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Getting to Know the Liturgical Calendar

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Getting to Know the Liturgical Calendar

By Rev. Jacob Breeze

Day 1 of 8: Introduction to the Liturgical Seasons

There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens.
-Ecclesiastes 3:1 (CEB)

We all keep multiple calendars. And each calendar we keep forms us to see and live in the world in a particular way. Academic calendars cause us to see the world in semesters and breaks. Athletic calendars cause us to see the world in Pre-Seasons, Regular Seasons, Post-Seasons, and Off-Seasons. Fiscal calendars cause us to see the world in budget quarters and tax seasons.

There is another calendar called the Liturgical Calendar. If you keep it, then it, too, will cause you to see the world in a new way with a new lens. This ancient calendar will cause you to see the world with new seasons with funny names that are meant for one purpose: to pattern our lives after Jesus of Nazareth.

Have you ever wondered what curricula the Church used before they created—or better, curated—the Bible? The Liturgical Seasons were the primary curricula used to help people more fully, actively, and consciously participate in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Each season tells us something unique about the God who put on flesh.

The Liturgical Seasons are like an Instructor.
The Church keeps time by specific Liturgical Seasons which are meant to tutor us into life with the Living God.

Think about each Liturgical Season as an instructor. The primary goal is to further tutor us into the life of the living God, and each instructor has their own set of questions, quandaries, and lessons. Within that context, the instructor assigns certain Bible readings to us, and instead of calling them “assigned reading in the syllabus,” the schedule of Scriptures is called a “Lectionary.”

Perhaps you grew up in a context where it was implicitly and explicitly assumed that the Bible sets the talking points and the agenda for God’s people. But did they ever read stories from the first couple chapters of the Gospel According to Luke around the end of December, or resurrection stories around the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox? (You can thank the Council of Nicea for that formula that determines when Easter is celebrated each year.)

“Christmas” is not in the Bible.
“Easter” is not in the Bible.
Christmas and Easter are Liturgical Seasons. And, yes, during those seasons we read particular stories from the Bible…but, that’s an important distinction. The Liturgical Seasons occasion certain Bible readings; therefore, we ought to pay close attention to those seasons.

So even if your faith community would never smudge ashes on your forehead to kick off Lent, if they celebrated Christmas and Easter, they weren’t doing so because the Bible told them to do so. They were operating with a teacher older than the Christian Bible: the Christian Calendar.

The Liturgical Seasons are also kinda like Netflix.
Think of it like this. You and your person settle in for the night with a bottle of wine and frozen pizza and decide to start a new eight season series on Netflix. Theoretically, there’s nothing stopping you from starting with season two or season six. Let’s say you watch episode one of season two and episode one of season six, then call it a night. You’ve got just enough exposure to participate in a conversation about the show with others. You could name some of the major characters, speak briefly about some major events, but, that’s about it.

What you don’t have is the rich experience of someone who has binged the entire series. They know characters you don’t. They caught things in the two episodes that, though you watched them, you didn’t understand because you lacked the context. You missed the allusions. You missed the callbacks and foreshadowings. You missed the return of characters you thought were lost. Plus, because they’ve seen all of the seasons, they know characters and plot lines that you don’t.

Call to Action
I want to invite you to binge-watch the Liturgical Calendar. I promise it’ll make season two (Christmas) and season six (Easter) better by helping you be more conversant with the rest of the seasons.

These devotions will introduce you to the basic logic of each Season. You can learn the major characters, sit with the primary questions, and begin to get a sense of the overall flow of the ancient Calendar that teaches us Jesus of Nazareth’s way of life.

