Daily Devotional: Embracing Yourself and Others as Perfectly Imperfect

coffee-prayer-scriptureRomans 4:13-25 calls us to put aside both our perfectionism which judges ourselves as unloveable if we don’t jump through hoops of performance or its twin judgmentalism that condemns another for not living up to some standard we or a religious establishment has set up. Instead we are called to recognize our relationship with God and the transformations it brings as pure gift, flowing from an abundant and overwhelming grace.

No amount of diligence and perfectionism can earn love. All it can do is get nearer or further to some mark of accomplishment, building up feelings of either self-condemnation or judgmentalism against those who are not doing as well as you. Both are like an acid burning down the bonds that tie us together with those around us in community, eroding the warm feelings we have toward them or, worse yet, toward ourselves and toward God.

Love comes often unexpected, and always freely. God’s love,mother-and-child like the love of a mother, comes not because we have done anything good or bad to earn it, but simply because we are God’s children. In fact the Hebrew word for God’s loving compassion is derived from its word for womb: God feels a womb-love for us, that feeling of love and compassion that whips up in a mother the moment she feels her child moving in her womb. It is not earned but free, a commitment to that child simply because they are hers.

Experiencing such a love frees you and frees me to set aside all idea of condemning judgment, and embrace the sense that we are worthy. We are accepted. We are loved, just as we are, and delighted in, imperfections and all.   After all we do not wait to love a child until it can talk, walk, dress itself, and clean its own diapers. We love it, imperfections and all, and embrace that which is not full-grown as a part of the beauty and wonder of childhood.

This is how God looks at you and your imperfections. Embracing that free grace frees you to see yourself as you fully are, not hiding either your strengths and weaknesses. It frees you to ask God and others for help in the areas you are weak and also to not hide your candlesticks of strengths under bushel baskets.

Perhaps most amazing of all, it enables you to begin to more fully embrace others, just as they are, realizing they are loved, they are worthy, they are accepted without condition too. You are freed to see them for the value they are, strengths and weaknesses together.

abram and saraiFinally this grace coming out of God’s love freely also is life-giving. St. Paul uses the example of how Sarai and Abram experience Sarai becoming with child when she is past child bearing age and her body is good as dead in that department, and likely Abram’s is too. Yet God is able, as free gift, because God is the fountain from which all life, healing, liberty, and strength comes.   Ultimately new beginnings, new opportunities, new identities all are possible even in the most dead-end points in life and when we are the most powerless on our own, simply because God who brings the power of life in the midst of death is the one whose love now animates our lives.

May you experience more of this love, and this life-giving energy that flows from God’s love, this day.


The Diversity at the root of Southern Culture

This article is a great look at the beautiful diversity in southern culture and life: http://m.indyweek.com/indyweek/for-six-decades-folklorist-bill-ferris-has-broken-some-of-the-countrys-biggest-racial-barriers-now-hes-sharing-the-souths-story-wit/Content?oid=4363329

Daily Devotional


Jeremiah 7:21-34 reminds us that what God really wants is not sacrifice, songs, or religious rituals. God’s first and primary word to us is “listen”, a call for us to work together with God, cooperating with God as God works healing for the broken, care for those in need, comfort for the hurting.   If we are not moved in heart to help those around us or to care for our neighbors, our offerings, our incense, our prayers, are empty gestures.

Jeremiah’s dim view of these acts of worship stems from living in a society that was highly religious, but where religion has become a kind of entertainment for the rich and elite. They go, have their egos stroked, and return to the same self-centered lives they have lived every day the previous week.   all saints 2The goal of worship, though, is to break us out of our shell of ego so we can begin to truly see ourselves as connected with all people and all living things.   It is to help shape our vision so that we can see more clearly where we fit in God’s pattern of breathing life into all nature, healing into all that are broken, and working liberty for all who are oppressed.

How are your worship practices calling you to this? How can you change them to make them more of an invitation to this vision of beloved community being born by the living God? How can you participate in building that community every day?

Daily Devotional: Weaving with the Weaver Woman God


Psalm 78:1-39 recounts the power of telling your story, the holy history that birthed and strengthened your own faith to another generation, including those stories that were passed onto you by others.

