Jory Micah

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Good Grief

-Jory Micah


Day 1 of 5: Braving a Broken Heart

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
~Matthew 5:4 (MSG)

It’s difficult for me to write about the topics of pain, sorrow, illness, death, loss, grief, and mourning right now because I have personally been battling with all of these things in my whole soul for what seems to be an unending season.

Currently, I am part of my 93-year-old grandmother’s hospice care team. I am not a nurse; I am even better for her than a nurse because my motive is love. I would do anything for my dying grandmother who is currently residing with my parents.

My grandmother was like a second mother to me growing up. When I was a kid, I would ride my bike two blocks to visit her several times a week. She would give me a cold soda, which was awesome because my parents did not keep soda in our house.

We would sit on her old-school couch and play the card game “Rummy” over and over again; she taught me the game when I was around five-years-old. Grandma cannot play cards at all anymore; what I wouldn’t give to have one more game of Rummy with her.

Now that grandma is stuck in a chair all day long and is completely dependent on others taking care of her, my health-conscious mom is strict about giving my grandmother soda (just like she was with my sister and me growing up). So, I make sure I bring grandma some soda every time I am scheduled to care for her. Grandma may not be able to play Rummy anymore, but we can still sit, chat, and drink soda together.

Not only is my heart breaking while watching my grandmother literally pass away in front of my very eyes, it is also breaking over the tragic and sudden loss of Rachel Held Evans.

Last Saturday (May 4th), while caring for my dying grandmother, I found out that one of my greatest spiritual inspirations, and perhaps our generation’s most impactful voice in the global Christian Church, passed away at 37-years-old. “RHE” left behind a loving husband, a daughter who is almost one-year-old, and a son who is three-years-old.

Losing Rachel, who profoundly and effectively advocated and spoke up for many of us who have been bruised by the established church, is heart-wrenching and confusing for many of us who followed Rachel’s life and work closely (especially when it comes to reconciling all of this pain, sorrow, illness, death, loss, grief, and mourning with our faith; but as I said on Twitter the following Sunday (May 5th) after we lost Rachel:

Today I am telling myself that it’s OK to be sad & confused.

Life doesn’t have to make sense on this dreary day.

I don’t have to understand all the “why’s” and “how’s” right now.

If Rachel taught us anything, it’s that there is room for our doubt.

If you need permission today, my grieving and mourning friends; it is OK to feel all of your brokenness. Many of us grew up in a society that tells us to suppress, ignore and numb our sad and confusing feelings, but I am here to tell you today that not only is it healthy to allow yourself to feel all of the pain, there is also a major spiritual perk that leads to wholeness of heart again, and that is that God is always close to the broken hearted.

__The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
~Psalm 34:18 (NASB)

Finish reading this 5 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Robert Repta

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An Interfaith Kind of Love

-Robert Repta


Day 1 of 5: Un/Equally Yoked

“Don’t be unequally yoked.” That’s what I’ve heard from the pulpit dozens of times, regarding relationships with non-Christians.

Many of us in the Church have been told that we have to marry the “good Christian girl” or the “good Christian boy.” It’s been steeping in our psyches since our Sunday school days, travelling with us as we navigate our journeys into and through purity culture. We’ve been told that the only way our marriages can be “blessed by God” is if we stay within the walls of our Church and exclude all others.

But what does it actually mean to be unequally yoked? As we learn more about the Biblical texts—its stories, poems, and accounts—things no longer seem as black and white as they’ve been made out to be.

As a cisgender gay man and Christ-follower, I’m married to a Jewish man named David—my King David! (Wouldn’t that make me Jonathan? But, I digress.)

David and I met in Phoenix, walking through the hallways and exchanging glances in the building where we both worked. Little did we know that one day we would end up walking down the aisle and exchanging vows. We were so different that neither of us thought anything would come of our relationship.

The beginning was rocky, and we couldn’t have been more different. David had just ended a long-term, terrible relationship. I was still closeted, trying to figure out the whole God and gay thing. He believed in evolution, and I believed in a young Earth. He liked “secular” movies, and I talked about all the Christian movies I saw. I went to church up to five times a week, and he would go to synagogue on special occasions. I was a Christian, and he was not. I would go to heaven, and he would not.

