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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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Amy Walton

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Pick Up Your Mat and Walk!

Amy Walton

Day 1 of 3: What’s Your Excuse?

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
-John 5:1-7 (NIV)

I love stretching and lying on my yoga mat. Whether I’m in final savasana after a series of poses or simply lying in silence, my mat becomes an island of comfort for me, one that I often don’t want to leave. I suppose you could call it a comfort zone, a space where I am completely at ease and from which I sometimes must force myself to leave in order to do my next task.

I’ve actually lain on many “mats” in my life. There was the mat of an eating disorder that saw my weight plummet to 83 skeletal pounds. That mat was really painful at times, but I remained on it largely as a control and perfection thing. For a while, I honestly didn’t know how to get off of it. There was also the mat of the aftermath of my adultery, a mat that left me feeling that I was no longer worthy of being a vessel for God’s love.

There’ve been other mats in my life on which I’ve sprawled my cozy self, especially out of fear and uncertainty—of insecurity, depression, jobs that no longer served me or I, them. I’ve probably had enough of these comfort zone mats to fill an entire yoga studio!

In today’s biblical text, we see a man lying by the healing pool of Bethesda. The gospel writer tells us the man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years—nearly four decades. We don’t know what his illness or disability was, nor do we know how long he’d stayed by that pool. John gives us only a bit of information about the man.

We do know that Jesus came along and asked the guy if he wanted to get well.

The man’s answer puzzles me.

He didn’t reply “Yes” or “No.” He gave Jesus an excuse, saying he had no one to help him and that every time he tried to enter the pool, someone went ahead of him.

Why didn’t he shout, “Yes! Yes, I want to be made well!”

I wonder… Did he ask anyone to help him? Did someone offer to help, and he declined, wanting to make the attempt on his own? Why did he stay on his mat?

I also wonder… Had the man become too comfortable, even in his suffering? Maybe the pain and angst and possible rejection he experienced had become too familiar. Perhaps he was afraid of how life might be if he were healed. There would certainly be no more excuses.

Many of us can relate.

We know there are people out there, in our towns and possibly in our neighborhood, who need a listening ear, a hug, a donation of clothes, compassion. Many are our friends and acquaintances. We know this, yet we continue to stay on our familiar mats and think about what we should do. Yes, we think; we don’t act.

There’s that job we’d like to have, but we haven’t applied because our self-doubt or fear or just plain comfort in our current job seeps in, keeping us on the mat of a career we don’t enjoy. We don’t seek support in updating our resume or making connections at the company for which we’d like to work. We know we need to move on, but we choose to stay comfy right where our miserable selves are.

We often sink into the mat of not owning who we truly are, as God made us. “What would people think if they knew the real me?” we might ask. Rather than risk judgment, we remain where we are, sinking deeper.

So, what’s your excuse? What do you know you should do or want to do? Where is God calling you to serve and to grow? Are you allowing the Spirit to lead you?

Don’t be like the invalid man. Thirty-eight years is a long time, and it’s time to stop the excuses!

On what “mats” are you currently lying? Make a list of them. Where are you a bit too cozy, making excuses for not moving forward or acting in faith? You know you need to get off. Identify those mats and share your thoughts with a trusted friend. It’s a first step in walking forward!

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Lunation

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Lunation

Michael Vazquez

Day 1 of 8: Introduction

By Michael Vazquez

For millennia, cultures around the world have oriented their lives around the movement of the Moon. The Moon—a symbol of mystery, the divine feminine, and raw untethered power—is an intuitive force that has served as a guide post, a friend, and a beacon. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we see Israelites ordering calendars and their worship around the cycles of the moon. In Christian texts, the Moon is referenced as an indicator of divine action. Beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition, the moon has maintained a place of honor and reverence. In Ancient Egypt, the moon was called The TravelerThe Defender, and The Embracer. In Central America, some believed the moon to be the grandmother of the sun; others saw the moon as a great warrior.

