Ash Wednesday: A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

man desert path

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and shame and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your Wilderness Wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

For more on the themes of wilderness and confession, pray and reflect on Desert by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

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A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

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

Sermon- Self Reflection (2 Corinthians 3)

Sermon Series Seeking God 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 4 of 5: Self Reflection
Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 13:5; Lamentations 3:40-41; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/2/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire traditional worship service, including the message.

I have absolutely no control over the middle of my day. Every day is different. The unplanned and unexpected happen regularly. The only part of my day I have any possibility of anchoring is the beginning and end of my day, the bookends.

What I’m starting to do, and invite you to do, is to anchor, to ground the bookends of our day with spiritual practices that keep us connected to God.

I need these practices so that when the unexpected happens, troubles or joys, I’m ready for it spiritually.

Testimony of the Death of Hal Stanton
The death of the faithful is not a tragedy. It’s, of course, sad and we grieve. We love and we miss Hal.

But Hal was ready. He had conversations the days before his death that were full of peace, hope, gratitude, and love. His wife Margot was ready. This doesn’t diminish the sadness or grieving. We have the sadness and grieving while we are also anchored in the promises and hope of heaven. It can be both at the same time.

Hal’s kids were ready. While we were gathered around his hospital bed last night, we sang his favorite hymn, we spoke to him and held his hand, we prayed, and it was peace. We were all moving forward together in the light, love, and presence of God.

I want to be ready. I want to be ready to serve and love and have a good word from God. And I want to be ready when its time to go home to heaven. By the grace and power of Almighty God, we can be.

If I had to start from absolute scratch with spiritual practices, what would be the first three I would want to know, practice and teach? These timeless three create a sacred rhythm in our lives: Scripture, Stillness, and Self Reflection.

Scripture
We all need a scripture reading plan to read the Word of God for ourselves. In reading the Word of God we begin to know what’s God’s voice and what isn’t. We get grounded in the promises of God and the character of God. We’re strengthened by the stories of God’s people.

Click Here for a great reading plan for beginners
Click Here for a plan that covers the entire Bible

Stillness
Stop and spend time with God no agenda. We come simply, openly, honestly, just as we are. Our world is busy, full, and loud. I need stillness to remember- Be still and know that I am God and that I’m not God.

Click Here for last week’s message on stillness

Self-Reflection
Start your day with Scripture Reading and Silence. End your day by reflecting on it with God

All of these practices, including self-reflection, are rooted in Scripture.
2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?…

The presence of God is with us and in us and through us.

Lamentations 3:40-41
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18
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.

The practices of scripture, stillness, and self-reflection bring us freedom. All of us can have unveiled faces before God. We can take off the mask and be real and honest. These practices bring transformation in our lives- we are made new, we are healed, we are forgiven, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

These practices are not only rooted in scripture but are also practiced throughout the history of God’s people. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Jesuits, wrote a set of reflection questions. They’re wonderful. They’re known as The Examen and are still used today.

John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism, wrote 22 questions. John’s an overachiever and a little compulsive. These questions are also wonderful and still used today.

Our set of 8 questions are a mixture of questions from many sources. They have the essence of Ignatius’ Examen and Wesley’s questions.

Self Reflection is a new practice for me. I start my day with scripture and stillness and end my day with self-reflection. Bookends. This is the sacred rhythm I’m trying out. Find the sacred rhythm that works for you.

When I did the self-reflection questions right before bed, I found I was way too tired. So I moved the practice to the end of my workday to help me transition from work to home.

Here’s what I noticed since using the self-reflection questions
It helps me decompress from the day.
It keeps me awake and alive in the Holy Spirit.
It helps me to be more intentional- eyes to see, ears to hear

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 trust myself more so I could be more honest with myself. I also began to trust I could be more and more honest with God.

Let’s walk through the questions.

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

2. Glory Sighting: Where did you see evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in others? In and through you?
This helps us not gloss over God’s presence. We practice seeing God, praising God, and testifying to it.

3. What did you read/hear/learn?
Christians are lifelong learners. Jesus was a teacher. We are students. We are disciples.