Ultimately, what happened was that in our struggles to find ourselves, we ended up growing closer together. We both supported and challenged each other. We began asking each other bigger life questions and talking about religion, God, science. Both of our lives were evolving, and what started to happen was that we started seeing the similarities in our core beliefs more than the differences. Some of those beliefs even evolved along the way.

We both believed in God. We both believed that God is love. We volunteered together. He would occasionally come with me to church, and I would occasionally go with him to the synagogue. Eventually, I could see that the common thread between us was unconditional love. The same unconditional love of God.

You see, God is not conformed to this world we live in; God does not belong solely to the Pentecostals or the Baptists, to the Jews or Gentiles, to Muslims or Zoroastrians. Two of the most profound self-identifiers God calls himself in the Bible is “love” and “I am.”

It’s time to re-think what it means to be unequally yoked.

Reflect:
What are a few core teachings of Christ that transcend across various faiths?

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Mel Garman

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Reconstruction

as Resurrection

-Mel Garman


Day 1 of 4: DEATH

“Death is a part of life. My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.”
– Rachel Held Evans

Some would say that death is not just physical. It can occur in a multitude of ways: Social, emotional, mental, financial, spiritual. For those of us who have left various conservative belief systems behind in pursuit of something more life-giving, we may have experienced a form of death ourselves.

Like Jesus, we may have endured the sting of betrayal from Judas’ in our own lives—dear former friends that suddenly turned on us. This could’ve occurred due to several reasons. For instance, it could have been because the wrong people found out our sexual orientation. It could’ve started with a simple disagreement with a church leader. It could’ve began with a single political article we shared on social media that relayed a message similar to Jesus’ words to the religious leaders in Mark 7:8: “You have let go of the plans of God and are holding onto human traditions.” Whatever it was—as with Jesus—the second we didn’t toe the party line, it might have led us to becoming disposable pawns in the eyes of certain religious and political institutions.

Many of us who leave belief systems like conservative evangelical Christianity may have faced some sort of price for not conceding to their exclusionary standards. Our backs may have been whipped with the pain of communal loss, our heads adorned with a prickly crown of isolation, our sides stricken with the grief of deconstruction and disillusionment. As with the women who were present for Jesus’ crucifixion, the people sitting at our proverbial cross may have been the most unexpected. But in one way or another, we had no choice but to give our former belief system—or parts of it—a final dying breath in which we uttered “It is finished.”

And with those words: The curtain of our faith-temple was torn from top to bottom. The earth of our worldview shook, the rocks of our certainty split, and the tomb of our personal thoughts released into the public eye.

Today, feel free to meditate on this piece I wrote in the middle of my former faith’s dying process:

Lord, help us to realize that peacemaking requires division. That liberation requires disunity. Help us to understand that we can’t free the captives without pissing off captors. We can’t loosen the chains of injustice without rebelling against jailers. We can’t untie the yoke of oppression without disobeying masters. We can’t love our neighbors without working to free them from the oppressive chokehold of their enemies, and we can’t love our enemies unless we make them first.

Finish reading this 4 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Erin Green

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The Most Unconventional Ways of Experiencing God

-Erin Green


Day 1 of 7: For Addictions and Internalization

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…”
-Job 38:1 (NRSV)

I remember pulling my phone out of my purse to check the time. 11:00 pm––music was blaring, folks were outside talking and laughing. I felt a sense of panic knowing that the bartender would shout out a last call in two hours. I only had two hours left to drink. I drank as much as I could in that window of time. I really didn’t care about making intimate connection; I cared about numbing the pain throbbing in my soul; the pain of loneliness, heartache, and depression. I was at a gay bar in West Hollywood with my Queer friends––the only people on the planet who knew and accepted my gayness––and I was broken inside.

By this time I had become so used to being around people while I was drinking that unlearning how to do that later in life was incredibly difficult. Drinking became the only way I could function in social settings. You see, I hated myself, and alcohol made it so that for a brief moment during the day I could forget that fact. I hated myself because of my being gay and what I thought that meant in relation to God and my faith.

Rigorous training and grooming by leaders in the Church made me hold to the belief that if I did something wrong, God would not speak to me. God would never speak to a gay woman. According to the Church, my whole self was wrong in perpetuity. As a result of this, I should never expect God to love me.