Season 1: Advent
Season 2: Christmas
Season 3: Epiphany
Season 4: Lent
Season 5: Easter
Season 6: Pentecost
Season 7: Ordinary Time (or Kingdomtide)

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Angels We Have Heard On High

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Angels We Have Heard On High

By Rev. Elizabeth Henry

Day 1 of 7

“I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you.” (Luke 1:19)

If you have any part of the Christmas story memorized from childhood, you can probably still quote the angels’ lines. Gabriel in particular (one of the few angels most people know by name) is a major player in the Nativity from well before Jesus is born. He covers a lot of ground with visits to everyone from Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin and John the Baptist’s mother), to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the 3 Wise Men who—despite what your grandma’s nativity set may lead you to believe—didn’t actually show up until Jesus was a toddler somewhere around his terrible-twos. Gabriel is the first one to the baby shower and the last one to leave; I imagine the angel’s presence felt something like that of a helpful, but too present mother-in-law who moves in for a few weeks to help take care of the new baby. Sure, the extra guidance is appreciated, but it’s also damn disruptive.

That’s Gabriel’s whole deal, in fact. Disruption is the name of the game. Gabriel first appears in a spot that no one but the priests have any business being in—the Holy of Holies. This area is authorized personnel only and open strictly to priests like Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah. It was cordoned off from the people by a curtain to keep the sacred separate from the grubby little hands of the public. This is the same curtain, in fact, that is torn in two when Jesus breathes his last. Foreshadowing much?

From the jump, Gabriel comes to upset the barriers of physical spaces as a way to break down spiritual and relational walls, as well. In the Christmas story alone, the angels proclaim the opening of temples and tabernacles, wombs and throne rooms. And these physical openings bring forth an opening of the hearts and minds to God and to one another. Who better to act as this holy disruptor than an angel, one who dances between two worlds as God’s messenger, who holds the ethereal and the earthly together by their very nature as creatures in supernatural, intimate relationship with the Creator?

These holy messengers point the way to a more open and connected way of being in the world through both their proclamation and their presence. For though they appear as men, they stand in the presence of God from whence they are sent to bring good news to the rest of God’s creatures.

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


Navigating Seasonal Depression

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Navigating Seasional Depression

By Derrick Weston

Day 1 of 6

Ecclesiastes 3

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity.All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the human spirit goes upwards and the spirit of animals goes downwards to the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?

As I thought about how to talk about managing the dark and cold months of fall and winter, I was drawn to this passage. More than any other Scripture, this passage focuses me on the changing of seasons and on the very nature of time itself. God has “put a sense of past and future into our minds.” Isn’t that curious? What would it look like to live without that sense? Would we simply be focused on the present moment, oblivious of causes and consequences? That doesn’t sound all bad!

Sometimes, I think this is the way my dog lives—carefree and constantly curious. Still, even she has been conditioned by the past. As a meditator, I suppose that I get brief glimpses of “timelessness” where I am completely focused on the here and now, grounded in my body, and aware of the world around me. Those moments, however, are fleeting; if we are to take this passage seriously, those moments—refreshing as they are—ignore the God-given sense of time that we all possess for some purpose.

This chapter hints that time is a double-edged sword, giving both occasion for laughter and tears, love and hate, birth and death. At one moment I can be marveling at the ways that my children are growing and be caught off guard by my own mortality in the next . This is the “gift” of time that has been placed within us. It tells us where we’ve come from and where we’re going. And this gift allows for us to do the critical work of storytelling and meaning-making.

As humans, meaning-making is our business. We want to know that our struggles have purpose. We want to know that our pain can be redeemed. It’s when life slows down that we begin to ask ourselves why things are the way they are. This questioning is a good thing. It is part of the work we are called to do.

The work of reflection is critical to our spiritual lives. It is rare that we give ourselves the time and space to do such work, yet it is critical if we are to gain understanding of ourselves, our neighbors, and our world. Writer Brigit Anna McNeil wrote the following about the coming of winter months:

“This is a time of rest and deep reflection, a time to wipe the slate clean as it were and clear out the old so you can walk into spring feeling ready to grow and skip without a dusty mountain on your back & chains around your ankles tied to the caves in your soul.
A time for the medicine of story, of fire, of nourishment and love.
A period of reconnecting, relearning & reclaiming of what this time means brings winter back to a time of kindness, love, rebirth, peace and unburdening instead of a time of dread, fear, depression and avoidance”

My hope for these next few days is that this season can go from being a time of fear, depression, and avoidance to a time of love, rebirth, and peace. I hope that you will make the space necessary to do the deep reflection for this complicated time of year.

