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re-post: devotional life for progressive Christians

I posted this a while back before anyone was really reading this blog. Now that more people seem to be stopping by, I thought I'd put it out there again with some edits/additons since it's been on my mind again...

Do you find it difficult to have any sort of devotional time? When I was growing up, I was almost compulsive about my personal Bible Study, devotion time, etc. Somewhere along the way, I got more and more sporadic. In part, I found myself frustrated with the devotional books that I considered theologically too conservative. I find it hard to bond with God when you're busy mentally disagreeing with the author of whatever resource you're reading. My habit was broken, and I've never gotten it back for more than a few weeks at a time.
So, a disciplined devotional/prayer/bible-reading life - is it something I should be striving to get back, or something that is filled by other ways I am close to God? This is a debate I have with myself all the time. On the one hand, God is just simply the center of my life. I don't have specific time spent with God, because I honestly feel that all my time is with God, with varying degrees of my awareness. On the other hand, is that the easy way out? Isn't there something to be said for the discipline of devotions?
What do you think? Do you have a devotional/prayer life? Are there progressive Christian resources you would recommend? This last part is my particular interest - what are your specific practices? Ironically, my older brother who is more Eastern-ly-inclined in his spirituality, and certainly went through more of a time of rejecting Christianity than I ever came close to doing - he meditates regularly. Or at least more regularly than I do.

Comments

George Curcio said…
Despite feeling, as you expressed, that "I don't have specific time spent with God, because I honestly feel that all my time is with God, with varying degrees of my awareness," it is also true that praying opens up direct communication with God that brings benefits that would otherwise not exist.

Even if praying is an informal mental conversation with God, it produces communication with God that brings insights and awareness that does not come simply from "feeling" God's presence about us. At its root, it seems that this shows that the mental component of faith is as important as any other portion, and must be present to bring a completeness to our belief.

Having said that, honesty demands full disclosure: maintaining a steady practice of prayer is an area in which I often stumble, and something I must constantly remind myself to do.

A more detailed thought on this can be found at:
http://georgecurcio.blogspot.com/2004/11/purpose-of-prayer.html
Anonymous said…
Hi,
My name is Kristofer and a I am a Seminary Student and candidate for ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ (UCC).

For me, it matters less which discipline a person chooses; provided they actually pursue some sort of disciplined "God-time." For example, in a meeting with my Ministry Team Chairperson not long ago he asked if I prayed in my car (a really great use of what can be tedious time) and if I knew how to do breath prayers (great to do while driving).

You are correct in saying that the conservative sorts of devotionals which get published tend to be detrimental to the faith of progressives, radicals, and liberation theologians. Perhaps someone should approach Sojorners about publishing Progressive Devotions!?!

I just found your blog last week, but it is already one of my favorites and I added it to My-Yahoo. Keep up the good work!

Kristofer K. Avise-Rouse
Eden Theological Seminary
St. Louis
Vitaly Kartsev said…
For much of last year, I followed Luther's Lectionary religiously (ha ha). The one thing that is really difficult about that plan for progressives is that Luther has you in this long stretch of the Pentateuch and the History books for the first part of the year, and it just gets oppressive. I got so sick of abomination this and God smote that and I finally just gave up.

I'm starting where I left off this year, and I'm finding that when I'm dealing with the Gospels and the prophets, I really love it. Most of us are intimately familiar with the Pentateuch and so forth anyway (at least those of us who grew up in conservative churches are), so it's an appropriate thing for progressives to focus on. It's certainly enriched my practice as a Christian.

Meditation is never something I've been able to get into. I sympathize with a lot of the theological directions the mystics went off on, but as far as mystical practices, that's my wife's department. I'm too skeptical to really get it.
Beth Quick said…
Thanks everyone for your thoughts and comments - I appreciate the ideas and feedback. I keep working at it - going on to perfection :)
Dwight said…
I'm not sure if it's a reflection of me or the material, but I've for the most part given up on christian devotional literature all together. There is one nice text, Guerillas of Grace, can't remember the author. But I have found a Reconstruction Jewish prayerbook which has been a helpful resource in this regard.
PPB said…
The Guerrillas of Grace book is by Ted Loder. Loder has written a bunch of books, and is the retired pastor of First United Methodist Church of Germantown---lately a famous congregation. I've read the book, although never considered it a devotional...might look at it again. I have no progressive devotional books to offer. I've actually been memorizing hymns and singing/praying them as I work out. A little offbeat, but I figure they've held others aloft for centuries....I like your blog
Cody said…
Wow. I totally feel you on this. It's funny because I was Googling devotionals and I found one but was quite bored with it and wanted a... different edge to the devotional, I guess you could say. So, I Googled "progressive Christians devotional" and it brought your blog up.