I could never experience God in the ways that the Church had determined or in the ways the Bible spoke of because the Church had already decided that I was deplorable––and I believed them. The way in which I had learned to cope with that fact was by drinking. My abuse of alcohol became so severe I began to have blackouts. I would lose track of major portions of the night before. I couldn’t remember things I had said or done. What alcohol masked temporarily suddenly became exacerbated by even more dread in losing control. I was a mess.

Because of this addiction, I lost nearly everything. It felt like chaos. It felt insurmountable and irredeemable.

It was then that God spoke to me in the whirlwind…

Beloved, nothing you could ever do would be insurmountable for God. Nothing in the world could ever sever or separate you from God or from God’s boundless love for you. In the times and moments of your life when you feel most alone, when you feel doubt, emptiness, and brokenness, God is ever present. It may not feel that way, and you have every right to feel frightened by the unknown. Lean into that ambiguity and experience the ways in which God surprises you and heals you by their presence.

Finish reading this 7 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


New to the App This Week

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The Jesus Jawn

A couple of Pastors talking theology, news, video games, hip hop, jam bands, and literally anything else. The two hosts and their guests have fun humanizing a progressive Christian movement that has became a bit of a screaming match.


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Boldcafe Podcast

Boldcafe is hosted by Elizabeth McBride and features progressive Christian ideas with Lutheran theology. Monthly articles written by young women of faith for younger audiences are featured on the website. Topics range from relationships, vocation, work-life issues, and more for young adult women.



New to the App this Week

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Bible Bash Podcast

A Northern Belle and a Southern Gentleman Discuss Bible Texts and Other Texts. Gay Bible scholar Peterson Toscano and Trans Bible Scholar Liam Hooper present queer readings of the Bible.


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Resisting Empire

Revelation speaks to the reality that we are caught in the fray of cosmic conflict. We are guilty. We’ve already been contaminated. But it’s not too late for us to exit empire and enter the kingdom. We are yet both victim and victimizer. We have healing work to do, and we must take responsibility for the ways in which we have benefited from and been complicit with the religion of empire.



Trusting God During Transitions

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Trusting God During Transitions

-Madeline Twooney


Day 1 of 9: For Everything There Is a Season

In life, there is a time for everything: joys, tribulations, laughter, and sorrow. It is all a part of God’s perfect plan for us.

“For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NRSV)

In my garden stands a unique looking chestnut tree. Its foliage forms an upside-down heart shape, which gives it a most striking appearance. It has become a part of my morning ritual to drink my coffee outside and admire the chestnut tree’s beauty.

Additionally, observing the tree’s seasons provides me with a natural calendar with which l can mark cyclic changes in my own life: In summer, l associate the large, succulent green leaves with sunny days and balmy evenings grilling in our garden; in autumn, the metamorphosis of brilliant greenery into hues of russet, yellow, and brown reminds me that the time for wearing thicker layers and drinking spicy pumpkin lattes has once again arrived.

After being diagnosed with burnout and depression three years ago, this past autumn has been particularly memorable: It was the first time since my diagnosis that I had felt the dark clouds of despair and fear that had hung over me finally lift.

However, the advent of winter brought with it a renewed season of health problems. Depression and anxiety returned, leaving me physically weak and emotionally drained. My contact with the outside world was severely restricted, as I felt too fragile to leave my home.

During this period, the chestnut tree’s limbs lay bare and unprotected at the mercy of the bitter cold, ice, and snow. Frequently, I looked earnestly at the tree for signs of the slightest burgeoning of green sprouts, but like my health problems, the winter days continued, and the tree bore no signs of change.

In my frustration and despair, l clung to God during this barren season. l delved into His Word and focused more on what He told me, rather than being burdened with negative doctor’s reports. I strengthened my body by visiting the gym and changing my nutrition.
Slowly, things started to get better. My body became stronger, and my mind more tranquil. l was able to start attending church regularly and even joined a service team.

The other morning, as I sat in my garden, I saw that the chestnut tree had miraculously transitioned from winter to spring overnight: The tree was no longer bare, but was now clothed in a brilliant plumage of fresh, virescent greens.

Just as the Creator of heaven and earth had revived the chestnut tree, so God had revived my body and soul. The changing of seasons has taught me that God has a perfect plan for my life and that He is using transitions to fulfill His promises of peace and welfare, by strengthening my faith and trust in Him.