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


The Burnout's Guide to Being Human

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The Burnout's Guide to Being Human

By Lyndsey Medford

Day 1 of 10: Burnout's Guide to Being Human (Galatians 4)

“After 28 years as a Christian,” I say, “I finally feel like I’ve learned something about grace. That we are loved—just for being.”

I catch up with a former theology teacher every year or so, and in this moment he shifts into the sparring mode he once took on with his classes.

“That’s not grace, you know. Grace is the gift of God’s power to live as we were created to live,” Skip answers. It’s a thought that would have been inspiring to me back in college, but has come to feel like a trap.

“I’m just not sure I believe that anymore,” I admit.

“Go back and read Galatians again,” he says, and the conversation turns away from definitions once more.

Several days later I pull the book out, and it immediately becomes apparent to me that I don’t disagree with Skip’s definition at all. What’s changed is my belief about “the way we were created to live.” In fact, when I think about it, I can no longer even count how many times that belief has changed.

There were the childhood rules I once thought we were born to comply with. Then with a less strictly legalistic evangelicalism, I knew that if we could only practice wholehearted faith in God, participate in spiritual disciplines, and live in friendship with the poor, God would be required to make us happy and fix the world. Later, after my faith had become less of an “if this…then that” proposition, I learned about classism, racism, colonialism, militarism, and the destruction of the earth. Now I knew we were created to live in radically inclusive and egalitarian community, to live in solidarity with the marginalized, and to challenge the forces of empire.

In each phase, worthy pursuits presented themselves as “the way of Jesus.” But the shining visions of the future that first inspired me slowly turned into a piled-up list of rules, crushing me with the weight of obligations and despair at the impossibility of meeting them all.

Earlier in the year, before my mini-theology-debate, I’d been wracked with guilt about moving out of my low-income apartment complex, panicked that the church I’m helping to plant might not be living up to our ideals, and exhausted from writing almost exclusively about racism and classism since the 2016 election. I was working hard, but around every corner I still ran into something I’d failed to do.

I’d forgotten that Galatians doesn’t say we were meant to live as perfect beings who expend all our energy checking off the Right Things To Do. It says we were meant to live as children of God—children who don’t really accomplish much at all. Children who are loved, even for their imperfections. Children, whose role in life is to be, and learn, and grow, and change; who are expected to have limitations; who are received as gifts, not for what they do, but for who they are.

Too often I’ve received grace—the power to live as we were meant to live—as an invitation to burn through all my own resources in pursuit of some ideal I’ve made up for myself and then tagged as “God’s will.” Lately, I’m learning to receive grace as the power to live within my limitations; to accept God’s love for me exactly as I am, even if I never do another Good Work in my life; and to set down my Field Guide to Ethics so I can ask God how I—with my personality, my family, my body, my place—am meant to live.

Often when I’m feeling burned out, I avoid my Bible. That heavy book seems designed to condemn. The devotions in this series share a few scriptures where I’ve found grace and hope in those times. They neither push me to greater striving nor “excuse” me from accountability for my life, but show me a way beyond that dichotomy: a better way of understanding what it means to live up to my life, a better way of being human.

Finish reading this 10 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Imagination: The Most Underrated Spiritual Discipline

Imagination: The Most Underrated Spiritual Discipline

By Laura Jean Truman

Day 1 of 10: Imagination and Courage

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

You know what I did the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration two years ago?

I curled up in my PJ’s, turned off my computer, and had a Lord of the Rings marathon.

