half) You could even paste it into planner or hole-punch it for your planner.

4. There are boxes to check next to each day’s reading assignment and each week’s assignment. (a built-in habit tracker)

5. You can start anytime during the year.

6. It’s designed with grace. 5 reading days per week. There are days when I miss. If I use a 7 day a week plan I get behind and I get discouraged and I drop out.

7. It’s flexible. Do all the suggested readings and you’ll read through the entire Bible in a year. Or choose just the Old Testament readings or just the New Testament readings. Or choose the Old or New Testament plus the Psalms.

8. In this plan, you often read straight through an entire book of the Bible. There are some exceptions.

9. Big bonus- you read the Bible in chronological order rather than book order. This opens your eyes to the grand sweep of the Biblical narrative. It’s especially helpful to read the overlapping material in 1 2 Samuel, 1 2 Kings, and 1 2 Chronicles side by side. Plus, you will read one of the Gospels in each quarter of the year.

Well, there you have it, the best Bible reading plan I’ve found. I’d love to hear how it works for you.- Lisa <><

Bonus: Check out Steve Harper’s post entitled A Transforming Use of Scripture for insights on our motivation in approaching the Scriptures and the process God uses through Scripture to make us new.

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Why This Plan is the Best Bible Reading Plan © 2019 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.

Cast Your Net Again (John 21)

Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell

Scripture
Jesus said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

Sermon/Poem
This poem was inspired by Matthew 13:47-50, John 21:1-14, John 12:31-32, Psalms 40:1-3, and the painting Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell. It could be voiced with one or two speakers.

Cast Your Net Again
It’s been a long night of fishing
We smell of bait and salt-
salt from the sea
salt from the sweat
salt from the tears
It’s a strange combination of perspiration and desperation

The sun is about to come up, and we haven’t caught a thing
We downhearted
Not so much because we haven’t caught anything,
But because everything’s changed
He’s gone
our leader
our teacher
our friend
our future
We missing Jesus

He called us from our nets years before,
Come, follow me…
And that’s what we did
We gave up everything we knew
our nets
our lives
“Fishers of men,” he said…

Now he was gone and all that ‘s left is the nets… empty nets…

Children, you have no fish, have you?
                                                                     No, no fish
Cast your net again and you will find some

Cast your net again,
We know this familiar foolishness
So we cast it… we cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Suddenly! So many fish!

The cry goes up with our hope
It is the Lord! It is Jesus!

He sank down to the bottom
Down to the mud and the darkness
Down to the pain and the brokenness
Down to our level

Until he was lifted up- lifted up on a cross
Up went the fists
Up went the curses
Up went the sign
Up went the stares

Down came the hammer
Down came the tears
Down came the blood
Down came the love
Down to our level- buried beneath waves of fear and injustice and sin
Buried beneath earth

He did as he promised
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself

It is the Lord! It is Jesus!
He is lifted up from the earth!
Up from the grave
Up goes the shout
Up goes the sun with the Son

Cast your net again, my Jesus
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up from the bottom with you
Draw us up from the mud and the darkness
Up from the pain and the brokenness and the selfishness and the loneliness
Draw us up from the fear and the hate and the sin and the death
Draw us up from the bottom with you

Draw us up,
Draw us all, my Jesus
Fisher of men and women, sober and addicted, poor and prosperous, infant and aged
Draw us up, Draw us all, my Jesus
Healthy and ill, free and imprisoned, questioning and confident
Draw us up, Draw us all
Fisher of nations and galaxies

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Cast your net again into the sea of humanity
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up
Draw us in
We are caught in your saving embrace

“Now follow me,” says Jesus.
“Come, cast the net
Cast the net again and again and again and we will find some more
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
So many, so different, so beautiful
Use all your strength to bring them in
Have no fear, the net will not break.”

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© 2009, revised 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please, leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayers for a New Year

huge clock

Please let me know the artist of this piece that I may give him/her credit.

Prayer at Year’s End by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Eternal God,
in the evening of this year
I release the year to you.
Not a day, not a breath, have I been without you,
and I thank you.
All that I have done is done;
what I have not done I have not done.
All of my sins and errors you have forgiven,
and I release them.
All of my triumphs are your doing,
and I release them.
The year is gathered into your harvest,
to winnow and to save.
My life is gathered into your grace.
By your spirit in me may I learn from my mistakes,
grow from my wounds,
and deepen in gratitude for my gifts.
And now I turn to a new year,
grateful for your presence and your grace,
seeking only to live in harmony with your delight,
and open to your blessing and your leading.
Whether my journey onward be long or short,
it shall be in you, and I rejoice.
Amen.

