This is the fourth reflection in a devotional series I’ve made for Advent 2020 called No Going Back. You can read more about this devotional and download a PDF copy here.

Read this week’s Scripture here.

I fully admit that I am not a very adventurous or spontaneous person. I like schedules and making detailed to-do lists, and, as someone who was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, keeping myself on task is difficult – so I like to use as many supports as possible. I enjoy routines. Friends often tease me for watching the same TV shows over and over, but hey, it’s a lot of investment to get into a new show! For a long time, I didn’t really consider where that behavior in particular came from. But as I began working with a therapist and addressing my mental health in a deeper way, I realized that it’s actually a coping mechanism for anxiety. The unknown – whether it’s questions like, “Do I have enough money to get through this month?” or, “Do I want to meet this new person?” – triggers my nerves. Having experiences that are familiar and predictable is comforting and grounding for me, so yes, I will watch the same shows and listen to the same albums and go to the same coffee shop and not get tired. But, every so often I will push past my anxiety a bit and do something different. In 2018 one of my best friends asked if I wanted to go with her to Copenhagen, Denmark for vacation. While I was excited because I’d never left the United States before, my anxiety also had many questions – “How are we going to get around? Neither of us knows Danish. How will we pay for things? How will I keep in contact with folks if I don’t have phone service?” I decided to go ahead and go with all these questions. There was a lot of planning before we left of course, but a lot of unexpected things happened. For example, I wasn’t able to get a SIM card so I had to rely on free wifi wherever I could find it. One of my nightmare scenarios came true! Despite this, I was with one of my closest friends, and it was easily one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Having to rely on free wifi also allowed me to be a bit more present, rather than checking my phone constantly. The trip was a risk in my mind, but one that paid off. That’s what living with my anxiety is like – balancing between routine and risk.

I love how Luke describes Mary in this verse as “pondering what sort of greeting this might be”. If I were in Mary’s shoes and there was a literal angel in my home, I would have absolutely said, “Um. Hold up. Wait just a minute. What are you saying to me right now?” Isn’t it funny how angels always have to reassure people to not be afraid whenever they show up in the Bible? Maybe it’s because they have a tendency to just ​show up​ without so much as a knock! But I digress. Gabriel senses her apprehension and offers her more information about his sudden appearance. God wants her to be the mother of the Son of the Most High. Mary, understandably, has a question about how exactly that will happen. Gabriel assuages her anxieties: “Nothing will be impossible with God.” That’s a phrase I often respond to my own anxious worries with. ​Nothing will be impossible with God. ​It doesn’t mean everything will be magically taken care of and wrapped up in a bow for me, but it does mean that it will work out, somehow. And I’d like to imagine, based on her yes to God’s plan, that was enough for Mary’s anxieties too. She may not have known all the specifics – she didn’t yet know about the kind of life her son would lead – but she was willing to take the risk to see what God had in store for her, and she knew that she and her family would be taken care of. So she makes her preparations by visiting her cousin Elizabeth and getting ready to travel to Bethlehem for the census with Joseph, and then her son is born. The first Christmas. Of course, we know that Mary’s life, and the life of her newborn son, was anything but easy. But I imagine as she rested in that stable waiting to give birth, she knew and accepted the risks.

As we’ve journeyed this Advent, I have been pushing and prodding you, dear friend, to think about the world we live in, the way its systems harm us, and what it would be like if we let these old ways of being die and let something new take its place. And I’m sure you probably have ​many​ questions, like Mary. We all have to consider if it is all worth the risk, right? Because this world is all we’ve ever known. But think about what we’ve held onto for the sake of our own comfort: We’ve accepted the falsehood that some people are poor just because of their ‘life choices’ and not at all because the systems are rigged against them. We’ve accepted that war is fine if it means it will bring prosperity. We don’t seem to think anything is wrong with people drowning in medical debt or avoiding doctor’s visits because they cannot afford them. We ignore the unethical labor practices under which our products are made because they’re so cheap and can be delivered to us next day. We deny our own needs and health for the sake of not wanting to be a burden to our families or workplaces.

