My Podcast Debut!

Lisa Degrenia Bear the Light podcast

I’m am over the moon to make my podcast debut on Bear the Light.

Host Christianne Squires is grace on grace, gathering folks from all different walks of life to have conversations about how they’re bringing light into the world in big and small ways. ⁠

Click Here to listen on Christianne’s website or find Bear the Light on your favorite podcasting platform.

Thanks for listening and be sure to check out her other guests. The conversations are rich and real. ⁠

And… drum roll… you could be on her podcast, too. Head over to her website to fill out the form. 

Sermon- The WIG and the Whirlwind (Acts 17)

Sermon Series Seeking God 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 2 of 6: The WIG and the Whirlwind
Scripture: Acts 17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/19/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.

Read Acts 17
1 After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” 4 Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. 6 When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” 8 The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, 9 and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go.

10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. 12 Many of them, therefore, believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Beroea as well, they came there too, to stir up and incite the crowds. 14 Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 19 So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.

22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 At that point Paul left them. 34 But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

WIG and whirlwind
The WIG and the Whirlwind
The circus is back in town, which is always fun. Sarasota is Circus City thanks to Mr. Ringling. What’s your favorite circus act?

This got me thinking about the circus and thinking about how to live a life that gives glory to God and fulfills the mission and purpose of God. When those ideas collided, I remembered the tightrope walker in the WIG and the Whirlwind. It’s an idea from a business book entitled The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling.

Doesn’t life feel sometimes like you’re walking a tightrope? We try so hard to not lose our balance.

You’re holding a balancing pole. On one end of the pole is the WIG, the Wildly Important Goal. Your mission and purpose in life. On the other end is the whirlwind- the realities of life. Your “you gotta’s”- you gotta buy the groceries, you gotta make the bed, you gotta go to work, you gotta feed the dog, you gotta… you gotta… you gotta. The whirlwind is always pulling. The whirlwind is relentless. It’s the things you gotta do every day to keep life moving along.

But then there’s this WIG, this Wildly Important Goal, that you feel called of God to do. Paul had a WIG. Paul was clear about his WIG. Paul’s Wildly Important Goal was to preach the Good news of Jesus Christ. Paul’s Wildly Important Goal was to plant congregations across the Mediterranean.

So Paul would walk, he’s travel the tightrope, preaching and teaching and planting. But there were these folks found himself debating. Paul was a rabbi and he loved to debate. It was his teaching style and strength.

And he’d have to figure out where to stay, where to eat, and how to raise funds. Then there were those Jewish leaders who were threatened by Paul preaching Jesus the Messiah, so they’d stir up trouble. They’d stir up the whirlwind.

Sometimes the whirlwind is just the realities of life, daily activities, and sometimes the whirlwind is from trouble. Paul would have to move on to another town.

So we’re constantly working for balance. We decide in order to keep our balance we have to minimize the whirlwind. To minimize the whirlwind we make resolutions. This takes moves us into another circus act- the spinning plates.

spinning plates circusYou know the Spinning Plates Routine. Rushing around fixing this and that and that and back to this and that… All of these resolutions are unsustainable. The plates are spinning or the plates are crashing. On or off. Working or not.
It’s binary, dualistic. Resolutions are the quick focused fix that rarely succeeds, rarely brings the lasting change we long for. They’re not designed for that.

Life is not trying to create balance like a tightrope walker. Life is not about keeping the plates spinning in the air. What Jesus invites us to is rhythm. A pattern of living, a way of being, a way of life.

Rhythm is a consistent groove, a pattern that flows. In music, it’s the rhythm that grounds the music and the engine that keeps it moving forward. Grounds and moves. How is that possible? It’s the mystery of rhythm.

We can make a home in rhythm. We can’t make a home in the circus. We can make a home in rhythm because our bodies are naturally rhythmic. Our bodies naturally bear the rhythm of breath and heartbeat. Our world moves naturally to the rhythm of moon cycles, seasons, and ocean waves.  ⁠

We can make a home in rhythm. It’s sustainable, that’s what it’s designed for.

Paul had a rhythm to his life. We see the WIG and the Whirlwind but what we also need to see is the rhythm. Paul’s customs, habits, patterns. In Acts 17, you see the same thing happen three times. Paul reaches a new town. He walks around to get to know the people and customs. He goes to the synagogue and uses what they know to encourage faith in Jesus the Messiah. Then he goes to the public square, the marketplace, and shares Jesus in ways they’ll understand. Some come to faith. Some are angered, stir up trouble, and he moves on to the next town.

We see Paul’s outer rhythms of life but there are also inner rhythms of grounding and moving the Spirit through Paul’s extraordinary work. The rhythms of scripture, stillness, and self-reflection. The rhythms of worship, prayer, offerings, and fasting so he would be spiritually ready for his WIG, his Wildly Important Goal.