4. What are you thankful for?
Gratitude opens us to the joy of the Lord which is our strength.

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

6. Where did you miss a Spirit-led opportunity of loving God, others, and yourself?
This is a lovely way of saying, “Where did you blow it today? Where did you embarrass the family of God?” 

We need a point of confession. There’s something about writing it down which relieves the burden of guilt (real or false). I’m not trying to hide it from God or take care of it in my own strength. There’s an old phrase, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” God please heal me, forgive me, and help me.

7. What are you asking the Holy Spirit to do in you and through you?
This is the question of mission, purpose, and call. God help me fulfill your plan for me.

8. What will you do tomorrow to be more available to the movement of the Holy Spirit?
This is intention and action. By doing it late in the day, you already have the intention for the next day.

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Sermon- Self Reflection © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

John Wesley’s 22 Self-Reflection Questions

selective focus photo of magnifying glass

Photo by Clement Nivesse on Pexels.com

Self-reflection was a founding and foundational practice of the early Methodists. John Wesley, Methodism’s main founder, wrote these 22 questions in 1729 for the private devotional use of the Holy Club, a group of Oxford University students who sought to live the fullness of the Christian life they read about in the Bible. These students became the leaders of early Methodism.

It’s amazing how fresh and useful the questions are today, even though they’re almost 300 years old. If you’re considering adding self-reflection questions to your spiritual practices, these questions would be a great choice. They’re timeless and proven. You could use all of them daily or a few each day so you cover all of them over the course of a week. – Lisa <><

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
  4. Can I be trusted?
  5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  7. Did the Bible live in me today?
  8. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
  9. Am I enjoying prayer?
  10. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
  11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  13. Do I disobey God in anything?
  14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
  17. How do I spend my spare time?
  18. Am I proud?
  19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  22. Is Christ real to me?

Rejoice Greatly- A Devotion for the Fourth Week of Advent and Christmas based on Handel’s Messiah

rejoice mountain people jump

Rejoice Greatly
Readings and Reflection for the fourth week of Advent and Christmas Eve and Day

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field and Glory to God
Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion
Hallelujah Chorus

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Luke 2:1-14
Zechariah 9:9-17
Revelation 19:1-8

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • Belly laugh with someone. Look for laughter and multiply it this week.
  • What do you need to do or not do in order to rejoice with all your soul this Christmas?

PRAYER:
Receive and Rejoice!
Rejoice with an indescribable joy. Inexpressible. Unspeakable.
A joy greater than words
A great and glorious joy. Loose. Liberated. Boundless.

Receive and Rejoice!
A joy worthy of new birth, of a living hope
A joy anchored in The Imperishable, The Eternal.
Undefiled and Unfading

Receive and Rejoice!
This joy was chosen for you. Destined for you.
Sanctified, sprinkled, and saved for you.
By the Merciful One. The One Who is With You.
Receive and Rejoice!
~ Receive and Rejoice, by Lisa Degrenia

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Rejoice Greatly
A Devotion for the Fourth Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Arise Shine- A Devotion for the Third Week of Advent based on Handel’s Messiah

morning sun bedroom window

Arise, Shine
Readings and Reflection for the third week of Advent

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth and The People That Walked in Darkness
For Unto Us a Child is Born

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Isaiah 60:1-7
Isaiah 9:2-7
John 1:1-14

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • Where do you see people “letting their light shine” in our community?
  • What local problem or situation most needs the light and love of Christ? How will you arise and shine to address this need?

PRAYER:
Jesus, your light makes us light
What a gift to be made in your image
To reflect your grace and hope, your power and peacemaking
Hallelujah! Help us shine!

Share your light with all, near and far,
Beyond our imagining to your imagining and desiring
A beam worthy of the stretch of your embrace.
Worthy of your glory. Jesus, help us shine!

Unveiled, Bright, Shining before others and for others
So others see you in us and are drawn to your Light

You bathe us in the light of your grace, that we may be grace
You fill us with the light of your truth that we may be truth
You flood us with the light of your love that we may be love

Hallelujah!
Come Glorious One, Lord of Life and Light!
Dispel the darkness.
Reveal what is real so we no longer fear the night nor the light
Dawn in us a new day and a new us.
Help us shine!
~ Help Us Shine, by Lisa Degrenia

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Arise, Shine
A Devotion for the Third Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.