So if what we’ve known is harming us all – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – and in many ways is antithetical to God’s dreams for us, why continue? Why not take a risk and dream beyond what is familiar? As you enter this last week of Advent, think about what you would need to be willing to agree to take that risk and help give birth to a new world: Do you need to rest and take more time for yourself? Do you need to do more internal work? Do you need to learn more about the oppressive systems that are harming your siblings? Do you need to build better relationships with your neighbors and communities? All of these are valid questions. Remember that as you sit with them, God will answer, and God will provide for you. For nothing is impossible with God.

A question for you:

What do you need in order to help bring about a new world?

Feel free to share your reflections with me on Twitter or Instagram.


A prayer for this fourth and final week of Advent:

God of strength,
you exalted Mary
to be the mother of your beloved Son
and supplied her every need.
Bestow upon us
the gifts of your Holy Spirit,
that we may prepare our hearts and minds
for the coming of your Son and your Kin-dom.


This is the third reflection in a devotional series I’ve made for Advent 2020 called No Going Back. You can read more about this devotional and download a PDF copy here.

Read this week’s Scripture here.

I am always amazed at how life finds a way to flourish even in the most difficult of circumstances. I contemplate this when I’m walking through my neighborhood and I see a dandelion sprouting out of the sidewalk. Even with a layer of concrete to contend with, a seed took root and grew up toward the sun. It’s a potent image of resistance – that life will adapt and make a way forward.

There is much to be sad and frustrated about with this year but what has given me immense hope is seeing the many ways folks have been supporting their neighbors during the pandemic. I think of the many friends who, with the news of mask shortages in hospitals, made masks out of fabric for healthcare workers. Across the United States, “community fridges” have popped up in cities and towns to support those experiencing food insecurity. These are fridges that are stocked with donations, and folks can simply walk up and take what they need. There’s also a greater awareness of mutual aid, and more mutual aid funds have been started and continue to support people who need to pay bills, buy food, or take care of other expenses. I think too about how churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship invested time and money into learning how to livestream their services so congregants could worship and pray from home. Strangers saw other strangers in need and instead of waiting on the state or nonprofits to help, stepped in and did what they could.

The events of this year have also allowed us to question our collective ways of doing things. For example, as companies allowed more employees to work from home for safety, employees began to question why such accommodations weren’t made before for folks with disabilities. My Facebook feed has been filled with posts from friends wondering why it is that we are all expected to be productive during a pandemic, instead of taking the time and space necessary to ensure the spread of COVID-19 is stopped – and to give ourselves space to properly mourn our dead and the world we once knew. There have also been renewed energy and conversations, after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this year, around dismantling white supremacy and the need for defunding the police. What I see in these expressions of solidarity and this larger questioning of systems is a yearning for a world other than the one we have been given. What if we actually had a society where everyone had their needs provided for? What if we spent time and money investing in underserved communities rather than simply responding to every issue with ​more​ surveillance and policing? What if we didn’t have to spend so much time working​ and more time with our loved ones? What if we could actually rest deeply without worrying about our lives falling apart? What if? ​What if?

I love the book of Isaiah for many reasons, but this passage especially is a favorite of mine. It feels especially resonant now. We are in the third, “pink” week of Advent – traditionally when we joyfully look forward to the birth of Christ in the next couple of days. With this year being as long and painful as it has been, it may have been hard for you to find joy. I know it has been for me. This passage is a reminder that our God is one who wipes away our tears. The prophet says God will turn our mourning into happiness, our grief into praise. We are told that after the devastation, the people of Israel will rebuild and restore what has been lost. When I see people setting up community fridges, sharing mutual aid funds, or advocating for their mental health needs, I think of this passage. This work of restoration – what our Jewish siblings call ​tikkun olam​, repairing the world – is holy and blessed by God. Our yearnings for a better, more loving world made manifest.

God tells us over and over in the Bible what God’s vision for the world is like: one that is based on justice, compassion, and love. We hear in Isaiah’s opening verses some of God’s priorities: liberation for the oppressed, healing for those with broken hearts, freedom for captives and prisoners. Much later on, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus reads these words when he visits his hometown’s synagogue and proclaim that, with his arrival, the verses have been fulfilled. Although the people present didn’t care much for his proclamation (they proceeded to run him out of town, actually), the Gospels show us that Jesus embodied these words in the way he advocated for the poor and forgotten and by his desire to bring all people into the Kin-dom of God.

