Daily Devotional: Know You are Held, Carried, Nourished, & Never Forsaken

mother holding baby 1Psalm 131 is an image of utter trust.   The child does not cry or raise a raucous for that newborn rests upon her mother’s breasts, wrapped tight in her arms.   She is surrounded by security, has all the nourishment she needs. She is held and protected.

Often what may appear like occupying ourselves with matters to great for us is us living as if it is all up to us, out of a kind of deep insecurity.   Yet in the center of our life is this same love.   The word for Spirit in both Greek and Hebrew comes from the word for breath. The Spirit (ruach, a feminine word in Hebrew) is closer to us than the breath in our lungs, the wind on our face. Like a mother holds her infant close, so God the Holy Spirit ever embraces us while God the Creator, the Christ, the Spirit say to us “you are my child, the one whom I love, in you I am well pleased”. Go through this day and all your days knowing whatever you face and whatever you go through, you are held. You are embraced. You are alove. Never alone you can face whatever lies before you.

And I sure ain’t whistling Dixie, your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotional: Answering God’s Call to Be Prophets of a Better World

john baptizerMatthew 3:1-12

I always find the picture of John the Baptizer in the Gospels a striking one. To me he is the quintessential prophet.   His life pictures the life of the prophet in every age and time:

First his message transcends religion. We see this in who records and remembers it. Early Christians wrote the Gospels telling the life of Jesus which necessarily include the life of Jesus’ mentor John the Baptizer.   Though we don’t know if they viewed themselves as a different religion than the Judaism John practiced when they wrote the Gospels, very quickly Christianity became its own religion. Today it is mainly Christians following the life of John the Baptizer. But also I find Muslims also read the story of Jesus, as they revere him as a prophet, and are drawn into John’s story.

john baptizer 3A prophet’s message transcends the bounds of the organized religion of their day. The have insights through mystical encounter with God which reveal religion to be what it is: a set of props. Masks used to represent and point to the face of God, without being the face itself.   Rituals which act like plays, re-enacting the move of God in history to help point us to the movement of God in our lives, but which if they do not do so are just so many empty gestures.   Prayers that, yes, can invite us to deep encounter with the Sacred in our whole lives and the Sacred in others but which also can be just hot air which we blow out in our fancy words in order to weave a barrier to hide from our eyes and the eyes of others our moral emptiness.

And so John can up-end religious tradition, calling people who have gone through the motions of the worship of Judaism their whole lives into the bathing ritual reserved for those who are converting to faith in the God of Scripture and Israel from lives empty of knowledge of this God.   It is a powerful statement that moving through the motions is not enough, without in our own hearts and lives having that reality birthed.

In every faith and culture those raised up by God as prophets have brought such a message. In Islam, I cannot but think of Rumi who in his stirring poetry raised an image of God as Divine Love that draws all rumi quotepeople & creation into union. In language reminiscent of John’s language of fiery judgment on religion, this Muslim mystic said he to not look for God in mosques and temples: they do not on their own hold God as a dwelling, for if God does not dwell in your own heart God is not there but if you through faith discover God in your own God you can see God anywhere. It reminds me of the words of Kierkegaard who questioned who was truly experiencing God – the dignified worshipper of Christ at church who voiced all the “right” words of faith on Sunday morning but whose heart remained untouched or the one who worshipped the idols of non-Biblical faiths which his contemporaries viewed as superstition but did so with the intensity of infinity?   He was suggesting a reality behind the outward symbols of religion which those religious symbols point to, which is what we are invited to encounter and yet without which the symbols are all empty, pointless.