I had laid out my protest gear the night before, but when I woke up I felt like I was sinking into molasses. My anger had been fueling protests, phone calls to congressfolk, and blog posts, and at that point it all drained out. I was burnt out and dried up. Hopelessness crawled up around my shoulders and settled there.

I could have just shamed myself into trying more and working harder. I could have scolded myself until I was “better.”

But instead, I curled up with hot chocolate on a freezing winter day, and I watched Lord of the Rings, not to escape from my world, but to borrow a bit of courage from another one.

When Gandalf gently reminded Frodo that it was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand, that “even the very wise can’t see all ends” – I felt a little bit of my hopelessness lift.

Stories lend us fire when we are out of our own. They show us how our story—the sometimes too-small feeling story—fits into a bigger story. When we’re tired, stories that speak to our imagination can wake us up, give us courage, give us empathy.

Y’all, I desperately need to stop trying to barrel through life, activism, and spirituality as if all I need is more willpower in order to conquer exhaustion. Willpower and rules don’t make us better, stronger, and kinder, though. Humans don’t run on sheer grit, and stories aren’t an elective in the fight for justice. Stories come to us as a gift—things that we accept, not achieve; and so stories are also grace. “Sit still and listen,” a good story tells us, “and get some courage for the road.”

A very good story pulls us back a bit so that we can see our so-small daily life as part of the bigger story of good and evil that is always unfolding in sacred time. Our very-small resistance is one piece of the bigger Resistance that has always been pushing back against this present darkness, and God, that gives me hope.

I cried on the couch on January 20, 2017. In calendar time, clock-bound time, Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States of America. In sacred time, the story-time that runs outside history, Gandalf sat in the Mines of Moria and reminded Frodo that no one ever wants to live in times like this – but yet, here we are.

And I felt a little braver.

God, lead us to good stories this week. Remind us that it is OK to be human and need to be refilled and inspired. Amen.

Finish reading this 10 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Grace that Conquers Bitterness

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Grace that Conquers Bitterness

By Timothy Arliss O’brien

Day 1

Psalm 73:21-28 (MSG)

21-24 When I was beleaguered and bitter,
totally consumed by envy,
I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox
in your very presence.
I’m still in your presence,
but you’ve taken my hand.
You wisely and tenderly lead me,
and then you bless me.
25-28 You’re all I want in heaven!
You’re all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
God is rock-firm and faithful.
Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
But I’m in the very presence of God—
oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
God, I’m telling the world what you do!

God approaches us with grace and tender loving care. We are blessed with the ability to show the same grace that has been given to us. This Grace not only changes our approach to God but should also teach us how to care for others.

Grace is the catalyst that God uses to wake us up from our deep slumber of hard-hearted bitterness and make us soft and loving. The way we think is molded by God’s grace, and the tone of that grace should instruct us and change how we respond to the stress of life.

Grace is accessible to us in this very moment and is perfectly exemplified by our most loving God. Look for God’s grace in your life, and let it soften your heart.

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What to Do with the Mad that You Feel

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What to Do with the Mad that You Feel

By Derrick Weston

Day 1

The first thing I ever wanted to be was a pastor.

That’s weird, right?

Not a fireman, not an astronaut, not a kangaroo.

A pastor.

Though that ambition changed over time, when I came back to it in my twenties, it was in one of those moments when I audibly heard the voice of God asking me, “What was the first thing you ever wanted to do?” From that point on, the path seemed clear.

Yesterday, Pittsburgh Presbytery decided that they would not restore me to good standing. While not outright stripping me of my ordination, it returns me to a state of limbo where I could one day seek restoration again if I so chose to subject myself to this process again.

I know what I did was wrong;I had a relationship with a parishioner, one of the cardinal no-no’s in ministry; and it cost me. It cost me my family, my dream job, my reputation. And it hurt lots of people. People in the church, my family, people at my work.

