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Showing posts from January, 2021

There Is Always Light

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Earlier this week when I was watching the Inauguration, and I heard Amanda Gorman, the nation's first youth poet laureate, read her poem The Hill We Climb,  I got emotional.   It started with a huge lump in my throat that turned into full-fledged ugly crying as she read the last line:   When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it. If you have been a regular reader of the Daily Devos over the past several years, you know I love a good poem.  When you want to truly capture the essence of a feeling in ways that transcend dry-as-toast explanations... you need a poet to do it properly.   There was so much I loved about that last line because it spoke to a hopeful future beyond all of the deep, fissures, and great gulfs that have been created between us and our fellow citizens in recent years.   The light we seek to lead us forward into

Does God Care More About Rules or Relationship?

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I read that President Biden attended Mass in the morning prior to the Inauguration.  I looked at the Gospel reading for the Mass for yesterday, and discovered it was from Mark 3:1-6 which reads:  1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come here." 4 And he said to them, "Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Hero'di-ans against him, how to destroy him. I mentioned the whole way I came to this passage as a way of making some connections to the rocky road ahead of us t

An Open Letter To The President-Elect

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Today's Daily Devo is a bit different than usual.  I felt compelled to write an open letter to our new President (by noon today) as a prayer of sorts and a plea.   To President-Elect Biden,  Today you will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States after what has been the most contentious and divisive election in modern history.  Some historians have written that our country is the most divided it has been since the Civil War.   Millions of my fellow citizens still believe that you won the election because of fraud, and they seem unwilling or unable to consider otherwise.   There is so much misinformation, fear, hysteria, rage, and downright hatred within our public discourse right now and most of it has been stoked by cynical political leaders who seek to divide us all for their own personal gain.   The recent violent attack on our nation's capital is the culmination of how lies and misinformation have twisted the hearts and minds of so many people--so much so that

The Most Miraculous Thing Of All

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I remember as a little kid listening to a Sunday school teacher tell the story of The Great Flood from the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures.  She related to us how Noah built his ark, and how all of the animals went into it two-by-two, single file.  As I listened to her, I started thinking about what she was saying and how improbable it seemed.  I started asking questions:  Me:  "How did they fit millions of species of animals into the ark?  It doesn't seem like it's big enough based on how it's described?"  Teacher:  "Don't you think God could have made the ark miraculously bigger inside than outside?"  Me: "Okay, well what did they feed all of the animals?  Wouldn't the carnivorous animals want to eat the other animals?  How did that work?" Teacher: "God made all of the animals become vegetarians while they were on the ark."  Me: "Well, what about the dinosaurs?  You said once that there were dinosaurs then beca

On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - 2021

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Today as a nation we honor the memory of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by celebrating what is now a national holiday, recognized by all 50 states.    The fight for this national holiday was contentious.  While the bill passed in 1983  (Despite the efforts of a filibuster by the former Klu Klux Klan member and long-time segregationist Senator Jesse Helms) , it wasn't fully celebrated as a national holiday until 1986.  And further, several Southern states promptly combined Martin Luther, King, Jr. Day with holidays that uplifted Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, who was born on January 19. It wasn't until the year 2000 that every state in the Union finally celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and to this day some Southern states still try to do it in conjunction with celebrations of Confederate figures.   These kinds of sad facts have largely been swept under the rug, but it's high time we confronted them.   This past year we have had to come face to fac

Second Sunday of Epiphany: Your Servant Is Listening

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Today we are continuing our journey through the season of Epiphany.   Epiphany is a season within the historic rhythms of the church where we are given the chance to be surprised by the truth of who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do.   Epiphany also offers us the gift of transformation as we allow the wonder of Christ's presence to change us, and the world around us.   One of the main issues that the Gospel writers and indeed the Apostle Paul and all of the authors of the New Testament wrestled with is simply this:  What does it mean to be transformed by the new thing God is doing through Christ?   Over and over again we see throughout the New Testament that those early Christians were being exhorted by the apostles and early church leaders to be alert to what God was doing, to stay awake... and to listen for God's voice.  Today we are going to take a fresh look at an old Sunday school story from the book of 1 Samuel, a story that occurs hundreds of years before Christ... but

When Being Right Isn't Right Enough

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I like to be right about things.  In fact, I take no small amount of pleasure in moments where I have been debating something with one of my family members (especially one of my kids) when they have to finally admit that I was right about what I was saying.   While I am typically magnanimous in my victory, I may have also been known to perform a celebratory dance, or punctuate the moment with words like, "Boom! Roasted!" or "That's right, I'm right!"   Being right is so very, very satisfying.   Until it isn't.   Because sometimes our desire to be right feels incredibly wrong for others.  Sometimes our desire to be right causes us to wound the ones we love, to do harm to our relationships, and even to blind us to the fact that what we perceive as right is actually... not right.  And there are times when the choices we have before us don't feel right at all.  In fact, we might even know  in our heart of hearts that no matter what we choose, we might ac