This prophetic vision calls for a life of social justice. When Matthew quotes Isaiah about making paths straight, it is a prophecy of God working through individuals to create a great levelling. Every age has its rumi quote 2great haves and have-not’s, where the resources of life which God gives to be freely and equally available to all now are held in the ownership and power of a select few.   One cannot stand on the heap of the pyramid of human life without crushing someone – usually many someones – underfoot.   This vision of Isaiah in whose steps John walks is one we see expressed in many other prophets in our time. I think of St Hildegard of Bingen who broke with the convention of the Middle Ages which, against the Biblical example of women preachers like Deborah and Priscilla and Junia, told women they most be quiet and not speak out. In that world, Hildegard publically preached, proclaiming the insight her mystical encounters with Christ gave her, envisioning a world where humanity joins the Holy Spirit in Her mothering work of greening all creation not forcibly ripping its resources in a rape-like way from the Earth’s body. She cried out against the men of her day who used power as nobles and as church leaders to crush underfoot the poor and in so doing the torment the earth and the greening Holy Spirit who dwells within all life.   I think of Gandhi who called for a radical reorganization of life in India where empire ended and all women & men are recognized as equal and equally bearers of the divine. I think

Servant of God Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement and its newspaper, The Catholic Worker, is depicted in a stained-glass window at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in the Staten Island borough of New York. Day was received into the Catholic church at Our Lady Help of Christians in 1927 at age 30. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) (Dec. 21, 2012) See DAY-SAINT and DAY-LIFE Dec. 21, 2012.

Servant of God Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement and its newspaper, The Catholic Worker, is depicted in a stained-glass window at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in the Staten Island borough of New York. Day was received into the Catholic church at Our Lady Help of Christians in 1927 at age 30. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) (Dec. 21, 2012) See DAY-SAINT and DAY-LIFE Dec. 21, 2012.

of Dorothy Day who called out for recognition of workers as not deserving being crushed under foot by the wealthy captains of industry. I think of Dr. King and Desmond Tutu who called for an end to racial oppression by means of systems of segregation, oppression, and marginalization. John like them speaks out against the system of economic oppression inherent in the Roman rule and the religious practitioners of his day who had to accommodate this oppression in order to keep their place in society.

This flows from an alternate vision of the world, in which the power structures and patterns of piety are revealed to be empty and toxic when removed from a connection with Spirit that produces justice. And so John sees a vision of a blazing fire coming soon to tear down the structures of society, revealing their emptiness and also revealing new ground upon which a new world can build.   Although such prophet’s words can be misunderstood into a kind of apocalypticism which makes people fear the end of the world and life itself, in truth the judgment is never so much against people and the end never of all life but always the end is of the structures and systems which destroy life, destroy harmony and community, and oppress.   In this way John’s vision is like Martin Luther King’s dream. A dream of universal brotherhood and sisterhood unites them all – and all true prophets of God – but the way to such brotherhood and sisterhood coming is a tearing down of every barrier to them. That always feels like fire and destruction, for it comes at the pain of laying aside cherished beliefs, practices, systems, and ways of relating.   Those will fall – either through us willingly embracing personal and social change or through them falling by collapsing on their own weight. For structures built on the few thriving on the pain of the many are not sustainable.

The way forward is modeled by John and by many of the prophets of history. The way forward is a path of downward mobility, of renunciation. John lives is a man of the wilderness, living off the land, and not buying into the structures of wealth and power. Yet his father is a well to do priest, who works as a part of the temple establishment which survives by accommodating religion to allow for Roman oppression and for ripping off the poor.   John had to give up comfort, give up stability, give up many treasured aspects of his life, to be able to receive this vision of unity, harmony, which his experience of God gave him.

The same has been true of other prophets as well.   Francis of Assisi’s vision of God was actualized by renouncing a life of wealth, living among the poor as one who is poor.   Jesus gives up the work of his earthly father of a carpenter to become a wandering preacher, living among the poor of Palestine. The Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment only after giving up the wealth and security of nobility.

john baptizer 2The path John paves calls and challenges us all. It is not that all of us must become poor, but rather we must be willing to lay aside our securities. Our notions of ought and right. You see, we are part of the problem, a part of what keeps the universal vision of the prophets which Jesus called the realm or kingdom of God from bursting forth – a vision of universal human brotherhood & sisterhood, of lives that heal the earth, of creativity rather than chaos & violence. We hold onto notions and practices that support systems of oppression, patterns of marginalization, and ways of destroying life itself.   The many who choose to be baptized by John do not enter lives in the wilderness as John does but they commit to begin to change their pattern of life, so that in small and big ways they start to create tiny ripples of healing in the world.