The Moon is that fantastically queer figure, dignifying the wild beauty of the night, dancing to its own rhythm. The moon represents the wild within us, the divine feminine kept captive by our own inhibitions, and the Saturnian structures of this world. To read scripture by the light of the moon, to align our lives by its dance and wisdom, is to give ourselves over—like the sea and its tides—to an intense, spiritual freedom. This devotional is a primer to sitting with the Bible and the moon and letting the Creator carry us into new places of healing, wisdom, and liberation.

The great poet, Mary Oliver, wrote, “tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

By the Creator, I pray these words and prompts will help you find your way to your answer.

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Lenny Duncan

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Recovery and Resurrection

Lenny Duncan

Day 1 of 4: Recovery and Resurrection:

For Those of Us Who Have Known Death Intimately

Can I embrace my whole self? Not the idealized one I wish my sober self was? Today we focus on taking stock and fully loving who we are: Beloved of God and sometimes really screwed up.

I’m sick of lame devotionals for those of us in recovery. Whether it’s your first 30 days sober or less, or you have been clean and sober for “double digits,” you have run into them. If it isn’t written in a Byzantine maze of recovery quotes by Captain Cliché, it’s a damn love letter to whiteness and heteronormative standards that dances around the truth of recovery.

The truth for me is that something deep down inside me courted death. I made love to death in whatever form it took beyond the gender binary and beyond whatever substance was in front of me. I’m going to be honest—I am a piss your pants, ruin Thanksgiving dinner kind of drunk. But I also really loved shooting heroin. I loved doing meth and writing. I loved anything that would stick my head over the deep chasm between life and resurrection and let me scream into the abyss. I loved it even when it didn’t love me back. I need fucking help became the Lord’s prayer for me. I never even said the Lord’s prayer before I got sober.

I’m tired of devotionals for people in recovery where they don’t mention the sex work. Or stealing from family. Or that interspersed in between the deep valleys we all focus on, there were some of the greatest times of our lives. No one ever mentions that you become a completely different person a few years into recovery and that it is good and healthy to mourn the loss of the old life. We are taught to shed the skin of the last life and to leap into the arms of the new one without a second thought. It took years in a 12-step program (actually engaging the 12 steps) before I realized that large parts of the old me’s sensibilities, loves, and experiences were not just valuable, but a big part of who I still was.

My day of Grace is February 13th, 2010. I was standing at the back of a Furthur concert in the Hampton Coliseum. I was 35 days into the worst relapse of my life because I’d had a taste of recovery right before it. I had been sober for almost a year and half and had just drank. I had “worked” the 12 steps, was sponsoring people—literally doing all the annoying shit they had been telling me to do for years in recovery. But I fell flat on my face and was already waking up with the rock and roll shakes every morning with demons climbing the wall. It was an unmitigated disaster, and so I just did what I always did and started following a band across the country trying to live off the scene around it.

I heard a voice. Standing at the edge of the crowd, I heard a voice. That wasn’t strange to me—I heard lots of voices that week saying things like you should just end it all or you can never get sober again, you idiot.

This voice said simply and quietly, “You are getting sober today.”

God’s Grace is that I believed that voice. I walked out of the show and haven’t look back since. It was a strange thing, though. With no church background—no real connection to Scripture other than intellectual takedowns of the poor saps who tried to evangelize to me—I associated that voice with Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

What good can come from Nazareth, y’all?

This devotional will not be tidy. I won’t wrap any of my junk in a tidy bow. I won’t sell shame as healthy living, either. I stand at the crossroads of the Church and recovery. You know that makes me an outsider in both worlds if that is you, too.

What I’m going to attempt to do over the course of this devotional is take the shattered pieces of my life and create a mosaic I can share with you until my fingers bleed, and I can’t go on because I have cut myself too many times in this process.

Raw. Broken. Redeemed. Resurrected.

Sinner and Saint.

Rev. Lenny Duncan +

Today ask God, “What’s at risk if I loved all of me?” What if the jagged edges of your life are what God is going to use?

