Midweek Devotion- John 20

Scripture: John 20:19-23
Breath Prayers Based on Breathe on Me, Breath of God

You’re encouraged to use the following process as you read scripture.
We use this process together on Wednesdays at 8:00AM EST.

STILLNESS: Spend 5-20 minutes in silence looking to God and listening for God.

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.

CONNECTION: What connections do you see to other scriptures? To your own experience or current situation? Or, to the character or promises of God?

ACTION: What is God inviting you to trust, say, or do? How will your life be different because of this scripture?

PRAY: Talk to God about what you just experienced or anything else on your heart.

Rev. Lisa Degrenia
Trinity Sarasota

Recorded 8/5/2020

Bind Us Together
CCLI Song # 1228
Bob Gillman © 1977
Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 686715

Breathe on Me, Breath of God
Text: Edwin Hatch
Music: Robert Jackson

Midweek Devotion- John 20 © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

A Prayer and Reflection Based on Luke 10-11

summer in the scriptures luke (1)Prayer based on Luke 10:1-12
The Mission of the Seventy

This is the glory of your saving love
That you don’t just bless us
Heal us
Guard and guide us

That you don’t just forgive us
Redeem us
Save and sanctify us

For you, that is too light a thing

You make a place for us in your saving work
You call us and empower us
Each of us

You make a place for us in your family and a place for us in your plan
that we might experience your power and the wielding of that power
that we might experience the fullness of your grace

The glory of your saving love is
Your hope and your hope made real in the world
Your love and your love in action

Glory to you, Most Blessed Savior!
Glory to you, Lord of Mercy and Light!
Glory to you and to the fulfillment of Your Kingdom
in us and in all!

Based on Luke 11:37-53
A wise person once advised me, when you come across scriptures where Jesus is instructing or correcting the Scribes and the Pharisees, stop, listen, and allow the Holy Spirit to examine your own heart. Pastors, small group leaders, and ministry leaders are often more like them than we want to admit. They were the “churched people” of their day. They too took their faith seriously, worshiped deeply, prayed and read the scriptures searching for God, answered a call, and studied hard to prepare themselves for leading God’s people, bore the responsibility and sacrifice of leadership.

Reflection and meditation on these texts keep us humble and soft in God’s hands. We need God’s grace and leading to avoid falling into the same enslaving practices.

In this light, let us reflect on Jesus’ warnings from Luke 11, often referred to as “the woes.”

Verse 42: Woe to you … for you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God
God, reveal in me where have I focused on rules and details above you.
Free me from the need to control and micromanage.
Free me from blocking access to your love and grace and justice.

Verse 43: Woe to you … for you love to have the seat of honor … and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces
God, reveal where my pride, ego, and need for attention have become false idols.
Forgive me and heal me of judgmental attitudes that separate me from you and from others.

Verse 44: Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it
God, reveal every hidden thing I think and do which hurts others.
Reveal my hypocrisy.
Reveal where my attitudes and actions bringing contamination rather than community.
Lord, bury me with you and raise me to new life.

Verse 46: Woe also to you … for you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.
God, reveal how my actions and expectations are burdening others unnecessarily.
Forgive me for placing myself above others and beyond accountability.
Humble me and grow in me a love and solidarity with all people.
Turn my faith into compassionate action.

Verse 47: Woe to you! For you … are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors
God, reveal how I am perpetuating the prejudices and injustices of previous generations.
Heal me and empower me to join you in breaking this cycle.

Verse 52: Woe to you… for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.
God, reveal how I am making you and your ways confusing and difficult.
Grant me a hunger for your truth and kingdom living.
Help my words to match your words, my ways your ways, so others find you easily.


For the next few months, I’m reading a chapter from the Gospels each day. This is part of the Summer in the Scriptures reading plan sponsored by the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Click Here for the reading plan.

You’re most welcome to read along and to join the Facebook discussion group, Summer in the Scriptures. You don’t need to be a Methodist or attend a Methodist church. All are welcome and all means all.

As part of the Facebook group, I’ve been supplying prayers based on the day’s reading. Feel free to post your prayers and observations based on the readings here or there as well.

May the grace of the Gospels, the challenge, and the call, inspire us to great faith and great good works in Jesus’ name. – Lisa <

The Glory of You Saving Love © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Reflection based on Jesus’ Woe’s © 2014 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.

Prayer: Strive (Luke 12.29-32)

StriveFather, you know how I strive
Strive to please
Strive to keep up appearances
Strive to finish the to-do list
Strive to accomplish

I strive even in prayer

There’s a hustle within me to prove my worth
Lord, heal me

Show me the difference between
striving and mission and focus and ambition
They’re all bound up together

I see the passionate faithful
and the apathetic
and those that are clear and still and fruitful

What should I be?
How should I be?
Show me how
Show me how to live
How to trust
How to strive for your Kingdom
Your Kin-dom
that good gift you delight in giving

Luke 12:29-32
Jesus said, “Do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Prayer: Strive © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon- The WIG and the Whirlwind (Acts 17)

Sermon Series Seeking God 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 2 of 5: 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.