We have to do the same. It might be hard to quit only having friendships of people like us, but if we put aside our commitment to feel safe a little bit and build friendships with people in a different class, of a different race or religion, of a different sexuality or gender expression than our own, we will come to see ourselves & our world differently. If we choose to put away the rhetoric of violence or war, trying to learn the practices of peacemaking in our small ways we might not stop armed conflict, but we might add push to the voices calling for less armed conflict in the world and create a space of safety in our families, our homes, our offices, our schools.

I could go on.

But the call of Acts 2 is that all of us can like John become prophets in our own small ways, by pushing beyond the outward forms of religion to encounter Spirit for ourselves both within ourselves and also outside – in nature, and in others. We can be voices calling for the building of a better world here and now, and hands and feet of God working to make small changes to build that better world.

That’s a call worth hearing. It’s worth answering. Let’s do our small part today.

And I ain’t whistling Dixie!

Your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotional: It Ain’t About Having Things Figured out, but Doing the Next Right Thing

who touched meMark 5:21-43

“Who touched me?” Jesus asks in this account of multiple healings.

So often we imagine Jesus as this holy know-it-all, who is full of God-like omniscience. Yet the Scripture and Christian tradition continues attest Jesus is as the old hymn says “God as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel”.   Jesus is fully human, and being human this side of the veil means being limited. It means not knowing all the answers, not having it all figured out. It means questioning, doubting. It means becoming tired and frustrated.

So we see Jesus in a moment of uncertainty.   He knows God has used His life to bless another. He felt God’s power surge through his body. And yet he does not know who He blessed, nor how. And yet bless them He did.

A road leading to a question mark symbolizing uncertainty and doubtTo me this is so encouraging. Sometimes I feel very uncertain. I am not sure what to do to answer the call of Christ around me. My own life can be topsy-turvy with the way uncertain. If I don’t know what to do for me, how can I be there for you?   I can be full of fear, questions, with the way ahead unclear apparently and be right where I needed to be. This is one of many occasions in the Gospels where Jesus expresses not knowing and uncertainty.

Early Christians looked at this and said what God becomes, God heals.   So God entering into our uncertainty, our not-knowing, our confusion, surprise, and fear shows us that these need not be just places where we are lost, unmoored, feeling cut off from God. They can also, as with Jesus, be right where God wants us to be. And we can walk away from these times of uncertainty looking back at countless people who we, like Jesus, blessed without knowing we were or even really realizing what we are doing.

The key is giving up the need to have things figured out. Sometimes we will say “I will start to do that next right thing holy uncertainty 2when I have figured out my own life”.   Though a part of that statement is worthwhile – not overcommitting yourself – there is a part that is unrealistic.   The time is always ripe to do what is right.   We never on this side of the veil ever fully arrive. If we wait to be a blessing until our lives are fully figured out we never will. For if Jesus, God made flesh, didn’t fully arrive nor always fully understood where his life was heading nor whom He was blessing, we won’t either.

But like Jesus we can choose to do the right thing, to be fully ourselves and fully engaged in the moment before us, even when we are uncertain and the way unclear.   If we do this, we will find ourselves blessing people we would not expect, healing brokenness we didn’t know was there, and having people come up to us saying “you touched me” whom we never realized we did.

Let’s choose to be present even in the midst of uncertainty, embracing the moment before us and the people alongside us.

And I ain’t whisting Dixie,

Your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotional: The Power of Porch Sittin’ in a Marathon World

rocking chairs on porchPsalm 131 is a picture of perfect contentment.

