Daily Devotional: A Faithful Companion for Our Whole lives

companion 4Psalm 71 paints a picture of God as One who is a faithful companion your whole life long.

When the world around us sends us the message “you are finished”, as the Psalmist has received the same message, we can know if no one else believes in us, God does.   This assurance that God is with them, God is for them, comes to the Psalmist not out of the blue in some Damascus Road moment. No, it comes out of a life of experiencing God. From their earliest days, the Psalmist has known God – not as some far off Judge or Law-giver, but as a confidant.   From those days the Psalmist has known God as One they could trust, turning to like some castle fortress in the storms of life.   And through every dip and valley, every storm and trial, God has proven God’s self faithful.

mother nursingThis experience enables the Psalmist to see God there from the start – the One standing with his mother at their birth, caring for this author like a nursemaid or as the Psalmist’s mother does.   They also envision this God of life and sustenance as being with them even into their second childhood of old age as their hair greys and they begin the slow journey to whatever follows: an image which had twice the meaning to them it does to us. To us this might be a reminder that in our greying years as memory and health begins to fail, we will not be abandoned.   God will be with us, whether in active retirement or in nursing home and hospital bed. We will experience this Presence continuing. But for the author and audience of this first Psalm, greying hair was less common than today, with old age coming more into one’s thirties than one’s 90’s.   So this also was a promise: only one very vital, with great resiliency, could live to be the one with greying hair.   The Psalmist’s experience teaches her or him that it this Companionship by the Sacred Friend grants great resiliency, exactly the kind of resiliency to life’s struggles which makes it easier not just to thrive in old age, but to reach it.   For the psalmist, old age is not something feared as they do not live in the youth-crazed age we do, but it is in fact an opportunity hoped for.

The hope and promise of this Psalm is beautifully pictured in the song “I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry”, a hymn written from the perspective of God:

spiritual companion 2On the one hand this psalm and hymn reminds me of the promise I am never alone. I can relate with finding in God a Companion, a faithful friend. My first real experience of spiritual awakening was turning to prayer as a teenager, and discovering in God One I could pour my heart out to, truly being myself, without judgment or fear. I remember being amazed, having been raised in a tradition that emphasized God as Judge and Law-Giver, in experience in prayer a feeling of being seen, loved, and accepted without judgment.   That experience has shaped my whole life and my perspective on the spiritual journey.

We can know that whatever we face, whenever we go through it, we are not alone but accompanied by this Sacred One, whom we can speak to from the heart in any moment.

But I also notice that for the Psalmist, as for the hymn writer, this is not something they simply see in their difficult companion 3moments.   A lifetime of spiritual practice, of turning to God regularly through prayer and meditation, has developed an awareness of God’s presence in their lives. As a chaplain and pastor I am with people so often through crises and trials. I see people turn to God and spirituality to find meaning. Often times there are folks who’ve never turned to Spirit who in trials find God and spirituality. But it is out of struggle, like the labor pains that produce a child.

What I’ve seen though is the amazing experience of those lives have been lived in Spirit. Many of them instinctively turn out toward where the Spirit is at work and present.   They are able to do so because of having kept a practice of daily prayer or meditation, or openness, to the Divine Presence as they understand it throughout their lives. This does not mean they do not struggle, but often times it makes it easier to find the paths they need to turn to more quickly.

So this text invites us to discover or continue a daily spiritual journey. It reminds us of its value.

woman_praying1To be honest, there are days though I do daily spiritual practice, it is hard to see. There are times that meditation just seems like going through the motions of the mind, without feeling peace or enlightenment or transcendence. There is times when I pray I am tempted to like the Congregationalist pastor in Stephen King’s book Under the Dome, to call God “Mr. Not-There”, because I feel like I’m talking to the air.   But continuing our spiritual practices especially when we are not having those moments of enlightenment, moments of spiritual awakening, a deep sense of God’s presence and a connection with all of life builds in us an awareness of the Sacred that will stay with us. We will know where to turn when it is needed. And what’s more, we will know that those moments in which the world seems silent to our prayers are normal, not a sign of abandonment, but just one part of the spiritual journey. For often even silence can speak to us, if we learn to listen.