People often dismiss “radical” policies like universal health care, loan forgiveness or accountability outside the criminal justice system as too idealistic. They are “pipe dreams.” Some may even say “un-Christian”! But God’s desires for our world are not simply spiritual – they are tangible: food for the poor, release of prisoners, forgiveness of debts. Are God’s calls for justice “pipe dreams”? Or have we simply deluded ourselves into thinking that our systems of oppression are not at all in contradiction with the Kin-dom of God? We have to dream bigger, because God’s dreams and longings for us are brighter than we can ever imagine. This week, consider: What is your vision of an ideal world? Is it one based on love and equality? What do you wish your community had access to? How could your life and the lives of your family, friends, and neighbors be different if we changed our societal priorities?

A question for you:

What kind of world do you dream about?

Feel free to share your reflections with me on Twitter or Instagram.


A prayer for this third week of Advent:

God of defiant joy,
you break the bonds of oppression
and lift your people up from their despair.
Inspire us with your dreams for your children,
that we may make them manifest
in this broken and suffering world.


This is the second reflection in a devotional series I’ve made for Advent 2020 called No Going Back. You can read more about this devotional and download a PDF copy here.

Read this week’s Scripture here.

It doesn’t take much to imagine that John the Baptist was probably a “controversial” figure. He did, after all, live in the desert, eat bugs, and call the religious authorities of his day a “brood of vipers” (Mt 3:7) to their faces. But it was more so because he told people the Kingdom of God was coming and they needed to change their ways – and it was for this reason that he was ultimately beheaded. We’re told in the Gospel of Luke that crowds of people came to John while he was alive to be baptized – but we can assume that just as many crowds saw John, didn’t like what he had to say or the way he looked, and ignored him. Jesus was treated in much the same way. He was maligned by the religious and political authorities of his day so much that he had nowhere to truly lay his head.

There is this common trope in disaster TV and movies of an anxious scientist trying to warn public officials of an impending catastrophe, such a volcano that’s going to blow or an asteroid hurtling toward earth. Sadly their warnings are ignored until it’s too late. You might see that storyline and think, “Politicians would never​ do that!” Yet in 2020 many elected officials, particularly in the highest levels of the United States government, said that COVID-19 was a hoax or asserted that it wasn’t ​that​ ​much​ of a threat to public health while hundreds of thousands of Americans have died – and continue to die – from the virus. And before the pandemic, they said the same things about climate change despite the fact that scientists have been warning us about it for decades.

The reason why Jesus, or prophets like John, or scientists and doctors in our country are ignored or outright attacked as ‘liars’ is the fact that their warnings challenge people’s worldviews; they threaten to disrupt the way we’ve ​always​ done things. Jesus’ whole adult life was centered on turning the status quo upside down – he healed those considered untouchable and disposable, he told the rich to give away their possessions to the poor, he spoke openly to women and included them in his ministry. Above all, he preached love, forgiveness, and compassion, especially for “the least of these” – the most marginalized. These teachings are still sorely needed, and they still fly in the face of the status quo today.

St. Paul tells us, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Cor 3:19) The ‘wisdom’ of this world suggests that the elderly should sacrifice themselves for the economy, while Jesus says the rich should give away their wealth and take care of the most vulnerable among us. The ‘wisdom’ of this world is that companies should not pay their workers adequately for the sake of preserving their profits – but God says do not steal, give your employees their due. The ‘wisdom’ of this world proclaims, “Time is money!”, but God says, “Honor the Sabbath.”