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Lengthen the Light

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Lengthen the Light

Elizabeth Henry

Day 1 of 7: Lengthen

The season of Lent refers to the forty days (excluding Sundays, with each considered its own little Easter of sorts) leading up to Holy Week and Easter Sunday in the Christian year. Each spring, Christians of a variety of traditions all over the world take this time to refocus on faith. In the United States, this often comes in the form of cutting out distractions by giving up things like social media or wine—in a sort of do-over on New Year’s Resolutions—or by taking on more extreme measures, like refraining from eating any food at all for a set period or from consuming certain foods or drinks for the entire forty days. For many, this time of literal or spiritual fasting serves precisely the purpose intended, of drilling things down to essentials to make space for experiencing God in more intentional ways.

In my own experience, this kind of fasting often became a sneaky way to feed an eating disorder that really didn’t need any more encouragement. So I began to look for alternative ways of celebrating this holy season, and I found teachers who encouraged me to add rather than to take away. I looked into how this whole Lenten season began anyway, and I discovered that the name comes from a Germanic root word meaning to lengthen, supposedly in reference to the way the days get longer and longer in the spring leading up to the Spring Equinox. Early Christians set the date of Easter (when we remember the story of Jesus returning to life from death and claim that God is still doing that—still breathing life into things we thought long lost) to align with the Equinox, the first day of the season that brings crops back to life. The first day of resurrection.

With this history in mind, then, my Lenten practice this year will not be to fast, but to lengthen. To lean into the light. Over the next week, you’re invited to do the same. With each day, we’ll reflect on an opportunity to lengthen the light in our days, offering a practice or two with each that you may choose to carry with you through this Lenten season when we journey together towards the great light.

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Featured Author

AJ Levine

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Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies and Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences. An internationally renowned scholar and teacher, she is the author of numerous books including The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus and Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi. Her most recent publication is The Gospel of Luke, co-authored with Ben Witherington III. She is also the co-editor of the Jewish Annotated New Testament. Professor Levine, who has done more than 500 programs for churches, clergy groups, and seminaries, has been awarded grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Institutions granting her honorary degrees include Christian Theological Seminary and the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest.

Read her devotional series “Risking the Passion” and in the app today.


Asexuali-TEA

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Asexuali-TEA

Bailey Brawner

Day 1 of 10: Grounding Ourselves

Song of Songs 6:9 (NRSV)

My dove, my perfect one, is the only one,
the darling of her mother,
flawless to her that bore her.
The maidens saw her and called her happy;
the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.

So what is asexuality, and why should we care about it? Well, you clicked on this devotional (thank you), so you must be curious about it or maybe you already care about it. Either way, here you are…welcome!

In its most basic definition, asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction. Where bisexual people by definition can experience sexual attraction for people of any gender, asexual people don’t experience sexual attraction, regardless of gender.

Like any orientation, asexuality is a spectrum, so folx may find themselves on various places, meaning this basic definition will not fit for everyone who identifies as asexual. Also on the asexual spectrum are labels like grey-sexual, demi-sexual, etc. Labels are messy and imperfect, just like us as human beings.

I chose to write this devotional because the conversation around asexuality and the voices of asexual people need more visibility. Even I, as an asexual person, feel underqualified sometimes, to talk about my own asexual identity, because I feel that I don’t know enough about it. That’s really telling, and means that so much more effort needs to go into this conversation.

Being asexual means there are, to use Matthias Roberts’ language, “unique giftings” that an asexual person holds. We see the world in ways that others might not, and because of this, we do things differently sometimes. Asexual people have things that they can offer to everyone, things we can all learn from.

Over the next ten days, we will look deeper into some of those learnings. My hope and my prayer, is that you will open yourself up to learning not only about asexuality, but about your own identity. I pray that you ask questions, that you allow yourself to say ‘I don’t know’, to dig deeper, and to prepare yourself to do the work to know yourself better; body, mind, and spirit.

You are sacred and you are so loved.

Grace and Peace,
Bailey

Throughout the series, I will be speaking from my own perspective, one which is not universal to all asexual people. We should all recognize that asexuality is a spectrum, like any identity or orientation, and no matter how you identify, your experience is valid and sacred. Because I identify as asexual but not aromantic, my focus will not be on aromanticism, though this is another vastly underrepresented orientation. I’d love to hear from you about how your experience is similar or different to mine. Let’s continue this incredibly needed conversation together.