It is like any relationship, really. My 12 years of marriage have moments of deep romance, moments of fear and loss, moments of heartache, but also moments that are quite hum-drum, uninteresting. What makes it work as that my dear wife and I keep at it.   That keeping at it builds a solid relationship that can last all the ups and downs of life. So with spiritual practice.   Continuing to build that awareness of God in your life, of your own self, and of your connection with others & all of life, cultivates a relationship with God that can buoy you and carry you through life’s darkest – and brightest – moments.

And I sure ain’t whistling any Dixie here,

Your progressive redneck preacher,



Daily Devotional: Leaving a Mark That Heals

jesus healing blindJohn 11:45-47

This text tells of the response of the many crowds who hear Jesus speak and see Jesus’ work and ministry. What strikes me is not the response of those who believe his message, trusting them in their own way, but instead the response of those who don’t believe his message: they are aghast, overwhelmed. They cannot reconcile their rejection of him with what they see: the signs, wonders, and pattern of life he lives which truly looks like something from God.

I think there is a powerful challenge in this example. We are called to be witnesses to that of God we have experienced in our life. We are called to be ambassadors of a new way of living in the world, one in which swords are beaten into plowshares and people torn apart by fear, prejudice, and anger are brought back together as one.   We are called to live as lights of the spark of God the Holy Spirit has breathed into our hearts and into all creation, so others might find that light of peace within themselves.   This will not make sense to everyone. Some people will be invested in the way things currently work, not wanting to examine their prejudices or patterns which feel safe but prop up structures of injustice and patterns of exclusion. Some people will be so busy about their day to day lives they have not yet had the time to stop and hear the silence that speaks volumes, so the thought of a sacred fire burning in their souls and in the heart of this world may sound like utter nonsense.   We don’t need to worry about that, but accept those people where they are and love them. What we need to ask, what I need to ask of myself, is do we live such lives that even if they have trouble believing our experience we live in witness to, they cannot deny our lives?   The goal of the spiritual life is to not just experience the living Christ within but to follow in Christ’s footsteps so that when others see our lives, they know we are people of blessing who like Christ leave a healing mark on this world.   When that happens, even if people may not be sure they can buy our experience or our words, they know there is something true to us.

If that is the case, even if others do not believe our words, we leave a mark: hearts opened, broodyspirit2relationships healed, the earth a little less wrecked. Others do not have to believe as we do or have had the exact same experience of Spirit we have had to see that and say “perhaps even if I do not buy this God stuff, I can be more compassionate. Perhaps I can be more caring. Perhaps I can help a hurting person, or try to learn what I need to put aside a little more prejudice”. At first it may not seem like much, but little by little we can make ripples that spread healing throughout our world one step at a time.

And I sure ain’t whistling Dixie,

Your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotional: Learning to Read Scripture with the Eyes of a Mystic

coffee-prayer-scripturePsalm 78

I find it interesting that, as the Psalmist begins to recount the events of the Hebrew Scriptures telling the history of God’s people found among Israel and Judah that the Psalmist begins by saying “Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2I will open my mouth in a parable; I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.”

Calling the story of Scripture “a parable” is suggestive.  This translation draws a parallel between the stories of the holy Scriptures often recorded as “sacred” history and the stories, extended metaphors, and imagery Jesus uses in his teaching ministry.  Though I am certain the Hebrew translated “parable” could be rendered in other ways, the fact the translators do so gives us some light on how our relationship with the stories of Scripture ought to be.

highland baptist bible studyGrowing up in a very conservative, almost fundamentalist faith, first in an Adventist group in the Adventist “Church of God” movement and then among the theologically conservative charismatics in which my own faith woke up personally, I was exposed to an approach to Scripture which treated these stories – even Adam & Eve with their snake, Jonah with his whale, and Moses with the Red Sea – as literally historically true.   I was told that the Bible contained all truth I needed to know to make sense of human history, of nature, and of my life.  In those churches very extreme, rigid applications of Scripture were justified based on this idea.   If what the Bible says is literally true, we need to follow it as literally as possible.