But from the time I self-reported until yesterday, there was always talk about grace, restoration, and “God’s not done with you yet” language. There was always hope. Yesterday that hope was dashed. Even my ex-wife, the person hurt most by my actions, was saddened by the news.

I’m glad that I don’t believe the things about myself that were written in the discernment committee’s report. They painted this picture of an unrepentant monster, who lives blissfully unaware of the lives impacted by his decisions. They took shots at my character and my family. They used my honesty against me and questioned my spiritual maturity. Most importantly, they ignored the recommendations of people who know me best and made decisions based on their subjective impressions instead of on the objective steps I’ve taken to get my life back in order. It was among some the most hurtful experiences of my life. I don’t understand how this presbytery, which at the last GA made a public stand on doing ministry to black men, could so callously throw me away. I mean… I *do* understand… it just hurts.

I don’t know what to do now. My life as a Presbyterian minister is likely over. I could switch denominations, but that’s not a move I consider lightly. Also, I’m disgusted with the institution right now, and I don’t know how I feel about exchanging one set of hypocrites for another. I don’t know what I’m gonna do…

The first thing I ever wanted to be was a pastor.

I spent most of the last two decades working toward that end in some form or another.

Now it’s all gone.

What am I supposed to do now?

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


Mother Earth & Beloved Belonging

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Mother Earth & Beloved Belonging

By Kaitlin Curtice

Day 1: Dust

Men must be born and reborn to belong.

–Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux

You know, dust-to-dust isn’t just a phrase we save for the Lent season. If you grew up like I did in the Southern Baptist church, maybe you didn’t know about Lent until adulthood. Even so, I find that across religious and faith backgrounds, we all share this in common: we belong to the earth. As an Indigenous woman, as a citizen of the Potawatomi nation, I am called to remember that I belong to Mother Earth, and that she has a role to be my teacher and my caretaker.We remember that we are all called to this as human beings, no matter where we come from.

Aren’t we always dust-to-dust?

Aren’t we always dying and living again, breathing and striving and returning to the earth in the end?

Aren’t we always the people we were created to be, people who started from the dirt below us?

To know ourselves is to know where we come from and where we are going, and the dust is like our original womb, where our mothers and grandmothers were born, too.

In the Lenten season within the Christian tradition, we often lament our dust-to-dustness.

We lament that we are broken.

But what if we were to celebrate that we sacredly belong to this earth that has always held us? What if we were to say a word of thanks for this existence?

Growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, I also never learned of the earth’s goodness. I never learned that she teaches us things. I never learned that I find God in meadows and anthills. But to step out of a colonized view of the world, we remember. We see things as they are.

We rejoice that we are dust to dust.

It is because of the dust that we know we belong.

It is because of the dust that we know miracles happen.

It is in the dust that we are reminded of our smallness, our exquisite frailty.

Creator,

From dust you formed things seen and unseen.

May we sit in that reality today.

May we stare at our hands and feet and realize

that we belong, sacredly, eternally,

to an earth that was created with all

sacredness in mind.

Amen.

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


Everything Falls Apart by Rev. William Gilligan

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Everything Falls Apart

By Rev. William Gilligan

Day 1

I am a pastor just North of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I love it. We have four seasons, an amazing city, and the church I serve is filled with great people who truly believe in Jesus. I wake up each day and feel close to Jesus; it is one of the times in my life where I feel truly close to Jesus and that I am doing what he called me to do.

One day, I was on my way to a church meeting and hit a deer. A week after that I fell skiing and obtained a concussion, then shortly after that both my kids came down with a cold. How could so much be going wrong? I thought I was right where Jesus wanted me. Shouldn’t life be easy? Shouldn’t things constantly go my way? I mean, after all, I was exactly where Jesus wanted me to be.