Prepare the Way of the Lord (Isaiah 40)

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Sermon Series:
For Unto Us A Child is Born, Messages Inspired by Handel’s Messiah

Message 1 of 5: Prepare the Way of the Lord
Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/1/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

First three songs of Handel’s Messiah are based on Isaiah 40:1-5, KJV
Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley
And the Glory of the Lord

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are heavy. God is speaking reality through Isaiah about the consequence of sin. In chapter 40, the message turns. The Prophet Isaiah looks past the situation in front of him, the people of God taken into exile and returning from exile, down the highway of time to the coming of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ and past that to the second coming of Christ and the completed victory of God.

Isaiah 40:1-5, NRSV
1 “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

How are you preparing for Christmas?

Steve Garnaas-HolmesPrepare the Way
We prepare outwardly for Christmas: we hang lights and put up decorations; we bake goodies and wrap gifts. How will you prepare inwardly? The coming of Christ means that God will be incarnate: embodied, lovingly present, in the flesh in your life.

As the carol Joy to the World says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” There was no room in the inn, but there can be room in my heart.

Following the first London performance of Messiah, Lord Kinnoul congratulated Handel on the excellent entertainment. Handel replied, “My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertain them. I wish to make them better.”

Handel’s desire in setting the scripture to music was that it would bring a change in us, that it would bring transformation. Prepare the way of the Lord is about transformation.

Prepare the Way of the Lord = Prepare Your Way In Me
Click Here for the first week of the Advent/Christmas Devotion which accompanies this sermon series.

We prepare inwardly by setting aside time for regular, quiet reflection with God. Here are two classic reflection questions to ask yourself.

A. This past week, when did I feel closest to God?
This is a question of consolation, of comfort. It’s when we experience the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the in-breaking of God into our life. All of a sudden we’re awake, we’re alive in Christ and we notice it.

Isaiah 40:1-2
1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her

When did you experience God speaking comforting, tender words? God literally “speaking to the heart.” This is God’s voice of love and assurance breaking through the pain and confusion.

God is whispering, like the whispering of a lover into the beloved’s ears. It’s that intimate, personal, close. God isn’t whispering sweet nothings. These words are designed to remind you what is good, to strengthen you and help you and remind you how much you are loved.

B. This past week, when did I feel farthest from God? When did I blow it?
Which question is easier for you to answer?

This second question is classically a question of desolation. The sorrow, pain, guilt you are feeling is the Spirit calling you back to the path of life. Don’t let the feelings derail you, let them guide you.

Hear the good news and believe it. Isaiah 40:2 is Grace, Grace, Grace.
that she has served her term
You’ve been in prison and chains long enough

that her penalty is paid,
Jesus paid it on the cross

that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins
Yes, there are consequences for our sins. But this is not saying God is handing out a double punishment. It’s actually a reference to God’s grace. We sin, and God returns to us mercy, forgiveness, and grace. What God supplies is far more than what we deserve. It is double grace, greater than all our sin.

Isaiah 40:3-5
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The “all” includes you, even in the wilderness of your soul and the wilderness of this world.

Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas
The wilderness does not merely give us a path: empties us enough so that a path is made within us. Through us. Of us. A road for the holy to enter the world. A way for the Christ who comes.

Prepare the Way of the Lord = Prepare Your Way Of Me
Our internal life leads to an external life. God’s word, “Comfort, comfort my people” does not equal us being comfortable. (no troubles, no worries, I pay no attention to the troubles of the world)

The comforting of God is the strengthening and encouraging of God. We are prepared in order to share. There is an expectation of prayer and action.

This passage is full of God’s call and command.
Verse 1, Comfort, Comfort my people! 
Make sure this happens!

Verse 2, Speak… cry out
To those in chains, to those exiled

Verse 3, Cry out in the wilderness
Those lonely places, harsh places, broken places, unjust places

Verse 5, The Mouth of the Lord has spoken 
This is not a suggestion. This is a command. God prepares us so we can be part of the way making.

Prepare the way of the Lord!
Isaiah is preparing the way. Down the road, John the Baptist uses Isaiah’s words to prepare the way for Jesus- The Way, the Truth, the Life. Down the road, it is now us.

Enjoy the season. Feel it fully. Be fully present and go deep. Spend time with God. God, prepare the way in me and through me. We are making the way and we are mending the world.

God breaks into all the systems and places and pain; breaks in to create something new. The mountains where what’s needed is too high, out of reach, brought low. The valleys where there are much darkness and pain are raised up. There is a plain, an evenness, an equity, a justice for all.

Messiah premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742, as a charitable benefit for 3 charities- prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary. It raised 400 pounds, split between the 3 charities, freeing 142 men from the debtor’s prison. 142 households were instantly transformed.

How will you make a difference this holy season? For making the way where there seems to be no way, for bearing God’s light into the world.

The time is now, for you have called
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called, O God. You have spoken.
Not an if or when or maybe. Not even a try.

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth
It shall be done in us and through us and of us.

By the power of your Holy Spirit,
we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together
Shall, by Lisa Degrenia


Be sure to also check out Rev. Magrey deVega’s stunning reflection on this passage in his blog post, Is God on your Christmas List?

Prepare the Way of the Lord © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.