Pastor Lisa’s blog has a new home. Come on by!

Dear Friends,
For the past four years I’ve had the honor of serving Community UMC in DeBary as their pastor. The congregation graciously gave me space on their website to start a blog. I cannot thank them enough for encouraging me in God’s gift of writing. Neither of us suspected this little experiment would blossom into over 600 posts and counting. To God be the glory!

I am now serving Trinity UMC in Sarasota and want to pass on the blessing of this blog to CUMC’s new pastor, Rev. Edwin Santos. Edwin is an accomplished and published author, so please consider remaining subscribed here for his insights and wisdom.

If you would like to continue to receive posts from me, please subscribe to my new blog, Turning the Word, at www.revlisad.com. You will find all of the previous posts plus new posts beginning Wednesday, July 9.

Over the years I’ve come to treasure these moments of praying with my pen. I pray these small offerings have been a blessing to you as well and I hope to continue to the journey with you. – Lisa <><

Prayer: Make Us Like You (Acts 6-7)

WalkLikeJesusThis prayer comes in response to reading Acts 6-7, the witness and murder of Stephen, who again and again responds as Jesus would. – Lisa <><

Jesus, make me like you
We ask this nobly, with great sincerity
But we do not really know what we are asking
It is a fearsome prayer

In our eagerness, we forget
A burning heart comes with a tear stained face
Royal dignity comes with a basin and towel
Transcendent understanding comes with accusing shouts
suspicious whispers
Divine companionship comes with a kiss of betrayal
Arms open in welcome come with nail pieced hands

Even so, make us like you
Embodied Love
Steadfast and Supple
One with our Father
Made manifest in compassion and new life
Bodies made whole
Minds made whole
Our world made whole
Your Holy Spirit flowing in us and through us
In wonder and wisdom and truth
Clarity, communion and peace

Even so, Jesus
Make us like you

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Prayer: Make Us Like You © 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.

Prayer: The Hidden Net (Psalm 31:1-5)

Frodo captured by the spider, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Frodo captured by the spider, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Psalm 31:1-5 NRSV
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

There is a net that is hidden
It lies in the shadows
Blends in to the background
Covert
Camouflaged
It waits patiently

It is just for me
It knows my weakness
Grabbing my attention
Snaring me in misinformation
Entangling me in self sufficiency
Wrapping me like a fly in a web
Sticky and shrouded in doubt and despair

Deliver me, my Refuge
Hear my cry, my Rock
My Righteous Redeemer

Through the power of your Son and Spirit
Liberate me from this entombing trap
Free me to your will and way

I seek You
You alone
Into Your hand I commit my spirit

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When I first read this Psalm, I imagined a fishing net hidden in murky water. The feelings of entrapment and terror took me to the scene from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King when Frodo loses his way in the shadowy cave and is captured by the spider’s deadly web.

In the midst of his greatest need Frodo is both swaddled like a baby (birth) and wrapped like a mummy (death). Sam, his faithful companion, later delivers him, for he was not himself and could not save himself. How like the deliverance of our faithful God, who companions us and champions us. Consider Lazarus bound for death but called forth from the tomb by Jesus, the victorious resurrection of Jesus himself, and the promise of new life for all who believe. (Romans 6:3-4) – Lisa <><

Prayer: The Hidden Net © 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.

Poem: Romans 12:12

sprout in dry soilRomans 12:12 NRSV
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Rejoice in hope!
Celebrate!
Shout!
Dance with our Maker!
Play in the dappled sunlight
Echo the sweet song of brook and bird
Laugh with all the children of God’s good earth
Feast on The Promise
Who alone is steadfast
Who alone satisfies and strengthens

Be patient in suffering beloved
Pain clouds the truth
Perspective will hide, so be patient
Christ is still near, weeping with you
Let the tears wash the ashes from your eyes
Let them cleanse the confusion
Remember and Re-joy
Suffering comes to all
it prunes
it breaks open
Like Christ, we die to live
We too are buried only to burst forth in spring green growth

Persevere in prayer
Keep your hand to the plow, the Spirit at the lead
Drive to the Source
Drive deep
Learn to be loved, to be love
Quick to know the will of the Known and the Knowing
Go deep
Go often
Go to the Source
Why unplug your fire power?
Why exchange it for something frail, false, passing?
God’s fire does not destroy, it burns away
so you may be full of Light

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Romans 12:12 © 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.