God of goodness and light,
You are here. You are greater and more complex than we can ever know. Pour out your love on us, as we embark on a journey to know ourselves more fully, and to learn from the experiences of our neighbors. Allow us to feel your spirit working within us, stirring new ideas and new ways of seeing ourselves, as a part of your kin-dom.
In your gracious and holy name we pray, Amen.

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The Jesus of Liberation (translated from Spanish)

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The Jesus of Liberation

Carla Sofia Vargas

Day 1: Getting to Know the Jesus of Liberation

En Español:
Yo creo en vos compañero,
Cristo humano, Cristo obrero
de la muerte vencedor con el sacrificio inmenso
engendraste al hombre nuevo para la liberación.

In English:
I believe in you partner,
Brother Christ, laboring Christ,
Victor over death.
With your great sacrifice
You gave birth to the new mankind,
Made to be free.

-Nicaraguan Peasant Mass Credo, Carlos Mejía Godoy

In the church where I grew up—ironically—the life of Jesus was almost never mentioned in the sermons. For some reason the pastor usually chose some chapter of the Old Testament or some Pauline letter, then ended up talking about the love of God despite our mistakes and infidelities and how He sent his only begotten son to die for us. So in the General Assembly, the death of Jesus on the cross was the only reference made about the son of Mary and Joseph.

This felt very different from my experience in Sunday school, where children were always told about Jesus the friend of the rejected, the miracle worker, that man who loved his disciples and healed the sick. Obviously, these stories were always accompanied by a coloring activity, and it’s necessary to specify that we never colored Jesus on the cross.

So what happened that our perspective of Jesus changes as we grow and stop seeing him as more than just the Savior who came to die for us? Because if we are honest with ourselves, the redeemingand sacrificial aspect of Jesus is often the one that predominates the collective imagination of many Christians. The Jesus as a man, friend, and-yes-revolutionary is almost never the protagonist in the pulpits or circles of Church studies in Latin America …And we are missing a lot.

When one reads the story of Jesus in the Gospels, it is easy to fall in love with the life and struggle of that man who spent every second of his ministry loving the unprotected, fighting against injustice, and going against every system of oppression—moral, religious, social, and political—in his speeches, teachings and-above all-his actions. If every person is a beautiful canvas of different identities (for example I celebrate that I am a woman, a latina-mestiza, Nicaraguan, lesbian, and Christian), why don’t we think the same of Jesus? Why do we only keep one aspect of his ministry and his life? I would be very upset if the people who know me accept one of my identities and deny the rest. In my case, if you want to be my friend, you have to accept and recognize all my identities. Yes, it’s all or nothing. Because I am one hundred percent in each of them. Knowing Jesus and knowing ourselves in totality is one of the most powerful and, above all, liberating experiences we could ever experience.

If someone were to ask you who you are, how would you respond?
Do you celebrate all your identities, or are there parts of your life or history that you have not yet recognized?
How could you begin to explore or communicate those aspects that make you the person you are but not everyone knows?

Today I want to celebrate every part of my story. Jesus, help me to know you and to know me in a more intimate and complete way. Amen.

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Healing from Trespass: A Devotional Series for Survivors

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Healing from Trespass:

A Devotional Series for Survivors

Lauryn Peacock

Forgiveness (In the Face of Violence or Transgression)

And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.
-Matthew 6:12, NRSV

All of us have been wronged in relationships. Sometimes the stakes, regarding our health or safety, are high. When trespass involves violence or abuse—sexual, physical, or emotional in nature—our very selves and well-being are at risk. Many individuals in the United States and across the world experience varied forms of trauma in relationships. This is especially true for women and woman-identifying individuals, as well as those who fall into the categories of sexual and gender minorities. To just give one example: “Twenty-three [percent] of female undergraduate university students reported having experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct in a survey across 27 universities in the United States in 2015. Rates of reporting to campus officials, law enforcement or others ranged from 5 to 28 percent, depending on the specific type of behavior.” (2) The problem is even more widespread than our statistics could tell us; and it affects all identities. When our ‘debtors’ trespass against us, the transgressions can range from micro-aggressions, to harassment, to someone letting us down, to bullying, unkind words, or often something much more sinister and difficult to process, as we see in the example above.