Maybe this is the kind of thing you have experienced. Where it feels like life is harder than it should be. Where it feels like everything that could go wrong is going wrong, even when it shouldn’t be going wrong. Maybe it is unemployment, illness, or something else. So often we find pain and agony in the midst of everything else going right.

In Matthew 14, all of Jesus’ followers climbed into a boat and set off to the other side of the lake. Jesus wasn’t there but said he would join them later, so they set out on their way. By nightfall they were a long way out, when Jesus came walking on the water. Peter decided to walk on the water with Jesus and was successful until he saw the waves. The waves were all around him and everything was going wrong. Peter started to sink.

How could Peter possibly sink when he was so close to Jesus? How could he possibly doubt when he was actually walking on the water? I still haven’t found the answer to why so much goes wrong, but what I have found is that even when we are sinking, and everything around us is going wrong, Jesus is still near us. We know that things will go wrong; we know that the world around us is a mess; and we also know that Jesus is right next to us, with us, in the mess.

Finish reading this 5 day devotional in the app. Find it on the “When Senseless Violence Comes” shelf.


Queer Christian Grief by Laura Jean Truman

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Queer Christian Grief

By Laura Jean Truman

I sat and cried at the East Atlanta rainbow stairway today.

It had been a rushed kind of day. The latest Desiring God article RE: “The Harvest in the Gay Community” (y’all, we are not parts that you harvest like aliens coming for our kidneys) put me in a grumpy, anxious mood. And I was just a little bit behind, a little bit late, and a little bit rushed when I took the shortcut down the side street and ended up at the rainbow stairs off Memorial Drive.

It’s a little brand-new staircase, chirping #PrideMonth and winding its way up from yellow to pink to blue, brilliant against the surrounding grey cement. It was so joyful.

I pulled over and cried.

It was a full gasping torrent from my gut that I had no idea was waiting for me. I got out of the car and sat on the yellow bottom step and touched the chipping paint, and cried from my stomach on the rainbow stairs by the cemetery.

It hit me, all over my body, that there is a well of queer Christian grief that is always full, always there behind the Church’s crisp white walls.

On the rainbow steps, I cried for all my Christian LGBTQ friends who were hurt so deeply that they will never go to church again.

I cried for all my gay friends who still talk about Jesus wistfully, like a high school sweetheart that they will never see again.

I cried for lesbians who showed up eagerly to Bible studies, who endured whispers, side-eyes, and finally, a coffee date with the leader to talk about their “lifestyle.”

I cried for gay kids who thought that they were loved unconditionally by their Christian friends, but discovered that they are youth group projects, targeted for “preaching the Gospel”—a gospel of Straightness.

I cried for the trans women who have been called abominations.

I cried for the bisexual men who have been called whores.

I cried for LGBTQ people who didn’t grow up in the Church and discovered Jesus like spring after a long winter—who then spent months of frustration on church websites, hunting for policy clarity, then weeks on the phone with pastors. And who, after months of driving for hours every Sunday to the nearest affirming church five towns over, wearily gave up.

I cried for every queer boy who has wept behind their steering wheel after leaving a lunch conversation with someone he used to think was safe.

I cried for all the trans college kids who out of deep love for Jesus faithfully showed up to Christian therapy and their accountability partner because they believed that they could root out this sin like they rooted out gossip, greed, envy, and selfishness. I cried because they can’t fix what isn’t broken, and I cried because in trying, they are breaking their own soul.

I cried for every closeted gay pastor who is trying to shame himself into being sexually attracted to his wife.

I cried for every gay worship leader who is so scared that Jesus is as disgusted by him as he is.

I cried for the beautiful, profound, wise, queer women who took their beauty out into the world after the Church discarded them, who are now thriving, bent but not broken—leaving a Church that is broken without them.

I cried for the Church. Because every day that she keeps this community out, she loses a piece of her soul.

Finish reading this 3 day devotional in the app. Find it on the “LGBTQ+ Spirituality” shelf.