I remember my grandmother, a devout Baptist, walking hand in hand with me as a little boy, speaking to me of the history of her life and the values that guided her.

I remember daddy walking beside me at the fishing hole talking to me of God as the One who made the splendor and beauty around us, and telling me at other times of his journey to find the God of his understanding.

great cloud of saints behind preacherI can think of the stories of dear men and women who surrounded me in my childhood and the countless tales they told me of their journeys of faith, and witnessing their struggles and hope.

I too remember experiences in which aspects of the faith of my childhood were proven to be untrue in ways that felt like a ship wrecking on the seashore, while all along I felt the overwhelming presence of Jesus standing and walking with me, guiding me by the hand into a faith freer and more vibrant that I had known.

All of these stories form who I am.   Some time ago I wrote a poem about this process of being shaped by others’ stories and shaping others through our own:

= = = = =

koinonia farms qA tattered web woven of gold and dust

Warms my soul

Threaded with grandpa’s sweat

Summer sun on his back

Toiling tobacco fields

Crying out for rain

Defying drought with the same words

Praying for safety while dodging

The Kaiser’s bullets and bombs

That golden thread intertwined with grandma’s cry at night

That paw paw come home alive

Her prayers of praise on his return

Her many late nights praying for her students

At the little school room in rural Carolina

In which her work whittled away at time

seamstressThat gold thread was woven

In their long night prayers to have a child

And their surprise at God’s answer

For a little girl born of another’s body

In need of love

Yet woven in its midst is the dust

Of a man returned from war

Whose promises, broken as deep as his spirit,

Left their little girl to be and her mama without home and hope

So she might need to turn to them

The dust of a time in our dear south land

When such a mother was filled with shame

Treated as a disgrace

Rather than embraced for the strength she showed

The dust of a time that painted but one family picture

Wiping out the glorious complexity

Of loves as truly lived

gold threadWoven too in this gold is the red dust of Carolina clay

That left my little fingers as a boy

As red as Lady Macbeth’s

Who never could wipe off the blood

A dust woven into my spirit

By the land these good hearted ones

Could farm and rear

Only because their great great grands

Stole it from those whom they called ‘Red as that clay

The fruit of which even in my and pa’s times of prayer

Was kept by force

From those of darker hue

Woven in this web of soul

Is the gold thread of daddy’s faith

Born in preaching like an earthquake

Under Georgia tents

The roar of wind and rain

Causing bulbs to burst in sync with the thunder

A faith he instilled in me

On fishing trips and bike rides

The thread of mama’s faith that there is more than this

Which led her to speak against

Dust upon the gold

Of male chauvinism in the name of God

And the heartache it brought in women’s hearts

Never naming her own pain

And to push against it to return to school

Putting her gifts to the healing

Of children as forgotten and broken as she once must have felt

I am warmed by this rich blanket

Of shining thread

I too must take needle in hand

Knitting thread anew

What dust shall I shake out?

What golden threads weave in?

What mire of my own become part of the pattern

seamstress 2Weaver Woman God

Who knits us in our mother’s wombs

And weaves with us the patterns of our lives

Help me make my pattern

Stronger, warmer, and more alive with light

That those you send in answers to our late night prayers

May be warm through life’s winters

And find the springs of soul with you

= = = =

May you be enriched by retelling the stories of God’s presence in your life and history to others, remembering your connection to those God has used to weave beauty into your life. May you add your own thread of life and liberation. And may you also find which threads to “let go”.

Daily Devotional


John 7:14-36

As so often in His teachings, Jesus cuts through all the ritual, dogma, and tradition. None of this matters if it doesn’t help you more fully know God or more fully love your neighbor.   jesus healing blindThat is the only point to it, and when it fails to do that, you are not using it right.

Jesus is being criticized for healing a man on the Sabbath – a day in which people are supposed to rest. Jesus does not debate whether or not he broke the literal rule of the Sabbath. What he argues is that God’s point is to do two things: 1. To listen to and follow the lead of the Living God and 2. To care for the hurting.