Paul’s Wildly Important Goal is Jesus’ Wildly Important Goal which is God’s Wildly Important Goal from the very beginning- Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

God is with us always, the Holy Spirit, the Rhythm of Life. We are made alive in Christ for in Jesus we live and move and have our being.(Acts 17:28)

Leave behind trying to keep balance.
Leave behind the resolution plate spinning.
Embrace a sacred rhythm to your life.

You already have rhythms. There’s a pattern to the way you get ready in the morning. Is it a sacred rhythm?

I can’t control the whirlwind of the middle of my day. But I can establish sacred rhythms to bookend how I start and end my day. If I let that whirlwind in too early by jumping on my phone to check my email or social media I’m in trouble. Same goes for bedtime. I won’t sleep well.

So I sat down to make a plan to bookend my day with practices that keep me grounded and grooving with God. What will help me fulfill God’s Wildly Important Goal for my life?

God’s WIG has not changed. It was God’s then the prophets’ then Jesus and the apostles’, then passed down through the centuries to us. Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It’s a huge WIG and I have my part to play. So do you.

Here’re the rhythms I’m starting today. They won’t happen unless I’m intentional.
My Morning Rhythm – Scripture, Stillness, Sacred Reading, Writing, Dressing for the day.

My Evening Rhythm – Walk/Move, Self-Reflection, Wash, Read for fun, Sleep

I invite you to be intentional- to sit down and plan your sacred rhythm. What will you do to stay in the grounded groove with God so in Jesus you may live and move and have your very being?

Simple Timeless Spiritual Practices to experience Jesus for Yourself 

  1. CHOOSE a Bible Reading Plan. Click Here if you need a great one!
  2. ATTENTION: Read or listen to the Scripture. What word, phrase or verse captures your attention? Underline it or copy it onto a piece of paper.
  3. CONNECTION: What connections do you see to other scriptures? To your own experience or current situation? To the character or promises of God?
  4. ACTION: What is God inviting you to say or do? How will your life be different because of this scripture?
  5. PRAY: Have a conversation with God about what you just experienced.

Click Here for a post on ending your day with self-reflection questions.

Next week, I’ll be sharing about the spiritual practice of stillness.

Sermon- The WIG and the Whirlwind © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Raise a Hallelujah, a prayer of praise

The same word in every language and place

The shout of worshipers across this world
And the great company of heaven

We raise a Hallelujah!
For you are worthy
You are holy
You are mighty
You are awesome
You are victorious

We raise a Hallelujah!
Finish these sentences.
God, you are…
God, you are my…
God, you will…

God, you will keep your promises
God, you will deliver us from slavery to sin and death and shame
God, you will break the bonds that keep us enslaved
You will break the bonds of poverty
You will break the bonds of hate
You will break the bonds of division
You will break the bonds of isolation
You will break the bonds of addiction
You will break the bonds of mistrust
You will break the bonds of violence

You are the Way Maker
You are the Deliverer
You are the Savior and Redeemer
And so, we raise a Hallelujah!

This prayer was inspired by the song Raise a Hallelujah by Jonathan David Helser and Melissa Helser, Bethel Music

Raise a Hallelujah © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
by Lisa Degrenia (
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Praying for Your City

greetings from sarasota flThe good folks at The Center for Action & Contemplation and Mile High Ministries in Denver, Colorado, have written a beautiful prayer adapted from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People. It’s hoped it will inspire Christians to pray for their local communities.

As per their invitation, it’s been adapted for my local community, Sarasota FL. Please feel free to adapt it for your own.  

The prayer may be read in a group with one voice reading the regular print and all voices reading the bold print or it may be prayed alone. After the prayer, please pause for silence.

May the movement of the Holy Spirit through these sacred words and silence birth in us a fresh movement of compassionate action. How fitting as we honor those who have worked for freedom, equality, and justice, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our Jesus.
– Lisa <><

Loving God, you have set us in families and clans, in cities and neighborhoods.
Our common life began in a garden, but our destiny lies in the city.

You have placed us in Sarasota. This is our home.
Your creativity is on display here through the work of human hearts and hands.

We pray for Sarasota today—for the East Side, West Side, North, and South.
For Riverwood, Siesta Key, Pinecraft, Newtown, Palmer Ranch, and The Meadows.
We pray for our poorest neighbors and for powerful people in offices downtown. We pray for people from the ’hood and the barrio,
for seasonal “snowbirds,” college students, and the new urbanites.

We pray for Sarasota’s neighbors:
Bradenton, Osprey, Nokomis, Lakewood Ranch, Venice, Myakka, and others.
And for sister cities in Scotland, Mexico, France, Israel, Russia, China, and Switzerland —and a thousand other cities connected to our own.