Yet if Jesus’ parables are our model for how to read Scripture, such an approach does not work.  Jesus’ parables are almost to a one not historical accounts but clearly Jesus using stories, rich imagery, and extended metaphor to imagine a world working by a different set of rules, with compassion, mercy, and justice at the center.  He constantly tells stories that everyone loves to hear because they are so different from the real world we live, yet they imagine a world as it could be and people as they ought to great cloud of saints behind preacherbe.   These stories, images, and metaphors are not actually literally true but they awaken us up to the ways in which our lives, our communities, our values both individually and as a society in the literal historical world we live in are out of joint with the rhythm at the center of life which causes life, people, nature, and communities to thrive.  Jesus calls this pattern of life “the kingdom of God”, saying it is already with us, within us, around us, and his parables are aimed at helping us begin to see it not with the eyes of flesh but eyes “born” (another metaphor) of spirit.

Read as parables, holy Scripture would not necessarily need to recount literal historical events or be interested in the laws of nature.  Instead like Jesus’ stories, the ways in which the story of God’s people found among Israel and Judah and found among the early Christian church are told aren’t focused on getting all the details of history, life, events lined up historically.  But, just like parables, they are aimed at being told in a way that shake up our status quo, uncomfortably push us outside of our expectations of how life ought to work, so we can see our lives and world with new eyes.    Read as parables, holy Scripture would not necessarily need to recount literal historical events or be interested in the laws of nature.  Instead like Jesus’ stories, the ways in which the story of God’s people found among Israel and Judah and found among the early Christian church are told aren’t focused on getting all the details of history, life, events lined up historically.  But, just like parables, they are aimed at being told in a way that shake up our status quo, uncomfortably push us outside of our expectations of how life ought to work, so we can see our lives and world with new eyes.   Reading Scripture in this way is mystical reading, reading Scripture to help us confront the truths of our own lives, our world, and how meaning exists in them we often fail to see.   As we let these stories call into question our assumptions about life, we are forced to change our relationship to how we have always lived.   Like Jesus’ parables, if we read Scripture mystically we let it challenge us, shock us, transform us.

That is the role of Scripture.

We are challenged by this Psalm not to cast aside the old, old story as irrelevant but to read it for what it is – an invitation to consider what life looks like when we see its relationship to the rhythm at the heart of existence, a rhythm which believers feel is a heartbeat that echoes due to the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit who is with, in, through, and under all things as the One who breathes life into every creature.    We are invited to see ourselves in these stories, and enter a living conversation in which the Sacred One can open our hearts, our eyes, our ears, our mind to a new awareness.

Read in this way, the stories of Scripture are like a floodlight upon our world, helping reveal things hidden in our hearts, our relationships, and communities.

I for one have grown as a person by reading Scripture in this way.  I invite you to find yourself in these Sacred stories and let them speak to your life, challenging you to a deeper level of humanity, one centered on compassion, lovingkindness, justice, and deep connection with the One at the center of all things, through whom you can discover a deeper harmony with all living things, all people, and all of creation.

And I ain’t whistling Dixie here,

Your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotional: Not Buying into the Lies of Empire

empire babylon2 Kings 18:28-37

Here we see the representative of empire coming to Israel, making the promise that empire makes: give up your freedom, your independence, your right to your community, your spirituality, and you will get so much. You will get wealth. You will get comfort. You will get numbness to the pain of the world.

In fact he describes them being brought to a promised land of sorts, with water, land, food, and wealth.

Yet the author makes it clear the offer empire gives us is a lie.

It is a lie for no amount of wealth can replace the twisting our soul takes under imposition of control opope consumerismver our freedom. It is a lie because land, food, and wealth is meaningless when devoid of community, enriching relationships. It is a lie because what is described as peace is in fact numbness and blindness, becoming inoculated against seeing the suffering of others all around us and losing touch with our connection with each other & the earth.

This text is challenging to me. To be honest, I know in many ways I buy the lies of empire all the time.

I sure do love my air conditioning, my internet, my electricity, and I do let it numb me to the experience of those without a roof over their head, those forced to work tirelessly in the fields in the heat so I can have my morning coffee, those whose hands are burned and scarred from working in sweatshops to build my IPhone.

stephen-barnwell-empire-of-america-moneyI do love the freedom my car, my internet, my cell phone gives me and some days the bright lights of those devices sure do make it easy to numb myself to the yearning emptiness that emerges as I let them pull me away from real face-to-face relationships and community with others.