When I think about who is doing the holy work of disruption today, one person who immediately comes to mind is Tricia Hersey (aka the “Nap Bishop”), creator of The Nap Ministry. Tricia is an activist, artist, and theologian who, through social media, workshops, and “napping experiences” beckons all of us to (re)discover the power of rest. Her posts on social media remind me that taking time for rest is not only sacred and vital, but it also makes room for me, and all of us, to picture the world differently: “If you cannot imagine or envision a way for you to rest for 15 to 30 min a day, how will you be able to imagine or envision a world without police terror and equality for all? Our lack of imagination is intimately tied to our liberation. Our DreamSpace must be cultivated.” This centering of rest and self-care is a rebuke of capitalist “grind culture”, and it also gives me space to think deeply about what life would be like if I didn’t live paycheck to paycheck – what if had more time to spend with my loved ones, more resources to take care of both my and my community’s needs, more energy for leisure and creative pursuits? What if we all had those things, not simply the rich and privileged few?

The ideologies that hold our world up – individualism, productivity at all costs, profit over people, nationalism and fear of our neighbors – are so firmly entrenched in our minds and ways of life. The pandemic has exposed this in very visceral ways: people’s refusal to wear masks, companies not paying workers hazard pay, racist attacks and remarks directed at Chinese folks because of where the virus was first reported. We must listen to, and also share the work of, disruptors – folks who are telling us there is another, much better world to live in if we are willing to dream.

Some questions for you:

What are some of the ways your worldview has changed this year?
Are there internalized, toxic messages in your mind that need to be disrupted?

Feel free to share your reflections with me on Twitter or Instagram.


A prayer for this second week of Advent:

God of mystery, your prophet Elijah found you
not in strong winds, nor earthquakes, nor fires,
but in a still, small voice:
attune us to discern your words
amid the noise of this life.
Help us to be present,
that we may hear the soft cries of your newborn Son
and the choirs of angels announcing his coming.



This is the first reflection in a devotional series I’ve made for Advent 2020 called No Going Back. You can read more about this devotional and download a PDF copy here.

Read this week’s Scripture here.

When I was in high school, I watched a lot of “docuseries” about natural disasters and world-ending catastrophes. These shows catalogued the many scenarios in which life on earth could be completely annihilated: from the probable, such as an asteroid collision, to the outlandish – such as robots becoming self-aware and deciding to kill us all. This was a few years before 2012, too. Doomsday prophets and New Age thought leaders predicted that, based on their interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar, the world would end on December 21, 2012. Of course, that day came and went, the Earth was not sucked into a black hole, and furthermore, indigenous Mayans and scholars affirmed that the whole idea was ridiculous and just a ploy for white people to sell books.

2020 feels different though, doesn’t it? There were no doomsday prophecies made about this year, yet it feels immensely apocalyptic. The coronavirus pandemic has completely upended our society. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed, and a collective failure to take mitigation efforts seriously has only made things worse. Millions have lost their jobs. The risk of infection has robbed families and friends of the opportunity to properly mourn the loved ones who succumbed to COVID-19. We also saw collective uprisings across the United States and around the world over the murders of Black people at the hands of police and how these protests were met with more police violence and repression. Wildfires raged across the western United States and Australia, bringing death and destruction. This year’s hurricane season, worsened by climate change, brought storm after storm, devastating Central America and the American South. Oh, and let’s not forget about the literal murder hornets – remember those?

It’s hard not to see the events of this year and not think that we are in the “End Times”. In the scripture for this week, Jesus tells his disciples to pay attention to the signs that the Son of Man is coming and prepare for his return. It’s a message Jesus repeats in many places in the Gospels, either explicitly or in parable: “Keep awake.” Be present. Stay focused, or you might miss it. In his book on climate change entitled We Are the Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer writes, “Encoded into our language is the understanding that disasters tend to expose that which was previously hidden.” When you think “apocalypse”, you think of a world-ending catastrophe – but the ancient Greek root of the word means to “uncover” or “reveal”. The chaos of 2020 has taken much from us – but it has also exposed the ways in which the systems upon which our world is built are actively oppressing and killing us all, with the most marginalized taking the brunt. The pandemic has shown Americans how deeply neglected our healthcare system is and how many Americans simply cannot afford to get sick and miss work. Coronavirus showed us too, how our capitalist economy allows some to work from home but  forces predominantly Black and Brown people to work essential jobs and potentially get sick, or risk losing wages. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor showed us that white supremacy continues to thrive in all of our institutions, particularly among police forces. The wildfires and hurricanes of this year reminded us that climate change will only make these natural disasters even worse – and we are running out of time to adequately address it. Crisis lays bare the things we may not have seen before, or more likely, chose to ignore. 