Gratitude for a New Year by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
For the blessings of today
which remind us of the blessings of the past
which point forward to the blessings still to come
we give you thanks

Prayer for a New Year, based on Psalm 90 by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
ONE:
Eternal and Immortal One,
You have been our refuge from age to age.
Before the mountains were born,
Before the earth and the world came to birth,
From eternity to eternity,
You are God.

ALL:
To you, a thousand years are like a yesterday
Like a watch of the night

ONE:
You return us to dust
You sweep us away like a dream
We are like grass
In the morning we thrive,
We blossom
But come evening,
We are withered and dry

ALL:
Teach us to number our days
That we may gain your wise heart

Fill us with your faithful love
That we may sing your joyful story

Show us your wondrous deeds
That we may see your transforming power
That generations to come may see it as well

Let your favor, O God be upon us,
That the work of our hands
May bear forth your blessing
And bring your glory. Amen.

penitence by larry poncho brown

Penitence by Larry Poncho Brown

Prayer of Confession for a New Year
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

As the new year is born,
We remember and regret…

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we keep You at a distance
When we defy your bidding
When we make it harder
for people to know you

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we deny our weakness
When we wallow in our weakness
When we take advantage
of the weakness of others

Forgive us, Holy One,
When we refuse Your counsel
When we waste your gifts
When we withhold Your compassion from others

Silent Confession

As the new year is born
We labor to look forward
Our hearts fill with hope
For you are making all things new
even us… Amen

A New Year’s Blessing by Steve Garnaas Holmes
My hope and prayer and confidence
is that in this new year
God will be lovingly present for you,
and you will more and more deeply trust
God’s delight in you.
Christ will lead you every step of the new year.
The Spirit’s gifts will unfold in you in new ways.
I rejoice that in this new year
beauty will surround you; grace will enfold you;
love will embrace and uphold you;
joy will bless you, and hope sustain you.
May you receive healing and wisdom;
may your creativity flower and your courage grow;
and in your hands may justice and mercy flourish.
I rejoice that these gifts await you in the new year,
and pray that you receive them with delight.
I give thanks for the gift of sharing together
the journey of this new year.
God bless us all.

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Click Here for a collection of quotes entitled Counting Our Days

Gratitude for a New Year © 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer for a New Year, based on Psalm 90 © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer of Confession for the New Year © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

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

Growing in Resilience: Eyes to See, based on Isaiah 51.1-3

eye heartGrowing in Resilience
Day 12, Read Isaiah 51
Reflection: Eyes to See, based on Isaiah 51:1-3

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.

You woke me
You tore the veil in two
You wiped the scales from my eyes
Eyes now seeing your saving grace
Eyes to see and to follow
To pursue you
To pursue peace and righteousness
Right relationship with you and with others
Right relationship with the earth and myself

I now see you and seek you
The fullness of your grace
Your Kingdom come

What do I see?
I didn’t see it before but now I have eyes
Eyes to see
our wasteland- the dissipation and squandering
our wilderness- the isolation and preying
our desert- dry to the bone

I see
Look at all I see

Lord God, help me to keep looking
To see it all and to see even more
All that was, all that is, and all that is coming

Help me look to the rock
The hardness of who I used to be
Now broken against the cornerstone of your love
Broken for good

Help me look to the legacy
Foremothers and Forefathers of faith
Their following and frailty and victory
I am not the first, I am not alone

Help me look to the promises
The wasteland will be a garden again
The seeds of truth are budding
As are the seeds of justice and hope

Eyes to see your consolation
Eyes to see your redemption and new birth
Eyes to see joy and gladness blooming
Watered from springs of thanksgiving and song

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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. 