I am finding I have to intentionally say “no” to these temptations. Though I cannot leave the empire of the American capitalist-industrialist system in which I am a part, I can change how I relate to it. I can pull back from the anesthetizing effects on me, changing my relationship to the constant noise and to the ways technology tempt me out of real relationship. I empire americaalso can think of ways that my purchasing can be more mindful, my eating more just, and my ways of interacting with life ways that connect more to other people and more to this good earth. I can also raise my awareness about the experience of those our American empire leaves out, and explore what I can do to be a part of changing that.

I am not there yet.   But I am learning.

How have you learned to see the ways you buy into the lies of empire? How are you beginning to say no to them?

Your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotional: Jesus Didn’t Underestimate Women; Neither Should We

mary magdalene kinda native american lookingMark 15:40-47

It is interesting in this scene right after Jesus’ crucifixion to see whom among the disciples stay faithfully by Jesus: “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome”, whom the Gospel writer calls collectively “the women”.

There is a practical side to this.  Except for ones like Nicodemus (who also stays by Jesus’s side, even contributing some land for Jesus to be buried) who is a secret disciples, all the men scatter.   A part of why the women disciples can stay by Jesus’s side is they are not viewed as a threat.   The Romans, with their machismo culture, cannot imagine a group of women taking up arms and threatening the status quo even though the Sacred traditions of Judaism describe just such acts – with powerful women of faith like Deborah who organizes the army of Israel to defend against their oppressors, like Jael who like a spy uses her feminine wiles to kill the head of the enemy army, like Judith who likewise uses her gifts as a middle eastern mary magdalenewoman to kill the unsuspecting man.  But just like many men of the Jewish culture these women are a part of and many men throughout history, the Romans only expect the male disciples to take up arms, to fight, to be a threat.

In fact, in truth, too often we ignore these female disciples altogether, acting as if the only people taught the way of Jesus by Christ are the 12 male apostles, and that only they go out with Christ’s messages as missionaries, teachers, servants in the New Testament.  But the New Testament and the early church is littered with accounts of women of faith who speak with power and authority, who serve with love and justice, continuing the work of Jesus in the world.  I think of Lydia.  I think of Mary Magdalene, remembered in many Christian traditions as a teacher and apostle in her own right.  I think of the “beloved mother and her children” that the black mary magdaleneelder John writes to in one of his letters, who appears to be a woman who pastors a church that meets in her home in Asia Minor.  I think of Priscila who, together with her husband, teach the Scriptures in the book of Acts.  Her name is listed first, a key sign that she is teacher and her husband follows her lead.  Her teaching helps Apollos, a Jewish student of John the Baptist, come to understand the role of Christ in his life.  God uses her to educate, inform, and correct a man.

Perhaps one of the most interesting accounts of such women is the Syrophoenician woman whos child Jesus heals in the Gospels.  Jesus adamently, perhaps rudely, lets her know his mission is to Israel and his own people.  She corrects him, telling her story.  Jesus appears shaken by this, heals her and then begins to go among the non-Jewish communities in Israel teaching and healing, just as much as he does the Jewish communities.   This woman’s words teach the ultimate Teacher, show God as man with men & women to dwell more clearly his path.   Seeing how Jesus is willing to be taught by a woman from a culture his community despises, shows me the ways in which our history of devaluing women dishonors the God who made them and the Jesus who both chose them as his disciples and was willing not just to let them sit at his feet and learn, but also to sit at their feet and learn from them.

And so these women stay by Jesus’s side, remaining faithful to this one who had believed in them in saint-mary-magdalenea world that did not believe in them.   Is it no wonder then that they are the first ones to experience resurrection, discovering his tomb emptied and his body no longer present and somehow witnessing Jesus transformed from dead teacher to risen, living, undying Christ.  They became the first apostles, which means ones sent forth with Good News.  Though full of fear they boldly will proclaim after that experience “He is risen!”

The male disciples will at first not believe, but later open up as those women had remained open, so that they too can experience resurrection and in their souls have the veil pierced enabling them to see too that the Jesus they loved has transformed from failed reformer, dead and buried, to risen Savior, living Christ, who is even now gone ahead of them continuing His work of transformation and inviting them and us to such work.