When You're Tired And You Don't Know How To Pray

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I made the mistake of watching some of the debate on the floor of the House of Representatives today on the article of impeachment of President Trump.  It was a poor decision, to be sure.   After a few minutes, I had to go outside and sit quietly in the sunshine and listen to the birds' chirp for a while.  My spirit is full of disquiet and I have to be honest with y'all... I'm not feeling a whole lot of hope for unity in this fractured country of ours.  I'm not sure where we go from here, to be honest.  What I do know is that I am tired as tired can be.  I couldn't get that line from Stephe King's Green Mile  out of my head just now:   “I'm tired, boss... I'm tired of people being ugly to each other. I'm tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world...every day. There's too much of it. It's like pieces of glass in my head...all the time. Can you understand? ...” Aren't you tired?  I know some of you are---just as tired as you can get

What To Do When You Have A Crisis Of Faith

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In 2011 I had a crisis of faith.   Up until that time I would have self-identified as a (moderately) conservative evangelical Christian pastor.   But I had a sudden and shocking blow to my beliefs that came out of the blue early on an Easter Sunday morning as I was driving to church, and practicing my sermon in the car.   I remember pausing my recitation of what I was going to preach later and feeling the frigid wash of doubt wash over me like a bracingly cold ocean wave.  When I regained my breath, I actually whispered out loud: "I don't know if any of this is true." Before that moment I had been certain about everything.  I was certain about what I  believed, certain about who I was, and what I was put on earth to do.  Afterward, I found myself unmoored, lost, and scared to death.   There's this poem by A.R. Ammons that sums up how I felt in the weeks and months after that tectonic shift:   I  have nowhere to go and  nowhere to go when I get  back from there.   Ther

Is Your Spirituality Leading You To Life or Not-Life?

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The snow came the day before yesterday, floating down magically from the heavy grey skies over Central Texas.  It was a moment of wonder for those of us unfamiliar with such things on the regular.   My youngest son played out in the snow with his friends from the neighborhood.  They got soaking wet from rolling in it, making snowmen, throwing snowballs... and then tracking dirty, wet footprints all over my house when they came in to warm up.  As I stood outside the day after watching all of the magic melt away into a muddy mess, I got to thinking about spirituality, impermanence, and how quickly things can turn when we hold on to our beliefs too tightly.   Yep, that's how my mind works.  I wish I could shut it off sometimes and just simply be, but there you go.   Bear with me a moment, though.  I think there's something important here for those of us who struggle at the intersections of faith and culture, faith and politics, faith, and just about everything else in life.   I

Jesus Would Have Us Tell The Truth

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It's been a difficult week for all of us.   This new year, which we imbued with so much hope and promise, began ignominiously with a riot that took place in our nation's capital--a riot that took the lives of five people, and forever stained this moment in our shared history.   By all accounts, it could have been a lot worse.  It appears now that many of the people who breached security and entered the Houses of Congress had evil intent, and were only narrowly thwarted from further deadly violence.  I say this as a matter of fact, not as a way to stoke further division.  No matter what our political bent might be, none of us should hesitate in condemning these actions.  But the question before anyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ should now be, "What is the proper 'Christian' response to all of this?"   It would seem there is an easy answer, right? After all, Jesus gave his followers a blueprint of sorts for these kinds of moments:   "Love one

Baptism of Our Lord - "The Voice of the Lord Speaks 'Beloved'"

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  Today we are going to continue our journey through the Season of Epiphany and the sermon series, "Expect the Unexpected."  Epiphany is a season of surprise realization.  It's when we have the opportunity to begin to see more clearly who Jesus is, and what Jesus came to do.   Fr. Thomas Keating once wrote about this season:   The great enlightenment of the Christmas-Epiphany Mystery is when we perceive that the divine light manifests not only that the Son of God has become a human being, but that we are incorporated into his body.  This is the special grace of Epiphany  Today we are going to take a bit of a detour in the Epiphany journey however because the official "Feast Day" in the historic church calendar today is The Baptism of our Lord. This is the moment when Jesus is baptized by John and something amazing happens...  The Voice of the Lord speaks and says something beautiful... we'll get to that in a moment.   I want you to think about the most recog

Are You Just Passing Through?

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When I was a teenager, I was at church pretty much any time the church doors were open.  There was Sunday school on Sunday morning, then a Sunday service, followed by choir practice for my mom (I sat outside in the car) in the late afternoon, and then Sunday evening services.   Additionally, we went to "prayer meetings" on Wednesdays (I would go to the youth version), and Thursdays were often set aside for "door-to-door-witnessing."  This is where we would literally go knock on and people's doors in the neighborhood and ask them the following question:  "If you died right now, would you go to heaven or hell?"   We were obsessed with the afterlife, and how to ensure we ended up in the right place in the said afterlife.  It consumed most of the sermons I heard, all of the Sunday school lessons, youth meetings, and pretty much everything else I was taught.   I was taught that this world was corrupt and awful---filled with sin and sinners.   Not only were

Whataboutism & The Gospel

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I  had a whole other devotion that I was planning to publish this morning, but I decided to wait on it. I need to write and think a bit about the tragic and awful assault on our nation's capital yesterday by rioters who opposed the outcome of the recent election.   The great reformed theologian Karl Barth once wrote that the preacher should have one eye on the Scriptures and one eye on the newspaper.  So that's what I'm doing this morning.  Plus, I just kind of need to process what I'm thinking.  One of the many things that frustrated me yesterday is the way that so many people engaged in the blatant employ of "whataboutism" as they remarked on the violence and the many other shameful actions of the mob that overran the Capitol Building.  What is "whataboutism?"  Here's the working definition:  what·a·bout·ism /ˌ(h)wədəˈboudizəm/noun - The technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counteraccusation or