Whether or not our broken relationships are the result of violence or other forms of betrayal, we are called, somehow, to live in forgiveness. This gets tricky in the case of abuse and does not negate the need for reporting such crimes, going to the relevant authorities for help, or engaging with therapeutic resources that can also aid us on our path to healing. The primary question, for our purposes here, is “What do we do, spiritually, in order to live in freedom, after (and while) we take those necessary steps?”

Nadia Bolz-Weber, founding pastor of House for All Saints and Sinners in Denver, CO, points out that “When someone else does us harm, we’re connected to that mistreatment like a chain.” What do we do to combat the negative connection, so that we might heal? Bolz-Weber lends an answer that we also see reflected in the Bible passage above: “[Forgiveness] is not an act of niceness,” she states: “Forgiveness is nothing short of an act of fidelity to an evil-combatting campaign.” (3) She goes on to say that retaliation and holding onto resentment both feed, rather than combat, the evil that created the wrong in the first place; she warns that we may start to absorb the attitudes of our enemies, by hanging onto resentment and anger, rather than by starting to forgive. (4)

Anger is a necessary step in our process of grief, yet we must move beyond it, so that we may be “free people,” in Bolz-Weber’s words, uncontrolled by the past. Forgiveness is not the condoning of abuse; it is the beginning of our path toward wholeness after a trespass, our “bolt-cutters” to further sever our connection to the trespass. It all starts with a prayer.

Giver of Life, thank you for the immense blessing of life on this earth. Embolden and empower us to take the steps necessary to live in greater freedom and joy and to build a life that fully reflects the abundance out of which you created us. Calm our fears and ready our hands in prayer and action, on behalf of ourselves and others. Let us live as free people, trying to forgive and cut the power that trespass or the past has wielded over us. Thank you that you are able to do this and more than we could ever imagine, simply because we are beginning by asking.

Meditation: Pray the Lord’s Prayer as part of your daily practice this week

Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
-Matthew 6: 9-13 NRSV

Please find Pastor Bolz-Weber‘s full video on forgiveness, here (Attn: language):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhmRkUtPra8

Important Note:
If you or a loved one have experienced or are experiencing violence or trouble in a relationship, there are many local resources ranging from counseling services to domestic violence shelters that are there to be of aid to you. Domesticshelters.org is a national database that can use your zip code to locate counseling, shelter, and intervention services in your area. If you are in any danger or are being hurt in any way, shape, or form—make the phone call to the relevant authorities or services. Even if you have a desire to simply live in healthier relationship with a partner or others in your life, I encourage you to engage the resources available to you personally and in support of the survivors in your life.

(2) Nadia Bolz-Weber, “Forgive Assholes,” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhmRkUtPra8.
(3) Bolz-Weber, “Forgive Assholes.”
(4) “Now to [God] who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,” Ephesians 3:20, NRSV.

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


Featured Author

Kevin Garcia

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Kevin Garcia is a digital pastor, content creator, and self identifying hot mess. Working at the intersection of queerness, sexuality, Christian faith, gender, and justice,  Kevin creates videos blogs and podcasts that reflect the queer Christian experience. After coming out in the fall of 2015, Kevin has reached thousands of people through his online work and discourse in public theology. He spoken all over the country at colleges and universities, churches and festivals, and works as an organizer with The Reformation Project in Atlanta, GA. Presently, Kevin is pursuing his masters of divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary. In addition to queer stuff and Jesus, Kevin also enjoys dark coffee, red wine, tacos of all varieties, and running the streets of Atlanta, GA where he presently finds his home. 

theKevinGarcia.com
Twitter: @theKevinGarcia_
Facebook: @Kevin.Garcia
Insta:    
@theKevinGarcia
YouTube: 
@helloImKevn
Podcast: 
A Tiny Revolution

Read his devotional “As Yourself” and listen to Kevin on Lord Have Mercy in the app today.


As Yourself

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As Yourself

Kevin Garcia

Introduction

For many of us, we grew up learning that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. But what does it mean to love yourself? If you've been rejected from communities for any reason, love for self instead of blame or sadness can be hard to come by.