Growing up I was a part of a religious tradition that somehow overlooked this message.  It taught only men could speak and lead in the church.  It taught a woman’s place was in the home, submitting to her husband.  And instead of saying submission was a mutual practice of husband and wife putting each other’s needs on equal footing to their own, they taught submission was a woman quietly obeying their husband’s will.   They taught rules about what a woman could wear, how she could do her hair, how she could dress, which I imagine must have taught women to view their bodies with shame and fear.  I have since found this is all very common in conservative religious communities of all denominations and faiths, where the focus of religion is not spiritual communion with inner & social transformation, but adherance to rigid external rules.

African version of Jesus with Mary in GardenWhen I began to read the Gospels for myself, I began to see the liberating example of Jesus who continually broke glass ceilings, recognizing the value of women, their worth and power.  I saw the way the Holy Spirit, whose name “Spirit” in Hebrew is feminine and is pictured as a mother bird taking us like her chicks under her wings throughout Scripture, continues to liberate women, helping them discover their power, and causing them to shine.

And I remember my upbringing – and the heartache I’ve seen such abusive approaches to women experience.  I think of women I met battered emotionally, with physical scars from hands roughly beating them, when I worked at a domestic violence shelter.  I hear in the news of the horrible plight so many women & girls go through every day.  I see folks in power trying to clamp down on centers which protect women’s health, give women options, and support mothers, daughters, and children. And I realize Jesus’ work of helping women discover their worth, their power, their voice is not over.

I am reminded I am called to go forth with the risen Christ as He goes ahead with the Mothering Spirit’s wings about Him to cooperate with Jesus in that work.   We are all so called.  I also need to learn to shut my mouth at times, like the Syrophoenician woman shut Jesus’ mouth with her words, and like Christ listen to the voice of women, hearing their wisdom and not assuming I know their needs.  I and other men need to learn that humility.

Let us hear the Spirit and Her wisdom, no longer being barriers to each other, trusting the Spirit to be able to give women the wisdom, power, words, and strength Scripture shows us the Spirit always does.

Let’s do it together.

And I sure ain’t whistling Dixie,

Your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotional: Beyond Rules to Relationship, Beyond Duty to Love

jesus resurrection appearance5Mark 10:1-16

In this Gospel reading, Jesus calls us beyond what the law says into the spirit of God’s will. Throughout his ministry, Jesus took on the prophetic prerogative to call his hearers beyond what the text of Biblical law commanded to the spirit behind it. So we see in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 that Jesus says “for you have heard that it is said”, followed by a quote either of a Biblical law itself or its orthodox interpretation in his day, then with Jesus saying “but I tell you” some very different interpretation of the principle behind that law.

At times this new interpretation overturns the literal meaning of the law. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus overturns the rules of holy war which call for the death and destruction of the people deemed “enemies”. He calls for a deeper adherence to the Shema at the heart of his Jewish faith and of today the faith of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and all people of the Book: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus calls to a deeper application of this core truth that lies at the heart not just of these Biblical faiths but all true spirituality.   This deeper application is in recognizing that those whom we experience as adversaries are in fact our neighbors, also children of the same Creator deserving of love and respect. This deeper application calls for working to heal the breaches that divide humanity through acts of love, work of reconciliation, and the cause of justice rather than as in the Mosaic rules of holy war eradicating the one we experience as adversary.

Love without conditions MertonIn this example of Jesus doing this same prophetic reinterpretation but in regards to the Mosaic law of divorce, Jesus makes clear why he is able to do such an act.   At first glance, these texts of Scripture appear to be God’s very words to us. After all, do not the authors and editors of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy all tell us “the Lord said” as they begin their list of laws? Yet Jesus is clear: Many of these laws are not God’s intent, God’s unending word. Rather some are accommodations to human frailty, short-sightedness, prejudice, and stubbornness. Such accommodations tell us less about God than they do the authors of the texts and their audience. Those laws which Jesus redefines, like the law of divorce and the laws of holy war, are just such laws. They are accommodations to human frailty.