As mystics like Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen envisioned, starting with the prophet Isaiah, the Living God is pictured like a mother holding us close to her bed, cradling us in life.   Just as a child is quieted and soothed by this experience of being held close to the beating heart of their mother, so we need to let ourselves experience being held, being lift up, being cradled by the Sacred One whose heartbeat flows through all of life.

Often the message I get from the world around me, whether from the media, from the messages I heard growing up about what a “real man” looks like that I still carry with me, from the pressure of bosses and coworkers, from the syllabus for class or the calendar of to do lists, is that I need to carry. I need to man up. I need to carry my load. I need to buck up and just do what needs to be done. Yet if that voice alone is the one I listen to, I find myself exhausted, drained, and heartsick.

mother-and-childThe promise not just of Scripture but of what Richard Rohr calls the “perennial tradition” at the heart of all life-giving spiritual traditions of every faith and land is that we are more than grunt laborers, more than automatons working to hold up the ever-grinding image of economies.   No we are at heart each people of infinite worth, deserving of love and compassion. Each spiritual tradition envisions this differently, but in the Christian tradition the image is that the Ultimate Reality known by many names but called by us “God” is best known more as a Parent loving a child, a Lover embracing her beloved, a Friend defending his circle of friends even to the death.   Ultimately, the Christian message is that we are loved, beloved.   Our worth is not based on our output, based on our material success. We have intrinsic worth. Just as you might look at your newborn child and value it, love it, embrace it not for its list of successes or failures – which it has not had time to have yet – but simply because it is your child, so God looks at us all with the eyes of love saying over each of us the same words spoken over Jesus in the Gospels — “This is my Child, the one whom I love, in whom I am well-pleased”.

To be able to sustain our lives with all of their responsibilities and trials, we have to take time to pause, to stop going along with the ever-turning seemingly ceaseless grinding of the wheels of “you must do” which we often seem locked into. We need to take time to experience ourselves as ones full of worth and value, not because of our output but because of our intrinsic worth, simply because we are ourselves. We are children of the King, Queen, or Ruler of Creation, infinitely loved.

meditation+dogs+do+it+too_99a07b_3753826One of the things I’ve begun to do to help me with this is a daily meditation practice. In meditation, I stop from the constant focus on what I must do and accomplish and what is lacking in my life. I simply am. I simply focus on my life, on this moment, and on the God who is ever present.   As a lifelong southerner, I find myself drawn to do this not in a traditional lotus position like the mystics of the East but on an old fashioned rocking chair. Yes, I do meditation on a rocking chair with a Mason Jar of sweet tea, thank you very much. I am convinced from that experience that my southern ancestors, poor farmers all who lived close to the earth, were onto something with their sitting on the porch in a rocking chair at the end of the day. There is something to the motion of my body while meditating that reminds me of being rocked as a little child in my mother’s arms.   I am reminded through that meditation that, as this psalm shows me, whatever tasks lie ahead of me and whatever list of oughts are before me, I am still in the eyes of that Living God a precious child, whose worth lies in simply being and being loved. I am reminded that ultimately I am held, held by arms more capable than my own.   Though I must do what lies before me, my worth is not bound up in success and failure. My worth lies in the fact that each moment, however I succeed or fail in the eyes of the world, the One whose heartbeat makes the universe with its galaxies and planets dance in all their orbits is unceasingly looking at me with the eyes of love saying “You are my Child whom I love, in whom I am well-pleased”.

sweet teaKnowing this in your soul is essential. Your spiritual practice may not be rocking chair meditation and your drink of choice not be sweet tea from a Mason jar, but finding ways daily to connect with your identity as one with intrinsic worth, deserving of being loved, deserving of compassion from yourself and others is key.   You may not be a southerner, or even a Christian, but finding the practices that help your rediscover each day that worth will help you sustain your life and reinvigorate your soul.