Can you really say that, simply for breaking a ritual rule, that someone is going against God if they break the rule to help a hurting person? Jesus says, no. We bend the rules for reasons that matter much less in terms of caring for the hurting.   God would rather have us put aside our patterns of worship for a few minutes and help that dear hurting one.   This is the spirit behind the rule, the heart of God burning in the center of true religion. Let us fulfill that, even when its fulfillment goes against the rituals, dogmas, and rules.

Also Jesus encourages us to truly listen to God. At times God will call us to go beyond the written words of Scripture, Hearing_Godand the literal meaning of our religious tradition. Jesus does this when Jesus heals those suffering from ailments at a time the religious leaders of his day rightly said the Bible called for no working must be done. Yet God calls us beyond the written words to a living encounter and relationship with God.   In Jesus’ case, it led to fulfilling God’s clear message about caring for the hurting but bending rules about religious rituals. His followers come to extend this to other religious rituals, by welcoming in their midst as fully children of God and members of the covenant people who did not keep Sabbath or kosher, men who were not circumcised, and people who were eunuchs, when such ones showed evidence of the transformed heart that God brings those who know God.

What rules or dogmas guide your life? Some of them may be helping you hear the voice of God and see the hurt of your neighbor. Thank God for them. But which ones might you be approaching in such a way that they, not the Living God at work in our world, are the ones you worship? Let’s always remember our call is not to worship religion, rule, ritual, dogma, or even Scripture but the Living God revealed in Jesus by loving God, and caring for each other.

A Week in the Word: The Last Lenten Sacrifice

For this week’s Week in the Word, I’m sharing a message from Rev. Phil Hardy, a UCC minister in central North Carolina.  In this post he shares a powerful picture of how a progressive Christian vision of the cross can transform our lives and world — moving from a call for scapegoats to a call for participating in the causes of justice and liberation.

Hope his words bless you as they blessed me!

Your progressive redneck preacher,


The Last Lenten Sacrifice: The Doctrine of Blood Atonement.

(Just click the above hyper-linked text to see Rev. Hardy’s message)

Daily Devotional


Romans 4:1-12 is an answer to our every perfectionism.   It is not due to our perfection in actions, attitudes, or religion that our God reckons righteousness to us. No, it is because God sees through every appearance to our heart. However

An artists' depiction of God's promise to Abram, after Abram answers the call to emigrate out of Ur and immigrate into Canaan / Palestine.

An artists’ depiction of God’s promise to Abram, after Abram answers the call to emigrate out of Ur and immigrate into Canaan / Palestine.

imperfectly we might live our lives, do we make room for God in our lives, trusting God enough to try and let God guide our steps?   If so, God reckons righteousness to us.

We can see that perfection is not the answer in the models of faith God lifts up here in Romans. Abram was a man of faith who left all to follow God, leaving his home-town of Ur, his home religion, and traveling to an un-known land. What faith! Yet Abram was not a perfect man! He takes a slave woman, using her to have a son, and then casts them aside when Isaac is born. He lies to protect himself on multiple occasions in ways that put his family in danger.   Yet though he, like us, is a sinner who does much wrong, his heart remains open to God, willing to be changed, and willing to abandon old ways when he learns they are wrong.

The same is true with David. David was a womanizer. He killed a man. David was involved with court intrigue, and had his hands covered with the blood of all who died in his wars. Yet even his journey to become king grows out of his relationship with God, one of faith in God and love for the God who shaped his life. It is his faith which inspires him when confronting by his wrong-doing by ones speaking for God to admit it and change.

This openness to God is there in many heroes of faith.   Martin Luther King,heroes of faith 2 Hildegard of Bingen, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, Sojourner Truth, St. Paul… none of these are people who are perfect. Each have their sins and foibles.   Yet each choose to listen to that voice deep within, the voice of the Almighty, and try in their stumbling ways to follow it.

You cannot be perfect either. You might as well give up beating yourself up for not being able to out-do these great women and men of faith. You cannot and will not be perfect.  But … You can be open, open to God, open to guidance, open to learning new things. You can take up and follow the best you are able. Apparently, since it is to such imperfect ones God reckons righteousness, that is all God is asking. Perhaps, if such as them changed the world through their imperfect following of God, you can too.