Prayer: Most Blessed, Most Beautiful

christus-hand-lds-adapted1 Corinthians 3:21-23 NRSV
So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Most blessed, most beautiful Christ,
in you we receive all things

The receiving takes growth, so you give us guiding-
saints and sages and scripture
Thank you for the guiding

The receiving takes others, so you give us the world-
nature and neighbors and nations
Thank you for the world

The receiving takes change, so you give us seasons-
life and death and new life
Thank you for the seasons

The receiving takes time, so you give us time-
present and future and forever
Thank you for the time

Most blessed, most beautiful
You give us yourself
And in you, O Christ
We belong
To you and to God and to all
Thank you for the giving

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Most Blessed, Most Beautiful © 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.

Poem: In My Beginning

The Spirit Hovering by Nicora Gangi

The Spirit Hovering by Nicora Gangi

In my beginning
Formless
Chaotic
Swirling nothingness
Murky, inky emptiness

You are there

Your Spirit moves in the silence
Expectant
Brooding

You breathe
You speak

Light begins
Life begins

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I was overwhelmed recently by memories of life before knowing God. It reminded me of the chaos and emptiness of Genesis 1:1-3. Thankful those days are no more and that God offers light and life to all, even me. – Lisa <><

For more information on today’s featured artist, Nicora Gangi, and her comments on her work click here. Please consider patronizing her work and the work of other artists at Spark and Echo Arts.

In My Beginning © 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.

Blessing the Calling

anointing confirmationPsalm 133 (NRSV)
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

Precious oil
A luxurious, extravagant outpouring
Running, skipping upon your head
Flowing down your face
Pooling on your clavicle
Seeping into your bones
Signifying to all your calling
God’s chosen instrument
God’s anointed beloved
God’s fragrant presence
Being made holy
and whole
Reminding you of you
Bearer of Blessing
Forevermore

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For a devotion and prayer based on Psalm 133 entitled Psalms of Peace, click here

Blessing the Calling © 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.

Holding Together Ascension, Pentecost, and Powerful Calls

flame-symbolAscension is here and Pentecost is close at hand….

Consider Acts 1:1-11 (The Ascension text) next to Acts 2 (The Pentecost Text) next to Isaiah 6:1-8 (The Call of Isaiah) next to Romans 12:1-2 (The renewal of our mind in Christ). Wow!

Holy Holy Holy… Mystery… Fire… Confusion… Presence…. Purpose … Empowerment…
Grace greater than all our fears and limitations. – Lisa <><

God,
my small mind,
my little sparrow of fear
believes I am not good enough
to bear your love into this world,
to be the one to shine with your flame,
to carry your flowers,
to speak your Word.

Burn up that little mind
in the blaze of your love.
Let your whole heaven of beauty
sweep me away.
Kiss me with your fierce glory
and I melt,
smitten, molten,
my lips still burning,
my guts still aflutter.

Newly made, I know myself anew—
not by my falterings,
but by your flame in me.
I find myself not in my fear
but in your love.
Here am I.
I want to be there
as you kiss the world.
Send me.

~ Steve Garnaas-Holmes

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Be sure to check out Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ most excellent blog, Unfolding Light, for more wonderful poetry and devotions.

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

Extending Blessing (Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

For this reason I kneel before the Father,
From whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

Blessing begins with reverence
A reverence for our Wondrous God
Who bends low to welcome us
Birthing us through water and Spirit
Naming us and claiming us beloved and blessed
Who not only welcomes us but welcomes all
Knitting us together in the Body
Miraculous
Strangers becoming brothers and sisters
A family far beyond class, clan and culture
Far beyond what we could ask or imagine

I pray that out of his glorious riches
He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

From an incalculable treasure of grace upon grace
God pours out strength
Not as the world gives
Not with obvious outward displays
But hidden in the very depths of our frailty
God pours and floods with blood and breath
The very power of life
Driven and danced by Holy Spirit
That we may find our true home in Christ
Our true self in Christ

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
May have power, together with all the saints,
To grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

This power
This companionship
This indescribable, priceless love of Christ
This is the blessing
Infinitely wide and long and high
Poured forth and driven deep
All the way down to the roots- our vines anchored in God’s grace
Rooted and Established- tilled till all the wild branches embrace
and the sweet fruit overflows the cups of justice and joy

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
According to his power that is at work within us,
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
Throughout all generations, forever and ever!

