Liberating Love Devotion for 12/11

Here’s your weekly love note from God! With the new year coming up, you might know some folks looking for a spiritual practice to start the new year off right. Maybe encourage them to subscribe to the Sunday e-mail list so they get a love note every Sunday in 2020 to start the week off right. I hope these devotions have been meaningful to you; I’m going to keep posting them through 2020!


Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.


Honor me and follow my commandments is all you are supposed to do. Leave the judging to me, because I have a better view of the whole picture. It seems that many people like to play God, by judging and condemning. Those same people aren’t very good at being human–of honoring me and following my path of love and compassion are care. May you find others who can be human with you for this journey I have called you to.

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Liberating Love Devotion 12/4

Here’s your weekly love note from God. You can find a different message five days a week, through an e-newsletter on Sundays, on Twitter on Tuesdays (@devotionallove), here every Wednesday, on Instagram on Thursdays (@liberatinglovedevotional) and on Facebook every Friday.


John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’


Jesus showed his love in so many ways. He healed. He taught people how to worship and how to be community and how to share. He studied and debated scripture with great minds. He shed tears for those he loved. He disrupted acts of corruption and mistreatment of the poor. So today I ask you: when Jesus says to you “just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,” how will you show love in the ways that Jesus did?

Why advent…and why maybe not. (maybe part of a series on liturgical seasons of resistance…or also maybe not)

I think it was the day after my father died, so almost exactly a year ago. With a lump in her throat, my mother said, “I might put out a few Christmas things this year, but I can’t put out anything that’s from the Advent box. I just think about your father making sure every year he didn’t get cheated out of an Advent tea if Christmas eve fell on a Sunday.”

Most liturgical traditions weren’t to be trusted in my mother’s Scottish Presbyterian upbringing: anything too liturgical was definitely Catholic, which was NOT Presbyterian. (For a very small country that loves their resistance stories so much, they seem to forget how much of their resistance was wrapped up in resisting the Church of England back when they were mostly Catholic.) 

So it was interesting that when my mother lost many of her family’s traditions upon being cut off by her parents for marrying my (brown) Hindu father, one of the family traditions that the three of us clung to even though it had no part in either of their histories was Advent. Not the historical Advent of fasting and penitence (don’t worry, I’m getting there) but the Advent of lighting candles, listening to Christmas music, and having finger sandwiches thick with margarine and filled with the special treat of tinned salmon, or homemade sausage rolls–greasy hot water pastry filled with tubed sausage meat and sliced into bite sized pieces, and tiny individual mince pies. (My mother grew up in post-war Britain. That’s pretty high end.)

It was a much beloved ritual my mother was stunned I didn’t keep rigorously myself when I moved out. (And when I had a partner, I did. And to this day, I try to host ONE advent tea a year if I can pull it off, to share the tradition as best I can as a childless single person whose family traditions will die with me.)

I’m an everything nerd, so it’s not surprising I turned out to be a liturgy nerd. I’m also a generalist–I’m too lazy to delve deep into any one subject, no matter how interesting. So over the years people who have learned this about me have performed the party trick of sharing little nuggets of history about Advent in particular, which I treat as valuable oral tradition and do not seek to debunk, because they are such good sermon fodder.

Over the years I’ve learned these things about Advent that may or may not be true; don’t take them away from me:

  • Advent was created as a season of penitence and fasting to provide dignity to people without resources. That was a lean season for serfs, and it sanctified–made holy– their struggle and demanded that those with more resources join their struggle if they wanted to see themselves as holy.
  • Advent was a six week season like Lent, offering mirrors of our journey and challenge as we approach the miraculous birth (and the hope of overcoming a tyrannical state) and our journey and challenge as we approach the devastation of death and then the miracle of new life (after the conquering of hell).
  • Gaudete Sunday/Rose Sunday/Joy Sunday (the pink candle, currently the third week of four Sundays, the other three being purple candles of royalty but also of deep reflection) was added because medieval folks would get so into the penitential aspect of Advent that by the Sunday before the Sunday before Christmas, people would be fainting from hunger in worship. (I know my Anglican friends will remind me every Sunday is meant to be a mini-Easter, but y’all know a Scottish Presbyterian by blood, no matter how liturgical, sees that as just cheating on the self-discipline.)

How is that not a SUPER COOL SEASON that we should all be totally digging? (OK, I get swept up in the hardcore bada**ery of folks in the medieval church, I admit.)

So here’s the thing. Every year in the US we get into lots of weird conversations and debates about whether the church is getting sucked into materialist culture by participating in Christmas before December 25. (It is.) We debate whether we should only sing Advent hymns (of which there are really only two that anyone knows–fight me) until Christmas Day, and then sing Christmas hymns until January 6, Epiphany, when everyone is sick to death of Christmas. (We should. And you don’t have to fight me cuz my mum will, every year. You’re good.)

