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)
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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.

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


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.


The iAmClinic Shelf

Titles Now Available:

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Is it Time for Counseling? P2: Healthy Communication Tips When Talking to Your Partner About Counseling

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Pride Is a Verb

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Let’s Talk about Sex!

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Faith & Sexual Identity: Using Your Spirituality to Strengthen Your Confidence

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4 Signs of an Unhealthy Sex Life in a Gay Relationship

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4 Ways Counseling Can Help Improve Relationships with Your LGBTQ+ Partner


About the Author

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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. Find out more about the iAmClinic.

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

Finish reading this 8 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


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.

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


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.

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


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!

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


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!

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


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.

Finish reading this 8 day devotional in the app. Find it on the Featured shelf.


Before They Go...

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They had a great run but we have retired the following titles:

Be Still and Go: A Lenten Devotional

Holiness, Inherent Goodness, and True Neighbors

Angels We Have Heard on High

To Haiti and Africa

For F***s Sake

Jael: Equipped for Purpose

When Doing It Ourselves Isn’t Enough

What I Don’t Believe

Letting Go

Wounding God

8 Steps to Sainthood (Wink)

Find Your Orlando

Vengeance & Favor

Jesus Is Not Santa

Gobbled by the Christian Machine

Politics & Faith Unraveling

Rebuilding after Deconstructing

Politics & Faith Unraveling

Fine, It's A "Sin" Problem

All Is Worship

The Way Home

Resurrection is Reconnection

Christmas for Heathens

The Best Christian Ever

The Bishop, The Hostess, and the Blessed Mother

Running From Christmas

Sprinkles of Key West

Love is Bigger: Or, why my children will grow up affirming

You are Good

Trust Versus Fear

I Hate All Your Show

Breaking Open: Sodom & Gomorrah

When the Spirit of Truth Comes

Holy Conversations: Mental Health

Our Story Too: Reading the Bible With "New Eyes"

Queer Spirituality

Numbering My Days

The 10 Commandments of A Fused Faith

Faith Drives Experience

A Working Definition of Faith

Faith in Santa & God

Good Enough For God

Cultivating An Inner Life

Beauty In The Margins

Is there a God shaped hole in our hearts?

When Faith Doesn't Work: Targets Versus Outcomes

The Insidious Self

The God Particle

The Joy of Impermanence

Fr(act)ured

Bloody

Dam(n)

Loving Ray

Our Same Sex Marriage

Honoring the Image of God in Every Child

Of Dogs & Dried Trees

The Way Home

Sewn Together

Belief's Wide Skirt

Watching the “Christian” Responses to a Local Mosque Getting Burned Down

#MeToo

A Womanist Retelling of Rachel and Leah

Leaving the Pews for the Protest

The Hebrew Prophets & Our Modern Desire for An Angry God

Make a Sabbath Plan to Avoid Political Burnout

The Biblical Case for DACA

December 3rd: Advent I

Christ the King Sunday

Reformation Sunday

What Are You Waiting For?

Creating Space For God

Hiding From Love

I Stand at the Door

Overcoming Fear

From. Through. To.

When God Feels Far Away

Of Dogs & Dried Trees

A Beautiful Ache

Engaging the Living God

The World Behind the World

Meditations to Honor the God and Goddess

Too Much Hate

Create in Me a Clean Heart

And Now a Word About Eunuchs

A Ritual of Healing, Hope

Remembering Dr. King

From Baptism to Transfiguration

Beauty in the Margins

Friendship As Justice

What About Sin?

"Fa**ot" Jesus

Easter: A Disabled God

Authenticity Brings Us Closer to God

New Clothes

Finding God in Unexpected Places

Goddamage

The Shocking Kindness of God

Small Voices

Underdogs Welcome

Immediacy of Love

Let There Be Peace

Radical Hospitality: A Look at Martha and Mary

Gobbled by the Christian Machine

Rebuilding After Deconstructing

Halo Effect

Abigail, Rahab & Deborah: Big Faith

F**k

Romans 13

Prodigal Sons and Daughters

Keep Watch with Me

How Can I Keep from Singing

Worship in 30 Seconds or Less

Getting Along with People You Can’t Stand

On Faith

#MeToo & More

Glitter Ash

No Pics, Didn’t Happen

Visceral

Catch a Falling Star

devotionals

Mark 4:26-34 Lectionary Reflection

Torches of Hope

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?

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


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.

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


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.