As we approach Valentine's Day, let's explore what love means when we give love to ourselves. How can we fill ourselves up with the love of God that leads us to abundant life? Can it be something that we not only give away but something we lavish on ourselves? And what if we work FROM love, instead of FOR love?

In this 10-day devotional, we're going to focus on those last two words of the greatest commandments: "as yourself." What does it mean to really love the bodies God gave us? How can we appreciate all the beautifully weird things that God gave us?  And what the heck is love? And what does it have to do with it?

Glad you're here, beloved.

-Kevin Garcia

Finish reading this 11 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Feabruary's Featured Author

Micky Scottbey Jones

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Micky ScottBey Jones - the Justice Doula - accompanies people as they birth more love, justice and shalom into our world. As a womanist, faith rooted, contemplative activist, healer, and nonviolence practitioner, Micky supports students, clergy, activists and everyday leaders in a variety of roles - speaker, writer, facilitator, pilgrimage guide and teacher. She is the Director of Resilience and Healing Initiatives with the Faith Matters Network and is a core team member with The People’s Supper who has gathered more than 4,000 people around tables since the 2016 U.S. election for bridging and healing conversations. Micky earned a M.A. in Intercultural Studies from NAIITS/Portland Seminary and is currently pursuing advanced studies in the Enneagram. You can find pieces of her soul (writing) in two multi-authored books - Becoming Like Creoles: Living and Leading at the Intersections of Injustice, Culture and Religion and Keep Watch With Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers releasing in 2019. Named one of the Black Christian leaders changing the world in Huffington Post, Micky travels the world exploring peacemaking and relationships in different contexts, spreading revolutionary love, engaging in authentic conversations, participating in transformative experiences - and most importantly - she never passes up a dance floor. She has been a contributor at Evangelicals For Social Action, The Porch Magazine, Sojourners, and Red Letter Christians. You can interact with her work and collaborations at Faithmattersnetwork.organd Mickyscottbeyjones.com and catch her social media on Facebook: facebook.com/MSJSpeaks/and Twitter: @iammickyjones.

Read the “Come and Have Breakfast” devotional and listen to her comments on Lord Have Mercy in the app today.


Come and Have Breakfast: Healing from Burnout & Loving Yourself

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Come and Have Breakfast

Micky Scottbey Jones

Day 1: We will go with you in the aftermath.

Focus: Self care, squad care, intergenerational care

As the scene is set in Chapter 21 [John 21:1-25], the disciples have gathered together as they often did before the state-sanctioned killing of Jesus. It’s been a doozy of a time. The pain is fresh. They are living in what could be considered the aftermath. Some friends are missing. The people who helped before aren’t helping now. The person they had been following is dead to most and has appeared a couple of times, but they still aren’t sure when, where, how, or if more death and devastation is on the horizon. What are the next steps? It’s chaos.

In reading this passage, I am reminded of the live recording of the song Why? (The King of Love is Dead) by Nina Simone. She is singing live the day after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee. The pain is fresh. They are all swimming in the aftermath of the central figure of their movement suffering a violent death. In the chorus she laments:

“Folks you’d better stop and think
Cause everybody knows we’re on the brink
What will happen now that the king of love is dead?”

She takes a break in the song and with anguish in her voice says, “They’re killing us all…one by one..we’ve lost so many…we can’t take any more.” (Need to check the exact quote)

Violence, trauma, and harm continue to be experienced by communities. Among the people who followed Jesus. Among the people of the Southern Freedom Movement. Among those of us today whose hearts are awakened to justice and feel the pain of death and trauma all around us.

In the aftermath of those violent or traumatic events, we still have our daily responsibilities and jobs. The disciples still had to feed themselves and were also probably hoping to make a little cash. Which meant they still had to get in the boat and go get some fish. Nina Simone still had to sit at her piano and sing songs and encourage the people. The disciples had each other to share the tasks and distribute the weight. Nina had her band who worked out the arrangement for a new song of lament.

Have you been living in the aftermath of violence or trauma? Do you find yourself concerned about the violence and/or trauma in your community and how you or others will deal with it? Who are others who you can call on to help you compose a song of lament or just deal with basic needs in the midst of a difficult time?