I have friends who grew up in churches that don’t really have advent, who see it as very much a white thing or a mainline church thing or a Catholic thing. (They’re not necessarily wrong.) And yet as I’ve tried to practice Advent as faithfully as I practice Lent (which does end up getting a little too Catholic for my mother, no matter how hard she tries to overcome the sectarianism that damaged her homeland for hundreds of years), my relationship to Jesus and my political identity as a Christ-follower deepen. So I’m still fighting for it. Usually. Until this year.

My friends and I are what you might call “crispy.” We’ve called and mailed and protested and risked arrest and preached and marched and cried and vigiled and pilgrimaged til we have almost nothing left. We live in a nation that is caging babies and murdering sacred land. We live in a nation where hate crimes are on the rise and fascism is maybe creeping or maybe sauntering at this point. We live in a nation where everything tells us Black lives don’t matter but that saying Black lives DO matter makes us a threat to our government. We live in a nation where refugees are turned back to places we made dangerous and immigrants are deported but we continue to try to wipe out indigenous lives at the same time, reminding us that whiteness is the only real god we are meant to worship.

And so this year, I’ve been letting Christmas trickle in anywhere it needs to in communities that are impacted physically or psychically by this evil. I’ve been letting the already part of the Christmas miracle (God is always, already and not yet) show up as strongly as the not yet among my activist and organizer and care taker friends. I’ve started seeing this season as one long and well deserved Gaudete Sunday of joy after so many purple Sundays of hope, peace and love in the face of hopelessness, violence and hate.

I used to serve in a church where most of us didn’t have much, and I preached the importance of a season of Advent anticipation and even spiritual discipline and temperance in the face of American capitalist exploitation of our holiday for the sake of making a buck. I’m not sorry for that, and I’d also give anyone struggling a pass to let a little Christmas leak into Advent.

So maybe it doesn’t need to be a line in the sand, a bright line, a line of purple and pink candles against a line of green and red ones.


But here’s the thing, though.

How do we assess if we’re self-medicating, erasing, avoiding the realities of the biblical moment leading up to Christmas by skipping the critical part of the story?

What if the part about Mary exclaiming that her Son would tear down injustice and literally withhold food from those who had grown fat while others starved…what if that part is in the bible for the people who are comfortable to be awakened to their role in addressing their fellow human’s suffering, not just as an act of charity but as an act of systemic restructuring?

What if the season of Advent is about people with stuff having to do without, to literally feel what longing and absence and need are, to cultivate empathy, the way our Muslim siblings are supposed to feel deeper empathy for the poor during their fasting season of Ramadan?

What if Advent’s point right now is to wake us up and shake us loose from the illusion that democracy actually addresses the needs of the poorest, the darkest skinned, the longest on this land when it was designed for the wealthiest, the lightest skinned and the newest arrivals of a certain type?

I have some deeply liturgical friends who get mad at the Good Friday sermon that says “It may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” I remember getting mad at my congregation for not catching fire about the miracle of Moses and the liberation of Israel, and when I complained to a pastor who worshiped at the church when he wasn’t at his own, he said, “that’s because we know God liberated US right here just two hundred years ago so we don’t need to get excited about that,” and I got mad at HIM.

As I get older I am better at recognizing that for my siblings who are in an eternal advent, in the occupied Jerusalem before that liberator baby had been born, a little sneak peak of Christmas isn’t a sin.

I just don’t want Christmas to be an anesthetic to the fact that we are all living in occupied Jerusalem before that liberator baby has been born, and some of us who are wounded spiritually by the occupation (and ALL of us are wounded spiritually by it) still have some work to do to show up alongside the folks who are being wounded physically and psychically by that same occupation.

It’s why my friends created the now notorious “F*** this S***” advent devotional several years ago at the height of the Movement for Black Lives, to remind us that the prophets waiting for a better day used REALLY strong language to convey the urgency of the moment, the desperate need for a savior, the desperate need for us to do the WORK of preparation, to put aside politeness and civility and “decency” when those things are perpetuating violence.

So I guess, to use my long-forgotten theological ethics terminology, I’m trying to make the argument that the right to Christmas before December 25 feels to me to be situational.

I get that I’m fighting a losing battle. I’m not 100% sure it’s a battle that matters anywhere near as much as the work I get to do with congregations and nonprofits seeking to institutionalize anti-oppression practices into the lives of their organizations. That said, as a deeper and deeper proponent of nonviolence, I also find myself moving more and more towards spiritual discipline as the way to remain grounded in my work, my accountability and my relationship to the divine in hard times.

I haven’t asked but I think my mother’s putting out the advent wreath this year. I’m not sure she’ll make sausage rolls for one, but she’ll watch all of the Christmas choral concerts on PBS. It might still be too sad one year later for either of us to do the joy-filled advent rituals that made my father act delightfully like a child even in the years when he was working so hard and often ran a little short tempered.

And when she’s with me on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we’ll go to church and then to the Dickens Christmas Faire at the Cow Palace because I’m not an absolute purist either.

A friend made a beautiful argument for why we as progressive Christians should embrace Christmas the way it’s being practiced in the secular world. If we don’t reclaim Christmas as a season of all the beautiful values we believe Christmas to be, my friend argued, we’ve ceded ground and are letting the corporations and capitalist interests define it.