Jesus reminds us to be alert and pay attention to what is going on around us. I invite you to notice what’s happening internally as well. Are you stressed? Sad? Anxious? Are you eating enough? How’s your sleep been? For me, I know that for much of this year I’ve been operating on auto-pilot – trying to stay afloat with all the chaos, trying to keep myself occupied so I don’t think too much – that whenever someone would ask how I was doing, I’d simply say, “Oh, you know…just tired.” It wasn’t until recently, as I began really addressing my mental health needs in a deeper way that I could go deeper with my feelings. I am happy that I have time to contemplate and can still connect with friends despite being socially distanced. I’m mourning the many people who’ve died from coronavirus. I’m missing the many things I used to do without worrying about potentially getting sick. I am stressed about finances, but feeling assured that God will take care of me. I am grateful to have a home and enough to eat. I am tired. Know that all of what you’re feeling is valid, and deserves to be acknowledged. 

Is our world ending? Well, yes, the world as we knew it before the pandemic is gone, as much as we would love to “go back to normal”. But also because we are seeing the death throes of unsustainable, violent systems and ways of life. Our old habits and routines have dramatically changed as well. If we are paying attention, if we stay alert, we can actually take action to ensure that the world we rebuild – and the lives we create for ourselves – are more life-giving and more just than the ones we had before. 

A question for you:

What has this year revealed for you?

Feel free to share your reflections with me on Twitter or Instagram.


A prayer for this first week of Advent:

God of truth, awaken our senses to the truths you want us to see.
Help us to stay present and alert, that we may watch for the coming of your Son in our midst,
just as the shepherds watched and followed the star in the skies above Bethlehem.



Advent has always been my favorite liturgical season. I love being able to intentionally slow down and sit with all these readings about how God is coming to restore God’s people. I love the goth-y hymns. I love that everything is purple (sorry, Sarum Blue fans).

Advent feels a bit more real for me this year. Maybe it’s because we are all in this seemingly perpetual season of waiting for the pandemic to be over. Maybe it’s because we are all just tired and afraid and we need all the good news (see what I did there?) we can get. For me it’s also because this year has truly felt like something out of the book of Revelation, and I’m low-key wondering if maybe this is the year the heavens open up and lo, He will come, with clouds descending.

Far from being just the four weeks that precede Christmas, Advent a time for us to think about the person Jesus is, the hope he offers to all the world, and what it means for us that the many things Jesus stood for (like justice for the poor, including all people in God’s Kin-dom, loving your neighbors) are in direct opposition to the ways in which we currently live our lives (that is, oppressing the poor, discriminating against others, not doing right by our neighbors). In many ways, Jesus represents the end of the world as we know it, because he challenges us to give up power, riches, and prestige, and take on love, humility and compassion.

I’ve seen a lot of people talk about how they want to just “go back to normal”. For Advent this year, I’m inviting you to consider that 1) there is no “normal” to go back to – the world as we know it, pre-pandemic, is gone; 2) That “normal” – where we’ve normalized hatred and oppression, where we don’t question how our capitalist, science-denying, ignorant ways of living are killing our neighbors – is not worth going back to, anyway. Jesus would want us to go back to normal either. He would want us to aspire to the Kin-dom of God. And if the end of the world means the end of suffering and the opportunity to build a radically different world, maybe…just maybe, that’s not such a bad thing?

That’s why I’ve written this devotional. No Going Back is a journey through Advent with the lens of the apocalypse. I invite you to notice what 2020 is exposing in our world, to dream beyond the world we inherited, and to prepare yourselves to help bring that new world into being. It is meant to be read with on each of the 4 Sundays of Advent. You can do it alone, or with a group. I’ve made it available as a PDF, and each Monday, I will post the week’s reflection here on the blog, if you’d prefer to follow along that way.

You can download the PDF here. Please feel free to share your reflections and thoughts on social media with me as well!