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

Sermon Recording – We Need Wisdom (Psalm 19)


Message: We Need Wisdom
Scriptures: Psalm 19
Message 1 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 1/14/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

earn save give cover
1. How we relate to our money goes to the heart of our relationship with God

There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse. – Martin Luther

2. If you look for money to do what only God can do, money will fail you
Money cannot forgive your sins, bring you wholeness, nor save you
Money is not a Rock and a Refuge from the pain and trouble of this world
Money does not define you, nor make you valuable

3. Is money is good or evil?
Neither! Both!
Money is a powerful tool and gift of God. Like any gift, it can be twisted into something it was never meant to be: greed, envy, exploitation, materialism, hoarding… Like any gift, it can be received, nurtured, blessed, and multiplied for the greater good.

In the hands of [God’s] children, [money] is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. . . . By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless; we may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! – John Wesley, The Use of Money

So it’s not about money. It’s about being in right relationship with money.
It is about using God-given spiritual practices to manage God’s powerful gift of money faithfully. There is no reason to fear or avoid speaking about money.

4. Where do we start? Wisdom is more valuable than money
Think of the consequence of money without wisdom

What is Wisdom? Accumulating knowledge is being smart, educated, informed. It is good to seek the help of experts and best practices, but it is not enough. Wisdom goes beyond accumulating knowledge to the use of knowledge. Wisdom takes into account experience, best practices, but goes beyond to seek and apply timeless Biblical truth and Divine Insight. Wisdom reveals what to do with what you have and why you do it.

Psalm 19:1-6, gaining God’s wisdom via nature
God reaches out to everyone, speaking to us. God wants to be in relationship with us through Jesus Christ, to lead us and guide us and give us wisdom. Yes, we consult experts. Yes, we use our God-given brains. Yes, we seek God’s will and wisdom.

Psalm 19:7-11, gaining God’s wisdom through God’s Word

God’s wisdom is

  • perfect
  • sure and reliable
  • right and correct
  • clear and clarifying
  • pure
  • true and sound
  • more to be desired than gold
  • sweeter than honey

The wisdom that God’s Word provides

  • revives the soul
  • makes us wise if we have an open mind and a teachable spirit
  • causes our hearts to rejoice and be satisfied
  • enlightens, opens our understanding and perspective
  • brings answers, perspective, clarity
  • results in a healthy fear, awe, and holy reverence for God
  • results in appropriate humility before God
  • sustains and endures
  • warns, correcting us that we may live a rewarding life

In short, God’s wisdom puts us in right relationship with God, with others, with ourselves, with the earth, and with money. It’s why we can trust it, seek it, and surrender to it.

5. Ask God for Wisdom, that you may be in right relationship with money.
Do you pray and thank God for “daily bread,” trusting God as the source of your provision and asking God to provide? Do you seek God’s will when making a purchase or an investment or making an offering or for the courage to tithe?

Consider Solomon, a young man about to follow his father David in becoming king. God comes to him in a dream. “Ask what I should give you.” What would you ask for? Long life, love, wealth, power, peace, revenge, victory over your enemies…

Solomon asks for this
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:9)

Notice Solomon’s love and respect for God. He was a king yet humble. He refers to himself as God’s servant. Notice Solomon’s love of others. He understands his call as a leader is beyond his strength, skill, intelligence, and resources. He understands his responsibilities to the greater good.

God answers his prayer and God will answer you. Ask God for Wisdom, that you may be in right relationship with money.

Prayer
Mighty God, grant me wisdom
Let the words of my mouth be acceptable to you
Let my every desire be acceptable to you
Let the resting place of my heart be acceptable to you
Open me to growth and guidance
Purify my reverence and awe for you
Sustain me and satisfy me
May the revival and sanctifying of my soul bring you delight and glory
I trust your Holy Word and Holy Wisdom to put me in right relationship with all things
With money, myself, my motivations, with others, with you
You alone are my Rock and my Redeemer

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean 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 join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer: All will be Brought to Light (Matthew 2.1-12)

vision eye see

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they left for their own country by another road
– Matthew 2:12

Prayer: All Will be Brought to Light
Radiant One, give us wisdom
to know when to wait and when to act
to know what to pick up and what to leave behind

The hidden will be brought to light
hidden words
hidden thoughts
hidden actions of our hands
hidden motives of our hearts

Radiant One, give us wisdom
to stand- trusting all will be revealed
to bow- knowing all will be revealed

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Be sure to check out some wonderful prayers based on this scripture passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes, entitled Another Road and Inward Magi.

Prayer: All Will be Brought to Light © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.