I am grateful for the lesson of trusting God in every season through the presence of a heart-shaped chestnut tree.

Prayer:
Merciful Father, help us to understand that there is a time for everything; seasons are a part of Your perfect plan for us. We need not fear as we go through transitions, for You are with us and lead us to a fulfillment of Your promises over our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Myths of Finding Your Way

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The Myths of Finding Your Way

-Shannon Casey


Myth 1: Life is Like a Train

I freely chose my career path, so there is no excuse for not sticking with it. That was the tape that played in my head for some days. Then, I stumbled upon a poignant observation from Barbara Brown Taylor: “We’d like life to be a train,” she says, “you know, you get on, pick your destination, and get off—[but] it turns out to be a sailboat.” Her remark was simultaneously a challenge and a comfort for me.

I had always thought of my life’s trajectory in linear terms. According to the dominant narrative of society’s prescribed timeline, I would go to college, graduate with a practical degree, get married, have kids, buy a house, and eventually retire. In time, I learned to question the default nature of this script and its prescribed milestones, but I hadn’t given a second thought to its linearity. If it’s true that life is more like a sailboat than a train, though, then maybe it’s ok—and even normal—to change course after all.

I found a similar sense of comfort in Mary Oliver’s poem “Don’t Worry.” She writes:

Things take the time they take. Don’t
worry.
How many roads did St. Augustine follow
before he became St. Augustine?

Still, I wondered, Is it really ok to travel down many different roads? Isn’t that a waste? Going down a new path would feel like I’m back at square one, starting from scratch. Everyone else would be far ahead of me; I would feel left behind.

“Things take the time they take,” Oliver chimes in reassuringly. “Don’t worry,” she adds—a short imperative echoing the wisdom of Matthew 6:25.

May we give one another and ourselves permission to follow the road where it leads or to choose an entirely new road as our lives unfold. May we allow things to take the time they take. Instead of worrying, may we be at peace.

Finish reading this 6 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Re-Reading Ruth

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Re-Reading Ruth

-Samantha Field


Day 1 of 5: Tale as Old as Time

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.
Ruth 1:1 (JPS Tanakh)
:

Growing up a Christian girl meant that there weren’t that many biblical characters for me to relate to. While the boys got characters aplenty with a variety of skills, personalities, foibles, quests, and triumphs, I was stuck with a measly handful of examples suitable for a young girl to learn about. If, as a Sunday school teacher, you need a Godly Woman for Girls to Emulate while trying to avoid grisly tales of rape, dismemberment, human sacrifice, prostitution, or abuse—there aren’t that many examples of plotted, character-driven narratives. Among such slim pickings, the story of Ruth becomes a common touchstone for Christian women.

As familiar as we can be with Ruth’s story, we often forget that it is precisely that: a Story. Often, we’ve received it as some sort of preserved historical text, a biographical narrative about one of the named women in the lineage of Jesus. We read the book of Ruth literally: the famine driving Elimelech out of Israel happened; Ruth, Naomi. and Boaz actually experienced these events; and Ruth became the biological great-grandmother of the historical King David.

Perhaps everything described in Ruth did happen. Like many of our apocryphal tales about future presidents, perhaps the characters all existed and the end result was accurately told: Ruth the Moabite was David’s great-grandmother, and Washington and Lincoln were honest men, log cabins and cherry trees notwithstanding.

What I would like us to keep in mind this week as we explore Ruth through four contrasting interpretations is how Ruth is fundamentally a story. It’s almost two-thirds dialogue and has well-motivated characters, a three-act chiastic structure, a climax, and a satisfying conclusion. It’s an incredibly well-crafted, excellently composed tale, filled with deep themes and meaning.

It is also not a morality play or educational fable—it is not wrapped up with a neat and tidy little teaching at the end. Heroes and villains are not clearly delineated, and the people in the story are complex. For such a short little book it contains multitudes: trauma, grief, and heartbreak are all mixed up with romance and redemption. Because Ruth is such an incredibly well-told story, it is open to as many interpretations as Hamlet or Pride & Prejudice. In exploring four different approaches to Ruth this week, my hope is that we can find a way of digging into Scripture and finding something new in our sacred book.