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our lips in blessing
With power to make new
Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hands in blessing
With power to make whole
Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hearts in blessing
That the grace poured in by Christ
Would overflow
Generation to generation to generation
An endless procession
To all, in all and through all

Amen.

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Extending Blessing © 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.

Click here for another post entitled Extending Blessing

Church as Communion of Saints, Cloud of Witnesses

cloud-of-witnesses

If you know the name of this work or the artist please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Hebrews 11:32-12:2 NRSV
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

The saint is precisely one who has no “I” to protect or project. His or her “I” is in conscious union with the “I AM” of God, and that is more than enough. Divine union overrides any need for self-hatred or self-promotion. Such people do not need to be perfectly right, and they know they cannot be anyway, so they just try to be in right relationship. In other words, they try above all else to be loving. - Richard Rohr

Authentic Christianity is an intensely personal matter, for the living Christ invades us at the core of our beings. But it is never a private affair just between us and God. The broader Christian community provides the means of support to stay on the road and the corrective against going down our own paths of self-obsession and sometimes self-destruction. - Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life

Loving the Church often seems close to impossible. Still, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people in the Church – whether powerful or powerless, conservative or progressive, tolerant or fanatic – belong to that long line of witnesses moving through this valley of tears, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the voice of their Lord, and eating together from the bread that keeps multiplying as it is shared. When we remember that, we may be able to say, “I love the Church, and I am glad to belong to it….Loving the Church is our sacred duty. Without a true love for the Church, we cannot live in it in joy and peace. And without a true love for the Church, we cannot call people to it. - Henri Nouwen

What we celebrate when we celebrate All Saints is not the superhuman faith and power of a select few but is God’s ability to use flawed people to do divine things. We celebrate all on whom God has acted in baptism, sealing them, as Ephesians says, with the mark of the promised Holy Spirit. We celebrate the fact that God creates faith in God’s people, and those people through ordinary acts of love, bring the Kingdom of Heaven closer to Earth. We celebrate that we have, in all who’ve gone before us, what St Paul calls such a great cloud of witnesses and that the faithful departed are as much the body of Christ as we are.
- Nadia Bolz Weber, Sermon for All Saints Sunday: Small Acts of Love

Every now and then, something special happened, and my children asked questions about the saints and their work. We talked about racism and slavery in the United States when we remembered Absalom Jones and later Frederick Douglass. We talked about how sometimes people are killed for what they believe and for standing up for the poor and the oppressed when we remembered Polycarp. We talked about standing up for oneself and for others, even when the powerful disagree with you, when we remembered Martin Luther. We talked about poets, and teachers, and priests, and prophets modern and ancient. We talked about the women and men who lived holy lives. We learned about Christianity together, not through repetition of doctrine or theology or Christology but through seeing it in practice by people like us, our brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world. - David Henson, The Patron Saint of Poop: How My Kids Fell in Love with the Saints

You are witnesses of these things by Lena Warren
… Witnesses.
That’s an interesting designation.
a witness sees something, experiences something.

It’s kind of a passive thing, being a witness.
Something happens and you simply observe it. And that makes you a witness

Yet, we don’t tend to leave it like that.
We tend to think of one being a witness as someone who
is compelled to speak about the witnessing
and more than compelled to speak
to testify
to make claims
to have had the experience of simply observing change one’s life.

Witnesses.

The Greek word for witness is the same root word from which we get martyr.

One whose life bears witness
One whose life is changed by witnessing
and whose life is given to witnessing.

You are witnesses…

It’s as much a promise – of transformation that we have simply in seeing God at work

as it is an obligation
a call, a command,
a need placed on our hearts
first of all, to just simply notice what is happening
and then
to tell SOMEBODY what we’ve seen
what has changed us
what has made us new.
witnesses.

You are witnesses…

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