In all our neighborhoods this day there will be crime and callous moneymaking;
there will be powerful people unable or unwilling to see the vulnerable who are their neighbors.
There will also be beautiful acts of compassion and creativity in all these places—forgiveness and generosity; neighbors working together for a more just community.

Help us see this place as something other than a battleground between us and them, where our imaginations are limited by win/lose propositions and endless rivalry.
Show us a deeper reality, God: Show us your playground, and invite us to play.

Like the city of your dreams, make this a city where those who were once poor enjoy the fruits of their labor;
A place where children are no longer doomed to misfortune, but play safely in the streets under the watchful eyes of caring, healthy adults;

A place where former rivals and natural enemies work and play together in peace;
And where all people enjoy communion with you.
We pray in the name of the one who wept over the city, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Time of silence

Adapted from Beyond Our Efforts: A Celebration of Denver Peacemaking (Mile High Ministries: 2019), 251; and Walter Brueggemann, “This City . . . of God,” Prayers for a Privileged People (Abingdon Press: 2010), 157.

Sermon- Virtual Faith (Matthew 2)

Sermon Series Seeking God 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 1 of 6: Virtual Reality
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12, 16
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/12/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.

Virtual Reality Experiences

  • The Void at Disney Springs You wear a visor/headset and a vest which immerses you in a Star Wars virtual reality experience. I struggled with it.  My family had to help me walk across “a narrow bridge over flowing lava.” I knew it wasn’t real, but what I saw and felt told my body it was real.
  • Waking up from a dream sweating and your heart pounding. It feels real, but it isn’t.
  • The Aeronauts, an Amazon Prime movie. The true story of a hot air balloon pilot and scientist who in 1862 reach 36,000 ft. It’s an exciting story of courage, beautifully filmed. I found myself dizzy and nauseous from the heights and drops. It felt so real, but it wasn’t. It had the appearance of being real.

We can have the appearance of faith, but it not be real. It’s a Virtual Faith. When you watch something on TV or read a book, it’s at a distance. The same can be true for our faith.

How can we have a real, in the flesh experience of faith and of God?

Matthew 2:1-12, 16
1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road…

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.

Herod’s Virtual Faith
Herod is frightened and surprised by the news of a newborn King of the Jews. Herod wants to stay in power. A virtual faith keeps us in charge, not God.

Herod is uniformed. He had to ask where the Messiah was to be born. He did not know the scriptures for himself. He had others to do that religious stuff for him.

Herod lies and schemes. He has no intention of paying homage to Jesus. No intention of offering gifts or bowing down. No intention of seeing Jesus for himself.

Herod wants to stay in charge and at a distance so he eliminates the threat. His reaction to the news of Jesus is deadly. He sends troops 4 miles down the road to Bethlehem to kill all the children aged two and under. He commits genocide in his own country. Virtual faith is deadly.

The Wise Ones Experience Jesus for Themselves
The Wise Ones were looking for signs, see a sign, and follow the sign of the star in faith. Look, see, act. Once they arrive, they remain open to the leading of God.

The Wise Ones come to see the newborn King for themselves. They could have sent the gifts or a message via a servant. They could have stayed at a distance but instead come themselves.

This choice to experience Jesus themselves caused them to travel a great distance at great expense. It took a great amount of time and put them at great risk. Making the choice to experience Jesus interrupted their lives. It became their primary focus and mission.

What are we doing in order to experience Jesus for ourselves? 

In Jesus’ presence, they pay him homage. They kneel in worship and offer their gifts. They’re joyful to be in the presence of the King. They leave for home a different way and I suspect as different people. Everything they experienced was worth it.

Experiencing Jesus is for us as well. Real, living faith. This is where we find faith powerful and meaningful and transformational.

It is so easy to watch worship from the pew or on a screen or listen to a podcast, to stay at a distance. Or you can engage in worship for yourself.

It is so easy to read a devotional, another person’s testimony or encounter with God in prayer or scripture reading, to stay at a distance. Their witness doesn’t take the place of your own experience. Have your own encounter with Jesus through prayer and scripture reading.

Simple Timeless Spiritual Practices to experience Jesus for Yourself 

  1. CHOOSE a Bible Reading Plan. Click Here if you need a great one!
  2. ATTENTION: Read or listen to the Scripture. What word, phrase or verse captures your attention? Underline it or copy it onto a piece of paper.
  3. CONNECTION: What connections do you see to other scriptures? To your own experience or current situation? To the character or promises of God?
  4. ACTION: What is God inviting you to say or do? How will your life be different because of this scripture?
  5. PRAY: Have a conversation with God about what you just experienced.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more timeless spiritual practices to help you experience God for yourself.

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