Before we return tomorrow, I would like to invite each of you to re-read Ruth. This time, read it the same way you’d read Cinderella. Read the opening line “In the days of the judges,” and let yourself be carried away like you could be when you see “Once upon a time” or “Far, far away and long, long ago.”

What do you see, when Ruth is less biography and more Myth?

Special thanks to my Older Testament class at United Theological of the Twin Cities and Dr. Carolyn Pressler, whose class discussion gave me the idea for this devotional series.

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More than Our Anxieties

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More than Our Anxieties

-Rachel Virginia

Introduction

I’m not sure how long I have lived with anxiety. It wasn’t until three years ago that I had a name for the constant fear and overthinking that I experienced almost daily. I remember going to a doctor on campus during undergrad, asking why I suffered from heart palpitations and loss of breath during the nighttime.

Considering the mountain of stress I was under—from experiencing racism from one of the only LGBTQ-inclusive ministries on campus, living with a roommate I had to walk on eggshells around, and experiencing hostility from my Peace Studies department (I know)—it makes sense that I was stressed and anxious. But I didn’t know that these were symptoms of anxiety.

I didn’t know that the racing thoughts and overthinking, too, were symptoms of anxiety, and I didn’t know that the feeling of constant dread I felt when performing normal tasks or reaching out to professors were expressions of my anxiety.

Our society often talks about mental illnesses, especially ones like anxiety, as if it is all simply in our head. Sure, anxiety takes place in our heads, but we live in a world where we are surrounded by systems and institutions that feed our fears and anxieties. Experiencing forces like racism, homophobia and transphobia, we aren’t encouraged to think of love as infinite and abundant. It becomes difficult to imagine if we will ever be safe. Rather, we are taught by these forces that we have to compete for love and resources and that love and safety are reserved privileges for a powerful few.

But while the current systems in power create these illusions of scarcity in our world, we have the power to encourage each other through words and acts to resist these institutions that teach us to be afraid and anxious.

I think the reasons that I have anxiety are complex. This isn’t an attempt to explain away my anxiety (or anyone else’s anxiety for that matter), but rather to say that there are real forces in the world that influence our mental health. And the impact of these forces can’t be ignored. The cause of our mental illness isn’t our fault, but it is our responsibility as a community to support each other through it.

Whatever your story, I want to affirm that you story is real. Maybe you are like me, sitting at the intersection of multiple oppressions. I am black and queer. Or maybe you are the privileged of the privileged, a cisgender, able and neurotypical straight, white man living as a citizen in the modern world’s most powerful empire. But perhaps you recognize the ways that forces like white supremacy have robbed you of freedom from anxieties. Maybe you, too, recognize the way that white supremacist capitalism has trained us to view love and safety as scarce. The good news is that God is the God of the Universe, and the forces created and sustained by fearful humans are not. So, we can put our faith in that.

God, we are thankful that you are the God of the Universe and that you have revealed to us, through Jesus, that you love each one of us. I am thankful that each of us matter to You, and that the rules of life-threatening forces like capitalism and white supremacy don’t have the final word. We praise you because you know our fears and doubts, yet you don’t punish us for having them. Instead, you eagerly want to show us the way out of this mess, which is why you gave us Jesus. You give us the mysterious gifts of faith and love. We recognize that any faith and love that we ourselves have is a miracle. We are filled with gratitude. Amen.

Finish reading this 6 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Featured Author

Isaac Archuleta

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Isaac Archuleta, MA, NCC, LPC (@iAmArchuleta) specializes in the interplay between gender, sexuality, spirituality, and relationships. Being an ethnic and sexual minority, and LGBTQ+ clinician, Isaac works to address socioreligious mechanisms that mitigate psychological and spiritual development. Isaac is the owner of iAmClinic a private practice devoted to offering LGBTQ+ couples therapy, individual work, and family therapy.

Read the contributions to his shelf based on his work at the iAmClinic in the app today.


Featured Author

Elizabeth Jeffries

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Elizabeth Jeffries spent her childhood enraptured by earthworms and outer space, and her love for the wild diversity of nature led her to a career as a PhD laboratory research scientist. Today she writes in a variety of creative and professional capacities, inviting others to fall in love with the natural world, and to reimagine the human experience through the transformative lens of cell biology.

Read her devotionals “Divine Direction” and “The Flow of Compassion” in the app today.