Prayer:
God of connection and friendship, of hope and lament, help us in the aftermath of violence and trauma. May we offer one another companionship in daily tasks that still must be done, even in the most devastating of times. Open us up to sing songs of lament when we gather. Help us to include our pain and share each other’s struggles. Let us resist the temptation to isolate and instead help us to respond to the Spirit who draws us together.

Finish reading this 11 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Feelings Are Holy

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Feelings Are Holy

Erin Green

Day 1: Our Feelings Are Holy

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it,”
-Psalm 139:1-6 NRSV

“God doesn’t care about our happiness. God cares about our holiness.” A closeted member of our LGBTQ+ family recited these words to me. I knew they had learned this idea somewhere in the Church. I knew because I had, too, when I was fighting hard to reconcile my faith and sexuality. My friend was echoing an experience that all too many of us have within many faith community spaces: the demonization of our emotions, feelings, and experiences.

Queer, Transgender, People of Color, and women know this demonization all too well as many of us have been repeatedly abused by the Church by being told that our feelings, emotions, and experiences are not reliable things to trust, not important, or that they don’t matter to God, they are not valid. According to some Church teaching, emotions are potentially damaging ways to be directed and if we allow this we allow chaos and sin to rule over our lives. You may have also been taught that we should never project our emotion onto Biblical text, that we can never read Scripture through the lens of our pain, discomfort, or anguish. We can never experience the liberty in our identities that we wish. We can only experience liberty the way the Church decides for us and ingrains into us.

The tremendous problem with this ideology is that it is extremely counterintuitive to not only what the stories in the Bible actually tell us, but also to what the characters within the Bible demonstrate to us, including Jesus. The Bible is a very emotional collection of texts. The various genres within it contain everything from lament, complaint, instruction, prophecy, novellas, burlesque, praise, thanksgiving, apocalyptic, poetry, etymology, erotica, death, anguish, joy, peace, etc. It’s about real people experiencing life and trying to make sense of it.

Some churches try to rob our communities of our emotional responses to life, church, and our understanding of Scripture. They claim that we project our emotions and feelings onto the text in order to make it say what we wish. They claim that listening to our emotions and being guided by our feelings will lead us further away from the truth.

This is a misguided attempt to “sin-manage” your life. But stifling what God gives naturally in order to make people conform to the Church’s desires is never directed by God. On the contrary, our emotions are authoritative, beautiful, wonderful. They are imbedded within us by the Living God.

In Psalm 139, the Psalter tells us that we are “fearfully” made by God––every single part of us. This term, in the original Hebrew, means “to revere” and “to be in awe.” That is how amazing our emotions and feelings are––they evoke awe and reverence because we are God’s masterpiece. We are the highlight of God’s creation. We are the encore.

Living God, as we journey through this series championing the emotions, feelings, and experiences you have created us with, help us to hold space for even the most challenging ones. Help us to hold ourselves and others in compassion over our emotions and feelings. Teach us how to embrace and utilize our emotion and feeling for wisdom, to love others, to love ourselves, and to love you.

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


Planning and Purpose

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Planning and Purpose

Breea Milburn

Day 1: Planning for an Unpredictable Future

“Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.” 
-Proverbs 4:26

A famous writer once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.” We know what that author was getting at–we can try formulating a “fool-proof” plan for achieving our dreams, but even our best intentions are rarely so easy to navigate. That being said, God still wants us to be planners. After all, success and growth don’t simply appear without preparation. We study for exams in order to pass them, we read to our children in order to strengthen their imaginations, and–most importantly–we practice walking as Jesus walked in order to become more like Him. Though we cannot control the future, we can still plan now to strengthen ourselves for what’s to come.

Go ahead and make yourself five manageable goals for the day; write them down and place your list somewhere you won’t forget it. What would you like to accomplish before bed? How do you want to connect with God today? Try to accomplish as many goals as you can, but don’t feel overwhelmed if you can’t finish your list. Remember: your day is not always going to go according to plan, but planning to make the most of your day is never time wasted.

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