It is more than just such seemingly spiritual practices as meditation or prayer. Sadly in the West we tend to think of the world of spirit and of flesh, of life-giving awareness and earthy concerns, as separate. So we may see practices like jogging, fishing, laughing, going to a play, writing a poem, working a garden, enjoying our family and friends, as essentially non-spiritual or non-religious.

I think though that these practices, too, can help us renew our sense of worth, value, and push pause on the often crushing tyranny of the oughts. I think for Christians this is modeled in our Scriptures.

It is modelled by Jesus who is often found gathered with friends, food and wine in hand, celebrating his life and theirs.   What’s more, it is modeled by a Jesus who often right when the list of oughts before him is the longest leaves the crowd to lonely places simply to be, because he knew that even as God with men & women as humanity to dwell He could not sustain the life of compassion He had come to model without maintaining his own sense of being Beloved, Valuable, of Worth.

I think this is why in the Jewish tradition in which the Christian Old Testament was composed and in which Christianity emerged perhaps the most central spiritual practice is the keeping of Sabbath. Unique in the ancient world the people of God were taught to break the tyranny of the oughts one day in seven, taking one day in which no back-breaking work was to be done. The responsibility was not that day to meet quotas for work, to clean the house, or even to go to church (for the Sabbath command has no mention of going to temple or synagogue for worship).   Instead it is to do as God did. In the priestly creation myth of Genesis 1 shared by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike after 6 days of busy labor, God’s final act of creation is to rest. It is not because God is tired, but because God is modeling the need to take time to delight in the life you have been given. So on day 6, God watches the beauty of the animals, walks in the cool of the garden, listens to the songs of the bird, and takes time to simply enjoy what is and be enjoyed by creation. pruning  This practice is not considered a binding rule for Christians in the New Testament to avoid it becoming just another task on our list of oughts, but the principle stands: in order to not lose sight of who we are, we must take regular breaks from the business and strain of the many to do list’s in our lives, simply to delight in life.   This delight may be in simple daily activities like gardening, going to the bowling alley, painting, listening to music, or playing with a child. But embracing the delight in your life and the lives of others is a spiritual practice and, as a way of keeping the principle of Sabbath rest, an act of worship.

How do you find ways to put breaks on the breakneck pace of life and hear that voice that calls you Beloved?   I’d love to hear your way of finding peace in life’s storms.

Tell me, while I sit and rock a while, Mason Jar in hand.

Your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotional: What Putting Things in God’s Hands Does and Does Not Mean

jesus holds the worldPsalm 31 invites us to recognize when it is time to place a situation in God’s hands.   Often times our desire to be in control, to determine the outcome of a situation, can make us soul-sick. No amount of planning and hard work on our part can determine the outcome of our loved one’s illness or surgery. And though we can do the hard work of pouring ourselves into our relationships, even doing therapy and counseling with our partner or spouse, ultimately whether they choose to do their part or to decide our relationship is over is up to them.

For me at least giving up that control and saying “God it is in your hands” is so difficult. I imagine it is because of ways I’ve seen people I trusted let me down, including myself letting me down. Also I’ve seen how the phrase “put it in God’s hands” has been misused by some to teach a learned helplessness in the language of faith to make people dependent on church leaders to tell them where to go and what to believe.

Yet there is a powerful truth in this phrase too. In truth, all you can control is your own choices and how you choose to react to situations.   You can and should do all you can to bring positive, healing, liberating energy into the situations you face. You should do the most you can to bring the best of yourself to the table and to strive to be all you can be in life. But in the end of the day so much even with your contribution cannot be anticipated or controlled. This is why we must recognize that is not the false choice of doing nothing waiting for God to do it all for us, or it all laying on our shoulders. Rather God calls us to partnership. We do what we can, yet lay all of the situation in God’s hands.

bicycleI am reminded of a story a spiritual author from another religious tradition told. His little boy wanted a bike. He worked hard, did extra chores, did odd jobs in the neighborhood. He took all he earned and put in in a giant jar. After months of working he brought the giant jar. The boy beamed with pride. “Do I have enough to buy the bike, daddy?” He didn’t of course. The bike was a couple of hundred bucks and after many, many months he’d earned around $50. The dad, however, smiled and recommended a partnership. “You’ve worked so hard and I am so proud. Why don’t you put some of your money in, and I’ll help with the rest?”