Embracing the Journey

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Embracing the

Journey

-Chase Dost

Day 1 of 3: Accepting the Journey

When I first admitted I wasn’t a Christian anymore, I felt guilty. I was in my final year of seminary on the ordination track, yet my own theology doomed me. For years, I had flirted with the boundaries of orthodoxy, rationalizing my arguably heretical beliefs and defining for myself what it meant to be a Christian. I wanted to make it work—until, one day, I realized I didn’t. I no longer wanted to be a Christian.

This was a problem. Everyone was expecting me to graduate, get ordained, and be a pastor. I’d been working toward ordination for the past six years; walking away now felt like throwing away my hard-earned degree and running off into the wilderness at the eleventh hour. I had no back-up plan. What was I qualified to do, other than the job to which I’d devoted all these years of training?

For a long time, my response to this fear and uncertainty was denial. I did my best to ignore the insistent intrusion of disbelief, the ever-present voice punctuating my classes and internships with “You don’t believe in this. You don’t even want to believe in this. Why are you doing this?” I felt trapped on my path. I was afraid of disappointing those who had affirmed and supported me, afraid of having to figure out a future I thought I’d figured out a long time ago.

Still, there were good moments. There were beautiful, faith-affirming moments of love and hope and grace that reminded me of what had drawn me to pastoral ministry in the first place. I loved God, after all—even in the midst of my theological woes, that had never changed. It was Jesus and the Gospel that gave me pause, not the God of the Hebrew Bible who relentlessly pursues Israel, who overflows with mercy and compassion, who has redeemed and will redeem. But I was in seminary, heading for Christian ordination. For me, being a Christian meant at least wanting to believe in Christ.

Realizing I no longer wanted to be a Christian was a turning point. Doubt is normal (yes, even for pastors), but this was more than doubt. I knew there was no integrity in my ordination, because I believe the Church deserves pastors who want the Gospel to be true. I knew I had to accept where I was and own up to it, even though it was scary—even though it meant embracing the wilderness.

Faith is a journey. Before any journey can begin, you need to know where you’re starting from. Being honest about where you are—and accepting it—is an important first step in any journey of faith or self-understanding. Sometimes, recognizing where you are can help you see the road map in front of you, final destination included. But sometimes, that self-recognition only shows you the next step, and beyond that, the unknown.

In the Bible, the wilderness is a dangerous place; you don’t know what you’ll encounter there. But it’s also a place of transformation. It is a place where we meet God, a place where we are called into a deeper relationship with both God and each other. Willingly following God out of safety and comfort into the wilderness is a profound act of faith.

God of the wilderness, help us accept where we are on the journey. Embolden us to put our trust in you, to follow even when we cannot yet see what comes next.

Finish reading this 3 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Divine Direction

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Divine Direction

-Elizabeth Jeffries

Day 1 of 5: The Divine Within You

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’”
-Genesis 1:26:

I grew up with a strong belief in God and a lot of encouragement to place my trust in Him. Perhaps like many evangelical Christians, I was taught about a God who resides in Heaven, far away from earth, who can only enter our world and our hearts because of the death of Jesus on the cross. My God was far away, and even though this God was powerful and creative enough to be involved in my earthly life, He was only ever involved if He chose to reach down from His vantage point on high.

This God, I believed, was worthy of my full trust. Not only was He worthy, but trusting in this God was the only way that my life could be truly directed by Him. I believed in God’s one and only plan for my life, and I believed my duty was to discover that plan. The only problem was that God’s plan for my life felt as distant as God Himself.

This all began to change when I noticed this brief passage in the creation poem at the beginning of Genesis. In this passage, when God decides to create mankind, He creates us in God’s own image. If I was made in the image of God, there must be something deep in me that recognizes and responds to goodness. There must be an inner spark of the Divine, somewhere within my deepest, truest self.

Today, try making this your mantra: I am the image of the divine.

Finish reading this 5 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Disabled God

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Disabled God

-Disability Concerns Committee of the UMC

Day 1 of 8

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
John 9:2-7

Why would God allow people to have disabilities? Could it be to show the world that people can be diverse, that God still loves all people no matter what, and that everyone has divine purpose? No one totally understands God, but we should still trust Him and know that He has reason and purpose for what He does.