Yes, I struggle with all that you brought up as well. My beef is with prototypical Christianity; all the staple behaviors that induce feeling like a good or bad Christian, feeling immersed presentations of a relationship with God that cause cavities. Anyway, cynicism aside, I struggle with finding time with God that I identify with and that actually lead me to worship Him.

My roommate has been really getting into Taoism as an augmentation to his Walk. I have personally had a huge kick with service and other social matters as a matter of understanding God. But I still thirst for a personal communication with Him. This is not something to gain favor with Him or that I need to do in order to be a Christian; rather, I want to do it to place myself somewhere where I can be changed somehow by Him... where it moves beyond the realm of intellectualism and knowledge into a real relationship. That's my aspiration, at least.

As far as if I'm really gonna be changed, dunno. Romans talks a lot about how God is the one who changes, not us. But that still requires some effort on our behalves. Leading us back to needing to place ourselves in His path, so to speak.

Anyway, Elizabeth, I really enjoyed your post... thanks for your thoughts. Good luck in the search.
Beth Quick said…
Thanks for the thoughts cody!
Anonymous said…
Hi
I can identify with what you are sayinga bout devotional literature. I really like just reading the Bible. As I read I underline things that "strike" me...after a week, I go back and read what has been underlined and then journal about it. I have found this to be really effective...fter a week or so of reading I begin to notice themes or similar thoughts recurring. It really feels like God is talking to me. And I like it because it isn't dependent on what other people think about Scripture, but about what God is saying to me.
Books I like include "weight of glory" by CSLewis. He once commented that the purpose of prayer wasn't to get God to do what I want Him to; rather it is to help me be more in line with His desires.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for this blog, you opened up a great door and may God bless you for your insight. I find the daily devotionals to be very prescribed, such that I am not left with any critical thinking (I find that the latter helps be build my faith when I can explain a particular issue to unbeliever). Please let us know when you find something more progressive!
Merci beaucoup!
Anonymous said…
Last week a few of my colleagues decided to try - just for a week - to take a few "prayer walks", a short time to simply walk slowly listening for God's voice. We then agreed to reflect with each other what we heard or saw or realized. It was beautiful to hear the various reflections. The short time committment and accountability really helped.

As for devotional books, a must for all progressive woman is "Sacred Journeys: A Woman's Book of Daily Prayer" by Jan Richardson. It's fantastic!!!!
Brian Vinson said…
I tend to be either all on or all off in my devotional times.

Prayer walks are always good for me, too (though I can't usually slow down to a walk).

Lately I've been doing Reuben Job & Norman Sawchuck's "A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants" published by the Upper Room.

As a pretty theologically conservative Christian, my question is this: why is reading authors who don't agree with your theology so detrimental to your devotional book reading? Perhaps finding a like-minded progressive-thinker and sharing critiques of said devotional literature would help - but included in that would be questions like "how does this devotion/this author stretch my thinking?" "How might I, as a Christan who disagrees with (whatever), integrate some of the thinking behind the devo into my life?"

I've found that I've grown in my faith through some of my liberal/progressive friends, even when I disagree 99% with them, but usually it's the dialogue that grows me.
Beth Quick said…
thief - I'm not saying I can't use sources that are more conservative than my own perspective. I have and do and have certainly drawn things from them. I'm just saying it would be nice to also have and use resources from a more progressive perspective, and I find them to be rare. Like I said, sometimes I find it hard to turn my brain off of arguing with the source I'm using if I disagree - to me, a devotional time sometimes should be more reflective than mentally argumentative...
I recommend Sister Joan Chittister and two of her books, "Living Well" and "The Psalms" as two progressive devotional resources. Chittister is never short on grit, meaning, and daily practice as a Benedictine. If anyone knows Chittister, you know she would never be construed as "conservative" or even "orthodox."

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