You see ultimately it is such a partnership God invites us into. On our own we don’t have the strength, will, and fore-thought to navigate all that is before us. But God places in us sparks of wisdom, creativity, confidence, and compassion through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God calls us to do all we can – however seemingly feeble or insignificant in our eyes or others.   God beams with pride at our efforts, and let’s us know “I’m here. I will also do what I can.   Together, we can do this for you are never alone”.

Realize God calls you not to flounder alone and afraid, nor to wear yourself out doing more than you can. Rather God promises – I’m here. If you do what you can, I will do my part, which is even more. You are never alone. Together, we can do this.

I don’t know about you. But that’s good news to me.

Your progressive redneck preacher,


Daily Devotion: Embracing Worship that Breathes Life into ourselves, others, and God’s world

whalesPsalm 148 invites all creatures that live and breathe on earth, in the skies, the seas, and heavens to join in a song of praise.

Placing our praise and worship of God in the context of the community of creation is really a recurring theme in Scripture.   Genesis 1 places the central act of Hebrew worship – Shabbat, or Sabbath, the resting from work one day in seven previously a celebration of God freeing Israel from slavery – into the context of creation. God rested on the seventh day, so when the people of Israel worship by joining in Shabbat they are finding their place in creation, in nature, alongside the many hued and sized creatures of earth, sky, and sea and alongside the creating God. Likewise in Colossians, Romans, and black sacred heart of jesusEphesians the work of Christ which opens up the Sabbath rest of those of us who identify as followers of Christ is identified as redeeming not just we erring humans but all of struggling hurting creation from the smallest ants to the largest whale, from the smallest atom to the swirling galaxies. When worship is described in Revelation in terms of “singing a new song” it is seen as the people of God joining in the songs of angel, archangel, and heavenly creatures.

This sets a context for our acts of worship. There was a time I remember hearing friends who were not people of faith questioning “Why would God command you to worship Him?   If He’s so great, how is His ego so small that he needs the constant patting on the bag of a bunch of fanboys and fangirls?”

I have to admit a part of me winced when I heard that. I’d grown up being taught on my grandma’s knee cosmic christto thank and praise God for God’s gifts.   It made as much sense to me as breathing, but that question brought up something I’d never thought of. Why should I praise and thank God?   It didn’t make sense for God to need my thanks. That would make God an insecure, needy guy not an all-loving, all-powerful Creator. Such a god would not be worthy of the all-caps title “God” let alone my worship.

To me texts like Psalm 148 and the others I list remind me that God does not need our worship.   We, however, need to worship. We need to find ways to connect ourselves with the great dance of life which is all about us. Other creatures, so far all most of us have encountered are creatures that by nature join the dance. They by instinct and genetics (and apparently through epigenetics) find the role in life they were created for.   When they do, their life and the life of others around them flourish.

But unless the visions of angels mystics have had and of aliens some contemporaries report are literally true (and who knows if they are or are not?) we are alone in the world of the nature we’ve experienced galaxiesas being able to opt out of the cycle of nature, the patterns of life.   God created us as co-creators with God, with the potential to participate in the shaping of our world, in the building of beauty, in the healing of nature. Our artwork, our music, our parks and farms, our beautiful buildings and some of our technology, are part of this co-creating. Scientists tell us even our beloved dogs are a part of this co-creation, having co-evolved with us when we began to domesticate them into breeds that barely resemble God’s original design. I’m thankful for puppies, and think they are a picture of the great potential when we use our freedom to co-create with God in ways that birth beauty.