Therefore, we need to find joy in all things and be happy that we are fulfilling a purpose, even if we don’t know what it is yet. One day we will know and will rejoice. Everything on earth is temporary, and as Christians, we have a bright and glorious future to look forward to. Unless we’ve experienced something, we won’t understand it well enough to help others who are going through the same thing. Perhaps helping others is one of those purposes we are made to fulfill!

Many people feel like they are disabled in one way or another. It might not be physical or mental, but perhaps it’s an inability to do something or understand something. Perhaps, for example, someone loves music and has always wanted to sing, but never had the ability to. Or loves science, but just can’t understand how certain things function concerning the current knowledge of black holes, etc. no matter how much they study it. They feel as if they don’t have the capability of learning it. Or perhaps they have always wanted to climb a mountain, but their body is just not strong enough. I used to want to be a runner, but ran out of breath too easily. Most of us have something that prevents us from being able to do things we would like to do. I once knew a lady who wanted to play the piano, but had such bad arthritis in her hands, that she was unable to. We all have areas of our hearts, bodies, and minds that just don’t work the way we want them to.

Now I realize that these types of inabilities don’t affect our daily lives like disabilities do, but God has a purpose for each individual and we are perfect for it or He wouldn’t have chosen us for the job. God created each of us perfect in all ways to complete His purposes and help grow His kingdom. Doing things for His kingdom is very important and our purpose as humans. He loves all of us very much and created each of us for a specific reason. We are all very important to Him no matter what our abilities, inabilities, and disabilities are. He sees us all as perfectly formed, beautiful beings. He “knit us together” in our mother’s womb, exactly as we were to be. He is not seeing as we see, but as the Lord only can. In His eyes, there are no disabilities, only children chosen to fulfill a different task. All He asks is that we help one another to do so.

Dear Loving Heavenly Father, and Awesome Creator, we thank you for creating us with various abilities that You can use to fulfill Your purposes. What a blessing to be able to serve You. Thank You for creating us with a purpose that we can use throughout the various stages of our life. We love You and trust that we can always fulfill Your purposes, no matter what. Amen.

Mrs. Roselyn O’Brien

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Caralynn Hampson

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Autistic Prayer

-Caralynn Hampson

Introduction

To everyone reading: whether you are autistic or neurotypical, queer or straight, young or old, Christian or not, you are a Child of God. You are loved by the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who cares for the sparrows and the God who listens to your prayers.

Autism isn’t mentioned in the Bible. The Diagnostic Standard Manual (DSM) did not exist back then. However, autistic people are present today; we sing and move with life that is glorious and wonderful. We process information differently and view life from varying angles. We love with passion and know the true definition of patience.

This devotional is an exploration of autistic faith expression and prayer. I am writing from my own experiences as an autistic Christian, and I cannot encompass all the struggles autistic people know.

My name is Caralynn, and I am an autistic Christian. My pronouns are she/her, and I am asexual—which isn’t very relevant, but it would feel weird writing something that talks about people being themselves without sharing that. I was diagnosed with autism and ADHD at the wonderfully awkward age of 13.

Throughout this devotional I chose to use identity-first language (i.e. “autistic person”) instead of person-first language (which would be “person with autism”). I use identity-first language because autism does not negate my personhood, and my identity includes autism.

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Dr. Samantha Joo

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Judah: Mirroring the Journey of Our Becoming

-Dr. Samantha Joo

Introduction

“Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”
Malcolm X

I have never heard a sermon on Judah. Like Abraham and Jacob, Judah is present in several chapters of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 37:25-36; 38:1-30; 43:1-34; 44:18-34; 49:8-12). But unlike the great patriarchs, Judah is rarely, if ever, mentioned by pastors on the pulpit. It might have something to do with the semi-incestuous sexual encounter. Judah beds Tamar, his daughter-in-law. I mean, how does one incorporate such a story into a sermon? Tamar is clearly the heroine in the story, but she tricks her father-in-law into sleep with her. This was a taboo union in the ancient Near East and even more so in our modern, puritanical society. I can’t imagine a pastor talking about a man who got duped into impregnating his daughter-in-law with any congregation, especially the church I’ve been attending the last decade. It is predominantly an old, white congregation.

It’s unfortunate, however, to ignore a story in which a man is transformed by a personal tragedy. Because of a personal loss, Judah—a thoughtless, selfish man—becomes a thoughtful, self-sacrificing person. He is not the same person.