That’s cool. I’m just going to wait to reclaim it til December 25th. And in the mean time I’m pushing Advent HARD, just like Sysyphus with the boulder, December after December, a rock made out of hope and peace and joy and love and two other substances I don’t know because we’ve reduced it by two weeks.

If it’s any consolation, my mother’s rolling her eyes right along with you, as she hangs up her Christmas decorations, and as I do, too.

Liberating Love Devotion 11/27

Friends, I apologize for the large gap. I thought I had scheduled the weekly devotions through the end of 2019. I don’t know what happened. I finally noticed today, and we’re back on track. Here’s your weekly love note from God:
2 Chronicles 30:25-27 The whole assembly of Judah, the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the resident aliens who came out of the land of Israel, and the resident aliens who lived in Judah, rejoiced. There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon son of King David of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the priests and the Levites stood up and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; their prayer came to his holy dwelling in heaven.
If you want a glimpse of my Realm here on earth, this moment was such a glimpse. All of the people came together in celebration: people of all faiths, people of diverse nations living together in the same city, people of all genders. And my designated priests blessed all the people and they prayed to me with joy and celebration and unity. This is the world I call on you to recreate, even if it be in glimpses.

Liberating Love Devotion June 26

Romans 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

When my beloved daughter Carrie Nation was asked from whence came her fiery passion for ending alcoholism in the United States, she said “from the icy cold waters of the Ohio river where I was baptized.” Life after death is a whole new thing. Today I invite you to reflect on your baptism, and how you want your life to be a whole new thing. How can you live in newness of life having been buried and risen anew?

Liberating Love Devotion June 19

2 Samuel 6:20b-22 But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, ‘How the king of Israel honoured himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!’ David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honour.’

My son David was so full of joy that I had blessed his community that as people carried the box with the ten commandments to its new home, he danced fervently and enthusiastically. He sacrificed offerings to me. He forgot to carry himself with the decorum of a king and instead became a joy-filled child lost in his love for me. And he did me great honor when he said his reputation mattered far less than his celebration of me. Are you willing to be viewed as outside the norm in order to live a life of joy and celebration with me?

Liberating Love June 12

Your weekly love note from God.

Jude 1:22-23 And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.

Extend compassion, provide paths to liberation, protect those at risk of falling prey to temptation. And yet I do not ask you to let your body or soul be harmed by those of my children who function out of malice or cruelty. While I seek the salvation of all of my children, I do not sacrifice one for another. If someone’s actions harm you or others, you can tell them, and you can love and forgive them from a distance. In a healthy community, you can find others to work with them on their redemption and potentially their containment so they do not harm others. Today reflect on whether there are people in your life doing you real psychic, physical or emotional harm. Seek help in creating healthy distance from them, placing your trust in me to save them in this life or the next.

Liberating Love June 5

Your weekly love note from God.

Leviticus 19:35-36 You shall not cheat in measuring length, weight, or quantity. You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

When you have known suffering and then know freedom from suffering, it should open something up inside you. It should help you live a life with integrity, never cheating or exploiting, because so much suffering is born of cheating and exploiting. Today I invite you to reflect on where you struggle to live with integrity. I invite you to put that struggle in conversation with any challenges you have faced, and where your liberation from those challenges might have taught you the benefit of following my will of honesty and integrity; you will know a freedom few truly know.

Liberating Love Devotional, May 1

Want a love note from God, courtesy of Sandhya’s new project, Liberating Love Devotional? Tuesdays on Twitter, Wednesdays on her website, Thursdays on Instagram, Fridays on Facebook, and SIGN UP for her to send you a devotion every Sunday!

Lamentations 1:18 The Lord is in the right,

for I have rebelled against his word;

but hear, all you peoples,

  and behold my suffering;

my young women and young men

  have gone into captivity.

I call on you to be faithful, but if you are really of me, then how can your heart not break when so many of my children are harmed by sins that are not theirs? There are as many as 30 million people held in captivity, in human bondage or enslavement, in the world today. They suffer because economic conditions or violence at home pushed them there, or because farms in neighboring countries profit more with child labor, or for many other reasons related to the sins of greed and violence. Today I ask you to hold my pain with me for my beloved children in captivity today. I ask you to explore how to participate in their liberation.

Liberating Love Devotion April 24

Want a love note from God, courtesy of Sandhya’s new project, Liberating Love Devotional? Tuesdays on Twitter, Wednesdays on her website, Thursdays on Instagram, Fridays on Facebook, and SIGN UP for her to send you a devotion every Sunday!

Mark 4:21-22 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.”


When my Son said these words, he was honoring that my light, the light of the Holy Spirit, dwells in YOU. The world may try to hide your light or tell you that you do not radiate with my light. But hiding things, keeping secrets, that is a tool of evil. Efforts to diminish your radiance are a tool of evil. Today I invite you to notice where my light shines in you. And if you are feeling brave and particularly faithful, notice where it shines in the people who frustrate you…who has told them their light is dim, so that they seek to diminish yours? My hope is that all my children will recognize your divine light so you can recognize each other’s.