This shows on the one hand that, unlike the religious zealots and law-keepers of our day, God is not first and foremost interested in our moral performance but in a real relationship with us.   Instead of waiting until we reach a level of moral and spiritual evolution to see things from God’s perspective, let alone an ability to live without shortsightedness, prejudice, and failure to live up to God’s commands or hopes to have a relationship with us, God meets us where we are. Seen in this way the vexing complex of ancient laws recorded in Scriptures need not be a barrier to God, as those who try to make them into a rigid mold we must be forced into in order to earn Gods’ favor make them, but instead a testament just like God’s entrance into human life in Jesus that God is most interested in a real, authentic relationship with us. To have a relationship with another that is true and genuine, we must be willing to accept them where they are, to love them not for whom we wish they were, but for who they are. And so God is willing to meet us in our frailty, our prejudice, our confusion, not accepting these as good but accepting us as loveable and worth the risk.   God knows that a relationship of love with our Creator itself will ignite a fire in we God’s children which will bit by bit transform us, growing us out of our stubborn prejudices into the people God knows we can be.

helping hands 2This suggests to me I need to learn a holy patience with people whose actions, beliefs, and pronouncements strike me as horribly short-sighted, prejudiced, and damaging. It does not mean I need to agree with them or accept them but let us be honest there are those all of us experience as such in our families, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, and in our churches.   I need to not give up on such ones, nor sit in judgment of them as they may sit in judgment of me. Rather as God does with us, I need to recognize that (when it is safe to do so) me seeking an honest, genuine, loving relationship with them as neighbor, co-worker, family member, friends, fellow church member may be the very thing that, like God’s relationship with Israel and us, helps fuel the fires of transformation.   I need to recognize that under all the layers of bristly barriers to others glows the glistening spark of divine glory in them too that is the image of God which lies in all people.   Learning to respond with love is the only way forward, even though it may make me uncomfortable, while also being true to our own experiences and convictions.

I am reminded myself of how I moved from the conservative perspective of my upbringing, which viewed women as second-place in the church and world, which held gay and lesbian people to be deep in sin, and which viewed other religions as necessarily cutting others off from God & truth. What moved me out of this closed off mindset? It was love is lovegenuine relationships with people different than me, who demonstrated the love of God in their lives – women who led by God’s power, gay and lesbian people of faith, and people of other faiths full of the light of God in their own way. The real authentic relationships we shared transformed my perspective so that I was able to see them for who they are in God, laying aside the prejudices I had been raised in.

Being people willing to maintain relationships of love and compassion on the level we are able with those in very different places is imitating the path God has taken for us, and opening both yourself and them to deep transformation.

The other side of this truth Jesus demonstrates is the need to move beyond treating the Bible as a book of laws. Jesus is showing us the point of Biblical teaching is not to show us an ironclad list of do’s and don’ts but instead to open us the a living way, a winding path with many different ways of travelling but yet which has as its center the heart of love, of compassion, of justice.

Sadly too often today we take Jesus’ words and the writings of the apostles we find in the New Testament and elsewhere and try to spin together a new tapestry of laws to bind people. I knew a lady who was a friend of my mother growing up who had this very text I’m reading turned into that.   A preacher she had known had called her relationship with her husband an abomination, calling her to leave him though married for many years because before she married him she had divorced. That church caused her and her children great harm, by treating Jesus’ words not as an opening up to a new relationship with law and justice but instead a new law.

Jesus is not giving us a new set of laws, nor are the apostles. They are calling us to open our eyes to see the law behind the law, which exists not as a set of code but like the law of nature, a way of moving in the world.   The law of nature is seamstressless like a set of rules written on paper and more like an ever-moving dance of particles, planets, living things, constantly in motion but in rhythms that can be anticipated and joined.   So there is a rhythm to life at the heart of all being which Jesus is pulling away the outer coating of religious life to reveal. It is joining in that rhythm that Jesus is calling us to.

At heart of that rhythm is not, I believe, divorce and remarriage in the sense it exists today but rather – are we faithful people? Do we do our part to make our relationships, both marriage and other relationships, work? Or do we cast people aside when things get difficult? Jesus’ goal is not to bind people up in their pasts, keeping divorced folks stuck forever for the choices of their pasts. Nor is it to keep people stuck in bad relationships when, having done their part, the relationship cannot be salvaged. It is instead to shake up our status quo and invite us to view these relationships in a new way.

In all of our life’s relationships – whether romantic, church, or business – this is a call that transform us if we hear it. Let us open our ears, open our hearts, and let our feet move with action in answer to this call.

And I ain’t whistling Dixie here,

Your progressive redneck preacher,