When I reflect back on my own journey, I realize the extent to which I have changed because of my personal encounter with pain. I use to be anti-gay, anti-premarital sex, anti-abortion, anti-anything that was not conservative Christian. It was not until I personally walked in the shoes of the “other” did I grow into the person I am today. Honestly, I am the last person to promote suffering, but it is through pain that I have learned to become compassionate. And it is because of my own journey that I am less likely to judge another person’s life.

Given my own transformation from a narrow, judgmental Christian to a more understanding, progressive Christian, I have come to realize that each person has a unique journey. I do not know what a person may have experienced or will experience. This does not mean that I will idly stand by why others are being marginalized. I will definitely speak up, but with humility rather than self-righteousness.

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Felicia Fox

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God’s Table

-Felicia Fox

Introduction

There is something holy about sharing a meal. When we gather around tables, break bread together, and share stories, we begin to form relationships and communities. We begin to see that we are more alike than we are different and that on some hidden common ground, we are all connected.

I think Jesus understood the power of a good meal. He ate a lot in the gospels. He turned water into wine at a wedding. He fed huge crowds with bread and fish. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He shared a long, cool drink of water with a Samaritan woman. He even cooked some fish for his tired disciples, who were still lost in their grief. He was recognized by two travelers as he broke bread and blessed it. He told stories of grain, wine, and yeast. He talked of parties and feasts.

Jesus painted a picture of the kingdom of God with the very foods and crops that people used to nourish their bodies. There is a connection between nourishing our bodies and our souls.

In this devotional series, we will look at three of Jesus’s parables about parties and food from Luke 14. So sit back, grab a good snack or a drink, and get ready. You have a party to attend!

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Bailey Sargeant

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Compassion for All God’s Creatures

Bailey Sargeant

Day 1 of 9: Introduction

Most people are animal lovers. We walk our dogs, snuggle our cats, go bird watching, go on safari, watch movies about animals, marvel at their beauty in nature documentaries, use animals to learn and teach our kids things like the alphabet and numbers—the list goes on. We have a relationship with animals. We really love them—or at least we think we do—but our actions show us something different.

Unfortunately, there are many animals we don’t love. Animals that we exploit and kill for food that’s not good for us (1-3), animals we test chemicals on and kill afterwards when research shows undesirable results (4, 5), animals we harm to breed pets when there are so many that are homeless and dying in shelters (6-8), animals we take from their homes and families to imprison in zoos and aquariums (9-11), animals we kill for clothing like leather and fur that we don’t need (12-14).

We designate these things as necessary to justify our actions, but what if they’re not actually needed to live a healthy, full life? What if they are just so ingrained in our culture* that we see them as such?

This 9-day devotional will look at what the Bible has to say about God’s nonhuman creation, how we can have more compassion, and how that compassion will serve not only animals, but also mankind and our planet.

*[I.e. cultures with the adequate access to the alternative, as we recognize that there are cultures and communities for which a completely plant-based lifestyle is not feasible, accessible, or easily accessible.]

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Vince Bruno

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Problematic Bible Verses & What to Do With Them

Vince Bruno

Day 1 of 5: Introduction

When I became a Christian, I was brought to the faith by a very loving and very fundamentalist family who taught me that the Bible is the perfect, uncontradictable word of God. The Bible depicts God as the loving and gracious God who is worthy of worship. The Bible is accurate and contains no fallacies. Any problem I may face in life has a solution in the Bible. The Bible is a simple to follow and easy to understand book.

Now here’s the thing. I pride myself on being an open-minded and considerate person. I also admire this family for all they’ve done for me. So I don’t say this lightly when I say that this well-meaning family was absolutely and unequivocally incorrect. The Bible is full of contradictions. There are horrific depictions of God. There are questionable ethics and inaccurate portrayals of science. The Bible is missing a lot of extremely important topics and instead includes a lot of irrelevant ones. The Bible is a complicated mess that is excruciatingly confusing and difficult to read.

And yet here we are still using the book nearly 2,000 years after its most recent texts were written and 1,600 years after it was compiled. There has got to be something within its pages, among those atrocious and problematic verses, that makes it worth reading. It somehow still points us to a God worthy of worship. Let’s try to figure out how.

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