Breaking Alabaster by Kristin Miller

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Breaking Alabaster

By Kristin Miller

A Costly Love

Main Verse: While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9 (NIV)

When Mary of Bethany broke her alabaster jar and anointed the head and feet of Jesus with her costly perfume, the disciples were indignant at her waste. Such valuable commodities were now lost, they groaned. These treasures should have been sold and the money given to the poor, they grumbled. Over a year’s wages would have gone a long way, they complained.

And they rebuked her. They rebuked her harshly for an act of love they deemed too costly. Waste! they cried.

Jesus in turn rebuked His disciples and commended Mary. He will always commend love, especially, I think, when it is costly.

Like the day she sat at Jesus’ feet, drinking in His every word, it seems that Mary had again chosen what was better (Luke 10:38-42). In her Master’s estimation, just as she had chosen the best use of her time, she had now chosen the best use of her treasures.

In total approval of her act that night, Mark 14:9 records that Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Mary’s story is well known and has been held in high regard among believers for centuries. But Jesus said wherever the gospel is preached what she did will also be told. This gave me pause as I read it this week as I don’t recall hearing the anointing at Bethany worked in to any evangelistic messages I’ve heard of late. Or, I should say, worked into any evangelistic messages I’ve heard. Ever.

As I pondered these things, I wondered if I was thinking too literally. In other words, it’s not that the actual story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus would be told with the preaching of the gospel, but that the anointing at Bethany is the gospel. Or, that is, a picture of the gospel. Consider: Mary’s alabaster jar was broken and its precious contents poured out. So too Jesus’ body was broken, His precious blood poured out. She did it for love. So did He.

The accusation of waste comes now into shocking clarity. No wonder He rebuked them. Well intentioned though they might have been, they had no idea what they were suggesting for they had no idea that Mary through her act that night was preaching His gospel. A gospel of great cost. A gospel of great sacrifice. A gospel of great love.

Forgetting herself, Mary broke her alabaster jar, symbolically showing that very soon the Master would do likewise. Because of His great love, Jesus’ death was the breaking of an alabaster box for us. Shouldn’t our lives be the same for Him?

Thank you, Mary, for not only showing us the best use of our time and the best use of our treasures, but for forgetting yourself and showing us the gospel.

Finish reading this 2 day devotional in the app. Find it on the “Who Was Jesus Tho” shelf.






Timothy Arliss O'Brian

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Composer. Author. Visual Artist.

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Meet Timothy O’Brien. He is an interdisciplinary artist specializing in music composition, writing, and visual arts. He started life in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and eventually made his way to the Portland, Oregon. Timothy has self-published multiple literary works, and premiered music and visual art throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Timothy has worked with Cascadia Composers, Sound of Late, Oregon Society of Artists, and the Concordia University Literary Arts Journal.

Timothy is currently working on self-publishing more literature and writing/recording passionate new music.

"My goal is to connect people to accessible new art, literature, and music that showcases virtuosic abilities without losing touch of realistic emotions and virtue. I want to produce writing that connects the reader to themselves in a way that promotes growth. I would also like to create visual art demanding of the senses that thrusts people into a new world and a new perspective." Read two of his devotionals in the app:

“Cultivating Inner Strength” and “Keeping Hope.”

Gracia Rich

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Women In The Bible

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Meet Gracia Rich a Civil Litigation and Criminal Defense Paralegal for The Weaver Law Firm. She is a divorced, mother of four who resides in Marion, South Carolina. 

She is the founder of the Broken Dolls Initiative, an organization whose goal is to provide encourage and empower women to find their best selves and to assure them that there is life in second chances. “I have always had a passion for women throughout my life and I know that it is my God-given purpose to share my story with them so that they will understand that perfect does not equal power, it’s the potential that makes the possibilities.

You can find two of Gracia’s devotionals in the app. Just search for:

Jael: Equipped for Purpose

Abigail, Rahab & Deborah: Big Faith