Yet this same potential allows us to opt out of the dance of life, to push against it, using our freedom in ways that tear apart the fabric of life in small and big ways. We see this in our creating the atom bomb, chemical warfare, mass genocide. We see it in how we have put to waste the earth and as mentioned in the book The Sixth Extinction have warped nature so that we have polluted the earth, causing a mass species die-off.   The consequences for losing our place in the dance of life which God invites us into are drastic.

sixth extinctionWorship is not just about saying gratitude to God but learning to sit in wonder before God, the gifts of life and freedom God gives us and all creation. It is learning to see ourselves as a part of a web of life that was woven by the One pictured in Scriptures like Psalm 139 as the great Weaver-Woman God. It is learning to find our place in the pattern of life which God has woven into the core of creation.

At times singing hymns, prayers, and having ceremonies actually deaden us to this. Let’s not forget that often it is people of faith, including Christians, who are careless to the earth, to other creatures, and to our neighbors. In fact we Christians and people of Abrahamic faiths have some blame in twisting the texts that speak of our place in creation to argue not for our need to be care-takers who preserve the diversity of creation but instead to be ones who use it heartlessly for ourselves.

True worship can include hymn-singing, prayers, and ceremonies.   At its heart thought is beginning to see that golden thread that flows through and is woven into every life, uniting all of creation.   Scripture Jesus Redeemer of All Creationtells us that this life that unites us all is an expression of the Holy Spirit in whom we live and move and have our being. Seeing ourselves as interconnected with all creation through worship whether that is ancient prayers, contemporary songs, or simply sitting at the sea side or on the mountain peaks in awe of God’s creation draws us into becoming one’s committed to helping embrace life in the midst of death, healing of creation and people in the midst of decay, and working to curb death-dealing practices that increase pollution for ones that help heal our earth and ourselves.

Let us learn to embrace such worship, worship that sets us free, that sets other’s free, that helps free our earth and all creation.

Your progressive preacher,


Daily Devotional: There is No Quick Fix For Changing our Life

altar call 2Acts 13:44-52

One of the things I remember vividly is the first altar call I attended. I grew up in a branch of Adventistism that didn’t really do altar calls. They called people to faith, sure, in calling them to embrace a way of life. But there was no call to come forward in front of everyone, publicly confess your sin, and have some profound experience in the moment.

I think the first such time was attending a church a friend invited me to that was charismatic. I’d joined him for some worship events. Experiencing worship with him and some of our charismatic friends as a altar call 3teenager opened up a whole new world of relating to God in different ways. He was in the Christian club at my high school and I remember, coming from a very reserved tradition of worship being taken aback at being invited to express my emotions in worship. I was even more taken aback by hearing him say to God “you must be on crack” when thanking God for how “crazy good” he must be. Seeing such honesty in prayer showed me that I could be honest to God, really myself. I also learned to be more of a mystic, something I take with me as a progressive Christian.

However what I remember about the altar call is hearing all the ways God would bless my life, improve it, if I would just choose faith. If I would surrender my failings and seek to pray.

altar call 1What I see in the Acts reading is so different. Following Christ and sharing their faith actually brings resistance. It upsets the status quo.

Long term of course following the path of Christ can be rewarding, life-giving. Yet beginning on this path can be difficult. Sometimes choosing to begin our life in a new way can initially be very hard.

We push against our own inner resistance, and others who are invested in the ways things have always been done.

I’ve seen this when people tried to give up alcohol or drugs. Initially this involves pushing against not resistance to change 1just their own inner resistance, but a whole pattern of life. Often the changes first aren’t pretty, and family who once supported sobriety can begin to push back.

Similarly when we try to give up our addiction to sexism, racism, homophobia, we can face push-back from those close to us uncomfortable with this.

Ultimately however, pushing through this resistance is the only way to get to the other side of such process of change – to recovery, to personal liberation, for helping transform our culture to one more liberating for others.

Let’s continue to push forward.

And I ain’t whistling Dixie,

your progressive redneck preacher,